Commandments

Not for the first time Arrash wished his clan had arrived in the valley before the Gelloh. If his clan had been holding the high ground, the smaller group would just have joined them; now they all had to negotiate merging the two decimated clans.

Writing common laws up front was certainly wise, but getting the elders of both clans to agree was difficult. Particularly Arrash’s oldest clan father, more than half living in the past instead of the present, caused friction.

“A wife shall obey her husband in all matters,” he suggested.

“I think not.” The Gelloh matriarch gave him a dry look.

“You shall obey and respect your elders, for they draw wisdom from the deep well of their lifetime,” Arrash quoted one of their own commandments solemnly.

The matriarch’s face hardly changed, but Arrash thought there was an amused glint in her wrinkle-framed eyes when she looked at him. The muttering around the room sounded, for once, mostly approving. Maybe they had a second law.

The only one they had agreed on so far was, “You shall not waste water.”

Inspired by the prompts "A new colony/landing place/town/something begins building laws" by Lyn Thorne-Alder and "Desert-born mystics writing their holy book deciding on Ten Commandments" by Herm Baskerville

tagged Ebooks

Books: It's not the content that counts, it's the image?

I've come across some interesting articles on the topic of what an ebook is worth, mostly in context with pricing, but came across one that is particularly baffling today - because of the implications about the worth of books in general.

According to this article, Joan Brady, an award-winning writer (info on Wikipedia) argues that paper books will stick around because they are statud symbols, like Rolex watches and four wheel drives. (Apparently in her world, people who have to drive along dirt tracks don't exist.) Books people would not like to admit to reading will be sold as ebooks, but books people want other people to think they have read will be bought in paper, so they can be put on a shelf to show off to visitors.

Now, some of that makes sense, as does pointing out that being unable to pass on ebooks legally is a disadvantage, but it seems far too polarised to me.

She said that once an e-book has been bought, it is “more worthless than used toilet paper, which can at least end up as compost”.

This line makes me wonder if Joan Brady has been quoted badly out of context. Buying an ebook means having access to the text, to read it whenever you want. Declaring that worthless sounds to me like declaring the actual content of the book worthless. What kind of author would have the attitude that what matters is the block of pages with a recognisable cover, and the "status" that owning it conferred, but not the writing?

I don't think print will perish any time soon. Some people just prefer paper, print books are handy for many kinds of reference works, coffee table books or well-crafted hardcovers are things of beauty. However, I buy those because I need or enjoy them, not to sway other people's opinion of me. (Mind, I do like sharing books I'm fond of, which may shade into showing off on occasion.)

What do you think? How important is the "status" or "shame" factor to you when it comes to letting people know?

Blog tags: Ebooks
tagged Ebooks

Guest Post on KDP and Kindle exclusivity by Becka Sutton

Becka Sutton is the writer of two online serials, and has recently self-published Land of Myth, the first volume of her YA serial Dragon Wars.

Why am I not putting Land of Myth into KDP Select?

The first and simplest reason is that I don't like platform exclusive things let alone vendor exclusive. I have both Kindle and ePub readers on my laptop and phone but given a choice I will always buy ePub and feel a bit exasperated when things are Kindle only. That being so it would be hypocritical of me to make my book Kindle exclusive.

Also while I do understand the lure of Select - in the US the vast majority of ereaders are Kindles and the possibility of reaching those readers with a free introduction to your work must be tempting - it's tempting for a reason. Amazon wants to be an ebook monopoly and I have a rampant distrust of monopolies. Once you've got one there's no one to control them. Amazon aren't so bad to authors at the moment but would they stay that way if they held all the cards. Healthy competition lies at the heart of capitalism – no one should hold all the cards.

Finally I don't like excluding people. I have friends with Nook, Kobo, Cybook and Sony readers and I know that there are many people I don't know who have non-Kindle readers. Choosing KDP Select would mean excluding them. Not only is this not good business because it's losing potential sales but it's also bad customer service. Sure if your work is DRM free they can use Calibre to convert it but you're making work for them and making the customer work for a product does not encourage sales. If Select doesn't pan out – as I suspect it won't in the long term – you'll have alienated all those potential customers and they may not buy your books even once they are once again available in non-kindle formats.

So there you have it - a brief summation of my reasons for not going with KDP Select.

You can find Becka's serials Dragon Wars and Haventon Chronicles at firebird-fiction.com. The first collected and edited volume of Dragon Wars, Land of Myth is available as ebook through various channels as well as as paperback.
Blog tags: Ebooks

Unfinished Business

When Frances went to wake her daughter late on New Year’s morning, she did not find her in her bed. Frances took deep breaths, trying not to panic.

“Maya! Maya, are you hiding?” She checked the whole house, opening any cabinet and checking any corner Maya might hide in. The girl had been unusually quiet since Christmas, but then, so had the whole family. Months earlier Frances’ father had just disappeared, leaving a little wooden horse he had promised to carve for Maya unfinished. Caving in to the girl’s begging to get it for Christmas regardless had felt like giving up on him ever returning to finish it.Seeing Maya sit on the floor, the older, polished wooden toys in front of her lined up in an arc, turning the rough horse in her hands—

Empty spots where Maya’s snow boots and warmest coat should be waiting by the front door stopped Frances in her tracks. In her pajamas and slippers she rushed out in the yard, ignoring the cold and the snowflakes, and leaned over the gate, looking left and right, yelling her daughter’s name. No sign of her.

Frances ran back into the house, trying to decide between calling the police right away or quickly getting dressed to look for herself. She heard the knock at the back door before settling on one.

Maya, bundled up, nose red and running, had trouble with the handle on the sliding glass door. Frances scooped her up in a hug, awash with relief and flooding the child with sometimes contradictory pronouncements. Eventually she calmed down enough to close the door. Her near-babbling paused on, “Whyever did you do that?”

“The horse wanted to.” She held the unfinished toy up.

Frances’ brows drew down. That blasted thing.

“It was important. The horse knows where grandpa is.”

“Maya, it’s a piece of wood.” It was not how she usually sounded when she’d say what one of her toys thought or wanted. Much more serious.

“It knows, anyway! I can show you where it said. Just a spot in the woods. Maybe he’s in a fairy hill?” Even Maya herself looked dubious at the idea.

Wordlessly, Frances hugged her again, resolving that they had to have some kind of memorial, if they could not give him a proper burial.

tagged Gods

War Practises Diplomacy

Death herself met me at her gate. She did not say anything, just crossed her arms and glared. I would have liked to cut the old crone to pieces right then and there, but kept my cool. She makes her own rules in her realm.

“Look, I still don’t think that fighting Law was a bad idea, OK?” Her brainchildren, particularly peace treaties, had ruined a lot of my work.

Death’s eyebrows went up and she tilted her head a little. At least she did not start tapping her foot.

“But, in hindsight, I’m afraid, in a way… killing her turned out, eventually, to be a mistake.” When all humans stopped pretending to humour those pesky international laws, conflicts had become much more interesting. But after things went on for a while like that, there weren’t enough humans left to wage a good war anymore.

Finally Death opened her mouth. “So you’re here to ask me to break the law, on behalf of Law, to bring her back to the world.” I swear to anything you want she was amused.

“Is that a problem?”

“She might refuse, on principle.”

Yes, now that she mentioned it, Law might be stupid like that. I covered my eyes, wondering how long it would take to build up a new civilisation capable of building weapons of mass destruction. Particularly with Law missing. She had been more important than I’d realised, the surge of mutinies had shown.

“But,” Death said, “I might throw her out regardless. Let’s have some tea and discuss terms.”

She was enjoying this too much to be bluffing. And that, folks, is why it’s important being able to mind your manners: sometimes you have to.

Inspired by the prompt "I fought the law and it was a bad idea" by Becky Allen

Useful German Words That English Is Missing

There's a List of "25 Handy Words That Simply Don’t Exist In English" going around. A lot of those words seem more esoteric than handy to me, so here are three I'm more likely to use in day-to-day conversation.

Übermorgen - the day after tomorrow

Vorgestern - the day before yesterday

Doch. - The word "doch" kann have several meanings, but the one I'm thinking of is to give a positive answer to a negative question. If someone answers "Don't you like strawberries?" with "yes", do they mean "yes, you're right", or "yes, I do like strawberries"? "Doch" is an unambiguous one-word answer meaning "you're wrong, I do."

What's a word in another language that you wish English had? Or what's a concept you'd like to have a specific word for?

ETA: There are more comments on the mirror on LJ.

Blog tags: Language

Halaefea's Bones

The wind howls in the hollow tower of Yeranem, mourful sounds like a dirge played on a bone-flute. Legend has it that's what it is.

The giant Halaefea taught mortals the secrets of fire and tools, and the gods of the Heavens killed her for what they called treachery. To make sure neither the other gods of the Earth nor the gods of the Underworld could restore Halaefea to life, they scattered her bones.

Around her spine grew the mountains of Vaenn, and now there are a thousand rumours concerning what could be found in the hollow where the marrow used to be.

Her ribs were scattered in the sea, forming the foundations for the atolls of Gwandeh, Jirael and Mdaeh.

The small bones of her hands and feet the gods of the Heavens scattered over the desert of Kyriemakeitikosh, where to us today each is a lone mountain.

Her long bones they kept for themselves. They carved a trumpet from her right thighbone, and spears for their Chosen from the bones of her arms and shanks.

Halaefea's skull, the house of her mind and soul, half-blackened from the wrath-fire that killed her, they put in the highest heaven, with the greatest treasure that is the sun, guarded by the great army of stars. Her clan can't conquer the heavens to save her, and she is out of reach of the ghost-talkers, even the Greatest Shade itself.

Her left thigh bone, now, Joraen, wanted for a weapon for themself, Koruen, wanted it as a hammer for their forge, Gesion for a flute. They argued among themselves and with their siblings, until Joraen started a fight, in the course of which an end of the bone broke off. Ayanaiss said they should send the bone back to Earth, pretending it a token of respect, and so it was done.

The thighbone struck the ground and buried itself deeply enough to stand firm as a mountain. The gods of the Earth, unable to exact their revenge, mourned their sister, and left her remains in peace, as is all gods’ custom.

Mortals found Halaefea's thigh, the strangest white mountain eyes had ever seen, and settled there, carving their first homes into the bone itself.

And, do you know, sometimes a ghost-talker will say when they stayed there, in the centre of the tower that is the heart of Yeranem, they heard echoes of Halaefea's life, in the wind howling in the hollow where her marrow had been.

Happened when the origfic_bingo prompt "tower" met me reading the title "Learning the Bones of the City" by Lyn Thorne-Alder

Everyday Fear of Monsters

“They used to be afraid of the dark,” the old bogeyman said.

“And either huddle or run when they just heard a noise in the dark,” the dullahan added, “or outright faint.”

“Last time I tried to scare someone, they asked where I got the mask,” the nopperra-bo said.

“I blame the movies.”

The dullahan lifted his head from his knees with both hands to nod it.

“They made humans brave.”

The nopperra-bo sneered, “No, they just made them jaded.”

“Either way, I fear we do not matter anymore. Humans have become too good at scaring each other.”

Inspired by the prompt "What frightens the monsters?" by Lyn Thorne-Alder

tagged Science fiction Identity

Identity Theft

When I woke up in what laid claim to the lofty label of “clinic”, I took it slow. The nerves of the used-new body needed a little time and practise to work together well with my old brain. When the pins-and-needles feeling crested, I started wiggling my fingers and toes. Working up from there, I met no problems. At some point my doctor-technician arrived, but she didn’t rush me. I paid her enough.

The new body was a pretty standard model, outwardly human, black hair and almond eyes. Shorter than my old one, I was reminded when sitting up on the edge of the bed left my feet dangling high in the air, but I’d get used to it. I liked the point symmetry of the ID that came with it, the main components swashes over the left temple and right jaw. I rubbed over those lines, even though the skin there did not feel different, which prompted the doc to ask a question.

“Want to test yourself if the re-keying worked?” the doc said.

I shook my head. “I trust you.” Close enough, anyway. And if she wanted to fool me, she could have rigged the test equipment.

“Thanks. We had no problems with the other brain, either. Everything as you requested.” Keyed to my old ID, transplanted to my old body, motor functions disabled.

“Very good.” I would arrange an accident. With just a little more record-cooking, I would be dead.

A completely different man with no family and friends, whose social anxiety had got so bad he had even stopped seeing his shrink, would start over. Background like that is why you pick a mark. The nice ID was just a bonus.

The title was a prompt by Becca Stareyes

You stayed with me

You stayed with me.

At first I feared you might be playing, and planning to leave me for the fun of it, but I was wrong. You stayed with me.

I went home to a world you never saw, and you stayed with me.

I slipped back into a place that was waiting for me, where we had to find and make one for you, and you stayed with me.

I remembered the gods you had served, and I was afraid they would call you back, but you stayed with me.

Deep inside, that fear and doubt smouldered, only winking out and cooling as our first grandchild grew up. I hope I hid them well enough. I never wanted to hurt you.

You watched me age, at twice your pace, and you stayed with me.

You were always there for me.

I cannot thank you enough.

I'm sorry I can't stay.

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