Friday 25 November 2011

Friday Flash - A Day in the Life of a Henchman

Eagle-eyed readers may have spotted a peculiar job advertisement among our employment pages several weeks ago. Supervillain Icy Von Doom is currently on a recruitment drive following her recent epic clash with our homegrown hero, Captain Astounding. Despite the heavy casualties sustained by her legion of henchmen, the self-styled Mistress of the Macabre has allowed us access to one of her newest recruits to explain the benefits of a career move into Henchmannery. Philip Thompson, 27, is a former stock broker from Surrey, and is now a trainee Handler in Von Doom’s Creatures Division.

“I’d worked in the City on the trading floor but after a company restructure, I was made redundant. I’d been out of work for six months when I saw the ad. I don’t know what made me apply, but after sending out ten to fifteen applications a day, I thought it was worth a shot. They had me in for an interview the same day, and I was interviewed by Ms Von Doom’s right hand woman, Dr Online. She was really nice. She asked how my work experience made me ideal for a job as a henchman and the minute I said I'd worked for a major hedge fund, she went to fetch Ms Von Doom.

“I had to undergo various fitness tests but they’re nothing strenuous. The mental aptitude tests were fairly easy, though I was a little uneasy when I had to do the swimming exam in a shark tank. Luckily they’d just been fed so they were fairly docile. Ms Von Doom has a real menagerie of animals and I’ve always been pretty good with pets, so they’ve put me on a training program within the Creatures Division.

“My day starts at 7am when I get up, and head to the gym. We all have to train for a minimum of forty minutes before we do anything else. It really gets you pumped up for the day ahead. After training, I go for breakfast with all the other new recruits. The food’s not bad, which is ironic since the poor quality of service station food was one of Ms Von Doom’s first diabolical schemes.

“After breakfast, we all go our separate ways and head to our separate Divisions. Some of the guys in my dorm work in Inventions, and others work in Research and Development. There are a lot of opportunities for progression if anyone notices that you’re any good. Your salary goes up every time you’re promoted, and an extra day’s holiday per year is also added.

“My usual day starts at around 9am, and I muck out the animals first. The Komodo Dragons are a pain – they’re quite friendly but they like to nip, and their bite is poisonous, so you have to remember the Kevlar overalls.  The griffin chicks are my favourite, they’re like balls of golden fluff at the moment, but they’ll be huge when they grow up.

“I spend the day helping the experienced handlers, feeding the creatures and learning how to handle them. Ms Von Doom currently has around twenty species already known to man, but there are five experimental breeds. I’ve already mentioned the griffins, but I’m not keen on the Hydra. The handlers say it’ll behave in time but it seems incapable of following orders. I think the different heads can’t agree with each other.

“The day finishes at 5pm and we all gather in the cinema to watch inspirational films. The current one is Mystery Men – Ms Von Doom is a big fan of Casanova Frankenstein. We usually have our evening meal at around 7pm, and we always start with a two minute silence to honour our fallen comrades. Ms Von Doom knows all of our names and she adds them to the Memorial Wall in the central hall. I don’t think she does it personally but she does order it done.

“We go back to our dorms after the evening meal and we’re expected to study before lights out. Obviously the trainees in the Brute Force Division don’t have much studying to do but they’re not all that bright to start with. We don’t mix with them much so I don’t know what they actually do other than behave like thugs. It’s weird that Ms Von Doom would employ people like that when she’s got such a range of scientific Divisions but it’s not my place to question her methods.

“I’ve been with the Company now for five weeks, and I’ve enjoyed every minute. The other trainees are all great, and the experienced Henchmen are tough, but fair. It’s always sad when a mission goes wrong and one of your friends doesn’t come back, or you get the news that something they’ve tested has backfired, but we all know the risks when we sign the contract. That’s why no one has stopped to question why the benefits package doesn’t include a pension plan.

“Sure, it’s dangerous, and there’s a good chance I won’t reach 30, but I’ve never had so much fun, or felt so valued by an employer. We’re still recruiting, so give it a shot. You never know, you could end up on Ms Von Doom’s personal staff.”

If you’re interested in joining Icy Von Doom’s Company, send your letter of application outlining your experience and salary expectations to

Tuesday 22 November 2011

NaNoWriMo update

It's November 22 and after today, NaNoWriMo participants have just eight days to hit the 50,000 word mark before the 2011 competition comes to a close. Judging by the word counts I've seen on Twitter, a lot of people are cracking along nicely.

Now, I posted a while back about how I was intending to write short stories for my Parrots & Piracy project. I got about 1600 words into the first story, in which Captain Scarlight and Methuselah encounter the dastardly highwaywoman Lizzie Quinn, and then I totally lost interest in what I was doing. Unfortunately, I need to be in the right frame of mind to write my Parrots & Piracy stories and right now, I'm not. Too much has surfaced in the dreaded Real Life and I just haven't been able to fit it in. I know people will cite the importance of a structured writing plan or schedule but sadly things aren't always so cut and dry. So I'm putting the stories to one side until I'm in a better state of mind to work on them.

More importantly though, I've been more concerned with working on the sequel to The Guns of Retribution - I'm more excited about writing that, so my priority has been to get the outline finished. While the first book was a pulp Western about revenge and comeuppance, the second one is more of a supernatural tale that pits Grey O'Donnell against forces more savage than a cruel sheriff. I don't have a title yet but I'll keep you posted as to my progress.

I did a post over on Write Anything about NaNoWriMo and how to defeat the detractors, but what I'm interested in is how is everyone else getting on with their novels?

Monday 21 November 2011

Photo Prompt 60

New prompt available!

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 60th prompt is Nero.

Let sleeping lions lie

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!