Monday, 20 April 2015

The Traitor.



The chimneys of Leeds were cold for the first time in decades. The air were cleaner to breathe than I'd ever known though it were thick with the threat of violence.

We'd rejoiced when Vickery's had won the contract to build an Empress class dirigible for Montezuma, god-king of the Incas. Germany had fallen behind on airship manufacture, they had the skill all right but what use that when you need exotic woods from the India, cotton from Jamaica and metal from the African mines? Not much when good Queen Vic controls them all. So now if you wanted an airship you came to England, and if you wanted the best airship you came to Leeds.

Me, I couldn't even say the name of the airship we built without choking, we called her 'the Popcat'. They'd named her for some dark Inca god and it seemed he'd brought all his ill will to our city. Montezuma wanted her in white, see, and the government – self important, ill informed lugs that they are – promised him just that. Two weeks before the skinning of the Popcat started all industry in the city was shut down. Not so bad for those who run it and can sit back and have themselves a holiday in Scarborough or Brighton but a disaster for the families depending on the wages that wouldn't be paid.

I think it was about the time of the first riots that the kiddies started vanishing.

One of the Lords, some high fancypants adventurer named Lachlan Quellor, brought up a regiment of steam tanks to guard the houses of the rich. Denied a target the hungry masses had started giving dark looks to Dridgers like myself -- even though I was already a known agitator and if I was not such a skilled man Vickery's would have ditched me long ago.

We couldn't stand and watch our brothers starve. When the men decided to strike it was natural they would ask me to lead them.

So I broke me fast on black bread smeared with a thin skin of lard. I would have had nothing but Mary insisted, said I needed my strength to go find Barnaby, our son. He had joined the ranks of the missing four days ago. That was one a week for the last five months. Even before he were gone I were consumed by the need to find our missing childer. When Barnaby went my fervour became a madness that ate me up and sucked the life from me. I had not eaten, slept nor paused to comfort my wife in her worry. Fear makes a man selfish.

We did not speak during breakfast, Mary and I. I had a half remembered vision of being carried back to our damp little terrace the night before by friends who had found me collapsed in the gutter. Mary crying as I were laid out insensible on the bed.

As I ate a voice surfaced, as if it were a ghost. A memory of a soft hand and a whisper into the ear of an exhausted man.

'Mary,' I said, 'one moment.' she stared at me with eyes raw from weeping.

'Do what you must, Husband,' she said. There was no love in her words. There had not been for many years.

My Dridgers coat was a heavy thing, waxed against the weather and with many pockets for the tools of my trade. As a skilled skinner it was mostly filled with the long, sharp bodkins and heavy caulking tools that I carried – Leeds had become an even more violent place recently and they made good weapons. In the lower left pocket, the one in which I usually kept my canvas thread, was a piece of paper folded once with a sharp crease. I took it out and rubbed it between my fingers. Good quality, not the rag parchment most of us used. The words within stole my breath away and forced me back to sitting on the rickety chair I ate my breakfast from.



Dear Sir,

I believe your son, Barnaby Finlay, has joined the ranks of those missing. I am in no place to act on the information I have but believe it may be of some use to you. I write to say only this, it is possible that your child, and the others who are missing from your community, are within the Vickery factory. Indeed, I believe them to be in the disused undercroft. You will find the key with this letter.


Yours Sincerely,


a Friend.



I turned the paper, as if somehow a key could be hidden there without me knowing before feeling foolish.

'Woman,' I coughed out, 'get me my coat.'

'Your coat,' she gave me a look would have withered fruit on the bough, 'I'll not...'

'Do it,' I barked. Harsher than I meant to be and held up the letter, 'it is about the boy.' My voice softened as the tears returned to her eyes, 'may lead me to him, Mary. Him and the others.'

She nodded, kneading her pinafore with hands twisted by arthritis, damp and cold then quickly passed me my coat. Within the same pocket I had found the letter in was a key, an old rusted and ugly thing.

'I must go, Mary. Hope I bring Barnaby back with me.'

'God go with you, Barnabas.'

I nodded but could not reply. I had long given up on a God who seemed to only care for the rich.

Hurrying through the streets to the Vickery factory were heart breaking. A morning mist had slunk up out of the river and the smell of baking, usually so strong in the city, was absent. No one had money for bread. A Steam Dragon coughed in the mist ahead of me and I pressed myself into the walls of the terraces as a column of the beasts steamed past – guns high in the air, engines coughing and hissing. Soldiers little better than bandits rode their iron shells, staring at me with eyes as cold as the wife's. I could smell the liquor coming off the soldiers even above the bitter and cloying stink of machine oil. They could well do with some of my Mary's temperance.

Outside Vickery's factory the picket was already in place. I'd missed the morning jeering at the workers brought in from London who lived in a fenced and guarded campsite up on Roundhay park but heavy stones littered the ground. Hector, one of the union stewards ran up to me. He sported a black eye and held his left arm close, cradled against him to protect it.

'How do, 'Ector,' I said, 'rough night?'

'Aye, some Soldiers decided to 'ave a drink in the Cross Keys,' he smiled, showing a missing tooth. 'We gave as good as we got, Barnabas.'

'Glad to hear it,' I tried to smile but I could tell he weren't convinced.

'Barnabas,' he said, 'I know you feel a debt to us but there's no need for you to picket. Go find your lad.'

'That's why I'm here, 'Ector, he's in there,' I pointed at the massive red-brick building with the only chimney in the city still belching out dark smoke. 'I need to get in there.'

He nodded, chewed his lip.

'Right,' he said, 'there's a back way, pickets thinned a little as people get hungrier. We couldn't guard them all. No one'll see.'

'No,' I said, 'and thank ee, but if I sneak in they'll arrest me as a luddite the moment they see me. I need them to think I'm real. I need them to think I've broken.'

He leaned in close, wincing with pain as he moved.

'Barnabas,' he said, 'if our men think you're a scab they'll rip you apart.'

He was worried for me but I saw no other way. I had to get into the factory and I had to make it look real or before I walked through the factory doors I'd be dragged away to prison.

'Please Hector,' I said. 'He's my son,' and I had to swallow the tears back. Hector nodded.

'Walk with me to the gate,' he said. 'You can be over the gate before they realise. I'll make it look like you let me down.'

'Thank you,' I shook his hand.

It was hard, walking amongst men I had worked with, befriended, talked around to my way of seeing things. Some I had bullied into solidarity with their comrades in the mills and the foundries. They clapped me on the back, asked after Barnaby. Made offers of help, told me they had food secreted away and I was welcome to it. The black iron gates of the Vickery factory grew with every step I took. As cold and unwelcome as the moment coming where I would betray these men and the principles I had held dear for years.

Beyond the gates stood a row of soldiers. Bright red smears in the fog, Martini-Henry rifles on their shoulders, bayonets on. I hoped they wouldn't fire when I leapt the gates. If the men behind me mis-understood and followed me thinking I was storming the place the Martini-Henry's would make short shrift of us all. One bullet from them could pass through three men. A steam Dragon roared behind as it brought round its turret mounted maxim gun.

One deep breath. One jump.

I was up.

There was a moment when nothing happened. The crowd behind me, so lively a moment ago, became silent. The soldiers stared and I brought my foot up onto a crossrail and with a great push forced myself upwards so I was out of reach of the crowd.

'Scab!' I heard Hector's shout and his call was swiftly taken up by the crowd. My heart cracked along the lines scored by the loss of my son. But it was too late now to stop. The soldiers brought their rifles up to aim forward as I went over the top of the gate. A stone bounced off my shoulder and the pain barely registered through the shame. I let myself drop to the floor and raised my arms. The crowd behind me went silent once more. As if waiting for me to speak. To say something that would justify the faith they had had in me.

'I..' the words would not come. I had to concentrate, force them out. 'I need to work.'

I tried to close my ears to the noise, the hate. As the sergeant came forward to march me into the factory I silently thanked him for ignoring the tears streaming from my eyes.

I could not clock in. I'd torn up my clocking card on the first day of the strike. Instead Mr Vickery himself, thin, sonorous, welcomed me back to 'the family' with a clammy handshake and told me how he believed now I had caved the rest would soon follow. He was almost chummy with me. I could not speak but he seemed to think I was being suitably deferential and sent me on my way.

To get to the undercraft I had to pass through the hanger in which housed the Popcat. She'd been a skeleton when I had seen her last and now she was fully clothed – a pure white skin stretched across her ribs, the gondola below carved with the vicious gods of the Aztecs. Her cannon weren't mounted yet but there was already something fearsome about her, something I had not seen in a dirigible before. It was as if all the fear and hate in the city was held within the beast before me. The professional within me wanted to inspect the skinning of the airship as I walked past the gantries and scaffolds to get to the undercroft. But my skin crawled at the thought of touching her and I stayed well away.

The key slid into the undercroft door, it was a place I had only been in once before and it were mostly filled with dirt where the back had collapsed. Then the door had been difficult to open, screeching in complaint as it were forced backwards. But now the door swung open easily and the light intruding showed the debris inside had been cleared away. I made my way further into the place, whispering a silent prayer to a God I no longer believed in as I moved slowly towards a flickering, dismal light.

I found a hell.

Had I believed in God I would have thought Satan had arisen and made this place his home. It hollowed me. Stole the ability to cry out or move. Here were our children, or what was left of them. One look showed the cruel gods of the Aztecs had made a home here. Snarling wooden statues held rotting meat in their jaws. A small hand. A small foot.

Oh my Barnaby.

My lad!

A sobbing shuddered up from deep within me, bending me over, forcing me down onto a floor dirty with old blood and gobbets of jellified meat. I reached into my coat for a bodkin, I do not know what I meant to do with it, to take my own life or run amok in the factory. I had not thought that far ahead. Before I could do owt a firm hand twisted my wrist and made me drop the heavy needle. Then I was gripped around the neck and the barrel of a gun pushed into my temple immobilised me.

'Get a grip on yourself, Man,' said a voice, well spoken, educated. 'Your boy is safe,' he sounded irritated. 'Boy, speak.'

'Father?' he sounded unsure of himself, but what child would not if he were seeing his father cry. Relief,rushed through me, like water to the thirsty, like faith to the faithless.

'Barny? Barny you are well?'

'Yes Father.'

'Enough,' said the voice, 'Gilroy, take the boy away, the less time he spends in this charnal house the better. Get him a bun or something.'

'What do you want?' I asked and the man chuckled.

'I want for every man to do his duty for England,' the gun dug into my temple, 'not that you are a man given to duty.'

'My duty is to my fellow man, not the rich,' I told him.

'What about your son?'

'You wouldn't hurt a child.'

He laughed.

'Oh I would, though I would rather not. Now listen well. Montezuma himself intends to fly in the Tezcatlipōca back to Texpoco, after a brief stop off to quell the Catalan rebels in Spain.'

'Brave men, we should be standing with them not building machines to stamp them down.'

'Well,' hissed the voice in my ear, 'on that one thing at least we are in concordance my friend. Kill Montezuma and there will be instant civil war in Azteca. This will give the Catalans and Spanish a chance to make their rebellion against Aztec rule work. That is where you come in.'

'Me?' What did he mean? 'I'm no soldier nor a pawn of the ruling classes.'

I tried to struggle to free myself from the grasp of the man who held me, He felt like, like nothing, a skinny thing and yet he did something that caused me such pain I could barely breath.

'Look around you, fool,' he spat into my ear. 'What you see is the everyday life of the Spaniard, their children are food for Aztec Gods and their men and women chewed up in the armouries to supply the jaguar soldiers.'

'I don't understand what you want?'

'It's simple,' he said, 'you're going to blow up the airship when it's over the channel.'

'Me? You kidnapped my son to get me hear? But why me?'

I could hear the smile in his voice. 'Becasue you;re perfect. What a story, a known agitator sneaks aboard the ship and blows it up?' The Aztecs will suspect we had a hand in it but be unable to prove anything. The Empire cannot afford a war with the powers of Mezo-America yet.'

'They will destroy the trade union movement if I do this,' I whispered, more to myself than the man holding me.

'A useful side effect, I admit,' he did not sound concerned, 'and one that will please my paymasters but it is not my intention. I'd rather use a timer but we need a scapegoat. Now, what say you? Your life for that of your child and a generous stipend for your widow?'

'How do I know you tell the truth.'

'You don't,' he was laughing. It was a cynical sound, 'but I've not blown your brains out and I am not completely inhuman. Now, England expects every man to do his duty, what say you, Mr Finlay?'

'Very well,' I said, and then added. 'Which lackey are you? Lachlan Quellor.'

He sniffed, as though he smelt something worse than the rotting flesh around us..

'Oh no,' he said, 'I'm one of the men who actually gets things done. I'm not the sort of man you would read about in the papers.' he leaned in close and whispered in my ear. 'For what it's worth, I'm not unsympathetic to your cause.'

I think I hated him a little more for those words. Rather a man who fights for what he believes than a man who betrays what he knows is right.

They sat me in a packing case, the bomb is below me and the gentle vibrations of the airship run through me. The ticking of the expensive fob watch in my hands seems terribly loud, louder than the voices of the Aztecs I hear occasionally walking past. The watch is engraved with the initials S.W.

In ten minutes I will be dead.

I hope it will not hurt.

There has been too much pain.

Tuesday, 3 February 2015

The Ongoingness

So, number three in a very occasional set of blogposts about the exciting life of an author hovering at the edges of professionalism. We've done The Rejection (boo!) we've done the 'New Start' (huzzah!) now we are on to writing the new thing (ambivalence!) [1]

Writing about this is hard cos I don't want to give much away about The Uncrowned Heir in case you get to read it one day. So I'm going to try and talk about process rather than content which could be really dull.[2] I don't really read many posts about 'how to write X' because then I think 'well, I don't do that' and then I start reading more posts about 'how to write X' and I don't do that either and then I sit here thinking I am doing everything wrong and really if you think about the odds of having any sort of success at all you realise you are quite likely wasting your time and what's the point?[3] Which means I have been entirely derailed from why I am doing this - I'm doing it because I love doing it[4]. So I'm going to stick with what is the best piece of writing advice I have ever been given and it was given to me by the rather wonderful Chaz Brenchley – 'What works for you is the right way of doing it.'

Follows, is what works for me [4a].

Once I knew what I wanted to do I decided to write it and nothing else. That sounds like nothing but it's not because that's the moment I stop being distracted and commit to finishing what I'm on with.

Then for the next week or so I will annoy my wife by being generally distracted and not paying attention to what she's saying[4b] while I daydream through the entire book. I make occasional notes if I REALLY like something but the aim is just to know what I am doing and where it is going. In this case I knew I wanted to write a crime book in a fantasy world, rather than a fantasy book with crime elements. I also focused a bit on my principal characters and how they would interact and what their relationship is but I knew most of this as it's them that excites me and they are the starting point. I'm a people person and people are what it's about.

Then I made a table that had room for thirty chapters, a brief description of what I intended in that chapter, room for notes if I needed to backfill and a final column for whatever it is I had forgotten to make a column for.[5] I also did some sketches of the castle so I had an idea of the geography as it plays an important part in the story[6].

I fill in what I can in my chapterguide thing, this mostly consists of: the end, the beginning and a few milestone moments that need to happen, it'll be maybe half full by the time I start. I don't bother with sub plots or world or other characters as I like to feel that comes organically[7] from the story. I'm still undecided on whether this bit is procrastination or not.

Then I ignore all the notes and guides and maps and stuff and write. I set myself a target of 2000 words a day, Monday to Friday, and nothing at weekends as family and stuff. I don't sit and write solidly I sort of dither about through the day, coming and going and talking to myself like I have 'problems'.[7a] As I said, It took about six weeks in real writing time as I had a break for Christmas and to be really ill in the middle but I ended up at 85'000 words so I outstripped my target by a fair bit and ended up with a first draft that had plenty of good stuff in it.

Once done. I left it for a couple of weeks and wrote some comedy stuff with my friend Chris[8]

And now we are at the bit I struggle the most with. The rewrite to get something that works. The second guessing, the wondering, the not knowing. It's not quite as bad this time as it has been with other stuff and, as I'm reading, I definitely feel what I've done has a real emotional punch to it and I have a hugely likeable main character. But there are problems and the good thing is that I am seeing them[9].

 I think. 

 Or maybe I'm not.

 Or possibly it was right first time and now I'm making it wrongerer.

 I still love doing this.



1. I'm not actually ambivalent about it I am excited but that wouldn't work as a joke.

2. Eh? What? Sorry, I fell asleep thinking about process.

3. ...which inevitably ends at entropy and the heat death of the universe. SO JOLLY.

4. I may have mentioned this before. Not sure.

4a Or doesn't, judging by my success so far.

4b She is watching Celebrity Big Brother at the moment so I kind of wish I'd timed that bit of the process for now.

5. Ascii pictures of badgers that only look like badgers to me.

6. The sketches also serve to make my wife, who is an artist, laugh hysterically. Of course, if she REALLY loved me she'd do it for me but apparently earning money so we can eat is more important than me. Terrible state of affairs.

7. Organically. Really? Organically?

7a This is why I don't sit and write in a café. *Telephone rings* 'Hi, MrsRJ? It's me. No, now...listen...no, I don't care what Keith Chegwin said in the house last night. Listen, I've been committed. Yes, again.'

8. Chris really likes process, and order and planning and things like that and will probably murder me at some point in us working together.

9. Ha! Some of them anyway.

Tuesday, 27 January 2015

New Beginnings.


Anyway.

Last blog post was about not selling the book[1]. This blog post is about starting again from scratch. Starting again is like a beautiful flower of possibility opening after a long winter of cold, grey and uncertain weather that rains rewrites, snows line edits then melts away leaving you with a manuscript no one wants[2].

After A Darkness Against the Stars[3] not selling I had a chat with Rob, my agent, about what to do next. He had some suggestions[4] and a couple of editors had some suggestions[4] and my friends had some suggestions too[4]. So I wrote a bit, I outlined five ideas I thought had legs and wrote a bit of a couple of them. I also wrote about ten thousand words on something an editor had suggested might be a good fit for me. Showed it to Rob who though I'd missed what they meant and then wrote another ten thousand words which were nearer the mark. Rob also looked through what I've suggested and told me what he liked and what he didn't[4]. In all I wrote about 50'000 words of experiments and what-do-I-enjoys.

But, picture me at this point. I am in a quantum[5] state. I have four more books roughly outlined that occur within the same universe as 'A Darkness'[4] and a few short stories. I LIKE that universe. I also have five ideas, most of which my agent thinks have legs, and I have quite a bit written on a thing that an editor has suggested I have a go at. I am the proverbial pig in mud. Lack of ideas is not and never has been a problem[6].

So, what do I do?

Can you guess?

The answer is...

NONE OF THE ABOVE![7]

Go me.

Let's be honest. I mentioned in my last post about the reason for doing this and the reason is I love it. Although I would no doubt enjoy doing what was suggested by an editor if it didn't sell then I'd probably be a bit gutted. I'd much rather be hung for a wolf than a sheep. If I get turned down again then at least I've spent -indeterminate amount of time- on something I really want to do. I took a couple of elements from things Rob liked and rolled them up with something else and ended up with a thing.

Here's an aside. If my agent had suggested any of the following:-

A coming of age.

A teenage 'hero'.

Introducing romance elements.

I would have flounced off in a huff. Well, I wouldn't. I would have said, 'yeah, I'll think about that.' Which is my version of flouncing off in a huff cos I'm not really a huff type of person. The jury is out on flouncing[8]

However, what I am doing has all the above elements because I am contrary like that. And they are needed for the plot.
 
At first the new thing was called 'The Jester's Twist' which I really liked but Rob wasn't as keen [4]. As I wrote it though that title made less and less sense - the book proved to be about a something else. So now it has a more definite title, which is 'The Uncrowned Heir'. Its first draft is finished, at 85'000 words. I wrote it in six weeks which is pretty quick. It's either going to be really good as it works, or awful. TUH is a fantasy whodunnit which doesn't seem to be a very popular thing[4] but I think it has really likeable central characters that will pull you along. It's written to be one of three and because I know what I want to do I can pre-seed it with stuff that carries forward to other books.
 
I let a couple of people read the beginning few chapters and the feedback was that they were pretty excited by it.
 
Now I've just started my first edit of it so no doubt my next blogpost will be about how much I hate it and what a fool I have been to write such rubbish.



1. Woe, poor me, etc. Feel free to make cash donations if it will salve your conscience.
2. See 1.
3. That title is so dramatic. It really is a pity.
4. Write fantasy. Everyone wants to read fantasy. Don't be too weird.
5. Picture my physicist friends tutting and pointing out this is a very bad usage of 'quantum'. At least I know that. I hope that gives them a Quantum of Solace. Ha ha. Oh my. So angry.
6. Can you say Hubris?
7. I picture my agent shaking his head while saying 4.
8. It isn't. I am practically built of flounce. In imperial measurement I weigh ten stone eleven flounces.

Tuesday, 13 January 2015

A Fall.


Ill Considered Poem About MarkeSmith

Mark E Smith is in the bushes
Outside my window.
He's in among the Dahli-a
Peeking out.
I think he's coming to kill me because I don't like his band.

Mark E Smith is in the bushes
Peeking out.
He looks like one of those rubber puppets you put in your fingers
As a kid.
Made it gurn
Mark E Smith is gurning in the bushes.
I think he's calling me a Kant.
In German.
While gurning.

Mark E Smith is in the bushes
Peeking out.
Maybe he wants my teeth
He doesn't have any of his own.
I think he sold them to the devil for cult like acclaim.
And now he's come to kill me because I don't like his band.

Mark E Smith is in the bushes
Peeking out.
Secretly planning a radio 6 retrospective
One he can never bring himself to present
Maybe he thinks I'm Marc Riley
He must be drunk.
I have more hair.

Mark E Smith is in the bushes
Peeking out.
I've gone outside
Because the live experience is always better than the record,
It's cold, no worries for the hard man of the Manchester scene
But I need another jumper
Maybe a scarf and hat.

Mark E Smith is in the bushes
Peeking out.
Not even quoting any Fall lyrics in this.
Just lazily appropriating his most famous speech pattern.
He's not disappointed, just angry.

Mark E Smith is in the bushes
Outside my window.
He's in among the Dahli-a

Saturday, 3 January 2015

Failing at the Highest Level.

Digest Version: Wrote a book, didn't sell. Quite enjoyed the process. Not disappointed.

So, 2014 was a pretty exciting year for me. I spent most of it working on a big concept SF novel named 'A Darkness Against the Stars' with my agent, Rob Dinsdale of Dinsdale Imber. And I loved doing it. Rob picked up the novel on the promise of the first part, wasn't as taken with the back end of it so I ripped that out and rewrote. Then rewrote and rewrote and rewrote. It probably sounds like hard work but it wasn't - yes, occasionally I'd get tired of reading the same bit again or rewriting it but rarely. Mostly because Rob supplied what I wanted, which was a critical eye and an understanding of the business of writing that I don't really have and aren't really interested in. Plus, I really like Rob, he makes me laugh[1] and I keep that at number one on my priorities list with people I have/choose to deal with.

Then the book was set free, sent off to the publishers and Rob was pretty upfront with what he said about its chances in the current market. Slim, was the gist of it. He also used the words 'too cerebral'[2] at one point. Like any neophyte author I heard this as 'not good enough'[3] but again, Agent to the rescue by pointing out if it wasn't good enough he wouldn't send it out.

So it went round the publishers, feedback was got. Mostly it was good, some people didn't like it as it was too slow. Some people didn't think some bits worked, some people plain didn't like it – which is all well and good, I don't really want to write stuff everyone likes as my mind tells me it would have to be a bit middle of the road[4]. But, some people loved it. Really loved it. I had the wonderful experience of talking to people, people whose job it is to know about this stuff, who got it. Who saw the things I'd put in there that weren't obvious, that were hidden in the text, who were excited by the bits in it that excited me.

But it fell at the final hurdle (I say final but I think there are a few avenues left, however, that's agent stuff that I don't pretend to understand). When Rob emailed me with a 'well we tried but not this time,' I genuinely got the feeling he was more disappointed than me [5].

Thing is, I've found out I can do this. I can write, it works. I am not awful at writing. I may not have sold but I'm writing pretty close to a professional level[6&7]. That is worth a year or so of work for me as I've always felt like I'm winging it.

Also, I've always told myself I write because I want to write, not because I want to be a writer, or make money[8] or be known. I'm writing because I love to write and now I know I'm not lying to myself about that. The most painful part of this entire process was between the book being sent out and it not selling. I had nothing to write. Couldn't start a sequel, couldn't start anything else. I wrote shorts to keep my eye in but I prefer a longer form and a huge part of not being disappointed was the sense of relief that cam with being able to start something new[9].

It's only now sort of filtering through that it's unlikely people will get to read 'Darkness,' which is a pity as I think I created a great, and pretty unique, universe and some memorable characters. As I said, there are still avenues to explore and there's always self-publishing - though, if I'm honest, I'm not sure I'm at all suited for that. Freeing it on Amazon is probably the same, for me, as it not being read except I lose first world rights should anyone ever be interested. Besides, I'm a going forward sort of person and that would sort of feel like going backwards, which I'm not into.

The upshot is, 2014 was pretty great really.

Also, a publisher bought me steak. In London.

So cool.


1. *Maniacal laugh* Why once again, Mr Dinsdale, you have failed to understand my genius.
 2. I can actually hear people I know rolling around on the floor laughing at this.
3. I'm not paranoid. Are you saying I am? What about your friend? What did he just say? What about them? You know, them, the others. The people over there. The ones hiding and cringing at this obvious joke? Eh? EH?
4. 'Yes, but what about....' LA LAAALAAA LAA CAN'T HEAR YOU. I AM SINGING.
5. His reply read 'well, that's the most sanguine reaction I've ever had.'
6. Please feel free to point out the grammatical errors in this blogpost that prove otherwise.
7. Either I am writing at a pro-ish level or the entire publishing industry is perpetrating a practical joke at my expense (see 3).
8. Will not refuse money.
9. An, as yet, untitled fantasy thing.

Monday, 23 December 2013

The Groveller.


Another ten minute experiment. This time fantasy.



The Groveller.


My name? You wish to know my name.

Why, Sir, I cannot thank you enough for asking one as lowly as I, as pathetic and small, as wormlike, a mere nematean nothing squirming in the mud at your feet for something as utterly useless to your own magnificence as my name.

And I shall not be slow in giving it as I am sure your time is valuable, valuable as gold, and equally as precious and beautiful and shiny. My name, ugly in the mouth as it is, is Larahill the Groveller, once of the bounteous Kingdom of Varn where I was the son of the son of the son of the very man who started our noble profession. For it is noble. Though I am it's most lowly example, worth little more than attempting to grovel the excrement from the arse of a dog and...

You would know more? Why, I can scare believe that a man of such obvious and clear intelligence as yourself is unfamiliar with the lowly unimportant and only partially well-renumerated as it deserves to be job as that of a groveller is.

Or was.

But we shall come to that.

The position of groveller came to be in the wondrous, tree lined, mountain rimed, sun kissed and water dribbled upon Kingdom of Varn under the beneficent and munificent reign of King Harand the Changed of Ways. When my very own great, great, great Grandfather whose seed would far better have been spent being spilled on the ground or in a handkerchief than begetting the line of one as earth bound and miserable and malformed as I.

Talk less?

Well, what a wise course of action that is, Sir, for indeed I am one given to filling the air with the effluvium of my wo...

Yes. Less. I do understand the word. Though my understanding of words is often...ah, no. Put the blade away good sir. I shall indeed, speak less.

See, before King Harand changed his ways they were somewhat, unwise, some may say, in that he executed a policy of enjoying himself and taxing the populace to such a degree they became blinded to his magnificence and chose to revolt. In the last moments of that revolt my grandfather stood before the mob and grovelled. He grovelled as no man has before or since. Why, he very much invented the forms of abasement; begging, renting and crying, that have become the modern form of grovelling once so worthwhile to the wellbeing of Varn.

Was I good?

I was not my father good, no, not that good. For my father grovelled Agmin the Violent out of a death sentence and not once, not twice, not three times but four times before Agmin ran out of money and into a noose. But it must be said, Agmin truly enjoyed the life my father won him.

Though many others did not.

That is not to say I am without plaudits entirely, Sir. Why, I can see from your wondrous dress and sumptuous, subtly garish fabrics that you are of Iren and was it not I, Larahill who won General Vordice a reprieve after his disastrous defence of the Eastern Isles which are now in the hands of your most glorious and I have heard exotic and curvaceous and bountiful Empress? Although, I am first to admit, that your people may be a little cross at the fact that I freed him to counter attack I am sure that the ensuing destruction of our fleet and your subsequent annexing of our western territories go some way to making up for my actions which were carried out with the best of intentions and at almost Ruinous cost to the general whose estate never did pay up..

But I must not boast, that was only one of my many grovellings and am, was, one of many grovellers. Busily upholding the Varnish way of life which was of benefit to all Varnens.

Until the King, in his wisdom, banned grovelling.

Banned it!

After so many glorious years, after so much tradition.

So, good Sir, this is how you find me here, in this much reduced position and forced to stretch out my had, beg, cry, nay, grovel even, and ask you in all the best faith and knowing of your exalted and most high position.

Can you not provide one of your assassins at a little cheaper price?

As I'm sure you can tell. It's for the good of the kingdom.


Monday, 9 December 2013

The Breakdown

I've not written anything here in a while so I thought I'd set myself a quick ten minute story writing exercise and this is what I came up with. As is the way with something written so quickly I have no idea whether it's worth your time or not but it was fun to do.  Kind of sad. Also, SF today.



The Breakdown.



'Hey Bob.

'Hey Arl, what you got for me?'

'This scyther, little guy was out there cutting the lawn and he just got up and stopped on me.'

'It jammed?'

'No, checked everything mechanical, seemed fine to me.'

'Well, probably came across something alive, fieldmouse or something.'

'Hey, Bob, you know I'm no amateur, checked for that too. Nothing living there, just a couple of dead insects and they don't stop for insects do they?'

'No, they usually make enough noise to scare off insects. I'll have a look at its code.'

'You feel anything in there?'

'Well, Arl, I'm in its systems, there's nothing screwy in the code.'

'But he can't just stop. Can he?'

'No, let's have a look through its visual memory. See what the last thing it did was.'

'Okay, he stopped about half an hour before I turned him off properly.'

'Right, let's see. Right, here it's cutting away and...woah. Is that the insect it killed?'

'Yeah, that stripy one.'

'Arl, man, that's a bee.'

'A bee? But bees are...'

'Extinct? Yeah, I thought that.'

'So he killed the bee and then, he...he just stopped.'

'Yeah, Arl, he killed the bee and then he just stopped.'

'Poor little guy. Bob, are you all right?'

'Just got something in my eye, Arl, that's all.'