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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Flash Friday: Make a Wish

Fairy

Fairy

Fran held her breath as the butterfly came closer. It alighted on the armrest of the old bench, and Fan froze. This butterfly wore a face, and the legs were those of a tiny human, rather than an insect. Fran’s eyes grew round.

A fairy. This must be a fairy.

“You are so beautiful”, she whispered.

The fairy fluttered closer, and settled on Fran’s wrinkled fingers. It opened and closed its wings once more before smiling up at Fran.

“Will you grant me a wish?”

The fairy nodded, and Fran knew immediately what she wanted. “Make me young again”, she said. “Young as a puppy.”

The fairy giggled, rose up and touched Fran’s nose with a tiny finger. Fran sneezed, bowling the fairy over and over in the air. The stunned look of the fairy made her laugh.

Golden dust blew through the air as well, and Fran felt her whole body tingle and change. A moment later, she cowered on the ground.

She had paws as hands, covered in golden fur. A tail wiggled questioningly. Her chocked scream came out as a weak yelp. Oh, she was young again, indeed.

But she was also now a real puppy.

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Flash Friday: Child’s Play

“Come on!”

“You can do it!

I hated their cat calls. This was the first time they had allowed me to light the barbecue. I concentrated, any mistake would be dreadful.

“Go for it!”

“Nothing to it, Jenny!”

“Just do it!”

I concentrated fiercely. The barbecue grill stood seven feet away, the coals ready, piled on top of some crushed paper. Lighting it should have been child’s play.

It wasn’t.

I took a deep breath, closed my eyes and mentally went through the instructions once again. This time, I would do it. I breathed out. “Now.”

WOOOOOSH! BOOOOOOM!

My eyes flew open just in time to see a huge fireball reduce the barbecue grill to a twisted heap of charred metal.

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Some Dragon Eye Candy

The cover is gorgeous, but there is even more beauty inside the book – yes, even the ebook. That’s why I work with Blue Harvest Creative, the formatting company I found last year. I think they make the prettiest ebooks I’ve ever seen. They look just like print versions.

Anyway, this is how the first page of every story looks – with a different title, of course, but with the same awesome picture on the page. Yes, even in the ebook.

Story title

Story Title

 

And when there are breaks in a story, there are also little pictures to indicate those. BHC chooses different pictures to fit each book. “Sequoia” has bear prints, “Pu-ukani’s Song” has a wavy, watery image and “Here Be Dragons” has this:

Divider

Divider

And if you look closely, you can see the same divider image just below the title on the cover itself.  I’ll repeat that here because it is so glorious. It looks totally stunning on the print book, especially in matte. So glad CreateSpace now offers that option.

Cover

Here Be Dragons Cover

And other than usual, you can click on these pictures to enlarge them – just to really enjoy that eye candy.

Big shoutout to Blue Harvest Creative for making my book so beautiful.

PS: Want to buy “Here Be Dragons”? Here you go:

Amazon.com
Amazon.co.uk
Amazon.de

If you prefer to order from your local bookstore, you can! Just use this
ISBN: 978-1500188023, and they will find it for you.

Want to say something? Feel free to comment.

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“Here be Dragons” – Release Day

Cover

Here Be Dragons Cover

Today is the day!

I’m officially releasing my brand new short story collection. It contains my eight all-time best short stories. In fact, two of them have been published before, in online magazines. Another one has been published in its German incarnation – and I’m offering it in English for the first time here. (I do my own translations.)

And here’s what to expect:

Eight stories of classic fantasy. Eight adventures full of cunning and magic. Eight lovable heroes. Old and grumpy, young and eager, wary or daring, they come in all shapes – some are not even human. Eight worlds that will send your imagination soaring on fancy wings. Eight tales that will warm your heart. Eight stories that will leave a smile on your face.

What are you waiting for?

“Here be Dragons” is available both as ebook and as print edition, through Amazon. For your convenience, I’m adding links to the different Amazon stores – hope your country is among them. If not, go to the page anyway, and then exchange the amazon extension to the one your store uses.

“Here be Dragons” – ebook

Amazon.com
Amazon.co.uk
Amazon.de

“Here be Dragons” – Print

Amazon.com
Amazon.co.uk
Amazon.de

If you prefer to order from your local bookstore, you can! Just use this
ISBN: 978-1500188023, and they will find it for you.

Let me know in a comment what you think of the book!

And please consider writing a review when you have read the book. It helps others to find the stories, and enjoy them, too. Thanks!

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