Look Up

We’re behind, which for those of you on Social media will be no surprise. My second computer, pretty much essential for remote work and gaming, has become nothing more than an expensive paperweight. It has forced a fairly significant rethink not only of working space but of the next few weeks, and it is with a clear conscience and only the best of intentions that I’ll be withdrawing from NaNoWriMo.

This event has been part of my life since 2011, and in the seven years participated (I missed 2014) I’ve only failed to finish once. A second time is not a defeat, but really rather significant: November is the month where I’ve altered most as a person. There’s no real idea why either, but the majority of significant personal changes and positives shifts seems to happen just before Christmas hits. This year is no exception.

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Taking the opportunity to leave now also means there’s no panic about what happens next. It will allow me to get back to EX/WHI (which I’ve missed) and that means a change to the scheduled web maintenance and other gubbins that were planned for the end of the month. The rest of this week are now blocked for replacing the old machine, reorganising my tech here and deciding what happens next. We’ll start a new schedule on Monday as a result.

It feels important at this point to stand up and walk away. I could have simply ridden through November and not mentioned it, but that’s no longer the kind of person I am. Instead, it becomes the means by which lots of other stuff gets sorted, which in the end will matter more long term. It gives me the chance to organise beyond a weekly deadline, or a daily word count. Taeken will be finished, but only when there’s time and ability to do so properly.

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Yup, I did fail. Once upon a time that would have hamstrung progress for months, but not any more. Being able to admit stuff and move on remains the most difficult and painful lesson learnt at any point in writing. There’s a ton of other stuff waiting for attention, which if organised well have a far more significant impact on progress and attainment going forward. Central to that is editing a piece that I’ve wanted to finish all year, and that’s essential to the new direction.

Quality, when all is said and done, triumphs over quantity. That’s where the journey is pushing now, and that is the path to follow. It is time to focus on taking what’s already done and making it better.

It’s also high time I made a cuppa.

Poetry Archive :: Driven

I like this, for lots of reasons. A fraction of my work suffers from the inevitable stresses and strains forced on me due to daily production, but this piece was born pretty much fully formed. It has inevitably been influenced by SciFi Brain which is prevalent in my direction and actions (thanks to NaNoWriMo) but is, in effect, a marker for my own development as a poet. This is five verses, all with a visual prompt at their centre, that combined allow me to explain how it’s felt to push past my mental shortcomings and start producing content I am consistently proud of.

May this be the start of a new and fruitful period as a result.


Driven

Within is not your space to overtake: begone
spectres, unexpected disappointment. Tonight,
optimism’s slowly growing, expanding
unassuming, quiet elimination of all doubt.

Propulsion’s self-derived, accelerating
past vast, shattered hulks, ideas once revered
failed plans, decomposing concepts;
now, vital escape velocity attained.

Driven away, pursuit of excellence,
thousand possible brilliant conceits;
desired from countless wasted days.
Combine precisely, self-derived intent.

Behold, fresh start word-fuelled sprint;
cornucopia of unexpected variety.
Stuffed full; poems, acrostics, non-fiction rants
fertile mind erupts: continuous, artistic flow.

Sum total, determination’s push succeeds
redefinition stamped, increased notion refuels
renaissance, fruitful path to greater glory.
Entire existence liberated, standing strong.


Stones in the Road

This should have been published on Friday, and although it’s sitting in the blog with that date, I’ll be honest, it was posted on the night of the 11th. I managed a week, with accountability, and then reality crashed the party. Thursday and Friday became a blur. I took a previously-scheduled and much needed Mental Health day to London on Saturday and, waking up this morning, any desire to write had summarily evaporated.

However, all is not lost.

Changing tack at the last minute, when there was a different a plan ready to go, might be partially responsible for the sudden disintegration of purpose, but I know myself much better than that. This is about knowing what is going on, and the hastily-sketched timeline produced on Friday is no longer enough. There needs a space to plan on, some Post Its and some string. Tomorrow, once the domestic issues are addressed, and there’s been some lifting of heavy weights, we will get into Work Mode.

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I’ve never tried to tackle something this technically complex before, which is part of the problem. However, with the organisational skills that are already possessed, it should not be too much of a reach. I’m betting other people struggle with this shit too, or you wouldn’t have people joking with GIFs about it. In fact, if I remember rightly, I’ve seen at least one movie where the author uses all this stuff to sketch out what has to happen in their fictional opus. That happens for real all the time, right?

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So, the next time we talk, there will be a narrative that not only a) can be understood by yours truly but b) allows me to continue the process.

Yes, there will.

NaNoWriMo Update : Day Seven

It’s a week since we started and, not gonna lie, it’s been a total nightmare. The novel’s pretty much writing itself. Nobody is on fire yet. The plot’s solid, THERE ARE JOKES but also some important philosophical posturing. That’s not the problem.

It’s the rest of my life that’s the issue.

I’m literally drowning in support and good advice. This is not the problem. TIME is the problem: thus far none of my other scheduled scheduling has been scheduled, and everything else is running by the seat of our collective pants. There’s a metric buttonne of RL issues on top of this and today, I’m not gonna lie, I just ran out of time. I wanted to write more but there’s not enough hours in which to do so, and fit in everything else. It’s gonna be like this until Sunday now. Then, perhaps, there can be some progress that makes me feel comfortable.

Also, please can I have a decent night’s sleep for the first time since Saturday?

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However, for a first draft I’m pretty damn pleased with this, not gonna lie. There’s some moments to be really proud of, and a growing sense that writing ensemble pieces is where a real talent lies. I don’t yet have my full crew on board, literally and metaphorically. Tomorrow we’ll go and pick the last one up and set a chain of events in motion that might yet require me to create a timeline, just so I can be sure everybody’s done what they need to do before this entire shebang gets flipped on it’s head for the first time. There’ll be a second time too, but I’m getting ahead.

Also, there’s a soundtrack, which is proving VERY useful in building set pieces.

It’s all looking really positive thus far. Let’s hope I can keep the momentum going…

October Short Story: GoldenBalls

This story was first published in 31 parts via Twitter during October. It is now reproduced now in a complete form, with a number of small edits and corrections made to improve narrative flow and maintain correct continuity.

Enjoy.


GoldenBalls

‘…and that’s the News. Now over to Mandy at the Sports Desk…’

‘Thank you Ellie. Let’s waste no more time and go directly to the Barnsley International Stadium, as the warm up for one of the most hotly anticipated events of the year begins. Can you hear me, Alice Richardson?’

‘Hardly, Mandy, the noise here is unbelievable, that’s no doubt in response to the presence of a local hero inside this stadium. We may not be able to see him yet but his team’s bus arrived just under an hour ago. Owen Chandler’s rightful moment in the sun has finally arrived…’


In the bowels of a building that’s hosted a World Cup and two World Championships, a small, dark room is reassuringly bereft of humanity. Owen sits alone on a hard wooden bench, contemplating next three hours of his life. If all goes to plan? Everything he is will change, forever. He has five minutes before his trainer will arrive, then they will walk to the Preparation Area. A stylist, two make-up artists, costumer plus a twenty-five piece Brass Band have waited for this moment since a now notorious sudden death play-off was won at Newcastle last month.

This event has been anticipated for close to a decade. Hundreds of hours of training, thousands of days where underlying motivation was to arrive here fully prepared. The reality is humbling yet exciting. Owen is ready to win, knows that he can… path to true redemption complete. Looking down to his crotch, it is hard to suppress a grin, which quickly develops into a laugh. Some men might be embarrassed by a genetic quirk, seek surgery to alter their appearance. Not Chandler. After twenty eight years, his enormous balls are finally nothing to joke about.

‘I’m glad you think this is funny.’

His mum stands, dressed in a three piece suit that makes the woman look younger than her years. She’d raised him, taught vital lessons about ignoring bullies, that it was okay being different.

Meg had raised skills to the level of artistry.

As lone parent and now a rookie manager, this was the woman who knew more about bollocks than anyone else: a particular skill in understanding and effectively exploiting the weaknesses of opponents had turned her son, the humble lad from Barnsley, into an international superstar. They walk into the Preparation Area to enthusiastic applause: best mate Sasha is here, with boyfriend and their son, plus Owen’s two younger sisters. Everybody is ready to help out, making sure the evening is as relaxed as possible. Not one person stares or laughs at his crotch.

This ritual had been conducted by his ancestors, by millions of men across the planet for thousands of years. It remained particular rite of passage in over a dozen developing countries, one of whom would be providing his opposition upstairs. It was a dream job, finally accepted. Owen will become the sun, metaphorical representation of that divine light from above that warms the Earth and keeps our planet fruitful and bounteous. His job will be to endure increasing pain and suffering, showing an ability to remain strong, unwavering as a proper concubine.

His balls will be weighed down, increasingly over time, until the pressure is too much and he passes out. The more that is held, greater will be the strength in his seed, an indication to any potential surrogate his sperm will produce a strong and suitable heir for their family. This process was begun nearly ten thousand years ago in Ancient Greece and has remained the number one watched spectator sport ever since. It is the first time a British concubine has reached the final for nearly sixty years, virtually unopposed in competition until semi finals.

That fateful evening had seen the defending European record holder stretchered out of the arena after losing consciousness in sudden death overtime. Both men had endured the same massive weight, but only Owen had managed to stand up and sit down with it attached to his scrotum. A community was divided over whether the whole event should have been declared null and void, with a rematch scheduled, but the World governing body intervened. As last man conscious and standing, Chandler had won, despite competitor’s inability to lift a crucial final weight.

Body paint is complete, on which make-up artists have overlaid the signature, rampant blue dragon holding a trident. The noise of 60,000 strong crowd outside is now too seductive to ignore: they’re chanting his name, over and over, partisan support to intimidate Greek opposition.

This is his moment: all that remains is to win, and well.


‘… yes, I can see Meg Chandler emerging from the Home Team dressing room now, looking immaculate as always and that means that our local hero cannot be far behind. It’s time for Owen to shine as he never has before.’

‘Indeed, and with that it’s time for us to begin coverage of the Concubine World Final. Your summariser is professional Concubine and European Weightlifting champion from 1986 until 1998 Costa Perkov with your commentary lead Paula Anchor, but first up here’s Alice Richardson.’

‘Thank you Mandy. Tonight’s a watershed for legions of semi-professional courtesans who have spent decades in the shadows, reviled and often attacked for the career they’ve chosen to pursue. Tonight, they are given a true hero, inspiration to look up to and emulate going forward. Owen Chandler’s ten years as a welder, into construction straight from school, belied the immense talent hidden beneath his working clothes. Thanks to his mother’s love, persistence, care and sheer determination, he’s become the living epitome of a rags to riches success story.

Tonight he faces Ivan Kerchenko, a man who has wanted for nothing in his entire career, having spent nearly three decades being trained and prepared for this very occasion. His father Yuri remains one of the most significant concubines of the late 20th Century, a true champion. It is estimated that nearly one hundred million people worldwide will be tuning into tonight’s contest which includes millions of ordinary Brits, holding their own special ‘GoldenBalls’ celebrations. We’ve never had a World champion since this contest was relaunched back in 1825.

That noise you can now hear means only one thing: Owen Chandler’s entered the stadium, flanked by his team of medical professionals and stylists… and there’s his family too, all wearing their distinctive blue outfits. Time for talking is over… now we will see who’s strongest.’


When historians looked back on the events of October 23rd, 2018, they did so with an ability to separate facts from fiction. They stared at the official televised footage with disbelief, and then satisfaction that the true winner that evening was fair play and humanity. All those who lost bets on Chandler’s success might feel aggrieved. The fact his competitor’s life was saved using first aid techniques learnt whilst training as a welding apprentice, that CPR was part of a vast arsenal of secondary skills, should really teach an important lesson.

The concubine World Governing Body, the IIA, would eventually declare their bout a tie, marking the last time any man was forced to exhibit their genital strength in public. After thousands of fatalities in the name of virility, finally, rules were changed for the good of all. This event forced a complete redefinition of all the competition structures, moving away from thousands of years worth of sensationalism. Overt trials of strength and prowess were removed; replaced with a more cerebral focus, considering concubines in a completely new light.

This was in response to the revelations that Kerchenko’s heart attack was caused by historical abuse of anabolic steroids. The IIA have, as of January 2020, banned nearly six thousand concubines from any participation in contests or from donating as sires, as testing continues. Owen Chandler does not regret his actions that night. In every interview a determined assertion remains that not being a champion is irrelevant when placed next to saving a man who’d inspired him to personal glory. Kerchenko had been a long time hero right up to his final demise.

As a new decade begins for the IIA, the taint of drugs cheats refuses to go away. More and more women are turning away from the traditional methods of concubine insemination, preferring instead to risk natural conception, despite the many issues such practices ultimately present. It is no surprise therefore that today, Owen Chandler announced his retirement from all forms of participation, before coming out as bisexual and announcing his engagement to personal stylist and long-term companion Malcolm Fisher. His days as a sire and courtesan are now over.


Poetry Archive :: Scared

Sorry it’s late. I have a lot on.


Scared

Running late, phone conversations
under-cooked chicken, evenings alone
psychological horror stories;
my hair straighteners are still switched on.

Locking myself out of our house, again
forgetting which tablets were taken with lunch;
a constant ache I am not enough,
inability to keep up with their games.

Remembering other people’s names
whitening that nasty grout,
chipping off the limescale;
consumed by crippling self-doubt.

Rooms full of people I don’t know
The countless ways to cause offence;
Replaying those last three instructions
Refusing to argue, on the fence.

The truest, deepest fears within
far crueller fright, mind scared beyond
that shonky nightmare fuel on screen
avoid the lake, idiot teens.


Not a Job

I have a confession to make, well several actually. The main one is to do with my mistaken belief that writing certain combinations of fiction at once is actually doable, and there won’t be any clutter or overspill in my brain. This, sadly, is utter bollocks. As a result, EX/WHI is on hiatus for November. I cannot cope with two lots of sci-fi simultaneously and so summat has to give. I’m also aware that last month’s short story needs publishing, and there’s a backlog of stuff to archive. I’ve spent a lot of today making sure that’s easily doable, and we’ll have October’s story up on site for Monday.

All in all, we’re off to a comfortable start.

I am planning to write 2k a day, give or take, which will happen as the first thing I do every morning. That means front loading as much of the rest of the month’s content as possible, which should hopefully come to pass by this time on Monday. Therefore, after that point if there’s more than 2k a day in me I can just have a go, and the house does not disintegrate around me from inactivity. There’s an important secondary point to all of this too: this is a good idea, it is sound and deserves the effort, and I need to prove to myself again that this is doable.

On the flip-side, I’ve also committed myself to edit and finish a previously unused NaNo project, which was submitted for a contest last month. I’m 100% confident I won’t make the shortlist, but regardless of this it would be nice to have the story completed and at the 40k limit required to be a novella. Once that’s done, I’ll have two things I can pitch at people, and not just one. The two things are different enough that I shouldn’t get my brain confused as is the case with Taeken and EX/WHI. It’s all part of a long-term plan to change the world, a piece of work at a time.

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There’s still poetry, of course, and I have a Monday deadline for two pieces. For now, however, as you read this I’ll be out in the dark, taking pictures for a project I’m working on for 2019…