A tall order

Looking briefly away from the starched white uniform and pert cap, Glyn admired the sterile environment: all gleaming stainless steel, and polished white formica.

“Dataserv to the reader, please, sir”

Glyn sighed.  He knew he should have given in long ago, but something had always held him back.  There was no denying, however, that having one of those Dataserv chips embedded in his right thumb would make all this so much quicker and easier.  Instead of having to actually answer all the questions, one at a time, he could simply present his hand to the reader and have all his data fed into the system automatically.

But no.  No, He had to be stubborn, and become the odd one out.

“Sorry.  No Dataserv.”

The sigh was heavy enough to cause earthquakes, then the questions began:
“Full name; address; date of birth; Social Security number; name of bank; account number… um, let’s see… blood typing will be done with the DNA swab…  um… ah yes… Mothers maiden name; Mothers place of birth; Fathers place of birth; marital status; sexual orientation; religious beliefs; political orientation; car registration number; car insurance company; house insurance company; mortgage holder; telecom provider; broadband provider; pet type; pet breed; pet name; pet food; pet insurance company…”

The questions continued, with Glyn digging out bank statements, driving licence, passport, and various other proofs as required.

Finally, it was over.  Just one last, infamous question and the McDonalds cashier would let him go to the next window for his DNA swab, and he could pay for his Big Mac:

“Do you want fries with that?”

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Aint that just dandy

As a child, I learnt to read thanks to comics.  Oh, I know, we were taught to read using ‘approved’ textbooks, but I learnt by reading for pleasure.

There was a thriving community at school: everybody read every comic that was going.  One person would get Beano, one would get Dandy, a third would get Beezer…  and you’d swap.  Then they’d be passed on from hand to hand until everybody had read them.  (Or everybody who could read had read them – more than once I found myself in the middle of a crowd, listening intently to every word, as I told them the latest escapades of Lord Snooty.)

Read more…

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Thank you

To all those who ‘bought’ my book on Kindle, thank you.  The results were… interesting.

You may not realise this, but Amazon is a ‘local’ website.  If you visit www.amazon.com you will be pushed towards www.amazon.co.uk – to the extent that you cannot buy from the .com site.  The .com site is for American customers; the .co.uk is what we Brits have to use.  There are also seperate sites for germany, italy, spain, and france – what the rest of Europe is supposed to do, I have no idea…

Trying to get more information about my own books on the American site was difficult – I managed it, of course, but it was difficult.  I had to deny who I was!  I had to tell the website that I was not me, and that I was not in the UK.  I got my answers, though.

Before I tell you how my book fared, I’d like to point out a couple of small things.  First, of the three books I have available on Kindle, only one of them (Revelation) has sold at all; it sold only two copies, and I paid for one of them myself.  The other two have never sold a single copy.    Second, there are hundreds of thousands of books available on Kindle – and the one I’ve sold two copies of is currently ranked at number 351,066 in the UK.  (It is unranked in the US, as I’ve only sold in the UK.)

OK, results.  (Nervous cough while waiting for the drum-roll…)  Ahem.  UK Sales: 30.  France, Italy and Spain sales: 0.  (Hate those foreigners, don’t you?)  German sales: 5.  (Ah, I take back that foreigners comment.)

So, 35 books sold.  That’s a big improvement on pre-promotion sales, anyway.  But wait… what about the US?

I’m glad you asked.  I did a little better over there.  Just slightly.  How many?  No, you don’t need to know that, just take my word for it.  Would I lie to you?  Honest, I did sell a couple more there.

Why do you look like you don’t believe me?

Oh okay, okay, I’ll tell you!  I sold 289 copies in the US.  Yes, that’s two hundred and eighty-nine, taking my total sales comfortably over the three hundred mark.

When I worked out how to check it, I found that my book had ranked higher than the 2,000 level.  I know, it’s not quite top of the bestseller list, but it’s waaaaaaay better than 350,000, isn’t it?

Over 300 copies ‘sold’ in five days.  In all honesty, I’d be happy to sell that many a year – especially if they were really sold, and not given away!  Not that I want the money for them – at 77p a time, 300 books is little over £200, and I can spend that on one fishing rod – I just want the books to be read, appreciated… Liked.

Now, I’m just biting my nails waiting for somebody to review or even rate the book.  Until I get some readers becoming ‘fans’ I’m not going to reach more potential readers/fans.

Writing the book is the easy part, I’m learning. 😕

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Do me a favour?

As most of you know, I’ve tried my hand at writing a book or two, and published them on Kindle.  The problem is, I’m lousy at the commercial side of things – mostly because I hate the things you have to do.

I won’t create a facebook page, tweet identity, myspace, or whatever to promote my books.  I won’t trawl websites looking for places to drop hints, or promote my books.  I won’t… oh, you get the point.

With Amazon and Kindle, this is a small problem.  The more people who download your books, the more popular you become – and the more they will promote you.  The big names, for instance, are always on the first page you see. 

It makes sense, I know.  But it creates a problem for all new writers: you have to break through the barrier to stand a chance of breaking through the barrier.

Well.  Last night, I managed to get one of my books, Genesis, included in the ‘free’ section.  For the next four days, anybody, anywhere, can download a copy for absolutely nothing.  Normally, this sort of promotion costs the writer: we have to pay for the download.

That’s the favour.  Go to Amazon.co.uk (or amazon.com), navigate to the Kindle books section, do a search for ‘Keith Bartholomew’, and download the book.  If you have a Kindle, fantastic!  If you don’t have a Kindle, no worries – if you look just under the ‘Buy now’ button, there’s a clickable link that says ‘Available on your PC.”  Use that and you can download a Kindle reader for your computer.

In the twelve hours since making the book available, I’ve had 32 copies downloaded – one in Germany – but I’d really love to get the number up into the hundred plus region.  Maybe then, people will risk paying for the other two that are available. 🙂

Don’t feel you have to read the book…  But if you do, please post a review on Amazon.   (Crosses fingers for ‘good’ reviews.)

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Battle Royal

“What happened to our food?”

Targus threw my shield at me, and snarled his non-answer.

“We’ve almost caught them – they’re just over that hill.”

A cold dawn, colder as we had camped late and made no fires, was now much worse: the food had still not managed to catch up with us.

We had been chasing the Pretender for days now, and with every day the supply train had fallen farther behind.

I was starving. 

All around me was the noise of war: horses snickered as they were mounted; swords rattled in scabbards and armour creaked, clattered and jangled; spears knocked against shields; and my stomach rumbled.  I checked to see if I was observed, and pulled a black and green lump from its hiding place in the boss of my shield.

Ignoring the insects on it, I broke off a small piece and placed it in my mouth.  The bread softened slowly as my spit soaked in, and after just a few minutes I was able to chew it enough to extract a little flavour.  Then I swallowed it, and treated myself to a second piece.

By now, I was in place among my comrades.  We were the shield line, defence against a cavalry charge or foot assault.  Ahead of us was the cavalry, ready to make a quick sortie against the enemy or a quick retreat behind our lines.  Ahead of them were the skirmishers, sword bearers eager to prove their insanity against the foe.

Behind us, of course, were the commanders.  Our main task was to defend them.

We were moving forward in the half dark, into a ravine that was making the commanders nervous.  There appeared to be no path to the top of the ravine, but there may be one ahead of us – so the enemy could have men above us, even now.

The commanders stopped.  Word was passed forward that their position gave them a perfect viewpoint, and that they would move forward when the enemy was no longer in sight.

The shield line stopped, too.  We were not allowed to move too far from the command post. 

I looked around.  Where I was standing, the path was at its highest, having risen over the last league or so.  From here, it slowly dropped as it narrowed, to the point where I could see the enemy.  Ignoring all the rules of etiquette, I took a look behind me at the commanders.  I had to look downhill to see them, too.  For a moment, I wondered how they could have a perfect viewpoint from there, then realised that being on horseback gave them a higher position: obviously, they could see over our heads.

I looked to the front again, just in time to see the last horses disappear from view, and a small cluster of swordsmen embracing each other before they entered the narrow gap, too.

Wait… not all of them.  One remained.  One lone swordsman stood in the gap, his sword unsheathed, the point of the blade resting on the stony ground before him.

Our advance ground to a halt, as cavalry and skirmishers both waited for the other to move forward, then a cavalry officer spurred his horse back through our shield wall to confer with the commanders, followed by a skirmisher who was gasping for breath before he even reached us. 

By the time the skirmisher reached the commanders, the cavalry officer had returned to his unit, and the cavalry withdrew, leaving the field open for the skirmishers. 

I heard the skirmisher returning, moving slowly, every inhale a desperate wheeze for oxygen – every exhale a curse against cavalry officers.  My comrades patted his back as he passed, and I took the opportunity to slip another piece of bread into my mouth.

The sun hit me in the face, warming me a little, as the skirmishers prepared to attack.

The gap in the ravine was so narrow that the cavalry would have to approach single file, and even the skirmishers would be in each other’s way if they attacked by twos – so they sent their best man in first.  He approached slowly, cautiously, and paused when he was just outside sword range – challenging the lone swordsman to attack.

I wasn’t close enough to witness what happened then, but the story is well-known, and I feel free to report it here as if I saw it in person.  I did see it, but at a distance.

The swordsman lifted his sword just as the sun poured through the gap, outlining him in golden light.  He closed his eyes for just a second, and spoke:

“What a beautiful place to die.”

Then he swung his sword, parrying the attack from the skirmisher who had thought to take advantage of his opponents closed eyes.

One by one the skirmishers attacked. One by one the skirmishers fell.  The bodies piled up before the swordsman,  creating an obstacle the skirmishers had to cross to attack – but one that also blocked the swordsman view.  He was forced to move back with every kill.  Just one step, but a retreat all the same. 

Eventually, he had retreated so far through the gap that it was no longer a gap: the skirmishers could attack by twos.  He held out a little longer, but finally he fell, and the road ahead was clear.  We could resume our chase of the pretender to the throne.  Or did we serve the pretender?  I forget.

As we cleared the bodies from the path, and lit our campfires for the night, I felt an overwhelming gratitude to that lone swordsman: not only had his sacrifice given his friends time to escape – it had also given the supplies time to catch up.

Food!  At last!

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The reception was in full swing, and I watched as the bride pranced around the dance floor from which I had been banned.

“Sarah dear, we simply can’t have my guests laughing at you, not at my wedding. Please promise me you’ll stay away from the dance floor?”

Alison had always had a weight problem.  Not that she was overweight, oh no, no. No, she was the original size zero, always had been.  No, the problem she had was with my weight.  Ever since we had moved in next door, Alison had been trying to ‘help’ me with my weight.  Diets, exercise regimes, videos, stomach staples – Alison had tried the lot without success: My size only ever increased.

Alison worried about my health, my weight, my love life, everything. 

God, she annoyed me!

So here I was, at her wedding.  Not a bridesmaid, of course – that post was reserved for her equally paper-thin cronies – but Matron of Honour.  Matron of Honour?  Me? 

I glanced across the room, to the other side of the dance floor, and saw a smiling Dawn give me a little wave.  Size thirty, like me, Dawn loved a good party – though she, too, was banned from the dance floor.  Scanning the room, I caught the eye of several other dance floor personae non grata.  Alison, over the years, had gathered together a whole tribe of us, all of whom had had the benefit of her ‘help.’

A scream of laughter from the dance floor grabbed my attention, and I looked to see a freely perspiring and seriously out of breath Davina stagger to her table for a restorative.  She’d managed two whole dances this time, bless her.  Still, when you’re that thin,  you have nowhere to keep a spare battery. 

Alison’s gang were now reduced to simply swaying to the music, supporting each other as they did so.

Time.  Time to do this.  I stood up, and waddled to the dance floor as the first strains of ‘Macarena’ filled the room.

At the edge of the arena, I paused, just for a moment, and checked my surroundings – then I launched into the dance.

Alison never knew what hit her, as six very large, very driven ladies executed a flawlessly synchronised Macarena, followed by the twist, the chicken song, and a can-can in quick succession.  For the rest of the evening, I danced rings around Alison, Davina, et al.  Oh, they tried to keep up with us, but our dance troupe had been rehearsing for years, and we were at the top of our game.

I may be on the large side, but that doesn’t mean I’m unfit, or unhealthy – it just means I’m large.  Oh, and happy.

I make no apologies for this (or, indeed, my last) post.  Sometimes, something I see or hear causes an idea for a short story to pop up in my mind – so I give them a little space to grow.

As it happens, I had two such ‘pop-ups’ in close succession, so you got two slightly comic observation pieces.  You may get another one soon, you may not see another for a long time – there’s no way of knowing.

Just enjoy (or not) when you do get them.

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