Friday 2 December 2011

Friday Flash - Opinion Piece

In recent years, the streets of our fair city have been a battleground in the ongoing fight between Captain Astounding and Icy Von Doom. Last week we ran a feature detailing a Day in the Life of a Henchman after Von Doom granted us access to one of her newest employees, hired following a recent recruitment drive. In the interests of equality, today we hand over the reins of our Opinion Piece column to Captain Astounding, to let our favourite hero have his say about the growing influence of the Von Doom Corporation.

Dear Citizens,

I have battled evil in this city for a little over a decade, fulfilling my sworn duty to fight the good fight on behalf of the decent people who make this place their home. I work tirelessly to combat the malice and mayhem caused by Icy Von Doom, and I will not rest until she has left this city for good. Unlike Von Doom, I do not rely on an army of henchmen, minions and disposable assistants to run my operation. I work solo, confident in my own abilities, and both capable and willing to lay my life on the line for the greater good.

I have read her lies propagated throughout the media, and I read the recent "Day in the Life of" piece with alarm. How easy would it be for the unemployed of this city to fall for the allure of a job, even one with so high a risk, and for such a morally dubious character? To the jobless, or out of luck, please, resist the temptation. Yes, she promises a good salary, a respectable holiday allowance, and career progression. Yes, she offers a range of employment opportunities, tailored to the skills of the individual. But she also offers an early and often painful death, or serious injury. Do you think she will continue to support you as an employer when her hydra tears off your arm, leaving you unable to work?

Can you really look into your soul and tell yourself that you have no qualms about working for the woman responsible for the Great Komodo Dragon Invasion of '09, a terrifying period that saw the deaths of 12,438 people? Need I remind you of the Siren Song Contest, sponsored by the Von Doom Corporation, which saw 813 men leap to their deaths from the City Bridge? Surely you all remember the Army of Furies she unleashed upon the city last year? Parts of the city have never recovered, and it breaks my heart to see the damage caused at the centre of our community.

Icy Von Doom claims that she stands against big business, and that she seeks to further the research goals of technology and science through her Corporation. Yet her Corporation has become big business, pulling in millions through research funds. How can we guarantee that her scientific or technological advances will not be used to bring the entire city under her control, turning us all into mindless minions? I for one will not allow that to happen.

Yet I cannot do this alone. I need to know that you, the hard-working and fair-minded citizens of our metropolis, will not fall, buckle or sway, will not believe the lies and hype, and will not turn themselves over to Icy Von Doom, the greatest threat to our population since cholera.

Stand with me, and good will prevail.

Always your servant,
Captain Astounding

Thursday 1 December 2011

[Book Review] The Adventures of Cash Laramie and Gideon Miles

If you see a book on Amazon with 50 5* reviews, you're expecting a good read. Thankfully, Edward A Grainger knows how to deliver. The first volume of the Adventures of Cash Laramie and Gideon Miles is described as "western noir", and features seven short stories about two deputy U.S. Marshals working in 1880s Wyoming Territory. Cash Laramie is the rebel with a cause, the marshal raised by Arapahos and eager to see justice done, while Gideon Miles is one of the first African American marshals, handy with both blades and firearms.

The stories are extremely well-written, with Melanie and The Bone Orchard Mystery as two of the stand out tales in the collection. As with Under the Sun, Grainger is unafraid to keep his marshals in the sidelines to let other characters take centre stage, and its credit to the strength of his character-building that this even works. Cash is gruff but fair, while Miles is warm and likeable. They're hardly good cop/bad cop, but rather just two partners out to make their world a better place. His world-building is also impeccable, with 1880s Cheyenne leaping from the electronic page with all its sights and sounds.

I know some people will probably pass over these stories saying "I don't like Westerns" but please, put your preconceptions about John Wayne or Clint Eastwood to one side and give them a go anyway. Think of them as short crime stories set in the Old West, or historical noir, but just give them a try before you decide against Westerns!

Five blunt pencils out of five!

You can buy The Adventures of Cash Laramie and Gideon Miles Vol. 1 from Amazon US for a paltry $1.38 or from Amazon UK for 86p!

Wednesday 30 November 2011

End of NaNoWriMo

Hooray, it's now the 30th November, and the official last day of NaNoWriMo. How many words did you write? Did you even compete? If you didn't, so what? It's not compulsory and for many writers, EVERY month is NaNoWriMo. If you did take part, then huzzah! You've now entered a club full of people who are mad enough to devote an entire month to word counts, mad writing scrambles, and a Devil-may-care attitude to writing. It's liberating, in a way, to know that you're just getting the words down, and that the editing won't begin until December.

How many words did I manage? Well as we all know, I started work on my Parrots and Piracy collection to give me something to do since I found myself eager to take part on 31 October. Trouble was, I was in completely the wrong mindset to write the stories, and I gave up after 2000 words. You see, my bounty hunter, Grey O'Donnell, has been tugging at my attention. On Monday night, I did some more work on the outline for my next book, and yesterday I actually started writing one of the early scenes (nope, not the first scene, I'm not writing the initial scenes in order and no, I don't know why that seems like a good idea). I'm really pleased with the reception my pulp Western, The Guns of Retribution, had, and judging by the feedback on Twitter, it seems like there is interest in a sequel. As I've said before, things will take a more supernatural twist in this one, which is making this somewhat more fun to write. Grey is currently taking great delight in making plot suggestions, too.

But am I sad I didn't finish NaNoWriMo? No, not really. I "won" in 2008 and 2010, with my Cavalier ghost story and superhero noir story respectively, so it seems that odd-numbered years just aren't my year when it comes to writing 50,000 words in a month. I always knew it was a long shot so I'm not going to beat myself up about it, especially since I've been spending this month settling into a new job, working on my teaching qualification, and really gearing up to do my PhD (which is coming along swimmingly, by the way). I know a lot of writers always say "Oh but no one REALLY has time to do NaNoWriMo but we MAKE time to do it", and in that case, I'm sorry to disappoint you. Sometimes there just aren't enough hours in the day, and when your heart's not in it, then there's no use in trying to force something to happen.

Monday 28 November 2011

Photo Prompt 61

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 61st prompt is Dolls.

Matryoshka doll

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!