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Re: [Mar 2015] - Rogues - Submission Thread Here we are then. First time I've done something like this. I found it kinda hard to stay in the limit (but it came out at 1483 words)

Going Down
@badDayHappenin

Spoiler for Hiden:
His knees were killing him. Not that he had asked for much more than a spirited hobble from them, but it seemed any request was a demand too far for his failing joints. He wheezed away, looking around the concourse for a hiding place. There were plenty of people about, but the way they parted around him left little chance of using them as cover. To his left was a glass fronted shop, the latest styles flickering across mannequins that posed in aspirational scenes. One moment they laughed heartily, back slapping paragons of sporting bonhomme. The next they sat swaddled in chunky exploring gear, eyes narrowed in an attempt to convey the brooding depths of their non-existent souls. Arty slipped past the shifting diorama and looked for where the forest of clothes racks was thickest.
 
A young man, almost a mannequin made flesh, was turning about in a suit as his equally attractive girlfriend pronounced judgement on it. The pair noticed Arty at the same time and their smiles fell. He was used to the reaction now; sometimes it even gave him a perverse pleasure. Today though he felt like hissing at them, but there was no need to scare them off. The couple feigned interest in another area of the shop and wandered away, suit tags dangling from the boy.
 
His heart, already pounding in his sparrow chest, jolted when someone behind spoke to him. He jerked round, but it was just a shop assistant, her arms folded defensively in front of her.
"Can I help you with something, sir?" The way she pronounced the sir made it clear that she meant anything but respect.
She was a beautiful girl, Arty decided. Not the indetikit beauty so sickeningly common up in the spires, but a carefully crafted one. Her features had been laid out by someone with excellent taste. Her mouth was a little too wide, her cheekbones higher than was fashionable. Whoever her parents were they had known their stuff. He flashed his smile at her on reflex.
"Oh, you could help me with so many things."
Her long nose wrinkled in distaste. He caught a glimpse of his weathered face in the mirror behind her, saw that his once roguish grin was now just thin lips stretched back across yellow teeth. It made him wrinkle his nose as well then frown. He held up his liver spotted hands.
"No. Nothing. I'm fine, thank you."
The assistant looked doubtful but beyond her Arty saw something else in the mirror. Two cops jogged past the front of store, one hand on their sticks to steady them. They had not even glanced into the shop. His eye flicked back to the girl.
"In fact. I was just leaving."
She nodded, but did not move. Probably thinks I'm going to steal some of this multimart rubbish, Arty thought, she hasn't even noticed I'm wearing thousand dollar shoes, the pretty little philistine.
He turned away, his heart still trying to find its resting rate, and shuffled back out of the shop. He went the direction the two cops had come from, turning the corner he had fled around when they had spotted him. The nearest D-train terminal was only a few hundred yards up the next concourse, which is why he had been coming this way in the first place. It seemed to take an age for him to reach the doors. When he did so without shouts of accusation from behind, he felt a surge of familiar excitement. He might actually get away with this.
 
He reached out with a shaking hand to hit the down button, the same shaking hand that had failed him not an hour ago. The same shaking hand that had set off an alarm which would never have been a danger before. A precision tool which had become a feeble, loose cudgel. He cursed its quivers and his frustration turned to delight when the capsule appeared almost at once. At last, he thought, some good fortune.
 
He stepped inside, the only occupant of the diamond fronted elevator. There had been others waiting, but this was the express unit to the base. The locals liked to call it "The Drain". Until recently Arty had too. Now he found himself waiting for the doors to close, keen to find his way back to ground level. He turned his back on the view and looked down the concourse, willing the doors to shut.
"C'mon. C'mon.” He muttered. The gleaming metal was not to be rushed however, waiting in case some other rubbish needed flushing from the affluent shopping arcade. Ahead, rising on their toes to survey the crowd, Arty saw the two cops come back onto his thoroughfare.
"Close, you bastards. Close." He swore at the doors. As if they had heard him they began to hiss together. At the last second Arty thought one of the men might have looked his way, but his eyes, like everything else, were not what they were and he could not be certain.
 
The elevator began to drop smoothly away and he turned to gaze out of the window. The underside of the bottom tier, all pipes and blocks, shaded the D-train from the weak sunlight. In the distance the spindly mushrooms of the other three towers rose out of the ramshackle sprawl. Appropriate shapes really, Arty considered, mushrooms do well growing out of shit too.

Under their transparent domes he could make out tiered gardens like the ones rising above him. Their colours were diffused by distance and the thin atmosphere, but he knew there was every hue of bright flower amongst verdant greens. He could almost taste the clean, thick air of his old hunting grounds. He lifted his satchel free over his head, his shoulders complaining, and flipped it open. Inside was his ticket back. He lifted the cylinder of metal slats out and smiled at its ancient grooved surface. He would return to defraud, debauch and deflower the brainless rich again. He was certain of it. This was not the end for him. The elevator jerked to a halt. The doors began to open without warning. Shit, he thought, this is the end for me.
 
A female cop stood waiting in a residential corridor outside, one hand up at her ear.
"Yep, got him now, thanks. I'll check it out and get back to you."
She stepped in to the elevator, her eyes immediately on Arty's prize. She took the artefact without resistance and jabbed a probe id stick into his neck. He felt the tell-tale burn of his skin cells being scraped away and the machine bleeped. She looked at the display.
"Arthur Schivare." His name was a statement, not a question. She examined his other details. "26?" His age at least got a reaction from her. "Two counts theft, one count embezzlement. They stuck 15 years on your clock for each one."
She looked him up and down, shaking her head. Arty looked around her and thought about running. The thought was enough to make his knees hurt again.
"Why the hell would you keep at it?" She asked. He was surprised to look into her face and find her in earnest.
"You try looking like this. Nobody hires an ex-con. Even in the geri-clubs I have to sit down, the real old timers can tell from how I move otherwise and they steer clear too. That was my only way out." He pointed at what she held. "It's a wheel from the Sojourner rover."
"I know that." She hefted it in her hand. "The museum on the top deck is going ape shit."
He started to become acutely aware that she had not gone straight back to her com-link.
"I've got a bunch of neo-earth nutjobs lined up to pay me a small fortune. Enough to get me back to how I should be." He gestured with one crook knuckled finger at the id stick's screen.
The cop looked at his grinning, aquiline face on the screen then back to the decrepit one before her. She sucked in one cheek.
"How much is a small fortune then?"
The old squirming excitement began to twist Arty's mouth into a smile.
"More than I could spend on my own." He waggled his unruly eyebrows.
The cop stared at the wheel for another few seconds, biting her lip. Then she sighed and reached for her earpiece. Arty's mouth fell.
"Base. Two seventeen here. I checked your man in the drain. Nothing doing, just some geri from the ground on a sightseeing tour.... sure... will do. Good luck anyway."
Her hand dropped down and her smile mirrored Arty's as she hit the elevator button without looking.
"Going down?" She held the wheel back out to him.
"Not on these knees." Arty smirked and turned back to enjoy their descent, physical and moral.

March 20, 2015, 07:51:55 PM
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Re: What are you currently reading? Read the first two Powder Mage short stories/novellas, Forsworn and Servant of the Crown. Both pretty good, same high standard in general as the novels, but only four stars for each because they're just too damn short for me  :-\
March 20, 2015, 08:13:58 PM
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Re: [Mar 2015] - Rogues - Submission Thread The hardest part about this was deciding what sort of rogue to write about: a lover, a gambler, a thief, a killer, etc... In the end I did pick one and the result is an 814 word (a new record in brevity for me!) story called Your Money or Your Life. Twitter handle is @ChrisElfy. Hope you enjoy.

Spoiler for Hiden:
Your Money or Your Life

“Your money or your life!” the demand thundered over the birdsong. The raucous laughter of a kookaburra perched in the branches of the old gum tree underlined the bushranger’s challenge. The tree hung over the rutted and well travelled dirt road out of the Ballarat diggings to the city of Melbourne, with its banks and trading houses.

Bridles jingled and strained axles complained, as the carriage driver reined in, to bring his vehicle to a halt in front of the mounted figure in the middle of the road.

He was small for a bushranger, although he bore the requisite bushy red beard, and he held the pistol in his hand like he knew how to use it. The bright green mask, and the horse he sat astride, identified him as the notorious Captain Fortune, a bushranger who had been plaguing the roads out of the diggings for some time now.

Despite the presence of the weapon, it was always the horse that drew people’s attention. Tall and rangy, it was bone white, it had rolling red eyes, and even though it was summer, and the sun beat down, making the road ahead shimmer, steam seemed to come from the creature’s nostrils, as it snorted and danced restlessly across the dirt track.

An irritated and insistent rapping came from inside the carriage, and very soon a florid, sweating face, surrounded by an impressive set of white whiskers appeared out the window, and barked, “See here, driver! What the deuce is going on? Get this carriage moving again, now! I have urgent business in Melbourne.”

Fortune’s eyes twinkled behind his mask. He patted the horse and nudged it towards the occupant of the carriage. “Top o’ the mornin’ to ye!” the bushranger greeted the red faced businessman in an unmistakably Irish accent. “I’ll be havin’ that cane o’ yers fer starters. Nice shiny gold top it’s got.” And he snatched the expensive walking stick from out of the shocked man’s pudgy hand. “Now, your money or your life,” he said still in the same avuncular, conversational tone, and he placed the barrel of his gun under the man’s nose.

‘Ladies,” Fortune said, tipping his hat at the two women in the carriage, as the man divested himself of all his valuables, and dropped them in a bag that the bushranger held out. The horse turned it’s head towards the driver and snorted warningly. Fortune swung the revolver around lazily. “Now, ye don’t want to be a hero, son,” he advised. “Ye’ve already got five holes in yer head. I wouldn’t want to add another one.”

The man gulped and his hand strayed from the rifle he had been reaching for, back to the reins.

“That’s a good boy,” Fortune crooned. “I am sorry ladies, but I’ll need yer jewelry as well. Nothin’ personal, ye understand, it’s just how we bushrangers work.”

The iron haired matron in the carriage pressed back against the leather interior, and her mouth opened and closed, but she did as she was bid. The other occupant, a young woman with a peaches and cream complexion, and hair the colour of the gold that the miners all broke their backs searching for, seemed almost amused by the robbery. She smiled as she removed her jewelry, and dropped it into the waiting sack.

Fortune’s eyes challenged her. “I may have to steal a kiss as well,” he said, before standing up in his stirrups, leaning forward and kissing the blonde lady on the lips. She fell back on the seat, tongue licking the just kissed lips, nose twitching at the smell of tobacco and sweat, the feel of the bushranger’s red whiskers still tickling her soft cheek. “I can die a happy man, lass,” Fortune said, turning his mount back to the front of the carriage.

The driver sweated, and gulped as the bushranger looked up at him. “The gold,’ Fortune said in a flat voice, his eyes hard behind their mask.

“Ggold,” the man repeated, a bead of sweat sliding out from beneath his cap, and cutting a clear channel down one dusty cheek.

Fortune sighed. “I know ye’ve got it, so why don’t ye save us all some time and bother, and simply hand it over, then ye can be on yer way.”

                                                        ****

“Ye know, Phantom,” Liam O’Shaughnessy said, as he swung down out of the saddle, and began to unload the horse. “This bush ranging gets easier and easier each an’ every time I do it. A man could get to like this life.”

Although at a height 3 feet, five inches, an enviably luxurious fiery beard, and an Irish brogue so thick you could cut it, Liam O’Shaughnessy matched the descriptions victims had given of Captain Fortune, not a person in the diggings ever suspected him. Leprechauns just didn’t do that sort of thing.



March 21, 2015, 12:41:22 AM
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Re: Tea Breaking news: Raptori just came worryingly close to putting flour in his tea instead of sugar. Experts are divided on whether this is a sign of dementia or mere stupidity.
March 21, 2015, 11:44:00 PM
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Re: "Similar to X" / "On a par with Y" - on book covers What is especially annoying is that it really feels like the publishers are assuming their readers to be ignorant troglodytes, as if people couldn't tell the difference. And it is different than having an actual quote from an author featured on the cover - I can actually respect that, although it still won't make any difference for me. But this is how marketing works, and I don't think it will change anytime soon.

Slightly off-topic but related to publishers treating their readers as idiots - I don't know if this happens in other countries, but in Portugal, there's a habit of dividing books into more parts than the original versions. For example, A Song of Ice and Fire is divided into 10 books at the moment, each costing between 16-18€. I bought my copies in English, and have advised everyone I know to do the same, because it feels wrong to support publishers who act this way.

March 22, 2015, 12:55:56 AM
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Re: "Similar to X" / "On a par with Y" - on book covers I do kind of like what Angry Robot do with their books, though. They have a small section on the back called File Under. It has a major category, which is say Science Fiction, and then a few sub categories which are often elements of the book and can be quite amusing as well.
March 22, 2015, 02:14:58 AM
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Re: Women Write Fantasy (The Giant 'Women in Fantasy' Database) So, possibly a little off-topic again but I've been really interested in this for a while, and decided (as usual) the way I like to deal with such interesting questions is to look for some sort of data.  I'm sure somebody has done it before (any links to the like would be welcome) but I decided to make a Great Big List of authors and then see where the differences lay. 
  • I used Goodreads for the data, which is has some problems (very skewed to recent books, and--apparently--YA).
  • I got the names from 1) lists on goodreads (the recommendation factor) 2) my own experience 3) other internet lists (including this one) and 4) a 2000-era Encyclopaedia of Fantasy that I have.  So the list is by no means complete!
  • Because I had to eliminate some things, I pared down the uber-list by removing writers with under 25k ratings, overwhelmingly YA/Sci-Fi/Romance/Other catalogues but, naturally, my own prejudice comes in.  (For example, I didn't want pure Vampire-Paranormal Romance style Urban Fantasy, but should if I kick out Charlaine Harris do I then exclude Jim Butcher?)
  • I also removed Tolkien because he was skewing everything (on balance, JK Rowling and Suzanne Collins were skewing everything back if I let YA in).
The result is (so far) a list of 73 men and 65 women theoretically representing "Major Traditional Fantasy" authors.  The interesting things to come out of it (to me) are:
  • The men have twice as many ratings as the women (an indication twice as popular).
  • The men are rated higher by a significant amount (overall avg: 4.09, men: 4.13, women 4.02)
  • The top 10 by rating has 1 woman in it, the top 25 has 7.  By number of ratings, the top ten has 3 woman and the top 25 has 9.
So, what's going on here?  I think this goes hand-in-hand with the anecdotal evidence about people overwhelmingly recommending men on 'what to read' or 'best of' lists.  Goodreads is a recommendation site, with data.  Clearly, the data support this perception that men write better fantasy.  (I AM NOT SAYING THEY DO.)  Even the women that DO come up in recommendations like Robin Hobb and Ursula LeGuin fall way down this list (29 and 52 respectively)--as do some men widely recommended--but even after the troubles with exposure there seems to be something working against women.

A lot of other things could be going on, obviously.  Looking at the names, there's a strong chance that a certain model or type of fantasy gets higher ratings, and that this model is male-dominated.  It's fairly clear that complex and potentially controversial stories suffer in the ratings, so perhaps women write more of these.  There's also a chance that dudes-reading-dudes are less critical as reviewers.  I'd love to know what people think, and perhaps look at some more stats and studies...

Interesting, the full list (including YA/paranormal/etc) is bossed by the women, though that is largely down to JK Rowling and Suzanne Collins--even Tolkien can't stand against them!

Anyway, I was going to blog on some of this but wanted to try it out here first.  Is there anything to be read from this or is it not helpful?

March 22, 2015, 12:09:51 PM
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Re: Miscellaneous Musings
Wow you're even worse than me ;D I usually also have a few tabs open, but it's only one for each site hehe
Yeah I open all the unread posts at once, each in their own tab. Far more efficient that way...

March 22, 2015, 12:20:38 PM
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Re: Love letter to Jen Williams - spoiler free Copper Promise
Dear @sennydreadful:

OK, this won't really be a love letter. But it's a good hook.  ;D

I am barely into The Copper Promise but I'm already in love with the book. It's got a wonderful blend of characters, fantasy tropes and cool story. But mostly it's the prose I'm enjoying for how incredibly readable but delightfully skilled it is. I feel as though in addition to the story - the center of the experience, of course - I'm getting a master class in writing.

Here's an example: In the dialogue between Sebastian, Wydrin and Frith, you often tell us who's speaking by switching the action to the speaker, then following with the speaker's dialog. No need for "said Sebastian."

And, you give us believable thinking and timing. Frith asks if Wydrin is trustworthy. I might have just had him answer right off.  Instead, "Sebastian looked up at the sky..." We immediately understand his thoughtful nature, and we believe it when he comes back with a wry story that supports his partner while not being entirely complimentary.  (Now I'm not pretending there aren't other wonderful writers or that any of this is new, I'm just saying it's really well done here. I just finished Dreamer's Pool and for all it's good qualities, the writing often felt slow and stiff.)

And, it's all so much fun. This reminds me of Goldman's writing in the Princess Bride, though obviously a different tone. And PBis one of my favorite books.

So, now it's down into the Citadel, wondering how exactly they'll face the terror that seems to have done away with our poor Gallo.

Goody!

Oh my gosh!

Thank you so much. I finished the first draft of the third book today, feeling hollowed out and exhausted, so this is such a tremendous boost, I can't even tell you.

And The Princess Bride is one of my favourite books ever. To even be mentioned in the same post is ridiculously cool. :D

March 22, 2015, 06:35:19 PM
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Re: Goodreads Troll - Words of Radiance
Anyone care to come help slay this troll? I couldn't resist...  :P
What is exactly to "troll"?
In patents, a troll is someone who buys up patents in order to sue anyone over the slightest pretext to get a quick settlement.
Doubt that's the idea here.  ;)


March 22, 2015, 09:20:50 PM
1