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Monthly Archives: January 2012

Badgers

Badgers.       by Jay Mountney.     January 2012.

When the badgers came to our garden
they slipped in silently
in the dark,
ghosts with rough fur, claws and a sharp bite.
First they burrowed
under the shed but found
it was not quite
the des res they’d hoped for and so they went
via the lawn (and a fine game
of plough-your-own-furrow)
to the greenhouse. Beneath its foundations
they deliberated but decided the same
drawbacks applied and finally
they settled on the raised fishpond
where they spent the winter safe
under a kind of manmade ground,
dreaming of summer scents and the stars beyond.

When the badgers came to our garden
they dug out the conventions of gardenhood, the strife
between flowers and weeds,
the military precision of design,
and made it a haven
for their own version
of wild life.

When the foxes came to our garden,
hard on the badgers’ heels
(because after all, the place
was now a kind of haven),
they were not as particular.
They moved straight
into the tunnels under the shed;
the ones, you remember, the badgers had abandonèd
as not quite good enough.
The foxes didn’t care.
Looking for meals
or maybe fun,
they chased a few of the neighbour’s chickens,
not killing them,
just causing terror and and a rain
of feathers everywhere.

When the the badgers (followed by the foxes)
came to our garden
the squirrels, who had lived there peacefully
for quite some time,
chattered disdainfully
from the sycamore tree and then
left to seek better lodgings
on the other side of the fence,
telling the magpies they should consider moving while they could,
before the whole neighbourhood
was turned into a wild park.
The neighbour’s cat watched,
her furred expression
showing a kind of domesticated pain.
Her tail whisked.
I think she wished
the badgers had never come
to our garden.

As you can see, the fishpond isn’t finished. Also, a lot of the fish died last winter when we were away during very cold weather and something went wrong with the pump. So it is currently more of a white elephant than a feature, But the damage the badgers have done to what used to be a lawn has to be seen to be believed. And of course they are protected so we can’t evict them.

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Posted by on January 28, 2012 in poetry

 

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I write in my head…

I write in my head.

Yes, I really mean that. All my planning and the bulk of my writing is done inside my mind. Commiting the results to the keyboard is a kind of after-effect though I do fill in some details at that stage. The writing is a purely mental thing, so much so that occasionally I write a blog post in my head and forget I’ve never posted it.

At school, I was frequently scolded for not producing essay/story plans (in all subjects, not just ‘English’). I never really understood the need for them. Why would I spend time writing things down when they were already written in my mind and I could refer to them there? The only possible reason for writing them physically would be to share them with others. Why would they want to share my plans? Surely the outcomes – the physically written essays/stories would be proof that some planning had taken place?

At uni nobody seemed very bothered about planning; the outcome was everything, and I relaxed.

When I was training to teach, as a post-grad, I finally realised that not everyone thought/wrote the way I did. Some people would always need a physical written plan to work to and much of their work would only form as they wrote/typed it. I was surprised, almost shocked, to learn about different ways of thinking and learning, but I was also fascinated.

I needed to accept that children should be encouraged to formulate plans, and that I could help them with that if they shared those plans with me. That was fine, although I have to say that just as people have different learning styles, they have different planning styles; once someone’s finished work shows evidence of good planning they should not, I think, be forced to share those plans at any age, and someone who feels as I do could be encouraged to prove their planning ability at the outset. It can be very counter-productive and time-consuming all round to have to deal with pages and pages of  unnecessary notes.

I complete summaries and plans in my head, arrange and rearrange their components, rough out a few pivotal scenes, play with dialogue and descriptions, interview my characters and even ‘write’ extra scenes that will never reach the keyboard but which help me to develop the main plot.

I do, of course, commit some things to physical files and folders, either in notebooks or on my laptop. I thought long and hard about why I might find it essential to do this and realised that it all concerned dates, timelines, chapter sequences, indexes, etc. Then I understood. They’re all to do with numbers, to some extent. I have almost no memory for numbers. I can handle them and my maths ability is at least average and probably slightly above that, but I am capable of forgetting my car numberplate, and have never managed to learn my own mobile phone number. So anything that involves numbers needs to be recorded in such a way that there is an external reminder, something I can refer to!

The other thing I record on the laptop is research/website information I have come across. I defy anyone to memorise quantities of URLs and assign them correctly. In that respect, bookmarks (I use Firefox but whatever you use is almost certainly just as good) are brilliant. Before the age of the internet I had card indexes with that sort of thing on them but those are harder to keep up to date.

So by the time I reach the keyboard, whatever I am going to write is in a sense already written. This means I can type a story or an account at what must seem like astronomical speed.  I am mostly ‘copy-typing’. Yes, I tweak and add as I go but what gets recorded is definitely a second draft.

Writer’s block has never made sense to me. If I approach the keyboard I already know what I am going to write, in detail. Thinker’s block? Well, no, not as a rule; I just have to suppress some of the wilder ideas that make their way into my consciousness and sort out the gold from the dross. If I didn’t have the story ready to roll I wouldn’t sit at the keyboard in the first place. I have plenty of other things to do.

Note that I talk more about my laptop than about pencil and paper. I dislike writing by hand for any length of time; I literally get writer’s cramp. So as I don’t need to plan in note form, I am unlikely to write a story, poem or essay on paper. I keep paper for shopping lists, appointments, addresses, that kind of thing. I plan menus in my head but the number thing kicks in again and I have to write a plan of timings to enable me to produce a dinner party meal.

I started to hate teaching when we were made to commit our lesson plans to paper for the head’s approval. It took so much time and was such a sterile exercise. It felt like hard work, in a physical sense, when I had been used to planning my lessons in my head while I was ironing or walking the dog.

A lot of people have said they have ideas while e.g. ironing or walking the dog but forget them unless they write them down. So far as I know that has never happened to me. Of course, I suppose I could have written a best-seller in my head on a long car journey and then suffered amnesia and I wouldn’t know but it seems unlikely.

I wrote this post a few days ago, while tidying the house. In my head. And decided it deserved a wider audience. How about you? How do you write?

 
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Posted by on January 25, 2012 in writing

 

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SOPA, PIPA… and ACTA

I am very pleased about the mass protest that has stopped SOPA and PIPA for the time being. I am horrified at the way the mass entertainment industry has taken upon itself the role of policing the public outside as well as inside the USA.

They claim to be fighting piracy but I beg to differ. Piracy (which is to be deplored) is the use of someone else’s work without consent for profit, either not sharing that profit with the originator or seriously decreasing the originator’s chances of making a profit.

Sites that provide downloads of films, music, and books without consent,for payment, are piracy and of course should be prevented from operating. However, karaoke sessions, remix vids on YouTube, fanfiction, reviews that quote/illustrate, etc. etc. are not piracy. In fact, they often act as free advertising for the original works.

Some free downloads of films etc. are piracy but others are a desperate attempt to share with the world the work of actors, singers etc. whose films/TV shows/music have been published solely in the USA and are otherwise inaccessible to the rest of us. In a sense it is the American entertainment industry who are the pirates because they steal the creations of artists in all genres, not rewarding them sufficiently and not allowing global disribution of their work.

SOPA and PIPA are not the way to fight internet piracy. They are, it seems, the way to get a large proportion of the world very incensed indeed! Including me. I have signed various petitions, donated to more than one organisation, talked to anyone who would listen and followed the debates, official and unofficial, closely.

I am also concerned at the closing down of Megaupload and the implications of that, and the current attempt to extradite Richard Dwyer from the UK because of actions he took solely in the UK. More reading, petitioning etc.

I am not, at present, in favour of Black March. In its present form I think the idea could hit a number of independent producers/publishers/record companies who in fact supported the protests. Any attempt to make Black March more specific in its targets would, I think, make it unwieldy.

A further matter for concern is ACTA. This is a global treaty, on its way to being signed by about 39 countries. It purports to combat the manufacture and sale of counterfeit goods and the copying of patented medicines (for use in the third world – go figure – Oxfam are protesting loudly). Because the treaty wording is broadly and loosely drafted the results will be open to abuse, whatever the current governments say about their intent. There will be the potential to enforce invasions of privacy on a massive scale ‘to prevent piracy’.

Look at this YouTube vid:

Then subscribe to this news feed:

https://www.laquadrature.net/en/after-sopapipa-in-the-us-acta-makes-its-way-to-the-eu-parliament

And if you are in UK sign this petition:

http://epetitions.direct.gov.uk/petitions/20850

I intend to follow matters assiduously and will be glad to find ways of protesting and publicising the issues. I have contacted campaigning groups, my MP and my MEPs.

I know that this matter is merely shelved in US and not dead at all elsewhere. We need to stay alert.

What do you think? And can you help to spread the word?

 
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Posted by on January 23, 2012 in copyright reform, protest

 

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Writers who inspire me

A friend asked, in her blog, who inspired us… She gave examples of people who inspired her, and gave quotations from their speeches or writing.

So here are a few of the people who inspire me. They are all authors, two fantasy writers and a poet.

J.R.R.Tolkien British scholar & fantasy novelist (1892 – 1973)

“A dragon is no idle fancy. Even today (despite critics) you may find men not ignorant of tragic legend and history, who have heard of heroes and indeed seen them, who have yet been caught by the fascination of the worm.”

“One writes such a story not out of the leaves of trees still to be observed, nor by means of botany and soil-science; but it grows like a seed in the dark out of the leaf-mould of mind: out of all that has been seen or thought or read, that has long ago been forgotten, descending into the deeps. No doubt there is much selection, as with a gardener: what one throws on one’s personal compost-heap; and my mould is evidently made largely of linguistic matter.” (On the creation of LotR)

“What really happens is that the story-maker proves a successful ‘sub-creator’. He makes a Secondary World which your mind can enter. Inside it, what he relates is ‘true’: it accords with the laws of that world. You therefore believe it, while you are, as it were, inside. The moment disbelief arises, the spell is broken; the magic, or rather art, has failed. You are then out in the Primary World again, looking at the little abortive Secondary World from outside. …… Every writer making a secondary world wishes in some measure to be a real maker, or hopes that he is drawing on reality: hopes that the peculiar quality of this secondary world (if not all the details) are derived from Reality, or are flowing into it.”

“I cordially dislike allegory in all its manifestations, and always have done so since I grew old and wary enough to detect its presence. I much prefer history, true or feigned, with its varied applicability to the thought and experience of the reader. I think that many confuse ‘applicability’ with ‘allegory’; but the one resides in the freedom of the reader, and the other in the purposed domination of the author.”

 Guy Gavriel Kay (Canadian fantasy writer !954 – )

“…it also needs to be remarked that sagas and idylls are constructed, that someone has composed their elements, selected and balanced them, bringing whatever art and inclination they have, as a offering.”

Robert Frost (American poet 1874-1963)

In Neglect (published 1915)

“They leave us so to the way we took,
As two in whom they were proved mistaken.
That we sit sometimes in the wayside nook,
With mischievous, vagrant, seraphic look,
And try if we cannot feel forsaken.”

Who inspires your writing? Can you share any of your favourite quotations?

 
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Posted by on January 21, 2012 in writing

 

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Cautious introduction

I am a writer.

I have had very little published: odds and ends of poetry in school and parish magazines; some educational texts; an academic review; a few flashfics and book reviews in online zines.

I write in more than one genre: non-fiction (mostly travel and cookery); children’s stories; reviews; poetry; adult fantasy/romance. I have abandoned the academic stuff; more about that in a later post, perhaps. Most of my output has so far only been read by people reading my various blogs. Because I move from genre to genre I use pen names – no sense upsetting, worrying and confusing the readers! My nearest and dearest know who I am, as do the bank and the tax office should they ever need to. Other than that I can’t imagine that my various personas are anyone else’s business and so I run a mile from Facebook and from Google in all its manifestations. They make it impossible to keep pen names in completely separate compartments without a great deal of deception and hard work. A writer’s nightmare!

I have other blogs where I share personal stuff, and the travel and cookery aspects of my work. I use one of them for fanfiction which I also write under another name. I have a website, too, where I keep these things accessible.

Here I will be sharing my thoughts mainly on the adult fiction and perhaps the poetry. Of course, sometimes the genres overlap and perhaps have something to offer each other. In that case I will refer to them, but you need not, on the whole, expect recipes or travelogues. I won’t be sharing the actual stories in full, either, just the experiences, problems and joys of creation.

I have retired from teaching (mostly language and literature) and have been writing fiction quite assiduously for about six years. I now have quite a body of work that needs to be submitted somewhere or other. I don’t suffer from writer’s block but I do suffer from submitter’s block. I know all about the idea that you need luck, to be in the right inbox at the right time, etc. Why should I be that lucky? I have never had much of a gambling streak! You also, I believe, need persistence. Well, I persist with my writing…

I have been following a number of blogs and reading books about self-publishing, particularly e-book publishing. I have just about decided that 2012 is the year when I will try my hand at that. Hard work to make a go of it, yes, but all under my control and not requiring any element of luck After all, if nobody buys my stories it’s hardly the end of the world. I know my friends like them, and I won’t have spent anything other than time.

I will share my journey, including set-backs and learning curves, here.

There! That’s me, and the purpose of this blog. I’m hoping to make friends, give people the benefit of my experiences and learn from their comments en route.

 
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Posted by on January 9, 2012 in introduction

 

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