Tuesday, 20 January 2015

New Type





“Put. It. On.”
Arms crossed, and chin firm she replied, again, “No.”
“Right. Lets look at your contract, shall we? The one you signed.” Her manager’s crimson face turned to the contract on the desk between them and she began to read with a furiously clipped voice.
“All employee’s must adhere to strict company standards, to achieve this the company as graciously provided each and every employee with the correct uniform. To fail to wear this, in a clean presentable fashion, with be viewed as a compliance infraction, and thus so, a contract voiding offence….Females must have polished, neutral nails, and a hair style that flatter their features. Make- up from the lines we sell must be worn in a complimentary manner that also demonstrates the latest trends. A monthly bulletin will be found in the female changing rooms detailing such. No tights may be worn and legs must be cleanly shaven, waxed, or chemically washed and moisturised. Teeth must be white and breath fresh, a smile worn at all times. Underwear should be chosen so that it does not ruin the lines of the uniform and presents the body in a suitable shape. All employees must be clean and pleasant smelling. It is this companies intention to meet every need of the customer, and to deny any offence that may arise from some employee’s possible backgrounds (in compliance with the Equality Act, amendment 146/2027).”
“I am aware of what I had little choice in signing.”
“And yet you have willingly broken the rules! Trousers, a vest hiding your cleavage, no make up at all…at least you are clean, I suppose.” She sneered. “This is your last warning, make your self presentable or loose your job.”
“I am not wearing what amounts to a mini skirt when I’m bending down to put stock on the shelves. This company does not own, or sell, my vagina so why should I display it?”
“Don’t you dare imply that we are trying to prostitute you, we don’t have the license for that.”
“And yet you seek to capitalised on my appearance, moulding it and dehumanising me, making me just another decorative object employed in a marketing plan.”
“Where do you think your wages come from?”
“You changed the uniform! I could tolerate the sleek over-all things we had before, at least they were somewhat practical. Despite the boob window.”
“Seasonality!” Her manager gestured violently to the wall displays lit up with ugly fabrics draped over genetically-elongated models tripping down the runway like demented giraffes. “Are you going to stop wasting my time and put it on?”
“Fuck that.”
“Get out and good luck with starvation, must be nice not having anyone to sacrifice those ideals of yours for.”
“The feminist revival will help us all.”
“What, you think I don’t support women’s rights? I’m not letting prudishness limit my ability to provide for my daughters. It’s just flesh. I have a good job and I will keep it.”
“Good luck.” Was all she could offer in face of such bitter irony.
“You too. Give me your hand.” She did so, wincing as the Chipper’s sharp needle darted into the pale skin of her wrist, removing her employment ID. “You are officially removed from your position, expect to be searched by security on the way out.”



Hi. You free to chat?
**USER: ElectricSwayz seeks cy-link**
….
**accepted, signified comms link established**
Of course. How’s you?
Ok. Usual really, my day could have gone better.
Know that feeling. But yo ok?
: )
Yes, silly, don’t be so concerned.
Sorry, new to this. Seems odd talking to a relative stranger that some data base says should be my soul mate…
Ha, me too. Why don’t we do an old style lonely hearts add, did you study those in Ec?
….yeah…
Ok, here goes:
….
Bold nosed, cis-woman in her late 20’s seeks man for walks over the fissure bridges at sunset, enjoys laughing and eating meals by candlelight when not playing UoW:Regen till the early hours.
Ok, here goes:
Appallingly average looking man in  mid 20’s seeks woman for companionship, wondering what beaches are, and also enjoys eating food when not collecting and reading paperbacks.
Paperbacks! How delightfully obsolete.
Never!
What cis mean??
It means my gender is the same as my sex. Is that a problem?

Er,no

Ok.
Would you…like to go on a meet?F2F?

Maybe. G2g now. Nice chatting.
Yeah, yo cool.
Talk soon?
Sure, bye. x
Bye.
X
**USER UmbridgedRomantic has closed link**
**USER ElectricSwayz has closed link**




   This moment was always the worst.
   He waiting for a moment, locker key in hand, and sought to swallow down the guilty shame that burned in his throat, that wrapped tight tentacles of doubt about his heart. Others stood around him, but none of the men looked at one another. They especially did not look at the man in the corner trying to hide his tears and anger as he pulled boxers over the vagina, timidly hidden by pubic hair, that had condemned his gender at birth. Though it was poverty that had trapped them all here. To sit, after passing security, dressed in paper uniforms to be assessed and calculated, to be interviewed for jobs when still wincing from the forceful, rubbered finger that had so recently conducted a rectal examination. Just in case. In case of what, though, really? The 20’s had seen an end to the friendly face of Job Seekers Centres. They all knew that there just wasn’t enough commerce to account for the population, this was little more that a way to cull them.
 And, done with, still jobless and hungry, he found himself here; allowed to remove the paper uniform for today, allowed to return to the outside and the uncertainty that waited.
   He stood naked and lied to himself.
   Dressed, he quietly followed the others out, men shuffling away from shame, through the sliding doors. The tag rattling on his wrist evoked a grating beep.
  Gris waited outside, cigarette glowing hot between black fingers and curling smoke distracting boredom. “Took your time.”
“Don’t, not today.” Sunlight reflecting from glass on cheap metal blinded him or a moment.
“Yeah. Any luck?”
“No.”
   Gris tapped ash, and smiled at him slant ways. “Well I heard, from Benny down the pub, that there’s a mass hiring soon. Not sure what for, some new mega shop or something. Basic credit, four shifts. Maybe worth a try?”
“Why not, anything is better than this.” H always felt so cold, after.
“Watch out there, wishes make fishes, and they’re slippery buggers. Wanna smoke?”
“No.” He plucked up the offered cig. “Yes. Shit, I’m done with this day already. Online app?”
“Yeah, I’ll link ya. Talking of, how’s the mysterious cy-girl? Found love yet?”
  He sparked up, inhaling the noxious fumes deep, enjoying the bitter burn. “Shut up. I don’t know, I like her. Not sure if she wants to meet though. Clever, proper clever.”
“Good, you always get bored with dusty brained bints.” Gris idly checked his phone.
“S’pose. How’s your missus?”
   His friend cringed and looked nervously over his shoulder. “In full military mode with the packing, got a bollocking for using the wrong mug this morning so thought it best to skidaddle.”
“Going well, then?” He blew out the last burning puff and ground the filter beneath his cheaply shod feet.
“Oh yeah, real precise.” Gris’ smile came proud, though, as ever for folk in their situation, it did not hide the panic welling.
“It’ll work out, his other dad has got his future secure financially, and you raised him well enough to handle it. Sort us all out hey?”
  Gris nodded, remembering that long ago promise to his older brother, to watch out, to be there. Before he was conscripted and acid bombed in the National Risings.
“Perhaps.”


Free to chat?
**USER: UmbridgedRomantic seeks cy-link**
**accepted, signified comms link established**
Yes : )

:D
Found a job yet?
No. I’m ok for now and have an interview soon.
So do I, some mega shop or something.
The new one? Mass hiring?
Yeah! Same?
Yes…weird
Not really.
Spose…looks as if we’ll be meeting f2f.
You cool with that?
Looking forward to it, even if it’s a bit shit for a first date. Shall we swap pix?
Done. You read up a lot about the turn of the millennium? Looked up ‘cis’ after our last chat.
And, yeah, lets swap pix. : ) I’ll stick one to stream, hang on.

Hanging on :P
….
Ha!
Yeah I do read bit, like to stay informed. Bulletins reckon the economy is almost on par with the 1990’s or a least with the post-modern recessions.
I think I have a few books from then. Dark times. Figured out where it went wrong?
No more than what’s obvious. Sigh. So what did you think of it?
?
Cis
Oh
Honestly? Illogical. Based upon a premise that accepts gender adhesion to sex, and narrow range of sex at that. Same sided as what? Also seems to be some confusion over averages and norms.
Don’t be ignorant, whilst yes if you were working out societal % by such labels the they would rep a small amount, but their experience as people is still valid. Norms are equated with a qualified normal, those not within that targeted as outsiders.
Sure. Though there are many, for many reasons, outside of those bounds. I just cannot get on board with another label that seeks to define and limit, ect.
Pro-personhood?
Y
Mmm, ok
**Files shared/ACCS**

That is an amazing nose.
It is. Yes. Your eyes…so green against that gorgeous tan, thought you said you were appallingly average?
Um, self depreciation as mode of humour?
Tricksy
:)
Sorry, I’ve g2g, but….looking forward to meeting yo proper.
Me too. If weirdly nervous.
I know! At least we know we’ll have someone worth talking too and much to talk about.    : ) xx
Xx
**USER UmbridgedRomantic has closed link**
**USER ElectricSwayz has closed link**





“Least we get food tokens, after running through those hoops like bewildered sheep. Cheers.” Gris took his cup of tea and settled into the cafĂ©’s chair with snarl, long legs bent with knees too high. “I don’t really know what to say. Politics, aint really my thing. Suppose technically I transitioned, but I prefer to be known as I am, a man. You know? I mean I don’t vote Tory or anything, mate, but other than…try not to get involved.”
   His phone trilled in his pocket, tone never bothered to have been changed from the factory settings, and he slid it out, glancing at the screen. “Back in a mo, it’s me kid. Can’t believe he’s at uni now. Alrite, kiddo?!” Ritually his hands pushed the  peak of his cap up and slid a cigarette between his lips to jiggle wildly as he spoke. “Oh that’s a piece of piss, don’t worry. You know where the mains box is? Yeah, use your phone as torch and let me know when you got it…”
   As his smiling form faded behind a cascade of damp coats covering caffeine deprived crowds, the woman from the next table over turned to them, grey hair now nicely dried, and astutely frizzy, from the rain.
“Don’t worry. It’s not all One Nation this, or Equality’s Where It All Went Wrong that, you now? There are still some that see a nuance in history. Some that wont be kept down by fears and the like. We meet, have discussions, get politically organised. You should come.” She pressed cheaply printed cards in their hands, so obscurely old fashioned seen through the slightly yellow cy-lense. “I’ll leave for your friend too in case he should get curious. Or in case he doesn’t get this job and enforcers come. You only have the dignity you can afford, eh?” The old woman paused, tired features troubled and focused on a distance that was wholly hers.
“Err, thanks. I’ll have a think about it.” She said.
“Don’t suppose you’ve got paid positions?” He said
“Yes, actually we do. Protest voters need to modernise.” The old woman warmed to the pitch, left hand resting on her companion’s knee, showing a pale band of gold still, despite the voiding of all same sex marriages. Her wife, silver haired, icy skinned, grinned with senility and made a V with her first two fingers. “We have our passionate ones, and we have cold organisation, cultural-algorithmic and accountants, leaders, followers and thinkers. How could we build anything stable if we’re blinded and stumbling about in different directions?”
“Focus.” He said.
“Ethical intent.” She said.
“Yes. For all. We got a good speaker next week too, tell ‘em Raven Lee sent you, hey?” With a knowing look a the tension between them, she turned back to her suitably cooled toasty with vigour.
“Do you really think you’ll go?” He asked.
“Maybe. Would you come with me?” Barely alone and already hungering to get to know one another more they became subdued by the breathless curiosity that held them.
“Did it...did it bother you?” She asked.
“Not really, found it a bit…abrupt, but then, I knew little about you, or the why of it.”
“And now?”
“I can’t get past the logical inconsistencies, it is not a term I would use.”
“I don’t really agree with your logic. The reason, and symbolic equalisation is more important. Is the purpose.”
“A good purpose, that I agree with. And accept your decision.”
“Even though it is not what you make for yourself. Each upholding our own reasoned autonomy.”
“Respectfully. That’s the beauty of it, isn’t it, thinking like this?”
“Yes.” She whispered lips, close to his and a question in her eyes. Gently his finger traced the line of her cheek, pebbled with traces of inoculations, and she closed the distance between them. They kissed, sharing the taste of one another, mingling their need and hope and desire.
   The dreadful hum pulled them apart.
   They new it, they all knew it, and fear spiked through the group mind, stilling all movement. That hum growled through their bones and set their teeth to aching, preceding the looming black air carriers that obliterated the horizon and cast their vast shadows over the glass walls.
   The lover’s embrace, tender and new forged with shared knowledge, quaked and clung beneath their desperation for human comfort.
“Is it...is it the Consortium, or another reconsolidation wave from parliament?” Despite the way the old woman’s face twitched garishly on her left side, or the faltering words, it was anger that burned in them. It awoke the crowd, to screams, and pushing, not knowing what action to take or if they should let fear freeze.
   She flicked her fingers together, fore finger twice tapping thumb, but nothing happened. “My cy-link is down.” Oddly it calmed her, no longer dependant on filtered streams but firmly in the moment with only her own resources to aid her. And theirs, she thought, looking at the people around her.
   Gris pushed through the door, passed those crowded by the windows looking for insignia painted on the dread black hulls that hovered high over the streets, readying the drones that clung like parasites waiting to swarm. His eyes wide and very white in his dark face, hand gripping the plastic of his phone so tight it creaked in feeble protest. “They’ve taken the uni, the power cut was just the first step. My son…fuck. It’s not anyone we know, rebels he recons. Trying to take the city.”
“What colours?” The old woman demanded.
“Red and orange.” Gris replied, hand dragging over stubble and vacant expression locked to the small screen as if this would bring the connection to his son back.
“Congress of Capricorn? I thought they’d gone quite a decade ago?” She murmured, feeling the anger inside swell and harden.
“We need to move fast, the militias will be here soon, you know they'll suppress this.” The old woman stuffed the last of the toasty into her mouth and gulped down her cold tea, pulling her oddly calm wife to her feet.
“They will try.” She spat.
“Do we hide or fight?” He asked, hands tangled with hers.
“We fight.”


Thursday, 1 January 2015

TW: Everything can change, on a New Years day.


So 2014 was a mixed bag, eh?

Started off rather well, in that glorious spring all hopeful and marked by sunshine. There was a writers con and London book fair, much poetry, a brief if pleasant love affair, time well spent with friends, the book faced hard truths and was seriously cut and expanded, the whole narrative arc being reformed into a duology.

Then I got sexually assualted, nose broken, menstrual cycle askew from where I was thrown into a wall, furious at the police officer that told me to 'Fuck off' rather than help, and cracks began to show. The old night terrors sarted in again, with a vengeance, and all my years spent mediatating through my depression and triggers were tested.

Although much shaken, the gleam of spring lost, I continued. A bit quieter, a bit more focused on myself and my health, but carried on writing.

Then, in the first week of the summer holidays, someone I care about screamed 'I want to destroy you!' and slammed a car door into my head, the locking mechanism striking just above my temple. There was blood and brain fluid gushing out of my ear. It was pretty grim. The Dr diagnosed a concussion the next day and sent me home with no help or pain meds. I simply didn't realise how badly I was hurt.

I have little recollection of the week that followed: passing out in bed with lucid dreams, and tremours, hair perpetually wet and nose running, and a lot of pain. Only getting out to make meals for my son following routine, saying little but 'yes' 'no' 'I love you', then going back to bed.

I got relatively better, persevered. Though really I was overcompensating/ applying false logic to make sense of the changes in my behaviour. It was also cyclic: I'd rest and feel better, then push myslef to far, too fast and have a flare up. Toward the end of summer, and again in the autumn, I had a scab of blood and brain fluid come out of my ear and then the pressure in my head would rise and all my symptoms became worse: memory, balance, motor functions, vertigo, stutter, the inability to access memories/thoughts or deal with the frustration that all of this caused.

In septemer I went back to the Dr's. Trigemenial neuroplasia suspected. Eye tests followed, 20:20 vision but partial face paralysis and nerve damage. Further tests were done to check for bone fragments pressing against my optical nerve and thankfully none were found. Before midwinter I had an apt with a neurologist and am on the list for a CT scan, and given naproxin to bring down the brain swelling. Which is actually working and I feel more clear headed than I have for a long time, though it does little to stop the pain at impact site or headaches.

I am healing, slowly, and hopefuly no brain lesions or what have you will be found. Hopefuly it will be a matter of controlling swelling, working through symtoms and letting time do its work.

Somehow, during this, I finished the book (again) and sent it out to my beta readers. Though the feedback that has started to come back has very much driven home my obvious inability to edit whist all of this was going on! Embarrassing, but now I find it kinda amusing (which is a good sign, my sense of humour returning). I simply cannot work as fast, or process as much, as I used to but am quietly tinkering away, changing the first chapters to better reflect story, to incorporate the feedback.

So, yes, in the autumn I went dark. Simply didnt have energy to deal with people in my personal life, or online, except for dealing with the fallout of divorce and deaths in the family. I pulled focus on recovery and looking after my child, trying to minimise the effect on him. I didnt really get much help, and may have lost some friends along the way. I have no tolerance for negativity, or for loud, bright places. It has been overwhelming at times.

And now it is 2015. My resolutions?

1. To remember how to put the world aside and simply enjoy the love of my family; my clever, capricious, kind Rowan and our canny cat, Sherlock, who so recently choose us.

2. To continue to recover, if not to who I was before than to someone better.

3. To not get assaulted, sexually or violently.

4. To polish this book into something worthy of readers and prepare for publication. To keep writing, keep editing, keep researching. To be who I want to be, and to find my success.

5. To raise my voice against the injustice that is abysmally insidious within our cultures. To not accept less than what is right, to fight for it if need be. Though always remembering that violence breeds more violence and if peace and equality are to be pursued with an honest heart than those tenets should be what guides the actions in pursuit of such.

6. To remember, when pain is sharp and body grinding with exhaustion, when my mind is hemmed in by inability and frustration, when memories claw with all too real talons that bear the sensation of their origin and the fear and rage within rise...to remember that it gets better. That simple truth that seems so absurdly ephemeral a times. It gets better.

7. To try. Always.


This is a personal post true, though I'm all too aware that this has been a shit year for a lot of people. But perhaps we can all have hope. I think change is coming. It will be painful, and disappointing, and full of awful times, but if we grit our teeth and refuse to be bought down, to be destroyed or subjugated, than maybe we can ensure that change is a good one.

In love and solidarity.
Ash


Tuesday, 2 December 2014

in twaine


 it stretches in silence
this whine pulled long, loose and fine

    not enuf slices of pie to swirl

painted glimpses of nows past
into rationalised sighs

diffusion perhaps
is the issue forthright

   all over in cusses the
                  cusp of the tongue tips

or refusion to effuse
in spite of blight when
brighted thoughts anoint

              but for pointed fingers and shy eyes

Which issues then most grave?
When one of the grave and the other
in peril
sweat spiked silence esues

much better then, this
reattaching quintessence

Sunday, 9 November 2014

Mera










A pencil (and a little accidental charcoal) sketch of Mera. Very much a work in progress.

Tuesday, 21 October 2014

This is the End


It is done.

Done and gone.

Which is rather a relief, since facing my critism and the decision to cut, cut, cut, I feel as if I have been scrambling to catch up with myself. Letting go the hopes of dreams and facng the grinding reality of the hard work it takes to produce something of quality. No indulging in writers block- edit, make notes, reread, research! No clinging on to writing that simply does not work, or is not good enough- cut it or improve it. No complaining that you cannot find the time to write. You want to be a writer, be a published author, then you simply have to make the time. It's your job.

This can be difficult, life can be difficult. I'm a single mother, so I know this all to well. There is always housework, shopping in ill weather, a ravenous child needing love and entertainment, homework and all the other myriad demands of parenting. Joyous, hectic, exhausting.

And then there are the inevitable dark times. I was sexually assaulted in the spring, my nose broken. A family member passed away. At the beginning of the summer holidays I suffered a nasty concussion, which has left me with neuropathic damage. It was a bit shit for awhile there and lets just say that such injuries, and the emotional fall out, are not very conductive of writing.

But you have to persevere. No matter the loss of control that life leads to, you are the only one who can control your actions, your reactions, can work toward your goals. Even if that means pushing self imposed deadlines forward two months and planning for a slower rate of writing. Even if that means struggling with frustration and guilt. You have to keep on keeping on. Don't yearn towards dreams and let others drag you down. Be the dream.*

My title has changed. Before I had been working with Song of Sorrow but, well. A Song of Ice and Fire is a rather good series, you may have heard of it, and Song of Stone is also a very good book. There are enough songs out there, I think. Now:

The Otherside
Of Bloody Reflections
Refractions of Fire 


Of Bloody Reflections is complete at 110k, about 60k of which is new material and the rest much revised. Some days, during the revision, I was deleting as much as writing per session. This is good, considering my criticisms, but an odd feeling none the less. The whole has been restructured, during editing I pulled each character into separate files: Mera, Llew, Tomas and alt. The better to edit without getting sucked into the story. Then woven back together always considering pacing: of tension, of action, of suspense and mystery, of character development. The closer to the end the more the earlier scenes were tweaked and expanded. After the restructure came line edits, which were not that bad due to half of it having been previously edited and my habit of reading through and editing when creativity isn't really flowing, or when a subplot arc is complete/reaching height. I don't know that I'll ever be happy with it (no, brain, perfection is not attainable. It is a paradox!) but it is much improved. A good story.

Last night I started contacting my beta readers, six of them already have it. I thought I would feel nervous and twitchy (I mean, nobody has read the new material, gasp) but...It's good this feeling, nice, like I'm finally back where I should be. Proactive.


Next: Working with betas, then tackling the synopsis, covering letter and searching for the right agent. I will do some posts on these. Then NaNoWriMo and using the random scraps of scenes and notes to start Refractions of Fire.

But for now I strongly suspect that something is rotting in my kitchen. Adieu!


*Yeah, that is down right cheesy I know.

Sunday, 28 September 2014

Hammer & Tongue National Final, Fuck Yeah


They day for me was chaotic, between a lack of trains, trouble sorting babysitting, time broken by the demands of food and friends...you know how it goes, sometimes. But for all that, for what I could attend...the gig was good.

More than good. My fingers itch to take up a pen again and revisit my poetry that has had to be relegated to subconscious soup of late.

The final took place in the Royal Albert Hall's underground Loading Bay. High ceilinged, bright lights casting comforting shadows, gratified rock gods circling benevolently around a cross country, cross continental audience that awaited words and rhymes with grins and rapture. And booze, obviously. And nerves for those who watched the stage they would soon ascend.

And ascend they did, with diverse offerings, and each and every one should rest easy today with a sense of pride. Because you are all awesome.

There were about 50 poets performing from Bristol, Hackney, Cambridge, Oxford, and Camden chapters as well as Bang Said the Gun, Apples and Snakes, Outspoken and the qualifiers from the Roundhouse, Glastonbury, the Commonwealth Games, Strawberry Fair, Farrago, Word4Word and the BBC and Scotland slams. Too many to detail here.

Some of those I had the pleasure to hear, to see, and stood out in memory were Torrey Shineman, whose naked cartwheels called bullshit on supposed beauty ideals. Tom Gill's unfortunate serendipity and pop culture references melded with beats and bleak humour. David Lee Morgon's call that we all become crazy santas and fight for the rights for all children to know love and safety. Rik the Most's critique of an education system in thrall to the meanness of averages, remembering those doomed to drown in mediocrity. Tim Ledwitch's remembrance of a friend who died of cancer but was not lost to it, a pain that demanded we embrace the thunder, dance in the rain. Justina Kehinde whose brutal words wove elegantly, and without succour, the reality of female genital mutilation.

Kate Tempest enticed and awed with a guest performance. Who is, to put it quite simply, fucking amazing. Given a choice of a couple of pieces of shorter, known material or a longer, new story we called for the latter and were gifted with the a modern retelling of Tiresias. Woven with all the verve and energy and delicacy you would expect, blending the ancient and the contemporary, interspersing stabs to the heart, claws to soul with bright flashes of knowing humour and that smile.

Then, the individual slam winners. There were two this year, both wielders of vaginas...and talent and fury and wisdom.

Vanessa Kissuule, candidly sharing philosophical life hacks and an introspective critique on the infrastructure of the event and judgement.

Leyla Josephine, in conversation with Beyonce, refusing to accept domestic violence with a blase booty wiggle and a memory of her introduction to sex through the gnarly visuals of hardcore porn.

Congratulations, and thank you to all who performed or worked their asses off to put on this event.

And you? Want to try your luck, think you may be next years winner? Want to be entertained, inspired or help choose who gets to compete for the title? Then check out whats going on in your local area because the regional slams start this October.




**Edited for greek idiocies. apologies. This is why editing is a valuable tool.**