Tuesday, 28 February 2012

Winter Wonderland

I love Chuck Wendig’s style of ranting and raving and encouraging us to write, devouring his posts and thinking “shit, yeah!” His Friday Flash Fiction challenges got me writing again after an atrocious first attempt at nano. All of his books that I’ve bought so far (haven’t got them all yet, booze money and random purchases have been vetoed in favour being funneled into baby nest-egging) have been awesome. About the only parts I don’t read straight away are search term bingo (as its sometimes a little too NSFW) and his author interviews. At first, I wasn’t reading the interviews because it was making me pissed off, since buying books here can be hit or miss. Then when I got a kindle and it became oh so easy, I still didn’t really take to them because dammit, it wasn’t Chuck! Sure, I’d look at the favourite swearword, and for a new cocktail recipe, but that’s about it.

That all changed last week, because it was a name I knew. Dan O’Shea. I recognised it because I’d read his posts on Terrible Minds already, so not only was this guy famous (at least to me), he was famous because he was participating in the challenges as well. Awesome. If he can do it, I can do it too! What better motivation! And then to cap it all off, he gives back to the people that read the interview and click through to his site, by giving away a copies of his book if you participate in his flash fiction challenge, on the topic of snow. What more could you ask for?

Picture taken from the aptly named picturesofwinter.net website

Winter Wonderland

If snow was like sand I could see the appeal. Dry, warm, and while it can be annoying to get it in your shoes or clothes, it can be removed with minimal effort. I thought we were going to enjoy our first trip to the snowfields, but it just goes to show how much I know.

Jess is at that tricky age, where parents are always an embarrassment and sartorial choices can make or break you. When she was younger, she loved my dress-sense; the way bright orange contrasted with vivid green and were nearly drowned out by the peacock blue - and that was just in my handkerchief. Today though she just mumbles something incomprehensible (all I caught was the word sucks but I ignored it, trying for peace) and changes song on her ipod. Kids these days.

At least Timmy would enjoy it, I thought, what with snowball fights and making igloos and snow men and all that winter wonderland razzamatazz. But once he got some snow in his shoe he was inconsolable, and wanted nothing more than to be held for the rest of the damn trip. To be honest, after doing snow angels, I can see his point. I can still feel the chill down my butt crack - and I’m not even a plumber, you know what I mean?

The build-up to this holiday had been better, but the road-trip had killed all the excitement. Three days in the car was just too much. We’re flying everywhere from now on. I tried to get everyone excited again, and suggested a sled race, but was met by sullen silence. I admit I lost it a bit there, and ordered the whole family to march on over to the hill where I would demonstrate how much fun it would be. Then there’d be squeals of happiness, goofy family photos, and plain old fun just like in a Christmas Special.

That was the plan, at least. I didn’t realise sleds were so damn hard to steer. Stupid tree. The doctor said the cast shouldn’t be on too long, and I’ll be up and walking in no time. By then I’ll be ready for another holiday. Hawaii I think. I’ll stay safely ensconced in a hammock drinking cocktails.

Faster than Light

The new hyperdrive failed on its maiden voyage, stranding us in deep space. We didn’t have any hydroponic facilities so I joked to my colleague that at least we would asphyxiate before we were reduced to drinking our own urine. He didn’t appreciate the humour, and went looking for tools - but neither a wrench nor a screwdriver seemed to provide a solution. My co-pilot had a different opinion though, and took to the the failed propulsion unit with a gusto, beating it with the wrench and swearing lustily. Suddenly the computer chimed and gravity reasserted itself, we were home!
I wanted tentacles. I wanted Rigel. But I only had 100 words for this leap of faith. Find the prompt at Julia’s Place, they’re fun and short!

Friday, 24 February 2012

What am I?

I don’t do many self-reflective posts here, mainly because the bulk of my readers don’t hang around - they follow the link from various flash fiction pages, read that entry and leave. That’s fair enough, and completely understandable as I do pretty much the same thing to them. So the few times I’m not posting a response to a prompt, it feels a lot like I’m talking to myself (and if you’re reading this, I appreciate it). However, I do talk to myself a lot in person, so it’s not really that big a deal.

Chuck Wendig’s recent post about “aspiring” writers raises a whole heap of good points, and really has encouraged me to think about carving out more writing time (tricky at the moment, with parent teacher meetings but they’re pretty much done now). I know I don’t want to be a full time writer at the moment, as teaching is still too much fun, but I reckon I’ve a few books in me if I focus and pound them out. Short pieces are far more fun though, and easier to complete, so the temptation is there to just do them instead.

But more than that, it made me think of how you define yourself as something. Long long ago, back in the halcyon days (or bad old days, depending on your point of view), I could most definitely define myself as a gamer... it was quite common for me to play for a good 6-8 hours a day on a week day, and double that on a Saturday or Sunday.

I still think of myself as a gamer, even though nowadays, I would guess I’d spend maybe 2 hours a week gaming maximum. And the last game I bought was Bookworm Adventures 2 (an awesome game sort of like combative version of scrabble) released by Popcap Games, and I’ve been loving Unicorn Dash on my phone, with its vibrant colours and simple - yet layered - game play (there’s only two things you can make the unicorn do, jump and smash through obstacles). Often people who play computer games are divided into camps, the hardcore and the casual. In the days of TaLA and NWN, I described myself as a hard-core casual player. By that I meant I know that I knew I didn’t have any great skill, but I enjoyed myself immensely, put in as many or more hours than the guys who had the leet skillz, and for the parts of the game I was interested in I had an extensive, encyclopedic knowledge. 

Unicorn Dash - as bright and garish as my shirts.

So if by harking back to an earlier time I am still able to call myself a gamer, can I project myself forwards in time and consider myself a writer? I guess so, if I especially if I up my output. At the moment though, TOR is being screwy, so I am having trouble posting comments to blogspot, so I don’t even know if I’ll be able to put this post up, too. But even if I can’t, that won’t stop me from writing.

Tuesday, 21 February 2012


This week isn’t really fiction, this is pretty much what happened. My lucky coin was one of the 1999 Year of the Older Person coins (I still have one here with me for important decisions) and we favoured it because we had a mate at Uni who was a mature age student - but not that much older - who was full of excellent advice. We still call him Wise Old Mr. Emitt now.

Picture lifted from here

The coin seemed to spin in slow motion, the light glinting and flashing as my future spun round and round. I’d weighed up the pros and cons for the decision, and at the time, both seemed equally sensible choices. So what better way to break the deadlock then by calling on Lady Luck? I snatched my favourite coin out of the air, and said to myself “heads, high school English and Computing, tails, primary teaching.” I opened my hand and the spiral glinted up at me. Course applied for: Graduate Diploma of Education - Primary I jotted down on the form.
Woops, forgot to say this the weekly prompt from Julia's Place and the topic this week is flipping of some sort.

Wednesday, 15 February 2012

Grunt Smash-Kill's Kultchurul Speshul

The shitty weather has my motivation for writing pretty low, and I listlessly opened about 10 documents today, getting bugger all down. To try and shake myself of the inertia, I dug out an old favourite, and tried my hand at some editing. This wasn’t editing for spelling (as you’ll soon see) but more editing for ideas (taking out all the D&D specific language)  and in-jokes.

Back in the good old gaming days, we used to play Neverwinter Nights on the Bloodaxe Realms server. There was varying amounts of roleplay, which made for some good story telling, but a lot of those tales didn’t make much circulation (and sometimes we had server downtime, when we couldn’t play), so to encourage some cross-pollination to the forums, a few of us started alts who were reporters for the Bloodaxe Chronicles, a largely IC newspaper. We did tend to cheat though, as often we were DMs so could invisibly eavesdrop when people thought they had a private conversation going on. For my part in this, I used Grunt Smash-Kill, a forest ogre who used phonetic spelling to blatantly telegraph how thick he was. We never had the attention span previously to play pen and paper D&D, but NWN was perfect.I loved the live story-telling facet of it; not to mention the social interaction that was hard to get when I was working out bush. And smacking things about with axes was just the icing on the cake.

I still use Grunt Smash-Kill, to get a better idea of characters for longer pieces I’m (slowly) writing I have him interview them. Yesterday morning as I was finishing the editing, I looked at this picture of him I took long ago, when I first posted this on the BAR forums, and thought, the NWN graphics were good for their time, but they don’t exactly look like Grunt in my imagination. So I thought I’d draw him. Well, he still doesn’t look that flash hot, but it was fun playing in paint making him, but its not something I’m going to do regularly. My attempt is below the story. I'm happy with how the head came out, and liked that I could fit a TaLA compass in as an earring.

Hi, it me, Grunt Smash-Kill, doing a speshul report for de Bludaxe Kronnykul. I fort we wer supposed to pay for de intervews we do, so I took out lots of muny from der kitty. I woz torking to Jergen de editter de ofver day, and it look like we don’t pay for intervewz. But me awlredy sined the chits saying I use de muny on Kronikuls work, so I have to spend it sum how. Jergin and de uvver writas dey are awl busy, doing improtant stuf, so I fort I would lift de tone of de paypa, by doing sumfing kulturul.

Since de Relms are mulit-cullyturul, I hav browt wiv me Yarrow de elf (he werks on de paper, he is a printa, and a elf, to) and Nugget de derwarf (he is a printa to, but a dwarf wun). Wave to de reeders, guys. I am riting heer dat dey is waving, even dough Yarrow is not, he just rolling his eys. I woz going to bring de gernome we had werking here too, but I can't find him. We is going to do a pub crawel, and talk about de atmusfere, de drinks, and the bars of de Relms. You boys hav anything to say before we start?

Yarrow: Are you sure we are allowed to do this, Grunt? Get paid for it, and drink on company funds, no less?
Nugget: Shut up, ye blathering tree-hugger! I'm betting a sack of gold I can drink ye under the table, and may the Great Smith kick me in the bollocks if I fall before ye.
Grunt Smash-Kill: Yay, dat wat me like to heer. On wid de show.

I have prepared dese cards for us to fill in, so yu, de consering readers, can see wot we fink of de plase.

Disgription of bar.

Reviewer: Me, or one of de uver too
Starf: Wot de starf ar like
Drinks: Wot de drinks ar liek
Ambyance: Wot de playse is lik
Overall: De score for de place, owt of a total of uh, 4? Yeh, 4 is a good numba, nise and hi.

Closink comments.

OK, yu got de idea? Good, we start now!

Ower first stop is de seenic and beutiful Sly Fox Tavern an in. Estabbelished more dan 500 yeers ago by Captin Merder so thay say, it has solid oak timbas and a nise frontage in Goldport. And it a very classy playse, non of de winders are smashed.
Y: Oh dear, that sounds worrying for the later ventures. I must admit this is my usual watering hole, and I don't go to the seedier dives around the Realms. Mayhap it will be fun to go slumming with you gents.
N: Shut yer yap, ya whiney pointy ear. Mouths are for putting ale into, not letting words out of.

Reviewer: Nugget
Starf: Very friendly, though the barmaid wasn't as friendly as she could have been, kept saying once she had gnome, there was no going home.  Those wee fellas get around, hey!
Drinks: A good range, the fire ale might have been a bit watered down though. But what do ye expect from a place in Goldport?
Ambyance: It's a bar, with beer, and chairs. What more do ye need? Guess you don't really need chairs if it comes to that.
Overawl: 3 hammers

Reviewer: Yarrow
Starf: The barman certainly knew his trade, and even unearthed an amphora from the Windward Mist Estate for me, when I handed over the coin. I was most impressed with the barmaid's rebuff of Nugget, a higher score for the place because of it!
Drinks: The Mist was of an impeccable vintage, and I could taste elements of rowan, oak, honey, nutmeg and just a soupcon of ginger.
Ambyance: The throw rugs from Vesi are exquisite, and set off the tapestries from the Dutchy of Sattan with a wonderful frisson.
Overall: Three and nine tenths acorns.

Reviewer: Me
Starf: dey woz good.
Drinks: dey woz good.
Ambyance: it woz good.
Overall: 4 uh, 4, rocks? Yer, rocks.

GSK: Guys, wot yu fink of de Sly Fox? I fort it wuz good.
N: Aye, the ale flowed well.
Y: Philistines!
GSK: Hey, Yarrow, give me yor hand, OK? I wanna show yu a trik.
Y: What sort of trick? I'll not be fooled easily by a simple forest ogre.
GSK: Nah, nah, it not dat sort of trik. Tanks. Next, we ar going to de seedyest dive in de Relms, my favorite and yurs - Der Black Unicorn.
Y: Argh, I'm too young to die!
N: Shut up, ye whiny elf, afore I tap ye with me hammer.
Y: No! No! Help! Help!
N: Ye asked for it!
Y: Urgh
GSK: Tanks, Nugget, lets load him on de boat befor he waykes up.

Set in de squawlid sity of Sajona Keep, de Blak Yewnikorn does a birisk trade in de dodgeyer tipe of clyientell. Nugit, he shoud be OK, but Yarro, he a bit too weedy, so it a good ting he with me and has stoped skreeming - most ov the tiym.

Reviewer: Nugget
Starf: I'd have to be pretty damn drunk to chat em up. It's a male half orc, but there's pickings to be had outside.
Drinks: A fair range. They don't taste that great, must be something in the water here that they cut it with. But it don't matter, yer only renting it for a while, and it still kicks like a mule.
Ambyance: It's a bar, with beer, and chairs. And gambling! Hot damn! Goldport must be a bit backward, as the Merchant’s Guild makes you leave the tavern to find a good game going in the Casino.
Overall: 3 hammers.

Reviewer: Yarrow
Starf: A low-brow, grunting, thick-headded male half-orc, that you wouldn't trust to open a bottle of wine, much less pour.
Drinks: There was an ample range, but the glasses were filthy, so I'm docking points. Blood, spit and bile are not common elements of wine making where I'm from.
Ambyance: I'm going to die. There's no place like home! There's no place like home! There's no place like home!
Overall: -7 acorns.

Reviewer: Me
Starf: dey woz good.
Drinks: dey woz good.
Ambyance: it woz good.
Overall: 3 rocks.

GSK: so wot yu guys fink? Pretty good huh?
Y: By the Treemother! I... how... we... Hobgolins!...
N: Damn right, boy-o! The Hobgoblins on the road there are great, ye get to fight yer way in sober, and ye get to fight yer way out drunk, so you can compare your scores, and wager on which way ye are better at it. Now that's what I call service!
GSK: Lets go to de next one. Onwerds to Raypier Isel.

Nestlink amungt de trees, on a rarely uzed road, is de Hilltop in. Dis was ower next stop.

Reviewer: Nugget
Starf: Staff are real friendly here. Not many travellers to entertain em with stories through the long cold night. Yeah, that's it... stories.
Drinks: Good spirits, and not just the drinks if you know what I mean, hey hey!
Ambyance: The only way to improve this place is by hiring barwenches with beards!
Overall: 4 hammers

Reviewer: Yarrow
Starf: The thrice-damned waitresses wouldn't keep their hands off Nugget, and were very lax in bringing my wine, so they lost some points there.
Drinks: The wine, when it came, was of a high standard, with overtones of raspberries, dandelions and cornflowers, and hinted at undertones of elm. Superb!
Ambyance: The weapons crossed over the hearth were a bit dwarvern and barbaric, but with the banditos in the area, I can understand. The grounds however, are its strongest selling points.
Overall: Three and two third acorns.

Reviewer: Me
Starf: dey woz good.
Drinks: dey woz good.
Ambyance: it woz good.
Overall: 3 rocks.

GSK: Opinyyons?
N: Hot damn, I'm gonna retire from the paper and set up a mine near there!
Y: You are an animal. Beastly, just beastly!
N: Nah, its merely me animal magnetism shining through. If I had any more of it, I'd even be beating even the elven lasses off with a stick.

Next we keep followying de parf parst tha hill ov de wanderererer, and we get to Windhaven. It has a sleepy little bar, and we see wot it like.

Reviewer: Nugget
Starf: A bit listless since the last one.
Drinks: A small range, it'll do. Nothing stood out as great, but not too much was watered down.
Ambyance: The last place was better, maybe we can swing by there for one for the road?
Overall: 2 hammers

Reviewer: Yarrow
Starf: Helpful as they could be with their limited stock.
Drinks: A paltry selection of ales, so Nugget was less then impressed, but they managed to dig up a gem of a vintage for me. It sung with a joy de virve and was refreshing to the palate and the senses. Kudos to the wine waiter, extra points!
Ambyance: Little furniture, apparently there had been some trouble with patrons a while back, and business had been slow since, making it difficult to refurbish.
Overall: Three and five sixteenths of an acorn.

Reviewer: Me
Starf: dey woz good.
Drinks: dey woz good.
Ambyance: it woz good.
Overall: 2 rocks.

GSK: It woz good. Dat sums up de pub.
Y: If it wasn't for that bottle of wine, it would have gone bad for them.
N: Can we go back to the last place? I think the little filly fancied me. I have a spell to make a beard grow, you can just leave me there if ye like.
GSK: Wear is yur cents of jurnalistic integgeretty? We hav to do dis, and finish, otherwise we will hav to hang ower heds in shame. Yu want dat?
Y: But we're not reporters.
GSK: Dat don't matter. I am, and we gotta do dis for de loyal reeders. On to de next placye!

De eleven settlemettlement of Swaying Bows is in the Forrest of Splender is closed to outsiders, but dat not stop dis plucky jurnulist, and his meri band of reviewers.
N: Oi, why we stopping here? This is a tree-hugger forest, not a bloody town!
GSK: But it hav a bar.
Y: You can't go in there! It's forbidden to those who aren’t Children of the Treemother!
GSK: Dat OK, if me see any, I tell dem to go away.
N: Yer not getting me in no panty-waist elf town, bar or no bar!
GSK: Why? Yu scared dey can drink better dan yu?
N: Them's fighting words!
GSK: Go on, pruve me rong den!
N: Right! Watch me then! No road block will keep one of the Short Folk from his ale! Stand back.
Y: I can't let him in there alone, I'm going in. But if anyone asks, I don’t know either of you.
GSK: Now my turn. Hrm, I need a dis guys to trik de gards.
*Rustle Rustle*
Border Patrol: Halt!
GSK: Hi, Me Grunt Smash-Kill... errr..., Hi, me called Leef. I is a elf. Can I come in? I need to, uh, climb a tree. Yeah, dat it. And pat a fluffy bunny too.
Border Patrol: You're an elf huh? That's why there's a branch on your head?
GSK: Wat? Oh, dat! I not notice it, me elf, I ar used to trees all de time.
BP: Yeah, right. No go, buddy.
GSK: Wot if me say me is Grunt Smash-Kill, de reporta for de Bludaxe Cronnykuls, can I come in den? I am doing a story on elfses and stuff.
BP: Nope.
BP: Urgh
N: Will ye stop yammering, Grunt? You've got the funds for the trip. Hurry up.
GSK: Tanks, Nugget.

Reviewer: Nugget
Starf: Goddamned dirty, stinking, filthy tree-huggers!
Drinks: No ale! No spirits! Only Wine! Why have you forsaken me, Great Smith?
Ambyance: Trees, grass, animals. Yuk.
Overall: 0 hammers

Reviewer: Yarrow
Starf: Courteous, polite, well mannered, cultured, refined - in short, all the upstanding virtues you would expect to find in the Children of the Treemother.
Drinks: From famous vintages such as Birches to boutique drops such as Waning Moon Chardonnay, this place has it all. Huzzah! Huzzah for the fine folk of the Inn of Swaying Boughs!
Ambyance: Superb and stunning, the indoors and outside blend in a way that heightens and highlights nature in all its glory.
Overall: 40,000 acorns. No, no, I take that back. A sacred grove of majestic oak trees.

Reviewer: Me
Starf: dey woz good.
Drinks: dey woz good.
Ambyance: it woz good.
Overall: 3 rocks.

Y: I thank you Grunt for bringing me on this trip, it has been far too long since I relaxed in the sacred Forest of Splendour. My soul has enjoyed a surfeit of the balm that is fellowship with my kind again.
N: Shut up yer whiny elf, after drinking with your kin, hearing you gabble on like that is enough to make me puke.
Y: Haha, I wager it is because you cannot hold your liquor good dwarf!
Y: Urgh
N: Ye asked for it. Any more blathering and ye'll get it again where your torso forks, and next time I'll have me helmet on. Get up ye whiny baby, it was a mere tap with me forehead.
GSK: Lucky de next place is close.

On de side of Merchents Rowd, neer de damp cave where dey stor dere drinks, is the Lost Way In. Not menny peepil stop heer, insted pusshing on to de next town.

Reviewer: Nugget
Starf: A personable enough crew, especially after the last place.
Drinks: Black Orc Brew, and Black Orc Brew only! Praise be to the gods of drink!
Ambyance: With a drink like that, who needs atmosphere, only a place to convulse!
Overall: 4 hammers

Reviewer: Yarrow
Starf: A surly mob, just shy of outright hostility.
Drinks: They only had Black Orc Brew on tap, not a scerrick of vino to be found. Foolishly I tried it, on the urgings of Nugget, his hammer and his forehead. I seem to have lost the power of sight, and all control over my bowels. This is the end, I hear You calling me on to my rest. Treemother I commend my spirit unto Your hands. Nugget tells me this must have been a weak batch, especially watered down for me.
Ambyance: Using the word dive to describe this place misses the opportunity to label it with the often misused phrase "pestilential cess-pit".
Overall: Burn this place, and get a druid to exorcise the ruins, pay them as many acorns as needed.

Reviewer: Me
Starf: dey woz good.
Drinks: dey woz good.
Ambyance: it woz good.
Overall: 3 rocks

Y: I'm gonna be sick. Again.
N: Heh heh, here ye go, pointy ear. Use me helm, ye'll need to cover the eyeholes with yer hand, and mark me, it better be clean when ye return it to me. Yer not such a bad sort, after all.

Dat concludes de pubcrawl. Of corse, dere are more in de Relms, but we are out of munny. So pleese by dis ishu of de paper lots of times, so we can continue reserching for yu. Dis is Grunt Smash-Kill singing off.