I came across a rather odd question, recently. I will admit that I couldn’t quite understand why it was being asked. On reflection, perhaps I was being unfair – making assumptions based on my own ways of thinking. The question was, in essence: how do you write alternate histories/futures? I hope that I can put right any fault my initial reaction might have revealed.
It’s very frustrating. It drives me to distraction. For a while now, I’ve been unable to Follow anybody new on Twitter! I have, it seems, hit the maximum for the number of Followers that I have. I’ve pruned out some who I was following but weren’t following me, but there are many I wouldn’t expect to follow me! So I’m stuck. Some kind folk have opted to follow me in this troubled time, but I can’t reciprocate. It’s very disheartening, too, when I read that it can take months to reach the next level! So, while there was a time I wouldn’t have believed I would say it: “Twitter, a first cap of 2000 Followers isn’t high enough, by far!”
Online Business Cards and LinkedIn
Following on from my post in which I spoke (briefly) about Spam, I am ashamed to admit that I got caught recently! Years of being so careful and never taking anything at face value, and BAM!! I am a member of LinkedIn, which has brought me into contact with some very good people, as well as adding new levels of links to some I connect with elsewhere. When, therefore, I get a message asking me to rate somebody on their online business card, I have no problem. Well, there’s the mistake! I should have been more cautious. No reflection on the person who made that initial request, but the whole thing stinks. I rated them and clicked on a button, all very authentic looking, saying Log in with LinkedIn. Now, I had no idea if the rating had been recorded. It went to a screen with my own business card displayed – and that should have rung big bells! I hadn’t set up a business card! Oh no, I must have been really switched off that day. I accepted the offer and did what it asked. Yes, it was a mass message but it was just a one-off… Want to bet? Oh no, the website, mybizcard.co, has since sent two more such mass mailings (that I know of). Apparently, it had used stealth mode to attach itself as an app on my LinkedIn settings! I launched complaints to LinkedIn Support. After having to put up with replies from them, which made it all too obvious that they weren’t reading my comments/replies, or were trying to dodge the issue, I’ve finally put the saga of the online business card scam behind me – I hope! Well, that’s after 72 hours have elapsed, I’ll be free of it, I’m told… Trust me folks! Don’t join mybizcard.co! Don’t even go on their website!
Yes, I do still write! Following a couple of bad days, in health terms, and battling the internet demons, I haven’t actually made a huge dent in the things I’ve got on the boil at the moment. That’s another frustration to add to those of recent times. I can feel the ‘you have to write’ worm gnawing away at me and yet somehow the days still sneak past with nothing of significance achieved. I think my novel is under a pile of dust in the darkest corner of my hard drive. The rest pops to the surface now and then, only to sink under that dread word: Later. I have sufficient reasons to get on with it. There’s that beautiful paperback copy of Shade of Evil, and I’ve actually had one or two more sales of ebooks. That should be plenty of inspiration! Shouldn’t it?
If you’re wondering, I’m working on a third story in the G1: The Guardians series. What length it will be remains to be seen, but it won’t be smaller than a novelette. It follows on from the second, after a few months have elapsed. Meanwhile, in the field of science fiction, Captain Duschelle is currently resting, awaiting his next adventure. At the same time, I occasionally dip into a longer tale that I’m working on, using the authoring/publishing website, Pressbooks. This is actually a WordPress based site, fitted out with some nice, useful templates for authors. The tale I’m writing there, off and on, is an Alternate History, though I fear it may also incur the label ‘Steampunk’. Apart from the Alternate History aspect, it’s a detective/mystery tale – another first for me. To distinguish its alternate facet, the language is very different, and requires care – which is why I have to be in the right frame of mind to add to it. Just as a teaser, here’s a teaser (the opening of Chapter 1):
Ronald Lowden had anything but the look of either the powerful intelligence he possessed or his profession as a detective. He was, in fact, acutely ordinary. Somewhat round of face, with thin brown hair, hazel eyes, and a pale complexion, he was of average height and slightly above his ideal weight. When he walked into a crowded room, nobody stopped to stare. In fact, most people didn’t even notice his arrival. But that very ordinariness worked in his favour, much of the time. A good detective should be invisible, when he’s on assignment. Unfortunately, everything else tended to make him less than imposing when a confrontation with unsavoury types was unavoidable. In essence, however, he was not entirely unhappy with his lot, other than for the fact that he was less than impressive in the eyes of women. His liaisons on that score had been few and far between, and his employment had ensured that all ha ended unhappily.
Lowden was not a classic private investigator, in that he only ever took cases that intrigued him at a personal level. He was, most definitely, not ‘in it for the money’. When his penchant for mysteries of crime had first surfaced, his clergyman father had hoped that he would jin the police. That was never going to happen, however. The police held to certain requirements of physical fitness and obedience to orders. Both were anathema to Lowden. His only powerful ‘muscle’ was his mind, and that was extremely well developed.
The truly unfortunate thing for Lowden was the fact that so few people knew of him and his choice of profession. Consequently, he struggled financially. He couldn’t afford an office and the tiny flat he lived in was not suitable for receiving visits from mice, let alone potential clients. If it wasn’t for his mother’s generosity, which was always a bone of contention with his father, he couldn’t have afforded even that pathetic accommodation. Contrary to his father’s oft stated opinion, however, Lowden was mortified that he had to accept the financial support of his mother.
Much was to change. And soon. He had no clue to what was going to occur, however, on the morning that he made his way from his flat to the tacky little café where he customarily breakfasted. It was a very normal Thursday in early Spring. Cool and bright at the moment, but probably destined to turn cold and wet. He entered the café, an old bell clattering at the door, and took his usual seat in the window. Why he sat there, he didn’t know. The window was so grubby on the outside that it barely counted as a window. He waited a few moments, until the woman on the counter deigned to approach, a tatty pad in one hand, pencil in the other. It was the normal routine. He made a show of reading the unchanging menu, sighed, and ordered the same thing as he had every Thursday.
Lowden was half way into a plate of scrambled eggs on (overdone) toast when a small, round blob of a man suddenly sat at his table, facing him. Startled, and at a loss for words, all Lowden could do was stare blankly at the man. The stranger was shorter than himself, by a considerable measure, and dressed in a black suit, white shirt, neatly knotted black tie. His head was disturbingly close to being an almost perfect sphere. His nose was a round lump, with scarlet pinpricks which suggested a drinker. His eyes were small, black objects that glittered like polished jet but gave no hint of anything within their depths. Tidy but thin eyebrows arched over his eyes. Beneath his nose was a pencil line of a black moustache, then a small mouth with thin, pale lips, and finally a perfect little goatee.
“You are Mister Ronald Percival Lowden?” the stranger almost demanded, in a surprisingly deep, but reedy, voice.
Lowden finished his mouthful of food and then slowly reached for the tall,thick, slightly chipped mug of strong tea. He raised the mug, not looking at the intruder, and took a sip. Only then did he return his gaze to the man.
“Who I am,” he said calmly, “is my own business, I believe. What I am willing to divulge is that I am not kindly disposed to rude people. How is it that you believe you may intrude upon a gentleman at his breakfast, without his consent?”
The stranger blinked rapidly. “Your pardon, sir,” he said, with no trace of sincerity. “I am come upon a most urgent matter, and it has already cost me time to find you, having discovered that you were not in your… er… apartment.”
“Really? Most extraordinary. How did you come to know my address? I do not advertise it.”
“By the kindness of your mother.”
“Remarkable. But, sir, you have the advantage. You have not yet introduced yourself.” He again raised the mug of teato his lips, waiting. ‘I must have words with dear Mother.’
“I am Humphrey Kingsley, of the Waterbridge Kingsleys.”
“Very pleasant for you, I am sure. It is always advantageous to have a Name.” Waterbridge was a quaint hamlet some three miles from where Lowden’s parents lived, and probably enjoyed his father’s rambling sermons on certain Sundays. The area was renowned, unfortunately, for a certain snobbishness, where pecking order in ‘polite society’ was all-important. “Now then, Humphrey Kingsley, what is this ‘most urgent matter’? And how does it involve myself?”
“It is a most delicate affair,” Kingsley replied, glancing round.
The café was empty apart from themselves, and the woman at the counter, who was far more interested in reading a newspaper that rested over the pile of rolls that never seemed to change.
“I do believe we are safe from eavesdroppers,” Lowden said drily.
Kingsley took a deep breath. “Very well. The matter is just this: Yesterday, at approximately ten fifteen in the morning, my superior vanished. He was known to be in his office, from which there is but one exit, passing through his secretary’s office, which is, in effect, the anteroom to the large room occupied by my superior. He was seen to enter his office at ten minutes past ten. At twenty past ten, I sought to speak with him on an internal matter of no consequence to this affair. The secretary, a most dependable woman in her forties, a Miss Alice Roach, went to the door and opened it to gain acceptance of my request. She returned to me in a state of some considerable confusion. When she stated that my superior was missing, I immediately grew concerned and entered the office myself. There was definitely no sign of my superior. Fearing some dreadful event, I checked the windows, but found them all securely closed and fastened.”
“Which Department do you work for?” Lowden asked suddenly.
“I am with the Foreign Office, as…. How do you know that I am in government?”
“Your evasion of using any name or title for your superior suggests one who may be well knwn to the public at large. Also, you have never once mentioned where you are employed.”
“Remarkable,” Kingsley said. “Well, you have heard my tale. Do you believe that you can help solve the riddle?”
“I do think that I may be able to solve the puzzle. Come, we shall go to your offices and investigate the scene.”
Lowden stood up, Kingsley hurriedly following suit, and paid his bill at the counter. The pair of them left the café, stepping out into a hot day that threatened the dreaded Smog. A short distance away, Lowden hailed a steam-cab and they were soon trundling through the narrow streets of the old city, a trail of steam left behind. The driver sat up front, in a high seat, watching his gauges and occasionally feeding small lumps of coal into the little firebox. Similar vehicles were everywhere, all in bright colours and most sporting the liveries of cab companies.