The Writing Works

The Writing Works

He was running as if his life depended on it, which, I suppose it did. It was his job at stake, though, not his actual physical life. So, maybe that was a bit of an exaggeration, but he was running desperately all the same. He wore the uniform of the trainees of the S.C.A.R.A.B. Institute, the world renowned centre for the pursuit of time travel and all innovation in that area and the surrounding sciences (such as the political ramifications which dealt with time travel. I believe they have just developed a new formula for creating the optimal amount of paperwork for historical re-destruction). To get in with a visitor’s card was a once-in-two-lifetimes experience. To work there was unheard of, except that Louis Parker had gotten in.

Having missed his alarm and his transport, his black trousers looking rather the worse for wear and his button-up shirt only half tucked in, Louis ran thirteen blocks on the moving side-walks, shoving past people happy to remain stationary while the ground did the work. He waved to Ikealet, the half-martian shop-keeper on 5th Street and leaped over a rising trash incinerator, trusting the hover drives in his shoes to keep him from falling flat on his face. It was all quite dramatic, but no one cared except Louis.

He was convinced that it was his drama and flair that had gotten him into the S.C.A.R.A.B. Institute. It wasn’t. It was the fact that he was a whole lot more gullible than most people and was capable of following orders without causing too much of a ruckus. Or maybe the fact that he was one of the few people that was able to spell his full name without a Spellometer. We’re still not sure on that point.

Anyways, Louis was running. He skidded to a halt in front of the plain building boasting the S.C.A.R.A.B. emblem (which is saying something considering that the buildings on either side were caught between glittering advertisements of automatic personality-enhanced vacuums and trying to learn tap-dancing from an automaton) and went through the doors, trying not to laugh as the building scanned him. Here he was, in the S.C.A.R.A.B Institute, first day of training and he hadn’t even forgotten to bring his lunch. (Though, just to be sure, he did a quick check. Nope, there it was, in its neat micropackaging which would expand when he breathed on it.)

“Louis Parker,” the hologram that had been sent to meet Louis was far better looking than any hologram had a right to be. Louis himself felt awkward and tried to tuck his shirt in properly while the machine wasn’t looking (an impossible task, if you want to know). She was shapely and her blue skin shimmered slightly. She didn’t seem particularly impressed with Louis and even gave him a slight scowl.

“Uh, yeah,” he said. The hologram sighed audibly and gestured for Louis to follow. He did, blushing and running his hands over his hair to get it to stay in place (another futile effort). “Where are we going?”

“The training room,” the hologram said, giving Louis an annoyed look and straightening her posture in a superior sort of way. “Where you will train with the other trainees.”

“Oh, right,” Louis said, half-remembering being told something like that while his acceptance letter read itself to him. “Do you think we’ll get to do any travelling today?”

“I wouldn’t know. That answer is outside of my parameters,” the hologram answered with a sniff. Louis shrugged.

“Figured I’d ask,” he said, letting out a slow whistle as they walked through the building. The walls, instead of continuously fixing themselves to new requirements and tasks, were perfectly still and even had a tacked-on poster next to the loo. There was, an even more surprising feature, separate furniture that stayed still and retained a single pattern on the fabric. “Wow, some digs you’ve got. This must be the latest technology from Core Tech, right?”

“The S.C.A.R.A.B. building structure has not been updated for eighty-two years. The technology and time-travel rooms are updated as soon as new technology comes out, but everything else remains the same. If things are changed, some of the more delicate temporal properties are affected. The décor is adjusted as the Temporal Interior Design Department sees fit,” the hologram answered. The tone of voice was becoming more and more stern and annoyed and Louis figured that it was safer to keep quiet on that particular line of questioning.

“So what, exactly does S.C.A.R.A.B. stand for? I mean, on the job application, there was just the acronym and everyone I ask seems to have a different answer. I’ve heard it’s the Science Centre for Advance Research of Anything Biometric. Then there’s Something Completely Arbitrary and Really Awesome Besides. But, that can’t really be the meaning, can it?” Louis asked. The hologram struggled to keep from rolling her eyes. After all, Louis Parker had been hired for a reason. He was just so annoying.

“That answer is outside of my parameters,” she said. “We are here.” Sure enough, they were, literally here. The door had the word spelled out in glittering gold letters—obviously retro—on it and underneath were the words Highly-Efficient Re-training Events.

“How can it be re-training? I’ve never been trained before,” Louis said, even as the hologram directed him to open the door. While Louis was fiddling with the door knob (you actually had to turn it!) she raised her eyes to the ceiling and sighed dramatically.

“This is time-travel. If you’ve been trained in one time, it stands to reason that you have also been trained in another time. So it is continuous re-training,” the hologram said. Louis finally figured out the door knob and replied with a beaming smile.

“Then how come I don’t remember the original training,” Louis asked, opening the door and focusing on peering into the room rather than listening to the hologram. In fact, he had nearly forgotten about her and would have just moved on if she hadn’t been programmed with an answering circuit.

“That answer is outside of my parameters,” the hologram answered. Louis nodded absently, something in the back of his mind clicking and realising that her words meant, literally, I don’t know, go bother someone else. He decided to comply—there was that following orders bit—and stepped into the Highly-Efficient Re-training Events centre. It was astonishing.

The S.C.A.R.A.B. Institute was lacking in the design department, Louis admitted, but it was lacking with style. The room was perfectly square, the sort of room that got on your nerves for being so precise and lacking obtuse angles in the ceiling or curvy bits by the floor. It was perfectly square and it was host to a single screen on its otherwise white walls. The screen itself was only noticeable because it was showing a commercial for Temporal Jackets (“The most stylish jackets in any time! And they keep you warm when moving through the time-belt!”) that looked as though it were just wasting time before the main feature.

Apart from the white walls and the white screen, the floors were a sort of greyish colour, made out of a material that looked like old-fashioned tile but wasn’t anywhere near as durable. Louis remembered being told about something like this by his Great-Uncle Alfie, who had been an architect or a motor boat racer (Louis couldn’t remember which). It was called… he paused, forcing himself to awaken his neurons and think about it. Lean-o-liam. Yeah, that sounded right. Leanoliam. Or was it wood? He shrugged and kept looking at the room, as though he were too excited to take it all in. Not that there was much else to take in, mind you. Just some plastic chairs that were set up in three very exact rows of ten. They didn’t even grow out of the floor or mould to your body when you sat.

All told, the room was very boring. It might have been the most boring thing Louis had ever seen. He was absolutely thrilled. A voice coughed, causing him to jump. He turned and looked at the hologram, who was looking at him with expectantly raised eyebrows.

“Er, did I forget something?” he asked. The hologram did its best impression of an annoyed woman and shook its head as if questioning the purpose for Louis’ existence.

“You must step out of the way for the door to close,” the hologram said. Louis looked around and stared openly at the door. A very small robot was latched onto it for the express purpose of closing it (sometimes, the hologram thought, it was so bothersome being incorporeal) and it swung on actual hinges. Louis stepped out of the way and watched enthusiastically as the robot closed the door with a click.

“Finally,” the hologram muttered and vanished into bits of information.

“Welcome, re-trainee,” a peppy voice said. Louis jumped again and looked into the face of a man who seemed to be stuck in his early twenties. He had the look of a salesman about him and the bright smile with expertly blue dyed teeth didn’t help at all. His eyes had even been altered to sparkle enticingly. “I’m–” he gave a sequence of whirring noises and clicks which Louis couldn’t follow, “but everyone calls me Happy!”

“I wonder why,” Louis said. Happy blinked—a strange feat—and tried to figure out whether Louis was being smart or sincere. He decided on the latter and beamed even wider.

“It’s because I’m so happy, of course,” he said. Louis did his best to keep quiet and say nothing. He thought of his excitement over the strange furniture and the fact that the doors actually opened on hinges and the boring room. Eventually, the urge to be sarcastic vanished. “Right, re-trainee, welcome to HERE. This is where you will be introduced to your new job as a time-traveller and get to know all there is to know about the near-entirety of the time you will very soon have at your disposal!”

“Er,” Louis said, holding up his hand, “excuse me, but did you say near-entirety? I thought that time travel meant, well, being able to travel all of time. At least, that’s what the recruitment pigeon said when it showed up outside my window.”

“Pfft,” Happy waved his hand dismissively. “You can’t trust those recruitment pigeons. Now the geese, well, those are something to set stock by. If you had been sent one of those, I wouldn’t question it much. But those pigeons are always getting grand ideas about how to try and recruit people to S.C.A.R.A.B. They even give out possible meanings for the Institute name, isn’t that just strange?”

“So S.C.A.R.A.B doesn’t actually mean anything?” Louis asked with disappointment. His shoulders deflated slightly and Happy looked as though he were about to cry on Louis’ behalf. Happy did his best to pat Louis’ shoulder comfortingly and spoke with desperation.

“Of course it stands for something!” Happy assured Louis, who then looked as though he were about to ask ‘what, exactly, does it stand for then?’ Happy looked around for another person or robot to intercede, but Louis was the only re-trainee that day and robots (apart from the door-closing mechanism) weren’t allowed in HERE. “We just don’t go giving that information out to anybody,” Happy said with a wink. Louis thought it looked like he was convulsing but decided against saying anything.

“Well, right, I guess that makes sense. Still, what’s all this about the near-entirety of time?” Louis asked. “I mean, okay, so I probably want to avoid the end of time in case I can’t get a ride back, but everything else is alright, isn’t it?”

Happy looked aghast. “No! How could you say such a thing? Everything else is not alright! I mean, sure most of time is perfectly acceptable. I’m rather fond of the eighteenth century myself. All that stuff about honour and fighting wars and what-not, it’s so interesting. And the people were so primitive it’s just the most entertaining thing. But the ‘off-limits’ is absolutely un-temporal.”

“What ‘off-limits’?” Louis asked. Happy got the impression that Louis was one of those people that asked a lot of questions. He steered the re-trainee to one of the plastic chairs (which only confirmed Louis’ suspicion that they did not conform to your body shape and were, just as they looked, flimsy and uncomfortable) and looked Louis dead in the eye, as if he were imparting some sort of great secret. He wasn’t.

“The 70s, of course,” Happy said in a whisper. He looked around nervously. Louis thought this was a bit overkill as there was no one else about but for the screen, which had blinked for half-a-second.

“The 2170s? Like, last century?” Louis said. He forced more of his neurons to start firing so that he could pull up memories of his school days and see if there was anything particularly bad that he could remember from the history lessons about the 2100s. Happy grinned and rolled his eyes (it was a terrifying thing when the eyes continued to sparkle while they did so).

“Don’t be ridiculous. The 1970s. Absolutely, completely, entirely off-limits. It is impossible to travel there. Ever. All time travellers know that,” Happy insisted. Louis supposed it was because he wasn’t yet a time traveller that he didn’t know that and he said just as much. Happy took a deep, dramatic breath and let it out just as dramatically. “Alright, fine. I guess I’ll just have to explain things.”

“Please do,” Louis said, sitting forwards eagerly. Happy considered frowning; Louis was far too eager to learn things. That was just weird. He shook himself and set about explaining.

“The 1970s are just about the most dangerous decade ever. I mean, do you even know what they did during those days? What sort of music was played? What sort of hair-cuts they had? They wore paisley!” Happy widened his eyes and looked around as though he expected a paisley couch to appear out of nowhere. After a few seconds of nothing, he turned his attention back to Lewis. “Anyways, the inventor of time travel woalhame a complete blackout on the 70s,” Happy said. Louis blinked, not sure if he’d heard correctly.

“What the flying dickens is a woalhame?” he asked.

“It’s the pluo-perfect-future-continuous-pre-present-past-fluctuating tense of the verb do,” Happy said. “Don’t worry, the grammar lessons come later in your re-training. Or earlier, if you like. We can do it yesterday, if that’s better for you.”

“Right,” Louis said, more to himself than anything. “Time travel. Things get a bit wonky.”

“Absolutely! So, the 70s are blacked out, per order of the inventor of time travel. They’re just so dangerous. People get sucked in and come out humming Queen tunes–”

“What are Queen?” Louis asked. He barely made it through the question before Happy slapped his hand over Louis’ mouth, looking grim (well, as grim as anyone called Happy can be).

“Don’t ask. They show up in the music charts every time someone asks and we’re doing our best not to let them escape again. Don’t even get me started on Elton John,” Happy said, pulling his hand away. Louis was about to ask what an Elton John was but decided against it. He was starting to worry that just mentioning the word would let it in HERE and he wasn’t quite ready for that. On the other hand, it sounded interesting.

“But the 70s are blocked off,” Louis said. “How can people get sucked in?”

“We still haven’t worked that out and we will be working on that problem for the next three thousand years. I think in ten years time, a whole department was established for the direct purpose of keeping the 70s from sucking people in. But no matter what we do, they just keep showing up again. The music, the political beliefs, the fashion, the slang. Ugh.” Happy grimaced and Louis tried desperately to understand.

“What’s so bad about the 70s, though. Wasn’t it just another decade? I mean, why put a whole block on them? And what does that even mean?” Louis asked. Happy shot him an annoyed look. Louis was suddenly glad that Happy wasn’t an automaton or a robot. Their annoyed looks actually hurt.

“The block prevents any time traveller from going in or out of the 70s—hopefully reducing the influence they can have on other times by being dragged along as flotsam. At 11:59 on the 31st December, 1969 and 12:01 on the 1st of January 1980, the block begins and ends. And don’t even ask about how bad the 70s were! One time, a traveller spent the entire decade there, just to appease curiosity about what was behind the block and she came back spouting out words like… I can’t even say it.”

“Say it,” Louis said. Happy shuddered.

“Like, well,” he gulped, “’May the force be with you.’ It was just awful.”

“May the force be with you? What does that mean?” Louis asked. Happy looked appalled that Louis could just say such a thing with a straight face, let alone casually.

“It’s from a movie, I think,” Happy breathed, growing pale as he thought of it.

“A movie? Is that something for cows? It doesn’t sound so bad,” Louis shrugged. Happy widened his eyes even more (Louis imagined that if they got any bigger, they’d just fall out) and made a gagging noise in the back of his throat. “So, then, what about–”
“You know what? Let’s just stop talking about it,” Happy said with finality. “I don’t think that’s its temporally safe to bring it up any more. Soon, there will be all sorts of things falling through and messing with the temporal drift. We will have to spend years cleaning it up on both ends!”

“Alright. I just have one more question,” Louis said. “What is paisley?” he asked before Happy could cover his mouth again or run and hide. He stared at Louis as if he’d gone crazy for asking and then screamed shrilly, pointing at something over Louis’ shoulder. Louis turned and Happy fled.

There, sitting in front of the wall where it certainly hadn’t been before, was a machine with very large speakers and strange buttons. Louis stood and walked over to it, inspecting it carefully. This didn’t look like one of the new machines that people were always coming up with to try and make life more exciting. It didn’t look modern. Certainly no one that he knew would ever design something with buttons on it. Out of curiosity, Louis pushed a button. Noise started spewing from the speakers, loud enough to blow Louis backwards.

A gathering of Angels appeared above my head
They sang to me this song of hope and this is what they said

They said, “Come sail away, come sail away, come sail away with me lads
Come sail away, come sail away, come sail away with me
Come sail away, come sail away, come sail away with me baby
Come sail away, come sail away, come sail away with me”

Louis listened for a few minutes, blinked, then grinned. This was better than chocolate! Now he just had to find someone who knew what paisley was…

Overstayed Your Welcome

Old Man Winter, my dear good friend

You’ve overstayed your welcome

I invited you in for a spot of tea

Some scones, a nice pint by the fire

Yet here you stay, beyond supper,

Enjoying my best brandy wine

How to hint to you, in no uncertain terms

That I have other calls to make, expect other visitors

Like Spring

My, my, look at the time, I really must be getting on with things

Don’t you think?

A Word About the Wonders of Friday

When you’re little more than a wee bairn – pardon the brogue – then the entire world seems to be made up of Fridays. Actually, I’m not even certain if I was conscious of a difference in days of the week, except the parents seemed to be slightly less occupied on the weekends. Every day is made up of playing with toys and friends, crafts, terrorizing the family pet and scheming to try and get cookies out of the cupboard.

Then, school comes and time shifts. Or, well, time actually takes effect. The days of the week indicate homework and the inability to have sleepovers because it’s a school night. Fridays include plans of sleepovers, how to get to a friend’s house after school and the possibility of staying up late watching movies. Also – no homework.

Ah, how quickly the world moves to revolve around the weekends. No more school, no more work, just the possibility of sleeping in and spending the morning being as productive as can be managed. Which, often, is not very productive at all.

I do not regret my less productive weekends at all. Sure, I could have done loads of things like cleaning and dusting and baking and riding my bicycle for the purpose of training for a marathon (unlikely). But I didn’t. I wrote, read books for hours on end, baked muffins, pet the cat, fed – I mean walked – the dog, that sort of thing. And all my detoxing from the rest of the week (which I refuse to call my ‘life’ for the simple fact that I find it dull) starts on Friday.

Fridays, oh, how I love them so. Sure, I still have to roll out of bed early enough to go through the routine of becoming presentable. I still have to go and participate in activities related to my – for now – college existence. Somehow, though, on Fridays I can manage to sit through tedium without too much fidgeting. I am soon to be free for a whole two days. I have the entire afternoon and evening to stay up late and eat chocolate if I so choose. I can write, I can watch movies, I can read books. And not a thought is spared to the existence of the rest of the week.

In essence, Fridays are a wonderful creation. The muscles in my shoulders can begin to relax and I can go take a nap.

I like Fridays.

The world is broken. But, how can you express that the world is broken, or even know about it, if you don’t have the right words. How can you explain the wrongness that the entire structure of society makes you feel? What if the word for freedom didn’t exist in your vocabulary? Or if it had a different definition that what you know?

Meet Inspector Maddox Dawes of Kyper Central. He has worked dutifully for the Republic his entire life, from Placement to near Decomissioning. Dawes is gruff, ageing and almost done with working. That is, until a bash-and-dash is assigned to him as his last case. There, Dawes finds an empty speeder, the crew all dosed with Dreamscape and three words written in red: Nehrun tai hanen.

Nothing in the Republic could have prepared Dawes for what comes next. The computers are hijacked with the same message and Dawes’ investigation grows exponentially. Only, none of the Interfaces or computers can hold onto any data regarding this case. So, Dawes must investigate the old-fashioned way. And the only person in the Republic that can help him is Amaia Wainright.

Amaia is a linguist. She was Placed as a subject expert and built the field of linguistics from the ground up. She teaches Dawes about a long lost language and its people, speaking of freedom, choice and the pursuit of knowledge. Dawes and Amaia become embroiled in conspiracies involving the ruling Konsulars, the drug Dreamscape, even the citizens of the Republic. And, worst of all, the message is the calling card of dissidents, rebels.

Dawes, working in his capacity as Inspector and as student of Amaia, must learn what these rebels want and how to stop them. He matches wits with the leader of the rebels, whom he names Ske’toa in the ancient language. Malevolent spirit. And he loses. But Dawes has been working for the Republic his entire life and he is not about to let a rebel make him question everything. The Republic provides everything: shelter, food, clothing, support, community. Everything is ordered and makes sense. All the Republic asks in return is unquestioning loyalty and fulfilment of duty.

Then, Dawes learns things about the Republic that shake his belief to the core. Dawes falls back on the only thing he can. He pursues Ske’toa.

Dawes learns new words from Amaia and the rebels. His world has opened into new horizons, defined by words he never before had. Once you learn those words, however, it is difficult to unlearn them. And, as Dawes learns, nothing is ever the same again.

This is a science-fiction thriller novel about how people use language and how language changes the way you think. This is a struggle between opposing ideas about how society should be structured. What happens when you pit collectivism against individualism? What happens when you teach a people the words for expressing just how broken the world is? Are you prepared to defend what is right? Or do you even know what right is?

I was told this afternoon

That I should change careers

And instead of living by the book

Turn the world on its ears

Join a gang! So I was told

I should learn their lingo

The anti-language that they speak

Interrupt the system’s flow

Now why give me the advice

This push to be amoral

Because, no matter what they do

Gangs will offer dental.

That scorching sight, leaving all with heads bowed before her

The beatings upon bare backs, and the lashings on exposed skin

Oh, but for a moment’s relief! How we long to see her when all

Is dark and chill. Yet do we often forget the casual cruelty with which

She treats us all.

Aye, me, for a drink of ice, for a place where the memory of shadows remain.

Nay, tis not so. For that she would punish me further, demanding much

Before the beauty she creates.

26 September

Well, it’s time. I’m going to enter the digital age. I am going to be a writer who has, and does, social media. (And other platforms, but as they’re all fairly social, I will stick with the one term.)

Computers and I have… an interesting relationship. I am actually quite capable with computers. I can coax them into cooperating, but more often than not I just make them do my bidding. I have a pretty good grasp of how computers work and communicate. In fact, in my other life — where writing is my true love, but doesn’t pay the bills — I am working on pairing linguistics and computers for the purpose of working with AI, Natural Language Processing and so on. So, I get computers.

What I don’t get, is social media. 

I never could quite figure out how people managed to communicate meaningful information in such a small amount of space. It seemed so ephemeral. But, as the years progress, I’ve watching social media make its mark. Turns out, people manage to say a whole lot. And yes, it is ephemeral. But if you make your point well enough, it becomes more concrete. Well, it niggles at the back of your mind until you remember the point, but that’s a matter of semantics. (Pragmatics, actually. I’m trying not to be a pedantic linguist. It’s difficult.)

The point is: social media has a purpose and it is also where a good portion of the world focuses their attention. That’s why politicians play out their duels via Twitter; because people notice and that forces the other side to be diplomatic(ish). Social media is a means of reaching people you would never normally meet or talk with. It’s global, and it’s personal. And, yes, it is a good marketing tool.

So here goes! E.G. is going to enter the realm of social media. 

The hard part is figuring out how it works.

I am an introvert. This is not news, a grand revelation, or anything of the kind. I never had to struggle to figure this out. One day, I just learned that someone had a word for what I was. It was something of an, “oh, well, duh” moment. So by nature, I am pretty happy spending time in my head, on my own, not really worrying about the rest of the world.

Guess it’s a good thing I’m a writer.

Anyways, during the years of socialisation — namely, schooling through university — that spending time doing nothing is not, particularly, normal. I don’t have a Facebook. I don’t do social media (well, not until this last week). I barely text or call people. Yes, I spend time on the internet, but much of that involves research, watching videos and reading. I read a lot. Lots a lot. (That’s not particularly relevant to the main point, though.) I have had days where I don’t interact with people at all. I’ve had days where I interact with lots of people and still manage to do nothing.

The thing I’ve noticed, though, is that people seem to be doing something all the time. I get that. Doing something can be productive. Doing something can get you ahead in life. You get to see things and experience things. You do weekend trips and visit monuments and zoos and go to pubs for quiz night (or trivia night, depending on geographic orientation). It can be a very exciting life. For people like me, though, it can also be overwhelming.

I should very much like to see a revival of the Lost Art of Doing Nothing. I think that all of this connection to people and events at all hours of the day is making it more difficult for people to pause and reflect and think about things.

For example: I was waiting for the bus today — turns out it was the wrong bus, but I ended up somewhere interesting in any case — and, it being coldish, I had my hands stuffed in my pockets. I didn’t have my headphones for my phone with me, so I couldn’t listen to music. Likely, though, if I had had my headphones with me, I wouldn’t have bothered listening to music. I was looking for quiet, not a soundtrack for my day. I digress. I was not on my phone, I wasn’t talking to anyone, I was just standing there, waiting for the bus. I had done my work for the day, and while I had things to plan for, I didn’t have the resources with me to do them. So I didn’t bother thinking about them. I just stood there, watching people, not really actively thinking.

People call this “mindfulness” or “being in the moment”. Like the term “introvert”, these seem like duhs to me, because that’s just how I’ve spent my time. Putting a term to it doesn’t suddenly make it more than it was, or give it some new transcendental aspect. People just act like it does. In any case, I find these terms silly, but you can call it what you will.

I did notice, as I was waiting for the bus, that everyone else waiting for the bus was plugged in to their phones in some way. One gentleman had headphones in and was holding a conversation. Another young woman was checking her phone and typing something to someone, or looking something up or what have you. When I actually got on the bus, it was much the same way.

I wondered what would happen if all of this connectivity went away.

One full day without cell phones. Internet. Music ready at your hip.

Where every moment wasn’t filled with events or communication or something.

What if we had to live like we did forty, fifty, sixty, seventy years ago? Not what if we had grown up in that time, but what if we were suddenly transported backwards. I think people would probably go insane.

I’m not arguing against extroversion. Introverts are often some of the most connected people in the world, because that way they don’t have to interact with the real world. I’m not arguing that going out to the zoo or a club or a chocolate shop is a bad thing. I enjoy doing things quite a lot. I also enjoy having time off to think — or not — about the world and ruminate about ideas floating around my head.

I have no superb or profound conclusions to draw from this question. I am a writer, not a scientist. I am not able to actually send people back in time and observe what would happen. I can only theorise. And I think I could make a pretty good radio drama from such a theory.

If you want to go and do something, go for it. In the meantime, I am going to sit and read for a while.

And have no regrets for doing so.

On Monday, I went to the place where I normally have lunch. It’s too long a walk back to the flat for the time I have between classes. That is, I could feasibly walk back, but I would have to turn around a few minutes later. As I like leisurely lunches, I tend to eat where I am. Anyways, I went to go eat lunch — quiet alcove, usually only inhabited by other people also wanting to eat lunch — and there were people there discussing time travel.

At first, I was quite confused. They were talking about various pop-culture references to time travel (e.g. how shows talk about time travel, whether they were effective, what movies there are, etc.). But then, they started talking about episodes and time in general and I couldn’t help myself. I asked them what they were planning or doing?

See, I love time travel in all its iterations. There are few ways that you can mess up time travel (though I’ve seen movies that have done it) and I love messing with perceptions of reality. I think it might be inherent in my science fiction writing streak, or it’s just that I like having to think a bit.

I asked what was going on and I learned these people were doing Philosophy of Time Travel. (Actually, they were making a podcast series that talked about philosophy in general, but their focus was in time travel.)

First: that’s really cool.

Second: that’s a thing? People actually analyse the philosophy of time travel? How?! Time travel may exist as a concept, but practically speaking, it’s enormously complex. We don’t know if there are just infinite universes with infinite choices and you’re jumping between them. We don’t know if you can go back and change the past (no universes involved) or if you can’t. We don’t even know if it is technically possible to travel through time (other than in the slow, forward moving direction). Time travel is sort of like neural networks. It works (sort of) but people don’t actually know how.

Then, how can a person discuss the philosophy of time travel? There are too many variables to possibly account for. Philosophy is already a theoretical field. Add in something as complicated as time travel and I think any possible concrete ideas that could come from philosophy would be, for lack of a better word, bunk.

That being said, I think that is an incredibly cool field. And I have no idea what you do with that, practically speaking, except go into writing for shows or movies or books. Then, I’m a writer, so pretty much every possible field ends up having something to do with writing.


What a lunch.

I have nothing prepared for today’s blog post. But, you know, I’m okay with that. Every one has those days (it’s only Wednesday, so I can’t call it a week, yet) where you don’t get anything done. And, while I have technically gotten things done, it doesn’t feel like it. Yes, I’ve started writing updates for this weekend, but started doesn’t help. And, yes, I have technically done the work for my day-job, but again, not helping. Doing the dishes is just a chore, so I never count that.

Anyways, my point is, it’s good to take a break. I have nothing terribly pithy to say about breaks, nor what a joy taking them is. I can tell you they’re a great reset sometimes, and are usually better with tea, chocolate and popcorn. But that’s about it.

So, in the mean time, have a bit of on-the-spot poetry:

The desire for chocolate is strong

But the kitchen is far away

So I’ll stay where I am

And make hot cocoa another day

As you may know, I have decided to give this self-published author thing a real go. I’m going to be focusing on marketing, on producing content I can market and a series I can sell. I’m going to work on creating a brand, something that is both well-written and entertaining. That also means I’ve been starting to do a fair bit of research into how to market — and distribute — my books.

There are some very nice guides out there for how to market via social media, or use paid services. I’m published via Amazon at the moment, so I am doing a test run on their marketing service. (I’ll let you know how it goes.)

Then, there are the moments when I am not in the mood to do marketing or writing, or I am taking a break while I eat dinner, or what not. So I read. And read. And read some more. Yes, I am a Kindle Unlimited subscriber. I read so much that it would break my bank to not be a KU subscriber. That also means I read some books that aren’t great. I read some really good ones, but a lot of the books I go through are mindless distractions that follow a very specific formula. They take my mind away from reality for a bit and I don’t have to think too hard. It works.


Amazon has predictive algorithms that recommend books (and other products, to be honest) based on your reading history.

I hate it. Hate it.

If I wanted to keep reading the same sort of mindless stuff I have been, I would search for it. But only when I want to do so. When I’m in the mood for something like that. Now, all that shows up in my options for reading are those mindless books. And I can’t figure out a way to get rid of the algorithms. I want to read something completely different. I want to read a gritty mystery that has all the makings of a great historical series. Or a sci-fi that has nothing to do with space pirates. Or a fantasy that is different than the formulaic nobody-to-hero-with-unstoppable-powers that keeps showing up.

I can search for a few specific authors out there that I know and love, which gives me similar options. It also gives me options based on those stupid predictive algorithms. If I want to read something like Dorothy Sayers, then that’s what I want. Just because I’ve read poor imitations in the past doesn’t mean that’s what I’m looking for. There are thousands of authors out there whose books I haven’t even heard of. What if one of them is my next favourite and I won’t ever know because Amazon keeps throwing books at me.

Don’t worry, it gets worse.

I was doing research on how to turn off those dumb algorithms when I came across a marketing-related article that discussed tactics authors use to get a head on Amazon. (Thank you Google for your predictive algorithms for that one. Considerably less annoying, though, so there is that.) It turns out that there are horrid tactics that people use to push their sales and money-earning figures.

They do things like book stuffing. That’s where you throw loads of content into the back of your book (like those bonus novels that you haven’t published) so that people read more pages when they read your book. Because Amazon focuses on pages read for rankings. Seriously?

There’s also back linking, where links in the front of the book — say for a newsletter — take you to the back of the book. This, again, links to the pages read system.

There’s bribing people to review your books.

There’s claiming a specific brand and suing others who title their books similarly.

There’s getting people to mass-buy your books to bump listings.

How did we get from trying to write good books that people want to read to this? I want to write because I love writing. I love sharing my words with the world. I love the way the words look on the page. I love the feeling of getting thoughts straightened out into a coherent sentence. Or not. I love the way a story comes together. I want to share that with the world. It is my passion and my dream. But people take that and, with everything else it seems, want to turn that into a money-making scheme. And they do this by deplorable means that don’t have anything to do with writing.

Yes, I need to make money to live. But that’s not why I write. I write because I have a story to tell.

This sort of thing is why I’m cynical. (Also, Amazon, please turn off your algorithms. Please.)

Happy Halloween, Hogmanay, Samhain, etc. As far as I’m concerned, today is one of a few Days of Chocolate Eating. 

Tomorrow, as you may know, is the 1st of November. It is also the first day of NaNoWriMo. And, being a crazy writer as I am, I’m going to be doing NaNoWriMo. As well as continuing with the Black Thumb Society, my other day-job writings and whatever marketing I can possibly manage via social media. 

Basically, I’m rather excited.

The story, The Innocence of Death, will be updated here, on Inkitt and Fictionpress. Hopefully, I’ll get updates every day. If not, then at least every couple of days.

Here’s a brief synopsis:

Cal Thorpe is a publicist, marketing specialist and PR person. He is so good at his job that Death wants to hire him. During the course of this very unusual marketing campaign, Death is accused of a crime. Cal must do everything in his power to prove Death innocent. Only, how do prove Death innocent of murder?

University student Gregory Watkins was tired. Not tired of life, that is. He was in Egypt during the most interesting time every recorded, working as a research assistant to the famous Howard Carter. For goodness’ sake, he was working on the tomb of King Tutankhamen. No, he was absolutely thrilled to be part of this experience. But, after having worked all day in the stifling, cramped tomb trying to extricate various objects without them falling apart, fighting his way through the throngs of tourists who had come to see the excavation, he just wanted to sit and watch the sun go down with a nice cup of tea.

One problem: the only tea they had left until the supply train came was a bitter, distasteful American blend that one of the other archaeologists had brought. Either that or the Arabic coffee one had to strain through one’s teeth.

He was British, for goodness sakes. He wanted tea.

Watkins pushed his way into the canvas tent that served as the kitchen area. It was little more than a collection of dry goods and a chemical ring set apart from the collection of jars and pots that had come from the tomb and were unable to be categorised. There was a kettle already sitting on the ring—someone’s luncheon cup of tea, Watkins supposed—and enough water for two cups.

He lit the ring and looked around the dry goods for some cinnamon or sugar or anything to make the taste of the tea better.

Watkins flinched as he took in the sugar. Someone had left the lid open during the windstorm and it was mixed with granules of sand. Great. And… the cinnamon was gone. Which left the clay pot that was dirty, but had its seal in tact. It looked like one of those things the workers would have brought in from a local village. Maybe it was a sweetener, maybe it was a hoarded jar of condensed milk. Or maybe it was something else entirely.

Watkins heated a knife over the chemical ring and opened the seal. The lid to the jar popped open and inside… some sort of crystalline structure.

“Great,” Watkins muttered. “The honey’s gone solid, too.”

Watkins chiselled out a chunk of the substance and dropped it into the bottom of his cup.

The kettle boiled with a rather subdued whistle. Watkins couldn’t agree more. He would finish his work here and then get a Doctorate of Philosophy in the field of Ancient Egyptian history. It was pretty much guaranteed, him working on the Tutankhamen dig and all. The entire world was enamoured of that dig. Egyptian fever. Everybody wanted their hands on a piece of the dig and Watkins had been there when the tomb was unsealed.

He smiled to himself as he poured the brewed tea into his cup and stirred vigorously to get the honey to liquify.

Yes, working on this dig was bound to get him his degree. Maybe even a degree with honours.

The tent flap opened and none other than Howard Carter himself came into the tent, closely followed by a couple of other workers – some sort of photographer and a clerk, Watkins recalled.

“Tea, sir?” Watkins offered helpfully. “It’s freshly brewed. And this honey’s a bit thick, but,” he took a sip, “it’s not bad.”

Carter froze and stared at Watkins’ tea. “Honey?”

“Yes, found it in this jar. It’s a bit old. Needs to be soaked in water for a while, but it’s perfectly edible. Even tastes fine, though I wouldn’t compare it to our own honey. Must have come in on the last supply train from America.”

Carter made a strangled sound in his throat. “You… found it? In that jar?” he squeaked. Watkins frowned and poured another cup. Carter wasn’t sounding too healthy.

“Yes. Sealed and everything, so the sand stayed out. Sugar’s ruined, though,” Watkins said. He raised his knife to chisel off another piece for Carter’s cup and everyone, including the photographer, let out a cry. “What?” Watkins asked.

“That pot,” Carter said, jaw tense, “was pulled out of the tomb this morning. You, idiot, have been drinking tea with three-thousand year old honey.”

“Oh,” Watkins said, looking down at his cup, “well. It’s quite good honey for being that old, then.”

Carter let out a roar and charged at Watkins. The fight was brief and ended up with Watkins on the ground, nose bleeding, flat unconscious.

He woke in his own tiny cot, head throbbing. It was difficult to breathe. Watkins groaned and sat up, which only made the pressure worse. “You really messed that up,” one of the other university students smirked. “Carter’s been rampaging all morning.”

“Harrumph,” Watkins muttered.

“He wants to know what it will take for you to get on the next boat out of Alexandria and never, ever come back to one of his digs,” the student grinned.

“I just wanted my degree!” Watkins protested. “How was I to know the pot was from the tomb? It hadn’t been labelled and was mixed in with the dry goods!”

“So a degree? A recommendation for a degree? I think I can manage that,” the student mused. “And you’ll stay out of the field?”

Watkins scowled and touched his nose, tenderly, “I just wanted a cup of proper tea.”

“If you get on that boat, you’ll never have to worry about tea again,” the student said. “Just go away! Before you ruin the entire dig.”

Just like that, the student left. Watkins grumbled and flopped back onto his pillow. He had just wanted a cup of tea.

Two days later and he was on the boat out of Alexandria, Carter’s letter of recommendation in his pocket, a notebook before him in which he wrote up his latest findings.

Honey, Watkins wrote, is an extraordinary substance. It can last, when sealed, for thousands of years. And still be perfectly acceptable as a sweetener in a cup of tea.

Watkins scratched out the last sentence. Perhaps best not to tell the whole world how he knew honey was so remarkable. They might not be as understanding as Carter.

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