Back to the Future

Tomorrow, we’re back to poetry after what was a scheduled break for real life and May Day bank holiday. I’m off to sit in the Jazz Centre tomorrow and write a poem, plus spend some time re-organising the game plan. You see, on Thursday night there was a bit of an epiphany about how the poetry’s picked and chosen going forward.

There needs to be a bigger human angle than was initially planned: initial selection of places was purely planned on geography. Sure these spots all have personal relevance, but what matters more, it is now apparent, is emotional resonance that specific spaces throw up. This became apparent last week in town, in a spot that didn’t previously merit a mark on the map but now does.

The poetic voice has most definitely altered during this planning progress. Doing counselling simultaneously is undoubtedly altering my mental landscape: this weekend proves that to be true beyond doubt. Therefore, tomorrow is a refocus of goals and objectives, where I need to go and take pictures, plus what the remainder of my locations will give in terms of emotional resonance.

Listing to a poetic voice that is altering on an almost daily basis is an odd experience, but the process is a natural progression from the space this journey originally begin in. I am not afraid of change, and never have been, and am confident everything will eventually find a level that is right and proper.

The goal, while this happens, is to keep on writing.

Let the Right One In

Today, we present a lesson in need versus want.

You guys will know about the struggles with short stories last week. This morning, I’d sat down to work on the one idea I though had enough legs to transform into something saleable. It’s odd how so much of my mindset has, of late, simply focused on what other people are looking for, what style matters to make myself noticed. Forget that it’s become difficult to write because there’s a part of me being held back for a minute.

Yeah, I only just worked that out. But I digress.

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This little nugget dropped into my inbox yesterday, and set me thinking. There’s a prize, sure, but it’s not a publishing contract, or anything that would further my own desires. So, why on earth would it be of interest? Well, for one thing that’s the most detailed brief anybody’s given me about anything for about six months. Second of all, I have a story to tell. As it happens, it’s quite an important one as well.

This morning I tracked an article from the BBC Website about nature writing to its source, and then wrote 150 words for that and sent them off. No days of editing, no navel contemplation. Take a pictures, write the words, BOOM. I spend too much time worrying about stuff sometimes: I am the robot monkey girl who polishes everything so hard it shines, and yet nobody gives a damn about the result. Then, it hit me. I’m now a member of Mind. I wrote a story in two hours.

This one will need at least a couple of passes, and an edit from my husband, but in essence it is exactly what I wanted to write. It was the release of mental pressure I had no idea was really needed until it happened. Most crucially, it’s not fiction. It is autobiography. Perhaps, finally, the time has come to be totally honest not only with myself but the world in general about how this all affects my existence.

If all else fails, it’s been a very useful release of mental pressure on a part of my brain that’s been attempting to perform for an audience and failing.

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This’ll get sent off in due course; for now, it is time to see if the original job in hand can be completed today or not…

My Favourite Things

Last day of February, and starting tomorrow there will be no more poetry until the start of April. The burnout really is real, and it has been a very long time since I threw myself into something that worked as wish fulfilment before anything else. Enter Ternary which is a writing project which is likely to be familiar already to those of you who have been here for a while.

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This used to be The Sayers which began as weekly fiction. Now it’s been amended, extensively edited and is in the course of being completely re-written from scratch. That’s what I’m going to do with my free time in the next few weeks, as well as the other stuff that you’ll have seen in Monday’s blog post. It has a soundtrack Spotify playlist (under construction) and I keep writing bits of dialogue down as stuff occurs to me and in that regard, it’s already a success.

The ultimate irony however is that it begins with a poem.

Progression and development means different things to different people. For me, even if I can’t stand the sight of it right now, poetry’s become part of my psyche. It is also remarkably important in the alternate history I’m writing, that the piece which starts the book pretty much underpins everything that takes place during the first part of what, on reflection, was always going to be a trilogy. How I decide to publish it remains to be seen. This year’s submissions elsewhere will probably determine that path.

For now, there’s the unbridled joy of a new thing to do, and that honestly the last thing I care about now is how other people get to read it when it’s done. All that matters is the telling: we have a beginning, middle and end, with all points in-between covered. That in itself is a glorious state of affairs that’s not taken place for quite some time.

December Short Story: Solstice

This story was first serialised in 31 daily parts during December 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.


Solstice

In indistinct, freezing first light, Eric cannot forget why he is here. All that matters is to guard the perimeter fence, wood and wire, stretching along this natural escarpment. Scrub and frozen ground below suddenly transforms into the most dense and foreboding of pine forests. Standing tall in tower to his left is Hilda, daughter of Franz. Looking right, Melody, daughter of Rachel’s rifle is trained towards the tree line, perennial vigilance with outstanding attention. Both are barely older than him: at 16, youngest of nearly a dozen morning sentries.

Somewhere in the forest are his parents, one of the few  lucky enough to still have both alive. They are due home today, with or without enough food to last the camp for the next few weeks. The worst of winter has yet to hit Station 12, and when it does, everyone will be going hungry. Yet in the last week change has been inescapable: December’s normally brutal cold and bitter wind not yet arriving from the north. Eric is briefly distracted by movement upwards: birds wheel and shift as a group from the trees, hundreds moving in perfect, beautiful synchronicity.

A sound is coming from the forest, deep guttural rumble that is strangely familiar. The last time Eric heard this he was very young, whilst Station was in the depths of despair. This is an armoured transport heading up what remains of dirt road towards entrance to their compound. He’s scrabbling for ancient monocular, locating beast amongst fir, looking for the Saltire to confirm approaching vehicle is friendly. It is spread along the bonnet, battered blue and white flag undoubtedly his father’s. They have returned with a far greater prize than just food.

Behind the solar powered vehicle are two other, considerably smaller transports. One is obviously some kind of medical vehicle, the other a large, grey box on many wheels. Elsa, Eric’s mother is waving from the roof, second Saltire as confirmation the entire convoy is friendly. He’s not due to leave this post for another hour but there’s relief on the way: Saul’s smile tells all that is needed. Eric requires no further encouragement to sprint across concrete battlements, down battered metal ladder, jumping to ground level. He can meet parents in person.

Their convoy’s swamped as he approaches, support staff and medical team already looking beyond excited at these discoveries from the forest. The large, multi-wheeled box appears to be full of supplies: unused weapons, fresh construction materials vital for repair and maintenance. The hug from Mum is nothing compared to that of his father, more emotional than he has ever seen them both. The reason becomes apparent: the entire cache of equipment and supplies had been found hidden, area previously inaccessible northwards due to snow and large amounts of ice.

This is nothing compared with news camp leader is now reacting to: the only way out of the valley, previously completely inaccessible due to accumulated ice, has now opened. That provides unrestricted access all the way down the mountain, opening a direct path to the coastline. For close to a century, camp has been cut off from rest of the World. In the last decade their numbers have begun to dwindle: lack of food, an airborne virus and the cruellest of winters have slowly eroded away these survivors. Dense forest’s protection offers little nutrition.

Eric helps unload myriad contents of what he now knows is a refrigerated container in great condition as is everything else that parents liberated. The significance of that alone is enough to make months of harsh living and empty stomachs a memory: supplies can now be kept fresh. In the back of the container is a box full of items however that make no sense: strings of brightly-coloured, shiny material, electric cable with glass dots attached, and several smaller cardboard boxes fill of delicate glass ornaments which have not been handled for a long time.

Both parents are uncertain as to what these items are used for, but hold hazy joint memories as children of a tree being cut from this forest. It was bought into the compound before being placed and decorated with hand-made ornaments and garlands made of recycled cloth and paper. It was a tradition that the eldest member of Station’s staff had held, part of faith-based beliefs that had been forgotten over countless cruel winters, barely lived through since the base was built.

Items were instruments of long lost celebration, before World froze over.

With power, the cable easily activates: dots light up, emitting an ethereal, pulsing glow. Eric is then sent to outskirts of the forest with his father as backup, where a suitable fir is chosen and dug from ground that seems far less hard and frozen than was previously the case. Large, deep storage bin is located to act as pot, allowing tree to be prominently placed in the main compound. Suddenly, nothing else matters but process of decoration, sparking memories from the last three remaining base staff over sixty of what this process entailed: Christmas.

Eric assists with the container’s contents being sorted, listening intently to the story of how his parents had discovered, then buried remains of the Army convoy they’d come across. Six people transporting supplies to this base, literally frozen solid in a horrendous snowstorm. It was during that winter he had been born, last time snow fell continuously for almost a month. Ever since, temperatures had begun to rise, giving hope that upper atmospheric levels had finally begun to clear of dust from the 101955 Bennu meteorite’s impact in southern Algeria.

Eric still finds it hard to believe everyone knows about somewhere half a world away, but was able to forget about a holiday as important as Christmas at the same time. He might not be essential in this hierarchy, but celebrating anything well seems an idea worth working towards. It is now new task to inject a new, exciting set of events into the normal and often boring beyond belief drills and maintenance routines. The younger children are charged with a far more enjoyable task than painting and cleaning: they make cards, for exchange around the station.

Mother takes Eric to one side after evening meal that night, entire camp more energised and happy than anyone can remember for many, many years. She hands her son a small box, tied with what he knows is a ribbon, taken from one of the few non-military items of clothing she owns. From pocket comes a letter: not recently written, looking incredibly old yet is still sealed. On the front however is his name and date of birth. Asking who it is from, his mother tells him to go find a quiet spot alone, before reading what’s been given and then returning to her.

Sitting in his favourite spot, warmth from Guard Tower’s perpetually burning fire, Eric knows deep down what is held in his hands. This is confirmation that current parents aren’t his birth family: that mother died after giving birth, father was Station 12’s last adult casualty. He had perished when Eric was nearly five: remembering that day when he’d volunteered to hunt for food after weeks of punishing, crippling frozen rain. His ID bracelet, worn around left wrist, pushed into the boy’s palm: memory of kiss to forehead, tears falling onto his face.

Except, it appears, it wasn’t a hunting mission. His father had willingly taken a one way trip into the forest, in order to reconnect Station with their only supply of fresh, untainted water: that journey meant descent into cave from which there was no possible means of return. There is a second, older note too, written after mother passed away. Many apologies have been contained within, most significant at those who kept majority of planet in the dark prior to the meteor impact. In the end, father concluded, politicians allowed evolution to decide who survived.

He knew Eric grasped mother’s boundless optimism, warmth, practicality to improve the World and others. Watching boy grow, that was apparent; providing man no qualms over leaving. The right future was with his best friend and her husband, incapable of producing children of their own. With shaking hands, it is time to open box given to him by station commander who never said out loud she was his mother, yet did the job with fierceness and pride that was without equal. Inside is a badge, ancient crest of Army regiment who built this base a century previously.

Eric understands the gesture: he’s in charge of the Station, free to begin a new era of development and exploration. His first task is simple: once the solar powered explorer has fully charged there’ll be an expedition arranged: high time to leave valley and head towards the sea.

 

The Big Sky

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I’ve recently replaced my ancient Fruit Phone. Some of you would do a like for like exchange, but I’ve picked the Chinese upgrade that isn’t here for apps or looks, but comes with three Leica camera lenses. Photography is a love affair that began in my teens and shows no sign of diminishing. My obsession, as has been the case for decades, are the images with details often only I seem to find attractive.

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Now, of course, there’s comprehension as to why patterns such as these are so pleasing (and often reassuring, I’ll be honest.) There is a decent spread of subject matter in my work however: places, people, and only the occasional obsession into details. You’ll see my Instagram work linked on the front page, and nearly all of my artwork utilises my own work alongside stock photography. For the more curious, there’s a Flickr page with the complete history in pictures.

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I will admit to an obsession with looking up: late nights, early mornings, and the reminder that another day will take away the pain of before and help build strength going forward. It is also the intractable reminder of our place in the Universe, memo to be grateful for everything that is presented and not waste any time in enjoying the moment. This is the bit that’s still a struggle, but in the glorious brightness of the sunny days, everything is considerably easier.

There’ll be a lot more photography in the future, and as days begin to get longer in a few weeks you can bet that will involve being outside with the camera…

Losing my Religion

Music is an undisputed influence in my life. Imagery comes a close second. TV and Film get talked about a lot around these parts, and honestly there’s lists for both you can go stare at if all that matters is a rundown. What moves me most, every day, is the beauty of simplicity. Imagery is everywhere: most of us are too busy or have heads in mobile devices to see what exists around us.

Being outside with a camera is often the happiest I will ever be.

I’ve seen patterns in stuff all my life other people seem to miss. Of course, only recently have I discovered this is another benefit of an autistic brain, and has allowed some really interesting paths to be pursued. If you are truly curious in how I see, then a quick look at my Flickr page might be an idea if it is indeed possible to quickly scan just over 2000 photos.

Now comes the opportunity to start doing more with imagery.

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The early experiments have been hit and miss, but there’s definite possibility within the framework. It needs thought and planning that’s been absent for the last few months due to work on contest and submission work, but will start again in earnest during 2019. Ideas are at the planning stage, at least one connected with a poetry sequence provisionally titled FIVE / SEVEN / FIVE.

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Instagram is undoubtedly a way forward too, but how to best use it remains to be seen. It’s a slow burn to grab interest, and to do that with poetry will require something quite special indeed. It won’t just be images, but the right words and a clever way of delivering them. I’m already thinking about the means and methods though. It’s a great way to unwind on treadmills and during exercise.

There is so much potential for future projects, and with all the pictures self-taken, there no worry about copyright or issues over ownership. In that regard, the possibilities for projects going forward becomes very exciting indeed…

Pictures at an Exhibition: One

I don’t do nearly enough with the pictures I take. That’s all about to change starting this week (well, after this submission is done anyway) because honestly, with the tools I have at my disposal? We can do so much better than this, which is very little.

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I look up as a reminder that the vastness beyond this little blue speck should be the leveller for everybody. That means a lot of skies in my photo folders, which in term serve as potent inspiration to all of my work. Most of this however is stops on a much longer, more involving journey. It’s mucking about with the things I enjoy and love, in the hope that eventually the right combination of metaphor and poetry occur and someone else is inspired. That means quite a lot of chaff with the wheat. However, only by repetition does the process improve. I can’t expect to learn a Symphony in a week, and this isn’t a Reality TV challenge.

Montage Two

From these little experiments with words and pictures, important stuff springs forth. It is the means by which information can be passed and digested with far greater ease. You’re far more likely to be seen pictorially than through a normal Social media post. I can stick poetry out to the masses in far more interesting ways. Not just poetry either… there’ll be a series of these next month on the resurrected Instagram account.

I have great plans for my own work. Maybe I’ll even find ways to make money out of them. WHO KNOWS.