Flash Fiction Friday!

I didn’t start out life intending to become a criminal.

It just goes to show that these things can happen to anyone: a toss of the coin, a turn of the cards – one bad bit of luck can take you places you never wanted to go.

But never mind all that. The fact is that by the time I was twenty, I had closed off every other option in life, and I was, in fact, one of the best burglars in all of Fendrais. Not for me the risky life of a pickpocket or the violence of highway robbery: I specialized in knocking off snatch-and-grabs from the most showily  elegant townhouses of the newly-wealthy.

Oh, but what about the servants?

Don’t make me laugh. The moment the master and mistress are out the door, their butlers and footmen are into the left-over port, and the parlour-maids are on the back steps, flirting with the grooms.

If you’re agile and have a head for heights, you can be in and out before anyone even shuts the front door.

I’m never greedy, and I’m always cautious. I spend days watching my chosen target, and I never take anything that might be too precious or too unusual not to be instantly missed. A china figurine from a grouping on the mantel, or a silver fork or five from a drawer crammed with a hundred more just like them – and with a little deft rearrangement, the theft might not be discovered for weeks.

Every so often, though, there’s something a little more…lucrative. Old Pol, the fence in Gauderaude, well, sometimes a client might want something in particular, and since I’m the only one he knows who has never been caught, it’s only sense that I would get the call.

The Tremaurian Rubies? Yes, that was me. Right after the summer fete, too, for all they weren’t  discovered to be missing until Midwinter.

The Rainewell Chalice? I took that, too. It was a bit of work, that one. I spent a full month figuring out how to hide inside the Town Hall overnight, and how to get back out again in the morning without being noticed, and I did two test runs before I actually lifted the dashed thing, and no – it wasn’t magically alarmed, whatever the mayor claimed afterwards.

I try, really, not to get overconfident. You know how all my former teachers and mentors had gotten caught? Five good heists, and you think you’re uncatchable.

Of course, that’s when the sixth one goes wrong and you fetch up at the gallows.

I wasn’t going to let that happen to me.

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Flash Fiction Friday!

On that particular Saturday, Myra woke up at exactly 6 a.m., as she always did. She lay gathering her thoughts for precisely five minutes, then rose, put on her brown terry-cloth bathrobe, went to the toilet, brushed her teeth, made herself some coffee, and sat down at the kitchen table to write a grocery list.

It was not her usual list, though. This one was heavy on the ingredients for casseroles, crackers and similar “appetizer” finger foods, and freezable desserts, all with longish shelf lives and suitable for the kind of function that inevitably follows a funeral.

Myra had always made sure no one had to do anything for her, and she wasn’t about to let dying change that.

Flash Fiction Friday!

She stood in the shadows, watching the wall.

It was a damp, dank alleyway, a place for vagabonds, hookers, and thieves and rarely anything else, and for three nights now, she had watched, but no one came.

This night was different, though – she could feel it. The air was still and humid, and the sounds from the street behind her seemed muted and dim. This was the night. She was sure of it.

The light from the windows above winked out, and it was several moments before her eyes adjusted. There was just that one moment to feel as she had before – the anticipation, the sense of triumph – and then the panic set in.

He was as beautiful as the early dawn, and she hadn’t expected that. Oh, sure, she’d heard the rumours, but she was worldly and experienced enough to have discarded those as simply embroideries on an ancient tale. She’d expected the ugliness of centuries, the twisted remnants of force gone bad, but there he was: tall and pale, with fine-drawn features and a well-tailored suit, not one hair out of place, and his lips curving into an inviting smile of welcome.

She raised the crossbow.

His smile widened.

“Alicia,” he said, softly, and it was like warm cocoa with marshmallows, it was sweet and wise, it was like a fond grandparent, so filled with love…

Had he come closer to her, or was that merely illusion?

“Alicia,” he said, again, and she felt herself weaken.

“No,” she said. It came out thick and raspy. “No, not this time. I won’t let you.”

He stepped one long pace forward. His eyes were sorrowful. “My dear child, don’t be ridiculous. How will you stop me?”

She didn’t answer. She couldn’t. Her tongue was stuck to the roof of her mouth, and her eyes were drawn, inevitably, inexorably, to the shapes beyond, the twisted remnants of his victims, their lives reduced to the terrible graffiti of shadows that lingered, like ghosts, on the wall behind him.

Was she drowning? It felt like it. Things seemed to move so slowly now, and she saw the crossbow begin to droop.

No. This wasn’t how it was supposed to go. She had studied the history, memorized the patterns, and she’d taken every precaution. He could not win, not this time.

She looked up and realized he had stepped even nearer. He was only an arms-length away now. She tried to raise the bow, but it was heavy in her arms.

“Kneel,” he said simply, and she did not even try to resist this, she sank down in obeisance onto the wet asphalt, feeling the cold and the gravel through the fabric of her jeans, her bow tilting up as the base hit the ground in front of her.

He was only a hands-breadth away, and as he reached out to pat her head, he said, very amused, “Good dog.”

And that’s when she shot him.

Point-blank range and a crossbow bolt made from sky-iron, straight through the heart.

It’s the only way the Elder Gods can die.

Flash Fiction Friday!

The house looked the way it always had.

The rain gutter still sagged at the south corner. The paint on the porch was still peeling, and the front curtains were still drawn.

The garden, on the other hand, was not the overgrown tangle of weeds and juniper bushes run wild that he remembered. It had been ruthlessly all trimmed back, and a small fishpond had been installed in the centre of a small square of improbably green grass.

And the path was new, too. The cracked and uneven concrete slabs, scavenged from a building site down the road around the time his parents had just moved in, had been replaced by mellow red-brick paving stones.

So pretty. So tasteful. So…incongruous.

What self-respecting demon-spawn would do this?

Flash Fiction Friday!

Mother is sleeping.

She dreams in darkness, and over her, the tree roots dig deep, and the rivers run cold. She shifts, restless, and mountains fall.

She turns over, and cities groan. Children weep, uncomforted, and the birds take flight.

But Mother sleeps on, tranquil in her knowledge that all things end, in time.

Where Marketing Meets Reality

I’m an author. A self-published author.

bergman

As such, I’ve had to wrestle with a lot of marketing questions, and I read around a lot on the subject.

One of the very first, most often repeated, and strongly urged on pieces of advice is for the author to know their market, know their demographics, understand who their audience truly is.

The other thing about being an author is that you wind up in a lot of writing groups, both on line and in meat-space.

And we all read and discuss all this marketing stuff (honestly, put any two writers together in one place and the conversation will almost inevitably turn to marketing/sales within five minutes), and we offer each other suggestions, one of which always is “Identify your readers and gear your work and marketing to them!”.

So it’s kind of a shock when, despite this good advice, male writers routinely dismiss the following observable truths.

  1. Most readers are women.

Don’t believe me?

There is a lot of data to prove it.

https://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=14175229

 

  1. Most writers are men.

Again, statistically, the publishing world is mainly run by men, in every facet of the industry.

https://www.theguardian.com/books/booksblog/2017/oct/19/male-writers-still-dominate-book-reviews-and-critic-jobs-vida-study-finds

 

And the vast majority of the male writers then routinely dismiss the concerns that their female counterparts bring up.

Weirdly enough, those same male writers are full of the standardized marketing advice – they are the most likely to pay actual money for on-line marketing courses, in my experience, despite having been warned by other writers that the “advice” is exactly the same as the advice given on open/free websites and blogs, and that most of it is out-of-date by the time you read it.

“Know your demographic” is almost always in the top five bits of wisdom doled out. Everywhere, every time.

And yet, the vast majority of male writers seem to be A) uninterested in finding out what women like to read about, and B) most likely to complain of low readership.

They want to write what they want to write, and I respect that – there’s no point in writing things your heart isn’t in.

But, like your characters, it’s important that you learn and grow over time, that there be change, that you progress.

It’s up to the individual, of course, but if you really do want a wider audience, you need to consider whether or not you really do understand who your reader is now, and, more importantly,  who you want them to be.