Isms (27/6/2013)

Posted in Critical Failures | Temp

I should be writing a book right now. My writing partner is going to cry because I’m not. But it’s turned into one of those days where I mostly just want to kill myself[1] and I haven’t got the Bock[2] for wrangling with the personal problems of two women from the thirty-fourth century right now. So here’s a story about lions and zebras instead.

One upon a time on the Serengeti there lived herds and herds of zebras and pride after pride of lions. There also lived all sorts of other animals but for the purposes of this story their relevance is precisely as an excuse for the numbers of zebras and lions to be about the same. Yeah, take that ecology and damn did those lions eat a lot of wildebeest. And for a long time there was a sort of steady situation in which lions ate zebras any time they felt like it and zebras basically felt pretty shit about life but on the whole they didn’t make a fuss and kept quiet about it because it generally wasn’t a good idea to stand out from the herd when there were always a hungry lion about the place. But as time went by, they slowly got more antsy about it. Some baboons took surveys of the zebras, asking them how they felt about the general state of affairs. Significant disenchantment was noted. The zebras started talking about making some changes. Continue reading “Isms (27/6/2013)”

After Angmar (02/05/2013)

Posted in News

Something a little different today. This is a piece of fiction that my wife Michaela wrote as an exercise for her writing group. It made me laugh. If you like it, please let her know. She’s @adamantine_lady on Twitter.

After Angmar

Stale air hit him as he opened the door to his flat. He carefully stepped over the small pile of junk mail and the local newspaper that covered his mat and kicked the door shut behind him. He crossed the sitting room without as much as a sideways glance. The kitchen light flickered into clinical life. He opened the grease-sodden take-away bag on the blistered Formica table, turned and took another beer from the fridge. ‘Probably shouldn’t', he thought. He’d already had several in the pub with Gimli earlier but their conversation had left him feeling even moodier than before. Maybe a last can would take off the edge. He stood in the doorway for a moment, can in one hand, kebab in the other and surveyed the cluttered mess that was his living room. His shoulders slumped and he let out a resigned sigh. This was what it had come to, was it? From a kingdom to a single, dingy room, littered with what little was left of his life. The piles of clothes, the magazines and books everywhere, the threadbare sofa, the glass surface on the table in front sticky and ringed with marks, the limp curtains. It was a dump and a million miles from the old glory of Angmar. He slumped into the sofa and closed his eyes for a minute. On days like today, it was hard not to feel bitter about those stupid meddling hobbits. No-one would ever forget the day they’d thrown the Ring into Mount Doom, they’d made sure of that. That day had changed everything.

Everything. For everyone. He took another swig from the can, tossed the half-eaten kebab onto the table, sank deeper into the sofa and switched on the television. Times had been tough after the ‘Ring incident’, for some more than for others.

Earlier tonight, after a few pints, Gimli had been all too eager to spill the beans on Legolas’s little get-together a couple of weeks back. He remembered the email. How it had made him feel seeing all the old familiar names. The brief spike of excitement that withered away into a sinking realisation that he wouldn’t go anyway. There was still too much bitterness and resentment; still no place for him. According to Gimli the turn-out had been pretty low, which made him feel a bit better, with only Elrond, Galadriel and Aragorn showing up  at the trendy cocktail bar that Legolas had chosen for a venue. “You know what he’s like”, Gimli had said, snorting into his beer, “all flash and not much bang.”Legolas had basically run the show, apparently, gloating about the opportunities he’d had since signing with a modelling agency. After a particularly smug “Archery doesn’t pay whereas this face does,” Gimli had been sorely tempted to deck him.

On the screen, some bleached has-been was going on about the latest season of “I’m a Celebrity; Get me out of here!” Yeah, he thought, try being the Ex-Witch-king of Angmar. And get me out of Peckham. He switched the television off in disgust, scrunched the empty can in his palm and heaved himself off the sofa, then shuffled into the hallway and took the damp packet of cigarettes out of the hoodie he’d left on the sideboard. He picked the letters and newspaper off the mat and returned to the lounge.

Several of the people Legolas had emailed had never replied and a couple of the mails had bounced. Not that the elf had expected to be able to round up everyone. People change, life gets in the way. And some dogs are perhaps best left asleep. Gollum, another no-show, was apparently now living in Dorset and had made several ill-fated attempts at working in customer services. There had been much speculation in the bar that night whether his schizophrenic personality and his frankly infuriating penchant for engaging customers in riddles instead of a straightforward answer might have had something to do with it. Either way, he never lasted long anywhere.

Elrond had seized the opportunity of Galadriel going to the toilet to complain that her moodiness and tension headaches ever since they’d gone self-employed as clairvoyants would drive him to drink one day. The look she gave him when she came back had said it all. Daggers. Gimli said they’d spent the rest of the evening apart from the others, bickering in one of the booths.By the end of the night, Elrond had been seriously worse for wear. They weren’t going to last the year, Gimli reckoned. Aragorn, meanwhile, had been no fun either, nursing his J2Os and muttering bitterly about his seven-steps recovery program.

Gimli. His only real friend these days, unlikely a candidate as he was out of that lot. The dwarf had found a job working for a construction company run by a shady man with an East European accent. Conditions were grim, shifts long and wages minimal.  Instead of making a noise about it Gimli had, quietly and with a grim determination, taken to supplementing his miserly income by selling off bits of scrap metal that mysteriously disappeared from the site. What he couldn’t shift, he hoarded. Old habits died hard but one day it would cost him his job.

He deserved better; most of them did after what they’d been through. Last anyone had heard of Saruman, he was living in a cardboard box under Charing Cross Arches. No wonder that email had bounced then.

He was smoking too much. Lighting the next with the last, often letting them turn to pillars of ash in his tray. An unhealthy habit perhaps but it kept him calm and gave him something to do. A little routine, a break in the day. It kept the thoughts at bay. Just like the beers did.

He was halfway through the local paper, leafing listlessly, not really reading, when something in the vacancies section caught his eye.

Once in a lifetime job opportunity!
Internationally renowned news agency recruiting now!
Are you charismatic and driven?
Prepared to go the extra mile and interested in joining a long-established team?
Then do not hesitate to contact us today on:
Equine skills essential. Insectophobes need not apply

He paused for a moment, then carefully tore out the ad. He would get in touch first thing tomorrow. After all, what did he have to lose?

The Last Dragon (6/6/2011)

Posted in News

I’ve been promising the result of the genre-for-japan auction and the short story that came out of it for a little while, so here it is: The Last Dragon

And now back to work :-!

The Snow Fox (New Horizons, 2008)

Posted in Excerpts | Short Stories

Probably the first thing I ever finished that was worth reading, this started life as an exercise in descriptive prose and ended up surprising me. With thanks to Lord Byron.