Friday 8 April 2011

Friday Flash - Lost Email

The little email sat in the outbox. He looked up at the big emails either side of him. They stared straight ahead, keen to ignore the little email. They carried Business Documents and Contracts, and considered themselves far too important to talk to him.

The door opened and the big emails shot out of the outbox. The little email watched them race along Connection Street, looking for their destinations. They ignored the turning for Google Avenue, and passed the top of Hotmail Boulevard. The big emails were heading for Private Domain Hills.
The little email patted himself down to make sure he hadn’t forgotten any of his attachments, and toddled out into the street.

He hurried as fast as his little legs would carry him, although he was exhausted from dodging the big emails by the time he reached the sprawling mansion. A burly avatar in a cowboy hat guarded the gate. The little email clambered up onto the pavement, and tottered along the street to the gate.

“Yahooooooooooooo!” said the gatekeeper at no one in particular.

“Excuse me, could you let me through? I have a delivery for kat_biscuits423,” said the little email.

“Yahooooooooooooo!” said the gatekeeper. The avatar didn’t look down at him.

“ that a yes or a no?”

“ Yahooooooooooooo!”

“Never mind.”

The little email sat on the kerb, unsure what to do. He dangled his feet and watched other emails sprint past. Another email stopped in front of the gatekeeper. She held out a zip file of attachments for inspection.

“Sorry, miss, these are too heavy. The weight limit is 10, but these are at least 24. You’re gonna just have to run on home and tell your owner,” said the gatekeeper.

The email sighed, and trudged back the way she had come. The little email stood up, drew himself to his full height, and marched across to the gatekeeper.

“Excuse me?”


“Look, enough of that. I’ve got a delivery to make! kat_biscuits423 is waiting for this cake recipe and knitting pattern!” said the little email. He resisted the urge to stamp his foot.

“Sorry, young ‘un. Didn’t see you there,” said the gatekeeper. He looked down at the little email. “Let’s see....kat_biscuits423 doesn’t seem to have a mail box here. Are you sure you got the address right?”

“Yes - I’m a direct reply to an email from kat_biscuits423,” said the little email.

The gatekeeper fished in his back pocket and pulled out a crumpled sheaf of paper. He smoothed it out, and ran a digit down the printed list.

“Yahooooo!” he cried, pointing at a name. He showed the list to the little email.

“It says here that kat_biscuits423 sent an email to my owner yesterday. That’s what I’m replying to!” said the little email.

“Yes, her outbox is working, but as far as I can tell, there’s no inbox. Well, this is a real pickle. I can’t let you in, but I can’t send you home,” said the gatekeeper.

“Does that mean...?”

“Yep. You’re going to have to wait in Limbo while I figure this out.”

The gatekeeper pointed to a creaking shack across the street. The doors swung open, revealing the darkness inside. The little email quivered in fear. He’d heard about Limbo.

“It’s ok, son. I won’t be long,” said the gatekeeper.

The little email looked up and down the street, waiting for a break in the traffic. He toddled across to the shack. He looked over his shoulder, and the gatekeeper gave him an encouraging smile. The little email gulped, and shuffled inside.

The doors slammed shut behind him. He stifled a sob in the darkness, and felt around in front of him. His fingers found a bench, and he sat down. Whispers echoed in the black emptiness, and the little email felt very small. He fiddled with the attachments, worrying what would happen to them. Kat_biscuits423 wanted the cake recipe for a birthday party, and the knitting pattern was for a present.

Everything will be ruined if I don’t deliver these, he thought. The little email sniffed back tears as he wondered how he could get the attachments to her in time. He wrung his hands, and a fat tear crawled down his face. The little email hurried to wipe it away, afraid it might ruin the pattern or the recipe.

Suddenly, the door opened and light flooded the shack. The little email just had time to see the legions of emails crammed onto benches on either wall before a big hand lifted him out into the street.

“Hey there, little fella. Sorry to keep you waiting,” said the Yahoo gatekeeper.

“Is everything okay now?” asked the little email.

“Sure is. Turns out one of the silly humans accidentally pressed the wrong button on the server so your little lady’s inbox went down. It’s back up now. Do you want to come in?”

The little email beamed up at the gatekeeper. He checked the attachments one last time, before he followed the across the gatekeeper across the street. He smiled as he passed through the gate, happy that kat_biscuits423 would get her attachments after all.

* * *

This flash is written especially for my mother - partly because she had the idea about a little lost email wandering in cyberspace after an email to me went astray, and partly because she's my biggest fan! Happy Belated Mother's Day, Mam!

Thursday 7 April 2011

[Spotlight] The Mythical Creatures Employment Exchange

Doing the rounds for #FridayFlash or #TuesdaySerial never fails to astound me - the sheer volume of good fiction that's being given away for free is astonishing. Of course, it's difficult to know where to begin, so I've decided to plug the stuff I enjoy reading myself. Now, there's a LOT of stuff I enjoy, so if I comment on your work regularly but don't feature you, don't be offended, I'll get to you eventually...

So I'm kicking things off with The Mythical Creatures Employment Exchange by Justin Davies! It started running in November 2010, and is currently up to part 18. It tells the story of the exchange, run by Fiona McAlister and her loyal staff - Alice, fluent in conversing with cephalopods, furry monster Ms Pinky and werewolf Neil. The Exchange gets work for mythical creatures by placing them where they're needed - where else did you think Santa got his elves?

Anyway, Alice is sent on an assignment to Norway to investigate a kraken with the wrong work permits, and ends up getting kidnapped by a shady organisation who want the kraken for their new Nautilus World attraction. It's up to Fiona to assemble a crack rescue squad of harpies, Furies, zombies, poltergeists and many more! The serial also features a griffin that I've come to refer to as "my griffin" since Justin asked for suggestions of mythical creatures to include, and that was mine. Weirdly, he wrote the griffin in before reading my suggestion, so we're possibly psychic twins.

The Mythical Creatures Employment Exchange is billed as "comedy/fantasy" and it does exactly what it says on the tin. It's very funny, full of action, and cracks along at a good pace. It's incredibly inventive, and it reminds me quite a lot of another of my favourite authors, Tom Holt. I can also attest that Justin is a very lovely guy, too! You can follow him on Twitter @flyingscribbler, and you can get started on Chapter One now. Make sure you leave him a comment and tell him Icy sent you.

Tuesday 5 April 2011


I've just had an article posted on Fuel Your Writing about why you might find it difficult to finish a project before you crack on with a new one. If you follow writers on Twitter, or read their blogs, you'll probably see a lot of mentions of "Have new idea for a project! Should I work on that, or stick to WIP?" or something similar.

Finishing a novel, or a short story, or any kind of creative project, requires a certain element of commitment to the project as a whole. The project may need you to spend a long period of time with your attention focussed on that one thing - it's hardly surprising your creative mind starts to wander, and terrified of stagnation, it starts trying to distract you. You're like the Lothario who thought he'd been finally tamed by the buxom brunette from the tavern by the beach, only to find himself eyeing up the local ladies after a few months of passion with his paramour. You want to stay faithful, really, you do, but those new ideas are just so exciting!

I tend to find that when I'm working on one particular project, I'll indulge in short but sweet side projects. So I might be working on a novella or a serial, but I'll still write my weekly Friday flash, or blog posts. They're such small projects that they're hardly projects at all, and doing them means I get to pay scant attention to the smaller ideas while keeping myself focussed on the larger idea of the work in progress.

Having said that, the Fuel Your Writing post does contain one particular point that comes from extremely personal experience. That point is the third reason why people may find it difficult to finish a project.

I'm scared. If I never finish writing it, or I never make all of the changes to the draft, then it'll always have the potential to be amazing. If I do finish it, then it loses that potential and just becomes a 'thing' I've done. It might not live up to expectation.

As some of you may know, lately I've been working on a novella, The Guns of Retribution. It's a Western, and clocks in a couple of hundred words shy of 30,000. I've had my trusted and highly valued beta readers give it the once over, and now I've made my changes based on their feedback, I'm pretty pleased with it. Having said that, for the few days before I actually finished it, I kept finding reasons not to make the changes. I told myself I "didn't want to ruin it" but when I really stopped to think about it, I realised that I didn't want to finish it. The moment I did, it wouldn't be a "work in progress" with the potential to be the book I had in my head. It would be done (or as done as it can be until I get feedback from "higher up").

What a stupid way of looking at it! Rather than being grateful for being able to tell the story, and excited by the prospect of having it finished and getting it out there, I was worried that it would fall short of both my expectations, and everyone else's. I was sabotaging my own efforts! Of course, with the novella as a work in progress, any flaws can be smoothed out, and I can always tell myself it can be improved. With my novella finished, I have to stand behind it and say "Yes, I did this."

Well you know what? I do stand behind it, and I'm damn proud to say I did it.

Monday 4 April 2011

Photo Prompt 27

Twenty-seventh prompt, ready and waiting.

If you want to use the prompt, all I ask is that you include a link to this entry and a credit to me for the photograph, and that you post a link to your story in the comments box below so I can see what you've come up with! If you don't comment on this entry, then I can't comment on your story.

The twenty-seventh prompt is Crypt.

Ring of Crypts

All photo prompts are my own photography - you can find more of it on Flickr. You can also buy my prints from Deviantart. 20% of all proceeds go to charity - the other 80% go towards my PhD fees!