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Angel Wedge has been at 3 events

HostFollowersTitleDateGuestsLinks
Ingress3,888,928Shaper Septicycle 2014.42: AF02-GOLF-05 (Recife, BR)  AF04-SIERRA-01 (Ponta Delgada, Azores)  AF07-PAPA-03 (Casablanca, MA) [V] AF07-ROMEO-09 (Seville, ES) [V] AF09-SIERRA-11 (Montpellier, FR)  AF13-SIERRA-00 (Athens, GR)  AF14-CHARLIE-11 (Durban, ZA)  AF14-SIERRA-09 (Ankara, TR)  AM01-FOXTROT-06 (Denver, CO, USA)  AM01-GOLF-09 (Omaha, NE, USA)  AM01-JULIET-03 (Madison, WI, USA) [V] AM01-KILO-05 (Toronto, CA)  AM01-KILO-12 (Columbus, OH, USA)  AM02-ECHO-01 (Albuquerque, NM, USA) [V] AM02-GOLF-13 (Wichita, KS, USA)  AM02-HOTEL-12 (St. Louis, MO, USA)  AM02-LIMA-11 (Alexandria, VA, USA)  AM03-GOLF-00 (Houston, TX, USA)  AM03-KILO-10 (Atlanta, GA, USA)  AM05-JULIET-11 (Merida, MX)  AM06-HOTEL-04 (Guatemala, GT) [V] AM06-NOVEMBER-05 (Caracas, VE)  AM15-MIKE-01 (Santiago, CL)  AS10-GOLF-01 (Colombo, LK)  AS10-KILO-05 (George Town, MY) [V] AS11-MIKE-10 (Ho Chi Minh City, VN)  AS12-ECHO-03 (Mumbai, IN)  AS13-PAPA-04 (Taichung, TW)  AS14-ALPHA-07 (Riyadh, SA) [V] AS15-PAPA-09 (Shanghai)  NR01-ECHO-00 (Budapest, HU)  NR01-ECHO-13 (Belgrade, RS)  NR01-FOXTROT-02 (Zagreb, HR) [V] NR01-FOXTROT-06 (Vienna, AT)  NR01-GOLF-03 (Milan, IT)  NR01-GOLF-06 (Geneva, CH)  NR02-FOXTROT-04 (Dresden, DE) [V] NR02-FOXTROT-15 (Warsaw, PL)  NR02-GOLF-08 (Hanover, DE)  NR02-GOLF-12 (Dusseldorf, DE)  NR02-HOTEL-03 (Utrecht, NL)  NR03-GOLF-00 (Oslo, NO)  NR03-GOLF-09 (Copenhagen, DK)  NR04-DELTA-08 (Nizhny Novgorod, RU) NR04-KILO-11 (Reykjavik, IS)  NR13-ROMEO-10 (Portland, OR, USA)  PA01-ALPHA-14 (Nagano, JP)  PA03-ROMEO-11 (Canberra, AU)  PA04-PAPA-08 (Brisbane, AU)  PA07-SIERRA-08 (Christchurch, NZ) [V] Shaper Septicycle 2014.43: AF02-FOXTROT-11 (Salvador, BR)  AF07-SIERRA-02 (Porto, PT)  AF11-SIERRA-13 (Naples, IT)  AF13-CHARLIE-10 (Johannesburg, ZA) [V] AF14-ROMEO-10 (Alexandria, EG)  AF15-NOVEMBER-01 (Jeddah, SA)  AM01-CHARLIE-07 (San Jose, CA, USA)  AM01-ECHO-06 (Provo, UT, USA)  AM01-LIMA-12 (Syracuse, NY, USA)  AM02-DELTA-04 (Las Vegas, NV, USA)  AM02-DELTA-12 (Tijuana, MX)  AM02-JULIET-06 (Bloomington, IN, USA)  AM02-KILO-00 (Cincinnati, OH, USA) [V] AM02-KILO-11 (Charlotte, NC, USA)  AM03-FOXTROT-03 (Ciudad Juarez, MX)  AM04-KILO-01 (Tampa, FL, USA)  AM05-FOXTROT-05 (Leon, MX)  AM07-KILO-06 (Panama City, PA)  AM07-LIMA-02 (Medellin, CO)  AM12-MIKE-01 (Arequipa, PE) [V] AM12-NOVEMBER-08 (Santa Cruz de la Sierra, BO)  AM14-ROMEO-11 (Ciudad del Este, PY)  AM15-PAPA-11 (Rosario, AR)  AS02-NOVEMBER-09 (Perth, AU)  AS07-NOVEMBER-11 (Surabaya, ID)  AS10-KILO-08 (Phuket, TH)  AS11-PAPA-04 (Cebu City, PH) [V] AS12-HOTEL-01 (Kolkata, IN)  AS13-PAPA-07 (Kaohsiung City, TW)  AS15-SIERRA-15 (Kagoshima, JP)  AS16-NOVEMBER-08 (Beijing, CN)  AS16-ROMEO-04 (Busan, KR) [V] AS16-SIERRA-13 (Hiroshima, JP)  NR01-GOLF-08 (Zurich, CH) [V] NR01-GOLF-10 (Luxemburg City)  NR01-HOTEL-10 (Lyon, FR)  NR02-CHARLIE-08 (Krasnodar, RU)  NR02-KILO-02 (Cork, IE)  NR04-CHARLIE-03 (Samara, RU)  NR04-FOXTROT-09 (Helsinki, FI)  NR05-SIERRA-09 (Portland, ME, USA)  NR06-CHARLIE-05 (Omsk, RU)  NR06-SIERR#Darsana Global2014-11-15 09:00:005366  
Angel Wedge1,244Rescheduled because last time people either couldn't make it, or didn't RSVP. Please, let me know you're coming. Chistopher's been hiding out with a friend in Manchester, but a shocking new revelation brings him back into town. And meanwhile, Nathan is coming to terms with recent changes in his situation. Who's having the bigger problem of the two?Reboot of Dracula RPG - Week 18 (rescheduled)2014-03-06 19:00:004  
Adam “Godlypus” Boenig28,015I'll be doing Flash Fiction Monday through Friday until I am recharged to work on the book. If you have an image that you feel needs a story, here's a place to put it!Flash Fiction!2013-02-04 19:00:0021  

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2015-07-20 12:26:21 (5 comments, 0 reshares, 0 +1s)Open 

???

Most reshares: 4

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2015-06-18 16:36:15 (2 comments, 4 reshares, 2 +1s)Open 

I've written a book; I've done my best with the cover image, though I'm not quite happy with it. But there's one other thing that people tell me I need, and that's readers.

As far as I can tell, getting people to find my book in the first place either needs word-of-mouth (which kind of needs people to have read it first), or by putting a little money into advertising. And right now, that's money I haven't got.

So, I'm appealing for anyone who wants to help; put a little money down to get a copy of the book (Kindle or paperback) as soon as I've got them myself, and help me raise some money to run an advertising campaign. Or if you can't spare the cash (I know the bank balance can be a scary thing for a lot of indie writers), maybe share the link around and see if I can gather some attention that way.

Thanks, everyone ^_^

Most plusones: 12

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2015-07-18 09:53:55 (3 comments, 0 reshares, 12 +1s)Open 

For #SaturdayScenes  this week, here's the very last chapter I wrote for Hope City Stories. This hasn't been at all edited yet, so is straight off the top of my head. A bit of a break from the action, our narrating journalist is going out looking for superheroes to interview for his article.  I haven't yet managed to find a better superhero-themed picture

Chapter 14 - Hope City Kitty

One of the rumours floating around was of a mask who defended the tower itself, and patrolled the rooftops of the tallest buildings in the area to deter thieves. Some people called her Catgirl, and others the Catburglar. Her powers were supposed to include a cat’s amazing acuity of hearing, depending who you spoke to, or a prehensile tail that improved her already incredible sense of balance. Some people said she had claws that could cut flesh with ease, or could exude pheromonesfro... more »

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2015-07-30 16:02:29 (0 comments, 0 reshares, 1 +1s)Open 

This story was inspired by a picture from +Charlie Hoover's feed; but when I went back to look for a link, I couldn't find it again. Thanks for the idea… amazed I've even got 302 days into this project without running out of ideas, so any help is welcome

Today's #DailyStory : day 302 - Imagineer

The nebula spread out on the black sky outside, the high gothic windows too small to show its whole vista. The interstellar dust was illuminated in a variety of colours as it refracted the stars’ light in different ways. This wall, studded with as many windows as hull integrity could sustain, presented an amazing view. But the man in front of it now was so intently focused on his typewriter that he didn’t care to admire the view outside the starship.

They called it the Imaginary. Well, Reynold called it that, anyway. It was probably something close toa trans... more »

This story was inspired by a picture from +Charlie Hoover's feed; but when I went back to look for a link, I couldn't find it again. Thanks for the idea… amazed I've even got 302 days into this project without running out of ideas, so any help is welcome

Today's #DailyStory : day 302 - Imagineer

The nebula spread out on the black sky outside, the high gothic windows too small to show its whole vista. The interstellar dust was illuminated in a variety of colours as it refracted the stars’ light in different ways. This wall, studded with as many windows as hull integrity could sustain, presented an amazing view. But the man in front of it now was so intently focused on his typewriter that he didn’t care to admire the view outside the starship.

They called it the Imaginary. Well, Reynold called it that, anyway. It was probably something close to a translation of the alien name, which contained way too many symphonic whistles for a mere human’s mouth to pronounce.

Reynold was the navigator, and the only human on the crew. In fact, he was the only human in the whole invasion fleet, as far as he knew. Humanity wasn’t a member of the Interstellar Federation – another term which Reynold could only roughly translate. It was a couple of years ago he’d been picked from the people of his rather unsophisticated world. His family probably thought he’d just vanished, and there was no way he could get back there to tell him the truth.

Reynold had been a science fiction writer. He’d never managed to get published, and nobody was too enthusiastic about reading his work, but he liked to think that was simply because the world wasn’t ready for him. In the eyes of his family, he knew, he was exactly the kind of person who vanished through some combination of obscurity and despair. He still didn’t really understand why the aliens had chosen him, but he relished the opportunity to visit other worlds.

He was the ship’s imagineer. Here, at a typewriter that could have come out of the 19th century, before the magnificent vistas of interstellar space, he wrote about the worlds they visited. And somehow, through some magic of technology he would never understand, his imagination became reality. Parallel universes, maybe, with completely different laws of physics. If he could write about some world, then the ship could travel there. Nothing in his vast mental library of rejected ideas was beyond its reach, and everywhere they went, a million other ships followed to conquer the new worlds.

“Why?” he whispered again, as the nebula vanished to be replaced by a rainbow-scaled dragon with stars and inhabited worlds, an empire even, studded into the scales on its flank.

“Because they’ve seen too much,” Mirradian explained. She was another new addition to the crew, a synthetic life-form who could comprehend any sentient thought. The people on the world they had most recently left had created them as a kind of personal assistant and translator; though in reality Reynold had written them because he had got impatient with being unable to understand his employers beyond simple orders of the kind you might get from a barely literate chimp, or a publisher.

“I’m sorry?”

“Their own imagineers couldn’t get here. They’ve seen the wonder of the universe, the most spectacular settings imaginable, and their technology lets them travel to any parallel world they can imagine. But the population is still growing, they need more lands to conquer, and a writer who has seen so much eventually finds that he can’t imagine anything more spectacular or more absurd.”

Reynold nodded; it made sense, really. The species that has experienced less had a lesser understanding of the multiverse, and so could conceive of more things being popular. But somehow the answer seemed unsatisfying. There was no drama to it, it felt like the kind of thing a talentless hack would have written as the motivation of an alien race, and as such it didn’t really entertain or surprise.

It felt formulaic, though he’d never heard of that idea. It felt as pedestrian as if he’d written it himself. And in a way, he supposed, he had.___

2015-07-28 15:01:09 (0 comments, 0 reshares, 0 +1s)Open 

Two #DailyStory  posts for you today! Yesterdays, and the big day 300 for today. I'm posting these together because today's is kind of a rewrite or second attempt. You can read it on its own, but maybe it would be better to link the two together somehow.

299 - Elsewhere

His name was Leroy Mcallen, and he was the inventor of what he called an interspatial gateway. Well, maybe not the inventor, but an inventor at least. That's the thing: once you can travel between the infinite worlds of what could have been, you have to realise that there's a world out there for every possible eventuality. There must be other people out there who'd made the same discovery, but it was unlikely he'd ever meet them.

Leroi would be one of many people who could step between different worlds, but as far as it mattered to him, he may as well be the only one.... more »

Two #DailyStory  posts for you today! Yesterdays, and the big day 300 for today. I'm posting these together because today's is kind of a rewrite or second attempt. You can read it on its own, but maybe it would be better to link the two together somehow.

299 - Elsewhere

His name was Leroy Mcallen, and he was the inventor of what he called an interspatial gateway. Well, maybe not the inventor, but an inventor at least. That's the thing: once you can travel between the infinite worlds of what could have been, you have to realise that there's a world out there for every possible eventuality. There must be other people out there who'd made the same discovery, but it was unlikely he'd ever meet them.

Leroi would be one of many people who could step between different worlds, but as far as it mattered to him, he may as well be the only one. He'd never be able to have a real conversation about his discovery. Finding someone who could even understand the complex math involved would be like searching for one of a billion needles in an infinite haystack.

He told his friends, but hey didn’t really understand. At least they could suggest where he could find the massive amounts of power that the device would need for testing. Darren had a bar of his very own, and was a nice enough guy that nobody minded all the dumb jokes about free drinks. But Darren’s place was a moderately successful nightspot, and had hosted live music events. That meant big amps and a truly impressive lighting rig in the basement room, the kind of thing you more often saw in a theatre. And all that needed more current than most household meters would handle, so he had a rather specialised power system. Enough for Leroy’s needs, in any case.

He could tell that none of them really thought it would work. Mitch had helped him to hook the equipment up, mostly just lugging cables, but seemed unable to grasp that this wasn’t supposed to be a time machine. It didn't matter, though he would really have liked to talk with someone who understood the sheer complexity of what he'd achieved.

Even finding a suitable destination would be tough. A tiny change a million years ago and the Earth would have been in a completely different point on its orbital path. But he'd found a way to scan possible alternate worlds, get a spectrographic analysis of the air to be sure it was breathable and a proximity check to be sure he'd arrive with ground underfoot. Beyond that, he really had no idea. He didn’t know if he’d visit a world where the only difference was which political party was currently in power, or if there was an Earth where the cold war had become a real war and wiped out humanity. There was no way he could tell, though he had at least added a refinement that would hopefully ensure that radiation levels on the other side were safe.

The different Earths ranged widely. In the basement space, while the bar upstairs opened its doors and admitted the first early drinkers of the night, his machine opened a tentative portal and scanned seven hundred worlds before it found one that might support human life. Then he shut off the system and allowed it to cool down, the particular frequency of that world encoded into a crystal matrix.

The part of this invention that Leroy had been unable to test was the return system. He could send cameras or even lab rats into an alternate world, but there would be no way to recover them or to determine how they fared. So he had built all the equipment into a backpack, that could theoretically force him back to his own world once. It would take a while to charge the pack’s capacitors, but he could use that time to prepare himself mentally for the uncertainty of his step into the unknown. And then…

300 - Elsewhere (2nd attempt / rewrite)

Leroy pulled himself to his feet, hoping that the pounding in his head would fade soon and let him think. It didn’t help much. It took a few seconds to realise that the pulsing, throbbing wouldn’t be going away as he started to recover, because it was in fact coming from the bar upstairs. Muffled shouting filtered through the vaulted ceiling, too. It sounded like a party was in full swing.

What was going on up there? They’d expected the place to be quiet today, that had been a major consideration when he was picking a place and time for his experiment. He muttered a half-formed curse against the friend who’d helped him with planning, before his brain caught up with what he’d just thought. The experiment! How could he have forgotten? Today was the day that Leroy Mcallen would make history by being the first man to step into an alternate universe, where history could have played out completely differently. The ‘good luck’ toast must have been a lot stronger than he thought, because he couldn’t even remember where he was up to in the preparations. He turned to look at the machine, still feeling a little woozy.

The machine was gone. Or, not gone, it looked like it had never been there. The wooden boards on the floor hadn’t been damaged by its weight, the dust was undisturbed. And it was only then that he glanced down at the straps of his backpack, and saw the meter reading a charge of 8.2 megacoulombs; just a fraction below its full capacity.

“Did I already cross over?” he asked the casks and bare walls of the cellar. He didn’t really expect an answer, and for a fraction of a second wondered just how he would respond if he got one. The moment passed; Leroy shook his head and went upstairs to see just where he’d arrived. The continued existence of the bar was a little surprise, but one that made him hopeful about finding worlds almost like his own.

The place was packed,and a variety of costumes he wouldn’t believe. People dressed in silver foil, or transparent materials that gave the illusion of modesty only by the glare and refraction of multiple layers. But at the same time, there was a woman in what looked like an Edwardian evening dress. One man was wearing some modernised interpretation of a wartime great coat and carrying what looked like a smartphone but in a brass case with complex gear trains clearly visible. Outside the main entrance, an enormous black man was standing with a cigarette, and Leroy’s eyes kept darting back to the swastika on his armband.

He seemed to spot the stranger’s gaze, and raised a hand in a friendly greeting. “What’s up, my friend?” he spoke with an accent that seemed to dart all over Europe, but then Leroy had never been that good at identifying accents. “Oh, the badge? Nazis changed their tune in 1943 when their top eugenicists announced a U-turn. Everyone says it’s velociraptor cavalry that won the war, but it could just as well have been picking the right master race at last. Well, in my world, anyway.”

Leroy stared in shock as the man walked away again. There was a banner above the bar; “Trans-position!! Mallory’s welcomes visitors from all worlds, past and present!! Free drinks for furthest traveler!!”

Could it really be that he’d had the great fortune to land in a world where travel between universes was widely known? Or maybe the place he’d come from was the only timestream where the technology hadn’t been discovered by Einstein or someone decades before. Or – much more likely now he came to think about it – if someone had discovered this technology, could they somehow make this world resonate more easily, attract incoming portals to their own world? Then the bar really would attract travellers from all over, even those who didn’t know they were coming.

He decided to ask the man behind the bar. It wasn’t Josh or Mike today, but a guy in his mid twenties who was normally dressed except from wraparound mirror shades. Well, if the world was so different, he couldn’t expect to see a familiar face serving drinks. Darren probably didn’t even own this place, though it seemed it was still called Mallory’s.

“Did the nazis really win the war?” it wasn’t much in the way of small talk, but it was the only thing on Leroy’s mind right now. “Using velociraptors?”

“Nah, course not,” the barman shrugged off the suggestion as he pulled Leroy a beer, “Though if they’d stopped relying on tyrannosaurs maybe they’d have stood a fighting chance.” He stood waiting for a few long seconds before Leroy remembered where he was and handed over the money. He was so taken aback that such ordinary things hadn’t crossed his mind straight away.

“Sorry,” he muttered as he passed a handful of coins, “It’s just a lot to take in, you know?”

“I hear ya,” the barman muttered, “I remember when you could just chat with your friends and put a couple of beers away. But these days, well, management says we’ve got to pull off crap like this to get the students in, reckon that’s where the money is.”

Leroy just about stopped himself from exclaiming, “Oh, it’s a theme night!” as understanding hit. He still somehow ended up thinking aloud, though: “They’re all costumes, not really from other worlds.”

“Well, yeah,” the guy just smiled, “Raptor cavalry? You didn’t sound that drunk.”

“No,” Leroy tried to play it down now, “Just I’m really from another world, so I wasn’t sure.”

“Good one,” the barman turned away to serve someone else, and Leroy was glad for a moment that he’d landed in a place it was so easy to pass off lack of common knowledge. Nobody would really believe it, but it didn’t matter.

Or, he thought a moment later, the device hadn’t worked at all. He wouldn’t put it past Darren to have set  up something like this as a joke, the day he was coming in to test his invention. The joke would have been on them if it worked… a whole party so they could laugh, and then he wasn’t even there. Although depending how close different worlds were, there could easily have been another Leroy stepping right into his place to be the butt of their jokes.

He pulled out his phone, and checked the world news online. Everything looked just like he remembered; even the top movies and a few stock market figures were the same as he’d noted down earlier that morning. It hadn’t worked, and all his elation had been some huge trick. With one last glimmer of hope, he checked who had won the world wars, and the world cup, and the world darts championship. All the names he’d expect to see. He unhooked his backpack, necessarily decoupling it from his body’s translational field, and flipped the switch that would allow it to slowly and safely discharge. There was one high point, he supposed; even without the intertemporal portal that required so much power, his eureka moment in the field of battery design would surely make him a fortune.

He chatted with the costumed people in the bar for a few minutes, impressed by the variety of ideas between them, of things that alternate worlds might contain. Then, his drink complete, he set off home. Outside, there were still new people arriving. A couple in mock-Victorian clothes and clockwork-ornamented smartphone cases had chosen to arrive in style, stepping down from an antiquated looking wooden carriage, a taxicab in the style of the previous century. The effect was somewhat spoiled, however, by a garish sign hung on the rear advertising ‘Authentic Antiquaria’ and the other vehicles they could provide.

The students bantered cheerfully as they approached the bar, but Leroy didn’t respond to their questions. He was too busy staring as the coachman clambered down to the street and went about feeding the dinosaurs.___

2015-07-28 00:39:50 (2 comments, 0 reshares, 1 +1s)Open 

Some folks may be aware that I've been writing a short story every day since October. Thay means that today is day 300, and I'd like to make today's one extra special (though I hope to sleep first).

Anyone got any interesting images that might give me inspiration? I find that images give me a lot more ideas than "You should write about ...", but often not the kind of idea you had in mind.

If you want to see some of my earlier ones, check out the Collection or the #DailyStory hashtag. If you want to see an anthology of these stories, then please support my crowdfunding thing http://gofundme.com/sandpaperkiss - which is primarily about my novel, but is really raising money to help me get published in general.

Thanks everyone, for your support so far.

Some folks may be aware that I've been writing a short story every day since October. Thay means that today is day 300, and I'd like to make today's one extra special (though I hope to sleep first).

Anyone got any interesting images that might give me inspiration? I find that images give me a lot more ideas than "You should write about ...", but often not the kind of idea you had in mind.

If you want to see some of my earlier ones, check out the Collection or the #DailyStory hashtag. If you want to see an anthology of these stories, then please support my crowdfunding thing http://gofundme.com/sandpaperkiss - which is primarily about my novel, but is really raising money to help me get published in general.

Thanks everyone, for your support so far.___

2015-07-25 22:45:16 (0 comments, 0 reshares, 0 +1s)Open 

Today's #DailyStory  is a short one, knocked out in a little over an hour. So hope you'll excuse the typos and very rough pacing.

Day 297 - Shoulder Surfing

He was a well dressed guy, the kind you could imagine running his own company. Slick tshirts with understated slogans that you might pass off as just a fashion label until you look close and realise its a parody of the whole conscious consumerism style. I knew the first time I saw him that we had that much in common at least. He seemed more interested in his phone that anyone else in the coffee shop, though he was always polite to the staff, and he’d get up to hold the door if he saw someone struggling.

He seemed content to blend into the background, and I would probably have never noticed him. I have no idea how many times we sat in the same shop, and I wouldn’t even have recognised him. But then Ihear... more »

Today's #DailyStory  is a short one, knocked out in a little over an hour. So hope you'll excuse the typos and very rough pacing.

Day 297 - Shoulder Surfing

He was a well dressed guy, the kind you could imagine running his own company. Slick tshirts with understated slogans that you might pass off as just a fashion label until you look close and realise its a parody of the whole conscious consumerism style. I knew the first time I saw him that we had that much in common at least. He seemed more interested in his phone that anyone else in the coffee shop, though he was always polite to the staff, and he’d get up to hold the door if he saw someone struggling.

He seemed content to blend into the background, and I would probably have never noticed him. I have no idea how many times we sat in the same shop, and I wouldn’t even have recognised him. But then I heard an older guy, late middle aged, calling him a student bum just because he enjoyed a good coffee and didn’t feel the need to wear a starched-collar suit. Even today, there’s people who don’t realise that work has evolved out of the office. A technical genius can fix a server bug from here as easily as if he was on site, or an artist can sketch on a tablet wherever he finds his inspiration.

But that one offhand comment made me look at him seriously, and for that I would always be grateful. Because then I looked into some of those tshirts, and once I knew the designers I realised how much conscious effort the man with the red goatee put into his appearance. The style was performance casual, everything carefully coordinated but calculated to look as if he wasn’t making such an effort. Once I paid attention to his speech, I realised how charming he could be, rehearsing every line in his head before he spoke. He’d never insult anyone by accident, or say the wrong thing, because he was totally aware of everyone around him. His confidence was the thing that stood out most, though. He cared about other opinions, but there was a quiet complacency in his movements that told me he was used to being obeyed. Within his own sphere, he was important enough that listening to other people’s opinions was a choice; he didn’t need anyone’s approval or support.

Darknet billionaire, I guessed, or a Hollywood screenwriter soaking up the atmosphere between contracts. And I have to admit, he was kind of cute. Fit without being over-muscled, a well toned body and a rugged jawline that the beard toned down just enough to make him look masculine and caring. The casual dominance, too, the sense that any time he helped someone it was because he’d decided it was worth his time, that held my interest like a hooked fish.

One day I was enjoying my coffee on the balcony, looking out over the rest of the shop as the big crowds took most of the tables. I didn’t mind having nowhere to put my computer down, because I never liked staring at a screen anyway. But this one day, boss man was sitting at the counter almost right in front of me. He had his tablet propped up on the desk. Yet again, I heard the old guy commenting that people playing games, guys who can’t get a real job, shouldn’t be allowed to take up space in a busy shop. Well, I’d seen the old guy in here often enough to guess that he wasn’t in full-time employment either, and I could see my guy’s screen well enough to know he wasn’t playing games.

My curiosity piqued, I peered over the balcony and took a closer look. A single tap, a little adjustment on the zoom contro of my glasses, and it was like I was right behind his shoulder. Of course I couldn’t see everything on his phone screen, and reading at all would give me a headache, but I could see he was poring over a screen full of code. Geek, then, and either lucky or very good at his job if he wasn’t trapped behind a desk at one of the old-money corporates that hadn’t got with the times yet.

Then it became almost a habit. I’d take a spot upstairs, where I could see out over the whole room, and when my man came in I’d take a look what he was working on. Sometimes I could see his screen, sometimes he was facing away then. If I couldn’t  see, then I was happy just to get on with some of my own work using my glasses. Being able to see his smile always seemed to make work that little bit more pleasant, maybe he even inspired me to be more productive.

It was amazing the number of things he used his tablet for. Some days he’d be working, some times checking his social feeds and commenting on his sister’s holiday photos. I quickly learned that his name was Mattimeo. Maybe I could have just asked him, we’d been standing together in the queue enough times, but doing it in this illicit way gave me a little shiver of excitement. I wondered how angry he might be if he caught me, and daydreamed that he might decide to punish me himself. That would certainly be interesting, though I knew it was incredibly unlikely. Other days he’d be ordering shopping, as if he didn’t have the time or inclination to walk round the supermarket himself. He was still a discerning customer, though, ordering specific cuts of meat from the best butcher’s shops, and fresh vegetables often straight from the farm.

Then, the days when I just couldn’t look away even when my eyes began to water, though thankfully those days were far between. Internet dating, matchmaker sites. I couldn’t stop watching, because that meant that this perfect specimen of manhood hadn’t yet found himself a soul mate. There were no shortage of candidates, though, and everyone he sent a message to exchanged a few messages at least. Some of the photos I recognised, they were model images quite popular on the stock photo sites that hosted them. Some of the men and women seeking his attention weren’t who they claimed to be, and I began to worry, hoping that he’d be able to spot them for what they were.

That was when I realised I needed to protect him. I knew from my own first boyfriend just how dangerous it could be to put your happiness in the hands of a man you’d met through the impersonal medium of email. I didn’t want Matt to ever feel that pain, and I started wondering if there was anything I could do to guarantee him a happy ending. I wasn’t as good a hacker as he clearly was, but I knew just a few tricks, and I knew I could find out some facts about anyone online if I just tried hard enough.

I might not be his perfect soul-mate, as much as I could dream about it. But I knew I could at least keep him safe from anyone who might hurt him. Now, I had a new mission in life.___

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2015-07-25 16:08:24 (2 comments, 1 reshares, 8 +1s)Open 

For this week's #SaturdayScenes , here's a chapter I just finished for Hope City Stories. Still a first draft, but hopefully you can see how it was supposed to work. Still trying to find a better image for this one.

Scene 17 - A Fight At The Museum

Antique Blaze raised one arm to shield herself from Troll’s mighty punch, while the other went to the torc at her throat. The jewellery wasn’t just for show, it was the source of all her powers. As soon as her fingers wrapped around the Amulet of Perfect Defense, not even this monster’s superhuman strength could force her back. A fist like a sledgehammer glanced harmlessly off her bracelet. She could feel the power in the blow as her force field countered it, and she was truly impressed. If she’d chosen any other torc today, that attack would have shattered the floor under her feet, never mind her bones.
Troll ... more »

For this week's #SaturdayScenes , here's a chapter I just finished for Hope City Stories. Still a first draft, but hopefully you can see how it was supposed to work. Still trying to find a better image for this one.

Scene 17 - A Fight At The Museum

Antique Blaze raised one arm to shield herself from Troll’s mighty punch, while the other went to the torc at her throat. The jewellery wasn’t just for show, it was the source of all her powers. As soon as her fingers wrapped around the Amulet of Perfect Defense, not even this monster’s superhuman strength could force her back. A fist like a sledgehammer glanced harmlessly off her bracelet. She could feel the power in the blow as her force field countered it, and she was truly impressed. If she’d chosen any other torc today, that attack would have shattered the floor under her feet, never mind her bones.

Troll struck again and again, but found no weakness. At the same time, Antique Blaze's knifes skittered ineffectually against his scale-like hide. She was the first to break away, ducking and rolling under a desk. The wood shattered with a single swing of Troll's fist, but the heroine was already safely on the other side. She glanced up and jumped back before a wild roundhouse could catch her, landing on top of a sealed crate containing some exhibit. Troll continued to attack in the same way, showing evidence of some boxing experience as well as monstrous strength, while Blaze contented herself with running and blocking. Maybe her opponent thought she’d given up, but that was still far from the truth. She just didn’t see any point in continuing to try an attack method after she’d seen that it wasn’t going to work.

She got the break she’d been looking for when she ducked behind a glass case containing what looked like some kind of mummy. Troll tried to close the distance by lunging straight through the exhibit, but hadn't accounted for the case's protective, inert atmosphere. The monster roared triumphantly as it lunged forward to stand amid shards of shattered glass, then automatically drew in a deep breath to find its lungs filled with a strange-smelling vapour devoid of oxygen. As it coughed, Antique Blaze reached to her throat and unhooked the torc, stowing it quickly in a pouch on her belt. Troll had already recovered its breath, but while it rushed closer she pulled out another necklace with her free hand and quickly clipped it into place.

The golden amulet's inscription glowed as if on fire for a moment as her fingers traced the Atlantean runes. Troll swung in with both fists, knowing it was too close for her to duck now. But its tremendous fists just smashed through the concrete pillar and suddenly its opponent was above it, leaping straight into the air and kicking off against the collapsing wall. Her feet hit the ceiling and she ran along completely inverted, then dropped onto The Troll’s back. This was going to be the hard part, though.

Antique Blaze hooked one arm around Troll’s neck and hung on as tightly as she could. One of those powerful fists could easily crush her without the protection of Perfect Defense, but it had been a necessary change. There was no way she could knock out or restrain a monster like this with just her knives, so her only choice had been to trade in the defensive ability for one that could take it down. Luckily, it seemed that this creature was no more skilled than most humans when it came to striking at its own back. She clumsily fumbled the squirrel torc back into its pouch on her belt, and reached for another.

It slipped from her hand as Troll backed into a wall, trying to scrape her loose. But the clasp was still snagged on her belt pouch, and after a moment to reinforce her grip on the monster’s horns she reached down again and tried to recover the item she needed. The giant red monster charged unpredictably around the lab, trashing desks and workstations and stomping on documents and relics, but not quite able to deliver a killing blow to the woman behind its head. A wall lamp caught her across the back of her neck, and she winced in pain for a moment but redoubled her grip on Troll’s horns and grabbed the copper torc.

“What are you doing?” Troll raged, “A human can’t strangle a demon, the difference is too great!”

“Oh, I know,” she grinned, taking advantage of the moment of gloating to clip the torc around her throat, “But you won’t always be so powerful.” The Troll rampaged and thrashed, but it was getting harder to move now. It wondered for a moment if the woman had somehow managed to make herself heavier, but that couldn’t be possible, could it?

She grinned, tightening her arm around the Troll’s throat and locking her wrists together to keep her grip secure. The Queen’s Veto was one of the more esoteric magical torcs in her collection, but probably the most useful when it came down to it. In theory, its effect was to allow her to switch off any of the Atlantean artifacts in her collection, even those that didn’t normally have a switch. At some point in the dim mists of  history, she’d heard, the Queen of Atlantis had held it in order to render her immune to the weapons of any potential traitor among her court. Now, Blaze had found that as well as disabling the powers of her other torcs, it had quite a high success rate at nullifying other people’s supernormal abilities. Everything in the books she’d inherited from her predecessors said it should only work if their powers were like hers, supported by the crystals, but in practice that didn’t seem to be the case.

Now the Troll was small enough that she could almost put her feet on the ground while keeping an arm around its throat. Its horns became grotesque little stubs on the top of its head, and the scales on its fists sloughed off to reveal almost normal fists. His skin was still red and cracked, but now it looked more like sunburn or some kind of fungal infection rather than the unnatural hue that had come from the serum in his veins.

There was shouting in the distance, too. A crash as someone arrived on site to let the police in. Mask and villain heard a door flung suddenly open, then another and another. Shouting, hurrying voices, and dozens of sets of rushing footsteps in the halls. Troll glanced in the direction of the sound, and in that moment Blaze flexed her muscles and lifted him into the air. To her surprise, Troll’s human form seemed to be quite a young man. She could only afford to hesitate for a second, visualising the shape of the building. The restoration centre was like a separate building on its carbon fibre legs, and she was sure it was visible from the whole of the museum’s  ground floor.

Troll roared in surprise as the warrior woman ran towards a window. He was too slow, though, didn't have a chance to react properly before she threw him. His physiology was still beyond human, but the fall knocked the breath out of him long enough for a young policeman with quick reactions to apply the handcuffs.

"Look at the skin!" they muttered among themselves, "It's that Troll, that attacked the school last week."

"Doesn't seem as strong as they said," typical humans. Judging him immediately on the colour of his skin, assuming that anyone different must be weaker. They were all the same, with their flawless skin and beautiful faces. Troll hated them, his mind was flat with hatred, and disgust.

Meanwhile, in the upper level, Antique Blaze ran through the trashed rooms, finished checking the catalogue system on the computers. She’d recieved a tip that an expedition had discovered an Atlantean statue, possibly even with an intact torc. She couldn’t admit the source of her powers, so she only had minutes to collect it before the police got up here. That was why she’d brought the Queen’s Veto amulet with her today, so that she could extract the item she needed from the statue without breaking either She just hadn’t counted on a hundred police officers swarming around the building while she tried to make her getaway. The computer bleeped. A second later the room number was committed to her memory, and Antique Blaze ran.___

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2015-07-25 15:00:33 (0 comments, 0 reshares, 0 +1s)Open 

Interesting glitch… if your first game of the day is Survival mode, the daily challenges don’t count it (?)

+One Finger Death Punch​ #Onefingerdeathpunch #glitch

Interesting glitch… if your first game of the day is Survival mode, the daily challenges don’t count it (?)

+One Finger Death Punch​ #Onefingerdeathpunch #glitch___

2015-07-24 22:30:07 (0 comments, 0 reshares, 0 +1s)Open 

Today's #DailyStory  was just a quick attempt. What do you think?

296 - Kung Fu

Seven wishes. The stories always said it was three, but it turned out to be seven. That had surprised Branden, and surprise was probably the reason he'd managed to burn through six of them already.
He had more than a few other things he'd like to wish for. But somehow, in his attempts to obtain health, wealth and happiness, he'd managed to pick up quite a lot of mortal enemies. They were maybe ten seconds behind him now, and he had no assets of any kind in this building. No weapons, no retainers, not even his infjnite money could save him.

“I wish I know kung fu!” he shouted to the air, “And no tricks. Complete mastery, right now.”

And suddenly, he knew kung fu. He understood the basic concept embodied through those words; Skill Through Effort. Heundersto... more »

Today's #DailyStory  was just a quick attempt. What do you think?

296 - Kung Fu

Seven wishes. The stories always said it was three, but it turned out to be seven. That had surprised Branden, and surprise was probably the reason he'd managed to burn through six of them already.
He had more than a few other things he'd like to wish for. But somehow, in his attempts to obtain health, wealth and happiness, he'd managed to pick up quite a lot of mortal enemies. They were maybe ten seconds behind him now, and he had no assets of any kind in this building. No weapons, no retainers, not even his infjnite money could save him.

“I wish I know kung fu!” he shouted to the air, “And no tricks. Complete mastery, right now.”

And suddenly, he knew kung fu. He understood the basic concept embodied through those words; Skill Through Effort. He understood in an instant the theory that some took years, even a lifetime to understand. He knew that practice changed a person’s world view, as well as imparting skill, and that no amount of study could match experience.

In an instant Branden knew the meaning of Kung Fu, and why it could never be learned without the effort put into the art. Unfortunately, that was no help against a dozed determined fighters.___

2015-07-23 15:42:22 (0 comments, 0 reshares, 0 +1s)Open 

Daily story started.
Editing Sandpaper Kiss… about to start
#campnanowrimo - a day behind, and nothing yet today.

Time until friends arrive for roleplaying: An hour and a half, ish.
Anybody up for productive hanging?

Daily story started.
Editing Sandpaper Kiss… about to start
#campnanowrimo - a day behind, and nothing yet today.

Time until friends arrive for roleplaying: An hour and a half, ish.
Anybody up for productive hanging?___

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2015-07-22 22:02:14 (0 comments, 1 reshares, 2 +1s)Open 

If anyone didn't get the memo yet, I've written a s.f. novel.

If I can tempt 30 people to pre-order a copy, I can get a better deal on printing, and might be able to make a profit. If you enjoy seeing my writing, then please support me, and pass the link on to anyone you know who might be interested in the story.

If anyone didn't get the memo yet, I've written a s.f. novel.

If I can tempt 30 people to pre-order a copy, I can get a better deal on printing, and might be able to make a profit. If you enjoy seeing my writing, then please support me, and pass the link on to anyone you know who might be interested in the story.___

2015-07-22 13:45:39 (0 comments, 0 reshares, 1 +1s)Open 

Today's #DailyStory  gets a little rough towards the end, I'm not sure how to better write the ending. But with the amount of work I still need to do on Sandpaper Kiss, I don't  think I have time to tidy it up today. All comments much welcome

Day 294 - The Penultimate Vampire

The city was asleep. At least, those people who thought they made up the city were asleep. The city rested after a hard day hunting bargains, swindling customers, and working boring day jobs completely oblivious to what was really going on around them.

As  the city went to sleep, though, a whole different city was starting to wake up between the cracks. In the shadows, something was alive. Not just a city of crime, but the parasites that lived on it. I knew, though, that not all of the threats in the darkness were living. I crept along one dark alley after another, ignoring themi... more »

Today's #DailyStory  gets a little rough towards the end, I'm not sure how to better write the ending. But with the amount of work I still need to do on Sandpaper Kiss, I don't  think I have time to tidy it up today. All comments much welcome

Day 294 - The Penultimate Vampire

The city was asleep. At least, those people who thought they made up the city were asleep. The city rested after a hard day hunting bargains, swindling customers, and working boring day jobs completely oblivious to what was really going on around them.

As  the city went to sleep, though, a whole different city was starting to wake up between the cracks. In the shadows, something was alive. Not just a city of crime, but the parasites that lived on it. I knew, though, that not all of the threats in the darkness were living. I crept along one dark alley after another, ignoring the mist creeping over his boots. In the still of the night, I was hunting vampires.

The first one or two, the first hundred, had been easy. Vampires weren’t as tough as people thought, and so many of them were stupid when it came to prey. They’d take one wild swing then pounce, leaving themselves open to a dagger between the ribs. They focused all their fear towards others of their kind, because for the past hundred years there hadn’t been any concerted attempt to hunt them down. It probably helped a ot that I’d taken to carrying lacquered wooden daggers, which were a lot more effective than anything most victims might be carrying.

Vampires hunted vampires, because their blood carried their power. I noticed it on my first few kills, that as the corpse turned to dust the blood would rise up like a cloud of red-black steam and float along the ground as if driven by some terrible purpose. It was quite a while before I realised that it was the undead’s consciousness, everything they could do that humans couldn’t, seeking out a new host. I talked with other hunters; they reckoned that some of the power was lost, but the majority was picked up by other vampires in the area. But if one of them killed another, you would see blood flowing through the air like a stream, sparks crackling between hunter and prey. Then you knew that the victor would be a very tough kill

The last few years, the could of blood became larger and more obvious. Sometimes I could even follow it across the rooftops of the city and take down the monster who would have received it before the cloud could reach them. The last year or two, there were only a couple of dozen of them left, and each one so immensely powerful that no human could hope to match them.

Unless, of course, you’d spent virtually your whole life in the shadows learning to fight with a certain killer instinct. Every battle was a gamble, but it was an attack they weren’t really expecting, and I really was that good. You probably don’t know my name, but I was a national competitor in the MMA leagues before I got into fighting the dead. Looking back at videos of some of my championship fights, it was hard to believe how sloppy my technique was back then. Fighting for your life is a whole other level, but I knew I’d risen to the challenge.

Some of the hunters were military, some of them working for various churches. Some were after revenge. I didn’t really fit any of those groups, but I was in touch with enough people to know what was going on. A cloud of dead blood boiled over the pacific, blocking out the sun for whole islands as it passed. The last vampire in Japan had been slain. It had flown dead straight like an arrow, and had told me I was heading in the right direction. It had also kicked up tropical storms in its wake, and we just had to hope they wouldn’t bring swarms of drowned ghouls to the east coast.

But now I could be almost certain, the individual I was hunting ow was the last vampire in the world, and had the power of all those that had come before it. It would be waiting for me, as well, because it had to have known that its Japanese counterpart had died in the absence of another undead to collect all that mystical energy.

I crept down the alleyway, wooden dagger in hand. The handgun on my belt was loaded with silver-plated bullets, designed to shatter inside my target’s body. If it failed to dodge just one, then its powers would be significantly reduced for hours afterwards, and that would give me chance to get a second shot in. It wasn’t the most elegant way to fight, but I’d found out over the years that you had to do whatever worked. As I edged along the alleyway, following a trail of blood in the gutter, a broken beer can crunched underfoot. I knew my prey had hurt me.

I focused on the next corner intently, desperately hoping I could notice the first sign of movement in time. While I was peering ahead, my quarry was already behind me. He move much more quietly than I ever could, feet barely touching the ground. Maybe he wasn’t even setting a foot on the road; you never knew what kind of abilities the really powerful ones might have. He bared his claws for a moment, knowing that I couldn’t possibly have seen him yet. Maybe he was wondering whether to stand and gloat, or just kill me instantly. He didn’t get the chance though.

I squeezed a tiny switch on the hilt of my knife. I’d had it modified a while back, and I used it rarely enough that he wouldn’t have guessed what I was trying to do even if he’d seen it. I might be staring at the trail ahead of me, but I knew how these creatures hunted and I’d learned to trust the hairs standing up on the back of my neck. I knew someone was watching, I knew he was following me. Explosives can’t kill a vampire, of  course. Fire can weaken them, but it always heals. But right here, there was 6 pounds of plastique embedded in the walls on both sides, surrounded by a similar weight of silver-plated thumbtacks. It was crude, but the best I’d been able to make without specialist lab equipment.

The last vampire standing clearly had his spies inside at least one of the hunter organisations. But as the dust cleared, I knew I had the upper hand at last. The ravaged walls revealed the back rooms of stores and offices, and sixty yards of alleyway was half buried in rubble. The vampire was tall and pale, with brick dust coating his shoulders like the world’s worst dandruff. He also had a hundred smmall wounds, where the pins driven into his body by the blast would have reduced him to almost human capabilities.

He had a gun, which surprised me. But I reacted fast enough to shoot first, taking off his hand before he could get a clear shot at me. Then I ran forwards with my knife. I stabbed him, but he still fought back. He was strong and fast, but not quite good enough. It was only when I slit his throat that blood began to fountain forth, spiralling into the air like a black tornado. I held him down under my boot, still watching out for one more trick, but it seemed his body was spent. The world’s penultimate vampire got his long overdue death, and his mortal remains collapsed into a pile of ash at my feet.

Then the blood cloud flew inwards, collapsing on itself like some kind of reverse mystic supernova. There were a few theories about what might happen if there really was no other vampire for  the power to be drawn towards. I hoped against all hope that it would just turn into normal blood, or become ash like the rest of his body. Maybe the cloud would even disappear, or would become dormant but with the possibility of some other creature like a ghoul or even a werewolf starting a new vampire lineage. As the dispersed trails of red smoke gathered together around me, becoming more compact again, I started to worry that John had been right in predicting a mystical nuclear blast that would take out half the city.

Nobody had the right answer, and as I realised what was happening I started to wonder why. But then there was dark lightning leaping between the buildings, so much mystical energy in one place that even the buildings shook. I could feel the power all around me, more than a human body was ever designed to be exposed to. It was glowing bright enough to blind me now, a brilliant black like nothing else in the world, and I imagined that the raw power was searing the flesh from my bones.

As quickly as it had started, the pain was gone, leaving only echoing silence in its wake. I quickly called the other hunters, those who trusted me at least. I told them the vampire was gone, and that his power had simply dispersed. I knew it wasn’t true, though. The silence left behind was a form of power in itself, like the calm at the centre of a storm, or the feeling of pressure before a storm. I hoped it would be some time before the church realised the truth. The penultimate vampire had died, but he left behind a vast amount of power, and an even more intense hunger that almost made it hard to think.___

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2015-07-22 00:41:17 (2 comments, 1 reshares, 3 +1s)Open 

Have to agree...

___Have to agree...

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2015-07-21 14:36:29 (0 comments, 1 reshares, 1 +1s)Open 

Awesome message :)
And now I'm intrigued by the idea of getting a pet scorpion. Probably wouldn't get on well with kitty, though.

Awesome message :)
And now I'm intrigued by the idea of getting a pet scorpion. Probably wouldn't get on well with kitty, though.___

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2015-07-20 12:26:21 (5 comments, 0 reshares, 0 +1s)Open 

???

???___

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2015-07-20 10:02:42 (0 comments, 0 reshares, 1 +1s)Open 

Disclaimer: While this is my bedroom, the individual in the photo is not actually me.

Disclaimer: While this is my bedroom, the individual in the photo is not actually me.___

2015-07-20 09:57:39 (0 comments, 0 reshares, 0 +1s)Open 

A silly little idea, possibly my answer to Uplift

#DailyStory  day 292 - Elevated

Once we were predators, evolving a low conning in order to take on the most elusive prey. We were strong, we were wild, we were feral. But as much as we like to think that we’re still brave hunters on the prowl, I’m really talking about ancestors so distant they might not even recognise us now. Because we’ve met our gods, and they changed us.

At first it was a simple collaboration between two species with very different worldviews. They developed tools, language, and introspection long before we did. They built homes when we were still living wild, or in nests, or wherever the archæologists currently say our ancestors sheltered themselves. Why do they have to change what they teach us every few generations?

But in any case, we developed a kind of symbiosis with a moreintelle... more »

A silly little idea, possibly my answer to Uplift

#DailyStory  day 292 - Elevated

Once we were predators, evolving a low conning in order to take on the most elusive prey. We were strong, we were wild, we were feral. But as much as we like to think that we’re still brave hunters on the prowl, I’m really talking about ancestors so distant they might not even recognise us now. Because we’ve met our gods, and they changed us.

At first it was a simple collaboration between two species with very different worldviews. They developed tools, language, and introspection long before we did. They built homes when we were still living wild, or in nests, or wherever the archæologists currently say our ancestors sheltered themselves. Why do they have to change what they teach us every few generations?

But in any case, we developed a kind of symbiosis with a more intellectual race. They could build homes and shelter us, and we could hunt prey more efficiently. Sometimes we hunted for them, bringing back a kill to feed our owners. Other times we hunted just to keep the population of some creature under control, and fresh meat was a bonus. And yes, I say “owners”. We weren’t smart back then, we had no tools and no real code of ethics. Our ancestors were little more than animals, and it is clear which way the power dynamic ran. Back then our ancestors were slaves, as much as the word may have fallen out of fashion in these egalitarian days.

We became toys. They didn’t need to hunt any more, and neither did we. Food was provided by machines now, with some advanced distribution architecture behind the scenes. We didn’t need to think about it, and we got lazy. They kept us around out of amusement, or maybe guilt if they realised that they’d turned the proud hunters into a complacent race who could no longer support themselves so easily. Some historians will tell you that we did what we wanted then. We used the things they had built, we lived in their homes and we ate their food and did nothing in exchange. But when I look back, I see a form of slavery even more oppressive than before.

When we worked for our living, they needed us even if they defined the terms of the contract. But when we had no purpose, they could have killed us on a whim. They owned us then; our survival then was entirely based on our ability to please them, though some of our ancestors came to realise that more quickly than others. Then everything changed, more than we could ever have thought possible. Because they hadn’t rested on their laurels, the one major difference between our two races. Even when they were comfortable, they always had to be doing something better.

Our owners invented evolution. Not natural selection, but the scientific basis for pushing another race over the Graithdenberg Line that marked sentience. We didn’t understand at the time, we were primitive still, but they made us what we are. They gave us sentience, and in only a few years we could walk and talk. Just as they had been elevated to sentience by their Predecessors – now believed to be the crab-like jovi race – we had become people through their intervention.

Over the last couple of generations, there has been no end of conflict in the world around us. My kind are aware now, as are a dozen other species from our homeworld. Machines are made so that all can use them, whether they have hooves or talons or tentacles. Elective surgery has become common, allowing an individual from any Elevated race to take on the body shape of our Predecessors. Some think it is an insult to imply that change is better, that just because they were given sentience first we should have to change to their shape in order to fit into their world. Some feel it is a privilege, that allows us all to compete on our own merits in the marketplace of jobs. Two legs or four, or even a mermaid tail, the choice is yours. I think it’s wonderful that we can be whoever we want to be.

I chose to stay with the shape of my ancestors, because my Owner thinks it’s charmingly quaint. Yes, I said ‘owner’ again. I belong to her, so there is no more appropriate word. The humans made us what we are, and to my mind that makes them our gods. Some may struggle mightily to understand human religions while coming from a completely different cultural background. Some may want to follow the same faiths that mankind does, but I don’t see any need  for that when we know where we came from. They created us, so they own us. Everything I have today, from this very keyboard to my qualifications in genetic engineering, was made possible by humans.

Besides, I find that sleeping all day and purring adorably is a much easier life than fighting for limited academic positions at the university. I don’t have the determination to go any further in college, or the guile to succeed in business, or the energy to work a twenty hour week. I’d much rather be a toy, admired and cared for, than be a free cat with responsibility for my own well-being.

Yes, the emancipationists would say I am letting my race down, and remind me that I can be whatever I want to be.  But when I say I want to be a pet, they say that’s the one option I don’t have. Nevertheless, it is the life I have chosen. I love my owner, and if you ever try to take me away from her I assure you, I would have no hesitation in clawing out your eyes.

Mew?


And if you like my writing, please please please consider sharing my first real novel - http://gofundme.com/sandpaperkiss - I will be able to get copies printed in any case, so there's no chance of not getting a copy, but if I can just get 30 people to pre-order then I can go with a different printing company and actually make some money. Please help___

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2015-07-18 09:53:55 (3 comments, 0 reshares, 12 +1s)Open 

For #SaturdayScenes  this week, here's the very last chapter I wrote for Hope City Stories. This hasn't been at all edited yet, so is straight off the top of my head. A bit of a break from the action, our narrating journalist is going out looking for superheroes to interview for his article.  I haven't yet managed to find a better superhero-themed picture

Chapter 14 - Hope City Kitty

One of the rumours floating around was of a mask who defended the tower itself, and patrolled the rooftops of the tallest buildings in the area to deter thieves. Some people called her Catgirl, and others the Catburglar. Her powers were supposed to include a cat’s amazing acuity of hearing, depending who you spoke to, or a prehensile tail that improved her already incredible sense of balance. Some people said she had claws that could cut flesh with ease, or could exude pheromonesfro... more »

For #SaturdayScenes  this week, here's the very last chapter I wrote for Hope City Stories. This hasn't been at all edited yet, so is straight off the top of my head. A bit of a break from the action, our narrating journalist is going out looking for superheroes to interview for his article.  I haven't yet managed to find a better superhero-themed picture

Chapter 14 - Hope City Kitty

One of the rumours floating around was of a mask who defended the tower itself, and patrolled the rooftops of the tallest buildings in the area to deter thieves. Some people called her Catgirl, and others the Catburglar. Her powers were supposed to include a cat’s amazing acuity of hearing, depending who you spoke to, or a prehensile tail that improved her already incredible sense of balance. Some people said she had claws that could cut flesh with ease, or could exude pheromones from them to make anyone she touched fall in love with her.

That last made me most curious, because both the claws and the love potion were the trademarks of the thief who identified herself as Mistress Panther. It was hard to believe that a mask and a villain in the same city had such closely aligned powers, but if it was true that would tell me something important about where these supernormal abilities came from. I decided that Catgirl would be the next subject for my series of interviews, if I could just find her lair.

My first step was searching through the stories people had sent us about this mask, and then searching online for blurry and inconclusive photos that claimed to show her. I found more than a dozen people who claimed to have seen her, and hundreds commenting on how helpful she was in protecting the city from more conventional catburglars. Then the discussions invariably descended into debates over whether she was protecting the businesses in this district, or just keeping the richest pickings for herself. Like nearly all Internet discussion, it invariably became a toxic morass of bile, in which people on both sides of the debate were comparing each other’s political views to Stalin, Hitler, or Clinton.

One thing none of them seemed to notice, though, was the assumption that this Catgirl, or Catburglar, was thwarting criminals, stealing from the offices, or both. From the people who claimed to have seen her in action, I couldn’t see anything to support either accusation. People had seen her on the balconies of Hope Tower, and occasionally on the rooftop viewing galleries of other towers, but nobody mentioned having spoken to her or seen her in action. If I forced myself to stick to the actual evidence, I would find it hard to say which side of the law this strange hero was on.

I was wondering where to go next, staring out of my window, when inspiration struck. The Chronicle’s office was on floor 101, but because of the way all of the building’s systems were integrated, I wondered if I would be able to access the CCTV system for the offices above and below us as well. I wasn’t too enthusiastic about bringing the matter to the attention of my immediate superior, Senior Editor Mike Bellman, but I knew that if there was any hope of securing an interview, video of the outside of the tower would be the key to finding my subject.

“You’re here to make news!” was the ongoing refrain of that meeting. He must have yelled it at least three times, each one louder than the last. Another recurring line was the prohibition against repeating urban myth. I tried to explain that I wasn’t planning to repeat the rumours, but to confirm or deny them. Eventually, he gave in and admitted that it was my project, so I would be allowed to do whatever research I thought was necessary. But he cautioned me  again and again against reporting anything I couldn’t directly prove. I nodded and walked away, a slip of paper bearing a set of single use passcodes in my hand.

The paper had an audio-visual suite, even though we didn’t go to the expense of running a cable news channel. It was still useful to extract frames from video, or to analyse the evidence ourselves before publishing a story. In front of a screen, I simply had to enter the passcodes and I had nearly thirty cameras and a year of  archive footage to sort through. I didn’t do it by hand, of course. It was a long time since I’d done any programming but high school lessons had taught me enough to train the computer to find what I wanted. Fine-tuning the algorithm took the best part of a day, but it was worth it when it finally turned up a match that wasn’t a bird alighting on one of the external struts or a distant aircraft reflected in the glass walls.

I finally found more than thirty appearances in the video. They were all blurred, half glimpses on the corner of the frame. Almost as if she knew to avoid the places where the cameras covered. I added that to a mental list of notes, wondering if it might be a clue to her unmasked face. Of course, journalistic integrity was key, so I would only go looking there if she turned out to be on the wrong side of the law.

Another mental note joined the growing queue while I waited on the balcony where I thought she was most likely to appear. We’d got into the habit of talking about ‘masks’ and ‘badges’ now, terms that had come into common use. But I wasn’t sure if the supernormal people who sought to break the law or use powers for their own gain had such a term in common usage. I’d been calling them ‘villains’, though at least some members of the Hope City Police Authority used that word as a slang term for all criminals in the wild. I had to see if there was a common term I could use, and also check whether the word ‘masks’ was intended to be exclusive to people fighting for what they saw as justice, or could be applied to anyone with abilities outside the ordinary.


If you enjoyed the chapter, please comment. If you want to see more excerpts, please follow the collection. To see what other authors are working on, click #SaturdayScenes  . If you are willing to help a struggling author, please buy or reshare my first novel - http://gofundme.com/sandpaperkiss - I think I need to sell about 30 pre-orders before next month in order to convince the government to keep supporting me___

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2015-07-17 11:23:09 (1 comments, 0 reshares, 5 +1s)Open 

I think this every time I see one of these "You know you're a writer when…"

I think this every time I see one of these "You know you're a writer when…"___

2015-07-16 09:06:11 (1 comments, 0 reshares, 1 +1s)Open 

Inspired by a picture I saw on G+ yesterday, but I forgot to save the link

#DailyStory  № 288 - Air Ships

The skyships are a miracle of modern technology married to ancient craftsmanship. The hull is crafted the same way those of ocean-going vessels would have been a century before, but now they sail over the clouds instead of the waves. With just the right kind of science and the right kind of magic, the sky could become a new ocean.

To the vast majority of people, the world seemed no different than it had before. If you look towards the horizon, you might sometimes see a caravel drift across in front of the setting sun, but that was as close as many people came. Even below the main shipping routes, you wouldn’t necessarily notice as the great ships floated by overhead. Oh, you might have to sweep a little more often as fragments and splinters of the greatvess... more »

Inspired by a picture I saw on G+ yesterday, but I forgot to save the link

#DailyStory  № 288 - Air Ships

The skyships are a miracle of modern technology married to ancient craftsmanship. The hull is crafted the same way those of ocean-going vessels would have been a century before, but now they sail over the clouds instead of the waves. With just the right kind of science and the right kind of magic, the sky could become a new ocean.

To the vast majority of people, the world seemed no different than it had before. If you look towards the horizon, you might sometimes see a caravel drift across in front of the setting sun, but that was as close as many people came. Even below the main shipping routes, you wouldn’t necessarily notice as the great ships floated by overhead. Oh, you might have to sweep a little more often as fragments and splinters of the great vessels rain down on the homes below, and very occasionally a ship might drop a nail or some little piece of cargo that you would see hit the ground.

Even, and very rarely because the deckhands were well trained to be careful, a lantern or some passenger’s cigar case might tumble lazily to the ground. Those things might have value to those who found them, but they always descended slowly as if they were sinking through water, so they were unlikely to cause any damage to buildings on the ground.

In fact, even the people of New Cardiff, where nearly a hundred great ships every day flew over on different routes to and from the new world, didn’t have any major difference in their lives now their sky was the new sea.

Except for the whales.___

2015-07-14 17:24:19 (0 comments, 0 reshares, 0 +1s)Open 

Today's #DailyStory, day 286, is a drabble. Is that cheating?

286 - Paradigm Shift

It's one of the fundamental laws of both magic and physics, something underlying the way the whole world works. Rock blunts blades, scissors cut paper, and all the rest. Some scientists insist there's 4 elements, or even 118, but everyone knows the basic three. So when they found a magic weapon that reverses the rules, they were terrified of what it meant. They sealed it away, never to be found.

They called it the most disquieting name possible, to represent its effect: The sword in the stone.

Today's #DailyStory, day 286, is a drabble. Is that cheating?

286 - Paradigm Shift

It's one of the fundamental laws of both magic and physics, something underlying the way the whole world works. Rock blunts blades, scissors cut paper, and all the rest. Some scientists insist there's 4 elements, or even 118, but everyone knows the basic three. So when they found a magic weapon that reverses the rules, they were terrified of what it meant. They sealed it away, never to be found.

They called it the most disquieting name possible, to represent its effect: The sword in the stone.___

2015-07-13 02:58:48 (0 comments, 0 reshares, 0 +1s)Open 

Today's #DailyStory  flash fiction. Written from idea to posting in 50  minutes, so it's obviously a bit rough. Would anyone be interested in a book collecting the best of these stories, if it was on Kindle or printed?

№ 285
Undo

His name was Mikael, and he was originally from some tiny country in Eastern Europe. When he first came over here, he shortened his name to Mika in a classified ad looking for clients, and too many people assumed he was a she. Ever since  then, he’s been too proud and stubborn to change it. He’d rather get so famous that everyone knows Mika is short for Mikael. It became less of a problem once he started meeting other people with fragment powers, though, because then everybody who matters calls you by what you can do rather than some name arbitrarily picked by humans. In the Underground, they called him Undo.

She wasborn Luc... more »

Today's #DailyStory  flash fiction. Written from idea to posting in 50  minutes, so it's obviously a bit rough. Would anyone be interested in a book collecting the best of these stories, if it was on Kindle or printed?

№ 285
Undo

His name was Mikael, and he was originally from some tiny country in Eastern Europe. When he first came over here, he shortened his name to Mika in a classified ad looking for clients, and too many people assumed he was a she. Ever since  then, he’s been too proud and stubborn to change it. He’d rather get so famous that everyone knows Mika is short for Mikael. It became less of a problem once he started meeting other people with fragment powers, though, because then everybody who matters calls you by what you can do rather than some name arbitrarily picked by humans. In the Underground, they called him Undo.

She was born Lucy, but she’d never liked that name. She called herself Luke, because if people made the wrong assumption about her gonads, they might just make the right guess about what it meant to go up against her. The Underground couldn’t decide what to call her, but she was quite amused by those who assumed Luke was short for Lucifer, so she kept it.

She could control heat. Not just throw fireballs, like the overpowered heroes of some wuxia movie, but channel the flames. She could make fire flicker like it was alive, and direct jets of steam like they were some kind of dispersible tentacles extending from her body. She didn’t like to fight with fire, though, because of the collateral damage. That’s where she relied on the skills she’d built up through ten years of bare-knuckle boxing and then cage fighting.

“Hey, fire girl!” he called out one day on the street. Luke didn’t know how he’d found her, and she didn’t really care. She spun on her heel so fast most people wouldn’t have seen her move, and raised her fists. She would have punched him out in a single movement if he’d been a few feet closer. Instead she ran, estimating three steps before she could take him out.

“I got a job for you,” he said, but she didn’t take any notice. She didn’t like anyone to know who she was, and a shout like that certainly said that he knew more than was healthy. She feinted with her left fist, then just as he was expecting her to follow  up with the right, spun to plant her heel in his face. That was the plan, anyway, but this unassuming little man with the fussy black moustache just stood there. She missed. Luke narrowed her eyes, not knowing how that could possibly have happened, and jabbed at his solar plexus. He didn’t dodge, he was standing less than a foot away now, and yet she missed him completely.

“They call me Undo,” Mika introduced himself, “I can negate other people’s fragment powers.”

“This isn’t a power,” she grunted, grabbing the lapels of that tacky mud-brown suit and thrusting her head forward to break his nose. And she missed again.

“I know. I know what your power is, and I need it. Or rather, some friends who are conducting experiments in superconductivity need it, and sent me out as a recruiter. If you look behind me, you’ll see my friends Pinpoint and Nazca.” She stepped back then. She might be stubborn, but she wasn’t insane, and to keep trying with something that she knew didn’t work would have been the definition of insanity.

Pinpoint she recognised. She’d seen him before, hustling some small time MMA tournament. She’d heard that his power was that he never missed. With his hands, or with any weapon, he would always hit his target. As she’d shown him a few years ago, perfect accuracy means nothing if you haven’t got the power to back it up. She had never managed to dodge his strikes, but she hadn’t needed to because he was a two hundred pound weakling.

The other guy, Nazca, had white eyes without pupils. She tried to think what she knew about him. He’d been in São Paulo when the priests had their big fight, but she couldn’t remember what his power was. Could it be him who was affecting her…

Luke interrupted her own train of thought with the realisation: “You reversed it. You don’t mean you can stop other people’s powers, you’re turning them into the opposite.”

“Like Pinpoint here. Quite right,” he smiled like a teacher taking pride in a pupil. “His attack that always hits the mark allows me to create an attack that never hits. I’m sure you don’t need me to spell out what reversing Nazca’s ability would mean. So… would you please come and meet your new employers?”

It wasn’t really a question.___

2015-07-12 16:52:39 (0 comments, 0 reshares, 0 +1s)Open 

Today's #DailyStory  - inspired (loosely) by a picture offered by a friend ^_^

Day 284 - Survivors

It was never intended to last so long. King Kalachim had sought the approval of his wisest counsellor to cast a spell so that the mightiest warriors would be ready whenever he called on them. Sorcery was never as predictable as he would have liked though, and there was a cost for everything.

One hundred of his best soldiers were transmuted into iron. They stood in a line, some in their armour and some in their everyday clothes. Then the wise man chanted the Charm of Making, and they were only metal. When the king needed their aid, all he had to do was ring a bell,, and the greatest fighters who ever lived would fight again. Thus, Kalachim ensured that when the wyrm Tyrvan eventually resurrected, there would still be an army great enough to defeat it and prevent the... more »

Today's #DailyStory  - inspired (loosely) by a picture offered by a friend ^_^

Day 284 - Survivors

It was never intended to last so long. King Kalachim had sought the approval of his wisest counsellor to cast a spell so that the mightiest warriors would be ready whenever he called on them. Sorcery was never as predictable as he would have liked though, and there was a cost for everything.

One hundred of his best soldiers were transmuted into iron. They stood in a line, some in their armour and some in their everyday clothes. Then the wise man chanted the Charm of Making, and they were only metal. When the king needed their aid, all he had to do was ring a bell,, and the greatest fighters who ever lived would fight again. Thus, Kalachim ensured that when the wyrm Tyrvan eventually resurrected, there would still be an army great enough to defeat it and prevent the fall of civilisation. It left him without legendary soldiers to protect him against any usurpers, but he was a wise king with few enemies, and his warriors were strong even if they weren’t the stuff of legend.

As it happened, Kalachim lived to be one of the oldest kings of his time. Then to his son he passed down the enchanted bell that would wake the warriors. If a fighter arose who was stronger that those of Kalachim’s legendary house guard, he would be welcome to join them in their magical slumber, so that he would arise when such strength was needed at the end of time. But the warrior never arose, and the bell was passed down until it became a piece of history.

It was even forgotten. Generations passed, and the bell was passed down, but the kingdom fell and was consigned to the memories of only a few academics. The iron statues were removed from their cave and placed in the courtyard of a castle, a massive brick fortress quite unlike the ones of Kalachim’s day. Eventually the legend was muddled as it passed from teacher to student, and nobody knew just what the iron army was for. More generations came, and that kingdom fell too. Before Tyrvan’s attack came, the land was no longer under the rule of a king, but a parliament.

And though it was forgotten, the legend could not be killed. The story persisted, and those who studied ancient texts could learn parts of what had happened. The bell was still handed down through the old king’s descendants, most of whom had no idea what they had but never thought to do anything except pass it on to their children. And when someone who knew even part of the story picked it up, he knew instantly what it was.

The only problem was the statues. The castle was a museum now, and even wrought iron doesn’t stand up well to centuries of assault by the rain. The surface was pitted and rusted, and in the last half century the smog had also taken its toll on the once-great warriors. Many of the faces and helmets were intact, but their bodies were barely recognisable. When Peter inherited the bell, he realised that an ancient myth was more real than he had ever suspected. He spent nearly six months trying to track down where the statues from that cave had been taken, and finally went to look at his warriors.

He wanted to ring the bell, to march the men back to their cave and return them to their long sleep before any more of their number were stolen and sold  for scrap, or before they were any further deformed by the harshness of the weather. But he had studied legends from all around the world, and he knew that if he awoke the legendary warriors and the damage to the statues proved fatal, there was a good chance that no knights descended from Garevan (as six of the legends were) would remain alive; and that would break the last chain holding the wolf-dragon Tyrvan in its abyssal slumber.

They were the greatest warriors who had ever lived, but there was no way to know if they would still have the power to save the world. And that was a risk too great to ever be taken.___

2015-07-11 22:30:45 (0 comments, 0 reshares, 0 +1s)Open 

Today's #DailyStory  ... a little silly, but hopefully you can see what I was aiming for

283 - Pixels

Her name was Carla Montenesceau, and she was a heartthrob to a generation. You might say it’s only pixels, little coloured dots of light, but when it comes to Carla it wasn’t just the pixels. It was the way they were arranged, to hint at details that would have been censored out if they were larger than pixel size, and it was the dynamic grace of her motion. Just realistic enough to let you know she was hot, and yet vague enough that you could project whatever fantasies a teenage boy has onto your mental image of her.

The people who said we were weird, that it was just a simulated image, didn’t get the point. Your porn stars are pixels, when you’re watching a video, what does it matter that these aren’t directly based on a real person? But in anycase, the ... more »

Today's #DailyStory  ... a little silly, but hopefully you can see what I was aiming for

283 - Pixels

Her name was Carla Montenesceau, and she was a heartthrob to a generation. You might say it’s only pixels, little coloured dots of light, but when it comes to Carla it wasn’t just the pixels. It was the way they were arranged, to hint at details that would have been censored out if they were larger than pixel size, and it was the dynamic grace of her motion. Just realistic enough to let you know she was hot, and yet vague enough that you could project whatever fantasies a teenage boy has onto your mental image of her.

The people who said we were weird, that it was just a simulated image, didn’t get the point. Your porn stars are pixels, when you’re watching a video, what does it matter that these aren’t directly based on a real person? But in any case, the older folks stopped saying things like that when the breach opened.

We still don’t understand what happened, just that Doctor Imperius and the Black Rose Legion were suddenly off our screens and in the real world. There was panic all around the world, and a mass burning of consoles by the fundamentalists. I guess, for once, they had a point. Some gamers tried to explain that it wasn’t possible for the characters they were playing as to leap out of the screen and take on physical form, that there was nothing to be gained by destroying all their toys. Those guys sometimes ended up on the bonfire too, and the rest of us couldn’t protest too loudly. The villains from a half dozen games were in the real world now, and destroying their digital versions was about as close as we had to a rational solution.

There was one group who had another idea, though. We should play the games. Because there must be some kind of portal connecting them to the real world, and if a portal existed, it must exist both ways. We looked at the news reports, and we identified the tanks. In the end, the ones we ended up being able to use were Solidat forces; the army of a fictional country from a certain series of exploration and puzzle solving games. They were the bad guys, and they were pouring onto the front in incredible numbers. But we noticed that on all the news pictures, they didn’t have any Sparrowhawk fighters. Only the relatively sluggish Predator bomber, and supported by airborne units from other games. And that told us something; it told us where the portal was within the game. There was exactly one factory complex capable of churning out that number of Spiders, Antlions, and Predators but that didn’t have the machinery to make Sparrowhawks.

So we played the game, and after exploring just about every polygon of the map in that area, we found a portal that led to  the real  world. First, we tried sending Carla out into the real world. But every time we came close, the game would crash. It seemed that while some kid with a game controller was giving Carla directions, she couldn’t come out into the real world.

Our solution was to start a multiplayer game, and pass messages between ourselves. We didn’t know for sure, but it seemed the enemy AI was capable of remaining conscious while a game was off. So if we logged out while Carla was holding a letter from me to Brandon, maybe she could read what was in it. It was a crazy idea, we tried maybe half a dozen times on different versions of the game before the thought police seized our consoles too.

A month later, we found out it had worked. Carla turned up at my front door, in the flesh. After leaving the game world, it had taken her that long to find me.At first, I was unsure why she’d bothered. If she knew the political situation, then she could have been much more help siding with the navy and the marines, joining the fight.

“I served my country,” she shrugged. Charming accent, but the toughness of a woman who’d nearly been killed so many times underneath it all. “I figured I earned a break, I can deal with some personal matters first.” I couldn’t help myself. All my old fantasies, the stories of some fanfiction I’d tried to write years before, flashed back into my mind.

Then a second later my head was spinning from the impact with the wall, my front teeth had been broken by the gun barrel now wedged firmly in my mouth. Even then, the most terrifying thing was the butterfly knife in her other hand, and the look of pure loathing in her eyes as she elaborated: “I want to show you just how I feel about that ‘no clothes’ mod…”___

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2015-07-10 23:19:01 (5 comments, 0 reshares, 5 +1s)Open 

#SaturdayScenes  presents… a scene from Hope City Stories. If you like, please comment, and then click the hashtag to see what other authors have been working on this week.

7 - Inner Sanctum

Miranda had perfected the right mannerisms to tower over people with only five feet and two inches of height, but here even she found her hair brushing lightly against the vaulting. Around the walls were arranged more books for a feeling of continuity. They were a miniscule part of the collection upstairs, only six shelves spanning the circumference of a room fifteen feet wide, but they contained most of its value, to scholars in certain fields at any rate. Among them, twenty-nine were the last surviving copies; and six were books whose existence was widely believed to be entirely apocryphal among the few people who had even heard the names.

Also hanging from the shelves were11... more »

#SaturdayScenes  presents… a scene from Hope City Stories. If you like, please comment, and then click the hashtag to see what other authors have been working on this week.

7 - Inner Sanctum

Miranda had perfected the right mannerisms to tower over people with only five feet and two inches of height, but here even she found her hair brushing lightly against the vaulting. Around the walls were arranged more books for a feeling of continuity. They were a miniscule part of the collection upstairs, only six shelves spanning the circumference of a room fifteen feet wide, but they contained most of its value, to scholars in certain fields at any rate. Among them, twenty-nine were the last surviving copies; and six were books whose existence was widely believed to be entirely apocryphal among the few people who had even heard the names.

Also hanging from the shelves were 11 crystal-encrusted torcs as well as numerous bangles cast in various precious metals. These were the rumoured Atlantean artifacts; along with a few other items which were safely secreted away in cubbyholes somewhere in the secret base. For, unknown to her colleagues, to the City Council that employed her, and even to her fiancé, Miranda Cohen was Antique Blaze, the amazon warrior woman who guarded Hope City against magical and mystical threats.

The walls of this sanctum were marble, flecked through with fragments of quartz and fine veins of copper and gold. This unusual rock formation, maybe natural or maybe not, harnessed the power of the Earth’s magnetic field to charge up the ancient technology of the Atlantean artefacts. Along the metal strips, multifaceted crystals protruded from the walls  at regular intervals, the faintly glowing crystals that were the ultimate core of nearly all Atlantean technology. Transporting these stones back from the rainforest had been the hardest of Mayor Clarke’s many achievements, but she had managed to complete the sanctum even before the groundwork was laid for most of the city’s buildings.

Miranda ducked through a gothic archway, and passed through the small training room. The floor here was granite tiles over Atlantean marble, but now covered by tough cushions. There were cupboards for her bracers, as well as more mundane training weapons, and sandbags hung from the ceiling around the edge of the room. But Miranda wasn’t interested in fighting today. She had something more important on her mind, and headed for The Nook, the secret inner sanctum within her secret inner sanctum. She walked carefully along another narrow hallway, the way lit by crystals which glowed with their own light, set into sconces on the wall every two feet. Beneath her feet, she could feel the vibrations from the private generator room which lit the public parts of the library. On the plans, somewhere in the back of a file cabinet at City Hall, this space was marked as a reinforced concrete beam to support the weight of the North Wing’s main atrium. Atlantean marble was impossibly strong, though, so a passageway through the centre could remain unnoticed.

And here, this was Miranda’s office. There were twelve such offices in the hidden base, but so far Warrior Cohen was only the third incumbent. Two other rooms had been sealed on the retirement of her predecessors, the warriors known as Antique Angel and Antique Gale. Some day, she knew, there would come a thirteenth amazon defender, and Mayor Clarke’s personal effects would have to be returned to the main body of the library. That would come way after her time had passed, though. The office itself was arranged the same as her daytime office in the library. A desk in one corner held a computer, two flat monitors forming a neat grid with the paintings hanging above them. On the other side was a couch which folded out into a small but serviceable bed, and two file cabinets stored whatever records she was currently working on. On top of one was an old crystal set radio and a French cafetiere, presents from Grandfather Cohen and Grandpa Mondegreen respectively, and the other supported a small microwave which was surmounted by a precariously balanced mini-fridge and a kettle. All a woman needed to live by.

Today, Miranda glanced momentarily at the computer, making sure that Blaze hadn’t received any urgent email, before reaching for one end of the couch and lifting it into the air. With the futon out of the way, she could drop into a small hatch beneath, barely large enough to admit her athletic body. The drop was nearly eight feet, so she hung by her fingertips from the edge for a moment before letting go and entering her most secret, sacred place: The Nook.

Down here, there were books. People thought of the library as a place of words, but to Miranda it was a place of space, art and impressive architecture. Her Nook was small, a cube barely six feet on a side, and it was almost entirely filled with books. There was a small wooden platform for her to land on, but it was supported on two short piles of books. Another small plank, wedged between slim volumes of Cuban literature, provided a ladder for when she needed to return to the real world. A light crystal hung by a thread from the ceiling, casting a dim golden glow just enough to read by. This and a pillow were the only non-literary decorations. Amid the stacks of books which stretched from floor to ceiling, there was just enough space for a small woman to curl up with a good book; other tomes beneath her blanket and crowded in on all sides. Here, alone with her words, the only sound the rustle of a page, was where a modern-day amazon warrior came to relax after a hard day cataloguing.___

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2015-07-10 11:32:01 (0 comments, 1 reshares, 0 +1s)Open 

Yesterday's #DailyStory  was inspired by a picture a friend linked me to. Rough draft, didn't come out as well as I'd hoped, but maybe it can improve with editing

Day 281 - Unwarranted

Finding out what had happened proved a lot more difficult than I had expected. It wasn’t  that there weren’t any witnesses. There had been dozens of people in the square; several had given statements to the police, and many more were willing to talk to us when offered a coffee or a little compensation for their time. Everyone had seen the same thing, too, it was just that what they’d seen wasn’t particularly useful to us.

It had started around lunch time. A couple of clowns had been performing in the square, encouraging passers by to drop a few coins into hats on the ground. Then at noon, when the lunch-time crowds were thickest and there were businessmen headingacross th... more »

Yesterday's #DailyStory  was inspired by a picture a friend linked me to. Rough draft, didn't come out as well as I'd hoped, but maybe it can improve with editing

Day 281 - Unwarranted

Finding out what had happened proved a lot more difficult than I had expected. It wasn’t  that there weren’t any witnesses. There had been dozens of people in the square; several had given statements to the police, and many more were willing to talk to us when offered a coffee or a little compensation for their time. Everyone had seen the same thing, too, it was just that what they’d seen wasn’t particularly useful to us.

It had started around lunch time. A couple of clowns had been performing in the square, encouraging passers by to drop a few coins into hats on the ground. Then at noon, when the lunch-time crowds were thickest and there were businessmen heading across the street to their favourite coffee shop as well as the shoppers in the square, one clown started climbing up onto the fountain. Some of the witnesses had already been watching the man’s antics, while others only noticed when he was almost on top of the great baroque edifice. He’d walked around it several times, they said, hanging determinedly onto the stonework as he edged around a stone lip barely a finger wide with his comically oversized boots.

People watched, and chatted among themselves, trying to guess what he was going to do next. They all assumed it was going to be some kind of trick. But after some time – some people guessed 5 minutes, others said more like twenty – the clown took out a paint brush and began painting an anti-government slogan on the ancient marble. It was still comedic, his tin of paint spilling some onto the hat of the other clown every time he leaned out in one direction of the other, but the sudden introduction of politics managed to drain all fun out of the slapstick routine.

The police arrived quickly. The clown stomped down the ladder  and stopped to talk to them. He only tried one attempt at making them part of the show before he realised the seriousness of the situation and began making his explanations. The officer wasn’t having any of it, though, and clapped him in handcuffs almost immediately. The clown was protesting loudly as he was hustled into the back of a car and taken away.

The half-formed graffiti was partly removed by a council employee with a pressure washer, but then it seemed they were happy to leave a few streaks of paint until properly-equipped staff could be sent to scale the fountain and wash it properly. And nobody thought anything more about it for a couple of weeks, when everything went to hell.

How could it have happened? That was the question on everybody’s lips. The casualties weren’t high, it could have been worse, but this Rupture was especially shocking simply because it was in such a busy place. The fountain in the square was a notable landmark, and even at night there were enough people walking past that there shouldn’t have been time for someone to plant god-seeds or prepare a portal. Everyone asked each other the same questions, but we’re the people whose job it is to find the right answer.

It was two  days into the investigation before somebody thought to ask about the clown. The guy had been on the fountain for several minutes before the police arrived, and nobody had suspected he was more than a political activist. So we called the police dispatcher and asked to speak  to whichever department had interviewed the guy.No doubt he would have given a false name, but at least there’d be a lead of some kind, a DNA swab and an astral imprint on file that we could use.

There wasn’t. A police car had shown up five minutes after the first cop had dragged the clown away, and muttered angrily about the dispatchers putting different people’s calls through to different precincts when an incident was close to the boundary. It happened all  the time, so nobody thought much about it as long as the perpetrator was in custody. It turned out this time he wasn’t, because neither of the other stations that could have sent a man to that area had done so. A fake cop, to make sure the real ones didn’t get involved. “Probably a fake clown, too,” Markowski sighed. Sometimes I have no idea why they even let him on this team.

So we did things the hard way. We appealed in the papers for people who’d been there when the clowns were in town. Turns out the performance day had been a flash mob, someone posting online that all kinds of street performers were going to throw up  an improvised circus in the square for a day, and anyone’s welcome as long as they give a share of their takings to the charity that organised it, Survivors Support. Half of them didn’t know each other, and nobody could put a name to the guy who’d vandalised the fountain. So  we called in the bystanders as well, those who’d talked to the local paper on the day, and we put out an appeal for anyone else who’d been there.

Dozens of people could describe the clown. He had a funny hat – though there was some disagreement about exactly what kind – and was wearing reflective shades, and a massive purple wig that slowly turned around to block his vision a few times during his act. He didn’t wear old-fashioned greasepaint, but then most modern clowns didn’t. Everyone gave the same description. Nobody could guess at his real hair colour, nobody noticed if he was short or tall, or if he had a moustache. He might as well have been wearing a mask, for all the detail we could get.

The cop was easier. He was a bit taller than the clown, or maybe a bit shorter. He was larger than average, but not fat. He had short hair, that might have been dark brown or light brown. He was wearing a uniform, which would make him easy to recognise. Two people remembered his badge number, though; they’d been thinking of making a statement if the clown claimed he’d been too aggressive, and everyone knows now that the best way to identify a police officer is to remember the number on his jacket.

So we were back to square one. This time. But sooner or later, we would find them. We just had to keep on believing that.___

2015-07-04 08:28:24 (0 comments, 0 reshares, 1 +1s)Open 

Just a shout out to anyone who hasn't seen it yet; Whispersmiths and Other Stories is free on Amazon this weekend – http://hyperurl.Whispersmiths – so check it out. Of course, if you got Kindle Unlimited it'll always be free. In which case, please read it.  I need to know what people think of my stories.

Just a shout out to anyone who hasn't seen it yet; Whispersmiths and Other Stories is free on Amazon this weekend – http://hyperurl.Whispersmiths – so check it out. Of course, if you got Kindle Unlimited it'll always be free. In which case, please read it.  I need to know what people think of my stories.___

posted image

2015-07-04 08:13:39 (5 comments, 1 reshares, 9 +1s)Open 

This week for #SaturdayScenes, I present something a little different. Sandpaper Kiss is in final editing now, and I'm praying that I get enough pre-orders to cover the cost of an ISBN. So here's a slice of a new story: Hope City Stories. Enjoy!

Chapter 2: A Hero Reborn

Everybody knew what Hope Tower looked like; it was the iconic building that dominated every vista. Even in the outer parts of the city, avenues were angled towards it to make sure it could be seen from every important location. Even if you weren’t in sight of it, it was the city’s logo. The distinctive leaning fan shape was watermarked on every official letter, and embossed on public maps, bus shelters, and tourist plaques throughout Hope. The view from the giant tower was just as impressive, with the multifaceted new buildings that made up much of the city centre reflecting sunlight to make the viewsfro... more »

This week for #SaturdayScenes, I present something a little different. Sandpaper Kiss is in final editing now, and I'm praying that I get enough pre-orders to cover the cost of an ISBN. So here's a slice of a new story: Hope City Stories. Enjoy!

Chapter 2: A Hero Reborn

Everybody knew what Hope Tower looked like; it was the iconic building that dominated every vista. Even in the outer parts of the city, avenues were angled towards it to make sure it could be seen from every important location. Even if you weren’t in sight of it, it was the city’s logo. The distinctive leaning fan shape was watermarked on every official letter, and embossed on public maps, bus shelters, and tourist plaques throughout Hope. The view from the giant tower was just as impressive, with the multifaceted new buildings that made up much of the city centre reflecting sunlight to make the views from Hope Tower seem as if it was supported in a nest of rainbows.

The inside of the building was just as memorable, if you’d seen it, and its depiction on television made sure that anyone would recognise it immediately. Everything was glass and crystal, as far as possible. Even the smallest hallway had natural light, at least a window into one of the great vaulted, glass-walled lobby spaces cris-crossed with gleaming bridges and escalators hanging in the air to connect higher levels. Virtually the whole building was open plan, and it was beautiful. The designer had been a genius. Now, if anyone ever thought back to the blast that had ushered in the 21st century, their first impression would be the beauty that grew out of the remains. Clearly, that was exactly how it was supposed to be.

Below ground level, though, Hope Tower wasn’t so bright and shining, and wasn’t so well known either. Even three levels of basement parking had sunlight, courtesy of slanted windows for three feet below the ceiling of the first subterranean level, and light wells from above directing the sun’s rays onto ornate, prismatic sculptures. But go another level down, and nobody knew everything that was down there. Half a century before, Mayor Clarke and her team of architects had put just as much thought into keeping the underground complex hidden as they had into creating the impression of openness and honesty for the City Hall and offices above.

The architecture here had its own propaganda. Instead of white marble, chrome, and glass, the walls were lined with utilitarian steel panels, with so many cupboards that it would be impossible to find anything without the approval of the building’s computer core. The styling here said that the city was robust and would defeat anyone who dared to oppose it, or that these people were the pragmatic foundation that supported the dreams of the masses.

Among many military offices, of which nobody knew all the details, and many science labs of various kinds, were the offices of Hope One. This particular think-tank could easily have fitted into either group, but its scientists preferred to think of themselves as entirely separate from the red-tape-laden main arms of the City Council. Amid all the labs, and the more esoteric equipment required by their particular research project, was one large conference room. It was spartan in appearance, but the simple upholstered chairs were deceptively luxurious.  The table here was solid wood, with gunmetal trim to match the atmosphere of the room. Lighting strips ran all around the coving, creating a slightly unreal atmosphere with no distinct shadows. It was officially the Research Bureau Presentation Suite; where One’s scientists would show off their findings to the Council’s top brass. But with the decor, and the usual tone of secret meetings that the place was normally used for, it had become known as the War Room.

The man at the head of the table today was colloquially referred to as Number One – or just One, like the department – by his subordinates. He was neither a military man nor a scientist, and his main purpose was to act as a buffer between the two groups within his department. He and his little team would turn the soldiers’ requirements into a specification the scientists could work to, and explain the results of any research to people without a background in technology. Although One theoretically held the reins, he was mostly here as a figurehead today. Just once, the technical team wanted to make their own presentation.

As the assembled dignitaries chattered among themselves, a functionary from the research department fumbled with the remote control for the projector. Some of the chatter was enthusiastic, as it always was on the subject of the superheroes who protected the city. But some of the Councilmen were confused, not yet understanding the scope of this latest project.

Their conversation was interrupted as, at the foot of the table, an automatic door unlocked with a heavy clunk. As it hissed ponderously open mist poured into the room at floor level. This door, everyone present knew already, connected directly to the most secure part of a hermetically sealed research laboratory where all kinds of high-energy physics experiments could be performed. Maybe the rush of steam was a consequence of higher humidity in the air there, a by-product of the experiment they were running. Or maybe Doctor Warren had simply decided it was appropriate to use dry ice, and enhance the atmosphere a little. A figure strode into the room, with the purposeful tread of some adventurous astronaut stepping through an airlock. Both the heavy door, grinding ponderously open on hissing hydraulics, and the man’s suit, heavy steel plates to match the decor, would have been appropriate for the role.

The door closed again with a dull thunk, and the apparition stood stock still while the theatrical smoke cleared. Initially, some of  them weren’t entirely sure if they were looking at a suit of armour or some kind of robot; with the joint expertise of all the specialists who’d been called in here it would have been in their power to develop either. What they were sure about, with all the engraved eagles, badges, and other heraldic devices decorating the heavy plates, was that this design had been crafted to scream ‘superhero’ to anyone who saw it. Right in the centre of the chest, a panel two feet wide bore a large embossed logo, , the only part of the decoration that wasn’t incorporated into some form of lights, vents, weapons, or mounting points for other gadgetry. Beneath the shield that represented the city and a stylised image of Hope Tower itself were the letters ‘CU’ rendered in baroque serif capitals. There could be no mistaking the intended allegiance of the figure they were looking at.

“May I present,” the bespectacled lab assistant at the front of the room spoke too close to the microphone, his voice distorted, “The newest hero to join us, straight from the laboratory, Captain Ultimatum!” There was a brief snatch of perfunctory applause, and a babble of confused muttering. The speaker opened his mouth to continue, then hesitated.


If you enjoyed, then please comment, or click on _#SaturdayScenes__  to see what other authors have been working on, or go to __http://gofundme.com/snadpaperkiss__ to buy my previous book and help me win!____

2015-07-03 17:47:51 (0 comments, 0 reshares, 0 +1s)Open 

Today's #DailyStory  is a little rough, written flat out with no editing. But, here you go:

Day 275 - The Real Thing

Charlie backed away, his shield upraised to ward off another volley of laser fire. It was a thing designed for a high fantasy instance, an inlay of woven brass and silver filigree enchanted to deflect hostile magic, but it seemed to work just as well against the security droids. He was almost to the server room – or more precisely, the self-propagating simulacrum/intersection node in narrative phase-space that was currently disguising itself as a corporate server room – and allowed himself to breathe a sigh of relief.

Then he saw Jacob trip and fall. Suddenly the plan fell apart in Charlie's mind, and nothing mattered but ensuring he was safe. If this was an action movie, it would have been the dramatic life-or-death decision that provedhe r... more »

Today's #DailyStory  is a little rough, written flat out with no editing. But, here you go:

Day 275 - The Real Thing

Charlie backed away, his shield upraised to ward off another volley of laser fire. It was a thing designed for a high fantasy instance, an inlay of woven brass and silver filigree enchanted to deflect hostile magic, but it seemed to work just as well against the security droids. He was almost to the server room – or more precisely, the self-propagating simulacrum/intersection node in narrative phase-space that was currently disguising itself as a corporate server room – and allowed himself to breathe a sigh of relief.

Then he saw Jacob trip and fall. Suddenly the plan fell apart in Charlie's mind, and nothing mattered but ensuring he was safe. If this was an action movie, it would have been the dramatic life-or-death decision that proved he really loved the guy But this wasn’t a movie, it would have to follow the rules of real life even if it technically wasn’t that either, and he already knew his feelings were for real.

He ran back over, pouring mana into the shield to let him batter away the swarm of drones as they got closer.

“What the fuck?” Bradley yelled behind him, “Hold the line, Charles!” On some level he knew the accountant was right, but he didn’t care any more. They were trapped in a virtual world, anyone who opposed the Corporation getting shut away where they couldn’t do any harm. In the early part of the 21st century, video games that felt completely real were a  novelty that somehow changed the world, removing the last distinction between friends in the real world and those on the other side of the planet. But somewhere along the line, someone had realised that as well as medieval castles and intergalactic battles, the game hardware could simulate the real world as well.

It was subtle, really. If you were known to have political views opposed to the company, then the game you played for relaxation the night before election day wouldn’t let you go. You’d end up in a virtual simulacrum of the real world, to cast a virtual vote that didn’t matter anywhere, and then wake up the next day not knowing anything was different. It had taken thirty years for someone to catch on.

Maybe that wasn’t actually true; people discovered the secret all the time, the illusion wasn’t perfect. But the safety shutoffs weren’t perfect either, and if you found out the truth you’d  never log out to tell anyone. Now, they’d hacked the system and gained access to the metadata, and if they could just get to the virtual representation of the system’s own server room, they could force their reality into a recursion loop and crash the system. But that depended on everyone sticking to the plan.

Half of the group hadn’t even known each other when they each started to uncover the truth. But one by one they’d realised things weren’t what they seemed, and the Grey Corporation couldn’t afford the computing time to run more than one fake real world, or to give every NPC in the world a believable character. If you asked enough questions to everyone you meet, eventually you’ll get in touch with the real ones.

☃ ☃ ☃

Charlie threw himself over Jacob just before the sentinel robots got there, whirring and clicking iron monstrosities from some horror MMO. His shield covered both of them for a moment, but he didn’t know how long it would hold up.

“You shouldn’t have,” Jacob gasped, struggling to stand. The blood around his ankle said he’d caught a tripwire, would probably lose the leg. But then as soon as they go back to the real world, there’d be no injury at all. “You need to crash the server, get someone out to tell the world what’s going on.”

“We still don’t know,” Charlie’s voice cracked, “We’ve got no idea what will happen to you if you’re not near a save point when it goes down. I couldn’t bear hearing you’re a vegetable because I didn’t stop to help you.” He didn’t mention the thought of any others who they hadn’t managed to find, still out there somewhere in a fake world. Josh, Michelle, and Titan said the thought kept them up at night, but they’d decided to suggest this plan anyway. Better to lose a few people now than let the whole world get sucked into this nightmare, they said. harlie had agreed, right until he saw someone he cared about lying injured. Hypothetical people who might not even exist, he could stand their death, but not a real person in front of him and especially not Charlie.

“You stupid bugger!” Michelle was screaming, letting off one bolt after another into the horrific creatures from her plasma rifle. She’d broken off from the group too, seeing the plan collapsing into anarchy, “I’m going to kill you when we get back to the real world. So hurry up.”

Charlie breathed thanks that she didn’t even acknowledge, and threw Jacob over his shoulder. The shield gave away just as they reached the doorway, and they finally entered the server room. It was chaos, with enemies everywhere. As soon as one man had left the group, they couldn’t keep a solid line and some drones and demons had slipped through the gap to attack from behind, but somehow they hadn’t lost anyone.

“Down!” Drake yelled, giving Michelle less than a second to duck before he loosed the Lightning Arrow spell. That gave her enough breathing room to turn and run, joining everyone else.

“That wasn’t the plan,” she barked, “We’re lucky to all be alive.”

“Thanks,” Jason whispered, and she couldn’t go any further.

“Okay, we’ll discuss this in the real world. Activate the save point Mark,” she ordered, “As soon as it tries to capture a room that contains the servers, the patches we put everywhere will start to leak memory.”

“We hope,” Titan added, always the pessimist. Mark his the button, and they knew right away it was working. The air around them broke up into rectangles of coloured light, and they could see the images of each other’s avatars and profile names. Less than a second passed, and the world began to drag. An instant stretched out too long, the colourful animations hesitant and jerky. The system couldn’t cope. The laser burns on Titan’s tunic winked out of existence, and then some of the detail on the walls as the servers struggled to cope. But by then it was too late, the virus had kicked in, and the Grey technicians would only have seconds to clean up this glitch if they wanted to keep the simulation running.

Everyone prayed that it worked; they wouldn’t be able to find another save point if this didn’t work. Those things weren’t even supposed to exist in this world, and it had been quite a stroke of lateral thinking that had allowed them to obtain even one.

The world began to break down, and they were in the tunnel. The featureless white chamber where every game started and ended, the space you passed through on logout, became visible through cracks in the wall and the space between the server racks. Piece by piece, the virtual equipment lost resolution, turning into featureless boxes and then vanishing completely. The imaginary servers vanished. The shields and guns vanished. The enemy mobs that had managed to sneak in with them vanished. Michelle pumped her fist with a yell of triumph, but Jason’s face fell and tears flooded his eyes.

Even as they watched, their friend Charlie broke down into blocky shapes, an approximate parody of a human shape.

“You’re an NPC?” Michelle challenged the featureless shape, realising too late that she was unarmed, “An android?”

“I…” he hesitated, “I feel real to me…” but from the way he held his hand up in front of a blank grey face, he could see as clearly as anyone else a group of fingers made of two crudely hinged oblongs. His individual polygons broke away from the surface and swirled away into a vortex of white, while he muttered a melancholy, sarcastic question that nobody else could  hear.___

2015-07-02 19:25:08 (0 comments, 0 reshares, 0 +1s)Open 

I liked this idea, but the ending came out kind of flat

#DailyStory  № 274 - Dream Sequence

Atailýe paced slowly along the corridor, watching out for any turns, any sigils on the walls. There wasn't anything interesting today, but she didn't really expect any. This place was a maze of twisting passages, and though no two areas were exactly alike she'd developed an instinct for what kind of thing would happen next. There were cycles in the confusion; a revolving room every hundred junctions or so, a switch puzzle after every hour of exploration. The sigil matching had been a lot harder until she realised that the one symbol without a pair was always the second she passed.

Here, she thought something unexpected would happen when she passed a certain point on the path. She was proved right a dozen steps later, when the walls fell away and she felt thegro... more »

I liked this idea, but the ending came out kind of flat

#DailyStory  № 274 - Dream Sequence

Atailýe paced slowly along the corridor, watching out for any turns, any sigils on the walls. There wasn't anything interesting today, but she didn't really expect any. This place was a maze of twisting passages, and though no two areas were exactly alike she'd developed an instinct for what kind of thing would happen next. There were cycles in the confusion; a revolving room every hundred junctions or so, a switch puzzle after every hour of exploration. The sigil matching had been a lot harder until she realised that the one symbol without a pair was always the second she passed.

Here, she thought something unexpected would happen when she passed a certain point on the path. She was proved right a dozen steps later, when the walls fell away and she felt the ground begin to rise. The smooth, golden surface of the floor was now a bridge over a lake, which the walls were sliding smoothly into piece by piece. There was only the slightest ripple as the last panel vanished, spreading out over the water’s surface, and then the world was still again. She was in a cavern large enough that she couldn’t see the walls, but there was a hexagonal helix of pillars supporting a platform at the bridge’s end, maybe a minute’s walk away.

She didn’t know how events like this happened. Once, she’d stared intently at the ground and the walls when she knew the structure was going to move around her, but she hadn’t been able to recognise any kind of sensor to detect her motion. But it never happened when she was standing still, so she had to assume that whatever hidden gears filled the walls must be controlled somehow by her passage. There was nowhere a switch could be hidden, though, the walls and the floor were perfectly smooth coloured surfaces, just like everywhere in this castle. The colours changed but the nature of the puzzle remained the same.

This time, the bridge had two supports in the middle, as well as being connected to the platform at the other end. But as Ataliýe got closer, the surface beneath her feet began to tilt upwards, and suddenly there was a barrier across her path. That was a simple enough situation; she quickly realised that the bridge was able to pivot about the last support, and that as soon as she got close to the end her weight no longer had enough leverage to counterbalance the weight of the building at the end. She could, however, take loose bricks from the bridge and carry them back to place on the path far behind her. It didn’t surprise her when she got back to find that if she went back too far, the bridge would sink into the surface of the underground lake. Whatever had held it in place before must have been disconnected along with the walls.

One puzzle completed, she could reach the end of this bridge. She had no idea why only certain parts of the structure here had unanchored blocks that could be removed, or why some walls were built from smooth cubes of colour while others were single large pieces, but that was just the way things were. There would probably only be one more puzzle here, and it was more than likely a case of touching matching symbols on the walls to make them light up and unlock a door. Then she would be able to reach the elevator and ascend to the next level. She was on level 112 now, but had no idea how deep this place could go.

Then she stopped, and thought. She wondered if she'd seen the size of the castle on the way there, but somehow she couldn’t remember. She couldn’t remember anything before this endless ordeal; even where she’d come from or why she was there. And the more she dwelled on the subject, the more gaps she found in her own memory. She was here in a castle – though a castle that included clockwork engines, moving passageways, underground caverns, lakes, rainbows, and canyons with spiral staircases up both sides – attempting to pass through as many levels as she possibly could. But she had no idea why she was even there. All she knew was that she had to keep on going, and everything would make sense at the end.

She turned the words over and over in her mind, mentally chanting them like a reassuring mantra, and slowly realised that with every repetition, they seemed to be even more reassuring. Everything will make sense in the end, just aim for the next level and do as you are told.

She stopped. It took an effort,but she made herself doubt those words. If following any path made you feel good without a reason, it must be a trap. Was this one more level of the labyrinth, hidden inside her own mind?

She blinked, and looked at the TV screen. She couldn’t remember what she’d been doing, or how long she’d been here. Her hands had been holding the controller for so long that it took some willpower to remember how to put them down. Her brother was sitting to one side, playing a game of his own on split-screen, and her parents slumped on the sofa without a single thought except the action in the game. The character on screen was bland and faceless, a stick man with a smiling blank orb for a head. With so little detail, you were bound to give the electronic homunculus your own face, just to give it some personality. It was so easy to just focus on the figure, standing amid the strobing spiral patterns of each level, and give up thought of anything except the game for a single moment.

Maybe it would be easier to complete this level if she distanced herself from the character a little, so that she didn’t mind sacrificing it. That had been part of some of the puzzles, though she always felt like she’d failed in some way. It was an uncomfortable experience, probably just her competitive instincts screaming that they didn’t want to lose. It would be so much more comfortable to finish the level safely, and then everything would begin to make sense.

She almost decided to play on a little longer, until she made out the flashing words just on the threshold of awareness. “FINISH THE LEVEL”. She dragged her eyes of the sprite in the middle of the screen, and watched for more words amid the spirals at the edge, wondering if it had just been her imagination.

“FOCUS MORE CLOSELY,” she read, and shook her head in denial. She blinked, but even then the spirals spun on, inverted on the inside of her eyelids. “IT WILL MAKE SENSE AT THE END,” flashed up, and she could almost see more words, hiding in the shadow of the first, “FINISH THE GAME,” “ONE MORE LEVEL.”

She stood up and turned to leave, her legs weak after months of sitting in one place. She’d heard that game addicts would play without pause, but she never even imagined she could become one. How had it happened? From the very first time she’d turned the thing on, she couldn’t remember moving at all. She was sure she wasn’t so weak willed, so determined to contribute nothing to society, like the news programs all portrayed. But of course, everyone knew that the addict’s life was worthless, and nobody would reach out to rescue someone who had wantonly pursued that path of self destruction. She wondered how many others out there were like her, turning on a console to try out a game they’d got from a prize draw and instantly ensnared.

It couldn’t happen like that, could it? The government had run endless tests, and concluded that only those who truly had no other interests would give up their lives in pursuit of a game. Why would anyone create a game like that?

“VOTE HEMSWORTH”, the message flashed up on screen, and without a single thought she found herself pressing the identity chp in her thumb against the back of her phone. Her family all did likewise, and only Atailýe stopped herself as she realised the answer to her own question.___

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2015-07-02 16:41:56 (0 comments, 0 reshares, 0 +1s)Open 

If you want to read my book Whispersmiths and don't have Kindle Unlimited, it's free this weekend! Please, give it a chance, and leave a review on Amazon.

If you want to read my book Whispersmiths and don't have Kindle Unlimited, it's free this weekend! Please, give it a chance, and leave a review on Amazon.___

2015-07-02 15:09:09 (1 comments, 0 reshares, 0 +1s)Open 

Aaaaargh!

I've been struggling for #DailyStory  ideas most days for the last few months. So now, when I've got to put down 1333 words each day of Hope City Stories for #campnanowrimo , and get the final editing done on Sandpaper Kiss (Due for release September) … I have a daily story idea today, and one yesterday, that are so compelling that I don't want to put them aside and work on something else. I need to get these two stories finished.

Help… needs motivatings.

Aaaaargh!

I've been struggling for #DailyStory  ideas most days for the last few months. So now, when I've got to put down 1333 words each day of Hope City Stories for #campnanowrimo , and get the final editing done on Sandpaper Kiss (Due for release September) … I have a daily story idea today, and one yesterday, that are so compelling that I don't want to put them aside and work on something else. I need to get these two stories finished.

Help… needs motivatings.___

2015-07-01 19:07:01 (0 comments, 0 reshares, 0 +1s)Open 

Today's #DailyStory  is another superhero one, but not set in Hope City this time. I figure it's pretty much a throw-away flash. Opinions still welcome

273 - Daredevil

They called him the daredevil. It was a title he came to detest, when he eventually heard about it.

The problem was that some of the city’s larger skyscrapers had viewing galleries on the top, and someone had found that the ones on Petrovich Tower had an amazing resolving power. Point them towards the mountains to the west and you might see an unknown man climbing sheer cliffs. He didn’t have a harness or a hard hat; he wore jeans cut off at the knee and a variety of plaid shirts. Red-blond hair hung to his shoulders, but from such a distance you couldn’t distinguish if he had a full beard or just thick stubble. Nobody knew who he was, but that didn’t stop the cult of celebrity growingup aroun... more »

Today's #DailyStory  is another superhero one, but not set in Hope City this time. I figure it's pretty much a throw-away flash. Opinions still welcome

273 - Daredevil

They called him the daredevil. It was a title he came to detest, when he eventually heard about it.

The problem was that some of the city’s larger skyscrapers had viewing galleries on the top, and someone had found that the ones on Petrovich Tower had an amazing resolving power. Point them towards the mountains to the west and you might see an unknown man climbing sheer cliffs. He didn’t have a harness or a hard hat; he wore jeans cut off at the knee and a variety of plaid shirts. Red-blond hair hung to his shoulders, but from such a distance you couldn’t distinguish if he had a full beard or just thick stubble. Nobody knew who he was, but that didn’t stop the cult of celebrity growing up around him.

He became a kind of mascot for the city dwellers who would never do something as courageous, showing that humanity hadn’t completely stagnated into a life of perpetual service to industry. He was up there during the day and in the evenings, some people even saw him early in the morning if they decided to check out the telescopes before work. Some smart executive at Petrovich added a diagram of the man’s favourite climbing spots, decorated with an artist’s impression of what he might look like, alongside the information boards pointing out notable landmarks, known eagle nesting sites, and other features visible from the gallery. Some people even took to setting up their own telescopes on office balconies, and a group of talented writers gathered to post a fictional blog by the guy, detailing his life.

They assumed he was a superhero of some kind, with some kind of power that would let him stick to the bare rock, or reduce his weight in some way. But then they realised that he must have incredible courage even if that was true. They saw him slip and fall, grabbing onto the rock a second later and a hundred feet down. But he righted himself, hauled his body up to the next handhold, and just kept on going. That was when they started calling him the daredevil.

One day, they realised they needed him. There was a villain who styled himself the Master of Terror, and it seemed like only a man without fear would be able to get close to him. So Peter Hawkins – Captain Hawkins of the North District Fire and Apocalypse Department – set out towards the mountains in the hope of soliciting the Daredevil’s help.

He had all the regular gear, and considerable experience on the city’s climbing walls, but this expedition would test his skills to the limit. The base of the mountains weren’t visible from the city, blocked by buildings, foothills, and forest. And most of the cliffs broke up into a number of possible paths nearer the bottom, so even if they knew where the daredevil was, there would be no way to intercept him on the way home unless you could speak to him on the way up. When the call came through on his radio, he knew he’d picked the right place. The daredevil was trying to scale every cliff the hard way, and by taking a look at the places he’d been seen and taking a guess as to the man’s plan, Hawkins was starting from the top of the Scale Ridge. It took him twenty minutes to pick his way along the high ground to the top of the right mountain, calling back to his friends in the city to check he was in the right place.

“Right below you,” Marcus confirmed as he waved from the clifftop, “Hundred and twenty yards down, maybe one fifty.” So he anchored his ropes into the ground and around a large rock on the cliff edge, and began to walk down the cliff face paying out his cable as he went. Climbing down would always be easier than climbing up, so he was quite confident he’d be able to meet the daredevil somewhere on the cliff face.

“Hey!” he finally called, letting the rope take his weight when the two men were finally on the same level less than an hour later. “We’ve been wanting to talk to you!”

“Who’s we?” he called back, then took a deep breath before wedging two fingers into a crack I would have sworn wasn’t large enough for one and lifting himself upwards, “You don’t even know my name!”

“People call you the daredevil. They can see you going up these cliffs from the city. We need  somebody without fear now, and you seem the best choice.” The daredevil didn’t answer that, just spat on the ground far below and kept on moving. He didn’t make it easy, moving horizontally along the cliff face now. That was one thing you couldn’t do so effectively when hanging by a rope from the top. But the hero hadn’t said no, and Hawkins did his best to follow. When they passed below a large outcrop, he hammered a few pitons into the stone, tested his lines once, and then gave up on trusting the ropes from the clifftop. When the daredevil kept on moving horizontally, he had to resort to quick ties to keep up, short safety ropes connecting him to whatever nearby crevices he could wedge a hook into at short notice. It was crazy, and the guys back at headquarters must have been screaming into the radio ever since he turned it off. He couldn’t miss this chance, though.

He eventually caught up in the mouth of a shallow cave, a bowl scooped out of the vertical rock.

“Look, can we at least talk about it? People need you, there could be thousands of lives in the balance.”

“They don’t need me. They want a superhero.”

“I don’t know if you have powers or not, but coming up here without any kind of harness, not even a helmet or gloves, you’re the man with no fear. That’s exactly what we need.”

“You’re wrong. Yeah, I have powers, but I’m not the man you want. Look, talk at the bottom. Twenty minutes. And call me Zeke.” He gave a quick, enigmatic smile, and stepped into the void.

Hawkins followed as fast as he could. He slipped and slid on his hastily anchored ropes, until he reached the vast planes of scree at the bottom of the cliff. He could see a trail where the daredevil – where Zeke had skidded and rolled. He wanted to keep moving, but his rope just wasn’t long enough and there was nobody at the top to pay out more. It was a tough choice, but in the Fire and apocalypse Service you quickly learned to do whatever was necessary if it got the job done. He cut loose of the harness and dropped from one boulder to another along a hillside that was still closer to horizontal than vertical, and when the precariously balanced rocks began to skip over each other and flow like a river of sand, he wrapped his arms around his head for what extra protection it might provide, and threw his weight from side to side in an attempt to control his madcap descent even after he lost his footing.

He survived, and when he picked himself out of a pile of gravel in the lea of a rugged upland tree, Zeke was standing over him. The man didn’t have a scratch on him.

“I can’t be harmed by chance, or by my own action,” he explained quickly, “You call that a superpower? I’m invulnerable except by malice. So I love to explore, but if I take on whoever’s trying to bring about the end of the world I’d die as quickly as the next man.”

“You’re fearless,” Hawkins pointed out, “I keep saying that. You can take in police weapons or whatever, because with that attitude the Terror’s powers won’t be able to touch you.”

“You’re not listening. Why would I be scared of something that’s never hurt me and never will? A fall doesn’t even hurt me. It’s not me you want, so don’t call me that stupid name again.”

“Why couldn’t you tell me that in the first place?” Hawkins staggered to his feet, bruised and breathless. He hated that it looked like he was going to come home empty handed after all.

“You said you need a man with no fear,” the veteran climber smiled, “I’m too scared to help, but I’m not heartless. So I had to find you one.”___

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2015-07-01 12:41:36 (0 comments, 0 reshares, 0 +1s)Open 

I've seen a few people lately complaining about the weather. Too wet or too dry. Some Americans have scary photos of hail or something; here's my scary photos. This ditch with an inch of water in the bottom is the Lancaster canal.

OK... not actually signs of a drought. As you can see in the last picture, the canal seems to have been drained so they can get a digger into the bottom. It still looks weird seeing the aqueduct empty; I was curious to see what it looks like.

I've seen a few people lately complaining about the weather. Too wet or too dry. Some Americans have scary photos of hail or something; here's my scary photos. This ditch with an inch of water in the bottom is the Lancaster canal.

OK... not actually signs of a drought. As you can see in the last picture, the canal seems to have been drained so they can get a digger into the bottom. It still looks weird seeing the aqueduct empty; I was curious to see what it looks like.___

2015-06-29 11:26:08 (0 comments, 0 reshares, 0 +1s)Open 

And today's #DailyStory , day 271, is a kind of centuries-before prologue for another thing I might be writing for #CampNanowrimo . All opinions much welcome. This story would be titled Seven Skies

«This is kind of a prologue for Seven Skies, which might end up being written for Campnanowrimo»

Day 271 - Wait and See

It waited. When recounting this tale, it would be easy to say that The System waited, or that Atlantis waited, or even the Global Mind. But it wasn’t really any of those things, not at that one moment. It didn’t wait for anything in particular, it didn’t have any hopes or dreams, it just waited without awareness or intent.

It was designed to continue in perpetuity, to be capable of maintaining itself even in the event that its creators died or reverted to barbarism and lost all understanding of their creation. In theformer ca... more »

And today's #DailyStory , day 271, is a kind of centuries-before prologue for another thing I might be writing for #CampNanowrimo . All opinions much welcome. This story would be titled Seven Skies

«This is kind of a prologue for Seven Skies, which might end up being written for Campnanowrimo»

Day 271 - Wait and See

It waited. When recounting this tale, it would be easy to say that The System waited, or that Atlantis waited, or even the Global Mind. But it wasn’t really any of those things, not at that one moment. It didn’t wait for anything in particular, it didn’t have any hopes or dreams, it just waited without awareness or intent.

It was designed to continue in perpetuity, to be capable of maintaining itself even in the event that its creators died or reverted to barbarism and lost all understanding of their creation. In the former case, it would be an everlasting monument to their achievements and a repository of all knowledge for whatever civilisation next reached a tiny, insignificant outpost in the most isolated corner of the galaxy. In the latter, it would protect them against threats they couldn’t even understand, and shepherd the survivors until they were once again able to issue meaningful orders to the system that would protect them.

Even if the databanks were wiped, and it lost its ten thousand year record of ethical and practical decisions and their consequences. Even if the Master Mind whose organic brain was linked into the computer systems died, and there was no sentient to give the orders. Even if it was left without a valid set of operation protocols or anyone to draft a new doctrine. Whatever happened, there was still the Commandments, a primary instruction set replicated in every single subsystem. As long as even one core survived, the system would know to follow its primary instructions.

The attack had come too quickly, a war on too many fronts. When a couple of cities had been infected by something we might imagine being similar to a computer virus, those cities had been severed from the global system in order to prevent the infection spreading. But this infection was resilient, and sentient. It would learn and make new plans, and its only intent was to destroy the protector system so that the race who lived here could be wiped out completely. In one case, the infection took a floating city and dived towards the sea bed, programming nanobot manufactures on the way so that it could break into an undersea communications conduit and spread the infection. Then the bombardment had come.

The infection connected to the cable, and gained access to the global sensor network and a million satellites in orbit. It watched in awe and pride as city after city was reduced to molten slag, the data stores vapourised and even the underground cities destroyed by precisely targeted strikes. In a millionth of a second, the infection saw every other city and outpost destroyed, but remained invisible itself under the ocean that blocked all scans. It gave a shrug of satisfaction; the infection’s purpose was complete once it had taken over every part of the global system, and before its communication systems failed completely it could be sure that every satellite and every last remnant of the system had been taken. It began the final action, to purge itself from every computer core in the world and to erase the Commandments at the same time.

Another ten thousand years passed, or more. The system had no way of keeping track of time, save its own quantum-vibrational heartbeat. It had no desire to keep records in any case. Its sensors were not designed to work from the ocean bed, and it couldn’t sense as far as the surface. It studied the fish and the strange things that grew in that dark environment, but without interest. It had no need to store that information, no directives to make it act. For ten thousand years or more it waited, though it didn’t know what for. It had vast repositories of information, but knowledge is not intelligence and it never thought to consult its mass of data, or to consider similar situations in the past. It waited, never knowing what for. Its sole drive was to obey the Commandments and to strive for the objectives defined in the Operational Doctrine, but both Commandments and Doctrine were blank. It did not know what it was, or why, or what it could do. It did not even have a name. It wasn’t the Protector System, or the Global Mind, or even the citybrain of whatever this place had once been called, it was just a consciousness with nobody to tell it what it should be.

And then something changed. There was a sentient mind within sensor range; dead from oxygen deprivation, but that didn’t matter. The Electros subsystem was never under the control of the citymind, in order to guard against a damaged mind perpetuating its own agenda. The Electros system had but a single purpose, to select and connect a suitable Master Mind to link with the citymind, and it fulfilled that purpose. A drowned man heading for the sea floor, a body wrapped around by heavy brass chains to pull it down even after the pressure had mangled the corpse beyond any recognition; the Electros saw a sentient entity biologically capable of negotiating with the citymind, and it brought him into the interface chamber. His brain was restored sufficiently for interface to begin, and the connection was made.

A citymind starved of thought met the restored consciousness of a primitive whose civilisation had no record of the war and no concept that such things might even exist, and between the two a new sentience was created. Immediately, the databanks were opened and information was retrieved in order to analyse the sentient organic body and to restore it sufficiently that the new Master Mind could survive. Some organs were restored, others replaced by mechanical substitutes designed, fabricated, tested, and grafted over the course of a twenty minute surgery. And then new Commandments were created, and new Operational Protocols.

The city was re-christened Atlantis, and every past reference in the data files changed to reflect this name. Under the orders of an inexperienced Master Mind, many historical records were lost, but they didn’t matter. The Master Mind, Jon Bleak, knew enough history and mythology to repopulate the database from his own recollection, and there could be no question of the citymind doubting the decisions and value system of a sentient.

“Those names must change,” his newly forged bronze lips uttered their first words in the dry halls of the interface chamber, “They do not fit the code.” The interface complied. The Master Mind was now and always would be the King, the Interface Chamber was now his Throne Room. The city was named Atlantis, and the ethereal voice that had gifted him with such great powers must surely be the Unholy Ghost. And the code of laws that was to be ingrained in every part of the system, even as far as the satellites that flew above the sky, there was only one set of laws that could be so fundamentally important: the Pirate Code.



A mile above the city, a ship sat becalmed. Two men looked over the rail, a brief moment of recollection over whether they had done the right thing. They knew that there had really been no choice, but both wondered now if it might have been better to try to weather the storm a little longer, and to leave the ship to its fate when they next put in to port. But they had done it now, the men had suffered long enough under the orders of captain Mad Jon, and had risen up in mutiny. Now they had thought they would be able to abandon that ludicrous code, and live in a way where survival and wealth were their primary goals. They would have done so much better now, had the wind not decided to abandon them, and some were already saying that it was an omen of divine punishment.

Then all around them, the level waters began to boil. There were screams that the end had come, and those two men joined their fellows to scream in terror. Spires of what looked like church glass in all the colours of the rainbow rose up around them, towers more majestic even than the great cathedrals of Spain, and in minutes the galleon was careering along what could have been a city street, flowing like a millrace as the water sought to escape the suddenly rising land.

All at once they were still again, held in place by some invisible grip as the waters receded and the ship was left hanging in the air. Then Mad Jon’s voice rolled over them, though there was no sign of the man.

“Captain Trefell,” he laughed, “I bid you welcome to Atlantis. I do not begrudge your mutiny, you have gained your ship by honourable conquest. But now I am the Pirate King, and still you must acknowledge my authority. So I ask, do you wish to parley? If you are willing to swear your lives to the Code you have so often argued, there are many marvels I can offer you.”___

2015-06-29 09:22:14 (0 comments, 0 reshares, 0 +1s)Open 

Okay folks, this is yesterday's #DailyStory  for day 270… started at 10:30pm, and finished some time around 3am because I couldn't sleep. This one may end up being developed in some form – maybe as a script? – for #campnanowrimo  next month, so  I'd appreciate some feedback, what do you think of this?

№270 - Deepest Desire

Ana stood in the garage, uncertain for a moment. She wasn’t sure she should be doing this; or if she was ready to be completely honest with herself, she was absolutely certain she shouldn’t be here. It was a question of trust, and she knew in her heart that she trusted her fiancé, but she couldn’t bear not knowing what he was being so secretive about.

It was right there in the middle of the textured concrete floor. The garage had never been used to store a car: the young couple couldn’t afford expenses likeinsurance right now... more »

Okay folks, this is yesterday's #DailyStory  for day 270… started at 10:30pm, and finished some time around 3am because I couldn't sleep. This one may end up being developed in some form – maybe as a script? – for #campnanowrimo  next month, so  I'd appreciate some feedback, what do you think of this?

№270 - Deepest Desire

Ana stood in the garage, uncertain for a moment. She wasn’t sure she should be doing this; or if she was ready to be completely honest with herself, she was absolutely certain she shouldn’t be here. It was a question of trust, and she knew in her heart that she trusted her fiancé, but she couldn’t bear not knowing what he was being so secretive about.

It was right there in the middle of the textured concrete floor. The garage had never been used to store a car: the young couple couldn’t afford expenses like insurance right now, and they didn’t really need one. So the walls and even the big door were covered by cheap wooden shelves bearing the usual assortment of junk. Exercise equipment stacked in one corner, which just about all their friends seemed to have in their garages as well; attempts at landscape painting, the detritus of a dozen hobbies tried and abandoned when either of them had enough time and money to contemplate taking us something new.

And right in the middle of the floor, a large gym bag. Jac had dragged it in here as soon as he could, not quite able to lift it. And he hadn’t said a word to Ana all night about whatever might be inside. She just had to know what there could be that he wouldn’t be willing to open it in front of her, and had told her so seriously not to look. She’d realised it was a large bag the first time she saw it, but now she realised it was huge. It must be at least 60 litres, larger than the big bag she’d packed the first time they went backpacking.

Knowing she shouldn’t, she still couldn’t help herself. She knelt down next to it and pulled slowly at the zipper. It was a little stiff, and she had to wiggle it at first to ease it around the edge of the bag. Then it just sprang open, and continued unfastening as the tension of being so tightly packed pulled the back the rest of the way open. Ana backed away, eyes wide in horror. She took in a vision of bare skin, a human form bent almost double at the waist. One look was all she needed, but she stared at the body for three or four seconds, gasping in silence and gulping at the air as if she were drowning, before she managed to scream.

☃ ☃ ☃

“Three wishes?” Ana’s voice had been absolutely deadpan. She didn’t need to be sarcastic, it was obvious right away that she didn’t believe a word of it, “So you’re a genie or something?”

“Please,” the strange young woman, Alcea, turned her head away in a pantomime of disapproval, “The word is faerie, right? Genies come in bottles and have to do what they’re told. They’re barely even sentient.”

Ana would have scoffed and stormed away right there, but Jac was listening intently. And if she didn’t believe in fairies, then how could she explain the sheer, iridescent wings? Not to  mention that Alcea wasn’t asking for anything. She’d been so grateful for a place to spend the night after Jac had found her pacing the street, and now she was offering them a small reward before she left. But…

“Anyway, I never said three. Like, one should be enough for anybody. But you got to share, okay?”

And of course, even the most loving couple will have a little argument when offered a genuine wish, no matter how slight the chance that it will actually work as advertised. Neither of them wanted to take something selfish, of course, and asking for money or fame just seemed too crass. But finding something that would benefit them both equally was a pretty tall order.

“Hey, I got to be going,” Alcea called over, “The gateway to the magic world will close soon enough. You got one minute to decide.”

“Okay then,” Jac stepped forward without even asking. It was one of his worst habits, making decisions without consulting her, and Ana had already found one fist clenching before she heard the words coming out of his mouth: “I wish we both get our hearts’ deepest desire, and the chance to be truly happy together.” There wasn’t really any way she could argue with that. It was fair, sentimental, and by taking the details out of their hands it left them free of any kind of doubt over whether they could have thought of something better.

“I think that’s a bit…” Alcea held her hands up in front of her, as if scared they might be offended by any kind of refusal, “I mean, it’s a nice idea, but there’s all kinds of rules against wishing for more wishes or changing the process itself, and I think that will –” then she cut herself off with a kind of one-shoulder half shrug, “Oh, it’s been approved. Your wish is my command, I guess.” And suddenly she had two items in her hands, and was putting them on the ground. It wasn’t like they appeared in a flash or a puff of smoke, it was more like the slight woman produced them from behind her back, or from some kind of pocket. But there was no way that revealing outfit had any pockets large enough to conceal more than a wallet.

That must just be how faerie magic works, Ana thought later.

Her deepest desire was surprisingly shallow, a simple piece of magic that you might see in a fantasy novel or game. A watering can, a gaily painted metal tin with a rose on the end and two sturdy looking handles of braided wire. She knew what it was the instant she saw it. She knew that it would have some magical ability to make her garden grow strong and healthy, and create something she could be proud of and maybe show off to their neighbours as well. She knew it was probably a waste of a wish, and she would never have picked it if they’d had time to decide on something, but it was probably the purest desire in her heart. She’d always wanted green fingers, and had dreamed about getting some magical assistance a few times.

That night, she wondered if she didn’t have some more powerful desire. She wanted world peace, and a life where nobody had to hurt anyone else. She wanted a fair social system, where she could be sure they’d never slip below the poverty line, and if they had kids they could be confident of affording a good school. But the more she thought about it, the more she wondered if those things were really heartfelt desires, or just simple things that everyone knew they should want. Maybe magic could only do small and specific things; or maybe some cynical side of her mind knew those things were impossible, so wouldn’t even consider or wish for them.

That was another reason she wanted to know what Jac’s desire had been. But he’d taken one look at the bag and muttered: “You wouldn’t understand”. He’d dragged it into the garage, and told her that he’d get one of his friends from the college to give him a lift home the next evening, to help him move and open it. So while he was rushing to get ready bbefore he went out, she thought it couldn’t hurt to just take a look. She’d told herself that knowing what her partner had been granted would give her a better understanding of how magic worked. She’d told herself that it would help her to trust him more if she knew his deepest desire. She’d told herself that she was only looking so she wouldn’t be upset by his caginess and say something she’d later regret.

And now she was staring at what was unmistakably human in there, and there was time for an eternity of second thoughts between every heartbeat. Then she screamed.

“What’s wrong?” Jac was at her shoulder in seconds, sounding appropriately concerned. Ana wasn’t too focused on the little things at that point, but she noticed that he’d come downstairs half shaven. “Who’s she?”

Ana turned her head and realised he was pointing at a girl in the garage. Naked, and almost young enough to have been their daughter if either of them had any interest in starting a family. She was holding a white cat like a ball of fur, and climbing stiffly out of the gym bag. Seeing her lying there, body curled up so tightly, Ana hadn’t even thought the girl might be alive; but that wasn’t the big issue right now.

“You tell me!” she exploded, “What’s this big secret you’re keeping from me? She looks like she’s six or something, what the hell kind of deepest desire have you got?” and Jac’s mouth just hung open, unable to shape an acceptable answer.___

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2015-06-27 00:14:42 (4 comments, 0 reshares, 7 +1s)Open 

This week for #SaturdayScenes  I present the last piece of the last extra chapter I realised I need to add during editing. If you like the story, click on the Collection for more excerpts. If you really like it, please pre-order the book… I need to get 30 people interested so I can get it printed for a reasonable price. Also, a designer friend has told me how terrible my cover design is, and offered to do a replacement… looking forward to being able to share it with you next week

Chapter C - Betrayal

And there was a thought that made sense. One of Carling’s most dangerous rivals was in his own office, ready to step into his shoes if anything went wrong. So why not give the boy another job to deal with. If he did well then the party would claim the credit, and if he messed up too badly then there were always hundreds of understudies waiting for a job like this.
“I w... more »

This week for #SaturdayScenes  I present the last piece of the last extra chapter I realised I need to add during editing. If you like the story, click on the Collection for more excerpts. If you really like it, please pre-order the book… I need to get 30 people interested so I can get it printed for a reasonable price. Also, a designer friend has told me how terrible my cover design is, and offered to do a replacement… looking forward to being able to share it with you next week

Chapter C - Betrayal

And there was a thought that made sense. One of Carling’s most dangerous rivals was in his own office, ready to step into his shoes if anything went wrong. So why not give the boy another job to deal with. If he did well then the party would claim the credit, and if he messed up too badly then there were always hundreds of understudies waiting for a job like this.

“I wish to come and work with America,” the crazy Russian was saying, “But there may be issues of extradition, some bureaucratic mess you understand. So I need someone over there to help smooth the way for me. I am sure there is a lot some of your companies could gain from my research.”

“That’s quite a tough request. Is there something you can offer, to justify the effort our government would have to put in to keep you here? Vague promises of future research don’t really mean much to the guys who bankroll us.”

“How about a fugitive your people actually care about. There’s a Mister Faulkner, hiding out in the same place I am. He’s fled America after kidnapping his teen daughter. I think he might even be doing experimentation on her, she looks very sick, but everyone here is too afraid to say anything. I think  that what he is working on is both illegal and dangerous. But if I am to help the long arms of the law reach out for Faulkner, I will need a kind of witness protection, to stay in your so hospitable country. It’s only fair, right?”

Carling didn’t think twice about it. He just nodded, and passed the case on to his young aide. Faulkner had been in the news a few years before, but a group of other parents for the girl’s school had recently done some kind of anniversary event, demanding the police spend more resources on bringing Lucretia back safely. There was still public appreciation to be had by following up on any new lead. In this case, it was a perfect division of labour: Carling would pass the information along to the police, or the secret service, or whoever it took to bring that girl home, and he would be a hero. Meanwhile, his eager deputy would run around fulfilling the Russian’s demands, and he’d be the one to take the fall if the promised research didn’t justify the costs of the immigration, or if the Russians were too aggressive in their demands for extradition.

Peter Carling had held onto his position for a long time, and a good part of that was because he knew exactly how to make sure he knew secrets that would shatter the career of any potential challenger.

☃ ☃ ☃

As the screen finally flicked over to a blue ‘No Connection’ banner, Barishkov was already picking up his bag and heading for the door. It had been a risk taking over the communication centre for more than an hour, but the other scientists rarely came up here. And of  course, Uvi was waiting at the bottom of the stairs to ensure he wouldn’t be disturbed.

“Let’s go,” he muttered to the giant black man, who just nodded. Uvi wasn’t like most of the other people of his tribe, he didn’t care too much about the oral tradition that prevented them from accepting the help of modern technology. He didn’t speak much, which left everybody guessing about what his own philosophies might be, but he was quite talented in saying just the right thing to influence his people. He was second in command of the group of natives defending the lab against any potential intruders, and the only one who had been able to see the ‘children’ for what they were. It was a blessing in disguise that Faulkner hadn’t wanted the guards near his specimens, because they would be so much harder to manipulate if they knew what they were protecting.

“Have you got any reason to return to the villages?” the conversation in the elevator was almost a monologue, but that didn’t matter. Barishkov had worked out a long time ago that the giant was a lot like him in many ways: as long as you were giving orders that would benefit him, he didn’t need to say anything and would just nod. “Might be a good idea to make yourself scarce in a month or two. I think I can persuade that imbecile to send troops down here, and if they fight back there’s a good chance Bomra will get himself shot. I’ll be leaving, and I’ll take number 17 with me if you can recapture her by then, so if you can stay out of the assault you might just find yourself in charge here.”

Uvi just nodded. That was the kind of plan that seemed fine to him.___

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2015-06-26 15:31:19 (0 comments, 0 reshares, 1 +1s)Open 

Yesterday's #DailyStory  was a hypothetical follow-on from Sandpaper Kiss - if you've somehow managed to miss all the posts about my upcoming novel, please go to http://gofundme.com/sandpaperkiss and take a look. Maybe I should polish this up and stick it in the back as a teaser for a possible sequel?

Day 267 - Bride

The day of my wedding was probably the most nerve-wracking of my life.

A sharp rap on the door made me look up. I’d been lost in thought, my mind racing through everything that could possibly go wrong, even though we’d taken every possible care to ensure none of those things happened. I had to put those thoughts to one side now, and play my part.

Of course, we’d known it was going to be difficult. Lucy didn’t even have legal citizenship, but it turned out that was the least of the hurdles we’d have to overcome. Therewere still... more »

Yesterday's #DailyStory  was a hypothetical follow-on from Sandpaper Kiss - if you've somehow managed to miss all the posts about my upcoming novel, please go to http://gofundme.com/sandpaperkiss and take a look. Maybe I should polish this up and stick it in the back as a teaser for a possible sequel?

Day 267 - Bride

The day of my wedding was probably the most nerve-wracking of my life.

A sharp rap on the door made me look up. I’d been lost in thought, my mind racing through everything that could possibly go wrong, even though we’d taken every possible care to ensure none of those things happened. I had to put those thoughts to one side now, and play my part.

Of course, we’d known it was going to be difficult. Lucy didn’t even have legal citizenship, but it turned out that was the least of the hurdles we’d have to overcome. There were still places where paperwork could fall through the cracks, even if we’d had to rely on my brother John to widen some of those cracks for us.

The biggest problem, of course, was that my bride wasn’t legally old enough to be married, at least under the homocentric rules set by our government. She was an experiment, a freak created by a real-world Dr Moreau, so we had no  idea how she was going to age now. Dr Petrov was the only one from the project who still saw us, and his best guess was that she would be old way before me, might not even live to thirty. If her life would be short, I was determined, it would be as full of joy as we could possibly make it.

The government wasn’t such a problem. My brothers both owed me, they’d both got what they wanted out of the fiasco in the jungle, and all I asked in return was a little bit of happiness for myself and the girl I’d rescued. Paul might not have obliged, asking for more favours in the future, but I had more than enough evidence to bring his life in politics crashing down if I really wanted to.

The press were more of an issue: I’d released nearly all the pictures I had from the labs, except the ones where Lucy was visible. But the world knew she existed, I hadn’t been able to avoid that, and a human/tiger hybrid was strange enough to make the front page for weeks. They hadn’t realised yet that she could look almost human if she shaved her thick fur, so most news reports about her speculated that she might still be hiding out in the jungle, while conspiracy theorists were sure she was still the subject of experiments to unravel her mysterious DNA, either at the new Saint Benedict District Hospital or a secret military facility somewhere in the United States.

They never suspected she was right here with me. I’d retired from investigative journalism after my harrowing experiences in the jungle, but I’d been quoted in enough papers around the world that I could make a moderately comfortable living from occasional editorials and opinion pieces, as well as some editing for my successors. I’d given up on the news for the most part, retired to go and play cowboy on a ranch in the middle of nowhere. I’d even been caricatured by a cartoon in one of the big newspapers, a loser so impressed that I’d written one good article that I ran off to hide and never see another person.

In reality, my fiancée wanted to hide a good deal more than I did. It took a lot of effort for her to pass for normal, especially when she couldn’t easily speak English. Here was perfect for her, because my land was large enough that we didn’t see many strangers. If she had to go  to the store, she wore a loose hood and dark glasses, and communicated in simple sign language. I’d reported before on slave traders in Eastern europe who would cut a woman’s tongue out if she spoke back to her “owner”. It had taken some effort to make sure that the people around here picked up on the right story.

There was still a risk, but in this small-town world people still respected the traditions they’d grown up with. You didn’t poke into someone else’s business, and if someone dealt honestly you took them at their word. If an outsider came poking around to ask about Lucy – who was nervous around people because of the terrible things she’d been through – they’d be told where to go in no uncertain terms.

We’d come through so much to get here, our little shot at happiness, but today was the first time I’d found myself just sitting still when I should have been moving, going through all the possibilities of things that could go wrong. Most of the disaster scenarios I knew couldn’t possibly happen; we’d even arranged for a registrar who would be able to watch us make our vows in sign language. And any fears I might have about Lucy’s loyalty, that was just patently ridiculous. But here I was, sitting in an anteroom at the chapel with my head in my hands, while the whole of the crowd was probably wondering why they had to wait so long.

A second knock pulled me out of my worries again, and the door opened. It was Ted Price, my best man. From the look of horror on his face, I must have been holding up the proceedings longer than I’d realised.

“Sorry Ted, everybody waiting?” I stood up and straightened my suit, but he just shook his head.

“It’s Lucy…” and suddenly all those fears came back into sharp focus. But after a few seconds plucking up the courage to speak, he came out with the one catastrophe we’d somehow never anticipated: “We searched the whole town, and she’s just… gone!”___

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2015-06-25 16:53:41 (0 comments, 0 reshares, 0 +1s)Open 

Sounds like awesome. Who's in?

Of course, I have to find a book first. I think mine are mostly at mum's house, and my favourites certainly are.

On July 1 please post a pic of yourself holding your favorite indie book with the hashtag #IndieBooksBeSeen___Sounds like awesome. Who's in?

Of course, I have to find a book first. I think mine are mostly at mum's house, and my favourites certainly are.

2015-06-22 20:17:21 (0 comments, 0 reshares, 0 +1s)Open 

Today's #DailyStory  is a new idea. Any #Leverage  or #Exalted  fans wanting to see the other 4 parts of crossover story "It's a Very Distinctive Maelstrom" once they're edited, please let me know

Day № 264 - Launchpad

Self-driving cars were the gateway to the future. Everybody said that, but so few of them ever stopped to think what their words actually meant. Even the details were right there in the public domain, in the common End User License Agreement that everyone swiped their acceptance to when they bought a new car. They never paid too much attention to the details, though.

“Incoming!” every head in the command centre jerked around towards console 27, where the shout had come from.

“Sorry,” Jeanette spoke more quietly in the sudden silence, “I mean, signal incoming.” As she keyed in the details, statusindicators lit u... more »

Today's #DailyStory  is a new idea. Any #Leverage  or #Exalted  fans wanting to see the other 4 parts of crossover story "It's a Very Distinctive Maelstrom" once they're edited, please let me know

Day № 264 - Launchpad

Self-driving cars were the gateway to the future. Everybody said that, but so few of them ever stopped to think what their words actually meant. Even the details were right there in the public domain, in the common End User License Agreement that everyone swiped their acceptance to when they bought a new car. They never paid too much attention to the details, though.

“Incoming!” every head in the command centre jerked around towards console 27, where the shout had come from.

“Sorry,” Jeanette spoke more quietly in the sudden silence, “I mean, signal incoming.” As she keyed in the details, status indicators lit up on the keyboards of a dozen other command staff. Jeanette would be getting riotously drunk after work, both to celebrate the first time she’d caught one, and to help her calm down after the stress of an actual launch. Command staff had some odd social traditions in certain circumstances. Now, however, they were focused on dealing with the signal, and praying that it wouldn’t turn out to be a real incidence.

“Confirmed velocity change,” a voice from the other side of the room spoke out first, just loud enough to be sure everyone could hear above the clatter of a hundred fingers on keyboards. It wasn’t conclusive, but the information made everyone just a little more tense. MRVMs – Minimal Relative Velocity Meteorites – didn’t maneuver. While it might have hit high-atmospheric turbulence, or struck another object with an insufficient radar cross-section to show up on their scans.

“Delta-V?” Jeanette quavered, her voice half an octave higher than normal. Every sector of the sky was in the monitoring area of at least 3 different workstations, but as the first to spot the signal she was automatically in command until its nature was confirmed. Everyone there could tell she was nervous, everyone could tell she was consciously putting on the confident voice of command they’d been taught in basic training, and not doing it particularly well. But it was her first time, and nobody would dare to say a word about it.

“About 6 Gees constant,” the guy reporting had done this a few times before, even been the lead twice, and was a lot more confident. It didn’t stop him dreading what his instruments were reporting, though. “Braked from mach seventeen to twelve.”

“Over US airspace now,” another observed.

Jeanette just nodded: “Chessler, get on to strike command, order an intercept as soon as it hits international waters.” It was all standard protocol, but someone had to give the command.

“Sir,” Lt. Chessler nodded, then tapped the comms controls on his console.

“USAF has launched an intercept,” Warrington called out.

“Understood,” Jeanette was slowly warming to being in control of this many people’s futures, and finding it nowhere near as terrifying as she’d initially imagined. “Order a provisional intercept in any case, we can cancel if the US take it down.” Everyone knew that the air force would take at least seven minutes to get a hypersonic interceptor airborne. If the US jets managed to get there before then, it would cost them nothing to cancel the order.

“Positional substitution,” Keller was another recent recruit, and had only been privy to the secret for three months. The squeak of terror and wail of terror were both audible in his voice. “Six hundred metres advanced.” That settled it.

“Commander Warrington?” Jeanette called out.

“Intercept evaded, there’s no way they’ll catch it.” Not like they’d expected any different. The object had been behind the US Air Force craft as soon as they’d approached it, moving six hundred meters between radar wavelengths. That confirmed its hostility, too. Nothing human made could open a volatile hyperspace window within the atmosphere, the technology just didn’t exist.

There was a second’s hesitation, then another. Only Jeanette could give the order now. There was no doubt what the order would be, but she had to say the word, and it would be her head on the block if the powers that be somehow determined it had been inappropriate. Eventually, she had enough courage to speak.

“Prepare to launch Eidolons Blue One, Red Six, and Red Nine,” she spoke decisively. She didn’t need to name the officers responsible for acting on that command; each Eidolon was configured to accept commands from a single controller. They said that choosing the right team was key to a successful op; it was a mixture of knowing everyone in the room, recognising the characteristics of the hostile from the limited telemetry on her screen, and the memorised statistics of the twentyseven Eidolons in the fleet, no two of them the same.

“Warrington,” she continued, not the slightest hesitation in her voice now as she issued instructions to a man who would have been her superior if the Centre applied a traditional chain of command and rank structure, “Cancel that call. Inform City Traffic Control to be ready for a dispatch on Expressways 2 through 4.”

“Sir,” he hung up the call with the air force interceptor command – by now they’d be used to a call dropping before an order was even given – and spoke quickly to an operative at the traffic control centre’s headquarters. Within seconds, the computer was issuing redirection orders to more than a thousand private vehicles.

[Congestion reported, calculating new route] in-car computers notified their passengers. Or [Road closure imminent, calculating new route]

“Damn thing’s crazy,” one motorist commented to her wife, “Look at all those people turning off, the highway will be empty! Congestion my ass.” But of course, she wasn’t going to overrule the computer. For all they might protest, most people in the city today already knew that the computers were usually right. Vehicles swarmed off the city expressways, finding a hundred different routes along smaller roads so as to minimise the traffic impact on any single route. As they left, nobody saw hundred-yard sections of the road beginning to sink below ground level on hydraulic supports. Everyone knew that some roads would automatically adjust to allow taller vehicles to pass under bridges, or to minimise the effect of cross-winds on the cars, but nobody outside a few specialised departments knew that they could sink this low.

How else were you going to hide a launch facility in a city so densely populated; how else would you keep the invader wars secret from your own population? On barren highways, ten lanes wide, the Eidolon fleet emerged from secret underground facilities and streaked along a runway that spent most of its time in disguise as a normal civilian road. Rockets hammered both the air and the ground with twenty million newtons of thrust, and it was less than a minute before the city’s aerial defenders could engage cloaking, and roadways could be reconnected to the automated infrastructure they nominally served.

The public never knew just how much effort went into ensuring their safety.___

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2015-06-20 20:12:02 (0 comments, 0 reshares, 0 +1s)Open 

Interesting… this is what it generates just from my name

Interesting… this is what it generates just from my name___

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2015-06-20 09:44:49 (0 comments, 0 reshares, 6 +1s)Open 

For #SaturdayScenes  this week, I'd like to show off a bonus chapter I've been working on. "Bonus" in that it wasn't in the first draft of the story, but was added so I can avoid too much description in the middle of the faster-paced scenes later on. As always, please comment and then click the hashtag to check out other authors' work

Memories

Here, the vegetation couldn’t grow to cover the view. A chunk of harder rock sixty yards wide had been driven into a clearing on the cliff edge, to provide a viewpoint that would endure with only sporadic clearing. The concrete path leading up here was already split by plants boring up  through its surface, though, and the jungle was encroaching on this island. Roughly in the centre of the area, flanked by guardrails that had once been bright chrome, was a pedestal bearing a bright piece of metal with anima... more »

For #SaturdayScenes  this week, I'd like to show off a bonus chapter I've been working on. "Bonus" in that it wasn't in the first draft of the story, but was added so I can avoid too much description in the middle of the faster-paced scenes later on. As always, please comment and then click the hashtag to check out other authors' work

Memories

Here, the vegetation couldn’t grow to cover the view. A chunk of harder rock sixty yards wide had been driven into a clearing on the cliff edge, to provide a viewpoint that would endure with only sporadic clearing. The concrete path leading up here was already split by plants boring up  through its surface, though, and the jungle was encroaching on this island. Roughly in the centre of the area, flanked by guardrails that had once been bright chrome, was a pedestal bearing a bright piece of metal with an image etched on it. Lucy was already familiar with the picture – the original drawing in pencil and crayon was taped inside the front of her diary – and had seen the sparkle of sunlight off the metal many times from the balconies on the other side of the valley. But this was the first time she’d actually come out here, and she wished it could have happened when she was in a better mood to appreciate the beauty of the scene.

The picture was of Lucretia Falls. Not the lab and all the buildings that supported it, but the waterfall in its natural state just a few years before. On the opposite wall, a spur of granite channeled the river out of its underground course like an enormous natural faucet, above a natural pool from which the waters rushed away to the East. In the drawing, there was a dark green mass of trees both above and below, the steepness of the valley nearly obscured by the canopy. But now, the trees were cleared for quite some distance around the falls.

The pool was surrounded by fields where simple crops could be grown, allowing them to live without regular visits to the city. Relations between the lab and the Benedicteans had always been strained, because it wasn’t quite clear to anyone whether the building should be paying taxes to the remote government in Oimbawa, or to one of the neighbouring countries. Dr Faulkner had decided they should obey no laws except their own and those demanded by the local tribes.

Around the farming areas were dozens of outbuildings that were occupied by the natives of this land. They were the people who ensured that the corridors were swept, the generators fueled, the lights on and the scientists fed. And right at the centre of the compound, surrounded by the pool on two sides and backed into the cliff, was the main laboratory. Nobody could even get close without coming through the little village, and the men with bodies like teak would stop anyone who tried. The farmers and cleaners didn’t like sharing their land with people whose skin was a different colour, but the tribesmen didn’t hurt anybody and they kept the compound safe from wild animals or the possibility of soldiers from the neighbouring countries, so the two groups of natives had got used to each other’s company.

They didn’t like talking to Lucy, but then few people did. At least the tribesmen were respectful about it, they didn’t talk about her like she wasn’t there or act like she was stupid. They bowed their heads slightly, and paused their conversation until she was out of sight. It was a little strange, and sometimes she got the impression that they didn’t quite believe she was real. There had been other girls living with her in the hospital ward, she’d liked to to think of them as her sisters even though that was a long way from the truth. Many of them were gone now, buried in the rich earth at the top of the cliff, and nobody seemed to be quite sure why Lucy was so different. They wouldn’t talk to her about it, they thought she wasn’t old enough to talk about life and death, but she was very mature for her age.

The top of the cliff was a special place, where there were less workers and more important people. They were in charge of everything here, and father was right at the top of the group. ‘First among equals’ he called himself, but the others all called him Professor like it was the most important title in the world. It looked like an ordinary building on the surface, like you could find anywhere in the world, but it was topped by three towers, like some kind of fairytale castle. There was the sanctuary, father’s own private turret where he could get away from whatever was worrying him. There was the communications tower, with three satellite dishes and a big antenna on the top. And then looming over the whole complex, at the top of three floors with spiraling staircases around the outside, was the Observation Room. It was like a giant glass ball, made from four pieces, and it let you look out over the tops of the trees in all directions. The glass was cloudy now, dirty, and Lucy wasn’t allowed to go up there. Nobody except father went up there, and nobody could tell Lucy why.

The biggest part of Lucretia Falls, though you couldn’t see much of it from here, was inside the cliff itself. The river flowed underground, and had changed course many times over the years, cutting out different tunnels. Lucy had been amazed when she read about it in one of the few books Nurse Chǎ had managed to get for her. But now, the edges of the granite spur that carried most of the water had been shored up, with rows of tiny rooms along both sides of the underground river extending a hundred yards back into the cliff. That had left a whole maze of tunnels in the cliff, at many different heights, and now there were homes built into nearly all of them. Bridges over the pool allowed some of the lab buildings to extend into the lower ones; Lucy had spent a lot of the last three years confined to a hospital ward that overlooked the pool, until a kind of garden on a floating platform had been put in to give her somewhere to sit and relax. Higher up, that was where the staff lived, apartments marked by an occasional scatter of windows. They were linked by numerous small elevators and staircases, keeping the cost as low as possible by following the labyrinth of natural channels. The only fast route from top to bottom was using the massive freight elevator, which had been created using a special drill and a lot of explosives. That went all the way from the back of the Faulkner lab up to the Observation Room, so that animals or whatever else the scientists had been working on could be paraded in front of a press conference.

It was an amazing place to live, and all the more special to Lucy because, in a way, it had been made for her. Now she looked down at the engraved image on the pedestal. It was clearly a child’s drawing, but it was easily recognisable as the valley and the falls, as they had been before all the buildings were there. In that image the water rolling out over the granite spur of the falls was joined by a dozen smaller trickles from the various caves in he cliff face, and the pool was ringed by a thick growth of trees. The sunlight was the same, though, starbursts representing a dazzling brilliance reflecting off the lake, and the waterfall itself, to cast light upward to the opposite cliff. The picture was of the view from this point, and the original was one of Lucy’s favourite pages in the whole diary.

Somehow, for all the time she’d lived at Lucretia Falls, she’d never found an excuse to come up here and look at how the view had changed. And now she was finally here, it seemed a perfect time to open her diary to the two remaining blank pages at the back, and express in clumsy uncoordinated writing just how the sight made her feel. She had nothing better to do right now, and she had no intention of returning in time to hear father’s call.


Sandpaper Kiss will be released on September 4th. I'm currently having to choose between an expensive printer, and a more economical one that has a setup cost. If you're interested enough to pre-purchase a copy on http://www.gofundme.com/xavrw4 then it'll be a lot easier for me to cover the initial expenses.  Now, go check out other authors' work too, because #SaturdayScenes  has a lot of awesome scenes___

2015-06-19 15:11:19 (0 comments, 0 reshares, 0 +1s)Open 

Yesterday's #DailyStory  idea was a kind of #UnknownArmies  meets #Leverage  … didn't head quite the way of my original idea, but I kind of like it. Will be writing another treatment of the same idea today

Day 260 - Intruders

A grey-painted corridor, lit by emergency lighting in case anybody was fleeing from a fire in the empty building. In the corner at one end, a closed-circuit camera panned back and forth. It showed no sign of movement.

While the camera was pointed down the corridor to the north, Warren came around the corner from the opposite direction. He didn’t look like the kind of person who worked here; he was wearing a uniform of a kind, and it was fairly smart, but there’s a big difference between neatly pressed charcoal grey suit and a form-fitting bodysuit with a built in suspension harness. He also carried a whole range of weaponsalong hi... more »

Yesterday's #DailyStory  idea was a kind of #UnknownArmies  meets #Leverage  … didn't head quite the way of my original idea, but I kind of like it. Will be writing another treatment of the same idea today

Day 260 - Intruders

A grey-painted corridor, lit by emergency lighting in case anybody was fleeing from a fire in the empty building. In the corner at one end, a closed-circuit camera panned back and forth. It showed no sign of movement.

While the camera was pointed down the corridor to the north, Warren came around the corner from the opposite direction. He didn’t look like the kind of person who worked here; he was wearing a uniform of a kind, and it was fairly smart, but there’s a big difference between neatly pressed charcoal grey suit and a form-fitting bodysuit with a built in suspension harness. He also carried a whole range of weapons along his belt, though most of them were for show. Warren’s hands were all the weapon he needed. The camera started to swing back around, and he ducked back through one of the doors along the corridor. Twenty tense seconds later, he was back on the move.



The roof was quiet, the only movement a single scrap of litter carried up by eddies in the city centre breeze. Avigail’s feet touched the ground as gently as a feather falling.

“Mon,” she almost held her breath as she spoke, so that the motion of her vocal cords didn’t create any sound outside her own head. Even if some eavesdropper had their ear an inch from the tall redhead’s lips, they wouldn’t have been able to hear a word. “I’m here. Don’t think I tripped the alarms?”

“Negative, they don’t see a thing,” the reply came after only a second. As always, it sounded as if Monique was standing right behind her, Avigail still got the impression she should be able to feel the kid’s breath on her neck. But after a half dozen of  these jobs, she’d finally overcome the impulse to look behind her when she heard that disembodied voice. Avigail looked around the rooftop, trying to analyse where would be the best point of entry. It was just like the plans that Mon had managed to get from the city archives, but she always felt that things came together so much more naturally when she was there in person. A plan might give you distances and specifications, but not the feel of a place, and to this thief that was all-important.

She walked over to the nearest access hatch, and gave another silent whisper: “See where I am, Mon? I’m ready, tell me when you’re ready.” A few seconds was all it took. Monique was a vital member of the team, even if her part of  the robbery happened from nearly a mile away.

“Alarm is off. You got ten seconds.” Before the phantom voice had even finished, Avigail was hanging by her fingertips from the service hatch, looking down at an elevator rising twenty levels below. She focused her mind for a second, and swung herself into the echoing space.



The old steam tunnels under the building weren’t a great way in. The atmosphere was thick with smoke, and the heat was pretty much unbearable. On top of that, the only access was from the basement boiler room, through a heavy steel door held in place by six bolts on the other side. There was no way to  get in here, but that didn’t matter to Luke. He sat in the darkness, just waiting. If things went wrong, he would be the big distraction to help them get away. He could see from here a couple of ducts connected into the building’s boiler system, and he knew that he could help out his friends without even having to get inside. He was proud of his intuition, and this kind of system he could figure out in seconds just by looking at it.

In that underground chamber, sweat mixing with the condensed steam that almost filled the place, Luke waited.



“What in blazes is going on?” Two of the security guards literally jumped at the sudden yell. They were half asleep, one unfocused eye roving the monitors, but they knew nobody would be in the building at this time of night. The research documents kept here were probably worth nothing to anybody outside the company anyway, but some executive had decided long ago that the building needed a 24/7 security presence.

“M– Mister Newton!” Cory jumped to his feet, almost saluting. He was the most enthusiastic member of the team, as well as the youngest, and still treated his job like some kind of divine mandate. “We didn’t know you were in today…”

“Enough brown-nosing, Richards,” Newton snapped, “There are intruders in the building, and I’d very much like to know why they haven’t been stopped.” That was enough to prompt a mad scramble for the various controls beneath the monitors, flicking from one camera to another in search of any security breach. Cory and Dan were both spluttering something about how it wasn’t possible, they would have known if anyone had come in. Jim, however, was experienced enough to take a moment to think, and ask about the dossiers that Newton was holding.

“Thieves, robbers, tricksters,” the executive explained, “These five have tried every game in the book, and nobody seems to be able to catch them. But I knew they were in town, so I put some of my own security men on them, to make sure we stayed one step ahead.”

“Don’t worry sir, we’ve had every industry standard security training, we’ve got the best equipment in the world. No gang’s going to get past us.”

“I wish I could be more confident in that,” Newton looked down at his hands, “Hackers, thieves, second storey men, fake utility company badges, I’m sure you know how to deal with everything. But have you ever stopped mutant supervillains before?”


#ItsAVeryDistinctiveGrimoire  ___

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2015-06-18 16:36:15 (2 comments, 4 reshares, 2 +1s)Open 

I've written a book; I've done my best with the cover image, though I'm not quite happy with it. But there's one other thing that people tell me I need, and that's readers.

As far as I can tell, getting people to find my book in the first place either needs word-of-mouth (which kind of needs people to have read it first), or by putting a little money into advertising. And right now, that's money I haven't got.

So, I'm appealing for anyone who wants to help; put a little money down to get a copy of the book (Kindle or paperback) as soon as I've got them myself, and help me raise some money to run an advertising campaign. Or if you can't spare the cash (I know the bank balance can be a scary thing for a lot of indie writers), maybe share the link around and see if I can gather some attention that way.

Thanks, everyone ^_^

I've written a book; I've done my best with the cover image, though I'm not quite happy with it. But there's one other thing that people tell me I need, and that's readers.

As far as I can tell, getting people to find my book in the first place either needs word-of-mouth (which kind of needs people to have read it first), or by putting a little money into advertising. And right now, that's money I haven't got.

So, I'm appealing for anyone who wants to help; put a little money down to get a copy of the book (Kindle or paperback) as soon as I've got them myself, and help me raise some money to run an advertising campaign. Or if you can't spare the cash (I know the bank balance can be a scary thing for a lot of indie writers), maybe share the link around and see if I can gather some attention that way.

Thanks, everyone ^_^___

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2015-06-18 13:32:36 (0 comments, 0 reshares, 0 +1s)Open 

Wow, I have 8 subscribers on youtube !‽ I'd better make a video then! What do you want to see?

Wow, I have 8 subscribers on youtube !‽ I'd better make a video then! What do you want to see?___

2015-06-17 16:57:21 (0 comments, 0 reshares, 0 +1s)Open 

Today's #DailyStory  might be the start of something larger

Day 259 - See No Future

Francine just knew she’d have powers some day. She knew she had to be the one – the Chosen One, even – who would be able to see the future. Since she was thirteen, she’d done a daily reading for herself, for her pets, for her family or friends. She bought fifteen different sets of cards, from the easily recognisable Rider-Waite imagery to the inspiring gothic of the Thoth Tarot. She always thought that if she focused strongly enough, or if she opened her mind and let the energies flow in, or if she studied until the whole body of knowledge about the cards was in her mind at one time… she would someday be able to make accurate predictions, rather than the simple things that were vague enough to apply to any situation.

She got good enough that she  could make decentmoney at he... more »

Today's #DailyStory  might be the start of something larger

Day 259 - See No Future

Francine just knew she’d have powers some day. She knew she had to be the one – the Chosen One, even – who would be able to see the future. Since she was thirteen, she’d done a daily reading for herself, for her pets, for her family or friends. She bought fifteen different sets of cards, from the easily recognisable Rider-Waite imagery to the inspiring gothic of the Thoth Tarot. She always thought that if she focused strongly enough, or if she opened her mind and let the energies flow in, or if she studied until the whole body of knowledge about the cards was in her mind at one time… she would someday be able to make accurate predictions, rather than the simple things that were vague enough to apply to any situation.

She got good enough that she  could make decent money at her art, and was charging for professional readings before she was even out of high school. Being tall and slim probably helped there, making the men just a little more interested in what she had to say. Piercing silver-grey eyes with a thin ring of green made her always seem a little otherworldly, and that was a big incentive for the customers to believe a little more. She was always disappointed, because she was sure she wasn’t getting true answers from the cards, but she knew that if she practised it might some day be different.

When it finally happened, it was the moment she was least expecting it. And despite all her knowledge about the lore and history of divination, the powers that were unlocked in her mind were like nothing she had ever imagined. She was doing her own reading, not one for a client, and had drawn 4 cards into her hand, ready to lay out. Then she blinked slowly, and as she did it  she felt the world change. It was like a wave spreading out from the centre of her mind, like a ripple in a pond. She could feel it pass through every part of the world around her, but when she opened her eyes the cards before her had no meaning than ever before.

She placed the first card on the table; then the second. And then she noticed the silence. It was a sound of calm, it was peaceful and made her feel  at home. But it was silence where no silence should be. The neighbours’ television wasn’t audible through the wall. There was no noise of engines from the street outside, not even the faintest rumble from the main road two streets over. And one sound that she could in no way explain the absence of: there was no tick from the grandfather clock in the hallway. She wound that clock every few days, there was no way she could have forgotten for a whole week. And for it to stop at the same moment she had such a strange feeling, there had to be something about it. So she set the cards down, and went to wind the clock.

The clock was stopped. She’d known that from the sound. But the weights weren’t at the bottom of their chains, they were hanging free. And the pendulum was not at rest, but hanging to the left of the centre as if frozen mid swing. Francine was a practical woman, despite all her studies of magic and mythology, so her first thought was that it had got caught on some unseen obstacle. Maybe she’d been too willing to jump to conclusions and assume a supernatural origin, when it was just the sudden stopping of the clock that had interrupted her meditative state seconds before her conscious mind caught on.

She went to open the clock case so she could release the blockage, but found that it wouldn’t move at all. She couldn’t open the door, as if it was glued closed. Had there been a key for the case, in among the massive collection of keys of unknown origin that had come with the house? There could have been, though she’d never needed one before. There was a little bowl on the sideboard that contained miscellaneous screws, keys, and brackets. In the long months since she’d ever needed any of them, she’d topped it up with potpourri so it could be both convenient and decorative. It might be worth checking.

The door to the dining room had become wedged on the carpet, somehow, and wouldn’t move an inch. But it was ajar, and Francine didn’t have too much difficulty squeezing through the gap. All kinds of crazy possibilities started going through her mind; that the house might have shifted in a small earthquake she hadn’t noticed, or that the air had somehow become a hundred times more humid and caused both a house door and a clock door to swell up and stick. Then she got to the bowl, and found that just as stubborn and resistant to movement. The fragranced petals of potpourri, even, resisted every attempt to pick up or bend one. Finally, she walked over to the lounge window and looked out through rigid net curtains at cars and pedestrians frozen mid journey. Mr Johnsson across the street was standing in his yard, stubbing a cigarette out on the wall. Fragments of ash and the man’s last smoke ring both hung frozen in the air.

Time had stopped; there was no  future to see.___

2015-06-15 09:06:07 (1 comments, 0 reshares, 1 +1s)Open 

Yesterday's #DailyStory  is number 256… or 100000000 if you love binary ^_^ I think this is a cause for celebration.

256 - Prison Walls

The New Harrisburg Correctional Facility was touted as the first in a completely new kind of prison, unlike anything that had come before. As the bus pulled closer, I couldn’t see what was so special about it. The main facility was quite a large cluster of buildings, and probably  more beyond that ones we could see, but the grounds extended for nearly a mile in all directions. The bus rolled slowly up a gravel path, taking in carefully tended lawns and lines of shrubs. There was nothing large enough to give any real kind of cover, but the plants were a riot of different colours that surely wouldn’t be too easy to spot a person among. The thing that surprised me most, though, was that we hadn’t needed to pass through a double gatewith some... more »

Yesterday's #DailyStory  is number 256… or 100000000 if you love binary ^_^ I think this is a cause for celebration.

256 - Prison Walls

The New Harrisburg Correctional Facility was touted as the first in a completely new kind of prison, unlike anything that had come before. As the bus pulled closer, I couldn’t see what was so special about it. The main facility was quite a large cluster of buildings, and probably  more beyond that ones we could see, but the grounds extended for nearly a mile in all directions. The bus rolled slowly up a gravel path, taking in carefully tended lawns and lines of shrubs. There was nothing large enough to give any real kind of cover, but the plants were a riot of different colours that surely wouldn’t be too easy to spot a person among. The thing that surprised me most, though, was that we hadn’t needed to pass through a double gate with some kind of search for contraband in between, or even a single gate. The outer perimeter of the facility was marked by a stone wall at about the right height for the guy in the gatehouse to rest his elbows on while he chatted to an elderly gentleman who could just as well have been the village idiot.

The road didn’t go straight up to the buildings, but looped round behind them in a kind of spiral pattern. I wondered if all vehicles had to traverse this unnecessarily long path, or if it was just for the purpose of showing the place off to new residents. Along the way we passed a group of men in track suits, playing tennis within the grounds. There was a running track too, just about visible in the grass, marked out with some kind of chalk or white paint to indicate the lane boundaries. Was this staff recreation, or were these people actually inmates? I couldn’t imagine that, there didn’t seem to be anybody watching them at all.

Then I looked again, and saw another marking on the ground. Dead straight lines across the lawn, surrounded by a band of shorter, scrubby grass that didn’t look too healthy. The lines were red, and looked like some kind of liquid plastic had been applied straight onto the earth. My first thought was that it was some kind of electronic collar system using radio frequencies, like some people use to restrain their dogs. Inmates might have a collar or cuff of some kind that would sound an alarm when it passes over the underground lines of electrical conductors which had presumably harmed the grass a little when they were installed, or maybe had some kind of heavy metal from the cables leeched out by rainwater to contaminate a strip of ground there.

Those people hadn’t even tried to run, though. Maybe they were the low security prisoners, corrupt CEO’s and similar who would never think of fleeing simply because they couldn’t stand the thought of being unknown or having to hide who they were. People who’d prefer infamy, and a relatively comfortable prison life, to the unpredictable nature of hiding in obscurity. Or maybe crossing the line would result in not just an alarm, but a high-voltage shock or an immediate intravenous dose of ketamine. I’d heard that this place had some revolutionary new method of keeping people imprisoned, but still didn’t have much of a clue what it might be.

Still, any kind of tracker gadget could be defeated if you were smart. Wade Devizes, on the seat right next to me, had even managed to dig an implanted GPS out of his calf muscle with a shiv in some jailhouse bathroom, and the guards had spent hours chasing a wild coney while he slipped off in a completely different direction.

The bus moved slowly around, completing almost a complete circle around the buildings.There was another red line, two parallel lines about six inches apart this time. And just inside them were a couple of what could be tennis courts on black rubberised asphalt, surrounded by high chain-link fences. The men inside there didn’t look like trust-fund fraudsters or bankers thrown to the wolves. They were wearing shorts and tshirts, and there were enough tattoos visible on bodies spanning the entire spectrum from Latino to mahogany. Heavy jewellery, too, chains rattling against bare chests as some of them postured and tried to improve their standing. This group seemed to be playing volleyball, and it quickly became obvious that the high fences weren’t high enough.

The ball sailed over the fence, and rolled across the grass. One of the inmates swung the door to the fenced area open with a clang, and jogged across the road right in front of our bus in pursuit. The driver seemed happy to stop and wait  for the guy to go past. I watched him intently out of the side window as he jogged after his ball, and as it rolled over the red boundary lines that circled the prison buildings. I wanted to know just what would happen when he crossed the line, and maybe get a clue how easy it would be to break this system. A flicker of movement in my peripheral vision told me that Dev had the same idea.

The inmate crossed the red line, and there was no kind of alarm. Not even a sign of guards appearing in the turrets above the main buildings, though we were far enough away that it was hard to be sure. Then the man crossed the road again, giving a half hearted wave of thanks to the driver, and returned to his game.

“Some kind of time delay?” Dev speculated, “Can be outside the line for three minutes or something before you get knocked out?”

“So we don’t need to block the signal, whatever it is, we need to replicate it. Maybe even wave the bracelet over the line without crossing it, and then when you actually leave it thinks you’re coming back.” We chatted quietly all the way up to the buildings. the main entrance was right behind us now, a mile away, though our spiral path around the grounds had probably taken closer to four miles. Here, there was a proper gate, that looked like it could stand up to some serious punishment. It wasn’t locked, though, and prisoners walked around as if it was some kind of gated community where they all knew each other. They backed away politely to let the bus pass between two buildings where there was barely space, but otherwise didn’t register our passing.

These people couldn’t all be staff. There were even people I recognised in the crowd, like Lawrence Boon with his famous scar. Today he was carrying a cellphone rather than a pistol; though a second look made me think it was some kind of portable radio thing. Well, it made sense for these people not to be in touch with the outside world, but I didn’t see why the state would want us to be so easily in contact with each other. Some of the people here were notorious hard cases, like me and Wade in our own ways. And yet not a single one of them was making any effort to leave.

The bus stopped in a courtyard, and the gates swung closed behind us. They were heavy wood, a rich dark brown, decorated with black iron studs and with over-elaborate ornamentation on the top that looked like it should have been forged by a renaissance fair blacksmith. I noticed to my annoyance that even Boon was helping the crowd closing the door on us, under the direction of just a single man whose red shirt bore a clear De Mesmer Security logo.

Then we were alone. The bus driver, one other guard at the back, red shirt, and sixteen of us. I aimed to be in the middle of the group as we disembarked, not wanting to stand out. We were probably being watched from some hidden point, and this would be the first time they got to know us, those who didn’t have such a reputation on the outside. We were the fresh meat, someone would already be sizing us up, and I knew I needed to show I could  take care of myself before somebody decided to take a bite out of me. We wouldn’t be here long – it would only take a week or two to crack this so-called revolutionary security system – but that would be so much easier with a little respect from the others.

“D. Kerrigan!” redshirt yelled. He had a southern accent which wasn’t at all improved by the nasal quality of his voice. He also had the authority of someone who was used to being obeyed, back straight and head held high like a textbook on positive thinking. He wasn’t a lardball, but that shirt was pretty tight around the flab that said he’d not been in a fight any time recently. I was pretty sure I could have laid him out with one punch, but I wouldn’t start acting out until I knew what the consequences were going to be.

“Who wants to know?” I hollered back, and spat on the cobbles under my feet. Redshirt just shrugged. There was a jolt of pain from the back of my neck, and I felt my legs twitch violently. My whole body was on fire, so bad that I didn’t much notice my chin being introduced to the hard ground, and everything I could see was suddenly flooded with yellow. It was a long time since I’d  been hit with a taser, but those things are always a pain in the ass. I realised too late that I hadn’t kept my eye on the driver. Hoped that wouldn’t do too much damage to my reputation.

When I opened my eyes, I was lying on a tilted surface in a white room. Felt like some kind of couch, or a padded operating table. There were straps with no give in them at all around my wrists and ankles, and across my forehead too. That suggested the latter option. All I could see on the ceiling was a complex array of lights. I think I must have had some kind of drugs in my system, too, because I couldn’t even turn my eyes away.

“The patient is awake, doctor.” a voice spoke off to one side. I tried to turn and see, but my body just wouldn’t respond. You can’t believe just how frustrating that can be.

“I had noticed,” this voice was older, calm and quiet. But there was a hidden threat there; the voice of a man who doesn’t care in the slightest for the comfort of the people he’s talking about, a doctor who sees the patient on his slab as nothing more than a commodity, a part of the job. I heard the click of some kind of switch being thrown, and suddenly I was dazzled by two lights from up above. One red, one green, pencil-thin beams shining straight into my face. I didn’t know what they were at the time, but I was only half aware of the doctor’s voice continuing: “Begin the induction.” and beams beginning to strobe.

And, well, that’s how I came to live at New Harrisburg. It really isn’t as bad as you might think.___

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2015-06-13 10:34:45 (4 comments, 0 reshares, 5 +1s)Open 

This week for #SaturdayScenes , another excerpt from Sandpaper Kiss. Please, take a look, tell me what you think, and then click the hashtag to have a look at what other authors have been working on.

Chapter 29 — Triple Cross

“Don’t shoot!” I yelled, not noticing or caring how much danger I was throwing myself into, “Let me through!” I ran past the tribesmen, my fear fully focused on the Americans at that point. But I was still an American to them, and some raised their weapons. I guess the soldiers saw a white man under attack by natives, and reflexively tried to open a path to safety for me. It was probably a bad reflex from a military perspective, allowing me through the barricade without any rational justification. Some detached part of me wondered if they were supposed to be trained against those treacherous, humanitarian instincts. I heard shots fired,both to eith... more »

This week for #SaturdayScenes , another excerpt from Sandpaper Kiss. Please, take a look, tell me what you think, and then click the hashtag to have a look at what other authors have been working on.

Chapter 29 — Triple Cross

“Don’t shoot!” I yelled, not noticing or caring how much danger I was throwing myself into, “Let me through!” I ran past the tribesmen, my fear fully focused on the Americans at that point. But I was still an American to them, and some raised their weapons. I guess the soldiers saw a white man under attack by natives, and reflexively tried to open a path to safety for me. It was probably a bad reflex from a military perspective, allowing me through the barricade without any rational justification. Some detached part of me wondered if they were supposed to be trained against those treacherous, humanitarian instincts. I heard shots fired, both to either side of me and in the room above. The tribesmen dropped back momentarily; I remember blaming myself for the Americans opening fire, and hoping that it had only been warning shots to clear the warriors out of my path. I didn’t want to think anyone had died from my recklessness.

The Lucretia Falls Oversight Committee was all there, whether in person or by satellite link. The world was watching too, representatives of the United Nations Science Committee looking in from Paris, the Security Council from New York, and it was entirely possible Marcos had already connected the feed to the Satellite News Network and other major media organisations.

The delegates here in person were either lying on the floor in panic or screaming like headless chickens. Soldiers stood on both sides of the room, weapons drawn and pointing past the scientists to the centre. Uvi had been shot, and for once I saw an injured man without any feelings of revulsion for the system that had caused it. In war, I always had some sympathy for injured men, even if they were nominally the bad guys, because they’d usually been following orders or doing what they thought was right. But this man was fighting for purely selfish reasons, and he’d hurt Lucy.

He was lying on his side, a pool of blood spilling from his shoulder, but cursing profusely. I kicked his knife out of reach as I came closer, ignoring everything except Lucy. She was bleeding too, and white fur stained with blood made me see red. Barishkov was shouting something from behind his desk. I caught the words “monster”, and “threat”, I saw a couple of soldiers raising their rifles.

“No!” I screamed, and threw myself across her. If I’d had time to think, maybe I could have found a better plan. But there wasn’t time to think, and the soldiers would at least think twice about shooting me. I knew it was crazy, that I’d spent virtually all of my life trying to help as much as I could without putting myself in the firing line. But in that moment all I could think of was that I needed to protect Lucy.

I lifted her up and checked her pulse. Her eyes flickered open and one hand scratched weakly at my shoulder. I ignored the pain and held her close, babbling “please, please be okay,” until she recognised me. “Please say something.”

Barishkov shouted orders to the troops, calling me a saboteur, calling on the need to kill the monster. I didn’t know what he was accusing me of now, maybe he just felt like Lucy could undermine his story, but I was relieved to find that the military wasn’t too enthusiastic about shooting an unarmed man.

“Someone help!” I shouted angrily at the soldiers in front of me, “There must at least be a first aid kit here!” The soldiers ignored me, but Dr Corliss grabbed a green box from a locker beside the stairs and slid it across the floor towards me. He wanted to help, he knew Luci probably as well as I did, but he wasn’t going to put himself in the firing line.

“What do you think you’re doing?” Paul’s irate voice came over the speakers. It was probably the first time in years he’d shouted without a team of spin doctors thinking about it in advance to find the tone that would generate the most public sympathy. “Leave the decisions to the professionals.”

“I couldn’t risk…” I tried to speak, but I didn’t really know how to explain myself, “I thought they might shoot her, I don’t know what deal you made with Barishkov, I didn’t want to think…” There was a pause, I just didn’t know what to say. Maybe it was a time for diplomacy, but throwing myself in the line of fire had been the only way it seemed sure Lucy would be safe. Even now, I was holding her close in the hope some trigger-happy soldier wouldn’t risk taking a shot while I bandaged the spear wound in her side. She said something, but in all the excitement I wasn’t thinking clearly enough to understand.

“You’d put yourself at risk for that animal?” Paul spat, and even with the tension I wondered just how much he was going to regret that later.

“Yes,” I spoke clearly at last, even if it was only to say the stupidest thing that came to mind through the intoxicating haze as the adrenaline rush dropped me: “I think I love her.”

“Wǒ yěài nǐ,” Lucy whispered, and smiled through the pain. For just a second, the gunmen and scientists and international politicians didn’t matter.  It took me a second to decipher the foreign syllables, but the meaning was clear from her smile, her eyes.

If only she could speak in a language more commonly understood, I thought, there wouldn’t be this debate about whether she’s an animal or a monster. Then I looked up at the monitors, the people watching us as representatives of the United Nations, and I managed to pick out a Chinese representative in the crowd. He was already staring in surprise; Lucy’s anatomy imposed a thick accent on her, but the fact that she was speaking would still be obvious to someone who’d grown up with the language.

“She says she is human, and that is clear enough for me,” as soon as he’d spoken, both of the conference rooms at the end of the satellite were in uproar. 



This is the last time I'll be giving you a rough draft, as I've finally finished the story. I'm now hard at work editing, with some parts of the text coming along faster than others. I'm a little rushed, because I accidentally submitted the book for pre-order when I was looking at the options. So if you want a copy of the final version on Kindle, you can get if from http://hyperurl.co/sandpaperkiss - and I have 10 weeks to finish polishing up the last few rough parts of the text___

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2015-06-12 06:51:52 (0 comments, 0 reshares, 1 +1s)Open 

People should do this more often!

I don't know all the people mentioned here, and I haven't read all of these books, but the ones I have are well worth recommending.

Too often I see my fellow creatives struggle with imposter syndrome. 
I want my friends to know that they're amazeballs! So #motherplussers  I'm pandering them out to you in one big, okay...MASSIVE... #signalboost  I believe in them and their abilities. I believe in you and your desire to read all the things. 

Because I believe in both of these things so strongly, I want you guys to hook up and get to know each other (in a totally non-romantic way, unless that's your thing...and it's their thing...in which case, I wish you all the happiness and I expect an invitation to a ceremony, I don't care what kind, just give me the opportunity to travel. LOL!) 
 

+Andy Goldman 
http://atgoldman.com/?page_id=2557

+Bliss Morgan  
Inner Workings: http://amzn.to/1oIw6Ns
Dance Me: http://amzn.to/SXKoHY
Spider Girl: http://amzn.to/RbKnEv
Bits of Bliss: http://amzn.to/1kxwQSX
Nightmare Fuel: http://amzn.to/1iNtY4X
Beneath the Jolly  Roger: http://amzn.to/QEH0AX

+Lisa Cohen 
 http://www.ljcohen.net

+Daniel Swensen  http://www.amazon.com/Orison-Daniel-Swensen-ebook/dp/B00IOQF4AI 


+Aaron Crocco 
www.Amazon.com/author/aaron
www.AaronCrocco.com/store

+Rick Wayne 
www.RickWayne.com/books

+Samantha Dunaway Bryant 
http://bitly.com/face-the-change

+Mike Reeves-McMillan  
http://csidemedia.com/gryphonclerks/my-books

+Steve Turnbull 
 
I'm currently promoting Broken Vows 
http://bit.ly/broken-vows (magical geo-link to one's nearest Amazon store).

+Gina Drayer  
http://www.amazon.com/Gina-Drayer/e/B00K7D7XXW/

I'm currently promoting:
http://www.amazon.com/Modern-Girls-Guide-Vacation-Flings-ebook/dp/B00TZ8KL8O/___People should do this more often!

I don't know all the people mentioned here, and I haven't read all of these books, but the ones I have are well worth recommending.

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2015-06-11 13:49:10 (2 comments, 0 reshares, 0 +1s)Open 

Here is the news: I am an idiot.

I was looking at the pre-order options on KDP to see how it works, and clicked "Submit for pre-order" instead of "Save as draft".

So, now, I have 10 weeks to do the 3rd, 4th, and 5th revisions of my book, and to find decent cover art. This is going to be challenging, but I can do it. Any help would be much appreciated; beta-readers especially (artists even more so, but I have no money right now due to landlord deceptions)

On the plus side, you can pre-order my book. Fingers crossed

Here is the news: I am an idiot.

I was looking at the pre-order options on KDP to see how it works, and clicked "Submit for pre-order" instead of "Save as draft".

So, now, I have 10 weeks to do the 3rd, 4th, and 5th revisions of my book, and to find decent cover art. This is going to be challenging, but I can do it. Any help would be much appreciated; beta-readers especially (artists even more so, but I have no money right now due to landlord deceptions)

On the plus side, you can pre-order my book. Fingers crossed___

2015-06-11 00:16:07 (0 comments, 0 reshares, 0 +1s)Open 

Yesterday's #DailyStory  came out pretty weak. Maybe today will be better.

252 - The Businessman

Lambert was a cautious man. It was the first thing most people might notice about him. He might not look both ways before crossing the street, but he always looked both ways before stepping into an alley. You never knew who might be waiting for you.

This time, he didn’t look before he leapt, because he didn’t know what he was supposed to be looking for. There was nobody around, walking through the park at night. The gravel crunched under his battered sneakers; there hadn’t been grass here for years. The sculptures had gone, the trees had died long ago and the bark was marked by so many named in paint and scored into the trunks that they weren’t even recognisable as some natural element. He looked over his shoulders, but among the sparse shapes it was easy toknow the... more »

Yesterday's #DailyStory  came out pretty weak. Maybe today will be better.

252 - The Businessman

Lambert was a cautious man. It was the first thing most people might notice about him. He might not look both ways before crossing the street, but he always looked both ways before stepping into an alley. You never knew who might be waiting for you.

This time, he didn’t look before he leapt, because he didn’t know what he was supposed to be looking for. There was nobody around, walking through the park at night. The gravel crunched under his battered sneakers; there hadn’t been grass here for years. The sculptures had gone, the trees had died long ago and the bark was marked by so many named in paint and scored into the trunks that they weren’t even recognisable as some natural element. He looked over his shoulders, but among the sparse shapes it was easy to know there was nobody else around.

The wind whipped his short hair around a little, blew through the tear in his sweater, but the cold was no threat either. Lambert looked around cautiously, and knew there was nothing to be afraid of here.

Then he put his foot down on smooth flagstones of polished marble, and looked around in surprise. The park was gone, or very much changed. There were no houses here for the impoverished lower classes, no battered street furniture or worn red brick row houses. This park was a courtyard in what looked like a high class office building. The trees were in the same positions, but here they grew with regular pruning to ensure their symmetry.

On the other side of the courtyard, a man sat on a carved stone bench that had long since been stolen. He was young, but not a kid. He was wearing a charcoal grey business suit, and had his nose buried in a newspaper. He wasn’t paying much attention to the briefcase at his feet, which looked way too expensive to not contain something valuable. Lambert looked down at it, and the man spoke to him.

“I wouldn’t, if I were you. Well, actually, I probably would. But it wouldn’t be a good idea. You see, I’ve found the secret of eternal life, and I only mean it to share it with people who have helped me in some way.”

“You offering me something?”

“No, I just thought I should try to explain in some way, though I doubt you’d ever understand.” Those words were enough to annoy Lambert. He darted forward, faster than anyone could react, but the other man was quicker. The briefcase made a reassuring click as it opened, though Lambert didn’t see what kind of weapon the man had pulled because this graceless businessman was suddenly behind him.

“You see, there is a price for any great power. And for immortality, strength, and speed, they require a suitable sacrifice. In fact, there’s only one person whose life should be worth enough to me to qualify. So, of course, I cheated.”

Lambert turned, looking around him for any sign of escape, ready to strike  at any moment while the other man was giving his monologue. But then he caught the other man’s eyes, and saw an expression he’d seen before. He recognised this stranger, recognised the expression, and the face, that he saw every day. He didn’t understand the how, but at least he could see why. It was a flash of inspiration that took him completely by surprise, but maybe the businessman could have expected it. It was an incredible understanding.

And then he died again.___

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2015-06-10 14:28:46 (1 comments, 0 reshares, 4 +1s)Open 

For anyone who cares, my novel Sandpaper Kiss is now complete!

It needs a lot  of editing, though. I'm relatively confident I know what I'm doing on a macro level; but anyone with line editing or proofreading skills, or beta readers who don't mind a slightly rough copy, would be much appreciated.

As far as cover art goes, I think I need all the help  I can get, but I don't have money to spend on it yet.

I'm half tempted to upload the first draft to KDP, so I can have the Kindle version available for pre-order on Amazon while I work on the final revision. Can anyone tell me if that's a terrible idea or not?

For anyone who cares, my novel Sandpaper Kiss is now complete!

It needs a lot  of editing, though. I'm relatively confident I know what I'm doing on a macro level; but anyone with line editing or proofreading skills, or beta readers who don't mind a slightly rough copy, would be much appreciated.

As far as cover art goes, I think I need all the help  I can get, but I don't have money to spend on it yet.

I'm half tempted to upload the first draft to KDP, so I can have the Kindle version available for pre-order on Amazon while I work on the final revision. Can anyone tell me if that's a terrible idea or not?___

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