A.J. Walker

writerer

Boom! We Made it On Zoom.

For the last couple of months (yes,  it’s only been than long) I’ve had to listen to so many people on the radio and TV complain about working form home and then extol the possible long term virtues of it thanks to getting used to using Zoom from everything between Zoom Work Meetings to Zoom Quizzes.

Zoom Session

Working, delivering shit all day to the masses, I had not used Zoom and most my mates would have no interest in calling into a remote quiz or drinking session. For me communication remained phone calls, texts and WhatsApp group messages.

But finally on Sunday, after two aborted attempts, the guys and gals who sort out the fortnightly Open Mic at the Sanctuary arranged a Zoom Open Mic session. It had been a long day at work for me in the sun and I was bushed, but called in at around 9pm. It took a bit of messing about as I got a WhatsApp message with the connection link and couldn’t enter the details on my iPad, which I was going to use for the event. In the end I had to copy and paste the invite into an email to myself and then open it up on my iPad from there. Already there were five or six logged in when I joined.

Being the first time I’d used it I had just propped up the iPad on my desk in the spare room. There was still some natural light to begin with but as evening fell I  had to use the desk light. Considering I hadn’t put too much thought to it the set up worked okay. I  had plugged the  Blue ‘Snowball’ mic into the iPad. It’s difficult to know how much that helps with the sound as you count hear how it goes out. Suffice to say that some of the others had problems with the mics in their complex terms/devices and the sound came and went some rather randomly. On the positive side for me that meant some of the others were brought down to my level in terms of results. Hurray!

Despite sound and stuttering issues and the effect of replying not quite in real time, the event went really well. Nine or ten of the regulars came in and played or told stories, and the time and beer flowed quickly. The main issue was having to serve your own beer and not getting our loyalty card stamped. But at least at the end of it I didn’t have to get the last bus home (particularly as I would have missed it - I left the ‘meeting’ at 12:30). I’d had five beers, played four songs, went for three toilet breaks, wore two different tops, and had one big grin on my face. 

Zoom Meeting

Many thanks as ever to Bobo and John - and their better halves - for the organisation and time involved in events - both online and in the Sanctuary. Everyone who attended it really enjoyed the opportunity to meet up again. It's not the same as down the pub, but needs must at this strangest of times.

We’re hoping to have another Open Mic in the next week. And I’ll definitely be phoning in.



______

The songs I played were:
‘Mostly Water’ - Bap Kennedy
‘Homeward Bound’ Simon & Garfunkel
‘Somewhere Down the Road’ - Chuck Prophet
‘Sweet Carolina’ - Ryan Adams
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Difficult Time; Still Writing

It goes without saying.... 

.... Anyway, notwithstanding all of that, one of my aims this year was to do some more writing outside my normal short fiction and VSSing and to that end I have put my head above the parapet with the website GetIntoThis. 

My first piece for it was a gig review of Romeo Stodart (of Magic Numbers fame) at the Philharmonic Hall. Two days later the Phil shut down and by the end of the week all the venues were closed. So that put paid to doing any more live reviews. Since then though I’ve managed to do a couple more things for the website including a piece on Liverpool pubs, which discussed my last two days of going to the pubs and dreams of returning - along with a guide to some of the places that you can still go to to get beers in. 

I’ve also done a couple of pieces from Press Releases on new albums, namely Laura Marling (by the way get the album, it’s wonderful) and Kamasi Washington

Wrote a quick 160 words about my view on Sefton Park with its 148th birthday on Monday (there is a shortage of things to write about without gigs). 

Road to

Another piece has gone up this week on driving during lockdown and another will go up shortly announcing an upcoming album. So that'll be seven bits of writing, not prolific but not bad as it’s six pieces more than nothing. 

Keen to do more as and when. But I need to do some serious fiction writing - that is seriously getting it done, not necessarily serious of subject.  Wondering how best to do this. How many times have I planned, or almost planned, but not committed. Yes folks, even if you didn’t already think it, it is time for A.J. Walker to be committed
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That Was The Month That Was

An April Playlist

Last time I was the VSS365 prompter I took all the words from pub names in Liverpool or names of hop varieties. This time I went for one of my other loves: music. All the words chosen were from song titles from some of my favourite recording artists. Quite a few of the songs were picked up by some of the VSSers even if they didn't realise all of them were sourced that way - I mean why would you?


April Words


In order that the words came up in April, I suppose your unwitting playlist, the songs were as follows:

‘Run Chicken Run - Felice Brothers
Kicking Television’ - Wilco
‘We Will Rock You’ - Queen
Orange Crush’ - R.E.M.
Classic Cars’ - Bright Eyes
‘Hell is Chrome’ - Wilco
‘Crane Wife’ - Decemberists
‘Sgt. Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band’ -  Beatles
Telegraph Road’ - Dire Straits
‘Splendid Isolation’ - Warren Zevon
‘Rescue Blues’ - Ryan Adams
Desperado Under the Eaves’ - Warren Zevon
‘Somewhere down the Road’ - Chuck Prophet
Shelter from the Storm’ - Bob Dylan
Tumbling Dice’ - Rolling Stones
Desolation Row’ - Bob Dylan
‘Couldn’t Get Arrested’ - Green On Red
Blue’ - Jayhawks
‘Sullivan Street’ - Counting Crows
‘Smack Dab in the Middle’ - Ry Cooder
Ruby Tuesday’ - Rolling Stones
Radio (Free Europe)’ -  R.E.M.
‘Space Oddity’ - David Bowie
‘The Needle and the Damage Done’ -  Neil Young
Mittens’ - Frank Turner
Heavyweight Champion of the World’ - Reverend & the Makers
Killing Moon’ - Echo & the Bunnymen
‘I am the Resurrection’ - Stone Roses
‘Perfectly Good Guitar’ - John Hiatt
'
Alcoholiday’ - Teenage Fanclub


Not a bad jukebox - if I do say so myself - and not a bad month of VSS writing either. Thanks to all those that got involved and for the kind comments too.

Oh, and if you fancy some background listening while you're writing then I've put the
April Playlist on Spotify. One of my faves ('Somewhere Down the Road') is missing as it's not on Spotify, but all the others are there.

VSS Playlist
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VSS365: An Introduction

VSS365: An Introduction

It’s come a long way since it began. And boy has it grown up and beyond anywhere it was expected to be. I mean, it even spawned an actual book. Yep, a real solid thing. It continues to go from strength to strength. Of course new people keep coming to it, or want to know what the damn thing is, so here is a quick introduction into what it is now. I won't go into the history of it, but there's mainly a few people from the Flashdogs to thank for its genesis and continued existence. More power to the Flashdogs.

So what is VSS365? 

Well VSS is short for Very Short Story and 365 means it’s each and every day. VSS in this instance means Tweet length, which is currently 280 characters, twice the length it was when it first started.  And the daily prompt is a word prompt provided by the designated prompter for that month. Oh, did I mention it's a Twitter thing. Yes, Twitter only. So get on it - it's not just Trump and bad people on there. It's great really.

Anyway, I’ve been hosting the prompts for April 2020 and the following months of 2020 are being hosted as follows:

MAY @fhaedra 
JUNE @kara_goughnour 
JULY @AvyeAndonellis 
AUG @49JDBlood 
SEPT @TheWritingKind 
OCT @LitmanSpencer 
NOV @whithernow 
DEC @ESWarriorPoet 

Follow these guys and gals if you're wanting to get the prompts as they go out.

When does the prompt go up each day?

That will vary by prompter, who may put them up manually each day or schedule through an automatic scheduler (I used Buffer and uploaded them from 6:30 through to 6:00am - a minute earlier each day. Why then? No good reason whatsoever). The prompter may of course be in different countries in different months and there may be IT problems on occasion (I had one this week on one day), just don’t sweat it and badger the host. It’ll be there when it gets there.

How to look up the daily prompt

If you are not following the current prompter the easiest way to search for the prompt is to go into Twitter and search for #VSS365 and #prompt then order the results by time. Simple (assuming the host has remember to put #prompt in their Tweet. Obviously if you’re planning to do it regularly that month then follow that month’s prompt host (as above).

What do I write?

Anything you want that the prompt word makes you think of. Just remember to include the prompt word and # it. Prose, poems, acrostics all sorts of writing gets completed under the auspices of VSS365. As long as it fits in one Tweet then go for it.

What’s the purpose?

It’s for fun. It may just be a wee tease of your brain in the morning. I don’t overthink it (as anyone who reads my Tweets can testify too) but some people give it some serious thinking. Some write extended stories following on each day from previous days -  there’s some clever people out there. It may lead to other ideas for you beyond VSS. If you find yourself writing something a bit different that looks interesting to you why not think about it a bit and then expand on it and take it to a longer story? Who knows, you’re next novel or prize winning short may have come from a single prompt word.

It’s only for fun. Don’t worry about. Write one if you want, if the word doesn’t do it for you, then just wait 24 hours for the next one.

Community

The VSS365 peeps are a mighty fine bunch. See a Tweet you like then ‘Like’ it or ‘Retweet’ it and/or give them a follow. In the main everyone is lovely, so be lovely back. 

How can you become the prompt host?

Ha, what a question. What are you doing in 2026? The months and years ahead are already booked up. Not sure if the list is being updated at the moment Arthur Unk is the man to ask. Just bear in mind you’ll need a long term planner.

Reusing previous words

If you are going to be the prompter and want to use only words that haven’t been used before then search the #’word’ you’re thinking of using along with #vss365 #prompt. If nothing shows up then you’re good to go, if not then try another one. I tried hard not to re-use words, but there is nothing really to stop you doing that - you just wouldn’t want to use one that has been used recently (I assume).

Anyway, that's enough to read about it. Just get yerself over to Twitter and get writing some. You never know, you may love it. Plenty do.

#keepwriting
#amwriting
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Pasta Packets, And Beans

Last week i put a song up on that there YouTube thing. And it wasn't a cover, no it was something with my words in (albeit the same chords as my usual strumming). I had to pen something about the situation of course. 'Pasta Packets, And Beans' a song for this generation. Or at least for this week.

Featuring Pasta, Beans, Toilet Roll, Gin, Closed Pubs - and my chippy - and the severe lack of Football. It's all just a bit of fun.


Pasta
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Postcard from Zevonia: A Week In

Postcard from Zevonia

April's just over a week in, and what a strange April it is. But the less said about that the better. Anyway over here in Zevonia I've been getting my prompts out (promptly) each morning for the VSSers out there to get their teeth into. And boy have they. Loads of you lovely people.

PostcardFromZev

Here in Port Crown the Spring started last Thursday and was over by Sunday. That may not sound long to some of you but last year Spring was over with in one day. It's 27C now and there's been some nice evening breezes off the sea making it feel lovely in the evening. I dare say in a few weeks it'll be too hot and I'll have to sleep on the roof for the duration through to next Winter; I do envy places with four proper seasons. Mind you at the moment I don't envy you guys and gals much with that virus malarkey going on. It's nice to focus on something more ephemeral like tweet length stories. And you guys are certainly getting stuck in.

The first nine prompts I've put up have been these choice words:

chicken
kicking
rock
orange
classic
chrome
crane
club
telegraph


A strange group of words I suppose, but I hope you've enjoyed it so far: another 21 prompts to go. I trust some of you will stay along for the ride. It's lovely to see both the familiar faces and the new ones. When I last did the prompts I wasn't the Official Unofficial Zevonian Envoy, but my time was taken up by writing for NaNoWriMo at the same time. This time I don't have that to work on, which I must say I'm grateful for. Not sure with all that's going on I could focus enough to write a novel in a month. A Tweet length story is about right!
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Zevonia: A Brief Introduction

This Extract is taken from the First Edition (1982) of the 'Rough Guide to the Lonelier Places on the Planet'. Note: this was also the last edition as there was only one sale of the book which was to the main author’s mother. If you see one in a second-hand book shop it is probably an edition given free to one of the contributing authors as most of the print was sent for pulping in 1986. If you do see a copy I recommend buying one, as although it is somewhat out of date (the capital city has changed three times since its printing) the geography has not changed and indeed many of the bus time tables have not altered either (sounds unlikely until you realise that the buses run only twice a week between most towns).


Introduction

The Occasionally Free People’s Republic of Zevonia is situated in the Far East of the Central East, if you are that way inclined, or it may be in the Far West of the Far East (lying on the edge of the Central East). It all depends on how you look at things and where you are both geographically and politically - and we dare say, just as essentially, philosophically. It is a land of wonder, in so much as you will wonder why you are there. And while we largely mean that you could of course find things to make your days there interesting and as Travellers we would never say never about going anywhere. The fledgling tourist board (interestingly currently comprises just one woman who also works at Calypso Fish Market) has started a campaign with the strap line: 'Come to Zevonia: You Never Know' and we think she's hit the nail on the head there. We certainly don't know.

The Towns

The country is in the northern hemisphere with a mostly continental climate. The Summers are long and hot and the Winters long and harsh. Spring and Autumn visit sparingly and if you have a lie in the wrong day then you may miss it.

The Capital city changes at the whim of the ruler and is currently in the small south western town of DISPENSARY in the shadow of the Mysterious Mountains. It is there for no good reason other than the current President was born there and felt it was a good idea, at least for his family. It isn’t. Its connectivity is arguably amongst the worst of the towns in the country and due to geographical constraints that is unlikely to change. It does have a tiny airport, but it is only capable of taking small turbo prop planes (c.18 seats) when the wind is blowing in the right direction (or, ideally, not blowing at all, and the accident rate is eye-wateringly bad. Note: anyone in need of spares or repairs for such planes could do worse than spend a day in the Mysterious Mountains. It is improbable you wont find a crash site without even looking.

The fairest city of them all is CALYPSO, on the south western coast. Its favourable climate, abundant sea food, and relatively easy transportation links make it a popular spot to visit these days. In historic times its location and ease of access was often its undoing, as it was sacked on too numerous occasions to be sure of. Suffice to say if you had any treasures or even just small change you would find a place in the countryside to bury it lest it be seized by brigands from one neighbouring state or another. Or even one neighbour when times were hard - which was usually the case. 

One city you cannot fail to visit (for it is the only place with a dedicated Immigration Office) is PORT CROWN on the north east edge of Zevonia. Words like; pretty, bijou, safe, fun and exciting are never used in describing the city (and we use that word advisedly) although 'exciting' could be used in the event you link it with police brutality, running to save your skin and being robbed. It is not without its charms. It’s just that you have to work hard - or be damn lucky - to find them. 

The city (yes, it really is) has been the Capital more frequently and for longer than any of the other towns in the country. It certainly makes more sense than the current one. It is relatively rich, though it does its best to hide that with the brutal architecture and brusque nature of the inhabitants (think Londoners, meet seedier areas of a no-go Moscow suburb, and a Red Light area in a downtrodden port town at 4 am - yeah, pretty off-putting). It was founded by the British or the Portuguese, or some say the Russians, in the 1700s or maybe later. It is difficult to be sure as no records seem to tally up in any of these countries and no-one seems to want to own up to it.

If you have the time you must spend some of it travelling around the interior, where you will be rewarded by sweeping views of nothingness a lot of the time. Due to the levels of dust in the atmosphere, both in Zevonia and adjoining states the sunsets can be unbelievably satisfying. Due to to the sparse nature of the countryside it can be difficult to get something interesting as a foreground for the sunsets though. During the sprout season don’t miss the opportunity to get a silhouette of the sprout stalks against the painted sky. Predictable for Instagram, but evocative of your time in Zevonia.


I trust this extract is of interest to you. I'm going to see if I can find a decent map of the country; everyone loves a map. And I'll see about uploading some more extracts on the geography and history of this intriguing country.
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Greetings From Zevonia

In April the word prompts for VSS365 come to you from me (@zevonesque on Twitter) on behalf of the Occasionally Free Peoples’ Republic of Zevonia. Since the last time I was the Prompt Meister I have become the Official Envoy for Zevonia. Despite the title it is actually an unofficial role, as that’s the way the country rolls. Last time I presented words which were a celebration of the history and the people of Zevonia and Zevonistan (and by pure coincidence also names of pubs in Liverpool and hop varieties; Spooky!). As I am now the Unofficial Official Envoy then I’m afraid I’ll have to ditch reference to our upstart neighbours in Zevonistan. 

Please note, that whatever you hear from Zevonistan’s troublesome media and state (which is the same thing) I am not dissing them because they wouldn’t take me as an envoy. I did not, and never would, set up a bidding war between the two nations, whatever you read. Suffice to say I am happy where I am and will be seeing out my contract here as long as the bosses are happy with me. I note that there was a Bored Meeting of the Cabinet Makers* last week and they gave me a ringing endorsement in my un/official role saying ‘He’s doing okay’ - and so there you go. You can’t say fairer than that.

So what of Zevonia you ask? (And please don’t ask me about Zevonis...) Well things are pootling on pretty much as standard. It remains a little known, and little visited or cared about country. The Sprout Festival goes from strength to strength, in relative terms, and some intrepid tourists have visited in recent years - deviously written questionnaires by yours truly suggest that they may have come in order to ‘tick the country from their list’ and sometimes they say that they will come back. That said the data is limited to three completed questionnaires, and one of those was spoiled. To date there has been no evidence of such repeat business but we live in difficult times and the routes into the country are affected by strained transportation and a questionable tourist bureau; hey I’m unofficial I can say these things.

There have been no visitors this year at all. Some readers may put this down to Coronavirus, but to be fair last year our first tourist arrived in mid May - and that was by mistake: he’d confused Zevonia with Zevonistan! Incredible mistake to make.

Anyway, with 2020 having started so badly with regard to worldwide travel and whatnot we have downgraded the countries expected visitor numbers to zero, so we’ll be pleasantly surprised if anyone turns up. Incidentally as we’ve had no visitors since mid October we’ve had no cases of that dreaded virus and unless it can blow in on a wind, or land on a beach with a message in a bottle, we can consider ourselves blessed. And our 28 qualified doctors can sleep well: though the 437 quasi-registered (for tax purposes) quacks will probably start some rumours so they can sell more snake oil (unsurprisingly actually made from sprout juice, for this is Zevonia). 

You don't need to know anything about the country or its people it's just where the words are coming from. Anyway, enough of my rambling. I’ll see you in April. Keep well my friends and may the road rise to meet your sandals and your sprouts be healthy. Cheery bye, as they say around here (it’s weird what they’ve picked up from their various colonisations).


* This would be Cabinet Ministers in any other country but historically someone of importance, who turned out also to be pig-headed, misheard the title. Similarly the official minute taker (some say mischievously) typed Bored instead of Board and that stuck too. Never let it be said that Zevonians like to admit they’re wrong. No, never say that.
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The Last Gig

As mentioned on the previous blog I got to see Romeo Stodart play at the Liverpool Philharmonic Hall Music Room on Sunday. I was lucky to be able to see him on several counts. Not least because now the gig industry has ground to a halt. The Phil was closed from Tuesday. This damn Covid-19 virus is wreaking its toll like a Sten gun, its just hitting everything.

Anyway, my review of the gig is over on the Get Into This website.
Check it out.

RomeoTweet

The poster boys for not social distancing: wouldn't do this now.

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If Music Be the Food of Love...

'If music be the food of love, play on.' (from 'Twelfth Night' by Billy Shaks) is lovely, ain't it? Billy had a wonderful turn of phrase and I bet he loved a good gig - or even an average one. You really can't beat live music. I'm hoping to get to more and more after a hiatus and tonight I'm going to see Romeo Stodart from the Magic Numbers. I've seen them a fair few times in various venues and seen Michelle do a solo gig, but this will be my first Romeo one.

Back in the day I had a great time in Amsterdam before a Numbers' gig drinking with Romeo on the banks of a canal with several of my mates. Talked so much about music with him as we sank a few continental lagers. It was a great gig and we ended up drinking until the early/late hours after it. He's a fabulous guitarist and songwriter and a lovely guy to boot.

Romeo1

Romeo2

Really looking forward to it - not least because I am going to it as a reviewer for the website '
Get Into This.' Hoping it will be the first of a few. Sod's Law though with the way things are going with CV19 that there may not be too many gigs about for a while. Who knows? I just gotta go with the flow.

Numbers1

It'll be interesting to write a review too. I've done them before but - well you know - it's been a while. Reviews sit somewhere between factual report writing and fiction. In so much as whilst it is a factual report you can throw in verbs and adverbs and plenty of feeling. And at a length of between 250 and 500 words it sits right in the comfort zone of us Flash Fiction writers. If music be the food of love and all that jazz.

In the meantime, if you're interested in music, gigs, dance and the arts then check out:
'Get Into This'
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