28th Birthday Poem

So in the interests of establishing my own personal traditions, as with last year I’ve written a birthday poem, and as with last year its later than my birthday. We are getting closer though, last year it was a week, (or two),  this year its just a day, (or now two, as its one in the morning).

I make no claim to it being especially good, or an annual highlight to the poetry scene, (though my 27th Birthday Poem is the most read page on site – from people Googling for the exact words of the title I guess), its just a poem about my birthday and what the day means to me.

A Year to be Surpassed

A shadow fell over yesterday,
I turned twenty-eight,
It’s not that aging is bad,
But that another year has gone.

For every joy I’ve had to pay,
Yet seek joy come what may,
The same old slate,
Without a wipe date,
I will not say it was all sad,
And it didn’t make me mad.

The beast of success I did not slay,
My performance didn’t rate,
Yet for moments I am glad,
With a niece as lovely as a chiffon.

Another milestone be gone,
Next year I’ll have myself outdone.

©, Jonathan Lawrence 2010

P.S. I should add, as a cautionary note – I haven’t listed anything other than my niece being born as being explicitly good or bad. So I should note, that since my niece was born, I’ve enjoyed a fantastic time, being an uncle, thanks to some fortunate circumstances I’ve lived like a king, I’ve been to Prague, and I’ve come here to the Science Festival with some great people. Things like this were the moments I am glad for – just in case anyone thinks that I think I should be so rich and fortunate in life that the past two or three months have been less than notable.
When I think about it, it is quite strange that my niece coming into this world has marked such a massive turn around for my year, right at the end. However, life returns back to normal from here on in, I need to to start saving to make next year that bit more magical, all year round.
So to all my family and friends who have provided the highlights to my year, those moments I am glad for, have helped keep me sane when all else might have rendered me mad – I would like to say thank you. I hope I can do the same for you.

Oh and Happy Birthday to Aspiring.org

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Just a quickie, my blog is a year old this month – how fantastic, probably not dedicated as much time to it as I should – however still feels great to hit a mile stone.

In the past year I’ve written forty-eight published posts, five pages, across sixteen categories, using one hundred and eighty-three tags, I’ve recieved fourteen comments, sixty-one photos across four galleries.

I hope to build from here, and keep this going – I’ve enjoyed my time here.

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Aha! Found You!

My muses have elected to return to me it seems. I suddenly have the ability to write again, and am doing so with gusto working on a new project. I know, I have lots of unfinished projects I should be working on, but I’m just enjoying writing right now.

My muses have elected to return to me it seems. I suddenly have the ability to write again, and am doing so with gusto working on a new project. I know, I have lots of unfinished projects I should be working on, but I’m just enjoying writing right now.

So the new project, it’s currently titled Journals of a Space Corsair, and is a sci-fi piece. Inspired by the concept of the Bio of a Space Tyrant novels by Piers Anthony, which I read recently, and once I finished reading those books, I also read Michael Crichton’s Pirate Latitudes, between the two of them, this whole science fiction universe of mine was inspired and created in my mind. What’s more is I’ve been able to put it into words, something I’ve struggled to do for the past eighteen months.

It’s a nice feeling, not too many words just yet, but just passed the 20,000 mark in two weeks so that’s a comfort.

The way I’m doing this project is blog posts, it’s an auto-biography, so I’m going to write it as a series of confessionals, the man’s story in his own words, detailing his good deeds, but mostly his crimes, the lifestyle he led, and the suffering he brought and received. The hardest part is not giving in to my tendency to make the character a flawed good guy, or to have the character swing from bad to good. I’m trying to write something that reflects a man, and not an archetype from a TV series. That isn’t to say there isn’t an arc, in fact there’s a pretty big one, and my aim is the character goes from illegality to legitimacy, and then back to illegality. Times are turbulent, wars rise up and allegiances change.

I do feel the need to acknowledge Piers Anthony, and Michael Crichton, as their books are a massive influence on this story, it was their books that really lit my imagination on fire.

From Michael Crichton I tried to take a sense of how pirates actually operated, and in many ways how the new world worked, the trade routes between the colonial lands, the stopping off points like Jamaica, which I’ve tried to translate the spirit of into worlds and space stations.

From Piers Anthony, obviously I’ve tried to take the format, the fictional autobiography of a significant figure in future history, I’m also borrowing some of the technology he mentions in his books, the travelling via a beam of light, over massive distances, which is as reasonable a way to explain interstellar travel as any. Of course it is fraught with its own difficulties in a story that takes place in real time, with politics, wars, and tactics – I can’t really afford it taking decades to travel from one planet to the other. Instead, I shall embellish the idea with faster than light energy – so it takes days and weeks to travel between the stars.

I think it is important to acknowledge where a story comes from – it is not my intention to plagiarise these amazing authors, but they have inspired within me a tale which I think is unique and distinct in its own right. Besides when it comes to science fiction, it’s never easy to come up with easy ideas for propulsion, and story telling in general tends to form into archetypes. I think that’s one of the advantages of writing an account of a self confessed bad guy, while not ground breaking or unique, it is a point of view that is carried far less often than that of a hero, heroically battling to save the world.

My intention is to post up a chapter (and if I write it right, it will be more of a self contained short story, which feeds into the overall tale), every fortnight, detailing a significant memory of this space corsair. I won’t be launching it right away, as I want to build up four or five chapters ahead, this gives me a nice cushion with which to edit the stories (because while the muse does flow, it tends not to check the grammar for me, nor does it worry about the annoying inconsistencies of writing large pieces of work in small bits). Also, my sister’s baby is due next month, I’m on holiday in Prague in August, and I’m off to the British Science Festival in Birmingham this September, so there’s plenty to interrupt my schedule.

Speaking of the British Science Festival, I’m really looking forward to it, it feeds a lot of knowledge in my science fiction, such as the power system for the ships in my story – I learned that from a presentation I went to on fusion energy, I always favoured the methodology employed in the tokamak fusion generators, rather than the method involving lasers, purely because it seems to me that once such devices as ITER are operational and producing massive quantities of energy, we would be able to learn from this and scale the process down to have a device that can sit aboard a starship and produce the kind of energy I need for propulsion, FTL (faster than light) travel, and of course the staple of most space based science fiction, the weapons.

I am genuinely excited to be writing again, and long may it continue. Nanowrimo is in November (it’s always in November, hardly a surprise there), and this year I’m going to ace it. Mark my words.

NaNoWriMo 2009 – An Update 10/11/2009

Well we’re now into week 2 of NaNoWriMo, and I managed to resolve my problems that came about at the end of last week. I say temporarily, because despite introducing a brand spanking new character, to whom I switched to, so I could imply the extent of the problem with my protaginist, without gettimg bogged down in detail, (and the logic of how long healing should take), I still wrote in the troubles just later in the process.

Two thousand words dropped for nowt, and probably another thousand to erase the second mistake.

I do have a plan though, and it is a cunning plan, go back again and undo the difficulties, limit the protaginists psychological difficulties (which are what would take too long in the time wise to deal with), but keep the secondary character. Kind of a sidekick to help out my protaginist through the couple of days recovery he needs (I’ve also undone shooting him in the legs, and instead had the bullet nick his brachial artery).

This should mean my character is less on his own, and has more interaction, and I can up the humour a bit. I’d much rather my characters were funny people than the narrative, or situations. Gallows humour is good, especially in procedural crime writing.

So, recovery is in sight – but I do have some monster writing sessions between now and this Saturday. Which is fine, I don’t mind the pressure, it’s only when deadlines become tight that I really put my foot on the gas and blast those monster wordcounts out. I had hoped this year woukd be different – but events conspired against me.

Meeting up with other NaNoWriMo’ers helps – it’s where I found mysels thinking out the solution to my plot problems. It was a good meet up on Sunday, (7th November 2009), some new faces and old. It’s enough to make you believe writers are generally smart, talented, driven people, who are genuinely nice, friendly, and social – until you remember I was there ;), brutish talentless oaf that I am.

The only way to hit 100,000 is going to be by being diligent, and erm… Deadlining with an all nighter on Friday – yes my bad, but we each have our ways of writing afterall.

NaNoWriMo 2009 – Week 1

Well we’re now seven days into NaNoWriMo and I’ve only achieved 13,000 words so far. This is actually to plan, yet now we’re going I can’t help but feeling I’m falling short. Today is Saturday however, and I planned in most of my word count for Saturdays and Sundays (because I’m not lucky enough to be able to live without earning lots and lots of money).

In my defence (against myself, since I’m my own harshest critic), there has been a lot of drama to trip me up along the way. From car thefts, work, and family – all neatly working their way into my writing time, and mindset.

I shouldn’t be bothered, the plan was for 20,000 a weekend, with and extra 5,000 on a Friday, and we’ve not had a full weekend yet – but I want to do more, be faster stronger as a writer.

I’m not helping myself however, trying to exercise and write at the same time isn’t easy, and it’s taking it’s toll. The Friday just gone, I should have done 5,000 words, instead I slept. Oops, my bad.

It just means today (Saturday) I have to hit 15,000 to be sure of my targets.

Actually, I do realise I’m being unfair, everytime I think about it, I ramp up the amount of words I need to do each week (and subsequently each day), because of how badly I’m doing. It’s not just to contemplate for being bad now, it’s to compensate for things being just as hard later. I know that if I could get away with it, I would probably set myself a target of 50,000 words a day this weekend. Which isn’t unachievable really – think about it, assuming I slept for 12 hours, out of the 48, and wrote for the rest – I’d only need to achieve 52 words per minute consistently.

Of course, that’s not likely since I’m here writing this, oops. 15,000 today and tomorrow is fine – it’ll get me to 42% of my target, which does give me room to relax for the rest of the month.

I am my own hardest task master… I’ve as many psychological issues as my main character – but he’s paranoid delusional, since I started writing his life has now gone quite psychotic. The irony is, I didn’t mean to do that, all I did was shoot him, and he’s gone nuts. Oops.

So now I’ve got to get him functional, get him out of hospital, and somehow have him run (a bullet passed through both thighs, and at one point he starts bleeding out). Oh hum – well here goes.

The good thing with a 100,000 word count target, if I don’t finish this in 50,000 I can push it to 60,000 and then have a nice shorter to finish the challenge with.

And if you think I’m a harsh task master this year? Next year will be 50% harder… and you don’t even want to know about the year after that.

NaNoWriMo 2009 is a go!

NaNoWriMo has officially launched, and the race to 50,000 words (or 100,000 if you’re doubley stupid like me), begins – just 30 days to clear the novel, and claim the victory.

This is going to be an amazing month, hard, soul destroying at times, but the feeling when you make it over that 50,000 word barrier is immense.

Weeks of anticipation, preparation, and nerves have finally lead to the start of NaNoWriMo 2009.

It started at midnight, and so did I, or close enough (what I actually did was start the procastination early, by waiting an hour to start while I worked on a spreadsheet to track my writing… erm oops). Anyway, today I went to Café Latino in Leeds, met up with another writer doing NaNoWriMo, and we got to work properly on writing our novels.

I’d like to say I’m target, but I’m about four thousand words short as it stands, and annoyingly I’m currently averaging a very poor, and very slow four hundred and fifty three words an hour, I’m not really sure why, the ideas there. Hopefully when a few more characters turn up, and we get some good interaction (not just phone calls), the words will start to flow.

My ideal is to do ten thousand words a day at weekends, with an extra five thousand on a Friday night. Now I know this isn’t entirely sustainable, which is where week nights come in, they’re my bonus rounds where I can pick a few extra on the word counts, but I can also take some time to create and organise notes, drawings, and do plans to help me at the weekends. The weekend and Fridays plan brings me to my target of one hundred thousand words, across two stories – and thats where I need to focus my efforts.

I don’t really need to feel too bad about not hitting target today, this Sunday is an extra, above and beyond the plan, so any words today, just help take a bit of pressure off later on. However, aside from a few chores, and writing this entry I’ll be writing right up until bedtime. Sadly this year there won’t be any bus writing, my little netbook is still out of order (bang out of order as it were), and I’m confined to using my seventeen inch monster laptop which is just about portable, if I’m writing in a café, or some such, not really something I can sit on a bus with.

I am feeling really confident about this year though, I’ve got a good plan, and some great ideas. There’s a lot of pressure, but I write better with pressure, its how I made it last year,  when I did 80% of my novel in just ten days, right at the end.

I’m going to try and fit in time to keep writing here, this is what my blog is for, writing, and discussing writing, and this is the month I’m going to be doing lots of it, so i’ll have plenty to discuss.

To all everyone doing NaNoWriMo out there, I wish you all the best of luck.

Spider Poem

Have you ever taken a moment out of your day,

To watch something truly unimpressive,

Yet overwhelmingly inspiring all the same?

As promised, however late I am, here is my spider poem – probably not the best thing I have ever written, but I’m just grateful to be writing again. Besides, I kind of like it, I like the bumbling nature of the poem, the over simplified complex structure couple with an end rhyme that has some very stretched rules.

If you enjoy it, let me know – but likewise if you have constructive feedback I’d welcome that too.

Later, I’ll be using this poem as one of the sources for a post about editing poetry, so you never know, I may be back with a better version yet – but I still love this one.

Continue reading “Spider Poem”

Pay Up!

No this post isn’t about turning my blog into a pay per article service, or any such notice. I don’t even use ads, this an entirely free blog, my reward is in writing, and the odd comment or two. If my blog inexplicably became uber-popular, and my existing over resourced was somehow unable to cope and I had to get bigger more expensive hosting, I would have to review the situation to recoup costs. That situation isn’t likely, but I do appreciate that the internet can be expensive at times, and someone has to pay.

There is a point where quality and quantity must come at a price. For published authors that point has come, people have deemed the quality and quantity worthwhile paying for, and are ready to stump up the cash.

The world is changing though, and the point of quality and quantity is higher, it’s an uphill struggle against thousands of other writers to hit that point. The internet has had a major impact, books are less popular because there’s so much out there for free, and more convenient.

Amazon was a revelation, you no longer had to go to books, instead they came to you. That hit bookshops hard, but they struggled on. The focus of books changed though, the priority for quick ROI’s (return on investment) is pushed. Books now have to hit the most people for the least popular price. A strategy that seems to back fire more and more. This strategy led to the rise of the ridiculously priced minor celebrity biography. A scatter gun approach to the problem that spreads the investment over many similar books, hoping that one will catch the eye, and return enough money to pay for the lot. Plus I imagine a few publicists like rubbing shoulders with celebrities, and those in the know.

Regardless, sadly the book industry is dying. Various strategies, to my mind, have exasperated the situation, but it’s only hastened the demise, not caused it. The new killer started to rise a couple of years ago, the eBook. EBooks have been around for a while in one form or another, but various technologies are aimed solely at enabling this market, from software for computers and PDA’s to dedicated eBook readers. Libraries of books can be fit onto a memory card smaller than my thumbnail.

Many companies are trying different models to get a ROI from eBooks. The problem is DRM will always be breakable, which means one person pays, cracks, and shares with the world.

It is robbery, but one that’s hard to pinpoint, hard to deal with, and in these days of burgeoning technological advances both sides of the line, hard to track. There are those that argue that it isn’t morally incompatible with the arts, just the same way they argue with the film companies, and the music industry. However, for the time being, the issue isn’t nearly so great as with films and music – and the value of revenue streams is far different.

Throw in that much of the content available on the internet is legally free, in terms of literature, I doubt the publishing industry could get anywhere close to the extreme actions of it’s bigger sisters (music, film, and television).

I’ll put my cards on the table, I don’t necessarily agree with how copyright works now, though I acknowledge the illegality of file sharing certain files, I don’t believe the law is set up right for the twenty-first century. The basis for copyright laws dates to the 1600’s (must query and confirm), when small publishing presses were re-publishing books of bigger firms. Back then copyright was set at a decade, and then books would become fair game, giving the larger firms ten years protection on profits. Then, with a lot of lobbying from bigger publishers, copyright duration was extended, and extended. Loop holes were systematically excised, and precedent cases were brought against people and organisations, big and small.

Though over the past few hundred years there have been countless alterations to copyright law, international versions have been set up – the principles are the same. The current creative industries are hooked, their whole business models inflexibly require this antiquated form of copyright, and they fight any and all efforts to change this.

Even as the world changes, leaving them behind.

Truth is, illegal file sharing wouldn’t nearly be so big, popular, or socially addictive as it is now, had the corporations, and governments come into the game earlier, and dealt with the situation. They could have spent the past decade looking at changing their businesses to fit with the twenty-first century, while protection their revenue. However, a short sighted view, and inefficient weed killer, has maintained their own degradation as the source of creative media.

They only have themselves to blame. However, I digress slightly, but only slightly.

The point of this article is to explore a very valid point, one that multiple industries are faced with.

Given the abundance of free and legal sources of entertainment on the internet, of reasonable quality – would you pay for it elsewhere?

Say for instance, I’m a bestselling author – I’ve just written a ground breaking piece of fiction. It’s gone to the publishers, and has been released into the wilds of the bookshop. Now, I have some sort of weird control over my own works, that prevents my publisher from blocking me from publishing elsewhere, (I would expect they have better control of contracts than this, but it’s a necessary machination for my role-play), and I decide to offer it free to an online community, or two.

Everyone can go and download and eBook version of my groundbreaking book, (by the way, if you’re wondering it’s an awesome book, the best you’ll ever read), the media publicises this fact widely, so lots and lots of people know.

The consumer has a choice, they can download it for free online, or purchase the book. Which do you think the consumer would choose?

I believe they’ll choose the free meditation. I would. However since this a ground breaking, and unbelievably amazing book, maybe I’m hoping they want to buy a physical edition, to keep forever. However, the revenue is going to be far less.

Now, bearing in mind we’re dealing with an ultra-amazing groundbreaking book, if I were to add some form of advertising to the download page, I can recoup some of the lost revenue. Given how amazing the book is, that’s a lot of potential individuals to advertise to.

Of course, financially that’s not quite satisfying, I’ve got bills to pay, and a five storey, one hundred bedroom mansion to buy, (you know, the essentials in life). Next up, I want to look at putting advertising in the eBook – of course I’m a proud writer, and I don’t want LucoCola logo or text interfering with the story itself, so maybe on the front and back pages, and water marks in the corners? Intrusive, but not story ruining. The added advantage to this is, if you want the book without the advertising, you can go to a shop and pay for it.

Seems like a reasonable business model, no? I get lots of good attention from online downloads, plus a reasonable advertising revenue stream, and I get a decent payback from the physical copy of the book. It’s a business plan I could live with, except it would only really pay off with something destined for success. If only one hundred people download your book, the advertising revenues would be tiny, and certainly wouldn’t get me close to my SR-71 Blackbird, even a retired fixer upper.

Continue reading “Pay Up!”

Poetry Practice: Day Eleven

My eleventh day of poetry practice, somewhat delayed after first having site issues, and then computer ones to boot. I’m not giving up, and I do have a back log of poetry to post, however I’m at work, so figured I’d write a quick one, and prove I’m still alive.

Disaster of a Dream

Soaring high above the world,
Glorious hue of unadultered blue,
Wisps of clouds stretching far beneath,
Breaks of green, and brown, and blue,
I am free, nothing can ever get to me here.

Feeling secure here, I swirled,
Blinded by beauty, I never had a clue,
My flight is at an end, I fall towards heath,
Panic flairs, my joy now seesm untrue,
I am trapped, falling to my death in fear.

Without warning, I am curled,
My workplace, twisted and strange,
An assault of vaunted ceilings, and a scary bar,
Signs of the office I know in the range,
I flee, this new world is out to get me.

The scene to Birmingham I’m hurled,
All about me recognised in change,
I bump into a scarey person with a scar,
He grabs me, we fall down a derange,
I hold on, he continues to fall free.

©, Jonathan Lawrence 2009

Now just a bit about this poem : Continue reading “Poetry Practice: Day Eleven”

Poetry Practice: Day Ten

My tenth day of writing practice poems to get myself fit for competition.

Today we have one about the weather, which bears no relation to the weather experienced this weekend funnily enough.

Atmosphere Alight
Furous titans battle at the edge,
Tempestuous gods push back,
Might against might
The battle of nature rages.

Hurricanes battle warm fronts,
Thunder and lightening attack,
Atmosphere alight,
Man measures its puny gauges.

Rivers swell breaking banks,
Weather defences seem to lack,
Dangerous sight,
The battle for nature through ages.