Friday, July 18, 2014

Friday Flash 103 -- Escape

    The worst part of the trouble hadn't been being arrested by the Trisban guards. It hadn't been the trial and the accusation of being an assassin. He'd planted the rumor himself.
For Danus, the worst part was the realization he might be too late to save his friend.
The cells were far worse than he'd expected. Rats ran down the stairs; sleek fat things and fearing nothing. The place stank.
However, at least they put all the prisoners in one cell. The metal bars of the door clanked shut behind him with a sound like a death bell as Danus stared into the dark, listening to men cursing.
Taking a deep breath was out. He didn't want to breathe in the foulness.
"Sankin?" he asked moving away from the door. He'd heard the guards leave. No one would be listening. "Sankin, pray gods tell me you are still here."
"You are a fool Danus."
His eyes hadn't fully adjusted, but he could see someone moving towards him, pushing others out of the way. Sankin. Danus caught him by the arm. His friend had lost weight.
"Your sister is upset, Sankin. You do know you can't hide here from her for long, right?" he said.
Sankin laughed. "You, I trust, have come with a plan?"
"Have I ever let you down?"
Sankin grinned. He looked as though he hadn't smiled much of late. A half-healed cut showed beneath the beard on the right side of his face, probably infected given this place.
"San." Danus leaned against the wall, relieved.
"You can't do magic in here, you know," Sankin said. "I saw it kill a mage; he started a spell and it just struck him with lightning. I had rather hoped you could do something from the outside."
His friend sounded worried. Danus reached over and patted his arm. "Your sister and I did all the study of this place we could. I known about the spells on this place. I need something sharp, San."
"They don't give us no knives, boy," someone said, snorting as though he were a fool. The local accent was strong, but he understood very well the menace behind the words. They went for the weak here.
"I imagine not. I expect someone here has a piece of wall that's broken off and sharpened, right?"
Several men had gathered closer, all of them snarling. He didn't blame them, but the last thing he wanted was to have trouble with those whom he might help. Right now he didn't care if any of them were here for legitimate reasons.
"I am going to get the door open," he said. He made certain he sounded as though he expected this to work. "Once I do so, the rest of you can do as you please while I get San to safety."
The men glared.
"What have you got to lose?" Sankin asked, someone who had been here for several months. One of them.
A man handed over a piece of stone. "This do?"
"Yes, thank you."
Danus rolled up his tattered shirt and jabbed the rock into his arm half way between the elbow and the wrist.
"Danus! What the hell are you doing, you idiot?" Sankin demanded, sounding more like himself at least.
"Idiot? Going to give them a bad impression of me," he said. Blood welled from the wound. "Had to bring magic in the hard way -- already made."
The pain made his hand shake. Sankin took hold of the wounded arm and then took the stone as well --
But another man took it from San's hand. "Do this quick like. How much?" he said.
"Cut up until you see the tip -- tip of a long black stick."
He'd used magic to put the wand in place. He wished he dared use it to get the thing out again. Pulling the short wand out from under his skin almost made him faint. Sankin tore cloth from Danaus shirt -- the cleanest here -- and wrapped the wound. Someone else cleaned the wand.
"Spell to destroy the door," Danus said. "Just need to trigger it. Everyone stay back."
They all moved away except Sankin.
"Get back, you fool. I'm doing this for you."
Sankin remained. Danus sighed. He rubbed his finger over the wand; no words spoken and no magic from him. As soon as he felt a flicker of magic, he tossed the wand at the door.
The spell was enough to blow the door out -- away from them, he'd been careful about that magic when he made it -- but the lightning helped, too. It not only made a much wider opening, but finding no one to attack, swept down on the guards when they rushed in.
"Well," Danus said. "That went well."
The others rushed out, yelling as they fought their way up from the dank, deep area. Some had been wise enough to grab a weapon from the already dead guards. One even handed a sword to Sankin.
"Let's go," Sankin said.
Danaus nodded.
And that was when part of the roof fell and hit him on the head.
He awoke on a ship.
"What the hell --"
"Ah, better I see," Sankin said. He sat on the deck beside where Danus laid on blankets. The fresh air felt wonderful. "Not the best accommodations, but we needed to leave Trisban immediately. Nasty thing, the revolution started by escaped prisoners."
"So, your job is done? You got the trouble going?" Danus asked, remembering why his friend had been in the country.
"Yes. Now we can go home and face my lovely sister the queen and not have her upset at either of us."
"Until she sends us out again."
"Maybe we should emigrate."
"Then she'd send people after us."
"We're stuck. Rest. At least we have a couple weeks before we get home. We're having a vacation."
"I always imagined a vacation on a tropical isle, not the deck of a fishing trawler. But I'll take it."

999 words

for more fantastic quick reads

Friday, July 11, 2014

Flash Friday # 102 -- Limitations

    There are always limitations.
Learning to be a mage was all about learning how to live within those limitations in order to maximize power. Neason had spent most of his life learning not to let stray thoughts leak away his power. At twenty he was well known for his control, and that was why the temple sent him to the valley of Kerisin where a curse seemed to be destroying the crops and orchards. He would have the best chance of finding the trouble, destroying it, and getting back to the quiet, safe simplicity of the temple.
He accepted the work, content to know he would do his best and that he shouldn't have trouble tracking down the trouble.
What he found was Marcella.
She had nothing to do with the curse and everything to do with self-control. Neason had met many women at the temple, of course. Some were mages in their own right; quiet and austere women who were sometimes quite beautiful in their distant sort of ways. They were untouchable.
Marcella was beautiful. She was alive and emotional, and from the moment he went to see her orchard he found himself distracted and fighting for his self-control.
"My orchard was the first touched by this horrible plague," she said, her voice like water flowing in a brook. "It began just after my father died and left this place to me. I can't help but think there is some connection."
"Was your father inclined to curses?" he asked and then thought how callous that sounded. "I mean --"
"He spent a lot of his time cursing everything from the roof of the house to the trees in the orchard. I didn't expect a mage to be so young and --"
He stopped, eyes gone wide. She stopped, blushing brightly.
"How did your father die?" he managed to ask.
"Fell from one of the trees while he was cutting away dead branches," she said, her voice slightly breathless. "He didn't die right away. And . . . And with his last breath, he cursed the trees again. You don't think --"
They had reached the edge of the orchard, a place that should have been filled with green leaves and cherry blossoms. Instead, row upon row of dead, naked trees stretched out over the land.
"You and your father took care of this alone? Just the two of you?" he asked, surprised.
"Father hired workers when the fruit was ready to be picked, but otherwise, he pretty much took care of it himself. I helped; I needed to know what to look for if a blight hit, or how to save the trees during a drought. We did well, really."
"Whatever has happened here isn't natural," he said. He'd gotten his control back, as long as the looked at the trees and not at her. "It could be that your father had some magic and didn't even realize it. Did he live an austere life?"
"Yes. After mother died, he hardly allowed himself any joy," she said. "And I probably make him sound horrible with his curses and all, but he wasn't really. I miss him."
He didn't want to know about her life. He didn't want to think about her here, alone. He'd never thought just meeting someone could be so dire.
Neason walked to the nearest tree and laid his fingers on the bark, his head tilted and his eyes closed. He thought about the father; a man with a little magic, living in his own shell of self-control, might have built up more power than he would have under normal circumstances. Then realizing he was dying, he might have given that last power out in something he never intended.
Neason had a little trouble feeling out the problem, but there it was -- a dying curse left inadvertently by a man who really hadn't hated the land. He could almost feel the man's loss and the fear for his daughter, here alone.
Neason pulled at the strand of darkness, a slow process since it had wound itself up through branches and down through roots. And then he fed a little life back into the tree --
"Oh!" Marcella said, her voice bright with delight.
He finally glanced up at the tree and found it already growing leaves and flowers, the scent heady in the air. The sight even surprised him.
"This is going to take some time, going from tree to tree --"
She threw her arms around him. "Thank you! You were our last hope and I feared -- Oh, thank you!"
She kissed him.
Self-control? That disappeared the moment her lips met his. He also realized she had inherited a little magic from her father, which in that moment of contact blended with his.
For the first time in his life he felt alive, joyful and glad that he could help. The feel of it surged through him, making him regret all those empty years -- but also glad to have saved them for Marcella.
By the time they pulled apart, slightly breathless, the entire orchard had come into bloom.
"Oh my," she said, her gray eyes wide with surprise.
"Well," he said. He had expected to find himself emptied of power but instead, he felt as though he could do anything. "There is a lot of dead crop land around here, too. And gardens. I think maybe we had better kiss again."
She laughed. And they kissed.
That night he sent a note back to the temple suggesting maybe they'd been looking at the control of power in the wrong way. He also said he was not coming back; he'd fallen in love with a cherry orchard and all that belonged there.

952 words

for more fantastic quick reads

Tuesday, July 08, 2014

Don't worry about it, you poor little author


(The above works can be found here, except for Autumn Winds, which will be released in about a week.)

Later edit:  This post was featured on Passive Voice!

I recently had an encounter with an Indie group on Facebook that truly took me by surprise. They were so set in their ways that I had the feeling I was dealing with a traditional publishing group in disguise. The problem wasn't that they were even wrong for most writers, but that the moderator of the group (and her leap up and down followers) would not admit that someone might be capable of actually doing a good cover themselves or, worse, have spent time as an editor and was capable of editing their own work.

Now don't get me wrong. I think most of us do need help with editing especially. I have had such help and I'm very grateful for those who did the work. I've been told, even by occasional traditional publishers (small press) that I've worked with that my submitted work is extremely clean -- but there are small things that can still slip through and there are occasional blind spots we just don't see. I know this is true of every writers. And every editor, for that matter; I have found problems in edited transcripts too.

So I'm not arguing that this is helpful for most writers.

My problem?

It is the attitude of the group which verges on the traditional publishing pat on the head and 'Don't you worry about anything but the words, little writer. You aren't smart enough to handle art (or editing), too.'

I found this attitude to be more than annoying. I found it counterproductive and the antithesis of the entire Indie ideal. Being told that any author who dares edit their own work or create their own cover ruins the Indie market -- without EVER looking at the individual work done -- is so elitist that it actually took me a few days to believe they were serious. They are sprouting the same things we've heard from everyone who won't take the time to actually examine work before making a pronouncement. It's far easier to make a ad hominem statement and dismiss everything with a single wave of the hand, isn't it? After all, that's what others outside the Indie world do.

Let's look at the cover art side first. Many people do not want to do the art and have no interest in learning how. I can understand that part. It is a lot of work and if you don't have the interest to begin with, then you simply should not bother. Some people think they have the ability, but they need to study other covers and try again. I've been at that stage.

However, a lot of cover art these days is done with pre-made photos and simple templates. It takes practice to find the right picture and get the lettering right, but it is NOT something impossible for any poor little author to do. Branching out from there can be more difficult. I am most certainly still learning, but I'm willing to put the effort in to study other covers and expand my ability. It interests me.  The covers I have above are not bad covers.  I've seen far worse on some traditional works and Indie works hired out.

Telling me (and others who are far better at this than I am) that creating our own covers is ruining the Indie image and why readers don't take us seriously is just plain stupid. There are some truly bad covers out there. You know what? Those people aren't listening to you anyway. So why wouldn't you try to help the ones who are trying to do better, rather than patting them on the head and telling them they aren't creative in anything but writing and don't bother?

And editing? Yes, writers need to edit their work to the best of their ability before they consider publishing or going to another editor. The problem is that the worst of the offenders out there are people who wouldn't bother to edit at all anyway, so holding them up as the example of what every writer is like who doesn't hire an editor is just plain wrong. Instead of pointing to them as a norm (which these people are doing by saying they're running the Indie experience), we should be making certain people know they are the exception. Yes, they'll be held up by others as a sign of how horrible Indie Publishing is, but that's normal in any field. People always want to degrade something they don't believe in, and if you go along with it and say 'everyone has to do X not to be one of them' then you simply play into that mindset.

We should also be telling readers to check out the free samples of any author's work before they buy. If an author is obviously lazy, then don't buy or look at their work again. Don't whimper and moan about how bad other writers are and how they're ruining the Indie world when you keep pointing to them. Instead, take command and stand in front of them instead of behind. You and I have no control over those people and making them important is not helping. We need to move on and point out the really good work, rather than the bad. I think some people are so worried about what others are doing wrong that they've stopped seeing good in people who do not work the same way they do.

Indie authors are a diverse group. We are not all following one path and the way we have reached our current state has been through various trials and learning experiences. There is no one answer for any of us; not how we work, how we edit or where we choose to publish.

We are not on the same path as traditional publications. Stop trying to force us into the same mold or shame us into believing your way is the only way. If these people were truly and Indie group, they'd be finding ways to help even the people who do not work in the same ways they do.  They would welcome diversity and offer help that embraced

Friday, July 04, 2014

Flash Friday #101 -- Something Lost

Not many ships headed northward this late in the season, but Garwood's aunt had done the readings and she'd never been wrong. "Go this week," she said, holding to his arm and shaking it as though he wasn't paying attention. "Get stocked and go with the tide late Friday. You'll have good luck with it, my boy. Don't leave without him, though."
He'd tried to ask who, but she was already heading out the door, laughing brightly despite the pouring rain. He couldn't remember the last time she'd been in such a good mood. His second had stood by the desk, frowning. He always did.
"She's never sent us wrong, Davey."
"But she's never laughed when she left either," he said. He looked down at the desk where she'd traced out the path. "North. This time of year."
"We can always turn back."
Davey wasn't going to argue. He made some complaint every time, despite having grown used to Aunt Celia's predictions.
"We only have a week," Davey said. "I better get to work."
Davey was good at his job. He'd rounded up crew, bought supplies, moved their trade goods from the warehouse to the Cloud and they were ready to sale on the appointed day.
Don't leave without him, though.
He had no idea who the person might be. Someone from the crew? Davey himself? He paced the deck a couple times and thought he might just prepare to sail. The tide was changing --
A man walked up to the ship, talked to Davey who was getting ready to come back aboard. He gave a nod and then looked up at Garwood and nodded again.
So they were going. The man, Yarwood, paid ten silvers and had brought his own food and gear. He was happy to stay on deck, but Garwood had a spare room for paying passengers.
Yarwood was a quiet man and for the first half of the journey, hadn't spent much time with the crew. Now he paced the deck, always looking to the north and northwest, each day growing increasingly anxious. Fogs had spread in around them as they sailed into the colder regions, and still he watched.
Looking for someone? Were they going to be pirated? No. He was too obvious; so obvious that Garwood couldn't ignore it any longer. He crossed to stand by the man, signaling the others to keep watch on them.
"It's my last chance, you see," the man said suddenly, without any prompting. "If I don't spot home this time, I know I'll never have another chance. I've sailed this way before, but the ships and crews were not pure enough. It's hard to find humans who are."
Madman. Great. But he never took his eyes from the horizon.
"There's nothing out there, you know," Garwood said softly. "I've sailed this way a dozen times."
"Nothing but myth, forgotten places and . . . Something lost."
Myth. Aunt Celia used to tell him stories about a mythical island where their family had come from, long, long ago.
"Tilania," he said aloud.
That won a quick look, finally. "How could you --" he lifted his hand. "Ah. You are of the blood. Of course. Not pure blood, but still. . . You give me hope."
He hadn't meant to, but at the same time he couldn't even begin to dissuade this man of his hope. Instead, he stood there with him, staring as though he expected --
He saw something. Clouds low on the water, he told himself.
"Land -- land ho!" Murphy shouted from the crow's nest. "Dear God, land --"
He could see it now; not simply land but a place of green trees and spiraling towers of glass. It caught the light and brightened.
Yarwood laughed. He was stripping off his shirt and shoes and already climbing up the railing.
"You can't swim there! We'll get you to this place. We'll go in to the bay --"
"I'm sorry, Captain Garwood. You'd never get that close," he said. He reached out and touched his shoulder. "Not this time. I'll tell them about you. It may be another time that you'll sail here and see Tilania again. If so, it means you will be welcome. But for now -- what is in my room is yours. I think you'll find it worth the trip. Good journey, cousin. I suggest you turn around and go home, though. This is a bad time to sail north."
He stood on the rail. Garwood still tried to catch him, but he arced off and into the water.
"Damn! Get the rowboat --"
But dolphins had appeared around Yarwood. Dolphins in waters where he'd never seen them before. Yarwood caught hold of the fins of two and they were quickly skimming the water and heading for the island.
Garwood stared. The Island was starting to fade, even in the bright light of day. He blinked and it was gone. He heard his troubled crew, but he could only stare. Even Yarwood and the dolphins had disappeared.
Eventually he went down to the room where Yarwood had stayed. There wasn't much, except for two small wooden boxes, each about six inches square and just as tall. He opened them both. Diamonds in one, emeralds and rubies in the other. A king's fortune. Aunt Celia was right; they'd certainly had good luck this trip.
And he knew he would always scan the sea when he sailed this way, looking for the place where Yarwood had gone; a place more precious than the jewels he left behind.

for more fantastic quick reads

Friday, June 27, 2014

Flash Friday #100 -- It's All in a Name (100 word drabble)

    This desolate place was Apricot's last hope. He entered the temple, bowing to the old man standing inside.

"Please help me. I've failed at every job I've held. Someone makes fun of my name and I end up in a fight."

The old man shrugged. "There's only one answer."


"Change your name."

Apricot stared in amazement. "Yes! What name should I choose?"

"I'm fond of Periwinkle myself."

"Thank you! This will change everything!"

He rushed away. A moment later an ancient man entered from behind the curtains. "Good dinner. Anything happen while I was gone?"

"No sir. Nothing much."

(In honor of the 100the Flash Fiction I wrote this drabble.  Drabbles are 100 words exactly.  It's fun to try to fit a full story into one.)

for more fantastic quick reads