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How do you deal with bad reviews?

I find myself on tenterhooks, waiting for the first review to go up for Quest in Time: A Beginning. I have also just finished reading a book by another independent author, and have to write a review for that. So, book reviews are up there at the moment, vying for attention, along with, how do I pay the rent this month? Are we going to get another dog? And, where is my coffee?

Firstly, it is impossible to overstress how important reviews are for the indie author. We are unknowns. We do not have the backing and publicity machines associated with the big publishing houses. Our books do not get sent FOC to newspapers and other organisations for critic. WH Smiths do not have our books on the shelves or huge cardboard cut-outs of our front covers in the window. A press release for us is a write-up in the local paper, if we are lucky. Therefore, reviews of our books on Amazon, Goodreads and social media are the only way potential readers can get an idea of whether or not to part with their hard earned cash for our works.

So far I have been lucky; Bubble of Time hasn’t had any particularly bad reviews. The worst has been a two star review which was critical of the Devonian accent of several of my main characters. Otherwise, they have all had something nice to say and mostly been five star reviews. Therefore, it could be said, that I have not had to deal with a bad review. However, it doesn’t stop me worrying that the first review for QIT:AB will rip it to pieces, and will put off other people from buying it. I know my books won’t appeal to everyone; even the great STP had his critics and dissenters. But the first review…

I know the book I have to write a review for has had some shocking reviews. I don’t understand why. Perhaps they were expecting something else? True, the book is hardly a JRRT work, but it is an interesting fantasy story that has been told well. Yes, it is simplistic, but why does that matter? Surely the enjoyment is in the story itself and not in deciphering some huge political back-story or some complicated, multi-generational character angst? And since it is the second in a trilogy, why, when they have trashed the first volume, have they even bothered to read the second book, only to trash that one as well?

I do not pretend to understand the human psyche, and therefore, to me, a bad review is something I’ll take on the chin. As long as the majority of reviews are five star, I won’t worry too much about the odd bad one. I know my work will not appeal to everyone, no author ever does. But the first review…

So, please, please, PLEASE post a review.

Ride Safe

Rick

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Why do I set my books in Lyonnesse?

Yes, it’s another one of the questions that comes up in the author interviews, “why did you chose the setting that you did for the book?” or some such. “Why there? And what was the reason behind it?”
In my case it is simple, because my Lyonnesse is the world I would very much like to inhabit. It is a place where life is simpler and where magic and mystery still exist, and on the whole people are kinder to one another. Money isn’t the be all and end all and life is respected and held sacred. Not just the people, but everything that lives there, animal, plant and fungus. Things aren’t done quickly because it saves a few pennies (or cents). Things are done properly with love and attention.
I have been criticised as being anti-establishment and anti-capitalist. Not true, well not in the conventional sense anyway. Probably because I make a big thing out of everyone bartering in Lyonnesse. I fully understand that money is the ultimate, and in some ways, logical tool for bartering with. However I do object to the way it is used in our society. It is used to coerce the poor into unfulfilling and mind-numbing jobs, whilst the gap between rich and poor grows ever larger. The mathematics is simple, if everyone gets a 10% pay rise then the man at the bottom earning ten thousand a year get an extra thousand to take home. However, boardroom man earning one hundred thousand gets an extra ten thousand a year, the equivalent of an extra man doing the work at the bottom. I could go on and I know that this is simplistic but it is still true.
Also, because boardroom man is keen to meet targets and because labour and wages are the single greatest expenditure for most companies, if a few seconds can be shaved off of the time it take to do something, so much the better. As a result everything becomes just good enough at best, and pride in the work you do goes out the window. Take roads for example. Yes, alright, I have a bugbear about roads, but they make a good example. Years ago councils used to have their own road building/maintenance departments to look after the roads. And for the most part they did a good job and took pride in their work. They had to because their foreman of works would come along during and after the job to make sure it was being done properly.
Then, in an effort to save a few pennies, it was decreed that all works commissioned by councils had to go out to tender, and council work gangs were laid off. Many of the recently laid off workers organised themselves into small companies, often with the same managers they had had before. They still did a good job of repairing the roads and the council saved a little money because the small company didn’t have to support tiers of management and could therefore do it cheaper. The councils still had to pay someone to inspect the work after, but all was well, and the men still had pride in their work.
Enter big business. Why? Because the contracts for road repairs are very lucrative and there is money to be made. So many of the small business either had to reduce their prices to compete for the tenders or they were bought out by bigger firms. Since the costs of the materials used were fixed the only way to reduce the price was to do the job quick and therefore with less care. This reduced the number of companies vying for the tenders, seen as a good thing because it generates competition. The councils are still happy because they are still saving money, and they can save even more money by nor replacing their inspectors as they retire or leave because they are confident that a good job will be done because it was last year. The workers aren’t as happy because they no longer have the time to do the job to the standard they are used to.
Years pass as they have a habit of doing. All the small companies that were started when the work first went out to tender have now either gone out of business or been bought out by big business. This reduces the number of companies bidding for the tenders. The council is still under pressure to save money and goes for the lowest bid. (Yes, I’m not going to say anything about the backhanders that go on to get contracts.) The big companies have to save money, somewhere because they have the tiers of management to support that the small companies didn’t. But that’s ok because the old work gangs are getting to retirement age and are fed-up with the half arsed job they were doing. Instead of having the expense of hiring and paying wages, all new recruits are taken on as self-employed subcontractors. This not only saves the expense of employing staff but also means they don’t have to pay them if there is no work for them to do. The workers are only happy in the fact that they have a job and are earning a wage. The council still haven’t hired any more inspectors because they can’t afford it. Big business realises this and starts cutting corner in the work they do. This saves them even more money.
A short time later big business is happy because they are making lots of money. There is no one left in the gangs who knows how to repair the roads properly because they have all gone. Instead, the workers have to work to a tick box minimum standard and do it as quickly as possible using the least amount of materials as possible. They have no job satisfaction because not only are they self-employed and have no rights in the company and no say, but also they know they are doing a half arsed and how much the management is getting paid.
In the end the workers have no job satisfaction, council is paying more for the job that it would if it was doing the work itself, and the roads are in a terrible state because they have been poorly maintained and work is no longer inspected.
Big business is happy because there is an endless supply of work repairing roads that they didn’t repair properly before, and they are still getting paid for it.
Alright, alright, this is highly simplistic, but it is still true, and not just for roads, for everything that was subcontracted out and put to tender. Everything is now done to a tick box minimum standard. Excellence and pride in a job well done have become too expensive because there is no profit in it. Communism does not work because there is always someone who wants a larger slice of the pie. However, capitalism can only exist where there is a poorly paid underclass.
As usual please feel free to comment or rant at my rantings.

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Romance? Er … (gulp) … OK

This week on the Gumbee blog, we have the quite brilliant (which often means genially insane in my experience) Marcus Pailing. Marcus writes much harder fantasy than I do, and isn’t averse to a bit of gore. So, let’s see what he thinks of the softer side of fantasy…..

(Oh, and incidentally, I was indulging my romantic side when I added the tags for peril, conflict, fight scenes and pursuit… Will)

“Romance, eh?” I thought as the suggestion was put forward. My esteemed Gumbee colleague, Will MacMillan Jones, had recently returned from the Festival of Romance, and was all afire with passion … or such was the impression he gave. It was his suggestion, with a fast-beating heart and hot cheeks, that we turn our attention to the theme, to see whether the rest of us could also demonstrate our forays into the realms of romance.

I don’t consider myself much practised in the writing of romance. Generally I’m more of a swords and spears fantasy writer (and I don’t mean that euphemistically). When I was growing up, fantasy novels either steered clear of ‘lurve’ (and often eschewed females entirely, or kept them as very minor characters); or else treated women as lusty, heaving-bosomed bit-players, planted in the stories to demonstrate the equally lusty masculinity of the over-muscled protagonist.

Now, I appreciate a heaving bosom as much as the next man, but I never wanted to have female characters who were mere eye-candy. At the same time, I never set out to write ‘romance’. I did introduce it to my novels, however; but in small measures only – my main characters do meet women, marry them, and have children with them, after all.

This changed somewhat when I wrote The Withered Rose, because the entire novel is basically a romantic tragedy. So when the idea for this theme came up, I turned to that novel to see what I had written.

In order to explain the following extract, here’s some context. There are two friends, both called Atela. One of them is locked in a marriage that is starting to fall apart, having had a very positive start; the other has recently married herself, and is blissfully happy. Kieldrou, the son of the count of Trall, is younger than both the women, but has dazzled them with his tales of adventure – he has recently returned from a journey in the exotic lands of Azzawa. He has made it clear already that he finds them both attractive, and while he hasn’t exactly attempted to seduce either of them, he has managed in the past to trick them into giving him kisses.

 

“My ladies, I said that I had gifts for you both.”

The two Atelas sat in a window seat, having moved away from their husbands after a while of conversation. Now Kieldrou stood before them again. He had left his audience, where Derian was now entertaining the folk with more tales of their time in the east. Kieldrou looked a little flushed, but it was not from drink; more likely it was the excitement of having had an audience hanging on his every word.

“I think you should consider becoming a player,” teased Short Atela. “Entertaining the masses with your tall tales.”

“I swear, on my honour, that I exaggerate nothing,” he said, sounding only a little hurt. “I told nothing but the truth. Although perhaps it is better that you did not stay to hear me tell of the thieves of Ukhara, or you really would not believe me.”

“You noticed we had gone?” Atela asked. “I thought you too engrossed in your glory.”

“I noticed,” he said softly. “But it does not matter. I do not seek to gain favour with mere stories.”

Atela raised an eyebrow. “And how would you gain favour?”

“With gifts.”

At that, Kieldrou held out two small wooden boxes, handing one to Atela, and the other to the younger woman. “I found them in Ukhara, and thought of you both.”

“After three years?” laughed Short Atela. “Or did you buy them, and then think of us when you got here?”

Kieldrou frowned, and stepped back slightly, giving them a little space as they opened the boxes.

Atela gasped. Lying inside her box was a small white rose, exquisitely carved from the purest ivory – a rare and expensive luxury in Western Gilderaen – and turned into a brooch. It was a perfect reproduction of the flower, even in miniature. Short Atela was similarly overcome: hers was a tulip, also most delicately carved.

“I recalled the silver rose I gave you at your wedding,” Kieldrou said, his voice faltering a little. There was none of his usual humour in his voice. “I remembered how much you liked it, which is why I thought of you when I saw it. For you, my lady,” he continued, turning to Short Atela, “I wanted something of similar beauty, to match yours.” For the first time in Atela’s memory, he appeared to blush a little.

“It is beautiful,” Atela murmured. “Truly a marvel, and I do thank you. What favour do you wish for in return, then? Are you hungry for another kiss?”

She said it quickly, laughing, and without thinking. She certainly did not expect the reaction she got. Kieldrou’s brows creased in a frown, and he muttered a denial, before turning on his heel and striding away.

The two Atelas looked at each other, puzzled. “Did I offend him?” Atela asked, and the other shrugged. “Oh, Hogra, I fear I have. We forget he is a young man, now, no longer a high-spirited boy.”

“We must apologise,” Short Atela said. “Where has he gone?”

They scanned the hall, but he was nowhere to be seen. They figured he must have left, and they stood up to follow him. Yet they had to be discreet: it would not be seemly for them to go chasing after him. As they walked through the hall they were accosted again by Elnir and Sturgar, and were forced to stay in conversation for some time. When they escaped, they were then trapped by the earl and countess of Mendivar. It was a good half hour before they managed to get out of the hall.

“Let us try the garden,” Short Atela suggested. Atela nodded, and they hurried along the empty corridors towards the door that led out to the cloister.

It was late, and the garden was lit by a pale moon, throwing dark shadows yet illuminating the rows of flowers in the middle of the garden. He was there, walking alone between the bushes. He turned when they called his name, stiffening when he saw who it was that disturbed him.

“Kieldrou, I am truly sorry,” Atela said. “I was teasing, forgetting you are no longer a boy. It was wrong of me, and you did not deserve it.”

“I, also,” Short Atela admitted. “They are truly beautiful gifts, and you must have thought hard about them. We do not deserve your kindness, nor your thoughts of us while so far from home.”

Kieldrou gave a wan smile. “No, my ladies, you deserved no less. I can easily forgive your teasing. It is my fault: of course I expected nothing in return, and there was no call for me to take umbrage. Besides, you are both married women. Perhaps I should not have made you those gifts at all.”

“But they are most gratefully received,” Atela said. “I, for one, will treasure mine.” Beside her, Short Atela nodded in agreement.

“I am glad,” he said. “I have no expectations, but beauty and friendship should be rewarded.”

Atela felt a tightness in her chest, and she never knew what made her do as she then did. “Indeed they should,” she replied, and she stood on her toes to plant a light kiss on his lips. She felt his arm reach round her shoulder and she stepped back quickly. She remembered the strength of those arms three years before, and dreaded what she would do if she felt them around her again. “I’m sorry,” she breathed. “That is all I can give.”

He smiled sadly. “I understand, my lady.” He bowed to them both, and turned to go.

“Kieldrou.”

He turned back, and looked at Short Atela, who stepped forward, biting her lip. “I’m sorry,” she said, “that I cannot offer you even a kiss. I … it would not …”

“Thank you, my lady,” he said, cutting her off to save her the embarrassment of stumbling through a needless explanation. “You are happily married, I know. As I said, I have no expectations. The gifts were gifts, and deserve no payment. Although I shall treasure your return gift,” he added to Atela, briefly touching his lips.

Then he was gone.

“Oh, Hogra!” Atela groaned. “What did I do?”

“Nothing wrong,” Short Atela said, firmly. “It was a friendly gesture, that is all. Although it was wise to step back when you did.” She laughed, but it was a brittle laugh.

“I almost lost myself. What was I thinking? I am eleven years older than he, and married.”

“Locked in a withering marriage,” Short Atela shot back. “Let us be honest about it. Yet you must not do any more. I would advise you – both of us – not to seek out that young man again. You’ve had ‘the talk’ from my mother.”

Atela started. “How did you know?”

Short Atela laughed. “I know my mother. You were clearly unhappy at the time of my betrothal, and you sought a private meeting with her. She never told me what you discussed, but I am not stupid. I know her, and I have seen enough other women seek her advice. It takes no great imagination to guess what advice my poor, dear, beautiful and unsociable mother could give.

“Come on,” she went on, taking Atela’s hand in hers. “Let us get back to the hall and put the Trallian from our minds.”

 

This is the point in the novel where Atela – the one who this time kissed Kieldrou – begins to harbour romantic thoughts about the young man. Later in the novel these are to cause a lot of pain to a large number of people … but to say more here would rather spoil the story.

Still, the novel only costs £1 on Amazon …

http://www.amazon.co.uk/The-Withered-Rose-Count-Trall-ebook/dp/B008A7RJJK/ref=sr_1_3?ie=UTF8&qid=1385821608&sr=8-3&keywords=marcus+pailing

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We’re in the mood for love…

Hello, good evening, and welcome from a passing lunatic who has managed to hack MTM’s carefully managed blog: to talk about luuuurrrve.

Sadly there comes a point in every fantasy novel where two characters have to gaze into each other’s eyes: even at the expense of allowing several more orcs to extend their corporeal existence, or letting the expensive manufactured Ultimate Weapon of Doom to get a bit cobwebby instead of knocking the Dark Lord off his Throne, or even failing to collect the magical ring from its appointed hiding place.

It’s called Romance, and mostly we prefer to poke the subject with a sharp stick from a safe distance. Here’s the amazing Jim Webster and his take on the subject.

Romance?
Well obviously I’m both Male and English and therefore am automatically disqualified from not merely writing romance but of even understanding the concept.
Problem is one of the characters whose life I have chronicled is male but isn’t English and being a Toelar Roofrunner, romance is very much an integral part of his existence.
So I’ve tended to be guided in these things by him. The following passage comes from ‘The Cartographer’s Apprentice’, available from all good ebook stores. Amazon have it for 7pp at http://www.amazon.co.uk/The-Cartographers-Apprentice-Jim-Webster-ebook/dp/B00ECZIM4A/

“Allonai took over the organisation of their evening meal. She brooked no interruptions, but instead talked long with the cook. She then announced that the meal would be served in her suite rather than in the main dining room.
She showed Benor upstairs and led him into her audience room. It had a large picture window which allowed you to look down Supplicant’s Hill and to the east. There were two doors off, one of which, slightly ajar, revealed a bath, the other led through to a bedroom. The centrepiece of the audience room was the dining table. Benor had never seen one like it. From above the shape was of an exaggerated violin, with the two diners sitting facing each other in the opposing waists. Scattered round the room on various tables were sundry discarded outer garments, a light crossbow, and a selection of shoes. He pointed at the crossbow, “An interesting accessory, does it go with any particular outfit?”
“As I said, I was on a hunting trip; it is a perfectly normal lady’s crossbow, suitable for light game, even dart if you get close enough.”
There were a couple of books on the table next to the crossbow, he scanned their titles. “A lifetime of wasted versifying.”
“Yes, the collected works of Quoloen the Indelicate. If I confess to a liking for poetry will you still talk to me?”
Before Benor could reply, a stream of waiters entered, carrying trays loaded with little dishes, which they arrayed on the table in what was obviously a specified pattern. By each dish was a small wine glass. Finally the entire table was full and Allonai chivvied the last of the staff out of the door and closed it firmly. Then she turned to Benor, curtseyed and announced, “The thirty-seven customary dishes, each with its own wine. Would sir care to take his place at the table?”
With this she ushered him to the table, saw him seated, and then sat facing him. “Have you ever eaten the thirty-seven dishes?”
Rather shamefaced, Benor admitted he hadn’t. Allonai launched into an explanation. “The dishes are placed in order, the first you find in front of you, the others lead off to the left, curl round the table edge and work their way back so both the second and the thirty-sixth dishes are next to your place. So the dishes on your left hand side are yours, the dishes on your right hand side are mine.”
Benor surveyed the scene, each dish might hold two mouthfuls, but then there were thirty seven of them. The wine glasses did not hold a mouthful. Once or twice in the past he had pondered investing in the thirty-seven dishes as a way of wooing a particularly difficult lady, but had never been able to afford the initial investment.
The first dish was a seafood tagine, salty-sour and rather good. The wine was, to his surprise, a sip of strong cider, which turned out to complement the tagine perfectly. Allonai expressed her approval and they both tried the next dish, a clam linguine. For a Toelar man, the dash of pepper was not quite enough to be exciting but still, he felt he approved. Happy that the food seemed to be excellent, Benor relaxed. As he sipped the second wine, a slightly sweet white, probably locally grown, he asked Allonai “So what are your plans when we get this matter dealt with?”
Gently he guided the conversation. He had long ago learned that the ‘good conversationalist’ said very little and merely kept their companion talking. Over the course of the succeeding dishes Benor learned about Allonai’s childhood, the stresses of growing up as a young woman in Seramis, tales of bitter infighting within the family over her father’s estate, and something of her hopes for the future. Deep fried crispy caterpillars were followed by thin slices of horrocks’ testicle, flash-fried in nut oil, each with the appropriate wine. Finally, as he finished a mouthful of honey berries sprinkled with ginger he noticed Allonai was watching him, her expression somehow forlorn. Without really thinking about the consequences, he leaned across and kissed her.”

And there it ends, I’m working on the principle that all my readers are grown up and know all the technical details and don’t need me to provide a user’s manual.

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Gumbee Fantasy Writers ‘do’ Pursuit: Number 1 Jaq D Hawkins

Imagine if you will, a chase involving three airships travelling through storm clouds, something that no sane airshipman would try. One ship is captained by Mister Wyatt, a disgrunted businessman who managed to waylay a shipment of opium through a shady deal, but the opium was stolen by pirates, and he pursues them with a mechanoid crew whose programming he is sure will equalise his inexperience as an airship captain. Another ship is captained by Tom Bradley, former night guard for Wyatt’s factory, who is also chasing after the opium with a crew more accustomed to burglarising houses than airship travel. His motivations are pure profit. A third ship, flown by a crew of experienced airship pirates who have actual possession of the opium, disappears into a cloud and in the low visibility, the other two airships mistake each other for Captain Bonny and his pirates. But first, we have a close encounter:

‘Captain Tommy! Look!’ a man shouted.

Bradley was already transfixed by the proximity of the other craft. The decks passed close enough that he could see Mister Bale standing on deck, smoking a pipe with the cat on his shoulder. Then they were gone, soaring off into the cloud ahead.

By then the sun had risen to reveal a dim morning. Anne Bardwell, sitting in the pilot’s booth, was no fool. The fog on the ground was clearing enough to see buildings. She took the ship down a little to see more clearly before the order reached her that they were to give chase to the ship that had passed. She had already nearly wet herself when the hull had passed within inches of her view window. She had no intention of returning to the thicker clouds where visibility was completely obscured. However, as they cleared the cloud, she saw an airship ahead of her and assumed that it must be the same craft, having come about from the hazardous cloud cover. Thus it was that Captain Zachary Wyatt with his crew of mechanoids and Captain Tommy Bradley and his gang of miscreants sped forth towards each other in stormy skies, while Captain Horatio Bonny floated above the worst of the storm, seeking his goddess.

The near miss was reported by crew who had seen it happen immediately, but Captain Bonny waved off the crewman who came to him with no more than a nod of acknowledgement. The incident was past before he could have reacted, and the wake of the dragon called him. Another few grains of opium were added to the pipe. He looked wistfully at the little cat still perched on his first mate’s shoulders further down the deck, then back off into the coming mist, seeking some sign of his goddess.

Oh dear. between the rum, the opium and a certain superstitious bent, the pirates do tend to come out of every situation unscathed. But will our other two airships fare as well?

Just as Captain Wyatt despaired of losing his quarry, he saw the airship headed directly for him from out of a cloud. The mechanoid pilot had levelled above the London fog, which was as hazardous as the storm clouds. The two would meet soon. Wyatt worked out that the mechanoid might well shut down completely if it was faced with conditions that gave it no logical course of action. There was no choice but to take control himself. He had, after all, studied the flight manuals.

He ordered the pilot mechanoid to remove itself for maintenance and took the controls. In clear skies as he had hoped for on that morning, he would have felt exhilarated to be flying his own machine above the city, but under the circumstances he was tense. He could just see the outlines of building tops and hoped that his knowledge of London would be sufficient to avoid getting too close to any that were tall enough to cause him trouble. The storm clouds were closing in on the city fast now. He knew very well that the sensible thing to do would be to go back and moor the ship until it passed, but the quarry rode towards him on the crest of the wave of black cloud. In truth, he wasn’t sure of his way back.

He needed a strategy. For all his preparations and good sense, Wyatt was inexperienced in the game of war. He had foresight enough to provide himself with weapons, mostly among the mechanoids, but how to go about getting them onto the other ship was something he hadn’t had enough time to consider. His first thought was that he would have to manoeuvre his ship to a position above the other and drop them down on the open deck. The mechanoids would know what to do from there.

Can you program a mechanoid to fight a battle? Mister Wyatt seems to think so. Meanwhile, the other crew of ‘night watchmen’ have troubles of their own.

Meanwhile Captain Tommy alternated between shouting orders to his disgruntled crew and uttering promises that they would be warm and comfortable soon, as well as rich. They plunged through the turbulent clouds in pursuit, causing several men to be sick over the side. A cross wind turned the ship nearly sideways just as one of Bradley’s watchman friends was leaning over the rail and sent him tumbling over the side. Bradley jumped towards him, trying to prevent his fall, but there was no time. He looked over the side in despair for his lost mate.

That was when he realised that the storm had blown their course back to the city. The ship was passing dangerously close over Big Ben. By some fluke, they had been directly over the clock tower as the man had fallen and he had landed on the slanted roof of the upper tower over the clock. Bradley watched as his lost crewman scrambled down to a platform with pillars where a talented second story sneak thief could climb to relative safety. He waved a salute as the airship climbed a little higher to avoid collision with the clock tower.

Hazardous conditions indeed, but Wyatt lures the other ship away from the centre of London and out over open country.

Bradley saw the other airship speeding away from him. He smiled, forgetting the man on the tower, and gave the order to give chase. He needn’t have bothered as the storm was blowing both airships before its force. As long as their courses continued north, nature was happy to give them an assisting push.

Wyatt gloried in thoughts of favourable tailwinds and sailed on northwards, watching carefully to make sure that the other airship followed. With an inexperienced crew against one that had been well programmed, Bradley’s ship faltered and was tossed about in the high winds as his men tried to work out the finer points of flap positions to make best use of the air currents. Wyatt noticed the difficulty and slowed his speed a little, allowing time for the other ship to catch up. As the situation worsened, Wyatt decided it was time to make his move. They were just outside of the busiest part of the city, over sufficiently open country to make a stand.

Wyatt’s ship floated upwards into a dark cloud that was just overtaking the race between airships. With their own stability to attend to, Bradley’s crew didn’t notice the manoeuvre.

‘Captain Tommy! We have to go to ground and wait it out. It’s tearing up the ship!’ Bradley heard the crewman shout the warning and swore under his breath. He kept sending orders to Anne to stay in pursuit, but the girl kept losing altitude. No doubt the woman was afraid of the storm as his men appeared to be, but Bradley had heard tales recollected on Bonny’s ship that convinced him that a stout heart could ride out any storm. As long as they stayed near the edge, that was the trick.

He looked through his scope and swore again. There was no sign of the other ship. They had been evaded. He nodded to the crewman and ordered him to pass the order to the pilot. The other ship must have docked already. When the storm passed, they could search again. It was just at that moment that something heavy plummeted past the open deck. Bradley was perplexed as he caught a split second of metallic reflection from a distant flash of lightning. He looked over the side, but the object had fallen too fast and was instantly lost in the mists surrounding them.

An almighty thump on the deck behind him made him spin, pistol at the ready. Not all of his crew were so armed, but Tom Bradley had always felt more comfortable with a pistol secured about his person. This was the first time he had ever pulled it out. His hand shook as he took in the sight before him. The pistol dropped impotently from his fingers, unnoticed either by Bradley or the mechanoid that struggled to stand up among broken deck boards that had splintered from its fall.

Another mechanoid fell just beyond the deck, plummeting past the ship. The silence of the morning cast an eerie flavour to the bizarre state of affairs as the cloud mists closed around the airship, cutting it off from all contact with the normality of the world that Bradley and his crew knew. There were other men on deck, but not one of them made a sound as a second successful mechanoid fell onto the deck, crashing through the boards completely into the compartment below. Meanwhile, the first mechanoid had moved towards the stairs, descending towards the pilot’s booth. Bradley blinked, and then shouted Anne’s name as he ran after the mechanoid to protect the woman he loved, although he didn’t know how he was going to do it.

Boarded by mechanoids! How would you defend yourself, and what happened to the ones who fell to the ground? The Wake of the Dragon by Jaq D Hawkins is available at Amazon, Smashwords, Kobo, Barnes & Noble, iTunes and soon to be released in paperback from Lulu.com

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