Back in the Saddle

This week is not about poetry, to be honest. It is about politics and freedoms and NaNoWriMo but, at the back of everything there is the beating heart of what I am, good or bad, are the poems. I’ve taken a week off the promotion because next week we’re going to go full-on, and right now nobody cares about my journey, they all want America to do the right thing because if it does, we all might yet stand a realistic chance of redemption.

Therefore, blogging has been kept to a minimum. I’ve done a phenomenal amount of groundwork on NaNo too, so much so that I wrote enough in the first 72 hours to propel me well into next week. This is truly the narrative that is writing itself, and I’m grateful for my short fiction/flash fiction training via Patreon right now because its making breaking the plot down into manageable, sensible sections a hell of a lot easier.

This week’s blogging therefore becomes of secondary importance to bigger pictures, which includes TWO video offerings instead of one, plus some much-needed background work on catching up with elements that were either too complex to visualise previously or I simply did not have the brain-space to accommodate. Needless to say I expect to end this week considerably stronger than where it started. I’m hoping my beliefs will be proved wrong…

Crocodile

You will have seen that pre-orders are on the front page, there’s even a link now to the page. Once I’ve finished the latest video project (Thursday/Friday next week) we’ll get started on the ‘I Talk to Myself’ video. Did I mention I was going to do a self-interview? I need to plan out camera angles and stuff. It’ll be great, trust me. After that we’re into November, and there’s a TON of new stuff happening then.

For now however the weekend is about throwing old stuff at new deadlines, continuing to rearrange the virtual furniture and hope that the hour I lost back to GMT won’t completely destroy my ability to be a capable human being. As soon as the final pamphlets are published (which should be at the end of next week) there will be final details on price, postage options and how many I’m prepared to sign. I need to sort out some bookplates…

Next week, we’ll have more news on NaNoWriMo, and the plans to the end of 2020.

Experiment IV

So, where are we?

A lot has happened in the last month. The pre-orders page for the Pamphlet will go live tomorrow morning, and I’ll FINALLY get started on working on my next video. Most of the prep is done, it’s now about putting all the elements together. It might yet get out for Friday: I have suddenly gained a 15-year-old at home because the girl who sits next to her in two lessons has COVID. I can but hope she was good at personal hygiene. She was one of the few at school who, like my daughter, permanently wore a mask.

Thank goodness for small mercies.

Daily practice continues to go well.

I had planned to take Friday off because it is my birthday. Most of what was going to happen will be cancelled because of my daughter’s quarantine, which is sad but totally necessary. Therefore, I may just call it a normal day and celebrate across the weekend. We will see. For now, however, rest assured that not only is a lot happening, but there’s even more going on you have not yet heard about…

Moving Pictures

So here we are, moving very much into video when I had assumed that audio would be the first step forward in my AV experience. I’m not lucky enough to own anything particularly sophisticated with which to produce video content either. It is all very much being made up as I go along. However, what the last two weeks has amply demonstrated is how easy it is, with rudimentary knowledge of working practices, to produce something hugely professional.

Therefore, the world is pretty much mine to exploit as I now choose. The only limit is my imagination and the raw materials available to me. I’ve set a notional target of one sub two-minute video a week, which means Twitter and Instagram are both available as advertising media. We’ll start slow, because I know if I go too big too early it just makes continuation and continuity impossible to sustain. Picking 24 poems from the vastness of my own output is the least of my worries. The possibilities are, quite frankly, infinite.

Recording live video, as it transpires, is not nearly as problematic as might be the case either. Of course, it would be lovely to be able to afford state-of-the-art equipment or the opportunity to learn new techniques but allowing these things to hold back my progress when so many techniques and possibilities are easily available to me would be foolish. The process, undoubtedly, is more important right now. It is learning about myself as a writer, a photographer and ultimately as an artist, bringing all these elements together.

Everything Connected

It’s taken until Saturday for my brain to be awake enough to process everything currently taking place. Living with a mental health issue can sometimes be a curse, especially when you hold yourself to such a high standard of output. However, on the flip side, it gives you a unique insight into life and how it is lived. On many occasions this week it has been an almost painfully slow task to react and move forward, but with the benefit of sleep and reflection, there’s a lot to be learnt about my practice, and how it is progressing.

Once upon a time, my daily writing workout began with the first blog of the day. Right now I’m creating a poem from an unseen visual prompt when I wake, plus organising two Create Your Own short stories using Twitter polls, and this is a whole new use of brainpower in quite focused bursts. It’s meant a lot of mental energy being expended in unexpected areas. It has also promoted a desire to go back to fiction, which is helpful, because NaNoWriMo is fast approaching. This year, we’re doing something a long way away from previous years’ efforts.

I spent two hours last night planning the direction of my narrative. I’ll also be creating a Playlist this weekend. I should have been writing a post for Patreon, and yesterday I accepted that, if I am the boss, it is occasionally okay to miss a deadline if it means my mental health benefits from that action (which it undoubtedly has.) Balancing all the requirements right now is hard, but getting easier. Any change to routines always results with this kind of mental discomfort.

At least now I know what’s going on.

Most importantly of all this week I made a video from scratch. It’s only just beginning to register how much mental effort was pumped into this, and why as a result I might have felt so tired yesterday. I’m immensely proud of what is here, and already have a vastly different, second piece planned. There’s no point in resting on my laurels either: being able to produce and promote my own work means there doesn’t need to be extra cash to pay others to do it. The more leant, the more self-sufficient I become.

In the end, this is the most important progression of all.

September Short Story: Answers to Nothing

This story was first serialised in 30 daily parts during September 2020 via the @MoveablePress and @InternetofWords Twitter feeds [9am and 5pm GMT respectively.] It is now reproduced in a complete form, a number of small edits and corrections made to improve narrative flow and maintain correct continuity.

I produce fiction bi-weekly on my Patreon: this includes flash fiction (250 words) which is being put together to form a long-form narrative, plus a bi-weekly full novel presented in episodic format.

Click here to become a Patron.


Answers to Nothing

The advert stands out with minimal effort, lodged between Mrs Parsons’ offer of cheap piano lessons and that window cleaning flyer, placed the day after I’d moved into 13B. It is written on the back of an ancient picture postcard, penmanship at once both brilliant and impressive.

‘Wanted: Person of Good Standing to assist with daily issues appertaining to the numerical complexity of Existence. Must be immaculately presented, punctual, with the most open of minds. Payment will be negotiated on completion of the correct procedural particulars. Bring Card.’

There’s no phone number to contact, obvious lack of address on the written side: assuming the newsagent will hold them is met with first a shrug and then not unexpected indifference. She lets me take the card regardless: without those elements the ad appears effectively useless. Except I’m a local now, can recognise the black and white photograph on the picture’s side. Gauss and Euler, an exemplary art emporium older than me, my home, the newsagents and most of this street combined. A Grade One listed building standing proudly in many forms since the 1300s.

On the other side of town it has become a shrine to the beauty of both form and dysfunction. The University’s art course enthusiastically taught me a whole module on its significance to the city, stretching from the arrival of its original owner to the unassuming village in 1326. Nearly 700 years later, that place is at least 70% national treasure, 20% utter chaos with the rest… well, depending on who you believe, it’s either magical, possessed by evil spirits or a portal to another dimension. The urban legends that have sprung from the shop…? God tier.

I love it for its vegan menu, fact it always has in stock whatever it is in art supplies required without ever having to order, and that it smells of burnt sugar. Without fail, every time I go there I’m back as a kid in Aunt Betty’s kitchen when she’d make special almond brittle. Today I’ve made a special effort. In these trousers, this waistcoat we could be going out in Manchester. The boots glisten, red patent leather doing exactly what was planned, same colour as lips and earrings. My mind is not just open, it’s ready for business, waiting for offers.

Gauss and Euler sits hidden down a side street in the Town Centre, cobbled line between our modern, aesthetically pleasing Shopping Centre and a chain-run coffee shop. It is literally a gateway to another world… except, not today: passageway is unexpectedly, inexplicably shut.

I watch two disgruntled Art College students encounter a door that absolutely never existed here the last time a trip was made for replacement acrylics and charcoal sticks, before deciding to go drink latte and eat muffins instead. Considering my next move, I notice the picture. There’s another postcard, stuck to the door at eye height. The assumption was it explained the closure but instead there is an instruction written in ink so vivid blue the letters shimmer in early morning sunshine.

PLACE CARD HERE.

I look around, suddenly very self-conscious.

Maybe the rumours were actually true. Perhaps there needs to be more than just an open mind at play here. Then there’s a moment of panic: which way to place the card? Maybe this isn’t just an instruction. What if it were a key for a door which might not exist now… don’t be daft. Except, on the postcard, there’s a door like this, with a white square just like that one over there as these tiny people in black and white are no longer just ink and paper but are moving, living beings and then it registers. I just had to think about putting the card in place.

Welcome to August 12th, 1890, when Frobisher and Ashwood, taking this picture, captured the living, breathing heart to my town. They’re behind me now, setting up their equipment, in a space where past and present overlap so seamlessly it is impossible to separate myself from it. I’m not supposed to either: this is a test, first of many. The numerical complexity of existence defines this spot as a focus, billions of possible past and future outcomes radiating from a single, intractably defined point of origin. These photographers captured it accidentally.

That’s why their card is so important, explains as I finally look up why there is no obstruction to the alleyway, but a woman standing there, dressed in a red coat and black trousers that beautifully mirror my own choices. Then, as I blink, she is in front of me, smiling broadly.

“We knew how quickly you’d pick this up. After a while, it’s easy to spot those who Understand and those who will never See. This job is yours if you want it.”

I think about asking what it is that has been offered, but an answer is already in my head, presented by a future self. Standing here, my World is expanding and contracting; wind offering smells that haven’t existed for centuries. Heady richness, past summers when all that stood here was a small stone circle. Ley lines from seven counties converge to a point where one woman first pitched her tent.

No, not her, this isn’t immortality on show but lineage. An ancestor, flame haired, first touched with the taint of Understanding: my Future Self offers a tantalising hint of our possibility, hands intertwined. I can still walk away and all this will vanish, become simple desire. I can’t, won’t, refuse to reject what’s right, correct, flowing through every cell of a body that’s been waiting for this moment for multiple generations. Here is where I need to be. THIS is what I was built to become a part of. After thirty-six years lost an existence is found.

With the next exhale I am back, staring at an alleyway no longer blocked, two art students arguing furiously that there was absolutely a gate here before they went for take-out. My future lover is nowhere to be seen, absolute normality a sudden and reassuring constant. What now?

The shop answers my question, which should not be as much of a surprise as it is but there’s still a moment of disbelief as something touches my consciousness. Burnt sugar. A kitchen, filled with warmth and noise. Aunt Betty’s there, standing in front of me, as I remember her. She passed almost a decade ago: the woman in front of me is at the prime of her life, and quite obviously presented not to frighten a mind that might not already have grasped that this is the way Understanding communicates with the humans that move within it, conducting business.

‘Well, luv, you’ve already grasped the basics that most people take months to properly comprehend, so I should be asking that question of you. Knowing you possess an ability to subconsciously improve the lives of others, but not directly influence events, where would you start?’

The temptation instantly is to head for London, maybe Manchester but brain is already working the problem logically. Dismantling any system at the top level won’t work, or else Understanding would have already done so… unless there’s more at play here than just a force for good…

Betty’s features alter, appraisal now far more critical.

‘That revelation takes even longer to register for most: if Understanding exists, there’s a counter. The Universe is very big on balance, has been since forever. It means that if we’ve found you, Chaos has a new convert.’

Blimey: there are actual, real Agents of Chaos… it’s not just a figure of speech. All this stuff is being engineered, by a presence that can only exist to counter the good. My brain is already drawing conclusions, working out where to go as opposition… but that’s not my task.

It’s my job to destroy all of this for good.

‘Understanding is happy to leave you. Chaos, however, has other ideas…’

She works for the Bad Guys. That woman, destined to become the love of my life, is the latest addition to Chaos Incarnate, and she is inside the shop, waiting. Everything inside consciousness rearranges with a speed that is enough to bring me to my knees. The shop is Chaos, not Understanding. All that time, the Good Guys have been protecting me from them, hiding my ability, keeping me safe until they knew my oppositional twin was ready.

She has already switched sides, coming from the Goodness that once owned this place before Darkness possessed it, warping true power. The final showdown between two massive Universal constants has nothing to do with major players or corrupt government.

It will come down to us.


Change

Most things right now are pretty well-organised, so when I got to FINALLY being in a position to record audio for my own poetry, the process went remarkably well. What was immediately apparent however is that the presentation systems themselves require some thought, and that’s where we are now: how everything looks together, and finding a logo and strap line that can now take the website and my content to it’s next logical evolution.

I know some authors get physically uncomfortable when considered as a ‘brand’ and you can see these people from quite some distance away. Looking like you’re throwing it together as you go along is a skill that would, quite quickly, drive me into the ground with exhaustion. You must be a certain type of artist to succeed with that, and I’m just not. I demand far more order, focus and thought along the way, and so a new logo was born to show an increasing acknowledgement of these truths.

I will no doubt thank YouTube later for making me extract the digit.

I’m in the final production process for a number of videos that will be shown during World Mental Health Day, which I produced in my capacity as a Time to Change Champion. I am very proud of them, and they’ve made me realise what is possible if I set some quite rigid restrictions on how stuff is done. It’s also taught me a great deal about my own resilience as a creator, and that maybe this is a viable means of doing work going forward.

However, I’ve never really been comfortable reading anything to camera, which is why that’s not going to continue in public. I’ll be making audio-only videos going forward for public consumption, if you want to see my face you’ll need to subscribe to Patreon. I have a cunning plan, however, and the first part of it will go live on Thursday, alongside some specially-written poetry for National Poetry Day. I am really pleased with all my work this year.

We have come a very long way in the last twelve months 😀

Same Time, Same Place

I may have mentioned that a poem of mine is going to be published in a hardback anthology on October 1st (now did it, stuff is forgotten so quickly of late…) and with this publication has come a flood of memories from that time last year when the ambitious plan was born. Twenty-four poems in a month seems like a lot, but as it transpires that was exactly the right amount. It was also at the same time that I went into counselling, at the time to investigate the possibility I might be autistic.

It’s amazing how things alter once someone else is there to shift focus. What seemed to matter most back then had pretty much consumed everything that I was. The obsession over a diagnosis had driven everything for close to a year… and then, it became apparent that this was the least of my problems. Looking back at that time, the poetry was what kept me from falling apart. It gave a focus away from all the emotional and mental pressure. My home town became the backdrop for a process of self-healing that is still going on today.

Everything that has followed from that point onwards has pushed me further into a Universe that’s been waiting for my arrival for some time. It was the process of being able to contribute to a project whose validation came not from other people, but purely from myself. What I considered as good enough was the resultant 24 poems and hundreds of photographs, and to then find one of those poems considered good enough to make it into the Anthology… there was a whole second level of belief added to the first.

Sometimes, we need the approval of our peers to move forward. I won’t lie, the increasingly common instances where I am complimented for work, out of the blue, is a gift that continues to keep giving long after the initial moment of brilliance. Its why such moments end up being printed from the Internet and kept. Whatever else may happen, to have positively affected someone’s life, if even for a moment, if a rare jewel of brilliance, and should never be underestimated or belittled.

Over a year on from Places of Poetry, validation now happens in many ways. The dopamine hit is different, my needs and desires altering on an almost daily basis. What remains is the reminder of how much of a debt of gratitude I will owe Andrew McRae and Paul Farley, whose project allowed me to become a better version of myself whist the rest of my existence as in turmoil. That generosity will never be forgotten, and the lessons learnt will shape me as a poet and artist for the rest of my life.

Just a Little

This week’s been a bit unexpectedly brutal. You’ll be seeing this on a Saturday but it’s sitting in Thursday’s blog spot, for reasons that are all over social media. I assume that people read here and follow me, and therefore do my best not to repeat the same stuff. Therefore, if you wanna go catch up, this blog is not for you. Here is where it is admitted, to the room, there is a new poetry collection in progress. I dunno where it will go, or whether it will even see the light of day.

The key here is that it is demanding to be written.

So, why is there a picture of a tasty chocolate bar here? This simple confection has been the subject of a very vocal, extremely entertaining family ‘dispute’ for a couple of weeks now. It was the first time, in some time, I’d felt comfortable enough to really contribute to anything frivolous. Amazingly, the Penguin became a metaphor: you can be yourself, even if there are consequences. It is okay to be different, if you can accommodate other people whilst doing so.

Then, a publication I enjoy launched their pamphlet contest and I found myself thinking of reasons why I couldn’t enter. I’d be never good enough for them, there are other things in contest, you don’t need to do anything else… and there were reasons piling up to not try something new. My brain was already placing obstacles in my way, to produce something of the standard required.

I’m not going to be that person any more.

The rules, therefore, are simple: no miring myself in chaos. No stressing about it. Write when you feel like it, don’t get lost in the work. If it makes you overly emotional, walk away. The task here is a realistic interpretation of where you exist as a human being. If all that can be achieved, I’m doing pretty well. So far, I’m halfway through. Once this is written, I’ll probably do some more. Undoubtedly, as I do, a Penguin will be involved.

Being kind to myself is part of the new rule set.

The Last Time

An awful lot got done this last week, but not nearly enough. It’s always the way, you provision time for things to be completed, and then it becomes apparent that you’ve massively underestimated the amount of work required. I am becoming fantastic at this, and therefore there needs to be a bit of a rethink over the time management side of things. Fortunately all of this effort is front-loading. It’s architecture, and that always takes the most effort.

After this, everything gets considerably easier. I just bolt stuff on top and suddenly, there’s content. I’ve seen other people state that learning how to project manage is the skill they wish they’d properly grasped before starting anything. Nothing is ever an exact science. I get, thanks to exercise, how a shift of one muscle group or a rethink of your body placement can be the difference between success or failure. Again, that just has to be translated to my other issues to address.

This is me, permanently shifting stance to maintain balance.

The latest piece of Patreon content is out this month, and (honestly) this is the best thing I’ve made this year. I’m charging a five a month, more or less, for people to read it and although some days the process feels like pulling teeth, it is worth the effort. This month we’ll have a digital print to sell too which I need to do some research on in terms of sales. I’m going to do a run of 25 ‘prints’ all numbered which my daughter and I will sign. When she makes it big in the future, she’ll be the signature everybody wants 😀

Me, I’m here to make some money to pay for web hosting and printing materials. Just trying to break even at this time is the goal, or to get a decent amount of cash for my time. There is a break even point I have notionally aimed for, and when that is reached then I know there’s real, tangible progress. Until then, yet again, it’s all architecture. The foundations are placed, you build walls, a way in and out, and incentives for people to come and stay.

That’s all you will ever realistically be able to achieve.

If you’re a Patron, there’ll be space for you soon here that’s exclusively yours and nobody else’s. I’ll provide passwords by the end of this week assuming that everything goes to plan… but who knows what will happen between there and now. I’ve watched the World go south a few times this year, and coping is getting easier each time. In this case, one can only hope that it’s not a major disaster close to home.

That’s the thing about life right now, you never quite know what to expect…