Writing Exercise – Guess who?

A family stands before you, five in number, all with black hair and pear shaped bodies.
A father, tallest of the lot, bears a moustache and a styled hairdo hiding a bald spot. He wears a white apron over a white t-shirt and grey trousers. He’s a hard working chef, owns his own restaurant and talks to his food.
A mother, wearing red glasses and matching long-sleeved top, with blue trousers. She has a love of singing and porcelain babies.
The eldest daughter has glasses but her’s are black, she has a yellow clip holding some of her hair from her face, her hair lies in a bob covering her ears. A blue t-shirt and darker blue skirt are her regular clothes. She pulls up her white socks high on her legs. Horses, boys and zombies are her favourite things.
The middle child is an outgoing boy, he wears a yellow t-shirt and light blue shorts. He is often seen with a small electronic keyboard upon which he likes to record and play fart sounds.
The last member of the family, a young girl with a green dress and a pink hat with bunny ears. She has a strong sense of herself and is the smartest of the bunch.
They stand together, each different but they are always a family.

Do you know this family? It’s a TV family. This was a fun little exercise. I’m doing so many notes lately (in prep for NaNoWriMo) that I rush over details. I think I’ve done so in this, too, but practise makes perfect!

StarFight: Chronicles – Part One – Awaken To Dust

Neko’s eyes flickered open and she squinted as several red lights blinking angrily at her. She could hear nothing but a dull buzz in her ears; she quickly surveyed the information panel of the emergency Lifecapsule she found herself in.

Well that’s a surprise, I’m alive.

The red lights indicated that a number of systems inside the ship were destroyed or broken in some way, but Neko could feel no acceleration, so she assumed the ship must have landed somewhere on the dust-ball of a planet she’d been scanning. Time to think; the Lifecapsule wouldn’t release her until it knew she was safe, so either she would have to wait until the emergency sensors completed their sweep, or she would have to override the controls and just take the chance.

She reached up tentatively to the console and accessed her vitals; the fact that she wasn’t feeling any pain could be misleading, her Lifecapsule would have shot her full of drugs pre-emptively, but sure enough she was pretty much fine: two bones in her left hand were fractured and she was massively bruised on her left side but there was no internal bleeding, no dislocation and no nerve damage. She accessed the emergency sensors and the sweep was stuck on 60 percent; the node must have been damaged, but she knew from her earlier orbital scans that the planet was breathable and the surface gravity was almost one gee.

Nothing for it.

She punched in the override code, every button press was followed by a visual and auditory warning, but with a whine and a pop, the explosive bolts fired and the door flew away, smashing into the far bulkhead and going no further; strong magnets in the door held it firm.

She pushed herself forward and took a sluggish step into the cabin. Her body felt heavy due to painkillers but her mind was sharp enough. She needed to know if the computer was still working; it was dark in the ship, she reached for her mag light but felt only bare thigh, she had forgotten that the Lifecapsule tore every scrap of cloth from anyone inside, to easily access the patient. No problem, her spare was in a compartment on the opposite wall.

Which is now magnetically sealed behind the capsule’s door.

Neko groaned and felt her way towards what she hoped was the cockpit, her night vision was beginning to kick in, but it didn’t have a lot to work with; windows in spaceships are a luxury this model did not possess. Neko cursed her sluggish footsteps as she thunked into a wall, her hands ran over the metallic surface and her finger found a long groove, she pushed hard and after a second the mag-lock released and the door to the cockpit slid open with a grinding noise.

That didn’t sound good.

Red light washed over her as she stepped inside and surveying the scene, she was glad to find it was more or less intact; two bulkheads looked to have buckled slightly, causing control panels and storage compartments alike to burst open, strewing cables, clothes and food all over. Neko waded her way through the morass before her stomach jabbed her mind and she knelt to pick up a ration pack before continuing on.

Neko practically fell into her flight chair, the painkillers seemed to be wearing off and she started to feel like she’d been beaten with an angry stick. Reaching forward she keyed in her passcode before tearing into the ration pack and waiting for the bootup sequence to finish. She was chewing on what seemed to be some dried meat analogue when the computer made a happy sound and the screen flashed up.

Neko made a low whistle as fifty two errors pulsed politely in the top left corner of the screen, she filed through them: Engines, weapons, navigation, most of the sensors, peripheral systems and all but two external cameras were dead. She accessed the functional cameras, the first showed blackness and the next showed her surroundings.

It looked as if she’d crashed belly first into some kind of muddy lake, she swivelled the camera, it would only turn sixty degrees or so but on the edge of it’s vision she could see some sort of thick vegetation. Okay, not such a dust-ball after all. The small yellow sun shone harshly down onto the now drying mud that had piled up in front of the craft. With the realisation that she was in no immediate danger, she slouched back and took another bite of the meat stick while idly keying a few buttons.

Ofcourse the air conditioning is broken.

The ambient temperature prediction was 96 degrees in the next 6 hours due to the sun’s oppressive rays. She was going to boil alive in her own ship unless she got out soon.; at least it looked as if the fission cells were operational, she had years of power if she needed it.

I really hope I don’t.

To be continued! This has been part one of the first chapter of my scifi epic – Starfight: Chronicles. I’ve been working on the setting for quite a few years and I’m happy to finally present it publicly. I’ll be posting more soon!

A Roller Coaster of a Week

This week has been a stressful one.
A couple of setbacks early in the week had us down for a few days, which brought other lows such as too much junk food. But after a stern talk, we have agreed to get back on track and not let it get out of hand.
It wasn’t all bad though, there were highs, and the highest was John getting offered a new job! We are really excited about the prospects it’ll bring. It’s going to be hard for the next couple of months, with stresses of new routines and upsets.
It’s scary and exciting. I struggle with changes in circumstance and with the uncertainty which comes with the changes. At the same time I know that John can do great in he new position, so I’m a see-saw. I know that good things will happen due to these events.
Writing has, unfortunately, fallen by the wayside for this week. Another thing that caused me some stress, but I was still working out ideas and world stuff in my head. So I’m putting in the hours today, and I’m back to my routine.
Right now there is a bearded dragon running around my feet and he needs a snug before I sink back into my world!

Have a wonderful day!

Presenting: Furlands

Furlands is my spin on an old idea – namely that there exists a world of roughly middle ages/renaissance technology level; with all the politics, religious fervour and personal strife which this might entail, but all the people are rodents. This idea was inspired by works like Redwall and Wind In The Willows, both of which I love, but I wanted to take a more strict take on the idea in terms of worldbuildng – really, this is more of a worldbuilding task than anything else; I really wanted to explore the idea of this kind of world, where different species of humanoid rodent vie for supremacy in the same way that humans might.

This presents a number of challenges, which, the more I thought about them, the more they intrigued me. Conisder, for instance, what it means for things like the idea of xenophobia or racism; in a world where there are many distinct species which cannot interbreed. There would be more of a focus on ones own culture, because cultures would be heavily influenced by the species’ habits; mice are nocturnal whereas rats are not, so mouse society would be more active at night and every different species would be faced with the idea that you cannot simply merge your culture with another, because even if rats wanted to integrate mice, both species still need only themselves to procreate, which changes politics dramatically over generations.

One thing I wanted to maintain is to code each species that I presented in my world with the sort of cultures from which they come geographically on earth; so my rats are scandanavian/western european, voles present as japanese, there are also Tanuki, which present as huge, 12 foot tall mountain people and many many more. There are lots of little rules that I want to figure out and maintain as a nod to all the little habits and features of those species, with some being vegetarian and others obligate carnivores, so their cultures reflect these virtues.

It is an interesting challenge, also in part because I don’t want this to innately be a young adult or children’s setting – I want it to be gritty and full of intrigue.

I have already published two parts of a short piece inspired by one of Emma’s ideas; The Fall Of The Hamurai – the story of the last days of a society started to unite many different species on an island which is my analogue of Japan. I also think my entry into NaNoWriMo will be based in this world.

Stay tuned as I dive deeper into this setting, hopefully I’ll get the time to build the central myths and go more into the unique politics of the various regions and species.

Thanks for reading!

John.

P.S. Here is the link to part 1 of the piece mentioned above:

https://steadmansociety.com/2019/08/05/the-fall-of-the-hamurai-part-1-blossoms-in-the-wind/

The Observer

Banner looked up at the wall before him, shifting his bag to a better position on his back. He held a hand over his eyes to stop the rising sun from blinding him as he tried to find the handholds he had been told about. The wall around the park was three times his height, made of yellowing white stone. The gate would have been the easier way in, as shown by the stream of well dressed people heading through them. But, for that you would have had to been invited to the event. And Banner would never be invited to such a thing.
After moments he saw the protrusions of the holds, it would be a tough climb, but he wanted on top of the wall. He glanced around him, noting that no one even bothered to look around, not even the guards stationed at the gates. One even looked like he was nodding off, leaning upon his spear, the warming air of the summer morning lulling him to sleep.
Good, thought Banner as he leapt to grab the first handhold, this should be easy.
He scampered up the wall, hands only slipping twice, each time sending his heart galloping inside his chest. It was only the work of moments but the strain created buckets of sweat and his muddied shirt clung to him, his long hair sticking to the sides of his face. But he was up! He took a moment to admire the view.
Tall, bushy trees lined smooth stone paths winding in many directions. A large softly undulating lawn stretched out near the gate, people were spreading blankets on the grass, jostling for good positions in front of a low wooden stage.
Banner walked carefully further around the wall so that he had a better view of the stage, then he sat down, legs dangling over the edge. He placed the bag on his back next to him and rooted around in it. He brought out a flask of water and a hunk of cheese.
Down below things were getting started. The sea of brightly coloured clothes calmed and a figure walked on to the stage.
The long figure was dressed in all black, a tall hat rested between two long sharp horns.
“Ladies and Gentlemen, and the random man on the wall.” They bowed, swiping the hat and almost folding in two, long brown hair falling forward.
Banner dribbled water down his front as the figure mentioned him. He scanned the crowd, looking for the guards. But the crowd was laughing, no one looked up, the guards were not even inside the park. He leaned back and peeked at the gate, no one was near. His heart slowed back down.
“My name is Trimble and today, I have something special for you.”
Trimble straightened and threw out their arms and flower petals poured from the sky. Banner watched as below him the crowd was covered in red petals. Then something tickled his head and he noticed that petals were falling on him. He picked up one that had fallen on his knee. It was soft and smelled wonderfully of berries.
“Let’s get on with the show!” Trimble spun and the black clothes changed to bright green.
It’s going to be a wonderful day, Banner thought to himself, and took a large bite out of his cheese.

***

I have no idea if this makes sense! I had an idea and then I’ve had a bad headache for the last two days. But my schedule must be upheld, so I hope this was at least readable!

A Look Outside Our Window

Outside our flat is a roof area which is inaccessible (we live 4 stories up). Well, to us it’s inaccessible but to birds it’s a paradise of protection. After it rains there are puddles of water for them to get a safe drink, moss grows around the edges and in bright green patches here and there encouraging insects for them to nibble. Since it’s high up, next to some trees and a train track, its safe from cats and other predators.
Along the row of flats an old man throws out seeds from his window in the morning, pigeons flock to him. My favourite type: the Wood Pigeon, amongst them.
Wood Pigeons are elegant birds. I call them dusky roses due to the colour of their chests. They coo in the mornings sounding like cats purring, calling from the trees, a pleasant alarm clock.
We’ve been lucky enough to be able to observe them from our windows, in doing so we’ve seen many behaviours and differences between birds. As well as dusky roses we have Rock Doves (which I call sparkle necks, due to their sparkly necks) and they behave differently.
In mating the male dusky roses bow to females, beak to the ground and tail swooped up high. Hops bring them closer to their quarry, more bowing and more hops and often a chase in flight. The sparkle necks do what we call lion-pigeoning, which is poofing up their chests, spinning around the female, chasing them around.
The fights of the dusky roses reminds me of old fashioned duels. They square up next to one another, head bobs indicate readiness and then the waps begin. Short jabs, wide wing flaps and the winner coos loudly, shouting his victory from the rooftop, the defeated bird flies away; head low.
In the summer we have seagulls as well and, though they can be annoying, their laughing call makes me smile every time.
Seeing birds grooming, lying down relaxing in the sun, going about their life is a treat and something very special. I don’t think many people get the opportunity to see birds doing what birds do away from the world. But if you do get the chance, I highly recommend sitting with a cup of tea and watching them for an hour, you’ll be surprised at the personalities that emerge.

Games Design And I

I’ve been a gamer for as long as I can remember. When you’re into games, every now and again you stop and think about designing games yourself. There’s a thrill that comes from the idea that you could make a game that people would play, especially considering the fact that you yourself understand intimately the joy that this brings. Myself being a huge pen and paper RPG player, I’ve always wanted to design a roleplaying game and a few times in my life I have attempted to do this, either with friends or on my own.

Each of these attempts have met with failure, for a variety of reasons. Chiefly of which is that being an adult is hard. With every project I have attempted in the past, I became busy and eventually it petered out; it’s sad, but I’ve come to just see it as a function of the process. The time has to be right. For any project to get out of the early stages and for every stage after that, the stars have to consistently line up, you have to keep just working away little by little until you achieve enough to call the project complete. That has never happened to me yet, but I know one day it will.

So this writing project is part of that and this article is a small commitment to that idea; that one day I will make a game, because for me, games are the ultimate in creative human interaction – you are using manufactured constraints to build action and excitement that is unique every time those constraints are imposed. Gaming is so amazing because more than mediums like books or films, the person engaging with the work itself is a key part of the experience, so their personality becomes a part of the legacy of that work. It’s amazing.

I want to make a game, and one day you may see a little demo pop up on here, and maybe one day I’ll even see it played by others. Until then, I’ll continue plugging away at the keyboard. Take care.

P.S. I have been very ill this week, so sorry for the short, rambly piece.

A Mysterious Egg – Part Three

Rain battered on the windows and thatched roof of Rafie’s cottage as she pondered the egg. The fire roared next to them, throwing out warmth into the room. She ran her a finger over the split in the yellow shell, hesitantly touching the green shoot. Its waxy bud cold to the touch. Peering inside she could see a web of roots and dark soil.
“Am I supposed to plant you? Or will you change yet again?” Rafie spoke aloud to the egg but directing her thoughts to Lady Time, however she knew she was much too far away for an answer. “I think we need to head back out.”
She leapt to her feet, quickly changed into dry clothes, grabbed her cloak and gloves, and got the basket ready for the egg. She grabbed an oil cloth to protect the delicate shoot. Once the egg was safely bundled and protected she stepped outside.
Rain battered the ground, it bounced off leaves and her hood. The night was dark but Rafie knew the way, she hurried into the forest, weaving her way through the trees, keeping a grip on the basket and the edges of her cloak.
Dark shapes in the darker shadows drifted about, hunting, fleeing, enjoying the night. There was an odd note in the chorus of the night, something off. Rafie slowed her pace, unable to pin down the cause. She toyed with the ends of her gloves, but decided against dawdling, Lady Time would know what was wrong.
She arrived at the clearing and stopped in her tracks. Lady Time was drooping, her bark was much lighter and leaves were piled up around her trunk. Rafie rushed over, stripping of her gloves and placing both hands on her trunk, the basket swinging in the crook of her elbow.
“Lady Time, what’s going on?” Her words rushed out, eyes tight shut in concentration.
“This is my forest now.” The voice came from behind.
Rafie turned her head, without moving her hands from the struggling tree. Stood between trees was a towering, slimy creature with a huge horned lizard-like head above a morphing shadowy body. Blue eyes burned in its dark grey face.
Her stomach recoiled at the smell of the creature, it was death, stinking and sweet.
“You can’t help her. She will submit to me or die.” The creature blinked slowly, “As will all the trees.”
“What do you want?” Rafie probed Lady Time, trying to find her, her presence was so faint but she was somewhere.
“This forest.” The creature turned and began to move away before adding, over it’s shoulder, “Please leave my forest, I have no need for a gardener.”
“You can’t-“
Stop Rafie, Lady Time shouted in her mind.
The creature didn’t stop, it disappeared into the shadows. “I can.”
“What can I do?” Rafie focused back on Lady Time.
Images flooded her mind, the egg, a large tree in the middle of many saplings, Rafie watching over the growth, Lady Time dying and the egg again.
“Is this egg a new tree?”
You must leave, move far away and plant the next Lady Time, she must be safe. This is the task for which I brought you here. Lady Time had never spoken this directly, and it was clear it was the end for this millennia old tree.
“I’m sorry I can’t save you.”
The images of green shoots and withered plants.
“Still, I will miss you.”
And I will miss you, my child. But the next Lady Time will be lucky to have you. Leave now, before the creature senses the sapling.
Rafie reluctantly removed her hands, tears pooling in her eyes, the death of this forest was a tragedy, it would change the whole plain. She had to tell the village, they might be able to get a Servant, or maybe even Mavel herself, to deal with the creature. But Rafie had her task, Lady Time could not be saved so she must make sure that the next generation would prosper, the beautiful tree would have her dying wish. Rafie left that very night, stole away with what little she needed for the journey, the quest to find a new home for her and her sapling.

The End (for now).

Thank you so much for reading along with this story. What started as practise has become a story of which I am very proud, which fits into my world and has left me with a characters I can’t wait to include in other stories. I would like to continue Rafie’s adventures but I think a break is needed. However, there will be plenty of other stories and writings in the meantime. Have a great day!

Meeting Emelia – Character Study

I am currently quite ill, so today I’m going to show you the first quarter of the first chapter of a project I started last year. This opening basically goes into some detail about the life and feelings of a 13 year old girl named Emelia. She goes on to have some interesting adventures, but right now you’ll just get to know her. Thanks for reading!

Emilia sat cross legged on her bed. It was morning. She rubbed the sleep from her eyes and looked around; boxes were piled all around the strange room she was now supposed to call her own. Emilia’s parents traveled all over the country and sometimes overseas for their work. At the age of thirteen, Emilia had moved home six times, every time her parents bought a big house, let her pick her own room and gave her everything she could want. But the only thing they couldn’t give her, which Emilia wanted the most, was a friend.

They had tried their best for Emilia; her mother was allergic to dogs, her father to cats so they had gotten her a Bearded Dragon named Archimedes. Emilia hated him at first. He did nothing but sit there in a big cabinet, under a hot, bright bulb that hurt her eyes, and he ate worms and smelled like the zoo, so Emelia ignored him, only coming round to his cabinet to feed him with long blue tweezers or laboriously remove his heavy tiles and wash the corners of his dusty, dry home.

One day while Emilia was cleaning out his tank, she saw that he was huddled in a corner, looking very sorry for himself. She carefully grabbed him out and saw that he had laid a clutch of eggs! He was a she! But Archimedes looked dark and ill and her legs wouldn’t work properly, So Emilia quickly told her parents and made a hot water bottle to keep Archimedes warm, before they rushed to the vet to see what was wrong. The little spiky lizard had clutched onto Emilia so tightly that through her worried tears she promised to never to ignore her or say anything bad about her again.

Waiting in the vet’s was one of the worst times of Emilia’s life. Her mum hadn’t let her talk to the vet after Archimedes had gone in, just like every other time she had felt an important decision had been made, Emilia wasn’t there. Her mum just said that her lizard was very ill and the vet needed to operate on her, before sitting next to Emilia, diligently checking her watch every five minutes and texting on her phone. Emilia’s eyes had never been so red or puffy, and she had never cried for a longer time. Hours passed and her mum had to leave. Emilia’s dad arrived at the vets as it was getting dark. All she wanted was a hug, but neither of her parents were ever very good at stuff like that, he just said that he was sorry and that maybe getting her such a strange pet was a bad idea. Emilia never hated him more than in that moment and it echoed in her words.

“You never asked me. You never let me read about them; you just got her for me one day. You got me work, dad, not a pet.”

Her dad looked incredulous for a second before remembering the situation. He looked around nervously.

“Well. You could give him away after he’s better if you want. We just thought we were doing the right thing.”

Emilia looked up at him and smiled ruefully.

“She’s a girl. I found that out today. I’ve had her for three months and I never knew, and now she could die because I was too angry at you and mum to care for her when she needed me. No, I’ll keep her. I owe her that.”

Her dad looked confused, but realising that his daughter wasn’t so cross any more, he sat next to Emelia, put his arm around her shoulder and squeezed. Emilia’s arms flew out and for a few stiff moments they hugged in the green-walled vet’s waiting room before her father cleared his throat and stood.

“I’ll go and see if I can find anything out.” he said, before walking around the corner towards the other rooms, leaving her alone again.

Archimedes didn’t die. The vet came out and started speaking to Emilia’s father, who, to her surprise, directed the vet over to her. The vet explained that Archimedes had gotten one of her eggs stuck, and that he got it out. She would be fine, but needed to rest for a few days before she could take her home. On the car journey back, Emilia had detailed to her father all the things she would need for Archimedes and he silently nodded his approval. Three days later the little lizard was presented to her, wrapped in a blanket covered in unicorns, looking groggy and dark. Emilia carefully laid the soft creature on her chest and hugged her gently, promising to make it up to her.

That was a year ago. Now as Emilia sat quite content on her bed, surrounded by boxes, Archimedes lay on the windowsill; all wrapped in that unicorn blanket atop a hot-water bottle, bathing in the sun and looking suspiciously out onto the street below.

Full Moon Ritual

“It’s time.” said Denay with a smile. Her eyes grazed the rising moon, full and watchful; the lake, still and deep. She slid into the water, its icy chill harsh against her naked skin. She stopped as the water crept up to her waist and turned to her friend.
“I cannot believe that you’re trying this.” Atter shook his head. He tightened his grip on the blanket around his slight shoulders, scooting his bum closer to the small fire they had built in their makeshift camp. “You are going to freeze!”
“I won’t. Gerargis will protect me.”
Atter shook his head again but passed her the bag of supplies. Denay knew his feelings on her experimentation, even if she did not understand them.
Slowly Denay made her way further into the lake, towing the bag alongside. Once her feet could not longer feel the bottom and she felt nothing but water around her Denay set about creating her altar. Carefully she opened the bag, spread it out over the water, moving the items within as to allow it still to float. A box of salt, a shard of red glass, a green leaf and an apple.
Once everthing was steady on the oil cloth Denay eased herself back, giving her room to swim and float.
She felt the giddy bubbling of success in her stomach, but damped it down, this was only the beginning. The altar bobbed as she shifted in the water, floating on her back and staring at the black sky. The moon was almost directly above her, time enough to ready herself.
Denay’s breath came slower, deepened, eyes drooped half closed, sounds grew louder, water became warmer. Her gaze turned inwards, seeking the barriers within, seeking with eager hands to unlock them. Through practise she had become a locksmith of herself and it took the work of mere moments to open herself to the magic of the world. The sounds and feelings of the physical world were dulled, Denay now felt the magic pouring from all around her, the water was a tingle, the air as painless sharp pins. The moon a loud roar above her. The items on her altar called to her, aiding and urging her on with her purpose. The brightness of the full moon dazzled her, filling her with importance. She righted herself in the water, easing to tread water in front of the altar.
“My intent is to change this apple into glass.” She held up the apple in both hands, raising it into the light of the moon. She returned the apple to the altar, picked up the glass in her right hand, and stared into the shard. More deep breaths, pulling magic through her and forging it in her intent. With her left hand she sprinkled a pinch of salt over the leaf and returned to lay her hand over the apple.
For a long moment she concentrated, focusing the magic and her intent. The leaf shrivelled, the salt bubbled upon its surface, the shard began to glow and become hot. The apple was becoming as ice beneath her palm, and all through she kept the glass apple in her mind, forcing the magic into the shape she desired.
With a last searingly bright burst the glass was gone, Denay lifted her left hand unveiling the newly made glass apple. It was more beautiful that she had imagined. Transparant red glass, with several black seeds hovering in the centre, it cast a sparkling shadow upon the altar; it had a small glass stem, complete with a delicate green leaf. She whooped and spun in the water, causing the altar to almost upturn. She grabbed her apple in time, calming herself.
“Thank you, Moon.” A nod to the bright white orb. “Thank you for your guidance Gerargis. Even though this is not your ocean I sense your care and your power.” She took the time to close the barriers within her, sending what magic remained to her Guardian in respect and graciousness.
Once she was grounded again, the physical world came back, she was safe to pack her things and head back to shore, to show Atter the fruit of her labour as he merely looked on, his eyes as wide and bright as the moon above.

**

This small snippet is set in my world. A little insight to show a bit about my magic and how things in the world work. It was a lot of fun to write! I hope you enjoyed and stay tuned, I’m sure there will be many such pieces in the future.