Send in the Clowns

Many of you will have no idea of what I’m talking about, but yesterday Facebook made a lot of noise in my part of the world. Activision Blizzard have done a deal with the social media giant to allow players to ‘stream’ playing computer games such as Hearthstone and World of Warcraft directly¬†using the Facebook Live API.¬†I’ll be honest, I had no idea what this was until yesterday lunchtime: now I’ve signed up for updates. Now, there are those of you who will know that I refuse point blank to have anything to do with the ‘Friends and Family’ aspect of the platform. In fact, I deleted my personal Facebook some time ago. However, my ‘gaming’ site remains and suddenly looks an awful lot more attractive as an advertising platform for someone like me: more flexibility than You Tube, a better set of abuse controls than Twitch will ever possess. Mostly, it will become¬†an amazing place to sell yourself.¬†

That alone is the potential that many people will now be considering with something close to mercenary zeal.

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My Twitter feed, yesterday.

It is an indicator of the general barometer of opinion that many people won’t see Facebook as anything else other than a place where you share baby photos or argue about politics. They won’t be able to reconcile ‘streaming live video’ (whether it be of an online MMO, a live event or indeed your Aunt Mabel baking her famous Chocolate Cake) with a platform that makes its money from ads about losing belly fat or ’15 Things you Never knew a Goat could Do.’¬†With platforms such as Snapchat and WhatsApp being bigger draws than text-based mediums such as Twitter, Facebook will know that to keep themselves in the frame they need to offer the best of both whilst maintaining their ability to market at the same time. By providing gamers a live video stream without any of the start up required in other formats, which often require additional effort or outlay? Frankly, it’s a license to print money.¬†

There will be people already rubbing their hands together in glee.

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Of course, many people assume that ‘logging into Warcraft’ using Facebook means they’ll be no choice in the matter, but assuming that this development is equivalent to what the developer did with Twitter? You’ll never have to worry about the thing unless you make a decision to stream.¬†Unless you make a conscious choice to share your information? Nothing changes. However, such is the distrust of certain sections of the planet with the organisation, it won’t matter how many times you tell players this, they’ll still choose not to believe you.¬†In the end, that’s just a product of the world we live in. My Facebook ‘page’ which is just that, just a piece of stuff attached to an account I never use and won’t post to, full of stuff that has no interest to me whatsoever. That’s not going to change any time soon. I’m not linking my family to this, or asking the people I know who don’t play games to take part.

However, in terms of long-term marketing for (lets say) me writing a book and maybe getting it published? Then I might be interested. I could be pushed into streaming and perhaps the odd Video Blog. The potential is certainly there for the platform.

Now we have to see just how good it is when the Real World gets hold of it.

DEFAULT :: New Fiction

Look up at that cover artwork by my mate @Ammosart, then make sure you’re following her on Twitter before we go anywhere else this morning. In the grand tradition of going big or Going Home,¬†we’re starting the way things mean to go on here this week. This work of fiction (with its own cover) is the natural follow up to Duet: when it is done I expect the narrative to¬†top 70,000 words, so that’s very much into the realms of actual Novel territory. It’s a big story, no scrimping on detail and scope, and all things being equal I’m planning for the first part to go live on Monday, June 27th, with serialisation across the Summer.

As soon as I’d seen Spectre, I knew I had to write this, in the main as a result of the shortcomings I saw in a narrative that never really focusses on anyone except the titular hero. I know, you don’t go and see Bond films for the supporting cast, but I felt cheated this time not simply because of what I saw, but more importantly what I didn’t.¬†This therefore is my wish fulfilment for the canon, done and dusted. In the next few weeks I’ll talk about my processes, let you in on the writing soundtrack I’ve used for this project, and generally have a bit of a chat about the journey, because this is the piece of work that’s finally given me confidence to believe I can be a grown up writer, and to push to finish my first completely original work. Allison’s agreed to help me with that too and will be producing original portraits of all my main characters as time goes on.

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Ronni Flemmings does not fit the ‘traditional’ mould of a spy, at least in my mind. I gave Allison a very specific brief when she drew her, and that includes the prominence of her breasts, which might seem odd when I’m doing my best to create a character who is considered an equal to 007 in every respect. In fact, I’m expecting more than a few raised eyebrows at the prominence of her sexuality. However, if you ask me what makes Bond what he is, it is undoubtedly the physical attributes that have come to matter often above the ability to shoot straight or complete a mission brief. In fact, I use that physicality on more than one occasion as a metaphor for how, if a woman wants to play in a man’s world, she is often expected to put assets front and centre as a default. The title isn’t just a nod to the Atoms for Peace song that inspired it: I’m exploring the way things are in the Bond universe, how perhaps they should be and ultimately how they remain.

There’s a lot of my individual feelings on equality and diversity buried in this narrative too: I’ll make no bones about this, and I realise that I’m just as likely to inflame the ire of many people by admitting that my Quartermaster in this version of 007’s world is gay. In fact, this is more likely to cause issue than the sex of my protagonist, and that is I know wrapped around the basic conflict that canon should remain 100% faithful and accurate to the original source material.¬†That means Bond remains a white, heterosexual male who only uses women to get what he wants.¬†Needless to say, that’s almost what happens in Spectre: you know, if 007 hadn’t come back to get the Aston Martin at the end, I might have forgiven him for the rest of the movie. As it stands, he needs a rewrite in my mind.

When you pick up the action in three weeks? We’ll be starting pretty much where Spectre leaves off.¬†

I look forward to seeing you here on the 27th.

The End

I’ve been reorganising my online life since the end of April, and this is¬†the last place to get the ‘proper’ treatment. That’s mostly because it gets the least use, but that will all change starting tomorrow, when I go full out on pulling all the disparate strands of the online life to order. The main logo’s not gonna stay like that, it is simply a placeholder, but as were not interested here in pictures as much as words? The header will change to reflect the current ‘Project du Jour’ and everything else will make sense in time.

For now, all my imagery’s going to be permed from the places that inspire me, and will be black and white because I’m on that tip at the moment with Instagram. Bear with me, I’m trying to establish an identity here ūüėõ

Needless to say, full relaunch is tomorrow. SEE YOU THERE.

Writing as Therapy :: Beginnings

This is Not A Love Song

I’ve been trying to write with competence¬†since my teens, and a lot of my issues have centred around an inability to listen to criticism. Once my daughter was born and I had my issues with PND, it became apparent that obstinance¬†and arrogance were not going to help me get better. I would have to open myself to the notion of change, like it or not. Not for myself, but for the kids I was expected to bring up not being narrow minded as I’d become. The first step towards the change was diary writing, or in my case Live Journal. LJ was the beginning of a journey that eventually granted me sufficient confidence to begin blogging, and from that I finally pushed myself into what became and abortive Open University course, beginning with Creative Writing.

I realised very quickly that formal study was not the answer I was looking for, and even a study group at the local Adult Education College made the process too rigid. However, what these two things managed to combine to do was crack my creative brain open, pushing me into the realisation that daily repetition actually improved my mood and ability. The revelation, at least for me, was when I was able to combine this routine with my desire to get fit, once and for all, after two children. It began simply enough: I’d walk around the block to drop my daughter¬†off to school. One day, I just kept walking.¬†I made a playlist on my phone to listen to, and used this to help me work on a piece of fiction (which became Duet, as it happens,¬†you can read that here.)

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I’ll talk more about my visualisation process in a separate post, but for now all that matters from this was that writing drove my feet, and eventually I would miss the longer walks when I couldn’t take them. As soon as this happened, I knew I’d made some progress. The understanding that the daily writing routine could produce physical as well as mental well-being was something of an epiphany, I must be honest. Most of this however hinged on the knowledge that I am lazy, I will easily allow myself to be distracted, and both of these together can be potentially catastrophic. Understanding how everything links together in my brain has helped a lot towards releasing the clamps on parts of my life that were before almost dangerously restricted.

Relaxation is still a problem, but undoubtedly the process of problem solving in my fiction alleviates the issues. Except, of course, when I find myself presenting a writing problem that has psychological connotations. For instance in Default I’ve written a section around the mental torture of my female protagonist. To do this I undertook research that I found actually quite unpleasant, and have come to the conclusion that people who think that psychological warfare is either fair or right are deeply disturbed individuals. Needless to say the section was written, but with a level of objectivity given to Ronni Flemmings that she didn’t previously posses as a character. My understanding of the situation gave her new strength to cope.

Reach for the Stars

However, undoubtedly at the core of all this understanding came the real belief I’d failed myself when my daughter was born, that I wasn’t good enough to be her mother.¬†That quote in the header is particularly apposite: a series of circumstances prior to her birth (and to a significant extent the birth of my son) made me cut ties with just about everyone I knew at the time, simply because I needed to start with a clean slate moving forward. I have one¬†friend that remain constant¬†from my LJ days, and one from before. That’s it: everyone else is gone, and when (inevitably) someone attempts the Facebook/Twitter friending process, they are quietly and positively ignored. I have no desire to go back to the past, nor to ever live there again. I look now only forward, and with good reason.

I am responsible for all of my failings and shortcomings. Although I’d love to say circumstance and other people are to blame? It’s so really not the case I’d be foolish to attempt to suggest otherwise. I was the selfish, arrogant and thoughtless individual pretty much from start to finish. When I accepted all these things it became a great deal easier to move everything forward, with the understanding that building from scratch has its drawbacks. If I met certain people again I’d happily apologise for my behaviour, but I wouldn’t want to be friends with pretty much all of them. I made all the wrong choices in pretty much every single department, based on a fatally flawed outlook. Now that’s fixed? I still make the wrong choices, but it doesn’t matter nearly as much because I’m able to say I really cared to begin with.

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In my journey to explain how writing is therapy, it’s important to grasp that the words can’t be used to lie. There’s no point in trying to sugar coat your perceptions of the past. I was a bitch for a very long time, and I hurt an awful lot of people, often unintentionally. However, there were times when that wasn’t the case and I knew exactly what I was doing, and because of that fact alone, I have a lot of sympathy for anyone who struggles to find themselves a voice of sanity on difficult days. You’ll never be perfect. You’ll never not fuck shit up. That’s life; make it a small part as much as possible. For all the other times in between, it’s a constant balancing act, and no-one is perfect.

If you can find a way to express your frustration as you live? So much the better.

Wake Up

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I’m getting really fucked off with people not reading stuff.

It’s not my content that this bothers me with, as it happens: I know now, having shifted from Blogger, just how much of my daily traffic was effectively trash/spam. Now it is clear that the robots can’t find me, I have a far better idea of what I’m doing and what needs to be improved, and when I get back to my desk after the scheduled Summer vacation, I am ALL OVER THAT. For now, I’m simply organising and building, but honestly? Some of you people need a right good slapping. I’ve watched a friend today state he won’t be blogging for a while and people automatically assuming he’s vanishing from the face of the Earth. I watch people on Twitter say one thing and others quite spectacularly take the 100% opposite meaning from their words.

On the Internet, you can really make the right wrong with very little effort.

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Then there are those who work really hard to make a point and nobody listens, right up to the moment when *someone else* says the exact same thing and suddenly it’s the best development/news/idea¬†since The Best Thing Ever. Then I just want to toss the metaphorical table and give people a really good shaking: just because you noticed this now doesn’t mean it’s either new or fair to exclude those who’ve worked hard at the expense of what you find easy to cope with. So many people are incredibly good at just not paying attention, and then when I lament this? The range of responses always, inevitably includes the comment ‘I can’t be bothered to read your blog.’¬†Well, if all you’re interested in is your Facebook feel-good stories and your video that runs on mouse-over and the need to feel you have a better grasp on the World?

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Don’t let the door hit you on the way out.

Oh, and get that off my lawn.

Wood and Water :: One

As promised, today is a passage that originally began life as a short piece of an Open University creative writing assessment. It’s subsequently been edited and now has the potential to start a short story.

Enjoy


He knows what they search for is close.

The boy¬†and his father have been travelling since first light, descending through the purple-hewn valleys of heather and scrub grass, moving further from light into darkness. The child’s¬†belly rumbles, demanding sustenance, but to ask for water and the bread his grandmother gave would be considered a weakness. On this day, hunger or fatigue must be forgotten, buried deep within. The moment they cross the perimeter of the copse something passes through the slim, strong body, understanding that they should head east, towards the river.¬†He had expected his father to lead but now he holds back, and his reticence is no longer of concern. It is the boy’s turn¬†to strike forward, driven by instinct. Memory¬†sparks;¬†words planted¬†the night before. Him and her by the bonfire, dark green¬†ritual paint applied to a willing¬†forehead. His mentor’s¬†instructions repeated, learnt by heart and mind: the wood will call, hear its bidding: yours to carve and turn, change and transform. The¬†whole creates your¬†staff, and then¬†our¬†training begins.

You will not choose the wood, son of the forest. It already calls to you.

The boy is suddenly startled, flock of birds escaping the ceiling of thinning leaves above him. The last tendrils of his twelfth Hot Season are shrinking away, blue skies filled with ever-thickening clouds; warmth bleeding into cooler air, sharper gusts of wind from the north. He should be in the fields, gathering grain as his sisters are, but he remains Chosen. Of all those girls in the village who had trained and learnt the Words, hoped to be favoured by the Elders, it had been him they had picked. Seven generations had passed since the last Lone Son, and much already sat on expectant shoulders. He had stared intently into raging fire, hoping for inspiration, and there grew the twisted remains of this fallen dark oak, felled with others in the recent storms. Nature had been nothing but thorough in its decimation of both land and life. It had called him here yet he was uncertain, and his father had reassured, soothed the fear. This was the right path, and they would tread it together.

‘You see, it isn’t dead.’

From the twisted and buckled remains of the stump there grows a¬†branch, thickness of the boy’s upper arm and about four times the¬†length, still very much alive, covered with a scattering of tiny twigs. It looks totally out of place, desperately clinging to the remains of its parent, last vestiges of life before death. The wind lifts suddenly, moving the leaves from the copse’s edge in a wave of sound, rustling through the space around them both. Aran¬†closes eyes and listens, hoping to hear something more than he knows¬†exists, but for now it is only the wind. There is no truth without the wood, conduit between his world and the Earth, and so he goes to the branch, reaching out a willing¬†hand to touch.

As his palm grasps the bark there is noise; cry of anguish, unexpected anger. A sudden stab of pain to the back as an arrow hits from behind, cleanly passing through ribcage and flesh as he falls to the ground. The soldier has no time to react, dead as a bloodied body crumples to the earth, life slowly leeching into the soil, back to the land from which he came.

It takes a moment for the boy to recover and understand what has just happened, given a Waking Dream like countless ones before, except this is not about family but a total stranger. Beneath him lies a soldier from the time Before, fighting man who died, whose remains lie buried under leaves and dirt and history, bound to the tree and that branch which will become his staff. From the past, through the roots of Earth and time, his message is passed and understood. We will fight again, and you will lead us. Aran Mennas turns to his father with a measure of understanding: he was right to believe in him. This destiny is right and solid, without hesitation. The tree provides the weapon, with which he will both see both future and hear wisdom from the past.

This place is where destiny begins anew.