Martyn K Jones

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Patreon pains


As I mentioned in my last post, I’ve recently opened a Patreon account so that those who feel sorry for me like my work can throw the odd dollar my way. Part of this process has been creating a one minute introductory video for my new Creators Patreon account, explaining who I am and what I have to offer to prospective patrons. As it’s been the long Canadian thanksgiving weekend, I took time out from the day job and set to work.

Thirty plus ‘takes’ and two hours later… I have about five one minute video segments that I’m actually half way happy with. Not that I’m in love with the sound of my own voice or the way I look, my voice is too light and nasal for my liking and I’m not a handsome sight, but I am what I am and that’s all that can be said for it. I didn’t actually think that speaking under a hundred words to camera would be difficult. Oh how wrong I was. Fortunately the world will never know because all the fluffs, corpsing, swearing, face-pulling and mispronunciations have been consigned to digital Hell. There will be no gag or blooper reel. At least at this stage of the game. There’s simply not enough space on my hard drive.

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Recovery mode


The past two weeks have been somewhat traumatic, and I’ve hardly written a word, what with dashing back and forth across the Atlantic. Too many errands and too much jet lag. Today, for the first time in just over two weeks I feel back in control of my life. I actually only awoke at 5:30 this morning. For the previous three nights I was waking up, despite sleeping tablets, at around two and three thirty in the morning feeling tired but unable to slip into the arms of Morpheus until four or five AM.

Everything over the past two weeks, despite best efforts, has gone sideways. It’s been a harsh emotional lesson about planning for the worst family case scenario. Some unpleasant thoughts have to be faced, but these are best examined when the immediate pressures are off. Conversations must be had with family and arrangements made. Just in case.

On the bright side, I’ve been preparing for the two courses I start in mid and late April by raiding second hand bookstores and downloading public domain material online. Now I am the proud possessor of Diana Hackers ‘A Canadian Writer’s Reference, Strunk and White’s ‘The Elements of Style‘, Prentice Hall’s ‘Handbook for Writers‘, and Harold H Kolb’s ‘A Writer’s Guide‘. Not to mention applying for Student Membership of the Society of Technical Communication. I’ve done Technical Writing for real before, for a couple of multinationals no less, but without a Degree found it nigh on impossible to convince anyone to hire me in that role, especially on this side of the Atlantic. Hopefully I will have redressed this shortfall by October or November this year with a Canadian recognised qualification from Simon Fraser University.

The down side is that I won’t be getting as much writing time in on ‘Darkness’ or ‘A falling of Angels’ as I’d like but at least I’ll have a piece of paper saying that I’m a Canadian qualified Technical Writer.

Happy Birthday World Wide Web


Today is my birthday. 12th March. I had no idea that Tim Berners-Lee first submitted his proposal for the World Wide Web today, twenty five years. A quarter of a century ago. Although the technology itself didn’t go public until 1993.

So short a time. Back in 1995 I recall penning a thousand word piece called ‘Cybermarket – the future of retailing’. Just a speculative PR article for the trade press. I believe I managed to place it in one of the trade technology journals of the time, although have no idea where it was printed. In the article there were predictions about Supermarket chains like Tesco’s getting into Financial Services and having online stores. Reference was made to the amount of bandwidth necessary to create an interactive online 3-D model of a Superstore, and how it might come about. Now Supermarkets provide online banking and financial services, the world and its wife provide on line shopping, and I think the fully interactive 3-D catalogue is not that far away. Certainly Internet driven home deliveries have been popular for some time now, and the graphics of certain game engines might be adapted to provide a better interface. Maybe the next iteration of online shopping will be a sort of World of Warcraft meets Second Life meets the retail sector.

Didn’t foresee the rise of eBay or Amazon, but those were then outside the scope of the article.

Anyway. Happy birthday World Wide Web. Well I never. So far so fast.

That was the weekend that was in Vancouver…


Back to the keyboard and shift work again. An interesting weekend I think. If I’d have known what tickets we’d been given beforehand I’d have booked a hotel closer to the venue. Although the Metropolitan Hotel on Howe is very nice, and well worth another stay.

Watching Angie struggle with the Skytrain station stairs was hard (No lift or escalator available at Chinatown). It takes a full year to properly recover from a hip implant operation, and although Angie’s doing well on the flat, steps are still difficult for her. I found myself doing my ‘linebacker’ routine, carefully placing myself behind and to one side of her to prevent her delicate recovery being upset by someone in a hurry barging past with their brain in neutral. At this stage of the game I’m painfully aware of how disastrous a fall might be.

Still, we got to the Cirque Du Soleil venue, and finding we were early had to hang around in the cold for about forty minutes, where I introduced Angie to the concept of Smugshots (Posing in such a fashion that you look like you’re physically handling a far off object – kissing the Sphinx, holding the moon, that sort of thing).

Cirque du Soleil, Cirque du Soleil, what do I say about Amerluna at Vancouver? Okay guys, you have got to do something about your sardine like seating plan for the next show. Anyone over six feet tall and even slightly broad shouldered suffers. The last time I was anywhere near this level of discomfort was on a Thomas Cook flight (aka ‘Air Cattle Truck’) from Vancouver to Manchester in Summer 2010, and I swore never again to travel with that company. Sure, if you are under 5′ 10″ tall and slim to medium built, no problem. Anyone bigger is going to suffer cramps in the shoulders and knees which will make the show very much less enjoyable. Considering the price of tickets.

The acrobatics were spectacular, and for me the best part of the show were the antics of the Caliban like character with his prehensile tail. However, they could have left out the disjointed storyline, such as it was. I was left with the overwhelming impression the whole show had been written by a committee for the promotion of ‘diversity’. The narrative made no sense. In fact it rather got in the way of the spectacular performances. For individually they were brilliant. The music was good, the sets remarkable. Unfortunately there were pieces that didn’t fit, and took your mind off the already tenuous ‘story’. For example; in the second half, one gold costumed performer does an incredibly delicate balancing act with large fishbone like sticks, which was all very clever and skillful, but left me thinking; “Okay. What’s that got to do with the price of fish?” Likewise for the twins on unicycles. The promotional material makes much of the latest eco-panic, where some sources predict world water shortages for two thirds of the world’s population by 2025. How does having a six foot half globe of water centre stage relate to that? As for the 70% of the cast being a ‘feminist’ angle; again, so what?

This wasn’t just me; one person in the row in front was distinctly heard to paraphrase Macbeth as we were leaving. I distinctly overheard him say; “That was a tale told by idiots.” All around, I could hear the Canadian tradition of politeness being strained so hard it was creaking. For myself, I was glad to get out and stand at the interval, and would gladly have stood for the entire performance. In contrast to the lack of seating space, the concession prices were massively inflated. Nine dollars for a small plastic glass of distinctly average plonk? Fifteen dollars per show programme? a paperback copy of ‘Head of the Beast‘ isn’t that much more, and there’s a lot more reading in my work. Certainly makes me feel much better about print to order pricing.

Came out of the show, easing the kinks and cramp out of my shoulders to be impressed by the number of stretch limos on the streets outside the Lady Gaga gig at BC Place. We counted over twenty three. Not that I’m a Lady Gaga fan. All very well produced and glossy, but nothing to really write home about, musically speaking. All icing and no cake. Still, it shows where the money is going.

Overall verdict? A nice break, but I’m glad to be out of the big city, back home and working again. Although if I’m offered tickets for Cirque again, I think I’ll demur. Shows like these tempt me to quote 18th Century Lexicographer Samuel Johnson when asked about the Giants Causeway; “Worth seeing, yes; but not worth going to see.”

Toughing it out


Up at four yesterday, getting Angie into hospital for her second hip replacement was a chore. Nonetheless, in these circumstances I try to fill the unforgiving minute with work. By seven in the evening I was shattered. Seeing Angie come out of recovery onto the ward in serious pain didn’t help. She was shrieking in agony when the nursing staff got her into bed and told me, quite bluntly, to get the hell out of the room. The sight of her in such agony freaked me out and has left me more than a little shaken. The muscles at the back of my skull bunched with the tension, and are only starting to unwind the following morning. All that and a midday shift at work too.

Currently feel like I’ve taken a minor kicking. Muscles wound up and knotted with the nervous tension. Various aches and pains from a restive night. Most unpleasant.

I will visit Angie after todays shift. She’ll have had a good twenty four hours plus to come past the initial post op pain, and a regimen of painkillers will be in place. I am confident that she will be fine. I think. I’ve got all the mobility aids she will need while in recovery when she gets home, and we have a trip to San Diego planned for Christmas as a post-hip replacement treat. Nothing major, just a well earned time out. Our first Christmas to ourselves in five (Ten?) years.

In the physical world, all the clouds that loured upon this house are in the deep bosom of the ocean buried, and the sun is finally shining. According to forecast, we have a few days of this before the rains close in again. The ducks are no longer in hiding. It could be worse. It’s Fall.

Nothing from Harper Vector on the first Cerberus as yet, either yea or nay. Although the longer the wait, the more a ‘nay’ seems likely. Any day now I’m expecting a curt ‘Not what we’re looking for’ e-mail. I wasn’t really expecting anything out of the submission. It was a ‘cattle call’, as they say in showbiz circles. Another day, another rejection. Yawn. Moving on.

Issues


There are things in life I don’t like to think about. Things which cause me emotional pain. Things like Angie going into hospital for hip surgery on the 6th. I don’t like the thought of that at all.

While my imagination is quite gleefully capable of recounting things in graphic detail like all forms of blood and gore I’m not happy about real life dismemberment and how fragile and tenacious our flesh is. All of which I have seen in real life, so it’s not as though I’m a complete stranger to the ideas. Where there’s a car crash or a roadside death, I’m the impatient guy who wants you to move quickly on and not rubberneck. Why? Let’s just say Death and I are old acquaintances. Not the friendly sort, but the kind you want to cross the road to avoid, eyeing each other suspiciously.

One career item I don’t like to dwell on is my sojourn as a student nurse back in the early 80’s. What a complete train wreck of a career choice that was. Took me a few years to get over the emotional fallout. Just lost my Dad, so I was still pretty shaky emotionally at the time I started. Worked on various wards, in Emergency facing addicts, RTA casualties and drunks. Nursed physically and mentally subnormal children (Or should that be ‘challenged’, or some other soft fascist euphemism – poor little things). Saw people die up close and personal, knowing there was nothing I could do about it. Gave ‘last offices’ to three people who I’d grown to like. Maybe I even helped save a few lives, I don’t know. Gave comfort to a few. Even while I personally was going to pieces. Did that make me weak? I tried not to be.

What really eats at me about Angie’s forthcoming operation is that I know exactly what goes on and it haunts me. The spotlit line of blood on antiseptic yellowed skin as the first cut is made. Welling red quickly swabbed up and bleeding cauterised with little smoking fizzes (Do they still use diathermy?). Muscles rapidly transected down to the bloody red of the periosteum and white of bone. The impersonal tug of retractors, the gaping red mouth of the incision, and the awful, magnified dentist drill buzzing of the compressed air saw as it cuts through bone. My wife’s bones. Angies Head of femur. Angies hip socket. I can’t shrug it off because I’ve seen it happen several times. Even been scrubbed to ‘manipulate’ the patients leg twice, standby scrub / swab count twice each (I think, it was a long time ago) and the thought of her being sliced open cuts my heart about as though it were happening to me. The empathic pain doesn’t burn, it aches, it stabs, it crushes, and she’s going into operating theatre and I dare not think about it, yet I can do little but.

Did I say nursing was a poor career choice for me? Man, I must have been dumber than a truckload of five pound lump hammers to even think of it. Why? Too much imagination. Too vulnerable. I actually, physically feel the pain of others. If there’s an opposite to psychopath, that’s me. It’s why I can write Paul Calvin as a character, and identify with someone who sees all the pain of the world and tries to help. Even when he can’t.

I love my wife very dearly. I hate it when she’s ill. I hate it when she’s in pain. Yet she has to have this dismemberment inflicted upon her to prevent more pain. To return her mobility and let her walk properly again. Yet my heart is awash as though a hurricane load of rain has been dumped on it, and there’s nothing I can do. Did I say I hate this? Forgive me being rhetorical or even sarcastic, but the memories run dark red and bloody and I must try to rise above them. Angie needs me to be strong for her, even when I’m not; and there are times like these when I am not strong at all.

There may be a writing hiatus. I may simply pitch in to another writing marathon just to stop me thinking about it. A flood of words to wash away thoughts of her pain.

I know one thing for certain.

All the Zen in the world isn’t going to help.

Surrey International Book Fair; Live blog


Okay, Kenn and I are here at Surrey International Book Fair 2012 with about eighty plus other hopefuls. There are a wide variety of authors present from childrens writers to travel and cookery writers. Next table but one has some serious looking bakery on the table, and I’m sitting here, pottering away on the old laptop, just drinking it all in. A couple of people are a massive draw and there are queues all round the room. The noise level is quite high, filled with bursts of happy, even excited sound as people wait to talk to their favourites.

I find I’m actually enjoying my own relative anonymity, blogging and peoplewatching. Kenn, my friend and neighbour is out walking and talking. Currently to a lady whose favourite has not arrived yet. We’ve all been assigned places, and after a little chicanery on my part, got myself moved to share a table with Kenn, who is a more experienced player at this event. Being a relative newbie at this game I’m a little nervous, but happy just to be here.

5:50pm One of the organisers has just come up to me and delivered the following message; “If someone comes up and asks you to sign something – sign it. It’s for the draw.” No idea what the ‘draw’ is all about, although I’m rather intrigued. Tell you the truth, I’d be too overwhelmed not to. Probably even ask them “Who do you want it dedicated to?”

6:00pm Kenn has given away all his promotional pamphlets, and I’m having to raise my voice to make myself heard to a couple of people who have taken pity upon me and come over to see what’s on display. I’ll talk to anyone right now. I wish I’d brought more promotional materials. I think for the next event I do I’ll get some bookmarks printed for giveaways.

6:30pm Have just run into Bennet R Coles, who has a volume out called ‘Virtues of War. Military Sci-Fi.

6:45pm Place is emptying out now. The big queues have shrunk, and the bakery guys two tables down have started to pack up, sorry, have packed up and gone. I think that the ‘Stars’ trilogy could do with its own web site, as part of a nested package of brands. Cerberus likewise. Some kind of direct ordering interface might be useful. The online presence definitely helps, because the real audience for science fiction is online or via the Sci-Fi Convention circuit. Kenn has been out walking and talking, selling himself for all he’s worth. I’ve had a few people coming up to admire my artwork, but no sales.

7:00pm Okay, that’s closing time. Time to pack up and head for the ferry. Its been an interesting day and worth it for the experience, but not the right marketplace. Too literary. Would I do it again? Maybe. When I’m a bit more of a name. Make it worth people’s while to come.