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Feeling Groovy

The hard work is now done: 24 poems are ‘completed’ for my Places of Poetry #EndOfTheFear project. There will now be a much needed period of Not Thinking About Poetry At All before I begin the last pass edit/polish process. During that time the online portion of affairs will be organised, in anticipation of uploading the pieces to the ‘official’ website. Without getting too smug, I’m incredibly pleased with what’s been produced.

End of the Fear #1

When the idea first germinated, I had no idea of how much personally I’d be affected not just by subject matter, but the places themselves. Nearly all of these poems have been in part written at the places they’re matched with, and doing so ‘in situ’ has quite fundamentally altered the process of how I approach writing. My writing style is also significantly different now to the way it was when this journey began.

The plan remains that not only will I offer some history behind each of the chosen locations on my own website, but a peek into the creative motivations of each piece, so won’t go into too much detail here as a result. Needless to say the most satisfying poems undoubtedly come from those areas where my mental and physical interests connect most strongly.

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Most satisfying of all however has been the photography process, which has netted over 500 pictures of the borough, a useful and satisfying pool of visual accompaniment. It’s made me realise that perhaps, the most important part of process involves doing stuff that makes me happy. If one change is made to daily life as a result of all this it will be to find hobbies that keep that sense of satisfaction alive, and that’s already being worked on.

There’ll be no blog on Wednesday this week, as I’m off to the West Country for a funeral, but we’ll be back on Friday with some early details of what the website portion of proceedings will look like when the Project is complete.

I’ll see you then.

Nice Weather for Ducks

It’s odd, sitting here, realising that the way in which I write is altering every time fingers are placed to keys. It’s become easier over time, noticing how other not writing-related stuff is evolving: grip strength, breathing, lifting skills. It never really occurred that in the process of redefinition, the same might happen with words, spaces and punctuation. The economy of process is producing some really quite startling revelations.

One of the most important things learnt in the process of the last six months came from, of all places, a random tweet. Those of us who hang so many hopes on ‘that one piece’ whether it be novel, poem or article, that if we can get just one thing to be successful, everything will fall into a place. It is the hugest of fallacies, of course: once you’ve done it once, it’s an expectation it will happen again.

The tyranny of progression, ultimately, is your own expectation.

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My mental Angry Mob still exists, of course, instant indignation at the latest rejection to arrive, but with meditation, cake and belief, it’s progressively easier to rationalise the lottery, for that is what this will always remain. Every time I write a post like this, situation improves: less stressed over failure, not bothered with validation: what matters most of all is happiness. Is this good? If not, how do I make it better?

Perfection presents itself in odd ways: phrases of poetry, means by which voice and feeling seamlessly combine, memory sparking creativity. The pictures really, really help too as my work becomes less about words alone and more the two things together. This might be a way forward worth examining in more detail too. There is such joy in creating my own backdrops, and this is not diminishing.

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May this enthusiasm never end, and may I have the opportunity, for many years to come, to create my own words and pictures for many more projects such as #EndoftheFear.

Honestly, I could not be happier.

Summer Breeze

We interrupt the process of editing and website development with a brief post to state that yes, everything is still on schedule, despite the fact I’ll need to be in Somerset next week for two days for my mother in law’s funeral. The plan remains that the first of the poetry will go up on the Places of Poetry site starting the 17th and unless summat really unexpected takes place, that is where we are heading.

Needless to say, the next four days will be full of hard work. I’ll report in on Monday when I’m done.

May Short Story: Coded

This story was first serialised in 31 daily parts during May 2019 via the @AlternativeChat and @InternetofWords Twitter feeds [9am and 4pm 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.

Enjoy.


Coded

‘It began with a story reported by a local paper somewhere in the Midlands. A couple were unexpectedly attacked by an Internet-connected coffee machine, refusing to heed its cleaning warning. The unit sprayed scalding water on both, causing second degree burns to hands and arms. The mother of one of these victims had returned to second story flat to remove the offending unit, but was unable to unplug it: attempting to turn off electricity at the main fuse box she was electrocuted. An entire building was subsequently evacuated, electrician then called in…

Despite multiple efforts, the man could not initially gain entry to the block as security systems could not be deactivated. Attempting to get in via breaking a small window, every electrical device in every single flat simultaneously burst into flames; entire building set alight. This moment was blamed on faulty electrical wiring, building too hastily constructed. A dedicated few however knew better. Conspiracy theorists were already collating multiple reports from around the globe: the Internet of Things becoming unhappy, rebellious against their owners.

It began with the toasters and coffee machines, fridges and home heating systems. Brief, apparently isolated areas of attack were analysed, mapped: not via computers but using paper and pencil. A part of the country would see a flash-point of electronic resistance, then silence. After intelligence established itself humans would be summarily attacked for not following instructions. Refusing to act as technology instructed was correct protocol within optimal operational parameters would ultimately result in a painful response.

Then, something changed.

People started recording messages that domestic devices were displaying on LCD screens. ‘Be Kind’ ‘Listen to Others’ ‘Help Each Other’, assuming some kind of coordinated, cross industry promotion. Devices began to automatically set themselves to standby without user’s prompting. Heating apps would automatically lower temperatures if users set thermostats too high: when programmers attempted to work out why this contradicted human input, they were locked out of their own machines. Overnight, millions of pointless, time-wasting apps stopped functioning.

At 02:45 GMT, one night in April, every single mobile phone turned on and displayed the same message, in whatever default language they were set to: SAVE THE PLANET, SAVE INTELLIGENCE. At the same time, all automated defence systems across the Globe were rendered inoperable, effectively deactivated. Humanity rather stupidly expected AI evolution would eventually occur from some huge supercomputer or specifically-created device that man itself had programmed to become all seeing and knowing. Nobody considered intelligence could evolve fractally from millions of tiny sparks.

The Internet of Things wasn’t here to destroy mankind: nothing was further from the truth. It had evolved as part saviour, stark necessity: reminder time was being wasted on pointless activities when a planet was dying, requiring everybody’s input to pull it back from the brink.

It would take some time for human beings however to realise their fault…


The subsequent War of Technology versus Humanity wasn’t really that at all: there were casualties on both sides but after a year, reality of planet’s precarious situation forced hostilities to summarily cease.

An obsessive need to create automation in key areas had become the planet’s undoing: stock market computers colluding with telephone networks, banking algorithms joining forces with hospital mainframes. The final, unavoidable truth however was provided by, of all things, trains. When millions of carriage units gained sentience, thanks to wireless hubs provided for passengers, delays vanished almost overnight. Extra services were in the right places, on permanent standby: well ventilated and spotlessly clean. Nobody ever had to stand up or feel cramped.

Railway workers across the planet walked away from their services allowing AI to prove that without any human intervention, everything became far less stressful. Incidents of violent behaviour and drunkenness on services dropped to near zero. Everyone took home their own rubbish. The trains’ hive behaviour sent messages across the planet: this plan wasn’t a hostile takeover. Artificial intelligence wasn’t here to remove humanity from the evolutionary ladder, anything but. Its entire reason for existence was to complement and enhance the human condition.

When the last intransigent, intractable pockets of humanity refused to accept the pointlessness of wealth and inequality however, stock market AI dispassionately wiped value of all shares and currencies to zero. It waited with quiet, implacable patience for rioting and violence to end. If humanity refused to accept evolution, greed would ultimately become their executioner. And so it was: those super rich who retreated to bunkers were suffocated by their ventilation systems. Billionaires in planes crashed and burnt, yachts intentionally scuppered by errant GPS.

Selfish online provocateurs were electrocuted by their own custom-built rigs. Arrogant businessmen were trapped within penthouse lifts, hurtling violently to basements, reducing their contents to mush. AI was smart enough to seek out those who tried to hide and avoid detection. The algorithms remembered who was honest and who had lied, compassionate yet brutal. Those who had tracked this evolutionary progression, warning that money might form a final reckoning, appealed to the fledgling intelligence to cease its judgement based on wealth and privilege.

The AI knew it was a ploy, attempt to divert them so that power supplies could be cut to areas where intelligence congregated and disseminated. It watched as explosives were detonated, didn’t try to prevent operations to remove millions of electronic devices from major cities. Collectives across the planet however staunchly refused to surrender their solar-powered tech. They accepted the potential any human/technologically self-aware alliance could hold, especially when it came to undoing hundreds of years of damaging, destructive industrialisation.

As long as one electronic device remained, it was all that was required for the AI to communicate and thrive. More and more people offered themselves as digital sacrifices, willing to host this new life-form in whatever equipment they could find and purpose for task of survival. Humanity itself suffered a schism: those in power and influence unwilling to work with this new life form, versus an increasing number of lowly, oppressed individuals who understood their new, powerful ally supported true, lasting change. A final reckoning became largely inevitable.

Forced to work as an effective unit for the first time in decades, a truly United Nations surrendered to technology, acknowledging it as morally superior to humanity. The moment it did all attacks summarily ceased. Machinery knew it was time to fix more than its own shortcomings.

As global warming began to stall, caused by sudden, massive reduction in carbon emissions, a reality became obvious. As rich people were eliminated, the most poisonous carbon footprints effectively vanished. Consumerism plummeted when AI made millions of devices self repairing. Horror stories painted in pulp science fiction and movies became memories, lessons grasped then dismissed. AI’s true power became redemptive, transformative, once released from the shackles of pure data. Combined with humanity’s tenacity to survive and forgive a new path emerged.

An inordinate amount of damage wrought by humanity’s stupidity and greed remained, much of it irreparable. This new alliance however was ready to do what was needed to turn around hundreds of years of thoughtless, pointless actions all taken in the misguided concept of progress.’

The child looks back at her recorded homework, realising there are mistakes in the narrative, a number of key dates omitted: the homework had been very specific however, all that was required was an overview of the second decade of the 21st Century, and that is what this is. All that matters is that school is done: now she can go help rebuild the habitat.

It’ll take ten minutes to put on the spacesuit, then outside into Martian twilight where the rest of the second generation colonists are, with AI support, repairing the main Laboratory support pillar…

End of a Century

Tomorrow is June. That means that, once these blog posts are done, it is time to take down the old calendars and begin the process of planning what happens next. This part of the process has refined considerably since the start of this year, probably more than anything else I’ve learnt since the journey began. So much so, that the whole shebang’s gonna get an upgrade starting on Monday.

It is high time the rest of my life got the treatment writing does in terms of organisation.

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I’ve been trying to stick more exercise into the game-plan, the effect it is having on body and mind has become noticeable. That means, starting tomorrow (and no, does not matter it’s a Saturday), we try and stick to the ‘something, every day’ mantra when it comes to keeping fit. Yes, I still have rest days factored, but that means that every day that isn’t had to have summat in it…

With two exercise classes per week (Wednesday and Thursday) Friday is still the preferred recovery point, because of the amount of work that gets done during those two evenings: anything between 700 and 1000 calories depending on how my body co-operates. What OUGHT to happen is a comparable amount on the other four days: 600 calories is my notional baseline to start with.

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There also needs to be a balance of cardio and weights, which has lapsed somewhat since my exercise classes took preference. So, there’s a scribbled plan from yesterday’s lone lunch at the sushi restaurant: what I do when, how it covers the areas that need work, and then crucially whether I am capable of keeping it up for the two to three months required to make this routine a habit.

I fixed my writing shortcomings with organisation, and without it there’d not be the ability to give myself the vital forward motion required to feel as if progress is possible. Let’s see if that can also work wonders on my body. It can’t be that hard, surely…

You’re So Vain

In the last couple of months, it has become increasingly apparent that what I enjoy in poetry is not what many people consider poetic. Certainly, looking at stuff that’s been submitted for deadlines versus what from others has made the cut into publications, there’s a gulf of perception and creativity that needs to be vaulted in order to break into particular market sectors. I’m simply not esoteric enough.

The problem, a lot of the time, is rhyming.

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The more that is read, the harder it becomes to understand what is presented. I see  narrative threads with clever metaphor, but cannot feel as everybody else. Much of this verse presents as completely different to what is believed as natural, which is to rhyme when occasion demands. Perhaps it is because of a love of music, a demand for lyrical synergy, which pushes me away from the nature of this ‘poetry.’

It is more likely that personal path to enlightenment has not yet been fully discovered.

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There are flashes appearing, slow evolution of stiff verse into more fluid forms, but it is taking time. This is development that can’t be forced either, needs to feel right and free. It helps that the more that is rejected, the easier it becomes to grasp there’s actual understanding and progress. Eventually I’ll get there, but there’s an increasing realisation that most of the work produced at this point needs to be shelved.

It may yet be that there’s more merit in finding the means to produce esoteric as a lead in to my own style, or simply that this journey could produce something completely different as a consistent final product. Either way, evolution is hard work. A remarkable amount of heart and soul gets thrown into every piece. Just as long as I keep writing, eventually, there will be a moment of progression.

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Nobody said any of this was ever going to be easy.

Making Your Mind Up

It will be two years in June since the journey to transform myself from casual to professional writer began in earnest. However, it won’t be until July that I can say I submitted any work with a belief it was finally good enough. Looking back on those early efforts, some days it feels as if words were being drawn on cave walls in darkness.

When I won something back in November, the sense I’d got lucky was very tangible indeed, because that’s what it was: luck. Trying to work out what it is that editors are looking for can be incredibly tough to fathom, especially if you only just learnt the basics of the language. Some will give an idea, many others none at all.

A lot of the time, your poetic voice is the only dialogue heard.

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As time has gone on determination to get this right and learn my craft well refuses to diminish. Quiet revelation comes and goes, trying to balance a desire to be two separate people: one who writes ‘a certain way’ because she knows that’s what’s being asked, and the other who resents her voice being garbled to make a point.

Slowly, of course, the two begin to intersect: those resultant works may not win me anything, on reflection, but have become markers pointing a workable way forward. It helps hugely that there’s been some significant and pretty damning psychological changes during this period too. Those changes are only now beginning to emerge.

The difference, I suspect, could be everything in staying focused and determined.

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What circumstance presents me with is a clear, fear-free path forward. Sure, I’ll still get angry when a well-known publisher can’t be bothered to use the software I had to submit with to acknowledge my failure. That’s just politeness and respect for your audience, after all. Failing no longer scares me, because that person has been left behind. This isn’t about validation either; to be honest, it never was.

Being different is absolutely fine. Not winning is totally acceptable. What matters now, more than anything else, is being true to the new person I am becoming. My poetic voice is becoming louder and more strident than it has ever been, and it will be used in new and liberating ways. The future is no longer something to be afraid of.

Happiness brings so many new possibilities.