Saturday, 10 October 2015

Who will you be tomorrow?

I was talking to kid extra about the issues a friend has at uni with her legal studies. She had said something like ‘she’d be glad when she finished learning law’. I used to be a lawyer. Oh, no, I said. Studying law NEVER finishes.
Not only do you have to keep up with changes in the law - and there are literally hundreds of cases heard every day that may set a new precedent. Plus, those same cases that used to be precedent are overturned on appeal in a higher level court. You also have to be up to date on the science or the information used in a case, especially if you go to trial and you have to cross examine an expert witness. And in Australia, as part of your practising certificate, you are also required to attend a minimum number of educational courses in legal studies every single year. Continuing legal education or CLE they are called.
It never stops.
And it is exactly the same with writing. The learning process never stops.
Lately I have become a bit of a learning demon: I read dozens of blog posts a week on writing, publishing, planning and the book industry; I read books on writing, plotting, making great characters, story structure and so on; I do Udemy courses on writing, or promotion, or using Scrivener; I have watched webinars on promotion, website design and many other topics; I have signed up for courses on marketing, book cover design, and productivity; and I have got up at 5am to watch a live chat session with people in the know.
It all helps.
You may cringe when you read the first thing you ever wrote, but don’t be tempted to edit it, or delete it. That was who you were back then, and now you are someone else.
Who will you be tomorrow?

Tuesday, 6 October 2015

I’m not here to help you. Version2

In one sentence is the spark of a story. Ignite.

Mission: Write a story, a description, a poem, a metaphor, a commentary, or a memory about this sentence. Write something about this sentence.

Be sure to tag #writeworld in your block!
“I’m not here to help you,” she hissed at him. She felt obligated to say it because of the way his eyes had changed when she had entered the room. Hopeful. He had looked hopeful.
The door clicked shut behind her. And then she heard the lock turn. That made her blink.
He was tied to a chair, gagged with a cloth and he looked as if he needed help. He asked her the question with his eyebrows.
“I’m your guard,” she explained.
He snorted.
She was annoyed with herself. She had spoken to him first. So, to look more professional, she checked that the windows were locked. It was a pointless gesture given how well trussed up he was but she did it so that she didn’t have to look at him. Not for a little bit longer at any rate. He was dangerous they’d told her. And he looked it, you know? Even tied up. It was something about the way he held himself. She felt nervous and it annoyed her.
The chair made a tiny creak noise and she had to look at him. He was shifting his weight. Was he trying to test it?
“Stop that!”
He did it again, the squeak slightly louder this time.
She stood in front of him. “Hey! Stop that.”
Another looked question.
What was she going to do?
“I’ll hit you.”
He blinked slowly. And then he did it again. A challenge.
She lifted her hand in front of his face... but she couldn’t hit him. It dropped. Pointless. She had failed at the first hurdle. She couldn’t even follow up on her threat. She was the worst guard, ever.
He worked at it. Endless flexes of his body against the ropes. Heels pushed into the floor and spine arched up against the ropes. Forcing the back of the chair away. A decade of strain in as many minutes. He did it over and over. Sweat on his forehead, he blinked it away and his breath was forced through his nose.
She watched, with a glance towards the door, every minute or so. She wasn’t helping but she wasn’t stopping him either. How long could he keep this up?
His head lolled forward, body slumped.
Was he asleep?
She cleared her throat and he jolted awake. Their gaze locked and she didn’t look away. His eyes - he looked trapped. 
“They’re going to kill you.”
A slow blink. Yes.
“In the morning.”
Another blink. Yes.
“Why?” A pause. “Sorry,” she added when she realized that he couldn’t say.
He shook his head. The gag had moved a little but it was tied so tightly that it pulled at his mouth. She knew why they had tied it so tight. They’re frightened of him.
She didn’t say it out loud so she was confused when his brows lifted.
Brows again.
“Me?” she guessed.
A nod.
“Why choose me?”
“I don’t know... it was my turn?” That sounded like the question it was.
He rolled his eyes.
“Don’t be rude.” She folded her arms and turned her back on him.
But he’d made her think.
Why was she guarding him? She wasn’t exactly known for her brutality. There were others who would have loved to be in the room with him tied up. They had to have known she’d be no good at this. And if he was so dangerous why hadn’t they killed him the first chance they got? Why stick him in a cell?
With her.
She rounded on him. “Why do they want me dead?”
He tilted his head.
“That’s it. Isn’t it? You’ll escape and kill me in the process. But why me?”
He lifted his chin at her.
Against her better judgement she tried to undo the gag.
“Too tight.” She slid her fingers under the material just behind his ear where his hair was soft. It shifted a little. She put her other palm against his head to hold him still and she yanked at it.
He made a snort noise that sounded amused.
“Shut up,” she snapped.
Another yank and it loosened enough to slide. Once it dropped a little there was enough room to pull it out of his mouth. Her hands on his face. Wet material. She wiped them on her skirt.
He gulped in some air. When he could manage he rasped out his thanks.
She’d actually helped him. She really was a bad guard.
“So,” he checked, “you, dead, why?”
“I asked you first.”
“I know. I’m a girl.”
“Suits you.”
“Help me, Toby. And I’ll help you.”
“You could just kill me.”
“Yes.” A pause. “But I won’t.”
“Why not?” Not that she wanted him to kill her; it was the principle of the matter.
“I’d give you my word.”
“Right.” She frowned. Could she trust him? “Did they ask you to give your word that you wouldn’t escape?”
He grinned although it seemed to hurt his mouth to do it. “No.”
A longer pause.
“Toby?” he checked.
“The door is locked.”
“I know.”
“I’ll have to untie you for the door lock.”
He waited.
He’d probably break the chair eventually and she’d still be locked in the room with him. At least he was on her side. Or said he was. She was so annoyed with herself. Fancy letting them talk her into this, and locking her in, and with no food or water. Not even a weapon let alone a key to the door. She was just too trusting.
And she was trusting him.
She looked at him.
He was waiting for her to think it all out.
“You’re safer with me,” he pre-empted.
“I’m not so sure.”
“Stay here and the odds are that they'll hurt you, maybe even kill you, and say I did it anyway.”
“That’s happened to you before,” she guessed.
And it was her. The sacrificial item. Dropping to her knees she started to work at the knots.
“You are coming with me,” he said.
“I’ll slow you down.”
She snorted when he didn’t even try to deny it. “I’ve never travelled.”
“I’ve only travelled alone. Come anyway.”
“I’m not leaving you here.”
Oh, boy. She was well and truly in the fire, now. She looked up at his face and he smiled at her.
“If they want you dead, then I think you just might be the most valuable thing in this village.”
He was dangerous, all right. He knew just what to say. No wonder they had gagged him.

Monday, 5 October 2015

I’m not here to help you. Version 1

In one sentence is the spark of a story. Ignite.

Mission: Write a story, a description, a poem, a metaphor, a commentary, or a memory about this sentence. Write something about this sentence.

Be sure to tag writeworld in your block!

“I’m not here to help you.” He folded his arms across his substantial chest and said nothing further.
“You’re my bodyguard,” she reminded him.
“Right. Body.”
So he wasn’t going to help her. “What if I injure myself?”
“I’ll tell the truth. It was self inflicted.”
Her eyes narrowed at him. “I hate you.”
“So you keep telling me.”
“I just wanted a souvenir.”
“This is only memorable when you get caught.”
“What does that even mean?”
“Leave the sign. Get back in the car.”
“Hate!” she hissed as she scraped her boots along the pavement. But she did get in the car. 
“You are ruining my new year’s eve,” she told him as he slid into the driver’s seat.
“You did okay.” It was almost dawn.
“Humph.” She had had a pretty good night but any possibilities to use to start the new day with a bang had been scared off by her Lurch. She snorted. He ignored her.
She had deliberately sat in the front seat just to annoy him. He was a stickler for form and etiquette. The client rode in the back. Behind the driver was the safest seat in the car. That passenger survived accidents. She was in the death seat tonight. He had told her that a driver’s instinct was to turn the wheel to save themselves. She knew what he was thinking when he glanced at her and sighed loudly.
“Princess Diana's bodyguard sat here and he was the only one who survived that crash.”
“He was the only one who had his seatbelt on.”
Pulling the inertia reel out a little she let it thunk back against her chest.
“Noted,” he said.
They’d had the seat belt fight on day one. He had threatened to wrestle her into it and she had acquiesced because she didn’t trust him not to do it. He unnerved her sometimes.
“I get why I am being punished, but why are you?” she asked him.
He flicked her a glance as he pulled away from the kerb. “I’m not being punished.”
“Aren’t you? Why did you get this duty?”
“It’s a difficult assignment.”
“I am?” She snorted. “What? Going to parties, clubs and concerts?”
“Crowds, small rooms, bad lighting, multiple exits, dubious people, extreme noise-”
“Fine,” she interrupted. “I get it.”
Silence for a minute. the smooth hum of the engine.
“I need a drink.”
He made a small noise.
“I’m sobering up.”
“Good. You tried to steal a street sign.”
Another silence.
She shifted in her seat suddenly to face him. “Wait up... if I am difficult does that make you quality?”
He frowned.
“You know what I mean,” she added.
“Huh. Well listen to you Mister Wonderful.”
He ignored her.
She gave up talking to him. she had almost fallen asleep when the car pulled up at the house. The main gates opened and he steered carefully up the drive and entered the garage. He usually dropped her at the front door under the porte cochere.
“This is the garage,” she said when he turned the motor off.
“Yes,” he said it super slowly.
“You’re a dick!”
“I was trying to make less noise. It’s late.”
“Or early.” It made some sense and it was thoughtful of him.
The internal door from the garage led into the staff kitchen. There was another one for show. She grabbed a glass of tap water and gulped it down, refilled it and handed it to him. He seemed surprised, but he took it.
And then she waited for him to drink it. She could have just left but it seemed rude to do that and she wasn’t sure why that mattered; why she was still there.
He placed the empty glass on the sink. “So how were you going to reach the screws at the top of the sign?” he asked.
“I was going to do this-” and she climbed him up his body as easily as if he were a set of monkey bars, “-see?”
“Uh, huh.” His hand braced her at her lower back. He hadn’t moved much; just one foot back to brace himself.
She was almost sitting on one of his shoulders. He was looking up at her as the smile faded from her face. “Sorry,” she muttered. Thinking clearly wasn’t high on her list right now.
When she tried to get down he grabbed her. He manoeuvred her around and slid her down the front of his body until her feet touched the floor.
She gasped.
He held her a moment too long and then he stepped back; away from her.
They stared at each other.
“Happy New Year,” she whispered.
His fists were clenched and his body tense. “Same.”
“I have to sign your timesheet-”
She went. Once she was safe in her room she shut the door and locked it, washed her face and fell into her bed. Stared at the ceiling for a moment. If he was still her body guard in the morning, then she knew something about him. If he stayed, he wanted her. If he transferred out, the job mattered more to him.
She had a new aim in life. She had felt his reaction to her; hard as a rock as he’d held her body against his. She wanted to do it again, and naked of course.
The possibilities were endless. Especially given how easily he had thrown her around. Maybe her New Year would be explosive after all?

Friday, 2 October 2015

Accountability is the key to keeping habits

I love stats and graphs. I can see it, you know?
I count my steps. I count my calories. I have a Garmin vivofit bracelet and it syncs with a free phone/Chrome app called ‘my fitness pal’. So I think twice about eating that second potato if I have to log it for the day.
Steve “S.J.” Scott is always arguing that accountability is the key to keeping any new habits. He’s the habit guru, he should know. I am starting to get this, myself… call me slow.

But recently I totally let my word count spreadsheet go.
I had word counts for Goodreads reviews, blog posts, fanfic, original fic and major works. And I totaled it up every day.
I write in dribs and drabs all over the place: scraps in Google Drive, plots in spreadsheets, scribbled paragraphs in notebooks that often don’t get typed up, I have Word docs, Scrivener projects and notes for story ideas in every note-keeping program. I have short stories kept in different folders; sorted by working on it, finished, finished and posted, and finally possible to extend.
And I have lost track of what I have counted and what I haven’t.
Part of it is me. My writing system is messy and therefore not easy to track. And my Google script broke (that counted words written and emailed it to me) and I’m not clever enough to fix it. I am determined to work out how, though. Plus, I updated to windows 10 and my PC is restarting more frequently and when it does I lose my count for the scrivener words for the day. Grrr.
And these are all excuses.
But without seeing that figure, my productivity dropped. Maybe it did maybe it didn’t - but I could no longer SEE it. And that made me disheartened.
I want to finish a major project and send it off to a beta before November because I want to work on something else for nanowrimo.
In my never ending search I found another app called Writeometer. Again, it’s free. And it is a combination of word count, graphs and the pomodoro time technique - working for 25 minute intervals with 5 minute breaks - and you earn treats that you can set yourself. All customizable.
And it beeps at me. Hey, AM. You haven’t written today. You want to do that now? After your countdown session you enter in the number of words you got done. You can have more than one project. It also has a built in dictionary and thesaurus.
And it’s helping.
Maybe it’ll help you, too.

Steve Scott

My fitness pal


Tuesday, 29 September 2015

"I have absolutely no faith in your ability to get this job done."

#writeworld #shortfics

In one sentence is the spark of a story. Ignite.

Mission: Write a story, a description, a poem, a metaphor, a commentary, or a memory about this sentence. Write something about this sentence.

Be sure to tag writeworld in your block!
"I have absolutely no faith in your ability to get this job done." He said it again. It was about the tenth time that he had said it in several different ways.
The woman shoved various packages into a backpack and seem to completely ignore him as she did it but her shoulders looked tight. When the bag was packed she moved over to point at the map spread out in front of the man. “Here?”
“Yes.” He was terse.
“You’re sure? These valleys look the same.”
“I don't make mistakes.” The rest of the sentence hung in the air. She waited but he didn't add anything else. Her lips pressed together. She seemed to be counting.
After an interval, she shouldered the bag and started towards the door. Footsteps rang from outside of the room. She glanced at the internal door and waited.
The man that entered the room had the easy gait of a person used to physical work. He had a presence, not just because of his height. “Hey,”  he said to her but it said so much more.
“You just caught me.”
He smiled as if that was a private joke. “What's up?”
She jigged her head at the first man. “His wife is missing. Deer Valley.” She adjusted the bag on her shoulder.
“Okay.” He gave the man a balancing look. “Got anything of hers?”
It wasn't clear which of them he was talking to.
“She didn't ask for anything.”
“But you do have something?”
“Hand it over.” Standing in front of him, he made the husband look weak.
The man fumbled in his pocket and pulled out a ring. The plain gold band look small in the palm of the tall man. He made a noise, a kind of a thoughtful noise, before he handed the ring to the woman. They exchanged a look. It was clearly a woman's wedding band. The kind of thing people didn't take off unnecessarily, so why did the husband have it?
He used both hands to close her fingers over it. He whispered in her ear, “He reeks of deceit.”
She nodded.
Trap? he mouthed.
She nodded. “He's not convinced of my skills.”
“Huh. Why hire you then?”
When the hirer chose not to speak, she gave her man a quick peck on the lips. She had to stand on tiptoes to do it. “See you later.”
“Yes,” he agreed.
He locked the external gate behind her and leaned back against it. Arms folded and eyes fixed on the customer who looked increasingly nervous. “Sit,” he ordered.
He did.
“You stay until she gets back and you had better hope she does get back.”
“Th-that wasn't the deal.”
“I didn't make the deal. Sit down.”
His mouth opened but he closed it and sat. He hunched forward a little. “What can a lone woman do?” he muttered very low.
“You don't like women, do you?”
He startled, clearly surprised that the man had heard him.
“Do you?” he pressed.
An awkward shrug.
“Odd that you didn't offer to join her. Show her yourself.”
“I barely made it here!”
“And yet you expect her to do the trip twice? There and back again.”
“I told her she would fail.”
The tall man laughed. “She doesn't fail.” Another balancing look at the customer. “And your wife? Did she fail?”
“Is she your wife?”
“No, she is my mate.”
His eyes widened and his heart raced. Only shapeshifters had mates. Aware that his physical reactions could be catalogued they immediately betrayed him.
“She's dead, isn't she?”
“Who is?” he tried.
“Your wife.”
“No,” but he didn't sound sure of it and the shifter knew he wasn’t.
“You'd better hope not.” He gave a bitter chuckle. “Why do you think she is so good at this? Why do you think she went alone?”
The man made a sound of disbelief.
“She didn't tell you that? You must have done something to annoy her.” He chuckled. “You know what's really funny?”
The man shook his head.
“She can find the missing more easily when they're dead. The dead to talk to her, and they find her because she's the only one who hears them.”

Friday, 25 September 2015

What are your terms, sir?

In one sentence is the spark of a story. Ignite.

Mission: Write a story, a description, a poem, a metaphor, a commentary, or a memory about this sentence. Write something about this sentence.

Be sure to tag #writeworld in your block!
#writeworld #shortfic

“What are your terms, sir?” she asked.
“No!” her brother shouted. “I can handle this.”
She ignored him. Her chin lifted. A tiny muscle flexed in her jaw but only those who knew her well could have seen it and known how much it cost her to say those words.
“No,” he repeated, quieter now as everyone ignored him. The figure on the throne leaned forward a fraction. “You,” it said.
She closed her eyes.
Her brother was shouting again. “No. Ignore her. She doesn't know what she’s saying.” The guards that restrained him made sure he got no closer to either his sister or the king of the fae.
“She knows,” the king said.
“My brother returns home, unharmed - no memory loss, no lost time, no tricks or there is no deal.”
The audience of courtiers and soldiers made small nervous noises at her use of the word ‘tricks’.
The king waved a hand and the people fell silent. “How will you know if he doesn't?”
It was a good question. Her hand trembled. “You will not break your word.”
“Your brother will never return to this world.”
“You can’t make deals for me,” he argued. “What about what I want?”
Ignored again.
“Do I have your word?” she pressed. The crowd hissed at her rudeness but the king had not taken his eyes from her face. She was unable to read his emotion.
“Are you sure about no memory loss?” he checked.
“Yes.” She glanced down quickly, unsure if she had made a mistake.
“Wise. He should remember you and your sacrifice.” He made a gesture at the guards. “Take him to his home.” He glanced back at her. “He may lose some time because of the nature of this world. That I cannot control. I will do the best that I can.”
She nodded. She knew that, visitors lost hours here. “I-” she started to say and then took a deep breath. “Goodbye, Oscar.”
“No, Jessica - NO!” He tried to fight but the guards carried him out of the room. The shouts faded quickly.
Jessica stood. Arms folded across her body to clutch at the other. “My Lord,” she said and bowed her head. She didn’t thank him. That was an insult and it may leave her owing him a favour. She didn’t want to owe the king a favour. She took a step back.
“Jessica,” he said.
She heard the warning tone and stopped.
“You sit here.” He pointed to the step between his feet.
“I-?” Her head lifted and she looked him full in the face. Her confusion plain.
Someone in the crowd tittered nervously.
Her face fell. She had only thought to bargain for her brother; not for herself. She had not argued her position, merely that she would stay. It was a serious oversight. One that she could not fix now he had held to his side of the bargain. She was lost. She had no standing here as a mere human nor could she leave to find her own place in this world. She was to sit at his feet like a dog.
“Come,” he insisted.
A guard stepped up to force her to move but he waved them back. He stood and pointed at the floor. The whole court had to rise to its feet when he stood. It made her feel smaller. She wasn’t sure what he meant by the gesture. He had made her the centre of attention.
She went. She had no other choices. She had asked him to keep his word, and it behoved her to keep hers. Slowly she climbed the stairs. Uncertain of how to sit, she knelt as he resumed his seat and then she tucked her feet behind her. Her back ached and she was exhausted.
The court returned to their seats and the banquet resumed. Servers moved among them with food and drink.
She had a lovely view from his feet. The faces of some of the court were wary and she guessed that it was because of her. She was an unknown; a human in their world.
A very tall fae male watched her speculatively and a new thought occurred; she had her back to the king. Was that an insult? She remembered that historically people had to walk backwards out of an audience so that they did not insult a royal. Was it an honour to sit at his feet? She could see well because she was up so high. Did that matter? She was literally higher than everyone else.
All of them.
Except for the king and the occasional server who brought him a tray.
Or, was she a pet? Was she something else? He had asked for her. She hated to think of that even if he had a pretty face. All fae were beautiful even if some were terrifying with it. He was awful in the original sense of the word. Awe inspiring.
The strain of the last few days was telling, and the weight of her worries heavy. She almost leaned against his leg but jerked upright and fought to keep her eyes open. Food or drink might have helped her but she knew to eat it would mean she could never leave. Not that she had bargained for how long she was staying.
She was a fool, an impetuous fool. She hoped her brother was safe and that he was worth this. Would she ever see him again?
Losing the battle, her eyes stayed closed. She slumped a little and leaned against the throne and his leg. He didn’t move but the King of the Slaugh - the dark fae- had tentacles as well as human limbs. And one of the thicker ones snaked down to cross in front of her chest and then twine around his leg. It held her in place like a seatbelt and stopped her from tumbling forward or down the steps. Another thinner and more delicate appendage reached down and tucked her hair away from her face, placing it neatly behind her ear. She didn’t notice the light touch but plenty of the court did. The tall fae was one of them and he frowned.

Tuesday, 22 September 2015

Weird fanfic stats

If you have followed me for any length of time you’d know I love statistics. I was very sad last month when the stats went a little weird. They basically died.
I usually average about 4,000 hits a day but my August stats table looks like this:

One reader???
*eyes narrow*
I don’t think so.
This has happened before and usually a few days later it comes good. But not this time. And it continued for the first few days of September. So for about fourteen days I have stats that swear no-one read anything at all. And I know they did. They sent me reviews during that time.
*sad face*
I do not know what happened at the site but I’m glad it’s back to normal.