Tag Archives: Damian Trasler

An (upgraded) open letter to Microsoft

Microsoft wait times

Dear Microsoft,

You may recall my last open letter to you – more likely, you don’t. I never received any form of response. Unless, of course, the hasty cancellation of Windows 9/Blue was due entirely to my heartfelt plea to return control of the computer to the User, rather than making it simply a tool for you to impose your will upon? Thought not.

I came to grips with Windows 8.1 in the end, you know, making it do as much as 7 used to. Most of my peripherals adapted or died off, and I found a way to view all the files I had stored. And when Windows 10 was announced, I was actually quite enthusiastic about the chances of interacting with Cortana, with having a PC platform that might, perhaps, make the experience of owning a Windows phone more enjoyable, or convenient. Sure, I worried a little that some of my programs (not apps, please) might not run well, but I figured I could adapt enough to counter your intransigence.

There was a long wait, here in my part of British Columbia. I watched friends around the world downloading and installing, and heard various shrieks of horror or hums of approval. I still wasn’t discouraged, and when I finally got the nod (well, strictly speaking, I never ACTUALLY received notification that I could start the download – I did one of my daily checks and found it was ready…) I hit the install button with hardly a qualm.

The installation took a while, but that was no surprise. I wangled my way through the menus, selecting and unselecting, reminding you again and again that you collecting my data was a choice I should be making, not one you make for me. Targeted advertising is not a benefit for me, you understand, it’s a benefit for the advertiser. I know I haven’t caught all the permissions. I know there are a bunch hidden away that allow you to do all kinds of data harvesting, and I know this because if there weren’t you would have put them all in one convenient place, instead of scattering them through settings and setup and a bunch of other places. Microsoft, you have become a politician, lying by omission and presenting a false face. That’s pretty bad, in case you hadn’t noticed.

Anyway, Windows 10 works. I still have all my old emails, still have my old calendar, can still find my photos, my documents. All the programs I use on a daily basis seem to work just fine. Except for one tiny, tiny thing.

When I go to save a file, the computer tells me I don;t have permission. because every day, when I turn on the computer, ALL THE FOLDERS have their permissions reset to “Read only”. Every single one. I know this because every single day I have to reset the permissions on any folder I want to use. I am the only registered user on the computer. I am, as far as I can tell, The Administrator. But every day Windows locks me out of my own folders. Why?

Well, Microsoft, that’s a good question. It’s a question I’d like to ask you. Today I went back through your “Contact me” page for the hundredth time. Look, I get it. You’re just rolling out the biggest software upgrade in History. You’re trying to help everyone get on board with Windows 10 and you’d really like to weed out the ones who just want to change their lock screen back to their photo of Miggsy the Hamster, or the ones who can’t find their passwords anymore and so on. I understand why I keep getting booted back to the same FAQ screen, but I really, really want an answer to this because it is making my working day HARDER. I have upgraded the software and it is making my work more difficult. This is not how it should go.

I have used Windows for a long time, and I am barely more than competent. I CAN change these permissions to use the folders. I know where to go to do that. I don’t know where to go to stop your upgraded OS from changing them back again. I don’t know why it’s doing it, I don’t know why it started, whether it will stop, or who can help me if you won’t. Unfortunately, I don’t ave 336 minutes to sit here and wait for your poor chat line operator to tell me he doesn’t know why that’s happening either.

I’m not giving up. I’ll keep looking for a solution, and looking for a way to contact you that will actually result in contact. If you could be ready with an answer for me, that would be cool.

Oh, and it would be nice if I’d known ahead of time that Cortana would NOT be available to Canada until some-undisclosed-time-in-the-future. It would definitely have affected my decision to go ahead with the install this early. I realised we’re not as technologically advanced as the Spanish or French here in BC, and our accents can make us tricky to understand. I just wonder if the folks in the Microsoft building downtown in Vancouver have Cortana as part of their Windows 10?

Anyway, thanks for your time. I’m sure you’ll read this when you’re sifting through my drafts folder for information to sell to advertisers.

D

Hey Amazon! Let’s make something NEW!

The new cover for the new edition - same photo, new subheading.

The new cover for the new edition – same photo, new subheading.

E-publishing will kill REAL books!

Real books will never die!

The arguments have been raging about e-books since they first became a thing, way back in 19-I-can’t-be-bothered-to-look-it-up. So far, I think we can agree, real books have survived, and e-books like “50 shades” and “The Martian” have become real books and vice versa. (Sidebar: Now wondering about the viability of a “Fifty Shades of Red: Survival and sex on Mars” blockbuster series… Studio Heads, you have my phone number – it’s on that restraining order.)

Anyway, it’s become clear to me that e-books are not pushing their best features. Why should they just be regular books but on tablets? Yes, I can take fifty books on holiday in a pocket-sized device (I have big pockets), but that’s only one advantage. E-books can do full colour photos at no extra cost. They can include sound clips, video clips and other multi-media hyperlinks. These are all cool, but they feel like gimmicks.

Last week I looked at one of my early publications: “Troubled Souls“. It was supposed to be a collection of short fiction, but because one of the stories got away from me and mutated into a novella, it ended up as only three stories and the opening chapters of the novella. Neat, but not great value for money, even at the low price I set. I’ve written other stories in the intervening time, and I realised that some fit the Troubled Souls profile. I updated the file and uploaded it, then notified Amazon that I wanted to roll out the changes to people who had already paid for the book. They weren’t too sure about that. Here’s what they said:

“Because customers may lose their highlights, bookmarks, and notes when they download updates, we only send out updated content to correct serious readability issues, like overlapping text or cutoff images.

 If your updates fit the criteria above, please provide details and specific examples (including location numbers) of the content updates. Then, we’ll review the changes to make sure the readability issues have been corrected, and then we’ll take one of these three actions:

 Corrections to distracting errors. If we find only minor corrections, we won’t notify customers by e-mail, but we’ll activate their ability to update the content through the “Manage Your Content and Devices” page on Amazon.com.

 Corrections to destructive or critical errors. If we find major corrections, we’ll alert the customers who already own your book via email. These customers have the option to use the “Manage Your Content and Devices” page on Amazon.com to receive your book updates.

 Corrections to critical errors needed. If we find more major corrections are needed, we will temporarily remove your book from sale. We’ll notify you of the issues we found so you can fix them. Once the improvements are made, just let us know and we’ll email customers just like we do for major corrections.”

But I’m not correcting an error – I’m adding content! I want to give my readers more, at no extra cost. Ok, so this may not look great from the point of view of Amazon’s business model, but think about it. Imagine you saw a collection of short stories for sale, and you knew that buying this one book would allow you to receive MORE stories for FREE as the author wrote them. A collection that grows over time. Amazon already allows subscriptions for e-magazines, like the excellent E-fiction series, so what’s the difference here?

I guess it’s that users have to approve an update to data they’re storing locally, but this is a big issue for me. I want to add content to “My Cosplay Disasters” too, but I don’t want to have to go to the trouble of personally contacting the three people who have bought it and sending them the new file. This should be an automated process.

So come on, Amazon, let’s make a new thing, a book that gets bigger with time, a book that adds new content without further purchases. It’s possible, and it’s unique to e-books. It’s something they can do that no other form of publishing can. Let’s do it.

I dare you.

The updated “Troubled Souls” is available now. The un-updated “My Cosplay Disasters ” is also available now, to be updated later with fresh disasters.

EDIT: Twenty four hours later…

I received an email from Amazon KDP:

Hello,

I’m following up on your feedback on the recent response received from our Kindle Direct Publishing team.

Thanks for your feedback about notifying the existing customers of a book about the updates made to its content file. Though we currently don’t have this option, the customers can always contact our customer service team via the below links and get the updated content file for free.

To contact our customer service department via phone: http://www.amazon.com/clicktocall

To contact our customer service department via chat: http://www.amazon.com/clicktochat

Meanwhile, what I can do for you right now is, I’ll take your concern as feature request and communicate the same to our business team for consideration as we plan future improvements.

I’m unable to promise a timeframe at this time, however, we are still evolving and feedback like yours motivate us to dive deep and unearth ways and means which helps us in making publishing on KDP a happy experience.

Please be sure to check our forums periodically for updates:

https://kdp.amazon.com/community

Thanks for your understanding and support. We look forward to having to providing continued support to you.”

Not bad, Amazon, not bad.

E-book writing software: Sigil

This was the page that showed I had some problems with the first draft of the text...

This was the page that showed I had some problems with the first draft of the text…

E-books aren’t generally complicated things. You can bash them out in almost any word processing program, then just save them as html files. Then you upload them to your chosen platform, where you may need to jump through a few hoops to conform to their formatting requirements.

Certainly, you CAN make things more interesting by including hyperlinks and styles, then an active table of contents or index to help your reader jump back and forth through the book, but even so, a few clicks in Word can fix those things up for you.

If you’re an intermediate computer user (someone who doesn’t look for the “any” key, can reboot a router and prevent a download adding Macafee to your desktop) then you should be able to sort out those features with some experimentation and consultation with Google search.

Great Canadian cover

But what if your book contains a lot of illustrations? Working in Word can be problematic. For my e-book “The Great Canadian Adventure“, I used Serif PagePlus 6, a  desktop publishing program that claimed to have some special features exclusively for e-book production. While the process worked, it was a steep learning curve with several restarts and not a lot of guidance.

Available NOW at Amazon!

Available NOW at Amazon!

This time around, for “My Cosplay Disasters“, I wanted things to go a little smoother. However, only thirteen pages in, I was running into all kinds of formatting errors that I couldn’t fix.

Then my friends Amy Knepper and Lisa Cohen told me about Sigil, an e-book editing program that allows you to edit text or or html  code direct, and it will build the table of contents for you.

Amy kindly reformatted the pages I had already completed, which gave me a template for the rest of the book. Lisa lent her personal preference for the CSS.

To check that the pages I was producing were formatting properly, I would periodically save the file and export it to another program, a desktop e-reader called “Freda” to check how things looked. This helped me spot when things went wrong, as well as the more mundane issues like typos and spelling mistakes.

When I had completed the book, I tried uploading it to Amazon’s KDP program, but I was told the file contained a broken link. I went back and manually checked all the hyperlinks I had included, as well as the table of contents itself. Having no luck there, I was getting frustrated, but then tried the “preflight” check facility within Sigil itself. That found a whole bunch of “invisible” links, where I had inserted pictures, but the files had fallen out of the book somehow – in the code, there were still links to pictures that weren’t there.

Like any new program, it took some mucking about to understand exactly what I was doing, but by saving a few different versions, I ensured I was never more than one re-load away from a working copy, no matter what changes I made. Putting together “My Cosplay Disasters” didn’t take nearly as long as I thought it would, and there were considerably fewer re-starts than with PagePlus.

When I’m producing “Murder in the Kingdom”, the second “Eddie and the Kingdom” book, I’ll do it all in Word again, because it’s entirely text and simple enough to throw together. But later this year there’ll be an update to “My Cosplay Disasters” when I add in the saga of constructing my very own Stormtrooper Helmet.

WP_20150702_011

Free e-book this week!

Yes, this book is FREE on Amazon all this week.

Yes, this book is FREE on Amazon all this week.

To celebrate…. well, nothing at all, sorry, it’s just because I can…. I’m setting “Troubled Souls” as a free e-book for the whole of this week. Starting today, Feb 23rd (Happy Birthday Ronnie!) you can get this book for nothing. Nothing to pay now, nothing to pay later. It’s a good deal, because you also get the first chapter of “Eddie and the Kingdom” free inside this book. It’s a meta-bargain. Especially considering that the sequel to Eddie and the Kingdom, “Murder in the Kingdom”, is due out in a couple of months.

 

Hmm. Maybe I should do something about that. Like write it, or something.

 

Anyway, THIS book is free, you can get it here:

Amazon US: http://amzn.to/TroubledSouls
Amazon UK: http://amzn.to/TroubledSoulsUK

If you enjoy it, or even if you don’t, please leave a review on Amazon. Or Goodreads. Or the local newspaper. Or on a plaque attached to the side of deep-space probe, if you feel alien life needs to be warned.

Outrage of an angel

Traffic

It was kind of a crazy coincidence that I saw her at all. Daytime tv is something of a mystery to me most of the time, but the night before I had taken a hard tumble at a softball game and my ankle was swollen and angry. The Doc had said to keep it elevated and use cold packs from time to time, and I had told my boss (who happened to be waiting for his turn to bat) that I wouldn’t be in the next day.

I’d made a comfortable nest on my couch with drinks and snacks within reach, but that meant I wasn’t in a hurry to get up when the dvd I’d been watching came to an end. I switched off the dvd player and the tv leapt back into life with some moronic mid-morning talk show.

The hostess was a plasticated Barbie Doll who had to keep saying “That’s sad” or “That’s so funny” because her botoxed features couldn’t form the relevant expressions. She rounded off her chat with a comedienne who was promoting her latest movie and turned to the camera. She lowered her tone to indicate this was a serious segment.

“We’ve all experienced them.” She said, her painted eyes solemn and unmoving. “Those moments of desperation and despair when we feel we simply CANNOT go on. Those are the times when we cry out to a higher power for help, and sometimes…”

The camera cut to the audience, entranced and a little fearful, then back to the host.

“Sometimes… those prayers are answered in a truly physical way!”

I snorted and began to root around under the debris of chip packets and candy wrappers to find the tv remote so I could change channels.

“For our next guest, her moment of despair came during a dark and snowy winter’s night on the I-99. Her car had died, and she and her baby daughter had no phone with them. They were miles from the nearest house, and neither of them had clothing that would keep out the bitter cold.”

Now, I drive the I-99 every day. I would have been driving it that day too, if not for my ankle. The truth is that you’re never more than a mile from a house the whole length of the road, but I did remember it getting pretty snowy last winter. I stopped searching for the remote and watched the host introduce her guest. The slight blonde woman looked nervous, in sharp contrast to the comedienne who had been on earlier. The host established that the baby girl was safe at home that day, and then invited the mother to explain the course of events as they unfolded in the snow.

“The car was toast.” said the woman, “The engine shut off and there was smoke coming out under the front there. Casey and I were warm enough inside, but without the engine running I knew it would get cold pretty fast. I put the emergency flashers on and the other cars were just driving past me.”

“No one stopped?” asked the host, trying to twist face into a mask of concern.

“No one stopped. And I had no phone because it had run out of charge. I was feeling pretty desperate.”

The host nodded sympathetically.

“That must have been so scary. And what happened next?”

“Yeah,” I asked the tv, “What happened next? Did you die of exposure?”

The woman had taken a moment to compose herself, but her eyes were glittering when she looked up again.

“I just looked out the windscreen and I saw this figure walking towards me. They didn’t seem bothered by the wind or the snow and they were carrying something.”

“Were you scared?” asked the host.

“I don’t think so.” said the woman, “I mean, I had been scared, but I think I started to calm down almost as soon as I saw him coming.”

The camera cut to the audience again, some of them smiling, some nodding encouragement. Back to the host.

“Just seeing him brought you a feeling of calm, of security?”

The woman was nodding herself.

“And he just came straight up to the front of my truck and waved at me to pop the hood. I don’t know what he did, but in no time at all he slammed the hood down and I could start the engine again!”

The host leaned forward again.

“You said the mysterious figure seemed to be carrying something. Was it a toolbox? A bag of wrenches?”

The woman shook her head.

“No it was something smaller, like a flask or a bottle.”

The host turned to face the audience.

“So he fixed a dead engine with no tools. He appeared just when you needed help, even though you didn’t call anyone. And when he had fixed the truck? What happened then?”

The woman shrugged.

“I was just so relieved, I started crying. With the engine going again I made sure Casey was safe in her car seat, and I put my seat belt back on too. Then I looked out of the windscreen again, and he was gone.”

“He disappeared?” the host whispered.

“Like he’d never been there. Except my truck was running and Casey and I were home safe ten minutes later.”

The host probably said something, but I missed it. There was a hollow roaring in my ears, and I was struggling to close my mouth. It had been hanging open for the last five minutes, from the moment I recognised the woman’s story. While I struggled to get control of my head, the host set up the line that finished me off.

“So, tell us, do you know who the mysterious stranger was who helped you that night?”

The woman nodded and faced the audience for the first time.

“I believe I do. I think he was an angel. He answered my prayers, and he saved my life and the life of my baby!”

This bizarre pronouncement was met with whoops and cheers and a storm of applause. It was also met with rustling and curses as I finally unearthed the remote and snapped off the tv. I’ve been called a lot of things in my life. Some of them were complimentary too. But I’ve never been called an angel.

I’d been driving home slowly, cursing the snow that was making a regular journey into a slow motion epic, when I passed a truck in the inside lane, flashers on and steam still erupting from under the hood. I didn’t need all the time I spent working on my uncle’s old truck to know that the radiator had blown its cap. I had a big water bottle on the passenger side, relic of a rained off softball game. There wasn’t space on the shoulder until I’d crested the hill and the truck was out of sight. I parked up and grabbed the bottle of water, then pushed out into the night.

It was cold, and the wind pushed the snow right into my face and down the back of my neck. It took at least five minutes to reach the truck, and I waved at the woman to pop the hood without wasting time going to her window to talk to her. I mean, I knew what was wrong, knew I could help, so why waste time yakking? She’d probably feel more threatened by a stranger approaching her window anyway. Besides, I was already half-frozen, so I wanted to get this over with.

The hood was still hot to the touch from the gout of boiling water that had hit it, but the radiator cap hadn’t fallen out of the engine compartment. Huddling in under the hood kept the worst of the wind and snow at bay, and I was able to absorb some of the heat streaming off the engine. I dumped the contents of the bottle into the radiator, and the fact that there was only a minimal hiss told me that things had cooled off sufficiently. With a couple of minutes to get the whole bottle in and re-seat the cap, I figured the engine would be good to go. I slammed the hood and made twisting motions with my wrist. She got the idea and the engine started up. The water I’d put in should hold long enough to get her wherever she was going, and if she had any sense she’d get the damn truck checked over by a mechanic ASAP. Now the cold was getting to me again, so I didn’t hang around for tea and medals, just ran back over the hill to the warm sanctuary of my car. I was home inside ten minutes too.

Having a duff ankle meant I couldn’t stomp around my living room, kicking the furniture, but that was certainly what I wanted to do. I picked up the phone, determined to call the studios, get through to the stupid host and tell the truth about what happened that night, but I stopped, and not just because I didn’t know the number.

What did it matter? Well, to me, it shouldn’t matter at all. Had I not seen the stupid show, I would have gone on my merry way, neither knowing nor caring that someone viewed my amateur mechanic moment as heavenly intervention. Did it matter to that woman? Since I’d shut off the program, I couldn’t be sure. What I hoped was that this experience had encouraged her to do a basic car maintenance course, to prepare better for inclement weather, maybe even just check the damn weather forecast once in a while. But I think what was making me angry was that she probably wouldn’t. My miraculous appearance was confirmation that the helpless have a divine protector, and they never need to take care of themselves. Well, I would have been sorry to hear that little miss meek there had frozen to death in her truck that night, but her kid… For god’s sake, she had her kid with her. Casey ought to grow up knowing her parent can stand up for her, not expect them to stand by and hope for rescue.

In the end, I put the phone down. Call me a cynic, but I had more than a little suspicion that if I had got through to the host herself, she would have assured me that, yes, I was the one who helped, but my decision to stop and help was prompted by another angel, one I couldn’t see. And little miss meek would go on believing that the universe will care for her regardless.

I limped into the kitchen. I needed a cold pack for my ankle, and you know what? No one was going to appear mysteriously and bring it through to me. I sat back down, the cold seeping into my ankle and bringing a measure of calm with the reduction in pain. Maybe I would just print up some cards for the next time I rescue a damsel in distress:

“This aid has been brought to you by an entirely earthly entity, unbidden by any ethereal figures, visible or invisible.”

Flash Fantasy No 4: Non-Epic tales of other lands

Jepeth's people believed that dressing in bright colours prevented a dragon noticing you. Jepeth's people fared badly in matters of common sense. And they had never won a pub quiz.

Japeth’s people believed that dressing in bright colours prevented a dragon noticing you. Japeth’s people fared badly in matters of common sense. And they had never won a pub quiz.

The whole of the Mynrii Valley stretched out before Japeth, a child’s patchwork blanket, rumpled but still scattered with toy farms and houses. At the North end of the valley grew the foothills of the Gormir mountains, twin ranges to the edifices that Japeth was resting on. The difference was that the Gormir mountains held the Dragonryder academy, and the bustling trade and government centre that flourished thanks to the ease of transport a-dragonback. Messages or cargo could be flown across the land faster than the fleetest vessel on the seas, and they could reach a mountain stronghold as easily as a lowland farm.

Japeth tore his gaze away and turned back to the goat-track that he had been following for the last three hours. It was easier to find now the sun was above the horizon, but that meant he had less time to achieve his goal. He must reach the caves before noon. The urgency wasn’t just down to his impatience. There was no academy on these mountains, the grim and forbidding Hagomir Peaks. No government centre would be built here, for this range held the breeding colonies for the giant beasts themselves. Breeding dragons in captivity had never succeeded, so each year a group of specially trained boys would leave the academy and make the hazardous climb up the Hagomir peaks. If they had studied hard and proved themselves worthy, they would join with a young dragon and begin a new life as dragonryders. If they failed…Well, then they would be missed by their mothers, Japeth supposed. His own mother hadn’t even noticed he was gone, he was certain. Mareth had seven children, with Japeth buried in the middle so firmly that they had three times missed his birthday, and once given his prized hide jacket to a cousin, believing it to belong to an older brother who had outgrown it.

“They’ll see,” muttered Japeth, as his second-hand boots clung to the goat-trail and his hands grabbed at craw-grass to aid his uphill climb, “they’ll remember my name when I fly down out of the sun on my own dragon and burn the damn barn to cinders!”

Brindmir, Japeth’s younger sister, had learned of his plan and tried to talk him out of it. Though he loved her best of all his siblings, Japeth had become enraged when Brindmir would not accept that he stood a chance of taming a wild dragon.

“It’s my destiny!” he had shouted, and heard the echo rebound from the mountains beyond their farm. Surely that was a sign? Brindmir had crossed her arms and wrinkled her nose in a pose that looked so much like their mother he had felt momentarily ashamed of himself. She sniffed and he scowled.

“What do they learn, those boys up at the academy? What’s the first thing they learn when they arrive at that place?”

Japeth shrugged.

“Well, I dunno, do I? Never been.”

“So there you have it Japeth! You don’t know THE FIRST THING about taming a dragon. It’s foolishness.”

And she had flounced away. Maybe if she had called him stupid, he might have reconsidered. But “foolishness” was a word their mother used all too often in connection with the things that Japeth loved, and to hear it from his sister goaded him beyond reason. He had gone straight to the kitchen and packed some provisions for his climb, then begun the ascent in the darkness before dawn, trusting his uncanny night vision to keep from tumbling down the mountainside to his doom.

Drenched in sweat, he reached the first of the den-caves when the sun was still around an hour from its zenith. He plunged without hesitation into the nearest den, barely noticing the cooling of his damp shirt as he stepped out of the sunshine. He closed his eyes and counted to ten, restoring the night vision he would need because he hadn’t thought to bring a light with him.

The cave was narrow near the opening, though still reaching to more than twice his height. The edges of the opening had been scoured smooth by generations of dragonhide pushing past. Tiny bones clicked and cracked under Japeth’s feet, regurgitated remains of meals long past. The air was cooler than outside, but there was a warmth to it that put Japeth in mind of the stables at home – the air had already been breathed once or twice by larger lungs than his. A dry rustling sounded from ahead, just around a curve in the cave wall, and Japeth hurried forward eagerly. His destiny was so close now! The final answer to all those indignities and injustices! He would show them all!

The dragon was still sitting in the remains of its egg, though it looked to have hatched several months ago. Already ten feet from nose to tail, the scales had hardened enough to scrape sparks from the floor when it lurched forward towards Japeth. He stopped as if running into a wall, and the dragon pulled up too. It cocked its head quizzically at him, as if trying to understand why he was there, and who he was.

For the first time, Japeth began to appreciate the scale of a dragon. Not the hide, but the size in relation to himself. He had seen dozens, but always wheeling and circling overhead. He’d never actually seen one up close. This one was huge, each tooth the length of his hands, and with a jaw wide enough to fit in his whole head! The nostrils flared and contracted, and Japeth felt the air around him drawn in to the mighty head. It was sniffing him!

He couldn’t help feeling a flicker of hope. This was it! This was the moment when the dragon would recognise him, when it and he would join together for life… Wasn’t it? Japeth was suddenly acutely aware that he didn’t actually, when you got right down to it, know how that actually happened. Was it really a mystical thing, or was it more like old Barker at home, training the dogs to obey by feeding them treats at the right time? Should he, perhaps, have brought some kind of treat for the dragon?

A silvery tongue was flickering in and out of the huge mouth now, weaving amongst the fangs like a sentient thing. One clawed foot rose, wavered, and came down again, closer to Japeth. A second rose…The thing was coming towards him! This was, clearly, a very, very bad idea…..But Japeth could not bring himself to turn his back on the dragon. He tried to take a hesitant step backwards, but his feet would not move.

Then, miraculously, the dragon ahead of him stopped moving forward! It lowered its head, laying one cheek on the floor. This was a sign of submission! Japeth was elated, his dreams were coming true at last. The dragon was submitting to him as its master. But his cowardly feet would no more move forward than they would retreat before. And there was a new sound, he realised. A heavy, crunching sound that…was…coming…from…behind…him.

He didn’t need to turn. The great head of the mother dragon slid silently across the roof of the cave above him. It was to this presence that the young dragon had been submitting. The mother made a deep booming noise in her throat and the young dragon gave a surprisingly light chirrup in response, rolling back to its feet and reaching up its long neck to caress the huge jawbone of the mother with its own headcrest. When the crashing noise of their greeting was done, both heads swung to look at Japeth.

“That moment,” he thought, “just then when they were looking at each other. That was when I should have made a dash for the way out.” The heads slid towards him as if on rails and his terror finally communicated itself to his feet who moved at last but too slowly…

The mother watched her child feeding with pride. It wasn’t often that food delivered itself to the mountain. She couldn’t help feeling there was something special about this one.

The Flash Fantasy Project 3: non-epic tales of other lands

mega castle part two

Brin stepped out into the light at last. Here, in the one area of the hall where sunlight fell, no one could miss him. His mane of golden hair seemed to blaze in the last rays of daylight and he towered over the nearest goblins.

They shrank back, hissing, as they recognised their master’s mortal foe. Grimnok himself, however, seemed unsurprised by Brin’s appearance.

“Ah, Brin. The Chosen One himself honours us with his presence.”

Grimnok’s eyes flickered over the dark corners of his hall, and the cowering ranks of goblins.

“If we’d known you were coming, we might have made more of an effort.”

Brin stood tall in the face of the dark one’s sarcasm.

“You don’t scare me anymore, Grimnok. I’ve read the prophecy, and I know what it means. You can’t kill me, and if you can’t kill me then this war is over. No one else needs to die. I’ve come here to prevent any more bloodshed. It’s over. Get out, and leave Nimeria in peace!”

Grimnok stroked his thin beard as he looked at Brin. The boy had grown in his time with the Wizards of Nimeria, there was no denying it. And he had found out the truth of the prophecy. It was possible that this changed things, that his plan to crush the Nimerian resistance forever was, in fact, doomed to fail.

“Well Brin, I’m glad you read the prophecy. Reading is good for you, it broadens the mind. And it’s true, the Sage did foresee that the Wizard’s meddling spells would prevent me from killing you.”

Everyone in the hall saw Brin’s shoulders drop a little, as if he had let out a breath he had been holding. But surely even a great hero like the Chosen One would not come into the hall of his greatest enemy while uncertain of his own protection? Grimnok smiled and gave a carefree wave of his hand.

“Certainly, it’s possible that you have me at a disadvantage. Not being able to kill you myself DOES put a crimp in my plans. However, if you’ll indulge me, there is a little something I’d like to try before surrendering.”

This time he waved his other hand and a third of the goblin horde drew bows from under their tattered cloaks and fired.

For a second, Brin resembled a rearing hedgehog, but then his knees gave way and he crashed to the floor, a human pincushion.

“Thought so.” muttered Grimnok. “Arkleblog? Begin the invasion, would you? I’ll be in my study.”

 

It’s a brand New Year…Again

My actual white board, now no longer actually white. "Omar Serif" and "They're taking the robots to Alderaan" are jokes I haven't gotten around to yet. Be relieved about that.

My actual white board, now no longer actually white. “Omar Serif” and “They’re taking the robots to Alderaan” are jokes I haven’t gotten around to yet. Be relieved about that.

It’s nearly the end of the first week of January, and this is the first post I’ve managed in 2015, which means I ought to be talking about Resolutions.

But, as you may know from last year, I don’t do so well with resolving to change. I need a list every day just to get through the things that keep the house running, so adding grand aspirations to that list has been somewhat problematic in the past.

However, last year, I decided to just write more stuff. This was a simple enough idea that I could keep it in mind, and even put it up on my white board above my desk. “Write more stuff” translates easily into whatever project I feel like doing, and as long as there is more stuff at the end of the year, then it’s working. That’s a measurable goal, that is.

And last year I produced more plays, a new ebook and a lot of sketches. I found that the break of fifteen minutes at work is just long enough to eat a sandwich and write a page and a half of sketch, resulting in a sketch every week. That’s a sketch each week written at work, plus the stuff I can write when I’m at home. Like every published writer is fond of saying, there IS time to write, you just have to choose to use it for writing.

Like last year, most of what I plan to complete and publish won’t reach the marketplace until the later half of the year, so I’m not going to list my projects here. I will post about them when they’re complete, and then put up reminders with links when they get published. I’m hoping the Appraisal Service continues to keep me busy, and that life at the Library remains as fulfilling and entertaining as it had proven so far.

What are the big projects for YOU this 2015? Are you going to write that novel or sequel? Are you going to try writing something that’s outside your comfort zone, like a romance, or a horror story, or a poem? Are you thinking of writing for the first time? Because I have a really good feeling about this year. I think it’s YOUR year. I mean, obviously that’s bad news for everyone else, but we’ll cope, honest. Don’t feel bad for us, you just go on and make the most of it.

We’ll be over here. In the corner. Maybe crying just a little bit.

Flash Fantasy Number 2: Non-Epic tales of other lands

Castle

Lomaeus lounged in the throne, using a fragment of ermine robe to clean the blood from Fangor, his serrated broadsword. The owner of both robe and blood had been dragged away several hours ago and handed over to a roaring crowd, who cheerfully dismembered the corpse. Lomaeus had no idea what happened to the pieces, nor any inclination to find out.

Sword clean, he heaved himself out of the throne to re-sheathe it, then strolled down the massive central aisle of the throne room until he reached a fireplace. He threw the bloodied rag into the flames. His stomach rumbled.

“DEEPS!” he roared. When no reply was forthcoming, he roared the name again, so loud that the echoes rolled for a full minute. Soon the scarred face of his second in command appeared at the entrance to the throne room. Lomaeus fumed during the five minutes it took the other man to stride the length of the room and meet him. Deeps bowed.

“My King.”

Lomaeus flapped a hand at him, secretly rather pleased.

“You don’t need to do that, Deeps. Unless there are people watching.”

Deeps straightened again.

“Of course. What was it you wanted?”

For a moment, Lomaeus thought how much better that question would have sounded if it ended in “Sire?”, but his stomach rumbled again.

“Food, Deeps. I’m famished! Think I missed lunch today… You know, when I was liberating a kingdom and dispatching a foul tyrant.”

Deeps nodded impassively.

“I remember, sir.”

Despite his hunger, Lomaeus couldn’t help but feel there was a note of reproof in his Lieutenant’s words. Well, he was king now, wasn’t he? Absolute ruler, at least. Liberator. That should be worth a cheese sandwich of anyone’s money…

“You couldn’t round up some decent scoff, could you Deeps?”

He was alarmed at the pleading tone in his voice, but decided that a correction would only draw attention to it.

Deeps shrugged.

“The kitchen staff have run off. They were slaves, and you announced that the death of the tyrant had freed all slaves. They all left right then.”

He looked up at Deeps.

“I don’t suppose you could…?”

Deeps raised an eyebrow that was bisected by an old sword cut.

“I’m supervising the burial troops, sir. And the distribution of the treasure. There was a good deal of looting and fighting until I stepped in there.”

“Well, good, that was the right… Sorry, hang on, DISTRIBUTION of the treasure? The treasure of the palace, as such?”

Deeps looked surprised.

“Well, yes sir, as per your orders sir.”

Lomaeus frowned, trying to remember giving any such order.

“I told you to hand out the fabulous treasure of the tyrant?”

“Not me directly sir. But you have said a number of times during the campaign that when the palace walls were broken down, the slaves would be freed and the wealth of the palace returned to the citizens, sir. They were being a bit zealous and undemocratic in their attempts to follow your orders, as it were, so I regulated things a bit. Made sure no one hogged all the good stuff.”

Lomaeus trudged back towards the throne, urgently feeling the need to sit down. Of course the treasure belonged to the citizens, that was obvious. And yes, he had said about freeing the slaves, because that was what you did, wasn’t it? But it would have been really, really nice to have freed the slaves and still had dinner, and maybe a chance to wallow in the treasure rooms for a while. He had seen the distribution of the wealth as more, you know, something he did himself. Magnanimously. Bit by bit. Endowing new buildings and things. Maybe the odd statue of…of…well, alright, of himself. But he was the liberator, wasn’t he? It was thanks to him that the bloody peasants were free of their shackles and able to bugger off home with armfulls of his bloody treasure, while he had to make his own bloody sandwiches.

“Will that be all, sir?”

Deeps’ voice echoed through the hall, as he hadn’t followed Lomaeus back to the throne. Would that be all? It was quite enough, Lomaeus thought. He waved the man away, then noticed another figure strutting down the aisle of the throne room. This bloody place is too big. I want a nice room with a door I can shut, thought Lomaeus. And a kitchen just off to one side.

The messenger huffed to a halt and threw himself flat on the floor in front of the throne.

“I bear tidings for the Great King Lomaeus, Liberator of Slaves and Giver of Wealth.”

Lomaeus grinned, frowned and growled at the messenger’s words.

“Get up, get up, man! What tidings?”

The messenger struggled to his feet and spoke, still averting his eyes.

“Sire, the peasants are flooding into the city from the surrounding countryside. Your army burned the fields around the capital to starve out the Tyrant, and now there is no food for the people. They are choking every gate, and there is panic in the centre of the city as people try to hoard the remaining food. Stores have been ransacked, Sire.”

Before the man had finished speaking, a second messenger was prostrate on the floor in front of Lomaeus. This man didn’t even get through his greeting before Lomaeus prompted him for his message.

“Sire, the Archmages of Westermount present their greetings and congratulations on your victory. They are concerned, however, that the slave trade between the city and their Magedom will be threatened by your determination to free the slaves here. They seek assurances that this is not the case, and to that end have dispatched a wing of Winter Dragyns to the South Wall.”

When the messenger had finished, the only sound in the immense room was the grinding of Lomaeus’ teeth and the slapping footfalls of a third messenger. Seeing the look on the Liberator’s face, and the way his fingers worked at the grip of his mighty sword, the new messenger gulped, skipped the formal greetings and ploughed straight into his message.

“Sire, several of the escaping…I mean, the liberated slaves took revenge upon their former masters. Fighting has broken out in some areas of the city between former slaves and masters, as well as treasure looters and food hoarders. Some of the former slaves that were leaving by the South Gate were eaten by Winter Dragyns, but then the starving peasants from the outer kingdom attacked the Dragyns, killing one and wounding two. The others retreated and the peasants are roasting the beast outside the walls. A goodly number of the food hoarders are said to be heading that way now. Also, a second wing of Winter Dragyns has been seen approaching from the West.”

All three messengers cowered in fear of Lomaeus’ response. He struck a kingly pose upon the throne, apparently deep in thought, then held out a gracious hand.

“Friends, give me leave to think on this. I shall send for you directly with orders that will set all arights. This day has seen a mighty victory, it shall not also see the dissolution of this mighty city. Be brave, my friends, and give me your patience.”

They exited with many bows and profuse thanks and blessings. Lomaeus smiled wisely and kindly until his cheeks hurt. Once the hall was empty again, he stood and walked behind the throne. Just before he had been run through, the Tyrant had been scrabbling back….here! There was a concealed lever behind the throne, opening a secret door. Whistling a merry tune, Lomaeus entered the dark tunnel. He didn’t know what was beyond the doorway, but the Tyrant had thought it a better option than facing a well-armed opponent, and Lomaeus was willing to bet he’d find a neat escape route, maybe some treasure and, possibly, some decent food.

The closing of the secret door made no sound in the suddenly empty throne room.

It’s quiet because….

…For the first year ever, I’m actually DOING NaNoWriMo. It’s scary and busy and means I have to actually concentrate and commit and lots of other words that begin with “c”.

This won't be the cover  or the title, but I needed something to upload to the NaNo website so it looked better...

This won’t be the cover or the title, but I needed something to upload to the NaNo website so it looked better…

I’ve decided to write a sequel to “Eddie and the Kingdom” for several reasons.

1: Someone asked me. Just one person, but you know, there’s such a thing as customer service and responding to your readership.

2: I had a bit of an idea for the story.

3: The first book was only 50,000 words or so, which is the NaNo target.

4: “Eddie and the Kingdom” was the first novella I ever wrote, and I wanted to see if I could do it faster and maybe even better. Eddie took a year or more. This first draft should be done inside a month (currently at 20,000 words after six writing sessions).

5: Everyone else and his Mum has a series. This way, I get to write book three next year and call it an “Eddie novel” or “A novel of the Kingdom”. Or “Marvel: The Guardians of the Galaxy Strike Back!” if I want to get sued into penury.

So that’s why I’m taking the time to write this post and explain why I haven’t got time to write any posts.

How are YOU getting on with YOUR novel? Post an excerpt or link below!