Secret Messages

Origins

Before I leave the 1990’s behind for good, there is one story that is worth repeating. It’s not well known, and is the basis for a love affair with computing and the Internet which has failed to diminish over the last twenty years. It began on the back of unabashed fandom obsession for a TV show many people will never have heard of, but which is an important part of UK genre history. The year is 1995, and the TV show was BUGS.

This show was notable because it was created with input by Brian Clemens who was responsible for creating both The Avengers and The Professionals. It was, despite the now highly dated nature of the title sequence, pretty decent fare, and I have a fanfic written (almost complete) that covered my favourite period of the show. However, that was not all I was responsible for during that time period. For a brief and glorious two year period, I was Webmistress of the Official Website.

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Bureau Two was my baby: the Wayback Machine has copies of the site still archived from 20 years ago, when I was responsible for upkeep and was being paid by the production company to do so. This was the first time an external website was linked to the BBC’s own architecture, making it pretty much unique, and I was immensely proud of the achievement. The date on this capture’s apposite too: six days before the debut of the show’s Season 4, which was cancelled as a result of the Omagh Bomb on the 15th, as the opening episode contained an explosion. The series never really recovered after that, and was quietly cancelled, after which I signed over intellectual property rights and handed the data to the production company for upkeep.

This was my first experience of ‘professional’ writing too, and I was pretty proud of it. I liaised with the production company, had an editor to sign off all the work, and did it all off my own back. It made me realise I was capable of better things than simply the job I was beginning to hate, and gave me a vital lifeline away from my normal routine. Personal circumstances however transpired to push me away from pursuing this full-time, and becoming pregnant pretty much put the brakes on everything that involved dealing with other people. However, it allowed my fiction to finally get a look in. With confidence in web design, I started a West Wing ‘Fansite’ whilst waiting for my son’s birth in 2000, and succumbed to the rapidly emerging online Cult of Fan Fiction.

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We spoke about this last week, and you can read all the sordid details I’m prepared to admit there. On reflection, these were important times: using other people’s characters as a means to find my own voice has a fair deal of merit. I never made any money from them, nor would I wish to, but the lessons learnt concerning narrative structure really matter. More significantly, 2000 was when I began my first novel, which I pulled out this week after an absence of several months and again began to tinker with.

This time, however, it is going to be finished before the end of the year is out.

Mission Statement

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I’ve been alive for half a century, which has seen change at a rate which, for some, is frankly staggering. I’ve lived during massive political and social upheaval, watched history play out around me and through all of this have relied on written media to inform and educate where personal experience was lacking. Newspapers, magazines, television providers, radio stations and all forms of educative sources… my entire life has been moulded by the words I’ve read, heard and seen. Since that British bloke ‘invented’ the Internet in 1989 words have begun a transformation: no longer do you have to wait for news to be reported, or hope you can find an objective or relevant viewpoint. Now, more often than not, history happens around you and is immediately available to dissect. The way everybody both perceives and absorbs information is altering, often at a speed that some find confusing and concerning.

This is why the Internet of Words had to happen now.

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Once upon a time, when there were no words, one assumes that communication could be quite fraught. Yet now, with the wealth of information available, so many myriad forms of conveying a message, people still misinterpret what they are given. I watch it happen every day, across all forms of media. The faster your delivery method, as a rule, the more a chance exists for misinterpretation (often followed shortly by some kind of altercation.) Once upon a time it could take weeks for news to reach across the planet: now, it can take seconds. It is no wonder that so many people are confused and often unable to cope with the sheer weight of data presented to them. As delivery systems become increasingly more sophisticated, the average brain is struggling to cope with keeping up. That’s why I’m beginning this journey, and in the months that follow hope to use the Internet of Words as my platform for investigation and (hopefully) enlightenment.

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From http://www.i-scoop.eu

I’ve been inspired for this project by the Internet of Things: the interconnection via the Internet of computing devices embedded in everyday objects, enabling them to send and receive data. On the Web right now, and all across the Globe, I see and sense an emerging Internet of Words: if I had to define what this project is about, it seems like a good idea to use that definition but with the scope of language and communication as its heart:

INTERNET OF WORDS: The interconnection via the Internet of thoughts, ideas and writing styles embedded in social media, blogs, mobile apps and web pages, enabling new forms of communication.

Of course, one could argue this is already restrictive, that there is an Internet of Images
that might be considered more important, but I’m smart enough to know you learn to walk properly before running anywhere. Therefore, we will begin our journey with the tools that form a vital part of my everyday existence, that have saved me from myself on too many opportunities to recall and (most importantly) present the means by which ideas can be communicated and discussed.

I took a University degree back in the 1980’s that many of my peers considered something of a joke: Radio, Film Television Studies and English. It has taken thirty years for me to realise that this was probably the best preparation I’d ever have for living in the Internet Age: words are not just carriers of understanding, but can be weapons and symbols. The power of information is not simply understanding what you are given, but grasping how that shapes the existence around you. Learning how to see, hear and read with an objective eye is a life skill that I am staggered remains lacking in so many people, regardless of age, social status or circumstance. This is not a Millennial failing, or a CIS Male issue, it is everybody’s problem to solve, regardless. Comprehension and understanding matter more now than they have at any point in humanity’s existence as the dominant species.

Every day is a School day, after all.

The Internet of Words is a project that will include my own fictional take on the changing world we live in, essays on the issues I see as being important as we proceed into the 21st Century, plus observations on how words themselves are changing and evolving, often at a speed that some of us can find hard to keep up with. There will be spaces in our Internet for the ‘visual’ words too, and how language is used for vastly differing ends, plus how as individuals we can try and understand the more objective side of discourse and response. Thanks to the unique way the Internet now functions I will be asking people to help self fund this endeavour, via the medium of Patreon.

If you wish to become part of the Internet of Words with me when the project formally launches in June, please

on Twitter or subscribe to this WordPress site, where all future announcements around the project will be made.

The Best Kept Secret

These are the dark days for a Depressive’s soul, the long, grey bleh that extends and contracts around freezing temperatures and half-hearted attempts to snow. In the midst of all this, I had a fight with my son, and in one of those moments of stupidity that often happen when you’re a parent, I said with 100% confidence ‘If you do this, I will never get angry ever again.‘ He laughed at me, and suddenly I realised that this is all I’ve been since June, at least when it comes to the moments I’m down and the world exposes my frailties. For all that encouragement and positivism that I spout elsewhere, I am still unbelievably angry at so many things.

Now in the darkness of Winter days where there’s nothing but the next grey morning to look forward to, that’s beginning to interfere with my ability to adequately function as a human being, and I need to find a way to fix it. The question now becomes how I do this and find a way to write creatively again, because I’ve been trying for weeks and nothing has happened. Yeah, I can produce words on a daily basis as the need arises, but my imagination seems to be broken. There’s not even anything forthcoming on the Treadmill either, instead I’m listening to old playlists and happy to lose myself in narratives past.

I know what I need to do, I just can’t find a way to make it happen.

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The thing is, of course, I say I don’t care but I do now more than I have at any point in the past. I don’t want to disconnect with this new reality either, I have to know what’s going on around me as a matter of some significance, to understand what the World actually means now rather than losing myself inside largely irrelevant ‘alternate’ realities. Plus I get really very cross at people who don’t seem to grasp how the Planet is potentially going to shit because they’re still largely obsessed with their own petty battles or bugbears. Somewhere, I am now grasping, a quantum shift took place in my psyche. I’ve not felt this depressed for quite some time, and amazingly it’s nothing to do with all the pointless, irrelevant issues that previously caused me to become unhappy.

This is the stuff that I can do nothing about and which is out of my hands: global warming, injustice, racial intolerance and general mindless stupidity. Of course, I can in my own way try and fight all these things, and I am making significant inroads into changing the world around me. I’m also becoming incredibly good at stopping other people’s attempts to mislabel me, or try and draw me into arguments I never started. I am developing communication skills that I never had a year ago, and I am very pleased at my ability now to simply shake my head, get up and walk away from a screen and not come back until I know I can be an adult. However, when the environment turns against me as it did yesterday and I have nowhere else to go?

Today made me realise there is an awful lot of work still needing to be done.

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The key, it now appears to me, is prioritising the significance of what I can change and what needs to be ignored in my Brain. It also involves eliminating a number of sources of stress from the equation and, I suspect, prioritisation of what is important on a day to day basis. I’m getting very good at scheduling, and this needs to be expanded with the short form tasks, and maybe I can go so far as starting to write stuff for the next day the night before. Honestly, it doesn’t matter when a lot of my daily output gets written, just that I keep myself at at pace that means the process of writing is having a positive effect. Then I need to schedule time to write fiction and make it happen, even if I am writing crap. That’s the plan starting on Monday, the hope being this will kick start the way forward.

It also occurs to me that I could do some investigation over why everything is making me so cross, and that this in turn might help me identify means by which I can start enjoying myself again. I hear the Internet is an excellent place to do such research. That’s tonight’s bedtime reading, and before then I’m going to attempt to lose myself in online gaming and making little pixels do stuff that I may not totally enjoy right now, but which certainly counts as relaxation. For the first time in many years, it’s not the gaming that causes the stresses, but everything that isn’t. That’s another realisation that just pushes me to go fix the problem before the grey malaise takes over everything and I end up going backwards with food and exercise. There were hints of this today, and I can’t let it happen.

I’ve come too far now to be poleaxed by my own psyche.

NaNoWriMo ::Day Four

Absolutely the best thing about creating a Novel is that it is your rules and nobody else’s. That means, in the last two days, I’ve completely rewritten history. As part of that, I’ve needed to design an icon that will appear all over my ‘World’, which is a visual representation of the organisation in which my main character (and pretty much everybody else I’ve written so far) exists. I’ve been working at this for several weeks, if truth be told, and now I think I’m there:

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The fact it started as lady parts is really important: this is a female-driven hierarchy. It will be the symbol that appears on flags and standards, on the uniforms of the modern-day iteration of this ‘Regiment’and I can imagine it carved into the stone of ancient temples, castle walls and into the prow of ships. It will be a good luck charm, a ward to dispel evil spirits, and so much more. This is the moment where I wished I could draw better than I can, so I could come up with a modern graphical representation of this: I may give it a try as relaxation going forward.

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The word count really isn’t going to be a problem. I’ve stopped for the night, mostly because I need to think through my next scene, and I’m far enough ahead now to not worry about where this is going, because I know my destination. That means I’ve been cheating a bit and going back over earlier dialogue, but it is utterly worthwhile. I’m in a place that I cannot get enough of and utterly love, and the story as a result is just telling itself. That’s the most amazing thing of all, and makes me smile whenever I think about it. I have a story that really works, and the ease at which it’s translating from head to screen is a testament, I think, to the hard work I’ve done in previous months honing my craft.

This process has made me realise that a lot of previous ideas that have never made the light of day (and at least one that did) have come together to produce this story. Mostly, I can see all the influences and derivatives here, I know what has swayed this story to where it now lies. This is a fascinating insight into process for me as a result.

It’s also the most fun I’ve had with a NaNo since I began participating.

NaNoWriMo :: Day -1

Now that my Bond Fiction is officially finished (though not yet completely serialised, see here tomorrow for details) I can turn my attention to more important projects. Starting Tuesday, the first serious stab I’ve ever made at a long-form novel is getting an official reboot, and I’m going to start working on that whilst in tandom there’ll be another 50k’s worth of words on a different subject. For NaNoWriMo 2016 I have invented a new genre (Alternate Historical Superhero) with a story that’s been in my head now for a couple of years. Only now do I have the courage to pull it out of my head and stick it into reality.

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Except, it isn’t just courage pushing me forward this time, but the understanding I needed to be more technically competent to be able to produce this novel in a manner in which I’m happy with. Bond gave me that opportunity, allowed me to flex fiction muscles that had previously never been exercised. That’s not the whole story, however, and for that you’ll need to hope I finally get this to the publication stage. I’m also intending to do a ‘liveblog’ (not in real time, but you get the general idea) of the process, with (hopefully) some insight into how this whole shebang works. Last year I cheated and didn’t go from scratch, but this time the challenge of getting from start to finish is something I’m rather looking forward to.

This piece of music is the prompt to the place where the modern portion of my story will begin, but I realise that it won’t make sense without a fairly lengthy prologue. So, the first task is to do some research, and tomorrow’s Wikipedia pages are already open: the Tarot on my Novel’s cover is very significant, as is the Priestess’ card. However, I’m already getting ahead of myself.

There’s a synopsis, for those of you who might now be interested in this new journey:

‘And so it was written, in the time of Old Gods and New Empire, that a woman was left to die in the Temple at Delphi…’

Detective Sergeant Duncan Jackson’s life is turned upside-down when compelled to save a woman from drowning in the Thames. She’s anything but a stranger: he’s been dreaming about Alexx Francis since his teens. The country stands on the edge of a historic Parliamentary vote, preparing to accept or reject the existence of a group of people who have lived as an oppressed minority for decades, and suddenly Jackson’s forced to confront his true heritage, and that of the woman who becomes his responsibility. In doing so, a second world emerges, told only in whispers and fairy tales since the dawn of modern civilisation…

If that sounds like your cup of tea, I’ll tease you as time goes on. There’s also a fairly substantive musical soundtrack for this one (as has become the norm for my works) and I’ll show you how these work into my processes too.

For now, I’m getting ready to crack on. first thing  Tuesday morning. I look forward to seeing you there.

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