Coffee Break Read – Honour and Happiness

Nothing was said as they were riding back until a short way from his house, Zarengor reined in sharply, bringing his pony in front of Ralik’s and forcing him to stop.
“Gods, I am sorry Ralik. You should not have had to do that.”
Ralik said nothing. It was true. He should not. Zarengor cursed and turned his pony back to the street. They rode on in silence for a while before the other man spoke again.
“I do not know what I am supposed to have done. These people seem to want to find me a monster.”
“You think it is nothing of your own making?” Ralik was unable to keep silent at that.
He found it unbelievable that Zarengor should think he owned no responsibility for the reactions he provoked in others.
“I know what I have done elsewhere. Well, what I am believed to have done elsewhere, but I have done nothing to harm so much as the fingernail of any Harkeran. I am here to fight their war with them and I will do so and win it for them too if we have even the most leisurely break of good fortune. You would think they might have some sense of that.”
Ralik moved to ride alongside him. It was strange to him to see this side of the man whose strength and self-confidence had once been more than an inspiration for him. It made him question again what he had been doing in Harkera.
“Why should they be grateful to you? They do not know you except by reputation. Perhaps when you have won their war they will be grateful.”
Zarengor looked into the gathering darkness and shook his head.
“Maybe. And maybe they will suddenly find me inconvenient, an embarrassment, something best put away as quickly and quietly as possible. Or am I getting too cynical?” He sighed slightly. “Tell me, Ralik, have you ever known happiness?”
Ralik’s thoughts instantly filled with a beautiful face whose storm-grey eyes held a depth of emotion he had never inspired in any one before.
“I think so. But what man can ever call himself truly happy? The gods may take all we have in a moment,” he spoke quietly, but with conviction.
“Then perhaps happiness is not the goal, just a fleeting side-effect of other events in life. Perhaps the goal is something altogether more straightforward.” Zarengor fell silent a moment and the sounds of the evening streets closed in: a shout of laughter, a woman shrieking, a child crying, two dogs fighting. “What really matters to you Ralik? What do you steer your life by? What principle or creed governs your direction?”
The questions took Ralik by surprise. They were not the kind of questions one fighting man asked of another and they were questions he suspected that the Vavasor in a sober state would never have asked of him. He was tempted to say nothing, to let the moment pass. But, for some reason, the questions had touched upon the disturbing thoughts and events in his own life in recent days and he found himself considering them almost without meaning to do so.
“Honour,” he said stoically. It was the answer he would have given in all honesty until a few moons ago. But now? Well, now he knew there was something he held higher than honour, although he was not sure he could admit it to anyone else and he would still never forsake honour lightly.
“Oh yes, honour,” Zarengor said and sounded weary of the word. “We were brought up with it as our wet-nurse’s milk, you and I. Honour for ourselves, our families, our lord, our clan, our city – a desolate field is honour. Can it put food in the mouths of the hungry? Can it heal the wounds of the injured? Can it make Castellans strong and merchants wealthy? We make whores of ourselves for honour.”
Ralik was shocked.
“Without honour, what is a man?” It was the creed he had been born to and Ralik could recite its catechism as well as any other nobleman from the north. Zarengor looked at him directly for the first time in the conversation.
“I am not sure, Ralik, but I am beginning to think that without honour a man becomes something more. That without honour, he is free to choose the best way to live.”
“Then perhaps that would be a new way of honour,” Ralik suggested.
“Or perhaps it would be a new way of living.”
Nothing more was said until they dismounted at Zarengor’s house, a small but well-appointed courtyard residence in the wealthiest quarter of the city, close beside the residence of Ralik’s own Castellan. He had taken this house after the attempt on his life for greater security. The Vavasor threw the reins to the hands of a stable lad and strode towards the house.
“I am not to be disturbed,” he informed the guard at the door, then paused and turned to say briefly: “Good-night Ralik, I will not keep you up on my account any longer tonight – and thank you.”

From Times of Change the second volume of Transgressor Trilogy, a Fortune’s Fools book by E.M. Swift-Hook. You can listen to this on YouTube.

Nursery Rhymes for the Third Age – 5

A selection of rhymes by Jane Jago, made age appropriate for those for whom their second childhood is just around the corner…

Twinkle, Twinkle on the Telly

Twinkle, twinkle on the telly
Someone who lost all their belly
A girl whose life’s no longer sweet
Even if she can now see her feet
Twinkle, twinkle drown your sorrow
You’ll be fat again tomorrow.

You can find this, and other whimsical takes of life in On The Throne? a little book of contemplation from Jane Jago.

The Sam Kates Interview – Part 1: Earth Haven

The Cleansing by Sam Kates is the first part of his series Earth Haven.

Seven billion people inhabit this planet in blissful ignorance of imminent annihilation. Destruction comes, not from meteors or nuclear holocaust, but from a source no one even knows exists.
A handful of survivors—traumatised, bewildered—must come to terms with the new reality. And quickly. For the Cleansing is only the beginning . . .

The message washed over her like a cold wave. She gasped and sank back into the armchair, which groaned beneath her bulk. She closed her eyes and saw the images, still so familiar to her after all this time: ebony spires and minarets and monoliths, great glass domes peering from the constantly shifting dunes, pyramids and ziggurats, obelisks and amphitheatres, and endless deserts of dark sands gleaming faintly in the baleful light of a dying sun.
She gasped again when she saw the craft: vaster than a mountain range, blacker than night, sleeker than an otter’s hide. It was emerging from the desert floor, the sands boiling and parting; she could almost hear the slithering sound the sand made as it cascaded off the smooth sides of the craft.
Her jaw set into a determined line and she opened her eyes. At last, they were coming.
It was time for her to send a message of her own.
The armchair creaked and complained, then sighed as she pulled herself upright. From habit—there was nobody before whom she had to make herself presentable—she smoothed down her housecoat and walked in a rolling gait across the apartment to the work station upon which stood her computer.
She eased herself into the chair that she’d had custom made; it supported her weight without so much as a creak. The work station stood before a picture window that looked out over Central Park. While she waited for the computer to boot up, she stared down at the people braving the December cold. Couples strolled beneath the weak morning sun, muffled and gloved and hooded against the biting winter breeze. Long-coated businessmen strode purposefully, clutching briefcases or portfolios, intent on reaching the cosy sanctuaries of their plush offices on Fifth or Madison. The occasional fitness enthusiast in jogging bottoms and sweat shirt bounded by. A chattering kindergarten class snaked along the paths, the children in woolly hats and gloves, the cold failing to douse their excitement at the field trip.
She watched this snapshot of humanity and for a moment, only a moment, felt a pang of sorrow. Her broad brow wrinkled into a frown and she shook her head to clear it. This was no time for regrets.
Returning her attention to the computer, she opened her e-mail application. The message had already been written. It had sat in her drafts folder for years, since she had first decided that e-mail would be a far simpler, relatively effortless way to spread the word. Of course, not every intended recipient of the message would have e-mail access. Even with today’s blanket coverage, some remote corners of the globe were out of reach or were blocked from communication with the outside world by isolationist governments. She had another method of reaching them; a method that would cost her a great deal of mental energy, but she was prepared. She had been prepared for many years.
She opened the message from the drafts folder. It was simple, only four short sentences: They are coming. Begin immediately. Mercy is not an option. Acknowledge.
The e-mail was set up to be sent to almost five thousand addresses, addresses that she had painstakingly kept up to date.
Her right hand clutched the mouse, moving the cursor over the send button. Her index finger hovered over the left-click button of the mouse while she hesitated.
She allowed herself one more glance out of the window, at the people moving through the Park, and was powerless to prevent a profound look of sadness from moving across her face like a dark shadow.
Again she shook herself and her features hardened. Looking back at the computer screen, she pressed the send button.
Mankind’s fate was thus sealed by the click of a mouse.

A First Bite of… Sam Kates

Q.1 Do you see writing as an escape from the sorrows of existence, an exercise in futility, or an excuse to tell lies and get paid for it? Or is there another option…?
All the above, and more: it’s an effective release valve, a great way to silence the voices. No, I don’t hear voices in the get-me-into-a-straitjacket-and-quickly sort of way. It’s more the clamour of characters in as-yet untold tales. The best way to stop hearing them is to write their stories.

Q.2 Hero or villain – which is the more interesting to write?
Either. Both. I find a person’s motivations for acting heroically as interesting as someone else’s for acting in a dastardly fashion, the bounder.

Q.3 How much of you is in your characters?
I believe it virtually impossible for any writer of fiction not to occasionally imbue a character with one or more of their own characteristics. It might be as simple as liking the same chocolate bar, or be more complex, like sharing the same political persuasions. Undoubtedly I have done this on occasion. Sometimes I have given a character a trait that I don’t possess in abundance, but wish I did. Courage, for instance. Some of my characters act far more bravely than I think I could if I found myself in the same situation.

Q.4 Having created a fictional world for your novels, is there any moment in the process where you find your brain inhabiting that place?
Pretty much every moment. Isn’t that true for every fiction writer? It’s how I write: I mentally go to wherever the action is taking place and describe what I see and feel, and report on what the characters are doing.

Q.5 Is it important to include all shades of belief and sexual orientation in a book?
Life is made up of a variety of beliefs and sexual orientations. If a writer is writing about life—and, when you boil it right down, who amongst us isn’t?—then they ought to be as inclusive as the story allows if they want to reflect real life. I say ‘as the story allows’ because I strongly believe that story is everything. I’m not one to include a character who, say, holds particular religious beliefs when the story doesn’t demand such a character and the only reason for including them is out of tokenism.

Q.6 What inspires your writing? Money is an acceptable answer.
Money doesn’t motivate me to write, nor even to publish, but it’s what drives my marketing efforts. What does motivate me to write? The need to transfer the tale and the characters from inside my head and onto paper, or its modern equivalent the hard drive.

Q.7 If you knew nobody would ever read a word you wrote, would you continue writing?
Yes—it’s the best way I know to declutter my mind. However, it would be a far less satisfying enterprise if I knew nobody would ever read it. This might sound fanciful, but for me a story isn’t complete until it has been read by somebody I don’t know. That episode of Friends where Phoebe rescues the dead Christmas trees so they can fulfil their destiny resonates with me. I feel the same way about my stories: they haven’t fulfilled their destiny until they’ve been read.

Q.8 Have you ever written somebody you know into a book – a lover, a friend, an enemy?
Not in their entirety; not that they’d be recognisable. This is a bit like the question about giving characters some of our own characteristics—it’s virtually impossible not to do the same with people we know.

Q.9 Do you think your political beliefs inform your writing in any way?
I don’t think so. I hold political beliefs, fairly moderate, but I keep them mostly to myself. I’ll avoid discussing politics with all but my closest friends—and not often with them—because I’ve seen too many people fall out over issues that no amount of arguing is going to change anyone’s mind about. Since I naturally shy away from discussing politics in real life, it’s not a stretch to keep it out of my writing

Q.10 If you had to recommend one of your books to a new reader, which would it be, and why?
I’d recommend The Cleansing. It’s the first novel in an apocalyptic science fiction trilogy—the Earth Haven trilogy—so readers who enjoy it will have two more novels in which to continue the story to its conclusion. It’s also my most popular book.

Retired international jewel thief Sam Cates lives on a melting iceberg with his flatulent pet dragon Jeff (thus the melting ice), a grumpy penguin who refuses to answer to any name except ‘Oi’, and a shoal of silverfish.
When he is not telling dark tales, his hobbies include cultivating dandelions, keeping Oi away from the fish, and making sure he stays upwind of Jeff.
You can track him down on Twitter or drop by his website and blog.

EM-Drabbles – Eighty-Seven

You do the daftest things when you live alone.
Like eating chocolate cake for breakfast and using half a tin of alphabetti spaghetti to compose bad haiku, or drawing a face on your toenail where it peeks through a hole in your sock and serenading it with an out of tune chorus of ‘Liverpool Lou’.
Or sitting staring at your smartphone for twenty-three long minutes wondering if he will ring – or even text.
But at least, when you go to bed after dining on microwaved porridge, you don’t have to fight for the duvet or sleep in a damp patch…

E.M. Swift-Hook

Sunday Serial Star Dust: 0111

Built upon an asteroid, these mighty habitation towers are the final stronghold of humanity in a star system ravaged by a long-ago war. Now, centuries after the apocalyptic conflict, the city thrives — a utopia for the rich who live at the top, built on the labours of the poor stuck below…

For some reason the meeting was taking place in the sound recording room. After they finished the visual side of it, Joah usually insisted the human trio recorded their speech again. They were, after all, not word perfect and inflection precise in the same way their virtual co-stars could be. It was built with special insulation to eliminate any sound leakage in or out.
It was a bit of a squeeze getting them all inside and the door closed, especially for Dog who always found he took up more space than anyone expected. And Joah looked less than her usually confident self. That troubled Dog. He trusted Joah and if she had reason to be nervous it made him unsettled. At least Zarshay seemed at ease, she grinned at Dog as she squashed herself in beside him.
Heila looked long suffering and slightly bored, but that meant nothing, of course.
“So what is this about?” she demanded and then pulled a face. “Someone did not use deodorant today.”
“Shut up, Heila,” Zarshay said in a pleasant tone. “Before we start talking about anything else — are you staying with the show or are you jumping ship to Undergrove? Now we don’t mind if you are, but Joah and I would like a straight answer, please.”
Dog gave a small bark of surprise. He couldn’t help it. Not that anything Heila did should surprise him anymore, but that took a lot of beating.
The blue eyes instantly filled with moisture. “How could you think such a thing? I’m a woman of my word and I signed for five seasons.”
“You signed for six with Hopeless Hearts Hospital and walked out to join us after three,” Joah pointed out and the threatened tears seemed to reabsorb themselves somehow.
“That was different,” Heila snapped. “That show was going nowhere fast. SP is in a different league.”
“So why were you flirting with Lon Undergrove?” Zarshay asked.
Dog wondered if she also caught the brief look of cold calculation on Heila’s face, smothered stillborn by a wounded smile.
“Talking over old times, darling, that is all. He and I were almost an item once.”
It was pretty clear neither Joah nor Zarshay were buying that. They just looked at Heila. Dog was glad he was not the one getting those looks. There was a hollow silence of expectation that hung in the room.
“Alright,” Heila lifted both her hands. “Yes, I was talking with Undergrove. They have a new show and want me for it. Nice money. Very nice. But only if they get Dog too. Lon says he likes our chemistry on screen. I told him there was no way Dog would leave SP, but he wanted me to try anyway.” She crossed her arms and huffed out a breath glaring at Dog as if it was all somehow his fault. Then she looked back at Joah and Zarshay and her expression changed again. “I’m sorry, alright? It won’t happen again.”
Joah’s face tightened.
“I’m serious here, this is something we need to take on as a team or it’s going to sink us — and maybe sink a lot of other people too. If you are going to play on being the spoilt brat Hiela, walk now because things are going to turn very nasty.”
Dog shook himself and earned an elbow in the ribs from Zarshay. But Joah’s words had the desired effect and Heila looked strangely expressionless for once.
“You’d better tell us,” she said, the usual childlike singsong she managed to make into a mature sultry roll for her Captain’s voice, was suddenly absent.
“This is not going to be easy to explain,” Joah said, “but it’s us against the President.”

Dog felt the furrows on his brow deepen as Zarshay and Joah went over what had happened and his mind flipped back to that evening out with Teram and his salvage crew. It was like taking the hopes and dreams of half the city and whoring them out for cold cash.
“We’re not going to do this thing, are we?” he asked as the two women finished talking.
Zarshay patted his hand reassuringly. “Do you really think me and Joah would buy into something like that?”
“But you left them thinking you have and you’ve signed us away — me and Dog — without so much as a do-you-mind?” Heila sniffed and crossed her arms.
Dog barked out a laugh. “You mean like you were going to do with me if I’d gone for your dinner dance date?”
At least Heila had the good grace to avoid his eye and study her fingernails intently. Then she looked back at Joah. “So what do you want us to do? I assume you have a plan?”
Zarshay grinned broadly and Joah nodded her expression grim.
Dog leaned forward as they started to explain.

Star Dust by E.M. Swift-Hook, originally appeared in The Last City, a shared-universe anthology. This version is the ‘Author’s Cut’ and differs, very slightly, from that original. Next week – Episode 1000

Remembrance

Flowers on a grave
Fresh ones every day
Delicate remembrance
From he who went away
A prayer for understanding
Bent head and blended knee
In this mind the sorrowing eyes
Of she who set him free
He knew he would return for her
He saw his future clear
He never thought he would come home
To find her waiting here
He was her strength and harbour
She was his heart and care
In life she was his one regret
In death she stripped him bare

©️jane jago

Weekend Wind Down – The Ring

The boutique was a small, narrow shop, half-hidden in Brighton’s rambling lanes. The shop owner obviously knew Anna and Bonnie well, greeting them both with affection. “And who do we have here?”
“Mine,” Anna said laughingly.
“Well keep a tight hold on him. Now what can I do for you today?”
“I need a kick-ass dress for a big bash.”
“How kick ass?”
“Right up there.”
“I got three real belters in your size. You want to try them and let mister sexy have a say?”
“That’s about the size of it.”
The first dress was vintage, bronze-gold velvet. Sam hated it and said so. Number two was apricot silk jersey. Sam liked it better, but wasn’t knocked out. Anna shrugged and went back for number three. When she emerged from the changing room, Sam let out a low whistle. Anna stood before him in a skin-tight deceptively simple sheath of grey fabric shot with rainbow shades. Whenever Anna moved, a thread of colour picked up the light. He was stunned.
“That’s it princess. That’s kick-ass if ever I saw it.”
“I thought so too. I’ve got some dangly earrings, so jewellery is covered. Gotta get shoes, though.”
Shoes came from another shop in the Lanes; skinny strapped sandals with toothpick heels.
“My feet are going to hate you, Sam. I’ll be expecting a foot rub at the end of the evening.”
“That’s a deal, and those shoes are so sexy that I can promise more than your feet getting rubbed.”
She snickered wickedly.
“Now. What about you?”
“Got a monkey suit. Clean too. Still in the cleaner’s bag from the last time. Got shoes. Might need a new silly shirt. Think the old one is a bit crap.”
“Well. We’ll get that too. And a new bow tie. A proper one.”
“Shit Anna. I can’t tie one of those things.”
“I can.”
“Oh well. In that case.”

They finished their shopping happily and were just meandering back to the car when Sam stopped suddenly. He stood stock still in front of the window of a tiny jeweller’s shop.
“Look Anna.”
“Look at what?”
He pointed to a ring box in the corner of the window.
“Oh,” Anna said softly, “how lovely”.
“I thought so too. Let’s go see if it’s your size.”
He grabbed her unresisting hand and towed her into the shop with Bonnie at her heels.
“Can we see the emerald and diamond ring in the window please?”
The man got up from behind the counter and unlocked the window.
“This one?”
“No. The one in the red leather box.”
“Ah yes. That’s exquisite. But it is rather expensive.”
“Let’s see if it fits the lady before we talk money,” Sam said firmly.
The square-cut emerald was flanked with blue-white baguette-cut diamonds, and the ring slid onto Anna’s finger as if it had been made for her.
“Like it?” Sam asked tenderly.
“Love it. But it’s a lot of money…”
“So? You can’t have a cheap engagement ring.”
Anna couldn’t speak, so she just blinked and nodded her head. Sam turned to the shopkeeper.
“I think the lady likes it. We’ll take it.”
The jeweller’s face was wreathed in smiles.
“I have a particular fondness for that ring, and it looks as if it was made for your fiancée. It’s early twentieth century and was pretty battered when I bought it. I spent many hours restoring it. If it’s your engagement ring, I’ll throw in the matching wedding ring as part of the deal. It’s platinum too, set with diamond chips, and carved to match the shoulders of the engagement ring. How will you be paying?”
“Debit card all right?”
“Certainly.”
“Done.”
While Sam and the jeweller did business, Anna stood looking at the lovely ring on her hand. Then she bent and showed it to Bonnie, who wagged approvingly.
“I think this means you and me will be marrying Sam. Do you approve?” she whispered into one soft, black ear. Bonnie flattened those ears and wagged harder. Anna hugged her dog, too happy to be sensible. When she came back to herself, Sam had finished his business with the jeweller and was smiling down at her.
“Come on lovely, we’re cluttering up the nice man’s shop.”
He held out his hand and Anna put her own in it.
They left the shop handfast, clutching multiple shopping bags, and followed by a happy-looking black dog. The jeweller shook his head and smiled.
“Stupid with happiness,” he remarked to nobody in particular, “I wish them well.”

When they got back to the car, Sam stowed the bags and belted Bonnie into the back seat. Anna, still in a happy daze, just stood staring at the emerald as it winked green fire at her. Sam scooped her into the passenger seat and got behind the wheel.
“Now,” he said on a laugh, “you do realise you just promised to marry me, don’t you?”
“I guess I did. But it’s OK, Bonnie approves.”
He laughed, then leaned over to kiss his lady love.
“I ought to ask you properly, though. I love you, will you please marry me?”
“I love you back much harder, and of course I’ll marry you.”
“Good. Now direct me to the Lamb and Flag.”
“Not simple. I’d better drive. I just need to moon over being engaged to you for another five minutes, then I’ll be OK.”
In the end, they both mooned, entranced by the beauty of the ring and the sweet promise of a life together. They were brought back to earth by Bonnie’s wet, warm tongue.

From The Cracksman Code by Jane Jago

My Truth

So here I stand and raise my flag
To mark my point of view
I hold it high above the crowd
So they can see it too

I shout my truth in voice so loud
With little care for tact
The voice that speaks the loudest wins
Opinion made fact.

I see you mouthing thoughtful words
But care not for your whys
I subscribe to the YouTube truth
And know the media lies.

And when the experts say I’m wrong
We all know experts fail
They don’t mean what they’re on about
They’re paid to tell a tale.

And scientists are in the pay
Of those in the deep state
Who only want to crush the truth
And silence all debate.

So don’t tell me of climate change,
I know it’s just weather.
Claim lives saved by vaccination?
Don’t you pull my tether!

I might not know where China is
But I’ve had education
You can’t fool me anymore
With your United Nations.

It used to be a real pain
To get what I think heard
Then someone made the internet
So I can spread the word.

And now there are a million flags
All waving in the sun
And to all it’s plain to see
My day has just begun!

E.M. Swift-Hook

Life Lessons For Writers – IV

Yes, it’s me Jacintha Farquhar. 

Having made a reprise of my contributions to my son’s exercise in futility in writing pieces for this blog – which culminated in How To Start Writing A Book (a lamentable exercise in how not to, which I did my best to improve with limited success) – the two mad women who run this thing asked if I would consider offering more ‘life lessons’ for those aspiring writers daft enough to read them.

In case you are wondering, Moons (my benighted son) is now lost in some fifteenth draft of what he laughingly calls ‘literary fiction’ but which is thinly-disguised and very badly written gay erotica. He now declares his science-fiction attempt ‘Fatswhistle and Buchtooth’ to have been his ‘juvenalia’ and the pompous little prick sincerely believes he has a chance at the Booker Prize with his new heap of steaming crap. Sadly, from what I’ve seen of the competition, he might even be right.

Anyway, enough of that, I need to start earning the fat fee they are paying me for this guest appearance and having given the matter some thought I’ve decided to start with one of the big moments in every writer’s career.

Life Lessons for Writers – Four: Reality Check

There comes a point in every writer’s life – well maybe not every writer but most by far of you lot reading this – when they realise they are not going to make it to the ranks of a second Shakspeare in terms of literary acclaim – or even that of a J.K. Rowling.

No. Shit. Sherlock.

I am always amazed how long it takes the dewy-eyed enthusiast to figure this very simple fact. It’s as if when someone starts writing, their logical and discriminatory brain dribbles out of their ears to be replaced by some pink fluffy clouds and unicorns wearing garlands dangling the Amazon logo and woven with ribbons which spell out ‘Fifty Reviews’ or some such shite.

Seriously people, grow up! 

If your teenage daughter told you she was going to be the next Ariana Grande, you might praise her aspiration but be pretty sharp in making sure she was still studying for her exams. Just because you have a few more years under your belt doesn’t mean you are immune to the starry-eyed syndrome. The fact you idolise becoming a fat, wheezing weirdy-beardy like GRR Martin rather than a svelt sexy singer doesn’t shift the needle on the ‘likely to happen’ dial by so much as a smidgen.

What gets me though is how writers respond to this moment of grim epiphany. 

  1. They ignore it and continue to imagine themselves as God’s gift to the literary world, refuse to take any criticism from anyone, spewing ever more dreadful ‘pen babies’ into a recoiling ether until even their own mother refuses to read anything more they write. This is my son Moons for you – pretentious twonk that he is.
  2. They realise how true it is, and conclude that they will always suck and never make their fortune at this writing lark so they should throw down the pen for good and go off to put all their focus into something easier and more profitable like becoming a lawyer, a banker or CEO of a nasdaq-100 company.
  3. They take it on board proportionately, review what is a realistic expectation of what they can accrue from their writing and based on that make a clear decision about where writing can and should fit into their life. The answer to this being different for each writer as some have more ability to work on production and marketing than others.

Unfortunately (1) and (2) – doubling down or utter abandonment – seem to be the most common reactions resulting in both an over-spill of writers of dreadful books who will brook no remedy and the loss of some who might have penned some decent stories. I’m here to advocate for number (3) and to suggest you flush both the marshmallow and dollar signs out of your brain and take a clear hard look at what you do. 

Just because you will never be an author who people hold conventions about and dress up as your characters, like Tolkein, doesn’t mean you can’t write stuff people like reading. Whatever you write and pretty much however good or bad it is, there will be some corner of the internet full of geekish sub-genre fanatics eager to read it. You can, and should, be working on improving your writing, listening to criticism (not slavishly but with a genuine interest in learning and polishing your craft) and making your best fist of it all.

So have your reality check, work out if this is really a beautiful career or a pretty cool hobby, then get on with what you writers do best – Writing. Your. Books.

EM-Drabbles – Eighty-Six

The letter was old.
He found it under the carpet when he took it up to get a new one. It must have been pushed under the door and somehow slid beneath the carpet.
The handwriting was hers. Dramatic, full of curlicues and flounces, just as she always was – until she vanished.
Sitting by the hearth he read the words she had written twenty years before and pushed under his door.
I can explain. Meet me tonight in our special place. Xxx.
Twenty years too late.
He threw the letter on the fire and added another log from the pile.

E.M. Swift-Hook

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