Friday, 25 July 2014

The giant’s causeway

Giant’s causeway

A picture says a thousand words. Write them.
Mission: Write a story, a description, a poem, a metaphor, a commentary, or a critique about this picture. Write something about this picture.
Be sure to tag writeworld in your block!

Picture Source:
Clochán an Aifir - the giant’s causeway
The witch-light glowed as it floated gently above the palm of his right hand. His left held the head of his cane. The rocks of the giant’s causeway were slippery and treacherous and he needed the cane for stability. The last thing he needed was to fall and let the light go out.
It took much concentration to maintain the magic light for such an extended time. The night was passing quickly and he had to finish this before the dawn.
His familiar flew overhead in her preferred bird form. The kite’s eyes were better than his.
He strode over the hexagonal basalt columns looking for one in particular; an octagonal one. Using an artificial light like a lamp or a flaming torch would not help; the stone would show only under a magic flame. A kind of test of your ability. If you couldn’t even find the stone, you could not gain entry.
And that was what he wanted.
He was searching for what lay under the giant's causeway. He was searching for Finn MacCool, the man who made the causeway according to legend. He wasn’t actually a giant; the stories had that wrong. Perhaps his size had grown as his reputation did. But he did have supernatural abilities and as the world changed, he had retreated to the world of the fae. The octagonal block marked the entrance like a door handle.
A whistle from the kite and he saw it. A blink at the edge of his vision.
The kite swooped down and landed on his shoulder.
“Ready?” he asked her.
© AM Gray 2014

Sunday, 20 July 2014


Smashwords recently arranged a deal with Apple to supply ebooks to them for their iBooks platform.
I hadn’t checked in on my Smashwords sales and download figures for a while (total of 6384 - yay) but today I noticed that I have an open ticket, or error notification, on Kissing Cousins, one of my free short stories. When I click on the link, it tells me that Apple has tagged my story as ‘containing prohibited or explicit objectionable content’. As a result, my daily sales figures have halved for Apple.
There is nothing in that story that is that objectionable, at least to me, and it kind of worries me. I mean, people think Amazon is bad? How bad do you reckon Apple will be if it becomes the new gorilla in the room? I have spoken before about my concerns on the thin edge of the wedge so far as offensive material goes. I don’t get dinosaur sex or whatever the current fad is, but I will defend your right to write and read it. Someone may have issues about hetero sex whilst another person may object to homosexual sex or even seeing a photo of two women kissing. In Australia, a bus-stop ad showing two fully dressed men, one standing with his arms around the other from behind and holding a condom packet in his hand caused quite the ruckus. One group wanted it banned and another larger group insisted they put it back.
Objectionable material is in the mind of the beholder.
But ooh … does it make me a real erotica writer? If I am already banned?

Friday, 18 July 2014


A picture says a thousand words. Write them.
Mission: Write a story, a description, a poem, a metaphor, a commentary, or a critique about this picture. Write something about this picture.
Be sure to tag writeworld in your block!

Picture Source:
What was he going to do?
He had stared sightlessly at the fire for so long that he could still see it when his eyes were closed. He closed them now and got a memory flash of earlier in the night. Three persons entwined in ecstasy. He sat here as the sun rose with the scent of them still on him. Them. Two lovers. One male, one female. He thought he was possessed. Such a thing. He had heard rumours of it, but he had never thought of himself as attracted to men before, so when Rose suggested her cousin join them, he had initially assumed the cousin would be female. He had done that once before; had two women in his bed. That had been an unforgettable evening.
He had slumped through the dinner. Bored. Afterwards, he hurried off to head up to his room and stripped ready for what he thought would be happening with her.
She had known he may have had doubts. She entered first, and was alone. She kissed him eagerly and slid her hands inside the front of his embroidered robe to reach for him through his linen undergarments.
“Oh, I missed that,” she whispered to him as he hardened with anticipation..
“He missed you, too.”
“He seems very pleased to see me.”
Henry chuckled, low and throatily. “Where’s your cousin?’
“He’ll be along in a minute.”
“He?” He stepped back and closed the robe tightly over his body.
“Oh, didn’t I say that?” she asked disingenuously.
He took another step back. “No. You didn’t and you know you didn’t.”
An amused tinkle of laughter. “Does it matter?”
“What? Of course it matters.”
“Why?” She slid in close to him again. “He’s beautiful; like you.” She grinned. “In fact ... I can’t wait to see the two of you together. The light and the dark.” She gave a catlike shiver of anticipation.
“You don’t do that?”
Be with men? “Of course, I don’t. And you know that.”
She laughed. “But have you ever tried?”
He was speechless. “Ah... no...”
There was a knock at the door.
“Ooh.” She jumped with excitement. “That’ll be him.”
He wasn’t sure what he expected but the man who was standing in the doorway when he opened it was not it. He was not effeminate. He looked remarkably like him, but as she had said, the dark to his light. They were of a similar height and build; wide shoulders and muscled arms. The man carried himself in such a way that he knew he was physically fit. Henry spent all his time riding and fencing to keep in shape and it also allayed the boredom.
She reached past him and grabbed her cousin by the arm, tugging him into the room with them.
The man glanced at his face as he passed him. “Are you sure he wants to do this?”
He shut the door firmly.
“He does. He just doesn’t know it, yet.”
“Oh, honey,” her cousin answered, “That’s not fair.”
“What do you care?” he retorted. He had a wild urge to open the door again, and throw them both out.
The cousin looked deeply offended. “I do not force myself upon anyone.”
“He doesn’t need to,” she added. “Now, cousin Evan, this is my friend and sometime lover, Henry.” She grabbed Henry by the arm and drew him closer towards them. “Henry, this is Evan.”
“You don’t expect us to say hello or something?”
“Manners, Henry,” she chided.
He rolled his eyes. “Hello, Evan,” he started, “Sorry to waste your time.”
Evan lifted an eyebrow. “So it’s a no, then?”
“I am afraid so. But Rose can stay.”
She pouted.
He never could resist Rose pouting and she knew it. She kissed him.
And then she kissed Evan.
Evan wasn’t wholly into it; he kept looking out of the corner of his eye at him as if he thought it would upset Henry.
Rose was annoyed. “You can both go to bed alone if you are going to ignore me.”
She stalked over and poured herself a wine. The men watched her walk across the room. They glanced at each other.
“It’s your room,” Evan said. “And if you don’t want to... that is understandable.”
Henry’s manners were too good. “Perhaps a wine, first?”
Evan gave a short nod. She passed him a goblet. “Thank you, Rose.” He took a sip after holding the glass up to him in a silent salute. “A delay would be sensible in case someone saw me enter.”
Did anyone see you enter?”
“No, I don’t think so.”
“A long delay will make tongues wag, a shorter one and people will think you are just delivering a message.”
She leaned in against Evan. “So what is the message?’ she asked coquettishly.
“I would be happy to bed either of you.” He sounded amused.
She kissed him again. This time he was more interested; responding to her and holding her firmly against his body. Henry watched them.
“Will we show him how it’s done?” she asked Evan.
Henry snorted. “I don’t need lessons.”
“I know you don’t-”
“Oi.” Evan objected at the implication that he did need lessons.
She threw herself onto his ornate bed. “So show me,” she teased.
They shared her; one on each side. But then, sometime during the touching and after too many cups of wine, he lost track of whose hand was whose, and whose mouth was whose.
It changed from the men sharing her, to the cousins sharing him.
She crept out at some point and he woke to see Evan sitting in the chair, shirtless and watching him.
“Still here?” Henry asked.
“Yes.” Evan studied him. “Are you well?”
“Me?” He was surprised at Evan’s concern. “Ah... yes, Thank you.”
Evan stood and slowly approached him. Henry sat up and swung his legs over the edge of the bed ready to stand. The other man put a hand under his chin and lifted his face. He brushed his lips gently against Henry’s before stepping away to finish dressing.
Henry stood, found his brocade robe and put it on. He held his arms tightly folded across his body. He looked uncomfortable and conflicted and Evan seemed to know. He didn’t try to touch him again.
He stopped just before the door. “You know who I am and how to contact...” He stopped talking. “If you wish,” he added in a quieter tone. “Good night, Henry.”
So now Henry sat and tried to think. If he was very honest with himself, it was Evan that he had enjoyed the most. And it was Evan that he wanted to see again. And alone; without Rose.
And it was that realisation that he wasn’t sure how to handle.
© AM Gray 2014

Thursday, 17 July 2014

Occupy art street competition

The nominee graphic contenders are all in and now you can go vote!
Go here to vote 
And here to see larger versions of the graphics

hmmm… now which one to choose?
Oh gosh, some of them are for my stories! Apologies, and Leaving on a jet plane are in there… plus Offerings and Kiss me out of desire… wails
I can’t choose!

Friday, 4 July 2014

Things should make sense

I do a lot of reading about writing, if that makes sense; about how you should have story arcs, about how you should not leave any loose ends and so on. And sometimes, when I watch movies or TV shows, I think about how the writing is done and whether it stays within those rules.
Kid 1 and I mainlined ‘True Detective’. We watched the whole thing in two days and it was very good and very well written.
We also watched 13 episodes of ‘Attack on Titan’ with kid3. It’s school holidays.
*major spoilers*
This show is huge and sometimes better known by its Japanese name - shingeki no kyojin. It is set in a world where people are attacked by giant titans; super creepy humanoids who eat people just for the sake of eating them. They can live without them and have done so for a hundred years before they start attacking cities again. Titans cannot even digest the people they eat; they cough them up later like a weird hairball.
It is very dark and violent, and is a favoured cosplay of late.
The heroes of the story start as children and eventually join the military in order to take their revenge on these creatures. It is set in Bavaria in a kind of steampunk world where they have swords and cannons as weapons but guns are an early pattern of flintlock and are rarely used. It looks amazing. The story idea is simple, the animation great but the writing and pacing are... SO BAD. And it is so disappointing because it could be better.
I can’t see any critiques of it online, but I will point out a few things that I noticed.
Titans can regrow limbs; even a head if it is cut off but the only way to kill them is to slice a chunk out of the back of their neck... wait... what? Surely blowing their head off accomplishes the same thing?
They carry swords that look like giant boxcutters with pre-marked breakage lines on them. It can’t work as a blade. A box cutter works because the shaft supports the small blade extension. Pull the whole thing out and it will snap off as it is designed to do. They carry extra blades in super bulky boxes that hang at their hips. Looks cool but it can’t be practical. The grappling hook and jet propulsion system they use to move also looks super cool but doesn’t obey the laws of physics. And relying on ropes while carrying swords is a recipe for disaster.
They have spent three years training to fight Titans and the first time they face them, the whole squad falls apart. They constantly disobey orders, usually start by saying ‘with respect...’ and then don’t show any. And because they disobey orders, they get people killed. Each time a comrade is lost they have a five minute emotional meltdown. In a twenty five minute long episode, this is wasted time. And it happens over and over.
Military is not a democracy. You don’t even speak without permission. There is a reason they spend so long forcing independence out of you and making it automatic for you to follow orders. If soldiers said ‘I don’t want to attack; I might get hurt,’ the battle is lost. They go on and on about how things are hopeless, how they will all die, how all their friends have just died, etc. And this is the well trained elite?
Humanity is doomed.
Kid 1 laughed that they were like those fainting goats, if the goats fell over, froze and then wailed for five minutes about how hopeless their situation was.
Any character that praises another’s leadership skills will die - probably in the next few seconds. A doctor asks one guy what the name of a dead man is so she can update the records. He does the standard long emo wail (in his head)... his name? Just tell her his name!
Armin is described by another as the best scientist he has ever seen but his big plan is fill the hole in the wall with a big rock. Seriously... And if the titans punched a hole in the wall and then went away, why not repair it? The rest of the wall is fine and people are overcrowded in the inner circle. Is there some reason why they can’t fix the wall they must have built and maintained for 100 years?
Eren, another main character, spends the first few episodes raging at everyone and then turns into a giant rage titan. He is way prettier than the others with much better hair and has a bajillion abs. He saves the whole town by fighting the other titans but then, when he changes back to human, instead of thanking him or thinking about the implications or how they can use him, an officer tries to shoot him with a cannon. Eren transforms to save his friends, but then they spend honestly seven minutes chatting under cover of the cannon dust rather than running away before they reload and fire again. This should take a minute, two tops. Or I dunno, fire a different cannon? There are dozens of them around.
The leader is killing them for treason but lets other soldiers speak treasonous statements, says he will kill them, too and then doesn’t. He asks Eren ‘are you human or titan’ when he isn’t the person to ask. Check with witnesses.
They make leaps of logic with no information. Eren says he partially transformed to stop the cannon ball. How does he know this? He tells the general his father gave him this titan ability so that he could travel back to find the secret in the basement of their home. What? How does he know that? That would assume that his father did it before the town was targeted, that he knew the town would be attacked, knew their house in particular would be destroyed and cleared out leaving his wife to die, his children to be traumatised and his basement (with its secret - whatever the heck it is) to be buried. It makes no sense. And if his father can ‘make’ titans, there are a heck of a lot more questions. Including how many other people can transform? And where is his father?
And besides, Eren didn’t even know what went on when he was in titan form, he spent ages screaming at people to tell him what happened, and of course, nobody did because they were all off on an emo meltdown of their own. ‘Dude, it was so cool. You turned into a titan and saved us all.’ Nobody said that.
Maybe it is the English dub or the transfer from the manga, the original comic books, that I haven't read, but something has been lost. Wikipedia says there is a mystery at the heart of each of the thirteen volumes, but that hasn’t passed to the anime version. (They don’t mean the basement - do they?)
We watch a lot of anime and the kids read a heap of manga and we were all getting frustrated by this show and shouting at the screen. I know the monologue is an anime device but it is too repetitive here. In a visual medium, show emotions by facial expressions or literal steam coming out of people’s heads. You can do that in anime.
Our dvd finished at the end of episode 13 with no completion of a story arc or resolution about what they are going to do about Eren. I really hope they have just dubbed half and released it. One thing anime is in Australia, is seriously overpriced.
Our dvd also had a monster watch option that removed the starting and finishing titles and played all the episodes in order. I did read that endless rehashes at the start of each episode of what happened in earlier episodes annoyed fans, so they must have put that option in deliberately but I swear one episode was maybe ten minutes long after all that was taken out. Pacing people!
I will have to watch for the release of part two because kid 3 is heavily invested in this show... sigh.
And then kid 3 and I watched the rest of season 1 of Once Upon a time. Thank you Jane Espenson and Adam Horowitz for restoring my faith in writers.

Sunday, 29 June 2014

Ruined chapel

A picture says a thousand words. Write them.
Mission: Write a story, a description, a poem, a metaphor, a commentary, or a critique about this picture. Write something about this picture.
Be sure to tag writeworld in your block!

Picture Source:

Sanctuary is an ancient concept. Guest rights. Share your bread and salt with someone and you owe them a debt. You have to protect them if you are attacked. You cannot harm them while they are in your care. If you do, you suffer for it. Karma. Bad luck. Whatever you want to call it.
Maybe it didn’t apply anymore and maybe you don’t care. You feel safer in the ruined church. More so than anywhere else. It barely had an unbroken window and certainly didn’t have a lockable door, but it doesn’t matter to you.
It was still a place of sanctuary. It was familiar.
You are old. So very old. You can remember when this church was not a ruin. When it had been full of people, lit by candles and was a place of worship. Then it had been a place of light and faith. Faith seemed to be a thing of the past, like you. Although you are definitely a thing of the past.
You stand for a while until you feel fatigued and then you sit on the floor with your back against the wall.
You stare at the altar. It is broken and graffitied, but still recognisable.
You remember nights when you stood vigil for important personages as their bodies rested in state before their burial. And further back, when you were a squire. After a cleansing bath, fasting for a day, making your confession and dressing in a white robe covered in a red surcoat (to indicate your willingness to bleed), you went to the chapel to pray all night. You would be knighted in the morning. At some point during the night, light headed and exhausted, you asked God to make you an eternal fighter for faith. God granted your wish but it took you some time to realise it.
You always needed less sleep than the others. You took more watches as a result to help out your brothers in arms.
But then your friends started to die... and you never did. You were an excellent and experienced knight but your skill could not explain everything. There were other signs; your wounds healed too fast. Your hair did not grey.
Blessed by god, they called you, and you agreed, until it didn’t stop. You tried. You were at the front of every charge, you killed countless destriers; leaving their bleeding sides under you as you attacked over and over, stopping only when you were fighting alone.
You could not die.
When the enemy understood what you were, they threw down their arms without a fight. You railed at them, screaming at them to pick up their swords and fight you. Your code prohibited you from attacking them empty handed. Mutely they shook their heads. You swore them to damnation with the creeping understanding that you were already there.
You could not die.
A paladin with no hope of entering heaven.
You couldn’t hate God but you were angry with him for a while.
Now, you were an anachronism. A knight for faith in a world where it barely existed.
Now, you waited. God meant you for some purpose and you were still waiting to see what it was.
© AM Gray 2014

Friday, 27 June 2014

The shade of seventh and tells

A picture says a thousand words. Write them.
Mission: Write a story, a description, a poem, a metaphor, a commentary, or a critique about this picture. Write something about this picture.
Be sure to tag writeworld in your block!

Picture Source:
Light bound him to this plane. Light and energy matrices stapled to his frame kept him corporeal. His master had done it both to trap him here and to release the shade from draining his master’s life force to exist. But he still needed energy to live, if this caged existence could be called living.
In some skeletal remnant or echo of his life, he remained around the intersection of Seventh and Tells. He could hide. Power down and lurk in the shadows. He didn’t rest, he didn’t twitch, he didn’t need to move at all. Unless his master called him.
He waited...
Waited for a harried robotic servant to pass within his grasp. Spider like, he moved silently to capture them. And he was just as deadly. Nothing escaped him.
He drained them of their energy. Tore them apart to get every last trickle. Thrust the tendrils of his dark energy into every gap in their form.
He had no concept of pity or appreciation of beauty. He took what he needed.
And as an extra, he also accessed whatever information they carried; be it schematics of homes, offices and neighbourhoods, information about the people they worked for, and any secrets they had been told or witnessed. People tended to forget that their automatons saw and heard everything. Even though they took more space in his memory banks he stored a few images - mostly of families with blond hair. He didn’t know why he did it.
He drained them of everything and left them shattered husks.
Rumours started of a robotic shade. They called him the Reaper.
© AM Gray 2014