1 December 2017

Creativity

Photo montage includes a photo by Cliff Johnson on Unsplash

Here's the thing disco kids, you aren't what you think you are and, more importantly, you may be what you think you aren't. I was convinced for a good three weeks once that I was a cicada but turned out I was a philosopher having a dream I was a cricket, so not even delusional in the correct frickin' language.

In other, more relevant news, I've written novels, although I'm not actually a novelist and blogged although I am not a blogger. I am, however, a "creative", and because I spend a lot of time in front of the keyboard I got the impression I was some kind of writer.

I did go to acting college and I learned to act but realised that I liked the idea of regular Monday to Friday 9 to 5 work, so I didn't pursue it further. I still hear interviews with actors talking about the jewellery they keep close to remind them of the family that their career is deemed more important than and don't regret the call I made.

Then, for a while, I hit my stride with a podcast I put together with some long-time co-conspirators. Check it out, although I can't tell you where in our archive to begin because I haven't yet put my finger on where the quality bar hit "peak" so you'll just have to peruse for yourselves.

The really important thing is that nowhere, in any of this, did I particularly consider myself a Discordian. If you're creative then unacknowledged Discordianism is only holding you back. As recorded elsewhere I had cause to reconsider my relationship with all things Erisian round about the end of summer.

Once you start to engage with your own spiritual engine things go a bit nutty. Since September I have published an epic tome about alchemy, Vodun and Celtic bugaboos, and re-invigorated my love of audio recording projects. This ongoing process has generally instigated a new lease of creative life.

Of course, that could have happened without a newfound respect for ultimate chaos, but... you know... that's kind of the point of ultimate chaos. I could bore you with a rundown of weird little quirks of coinkydink that prompted this repointing and repurposing but these are my omens, not yours, all can be rationally explained away easily enough. They have meaning because they meant something to me. So they aren't really for sharing.

If you are creative and think you are not Discordian I would submit that you are probably wrong about that. Ultimate chaos is the wellspring of magical creativity. It's probably the wellspring of a lot else, but I am creative so that is how it works for me.

Don't fall into the trap of thinking that chaos gives a gift intended to make you wealthy. Chaos understands that wealth is a system that is anti-chaos and will only be issued to those who will burn it on a remote Scottish island in tribute to chaos itself. The gift is the gift and I would far rather be fecund than loaded, loaded would be nice but to be barren of fresh ideas is beneath dead to me.

Chaos does for me. It did for me when I didn't embrace it consciously but it performs better, in my opinion, now that I do. I don't know what will happen next with any great certainty but I do know that I have read the stars in the sky from the deck of my sloop and set a heading for peculiar waters. Whatever happens amongst those isles unseen may throw up a lot of experiences, but the experience of being bored won't be one of them.

Sri Syadasti,

The Monkey

23 November 2017

Audio

Photo montage includes a photo by Kai Oberhauser from Unsplash


An inciting incident occurred recently that has re-kindled my energy with regards to posting audio content. I have always loved audio content of all sorts. For a start, audio content is the only way I get to read books, filling in the time I drive to and from work.

Audio content is what helped train me to fall asleep promptly. Audio content is great when you're too ill to get out of bed. Audio content is exciting, vibrant and, when well produced engages the imagination because you're having to supply the visual content using your mind's eye.

There's a curious alchemy between book readings and radio plays. I don't prefer either* but I love them both to be what they are for different reasons. I love to listen to the Hitch Hikers Guide radio serials and I recently took in The Complete Sherlock Holmes read by Stephen Fry. This is what ears were made for.

So, in short, expect audio content in 2018, some you can probably guess at, but I am hoping to surprise you too.

*but I'm not a big fan of audiobooks with an identity crisis who hire in any more than one actor beyond the narrator to voice "characters", make up your goddamn mind.

19 November 2017

I'm Not A Blogger

Photo montage includes a photo by Glen Noble from Unsplash

No, seriously, I'm not, however much this particular internet artefact may attempt to convince you otherwise. I have a blog, sure, conceded and admitted. But I am not a blogger. Bloggers, to my mind, are people who devote their time and attention to producing blog content of a quality where that content stands alone. The blog, as Hamlet would probably say if he knew about blogs, is the thing*.

My blog is not the thing. If I'm honest I don't think novels are the thing either. I love writing novels but, of late, I like writing them in order to have material to turn into audio books. Audio content, ah, well, that might very well be the thing... more on that to follow.

All of this is a roundabout way to lead up to me saying that the days of "three massive content pieces every week" are going on hold now. However, dear reader, you should not presume a return to the days of "one post a year" because that's no good either.

I think where we want to be is regular check-ins and progress updates and maybe two serious content pieces every month, tangentially riffing off the content I have going on at the time.

So, I hear nobody clamouring to know, whither Discordianism? Is that last year's news. No, not at all. I credit my recent good fortunes in the well-spring of chaotic creativity entirely to my renewed interest in the Erisian principle and the Holy Chao. Since re-discovering Discordianism I have got Starfall done and published, pulled some eyeballs into this blog, which, at the end of the day is a blog, in the original sense of the word.

For those now puzzled, what I mean to say is, the early days of blogging allowed the blog producer the liberty to be as random as they wished to be in the content. It's only in later times that you have "food bloggers" or "tech bloggers" or "society bloggers". The idea in the early days was that a blog was an ongoing public journal that would go from cabbages to kings.

I am still running this joint on that basis, people are queuing up to tell me I'm doing my marketing wrong, but I've come to realise this misses the point. If I wanted to "market" with the objective of selling as much as possible indiscriminately then I guess I could. But that's not the kind of doodad I make.

I have never made a secret that the things I cherish most are things like my copy of Over The Edge which I bought after the system had lived it's short beautiful life and passed, long since, out of print. I love it because it speaks right to the core of me. So it took me 15 years from first publication to find it and embrace it, so what. I am the message in a bottle guy. I don't want a thousand bottles to reach a bunch of randoms, I want one bottle to reach the right person.

That's not a way to get rich but it's the way to connect nodes in the great global chaosphere. And that's what I am looking to do. I am a mystic, not a magician. It's all about understanding, it's not at all about power. For which reason, I realise I need to devote the little power I have carefully and, currently, the blog is sucking up too much resource. So, expect less carefully crafted content bombs but I am here, and I do check this and you can reach me, not that anyone has.

Now I'm off to start cooking some audio, it'll be ready in 2018 so you have plenty of time to clear your ears.

Sri Syadasti,

The Monkey

*Which has sent my mind off onto a tangent where I imagine proto-emo grandaddy of all emo kids Hamlet writing long screeds into his LiveJournal about how Claudius is a bastard and Gertrude just doesn't get him. "Oh, God," he would write, "my soul is a cavern of inky despair. Ophelia caught my eye in the courtyard earlier. Doesn't she know she's a popular girl? She and I could never have a meaningful relationship because all she cares about is lipstick and flowers. Going to hang out with Laertes later and listen to some My Chemical Romance. Mood: Contemplating The Void."

3 November 2017

Review Copies



Starfall's been out now for ~2 weeks and very rapidly I've found out that I don't want to give people the option of getting a copy free. Actually, that's not quite true, free as in beer I can handle as long as I know who wants a copy.

I worked a long time on Starfall, over a decade, in fact. Over the last two weeks "people" have stopped by my Smashwords page and chosen to "Pay What They Want" for a copy and none of them wanted to pay anything.

Here's what I think about those people who don't pay anything for the book. First, I suspect they're screen scrapers, procedural bots who hoover up anything that's not nailed down, digitally speaking. Second, I think that if they're not, they're worse.

I take free books when those books are marked "free". If I were to release a free book, and I have, I would say, this is free, enjoy it. Pay what you want, on the other hand, means "not nothing". Or at least it does to me. There are many albums on indie music site Bandcamp that are marked "Pay what you want". If an artist wants you not to pay for their music then they add **FREE DOWNLOAD** to the album title. Then you can take the music for free.

No doubt there are some people who take Pay What You Want music from Bandcamp for nothing. I am not one of those people. Even a nominal fee for the music is a way of saying that the work was worth something to you, the listener. Taking Pay What You Want stuff for a sum of zero just makes you look like a giant, unthinking content hoover.

I am not saying that those people - if they are people - who took my book for free are not going to read Starfall. What I am saying is that I don't believe they are. I find this to be like baking a bunch of delicious cookies and taking them out into the street to offer them to people. If the people believed that I was trying to poison them fine. But this is more like people are taking the cookies but they just snatch them on the way past, no eye contact, no greeting, no sense that they are aware that the human being that baked the cookie is standing, you know, right there at all.

Then, it's like those people throw those cookies away, after taking them, without even looking at them or smelling them or detecting that I threw a dash of vanilla in. Like the cookie was good enough to take but not good enough to eat afterward.

That's what I don't like. Take my book for free, or, at least for a like on my Facebook page and a message that says "Hi, I would like a free copy of your book because it looks interesting and I am happy to go on your mail list about future releases." If you want to not pay money for the book on that basis I am totally fine with that.

But I am not fine with you taking the book for literally nothing as if I am just a book writing machine that needs no more acknowledgement than a kettle. Sometimes I write things for a bit of fun, with a "take it or leave it" kind of attitude, then I will say, hey, just take a copy, that's fine. Starfall, in particular, is not one of those projects. I worked too damn hard on that book to have people not even say "Hi" when they have a copy gratis. So that is no longer an option.

If you don't want to engage with me but you want to read the book now the price is $4. A $0 copy is for people who are happy to like my facebook page and go on my mailing list.

Grump over. Have a nice day.

31 October 2017

Vodou Cymru


Wild Welsh Vodou came to play,
From the top of the Beacons to Tiger Bay.
This land can be darkened with trouble and toil,
Countrymen take comfort in the breath of hwyl.

Raise up your voice, through the valley it rings,
Reawaken our loa, our gods, our kings.
Thrill to the ancient, earth-born song
Invoke the dragon-spirit that was once thought gone.

Sweet, clear harmonies the druid's song,
No invader kept them silent long.
The bards soothed souls when they raised a harp,
Told epic stories with wits, razor sharp.

The land hears stories, on tales it feeds,
Myth and magic, words and deeds.
One thousand spirits from the heights to the deep,
Dwell in rich, dark earth where the rhythm sleeps.

Hear the old ones call, whispers after dark,
Pay the piper at the gates of Cwmdonkin Park.
There's a sprite or two that will grant your wishes,
Pay due respect at the fortress of the fishes.

'Neath a bone white moon tread the coastal way,
Hear the call of the mermaids, raging surf in the bay.
Feel the weight of ages, nearly sets the soul mourning,
But the song of the earth awakens new dawning.

26 October 2017

(Mis)Adventures In Mysticism


The word "mystic" gets thrown around a great deal. Or, at least, it does by me, when I'm in a certain mood. In the end, though, what does "mystic" really mean? Does anybody really know?

As it turns out, yes, Wikipedia knows. It's not like love, or culture, or Winnebago, it's not one of those words that defy sensible definition. Mysticism is a case in a world where so many things appear to be more "edge" than "case".

What's really weird about getting the meaning of mystical (at least the definition of the word) all tied down is that I didn't understand what it meant before. In a metaphysical realm so often rife with double meaning, vagueness and general goal-post moving matters of mysticism appear to be relatively straightforward.

As always, it doesn't take long before the deception provided by appearances becomes obvious. The bit we can be sure of is that mysticism is about making a connection to something. What the something is, ah, that's the rub.

If you're going to be glib about it then you can say it's about making a connection to God, capital-"G" and walk away ensconced in a cocoon of meaningless sophistry. Don't get me wrong I'll sink a pint with the bearded sky daddy any time he wants to get down to my local boozer, but the entire concept is as easy to forge a mystical connection with as any arbitrary non-god-like person on the planet.

There are plenty of non-god-like people already in the boozer, so why wait for bearded sky daddy to leave cloud mansion? They don't like him down the pub anyway, the management maintains burning bushes are a health and safety violation. Besides, his wallet is always "unfortunately" burned to a crisp in his lower branches.

The first question that springs to my mind in the matter of mysticism is "what do you mean by connection?" Say we're limbering up for "the big one" (whatever that turns out to be) so we decide to start small by making a connection to another human being. How do we do that?

If the goal is simply to speak to them then a simple "Hi" will suffice. Although the aspirant may feel the experience, if it is that, is on the underwhelming side. It has to be that "connecting" with someone is a deeper experience than "greeting" them. At this point, I can imagine many readers groping around to find a genital-themed experiment to try next.

Let's just leave that be. You can definitely get happy by slapping another person on the wobbly bits but are you "connecting" to them? A soup of mind-altering hormonal responses says yes. But good luck charming the infinite ineffable into the sack. The clue is in the name, the ineffable must, by default be un-eff-able. This whole business is like eating an entire chocolate trifle when you're hoping to gorge on chocolate cake. A trifle is not a cake, they both taste nice but once you're hungry again the craving for cake will resume.

So if we're not talking about talking with a person, and we're not talking about practicing dubious personal hygiene with a person, then how do you "connect" with them, in the mystical sense?

All of a sudden the scale of the problem becomes apparent. At least a person exists to be connected with. When it comes to the mystical experience the other end of the mystic telephone is connected to something we can't comprehend.

With mounting disappointment we realise, the mystic experience is about doing something that is ill-defined with something that you have no physical evidence even exists.

Did I mention that I wrote a novel? Did I further mention that the novel is out this week? (Oh, come on, you didn't expect to get off without the sales pitch, did you?) As it so happens and entirely coincidentally the revelations at the heart of the mystic experience are a crucial component of the antagonist's journey in that very novel. Crazy, ou quoi?

Of course, he gets it almost entirely wrong, he doesn't know what it is he is communing with. The wretched fool screws up the relationship and when the relationship entirely takes place in the metaphysical beyond, well... stars will fall if you follow my drift.

What is super-bizarre here is that I only realize that I wanted to talk about the pitfalls of frail humanity experimenting with the mystic experience right now. I wrote the novel a decade ago. It is possible to want to talk to your audience about something and not even know what that thing is.

There's a connection for you. The storyteller is trying to connect to the story reader through the medium of the story. The story, for its own part, comes from, somewhere, out there, beyond. Ask any author and they will tell you, they write down the story but they tend not to create it. At some point, the author is a "receiver" of the story from... from... where? Where in Hades does the story actually come from?

Sounds to me like the author, in that act of creating fiction is connecting to something vast and undefinable. Once they're connected like that they bring back messages. Like a broken Oracle the author is trying to communicate truth by spitting out thousands of lies. The art of writing is to pare down the lies and to tip the wink to the reader what they are so the reader can sift out a truth it would have been impossible to find were it not for the fiction.

It's not the only way to get there, but that definitely sounds like a mystic experience to me.

22 October 2017

Starfall


Two major things happened in 2006. The second most important of these was that I began the novel whose cover you see above as a NaNoWriMo novel in the November of that year. The more important one was that I met the woman who was to become my wife and I dedicated this book to her.

For eleven long years, she has berated me for releasing novels dedicated to other people, but never one dedicated to her. Well, at last, she will have to move on to saying instead: "It took you over a decade to release that book that's dedicated to me." So, that's something I guess.

Why so long, why did No Dice RPG, Shadow Cities, Three Chicago Shadows novels, The Elias Anomaly and the first volume of Tales From Bridgetown beat Starfall to print? Because I wanted it to be as right as it possibly could be and I set myself one hell of a task to achieve that.

Over the past month, I have been writing about Vodun and a little about Celtic Myth (more on both to follow, I am not done), and it has made me realise that I was either inspired or an idiot to combine both of these topics into one volume, especially as I also touch on actual events from the history of the Nottinghamshire/Leicestershire border from Roman times on, handle the tricky business of casual domestic abuse, and try to wrap it all up in a tale about gods, alchemists and holy fools taking a long journey into a curious state of metaphysical awakening.

That kind of thing takes a while to bake. I am not saying that I did it perfectly. I think Starfall is a challenging book, sometimes I think it is too heavy for anyone to actually finish reading it, then I consider its various nooks and fascinations and I wonder whether I am too unkind to my own work.

This is a novel that can't not exist. Too much time and love and power have been rolled into it. It stands alone as the only novel I know of that makes heroes of practitioners of Vodun, and I don't really know why that is because nothing I have read about that spiritual practice since has led me to think they are unworthy of being heroes. In a way, what makes them interesting is that the loa are more than heroes, they can be champions of life and defenders of the human condition, but always know that they have secrets and duties and they must fulfil those as well. It means that they are difficult, dangerous heroes and those tend to be the better kind.

Also, the book takes a good long look at a kind of Western spiritual exceptionalism, via an examination of some of the main points of the alchemist's work, the loa of Vodun are the perfect counterpoint to the pomposity of the dry, arcane spiritual man's club of alchemy. I am not kind to alchemy in this volume, although I am careful to make it plain that most of the alchemy performed by characters in the novel is nothing of the sort.

In case you worry that I am spoiling the novel for you, rest assured, that I am not. I have merely become aware that Starfall is a book that would benefit from a guided tour and I am the most qualified to be the tour guide.

Working on Starfall has led me to the conclusion that if a book would not benefit from the addition of annotations and a study of its mythos and philosophy then it is not a book that I would care to read, and certainly not one I would care to write. I see too many authors now concerned solely with fun, and product, and sales rankings, and selling, selling, selling. I would like people to buy this book, I think it is well worth the time and energy someone would invest in reading it, but people buying Starfall is not the point, I don't think it ever has been.

I am not even sure you can confidently say that any artistic creation has one, definite point. So I am glad that Starfall exists beyond one point or another, so I can hope that each person who comes to it finds their own point in this strange conjuration of spirits, gods, and monsters.

(P.S. If you are here on the 22nd of October then, congratulations, you have won a special internet no-prize for actually finding the book a little prior to "official" publication. I will not attempt to drive people here until the 23rd)