Sunday, December 26, 2010

Rik learns Blender: Yellow sub

... from lesson 1 of the online tutorial, though my sub's prettier than theirs ...

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Rik the Unproductive?

It's amazing what happens when Rik manages to distract himself from the writing.

First there was the whole publishing stuff to Kindle thing (publishing the Tome (UKians go here) was easy; working out how to publish poetry was a right bugger).

Then there was the idea of doing a booktrailer to promote the Tome - well, lotsa people are getting a Kindle for crimbo, so why not get them to read the Tome in the new year? Which led Rik to downloading a whole host of new software for making the booktrailer: FotoMorph for mucking around with photos, OpenMPT for composing a soundtrack to the potential video (hollow logs and blowing-over-milk-bottles stuff, if you're asking), MS Expression Encoder 4 for capturing video of a spinning (GoogleEarth) globe of Rik's constructed world - because it's cool, 'kay, etc, etc, etc. Which all needs to be learned and mastered before Rik getsdown to the actual building the booktrailer thing.

Is that enough distraction-from-writing-books to be getting on with? Of course not! Rik's latest idea is to have a stunning booktrailer showing people some of the story ... which, as Rik doesn't have money for actors and the like, means doing it in animation. But not any old animation, oh no. Rik has to do it in proper 3D raytraced animation, which means he's downloaded that granddaddy of bastard software packages to learn - Blender - and he's already 3 days into learning how to model like an old pro.

So Rik apologises for not writing and editing more of the work-in-progress. He cannot resist the shiny.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

The RikVerse on Kindle

Hot on the heels of my first Kindle eChap, I'm releasing the other four chaps as a single book. This is possibly silly, as maybe people would prefer to download 22 poems rather than have to wade through 88. And apparently (according to some) the more books you have for sale on Amazon, the more sales you're likely to make. But what the heck.

The RikVerse Volume 1 for US Kindlians ($4.99ish, hopefully cheaper)

The RikVerse Volume 1 for UK Kindlians (£3.67)

Saturday, December 18, 2010

'To Posterity' and the Kindle

Kindle is shit for poetry, but I've been experimenting and may have come up with a way of showing linebreaks and strophe breaks that doesn't make the eyes bleed (too much).

| Walls are not blank. They soak in lives, each pore
| in the mortar a pit to house outbursts and tears.
| We chose the scheme together: a brush of faint cream;
| a slice of simnel; a feather of fresh-hatched chick.
| And so we paint: this emulsion stroke shall cover
| the time we argued the length of a bottle of whisky.
| I texture the colour with cobwebs, old nets to catch
| forgotten meals, parties; the husks of anniversaries.
| As the room grows in its new coat I follow your lines:
| dab wet gloss on the skirting, wipe spats from my hair.
| When it is done, we make a good memory - a kiss -
| for the walls to record. A cat-hair glides in the fume.

To Posterity for US Kindlians ($2.99ish)

To Posterity for UK Kindlians (£2.21)

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Buying 'The Gods in the Jungle' for your Kindle:

USA - this page, or paste the following into your address bar and press return:

UK - this page, or paste the following into your address bar and press return:

Ireland - I assume you need to use the UK store

Canada - not yet listed, may be able to get it from the US

Australia/New Zealand - apparently you use the US store

Germany/France - not listed

Rest of the world - ???

Monday, December 13, 2010

A Crimbo Prezzie for Both Readers of this Blog

It is the time for being un-grinchy and stuff, so I thought it would be a nice gesture for the season if I offered you both a present, as a way of saying thank you for sticking with this blog during its intermittent postings and occasional tantrums. Also, the lack of kitten photos.

So I've decided to give you both a copy of my book The Gods in the Jungle. For free. Happy Crimbotide!

All you have to do to get your crimbo prezzie is pop over to the book's homepage on Smashwords and press the buy button. When you get to the checkout, enter this coupon code ...


... and the complete book shall be yours, gratis, forever more.

Coupons need to be redeemed on or before 24 December 2010.

Good reading, my friends, and the blessings of the season to you and yours!

All quiet on the quiet front?

Indeed no. I wish it were quieter but, since the last post, I have:

- almost completed all of my crimbotide shopping, and put up decorations and stuff
- got my teeth fixed, and a new pair of glasses
- struggled manfully through a bout of manflu (which wasn't swineflu)
- started learning about how to write stage plays for my OU creative writing course
- submitted lots of applications for lots of jobs

But the most important bits of news are that I have started investigating the possibilities of becoming self-employed, because I have been signing on for 6 months now and it's becoming obvious that there's no Rik-shaped jobs out there (I'm either overqualified or lacking a degree) ... more news on this as and when it develops.

And, most exciting of all, I'm reworking my second novel - SpinTrap. This is taking what I've done before, massively improving the writing and generally getting it back on track (I've discovered the plot! Huzzah!). The work to date can be viewed on Authonomy; comments, crits and feedback are all very generously welcomed.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Why does Rik write?

Rachelle Gardner, Literary Agent extraordinaire, has been asking questions about what motivates people to write. I enjoy answering questions, so I thought I'd give this one a go.

But before starting, I think I need to clarify what my main work-related life goals are, and how writing fits in with those life goals. They're pretty simple, really - my main aims for my working life are to:

A) have enough money to keep a roof over my head and put food on the table;

B) minimise work-related stress, principally by avoiding the need to commute to work; and

C) write stories and poems well enough so that I don't automatically cringe when people ask me about my latest book or poem.

Now then, onto Ms Gardner's questions.

Rachelle asked: if you had to choose, what would you rather be?

(1) An author publishing steadily to positive reviews and strong critical acclaim, but selling low numbers of books and therefore unable to support yourself with your writing...


(2) An author publishing frequently (maybe two books a year) to average reviews and sometimes even being called unflattering names like "hack" yet making an extremely comfortable living and never having to take on other work.

I've worked in jobs with significant writing duties, producing copy on demand with minimal interest in the subject matter. I hated it. I can't see the difference between writing 2-3 reports a week for the boss and writing 2-3 commercial fiction books for the publisher.

So I think I'll be a #1 writer, please. I don't need that much money to live on; I'd be happy doing menial work part time (waiting tables, stacking shelves, etc - as long as there's minimal commuting) and using the rest of my time to write what I want to write.

Rachelle also asked: What is success? What would it look like to "arrive" as a writer? What are you striving toward? What is the definition of success?

Do I want name recognition? Do I hanker for literary celebrity? Do I want to be the star guest at conventions and festivals?

No. The mere thought of these things scares me. I am, genetically, a reclusive sort of person. Also, as a sufferer of prosopagnosia, I spend much of my social day wandering from stranger to stranger, struggling to remember if I've met them before, or if I like them - it freaks me out when people who know me approach me and say hello, and I can't recognise them. To extend that out to being recognised by people I've never met? No. I don't want that. I don't want that life.

But the recognition of the quality of my work by my peers? Yes, I do want that. Complements from strangers on stuff I've written is something I crave. I don't need awards, but having the respect of other writers - that, to me, is the definition of "arriving", of "success".

Now Rachelle is asking: Are you torn?

I’ve noticed lately that there seem to be two general kinds of posts amongst the publishing blogs:

1. The ones that talk about writing a commercial, saleable book, and how to make yourself marketable through building a platform; and

2. The ones that tell you to forget all considerations of publishing and marketing, and simply write. Write your truth, write your heart, write the best you can and don’t be sullied by considerations of what will sell.

So what then? Do we advise people to either give up their publishing dreams—or change what they write? I don’t know. Again, this completely depends on the goal of the individual writer. Is mass publication important to you, or is it secondary?

Or are you torn between the two?

And, having been led through the previous questions, I can honestly say that no, I'm not torn. I want to be published, but I'm not willing to write whatever the market demands in order to be published. I know my work is not currently commercial and while, in an ideal world, the Great Reading Public would be clamouring for the sort of stories and poems I write, the fact that reality and imagination do not (currently) overlap does not worry me.

Thanks to the miracles of modern technology I can publish myself. I can hold my books in my hand and share them with people who enjoy my writing. And while I can't walk into a bookshop and see my work on the shelves, well I'm learning to live with that and I'm becoming comfortable with the fact.

I know this makes me sound like a 'loser', but I don't care. There's more to life than rat races: in my world, integrity and honesty, and pride in the work you do, really are greater than success.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

New Comments pages on Rikweb website

I've added a comments page to the Gods in the Jungle website - all shiny and linked to Facebook and everything.

(I've also (hopefully) fixed the comments pages on the RikVerse website. Please could either of you let me know if things aren't working properly. Thankee, innit.)


Pimp my novel like a pro

As of 1 November 2010 The Gods in the Jungle will be part of the Smashwords Affiliate Program, with 61% of my royalties (around $1.20) from each sale going to whichever third party link to the book generates that sale. More information on the Smashwords Affiliate Program can be found on this Smashwords FAQ page.

If either of you are interested in earning some cash Affiliate commission, all you need to do is visit the GIJ page on Smashwords and paste the linking code supplied at the bottom of that page into any blogpost, review or webpage where you mention the book.

Plus you'll earn more cash Affiliate commission if people following that link go on to buy any other Smashwords book during their visit.

Win-Win, innit!

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Rik predicts the future

The day draws closer when a person will be able to go online and build their own personalised anthology of favourite short stories and poems - either as an eBook or a POD - with micropayments to each author included in the antho. What better present for a Mother on Mother's day than a book of 'singles' by their favourite authors, as selected by their kids?

Thursday, October 07, 2010

The Gods in the Jungle (revised)

The beautiful thing about self-publishing via POD and eBook is that when you decide to revise your tome, you don't have to recall and pulp huge volumes of stock at huge expense.

The second edition of The Gods in the Jungle is now available for purchase at and (links on the right). Those of you who have already bought the tome in eBook format from Smashwords can download the new version for free.


Saturday, September 25, 2010

Thank you both

Can I just take a moment to thank the 60-odd people who have downloaded To Posterity over the past 3 weeks? Seeing that number of downloads has totally made my month, as I write the poems so that they can be shared and enjoyed by others (I'm assuming you both enjoyed the poems as I haven't heard any complaints or received any death threats or suchlike).

And a very special thanks, with added hugs, to Heather - the first person ever to make a donation to Rik's Garret Redecoration Fund via the donation link on the RikVerse Website pages; you reduced me to tears, woman!

Tuesday, September 07, 2010

I noticed something strange ...

... as I was updating my eBook download records from the website (yes, I am that anal):

Why the sudden spike in downloads for RikVerse Volume 1? Not that I'm complaining (please do continue downloading my eBooks as many times as you both like! I want you to read and enjoy my poems on your eReaders), but it just seems a bit wierd for the downloads on that one eBook to almost treble in a single month, especially as the latest version was launched back in March and I've been doing zero promotion for the book since then.

All in all, today has been a day of happy surprises. All I need now is for someone to offer me a paying job (or a lottery win) and my happiness will be complete.

Monday, September 06, 2010

To Posterity

Rik is happy, nay proud, to announce the publication of his newest chapbook To Posterity.


Thursday, August 19, 2010

Poetry revision time: Novel


The last word typed, I thank
my characters. "No problem,"

says one as it plucks away
a face and wipes clean

its head. "We are always happy
to help birth a new story."

Already I see a sketch of webs
I could lay on their shapes -

these dolls who halter my text
and make eyes skip through scenes.

"I believe you know the way
the faceless one adds.

Poetry revision time: Banshee


She dabs his hot form
with damp cloths, smooths
tremors from his limbs.
I see two faces: bliss
amid the scale hide
and eyes that sing.
Zinc balms swathe blisters:
she wraps him in swaddle;
snow over a new-sown grave.
My lungs rack at
each breath. She reeks
of rose and soaps.
Wires weave monitors to skin
and graphs dance on screens;
Her claw rests on his brow.
Cool, she is; calm.
I am at her mercy
and all is good.
She slips away and a machine
wails an escape: his crisp
flesh shackle falls still.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Poetry revision time: Locus Delicti

Locus Delicti

Would you wear a killer's cardigan?
It's only wool, see, a weave of sheep
caught on needles for the looping.

And that ring, a sweetheart's gift,
has no magic; the stones glint
metaphors - a garnet's love.

Those locks of your hair I curl
in my wallet? A keepsake, no more:
a clipped crime for a stolen moment.

Poetry revision time: Elemental Friend

A question for you both: too much modifier?

Elemental Friend

Peter watches his lion lie
in the bucket where he set it:
first to flare is the tuft
of the beastling's tail-tip, curled
in the pail's cylindrical seam -
its tempo twitch a cub's annoyance
at the chafe of infant constraints.

Peter, too, is impatient.
He coils a smoke-rope tendril
in his lung as his toy's loin
grows tuffs of lemon-lick curls.
As a chesty ember glows and dims
and glows amid the shoddy he smiles
and shifts on his knee, and watches.

The lad claps as a collar of mane
erupts from the neck - a pride
of flames set to stalk and chase
across the dry-weave carpet savannah.
His lion looks up at the sound,
lifts a paw to let the lap
of heat sharpen claws; it pounces

at Peter, struggles to lever
its haunch across the melted rim
of its lair, leaps up to reach
the table hide where the boy
huddles with his matches; when
he proffers a hand to ruffle
the singed fur the toy roars -

a deep rumble that sets a gale
among the bedroom curtains
and drives the angel mobile
to dance on the pins of soot
snowflakes blooming the air;
across Peter's peach-fuzz wrists
a tight new glove knits to skin.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Poetry revision time: Annie


Annie sees dragons in all things
hidden like moths amid fur:
here in the bricks of her office
is a wyrm set to watch her flinch
through doors opened by ghosts.

She ignores the nip of its breath
and clips through the marbled foyer,
lets the lift-drake enfold her
in glittery wings and huff
her aloft to her work nook.

The wyvern at the tea point
winks as it casts a cere
of flame over water; she strokes
the nub of its snout as it drips
steam through her bitter grinds.

Colleagues walk the corridors
ahead of her, their heels a hiss
of static on the knots of a great
blue tongue, each step a whisper -
"I taste you; I hunger; I want."

Annie would tell her workmates
she sees dragons in all things,
that the office will eat them -
except the scales on their eyes
are part of the hide, best left.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Wax - Building A Bridge To Your Heart

I forgot just how good this video is.

Should I be embarrassed to admit that I can still remember all the words to the song?

No. I have no shame.

Friday, August 06, 2010

Telik Bead Game

My lack of posts can be explained - honest, guv!

1. I'm out of work looking for a job. Jobhunting takes up a lot of my fret time.

2. I might be in the process of wasting a bit of time developing a new conlang. It's like a sickness or compulsion: I can't help myself.

But the main reason for not posting is my Open University work, wherein I'm learning to program in Java. Typically, not much was soaking in from the course books, so I did what i normally do in such situations: I started mucking around with code.

See, a long while back I had an idea for a mad conworld-related board game - a sort of bastard backgammon crossed with an African bead game of my own design. I've no idea if the rules of the game are viable, so I decided to make a playable version - just for the hell of it really. To turn my efforts legitimate I'm hand-coded the whole shebang and, because it's summer and the heat deranged me, I decided to try and make it an interactive online thingy (to cover the networking and threading stuff I was having difficulty with on the course).

It's nowhere near finished yet, but most of the basics are in - including all the fun game rules stuff and a tweet-like thingy for the social side of stuff. I'm sure the project will keep me off the streets for a few weeks more ...

Some screenshots of my baby:

Sunday, August 01, 2010

The Gods in the Jungle @ Apple iBooks

Just in case either of you couldn't find the book on the iBooks thingy, the links below will take you to the page:

US iBooks - price $3.99
Canada iBooks - price $3.99
UK iBooks - price £1.99

It migh be cheap but it certainly ain't nasty, innit!

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

VLaW: Ten questions on Poets and technology

Over at Very Like a Whale Young Nic is being provocative again, posing ten questions to various Poets (with a capital P) about how they think technology is affecting Poetry (again with the P). Naturally I don't need a formal invite to answer the questions (I have no shame). The link to the standing page for these questions is here.


1. Characterize your general attitude as a poet towards technology.

Personally, I blame the Sumerians for the death of poetry. If only they hadn't invented writing, poetry would still be the pure, instant, sacred, utterable conscience of the tribe/society that it was always meant to be - the tempered doors to the collective cupboard of love and life that is poetry's original purpose. But some Sumerian decided to go and invent the cuneform script and no doubt a couple of decades later a scribe, bored of logging tallies of cattle and corn, thought it would be a wheeze to try and mark down their favourite poem (an epic fantasy about a superhero called Gilgamesh) in clay during their lunch break and, as they say, the rest is history.

Now I like writing. My capacity for memorizing lines of poetry is shamefully shallow, so having a text to refer to is a massive boon. Without writing, I would not be a poet. Of course it's not enough to be able to write the poems: you also need to be able to read them, a skill for which we have to thank the education reformers of the previous couple of centuries. Without mass reading skills my poems would be unread, and if nobody reads (or hears) my poems then I cannot be a poet.

And if a poet wants their work to be read, they need to get copies of their work in front of as many eyes as possible. For the gift of printing I have to thank Herr Gutenberg - I'll thank the Chinese for inventing paper, but I think our most important thanks should go to the Buddhists who taught their followers that the production and keeping of sacred texts was a holy duty of the highest order, thus developing the Cult of the Book.

So, all-in-all, I adore technology and technological developments, both as a poet and as a person. The latest developments - computers, networks, the digital ascendancy over analogue counterparts are, for me, as exciting as the development of writing must have been for that Sumerian clerk. The computer and the internet and the eBook and cheap publishing options and endless storage - it all gives everybody the opportunity of becoming a poet ... if only in the eyes of their friends and family.

And because of the fragile, ephemeral nature of electronically stored poems I believe we're on the edge of moving beyond the bound syllables of history. Rather than living in a time where poems are handed down from remote authorities to be learned and honoured and worshipped unchanged between the generations, I believe we're moving towards a time when poetry can return to its original, pre-cuneform roots: lines to be transmitted between friends and followers, adapted and expanded and curtailed to meet the needs of each retelling; a poetry of the moment, of the group, of the essence of self within the universe.

And this is a Good Thing.

2. Do you use Facebook in your capacity as a poet? If so, how, and what are its upsides and downsides? If not, why not?

Having spent the last month trying to develop a Facebook app (for promoting my recently self-published novel), I have acquired an intense dislike for the Facebook platform. As an arena for promoting a poet's platform, the venue can serve a useful purpose: if people do not know that you - and your poems - exist, how can they possibly read them? But as a platform for developing and presenting poems, it is useless; the typefaces too limiting, the presentational controls and formats too constricting. Maybe these challenges will prove irrisistable to some poets - especially those who believe that any transformative pressure can turn a text into a poem, but it's not for me.

Mainly I use Facebook to moan about stuff, and to keep up to date with what other people are up to. Recently the Facebook crew have come up with the idea of the 'social web' (where websites can tap into the Facebook databases to retrieve personal information about casual visitors). It's an idea that's probably got some legs to it, but not in its current state of coding innovations. I'm waiting for someone else to come along with ideas to out-Facebook the Facebook crew; until then I'll keep my poetry to my own website.

3. Do you use Twitter in your capacity as a poet? If so, how, and what are its upsides and downsides? If not, why not?

I loathe Twitter with a vengeance. There is no poetry in that website's soul.

4. What other technologies – including blogs, websites and podcasts – do you employ in your capacity as a poet? Explain how, and the upsides and downsides of each. If none, explain why.

Fifteen years ago I abandoned poetry. Why? Because I had grown to hate the infrastructure that surrounded the production and distribution of poetry: the distant, seemingly monolithic major poetry publishers; the apparent coterie of gatekeepers - publishers, reviewers, prize-givers and the like - intent on minimizing the numbers of poets able to reach a wider audience; the knee-jerk and often contemptuous dismissal of micro-publishers by those who had made it through the gates to the poetic Promised Land. Faced with such barriers, a group of us poets had banded together to publish a new poetry magazine and after two years of unbelieveably hard work and six issues we were staring failure in the face. So I walked away from poetry and got on with my life. (The magazine, btw, somehow managed to survive and is now going stronger than ever - part of the establishment, even, though none of the credit for that achievement accrues to me).

Ten years ago I invested in a modem and discovered the virtual world. Mainly I discovered Usenet - the closest approximation to anarchy that the human mind has ever managed to construct. It was wonderful, liberating! Poetry newsgroups like rec.arts.poems brought the thoughts of people from across the globe (Canada and America, Jamaica and Australia, Holland and Kenya) to my screen, and with those thoughts came poems: different poems, exciting poems, exotic poems.

I became an internet poet.

From Usenet I moved onto the worldwideweb - poetry forums, poetry blogs, poetry websites. I joined forums and discovered the joys of online workshopping; I set up a blog and discovered the profound wonders of online pontification. I wrote poems, and revised poems, and commented on poems. I discussed poetry with people I'd never met in real life. But mostly what I did was get myself a website. Here was a place where I could write and display my work for the whole world to see, in the way that I wanted the world to see it. No gatekeepers, no establishment hierarchies, no financial barriers to obtaining my work beyond the need for a visitor to connect to the web and click to my page.

That website has now evolved into my concept of a 'living book' - an ever changing, ever updating volume of my collected work available for the enjoyment of anyone who stumbles across it. It includes eBooks that mimic real books on the webpage alongside more traditional web renderings. It has audio and video clips of me reciting poems. Some of the poems change each time the visitor clicks on the refresh button while others have hidden notes within the text for the visitor's pointer to discover. It is a whole, complete beast and yet it is also an incomplete, unformed fetus waiting to be born again. It is dynamic across the years and decades, and static in its moment. It is my life's work; thus it is me.

The best part of my website, for me, is that it is entirely my own work. Every line of code in the website has been typed into Notepad before being uploaded to the server. It is a pure construction of text, html markup, php and javascript coding, sql statements and css annotations. It is the digital equivalent of making your own paper and ink and then designing, printing, binding and distributing your own book. The electrical essence of the workshop in the penniless poet's garret, with added beret, so to speak.

My original intention was that my living book would live as long as I lived and that, after my death, it would decay as I decayed until no sign of it would remain on the 'nets. Last month, however, the British Library very kindly agreed to start archiving copies of the site at regular intervals, capturing iterations of the site as it develops and evolves. So maybe it will last a little longer than my flesh - a small, non-commital nod to posterity among the countless millions of other web pages that will be preserved in the library's electronic archives.

5. What do you dislike most about how other poets use technology?

At this point in time the vast bulk of poets use modern technology purely to pursue their dream of becoming a 'published poet', using twenty-first century tools to hunt down a nineteenth century ideal. To me it seems like using a nuclear power station to light a log fire, but if it makes them happy who am I to complain?

6. What do you like most about how other poets use technology?

I love the way poets use the Internet to build their own communities and support groups, a Balkanisation of the global village even as the village foundations are being laid down. The social aspects of modern technology are having (or at least starting to have) a vast influence on the poetries being written today, and I think we all - as poets and readers - benefit from that.

7. Technology is enabling poets today to take poetry off the page in ways that were previously inconceivable. Either comment on this piece by Tom Knoyves or provide a link to and comments on a different piece of work that uses technology to take the poem off the page.

I think the piece is interesting and fun but, to be honest, I'm not sure that it is taking poetry in a new direction. Collage is not new; disruptive texts are not that new; capturing signage and graffitti on film with moody saxaphone in the audio track - I feel like I've seen it before. The bomb references and run down urban environment take me back to the 1980s rather than forward towards a new interpretation of the world, or even that small part of the world captured on video.

8. Do you use technology as an integral element of your poetry? If so, how? If not, why not?

I refer you to my witterings about 'living books' in Q4 above.

9. What has technology done for or to Poetry?

Not much yet. An analogy: I think we're about to move beyond Caxton's printing press and the Canterbury Tales into the age of the pampheleteer; but who in that age could foretell the invention of the novel as the main literary development in the following centuries? Who could imagine neon-lit signage in those days?

10. What should Poetry do with or about technology that it has not yet done?

Poets need to have more fun with the technology. They need to learn not to fear experimentation and failure. They need to open their minds to the possibilities of this new magic, and revel in it!

As they say: what doesn't kill you can only make you stronger.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Concerning comments

Just a quick note - if you leave comments in any script other than the latin script I'm likely to delete them on sight. If you leave a comment with spam links embedded in it, I will not only delete it on sight, I shall also take time out of my busy schedule to build a curse specially directed at you. In case you're wondering, I'm very good at building curses capable of tracking their targets through the aethers and internets.

You really don't want to waste my time moderating blog comments, 'kay?

Thank you for taking the time to read this note.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Vreski Warding System #10

I'm still not quite sure how I managed it, but I think - I think - I've managed to work out how people can let their friends know about their sprite, luck and/or aphorism.

(And specially for Julie, after she moaned about a different app on Facebook that wouldn't stop spamming people, I've programmed my app so that it only posts to a user's friends if the user deliberately clicks on a button and then agrees to send the message by clicking on another button - oh, and after they sent the message the button disappears so they can't send it multiple times during a session. Because I, too, care about that sort of thing - even if I am trying to sell my book and thus want as many people as possible to have fun with my little app).

All that's left to do is the sprite text, and adding a few more aphorisms.

(Why oh why oh why did I decide to have 90 sodding sprites?!? Each with their own name and text!?!)

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Vreski Warding System #9

The website is coming along nicely. Just the sprite text to do now, and adding a few more aphorisms wouldn't hurt.

But this is supposed to be a Facebook app. And Facebook is hell. Hell! Well, coding an app to play nicely with Facebook is hell. Astonishingly, I've managed to do most of what I hoped - though I haven't managed to figure out how to get it so people can see their ward (or luck, or sprite, or aphorism) and click a button to share it with their friends. That's the golden egg of the whole palaver, as my app would then show up in the user's friend's newsfeeds with links to the app and everything ... but I can't figure out how to make it work.

It's driving me nuts!

I'm beginning to loathe the folks who coded the facebook, for they are evil.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Rik's Voting Reform Suggestion

1. Every voter gets exactly 1 vote, marked as an X next to a single candidate's name

2. Divide the country into 300 constituencies, the largest having no more than double the no of voters of the smallest. Also, roughly 30 constituencies per region

3. Each constituency elects 2 MPs (senior and junior)

4. To be elected, a candidate must come first or second in the constituency vote

... so far, so boring. Now for the interesting stuff.

5. For every 4000 votes a successful candidate receives, they are awarded 1 parliamentary vote

6. Every party contesting more than 10 constituencies in a region can nominate a regional candidate. Each region shall elect 5 regional MPs

7. In each constituency, where a candidate belongs to a party with a regional candidate, the votes for those candidates not elected are transferred to their regional candidate

8. For successful candidates in each constituency, those votes not counted towards the award of their parliamentary vote are transferred to the regional candidate (eg votes transferred = votes cast - (parliamentary votes awarded * 4000)

9. The 5 regional candidates receiving the most transferred votes are elected.

10. For every 8000 transferred votes, a successful regional candidate receives 1 parliamentary votes.


a. 1 person, 1 (non-transferrable) vote. Simple, neat, clean. Also, the results will be known within hours of the polls closing, and there will still be a link between MPs and their constituencies

b. Few votes are wasted: those votes not used in the constituency are mopped up by the regional candidate

c. The number of MPs elected may not be very proportional, but the number of parliamentary votes allocated will be reasonably accurate: the parties with the highest % vote in a region will receive slightly more votes, and very small parties will not.

d. Independents - not likely to do well in the constituencies, but if they band together to put up a regional candidate they might just have a chance of getting a seat (and vote) in parliament

e. EVERY VOTE COUNTS - an end to this 'marginal seat' nonsense that deprives the rest of us of having a say in elections.

Sunday, May 09, 2010

Vreski Warding System #8

A second stab at the pretty graphics ...

Element tiles:

Element buttons:

Friday, May 07, 2010

Vreski Warding System #7

I'm beginning to make progress with the ward webpages (though not yet with the Facebook app page).

Comments and suggestions from either of you on the usability and content of the site would be very welcome!

Bonus RikThought: It's kinda sad that I can now type out the list of elements without needing to check my notes.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Vreski Warding System #6

Work continues apace - after much swearing and the ripping of heads from chickens, I finally managed to get Facebook talking to my website.

And now for a first stab at the pretty-pretties ...

(edit: removed, cuz they changed)

Monday, April 26, 2010

NaPoWriMo 2010: 19-25 April

A mad idea has ripped me away from the sanity of NaPo.

Luckily this mad idea has involved the writing of aphorisms: I shall claim 3 aphorisms a day to make up for the past week or so.

I have no shame.

19 April: Aphorisms (1)

* Look to starlit skies, foretell your future; the rusts of the sun shall soon arrive.
* The most innovative carts are fashioned with the know of wheels and suspensions.
* However you gather and mix the ingredients, the cake still needs time for the baking.

20 April: Aphorisms (2)

* A dream can be caught in the nubs of fingertips, if the hand has practiced its grab.
* The stench of the cat can turn a stomach; still the mouse must eat.
* A clever cockerel crows a different dawn song when dogs arrive with the sun.

21 April: Aphorisms (3)

* The dance of the flame; the rage of the firestorm: the difference lies in the eye, not the tinder.
* A castle; a prison: does the hand that sets the bricks and lays the hearth know the difference?
* A good teacher opens the pupil's ears and eyes; the knowing smile is a shared gift.

22 April: Aphorisms (4)

* The sparrow weaves a careful nest; the storm's wind can ruffle no twig.
* The buttocks of glory and despair share the same seesaw.
* A billowing cloud fascinates us with its dance; kills us with its choke.

23 April: Aphorisms (5)

* Invest in a good horse; hold the world in a clip of hooves.
* The greatest art is a conversation, not a monologue.
* A master craftsman learns as much from breaking a cart as from building it.

24 April: Aphorisms (6)

* Monkeys watch for trees in bloom; plan for the next feast of fruits.
* The goat has no fear of the mountain; green shoots are found in unlikely crevices.
* A celebration needs a grand cauldron, with many ladles.

25 April: Aphorisms (7)

* Many hands shall build the village hall; not all hands hang from the same pair of arms.
* The pupil has much to teach the teacher: is the teacher willing to sit cross-legged?
* A gull surfs the ocean's storms alone; the cliff and the nest are ever-close to its heart.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Vreski Warding System #5

Extra! Extra!

(Somewhere in the Facebook app, and the associated webpages, I'll need to put in a disclaimer - because it's all nonsense and a bit of fun, innit! Though that probably won't stop the nutters committed to other, "real-world" divination systems. Though I won't mind them too much, as long as they buy my book.)


What does the Vreski Wards application offer you?

When you first join the app, we will calculate your natal elemental levels for you. These give an indication of your potentials and vulnerabilities - you can learn more about your natal elements {{wherever}}.

Then each day the app will send you a note with advice on the most appropriate materials and colours to help you build a daily ward. You will also receive a short, appropriate aphorism - thinking about the aphorism while constructing your ward can help strengthen its potency. Furthermore, the app will supply details of the imp, demon or devil you are most likely to encounter that day.

There are no charges for using this app - I offer it as a community service. Be aware that the most effective warding materials are things you find yourself, often just lying around in boxes of old junk - the best wards should cost you nothing to build and wear!

If you do fall victim to an imp, demon or devil: don't try to build a ward to help you get better - it's too late for that! Wards offer protection, not cures. If you're feeling lost, talk to friends; if you're unwell, visit your doctor.

(this is the skeleton spec of what the app will serve up to the user ...

Sent daily to their wall/comments thingy:
- a generic graphic of their natal element with a short message warning them of likely dangers from (named) imps, demons and devils, together with a link to the app's home page.

When the user visits the app's home page they should see:
- a daily graphic showing an appropriate ward, calculated from that day's date and their birthdate
- text details of the proposed ward, together with that day's levels of each element
- more details about potential hazards that they may encounter on that day
- a graphic and brief description of the imp/demon/devil mentioned in their daily post
- a short aphorism which they can chant/consider as they go about building their ward

The whole thing needs to run automatically, with no imput from me - I've got better things to waste my time on. Though I can add to the collection of demons/imps/etc as the mood takes me, and also write fresh aphorisms every now and then. At a minimum, I reckon I can get away with 81 named imps/demons/etc (with a graphic for each) and say 150-200 aphorisms. Also, 10 element badges to go with the daily posts, and graphics (of odds and sods) for pulling together the generated ward image)

Vreski Warding System #4

The Elements (part 2)

'Polotcefta': the domain of Around
We live in a world that changes and evolves, often in unpredictable ways. But Polotcefta is also a world we can change and shape to meet our needs: fields can be carved out of forests, or forests replanted where fields used to exist. We build our homes and towns in the world around us, we make our friends and build our businesses here. Polotcefta is the realm of the pragmatic approach to life.

'Maha' - the element of Water
Dark blue is the colour of the great oceans, and long and twisting the course of the rivers and streams: these too are the colours and shapes of Maha. Just as water is clear when poured, so the clear glass is used to represent the element. Water is shared between friends, and frendship is central to Maha's purpose and meaning. It is the element of the eyes, and sight, and also of what lies behind the eyes: intelligence. The questioning mind is the driving emotion, always investigating actions and situations, always on the lookout for friends old and new. But care must be taken that inquisitiveness doesn't turn into a more controlling, bullying attitude towards friends and aquaintances.

'Luexna' - the element of Clay
As the water settles, so the clay settles out of the water. The orange of the well-tilled earth colours this element, and potsherds are its commonest material. Luexna goes beyond the friendships of Maha to encompass the whole community, just as the great cooking pots can feed whole neighbourhoods on celebration days. Individuals may die, but the community continues; Luexna is the element responsible for successful reproduction. Hunger and satiety are its senses. As the opposite of Maha, Luexna covers the emotions of negation and demurral, which can sometimes turn into stubborn refusal.

'Polocieva': the domain of Flesh
The realities of life may be harsh, but they can also be beautiful: it is our approach to life that determines our well-being and enjoyment of the world. Polocieva is the domain of pleasure and also of pain; to the Vreski mind one cannot be experienced without experiencing the other in due course. The flesh is the medium through which we experience the world, it represents life in all its glorious forms, but also death - for nothing lives forever.

'Kyopla' - the element of Wood
The most versatile of materials, Kyopla includes not only wood, but also leaves and roots, flowers and seeds, and even the flesh of those creatures that feast upon the world's bounty. Often represented by a swatch of cotton, this element's natural colour is the colour of life: green. In the human body, Kyopla is responsible for the skin and nerves, and for the sense of touch. Joy is its emotion and pleasure its purpose, though an overabundance of joy and pleasure can often leave a person insensitive to the needs of others.

'Koga' - the element of Bone
No flesh can survive without support: Koga is the element of the skeletons and scaffolds that support all living things. Taking the colour white as its emblem, more discerning people will substitute wool for the obvious bone in their daily wards. Overtly, Koga talks of death: it presides over the realm of pain, though some pains can be beneficial - such as the warning pain that causes the child to lift her hand from the hot pot. As sound is so often heard through the bone, sound is the natural sense of this element. The emotion of surprise is Kaga's gift, though surprise can so easily turn to shock in the unwary.

'Polosusa': the domain of Below
The land on which we live - and the seas we sail across - may change over time, but the change is so slow that we barely notice it. Even so when change does come it can be violent and deadly: earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, tsunamis. Polosusa represents the domain of the philosophers; it is the place where our deepest, most constant thoughts and beliefs are formed and reformed. It is also the realm of the long endeavour: wealth, status and respect - none can be gained without hard and constant work, and yet these things can be so easily lost, just as the city can be laid waste by the earth's tremor.

'Yooka' - the element of Rock
As grey as the granite pebble so often used to represent it, Yooka is the surface on which we all stand. Keeping our feet on the ground requires balance, this element's native sense. And surviving on its surface needs a strong stomach and digestive system. It is on Yooka's solid foundation that a person can build their status, though status can only be earned by gaining the respect of a person's peers and heirs; this element is the natural home for trades and skills. Yooka talks not so much to the individual, but to the generations, and to posterity. Yet status means nothing on its own - the keystone emotion of this element is sadness, which can often spiral into depression among the unwary.

'Dxaevma' - the element of Metal
The heaviest element, Dxaevma can be both the brightest and the dullest of all the elements. While its metals, worked from the rock, may be shiny its natural colour is black, for all metals tarnish when neglected. It takes much rock to produce metal, thus Dxaevma is the element of the bladder and anus - for every endeavour results in waste: the wise person will realise that there's money amid the muck. The natural sense of this element is vibration - close to sound, yet often unheard, deeper. Fear is Dxaevma's emotion, though a little fear, controlled, can be healthy. Uncontrolled, fear so quickly turns to terror, that darkest of emotions. Remember that while the coin may glitter and promise so much, many wealthy people have lived the last of their days in fear - even of their own children.

Vreski Warding System #3

The Elements (part 1)

Ten elements, according to the Vreski mystics, form the knit and weave of the world. But unlike the elements of the scientists, these elements are not real things; rather they form the potential of the world, and the potential of the life within the world.

These elements are in continual flux, each following a cycle during which their levels rise and fall. Some elements, such as 'Qaasla' (air), have a quick cycle: the air element takes just seven days to fall and then rise again; other elements - 'Dxaevma' (metal), for example - are much slower, completing a cycle over many weeks.

The natal elements

The relative levels of the elements at a time of a person's birth set out the potentials for that life. The higher a level of an element at birth, the more control that person has over the emotions and opportunities ruled by that element, and the less likely they will be to let those emotions and opportunities rule them. Knowing where your weaknesses lie can help you work harder to control and own them.

Each element is part of a pair, with each pair of elements controlling a particular domain: 'Polovosa' (above); 'Polospuesa' (spirit); 'Polotcefta' (around); 'Polocieva' (flesh); and 'Polosusa' (below). While people are quick to associate themselves with the strongest individual element at the time of their birth, the strongest domain - which may not include the strongest element - also plays a role in mapping out their potential.

Equally, it is important for people to know their weakest natal elements and domains, for it is on those areas of potential that a person will have to work hardest if they are to achieve a balanced life, where they are in control of their world, rather than the world being in control of them.

The domains and their elements

'Polovosa': the domain of Above
The skies above us are in a state of constant change: day and night; clouds forming and changing and dispersing. Even those constants - the sun, the moons and planets, the stars - refuse to stay still. Polovosa is an immediate place, the domain of action and reaction. But it is also a place of cycles and repetitions; look up to the skies and you can guess what's likely to occur in the next few minutes or hours.

'Qaasla' - the element of Air
The lightest of elements, Qaasla represents the touch of the breeze, and also the punch of the tornado. Represented by the blue of the midday sky and the form of the feather, this element covers the lungs and breathing. It is also the element of smell. It talks of beginnings. Gratitude is the key emotion of Qaasla, though there is always the danger that gratitude can devolve into the more erratic impulses of hero-worship.

'Dxeva' - the element of Radiance
Falling from the sky, Dxeva rains down on us from the sun, moon and stars alike. The wisp of hair strands, and the yellow colour of the sun, are representative of this element. Dxeva is all about communication - the rush of the chatter and the nuance of the facial expression, thus making it the element of the mouth and face, and also of taste. As the balance to Qaasla, Dxeva is the element of endings - though an ending can also be seen as a new beginning, a change of direction or outlook. Such episodes can generate confusion, the emotion of Dxeva, which in extreme states can devolve into anxiety.

'Polospuesa': the domain of Spirit
We are all born alone, and many of us will also die alone. Yet Polospuesa, the realm of the individual, does not need to be a lonely place. This is the world of creativity and inspiration; a place for dreaming the impossible, and then finding the inspirations for turning those dreams into reality, both for the individual and for the wider circles of their communities.

'Hepta' - the element of Fire
The delightful dance of the flame can so easily become the rage of the destroying fire; Hepta combines both within its boundaries. Represented by red hues and the discarded husk or shell, this is the element of the heart, blood and thirst. And yet it is also the element of the hearth, the centre of the home. A well maintained home is a proud home - pride is the rightful emotion of Hepta, both for what we dream and for what we achieve as individuals within the community. Though care needs to be taken that pride doesn't become a narcissistic love for the self to the detriment of others.

'Drjelja' - the element of Smoke
From Hepta comes Drjelja, the billowing cloud that can fascinate us with its dance, and kill us with its choke. Where the flames rise to the sky, so the smoke falls to the ground. Brown is the colour of Drjelja, and leather its representative material. This is the element of the liver; it deals with the fevers and chills that can afflict us; anger is its emotion, and rage. Yet it is also the element of exploration, for the journey away from the hearth and home - for only by moving beyond our known safety zones can a person develop and grow into their true individuality.

Vreski Warding System #2

Promotional blurb

Are there times when you feel the world has fallen out of your control? Do you find yourself bickering with friends over the most trivial of things? Do the petty frustrations at work sometimes send you into a rage, when on other days you could shrug off those same frustrations with a smile and a joke?

The problem may not be you. Bad vibes and blue funks float through the world all the time. But there may be something you can do to protect yourself. A well-built Vreski ward may well be enough to help you dodge the worst dangers.

The Vreski people knew all these malignant motes. They knew how to predict their most vulnerable days, and how to build themselves wards to protect themselves from the chaos the world around them could cause.

Basics of the Vreski warding system.

The Vreski warding system is an old method of predicting potential misfortunes. Based on the flood and flux of ten 'elements', the common folk of the Vreski Empire could work out - by knowing the state of the elements at the time of their birth and combining them with the current levels of elements - the most likely daily threats to their health and happiness.

People believed that threats came in the form of tiny, external entities called 'lecpaoslac' (devils), 'lecpemeqjac' (demons) and 'lecpocaatjac' (imps). Too small to be seen by the human eye, these bane-full motes swarm through the airs, waters and earths of the world, seeking out people to infect. Imps are responsible for physical ailments, while demons cause mental and emotional imbalances. Devils are more social ailments, the instigators of arguments, infatuations and social unrest.

To help them avoid the most prominent threats, the common folk would wear 'wards' about their body. They built their daily wards from a collection of odds and ends - feathers, bones, stones, scraps of cloth, coloured ribbons and the like. While ready-made wards could be bought from temple priests, healers or astrologers, the best wards were self-constructed and pinned to the most appropriate area of the body during the day, or hung above the bed when people slept.

How the Vreski warding system works.

The world, according to the Vreski mystics, is divided into five domains, with each domain further divided into a pair of elements, one light and the other heavy. Each of these elements was associated with a particular colour, shape and material - useful guidance for people when building their daily wards.

Each element was also associated with a particular part of the body and a body system, with a particular sense, and with particular emotions. As the level of an element rose, people believed that their control of the systems and emotions associated with that element also increased.

However when the level of an element was low, people were less in control of their health and well-being. At such times a person could become infected by an imp, demon or devil - outside forces delivering illnesses, arguments and emotional outbursts. Taking care of your personal wards was not just a case of personal safety, it was also a social obligation necessary for the good of the family, friendships and the wider community.

Vreski Warding System #1

I'm currently working up ideas for promoting my book, and one of the ideas I've had is to build a FaceBook Application for the Vreski warding system - referred to repeatedly in the book.

My thinking is: if people are gullible enough to sign up for those horoscope applications, then they might just be interested enough to take a peek at alternative 'divination' systems, and then maybe a few will be interested enough to check out the book, and a few of them might just buy a copy.

But for the idea to work, the warding system has to sound convincing enough. Thus my posts here. Comments and critiques of my thinking, and the presentation of the system, are very much welcome! Because it'll be a hell of a lot easier to change things as I develop the system than it will be to amend the system after I've deployed it.

Posts describing the system to follow ...

Sunday, April 18, 2010

NaPoWriMo 2010: 18 April

We Make Room in the Ground for Incomers

In Crete they pay a priest to bleach the bones before
the village gathers round to check the dead for worth;
the struts of good and pious folk are free of stain.
My bones are cracked to charcoal. I am not your friend.

NaPoWriMo 2010: 17 April

The Bones of Levissi

After the bus departs – silence. Ahead,
the town invites us to walk its streets, a wreck
of tumbled roofs and weed-blown mortars stacked
within its bowl of suntan hills. Instead
we sit and read the guide, a summary
of dates and states and settlements that ripped
the artisans from hearths and tools and shipped
them overseas to Rhodes. We scope the debris
and climb a path to view the churches; here
we whisper comments, offer hands to push
ourselves through glass-less window gaps and bash
the thorny brush apart, two pioneers
discovering ... the well. I look within:
an oubliette of strangers guised in grins.

NaPoWriMo 2010: 16 April

The Lazarus Sign

When our neighbour dies she crosses
her arms to her breast; her trembly fingers
butterfly around the sags of her neck –

"a reflex, no more," tells the nurse
cradling a slosh of warm plastic
bed pan. "You should not be here

to see it." We turn and check her purse
for family data, a chain of digits
to bridge the faults of lost dramas,

one last link for the forge as her hands
fall still and settle in the curl
of her collapsed chest, and cool.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

NaPoWriMo 2010: 15 April


The shock wears thin
after a while, like skin
punctured once too often.

I have grown a callus
smile, wry and polite
- almost honest.

Ruby and I check my numbers
like forensic accountants,
a joint taskforce:

my flesh-economy saps
are trending higher
for whites this quarter

and I no longer suffer
blue hic-cups after meals,
which is positive news.

NaPoWriMo 2010: 14 April

ArcelorMittal Orbit

It might be a hundred
fifteen metres high and cost
nineteen point one mill

to build but it still
looks like my upright
hoover to me.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

NaPoWriMo 2010: 13 April

The Sun Sets over Adley Street

My own silent prayer whips
at the clouds: bring me wonders,
I whisper, bring me riches
in the shapes of good friends.
The sky is an array of overlaps,

slick grey videos repeating
a story of faces, racing
to fade and reform, mist gods
watching me, cold and coiled
in their beards and winks.

As the sun gutters a shoal
of salmon ripples across
the roof of the road. Bring me
belief in my worth, I wish:
water worlds spatter the dust.

Monday, April 12, 2010

NaPoWriMo 2010: 12 April

Circle Talk at the Mimic Support Group

Brass monkeys on the shelf:
ears eyes mouth ears eyes mouth -
my hands are so deft I incarnate
blue Shiva sat on his tiger.

Plaster ducks angled on the wall
beak to tail to beak to tail -
one duck's guano is another's
delight: "Keep in formation!"

Youtube editing: this party leader
hawks his wares at market, his mouth
synched to that leader's words. All
is choice, choice, choice; and trust.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

NaPoWriMo 2010: 11 April

Competitive Plucking

My goose hisses as I walk the length
of the identity parade. The bespoke
suits of potential criminals crease
as each identikit man reaches in turn
to pet the witness; it eyes their ties
- colour coded gang tags - and rattles
its tongue in its beak as they tweak
at its tail. For this is the choice:
the spiv who plucks most feathers
with the least noise shall win
my harlot head on their pillow.

NaPoWriMo 2010: 10 April

The Shoppers' Choice

My weighted basket
is a stoutly woven
wicker affair, arch
handle stiff to hand.

The nation's basket
holds supermarket shelves
in its lidless recess;
hauliers, factory farms,
jovial hatless actuaries -
the decimal remnamts
of nuclear families,
their wages average
by gender, their houses
mortgaged on lease.

My accessorised basket
is better, as befits
the consumer talents
of a pound-pinked man.
Lifestyle wordsmiths
disagree: it needs
a coordinated cloth
to cap it, they tell me,
a time-limited choice
of single-colour swatches
on sale in May.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

NaPoWriMo 2010: 9 April

Elemental Friend

Ninesteps watches his lion lie
in the bucket where he set it:
first to flare is the tuft
on the tail of the beast, curled
in the seam of the pail's base -
its tempo twitch a cub's annoyance
at the chafe of infant constraints.

Ninesteps, too, is impatient.
He coils a smoke-rope tendril
in his lung as his lion's loin
grows tuffs of hotblack curls.
As a heart's ember glows and dims
and glows in its chest he smiles
and shifts on his knee, and watches.

Ninesteps claps as the lion's mane
erupts from the neck - a pride
of flames to chase impala stains
across the dried savannah carpet.
His lion looks up at the sound,
lifts his paw to let the lick
of heat sharpen claws; it pounces

at Ninesteps, struggles to lever
its haunch across the rim
of its lair, leaps up to reach
the table cave where the boy
huddles with matches; when
he sets out his hand to stroke
his friend, the lion roars -

a deep rumble that sets a gale
among the bedroom curtains
and drives the angel mobile
to dance on the pins of soot
snowflakes blooming the air,
and across the peach fuzz
of Ninesteps' wrists the furs
of hot gloves knit to skin.

Friday, April 09, 2010

NaPoWriMo 2010: 8 April

Party Political Fortune Cookies

Labour: a mass of sweat
spins to hide good deeds;
the bed is too comfy.

Conservative: trust redux;
prodigals honour fathers
with echoed slogans.

Liberal: market traders
peg localities to lapels;
the stock is raw, and sour.

Thursday, April 08, 2010

Sod it

... I'll just change the price of the book.

The Gods in the Jungle - now available in eBook formats from Smashwords for just $3.99US.


NaPoWriMo 2010: 7 April

On the Front (Door) Line, 2010

They've started already, words
flapped through my letter slot
promising me visions of futures
colour-coded, branded and stamped
with their picture-perfect smiles,
each eyeshot market-tested -
a hint of wrinkled insincerity
batch rejected. They smother
each other, use the faintest breath
of draft to puff themselves
to the top of the pile, deny
the take-out fliers and taxi cards
the chance to catch my eye,
my wallet's vote. I hear them rustle
triggerpoint slogans as they flutter
across my hall, trip and slip
my feet as I chase them, heel them
to the floor; even as I crumple
roses, trees, glyphic birds,
their inks infest my skin,
printing memes and manifestoes
to my palm as I rip and bin
their tired, recycled pulps.

eBook pricing and promotion questions

Self proclaimed 'midlist author' Joe Konrath is saying some very thought provoking things about eBook pricing on his blog. Of course, Joe has a number of advantages that I don't: he writes genre thrillers for a start, and fans of that genre are rabid for the buying of new books. He's also been published by a large New York outfit and done all the promotion/tour stuff which has helped him build up some good name recognition and a loyal fan base. So when Joe talks about selling 800 eBooks a month (per title?) he's talking about what can be achieved by a good author with an established track record who already has a market to sell to.

Whereas I have no platform, no track record, no ready market. And no sales.

So I'm thinking maybe I need to revise my sales strategy, both on the promotion side of things and on the pricing of the eBook version of The Gods in the Jungle.

First off, pricing. The hardcover version of the tome is priced at £9.99 from, which gives me a £2 profit per copy sold. I need to sell 11 copies to break even; I would have had to sell around 80-100 copies to break even if I had gone with one of the lulu distribution packages, but selling the tome through Amazon would have necessarily doubled the unit price (so Amazon can do their 50% off cover price offer thingy). All-in-all, I have no particular worries about the hardcover price - I'm sure I can sell a minimum of 11 copies over the next few years.

Where I'm being clueless is on the eBook pricing. Currently the tome is on sale via Smashwords for $9.99 (US dollars rather than sterling, as Smashwords are entirely American). I chose that price point because that was the price that everyone - 'kay, Amazon and their Kindle hoardes - was bandying about a few months back. A price of $9.99 gives me a net profit of around $7 for copies sold via Smashwords; $6 for copies sold via iBookstore.

But Joe is suggesting that my price point is way too high. He's talking about pricing his eBooks at $2.99 per unit, which would garner a net profit of just under $1.80 for each iPad sale.

So, a question for you both: Would you be willing to invest $2.99 in a book by an unknown author (after you'd checked out the quality of the writing, of course)? Would you be willing to go as high as risking $3.99? $4.99?

Secondly, platforms and fan bases and stuff. I ain't got 'em. Which is not a good thing as if people don't know the book exists, they ain't gonna charge out of their doors to buy it. One way around this is to get people to review the tome, but I don't know of any reviewers willing to drop everything to read and post a review of my book in popular SF/Fantasy venues. Yet I need reviews.

So, another question for you both: would you be willing to review my book if I sent you a free pdf version of the tome?

Rik is edging ever-closer to penury. Something has to be done.

Wednesday, April 07, 2010

NaPoWriMo 2010: 6 April

The Ewe Seeks Her Lambs

She has the prim hips of one
who makes her own bread daily;
her sockets are fresh petals
around a brined curl of pearl.

"A father's curse is a heavy burden:
it weighs on the womb like idols."

She keeps a goatwool scarf tied
taut across the brow as I pour
whisky as blended as incests -
she refuses with a smile to tempt
an offer of long labour, gratis.

"I lost sight of him on the Efrat road;
a good man, worthy of sororital love."

Her white glance speaks of graves
and dust, birth-killed bones lost
between steads; her sumac breath
shows a devotion for hearths.

"He took my miracles, my desert fruits -
Atonement comes, and I must hug them."

Tuesday, April 06, 2010

For my American techie friends

The Gods in the Jungle will be available for purchase at Apple's iBookstore from 6 April 2010. ISBN: 978-1-4523-0272-0

It will also be available on the Barnes & Noble store from 6 April, and from the Sony ebookstore from 8 April.

Remember you can read before you buy for free!

NaPoWriMo 2010: 5 April

Tense, this season is

keen bruise firework
to bust card bounds
petals itch the twigs

lemon trumpet stops
bladed baize doodles
each sunspelt glade

ice might gusts
April snow settles
the crocus muffles

taut-most half spent
reload coital guns
deadly dusty bullets

month within week
assault eye nose egg
quicken the spring.

Poet Laureate of the Blogosphere

Nominations for the 2010 Poet Laureate of the Blogosphere close on 15 April.

Have either of you nominated anyone yet?

Sunday, April 04, 2010

NaPoWriMo 2010: 4 April

You'll Never Guess What

This story comes from the mouth
of a man fashioned in threads:

I watch his mouth move; a fleck
of spittle tethers his lips

while molecules gel as whorls
in the spaces between us,

their morpheme tentacles merged
and tangled, a kelp swirl

amid the photon shoal, his face
a slattern broadcast -

a guernica of mirrors and futures
alien like sires and stock

and his words? Beyond the shock
of his white wide wet eye

a crash of waves on pebbles
is less empty; and we hug.

Saturday, April 03, 2010

NaPoWriMo 2010: 3 April

Spring in the Lower Lea Valley

From tilled earths grow strange plants,
a new-season show of tempered stems
bursting in circles amid April's rain.

One is milliner's inspiration -
a race-day fantasy for Ascot ladies.

Another throws an ovation of arches
over concrete ponds. A storm stream
born in a mountain maker's track
hosts spawn scattered by lost frogs.

Each overcast morning brings a clutch
of fresh, tax-manured buds in this farm
for the cropping of precious metals
- bronze, and silver, and gold.

Friday, April 02, 2010

NaPoWriMo 2010: 2 April

Shoes in the Charity Shop

"Es verdad que lo ignoro todo sobre el."
Borges, 'Isidoro Acevedo'

Like a stack of footfalls they pile in tangles
against the creamy walls - that terra incognita
waiting for the first tread: a dotted lozenge
of an open-toe stiletto sole; an angled maze
of old workboot; the swirls of logoed trainer.

My jumble of shoes sit in their carrier,
quiet as the shy child in the new school
abandoned to his fate by those he trusts.
Behind the counter, a woman, perked in pink
and the sweet sweat smells of abandonment.

I want to say: look after them, as they
looked after me running for buses, stood
in queues, parked within desk-ceilinged caves.
This shoe caught the eye of one I came
to love; that boot chewed my heel to blood.

And yet do I know the secret lives of those
who shod me? Perhaps they plot and plan
incarcerations, the separation of ball
and arch from the polite societies of ant
and stump. Quis custodiet custodiam?

Thursday, April 01, 2010


SpinTrap is my current work-in-progress, which actually started life right here on this very blog (under the awesome title of Rik's Blog Story).

Now that the publication of The Gods in the Jungle is complete, alongside the republication of my various poetry chapbooks, I've run out of excuses for not working on SpinTrap. Furthermore, working on the tome will take my mind away from the tortures of NaPo - writing a poem a day for the next 30 days.

But rather than post revisions and new text to the blog I've decided to transport the whole project over to a website called WeBook, mainly because its got a very nice way of displaying projects, and a good posting and editing interface, and also a large and active user base - which gives me a chance to start building/joining mutual critiquing groups (which can only help the drafting process, I'm hoping). The direct link to my project is, in case people want to watch or possibly even critique.

Oh, and while you're over at WeBook website, check out the PageToFame competition, where you get the chance to rate the first page of wannabe novels - though be warned: it's highly addictive!

NaPoWriMo 2010: 1 April

Driving, not driven

Did I notice the signs? Perhaps
it was the tone to your parked purr,
or the way your seat cuddled into me
as I pulled the belt to a hug
across my full-inflated chest.

At every junction you chuckled,
the choke from your old dirge gone.
Each time my hand reached down
to re-gear our touch lingered, warm.

No, I caught no sign of our truce:
the metal fretworks decking the street
stole my eyes from your dash. Today
we fought killers beyond the windshield,
partners in our driving crimes.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

The Gods in the Jungle: iPad version are doing lots of stuff to get eBooks ready for listing on Apple's iPad when it goes on sale next month.

To get my tome included in the initial listings, I've had to relent - the eBook version of The Gods in the Jungle now has an ISBN: 978-1-4523-0272-0. This will list smashwords as publisher of the tome rather than Rik's Sparky Little Printing Press, which is a pity but nothing I can't live with.

Let's just hope the tome looks good on the iPad ...

PS: iPad supports pdf files. You can download all my poetry chapbooks from the RikVerse website in pdf format for free. And I know for a fact that those chaps are going to look fabulous on your new toy!

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

New Rik Publications

... from Rik's Sparky Little Printing Press:

Poetry chapbooks
22 Facets of my Father - £2.49 +p&p from lulu, or free as an eBook
Play Time - £2.49 +p&p from lulu, or free as an eBook
From Each Skull, A Story - £1.99 +p&p from lulu, or free as an eBook
Poems to Quote to your Lover - £1.99 +p&p from lulu, or free as an eBook

The RikVerse: volume 1 - gathers together all four of the above chapbooks into one single, sparkly book. Also a lot cheaper than buying all the chaps individually. £4.99 +p&p from lulu, or free as an eBook

Links to all these goodies are now to the right hand side of your screen.

The eBooks are in pdf format, thus readable by most (sensible) eReaders. They are also available from my Issuu page.

Happy reading!

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Revised poetry chapbooks

Here's the covers; details to follow:

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Guess what's coming ...

Yep, I'm re-doing the RikVerse book. This new book will:

- include all four chapbooks - Play Time; 22 Facets of my Father; From Each Skull, A Story; and Poems to Quote to your Lover (that's almost double the amount of poetry compared to the old book);

- be available in both hardcopy and eBook versions;

- have a nice new nifty cover - bye, bye chicken; and

- be on sale for £4.99 (hardcover) or $2.99 (eBook) - vastly cheaper than the old book!

What the book won't be is available through Amazon - pushing a book through the Amazon route will automatically double the price of the book, so Amazon can do their '50% off' offer thingy. Bugger to that - who in their right mind would pay a tenner for a book of poems, huh?

Anyways, more news later, alongside links and stuff. Everything has to settle before NaPo strikes us all down ...

Thursday, March 18, 2010

The costs of independent publishing

For those who are interested, here are the breakdowns of the costs of self-publishing my tome.

Writing/revising/finalising the book:
4 years; £0.00 (costs of medications and alcohol excluded)

Preparing the book webpage:
1 week; £0.00 (I love coding websites)

Formatting the book for hardcover publication:
3 days; £25.00 (the cost of two books for proofing)

Formatting the book for eBook publication:
2 hours; £0.00

Preparing the cover:
2 days; £0.00 (maybe spend some cash on this in due course)

Cost of distribution packages:
£0.00 (no need for an ISBN with my distribution channels)

Publishing hardcopy (
2 hours; £0.00 (did the process twice)

Publishing eBook (
1 hour; £0.00

Promotional spend/budget:
£0.00 (ain't got no cash to spend on promotion)

Total cost: £25.00

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Published: The Gods in the Jungle

The Gods in the Jungle
a Kalieda novel by Rik Roots.

The jungle city of Bassakesh holds the keys to the future of the Vreski Empire. It is the sole source of the valuable Vedegga dye; it is also home to the mysterious Servants, who harvest the dye.

Delesse, the Bassakesh Governor's daughter, is marrying Loken, heir to one of the most powerful Clans in the Empire - whose leaders, Loken's own Father and uncle, are plotting to disrupt the dye harvest as part of their wider plans to win the aged Emperor's throne.

When those hasty plans go awry a terrible plague is unleashed across Bassakesh, bringing widespread death and chaos.

Aided by a collection of survivors and Servants, Delesse and Loken must travel through the jungles to face down and defeat the people who not only threaten the Empire's stability, but also ruined their wedding.

Set on a planet far from Earth, The Gods in the Jungle is an investigation of the drives and desires, fears and beliefs of the various peoples and classes of a crumbling society, through the eyes of those immediately involved in events which threaten to bring an Empire to its knees.

Published by Rik's Sparky Little Printing Press. Now available online (part), in various eBook formats and also in hardcopy.


Friday, March 12, 2010

Gods in Jungle publication #3

New cover? Check!
Better maps? Check!
Margins sorted? Check!
Text justified properly? Check!
Widows'n'orphans dealt with? Check!
Blank pages blank? nah - I'll leave headers and page numbers on 'em.

Number of pages added to the book as a result of these changes? 21 (now up to 365 pages).

All-in-all, not a bad day's work. Now for the proof reading ...

Gods in Jungle publication #2

A little earlier than expected, the proof copy of the hardcopy version of the book landed in my grubby little mits this morning.

Only a few immediate, obvious changes needed:

- The cover absolutely does not work; it gives completely the wrong feel about the book and - I hate to say this - it looks amateur. The cover must change.

- the maps are too dark; they shall be changed too - though that should be an easier job.

- the margins are just off; the inner margin (next to the spine) needs to be a centimetre or so wider to make for a more comfortable read.

- text justification ... I forgot to fully justify the text. Oops. Also, there's some orphan words and lines at the end of a couple of chapters, but that can all be sorted out at the same time as I do the margins and check through the file again to make sure each chapter starts on an odd-numbered page.

- headings and page numbers are appearing on the blank pages - this I don't mind so much, though best practice is for blank pages to be, well, blank.

In the good news zone, the redesign of the website to accommodate the book goes well.

QUESTION: is this cover better?

Thursday, March 11, 2010

The why of conlanging, part 94

The good readers of the New York Times have been posing questions about constructed languages to a couple of conlang experts. Never one to miss an opportunity to fill out a questionnaire, here are my answers to some of the questions raised:

What is the process for "making up" a language? Do you just go on inspiration, or is there some preconceived structure to your work? In what order do you proceed? Where do you start?

There's lots of ways to construct a conlang. Some people like to follow a set of instructions or guidelines (such as the ones given in the Language Construction Kit), others prefer a more freewheeling, iterative approach to the endeavour, tackling whatever problem or issue takes their fancy at that time. Some people like to create language families, starting with an ancestor tongue then deriving new languages through shound changes (diachronics) and the like. I'm an iterative conlanger, myself, though I have used the cookbook approach on occassion.

Is any care taken to design the language around (or specifically avoid) the rules of Universal Grammar?

I tend to avoid all things Chomsky - on the rare occassions that I've wandered into linguistic theories I've found cognitive linguistics has been more helpful. Linguistic Universals, on the other hand, are much more fun - especially when it comes to working out how to break some of them in a conlang without breaking the conlang itself.

Do you create an alphabet first? When languages are invented, how do the creators choose the set of vowels and consonants the language will have? Do you utilize the International Phonetic Alphabet?

For my first conlang (Gevey), which I started working on when I was 12, I used the tools I had to hand - namely the sounds of the English language; as time goes by the phonology and orthography of the conlang have changed to meet my changing needs and desires for it. For more recent conlangs (such as Ákat) I've made more of an effort to decide on a phonology and sonority rules (for the syllable stuff) near the start of the construction process - if only to save my sanity: changing the phonology and orthography for a well-developed conlang can be a right bugger, especially if that conlang already has a significant web presence.

IPA is, in my view, an essential tool for any serious conlanger - it's the simplest way of describing the sounds of a conlang without having to resort to recording and posting snippets of the language.

How much (of a language) does one have to INVENT before constructing simple sentences?

Surprisingly little. The simplest conlangs are 'naming languages', for which all you need is a few ideas about how the conlang should sound together with a few roots and derivation rules allowing you to pull together nominal words and phrases for naming landmarks and settlements. Adding verbs into the mix is the point when things start to get interesting.

How do invented languages make room for pidgin or dialects or other natural language developments?

That's entirely up to the conlanger: what do they want their conlang to do, how do they want it to do stuff. Gevey has room for dialects, though I haven't done much work to develop them (yet). Ákat is a different matter, as I designed it to be a language constructed by philosophers within my constructed world Kalieda.

Do you invent a language from scratch without using one or more existing languages as models, or do you base the syntax or grammar on the syntax or grammar of an existing language?

My track record of learning natural languages other than my birth tongue is embarrassingly poor; all my conlangs are a priori, developed from scratch.

Is it preferable for a language (invented or non) to have a relatively small vocabulary?

This depends entirely on what the conlanger wants from their language. Having a well-developed set of derivation and neologism rules can help overcome the need for a large stock of original roots. Deliberately restricting the number of roots available was a key design strategy for Ákat, while no such constraint exists for developing the Gevey lexicon.

Given the mixed success (ongoing but limited speakership) of constructed languages like Esperanto meant to be used in daily life, what room is there for future constructed languages outside of the realm of science fiction/fantasy? Why else would someone construct a language, and how could one feasibly catch on without, say, a spaceship or Peter Jackson involved?

I approach conlanging as an art form; my conlangs are artlangs. I would be astonished if someone told me they wanted to learn one of my languages: I'd probably think they were nuts. I've never had an interest in developing an International Auxillary Language - with all due respect, IAL enthusiats scare me. I see my work on conlanging as a sort of Outsider Art; it's important to me but of little or no interest to others, which is fine.

What’s the best way to create a language for a book or series? … What are the most important things that readers would need as signposts to understanding?

A good naming language can really help add flavour to a book, as can throwing in the occasional oath or invocation. But too much flavour can ruin the narrative. Like most things in life, there's a balance to be had, and what works wonderfully for one reader will lead to another reader hurling the book across the room in frustration (book-wall interactions, as I like to call them).

How long a shelf life do movie languages have?

To be honest, not long. Of all the conlangs, philosophical languages and IALs developed in the centuries prior to the mid-20th century, only one continues to exist beyond the realms of a few diehard enthusiasts. Maybe the internet will change the average half-life of conlangs, maybe not. We'll see.

Wouldn’t it be fair to say that regardless of their inventiveness or complexity, and regardless of the work put into developing them from the "top down," none of these artificial languages (from Klingon and Elvish to Esperanto itself) will ever be more than an elaborate game of codification and translation, until a generation of children grows up speaking it from the "bottom up" (i.e. as a first language)?

This question only refers to IALs, yes? Like I said, why would anyone want to learn my conlangs? The beauty in a good artlang depends not in the numbers that speak the language (often 0 - I can't speak my conlangs fluently) but rather in the inventiveness of the conlanger's imagination and their ability to translate their vision into the concrete reality of the conlang itself.

What are the benefits of learning a constructed language that relatively few people use instead of a non-invented language that could help one communicate with others across the world?

Beyond self-satisfaction, there are no benefits to learning a conlang. Some people study natlang grammars for the fun of it.

What makes one invented language "better" or more realistic than another? Which constructed languages do you think have the most complete grammars?

See above. There's dozens of conlangs with comprehensive and well-written grammars online. For my part, I prefer to display my conlangs in a less formal manner.

Do people who invent and study made-up languages get grief from those who study dying "natural" ones?

No idea. Most conlangers I've met online are not linguists, though some younger ones have been inspired to study linguistics at college as a direct result of their conlanging interests.

Why not revive and disseminate an endangered language rather than make up a new one? Why would one choose to invent a new language (aside from the whole "wildest academic dreams" thing) rather than revive a "dead" language or a dying one, like Cornish or Manx?

'Reviving' a natlang is more a scientific and social endeavour than an artistic one. Heck, I failed my French exams twice: what hope have I got for leading the revival of a near-extinct language. For what it's worth, the best placed people for reviving a near-extinct language are probably the people from the communities that used to speak that language - why not give them the tools and support and see what they can do?

Why waste time with a language that has not aged, like a good wine, in barrels of love and passion?

My conlangs are aging very nicely in a bodega of love and passion, thank you for asking. Though my wine probably tastes like drain-cleaner to the rest of the world.