Sleepless in Pretoria

Tomorrow, term 2 starts.

A term I’m a bit apprehensive about.  It’s an enormously long term (12 weeks).  A lot has to happen – studio concert, ceilidhs, exam entries, that’s just on the studio side.  The agenda for P’kaboo is equally packed if more exploratory and not quite as crisply defined.  So I’m sitting here unable to go to sleep though I should (early start tomorrow).  Looking at the overhauled P’kaboo Bookshop page and wondering if it is at all accessible on mobile or if it breaks.  Looking at that lovely review Nikki Mason wrote for “The Morrigan”, wondering if I ought to post it to the P’kaboo Blog (of course I must).  Looking at what Smashwords is doing and how the books are performing, and knowing I need to move to a publisher account so I can give those benefits to all our books.  Looking at my cats and wondering if I can trust them to be good tonight.  They have been naughty a lot, lately.  I don’t understand why.  And then there is the homeschooling syllabus I must finally at least try to put together…  We’ve got 5 subjects already:  English & Math, both with the formal state syllabus books; art (as taught by Oldest, who took it as her main course in high school, to Wildest One), music (of course), and now, zoology.  No, I do mean, zoology.  My homeschooling has mostly been modular.  It works well.

I have to go sleep.  In the interim, pls have fun clicking around in my newly upgraded P’kaboo Bookshop.

Screenshot (100)

Or go preview “Nix Romipen”, the 6th in the Solar Wind series (and the bridging sequel to the Shooting Star series).

Nix Romipen

nixromipen-front2Romania. A place of harsh contrasts; dangerous and beautiful wilderness; a silent invisible people. This is where Federi was born; and this is where he takes Paean in their breakaway from the Solar Wind, their bid for freedom. But Federi is hunting big game now, unravelling the curse of Falco. And something is watching from space…

(The cover is temporary; I don’t have the final cover yet.  The release for this book is scheduled for 1 November this year, it can be preordered or previewed on Smashwords who make these options very accessible.)

 


 

Friday… story time…

The Abandoned:

(Interstellar – the revenge)

(As you see, the title of this story is still in flux.  If sources are to be believed, a flashy title is the most important marketing tool for any book.  Don’t mind if I experiment a little.

Here is what happened before:

https://skrikvirniks.wordpress.com/2016/03/12/now-that-it-is-quiet-story-post/)

Kalahari

2. Dirt

That night Michelin couldn’t sleep. His thoughts kept on turning around what the vagrant had said. Out beyond the horizon. Proclaim that you were going to live. What an idea! They all had known the day that the Murph had departed from this planet that they were doomed; they were the Left Behind, the ones that had no chance. Earth was finished. The Blight had consumed all edible plants; animals had died out and become extinct from thirst, dust and the unmet need to eat. If Michelin thought about it, he didn’t even know how the girl kept alive; but she was certainly more alive than he was, because she was a Free Breather.

She had to be hungry! And she’d have wanted a bath, of this he was sure – though now that he thought about it, while her face was always smeared with dust, she didn’t smell worse than anyone else in a dust storm. This meant that somehow, she must have access to water. He wondered.

She had wanted to show him something. What was that? His curiosity had turned into a sandworm, tunnelling its way through his every attempt of falling asleep, eating holes into his erratic dreams and devouring everything until it was alone, looking for more to eat… and it found him and opened its huge ragged sandworm mouth, looming above him ready to engulf him… he couldn’t even run, because his legs didn’t get enough oxygen, he sank to the ground and whimpered helplessly, and wheezed, and strained to breathe…

“Michelin!” His mother’s hands shook him awake, and she forced a teaspoon of liquid down his throat. Instantly his breathing eased. The most precious substance on the planet: pelargonium extract. She brewed it herself, from home-grown pelargoniums… which were protected and pruned carefully, but sacrificed leaves and sometimes whole branches to the Blight every year.

It was the only substance that he swallowed that didn’t make him want to retch. It was bitter and dark, but to him it tasted better than that vile blighted corn. And in time, the aflatoxins of the Blight on the corn made people go blind; pelargonium didn’t do that.

If only there were more different foodstuffs, he thought. That might solve the whole crisis. Half awake, he saw how the sandworm was actually the Blight; and how he grabbed a sharpened knife and stabbed at it until it collapsed, dead; and how he cut its tough hide open and ate its flesh, in a reversal of the food chain.

When he woke up the next morning, he knew with unwavering certainty that he had to find Trissy and squeeze her secret out of her. Whatever she knew – it would be interesting, but it might be important.

Finding Trissy was as easy as going to school. There she was, in the common classroom as always; very intent and serious, bent on her level of reading and writing. There was something different about her today. He puzzled about it; and then he had it. She looked cleaner. She seemed to have washed her tattered clothes; and her hair was still damp, but styled into a rough plait. Also, her ubiquitous blanket that she carried with her everywhere ever since some boys from the school had played a joke on her hiding it, was nowhere to be seen today. Maybe she had washed it, too.

That definitely meant she had access to water. Michelin’s curiosity was peaked. Where did the girl find water in a town where even the deepest boreholes had run dry a decade back? Did she sneak into people’s houses and use their recyclers?

He had to wait for break to catch her attention, and then she was very off-hand with him.

“Trissy, I want to talk to you.”

She didn’t even reply; merely looked at him and then looked away, studying the horizon.

“You wanted to show me something.”

“Yea, but you’re not the right one,” came her careless reply. “Never mind.”

He decided to lump it all in.

“Trissy, if you really know a secret by which we can live until we’re old, I’d very much want to know it.”

“Oh?” She studied him with raised eyebrows, almost down her nose. “I thought you were looking forward to dying young?”

“Maybe I can help you look beyond the horizon,” he said. “The heavens know, I’m sick of the way things are.”

“No kidding,” she said, giving him a knowing glare. And then she took a deep breath and got up from her perch. “Alright, then. But I’d better not regret this.”

She led the way out of the school grounds – not that teachers cared who attended and who didn’t these days. She picked up her rolled-up (and damp, as Michelin had correctly presumed) blanket from behind a rock and shouldered it, like a cooling scarf across the back of her neck, holding onto both ends of the roll. And she strode out – straight into the direction of the desert.

“We’ll be walking for a while,” she said. “Hope your parents won’t mind.”

“I should leave them a message,” he said, looking back wistfully at the school buildings they were leaving behind them at a pace.

“Too late for that now,” Trissy commented. “Anyway we won’t be gone all that long. Not this time.”

“What do you mean?”

She stopped and turned to stare piercingly at him with her intense blue-green eyes.

“I said I’d better not regret this,” she said softly, almost with menace. “You asked; you’re in this now until the end. Is that understood?”

“Without knowing what it’s about?”

She hissed in frustration. “Alright, Michelin. Make up your mind; either you’re in, or you’re not. If you’re in, you’re in until the very end, and you do as I say without asking questions. If you’re not, you turn around now and go home like the good boy you are, and I’ll never rescue you from your asthma again because you’re not interested in living anyway.”

Michelin stared at her with wide eyes.

“I’ve fallen on my face before with this,” she added. “I think someone has courage, and at the wrong moment they opt out and call me crazy, and I can start again. So decide!”

Michelin looked back at the school, wondering about his parents.

“Alright,” said Trissy and started walking away.

“No, wait!” Michelin ran to catch up, and ended up wheezing and feeling drained of energy. “I’m coming with you. If you’re really onto something, I want this chance.”

“I’m onto something,” she promised, and studied him with his asthma. “Oh boy, this is gonna be difficult!”

“Sorry,” he wheezed.

“We’ll have to go slowly,” she said resignedly. “Don’t exhaust yourself. I don’t know what to do when you get an asthma attack.”

“Pelargonium,” he panted, catching his breath. “My mother grows it and cooks extracts from it.”

“Really?” She sounded as though she had just been given the coordinates of an amazing treasure. “She grows it? And it helps?”

“It does,” said Michelin.

“Next time, bring some,” instructed Trissy. “Come now.” She led the way into the desert.

~

They had been walking, with plenty of rests, for about three hours when the afternoon storms loomed in the distance. Erratic gusts of wind announced the arrival of the evil dust clouds.

“We’ll have to hurry,” said Trissy. “Can’t you go faster?”

“I’m going as fast as I can without triggering an attack,” panted Michelin, bent over his arms folded across his chest. “I’m trying!”

“It will catch us,” she predicted glumly.

True to her prediction, the daily sand storm came spilling over them three minutes later. Michelin crouched down on the sand. Trissy joined him and spread her protective blanket over them both.

“We try not to get caught in these,” she explained as the sand started swirling outside. In here, the breathing was strained with the damp blanket.

They huddled together, waiting for the storm to abate. Trissy was silent and sullen, refusing to say anything more. Michelin would have liked to fish a bit more out of her, but it was such an effort to breathe that he couldn’t imagine the added effort of trying to persuade her to part with her knowledge against her will.

When the storm had passed, Trissy stood up and whisked away the blanket again, with a flair that was becoming familiar to Michelin. The day was three hours older; shafts of late afternoon sunlight played through the dust that still stood in the air, settling slowly.

“Need to create you a filter,” she said. “Don’t worry: We’ll get there.”

She strode out purposefully, deeper into the desert between rocks and weathered old tree-trunks. Michelin fought to keep up.

They made their way up the low hills that had always been the limit of Michelin’s horizon. After another hour’s climb – the sun was hanging quite low in the west now, its rays coming over the top of the hill, filtering through the ubiquitous dust and turning the sky a spectacular red long before it was time for sunset – they reached the top of the hill.

They walked across the plateau at its top and looked down over the other side. Michelin suppressed a gasp, as his asthma had forced him to learn how to do, and stared at the vast expanse.

Low shrub grew sparsely across a dry wilderness. There were no more fields; no maize. Patches of the wilderness looked black and burnt; Michelin knew that some if it may be from fires, but at least some of it would be from the Blight.

“Are you ready to carry on?” asked Trissy.

“Not quite yet,” he wheezed, catching his breath. It had been a steep climb after a power walk; his legs felt like jelly, his heart pounded like a sledgehammer and his body wanted him to fall asleep on the spot for rest and recovery. He sat down on a large rock. Trissy plonked herself down, too.

“This is what you wanted to show me?”

“That’s not all, but, yes,” she said. “That’s the start.”

“Nobody can live here,” he pointed out. “What will we eat?”

She stared at him again.

“You attend school, but you miss the best parts,” she said disdainfully. “Do you really believe that the most valuable information comes from the teacher’s head? The teacher’s a teacher because she’s got nothing else to keep her busy. She’s not a scientist, or an engineer.”

“What are you trying to say?”

“When you look at this,” said Trissy and swept a hand across the vast panorama, “what do you see?”

“I see plants,” said Michelin. “But no food plants, you can’t eat these.”

“Says who?” challenged Trissy. “Anyway, is that all you can see?”

“What do you see?” he asked back, almost belligerently.

“An ecosystem,” said Trissy. She met his blank stare. “You don’t know the meaning, do you. It’s a lot of stuff surviving together, depending on each other. It’s how our Earth works. Humans destroyed that; this is why the Blight came to destroy us too.”

“Humans didn’t destroy what was before,” said Michelin with disgust. “That’s just nonsense.”

“Oh, they did,” replied Trissy. “Not all humans, of course. Not even most humans. But humans did. Evil humans, who felt their own profit was more valuable than the very planet they lived on. They died, of course,” she added with a little laugh. And she jumped up, stepped forward to the ledge, climbed onto a protruding rock and flung her arms aloft. “And nature remains unvanquished,” she proclaimed jubilantly. “This is the biggest, most important thing I wanted to show you, Michelin. The rest is detail. This is what counts! Nature survives! And so shall I.”

“So,” he remarked cynically, “you’re going to live off little pebbles and dry sticks?”

She glared at him and jumped back down from her rock. “C’mon, enough dawdling.”

“I thought this was it? What you wanted to show me?”

“It was, for today,” she said. “I’d have given you a break, so you could go get your medicine. But you’ve just changed my mind. If I stop now, you’re going to drop me. I don’t think I can let you go home yet.”

“But,” started Michelin, but she held up a hand.

“You gave your word,” she reminded him. “You’re in this until the end, and you do exactly what I tell you to.”

“But…” Michelin tried again.

“Your first command is silence. Now shoosh, and follow me.”

Michelin clamped his mouth shut and followed her, scrambling down the western side of the hill. He’d wondered what lay behind the horizon; now he knew. It may look interesting and pretty, but essentially it was only more desert.

Trissy maintained a stubborn silence as she led the way. At some point – the sun was only a hand’s width above the horizon now, his parents would be worried by now – she led him onto a path that ended with a tunnel mouth. The hill was hollow? She dipped into the tunnel – it was dark in here – and emerged, pushing a machine of sorts. It had two wheels, resembling a motorbike a little; but a strangely shaped motorbike. Trissy mounted it, placing the blanket roll across her legs. There was a second seat behind hers.

“Hop on,” she ordered.

“But…”

“And shut up,” she added.

“You’re stretching my patience,” warned Michelin.

“And you’re stretching mine!” she snapped. “Now shut that trap until you have something intelligent to say!”

He mounted the strange vehicle behind her, wondering where she was off to. She pushed a pedal and did something he couldn’t see, and instantly he had to cling onto her as the vehicle slid into motion, silent as a shadow, into the darkness of the tunnel. Its broad tyres crunched on the gravelly ground. She clicked something, and powerful headlights came on. The walls of the tunnel, ragged rocks, were a bit too close for comfort; but that didn’t slow her down.

They rode downhill for a while; rock was replaced by wooden beams that held back earth. The earth had been crumbling at some point; but it was dry and hard as bone now, no risk of collapsing. Strangely though the air in this tunnel was surprisingly pure; he breathed better than in a long time.

“We’re going slowly,” commented Trissy, “because I don’t want to lose the blanket. Usually I sit on it but I can’t because it’s now muddy from the storm.” And she turned to focus on the tunnel again.

At some point the tunnel widened to make an intersection of various tunnels, and a bit of a chamber. Trissy chose one that went down to the left, and pursued it. There almost seemed to be some moisture in this part of the tunnel system.

“So this is where -“ started Michelin, but Trissy shooshed him once more. He watched in fascination as the tunnel changed its colour and consistency, from wooden beams to cement walls. They were now travelling through something that looked like a tube. It made Michelin uneasy, though he couldn’t tell why he’d felt more comfortable in the tunnel carved out of the Earth.

Eventually they came to a metal door. An old lock system greeted them with red and green lights in a touch panel. Trissy touched a combination of them, and the metal door slid away sideways. She drove the motorbike over the lintel and followed the passage as the door closed again behind them.

“Now we’re locked in,” said Michelin. “Doesn’t that freak you?”

“That was not an intelligent comment, so shoosh,” she replied curtly.

The tunnel had changed shape again at the door; it was now a somewhat larger, square, white-tiled corridor with a very smooth cement floor. Floor-lights came on along it as they moved past. After a few bends and turns, and Trissy passing various locked doors, at the end of the passage another metal door waited, with another keypad lit with green and red lights. Michelin watched as Trissy opened this one too with a code. She told him to get off the motorbike and pushed the vehicle into the dark room behind the door, and flicked on a light switch.

The place was full of long, white work-tops and cupboards. At the far end there was a sink with two taps. Two fridges hummed in the background, their insides showing through glass doors. There was nothing in them. Various other white items lined the worktops along the walls. Michelin gaped.

“You’ve found the Murph’s underground workstation!”

“Not quite,” said Trissy with a smile.

He trawled around the laboratory. “And how is this going to save us if the Murph couldn’t?”

“I haven’t unshooshed you yet,” warned Trissy. “You’re still far too stupid to comment.”

Michelin snapped his mouth shut, taken aback.

“How’s your breathing in here?” she asked.

“Amazing,” said Michelin. “Can’t believe how easy it is!”

“Your lungs will keep on healing,” said Tris. “I’ll keep you here for a while.”

“My parents must be worried by now,” objected Michelin.

“We’re going back tomorrow,” she promised. “Anyway they’ll think you’re staying over at a friend.”

“I never do,” said Michelin.

Trissy snorted in disgust. “You’re such a mommy’s boy! How old are you anyway?”

“Sixteen,” he said, embarrassed. “It’s just because of my asthma.”

“Most people have asthma,” she snapped. “Sorry, you’re not that special. Most still have a life anyway.”

He didn’t know what to say to that.

Seeing so much electronic equipment in one spot made Michelin’s head spin. Electronic devices such as televisions and cellphones had packed it in a generation back. They had not been built to last; the last technological generation had been all out for more profit rather than for the long-term view, leaving this one with nothing of their wonderful world of achievements. If Earth were to regain any kind of technology beyond the basic combustion engine, people would need to reinvent a lot of things. Some people still owned a functional fridge, powered by the solar cells that still survived. It meant that they could keep some of the corn cobs fresh rather than drying all. Michelin’s mother’s fridge had given up its ghost a few years back. That was when she had learnt how to cook the pelargonium leaves down into a sticky, brown goo that didn’t spoil.

“So if this is not the Murph’s hub, what is it?” he asked.

“You’re still under shoosh,” Tris said with a smile. “If I tell you too much now, you’ll turn around and run. Into the door. Because,” she laughed, “you don’t know how to open it!”

“I’m your prisoner,” Michelin proclaimed glumly.

“Guess that’s one way of seeing it,” she agreed. “For now. You’ll come to your senses and then you’ll want to find out more. Until then…” She had moved to the door with her motorcycle, and now she flipped the light switch. Everything went dark. “Sleep tight,” she called, opened the door – light spilled out, but as Michelin stormed at it, he tripped over one of the high stools that were standing around, and before he could recover, she’d kicked the door closed behind her.

He picked himself up from the floor in the pitch dark, swearing loudly. And flinching at how loud his voice sounded in here, how it reverberated off the clinically bare walls. He shuffled forward carefully, felt his way along the benchtop, tripped over two more seats and reached the place where the door was. In the blackness he groped along the wall for the light switch and found it, and switched it. The lights came back on. It made him highly irritated that the vagrant girl had abducted him like that… abducted? Vagrant? He was beginning to see Trissy in another light altogether.

So she had found an amazing place to hide from the storms and dust. What did she eat? Clearly not corn. Alone in the lab like this, he started to wonder. He had read about the way people had eaten meat, generations back. But the only meat that survived by now, were… humans…

It was creepy in here, all alone, deep under the ground. He wondered if his parents wondered yet where he was. What would it help? They couldn’t have any idea what had happened to him. Surely some of the children at school had seen him and Trissy leave together – willingly, staggering off into the desert. And any tracks would have been wiped out by the sandstorm.

He paced through the lab, looking at all the strange apparatus, and trying to find any opening. There was another door at the end of the lab, but it too was locked; a heavy door that sealed tightly, as did the one at the entrance. He doubted even air could escape through these doors.

In one corner he found something that could pass for a bed. It was a kind of sack sewn from bedsheets and when he tested it, it appeared to be filled with sand to give it a mattressy effect; with a clean vagabond blanket folded at the one end of it. He lay down on it. The makeshift mattress was surprisingly comfortable, moulding around his body. He pulled the heavy blanket over himself, closed his eyes and tried to sleep. He would need his wits and strength about him tomorrow, to try and escape.

At least, was his last thought, his parents were not worried in vain. He had indeed been abducted, and maybe they would send someone to find him.

Find him? How? He didn’t even realize how easy his breathing had become in this cold, super-pure air.

 

 


 

From My Cold, Undead Hand

For more dystopian future stories, try Marie Marshall’s unique take on a vampire fiction.

Chevonne Kusnetsov – gutsy teenager – is good at “docking” vampires. She has to be, because she lives in a world a few decades in the future, where you don’t venture out after nightfall. Backed by a “cell” of other vampire hunters, Chevonne is on a mission to break the horrible deathgrip in which vampirekind is holding humankind. What she discovers, will leave you sleepless…

Only $3.41 on Kindle today. Grab yours before their algorithm changes! 😀

 

 

“Well, Sally’s gone, but I’m still here…”

Just an update:  The promo at Smashwords has come to an end.

But do not fear.  My experiment with x free downloads of Solar Wind 1 is still going, so you can still grab a copy of “The Mystery..”, and “The Assassin” (the second book) is still priced at the experimental “Reader sets price”.  So you can, if you feel like it, set the price at $0.

This “Reader sets price” is a puzzler, because it leaves the reader to guess how much $ equivalent of enjoyment they will get out of a book.  It would make more sense to have them first read the book and then decide what it was worth to them.  This is why I have it on the second of the series.

Regardless, enjoy!  And the next post is going to be a normal blog post again.  Promise.

Click here to pop over to Smashwords, to find the series.

SWseriesSmashwords

 

 

Friday again: Story Post

You asked, so here it is:

Nadisda

Image is a wallpaper found at this location : http://images4.fanpop.com/image/answers/930000/930876_1283727359685.53res_375_300.jpg. It is for atmospheric effects only

 

A Friday Fairytale

What happened so far:

Nadisda is a being of pure magic.  She is approached by the super-evil Villain Valentine to concoct a nasty curse for his arch-enemy, the Hero Hugo.  However, Nadisda has ADD, often causing her magic to go off the rails.  So she consults with her mentor, the ancient dragon Faff, who gives her a magically charged moonstone to help her focus better.

As she mixes the curse for Hugo (altered a little with her own fairy magic because she doesn’t see why Hugo should suffer so pointlessly), Valentine comes to check and breaks her focus.  The Moonstone touches the potion, it all explodes and both get blasted into the who-knows-where.

3. Lost

Spinning dark.

Nadisda tried to see through the impenetrable blackness. Total silence. She had the impression that she was falling through nothingness, tumbling around her own axis. The void seemed airless. She must have banged her head really hard.

That’s what you get for doing a villain favours, she scolded herself. A curse on the hero? For what? Just because she couldn’t shake her head rather than nod, when the villain made his one-sided conversation? She’d show that brute, next time he visited! She was pure magic – she was not afraid of him!

The spinning stopped, and she held her breath, waiting for some sort of impact. None came. The sense of movement ceased altogether; she hung suspended in nowhere.

And panic set in. Was this the end? Her karma catching her and sending her spiralling into Nirvana? Was her beingness, her very spirit being destroyed as punishment for arbitrarily abusing magic for senseless evil?

Nadisda had never worried about karma before. It was something that happened to others. But now the thought gnawed at her that perhaps magical beings got hit harder by karma.

She lit a little white mage-light from her left hand and held it up. Nothing, still. She was literally in the middle of nowhere, but now at least she could see her own pale arms. Her right hand searched for the chain around her neck, the moonstone pendant – both were gone. She hoped the moonstone hadn’t been destroyed by the spell.

So what came next? She watched the white mage-light for a few more moments before panic threatened to take over again. She reached out with her mind.

Faff! Help!”

Nothing happened. She called out several more time and was about to despair when an answer came:

Fairy! You’re calling me?”

Where am I?” she asked desperately.

You are lost between worlds,” came the unpromising answer.

Can you find me?”

No. You’re lost in your own head. You need to find your own way out.”

Am I dead?”

No. Just unconscious. But to wake up, you must find an exit.”

How do I do that?”

Just focus,” said the dragon. “Stay calm.”

She tried to focus harder. The silence and blackness all round stayed the same; but her mage-light went out.

Faff!” she cried in panic.

The dragon was gone from her head though. She was alone.

Find an exit. She groped in the dark to try and find anything at all: A door, a handle… a rope end… but all she found was void.

With longing she thought of her grove at home, her cosy cave behind the moss and the shielding spell. A crunching footstep on the moss pushed itself into this image of home, and she remembered that she’d once again have to heal her poor moss. How could anyone be so vile that plants withered wherever he stepped?

Well, the Villain had probably caused her to break some or other fairy code she had been unaware of. She resolved to deal with him severely the next time she saw him. How dare he?

Suddenly that hard surface was there underneath her, and sound returned, and with it, smell. Foul smell. Wherever she had come out of her exile, it had to be bad. Also, the place was noisy, with something causing a thundering and roaring that had nothing in common with waterfalls or storms. She opened her eyes to painful daylight, to find someone crouching over her.

Young, sea-green eyes with golden flecks studied her face intently. Wild, shoulder-long brown hair hung in tatty strings around the face. A steep crease between two well-shaped masculine eyebrows. And a chin pushed forward in determination that was only showing the very first fuzz of beard growth.

So,” said the youngster, “you’re awake?”

She did a double-take, her eyes wide open now. She wouldn’t have recognized him, but for his voice and accent.

You’re -” she gasped. “You’re you!”

The Villain laughed softly. “Course I’m me, fairy! The real question is, are you alright? Did you survive intact? Is your magic okay?”

I… I don’t know.” She tried to comprehend the surrounds. They were somewhere dank and dark, somewhere surrounded by grey walls that looked like tunnels. Lewd words were painted over the walls, and the place stank.

Valentine helped her sit up and gave her some water to drink from a water skin he had with him.

Check if you can use your magic,” he said.

She tried to light a mage-light and failed, but it was mostly a function of not having enough energy for it.

You lost it!” said the young Valentine, sounding disappointed.

He was disappointed? She was more than that! She was horrified. It was a disaster! Her magic!

If I did, it’s your fault,” she pointed out. “For asking for that arbitrary curse against Hugo.” It was surprising how flowers entirely failed to spring up wherever she turned her head.

My fault, really?” huffed Valentine. “And who was so quick to accommodate me? I’d have guessed you enjoy your black magic!”

Where are we?” she asked, panicking.

In the canals under Detroit,” said Valentine. “Earth.”

Why?”

He shook his head with an evil grin. “I’m from here.”

Nadisda gaped at him. “You were born here?” Suddenly, all the anger she had felt towards the Villain evaporated. What a horrible place to grow up in!

Not down here, of course,” he laughed. “But up there is not exactly a picnic, either. Come!” He extended a hand. “Feel good enough to get up?”

Nadisda took his hand and allowed him to help her up. Instantly her head started spinning and her legs gave way under her again. The darkness crept in around the corners.

Whoa there, slow down!” she heard his voice and wished that he should just keep talking so that she could have that anchor point. She didn’t want to get lost in her own head again.

Valentine did keep talking to her.

Wow, girl, you really must have banged your head hard! You’re still feeling sick?”

Nadisda groaned, wishing she could wake up in her comfortable bed of moss. But that fairy wish was not granted. Instead, as the spinning stopped and the world steadied, she found herself once again looking up into that too-young villain face. She tried taking a deep breath.

You’re apparently not going anywhere in a hurry,” muttered Valentine and lowered her back down to the hard, cold floor.

Careful, my wings…” she started objecting, then realized they were missing. “Where are my wings?” she whispered in horror.

Wait!” He took off his slightly smelly jersey and rolled it up, and lifted her head again and stuffed the woolly thing underneath as a cushion. “I’m going to organize you some blankets.” And he turned away and started scrambling up rungs that led to what seemed like the outside.

Don’t go!” Nadisda whimpered after him, despairing.

Time passed. Nadisda listened to the loud rushing that ebbed and flowed around her, like water yet not like water. Sometimes something roared like a wounded beast; sometimes something groaned and ached along, sighing loudly, before she could hear it disappear again. All this was coming from overhead.

Down here, there was movement too. The roaches and bugs were the first to come crawling to investigate her. Next, a few grey shapes flitted furtively along the shadows. Nadisda realized with mounting terror that they were rats.

Mice and rats in the forest context, she had no problem with. But here, the rats seemed evil, their red eyes glinting in the semi-dark. And there were too many, now that she paid attention. They seemed to be listening to her.

Valentine, where are you? Her desperation was beginning to climb. Faff? Can’t you get me out of here?

There was no answer from Faff, and of course none from Valentine either, as the Villain had not a single magical cell in his body. Where was that forsaken scoundrel? What took him so long?

One of the rats came a bit too close. Nadisda panicked and flung a reflexive spell at the rodent. A blast of lightning lit up the tunnel and hit the ground right next to the rat which squeaked in fright and fled. Where it had been, a fern pushed out of the barren ground.

So her magic was back. Nadisda tried getting up, to find her way out of the tunnels; but her body betrayed her once more and collapsed out under her again. It felt heavy and unwieldy, as though it were made of mud. She swore heartily and looked around for something to use as a wand. There was absolutely nothing.

With another curse she pointed her finger, abusing it for a wand. She didn’t like doing this as the focus was never quite the same as a real wand. There was no telling what would run off the rails. But it was all she had now. She drew a circle around herself, and dense sword ferns arose from the cold floor, growing so tightly together that not even roaches would find their way. And rats could forget it! And then, for her own comfort, she sat up with immense effort and patted the hard floor, and lush, deep moss grew up, providing a soft covering. She lay back down on it with a thankful sigh and allowed herself to slip away into troubled, noise-riddled dreams, trying to ignore the too-close-for-comfort young villain smell rising out of the jersey, mingling unfortunately with the dank odours of the cavern.

When Nadisda next opened her eyes, it was because someone was shaking her.

C’mon, fairy! C’mon, up, we’ve got to get you out of here!”

She glanced up at Valentine.

You’re burning up with fever,” he pointed out. “C’mon, got to go, get you back to where I stay. If I leave you here, you’ll die!”

Die?” she croaked, horrified.

Yes! C’mon!”

Nadisda let him help her sit up; then he put his arm around her back and helped her stand. He pulled her right arm across his shoulders and supported her with his left, making her lean on him as he half-dragged her away from her mossy bed.

What’s wrong with me?” she asked crossly. It was his fault, for making her work that spell, and then distracting her at the wrong moment!

A virus,” said Valentine. “That’s what you’ve got, from being in the real world!” He panted a bit from the effort of heaving her along. “Girl, did you eat rocks while I was gone? I’m sure you weren’t this heavy in the Realms.”

Nadisda snorted in disgust.

Well, I’m sure you weigh as much as a mountain wherever you happen to be,” she shot back, annoyed. “A mountain range!” She had no idea what a virus was. They didn’t exist in the Magic Realms. She was feeling miserable. It was all his fault!

Valentine laughed. She recognised that little snigger, laced with his inherent evil.

Just come along,” he instructed and kept on dragging her through the grey tunnels that smelled so bad.

It seemed to be an eternity until they finally came out into the open air, and it was into a glorious sunset over a ruined town. The wood fairy gasped.

It’s so – beautiful! And then again not!”

Valentine laughed. There was that cutting edge on that laugh, again! “That’s exactly how many of us feel about it.” He rolled his eyes and nudged her onwards. “Come, fairy, it’s far to go!”

We got to get to Faff,” she muttered as they together started down the pebbly, rubble-strewn slope. “He can take us home.”

I am home,” said Valentine, pausing with her at the bottom of the slope. “As for you – I have no idea! Who’s that Faff?”

She gaped at him. “You don’t know Faff? The Ancient One? The dragon?”

Oh,” said Valentine. “That one.” He grinned.Forgot about him. Got to work on him a little, there’s an idea… Hey! How is it that you and Faff know each other?”

You forgot about Faff? He’s my mentor in magic and in life wisdom!” said Nadisda, taken aback. “He’s the single most powerful creature in the Realms.”

That’s a fallacy,” said Valentine, urging her to carry on. “C’mon, fairy. It will be dark soon!”

But where are we going?” she asked.

My place,” he replied. And he stopped her again, and looked at her critically. “We’ve got to find a good name for you.”

A name? What’s wrong with Nadisda?” she challenged.

It’s so… otherworldy. I’ve got it. You’re Fae. That should keep reminding you what you are, too.”

Nadisda laughed. “Oh, no chance of forgetting that!”

That’s where you’re wrong,” said Valentine, pointing at her. “Fae. Yes. I like it.”

But Valentine -”

Ah. That’s another thing.” He grinned at her in the fast-deepening dusk. “Here in this world, I’m not Valentine. I’m Mike. Just Mike. Please, don’t call me Valentine where people can hear you.”

But I like the name Valentine!” objected Nadisda.

Valentine laughed. “So do I. That’s why I picked it. Pretty cool name for a dreadful villain, don’t you think? Wimpy and evil, yet with options.”

You picked it? Didn’t your mother give it to you?”

You’ll understand in due course,” said Valentine. “Fae.”

She shook herself free from his supporting arm. To her surprise she found that her anger made her stronger. She could stand on her own without collapsing.

No, dammit. I’ll call you Mike if I must, Valentine. But I am Nadisda and you’ll keep on calling me that or – or I simply will not answer!”

Valentine stared at her in surprise.

Sure, whatever,” he said. “I also picked your name, incidentally.”

You did not! I’ve always had it!”

Nadisda,” said Valentine with that infuriatingly know-it-all grin again, “who were your parents?”

She shook her head. “I was born of pure magic. A star fell from the skies and turned into me.”

So how did you know what your name was?” he asked triumphantly, as though it proved something.

It just always was that,” she replied. “What silly villainous game are you playing now, Valentine?”

He shook his head with a secretive grin and beckoned her on.

A good while later they arrived at a ramshackle building, a house with a patchy roof and an overgrown garden and a broken-down picket fence. There was light inside, and interesting smells wafted through the evening air. It was properly dark out here by now.

Valentine led Nadisda up the half-broken cobblestone pathway, and up a few steps to a front door that was overlooking a veranda. The door had a pane of rippled glass set into it, with a crack running diagonally through it, and Valentine rapped on that. There was some movement inside, and then the door opened. Another teenager, this one in an even scruffier torn shirt, peered at Nadisda with curiosity.

Hey, Mike! You were out late!”

Yup. I brought someone, guys,” announced Valentine. “She’s in need of help.”

A girl of roughly the same age, with honey-blonde locks that hung care-free to shoulder-length, came to the door to have a look.

Oh my gosh, bring her in! She looks all torn up, like she’s fallen through a thorny hedge!”

Been dragged backwards through it, more like,” commented the other teen drily.

And what on Earth is she wearing?” came a gasped question from another angle.

Get a life, Nancy! She’s probably got nothing else,” snapped the honey-blonde. “Rather go get her some proper clothes!”

Nadisda peered down at her perfectly good fairy gown – granted, it was a bit tattered from the fall through dimensions, and its lovely moss-green had faded into some dirty grey.

Come, girl,” said the honey-blonde resolutely. “Let’s get you into something warmer!” She took Nadisda’s hand and led her into the room.

Not two steps into the messy-but-homey front room, Nadisda’s legs folded out under her, and her senses left her again.


Obligatory ad:

This story is not finished yet.  But if you enjoy the style, try this one by the same author:

Arcana – by gipsika

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Ivy Pennington is a young lady who is going places!  With the ink on her degree in Accounting still wet, she is jobbing for a mom-and-pop store while looking to upgrade her options.  But one morning, she accidentally falls into magic.  She didn’t ask for it, and it annoys her that things suddenly don’t follow the familiar laws of physics and logic anymore.  In a fast-developing plot of sinister forces coming to get the newly hatched mage, Ivy has to learn to swim – or in her case, fly – very fast before she can get shot down. Two cats and an enigmatic, shady man are on her side; but are they strong enough together to overcome the forces of darkness that are after Ivy’s blood?

Get your copy while it’s steaming – today only $5.69 on Kindle.

Thank you Silver Threading: Introducing Carmen Capuano

How I Wrote “Split Decision,” by Carmen Capuano.

SplidDSilver Threading, an awesome blog supporting authors (whose author is in the process of becoming an author herself 😉 ), introduces our own Carmen Capuano who is having such a rush of success with her extremely fast-paced novel, “Split Decision”.ccapuanowSD

Go and have a read, enjoy!

Moon over Bourbon Street

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Being a writer is like being a werewolf.  When the sun goes down, you write.  When the sun comes up again, you’re still writing, and if you have a day job, or children to raise, or anything like that, woe betide you, you’ve got to get through the day somehow.  It doesn’t matter whether people eventually judge the stories down (hell, it matters, it hurts us as badly as if someone takes a swing at our kids), but we’ll always be writing.  It’s not something we can “give up” like people give up drinking, smoking or playing tennis.

Because our stories depend on us.  They need us to be there, willing channels that won’t shoot them down for waking us up at 3am, “go put on your computer, you’ve got to get this down now!”

“I’m a wree-totaller, haven’t written a paragraph in three months now” – no.  It doesn’t work like that.

Beautiful boats

And btw I haven’t closed comments on ALL posts, only on that one that was keeping me busy.

Writing a bit of Shooting Star.  My oldest discussed with me that from the feel and the storyline, the Romanian sequel actually belongs to the Shooting Star series, as a prequel, rather than a tag onto the Solar Wind series which closes very firmly at the end of “The Morrigan”.

Manfred Spitzer, neurologist and developmental researcher, points out that screen time and internet-style reading reduces a person’s ability to read longer pieces, such as novels and other paperbacks.  This is interesting.  New studies also reveal that what was learnt from ebooks doesn’t go in as deeply or as easily as what is studied from old-fashioned paper textbooks.  The difference is the tactile sensation, and the physical, 3D permanence of the word on the paper page.  The human brain learns through all its senses, so yes – feeling the paper between your fingertips and curling the page while you’re reading actually helps you anchor what you are reading.

Here are some boats for you (oh look, there’s a fish…)

 

 

 

Updates, RELEASE dates and fresh dates from Woollies

First of all I need to apologize about the lie in the heading.  There are unfortunately no fresh Woollies dates on sale at P’kaboo.

P’kaboo:  Release of “From my Cold Undead Hand” imminent

FMCUH bookseeker imageOn the 15th of September, ebook copies will be available for the first time from the P’kaboo shop, of the brand new vampire-fiction novel by Marie Marshall, “From My Cold Undead Hand”.

grinI’m still pretty chuffed about the way this author, with her exciting and fast-moving style, responded to my “vampire challenge” with a novel that will leave you checking under your bed at night.  That is, if you’re brave.  Otherwise it might take some rescue remedy to get you off to sleep – plus a night light and a handgun loaded with a silver b…  wait, that’s werewolves.

Did I mention that the ebook is available for pre-orders?

Please note:  The ebook is available for pre-orders on the P’kaboo Bookshop site.  Pre-ordering will mean you receive your copy as soon as the ebook is released.  

There is also a surprise waiting for the first 25 copies ordered.  

Read more about this book here.

 

 

Honeymead Books:

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The inimitable Douglas Pearce.  We meet again, with his second novel published by Honeymead Books:

The Pourne Identity.

If John Pernelli believed in doppelgangers he might well have had second thoughts about boarding British Airways flight 226 from La Guardia airport. Mind you, even if he had had a last minute change of heart, it is doubtful whether the two grey-suited men in dark glasses sitting either side of him in first class would have allowed him not to board. 

If you enjoyed “Almost Dead In Suburbia”, get ready for an even faster, funnier and more confusing trip, this one taking you into France, to meet with secret police, fat-cat politicians, and…  aliens…

Some people have compared Douglas Pearce’s style to that of Terry Pratchett.  Personally, it reminds me more of Douglas Adams, in its way-out ideas and fast execution of the same.

They say laughter is good for your health.  Do yourself a favour and get a copy of this vitamin D.  You will not regret it.

For a limited time, all ebooks on Honeymead Books will be priced at $2.99 to fit your pocket.  

Talking of challenges, Pearce is right now working on a book that will be a little bit – on the juicier side, if you like.  It too started with a challenge.

Honeymead is ideal to represent books such as his:  Rebellious political viewpoints, highlighting the thorns on religious rosebushes, and thoroughly challenging your view on reality evolutionsmileywithout the author having to look over his shoulder to see if any parents are offended every time he wants to write “merde! Le cochon a croupi dans la boue!”.   (P’kaboo would never allow his piggies to get away with that kind of wallowing. )

winkWe are considering restricting Honeymead to readers who can prove that they are not currently raising, or involved in raising, children (own or otherwise).  This will rule out parents, teachers, sports coaches, child psychologists and occupational therapists, and in short, everyone involved in any way in the under-16 industries.

P’kaboo:  Mercury Silver

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For a limited time we are making FREE EBOOK COPIES of the short-story collection “Mercury Silver” available on P’kaboo.  They are free right now.

8 authors contributed wildly varying shortstories to “Mercury Silver” which was named after the Roman messenger of the Gods, winged Mercury, who is the patron god of writers, poets, merchants and…  thieves.  (Yeah.  Well.  Those Romans are crazy.)

These stories are a very good combination for readers who love a varied diet.  Explore, experience!  Enjoy a stress-free Saturday afternoon.

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The Case for the Waterproof Kindle

Quo Vadis Scribd? (Rant alert)

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Oh my oh my oh my! Scribd’s web stats have been taken over by preschoolers.

I’ll say it straight:

Scribd is one of my favourite platforms.

They (similar to Epub Bud, and unlike Author’s Den) don’t place limitations on how much you can publish.  (Author’s Den wants money.  With Epub, you can basically upload complete books – not really suitable for short pieces.)

They have an option (though I haven’t found it working for me) to sell books online via their shop.

They (better than Epub Bud ) have an extremely versatile platform that allows you to gather followers, you have a public profile where all your uploads are conveniently together, they have a stepwise indicator to show you how discoverable your uploads are, etc.

And they used to (similar to WordPress) have a very logical and complete stats setup.

To be frank, I also love publishing on Scribd because every time I do, within seconds I have the first bunch of views on my work.  Writers are verbal exhibitionists.  We love being “discovered”.  We love being centre of attention (just generally don’t ask us to make you a speech.  We’ll write you a letter instead).

Whenever I put something on Scribd (and they are very strict about not putting promotional lit on there – I’ve been burnt a couple of times there forgetting that rule), my web stats on P’kaboo go up.

If you click the links on the sidebar of this blog, they’ll mostly take you to pieces published on Scribd.  Why?  Convenience beyond blogging.

But…

 

Recently I have had reason to change my Scribd avatar to “depressed fairy”.  I already contacted them a week back about this issue and have had no response.  Unlike Amazon and in fact most official book places which, if you contact them, get back to you in 24-48 hours.

I had over 20K views on my stuff there.  A lot of them on the excerpt from “Freedom Fighter”, “Pirate Politics”.

I have over 850 followers there.

When I looked last, Scribd had done a web-redesign and removed my stats and arbitrarily let me have 704 views (in total).  Now I have more followers than views.  As we say here in SA:  “Die logika ontbreek.” *

I accessed my stats page – you can’t see anything beyond the current month.

This is a glitch.  Can happen to the best.  But not responding to someone reporting it?

Please, Scribd.  Re-hire your previous team of designers.  I don’t think the current lot is up to the job.

 

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*”Die logika ontbreek” – logic has gone missing.  But the complete impression of that phrase is closer to a square-wheel award, a Darwin award, “die perd van agter opsaal” (putting the saddle on the horse from behind), “die pot mis-sit” (sitting down on the potty but missing it), you get the idea.