ImmerseOrDie Might Be Too Mellow

One of the accusations levelled at ImmerseOrDie is that Jeff, Bryce, or I look for reasons to fail a book, that readers don’t judge books the way we do. I’ve never been inside Bryce’s head, but I feel a deep joy when a book makes it to the line; and we’re not alone in noticing issues.

<p style="text-align: justify;"Anne R Allen warns that minor errors at the start of the book could kill sales.

I’m a grammar freak, so a misplaced apostrophe or verb/object disagreement will stop me. I know not everybody is such a stickler. But I think all readers want to see that a book looks professional and polished. They don’t want to invest time in a book—even if it’s free—unless they feel they’re in competent hands.

While I agree that noticing these issues might seem to be limited to “grammar freaks”, IoD reports show issues that don’t cause us to put a book down still increase the chances that a subsequent issue will stand out enough to lose that sense of competence; so, for every reader whose attention catches on an issue, there are several who don’t stop at that point but are primed to judge later concerns harshly.

And for those who think the failures are still us being picky, remember that Allen (and people in her comment thread) believe that having a contents page that is boring – not ill-formatted, dysfunctional, or otherwise flawed, but just boring – damages sales.

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Needs of the Few

100 Words of Speculation written over a background of fountain pen and printed text

Barry angled the mirror around. Satisfied no-one lurked near the door, he slipped into the supermarket.

His gut roiled at the stench. They always said, don’t go shopping on an empty stomach; who knew piles of corpses would be even more effective. Mirror preceding him, he crept toward the tinned aisle.

A woman in a bloodstained lab-coat staggered into view. “Hello? Are you… human?”

He lowered his weapon. “You worked at Gunderson Labs? Do you know what those things are?”

“Military robots. Designed to infiltrate. Programmed to protect the country, but we didn’t realise… overpopulation was such a threat.”

Be Mindful of the Present

100 Words of Speculation written over a background of fountain pen and printed text

I’ll die at 8:23 am next Tuesday.

Rather precise but true nevertheless.

Teenage dreams had given way to boring adulthood. Then I saw this advert “Scared to live? We offer seven days without worry about possible futures.” It was free and I literally had nothing interesting that evening, so I went.

Woke up with this watch and a note saying the bomb inside me would explode in seven days. Doctors agree something’s lodged in my brain but it’s too risky to operate.

Anyway, best get on.

Put the fucking money in the bag or I’ll blow your shitting head off!

Death of a Drone

100 Words of Speculation written over a background of fountain pen and printed text

Karl connected the repeater and stepped back. Fifteen seconds later, the window exploded. His breathing spiked as tiny drones swarmed through the hole. Pushing down images of neat holes in foreheads, he sent a message to all his contacts calling the President ugly.

The swarm drifted randomly as his contacts responded. He was right: no matter how good the machine learning was, social media tracking was useless if your desired targets only used strong encryption.

Which meant that only ordinary people, people like his mother just wanting to ask if he was caught up in that “robot thing”, got hit.

Beating the Pain

100 Words of Speculation written over a background of fountain pen and printed text

The steel felt good beneath his hands, each blow echoing like a confirmation of existence.

Knowledge had built the world around him, and given him the tools to understand what he felt and why. But knowledge wasn’t a tap in the barrel of his chest to drain away the adrenaline poisoning his taste and spasming his muscles.

Fight or flight. One can neither run from problems of words and thoughts, nor defeat them with a weapon.

He knew when the pain from others faded, the pain in his knuckles would seem failure; but the steel felt good beneath his hands.

Twelve Hours to Midnight

100 Words of Speculation written over a background of fountain pen and printed text

Andrea glanced at the email. The Doomsday Clock had gone back yet another hour. Barely news. Maybe before the weather. How did it go…?

DC station recorded street interviews on Christmas wishes. Cue cute Asian girl saying all she wanted was her daddy not to get ‘sploded. Sheer coincidence the next show was a documentary on armistices.

Then someone hijacked North Korean television and broadcast faked footage of Kim announcing the DPRK was too powerful to need nukes. Of course, they couldn’t admit they’d been hacked.

File said the interviewer was S K Cantini. Strange it hadn’t made their career.

Impersonating Oneself

100 Words of Speculation written over a background of fountain pen and printed text

Aurelius strode gracefully. Halloween was the perfect time of the year; men almost stood out more if they didn’t wear make-up or ape horrors. A time to hunt without the fear his appearance might reveal him. And even a few days after costume parties let him hide in sight.

Tonight it ended though. Tomorrow the fireworks with their searing lights and deafening sounds would mark another year of lurking.

Ahead his prey staggered and stopped almost perfectly for the alley he’d selected.

He lunged… pavement blurred…

Too easily.

Smudged pallor exposed skin paler still.

Two fanged maws gaped in dismay.

A Flurry of Darkness

This image by the rather talented Ink Stitution was the photo prompt in one of the poetry communities to which I belong. Which inspired the haiku that follows.

A double exposure of a street of houses and a chandelier hanging from the ceiling that has been tinted with a dark blue palette
Ink Stitution – Licensed for use by Community Members)

Fog obscures the path
Monsters hide in the shadows
Trust me to save you

This post is dedicated to the myriad Goths who face another 364 days of being told it isn’t Halloween yet.