States Of Change

America is in a real state. Some random quotes appeared on the quote feed to my blog the other day. They seemed apposite.

William Hazlitt: “The love of liberty is the love of others; the love of power is the love of ourselves.”

Eric Hoffer: “It is easier to love humanity as a whole than to love one’s neighbor.”

Perhaps the most apposite are the words of a genuine hero.

Chadwick Boseman: “Sometimes you have to get knocked down before you can really figure out what your fight is and how you need to fight it.”

The fight, the real fight, is against liars. The weapon is truth.

Leaders By Definition

The various electorates voted for these people. Maybe they didn’t understand what they were voting for. In an effort to stop it ever happening again, here are some helpful definitions from www.http://onlineslangdictionary.com/.

Johnson. Noun: a penis. Q. E. D.

Trump. Verb – intransitive: to flatulate; “break wind“. We hold this truth to be self-evident.

Putin. I searched for Putin too, but found nothing. The nearest I could find is poontang, which is a noun for female genitalia. So that’s not right. Or is it?

Xi. Similarly, nothing came up for Xi in www.onlineslangdictionary.com. However, www.urbandictionary.com has this useful insight about Xi: “One of many two and sometimes 3 letter words played at least 5 times a game in Words With Friends by some bastard with the effect of totally bollocksing up the placement of future tiles and sending your opponent into a dick punching rage.” See Trump above.

Bolsonaro. Again, no slang equivalents. However, Google translate says that this name means ‘blessed’ in Portuguese. Given what this bastard has done to the rainforest, to the indigenous tribes and to the general population of that beautiful country, I think this is clearly an error. The antonym has been returned instead of the synonym. The antonym of blessed is cursed. Yes, cursed.

So the next time you have a chance to vote, use it wisely, people. You might not get what you hope for. But, if you don’t try to stop them, you might just get what you deserve.

The Open Curtain

I’ve published a new short story on Medium.

It’s the story of Alison Walker, a good, strong, independent woman and her new home. Every new home comes with new neighbours and… Well, if you’re ever tempted to peek through somebody’s curtains, even accidentally, don’t.

Just… don’t.

The Open Curtain

The New Normal

I’ve been thinking about what life will look like ‘afterwards’, the thing people are calling the New Normal. Wouldn’t it be good if this New way was better than the Old way?

What made me wonder about this was a lockdown re-reading of one of my all time favourite books. John Steinbeck wrote many wonderful things but, for me, Cannery Row is almost a parable on the glorious faults in all of us. Consider this small excerpt:

“The things we admire in men, kindness and generosity, openness, honesty, understanding and feeling are the concomitants of failure in our system. And those traits we detest, sharpness, greed, acquisitiveness, meanness, egotism and self-interest are the traits of success.”

So from now on, let’s be kind. Let’s be nice. Let’s be honest and generous.

Let’s be failures.

Get Ready For The Future

These are such interesting times.

In a few weeks, the world will start to emerge from the lockdown imposed in response to this first outbreak of the global coronavirus pandemic. This is what might happen.

In a few weeks, we will see the beginning of the end of cash. People will have become used to not using it. It is a habit that will grow. The promise on the banknotes from the Governor of the Bank of England is his promise to pay the bearer of that note the value of one pound sterling. That promise will become irrelevant. The value of the future will be your credit rating, which is effectively your promise to pay others. Your promise will become the new cash. Your credit rating will become the way you are measured in society.

In a few weeks, the high streets will reopen. The shops will be shut. Department stores will have departed, become fond memories for the millennials in an old age that they cannot imagine with even a modest amount of optimism. Our idea of the shopping experience will be consigned to the past. Shops, restaurants, all consumer-facing businesses will become risk-averse, low investment, come-and-go entities. They will work on short-term leases and focus on short-term profits. Horizons will become lower, ambitions smaller. Supply chains will shorten, with the more distant links being the first to be removed. Made in China will become a derogatory term. There will be a push for localisation, for the home grown, for self-sufficiency, for recycling and reuse, and for the rejection of built-in obsolescence. we will make do and mend, and be happy to do so.

In a few weeks, the whole world will slowly go bankrupt. Every country will be in more debt than it can manage. Everybody will owe more money to everyone else than they could ever hope to pay back. Nobody will be unaffected. Nobody will have the courage to do the right thing, to make the big decisions that could begin the financial healing, though there is opportunity here. Creating sovereign wealth funds out of the monies loaned to business and individuals by governments would be the first step. This would distribute the burden across the widest base and at the same time create an investment shared by the government and the individual members of society. For that is what we will need – a vision of a future we can all share in.

In a few weeks, a vaccine will appear. There will be rancid fights and arguments during the period of manufacture and distribution. Reviews will begin, looking back at what happened and how, and people will begin to search for the culpable. We will find some, though they will not be guilty, and their punishment will be disproportionate and unfair. Governments will fall.

In a few weeks, the madmen will appear. They will tell you how we got here and whose fault it all is. They will claim to know the solution, and they will also claim to be the only people capable of delivering that solution. We have seen these people and their solutions before. We know what they are. We know what to do with them. We defeat them with love, honour and truth.

In a few weeks, we will look around and see the spaces where there used to be people. We will remember them. We will miss them. We will honour their memories in ways that we have never done before. We will create memorials to them, made of our flesh. There will be a baby boom in this coming winter of the discontented.

In a few weeks, we will pause. We will think of what we have endured. We will think of those who comforted us and cared for us and protected us during these dark days, the nurses and doctors and carers and social workers, the police and firefighters and ambulance workers, and especially of those who gave their lives to preserve ours. We will wonder what we can do to recognise these people, to reward them and honour them. We will think long and hard about that, and then we will realise that nothing we do will ever be enough.

There are interesting times to come.

Mortis – A Short Story

Mortis is a short story about Ben.

Ben walks to work every day. The route he chooses takes him through urban woodland. It isn’t the shortest route, but Ben needs the green peace of the trees before he can face another grey day in the office.

One day he discovers a den, and a man, and a different way of living altogether.

You can find this story on my Medium site. I rather like it.

https://medium.com/@rickyakay

For Self-Publishers

I recently started using a publishing service from Draft2Digital. You can find it here:

https://draft2digital.com/

I’m sure a squillion of you already know about this service but I thought I would send this out in case anyone hasn’t discovered it yet.

Up to now I’ve put all my eggs in the Amazon basket, for the obvious reason that it is the biggest market place for self-publishers. However, it isn’t the only place, and I realised that I was just being lazy by taking this approach.

I looked at services like Smashwords and Lulu and Bookbaby and others, but the Draft2Digital proposition was the one that seemed to make most sense for me. That isn’t to suggest that the other offerings are inferior in any way, just that the offering from Draft2Digital was most appropriate for my circumstances.

The reasons I chose Draft2Digital are:

  • Their low cost. Not only is there no up-front charge of any kind, their fee model is one based on units sold through them. In other words you only pay when you earn. Plus, their fees are just 10% of the cover price of your book, which is lower than Amazon and (I believe) lower than all the other publishing services.
  • No contractual malarkey. The author keeps the rights to their work and can walk away at any time.
  • The process is a piece of cake. You just provide a Word or RTF file with chapter headings to them and they take it and format it into a book structure. The process generates a title page and a contents page and a few other things like a dedication page and ‘about the author’ and ‘also by’. It even provides links back to your website if you have one.
  • There are a range of pre-cooked formats to choose from. There are suggested formats for specific genres or types (fiction/non fiction) but you can pick and choose whatever you want.
  • You need to provide a cover image, but you can do that yourself with Photoshop or Sketchbook or whatever if, as a startup author like me, you need to keep costs down. This is something you need to decide for yourself, though. I made my own covers, but I’m certain something more professional looking would help my sales.
  • Once you’ve got your book in place and published, their sister service, (the book discovery service Books2Read) provides a handy little thing called a Universal Book Link for each book. This is a single link that will lead the potential reader to whatever their preferred store is – Amazon, Apple, Barnes and Noble, whatever – where a version of your book will be waiting to be ordered. You can just plonk this one UBL on your website and it will take potential buyers to whatever site they prefer to use. If you want to see what a UBL looks like, click here to go to one for ‘A Midwinter Night Scream‘, a book of mine.
  • Price promotions are easy. Pick a price, a date range, and make it so. No funny business with preconditions or constraints.
  • There are links to partner organisations that provide services like cover design, editing, marketing and even Audiobooks. These are additional cost services, though, which I guess is fair enough. I’ve not used any of the additional cost services, so I can’t say anything about them yet.

The only thing I’m not too sure about in this proposition is in the area of marketing. The price promotions are okay, but there doesn’t yet seem to be a way of publicising or promoting your book in any meaningful way (other than through the MonkeyPaw or Creative Works partner organisations, or the Books2Read service.) The blurb on the Draft2Digital web site says that new features and support for authors are being introduced in the future, and I’m sure they will. Maybe some form of enhanced marketing support will be one of these – although, on reflection, I’m not sure what I should expect here.

Anyway – you will gather that I am a fan of this service. It’s worth saying that I didn’t ask for or receive any payment or recompense of any kind for this post. I just like the Draft2Digital setup, and I think most self-publishers will too.

A Brief Apology – Update

I thought I should offer a brief note of apology to any Haiku purists who might have seen the posts I’ve been putting out in this format. I’m sure they will be more than a little unhappy with how I’ve been abusing what is a beautiful, demanding and thought-provoking poetic form. For anyone interested in seeing how it should be done, it would be worth starting by looking at the work of the Japanese masters who originated the form, Matsuo Bashō (1644–1694) and Uejima Onitsura (1661–1738). There are loads of resources on the web, so you can find your own way after that.

The reason I’m apologising is that I think I’m about to upset the purists even more. I had a small dream last night about writing a story in verse format, and I’ve started the ball rolling this morning. I’ll be posting a few verses in Haiku format later today. I know this is an example of cultural appropriation (or misappropriation) but I suspect that is how human culture as a whole has evolved. Forgive me for being human.

Update: I’ll apologise to anyone who read the Verstories. They didn’t feel like they were working to me so I’ve retired them. The story itself wasn’t strong enough and the use of the Haiku format made it seem forced and contrived so I’ve withdrawn all of them. If anyone feels strongly about this, let me know and we can have a chat about the situation.

For My Followers And Friends

“It began with a drink. He died because of a drink

He was almost sure of that. But the others, the other dead people, he didn’t know how they came to be there. Not all of them, anyway.

He wasn’t even sure where there was.

And the ones that didn’t want to be dead, and the ones that wanted to be dead forever, and the ones that looked after the dead, the ones that greeted them and mothered them, he wasn’t sure about them at all.

He was sure about some things, though.

He was sure that two people had died because of him.

And he was sure he couldn’t live without them.”

That is the Prologue from my book A Midwinter Night Scream. If you’ve been enjoying the posts on the rickyakay blog, I’m pretty certain that you’ll enjoy the book. One kind Amazon reader has already given it a 5 star review, as has an equally kind Goodreads reviewer. Have a look and let me know what you think. You can find it on Amazon, ASIN: B07VGMKHTL, or click here.

A Midwinter Night Scream

I haven’t posted in a while. I’ve been busy finishing a book. It’s done now, and you can get A Midwinter Night Scream on Amazon at https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B07VGMKHTL.

I’m really rather pleased with it.

The book is a sort of love story, or the story of one man’s love and life and death, though not necessarily in that order.

Here’s the book description from Amazon:

What do you do when everyone you ever loved is dead? Neil’s answer is to drown the pain in drink. When even that doesn’t work, he decides to end it all and join his loved ones. But on his way home he stumbles and falls. He is picked up by a Greeter, who leads him into the Underside, a place where the dead appear to live before they Fall and complete the eternal cycle. The Greeter is Deirdre, a tall, dark, beautiful woman with a secret. She leads him to the Mothers, the guardians of the Underside, who tell Neil he must search the Underside to find his own lost soul. He encounters friends and foes who are neither one or the other, and Revenants, dead people who want to live again, and Necromancers, who want to stay dead forever. He sees a familiar face, and another face that is also familiar, though he has never seen it before. And he begins to see that the only way he will find his soul is through his loved ones. But they are only in the Underside because of him…

I hope you like it. If you do, please post a review on Amazon. And tell your friends. In fact, tell everyone!

Lives Around Us

Driving home on a wet Wednesday we passed a boy wearing a black Parka. He  was walking at a good pace. As I watched him he pulled his hood back off his head and ran his hand through his jet black hair a few times to get rid of his sweat. He was in his late teens, perhaps even older. Seeing him ruffle his hair made me wonder why he was in such a rush and where he was rushing to. In seconds, I had a view of his day. I saw him waking in his crumpled bed, alone. I saw him breakfast on toast and coffee, and then run out of his flat, late for university. I saw him doodle during a lecture, and smile at the girl beside him in class. I saw them speak. And then he slotted into now, beside us, rushing home, needing to get washed and changed ready for his date that evening.

None of this was true, though all of it could have been.

For some reason, I became intensely aware of everyone around us. On either side of the road were houses that were mostly in darkness. Each window that we passed became a portal to other people’s lives. 

We came to four big Edwardian houses that were the homes of three pensioner couples and one widow. The couples each had routines that they had developed and refined over may years, and nothing but death or infirmity would change them. The widow was the happiest of them all. Free at last to do as she pleased, her windows now hung with gaudy golden swagged curtains in place of the timid beige set that pre-dated her widowhood. Her neighbours looked on her with envy and happiness and frustration and fear.

None of this was true, though all of it could have been.

A block of council flats slid by. A two story building, the upper floors for younger people, the lower for those with mobility issues that precluded the use of stairs. At one of the first floor windows, a bed sheet had been hung in place of curtains. In the flat directly below, lace curtains had been carefully tied back to frame a bunch of flowers standing in an ornate glass vase. A faint tang of weed floated in through the car ventilation. I wondered which residents annoyed the other most, the couple upstairs hiding from the shame of their poverty, or the granny on the ground floor toking her medicinal herb.

None of this was true, though all of it could have been.

Coming to the turn off for our house, we saw a big crowd of people standing near the corner of the turn. I had never seen anyone waiting here, let alone a group. They were gathered in front of a smart bungalow around a couple of shiny new cars. At first we thought there had been an incident of some kind, a car crash or a fight or even both. Then I noticed that one of the vehicles was a hearse. A pinewood coffin lay in the back. I saw the screw-down fastenings that held it in place. I realised that one of our neighbours had died, and that I didn’t know anything about them and that now I never would.

This was true, though it could not have been.

Sit there. Lie there, in your bed, in your own space. Close your eyes. Who is the person nearest you? What are they doing? What have they done? Don’t think about yourself. Keep thinking about them, and then think about who is nearest to them? What are they going to do, and how, and why? And then think about the people just a little farther away, and how their lives are turning. Can you feel them? Is their life touching yours? And then reach out again. More lives, more things happening to other people, more unknowable purposes and emotions and characters and histories. Step further. The French farmer. The Scottish fisherman. The Belgian teacher. Step further still. The Turkish beggar. The Greek pensioner. The Syrian bureaucrat. The Saudi mechanic. The Japanese banker. The Aboriginal social worker. All lives that we can never know, all happening at the same time as ours. The sheer, crushing weight of it, the busyness of it, the incredible wonder of it. The horror of it.

What lives around us.