A.J. Walker

writerer

Open Mic & a Return to Ale Trips

It was Open Mic again yesterday in the Sanctuary and once again I made an appearance. We were shifted downstairs, as upstairs was occupied for some Light Night shenanigans, and just being in a different room makes it feel like a different 'gig'. In another effort to make it different I was not wearing a checked shirt for the first time here. In a shocking turn up I had one my 2012 Frank Turner Wembley T-Shirt.

OpenMicFTHC

Ollie was there again, so I made it up for my songs second again.

I ended up doing five songs:

  • Somewhere Down the Road
  • Heart Breaks Like the Dawn
  • Whiskey in My Whiskey
  • Down By the Water
  • The Flushing Song

The first two by Chuck Prophet, the third by Felice Brothers and the fourth by Decemberists… and the fifth… yep, that was the one I wrote last week. So I've performed a self penned song for the first time in over two decades (the last one was a similarly daft ditty: 'Stood Up, Deffed Out and Desperate' which I don't remember all the words or the chords for. It was a Saw Doctors style pastiche with some interesting lyrics). Anyway, The Flushing Song went down pretty well, and I was glad I gave it a go.

OpenMicCheersFTHC

Afterwards one of the regular attendees commented that she was becoming familiar with my songs, after not knowing them previously, and that she enjoyed them. That was nice to hear. My next task, other than practicing the damn guitar, is to try and write a song that's not just tongue in cheek. Then again a few Loudon Wainwright III style songs wouldn't be a bad destination either.

Onwards and upwards.

In other news, tomorrow I am going on my first CAMRA real ale trip for many months. I used to go on every Liverpool branch CAMRA coach trip, which are undertaken on a roughly monthly basis, but have stopped going as a stand against their move to booking through Eventbrite. That decision was frustrating as it disenfranchised so many of the regular trip goers - who maybe didn't want to start paying for things online (put it this way, I am part of the younger demographic on the trips). So tomorrow I am going on a trip to Buxton with the Wirral branch, who in any case pick up at the same place as the Liverpool branch (only difference is that it's 15 minutes earlier).

Looking forward to the trip. Buxton is a nice place and, as it happens, one of my favourite beers I've had this week was Buxton Brewery's SPA on cask in the Grapes.

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Flashing

Recently the National Flash Fiction Day "Flash Flood" guys and gals were looking for flash fiction for their annual event. I submitted three stories over three days — none were selected (insert sad face). Not bothered, I've been up there several years and as everything sent was "off the shelf" it wasn't like I put any effort into it — also saw plenty of good writers who failed to get chosen this year. But it did show me something, as I looked on my hard drive for stories to submit: I have fewer flashes from this year than I have from few years ago.

Peak flashing was back in the hey day of Flash Fiction Friday and Angry Hourglass. With the demise of these I have certainly written for challenges less frequently, but the other reason I have fewer more recent stories is that I have got into a bad habit of not saving my work. I mean, I've submitted stories on Microcosms and other sites (including the Seedling Challenge) and then not saved the story to my computer. Seemingly, in my head, the stories are written and out there and I don't need to keep them myself. Not sure when, or why, I came up with that idea.

Anyway, in future I will be saving all my wee stories, be they little bits of nonsense or pure unadulterated brilliance. Who knows, maybe next year I'll get in Flash Flood with a piece I've written this year; one I've saved and not had to search for online.

It also highlights why I need to complete the Seedling Challenge each week (and not just because I put the idea out there). It's only half an hour a week and there's the chance that one, or more, goes from being a VSS365 to a Seedling Challenge story, then who knows maybe onwards and upwards to a fuller story.

#amwriting
#keepwriting
#amsaving

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Flush The Floater

Started writing a daft song yesterday and this is it as it stands now - yes, it's up on YouTube already. Needs a bit of tidying, but okay for first writing in decades. Hope it comes across okay. If I finish it off properly, who knows, it may get a try out at the Open Mic sometime soon.

Flush

Save the planet, people. But don't stress to much about the floater — flush when you need to.
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Books, Books, Book

Just finished 'Crome Yellow' by Aldous Huxley. An enjoyable romp published in 1921, and not at all indicative of the Brave New World (1932) to come - though there was some postulation by Mr. Barbecue-Smith in one chapter which did include some thoughts in that direction.

15 Books

Been an excellent selection of reads so far from some top authors and a few classics too. Can't fault the authors to date:

  • Aldous Huxley
  • J.M Barrie
  • Edgar Rice Burroughs
  • Terry Pratchett
  • Cormac McCarthy
  • Frank Herbert
  • Edward Brook-Hitching
  • William Dalrymple
  • Jack Vance
  • Frederik Pohl
  • Ursula Le Guin
  • Ben Aaronovitch
  • Kurt Vonnegut
  • Stephen King
  • James Barr

Next up will probably be the Iain M. Banks 'The State of the Art'

I've picked up rather a few books lately from charity and second-hand bookshops, and I probably should swerve visiting any more for a while now - I am in no danger of being short of reading materials for the rest of the year; or probably the next one too. But it's hard not to go in and take a look, isn't it?

After submitting the edited version of the 'Don't Open the Door' short story I will get back on to writing my own book: The Wobbly Odyssey.
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This, That and The Other

Been making some edits to my story for the Don't Open the Door anthology, no spoilers but hell, of course they open the bloody door! Hoping to finish that off tomorrow and then give it a final brush on Sunday and get it to the editor. Should be a tighter story when I've finished it.

Had a bit of sad news that I didn't get selected for the Pulp Idol final. It was a bit of a shame, but, after the IT cock-up meant I never got the invite to the heats, I was expecting it anyway. I'd recorded a reading of the first three minutes of the first chapter and put that up on YouTube for a judgment to be made, not ideal but hey, beggars can't be choosers. Doesn't change anything about the novel, and once I've got the Door story sorted I will get back on to it and finish it. I want to know what happens in the end after all.

Considering some alterations to the website, with a new section or two. Should get at least one of the ideas up and running this week. Watch this space (or maybe the menu bar).

Talking of the website, of course tomorrow the weekend starts, so it's time for the Seedling Challenge. I've been religiously putting it up each week so that it's been there to be used by anyone who wants to, but I know I need to push it a bit more. So be prepared to be pushed - at least if you're exposed to Twitter in any way.

At some point I'm going to start writing some songs, now that I'm playing the guitar more regularly. I'm still surprised that the songs that I've been playing aren't known by the other guys at the open mic. But they are all of a type I suppose, and if I write in a similar style (or at least perform them that way) then there's every chance they won't know what's mine and what's someone else's. We'll see. If I start doing my own stuff then I can pop along to the Monday Night Club at the Cavern and play a tune or two (they only allow people playing their own stuff). Now that would be cool, wouldn't it?

Currently reading 'Crome Yellow' by Aldous Huxley, which I bought last week as part of a charity shop haul. I've only read Brave New World by Huxley before (which I loved), and this is so very different but enjoyable. It's my fifteenth read of the year, which puts me on track for the forty.

What with website updates, short stories and novel writing, reading, guitar practice and songwriting, it's a wonder there's time for anything else. Then there's football tomorrow night and Tuesday and then next Sunday (not to mention an important match on Monday night). Oh, God, and there's Line of Duty on Sunday. Clearly there's not enough hours in the day or days in the week. If any of the political parties yesterday could have promised to sort out the 'not enough hours' issue they'd have got my vote.

Anyways, ta-ra for now, I'm getting back to Crome.
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Whiskey in my Whiskey

Ollie turned up about 2 hours late (due to a job interview; poor excuse), which meant the normal opening act was not available. As the guy that normally comes on second it was therefore up to me to move down the list, which seemed fair enough. Whilst I'm still trying to get better an early relaxed little session is a a good thing.

Ended up playing five songs:

  • Somewhere Down the Road (Chuck Prophet)
  • Down by the Water (Decemberists)
  • Whiskey in my Whiskey (Felice Brothers)
  • Heart Breaks Like the Dawn (Chuck P)
  • Sweet Carolina (Ryan Adams)

Bobo came on next playing a couple of his bluesy tunes, followed by the newest father of the night: Dave Jones (congrats, new dad!).

Usual suspects followed including Matt Author with a new story.

Open Mic X

There were some off mic incidents involving a collapsing woman, and a birthday girl downing an impressive quantity of rum and coke. A couple of great singalongs; including my fave Queen song: 'Don't Stop Me Now'

Roll on the next Open Mic. Always great.

Open Mic XI

The highlight for me was two people independently coming to me and saying 'Great Set.' I mean, I have 'a set?' Let alone a good one. I've gotta be happy with that. And I am.

Thanks to Bobo and John for organising the night, and Dave tonight for the use of his guitar. And Bobo, once more, for the up-close-and-personal photos.


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Cocks and Nozzles, and a Busy Week

This week is going to be busy. Worked yesterday and my days off are today and Saturday, but in-between there's lots going on. I've got to do the edits of the 'Don't Open the Door' story for a start. On Wednesday there's the small matter of Barcelona vs Liverpool in the first leg of the European Cup semi-final (yes, it will always be the European Cup to me). On Thursday there's the next Open Mic. And next Saturday there's the next Liverpool match v Newcastle (at 7:45 in the evening… on a Saturday - what's that all about!?). Got to go and see my dad. And have personal things to do and plans to make.

Then there's other life shit to do, including installing a new ball cock! Not to mention work.

There really aren't enough hours in the day. No idea when I'll get to strum my guitar before Thursday. Maybe a short while today and tomorrow night. I haven't even watched ONE of the new Game of Thrones series yet, though I am up to date with the ever excellent Line of Duty and Follow the Money.

Anyways, first things first, my printer was acting up, I thought it was a problem with the cheap printer cartridge I'd bought, so I bought a better make. Turns out the issue was not the ink it was the damn nozzle on the printer. After cleaning that everything is ship-shape and working right. Just means I've wasted one ink cartridge - as the first one is sure to dry up whilst I use this next better one. Ho hum. Advice to everyone out there: make sure you do regular nozzle checks and do your head cleaning. Should go without saying that.

Now I can print out, I can get on with the editing. I really would struggle if I couldn't review the final piece on paper. I find it impossible to catch things on the screen. That said, an option would have been to keep putting the updated piece on my Kindle Paperwhite. But a) that's a bit clunky and b) comments seem to transfer into wrong locations (rather than disappear) when you save a new file in place of an old one - so not ideal. Anyways, it is moot, as I have ink and paper.

With Wednesday and Thursday being out of the picture for evening work I better get on with DOTD. Then I'll go and see my dad before getting this cock sorted.
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Not a Song Video

A couple of weeks ago I submitted my first chapter of TWO to Pulp Idol, which is part of Liverpool's 'Writing on the Wall' festival. Unfortunately due to a glitch my invite to read at one of the Pulp Idol Heats never materialised. The first I heard about the heats was from a judge on Twitter saying how good the writers had been that night. When the guys and gals at WOW realised, they were on to me and we're very apologetic. I rang them a little bit annoyed at it, but by the end of the two telephone conversations I felt so sorry for them - they sounded genuinely more gutted than me. Apparently at least one other invitee never got their email too.

After the consideration of a fight to the death between me and the other unfortunate was discounted, it was decided that, if I wanted and could do it, I should do a video of a 3-minute reading of the first chapter and the answers to a couple of questions so the judges could see it this weekend. This would be too big to email so needed to go on to YouTube. I did that on Thursday; apologies to anyone following my YouTube channel who got pinged to be told I'd uploaded a new vid and found it was not me and guitar, it was me and my Kindle.

I'm not actually sure of how the Pulp Idol thing really works. They have the whole chapter to read and then hear 3 minutes, which is a tiny proportion of it. I guess they read the chapters and listen to the answers on where the book is up to etc rather than judging on the performance. Anyway, alls I can do now is wait.

In other writing news I had submitted a story for a horror anthology, 'Don't Open the Door,' several weeks ago, and have now received my edits/questions from the editor. A wee bit of work to finish it, which involves tightening up the start (as usual) and will probably end up cutting 500-1000 words!? We'll see. Gotta get on this. Now if I can just get my damn printer to work…

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Another Whiskey Song

It's been a few weeks since I've played a new (or new old) song and with me being off today I thought I'd do one as part of my guitar playing practice. The last one I put up was 'Whiskey in my Whiskey' which I've done at the last couple of Open Mics along with 'Down by the Water'. So with all these liquid songs I decided to do another one and have gone for a slow slow version of the traditional Irish song 'Whiskey in the Jar.' It's no Thin Lizzy or Metallica version.

Anyway, I did it on the first take which is at least ten takes fewer than usual.

WhiskeyJar
Whiskey In the Jar
(apologies for the lack of a check shirt - confusing, I know)

My song list is expanding slower now. But if I can concentrate on them I can improve them. Think my singing is improving a little from its admittedly rather low base.

Current songs that I am playing and have put on YouTube are:

  • Whiskey In The Jar (trad. Irish)
  • Whiskey In My Whiskey (Felice Brothers)
  • Down By The Water (Decemberists)
  • Love Hurts (Gram Parsons and Emmylou)
  • My Heart Is Living In the Sixties Still (Saw Doctors)
  • Save It For A Rainy Day (Jayhawks)
  • Take Me Down To The Infirmary (Cracker)
  • N17 (Saw Doctors)
  • Shed A Tear (for the lonesome) (Green on Red)
  • Splendid Isolation (Warren Zevon)
  • You Couldn't Get Arrested (Green on Red)
  • Somewhere Down The Road (Chuck Prophet)
  • One I Love (REM)
  • Van Diemen's Land (U2)
  • Sweet Carolina (Ryan Adams)
  • Better Be Home Soon (Crowded House)
  • Heart Breaks Like the Dawn (Chuck Prophet)
  • Hotel California (Eagles)

Written out like that it looks like a whole setlist. Anyway, in a few months I'll start putting newer versions of the same songs which should show some progress. Bloody hope so anyway!

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VSS365 vs Seedling Challenge

It's Easter Sunday and eventually on Saturday I found out I could take the day off. Now as a devout atheist (not sure who Athe was, but I follow him) the main thing is that the day is sunny, Liverpool are live on the telly box later and it gives me time to play some guitar, read AND write. So far I've only achieved 'Second Coffee' and sausage sandwich along with some reading (Peter Pan!).

First up in the writing thing though is the Seedling Challenge of course. So I've got to pick one of these to use as my starting point:

  • Our family had our own Easter tradition. As a thinly veiled threat dad would get his bagpipes out; he'd use them if we didn't let him watch 'Those Magnificent Men In Their Flying Machines'. We'd seen the film so many times. But God, so preferable to the alternative.

  • On their first date Bob had told Lucy he was vegan. Now he looked forward to the hours they were apart when he'd stuff his face with myriad cheeses.
Lucy cursed herself for telling Bob she was vegan. She now had a twice weekly appointment with a KFC bargain bucket.

  • That Lisa is so full of venom and vitriol whenever I can I cross the street to avoid her. I wouldn't feel safe with a Hazmat suit on and a large barge pole. I suspect her tears are pure acid. Don't know how her husband puts up with her. Either he's deaf or on a penance.

  • The lie was a big one, covered at first by a thin veneer of truth. When the truth fell away the lie was laid bare, but it was too late the people who mattered had fallen for it. The lie was now truth and the truth the lie.

  • Dr. Nostrum looked like he'd gone ten rounds. He supped anxiously at a cold coffee.
  • The FBI guys hovered around him.
  • 'Do you know what's wrong with him?'
  • 'There's a void where his brain should be and just a damaged Russian computer board. You need IT not a doctor.'

  • 'Have you seen Amy? She's a real fox.'
'You mean a vixen. Don't they have fleas? Or is that hedgehogs?'
'She's not a real fox.'
'But you just said...'
'I mean she's a wow! A ten out out of ten. Hubba-hubba.'
'Does she even have a tail?'
'She's not a fox. Oh, forget it.'

  • 'I'm wanna be a villain when I grow up. Take what I want, when I want. If I get caught I get given bed & board and don't have to do the washing up. It's a win-win.'
'I'm gonna be a policeman and lock you up, motherfucker!'
The kids had been watching Law & Order again. #VSS365

Now which one will I go for?

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