Friday, September 26, 2014

Flash Fiction #113: The Collector (Drabble)

    ""He collects butterflies," a woman whispered with utter disgust.

Michis ignored her and the unexpected squeak of dismay that followed.

"Butterflies! There are live insects here? We must leave!"

The middle-aged women rushed out of the botanical garden. They wouldn't be back.

Michis gathered a butterfly carefully into a case. Three hours later he opened the door to his private botanical garden and let him loose. Butterflies swarmed, birds sang -- and sometimes ate butterflies, but that was natural. In a world full of lifeless insect droids, he gathered the colors of the forgotten nature and remembered a prettier time.

  100 words

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Friday, September 19, 2014

Flash Fiction #112: Home

       Nothing had ever been easy for Kane. Being half elven meant humans wouldn't allow him anywhere near their carriages. Hiring a horse for travel was out of the question because humans claimed you couldn't trust they weren't using magic coins that would disappear -- a mockery of the elves sense of honor.
This left Kane in an uncomfortable and often dangerous situation when he finally left the city. He did his best to avoid the locals and kept to back trails and deer paths, limping along with the use of a crudely shaped waling stick. Each step sent a little agony through his hip and side and he had to rest often, but he kept going.
He wanted to go home.
The odd thing was that he had no idea where home might be. For a human, it was easy to find where you belonged. You simply chose your place. For an elf, the process involved a call from the spirits in a special location and a magical link with the land. Kane never had the call, but he'd decided to leave after he'd been beaten and left for dead in a dark, dank alley. He'd drawn enough magic, which was hard for him, to heal the worst of his injuries. Then he had started walking. Weeks later he was still walking. And losing faith. Kane had been assaulted again when he chanced on a small village and escaped only because the fools tried to turn their dogs on him; they didn't know elves very well if they thought that such creatures would attack him.
He'd headed into the woods. Kane thought they'd tried to hunt him, but he was elf enough to stay hidden from human eyes. Maybe that was enough? He couldn't say he liked living in the wilds very well, but this was better than the last couple years in the city. A new wave of anti-elf sentiment had swept through the town and Kane had found himself in trouble far too often. He had some magical power, but not enough to make a stand and protect himself.
Could he survive in these woods? He instinctively knew what to eat from the plants that grew wild here. He liked the sounds of the birds in the trees, something rarely heard in the city. He could remain at least through the rest of the summer and give himself a while to think --
"You don't belong here."
The voice startled him and he spun, losing his footing and falling hard on his injured leg. He would have cursed if he could have breathed at all. Two figures stepped out from the shadows of the trees where he had not seen them. He looked to their hands for weapons and finding none, glanced up to their faces.
Elves. They looked almost identical, standing there at the edge of the light, with their long golden hair and brown clothing. He stared; he'd never seen a true elf before. He thought he might look a bit like them in some ways, but a darker version. Dirtier.
"My apologies. I'll leave --"
One stepped forward fully into the light, his hand lifted. Kane fought not to pull back in haste.
"You are a half-brother. I apologize for our rudeness. We thought you human, and we try to discourage them from traversing the woods."
"Injured," the other said in almost the same voice. "Let us help."
No one had offered to help him that he ever remembered. The orphanage had kicked him out when he was ten; he'd never known anything about his parents. When the two elves knelt beside him he had to fight not to kick out of protective reflex.
This was their place and he could feel their magic as part of the land. He had a moment of epiphany; he could not find his own home because he would never be truly elven and would always be caught between two worlds. Oddly, this thought didn't bother him as much as it probably should have. Instead, he found peace with himself. He was so absorbed in the moment that he hadn't realized they'd healed his leg and side until he took the first breath that hadn't hurt in a long time.
"Thank you," he said, with a bow of his head, the best politeness he could manage. "I don't know how I can repay you, expect to do as you request and leave --"
"Come with us." The first one stood and then the other. "Come along. We don't turn brothers away."
"Half-brother," he corrected and stood, still holding to the branch he had used for so long. He didn't need it and sat the stick aside with a whispered thank you to it while he considered options. When he looked back they still waited. "I would like to know what it means to be elven. I've known human too long."
"Yes, it's time you learn," the first one said. Then he smiled brightly. "You've walked a long ways. You need rest. I know the perfect place."
They led him into the forest and from the first steps he began to see the magic around him in a glow of colors he could reach out and touch. They helped him see what it was to be an elf and he felt as though he'd been blind for all his life. The magic had always been there.
The elves were curious about the humans and he tried to be fair. Some had helped now and then and their occasional care had helped him survive. However, he could have wished the peace of elven life for everyone in the world.
He'd been with the elves for some time when he realized that being half-human wasn't so bad. He didn't have to go and find his home. He made it here in the forest he had come to love.
He was home at last.

991 words

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Monday, September 15, 2014

Is Amazon crazy?

(This is not about one of my own books, but rather about a book that was published through A Conspiracy of Authors, which I oversee.)

I will not go into the specifics of what is going on in this case -- no names and no book title, since nothing has been resolved yet -- but I'd like people to consider something about Amazon which is so totally insane that I really couldn't believe it was true until I had three different emails from them.

Anyone can simply go to Amazon Kindle and say 'I wrote that book or I have rights to that book, not the person who published it' and Amazon will immediately remove the book from the store without any sort of proof. Not only that, they will not put the book back up until both parties come to an agreement. So. . . .

So if this new person who claimed the book is his own work does so for malicious reasons, they need never come to an agreement and the book will never be for sale on Amazon. Apparently in such a situation, the best the true author can do is take the other person to court and force him to say they were wrong, which is going to cost money. For an Indie author with an ebook, that's going to be tough. And you know, I'm betting Amazon wouldn't do this to an author with a 'name', which makes this discrimination against people who don't have the power to fight back. If someone claimed Stephen King's latest book, you can bet it wouldn't be coming off sale in their store.

What about this for a scenario? A troll gets a dozen email addresses and simply targets books at random or for religious reasons or for whatever cause he might have. Then he need never answer any emails from the author (Amazon does provide the email address of the person who filed the complaint). If the person isn't interested in coming to terms, then the book is never going back up for sale. Here is the quote from one of Amazon's emails (This exact line is in at least one other email as well):

If a resolution is reached, before we may take any appropriate action regarding the book(s), all involved parties must contact us via (email address).

Oh, and the other part from Amazon? They will also threaten to terminate the publisher's account. That's part of their 'take any appropriate action' part.

And remember this is with no proof at all but simply the claim of one person about one book.

Is it possible Amazon was provided with some sort of proof? I would like to think so, even if it is false information. However, all I have been able to get from Amazon is that someone made the claim. If they had proof (which I have asked to see and not gotten from Amazon or the other person) don't you think Amazon would show it to the other party so they had a chance to at least know what was claimed against them?

I am not particularly surprised by Amazon's lack of information. This is the same group that terminated the Forward Motion storefront because 'someone associated with the store did something against our rules' and not only never gave any more information, but also told me I could never have another Amazon storefront. I was the only one who had control of the storefront, so I suspect they didn't like one of the books by an FM author that was on the list. I have no idea. I was never given any proof of wrongdoing by this other person.

I have heard that if you have filed the copyright that you might have a better chance with this, but honestly most of us don't do that because we don't have the funds. And what if the person simply claims like having published without their permission, they also filed the copyright without their permission? How will that make any difference to Amazon? Amazon never asked if the copyright was filed, after all.

I am just amazed. I had just started to feel better about Amazon's ebook world, and now something this so incredibly stupid comes along.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Flash Fiction #111 -- Message

     "We must get word through to the city," General Lock said, his head bowed and weary. "They must know that there are far more of the enemy than we were lead to believe."
Woodlyn didn't know why General Lock was saying this to him. He was barely conscious, the arrow that had pierced his arm having been removed only a few minutes before. Besides, he wasn't a messenger; he was a very minor mage. He wasn't --
He wasn't needed here. He understood suddenly and thought the gods must hate him for some reason. He looked at his bleeding arm with some trepidation but only because he feared it would weaken him.
"The messengers --" he began and saw the grim look on the man's face.
"Despite carrying the banners of their position, all four were killed within an hour. They were sought out on purpose. We didn't understand until the rest of the enemy troops arrived. They wanted to make certain none of the messengers were able to get through to give the news. We can't hold them back without the reserves, Woodlyn."
He nodded. "I need a sling. The arm hurts like hell and it will bleed too much -- and then I'll just be face down in the muck somewhere."
Lock gave him a nod of appreciation, though he was already looking distracted as the sounds of battle grew louder and then receded again.
"They are targeting the mages, too," Lock said. "I'd be very careful of what magic you use."
Lock gave him a sealed pouch and he carefully put it over his head the strap letting the pouch rest at his side, which turned out to make a good enough sling.
Lock hadn't told him how to get through to the city. The enemy had them almost entirely encircled with a cliff at their backs -- impossible to climb without being seen, even if he hadn't injured his arm.
He'd have to go through the enemy lines. Woodlyn couldn't do so in bright daylight, but the sun was already slipping behind the cliff and spreading dark shadows across the battlefield. The enemy was starting to light watch fires. No time to waste.
Woodlyn started to move to the right, to skirt the edges -- but no. The guards were on duty there and they were watching for people. Better to be daring. So he headed straight for the center.
He went threw their own camp with as little show as possible because he didn't want the soldiers drawing attention to him. Down the embankment, through the ditch -- but he ran headfirst into their own guards. Lucky that one knew him.
"Messenger," he explained, patting the bag with the signs of a messenger worked into the leather.
"Why you?" Captain Keat asked, though not as a challenge.
"They killed the messengers. I'm a chance," he said. He smiled. "I still have a little magic."
"Go with the gods," Keat said and stepped aside. "Maybe we can help you out by drawing some attention."
"Carefully," Woodlyn replied. "Thank you."
He hadn't expected the offer and he wished them well. Soon they shouted and made noise while he slipped over the embankment and into the enemy camp. He slithered along the dirt, ignoring the pain in his arm. He just moved and stopped when he had to, and by then he was well within the enemy lines.
Insane. Had someone cast an insane spell on him and he hadn't noticed? Woodlyn hadn't even thought twice about taking the job. Now he looked around with his heart thumping. Go back! No, go ahead. He was this far. He grabbed a cloak with the enemy colors sewn along the edges and threw it on. It was almost too long, but it helped.
By now he was in the middle of the camp and kept walking, remembering how well that had always done for him at the castle. A couple men looked his way. He nodded and kept going. The southerners had odd accents, but he understood most of what they said. Cocky bunch; they figured they would finish off the army tomorrow and take the city by sunset. Then they started talking about what they would do when they got past the gates -- and Woodlyn's fingers twitched, magic almost coming to him in the sudden rage.
No. Getting the message through would do better than taking them on. He walked on and when someone asked him what he was doing, he patted the bag. "Message," he mumbled. "Have to get through."
The man nodded. "They moved the horses off to the stream."
Nice thing to know. He gave a nod of thanks and moved in that direction. Yes, a horse would be quite handy. Before long he could hear the mounts and moved down to the stream where the horses were being watered and fed.
"Wha cha want?" one of the men demanded, his eyes narrowed.
"Messenger," Woodlyn said, patting the bag.
"No ever seen ya --"
Woodlyn brought up his hand and let the magic fly between them, quick and simple. "I want a horse. The best mount you have. Saddle him now."
The man's eyes glowered. A powerful one; he fought the compulsion. Woodlyn dared a little more magic, but he couldn't use much more or else someone would feel it and come looking for him. The southerners didn't use magic.
The man finally moved to the horses. Woodlyn didn't know if he brought out the best, but it was good enough. He saddled the animal, his shoulder's tight, no doubt expecting to be killed with his back turned. Instead, Woodlyn touched him with sleep and rolled him off into some high weeds. No one saw.
He rode away.
By noon the battle was done, the last of the southerners on the run, and Woodlyn's escapade was already mythical. He was also awarded a new position and would soon start teaching all messengers magic to help them survive.
The gods liked him.

998 words

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Thursday, September 04, 2014

Flash Fiction #110 -- In the Jungle (Drabble)


     Everything went quiet except for the steady steps. Martin retreated to the tent's corner and scribbled words by the wane light.
The creature stalks me. This may be my last entry --
Something growled as the tent lifted and boxes securing the hodgepodge of blankets toppled.
Mary glared. "David, take out the trash! How a grown --"
David tossed aside the journal, muttering about deadlines. He took out the trash, restarted the jungle sounds CD, rebuilt the tent and went back to work on Martin the Magnificent Versus the Monster of the Jungle. No one appreciated the hard work that writing took!

100 words

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