Just Maybe

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Sunday Stars – Inspire-O by Claire Buss

Inspire-O by Claire Buss

My heart started beating faster. I’d got one. It was there. Tip of my tongue. Like that first delicious sliver of ice cream slowly melting in your mouth. But I didn’t want to know just yet. I was savouring it. It might be my last.

Since the technology had been launched, there had been so much research into what ‘it’ actually was. That was how the early millionaires were made. They were the lucky ones now. They didn’t have to bang their heads in frustration trying to find the next one. And where did they come from anyway? No-one knew, no-one had any answers or if they did, they weren’t sharing and were making their own fortunes instead. You couldn’t blame them.

Imagine, people used to think it was like golden dust that fell upon us, landing on only one in a million. Thankfully that wasn’t the general rule but for the unlucky ones, it might as well be. It had been scientifically proven that some people were genetically predisposed to get more than others. And what about the poor schleps who never had one in their whole life?

Well, we all knew what they did now. They served. And if they refused they were… recycled. Their genetic material destroyed so as not to dilute the process in the future.

It might not be a perfect world order but it had certainly created order. Criminals were stopped before they even fully knew what they were going to do. War was a thing of myth. There was no need for armies or generals or even Presidents anymore. The true kings of the world were the idealists.

And all it had taken was a simple thought processing chip. The big giants like Google & Apple had missed the boat, they were dinosaurs now but at the time they’d scrambled for a piece of the pie. They were too late. The Inspir-O had been born and thanks to a forward thinker high-up in world governance, everyone had one. Whether they wanted one or not. Easier to distribute that sort of thing then you might think. Nanobots. Now that was one in a million.

Forget political connections, forget prestige, forget platinum blonde & fake tan celebrity-itis – what now defined the winners and losers was a single thought process. Often one you only ever had subconsciously. It made and broke entire families in the blink of an eye. They used to say you could never have a bad one but that was debunked early on.

People had tried lobotomies, mind wipes, telepathic shielding, isolated living – the whole nine yards. In the early days, those with the funds had even tried running into space. It hadn’t made a difference. The Inspir-O was a machine in more ways than one. It caught them all, the good, the bad and the ugly. It didn’t matter who you were. It just boiled down to whether the logarithm agreed or not.

My phone pinged. Game over. Inspire-O had picked it up. Now I would know. Was my idea worth.

Claire Buss

Read the story behind the story.

To enjoy more writing by Claire Buss check out The Gaia Effect and Tales from Suburbia

 

A Bite of… Claire Buss

So we tracked down Claire Buss and set about perplexing her with some deviously difficult dilemmas!

Q1: Cake or scones?

Now you’re actually asking an English person to choose between cake & scones when it’s a well know fact that scones form part of afternoon tea or high tea if you’re super posh. Afternoon tea not only comes with ridiculously small and pointless sandwiches it also comes with delicious cakes of which scones are one option. Together with jam and cream. In fact, the definition of scone is as follows:

scone – skɒn,skəʊn

noun
 1.
  1. a small unsweetened or lightly sweetened cake made from flour, fat, and milk and sometimes having added fruit.

If you had asked me whether it was scone or scone, I might have been able to answer.

Q2: Which is your favourite British iconic symbol?

I love that we have a royal family. I can’t quite explain what it is about them that fills me with such national pride. It might have been that I was born within days of Charles & Diana’s wedding so maybe I absorbed all that patriotism whilst still in the womb. My own little boy was born within days of Prince George and together we have waved our nation’s flag and cheered loudly when the Queen came to visit our little borough.

Q3: Would you rather be a dragon or a unicorn?

Dragon because … look, I don’t want to go into it but everyone knows that unicorns can’t be trusted. It’s all those rainbows coming out of their ass. And who in their right mind would want a horn in the middle of their forehead? Dragons, now dragons get to horde gold and be bad tempered and eat anyone they don’t like. What’s not to love?

 

Claire Buss is a science fiction, fantasy & contemporary writer based in the UK. She wanted to be Lois Lane when she grew up but work experience at her local paper was eye-opening. Instead, Claire went on to work in a variety of admin roles for over a decade but never felt quite at home. An avid reader, baker, and Pinterest addict Claire won second place in the Barking and Dagenham Pen to Print writing competition in 2015 setting her writing career in motion. The Gaia Effect, the winner of the Favourite Fantasy/Sci-Fi book Raven Award, was published in 2016 and Tales from Suburbia in 2017.
You can catch up with Claire all over social media on Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, Pinterest, LinkedIn, Google+ and Youtube or on her own website. You can also follow her peregrinations through publishing and other traumas on her blog But I Don’t Like Salad.

Weekend Wind Down – Blood on The Sand

From : “Transgressor: Dues of Blood.”

The tattooed face broke into an ugly snarl, as the spearhead nearly grazed one shoulder of its owner’s powerful frame. He lunged forward, the double-headed axe swinging and the crowd yelled as he claimed his kill, severing the arm of the spear-wielding warrior at the shoulder in a fountain of scarlet and removing his head with a backswing, as effortlessly as a chef might slice through a soft cheese.

It was a very popular kill. This animal, who had the fighting-name ‘Therloon’, had been the new darling of the Alfor crowds since he had arrived in the arena a couple of moons after the Fair. He was of the nomadic folk from the Eastern Continent and had their renowned tenacity and powerful build combined with a flair for the theatrical and a spectacular viciousness that was all his own. Playing to the crowd like the professional he was, Therloon swung his axe around his head and roared, his face contoured into a hideous grin which must have been visible even to those who stood furthest from the edge of the arena. The crowd responded to his signature salute and roared his name.

The powerful Easterner turned to where one opponent remained facing him. The smaller man held his sturdy frame prepared, the curving sword he gripped in one hand looked as frail as a blade of grass against the life-harvesting scythe of Therloon’s whirling axe. But the crowd expected good sport before they had their final glut of blood. For this was no ordinary combat unfolding before them and the money that rode on the outcome of this single bout would have paid the wages of half the troops Qabal Vyazin had been mustering on the outskirts of Tabruth. This was the kind of match that men waited years to see and could only be provided by this, the most prestigious Arena in Temsevar – that of the city of Alfor.

It occurred to Torwyn, watching this display as he ran a hand through his short terracotta-coloured hair, that there were many places better to be than standing less than ten paces away from the axe-wielding maniac and on the wrong side of the high barricades which protected the crowd from the fighting-slaves within.

Facing Therloon, now alone, stood the one they called the Sabre, whom the crowd had just seen defeat his own previous opponent with a classic display of athletic grace and skill. Now, invisible to all except those in the audience closest to where he stood, he shifted his weight very slightly, as if knowing what to expect. The charge, when it came, made him move quickly aside and turn to duck under the axe whilst bringing his own, lighter, blade across to cut at the bigger man’s back. It was not sufficient to do any real damage to his opponent, but enough to gain an appreciative call or two from the crowd and Torwyn could tell it had angered the Easterner.

“Sabre! Sabre!” He evidently had supporters out in strength, probably as many as were there to cheer for Therloon, but then few fighting-slaves were as well-known as the Sabre because few survived six years in the Arena as he had. Few overcame for that long the ever more creative and dangerous demands made on a crowd-pleasing favourite which turned life and death combat into gore-fest theatre or blood-drenched farce.

If it had not been for the coming war this fight would never have been allowed so soon. To end deliberately, the career and crowd-pulling earning power of a top fighting-slave was not a decision made lightly by the lanista of an Arena. More especially when the lanista was well renowned for being a tight-fisted miser, who kept his fighting-slaves in the minimum conditions and invested all his money in crowd-pleasing exhibitions and expensive exotics.

The dance of death continued on the blood-stained sand of the stadium between the unwieldy axe, made agile and serpentine in the hands of the powerful Easterner, and the insubstantial blade of the sword weaving the will of the man who held it. From the first, it had been apparent that the sword was no real match for the heavier weapon with its much longer reach. It was only because the man who held it seemed to possess almost precognitive reactions and a creatively robust athleticism, that the inevitable end was being delayed so long. The tension became palpable and the focus of the two men was absolute. For them, the world had shrunk to the circle of sand and the sweep of feet, hands and weapons.

Normally, the element of drama would have featured far more in any performance by either man. The Easterner was famed for his love of blood and to watch him fight was to watch a butcher at work in a slaughterhouse – but a butcher with a malicious streak of sadism – and the crowd, never sated, loved that. By comparison, the Sabre was known for the humour and finesse he brought to his savagery, playing with his opponents in burlesque ways which would have the crowd fired up with laughter and then stunning them into silence by the breath-taking skill of his acrobatic agility.

Even now, apparently pressed to his limits, Sabre found time to dance a brief step or two with a flower in his teeth, thrown by one of the crowd. It proved to be an expensive crowd-pleaser as the Easterner seized the moment to strike and Sabre, ducking under the blow, raised his own weapon ineffectively to deflect the lethal weight of the axe. It barely turned the heavy slicing blade but at the price of being smashed away from its owner’s grip.

Disarmed, the Sabre dived into a desperate, ground-covering roll that brought him distance from the certain death of Therloon’s backswing, and a few more precious moments of life. But his move was accompanied by the groans and boos of the watching throng. Those who had placed their money on the Sabre were most vocal in their disappointment. The fight was lost and many who had bet on the old favourite knew they would go home the poorer. But the let-down was soon overlaid by a fresh building of anticipation. There remained the catharsis of the kill itself, and Therloon was a master of spectacular, messy killing. That was something to look forward to. The Sabre’s last show would be an essay in violent, agonising death and those he had just robbed of their winnings would enjoy that revenge.

Torwyn watched the Easterner as he advanced across the floor of the arena. Therloon was fully aware that this was his moment and the exaggerated grin that split the tattooed face was as much leer of derision as smile of victory. Only those nearest the edge of the arena heard the tattooed man’s words as he approached his unarmed foe.

“You want to take back what you said before?”

The Sabre backed off step by step as the other man advanced, his arms spread wide in a gesture of pacification or surrender and the roar of contempt from the crowd at this sign of cowardice swelled close to riot.

“Take it back? Why should I?” he said as if puzzled by the question.

“Because on that depends how fast you die.”

“I don’t see why,” the Sabre’s tone was soft. “No matter how quickly or slowly you kill me it is all still true, Gant. You are an imbecile, a laughably dumb brute. You have less intelligence than the beast they named you for.”

An animal growl in his throat, the Easterner shot forward, the long axe held lightly in his hands. Sabre stepped back in a nervous retreat and in doing so missed his footing and tripped, sprawling backwards over the body of Therloon’s previous victim. He fell on his back, arms wide, body spread open and helpless.

The Easterner charged the last few paces, his face congested by anger and hate and Torwyn knew he was going to make this kill one his audience would long remember. Then the fallen man moved. His body rolled suddenly backwards, looking for all the world like a street tumbler, legs disappearing over his head and he finished the movement smoothly on one knee, the spear he had rescued in the process of completing the roll, held in his hands and braced solidly against his foot.

Therloon could no more have shifted his course at that point than taken flight and his eyes barely had time to widen in horrified comprehension, before his stomach was impaled upon the spear.

Sabre was on his feet as the impact was carried through, driving the point home deeply, twisting it to bite into the spine as the Easterner went down. Standing above his fallen foe, the sturdy fighting-slave looked down, without compassion at the tattooed face which was broken now by a rictus of agony.

“How fast do you die?” he asked savagely, for once allowing the fury and disgust to boil up through his veins. But the Easterner was beyond words, lungs pierced by the ripping barbs on the side of the spear’s head and breathing only in wheezing grunts.

The adoring ululation of the crowd ran like a hurricane around the arena and a monsoon of flowers and ribbons rained down onto the blood-drenched sand.

“Sabre! Sabre! Sabre!”

Torwyn straightened up and looked around as if seeing the scene for the first time. Then, strangely impatient and with no more than the most perfunctory of gestures to acknowledge the adulation, he ran his hand through his short rust-coloured hair and strode back through the now open gates, into the dark tunnel beyond.

E.M. Swift-Hook

The Thinking Quill

Dear Reader Who Writes,

Allow me to introduce myself. My name is Moonbeam Farquhar Metheringham IV and you will, of course, be aware that I am the author of “Fatswhistle and Buchtooth” – a peregrination by two quintessential heroes through a fascinating multiplex universe of fantasy and science fiction worlds. This dazzling tour de force has been riding high on the Amazon Best Seller list at Number One (Million) for the last two years.

Perusing the wonders of the worldwide web I came upon this pathetic attempt at a blog and, seeing what a veritable dog’s petit dejeuner these two ladies are making of it, simple humanity demanded that I should shoulder them aside when my exacting schedule permits and offer you my golden nuggets of wisdom on the pitfalls of this literary milieu.

Thus, having presented you with my bona fides, and assured you of my good intentions, you will readily see that I offer the summum bonum of excellence in writing practice.

So I bid you pay heed, fair Reader Who Writes. Oh and to save my valuable time, I will reduce you to initials for the rest of this, RWW.

How to Start Writing a Book – Lesson 1. The Write Environment

Did you see what I did there, RWW? Now, the important thing, if you want to write a book, is to be properly prepared. You don’t just sit down and start writing, you need calming rituals, mood music and the perfect scene. More of those vital rituals in the future, today I want to look at how to establish a perfect writing environment.

It is all about location, location, location! Personally, one has one’s supremely masculine writing cave in a small undercroft that was historically used for storing coal. I will admit it was not my first choice – that was the sitting room with its pan-vistic views of my neighbour’s back garden and her laundry line, from which depend many interesting items with which a writer of erotica should be conversant. However, Mumsy wisely opined that the cosy confines of the combustibles storage facility would offer me much less distraction and more opportunity to focus on the call of Calliope.

Mumsy’s wisdom also means I can exert complete control over my writing environment, and that, dear RWW, is crucial to the success of your little writing project! Let just one little thing be out of place and your concentration will be distracted – and distraction is the bane of all writers and the cause of many an unwritten magnum opus.

So, choose your writing location with care, and the next time I drop by I will offer you my expert guidance on how to equip and decorate it to exacerbate the manifest prognostications of genius.

Until then, dear, dear RWW – bon ecrit!

Moonbeam Farquhar Metheringham IV

Your Friday Friend this week is Annie Arcane

From Hart of Mine by Annie Arcane

“Do you understand what I’m saying?”
She held up the crumpled document between us. My Last Will and Testament had been rolled into a fucking baton. “N-no.”
“No, you don’t understand? Or no…”
She reared back and smacked me with the damn thing before tossing it in my face. “I don’t want your money.”

Well, this was going splendidly. I smoothed the papers against my thigh with a steady palm. This was right. Admittedly, I did a ton of shit wrong but I knew this was right.

If I were to get hit by a car and die upon impact, she would have nothing to worry about. If I woke from a coma with no memory of who I was, she would always be taken care of. If I broke my goddamn neck and she couldn’t deal with the aftermath, our children would be set for life.

Fate could be a bastard and fuck with me all day long, but I would never be caught off-guard again. I would leave nothing to chance.
Liabilities were mine.
Assets were hers.
It was simple.
There were no ifs, ands, or buts.

“Doesn’t matter what you want, Mickey. It’s yours regardless.”
“Seriously?” She was staring at me as if I’d sprouted horns and was in desperate need of an exorcism. “Can you even hear yourself?”
I didn’t bother answering. Of course, I could hear myself. I was making perfect sense.
She gave a loud sigh, “I hate it when you act like this.”
“Like what?” The pussy-whipped husband who spoils his wife rotten? The pathetic fool who empties his bank account at her feet?
“Like this. Like a dumb idiot. Like a controlling jerk. Like…like…” Another sigh. Louder. Far more exasperated. “You. You’re acting like you.”

My fists clenched.
Great. Now I’m jealous of my hypothetical competition. Keeps on getting better and better.
“And who would you rather I act like?”
“Hmm, I don’t know,” she countered sweetly. “How about a reasonable human being?”

Oh, fuck, no.

“How the hell am I not reasonable? I do anything you ask me to. I do everything you ask me to. Even when it’s a blow to my ego, I swallow my damn pride and do whatever you want. For Christ’s sake, we just got married at a drive-thru because that’s what you wanted,” the reminder was bitter on my tongue. “You think that’s what I wanted? You think I spent months learning to stand on my own goddamn feet again because a fucking drive-thru wedding was my end goal?

“But you say jump, I say how high, right? So, by all means, let me know what else you need me to do, Mickey. Tell me how else to prove I trust you because I’ve literally given you every single thing in my possession and it still isn’t good enough. Because I’ve placed my entire life in your hands and…shit!”

It happened so fast.
The crazy girl tackled me.
I didn’t even see it coming. Which was fortunate since I probably would’ve broken something had I braced for impact. She tipped my chair over backward, knocking me right out of the damn seat. And landed hard on top of me, knocking the wind right out of my lungs.

As the room swirled, her panicked voice clawed through the fog, “Oh, my God, Cale. Are you okay?”
Crazy fucking girl.

I nodded, attempting to catch my breath while the fancy-ass ceiling tiles came into focus. Guess I must’ve cracked my skull on the floor too.
“I can’t believe that actually happened.”

A sixteen-pound titanium wheelchair with no brakes vs. a stunningly gorgeous human torpedo with no fear.
Physics 101.
What the fuck did she expect would happen?

“I was only trying to distract you.”

More like trying to kill me. Closing my arms around her, I managed a hoarse chuckle. It was more of a cough. I took a ragged breath and murmured, “You don’t have to try.”
She relaxed into my chest and whispered, “Sorry.”
“No harm done.” Minus the splitting headache.
“Are you sure you’re not hurt?”
“Yeah, except…”
Her head snapped up. “What?”

I curbed a smile, knowing full well this was going to cost me dearly. There was no doubt she’d make me pay for it later.
She scrambled to alleviate her weight, hovering inches above. “What?”
Worth any punishment, “I can’t feel my legs.”

God, that laugh.

Who cares about the consequences?

I’d sell my soul to hear that laugh.

 

Website: https://www.anniearcane.com
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A Bite of Cale Windermere…

… who just may be one of the sexiest heroes you’ll ever meet

Question 1: How much has your life experience changed you? And has it made you a better or a worse person?

That really depends on how you look at things.

I can’t say running a company, getting injured, and going through a divorce has made me a worse person per se, but it’s definitely made me cautious, even cynical to an extent. On the other hand, I never would’ve met Mickey otherwise, so you’ll never hear me complain. I wouldn’t trade her for anything in the world. Not even regaining the use of my legs.

Plus, that crazy woman challenges me to be a better person. Whether or not I succeed? You’ll have to ask her.

Question 2: Name three things that people do or say that really annoy you.

1 When people try to push my chair, which happens more often than you’d think. There are no handles. No. Handles. So don’t try to f*cking handle it. Except for Mickey. She can do whatever the hell she wants whenever the hell she wants to.
2 Tardiness is my pet peeve and an absolute dealbreaker. Again, my wife is the only exception to this rule (and every other rule). If you work for me and you miss a deadline, you no longer work for me. End of discussion.
3 “You can’t.”

Question 3: Where would be your perfect holiday destination?

This sounds like a cop-out answer, but I don’t have an “ideal” destination. Anywhere you can think of, I’ve probably been for business, or pleasure, or both. For me, it’s all about the company.

That said, I much prefer snowy mountains over sunny beaches because wheels and sand are a match made in hell. Besides, cold weather equates to hot tubs and cuddling by the fire, which leads to other things if you catch my drift…

 

Truant

 

The feeling of grass between her bare toes encouraged the young girl to run across the sunlit meadow, laughing for the sheer joy of being alive.

The black-clad child hunter watched her from beneath his woollen cowl and smiled thinly. The girl would be an easy capture, he thought, and would suffer greatly for her truancy and the pleasure she was feeling now. The equally dark-clothed woman at his side exuded menace and gloating pleasure in about equal parts. He placed an admonitory hand on her muscular arm.
“Wait,” he ordered in sibilant tones. “Waiting will make your pleasure even greater. And will increase tenfold the shock and shame she will feel.”

Although vibrating with anticipation, the woman did as she was bid, contending herself by watching the girl with hot, hungry eyes.

All unaware of what was happening behind her, the young girl sunk to her knees in the flower-strewn grass and raised her face to the cerulean blueness of the afternoon sky.
“Thank you, lord,” she said softly. “Thank you for joy, and beauty, and for each day.”
She thought she felt a breath on her cheek and a hand at her forehead.

“Enough now,” the man whispered. “You may go and fetch the child to face her punishment.”
The ugly-minded raw-boned woman strode across the grass towards the kneeling figure, with a rope halter in one hand, and her lips pulled back from her yellowed teeth in a travesty of a grin.

She reached the kneeling girl and stretched out a bony hand to grasp her prey. But she found herself holding only a sleeve of rough homespun cloth.

Her scream could be heard for a very long way and it brought the cowled figure running.
“Gone,” she bewailed, “my pretty is gone.”

For a moment, the air shimmered with the laughter of an unseen entity that seemed to have nothing but contempt for the ugliness in the souls of the black-clad man and woman.

Under their feet the white flowers opened to the sun and a butterfly took flight.

© jane jago

Wednesday Writers welcomes India Emerald

The Book Boyfriend

“He used books to spell out a proposal?!” Megan swooned. “That’s soooo romantic. Tell me you said yes!” Liberty rubbed her temples, in dismay. She knew telling Megan about it would be a mistake, they only sat together in English class twice a week. It wasn’t like they were friends, more like “friends” in the social media sense. Megan clearly hadn’t listened to a word she’d said. Liberty shook her head.

“I SAID he was a book boyfriend, you know, not real.” She waved a copy of “A Way with Words: Literary Lovers Part One” in front of Megan. She grabbed the book and raised an eyebrow at the cover, before mentioning that she “must get a copy for herself”. Liberty was about to offer hers when Megan’s phone buzzed, it gave her a moment to reconsider. Megan hadn’t even displayed the courtesy of listening to her, she sure as heck wasn’t going to let her get her grubby hands on her boyfriend. Book or otherwise. Liberty took advantage of the phone’s distraction to do a runner.

She didn’t have any classes this afternoon and the sun had made an appearance, for once. Liberty made for the nearest tree to sit under in a quiet spot. She opened the book at its final chapter and began to read.

Cam took her hands in his, as his eyes searched for an answer. He knew they were meant to be together, he’d known ever since he’d spotted her from across the courtyard. Something had drawn him to her, although he knew not what. But he had to see her, his heart spelled it out in quick, short beats. It seemed he was always waiting for an answer from her, from the moment he plucked up the courage to speak to her. Cam laughed at that first question, it had been so lame. A typical conversation starter to an avid reader, but it had worked. Hours later, and with the sun setting, they were walking arm in arm towards their first date. And now? Cam’s shoulders relaxed at the sound of one word. Yes.
The End

Liberty gave a sigh, and then nearly jumped out of her skin at the sound of the clock tower ringing 6 pm! Where had the time gone? She’d only read a paragraph. She looked at her feet and noticed leaves cluttering the grass around them, what were they doing there? The ground had been immaculate when she sat down to read, she hadn’t noticed any strong breeze coming through. And it was summer, anyway. None of it made sense… unless. Liberty opened the book, once more, flicking past the dedication and author’s notes.

Chapter One

It was a cool autumn afternoon, one that begged for Cinnamon Apple Tea and long sleeves for the shade. Under the Oak tree was just such a place, but the cold didn’t bother her as long as she had a good book. The afternoon had faded into early evening, somehow, and the spell this particular book had cast; left her out of space and time. As startling as the clock tower had been, a bigger surprise awaited her.

A movement in the corner of her eye made her almost afraid to look up, she clasped the book tighter. It wasn’t possible, it couldn’t be. The tall, handsome stranger gave her a reassuring smile and her heart flipped over itself. It gave her the courage to look up-

“Hi, my name’s Cam. What are you reading?” He cringed at the terrible opening, then stared at his shoes. Liberty gave a rueful smile back and dropped the book to one side.

“I already know that”, she chuckled lightly. “Why don’t you join me, it’s a good one.” She tapped the ground lightly. “I think you’ll enjoy it”, she continued as she nodded towards the book.

viewAuthor.at/ieamazon

 

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