Category Archives: Uncategorized

Flash Fantasy part Six : Non epic tales of other worlds.

Standing stones

This time, when the Norsemen retreated, the occupants of the village took some time before attempting to return to a normal life. The battered gates had to be repaired. The scorched sections of the perimeter wall needed assessing. The village Elders had a vigorous debate with the younger men about the tactics of keeping the Vikings out.

Some of the women, frustrated by weeks of siege and too much helpful advice from their own elders, set out to forage in the woods. It was they who found the boy.

Younger than ten years, with piercing blue eyes, he was dressed in rough fabric, clean enough but well-worn. He said nothing, but seemed to understand their language. He was uninjured, but his throat bore scars that were old, as if he had worn a collar or chain for many years. There was no debate among them – clearly, the boy must come with them to the village.

Upon his arrival and presentation to the Elders, all work stopped. Everyone had an opinion about the boy and what should be done with him. The boy himself sat cross-legged in front of the women who had found him, listening to everything, but saying nothing.

Finally, the only woman on the Elders’ Council pronounced that he must stay. She well remembered old tales of great heroes placed as children by the gods near those in need. No doubt this child, nurtured and protected by the village, would prove to be the village’s protector in time.

“All will care for him, feed him, teach him.” she said. “For it will take a village to raise this child.”

For all that he never spoke a word, the boy was bright, attentive ad charming. He was welcome in every home, sharing each meal of the day with a different family. He spent time at the blacksmith’s forge, strung the loom of the Weaver, sorted staves for the Cooper. He was good with the horses and calmed fractious babies without a sound.

One month after arriving in the village, when the moon had waned and the night was dark, the boy slipped from the house where he should be sleeping and lit a torch from the embers of the fire. He wound through the sleeping village, stroking his torch along the edge of every thatch. By the time the villagers were alerted to their danger, the fire was everywhere. Nothing could be done, but to run out of the gates of the village, lit from behind by the glow of their own burning homes. That same hellish light gleamed back at them from the waiting swords of the Norsemen.

Sometimes, it takes a child to raze a village.

 

It’s been nearly a month since I’ve posted anything here. At first I was just holding off until the excellent Chester Theatre Club had completed their run of “Merely Players

But then they got hit by the flu, and then I had family members in recovery too, Spring Break,

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and a birthday (not mine!)

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Plus, of course, the World’s Second Longest Bathroom Reno*.

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So, this is me, posting to say I have nothing to post, but life goes on…. and another Star Wars Helmet marches towards completion.

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*My friend Rob holds the title. For now.

How Learning to Juggle can make you a more successful novellist.

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  1. It can’t. Sorry.
  2. No, really. It’s a huge waste of your time and effort.

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3. Fine, look, it’s just an analogy. Juggling looks very difficult, but it can be learned progressively IF you are willing to put in the time and practice.

4. Some people take to it quickly, and others will find the basics a slog, but once you pass a certain level, then it’s no longer about innate talent, but your willingness to keep working and improving.

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5. Some people will crack a simple 3-ball cascade (above) and be happy. Others will go on beyond a 4-ball Mills’ Mess, and some will wonder how long it would take to break a few world records. People are different, and so are their goals. Don’t compare yourself to other jugglers unless you’re sure you share the same goal.

mills mess

So there you have it: Juggling might make a handy analogy, but it won’t make you a more successful novellist. It WILL make you more attractive to women.*

 

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*This is completely untrue. Sorry.

New From Lazy Bee Scripts in Feb 2016

February has been a bumper month for publications by Lazy Bee – at least, publication of sketches and plays that I’ve had a hand in. I’ll be publishing the regular Lazy Bee Newsletter later this month, but first I wanted to highlight the new sketches and plays available from TLC Creative. (Click on a title to read the script!)

The Land Army

During a routine inspection of a squad of Land Army girls, the visiting officer has some suspicions that all is not what it seems…

Behavioural Problems

Returning from his suspension from school, Thompson is keen to show his Headmaster just how much he has improved.

Cowboy

A rather unconventional super hero vigilante stops a mugger.

The Greatest Invention in History

A scientist about to reveal his world-changing invention has a number of unexpected interrupting visitors.

Catapult

Two medieval peasants try out a new, quick, cheap form of transport.

The Source of Denial

Struggling to write a ‘proper’ play after years of comedies, a writer uses his favourite character to explore faith, proof and truth, only to end up learning more about himself than he expected.

 

All these scripts are available to read or purchase NOW from Lazy Bee Scripts!

Flat refusal

Eratosthenes

This is Eratosthenes. He was a librarian. Well, to be precise, he was the Head Librarian for the Library of Alexandria, one of the most famous libraries in history. That’s not generally what he’s remembered for, though (when he’s remembered at all…)

Born in 276BC, Eratosthenes was something of a polymath. He studied Stoicism under its founder, Zeno of Citium, then became a student of Ariston, who was a Cynic. He also spent time in the Platonic Academy, under Arcesilaus. He wrote poetry and historical works, and he performed some incredible mathematic calculations, most notably the circumference and axial tilt of the Earth.

How did he discover these things? Well, the explanation of the calculation of the circumference is the more relevant for today, and I can barely understand it myself. Essentially, he knew that the sun would be directly above the Egyptian city of Swenet (now Aswan) at noon on the Summer Solstice. He measured the sun’s elevation in Alexandria on the same day at the same time and found it to be 1/50th of a circle (7°12′) south of the zenith. Knowing the distance between the two physical locations, he could calculate the arc (the curved portion of the Earth’s surface), and assuming that the Earth was a sphere, he knew what percentage of the circumference was represented by that distance. The rest is a matter of either multiplication or division, depending on your choice.

Why does this matter? Because it happened 200 years before our new calendar started, a calendar that is now at 2016 years. And we have this bozo:

Bob twat

My last-but-one play came back from my publisher this week with a few pertinent notes on it. One of them was pulling me up for a character saying “People used to believe that the Earth was flat”. My publisher pointed out that the impression given was that it was the majority view for thousands of years before being disproved relatively recently – say during the Renaissance. But Eratosthenes knew enough to perform his experiment while there was still a library in Alexandria, and today we have people mooching about who seem determined to burn that library all over again.

Should we question established wisdom? Certainly. But we are the latest in a long line of thinking people. The information is there, preserved in the libraries of centuries, and now more available than ever before. B.o.B. saw something that didn’t match up with what he had learned in school, but he didn’t go and look for the answers. He Tweeted a petulant question, and when people lined up to educate him, he doubled down on his ignorant stance, preferring to believe that he was a rebel against misinformation, a voice in the wilderness, instead of simply wrong.

Which reminded me of this:

Evidence

What if you do it all properly?

Writing the novel is not enough, say the experts. You have to get it edited properly, and actually DO the suggested rewrites. You have to get the formatting right, and you should really pay good money for decent cover art. These things, those experts say, are the foundation of a good novel.

Of course, the story itself needs to be the very best it can be, the most exciting, interesting, gripping, real-character-filled rollercoaster of a story ever. That goes almost without saying.

But say, just for the sake of argument, that you have all that.

Do you get to hit the big time?

Many people say yes. They say you get the right combination of brilliant product, and the good reviews, and the word of mouth, and the celebrity endorsement, and the world is your mollusc.

Which is why I want to know why you, out there, are not buying everything written by S.A. Hunt.

(Well, not you, the person over there. I understand, you only read Harlequins, and the guy off to the left who sticks to non-fiction… That’s fine. You guys take a break while the rest of us chat, ok?)

S.A. Hunt has done everything right. He wrote a great book, The Whirlwind in the Thorn Tree, and while he was still putting it together he was engaging with people on Social Media. I remember him posting some possible covers for the book. He’s done promotions and giveaways and had beta readers and discussions and he’s done guest posts on blogs. Better still, he wrote the second and third books in the series that begins with “The Whirlwind in the Thorn Tree”, known as “The Outlaw King” series. I took advantage of a promotion that got me both the first and second books for a reduced price, and I went ahead and bought the third at regular price because I was so caught up in the story. I’m eagerly awaiting the fourth installment right now, because Mr Hunt doesn’t stand still – he’s started another series in a different genre with “Malus Domestica”. Intrigued by the amazing artwork on the cover, and knowing I already liked his style, I bought this book too and read it over three nights.

S.A. Hunt is doing everything right – he even has an agent. But he hasn’t been featured on Oprah’s book club, or made it onto the New York Times bestseller lists. Why not?

I honestly don’t know. My guess is that it’s only a matter of time, which is an object lesson for any authors out there who have thrown their heart and soul into their first book and are waiting for the gravy train to pull into the station, but just imagine what it’s like for S.A. Hunt himself, as he works on Outlaw King book 4 and Malus Domestica 2.

The next time you’re talking to someone about books or reading, mention S.A.Hunt. Wouldn’t it be great to be able to say you were part of the reason he made it to the top?

How much would you pay for “Free”?

Free

Yesterday a friend and I were discussing audio books. I told her about my membership of Audible.com.

“It costs about $14 a month, but you get a free audio book for that…” As I said this, I thought “Well, duh, it’s not FREE, is it? Because I’m paying fourteen bucks for it….”

Free is a big deal these days. My kids want free music. People try to justify streaming pirated material for free, rather than paying for content someone has paid to make. We got rid of our cable because we objected to paying a huge monthly fee when we only watched a fraction of what was on offer. Now we have a Netflix account and can pick and choose what we watch, and when we watch.

It’s like the “On Demand” service our old cable provider used to have, but because we don’t pay for each movie, it feels “free”. It’s not, of course, but the monthly payment is much smaller than our old cable bill, and you don’t get reminded about it every time you choose a movie.

Once I started thinking about what I pay for free stuff, I started thinking about Windows 10 and Google Plus. Both of these are things I use every day. Both were given away free, but with the unspoken agreement that they would harvest data from my usage and use that to generate income for the parent company. In the case of Google, that didn’t bother me so much. Let’s face it, we all enter search queries into Google around twenty times a day, telling their algorithms more than enough about our lives and habits in return for speedy information. So, yes, Google can learn a lot about me from the articles I read and forward to friends, the comments I leave on posts and the links I post for other people to see. In return I get another platform to promote my blog, my e-books, my plays, the Appraisal Service… The things that earn ME money.

You may remember, I was less sanguine about Microsoft collecting data through Windows 10, but I’m wondering about that now. Looking at buying a new computer, I had to get a price for a new copy of Windows, and I realised that I saved over $100 with the upgrade. Yes, the data collection is a little sinister, and I don’t like the way we are given options to turn some of it off, but not all, and those options may be subtly turned back on again with updates and so on, but the software works. It powers my PC, which I use to write my blog, my e-books, my plays and the appraisals. Isn’t it a fair exchange?

The last aspect of free is the free offer. Famously, E.L. James posted early drafts of “Fifty Shades of Grey” on Twilight fan-fiction sites, before changing the names and publishing as an e-book. That free posting generated a readership that created the buzz that saw the novel rocket up the sales charts. The same can be said of “The Martian”, posted episodically on a blog as the author explored the story and checked his science, then was encouraged to publish as a complete e-book.

But fellow authors I’ve spoken to on G+ have their doubts about the free giveaway. Some have experienced great success with the giveaway and few follow-up sales. Some, like me, have had only modest results with the giveaway itself. My friend at the library ultimately wasn’t swayed by my description of Audible, and decided to stick with getting her audio books from the library.

“I love the free”, she said. I think she’s right.

People love the free.

 

Because this is all about the free, because it’s nearly Christmas, and because I haven’t done it for a few months, here’s a free book for everyone – Troubled Souls is free on Amazon .com and Amazon.co.uk. It’s a (recently expanded) collection of short, dark stories, with the opening chapter (FREE opening chapter!) of my zombie apocalypse novella “Eddie and the Kingdom”.