Martyn K Jones

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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.

Comments and spam


Came back to the site having had the weekend off only to find the spam bin contained seventy one spam comments. Holy smoke, Batman. That’s more spam than proper visitors. Fortunately the spurious stuff was caught by the very useful Askimet feature of WordPress. So they’ve been binned.

To reiterate this blogs policy on comments. Semi nonsensical guff with headers containing links advertising Lois Vuitton Handbags, Russian or Chinese ladies of easy virtue, computer games, search engine optimization, chemical aids etcetera go straight to electronic oblivion. Too much writing time is being wasted trawling through the spam bin for legitimate comments so I’ve stopped. Apologies if your genuine comment doesn’t appear, only it’s probably been sucked into E-hell by a deluge of spam. Which is not a happy mental image. Especially if you’re trying to leave off processed foods.

If you’ve something to say, try again either using your WordPress login or OpenID. Failing that, leave off the link to your profile or web site and comment anonymously. More than one HTML link in a comment will automatically send it straight to the spam bin. Any personal messages can be sent using the ‘About‘ email page. I will get an email for every message.

Had a minor rethink on the introduction of “The Great Book of Everything” and have added a few scene setting paragraphs about infinity, real scientists, conspiracy theorists and why Trombones will not form part of the narrative. As always, legitimate comments are welcomed and engaged with. Just keep it on topic.

Progress on other major projects is painfully slow at present. Must stop reading the news, it’s far too depressing.

Not drowning quite so much


Still struggling a little. Real life is full of drama and getting in the way of actual creative writing. House move to be organised, packing, studying, college assignments to be written, job hunting, landlord arrested (Two squad cars in the yard, neighbours scandalised). All these things happened over the last couple of days. It’s been very frustrating. Over the last week I’ve been sorely tempted to throw up my hands and shout “Oh, what is it now!” to the unforgiving air at every new interruption.

Fortunately the sun is shining and for a change I got a full nights sleep last night. Our suite is a tip, full of half filled boxes and moving impedimenta. For the next three weeks this is going to set the tenor of our existence.

Google and Facebook


Is there a better alternative to Google and Facebook? I ask because I travel periodically, and every time I do, I have to reverify my Facebook and Google accounts, which not only shifts my immediate focus away from the task in hand, but is one of those nagging ‘man from Porlock’ irritations. I’m using the same machine through various secure and insecure Wi-Fi network points, the same fairly strong passwords and access protocols, yet still having my email and access to Facebook arbitrarily cut off is less than funny. I know they’re ‘free at point of use’ services, but they do make their advertising revenue from clickthrough traffic and various other means. Yet my Facebook account and two of my Gmail accounts are now ‘locked’. They may remain that way as I can’t be bothered with the fuss of reopening them. Those who need to know will be notified of changes.

We’re currently in a bereavement crisis on the UK front, scooting between relatives and care homes, and these pernickety and unnecessary interventions to both work and essential on the fly problem solving are less than welcome. My LinkedIn account is globally accessible, as is WordPress and several others, no problem, so why not Google or Facebook? We have an alternative paid for domain with available mail aliases and server, and I’m inclined to build a web site there and activate the email accounts. It means the small expense of changing business stationery, but we can handle that.

Over dinner last night, my eldest stepdaughter was talking about building a service similar to LinkedIn for younger professionals. I’m inclined to buy a new domain name and some extra web space for her to play with. Give her the wheel and see what she can do. It’s just a question of time and effort. Facebook and Gmail are all very well, but I’m thinking that they’ve had their day.

Hiatus


Managed to pick up some form of bug the other week while visiting Vancouver. The result of which was a thick head and snivelling cold. Neither of which have been conducive to laying down a sensible sentence. I’ve simply not had the mental reserves to push ahead strongly enough with narrative, and have found myself picking and chipping away at paragraphs and dialogue, deleting the odd pronoun here, checking tenses and points of view fiddling, not really writing at all.

Still feeling a bit post viral two weeks on, and all I want to do is curl up in a ball and sleep.

Something for nothing


Reading LinkedIn this morning, I came across this echo of my own cri de coeur from the New York Times: ‘Slaves of the Internet unite‘. I’ve been writing various stories since the age of fifteen with fairly mixed results. Few of them that well paid. On one salutary occasion in 2006, for a paltry fifteen hundred word short story, I ended up with a cheque for seventy five pounds. Not bad, you might think. Seventy five quid for fifteen hundred words? Money for old rope, right? No. The original story, which was a pretty lean piece to start with, had to be cut by two hundred and seventy words because of a graphic. Four requested rewrites over a forty eight hour period later, I had met all three targets for the magazines shifting wordage goalposts. The original target wordage was fifteen hundred at first submission, then changed to fourteen fifty the following day, then thirteen fifty, and finally thirteen hundred and thirty two. It was a cute little ghost story, but I ended up writing it for an hourly rate that wouldn’t get the most low aspiration burger flipper out of bed.

All through my working life I’ve been approached by people asking “Oo, could you do a little piece for our magazine?” or “Loved that story – can we use it for free now it’s been published?” or “We need a new logo – could you knock something up for us?” I’ve done a little graphic design work, and it’s never just one design these freeloaders want, it’s several. Frankly, I’d rather not work than work for nothing. I’ll happily practice my craft, but I’d rather be shot than give it away, ‘exposure’ or no.

While we’re on the topic of something for nothing, I got a cold call Monday night from a ‘charity’ asking me to be a volunteer canvasser. I’m sorry, what part of the word ‘volunteer’ don’t they get? A volunteer comes to you, not vice versa. If I do not call a charity to offer my services, then how is it ‘volunteering’ if they call me? Who gave them my details, and who do I have some very sharp words with? Canada has privacy laws, and I think they just got violated. Anyway, I’ve done enough voluntary work over the last five years, and I’m getting a little tired. Come to think of it, from helping rewire and refit Claverdons Dorothea Mitchell Hall, working on committees and suchlike, I’ve given away a great many hours of my time and expertise over the years for no appreciation, and on at least three occasions, personal threats. No more.

The same goes for giving stories away to get attention or reviews. No. They’re mine, I’ve spent time and energy on them, and as the New York Times piece suggests; you wouldn’t ask a plumber or electrician to work for free, editors get paid, so why is a writer any different?

Even in the quietest moments


Trying to move on with projects when your workplace is subject to unpredictable interruptions is difficult. So it has been for the past few months. Angie’s been panicking a bit over her Teaching History course exam, and I’ve found myself roped in to help with revision. All in all, what with new shifts, cuts in hours, hunting for a new day job, planning to move house, and a heap of other incidentals, finding the time to concentrate and write consistently has been at a premium. Even in the quietest moments there have been things clamouring for my attention, distracting from the job in hand. Next doors anti-social birds and my dogs habit of random fits of barking when there’s no-one there don’t exactly help. I don’t mind him calling me when there’s an issue, but barking at things which aren’t there, or a quarter mile away are not conducive to serious endeavour. So working on ‘A falling of Angels’ and ‘Darkness’ has proven quite an effort of late. Any sudden interruption sends my birds of thought fluttering off to the far reaches, and they’re a bugger to coax down from the rafters afterwards.

Normally speaking, when in a noisy environment, the human mind is rather good at filtering out the constant rivers of aural trash. When you’re in the ‘zone’ it’s like having headphones on, and the nervous hindbrain is lulled to a lower stress level, leaving the frontal lobes free to do the fine carpentry of narrative construction. Low flying aircraft noise, tugs in the narrows pulling log booms, gardening machinery, all these can fade into the background. Background music or documentaries help. But when the interruptions are random and unpredictable, the filters can’t work, and writing suffers.

It’s easy to write, any damn fool can string a sentence together and use a spell checker, but as good old Sam Clemens once noted, fiction has to make sense, real life doesn’t. You can’t just fling any old nonsense down on the page and hope it works. Within the framework of the narrative, premises must lead to conclusions, causality must be rigorously observed. Threads tied off. All that shizzle.

I do keep plot notes, I do try to write character traits down, but, and this is the big but; characters have to develop. They have to change with each major event or they simply become cardboard cutouts of stereotypes. Their humanity has to alter with each new challenge, just like with real people. Fixing them to a page can sometimes be akin to nailing jelly to the wall. Especially when inspiration keeps striking like random meteors. Those “Hey, what if?” thoughts constantly intrude. And if the story is changed, well nothing happens in isolation, everything has to be accounted for.

What is often not appreciated is how hard this is to do. At least for those of us who have real lives. Dogs to walk, day job to do, meals to cook, chores etc. Finding quiet time to let the consciousness roam without distraction and find answers to the many questions. Since Angie took her exam two days ago, the distractions are fewer, and I’m beginning to pick up the threads again. Yet again. Today I’ve sorted out a few gaping holes in the plot of ‘a falling of angels’, or at least nailed narrative planks over the worst of them, and I’m starting to write properly again.

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