Friday, 20 December 2013

How to Participate in the Inner Child for the Outer Adult Challenge

HabitRPG is all about self improvement. So are New Year’s Resolutions, too. But life isn’t just about hard work. Sometimes you should stop and smell the flowers. But why leave it at that? Make a daisy chain, or braid them into your hair (or beard) or infuse them in vodka… the options are endless! This challenge is called the Inner Child for the Outer Adult and I’ve made it to help you take time to have fun like a kid. To be honest, I don’t spend much time with my outer adult… he mainly just buys me booze, so this list was really easy for me to make. You don’t have to use HabitRPG to participate, but I find it is really helping me with my productivity (I plan to wax lyrical about it for my non-existent audience after the Christmas holidays).

While there can only be one official winner of the challenge, the touchy-feely feel-good real answer is you’re all winners if you’re participating. And there’s a second bounty of winning for us all if there are players that are willing to fill in the cells of the spreadsheet with -
“Wait, what? Spreadsheet?”
Relax, and bear with me a while. If people are kind enough to fill in the spreadsheet with their opinions, feedback, thoughts, pictures, etc then we can vicariously enjoy their fun too.

Speaking of which, here's the link to the spreadsheet:

Inner Child for the Outer Adult Spreadsheet 

It is the heart, soul and core component of the challenge. I've bookmarked it, as that's faster than fishing it out of my Google Drive. If you just want to play along at home and don't care about audience involvement, then the Master List page is the only one you have to bother with, and you can stop reading now. If however, you want to let others see your antics (or see what they are up to) then keep reading. If you're participating in the challenge in conjunction with Habit, please use your username, so I can pick a winner. But if you're in it for the prize, I'd suggest that buying gems would be a much easier and faster way to get 20 gems.

Instructions to participate in the challenge/share your activities and opinions with the world:

Step 1: 
Open the spreadsheet in the above link

Step 2:

Click on the Master List tab down the bottom of the spreadsheet.

Step 3:
Choose Duplicate

Step 4:

On the Copy of the Master List tab that you just created, choose Rename...

Step 5:
 When you do something, go to your tab and fill it in.

Step 6:
To see what other people have been doing, go to their page and have a gander.

There's 42 different things listed, and since it officially starts on the 1st of January, it  has a soft end of the 11th of February. That works out perfectly for me, since I am in Vietnam and the Tết holidays will have just finished. Depending on how many entries there are, it might take me a while through to go through them all and pick a winner to throw gems at, but like I said previously, that shouldn't be your main focus.

Some preemptive troubleshooting and imaginary question and answers:

Do I have to post about the stuff I do?
Nope. It'd be nice if you do, as you'll be sharing your joy, but it's not compulsory.

Do I have to post for every activity to be in the running to win the challenge?
No of course not. I (along with some other judges if there's a lot of entries) will be deciding it based on a whole bunch of things but quality, humour, imagination, originality, etc will certainly be beating out quantity especially if it's got attributes diametrically opposed to ones in that previous list.

What's stopping someone from deleting/copying/defacing my entries?
Nothing. That's why you should back up your data. There's a slim chance that we'll get hit by someone who is in touch with an inner child who is mean spirited and petty, and derives fun from pissing on the parades of others, but that's just a risk we'll have to take. If it does become a serious issue, I'll think of a plan B, and post it here and on the master list tab.

Help! I can't find my tab!
Yeah, as new tabs are added to the spreadsheet, older ones get pushed further along. Try clicking on the three horizontal lines and finding your name in the popup window, I think that might be easier.

Why did you include X activity? It's lame/boring/embarrassing/I do it all the time?
I tried to pick a range of different things, and since I can't please everyone, I chose to please myself. There's a fair chunk of this list that I do frequently myself, or I've wanted to do for a long time, or just stumbled on and thought it sounded great.

Why didn't you include X activity? It's so much better than some of the ones on your list!
There's nothing stopping you from doing it at any time mate. These are just suggestions. Feel free to swap something out. Or post it in the comments, because someone else might think it's a grand idea too.

Do I need to have a kid with me to do them?
No, but if you've got children of your own or nieces/nephews or friends with kids and you have the patience, you could involve them too, especially if you're shy and want protective camouflage. 

Can I send this list to other people?
Of course, the more the merrier! Ideally, I'd love to have so many entries that I get RSI from scrolling through them all. They don't have to play HabitRPG either. I'm sending this to a few mates that I think would enjoy it. The short link for these instructions is: and the short link for the spreadsheet is:

Can I do the activities with friends?
Definitely! I'm sure that will make a lot of the activities even more fun. I'm going to do a bunch with my wife and daughter, and some with my students. 

Will you run it again sometime with different activities?
If people like doing it in a codified way like this, then sure. But like one of the answers above, there's nothing stopping you brainstorming your own list and doing it at any time you please.

A final word...

I haven't asked you to use your imagination too much in the actual challenge, that's because I want you to do it right now. Imagine that some of the standard boilerplate legalese* is here along the lines of :

I am not officially affiliated with HabitRPG and my (or other entrants in the challenge) views, opinions and choice of language is no way a reflection on those fine folks. If you get hurt or in trouble doing any of this stuff it is just like when you were a kid: it's your own fault, you should jolly well know better. If everyone else was jumping off a cliff, would you?

*You Seppos with your litigious culture would be a grave disappointment to your founding fathers I reckon. 

Friday, 29 November 2013

The Forest Road

The less said about November the better, in my book. Nano falls at a terrible time, I can only imagine how busy it must be for Americans who also have Thanksgiving piled on top of their to-do lists. Finally a chance to do some creative writing, Chuck Wendig's 200 words, Part One. The idea here is to start a story, and next week pick someone else's beginning to follow on from. And so on for the next few weeks. 

The Forest Road

“Blades out lads it’ll be wet work with this lot, no doubt about that.” Some faces showed smiles, others grimaced but nowhere was fear to be seen. Eagerly they watched the carriage as it moved unsuspectingly into their ambush.

An arrow thunked into the throat of the coachman and the band flung themselves at the road with an animalistic scream. The horses, rearing in fright had their throats slashed – although they were valuable beasts, it would be too long before they could sell them and make a profit. Flintlocks poked through the windows and a few ineffective shots did little more than fill the carriage with smoke before they were torn from their owner’s hands. The door was wrenched from the hinges and the attackers leaned in, keen to ascertain the nature of their spoils.

“God’s teeth!” swore the leader, and he reeled back in shock, for one of the passengers was not human. Large yellow eyes nictitating wildly in the sudden clamour stared back at them from the being trussed up on the floor of the carriage. Green, scaly skin covered its hide, and the other passengers were torn between watching their charge and dealing with the bandits that now milled in confusion on the road.

Sunday, 20 October 2013

Trifextra scared

When young, I knew that a sense of wonder was a magical thing. I hoped to never to lose it - the world would become grey. So far, I still live happily ever after.


I've meant to participate in a lot of the Trifecta writing challenges, but every time something crops up. Even though the Trifextra ones on the weekend are shorter, I haven't normally been able to play as weekends are family time. But everyone else is asleep, so here's my entry on something that scares me from long ago.

Tuesday, 10 September 2013

A wee dram

This was meant to be an entry for Jeffrey Hollar's Monday Mixer, but I cut it too fine, as a colleague came in for a chinwag and that pushed me behind schedule. Oh well, there's always next week. Happily, this isn't an autobiographical account.

If this animation doesn't loop endlessly, go watch it in all its glory here

A wee dram

Just like the first rains enjoy their own special scent, the first drink has an emotional petrichor. The tempting nectar isn't the only thing to emanate from the bottle. It also emits a broth… a silent susurrus of castigation, self-flagellation and defiance.

As the level in the bottle quickly sinks, the murmurs become more vexing and you can't hide from the specious rumours running midst your mind. To combat it, the allure of conversation raises its head. You become expansive and liberal with libations for others - anything to capture their ear and drown out the sounds in your own head.

But by the end of the evening once more you're alone and maudlin drunk. If the demon drink hadn't seduced you out of all your ducats, perhaps there'd be the option of some meretricious company for the evening.

But booze is a harsh mistress and will brook no opposition.

Tuesday, 27 August 2013

True Wisdom

Wow, it is good to be writing again after an enjoyable holiday. Here's my entry in the Monday Mixer, Jeffrey Hollar's weekly challenge over at the Latinum Vault.We need at least three of the nine prompt words, but I chose five (luminary, compendium, chirrups, slapdash, ethereal), so I am shooting for the overachiever.

Picture from here, they have a lot more cool images and some good advice for making castles
True Wisdom

Once his litter was carried down to the beach, His Holiness seemed to get a second wind. The wizened, pain-wracked face was suffused with childish glee... tongue poking out of the side of his mouth, his breath came in whistling chirrups past his few remaining teeth. Patiently the luminary shaped the sand into ethereal turrets and dug a moat. Not a childish slapdash castle, it was a work of art that was a joy to behold. The senior monks stood to one side, watching with puzzled frowns. They were listening for any gems of wisdom to add to his compendium of sayings. Finally, one cleared his voice and asked "Master, what lesson do you wish to show us?"
His Holiness sighed. 
"I am truly sorry. I have failed you all in your teachings. Sometimes, a sandcastle is just a sandcastle." 

With a final smile, His Holiness left this plane.

Friday, 23 August 2013

Parents Never Change

The Five Sentence Fiction prompt for this week is travel. This piece combines reality and what I'd love to come to pass in a very short entry. It is good to be finally writing again!

Picture from here
"Underpants, did you pack enough underpants?"
"Yes mum."
"Are you sure?"
"Yes, mum!"
"Remember son, your mother and I are just a wormhole away."

Friday, 28 June 2013

Creating a Female Superhero Challenge

This is my entry for the Creating a Female Superhero Challenge. An excellent idea - and one I could also set my students to work on. I got quite a few Puppy Girls from them, and a pair of Iron Men from the ring-in second grade boys that were in my class that day (even though I kept pointing out the gender, but hey, what are you going to do with 7 year-olds?)

Author: David Ashton
Word count: 397 for the character bio, 412 for the story
Anthology: Yes
Charity: Any of them, they all sound good

Yeah, I can't draw, so some outlines thrown over
textures is the best you're going to get
Name of female superhero: Darkweaver

Name of human alter ego: Glynnis Carr

Human alter ego appearance: As Glynnis, her clothing ranges the gamut of colours and shades. She doesn't wear the complete opposite of her costume - all rainbows all the time - nor does it echo its monochromatic scheme. She wears a pewter necklace: a meaningless sigil of her own devising to remind her of how lucky she is. When asked about it, she always tucks it back under her top and says it was a keepsake given to her long ago.

Superhero Appearance: Completely concealed by her costume.

Costume:  A form fitting suit of swirling greys and blacks with indigo highlights and ultramarine lenses.

Personality as Darkweaver: Vengeful and angry at the injustice at the world. There are no snappy one liners from this heroine.

Personality as Glynnis Carr: Often downcast, but at times happy in that deceptively brittle way that signifies that you're trying, but there is still a lot of healing to go

Brief description of how the superheroine gets her powers: In an attempt to rebel during her college days Glynnis dabbled in mysticism and the occult. It was meant to be harmless fun, but the rituals she was following became increasingly extreme and depraved. Something was listening - luckily not the dark and twisted gods she thought she was praying to - and granted her powers with no further explanation or instructions about what to do with them. Out of a guilty conscience about the rites she had conducted and a hope to expunge these acts from her soul’s record, Gylnnis works for good.... though not always in a way that is acceptable in the eyes of the law.

Powers: She can become insubstantial and two dimensional, allowing her to pass through objects and avoid physical injury. She can possess and control shadows. She can teleport by leaping from shadow to shadow. For short periods of time, She can be in multiple places at once if what she is targeting has more than one shadow.

Anything else important: Bright lights are not her kryptonite. Often they cast larger, darker shadows and so that plays into her hands.  Her weapons are a garrote, cosh and kris - the knife is yet another reminder to herself of her old ways. She is the type of vigilante that leaves corpses, not criminals caught red-handed.

A night on the town

The alley was dark but not deserted. A late night reveller was trying to spell his name on the side of the dumpster, copiously splashing urine in loops as he raced through the final letters. A door banged open, causing him to piss on his shoes.
“What the FUCK are you...” he snarled to the empty alley, “...goddamned wind...”
Zipping up, he continues on his way, trying to peer through the doorway as he draws opposite. There is just enough time for him to blink owlishly before the impact. A shower of his blood coats the wall behind him. When finished, the hulking figure pauses long enough to pick up one of the larger chunks in chitinous claws before stuffing the gobbet into its mandibles. Turning, it slams the door shut once again.

Glynnis was glad she’d finally given that friend of a friend’s friend the slip. As if buying a few drinks for her could make up for the appalling and unending self-indulgent commentary. It was times like these that she was glad she could walk through walls. The park wasn’t really on her way home, but she always made a point of walking through it at night. Slowly, thanks to her actions, it was being reclaimed by couples and families - though not at this hour. When she heard footsteps and mocking laughter behind her Glynnis was surprised and a little disappointed. Her relaxed pace continued, until she was surrounded.
“It ain’t safe, walking alone here at night,” leered one of the thugs, eyeing her up and down.
Glynnis nodded, then winked into his shadow, engulfed by her outfit of greys and blacks, kris appearing in her hand.
“Yes, you’re right,” she whispered into his ear, her smile hidden beneath her mask. Slowly, she slid the blade along his throat.

The morning news made no mention of her escapades in the park, but she was sure the message was received loud and clear in certain circles. The television was full of the usual fluff pieces about celebrities and grumbling about the economy.When they recapped the morning headlines -  a lurid dismemberment, fuzzily caught in a security camera - Glynnis froze in mid bite, her toast forgotten. Those pincers... the spines... it couldn’t be, could it? She had burned all the books and smashed the figurine! It seemed Glynnis wasn’t the only acolyte who dabbled successfully in in the dark arts. But unlike her the other had embraced the monstrosity.

Thursday, 27 June 2013

Change of plans!

Well, that ended up being a far more unproductive hiatus than I expected. I had plans of scaling back flash fiction entries to ramp up working on my novel, but that didn't really eventuate. As with previous book writing attempts, I lost impetus, and then started forgetting things (like the name of the big baddie and other important elements). Though I think I worked out what the problem was - all my attempts at longer pieces have taken themselves far too seriously. A corollary of this is they've often been far too sweepingly grand and epic in scope and scale, so I've ended up overwhelming myself. Instead of trying for a tome that you could use to bludgeon a burglar to death, I have decided I'm better off with a lighter, more comedic and thinner first attempt. So I think I'm about to declare it a wash out (for now), and start something more true to my normal style of writing. I guess in theory I could try plugging along, but I'm thinking it'd be better to shelve it instead. I do like the laid back 350-a-day pace - even though there have been days (or perhaps that should be weeks) where not a skerrick has got done so I will probably stick with that.

Friday, 12 April 2013

Happily Ever After

I'd always thought things would never change. Except for the better, of course. But like most people, when I say that, I don't really mean it - it's more a hypothetical "some day in the future, in a way that doesn't impact on my comfortable life" change. I didn't want some huge fairy-tailesque ugly duckling or Cinderella conversion that I'd pinned my hopes and dreams on. That never seemed to pan out in the stories, so I didn't think it'd be any different in real life.

But it did change. It was incremental. Glacially slow. So slow in fact, that I never noticed. But through some weird kind of alchemy, I'm apparently an adult. Of course, there's relapses - no magic is completely foolproof. There has to be an evil stepmother or a wicked witch somewhere in the mix. It's not as bad as I thought it would be... happily my childhood prayer along the lines of "If I lose the sense of fun and foolishness and enjoyment of the simple things in life, please let me at least find satisfaction in somber monotony, so that I don't miss it" hasn't yet been necessary and it doesn't seem that it ever will be. So that is definitely some magic I have to be thankful for.

This isn't as polished as I'd like it to be, but it was better I complete this week's Trifecta writing challenge than keep it as a work in progress that I may or may not get back to. The prompt word was alchemy, and it ties in nicely to my weekend entry of advice giving. And since I am new to Trifecta, here's my introduction, too.

Monday, 8 April 2013

For the Hoard!

The climb was steep, and many times we’d thought about turning back. But we finally made it to the top of the volcano.

Although it was dormant, the fearful inhabitants of the nearby  village  claimed they saw the occasional wisp of smoke still arising from it... the caldera was said to be the demesne of a truculent dragon. Pfft. Dragons! Who believes those things are still alive these days? But there might still be some of the hoard up there, especially when the local populace is so lily livered.

The climb was steep, and many times we’d thought about turning back. But we finally made it to the top of the volcano.

The crater was huge, rocky, and (of course) devoid of large, scaly reptilian monsters. Unfortunately it was also depressingly treasure free. There wasn’t even a cave to build our hopes up. Just... lots of bones... scattered around...  everywhere...

Picture source

The word choice for this week's Monday Mixer was obvious once I'd read them, the story finished itself in no time flat. 

Trifecta Introduction

What is your name (real or otherwise)?
Snellopy. It comes from a starship pilot from an alien race in a computer game called Star Control 2, that I loved in high school.

Describe your writing style in three words. 
Aliens! Dragons! Humour!

How long have you been writing online? 
Flash fiction since 2011. A few one-off pieces before that, but they were on forums that have since been shuttered. And long ago, DMing in Never Winter Nights. That sort of counts, right?

Which, if any, other writing challenges do you participate in? 
I'm erratic, flitting around between various challenges, based on the prompts and what time I can scrounge to write in. More often than not, I only get to outline in my head what I'd write for it. Most of them have fairly low word counts, so that I am more likely to complete them as I have a short attention span. Here's a partial list:

The 100 Word Challenge

Tobias Mastrgrave posts plenty of prompts

Lillie McFerrin's Five Sentence Fiction

The Parking lot Confessional

Jeffrey Hollar's Monday Mixer

Mid-Week Blues-Buster

Business Card Fiction (though it seems to be dead)

Chuck Wendig has a prompt every Friday on Terrible Minds, and it was his site that got me back into writing.

Describe one way in which you could improve your writing. 
A lot less commas.

What is the best writing advice you’ve ever been given? 
I love Chuck Wendig's Terrible Minds blog. All his advice is awesome. One excellent bit of advice he has is: Finish your Shit. I've a bunch of unfinished pieces that I'm slowly completing. When they're all done, I'll feel a lot better about how infrequently I write.

Who is your favorite author?  
Terry Pratchett, hands down. I loved him as a kid, and when I've revisited him, I've still enjoyed his books immensely (that hasn't always been the case when I've revisited some authors I was nostalgic about).

How do you make time to write?
Spare moments and downtime at work. Weekends and evenings is family time. My wife has said that I can have typing time if I want it at home, but I use that sparingly at the moment - maybe when I'm writing my third omnibus for my fifth series I'll take her up on that more frequently.

Give us one word we should consider using as a prompt. Remember--it must have a third definition.

Direct us to one blog post of yours that we shouldn't miss reading.
I had a lot of fun writing this one: Progress report on Research Subject C1-MMA 

Sunday, 7 April 2013

Who ever listens to advice?

Maturity is overrated. Important things like childlike wonder and an appreciation of simple pleasures are often trampled in the rush towards finding a special someone and a pay packet. Is it worth it?


I've been planning to enter Trifecta for a long time now, but never had time. They have a week day challenge, and a weekend Trifextra which is limited to 33 words, and runs over the weekend. This time, it was to give some advice.

Monday, 11 March 2013

Monday Mixer - Student entries

I love getting my kids to do work to send to friends, or to enter into competitions. For the past few weeks, some of my students have watched me do (and given their input on) my Monday Mixer. Last week, I decided I was going to get them to do it but then promptly forgot. So, I inflicted it on them this week. The language is a bit hard for them, after explaining the words, I also gave them some they could swap out for them (only fair since they’re third graders with varying levels of ESL). I know the definitions don't line up 100% with some of the words, but it'll do. I typed them up with only the minimum of error corrections, mainly fixing typos and tense. Since it's not my work, I can't enter them in the competition, but I did tell them there's a chance of extra bribes for any that readers like, so feel free to lavish praise

This is by the student who gave me pointers. After reading her work I asked her if she could jam in another one of the prompts and go for overachiever, and so she went back and edited her work, swapping mountain out for beach. Quite frankly, I think her entry is better than mine.

The Artist
Yesterday at early dawn as I was strolling across a peninsula in Australia, I saw a dilettante sitting beneath a tree, sketch book in hand, pencil drawing slowly. As he finished, I had decided to buy it, so I took out my purse and handed the artist five dollars. I looked at the picture. “How interesting” I thought, as I stared at the picture I had bought. The artist had started to draw yet another picture. He drew the same picture of the beach I had bought and they were both identical. I looked around but there was no beach in sight. The artist was looking at me. He smiled and turned the page of his sketch book and quickly drew another picture and gave it to me. I offered him five dollars but he didn’t accept it. “You’ve done enough for me.” he said. I walked away, smiling.


Another overachiever, though the brusque replacement has morphed into an adverb. Close enough is good enough, I reckon.

When I go to the beach
Yesterday, my family went to the beach. My dad and I had a swimming race. I am good at swimming so I swim faster than my dad. But when my dad lost he said he is happy when I win. When my dad and I went to swim, my mum is cooking with a spatula to make barbeque for me and my family. When we were playing my baby sister looked like a lazy person lying on the sand and had some rest after eating lots of sandwiches. When my dad is tired of playing he sits down and read the newspaper. He said that a woman has lost a handbag at the bank. If anyone see it call her by this number 08 67589 911. Then we played happy at the beach with my baby sister then we are hungry and ate barbeque.


This story had to be highly edited back down to 150, it lost a bit of cohesion, and the monster turned from an amalgam of a few animals into just a fox. She also had to hack out a heap of wonderful language to get it under the word count.

The Humphrey
On a beach, there was Humphry. Humphrey is a big fox. There was a rude lady who went to the beach. She didn’t meet Humphrey. But an artist did, because he needed to draw a picture of Humphrey.
“Why did you come near Humphrey to draw a picture? Don’t you know what he looks like?” the lady asked.
“No,” the artist replied, “I need to come to Humphrey to see what he looks like. Humphrey’s harmless.”
“Whatever!” the lady thought “is the artist telling the truth?”

The lady soon saw Humphrey. It roared at her. “The artist lied!” the lady said. When she met the artist, she said to him “You lied! He just roared!”
“I told the truth. Humphrey’s harmless to good people. He roared at you because you’re rude.” the artist said. Then the lady left.


Yet another over-achiever. I’d like to say that they look on me as an inspiration, but that’s a pretty big lie.

Saturday and Sunday
“Today can I go to the beach with Peyton?” asked Anna.
“Alright,” said mom, “But make sure you come back before 6:30 PM, OK?”
While Anna was walking she met her friend Emily.
“Where are you going?” asked Emily.
“To the beach,” answered Anna. When they got to the beach, they asked Peyton if she wanted to build a sand castle.

After that, they went for a swim. At 3:30 PM Peyton saw an artist and asked if she could draw a bank next to a cemetery. After 3 hours it was time for Anna to go home. When Anna got home, she started writing quickly in her diary. Then her mother took her to buy some handbags and a purse. The next day Emily came to Anna’s house for about 3 hours. Then Anna went to the library with her father. At the library she met Peyton and they went out for dinner.


This story was just finished in the time limit, so she didn’t have a chance to revise.

The Weird Bank
Once in a beach there was a bank. Inside the bank there was a spatula, a pan, and a cook. One day an artist came in and said “This is a perfect place for my job!” So the artist started to draw a cook, a spatula and a pan in a lazy way. After a while the bank teller said “This is a weird bank because there is a cook and an artist inside and there should not be one in the bank.” she yelled it so loud that everyone heard her.

She said “I quit!” and left, and shut the door with an angry face. The artist said “It was more interesting when the bank teller was here.” Then the bank teller came back with a happy face. She said “I’m sorry for shouting at you guys.” They all worked better and stayed together happily.


Another that just scraped in within the time limit

Angry Artist
Once there was an angry man. He lost his handbag at the beach. Then he looked and looked for it, but he could not find it. Then he said if I don’t have that handbag I will lose my job. The job for the angry man was being an artist. In that handbag there was a lot of artist things. The angry artist still had his money. Then he went to the bank and got more money. Then when he was lined up for the money he saw his handbag on the woman’s back. Then he said “Hey! That is my handbag!” The woman said “No, this is not your handbag.” The woman opened the handbag and he looked inside for any artist things. But there were no artist things inside the handbag. Then he went back to the hotel and he saw his handbag on the chair.


I do have a couple more students (only 10, so it's a breeze!), but they didn’t complete their stories in the allotted time.


I got my students to do the Monday Mixer as well (their post is here, so if you want to have a look at them, feel free).
Picture from here
I loved to travel along the peninsular and find a quiet place to sit and watch the waves roll in. I’d always take my gear with me, but I was too much of a dilettante to do much more than get my sketch book out - and most of the time that went unopened. It was just too enthralling watching the breakers come crashing over the rocks, collecting shells or wishing on the first few stars. Every week I’d gesso up some frames, thinking this time I’d capture it, but there was always something that took my breath away. This time, it was the way the last rays of the sun hit the spume flung up by the breakers. Hypnotizing. And much more pleasant than mucking around with oil and paints. I’d tried photographs before, but they didn't do it justice. Maybe I’m not really an artist, but I don’t really care.

Thursday, 7 March 2013

Cover band

The Mid-Week Blues-Buster is only in its third week, but I but the concept behind it is great, and will have me coming back... 500 words (a loose 500, 300 to 700 is fine) using a song and its video as a prompt. For this week, it was Gerardo Ortiz - Este Amor, a cover of Bob Marley’s Is This Love. I quite like being sung at in a foreign tongue, especially when it is something familiar. I’ve had it happen in a few different languages in my travels over the years. There’s a bit of me in this story, some elements are friends, and some of it is based on other patrons I've had a drink with.

There wasn't much to the bar, but then again there wasn't all that much to the town. Sure, it was on the tourist track, but everyone left after snapping a few pictures and buying some ethnic trinkets to show folks back home how adventurous they were. Unlike most others, I hadn't moved on. Don't get me wrong, there wasn't anything that made this town special. I wasn't seeking a higher spiritual truth like some of those who clambered over the ruined temples (it isn’t sacrilegious if no-one still believes in those gods, right?) nor was I trying to find myself like the ones who were living out of their backpacks and seeing the “real world”. I was here because I just couldn't be arsed any more. Booze, internet and passable food... what else could you want? After about five months, they even stopped trying to sell souvenirs to me. I didn't kid myself that I fitted in, but at least the locals left me in peace. More than I could say for the tourists - they were always trying to ingratiate themselves with me. Thinking I could give them an easy way to connect, so they'd have a bit more of local colour to add to their stories. Wrong!

There wasn't much to the bar.The beer wasn't even cold. But then again in this climate, nothing was. The breeze stirred by the rickety ceiling fan was barely enough to keep the flies away, but sometimes you have to be thankful for the small things. My stool on the verandah was empty, so I took my accustomed seat and began drinking mechanically, watching the unfocused haze of the sunset. A Zen Master has nothing on me, I can sit for hours as long as the succession of beers isn't interrupted and no-one tries to talk to me. Sighs escape me periodically, but I couldn't tell you why. Not contentment. Not sadness. Not even ennui. Apparently there's a word in the local lingo that sums up this state I'm in so perfectly that I could be the poster boy for it, but I don't care enough to learn how to pronounce it.

There wasn't much to the bar. But then again, there wasn't much I was after. I wasn't running from anything and I hadn't burned out. Life here was simple. Predictable. Peaceful. I had a good thing going. The tour guides that often drank here after the last bus departed were more excitable than usual tonight, talking excitedly. Just as the mosquitoes were coming out, a couple of guys rocked up with some instruments. A fiddle, a flute and a harmonica. Normally, that'd be enough to make me head home, but I still had a couple of drinks in front of me to get through, so I stayed and listened. It wasn't as bad as I thought it would be. I had been dreading something "traditional" that the tourists all lusted after but sounded like cats being strangled with their own tails. Instead what greeted my ears was real music, just done differently. It'd take me a while to pick the songs, as they were singing the lyrics in their own language. Who would have thought that a pub cover band with those instruments would work? The Beatles. The Doors. Marley. A bit of Zep. As the night wore on, the music got more recent, but somehow it was still great. Even some that I'm embarrassed to admit to knowing... Aqua. Rednex. That chick with the annoying voice who was everywhere a year ago. The beers had run out, so against my better judgement I swapped to the local rotgut. Still they played on, getting weirder and more eclectic. Stuff I'd heard my parents listen to that I couldn't name, but I knew. When I recognised the notes to Somewhere Over The Rainbow, I started to feel tears trickle down my cheeks. I had a vivid childhood memory of watching Kermit playing his banjo and belting out a song on a similar topic. Not the same tune, but it hit me powerfully for some reason. Maybe I should blame the booze, but I decided that tomorrow I'd head back home.

Monday, 4 March 2013


Once again, this Monday Mixer is written with advice and suggestions from one of my students, she decided if Bran was going to live or die. I think for tomorrow's writing task, I am going to give them a simplified version of some of the words and see what they come up with. I managed to fit six of the words in this time: firth, hillock, caltrops, nocturnal, pensive, profligate. The others didn't fit the tone of the piece. Next time, I'll try and take it somewhere warmer. And happier, too.

Picture from here

The onshore wind rustled the tussocky grass sprouting from the hillock. A profligate worrier (certainly not a warrior) Bran had scattered the rocky path that wound up from the firth with caltrops - a futile attempt to slow any raider who came seeking revenge. Deep in thought, pensive about how exposed he was in the watchtower, Bran hunkered down under his cape awaiting either the dawn or vikings.

In the past others had been found asleep at the post, but thoughts of danger about the nocturnal posting petrified the crofter too much to even consider shutting his eyes. Staring at the horizon in the darkness for hours on end like this was mental torture, the worst  thing Bran could imagine. He was wrong... in the early hours of the morning, a longboat silently made its way up the coast. Sobbing in fear, Bran sounded the horn then ran for his farm.

Tuesday, 26 February 2013


"Aye, I can do it, but it's not a very... regal sort of animal." the blacksmith said.

"Screw those sanctimonious bastards, and their notions of heraldry!" The knight drew breath, and from his previous visits to the smithy, Danny knew he was going to start his long winded tirade yet again. He nodded his head at all the relevant places, pumped the bellows as quietly as he could, and wished he would just pay up and leave. "Beggin' yer parden sir, but if'n you want me to finish this today, then it's best you leave and lets me get on with it." A curt nod and the knight left him in peace.

Danny shook his head in confusion. Lions, dragons or eagles all made sense on a shield. To some degree he could even see the sense in a stag, noble looking with the antlers. But a manatee? A manatee?

Picture from here
I started the Monday Mixer yesterday, after work. There were still a couple of kids in the classroom, waiting to be picked up. One had some input in the story, naming the blacksmith and telling my off for my spelling and swearing. She also suggested trying for the overachiever award, but I couldn’t comfortably cram more words in. She of course loved the toilet definition of garderobe. Sanctimonius, smithy and manatee were enough for this piece though. There were some coats of arms with manatees on, mainly drawn by kids. But when I saw the horribly wonderful pun on the t-shirt, I couldn’t resist selecting that picture.

Friday, 22 February 2013

Progress report on Research Subject C1-MMA

When we first received the specimen ten months ago, it was incapable of relocating itself, making containment relatively simple. Initially unable to control its pseudopods, there now seems to be a rudimentary range of movement that has increased dramatically throughout the course of study.

The first signs of progress in this area was the ability to right itself when overturned. This was followed up a month later by a flowing motion which often left a trail of noxious slime behind the subject. Since then, C1-MMA has picked up an alarming habit of transporting itself short distances when in contact with a "carrier". Just recently it has demonstrated the ability to hover unassisted for brief periods. Because of this greater mobility, we are concerned about the containment abilities of the laboratory. Security must be a priority - an escape would have serious consequences.

C1-MMA is currently about the size and weight of a watermelon, but at the rate it is growing final projections are difficult to ascertain. While documenting its appearance, C1-MMA went through a moulting phase, hence the difference between the data files 0ZI and V13T. So far this has not caused any issues in regards to paperwork, but could become an issue in later dealings with government agencies.

Four white protuberances recently burst forth from the upper section of the subject. The Chief Investigator believes that these could be followed by more very soon as there are bulges stretching out laterally from each growth. Some assistant handlers mentioned such swellings three months into the project, but they were found to be mere speculation.

Sinusoidal growths at the top of C1-MMA has caused some observers to nickname the subject "Medusa".

Sounds produced: 
When the subject first became available for study, the noises it was capable of producing were abrasive and harsh. Now it has the capability to make modulated, subtle sounds, though it does regress at times to its original state. As it gained greater dexterity with its appendages, C1-MMA began using objects to generate sounds. There is evidence it could be attempting to communicate with us, but there has been nothing definite yet, apart from the most basic of copying personnel in its vicinity. C1-MMA is able to manipulate emotions, possibly by emitting some sort of field that we have as yet been unable to detect.

Originally the subject subsisted only on secretions from the host it had infected. It has since moved on to include a wide range of foodstuffs, some of which appear quite disgusting to the staff assigned to feeding it. Disconcertingly the subject will now attempt to eat anything that it can get within close proximity of its maw. At times C1-MMA will smear food on its carapace in what we believe is a territorial display.

When constrained, the subject has a tendency to revert to a more flaccid state, for example flopping down in the nutrient container, or squirming about fluidly and uncontrollably. This can sometimes be alleviated by emitting food for it from specialised nozzles.

Final thoughts:
Although progress has been made in establishing a useful corpus of knowledge on these beings, the findings will not be able to be corroborated unless we acquire another specimen in the future. Until that happens, it is the opinion of all those involved in the study of C1-MMA that the utmost care should be taken in handling the subject.


Subject C1-MMA feeding

It's been a fair while since I've done one of Chuck Wendig's flash fiction challenges. Either I've been "too busy" (but his latest post destroys that defence), or I haven't liked the prompt - and that's not a different way of blaming my muse not coming through for me, as I like Oglaf's approach to her:

Oglaf: The Blank Page (HIGHLY NSFW website)

Oglaf: Muse (website hasn't magically become SFW)
The prompt for this week was write what you know... but change genre. Obviously it's a sci-fi study of an alien. C1-MMA stands for Child One, Madeline. She's just started staying vertical without holding onto something the other day. The photos in her passports look like completely different babies. Her teeth started showing just before Tet, though my father and I thought they were imminent when she was three months old.

When I saw what the prompt was, this was the obvious idea. A lot of fun, and if she was older than 10 months, I'm sure I would have a lot more material to work with (that's a lie, there was plenty more, but I am guessing there is only so much you want to read about someone else's kid, even when its been jazzed up thusly).

Wednesday, 20 February 2013

Thịt chó

The meat sat there in her bowl, an anathema.
“Go on, have a bite! Be brave! You’re a tourist, do touristy stuff! This is an experience you can’t get at home.”
“It’s not one I am sure that I want.” A grimace. “What does it taste like?”
“It depends how it’s cooked, like most things. The one in the bowl is fairly rank - too much ginger and lemongrass. And there’s still the occasional hair on the skin. If you liked black pudding like Dad, I would have given you the stuffed barbequed intestines. But the sliced, boiled meat is like a gamey roast beef.”

Picture sourced from here The dishes at 12:00, 1:00, 30:00 6:00, 7:00 and 11:00 are to be found on the reasonable to delicious side of the scale. The soupy one I can take or leave, and the lemongrass and ginger one I'm not a fan of, nor another one which seems to be cooked with small sticks of yuck (but again, that's the fault of the spice).
This is obviously fiction, as my mother has categorically stated she won’t try dog, for the same reasons she won’t eat kangaroo. It wouldn’t be fair to trick her. The rest of it is true though. Mắm tôm, the purple dipping sauce can take a bit of a run-up as well, if you’re not Australian. It puts me in mind of a liquid Vegemite. An old wives tale here is that eating dog’s feet is meant to increase a nursing mother’s milk supply. Tho declined, but her sister was gnawing on two or three a day for a while there, not that it seemed to help.

The prompt for this piece was ...what does it taste like... for week number 78 of the 100 Word Challenge. I shouldn’t have written it before breakfast though, as now I’m hungry.

Tuesday, 19 February 2013

The Ogre's Arms

I missed last week’s Monday Mixer because we were visiting the in-laws for Tet. A nice peaceful time, but internet free. The words I picked for this week are derisive, taproom and cosh. Looking for a picture to go with it, I had to pick this one from World of Warcraft. It’s making me homesick a bit, but while I enjoyed my time spent there, I’ve moved on now.
Picture from here, nestled in scenic Loch Modan if I am not mistaken
“You call this a stout? It’s paler than an albino’s ghost!” The derisive comment was greeted with a range of chuckles from the assembled drinkers. “About as full bodied, too!” Such comments were common in the taproom of the Ogre’s Arms, and nowadays Magnus let them wash over him. Occasionally he’d even join in berating his own stock. Not so when he’d first opened his doors. Back in those days, before his beard was even long enough to braid, he’d leap over the counter, cosh in hand, ready to blacken eyes and split lips for insults to his family’s recipe. Nowadays though, he was older and wiser. In the lowlands, things were different. Dwarves were still dwarves, but sense of self superseded that of clan and kin. Looking round at his regular patrons, Magnus realised that they were now dearer to him than those he’d left behind in the Clanlands.