Current Posts

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…

Always There

The plan, at the start of this year, was to own something saleable to self-produce by the end of the year. It was initially the intention to only do this digitally: that should hopefully still take place in the next couple of weeks but my first serious foray into publication will be with a physical collection. I’ve spent the last six weeks or so putting finishing touches to a proof and obtaining prices from local printers. A final amendment to my original cover design has been double-checked, plus a biography added to the back. On the 19th I’ll send everything to the people chosen to handle this task and wait for a proof…

If all goes well, by the middle of November, there’ll be a debut pamphlet to purchase.

Part of me hoped this particular collection might be picked up by a major publisher but nobody seems to consider a 53-year-old mother of two’s mental health journey as particularly saleable. I can completely understand why that would be the case, and why to favour supporting authors who have a proven track record of selling poetry makes far more sense financially. I’m not an idiot. These are difficult times for everybody. It’s why the decision was made to dip into savings in order to fund this, and to know well in advance not simply the viability of the product, but EXACTLY how many copies need to be sold to break even.

This project then becomes maths plus ability, and allows me to make what I want and not to compromise on what is, at times, very personal content. There’s a number up on the wall, a pricing scheme which is acceptable for what is produced, plus a marketing campaign of my own design which will reveal the best of what I can offer as a mental health poet. This will culminate in producing a complete reading of all the poems for Time to Talk Day in February, where I’ll explain the details of this journey from childhood to the present day.

Normally, I’d be obsessed with NaNoWriMo at this point… and I am, after a fashion. The idea is all ready to roll, I’ve already started writing, but next week is not going to be some adverts and building a webpage so that I can start taking pre-orders. I reckon that’s a good couple of days work, and as I intend to take a day off on Friday (*cough* BIRTHDAY *cough*) So, once that’s done, you’ll be getting alternate posts on both of these, and I really can’t complain that there’s not sufficient excitement in my life.

Well, I could, but it would be a complete lie.

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.

Somersault

It occurs to me that constantly having to keep yourself accountable is a lot harder work than it first appears, especially when people are paying to help you progress. It is easy to see how so many people in the arts industry burn out so quickly: it is a treadmill, and it never stops. Therefore, training yourself to be able to get on and off whilst the thing is still moving is the skill I’m now very glad to have grasped.

Over the last week, a lot of plans have been put in place, yet again, and others have had their objectives subtly realigned. By the end of October we should have the self-published pamphlet ready to roll, but this is going to depend on pricing from printers, which I can’t finalise until the contents of said pamphlet are complete… finishing matters more than anything else. Then, once my graphic design skills have been tested…

Needless to say, if I’m not in the right mindset, this is all an awful lot harder.

There’ll be more news on this project on the 15th 😀

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 😀

Love’s Great Adventure

Following on from Tuesday’s reminder of things past, today is very much about what is to come. The Places of Poetry anthology launches on National Poetry Day, which is a week from now. I’ve got a couple of things ready to roll, and hope to have my first proper video complete by then. After that there’s the virtual launch with a bunch of people far better qualified at doing this stuff than I am. There will be lots of notes taken.

It’s what then happens next that now occupies my mind.

I’ve spent the last few days preparing what needs to be done. Now it’s just a matter of making my way through it, then organising myself appropriately. There’re calenders to print and possible new things to enter/submit to, and after that some time an effort should be given to make a new biography and headshot for the web page. As I picked up my inclusion to the anthology on spec, there is always the opportunity this will bring in interest.

Next week, we’ll start talking about my next potential project.

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.