Flash Friday: Gryphon Harvest

grpyphon

Attempted Gryphon

(Yep, it’s Saturday. These things happen. Posting a story anyway.)

It was hot in the steppe. High buttes reached up to the sky, dotting the steppe. Selina had come to climb up to the top of one. Only here did gryphons nest. Now was the right time for the harvest, as they set on their nests, warming their eggs.

Carefully, Selina clawed her way up the sheer walls of the butte the gryphons had chosen this year. It took her several hours of exertion to reach the top. After a short rest, she crept towards the gryphon nest. The mother gryphon was crooning to her eggs, even as she turned them. Selina smiled, it was good to see them breeding well.

She pulled on the leather hood which would keep her safe from bites before crawling into the nest itself. Calming the mother with soft croons of her own, she went for her prize.

A little later, she stood at the edge of the butte, opening up the gliding wings which would take her safely off the butte. She had tucked three golden gryphon wing feathers into her belt. The molting mother gryphon would never miss them, but they would gain her enough coin to last until the next harvest.

Your Turn:

What do you think?

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Flash Friday: Mage Wars

Bad guys coming

Bad guys coming

I couldn’t believe my eyes when Mom threw our bedding into the big wagon, while Dad hitched the horses to it in great haste.

“But… but it’s summer. We don’t travel in summer.” I gestured towards the fields.

“We do now.” He looked east and winced. His face paled. “Get Mara and jump in. Don’t stop for anything else. The mages are almost here.”

“How do you know?”

“I can feel their spells. Now run!”

I ran and picked up my little sister. As soon as I had lifted Mara to the seat, and hauled myself up, he shook the rains, and the horses pulled out.

I crawled past my mother who had curled up on our bedding, stumbled over a few packages and made my way to the rear end of the wagon.

“We can’t let the mages catch Dad.” Mom sobbed quietly.

“I’m casting a small hiding spell, darling. The farm will distract them, so they won’t notice.”

I looked back at the little farm house that I had called home for several years now. A fireball descended on it and exploded in dark red flames.

“We’ll return in fall,” Dad promised. “The mages will be gone then.”

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Flash Friday: The Halfwit

Bad stuff

Bad stuff happening

“Rain!” his high voice wailed.

“But, Dayda, the rain season is over. See, the sky is blue.”

“Bad rain!” Dayda looked frantic. I didn’t know what to do with him. He was the family halfwit, and today he was in my care.

“Dayda, shall we have a picknick in the forest?”

He nodded eagerly. “Pack food. Bad rain coming!”

Sighing, I packed bread, fruit and some cold meats. We would find water in the forest.

“Everyone come!”

“No, Dayda, they have work to do.”

He threw a screaming fit.

“Shall we go or not?”

A little later, he was pulling me through the forest. He only stopped when we had climbed the tall hill behind our village.

“Bad rain”, he sobbed and pointed. A huge black cloud stood there, with lightning flashing through it. Thunder rumbled, so loud it shook the earth.

Then the rain started. Ash fell from the sky, followed by rocks. Dayda curled up on the ground, whimpering. I stared in horror, when a foul smelling flood of mud rolled through the fields and covered my village with everyone living there. I sank to the ground, shaking.

If only we had listened to the halfwit.

Image Source: F. Moebius

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Flash Friday: The Winner takes All

Mage

Mage

This final duel would determine who would become archmage of Tsaranval. Both Saniral and Ysanna had proven their might as mages, but only one of them could rule this realm. Saniral won the draw of first strike. Ysanna simply smoothed her gown, tossed back her jet-black hair and created the circle that would protect the audience from their magic.

Saniral blasted off with an impressive fire ball, tinged in purple and violett. Ysanna countered with an icestorm. The shards tinkled sweetly as they fell.

The audience yelled with glee. This was exactly what they had been waiting for.

In the next round Ysanna summoned a gigantic eagle that dove at Saniral with a wild screech. Saniral just shook his head, then made a gesture. A magic word transformed the eagle into a swarm of tiny flies that engulfed Ysanna. Grinning, he turned to the audience.

“I have won. Ysanna can’t fight anymore.” A heartbeat later, a rock hit his skull at high speed and he slumped to the ground, unconscious. The flies disappeared.

“Who has won now?” Ysanna smiled sweetly and daintily stepped over her fallen adversary.

“Archmage Ysanna!,” was the overwhelming response.

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Flash Friday: The Reward

Knight

Knight

Okay. I’m late. So what, I’m still going to let you have some Flash fun. And I bet in a week or two, it no longer matters.

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The Reward

The last enemy fell, slain by the swift sword of the man who had come in defense of Princess Charlotte. She lifted her skirts and daintily stepped over the corpse of the troll who had been in the process of ripping her dress.

“I thank you, my lord,” she said and dropped a courtesy. “To whom do I owe my freedom and life?”

The man bowed deeply. “My name is Ralph Flycatcher,” he answered. “And I am glad to have been of service.”

“You deserve a reward, my friend,” Charlotte walked over to him with quick, small steps more suited to a ballroom than a road strewn with corpses.

“Oh, don’t worry about that, my lady. I’ll be fine.”

“But you are my saviour. No, don’t protest.” She lifted a hand to his shoulder, and before he could duck, she bestowed a kiss on his unshaven cheek.

A bright flash made her close her eyes. When she opened them again, Ralph Flycatcher was gone. Charlotte blinked.

“Croak.” The voice was small, and sad.

At her feet, the Princess found a small, green frog, looking at her with plaintive eyes, sadly shaking its head.

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Comments?

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The Pain of Wasted Story Telling

Pain

Pain

Actually, the word “telling” in the headline is what it is all about. Stories are not about telling at all.  Stories are about allowing readers live through them.

And not every published book accomplishes this.

I’ve read (or tried to read) books with amazing worlds in them. Incredible creativity. Complicated plots and a host of characters. Bad, overwhelming enemies. Everything a great adventure would need.

Except they didn’t draw me in.

Their way of telling the story was just that: Telling.

Nothing else. No showing, no glimpse of the characters’ inner side, no personal growth, nothing to get me involved.

And it hurts. That is the Pain in the title.

It hurts me to see that much creativity wasted. To see all the effort that went into publishing that book spent in vain – because the author is not allowing me as reader inside the story.

It’s about as entertaining as watching a silent movie without subtitles. The characters go through the motions of the tale. They move across the landscape, they get into fights, they  have arguments, they may kiss and hug, and at the end they might even win – but it’s all hidden behind a glass panel.

Lifeless.

I, as reader, can only watch.

I wish I could teach those authors how to connect with their characters. How to limit their tale to one main character – or three – and make those come alive in my heart. How to show me why those people should matter to me.

I wish, with all my heart! I love stories.

Please, please, dear authors, look at how bestsellers work. Look at how some authors grip their readers by the heart and don’t let them go until the book ends. Please do not script silent movies and leave out the feelings. Practice and grow and learn.

And then rewrite those lovely tales you created, reuse those awesome worlds, grab those characters, breathe life into them and write a real story.

It is doable. It can be learned.

Please.

Image Source: F. Moebius

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Does this resonate with you? Write a comment.

PS: I do coach writers. (The link is Writers’ Dream Coach, up in the menu bar.) Until now I didn’t feel the urge to coach writers on the actual craft of story telling. I may have to change that approach, though. Please let me also know what you think about that.

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Flash Friday: Version 2.0

First step: Reset.

It wasn’t easy to wipe the slate clean. So much had happened, so many things had accumulated. It was hard to let all of that go, because there was good among all that bad. For eons he had tried to save that good, to clear out all the bad that was accumulating, but in the end it was obvious he needed to start over with the program.

Cleansing didn’t take long. The tools had always been available: Conquest, War, Famine and Death, leading up to Armaggedon as the final wipe. At least here, the program worked beautifully.

Second step: Create New Version.

Freed of the laden past, he reworked the program, weeded out bugs and added more safety features. Finally, he was ready. The program was uploaded, all tests had come up well. This time, it would work out, he was sure.

Final step: Run the Program.

“Let there be Light.”

 

Comments?

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Flash Friday: The Dancer

This one was written for a December Challenge – so it’s a little mushy.

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Dancer

“Mom, I want to be a star.”

The woman sighed and looked down at the girl holding her hand. “You have to wait until you grow up, you know.”

“But, Mom, Ashley is a star already. I want to be famous like her.”

“Honey, you’re not a dancer like her.”

A little creature hovering in the air above them gently shook its head. “Yes, she is”, it whispered. Then it aimed a blowgun at the little girl. A heartbeat later, the dart hurled through the air.

“Ouch!” The girl rubbed her neck, wiping away the dart with that motion.

Suddenly, her feet began to twitch. Then her arms spread out of their own accord. The little girl started to dance, at first a little clumsily, but soon she felt her way into the steps and became more graceful. She twirled and whirled until she reached the end of the path. People stopped and applauded when she finally came to rest on a bench. She bowed and smiled to them, while her mother stared with her mouth hanging open.

“I’m a star!”

High above them, a little winged creature giggled.

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Flash Friday: The Visitor

Knight

Knight

There was one ingredient left: the Eastern spices that would make this batch of cookies very special indeed. I carefully sprinkled them over the dough, then kneaded the mass one more time, muttering the words of a baking spell to make sure nothing went wrong.

I fidgeted at the oven, not daring to leave the cookies unguarded. Finally, they were done, and I carefully pulled the baking sheet out of the oven. Just slightly brown, they looked stunningly delicious.

I personally shifted them to a basket, taking great care not to break even one of them. I carried the basket upstairs, to the rooms of the visiting holy knight, and placed it on the table. Then I waited for the results, loitering in the hall.

The noble visitor arrived in splendid glory and was shown to his room. Soon …

A roar came from above. I moved back, as the door flew open and a second roar shook the hall. A hairy monster stumbled down the stairs, only to be speared by the terrified guards.

A little later, it lay dead on the flagstones.

Another of those knights down. I would get them all eventually, I promised myself.

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Kindle Unlimited: A New World of Reading

Book

Book

Today, I just want to tell you about a huge light bulb that went on in my head when I was thinking about Amazon’s Kindle Unlimited.

In case you haven’t heard, that’s a subscription offer for $ 9.99 a month. It lets you read all ebooks that are enrolled in lending, but you can only borrow ten at a time. Amazon says subscribers can choose from about 600,000 books right now. (Mostly indie author books, but that’s details.)

And this is how my thought pattern went:

Most people don’t realize that when you “buy” an ebook, you’re not actually gaining ownership of it. You only buy a license to an ebook, which allows you to put that file onto the readers of your choice (up to a fixed number, that is). That’s very different from buying a physical book. You cannot share an ebook with friends, and you cannot sell it like a used book. You do not really own it in the true sense of the word.

In essence, you’re borrowing that file for life. Or until something happens, the server goes away or your reader bites the dust. Transfers are possible, but they are definitely more difficult than moving a book from one shelf to the other. So basically, you’re borrowing that file for an endless period, for a fee. That process is clunky, if you ask me, full of possible problems and potential failure.

And let’s face it, how many books do you re-read? I’m a book nut, so I actually re-read quite a few and enjoy it. However, I would expect most people to read a book once and then be done with it, especially fans of mystery and romance, two of the biggest genres.

Then it occurred to me that Kindle Unlimited represents simply the next step in the evolution of reading.  Since we don’t *own* ebooks in the true sense of the word, offering a flatrate for the entertainment (and educational) service of reading feels like simply outsourcing the need of keeping books in our living space, or virtual space on the readers.

Outsourcing? What does that mean when talking about books?

We’ve outsorced storing money and pay for the service. Nobody hides gold coins in an old sock below a loose floorboard anymore. Instead, collectors have some, but most people do not. Our money is mostly electronic by now.

We’ve outsorced heat – we no longer tend the fires ourselves, or go and collect firewood. We flip a switch, or turn a dial, and the electricity company sends heat, or the furnace in the basement fires up, burning fuel we pay for. For me, it’s turn the thermostat, and hot water provided by a heating plant nearby makes my apartment cosy.

We’ve even outsourced food and cooking to a large degree. The number of people growing their own food and cooking from scratch is rather low. I use canned beans, and buy my bread, veggies and meat in the supermarket. I know some co-ops that supply veggies for a flat fee.

We’ve outsourced live performances to a degree. Cinamas, TVs and all that led to YouTube and Netflix. No need to be home on time or miss a favorite show. We can enjoy visual entertainment at our convenience for a flat fee.

Why not outsource our library?

Once this really catches on, once it’s no longer exclusive to KDP Select and lacking the Big 5 books, or even tied to Amazon at all, once all those starting problems are eliminated – this is something awesome. Eventually, we might even get the readers themselves included in the flatrate, just like it happens with smartphones which are included in the cell deal.

It’s a technical disruption of the reading process that’s taking it to a new level. Nobody has to give up books or their collections. We just get an entirely different way of providing that particular way of occupying our brains we call reading.

And I find it utterly fascinating. I feel as if I’m stepping into an SF world when I think through the implications of the idea behind Kindle Unlimited.

No more crumbling books.

Yes, I lament that my favorite paperbacks are starting to fall apart after 30 years. An electronic file will stay fresh, mostly. It can even be kept up to date.

No more out of print books.

There will be curators of book files, just like there are national libraries now. There will be repositories – think Project Gutenberg on an even larger scale.

My favorite books at my fingertips whenever I want a re-read.

I can see the danger of entrusting our intellectual property to computers and electronics. It could be wiped out by a world-wide catastrophy. Which would make a good SF tale. But right now, I’m just utterly fascinated by watching what could be the birth of an entirely new way of reading.

Our world got even more awesome right now.

What do you think? Is this utter nonsense? A premonition? Just starry-eyed tech-love? Or is it a big leap into a different kind of society? Write a comment!

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