Tag Archives: Short Fiction

New short story


About three weeks ago I received an invitation via Twitter to submit a short story for the Beyond Time competition at Inkitt. Digging around in the partial projects folders I found a piece from the Paul Calvin / Cerberus cycle of stories about a character invented for ‘A falling of Angels’. The title is ‘Oggie’, just over five thousand words on Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, mean streets, kidnap, murder, and a little shot at redemption. It’s as close as I get to happy endings.

Buffing up the narrative and fleshing out the characters a little, I finished the story and fielded it off to my younger Stepdaughter for a test read. Jo likes reading, and sent me back a couple of pages of notes and suggestions, 90% of which I acted on. She’s a trained lawyer and reads voraciously when the mood hits. I also trust and prize her judgement like diamonds.

The end result gets submitted later today. I don’t submit many stories, preferring to publish online or via Lulu.com. No idea whether anyone else will like it, but here goes nothing.

The story will get it’s own page once submitted, see rough artwork below.
Oggie cover

Updates on Authors Den


Having been working for six solid hours, My Authors Den page has been updated with eBook and paperback links for the following;
Cerberus Conspiracy
‘A Falling of Angels’ eBook Kindle edition
‘Head of the Beast’ paperback

Stars Trilogy
‘The Sky Full of Stars’ eBook
‘Falling through the Stars’ eBook

And an amusing four thousand word festive offering (It’s free!)
‘Happy Christmas Charles!’

My ‘Goodreads’ page will have to wait until this afternoon, as it’s a little more user-fiendish than Authors Den and I am in sore need of a walk and some coffee.

A Falling of Angels


Well that’s it. I’m finally happy with the Manuscript, storyline etcetera for ‘A Falling of Angels’, the second in the Paul Calvin series of telempathic Policeman sci-fi novels. I’ve even written a brief foreword. I’m sticking with my chosen cover art, and will be making it available as an eBook and paperback. The eBook will retail CAD$4.99 or about £2.80GBP, which fits in with my coffee and a cookie pricing policy for eBooks. It’s taken me almost two years to get to this point, so I think that’s more than fair. Whether anyone likes my work enough to buy is another matter. I’ll just punt the end result out there and get on with the next in the series. Considering the big publishers are asking double the price for eBooks, I think I’m giving value for money.

The one thing I’ve tried with this series is to keep my lead characters humanity front and centre. Paul is a cop-with-a-conscience trying desperately to keep in touch with his children while battling a bureaucratic Hydra and putting real bad guys away. I’ve also tried to veer away from the usual whodunnit formula. In my stories he is both predator and prey, enforcer and victim, playing his part in much larger investigations, but being key in bringing the bad guys to book. Both cog and Deus ex machina.

Release date for the paperback is going to be end of November 2014. The eBook should be available via iBookstore etc, by then as well. I’m pretty well au fait with the ins and outs of self publishing now, so frustrations caused by those pesky formatting distribution rejections should be minimal. All I need to do is fill and reformat the text, which will take until Tuesday and the Lulu.com eBook release date should be November 5th. Firework or damp squib is not my judgement to make. We shall see. I’ll post the links here and my Authors Den page.

The rough text on the ‘excerpts’ page has changed significantly in the finished product, which is a lot more polished and a better read. At least in my opinion. Which is all an author ever has when everything is ready to pitch out into the great unknown. In the meantime there’s a cover and marketing blurb to write and refine. Right now, I’m going to hang up my keyboard and go for a pleasant evening out in downtown Victoria, hoping not to trip over too many vampires, zombies and werewolves. Unless they are the names of cocktails on the menu.

New short story sample and minor anxieties


New short science fiction sample posted here. It’s bit rough round the edges and in need of further editing. Just something to keep my mind off the possible disruption to air travel over Iceland. Eldest Stepdaughter Laura is flying back from Tanzania to the UK this Sunday and I’m mildly concerned in case the authorities completely shut down European airspace like they did with the Eyfjallajokull eruption.

Trying to look on the bright side, at least Badarbunga is easier to pronounce. Webcam of eruption progress here. A very useful Icelandic geology web site run by a local geology student. Icelandic Met office site here. The whole saga is surprisingly gripping.

Update: The good news is that Laura is safe back home in the UK, and this eruption doesn’t look like it’s going to cause major European air traffic disruption like in 2010.

New short story and a word on comments


Just posted a short sci-fi story fragment here. If anyone’s interested, drop by and let me know what you think. Insightful comments are always welcome. Inane or obtuse nonsense with spam advertising links attached go straight into electronic oblivion.

Back to work on ‘A Falling of Angels’.

Characters discussing morality


I’ve been playing around with a dark little idea that fills in some backstory detail for the final volume of the Stars Trilogy, which is still far short of its proposed total. The following excerpt is an attempt to throw the light of discourse onto why otherwise cultured and civilised peoples can allow, even rejoice in, terrible things done for their cause. This is a topic which has always fascinated me. See what you think.

“Why did the Gaians insist on using human grown neural cells for their Assault Cyborgs, not artificial neural nets? Why did they have to core out all those millions? Kill all those poor people?”
“Cost. Autonomous neural net manufacturing technology used to be amazingly expensive and glitchy, even as recently as ten years ago. I guess they found it cheaper to just harvest pre grown material for cores. Do the math. A thousand assault units at a hundredth of the cost of a full Biotech AI means you can afford a hundred times as many. Simple. It doesn’t matter that there’s only a twelve percent success rate. To the Gaians that was perfectly acceptable because there were plenty more dissidents where they came from.” Suresh Khan raised a philosophical jet black eyebrow at the newcomer.
“That’s sick. The mere thought makes me want to throw up.”
“Congratulations. That at least proves you’re still human.”
“Considering it was humans that thought it up, that’s not much of a compliment.”
“Not all humans, just a few.”
“That few is too many.”
“You know, it’s amazing how many think that everyone else should think as they do, and given the opportunity would murder millions to make them do so.”
“That’s just cynical rubbish!”
“Look in the mirror and ask yourself the question.”
“Crap!”
“Really? Aren’t you being a little dishonest now?”
“No.”
“The question is this. Given the opportunity to make what you think is the perfect society. Everything exactly what you want it to be, world peace, everyone living in harmony, who would you be willing to kill or have killed?”
“That’s an unfair question! People don’t have to die for a society to become perfect!”
“No it isn’t unfair. It’s actually just about the fairest question there is. There will always be those with a contrary view, and as putative leader, it is your responsibility to manage societies response. Who and how many are you willing to send to your executioners?”
“No-one!”
“Even if they pose a physical threat to your perfect society? Even if they murder and terrorise at will? I’ll ask you again. How will you kill them, and how many are you willing to kill?”
“Well there’s the people who created the Gaian murder machine. Most of them are dead anyway. There’s also the people who gave the orders for Ahmed to be blown out of the sky.”
“And?”
“The people who did the killing and everyone who approved of it.”
“Good answers. Now where would you stop?”
“I don’t know.”
“Now you know why I disapprove of killing.”
“But, but, you’ve killed more Gaian Borg and soldiers than anyone else I know.”
“Did I say I enjoyed it?”
“No, but you’re the one lecturing me on the morality of killing.”
“Have I ever even suggested killing one of our own people?”
“That’s not the same and you know it! What about him? He’s killed more people than anyone in the history of the world.” A quivering finger pointed at Richard, who briefly glanced at the accusing digit before returning to his studying.
“Now you know that this isn’t what this discussion is about. It’s about how many people are you willing to have killed to get what you want?” Suresh sighed and leaned back for a moment, arms folded. “ One death? Ten? A thousand? Ten million?”
“Now you’re being ridiculous.”
“No. It’s a perfectly valid question. How many, and where do you stop?”

Now if only I could find a way to shoehorn it into the current story. Without sounding contrived, that is.

Site maintenance and short fiction


While struggling a little with the major projects, I’ve amused myself with rearranging the site menu a little, creating a sub page and section for short stories no-one would really be interested in.

First offering is an odd little tale entitled ‘Christmas in Space‘. I’ve got a few others, but I’m wondering whether I’m brave enough to let them out into the public domain. For what that’s worth.

The dark art of prophecy


The nature of science fiction is all about how a change in scientific knowledge or technology can alter human society. To play the ‘what if?’ game with a vengeance. It is a literary tree with many branches. From the ‘hard’, based on an extrapolation of historical understanding, real life human psychology and proposed technologies, to space opera and sword and sorcery fantasies. It’s a prophesy game, which is the key dark art of the genre.

Most of the early prophets, like H G Wells in “War of the Worlds” and “The shape of things to come” had elements which have been since come to pass; substitute lasers for ‘heat rays’, mass airborne bombardment, poison gas. Wells saw all these things in humanities future. Jules Vern’s “Voyage to the moon” and “20,000 leagues under the sea” foresaw moonshots and submarine warfare, but not in quite the way he surmised. Arthur C Clarke is credited with predicting communication satellites, and in one short story the widespread availability of pornography via satellite TV. In Clarke’s version, his protagonist was going to use the technology to subvert Western society. Forget the title or what collection it’s in. Either “The Nine Billion names of God” or “Tales of Ten Worlds” I think. Used to have copies, but they either got read to death, or lost in one of many house moves.

Today I finished a dark, ironic, even cautionary little story about the misuse of satellite technology. What starts out as the ultimate weapon against individual terrorists gets hijacked by a couple of bored slacker programmers, who inadvertently create devastation by tinkering with what they think is a ‘simulator’ package. The premise and outcome are fairly straightforward, the mechanics of the story not so much.

At six thousand, six hundred and sixty six words I find myself, for my own perverse reasons, liking both length and content. What gives the story punch is the proposed technology is one of those ‘on the horizon’ things. Just on the cusp of possibility. To be honest, I’ll be surprised if something very similar hasn’t already crossed some defence analysts desk as a serious weapon systems proposal.

Without giving too much away, I drew heavily on my knowledge of computer networking and security, wide area networks, orbital mechanics and ablation in order to tie various elements into a plausible, dramatic whole intended to both amuse and stimulate. For some it might prove a bit too geeky, for others overly simplistic, but that’s the fine line walked when you’re trying to mix in complex story elements with the cynicism of experience. What can a character do when their carefully defended world is going to hell, and everything that happens seems to make matters worse? Simply because they’ve been pushed into making a beta level system fully operational.

When I have another few of these stories completed, at present I’ve half a dozen as ‘works in progress’, I’ll put them into a little eBook collection and give it a punt into the great nowhere. See what happens. In the meantime it’s back to working on ‘Darkness’ and ‘A falling of Angels’.

Today’s ‘what if’


This morning I’m busily rounding off a 3000 word short story. Essentially it’s about a brand new anti-terrorist technology so good it not only eliminates individual threats, but also cannot be traced back to its source. Just another tale set in the not so distant future. Called ‘Keyhole’ it’s not part of my main story timelines, just one of those oddball tales that pop out of the woodwork between my ears every now and then.

Don’t know what I’m going to do with the story once finished. Despite what I think is rather a deft and savage twist in the plot, I don’t really think it’s that commercial a piece of work. Maybe I’ll do nothing. Perhaps lump it with a few others as part of a short story collection eBook at some stage.

Blink part 1; an experiment in story telling.


Nice sunny day. Have decided to play a little this morning with this thought experiment. I may graft it into something bigger, but while Landlord is jarring my concentration with heavy duty brushcutter in overlush garden, and cold callers (Is anyone dumb enough to buy stuff from a telemarketing cold caller?) derail my mainline trains of thought. Here it is in first draft format.

Blink.

Sometime in the not so distant future. In a midnight data centre far, far away, something routinely trivial happens. A file, a data stub is corrupted during routine upgrade and transfer. The record attached is missing one key field. A simple pug ugly data entry fault. Missed keystroke. Typo. A box not ticked correctly. Record dumped as ‘corrupt’. Nothing to sweat about. One record. De nada. Everyday stuff. Fill in the forms. All be good.

Update: Corrupted backup gets dumped into cyber oblivion with whole bunch of inane Tweets, Picture and vid files, Pokes, Emails and message updates. Global impact is; Huh? Lots of inane stuff reposted. No harm, no foul, right?

Update: A small apartment, anywhere city in a brave new electronic world of Iris and retinal recognition.

Blink: Hey. Lights aren’t working. Oh, power’s out. Jeee-sus.

Blink: Kettle won’t switch on. Okay, no power. No crappy morning hot drink. Look out of window. Yay. Local cafe got power. Open and serving goodies. Treat for breakfast. Fine. Not so bad. Can see cute Barista on shift, the one with nice smile and taut package. Drool.

Blink: Clothes in closet look a bit stale, want to look good for the cute Barista. 3D print bling, and new shizzle from autocloset. Ten minutes and you’re lookin’ dangerous baby. Dress to kill. Look out world, here I come. Party starts here.

Blink: Shit! Power off. Autocloset 3D print not working. No new shizzle and stuff. Have to wear rumpled old crap from last night. Cute Barista maybe not such an attainable life goal today. Too much VPL.

Blink: Hmm. Blood sugar needed. What goodies in the Autofridge? Something sweet maybe?

Blink: Autofridge panel reads: ‘Retinal & Iris print record not recognised – Have a great day’. WTF? What’s this ‘Conserve Power’ crap?

Blink: Power standby light on phone is cool. Hey all little red lights are on standby. Wall screen, Web terminal, Mealcooker, Autofridge. Even toaster and coffee machine. Power not out. Glitch or what? Pull on rumpled clothes. Feel and look like like crap. So yesterday.

Blink: Come on, work will you? Blink. Blink. Blinkety frigging blink! Gotta call repair guys. Means three hours in a call centre queue so late for worky stuff. Sit down. Swear.

Blink: Hey. Not all lost. Call work with a brill excuse. Spend rest of day ogling cute Barista. Maybe date, get horny and grunty. Look on bright side. Miss boring meeting. Hey. Things looking up already.

Blink: Shit. Door sticking. Hate it. Junky moronic door. Open up. I wanna go get coffee an shizzle. Wassallthis ‘No known record’ crap? Kick door. Hah! Emergency override. Red button. Door opens. Ta-daahhh! Suck it, techno crap. Call tech support when get home. Call centres always jammed in morning. Genius me got all the answers. Better do worky thing first. Dull, dull-de-dull-dull. Major yawn. Get credit to fix crap techno stuff.

Blink: Bus won’t let me on. Hey, what is this? I ain’t no low-life. Got job. Got credit. I am not nobody. Homeless guy with empty coffee cup laughing at me. Big blush. Walk away. Humiliation. WTF is happening?

Blink: Walking sucks. My life is crap. Least not far.

Blink: WTF? Worky place door not working. Oh shee-it. Securi-bot software’s locked door. Hey. How come? Hey fuckwit, I work here. Let me in. Got big important meeting thing. Hey flunky ap. You get you’re worthless ass upgraded to electronic hell, pal.

Blink: Ow! The door Tazered me. People laughing. Manager from upstairs knows me. I’m on her team. Says she’ll contact security. Gotta wait at door. Aw bitchin.

Blink: Security guy with Manager in lobby. He’s shaking his head. She’s pointing. Yeah, right, flunky. I key team player. Hot shot on way to top. You better let me in or, or….

Blink: Manager at door says no go. Security glitch. Go home, full pay. Not your fault. All fixed tomorrow. Can’t let me in or security doors will tazer my ass. Everywhere. See you tomorrow.

Blink: No bus. Gotta walk. Blisters! I got pigging blisters! Hurts. Hate it, hate it, hate it. Rain. Hate that too. Junky, shitty rain. Don’t like wet.

Blink: Coffee store. Go ogle cute Barista. Yay. Mocha Latte heat drive the cold out. Brill.

Blink: Watcha mean, no credit? I got credit. I live there. That block, that apartment. See? You seen me before. I’m someone. Not nobody.

Blink: Cute Barista firm head shake. Get out bum. No Mocha Latte. Pram pushing bitch behind tells me to get lost. Walk away, head down, hot tears, cold rain.

Blink: Apartment block won’t open. WTF? I live here crissake! Lemme in! Slump. Cry. No one stops. Why won’t anyone talk to me?

Okay. That’s all for the moment. Just an hours messing around with a story thought. I foresee three possible endings. Like I say, just one of the many ideas I get to mud wrestle with. May be finished for release in volume of short stories and novellas some time later this year. May grind to a halt to live forever as one of my many story fragments. Who knows. Blink: and it might just happen. Or not.

Old stock and a series of freebies #SelfPublishing


Got talking to a work buddy yesterday afternoon about publicity, Facebook and Twitter. He suggested giving a freebie eBook away as a kind of loss leader. Just to “Get the conversation going” as he put it. As I’m working evening shifts all this week, I’m using my day times revising some of my back catalogue of short stories ready for free release via Smashwords. Smashwords seem to have the widest distribution for various eBook formats, rather taking the pain out of providing separate editions for one group of platforms.

I think a good chunky read can be boilerplated together from a mix of sci-fi and supernatural stuff that doesn’t really fit in with my currently themed body of work. On the other hand, it’s amazing what you find when you start digging on your hard drive. Found a couple of short, thousand word pieces that fit in beautifully with the narrative for ‘A falling of Angels’, the next in the Cerberus series. Another few story fragments that can be hammered into fully fledged, and quite satisfying prose with a minimum of effort. There are a few that rage, a few that weep, and a couple with built in quirky smiles, like ‘Polish Ted’. Many of them set in an England I am all too familiar with. Although a few years ago I did rewrite a version of ‘Polish Ted’ for a US setting under the title ‘Cold Warrior’, and as a story it still worked beautifully. I might even bolt that one in as a ‘contrast and compare’ exercise. Just run the stories one after the other. See what the feedback is like. It’s as easy a way to put a 100,000 word collection together in a relatively short period of time.

Plenty of entertainment. For free. Give me a month or less.

Cerberus novella


Have been looking through my story notes and partial manuscripts for my ‘Cerberus’ series of Novels / Novellas. One of the thoughts occurs to me that perhaps it might be better if I kept the story length down to 20,000 – 30,000 words. At present I’m looking at throwing a couple out into the eBook market place at about $1-2.99 each. A serialisation. Like Stephen King originally did with the ‘Green Mile’.

Will be trying to follow Vonneguts eight rules for writing fiction:

  1. Use the time of a total stranger in such a way that he or she will not feel the time was wasted.
  2. Give the reader at least one character he or she can root for.
  3. Every character should want something, even if it is only a glass of water.
  4. Every sentence must do one of two things — reveal character or advance the action.
  5. Start as close to the end as possible.
  6. Be a sadist. Now matter how sweet and innocent your leading characters, make awful things happen to them — in order that the reader may see what they are made of.
  7. Write to please just one person. If you open a window and make love to the world, so to speak, your story will get pneumonia.
  8. Give your readers as much information as possible as soon as possible. To heck with suspense. Readers should have such complete understanding of what is going on, where and why, that they could finish the story themselves, should cockroaches eat the last few pages.

Well, maybe I might play a bit fast and loose with rule 8.  A little suspense is no bad thing, and there’s nothing like a cliffhanger to spur the reader along.

Return of the ‘Penny Dreadful’


Back in the 19th, and early 20th century, there was a type of cheap sensationalist fiction called the ‘Penny Dreadful‘. Serialised fiction which is echoed in the less literary ‘Graphic Novels’ of today. Of late I’ve found myself thinking that there’s a gap in the market as far as eBooks are concerned.

Having considered the matter, there’s always been a market for such material, from Romance to Thriller, from Supernatural to Science Fiction. It’s called ‘pulp’, and there was once a modest living to be made from it.

Now I’ll be the first to concede that I’m no towering intellect. I’m a working stiff with an occasionally elegant turn of phrase. Yet even I can see echoes of the Victorian past and mass literacy that rode on the back of such reading material in the growing market for independently published eBooks.

There are those high-minded individuals who sniff at such poor literary fare, disparaging anything which does not live up to their personal ideals. For my own part; I think this attitude is counter productive to mass literacy, and expecting everyone to prefer Dickens or Orwell rather misses the point. The idea of the ‘pulp’ end of the market should be to provide a springboard to get the less literate actually reading. Providing a set of low rungs on the literacy ladder that the less motivated or able can readily clamber onto. Although I personally draw my own line at tales of Vampires and Zombies. Just never seen the appeal.

The truly great thing about the new eBook market is that no-one sees you hanging around the e-comic book store and makes sniffy comments about age, intellect, or darker associations. There’s no-one in online book stores to pass judgement on the contents of your eReader. It’s incredibly cheap, democratic, and there’s nobody telling you what to read. I think it would be a crime against mass literacy if we let the narrow tastes of the high minded dictate who reads what.

As far as reading is concerned, we all have to start somewhere, and we all have different tastes and comfort zones.

I will be presenting my own contribution before Christmas. One ten thousand word serialised eBook a month; and if demand is good, perhaps more often.