Tag Archives: Writing

Next platform over


Like most sensible people, I’m moving from the old school social media to Minds and Gab. Minds profile is up and toddling with a Gab profile barely out of nappies. Twitter and Facebook have lost all utility and are rapidly becoming political echo chambers. People are getting banned and their content interfered with, which are not the platforms I joined way back when. The silicon Valley companies now want to dictate what others can say and think. So I’ve joined the exodus. I’ve also opened a DriveTribe account, simply because I love cars and motorcycles. May even post a few things, like a riding video from Vancouver Island next time I take the big dog out to hunt.

YouTube is going the same way, so what the hell, I’m electing to move away from it to a video sharing service which isn’t subject to such strictures. I’ll be deleting all my old stuff, which I never really liked, off YouTube and posting much better content on Bitchute. The one downside is that video embedding bitchute hosted content for wordpress is tricky. However, what will happen is I’m already posting partial short story readings and other short video content on YouTube with the full versions on Bitchute.

Next video reading will be “Another day at the office” a 1650 word story from my forthcoming fantasy and supernatural collection, ‘The Cat Tree and other stories’. One minor caveat; in these times of hyper sensitivity I find myself having to post a 13+ profane language advisory on this particular offering, even though by my native working class British standards the language contained therein is very mild indeed, which I consider necessary for both dramatic impact and characterisation. If anyone feels they might be offended by such language, then a caution will be given for them to either stop reading or continue under their own recognisance. Therefore no legal or moral responsibility will be taken by me as author for any offence taken by any reader, ridiculous though this seems.

Here is a short video of me explaining who I am and what I do. Also why I’m doing it. This is going on my Subscribestar profile, when I finally get that up and running.

‘The Cat Tree and other stories’ is on schedule for completion for the end of August / start of September, as I only have one story to finish and another to re-edit. Estimated length 42,000 words.

Update: Video also now uploaded to Bitchute.

New story


Well, there’s another 4300 word submission accepted by Leg Iron books. This time for their Halloween compilation. That will make three stories I’ve placed with them in under twelve months, which isn’t bad. The money isn’t an issue and I’m never going to make a fortune writing, but it’s fun.

I seem to have struck a chord with my semi-comical little narratives although if they have a major fault it is this; when I start a story I often have no idea where it is going to end up. My narratives often go wandering into the weeds and get lost somewhere in the long grass. I’ve tried planning, laying out careful plot lines but the thing I really enjoy is romping off to play where my wild ideas are. My inner child likes to prod at things with a stick, lift the rocks to see what’s underneath. I also like to take the odd sideswipe at PC ‘culture’. Which amuses me. Although I often don’t know where to stop.

For example, my latest submission began life under the working title ‘The Coat’ but after the plot got lost in the woods at around the four thousand word mark, I had to send out a search party to bring the narrative back to a timely conclusion or it would still be wandering in circles. When I was done, the tale had been tidied up and shortened with a new title; “Good here, innit?” which makes sly fun of extreme ‘hate speech’ laws in a highly repressive society. And that revelation is as much as I am going to give away. Kevin Hillman at Leg Iron books liked it right away, which shows that we share a certain macabre sense of humour. There is another similar work in progress comic short story with the working title; “Three benches and a bicycle rack” which is as much as I’m giving away here. Let’s just say it will be funnier than “A Coelacanth in the bathroom”, I think.

Regarding promised videos; I’m having a few issues with glitchy sound. When I record a video, I like to do my readings in one take, often over twenty minutes at a time. What I’m experiencing is the recording randomly dropping whole words and occasionally even two or three, so a sentence ends up making no sense at all. Which is frustrating. However, when my recording issues are resolved I shall be adopting a policy of posting only partial readings to YouTube, Vimeo and Dailymotion with the full versions exclusively on Bitchute. Suffice it to say I have good reasons for doing so. YouTube’s policy of erasing whole channels for being even mildly politically incorrect for one.

Then there’s the issue of my planned compilation. This is still a work in progress, but I have a few new ideas for satirical supernatural stories which I want to include. This will delay the final project completion by a month or two but I hope any potential readers will find it worth the wait.

On the ‘Stars trilogy’ front, the current draft of ‘Darkness between the stars’ has clambered arthritically over the 90,000 word mark after the last edit with about another 60,000 to go. That is how much further I have to travel down that path. What I have written so far is good and I have the last four thousand words already written. Unfortunately marrying the two parts together in a meaningful way is proving more difficult than I had first anticipated. There’s almost too much to keep in my head at any one time.

In the meantime, just to keep the story machine in my head working, I will continue with the short stories and see what strikes.

Progress


Finally, the logjam on ‘Darkness between the stars’ is beginning to break. I have a basic 69,000 words followed by another 30,000 plus in notes and dialogue which needs shoehorning in. There’s some good stuff in there. Failed diplomacy. Arrogant double dealing. Attempted kidnappings and assassinations. Stuttering relationships and a couple of other red herrings to keep it interesting. Oh yes, and an interstellar ‘Police action’, which makes for an action packed interlude just before the denouement and wrap up.

There are also a couple of spin offs. One project with the working title of ‘Straight on through morning’ and a single volume follow up to the ‘Stars’ trilogy I’m calling ‘Earth’s night’ set in the days following the ‘Stars’ timeline.

This whole project has been a monkey on my back for the last eight years. Simply because what I’d written had lost direction and I couldn’t visualise where the narrative was heading. There was a large black hole of a discontinuity I couldn’t see past.

I don’t actually foresee a finished draft before October, but it won’t be for lack of effort. Work at my day job has tailed off for the next couple of months which will give me more focused keyboard time. As I’ve been offered even more regular paying work beginning in September, this means I have a three month window in which to press on regardless. Fingers, nose and eyes crossed.

Regarding ‘The Cat Tree and other stories’ I hope to have a working draft in the next three weeks followed by proofing and editing. There should be a reading of my updated version of ‘Blink’ up on Bitchute by the end of Sunday. I’ve salted it with a little more irony and taken a few sniping side shots at certain modern urban dogmas. Enjoy.

Oh yes, I was talking to an eZine publisher in California, but as I don’t want to write their kind of horror story for free I think we’ve agreed that my material is ‘not a good fit’ for them. On the flip side, there will be a ghost / supernatural toe-curler for the Halloween Underdog Anthology.

Word up


There are times I am thoroughly glad I no longer use Microsoft Word products for writing projects. I also tend to switch off certain functions in the thesaurus and grammar writing functions, why? Because a) I don’t need the help and b) if an infinitive needs splitting, then I want to take the biggest bloody word-axe I have to it, not have my creative licence suspended by someone else’s idea of what I should be saying. When language is narrowed, the ideas it can express become restricted and of lesser value.

I’ve recently heard that Microsoft, acting as some kind of self-styled Word Police are apparently introducing a tool in the latest version of word that will correct the users use of English to make it more politically correct which will;

“provide estimated reading times, extract and highlight key points in paragraphs, underline potentially sensitive geopolitical references”

Wait a moment. Extract key points in paragraphs? Well excuse me. If I write something, I want it that way because it expresses the ideas I want to examine. And so it should stay until the flow of the narrative demands otherwise. As for underlining potentially sensitive geopolitical references who decides what is ‘sensitive’? Does this value change with whatever political wind is blowing?

As a thoroughly disgruntled Windows 10 user, I find this function even more intrusive than the function-degrading ‘upgrades’ of Windows 10 that cannot be switched off.

Fortunately, I do not use Office 365 or any other Microsoft office product. Primarily because I’ve never liked how Microsoft Word can hide formatting code within a document. OpenOffice and LibreOffice are just as good, possibly better office suites, firstly because they can handle documents from a wider range of formats and secondly I think Bill Gates is quite rich enough, don’t you?

As for keeping copyrighted data out in the cloud, that to me is an invitation to copyright theft by a disgruntled Microsoft employee / teenage hacker / plagiarist. Therefore I would caution any would-be creative writer to avoid Microsoft 365 and derivatives like the plague. At least if they want their output to remain their own.

Nor does this make me some form of Luddite. I have no wish to return to the bad old days of strenuously bashing away at the mechanical keys of an old Imperial Safari as I once did. I like computers. They make it easier to create, organise and adapt ideas. From a creative perspective the advantages of word processing software speed up the transfer of imagination to page without repeated messy applications of semi-toxic correction fluid or wasting the growth of a small deciduous forest for each major writing project. As for the Internet, I was in at the birth of the World Wide Web and I still love it for the cornucopia of knowledge that it makes available, although I’ve fallen heavily out of love with social media of late and having deleted my Facebook and LinkedIn profiles, will shortly be casting my little used Twitter and Instagram feeds into the nether voids between the datastreams if I can remember to do so. They contain nothing that is either real or of value.

New project


As Xenophon said to Claudius; “Better out than in.”

With luck there will be a new project available in hardback and eBook format by the end of May. Should be on Barnes & Noble and Amazon by then. The working title being ‘The Cat tree and other stories’ Essentially it’s going to be a collection of my short fantasy and supernatural fiction, the raw text of some which can be found on the pages of this web site. What the hardback edition will have is artwork as illustrations to accompany the text. I’ll try and add some of these to the eBook if formats allow. Artwork for front cover will include this image.

All the twisted tales from my back catalogue, including several which have never seen the light of day, will be in this modest omnibus edition. This renewed focus is because paying work has slacked off considerably and Angie is going away with house guests for a couple of weeks, which means I can focus on getting the literary side of things done and out there, so there will be a video for the short version of ‘Blink’ while our house guests are elsewhere.

A full list of edited and improved stories will be available shortly, although I’m writing a couple of fantasy tales especially for this edition. Working titles are “The hunting of the Squonk” and “The coat”. I may also create a similar package for my back catalogue of short science fiction stories. That project will include novella versions of ‘Blink’ and ‘Oggie’ which are significantly longer (and better) than the originals. Better fleshed out characters and backstories, more savage twists.

Work proceeds very slowly on the third volume of the Stars series. So far I’ve carved off most of the fat, which leaves around 70,000 words to date but there are two main story threads which need tying off and completing from ‘Falling’. Also two spin off projects at around 30,000 words each and counting.

A word of advice for those looking at online payments processors; Don’t bother with Patreon. One very good reason being that they’re very limited. Payouts only go via PayPal (More fees) and one other online service. You can’t actually, as an individual, transfer funds directly from Patreon to your bank account like you can with Subscribestar. This is very limiting and another very good reason not to use Patreon. Payment speed is also snail-like. Up to ten working days for an online transfer between Patreon and Paypal? I have transferred thousands in under forty-eight hours from the UK to Canada using only my regular bank accounts and the worst that happened was an early morning phone call from UK bank security. By contrast my last royalty cheque from Leg-iron books cleared immediately after taking four days to arrive via airmail from Scotland. Draw your own conclusions. In crayon if you must, but draw them nonetheless.

Changes


Having been contacted by another publisher via a third party for one of my quirkier brand of short story, I’m having to rethink my communications strategy. This means getting out of some aspects of social media entirely and getting new, paid, email services that have nothing to do with Silicon Valley.

Now I’ve had one of my novels disallowed by one Silicon Valley owned platform for being ‘against community guidelines’ whatever that means. To me a story is a story, and whatever happens from premise to conclusion is narrative-necessary. No-one asked me if I wanted to be part of any ‘community’, in which others set the rules to which I have no real say, apart clicking ‘accept’ to the constantly changing ‘terms of service’ one has to accept when using any given online platform. I’m not part of any ‘community’. I’m an individual who can stand on his own two feet.

So I’m starting a new non-google, non-silicon valley affiliated email provider account and shifting this site to a fully paid WordPress plan, which should give me more overall control and no adverts for anything else but my work. If conditions change, I may even forgo the assistance of their ‘Happiness Engineers’. There’s a satirical title for a story right there. Can you ‘Engineer’ happiness and what form do the perpetrators of that blessed state of mind intend it takes? I was wondering about what to submit to the editor of that horror eZine. Now I think I know. Something unexpectedly nightmarish for preference.

On the topic of publishing Transgenre Dreams, the latest from Leg Iron books containing my short story “A Coelacanth in the Bathroom” is now available via Amazon. It’s also available from Smashwords and Kindle A linked picture should shortly be available on the sidebar.

Here are some opening paragraphs from ‘Coelacanth’

Finding a four foot long fish occupying the bath was a bit of a surprise. Especially at six fifteen on a Monday morning and particularly before breakfast. “I know it’s an old bathtub.” Perry muttered to himself, blinking wearily at the large, strange looking fish peering dopily back at him through vaguely green tinted water. At this time of day his sleep fogged mind was still running far too slowly to register any shock. “But this is ridiculous.”

Maybe if he left the bathroom and came back it would maybe disappear. Maybe he was still dreaming. He pinched himself and blinked hard, twice. No. The fish with skin like Van Gogh’s starry night turned in the confined space of their claw footed cast iron antique with a sluggish sploshing and waved an amiable tail back at him.

Who had filled the bathtub anyway? Wouldn’t they have heard their flats notoriously eccentric pipework in the middle of the night? And greenish water? Their venerable plumbing occasionally dispensed liquid with a brown tinge, but never green. Perry sniffed. Was that the taint of old seaweed? Sea water? This far inland?

An expression of pleasant surprise


Last night I got an email from Kevin Hillman over at Leg-Iron books who recently accepted my short story submission “A Coelacanth in the bathroom”. Apparently there’s a small eZine publisher based in California that is looking for original horror writers. They have expressed an interest in the kind of quirky, off the wall story I like to write and asked me, via Kevin, if I had anything. So, pleasantly surprised, I said yes. So I dashed off a brief email explaining who I was and what I did and the response was guardedly positive. They don’t pay, but they do have a fairly good distribution spread.

Now I’ve offered them a short story, currently a work in progress; target length about five thousand words that is kind of a spin off from “Coelacanth” in that it includes one of the characters from that tale. Without giving too much away, it’s mainly about an infestation of semi-mythical beasts who are a little, but not quite like they are portrayed in mainstream fantasy stories.

I did my research and looked at the crypto-biology behind these creatures before fleshing out the details and making them a little more believable. Nothing much, just playing around with the how, what, why, when and where of their mythology. I haven’t gone the full J K Rowling on them because I’ve always considered using the Harry Potter style of magic and wand waving as a bit of a cop out. Far more fun to take the impossible and set it off against the mundane. I mean, what would someone do if they found an endangered species in their bathroom or a plague of mythical beasts in their place of work? Whose job is it to deal with these things? How big a crimp would it put in their day?

It’s oddball questions like these that make my mouth twist into a villainous little smile and make me take to my office for so long that my wife greets me with “Oh, hello stranger” in the evenings when I finally surface.

A Coelacanth in the bathroom


… is the title of my latest short story with Leg-Iron books for their spring anthology. I’ve decided to err on the lighter side of things with a dark little comedy of errors which I hope readers will enjoy. Sort of a comic tale of the unexpected. Currently just under five thousand words and in the final editing stage before publication. Will post the links to Amazon etc when available.

In the meantime, here’s the artwork frontispiece. If this is the version Leg Iron books choose to use, if at all.

Still working on the artwork for my reading of ‘Blink’. Stars trilogy is still being restructured. Not much more to say. Manuscript at 69,000 words, which is still only about half way.

What can I say. Fiction writing isn’t much of a spectator sport. On the technical side, have just adjusted the site to make Smartphone surfing possible.

Update: Contracts signed for the text. Not sure about the artwork.

Up on bitchute


Have uploaded my reading of ‘Moonlit shadow’ to Bitchute as it was too long for the free version of Vimeo. Same format as the Youtube version. Like, don’t like, let me know why, although I’ve often drawn criticism for putting the whole narrative of this particular story in the present tense, which some people don’t care for. What can I say, it’s a stylistic choice on my part. Channel link here.

Most of these short stories are simply experiments while I keep trying to restructure the ‘Stars’ series of science fiction stories, which started off in 2004 as a planned trilogy, but seems to be spinning off the original narrative into multiple projects like ‘Miners’. Still very much in the same universe, but too far off the main thread to be part of ‘Darkness between the Stars’.

Current word count for ‘Darkness’ is just over 69,000 words and the separate parallel and convergent narratives make sense. The bad guys are clearly defined as corrupt politicians and the ‘good’ guys as a loose grab bag of deserters, reformed drug lords and other rebels. I’ve even got to the point where I can clearly visualise them all as visual novel style drawings. When I say visual novel, the artwork I can visualise is not so much Anime, more Marvel or DC style. This is good. I may even finish the first draft this year.

As far as the recordings and video’s are concerned, have invested in a lapel microphone which should improve the sound quality of future recordings. I’ve always hated that flat, echoing and nasal quality that a webcam or PC mike gives to my voice.

‘Blink’ will be the next offering, probably by the end of February. Or as soon as I have some visuals I’m happy with. I’ve given this particular 2500 word offering a significant editing so that the new version is better than the original. ‘Blink’ is also part of a much larger project. Another work in progress. However, the chief focus will be on ‘Stars’ from now on.

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.

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.

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.