Saturday, 30 March 2013

Magus and Hermit

This is something I was working on as part of a larger project.  A few thousand words in I realised the focus needed to be somewhere else entirely.   Rather than consign this to the outer darkness entirely I'm posting it here just for the sake of keeping up with regular posting.  

It is unpolished and may see the light of day in another form sooner or later.   In the meantime, meet Abraxas and Lucas:

“What’s the story, Old and Hoary?”

The old Magus sighed at the informal address and raised his eyes from the green-fire crackling in the heart of the vast scrying globe before him. The speaker was a middle aged man whose dark hair was showing more than a hint of grey, and whose face showed two or three days worth of not-being-bothered stubble. He was lean and scruffy, wearing a dark suit and a weatherbeaten overcoat in whose pockets his hands were thrust. The Magus, resplendent in robes of dark imperial purple girt with a belt of golden cords and whose white beard was long and immaculately kept merely shook his head.

“Show some respect for the sanctity of this place, if not for my sake Lucas,” he said.

Lucas shrugged and walked closer, peering into the scrying globe. “You sent for me ‘Raxas, I was having a fine old time minding my own business and annoying all the right people in all the wrong ways. I assumed it was urgent. Too urgent to stand on ceremony, eh?”

The Magus, Abraxas was the name he had chosen for the moment, sniffed irritably. “And your clothing, Lucas, your apparel… it is entirely inappropriate.”

“And certainly too urgent to worry about costuming. Anyway, robes always make me feel like a transvestite and not in a good way. So I say again, what’s the story?”

Abraxas gave up on the idea of squabbling with Lucas, time was too short, and the scotsman had an endless appetite for disagreement that had made many people grateful that he was also by nature a recluse.
“The story, Lucas, is that our enemy is gathering their strength for a major incursion.” That at least prompted the appropriate reaction. Lucas took a pair of wire framed spectacles from his pocket and put them on peering closer at the patterns of shifting emerald flames within the crystal sphere.

“Where? And when?”

“Everywhere of course, and everywhen.”

Lucas glanced sideways at the Magus and scowled. “An answer of great philosophical depth no doubt, and no bloody use. Anything specific?”

The Magus shook his head and said slowly, “No. No, not yet. We are working on that I promise you.”

“Aye, good. Somebody should be. We don’t want any more surprises, we’ve lost enough ground. So why the call? Why’d you want me, eh?”

“Do you know the term hamingja, Lucas?”

Lucas put away the spectacles, and shook his head. “Enlighten me,”

“Enlightenment is not my field of expertise,” Abraxas said with a wry smile, “It is an old Norse concept. It represents an individual’s luck. They considered it to be part of a person’s soul, and some people had a powerful beneficial hamingja, some did not.”

Lucas grunted and moved away from the scrying sphere and stooped over a slender silver stand on which a single tarot card was propped. It showed an old man in hooded robes, a lantern held aloft. The Hermit. “This supposed to be me? I don’t do robes, I told you. So this is basically a fancy way of saying some people are luckier than others? That’s not exactly news, ‘Raxas. See me down at the bookies and watch the money melt away, that’ll tell you all you need to know about luck.” 

 The Magus shook his head.
“It is more than that. An individual with a powerful hamingja is lucky not just on their own behalf, but also on behalf of their friends and allies. In the sagas we read often of individuals setting out on a dangerous journey or an important expedition will seek to enlist the aid of someone known to be lucky. Either as a companion, or to entreat them to send some of their luck along in their place.”

Lucas turned to face Abraxas and nodded. “So you and your boys and girls here at Source have identified a big threat on the horizon, and now you’re talking to me about obscure Norse folklore. Let me take a wild stab in the dark here, you’ve also found someone with a suitably powerful ham- thing.”

Hamingja,” said Abraxas, “Indeed. And it would be to our advantage if they could be recruited. Form a team and find him. I will let you know the where and when.”

Lucas reached into the inside pocket of his overcoat and pulled out a battered leather case, opening it to reveal a deck of cards. “I suppose I need to gather the team from Close-Context.”

Abraxas shook his head. “This is important enough to bend the rules a little,” he said with a smile at Lucas’ look of incredulity, “Draw them from anywhere, anywhen. And find this Lucksmith, before our enemies do.”

“Aye,” said Lucas clearly rattled by the thought of the Magus being willing to play fast and loose with the Source’s own rules, and he started shuffling through the sketches on the faces of the tarot deck he carried. A team to build…

Friday, 29 March 2013

Twisty Turny

I've been working on a short story today, something that's been bubbling away in my imagination for a week or so.  I'd got most of it worked out in  my head - the characters, the storyline, the key scenes that needed to be there.  And today I had the leisure and the health (I've been feeling rough this week) to sit down and write it.

And 1500 words in it suddenly becomes clear that it will work better if I focus on someone that in my original idea was going to be more or less incidental, and if the characters that I had decided were the key characters be introduced more tangentially.

I quite enjoy stories with a twist, but why do they insist on springing their surprises on the person trying to write them?

Thursday, 28 March 2013


I'm experimenting with Scrivener.   For those who aren't familiar with it, this is software designed to assist writers with the task of writing.    I'm a few days into the free trial and already convinced enough to purchase it (which I have in fact just done).

The big selling point for me is the organisational features.    For novel writing for instance (and Scrivener has templates for other types of writing too) it is very easy to divide a project not only into chapters, but into scenes within that chapter which can be written individually and then - importantly - seen in a file card on corkboard layout that allows them to be moved around and tinkered with.    For someone like me who has an idea of the key milestones of the novel I'm working on this has proven invaluable - I can put those milestones down formally (heck, even write some of them in advance) and then see very clearly and dynamically what goes where and what needs to be done.

There's a lot more to it than this, and I'm enjoying finding it all out.   Does anyone else reading this use Scrivener or similar & what impressions do you have of it?

Monday, 25 March 2013

The Installation

(a writing prompt from Write on Edge)


A metal hammer struck a metal chime.    A silvered-steel ball cranked up an incline toward the highest point.    Around it in the cabinet balls that had made the journey before were rolling and spinning and cascading.   It never stopped.  Never.    The silvered-steel ball reached the high point, paused for a second as it had done countless times before and then dropped, beginning the next stage of its journey.
Mister Hermann was not the machine’s inventor, though he had designed it and commissioned its creation, and he stood by with pride in his eyes and watched it work.    The visitors to the gallery often paused to watch the little spheres on their journeys, occasionally exchanged a few words with Mister Hermann, joked about it being a fair imitation of perpetual motion and then passed on.   He’d chuckle in response and say that not even a skilled craftsman could break the laws of physics.


He’d broken plenty of laws in his time, but his time was a long time ago and he’d settled a bit since then.  Mostly.   Approaching chatter and one angry voice in particular drew his attention suddenly.  School children.

“You’re such a sissy, Cooper,” one unpleasant red haired boy said, “always whining.  Always fussing.  I didn’t shove you, you’re just clumsy.”   He gave another shove with the flat of his hand as if to demonstrate the difference.

The boy he was addressing did not retort, just shrank back from the larger child and drew himself together like curtains closing at the end of a bad day.    Mister Hermann glanced from the red haired boy to the teacher in charge who was studiously not noticing the incident.    


The boys and girls clustered round the cabinet and watched the intricate mechanisms inside; the turning wheels and ratcheted inclines, the slopes and circled drains and tubes, and of course the endless rolling and running and climbing spheres in many different colours.

“It’s beautiful,” said the boy, Cooper, in a voice that was as quiet as Mister Hermann expected it would have been.   But not quiet enough.

“So so beautiful,” mocked the red haired boy in a high voice, “Cooper you are such a sissy.”
The teacher was standing nearby but did not hear, or seemed not to.  Mister Hermann heard and he walked closer and past the red haired boy and stood just to one side of the machine.    The child that had been mocked looked like he was about to cry but barely held it in.
“Fussing again?” sneered red-hair, then he saw Mr Hermann looking at him.   And smiling broadly.

Cooper shivered and stepped back as though he’d missed a step though he wasn’t actually moving.  He felt... better and did not know why.   He looked around at his schoolmates.  They were all there, all enthralled by the wonderful device just as he had been.   There was no child with red hair among them... but why had he thought there should be?


The school party moved away after the teacher did a quick head count.   He counted the right number of pupils of course, though that right number was not perhaps what it had been when they had set out that morning.  

When they had gone Mister Hermann crouched down by the side of the cabinet and looked in.    There at the base of the steep mechanical upward incline was a ball of steel, tinted a dull red colour.   Perhaps it was the working of the mechanism beneath it that made it quiver in place for a few seconds after it had rolled into its position.   Perhaps.

“Oh come now,” whispered Mister Hermann in a voice too low and words too unknown for human ears to comprehend, “don’t make such a sissy fuss.”
The ball began the first of its upward journeys, up toward the very top, at the start of its endless progression.


Tuesday, 19 March 2013


(A writing prompt from Write on Edge )

The music in the bar was dreadful.   Manufactured factory pop that lacked any life or enthusiasm, the vocals auto-tuned into sterile blandness that suited the trite lyrics perfectly.   Somewhere in the streets outside a dog was barking furiously and frankly making better music than the juke box.  If I was still in the music business I’d have signed the dog up on the spot and made him a star by the end of the month, seriously (or Siriusly).   

At this point in the evening I couldn’t even remember how long I’d been in the bar.    I’d tipped the cabbie a couple of coins to take me somewhere I could wait and I think he owed me a refund.    Every one of the other patrons was there alone, hunched figures at bar stools or sitting solitary at tables. Their collective silence was deafening.      Each had the hangdog expression of someone drinking to forget.    I threw back the rest of the whisky and swallowed without tasting, wondering if I looked the same to them.  Probably.   Whatever it was I was trying to forget: mission accomplished.    The barman put a full glass in front of me without my asking, without asking for payment.   Nice arrangement.    It had been going on since I’d arrived and I was pleasantly numb from the guilt down.

The door opened letting in a gust of cold air, and the sound of a dog whining outside.  I glanced at the newcomer, a dark haired woman with pale skin, a short dress and an expression that made me look away quickly.   I sighed and took another drink.   The woman came up to the bar and stood next to me, so I drank some more and ignored her.

“No more songs?” she asked. 

“No more anything, I think,” It seemed like a clever response in my mind, but slightly pathetic aloud.     Unsurprisingly she didn’t look impressed.

“I’m taking you home,”

She looked too serious to be trying to pick me up, and her words sounded more like a command than an invitation.  I shook my head.   The bar was lousy, but it was the only place I had now.   Her face softened.

“You don’t know me?”

I shook my head again and finished the glass.   The barman poured another but as I reached for it she dashed it away angrily.

“You wrote a thousand thousand songs for me,” she said, “I’m taking you home.  Get on your feet.”

“I can’t,”

“I’ve come a long way, and there’s a long way back.   Get on your feet.”

The last thing I wanted to do was go anywhere.  I was tired and drunk and… empty.   But there was something in her voice that would not be contradicted.  I pushed myself off the stool and lurched a bit. 

“Alright,” she said, “I’ll lead the way.  Keep me in sight and don’t say a word once we’re outside the bar.  Follow me, alright, whatever happens, whatever you see.”

She turned around and walked to the door of the bar.   The other patrons looked at me blank eyed and then returned to their solitary drinking.     As she opened the door the cold air made me catch my breath, and there was nothing outside but the darkness of a bleak alleyway and the scent of dust and dog.   I stood in the doorway, holding onto the frame with both hands trying to stay upright, stay focussed.

“I know you, don’t I?” I say quietly.

She does not turn around, not yet, but I see her nod.

“What’s your name?”   I know I should know it, but I don’t.

She starts walking away from me, into the darkness.

“Eurydice,” she says.   I leave the bar behind and follow her.

Sunday, 17 March 2013


Half the problem is of course momentum.   Or in this case Nomentum.   Nomentum builds up day by day in the everyday tiredness and stresses of what I laughingly think of as real life.   Poor health, insomnia, a workplace full of stressy stressy moments and a thousand and one other distractions all conspire to sap strength, erode confidence and make me want to spend my spare time in recreation and mindless distraction rather than sit down and write.   Insidious stuff this Nomentum, since it is the sitting down and writing that will give me the fulfilment and self confidence to shake off the other crap that is weighing me down - both in the sense of immediate boosts and gratification of having done something I like doing and know I should be doing, and also in the long term when I actually accomplish my goals.

Nomentum though is there like a cloud, a particularly heavy cloud draping over my shoulders and weighing me down.   It's time to get rid of it though and that will take (heaven forbid) effort.

Lyssa has suggested I sign  up for sites with writing competitions, short story sites and so on.  I've found a couple and may well do it - in the past I've been able to produce some pretty good work on minimal prompts from the most unlikely sources just for the buzz of getting it done and the feedback that follows.   That may well work here too, since activity builds up Momentum which in turn dissipates Nomentum.

At the very least I hope to post here more regularly and may stick up some snippets of writing just to keep myself busy.