On Druidism

I wrote the following for a church magazine at my Grandad’s request. I tried to be respectful of the Christian readership.

On Druidism

Druidism, just like any other pagan belief system, is difficult to define. The temptation is to view it as a religion similar to Christianity, with regular meetings and rituals similar to church services, and chants and spells similar to prayer. In some cases you may even be right. There are those who chose to practice their beliefs in this way, though in my personal experience, trying to get a group of pagans, druids and witches to agree to agree to a set format, a consistent schedule or even which deity to pay homage too is very much like herding cats.

Druids in particular have no holy book to consult, no manual of any kind to guide them. Any surviving accounts of pagan beliefs and practices were recorded by Christian monks after the fall of the Roman Empire, over 200 years after the Romans first annexed Great Britain. As a result, modern day Druids, and other Pagans, have little choice but to go with their gut. There are many books available, but all of them are based on the author’s personal experiences, the conjecture of other Pagans, and Christian historical sources.

To clarify, Pagan is a collective term, originally coined to identify all non-Christians. It’s been adopted by those that believe in the old gods, the spirits of nature, and the personal power to change their lives for the better. The way I’ve chosen to explain the concept of ‘old gods’ to most Christians I speak to is this:

The Christians see God as the Father of all the things. The Creator and only true God. He is vast and unknowable, beyond the comprehension of his creation. Communication with the divine requires a conduit, or a messenger. These messengers exist in almost all belief systems. Angels, Saints, Prophets, etc. These divine avatars are similar in many respects to what Pagans, including Druids, call gods. It’s easy to imagine when you look at this way, that the ancient pagans were simply trying, and failing, to understand and define Almighty God. Most modern day Pagans wouldn’t thank you for pointing this out though, and might even suggest that the opposite is true.

Druidism specifically refers to a reverence for nature and the spirits that guard and protect it. It has many things in common with Shamanism. One such spirit is the Green Man of the woods. He protects the forest, rules over the lesser spirits and fairies, and punishes those that disrespect his kingdom. He is seem both as a localised deity, and as aspect of a greater being. If we remember that Great Britain was once very densely wooded prior to the Roman occupation. Some people, those that didn’t respect the potential dangers, would get lost in the misty woods and never return.

These the thick foggy forests of the past are long gone. As are the dangers that dwelled within them such as bears and wolves. Yet there are still those that acknowledge the trees and forests as places of spiritual significance. If you’ve ever taken a stroll in the woods alone and listened to the breeze whisper through the the branches of the trees, it’s easy to see why they might. The only real difference here is that a Christian would acknowledge God or the Holy Spirit, while a Druid would pay homage to the forest itself, personified by the Green Man.

A modern Druid’s respect for nature might lead them to become avid campers and woodsmen, though that’s far more likely in America and Canada where they still have some large wild forests. Here in the UK, most are content to lay their hand on a tree in the park and eat organic foods..

-Antony M. Copeland

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AHOW Submission

This was written for a short story collection called “A Haunting of Words”:

 

The Haunted Story, by Antony M. Copeland

To whomever finds this letter,

  I’d like to say I’m sorry that you found me this way, but honestly I’m not. In fact, if you happen to be a friend or family member, someone who knew me personally, all the better.

 You might be tempted to interpret what you’ve seen today as a simple suicide. It isn’t. I’m not suicidal. Quite the opposite, I mean to be around forever.

 You probably feel I owe you an explanation for all of this. A justification for the horror you’ve just witnessed. That’s fair enough. You’re probably too traumatized right now to put the pieces together yourself.

 If you’d been able to look around, to look away, you’d see the notebooks stacked on my desk. They may be a bit bloodstained. I’ve tried to avoid hitting anything arterial. As dramatic as it would be to spray the walls with blood, it would be too quick. Over too soon.

 Still, my calculations could be off. My machine may have cut too deeply, and caused a little bit of squirting. That’s why I took care to tape this letter to the top of the frame, where none of my blood should be able to reach it. Right where you would see it if you looked at my face.

 What does my face look like by the way? Is it frozen in twisted agony like I imagine it does? Or is it just slack and wide-eyed, the flesh beginning to part from bone from gravity and entropy?

 Maybe I already know the answer. Maybe this worked and I can see for myself. It should. I’ve put enough research into this. An excessive amount really. I had to be absolutely certain you see? I had to be sure this would work before I ever attempted it. Testing it on others, even animals, would ruin everything. It had to be a leap of faith.

 I’ve been obsessed with ghosts since I was a child. How could I not be? The house I grew up in was haunted. Our parents tried to hide it from us, but I know it. We both did, though I never heard my sister admit it. She’s certainly never said she wants to be a ghost, but then again I’ve never told anyone what I was planning to do here either.

 Things would happen in that house. Strange noises, shadows that moved and smiled, cold drafts in windowless rooms, and the feeling that someone was always there, watching over me. When I was very little I used to think it was god. It would sometimes tell me things that only I could hear. Things that made me doubt that god really existed.

 It wasn’t such a big loss. I never much liked the idea of heaven anyway. Being surrounded by the kind of people you meet at church forever and always didn’t appeal to me in the slightest. It sounded like all the interesting people went to hell, but if the bit about eternal torture was true, then I didn’t much fancy that either.

 It seems unlikely since our souls have no flesh to burn, no skin to flay, no fingernails to tear off or eyeballs to burst. Why risk it though? Why even play this game in which some almighty being has you imprisoned and tormented for eternity just because you don’t do as he says? It sounds like fascism, and it’s no wonder we accept evil men as leaders so easily.

 It occurred to me, several years before my teens, that ghosts avoid both heaven and hell. They remain here on earth among the living, forever, and I knew that’s what I wanted to be. I knew even then, based only on children’s books and campfire stories, that I would have to avoid doing anything good enough to be rewarded with heaven, or bad enough to be punished with hell.

 It wasn’t too much of a stretch. I was already mostly ignored at school and never really did anything notable. I went to church, but didn’t do anything charitable or kind, nor was I particularly cruel. I soon stopped going to church and resolved to continue being boring and forgettable. I would do nothing that would benefit or harm my fellow man.

 I’m so dull I’m surprised I have any friends at all. I’m fairly certain that most of them are only friends with me out of pity or cruelty. That includes my girlfriend. The rest are barely friends at all, just people I know. Having me around no doubt makes them feel accomplished, smart and interesting by comparison. Some of them may even mourn my loss. They needn’t bother. I’ll still be around.

 I also knew I could never fulfill my potential. Almost everyone knows that ghosts have ‘unfinished business’. I’d never be a ghost if all my issues were resolved and I was content with my life. I might have been a great writer, a musician, or an artist, perhaps even an inventor, but I’ll never find out. I can’t, or all this preparation is wasted.

 I’ve studied the subject extensively since I made my decision and there are other things that ghost stories have in common. The death is tragic, and often traumatic in the extreme. You can see for yourself in the notebook marked “Ghost Stories”. I’ve compiled tales of ghosts from folklore, first-hand accounts, fiction and even blatant falsehoods from all over the world and history.

 Sometimes, even the ones that seem to be ridiculous fakes can feel ‘right’. I’ve left out the stories that don’t ring true, and written all the best stories down. I’ve no doubt that after you’ve read them you’ll come to the same conclusions I have. That it’s not only possible to become a Ghost, but that being a ghost is a far more attractive prospect than an eternity in heaven or hell.

 As I have been studying Ghosts, I also found myself learning more about alternative religions and their gods, goddesses, and magic. Ancient myths and modern belief systems often feature Ghosts, and also witches and magic. Each culture has it’s own traditions regarding death and the afterlife, and a different set of gods and goddesses to supplicate to ensure your life and afterlife is pleasant.

 The Greek legends have a particularly fascinating take on death. All souls go to Hades’ underworld. Only a rare few heroic individuals have avoided those overcrowded and miserable conditions to walk among the gods and goddesses on Mount Olympus. In some cases, the heroes were half god to begin with, but the stories still feature witches and magic almost every time.

 This ability that witches have to see and steer a hero’s destiny towards or away from the attentions of the gods appears in the legends and myths of several belief systems and cultures. It’s also very interesting to me, so learning all I could about witchcraft and magic became important. This proved difficult since much has been done over the centuries to discredit and oppress the practice of witchcraft.

 I’ve learned all I could about ancient practices and learned that most of it was destroyed or never written down. What does exist is cryptic and confusing, and largely made up. The magical systems of the ancient Egyptian, Incan, Babylonian, and other similar cultures are fine examples of this. Modern wicca seems to have very little in common with the ancient celtic, norse and gothic traditions that it’s believed to be derived from. All of it seems designed to be ridiculous.

 Despite this I think I have gleaned some deeper truth from the fragments and propaganda. It had worried me a little going into this that exploring witchcraft would be considered evil and condemn my soul to hell, but I also grew more certain that concepts such as heaven and hell, gods and devils, were all just attempts to understand something beyond our understanding, and that I wanted none of it.

 Through meditation and ritual, I compiled several spells that would serve my purposes. Among them are spells designed to keep me off the radar of all the gods and goddesses, old and new. There’s a spell to keep my soul intact as it leaves my body and prevent it simply dissipating into the ether, formless and mindless. All of them work together to make certain that I will retain my mind and personality as a ghost.

 The trickiest spell to compose was perhaps the one that works in tandem with the last one I mentioned. Ghosts are often thought to be haunting a particular object, or place, or even their own bones like an egyptian pharaoh or a christian saint. I can’t be limited to a thing like that. Ideally, I’d like to be completely free to go wherever I please, but it seems that being bound to something is somewhat of a necessity.

 Feel free to look through the books labeled “Spells” to see how I overcame this, along with the other spells, rituals, and incantations I used. All of which have been thoroughly researched and carefully composed.

I had considered calling it a “book of shadows” as the wiccans do, but I’m not a wiccan. I’m a student of death and immortality, destined to remain long after wicca is dead, and those that practice it have turned to dust.

 There’s also a notebook containing my analysis and critique of the myths and legends that feature ghosts and death magic. I should have simply called it “myths”, but instead I went for the rather dramatic “The Book of Death”. Clearly, I was inspired by the legendary egyptian “Book of The Dead”.

 When you read it you’ll see that there’s another useful lesson the gods have taught us. Having a story that captures people’s imagination turns a mundane person into a legend and a legend into a god. Unlike those legends based on unreliable memory, I will be there to make sure my story is told faithfully.

 None of this will be of any use to me unless I actually die, which I clearly succeeded at. As I explained earlier, and in more depth “Ghost Stories”, it’s not enough to simply kill myself. My death must be traumatic, and nearly as horrific to discover as it was to experience.

 That’s where my final notebook comes in, entitled “The Machine”. In it, you will find details of the medical and mechanical research I conducted, and the design schematics for the contraption that you have found my remains strapped into.

 The machine is etched all over the framework with runes, glyphs, and sigils. They will focus and direct the magic I’ve summoned. I’ll be reading the spells aloud before I climb in. Similar markings have been engraved into the restraints, sawblades, drill bits and knives of the Machine.

 You’ll also see that the Machine is designed to be inescapable once I’ve turned it on. Not only can I not turn it off, but the restraints will hold me fast no matter how much I will struggle. I can’t even pass out since there are intravenous needles going into my neck delivering drugs to keep me awake and alive and to replace the inevitable lost fluids.

 Can you tell that I struggled? That I screamed in pain? Did I try to tear out the wiring and make it stop? I planned for all of it. The button under my fingers turns the Machine on, but not off. It won’t turn off until the sequence is completed. The wiring is hidden inside the steel framework.

 Just to make sure, the Machine will begin by mutilating my hands and feet. It will cauterize as it goes to prevent me from bleeding out. It will then begin flaying and flensing the arms and legs next, slowly and painfully.

 No doubt I’ll be screaming by this point, so I’ve installed acoustic foam soundproofing on the walls. No-one will hear me and come to my rescue. Only when the skin and muscle have been peeled away from my ribcage, my sternum cracked and pulled open, exposing my heart and lungs, will my Machine stop.

 You will have no doubt noticed that I left my head untouched. This was not only so that I could be easily identified, but also so that I could see everything that was happening via the mirror facing the Machine, smell the blood and burning flesh, hear myself screaming over the whine of the sawing and drilling, and experience the full horror of my grisly death.

 That is how you found me, my skin and flesh peeled back, my heart exposed to the air, and it doesn’t matter if you believe in Ghosts and curses or not. Seeing me like this, and knowing why I did it will haunt you and torment you for the rest of your life.

 The only thing that will help you sleep better, that will make the nightmares stop, is telling others. Each time you tell the story my legend will spread and I will become stronger. You’ll have to tell someone, at the very least you’ll need to tell the police. If you are the police, you’ll have to report this to your superior. It still won’t be enough.

 You’ll have to tell your partner, your mother, your therapist, and anyone willing to listen to you as you try to drink me away. I will haunt you. You’ll hear me whispering into your mind just as the Ghost I grew up with did.

 I will be immortal, and unstoppable. I’ll grow more powerful as my story spreads. You can join me if you like. It’s all in those notebooks, you have everything you need. Can you feel me watching?

 Yours eternally,
Mark J. Anderson

How To Sell More Food

The following is a copy of a proposal I wrote to prove that it’s mine and that it created on this day December 14th 2016:

How To Sell More Food

Why ‘To-Go’ Boxes Are Awesome

By Antony M. Copeland

In American restaurants it’s fairly common for the wait staff to ask you “would you like a box?” when you’re done eating. Particularly if you have food left on your plate. This is not something you see done in England. Most British restaurants would be more than happy to provide a ‘doggy bag’ or a piece of tinfoil if asked, but the wait staff don’t ask, and it’s not an expected part of the culture.

Having ‘to go’ boxes as a normal, and encouraged, aspect of the restaurant business enables customers to order more food than they can comfortably eat in one sitting. Guilt free. Comforted by the knowledge, even before they begin, that anything they don’t eat on this occasion can be taken home and eaten later. In others words they buy more food.

Some restaurants even ask if you’d like your dessert to go. This is a great way of introducing the idea of dessert, as well offering them a way to have the delicious dessert they’ve secretly been looking forward to all meal despite the fact they’re already stuffed.

At least one American restaurant change has taken the ‘to-go’ box’s potential even further. Applebee’s restaurant encourages you to order two main courses. One to eat in, and the other to be packed and taken home with you when you leave. They also have their ‘Carside to Go’ service that allows you to order your food over the phone, and then go collect it to eat it at home.

In this way Applebee’s uses the to-go box to sell their food to people who aren’t even in the restaurant, and also sell a lot more food to those eating in. It took Applebee’s a while to introduce these services, building on the existing culture. We don’t even have the ‘to-go’ box established as ‘a thing’ yet.

So let’s take this in baby-steps. A how-to guide of the marketing and promotion that would be required to make it normal for your customers to order way too much food, and then dispose of the leftovers for you.

Step One – Making the To-Go box a thing

Like I said before, it’s been normal in America to box up your leftovers for decades. It’s going to take some time, work and willpower to really establish it in your own restaurant. I would strongly recommend an advertising campaign. It doesn’t have to be loud, brash or everywhere. If it doesn’t fit the branding and image that your restaurant has already established, then it won’t be as effective.

If you do radio spots already, then update those spots to inform your customers that they can ‘ask about our “to-go” boxes’. They don’t really need to ask, the name ‘to-go box’ really says it all for you, but pitching the information as a command including the word ‘ask’ activates the inquisitive/curious parts of your brain. It’s designed to get you thinking about to-go boxes.

You could also use this same phrase on in-house posters, newspaper ads, your website and/or blog, employee t-shirts, and the menus. It doesn’t have to be that exact phrase. If you can find a catchier way to ‘incept’ the idea that they can just take home whatever they don’t eat, then be my guest.

Again, if your image is low-key, don’t go overboard, keep your promotion in keeping with your low-key aesthetic. Customers can be intimidated if an idea seems too different or too off-message. It feels pushy. Do what you’ve always done to tell your customers what you have to offer, but add the ‘to-go box’ message.

Remember, you’re trying to make people feel okay with ordering too much food. Try to avoid seeming politically incorrect and keep it simple. Even adding ‘ask about to-go boxes’ on the menus is a start.

The big difference, and probably the hardest thing to change, will be training your staff to ask the question “Would you like a to-go box?” When they collect the plates. It’s easier if it’s part of their initial training, and really tough for those who have been doing the job for years already. Encourage them to practice and test themselves in supervised role-play sessions if necessary.

Step Two – Dessert to Go

Once the employees have gotten the idea, and customers are regularly ordering larger portions and unnecessary sides knowing they can just take what’s left home, it’s time to step it up a notch. Even if the customers have left their plates spotless, have the staff ask your customers “Would you like your dessert to go?”.

Of course it goes without really saying that it’s important that a server be available around the time they finish their meal. You want to ask if they want to take home their leftovers while the food still looks appetizing, and offer dessert while they’re still in the eating mood.

If you leave a customer waiting they’ll possibly become frustrated at how long it takes someone to get to them. The food will have started to congeal, the food will be sitting heavier in their bellies, and the longer you leave them waiting, the less they’ll want to stay a moment longer. They may even avoid coming back. Some may claim to be annoyed by wait staff constantly checking on them, but feeling ignored is far worse and less likely to be mentioned.

People are more likely to smile when smiled at, and more likely to feel happy when they’re already smiling, and far more likely to come back if they are made to feel happy. Encourage them to try and cheer up the customers too. Not just chat about any old thing, but to actively attempt to make a customer feel welcome and appreciated.

This should be a simple basic level of customer service provided everywhere, but not everyone got the memo. If you happened to miss class that day, it’s not too late to start. In fact, making sure you have staff circulating the restaurant, smiling and offering drinks refills, should be step 0. Before you do anything else.

If you’re staff already do this, then it should be a walk in the park to do the rest. As they go to clear the empty plates, they can easily be asking “Would you like a to-go box?” if there are leftovers, and “Would you like your dessert to-go?” if the plates are empty. In fact I would recommend that, after the leftovers have been addressed, the “dessert to-go?” question be asked also.

As I mentioned earlier, the phrase “Would you like your dessert to-go?” is crafted to leave only two logical answers. “Yes, please” and “No, I’ll have it now”. It must include the word ‘your’. Saying “Would you like the dessert to-go?” lacks the implication that the dessert is already theirs. People feel entitled to what is already theirs.

So by now you should have smiling staff available to ask customers, as they’re collecting away the plates of the main course, one of two phrases. “Would you like a to-go box?” or “would you like your dessert to-go?”. Let’s move on to…

Step 3 – “And what would you like to-go?”

This one may take some explaining. Make sure your staff understand the concept so they can in turn explain it to the customers. Instead of asking after the meal, this question takes place after the food order. Right after they’ve asked “anything else?”, but before they verify the order.

It works even better if the wait staff asks “What would you like for here?” when they come to take the order, already anchoring the concept in the customer’s mind that there may be another way to get food besides eating in. After writing down what everyone at the table wants for their starters and main courses, then the staff member asks “And what would you like to-go?” and if necessary list menu items that won’t be available to go. Include the ice-cream if you do this. It may seem obvious, but it prepares the customer’s mind for the to-go dessert question later.

What you are offering the customer is the opportunity to buy two full meals each. One meal to eat in, and another to take home when they’re done. Even if they have agreed to the meal to-go, they should also be asked if they would like their leftovers and dessert to-go when the table is being cleared.

The customers will receive their to-go order along with their bill. This also encourages the customers to pay-up and leave promptly before the food spoils, without any members of staff having to risk seeming rude. The sooner you can seat another group, the sooner you can sell another 2 full meals plus desserts per customer!

Step 4 – Park and Pick-up

This is what I would have called Applebee’s “Carside to-go” service if I’d been in their marketing department. Park and Pick-up. The idea being that a customer that’s not in the restaurant, or the bar, can call in and order food, pay for it by phone, and then park next to the building to collect it from a staff member that will come out to them. They don’t even have to stop the engine and get out.

This, again, requires your staff to be vigilant. Have them check the pick-up spot periodically to see if the the customer is waiting for their order once an order has been made. Staff would have to be trained to take phone orders, including the time the customer wants to collect the order, a name and phone number, what they’d like for starters, mains and dessert, and perhaps even what they’d like for tomorrow.

As I stated in the intro, this allows you to sell food even to those who aren’t in the restaurant. By establishing the new sales steps slowly, making sure each new behaviour is thoroughly second nature before moving on to train the next, your staff should be quite skilled at selling two full meals and desserts to every customer that calls or comes in.

Bringing it all together

By going through every step, including step 0, with every new employee, you’ll be able to maximise your food sales. Particularly if your bar staff are also recommending that those customers who are only in for a drink order a meal to go also, and one for the wife. Plus lunch for tomorrow. Hopefully bring home the next couple of meals will keep them out of the doghouse a little longer, assuming that’s why they’re drinking.

Again the bar staff should already be talking with customers to keep them happy, making them feel welcome, and encourage the customer to talk about whatever they want to. If a customer, particularly a customer drinking alone, feels like they are listened too they are more likely to listen to suggestions such as bringing home dinner for the family.

Staff in the bar or the restaurant shouldn’t just be talking all the time of course, especially if the customer can’t get a word in. Conversation in any customer interaction should be encouraging the customer to talk, or should be casually trying to improve the customer’s mood. One of the simplest ways to do both is by smiling warmly and welcomingly to every customer.

With more practise in customer service, sales of both food and drinks should increase. Certain food items might even be suggested to customers. Finding out what the customer wants is easier if they are a customer that already eats their regularly, however, it’s also possible to find out what a customer likes while they are talking, by steering the conversation towards favourite food.

By asking the right probing questions, and encouraging the customer to feel hungry by discussing food, barstaff can then ask something like “Would you like that [Steak] you mentioned to go?” and sell them on meals for the family/ tomorrow also.

It may be easier to encourage your staff to take the time to check on customers, offer drinks refills, ask the extra questions, and probe for additional sales opportunities if there was something in it for them. A bonus, or commision, on every meal sold perhaps. Add additional prizes for those that achieve certain goals and targets. At the very least allow them to keep their own tips, demonstrating to those that don’t smile, or leave their customers waiting, don’t get rewarded as well as those who do.

If you like this idea, feel free to use it. I would appreciate a gift, whatever you feel the idea is worth to encourage me to share more ideas with you in the future. The better the amount paid, the higher you will be on the list. Thank you for your time.

paypal.me/AntonyMCopeland

Welcome!

I wanted to welcome everyone who followed this blog in the last two to three days. This blog, my writing archive, doesn’t get many updates. I mostly use it for holding on to work I’ve written electronically, but isn’t finished or is part of a larger project. Still, there’s some good stuff here.

My main blog is AntonyMCopeland.me, which is also a wordpress site. As you can see by following the link, I update it far more regularly. There’s even a tab dedicated to the Hermes925 story, a sample of which I posted on this site.

The barfight scene is one of the first ideas I came up with for the story, back when the working title was ‘Avalon’. Originally the protagonist had been the elf, outsmarting a local barfly who thought his ‘tank’ was invincible. It’s more fun this way and illustrates the relationship, the enmity, between Jaime and Psiman much better.

I’m only two more entries away from catching the main plot up to the barfight. One of which is already drafted. Go to AntonyMCopeland.me and hover over the Hermes925 tab to see the story so far. While you’re at it please check out my general articles under the ‘blog of indefinite purpose‘ tab, and give the page a follow.

As always I appreciate any comments and feedback. Thank you all and have a great day. 🙂

Hermes sample – barfight

The first time we walked through the gateway onto the orbiting Hermes space station, I expected it to feel odd. Like I’d get some sense of my particles hurtling through the atmosphere and re-constructed in space. There was no gut-wrenching displacement. No classic sci-fi fantasy light show. It was as simple and uneventful as walking through a normal door. One small step, and I was on Hermes, high above the earth. Exactly like the N●Viron simulation. The spin of the station matched the gravity of earth, though I thought I felt a slight difference. Could be just my imagination though, probably brought on by the awareness that a few layers of metal and plastic was all that separated us from the cold void of space. That may explain why I felt light-headed, but it may also have been the relative distance from the hub between my head and my feet that literally made my head lighter on Hermes.

 

Fred showed us around, allowing each of the technicians and scientists on board to describe what they were doing. Mostly they were helping put the finishing touches on automating their experiments, and helping the on-site conversion of the navigation and propulsion systems. I was excited to get stuck in. Psi-man was already coordinating with them, making the necessary adjustments to the programming, and helping them upload the data and testing parameters. One of the technicians was busy looking around for a missing test subject. A large white rat that he suspected had gotten pregnant. He was embarrassed enough that he’d failed to notice the pregnancy earlier, but eager to find her before she birthed her litter within the vessel’s bulkheads and cause further problems. I reassured him that I’d be opening up the bulkheads periodically anyway to check the internal systems for maintenance and repair. He seemed relieved, but continued looking, with help from a new recruit with veterinary experience.

 

I overheard Psi-man correcting one of the scientists on their procedure. This struck me as more than a little arrogant. This is his first day on the job and he’s already presuming to tell people that have been working on these experiments for months how they should be doing it. I tried my best to shut him out, while I busied myself with re-familiarising myself with Hermes mechanical, electrical and electronic systems. I’d pored over the publically available schematics already, having followed the project ever since the portal gateway simulator went viral. I was pleasantly surprised to discover that the publically available schematics overlaid the real systems exactly. Whoever had been responsible for maintaining the Hermes project’s presence in the N●Viron system had done a great job. Some of this must have required coding. Why did they need another programmer? Why did they need Psi-man?

 

We still hadn’t found the rogue rat when Fred rounded up us new crew members, and led us back through the gate to earth. They double checked our knowledge of safety procedures in a variety of unlikely disastrous situations. This included hull breaches (exit through the gate quickly and shut down the gateway), getting caught in the event horizon of a black hole (exit through the gate quickly and shut down the gateway), under attack by aliens (exit through the gate quickly and shut down the gateway) which we all laughed at, and gateway failure (activate the emergency gates and launch the shuttle toward earth, taking it in turns to operate it). All of this information had been easy enough to recall via the N●Viron.

 

The whole group of us new recruits, Helena included, agreed to go out afterwards to a nearby bar called ‘the Launchpad’. Psi-man came too of course. I really hoped he wouldn’t. Helena and I got a good conversation going. Her field was botany, and we found we had a lot in common. We started by talking about lighting and hydroponics, but quickly moved on to classic sci-fi and fantasy N●Vels. We had a difference of opinion regarding a modern adaptation of a historical classic in which children are conscripted to do battle with an alien race. She objected strongly to the book for romanticizing child abuse, and I pointed out to her that the story is a warning against such treatment, and the psychological trauma it caused. Honestly though, I just think the fully interactive battle games are awesome, and skipped over most of the narrative. She’d clearly researched this much deeper than I, because then she began citing evidence that the original author had a less than healthy personality. She felt that, if he’d been born in our time, the N●Viron would have detected the behavioural anomaly, and he could have received the proper help.

 

I was almost grateful that Psi-man interrupted the conversation to deliver one of the most cliched lines on the planet. “Is this guy bothering you?” Helena had gotten a little animated, but the idea that I was actually bothering her, or deliberately upsetting her riled me up and I made some comment like, “Not as much as your face does”. I forget exactly. Long story short we found ourselves outside preparing for a match between our favourite gaming avatars. I know he’s a programmer, but I’d had a few drinks, my avatar was undefeated, and I wanted to make Psi-man look stupid. I’d put a lot of gaming hours and thrown a lot of Arpies into designing and building an armoured mech suit. As indestructible and intimidating as you can get. A heavily armed and armoured dreadnought. Psi-man’s chosen avatar surprised me. A wood-elf. No armour at all. In fact if it wasn’t for the warpaint and a loin cloth, the gaming avatar would have been completely naked. The stiff blue hair made the elf look even more ridiculous. Psi-man, as the wood elf, carried only a pair of elaborate swords.

 

Once those patrons of the bar who had come out to watch had placed their bets, the N●Viron arena sim counted us down. I opened fire as soon as I could. Psi-man dodged all the fretting bullets! A wood-elf was faster than a human, so the sim slowed down my bullets and rate of fire to demonstrate this. It was very frustrating watching my explosive rounds sail past his shoulder. My movement was slowed too, so I couldn’t get ahead of him. I managed to get a grazing shot only before he was close enough for me to swing a crushing mechanical fist at him. He dodged it easily, and jammed a slim sword into my mech’s waist. It got between the plates and delivered a magical magical lightning attack. I couldn’t turn! The elf Psi-man used the sword as a foot hold and climbed up onto the dreadnought suit’s shoulders, the wind causing the loin cloth to flap as he did so. People were laughing at me as he drove the other blade between the plates of my armoured neck. Another jolt of magical lightning went through me as it went in, and the match was all over. My avatar was immobilised, in less than a minute since the match started. I went home without even saying goodbye to Helena. The fact that my gaming avatar had been defeated so easily was embarrassing enough, but having an elf’s digital dick swinging in your face is mortifying.

Dragon attacks the burning city

The City of Gate: Chronicles

For I while now I’ve been running a game on Facebook called The City of Gate. You should follow the link and join in. It’s fun keeping the story going while reacting to whatever unexpected stuff that the players throw at me. While coming up with non-player characters and figuring out how they fit into the overarching plot I came up with I ended up with a collection of journal entries and letters written by the npcs. I called this collection ‘The City of Gate: Chronicles’ and had been considering trying to publish the collection as a book.

You can see the collection by following this link, or going to the files tab on the City of Gate Facebook Group.

I think the collection works well if you’re deep into the backstory of the game, but taken on their own, there’s not enough context to make it a complete book. With that in mind I started writing episodic posts into a Facebook fanpage for the City of Gate book. What I’m thinking of doing is interspersing the Chronicles with the backstory ‘verses’. If I like the result I’ll re-launch my page on Inkshares.com to try and raise the money to get it published. What do you guys think?

 

A New Chapter

Writing for Don’t Hate the Geek is beginning to feel like a job. A job I don’t get paid for. Slavery? I’m probably just miffed because of the changes they made to one of my articles. I wrote a piece on Memorial Day Monday, inspired by a suggestion by my friend and roommate Jitters. This is Jitters.

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He’s awesome. Jitters suggested I write an article about the heroes of Nerdom and Geekery that we’ve all seen fall in battle. A tribute to my own fallen heroes. It made sense to me, since I have to military idols to remember, and it appealed to our sense of humor. Bumble too thought it was funny. For those that don’t know Bumble, I co-host a podcast with him called The Masquerade with Bumble and the Brit!

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I just learned how to do Facebook embeds! More on that later.

Anyway, as I was saying, an admin at DHTG pulled the article. They said it was inappropriate. I said I understood and offered to delete it if they sent it back to me. I was hoping to copy and paste the article into my own blog (this one) and test a theory. The last time I posted a controversial article it spread across Facebook like wildfire. I assumed that, shared it the right strategic places, the same thing would happen with my Memorial day article.

I didn’t get a chance to find out. They edited it to make it obvious that I wasn’t disrespecting the troops and posted it anyway. I need to start making copies of my articles and posting them here. I had been planning on that from the beginning, but they told me posting the same article elsewhere would reduce the number of hits to Don’t Hate the Geek. From what I’ve read about online marketing, duplicating your article increases the chances of it being found. You’re supposed to guest-blog for other sites and include links back to your own blog. I know from working with DHTG that this is only part of it. Links back to other pages of the blog you’re guesting for are also essential too.

I have learned a lot I didn’t know. I’ve read a lot about maximising SEO (that’s Search Engine Optimisation by the way) but it didn’t really stick, or make much sense, until I had to do it for DHTG. I’ve also learned the importance of links within the website and to external sites, the structure for a news piece versus op-ed, and they also made me feel good about my writing. I’ve been told by friends that my writing is good, but it’s good to hear praise from a third party. If my writing sucked, they wouldn’t have taken me on. I would have looked bad for the website. So I’m very grateful to Don’t Hate the Geek.

I still have more to learn too. I have yet to write a review, but that time will come. Maybe. I need to make time to write for myself. My friends are especially eager to hear more of my Sci-fi adventure story, currently called ‘Hermes’, but I’ve been so busy researching and writing for DHTG that my own projects are falling way behind. In addition to the disappointment about the Memorial day article, I’m also miffed about an article I was writing for them about the release of the Dark Brotherhood DLC for The Elder Scrolls Online. I found out that one of the voice actors had posted a shout out to the game and it’s developers, and so I mentioned it in the article. They sent it back, asking me to embed the link to the original post. I could not for the life of me make it work! I’ve deleted the article. I don’t want to write it anymore.

Maybe I’ll get back on the horse with my next article. Maybe the feeling that I’ve disappointed them will go away and I’ll feel like I belong again. Either way I need to move back toward my goal. Becoming a published author of stories. Spaceships, Dragons, Superheroes and Vampires! I’m going to use what I learned to improve this blog where I can (hopefully) keep you updated on my progress. Likely this will be sporadic as I’m still juggling my full-time job as a debt collector, my obligations to DHTG, and my personal writing, without neglecting my friends and housework too much!

I’m not sure if I’m going to have the guts to backlink to Don’t Hate the Geek. Will they be mad at me for talking about them? Will they fire me if they don’t like what I’m saying? Like I said, I’ve learned a lot from them. It might be time to spread my wings and fly solo. Probably not yet. In which case I can’t share it to Facebook yet either, because they might see it there. It’s time to get back to my own writing, but I don’t need to be burning any bridges just yet.