Axioms


There is a rather cold-blooded axiom my parents would repeat from time to time when I was in my teens and early twenties. One that rings ever more true with the passing years. It is this; “There’s no business in sentiment and no sentiment in business.” Trying to make major financial and life decisions with the heart and not the head will, in most circumstances, fail. The current furore over Patreon and Subscribestar is a case in point. Emotionally driven activists are pressuring companies to make ill-considered decisions because the activists want to tell everyone else what to think and do. Their standards are the only standards and anyone who disagrees must be shut down. No matter the collateral damage. Everyone else must suffer because someone makes the ludicrous claim that their ‘feelings were hurt’.

Now I come from the school of thought which bluntly states; “I do not care what you say – only what you do.” People define themselves by their actions, not their words. So it is with Patreon. Who have already cost me money. All of my Patreon donations. Fortunately these losses have been slight. God alone knows what they are for the higher profile creators.

Which interferes with the creative process. It detracts from the focus.

Now Paypal has been pressured to withdraw from Subscribestar. Again after activist pressure. Payments processor Stripe has followed. This leaves me as a creator without reliable means of online payment processing. On the bright side there is a blockchain solution which can process any online donation from any source. All I have to do is get my head around it. Which again interferes with the creative process.

Thanks a lot, activists. You do not speak for me. Nor for all the other artists and writers you have hurt with your politics.

Back to the drawing board.

Having second thoughts


About Patreon. I’m seriously concerned that my tiny account will be terminated if they find some of the very non-PC stuff I’ve written under various pseudonyms over the years. My first ever article is a case in point. It was meant to be an amusing tale written for a motorcycle magazine, nothing more. Bends, Sun and Hedges was written in the late 1970’s and shared some of that era’s social mores, which were far more loose and easy going than nowadays. Writers now are under ever more pressure not only to debase the language we use as part of our communications toolkit, but some commentators are being actively muzzled for having the ‘wrong’ opinions by some very sinister people. Yes. By all those so-called ‘Trust and Safety teams’ who no-one should trust and whose scrutiny is to be avoided. Stalin would have loved them.

Now this is something that might ultimately hurt me, as I am not very happy with the censorious nature of a number of silicon valley platforms. Ergo I am creating a Subscribestar account and will not be posting any further links or content to Patreon because they demonstrably can’t be trusted. Besides, I like the look of Subscribestar’s interface. It’s a lot less user-fiendish and transparent, surprise Windows 10 updates (Don’t ask) notwithstanding.

So if anyone wants to show this mendicant scribbler some financial love, that is where my online begging bowl will be.

We have lift off


Well, that’s my Patreon page launched, as is the latest story with Leg Iron books. Now available in the Christmas Anthology Christmas lights and Darks via Amazon (Print version), also the eBppk version via Smashwords My slightly warped offering ‘Moonlit shadow’ appears alongside the work of Mark Ellott, Cade F.O.N Apollyon, Daniel Royer, Marsha Webb, Roo B Doo (Lovely pen name) and Kevin Hillman. None of us are household names but we write to entertain. Ourselves mostly.

However, if what I do tickles a funny bone or tweaks a nerve ending and you want to help finance a little more, please go to my Patreon page and throw me a few dollars. I may not be a charity, but all contributions will be deeply appreciated.

Next story on the video read list will be ‘Moonlit shadow’ from ‘Christmas lights and darks’. Hopefully via Patreon before the 20th December. Then here just in time for Christmas.

New story


Feeling mildly pleased with myself today. I’ve just had a story accepted for a Christmas-themed collection of supernatural stories. Only 1900 words, but it’s a cute little tale with a significant macabre twist. The title is ‘Moonlit shadow’ and I’ve placed it with a small Scottish publishing house called Leg-Iron Books. A publishing house so small it has no significant online presence. However, the proprietor likes the story and apart from my usual mistakes of occasionally mixing tenses and the odd rogue apostrophe, it’s as sound a piece of work as I ever write. So editing should be minimal.

Of course the money on offer is insignificant. Less than twenty dollars. But if my story helps grow the Leg-Iron brand, perhaps the financial rewards will grow too. May even do one of my video readings of it with the publisher’s consent.

For the record; I spent a rough total of thirty-five hours actually writing the story, with another five or ten hours of editing to come. Not bad considering I’m also holding down two part-time jobs, but this is no way to get rich.

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.

YouTube etcetera


Well I’ve done it, I’ve finally created a video of one of my old short stories. Looks like I need to get a decent microphone and upgrade my webcam, but for a first attempt it’s not too bad. This piece of work is up on both YouTube and Vimeo. I’ve embedded the Vimeo version here because on YouTube my supernatural tale of a recovering alcoholic is in competition with lots of video’s of cats climbing ‘trees’ made of MDF and carpet. Which a lot of people find amusing. This makes my small effort very hard to find.

The Cat Tree from Martyn Jones on Vimeo.

The video is marked as mature content simply because it deals with adult subjects, not because this work is salacious in any way but simply because work that covers topics like alcoholism, psychiatric illness and domestic violence are not topics the main video platforms and their advertisers generally like. Please have a look and comment if possible. What you like, what you don’t like, did the tale give you a chill or miss by the proverbial country mile? I’ll try and answer any questions about the story, perhaps in a follow up video.

No, it’s not autobiographical but some of the story is based on personal experience.

With luck, this will be the first of a series. I originally wrote five dark little stories based around this particular family and their own special kind of spirit. Here are the titles in sequence;
The Cat Tree
White Noise
The Unwelcoming
Josephine
Old Clay

Here is the Youtube version below. Same thing goes; tell me what you liked, what left you cold, what made you shiver.

Update:  Now also on Bitchute.

The Cat Tree and other stories


Writer’s block takes you on some strange journeys. While I’m still struggling with reconstructing the Stars series of science fiction novels I found a stray short story on my hard drive, untouched since 2005.

Let me explain a little of the tales history. While I was living in Claverdon, Warwickshire, back in the 1980’s I roughed out a series of supernatural fantasy stories based around the theme of a haunted garden which I entitled ‘The Cat Tree and other stories’. These tales were never submitted anywhere and have lurked in various of my archives, both paper and digital, for over thirty years. Until last week.

I also found a manuscript copy of the title story ‘The Cat Tree’ which is a spooky little tale, sitting in my archive box too, along with several of the original planned series, like ‘White Noise’ and ‘Josephine’.  On Amstrad tractor dot matrix printer paper no less.  How they survived there since 1987 I have no idea. Since I first wrote them a lot of life has happened. Wife, stepdaughters, four changes of career and a move to Canada. Not to mention the upheavals of four house moves we’ve undergone since we’ve been here.

The original drafts were written between 1985 and 1987, firstly on an Imperial Safari typewriter, then transferred onto on a primitive Amstrad 8512 word processor. The narratives dealt with issues like drug induced mental illness and the long process of healing and recovery. A few years before, I’d dropped out of Nursing college, so I felt comfortable dealing with the themes of healing and recovery, which at that stage were still fairly fresh in my mind.

Still, after a read through I thought that the original draft was fairly shaky but the theme was too good not to have a go at revisiting the project. So in my off duty time last week I gave it a re-write, then handed it to my wife for a second opinion. She said she liked it, asked me various questions and I answered by editing the offending passages until it made sense to both of us. I was quite pleased with the ensuing 3300 words, which has led me to a further decision. I’ve decided to resurrect this project and breathe some life into all six of the stories I wrote for the original collection, then post some readings on a dedicated YouTube / Vimeo / Dailymotion / Bitchute video sharing channel. Furthermore, I’ve elected to open a Patreon account, so whomsoever likes my work can throw me an occasional dollar or two, if it pleases them. If not, at least I haven’t given up my day job.

The artwork is of my own creation and gives a strong hint as to the theme and content of the first story in the series. If anyone out there wants to comment / voice an opinion, I’m happy to listen.

Update:  I’ve edited the repeat text out of this post and am busy trying to record some versions worthy of broadcast.  ‘White Noise’, the follow on from ‘The Cat Tree’ is in need of a thorough overhaul and I haven’t even re-read ‘Josephine’ or my notes for ‘Unwelcoming’ for transcription just yet.  Watch this space.

Back


After a long hiatus, I’ve restarted work on ‘Darkness between the stars’, the third installment of the ‘Stars’ trilogy. There is a problem with the story as it stands, there are too many threads to close, loose story lines going nowhere. Too much happening in real life for me to focus seriously on writing. New job. New responsibilities. Much to learn and teach.

I know ‘Stars’ is a flawed project which needs tearing apart and rebuilding rather than abandoning outright. There is much in it that is good but the whole thing is in need of a serious restructure. Even shortening. But I must finish the whole thing first.

A dark night for Paris


Just been watching the online France 24 coverage from Paris.  Which is all the more chilling because I know the affected area quite well.  Angie and I spent a very happy month renting a little apartment off Rue De Charonne during May and June this year.  We had the pleasure of breakfasting at La Belle Equipe, one terrorist target, one sunny Sunday in June.  Often walking Boulevard Voltaire, passing through Place de la Bastille, Ile de France almost daily. Despite the Gendarmerie armed with automatic rifles guarding every major intersection, we never once felt threatened or nervous, no matter the time of day or night.

So why did the gunmen pick the 10th and 11th Arondissements to paint with murder? I can only guess. What I do know is that those particular streets have a reputation of being ‘Hipster’ areas. Graffiti lined streets thronged with young urban professionals in their 20’s and early 30’s, gossiping, arguing and flirting amongst themselves until the early hours. All contributing to the recent gentrification, stylishly contrasting with traditionally garbed African Immigrants from the old French colonies.

Are the terrorists so unsophisticated that they think murdering people wholesale on the streets will cause a backlash against the newer immigrants and so send their co-religionists flocking to the terrorists cause en masse? No. Didn’t happen over the Charlie Hebdo massacre and won’t happen now.

I can only hope that none of the people who were so helpful and hospitable to us during our month long stay were hit in these atrocities and would like to offer the following message of solidarity and sympathy;

Courage mes braves. Ajourd’hui, nous sommes tout Parisien.

The deep range


At a talk at Laurel Point Hotel by Dr Robert Ballard (of Titanic fame) and Dr Kate Moran of Ocean Networks, Canada on a new Oceanographic research resource on Sunday, I was reminded of a novel by that giant of Sci-fi, Arthur C Clarke, called The Deep Range. I remember it first as a short story, then owning a copy as part of a compilation. One of my all time favourite reads.

Enjoyed the talk tremendously. It was quite a boost sitting less than six feet from the man who discovered the wrecks of the Titanic and Bismarck. Although Dr Ballard modestly compares diving a mini sub from the surface to twelve thousand feet underwater and back as just “Another day at the office.” with a ‘three and a half hour’ commute. Which made me smile. He also wisecracks about the risks. Pointing out picture of two 1970’s vintage bathyscaphes with a mock-rueful “That one almost killed me. So did that.” His anecdote about finding the Titanic whilst looking for the wrecks of USS Thresher and USS Scorpion Nuclear submarines for the US Military came as quite a revelation. As did a number of other entertaining epiphanies like the flipping crab, and everyone on board a research vessel geeking out over a visiting Sperm Whale. I just sat there, totally engaged, scribbling the odd note and hardly noticing as two hours just sped by.

During the Q&A session towards the end I asked a question about the definition of sidescan sonar, the answer to which came as quite a surprise, although it shouldn’t have. Apparently at depths over three thousand metres or ten thousand feet, the contours that can be mapped are between five and ten metres, depending upon salinity and water temperature. As depth increases, so the contours that can be mapped decrease. At twelve thousand feet the definition degrades, so I am informed, to over ten metres between mappable contours. So anything smaller than ten metres or sixty feet doesn’t show up very well, if at all. No wonder they’re having such a problem locating the wreck of flight MH370 in the Indian Ocean’s vast abyssal plains. Meaning that if the wreckage is broken into pieces less than sixty feet across the wreckage may not show up on the plot, even if a survey vessel goes directly overhead. And this is with some of the best scanning devices available.

The Ocean Networks new ship, the EV Nautilus, is in downtown Victoria this morning, at Ogden Point I think. I’m sorely tempted to go and see, but my keyboard is singing a siren song, telling me I’ve neglected it for far, far too long. There’s a whole new story forming in my head right now about piracy, sabotage, black smokers and electrolytic mining in the ocean depths, knocking at the door, demanding to be let out.

Another day, another competition


Another competition entered over at Inkitt. This time with a revamp of the four thousand word short story ‘Happy Birthday, Charles!’ a (hopefully funny) dark little Sci-fi tale of man versus machine, where the machine just wants the man to be happy. It’s an improvement on the original, which was not well received because it poked a little seasonal fun at Christmas. So I re-wrote it for a birthday; same characters, tighter writing, and a little stronger as far as the story telling voice is concerned. It’s here in case anyone wants to give it a vote in the ‘Laughable’ contest. Not the Horror, which it decidedly is not.

The revamped version with competition graphic can also be found via my ‘short stories’ page, here.

Old material revisited


Back in 2006, I had a supernatural short story called ‘Hunter’ published in the 2006 February Fiction special edition for ‘People’s Friend’. In reply to another one of Inkitt’s competitions, I decided to dig my small stock of paranormal stories out for examination and re-edit.

The candidate I chose was originally the full version to which the 1500 words of ‘Hunter’ were merely a prologue. It’s called ‘Restoration’, a bit of a English period piece. Almost anachronistic, as the world of small market towns and county families is one that has been fading from the English countryside for a number of years. It’s a sort of ‘Country house ghost story’ but this time round I’ve tried to give it a feelgood ending. I’m posting the preliminary artwork below, just to get some other eyes on.
Restoration header

Update: The story is now approved here at Inkitt for their ‘Shiver’ contest. Read, enjoy, ignore the half dozen typos and missed apostrophes etc. Alternatively read here.

New short story


About three weeks ago I received an invitation via Twitter to submit a short story for the Beyond Time competition at Inkitt. Digging around in the partial projects folders I found a piece from the Paul Calvin / Cerberus cycle of stories about a character invented for ‘A falling of Angels’. The title is ‘Oggie’, just over five thousand words on Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, mean streets, kidnap, murder, and a little shot at redemption. It’s as close as I get to happy endings.

Buffing up the narrative and fleshing out the characters a little, I finished the story and fielded it off to my younger Stepdaughter for a test read. Jo likes reading, and sent me back a couple of pages of notes and suggestions, 90% of which I acted on. She’s a trained lawyer and reads voraciously when the mood hits. I also trust and prize her judgement like diamonds.

The end result gets submitted later today. I don’t submit many stories, preferring to publish online or via Lulu.com. No idea whether anyone else will like it, but here goes nothing.

The story will get it’s own page once submitted, see rough artwork below.
Oggie cover

Writing is a mugs game


A while ago, I was introduced at an event to a local dignitary as ‘A novelist’. His response was an honest; “Well that’s no way for a grown man to earn a living.” Having read my latest sales figures I’m inclined to agree. I spent a good while on marketing based activities, going to seminars, engaging on social media, completing profiles etc, to no avail. Writing, particularly fiction, is a mugs game.

It doesn’t help that I’ve got a bad case of writers block, and outside influences are interfering with putting down half decent content. I was toying with a bizarre tale of ritualised dismemberment; the protagonist apparently keeping his victim alive whilst amputating each part, joint by joint, without anaesthetic. I’ve organised the story so it does a one hundred and eighty degree flip with a twist at the end, maintaining a good degree of suspense and high revulsion factor all the way through. The trouble is, every time I get things straight in my head and begin to work there’s an interruption or other weighty matter demanding my attention – right this moment. Now.

The thing that most annoys is that it’s the incompetence and intransigence of others creating these distractions. By contrast, stuff hits my desk, it gets dealt with. Once done it’s out of my head and I can get on with writing. Waiting for others to simply do the job they took on is highly frustrating and very distracting. Especially when I can see my own, self imposed, deadlines looming while they are fiddling around.

Nonetheless, I’m taking a well earned break this Summer. Taking a good long step away from the keyboard to have a few real life adventures. Get grounded. Walk, talk, and rediscover the inspired part of myself, wherever he’s got to.

Maybe when I next put fingers to keyboard it won’t seem so bad.

Take a walk on the dark side of Science Fiction ©

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