The Daily Scroll was created for visitors who want to learn more about all three. It’s bursting with imaginative micro-articles, cartoons & passages from the writings of authors & artists.

Fantasizing,Fotos,Fridays offer pictures chosen to stimulate our imaginations, awaken inspiration & allow creativity free rein to invent theories or micro-stories based on what we see. Imagination-Exercising entries--which appear on whatever day they feel like--provide a few words as inspiration for our creativity. Both are fun!

Please comment below when inspired by ideas, suggestions or reactions!

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Thursday, April 16, 2015

The Last Battle. Cover #4. Extract.

My latest FB entry:

With even greater trepidation than earlier, I present my latest (and probably last) effort, "The Last Battle" cover, version 4.  By the way, my 13,000 word fantasy novelette "The Last Battle" will be somewhere inside the cover. 

Freshly stolen from the January 23 "Daily Scroll" entry, here are the first few pages of "The Last Battle".

The Last Battle

The Old Woman

Everyone was passing me by on the dirt road, gifting me with dust and the stinks of sweat and animal droppings. I was so tired, I woke now and again from a nap the length of a single stride. My feet hurt. It was all I could do to dodge the obstacles on the path.

I stopped and drew a breath through cupped hands, chiefly to look behind and then ahead of me. In the seconds before someone grumbled and elbowed my back, I glimpsed massive sandstone walls proclaiming the proximity of the king’s summer citadel. Only the weekly market booths stood between me and the twenty ell high bronze-braced entry doors. Just before dusk, praise to the One!

The light of the setting sun caught on the armor of warriors pacing high above us across the parapet or circling slowly behind the machicolation in the closest towers. Peddlers, customers, gawkers, beggars and weary travelers were shifting into the restless shadows cast by surrounding trees and a handful of outlying merchant tents. Soon, the market would begin its slow plunge into the denser dim of the great edifice.

I limped as quickly as I could into the midst of the market, dodging others where possible or waiting impatiently for a way to clear. Sweaty filthy bodies, bodies choking in a miasma of drink or cloying perfume surrounded me.

A single trumpet sang one golden note. The first of three warnings, or so I’d been told, before guards and draft animals began closing the gates. Already within sight of the gates and hearing only the first warning. I grinned, the movement of facial muscles puffing caked dust into my nostrils.

Hawkers cried out to me whenever I slowed my pace.

“My lady! My lady! Fresh! Strong as iron! Savory… Precious… A bargain…” Their claims blurred into the common plea for a full day’s profit.

Lady. My lips curved at the word, tugging at skin where splashed mud had dried hours ago. A word only a flattering hawker would use, clad as I was in a mended cape & the piebald patched clothing of a spent fighter.

I blinked and drew a breath.

Cobbler. I was looking for a cobbler.

Would a cobbler have a booth out here on market day? Those with imported satin slippers and tooled leather boots did. Importers, crafters of fine shoes meant for nobles would likely live as close to the courtiers’ manses and the royal palace as they could afford. One who lived by repairing shoes and boots might expect his custom to seek him out somewhere in the narrow interlacing streets just within the walls.

I stopped, realized I’d done so again, and limped forward lest the second warning trumpet find me this far from the gates. Newly-massed peddlers and beggars shoved others aside to clutch at me and gabble meaningless words. Buzzards shrieking a warning to any who might disturb their feast.

I grumbled and clutched at the haft of my smaller dagger. Street patter laced with flattery transformed into curses and a couple half-hearted kicks. I snarled and pulled the dagger free. The buzzard-spawn scattered.

Now to get through the gates lest lingering catch me hungry and without shelter. Merchants were thrusting small objects into lined bags. Others, their eyes on the crowds, reached beneath their tables and carts fumbling out folds of rough canvas sacks, even as they kept up a steady patter for one last customer.

I turned and took a few more painful steps toward the gates.

“A moment, my lady!” whispered near in the soft cracked voice of an old woman.

Not a peddler—unless her voice had given way from a day of hawking.

Reluctant to hang back from the gate, I glanced over my shoulder without stopping.

Somewhere bundled within a clashing collection of tunics, trousers, a skirt far too short, a hood and two shawls each claiming a shoulder was a small dark woman. Her black eyes--reflecting light borrowed from the setting sun—were a compass to her features. Too thin, cheekbones too prominent but she was smiling like a doting granny.

I offered the briefest of nods.

Like quiet water reflecting paired stars, the sparkle of her eyes greeted my gaze.

A breeze crept through the torn patches of my tunic. I shivered and shifted a step backward with my good foot. My hand froze between dagger and sword hilts, echoing my thoughts torn between pity and terror.

The woman’s face crinkled into a smile. “No danger here, my lady. But peril lies within if you are not careful. I have something for you.”

Just another peddler. I allowed my hand to drop.

“Something you will need. Alas, my granddaughter refused my gift and my protection. But you won’t, will you?”

My head shook of its own—making a decision in which my thoughts had no part. Already dismayed at making one choice before considering it, I held out my hand. My sword hand. Fool!

She smiled--the smile showing the gap of a missing tooth—and lifted the strap of a small bag from one shoulder. Surely only the russet shawl had been there a moment before.

Blended dirt and old sweat obliterated what once might have been intertwined flowers on the bag’s padded strap. Wandering past where the strap ended and the bag began, the intricate design laid gentle claim to the ovoid surface of the silk bag.

The flowers—if they were flowers—were varied in hue, bright then shadowed as if caught in turn by noon rays or misted moonlight. No light varied near us except when vendors and beasts passed with their heavy packs.

The woman turned about and scurried away. Yet her voice came clear. “Open it when they think you sleep…”

A growl and a grunt warned of a brawl about to start. I stepped away from the sound but kept my gaze fixed down the twisting empty path beyond the crowds hurrying toward the gate. Shorn of the sun’s light, the garish hues of her clothing deepened into evergreen, violet and the midnight inkiness of the sea on a moonless night. Then nothing.

The second warning rang out over the babbling crowds and the protests of donkeys and oxen.

I hurried toward the city gates, one person caught up in the slow jostling of a multitude. A man clutched my left elbow and forced his way through a gap barely big enough for a child. Had he had a mind to steal the old woman’s gift he might have succeeded. I slung the lightweight bag up on my left shoulder, clenching its strap between my arm and side.

A whisper echoed by many whispers crept within my ears. “The cobbler lives in the third street. Turn right at the shrine. Look for a thicket of sticks once a fence and a green light in a window.” 

The Cobbler

Once past the well-lighted gates and guard posts, night took possession of the thoroughfare. Wary of any cutpurses, I adjusted my grip on the gifted bag the better to use it as a shield. I probably appeared more threatening than the travelers searching for shelter or the city people hurrying from workplace to a beckoning meal and sleep.

In spite of my new grip on the strap, the silken bag swayed and bounced on its shortened tether in rhythm with my uneven steps. I knew nothing of its value but then neither did any would-be thief. Perhaps small loss if it were taken. Perhaps not. Thieves were sometimes known to incapacitate their targets before they knew what prize they might gain.

No longer in the midst of a crowd, I took note of those behind me and to either side.

Many had taken advantage of the first inn we had passed and departed from the group. I should have joined them. The corner of a common room beckoned in my thoughts. Dozing. Warmed by even the scant fire a tin-pinching goodman would permit. Filled with something warm and soothed by the inn’s best brew.

I faltered a step, and blessings that I did! The shrine’s roof peeped over a crumbling stone wall on my right. Just beyond it lurked smoky chapel candles in three arched windows. Gentle song—accompanied by the familiar lilt of a pipe—sounded from the darkened yard. I saw no one.

I looked as far as I could see around the corner. Those still hurrying up and down the crossing street could scarce be deemed a crowd. Had I left all the shops and inns behind?

With a second glance about, more careful than the first, I turned right as instructed. Suppose the shop were no longer open? Had all the city’s proprietors given up on further profit for tonight? Not worth staying open for custom intent on an inn, tavern or brothel.

Just to my left, firelight flared and heavy boots clattered. I spun toward them. My attacker cried out and backed up, sprawling half in the road and half on the shallow steps he had just descended.

A shadow blocked out most of the light. A woman screamed, “Don’t hurt him, I pray you!”

My sword was out. I didn’t remember drawing it. Instinct rarely left memory. I took a backward step. Two. And finally remembered to sheathe my sword.

Amidst a flood of imprecations, the man heaved himself back to his feet. The woman, likely his wife, asked if she should run for the watch.

He shook his head. “Back inside! Just a misunderstanding.” He didn’t look me in the face. Too intent on seeing if my hand would keep its distance from my hilt?

“My apologies, sir! I…”

“…came from the wars recently.” He finished for me. “Where were you?”

Scattered memories of our last battle lurked behind clenched teeth. I shook my head.

“Well, we were in Itera…”

“…the peninsula battle? I was up-river. Thanks for keeping them downwind.”

The man chuckled. “Wilderness Ward, huh? Actually, I missed it.” He lifted a cane and briefly pointed the end at me like a sword.

I thought his leg was intact but the dark and his cape left me unsure. We both drew back another pace—beyond the range of bladed weapons. Twin apologies echoed between us. Why he offered one I couldn’t guess. Then he hurried on the way I had come...   SNIP 

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Fantasizing Fotos Not-a-Friday #4

Fantasizing,Fotos,Fridays offer pictures chosen to stimulate our imaginations, awaken inspiration & allow creativity free rein to invent theories or micro-stories based on what we see

I just found this photograph by way of a Huffington post.  The URL will be all the way at the bottom of this entry.


Remember to think about the picture and imagine what is going on
before looking at what I wrote. No two people will imagine the same thing.

That would be weird.


I'm still trying to decide if my brain gets an A in Imagination today, or a reminder to do its homework before blathering on for 16 paragraphs. Here's why.

I haven't been thinking much about Fantasizing Fotos entries recently--being focused instead on a series of trial book covers for The Last Battle.  The thumbnail with the link leading to this photograph was too small to make out details. And the title made no sense.

"The Plan" was to click over, click back, and close the original email. How many times have you assured yourself that that's The Plan, only to come out of a twenty minute reverie with no idea how--or why--you've traveled from wherever you started to where you are now. Assuming you remember where you started. Or why you were there to begin with.

A word of advice for those who use Chrome. Never try to satisfy your curiosity about your more random internet trips by holding down the left-pointing arrow up in the top left corner of your screen. One twenty minute reverie an hour is enough.

(Chrome, upper left corner, left-pointing arrow, hold down)

Anyway... I looked at Jovell Rennie's photograph and knew at once what had happened.

The largest (lowest) part of the structure was built by the oldest family members. Maybe they are still living there or maybe they died a century of more ago. I'm betting on the latter.

Descendants continued living here until the lowest floor was becoming uncomfortably cramped. No one had much privacy unless they went outside and began walking. You noticed how thin and straight these trees are, right? Look at the numerous small clearings. This is un-forest-like tree behavior if the trees have been left to their own devices. Anyone who has ever walking in a forest-- especially those who have gotten themselves a bit lost--are familiar with the dense growth. Just plain walking in your intended direction can be a challenge. Soon you're resigned to taking detours to find a way through and then maybe detours from the detours.

But I'm d/e/t/o/u/r/i/n/g/ digressing. What I intended to say next (several paragraphs above), is the over-crowded members of this extended family would naturally yearn for a bit of privacy now and again. Privacy that's impossible to find in their house. Privacy that's impossible to find outdoors because anyone can find you in minutes by looking through the trees.

What to do? First, climb a tree for your guaranteed alone time. Someone in the family was the first to practice tree-climbing. When they came home a few hours later, a worried grandpa or great-grandma asked where the wanderer had been. The next thing anyone knew, nearly everyone in the family took some alone time in a tree.

In the meantime, the more practical members added a wing to the house. Or rather a full attic. More room! More family--because there was now room for more family. Except there wasn't, so nearly everyone continued to tree-sit.

But this was no ordinary forest. How could it be when these were no ordinary trees. Look again at that photograph. Every tree stretching straight up as if reaching for the sky.

No ordinary trees those, as the family discovered about the time that the attic had become as cramped as the original house. The family had a meeting. Not inside but with several people perched in each of dozens of trees, barely close enough for everyone to hear everyone else.

The meeting wasn't really necessary: build a super-attic members outnumbered build a true wing members ten to one.  For the first time, family members left permanently rather than on a mission to find a spouse.

Losing poor-loser members (if you will) proved to have little impact on overpopulation and under privacy. The super super attic was no more than three months old when the family thought it best to get a bit ahead of the overpopulation curve and add a super-duper attic.

No one thought much about it but the old house itself no longer held its quota of inhabitants. Everyone wanted to live on the highest available floor. Tree-sitting for privacy was as popular as ever. Perhaps more so after one ingenious parent suggested that each couple in turn should go off to the trees for some shared privacy while the other parents and the grandparents watched their children.

Couple privacy was very popular of course. And hard to maintain since everyone in the f/l/o/c/k still wanted to sit in a tree at least once a day. Couples soon learned to call out a warning if someone began climbing "their" tree. They had no desire to be rude. Everyone understood the situation. So couples learned to sing out a warning, lest they hear about how disagreeable they had been when they came back inside.

No one thought much about it but over time the trees were not only affecting everyone's behavior but also their bodies. Especially their skin. The older family members were troubled about this but who didn't love a new baby covered in soft down?

Not so long ago--perhaps in your mother's father's mother's father's time--the family stopped adding to the house. You see, each generation of younger children were becoming more uncomfortable than the last when they were confined indoors. Finally, in your mother's father's mother's time, some children outright panicked indoors!

That was the end of that. The building stopped. Probably it would have stopped soon anyway. Over time building permits became the norm in the outside world. Their house had been rapidly doing the opposite. Why even pretend that they still enjoyed living in their

"100 Birdhouses in the Sky! 
Two tours every day! 
Tweet for times!" 

as they named it.


Link to the original article:     House in Willow, Alaska

If you enjoyed reading this, please check out an older entry with the first two scenes from my fantasy novelette, "The Last Battle" The full novelette will be available on Amazon as soon as we have a consensus on the cover. Maybe next year.   ;-P

Thursday, April 9, 2015

The Last Battle, cover version 3

I posted the third version of The Last Battle cover on Facebook a few minutes ago.
You'll find the full-size graphic below. (Also below is the "decluttered version.)

I wrote the following on Facebook,
With great trepidation, I present to you, "The Last Battle" cover, version 3.
The Last Battle is a 13,000 word fantasy novelette that I wrote specifically for Tree House Tales.
I hope to publish the story as a standalone on Amazon. Most likely after it has a cover.  . . . 

In the meantime, what do you think of THIS cover?

I muted the trees & cliffs at the top left to help people better focus on the sword and the boot. I'm trying to decide if I should do the same with the ground cover and the boulder. If you can do so in good conscience, please talk me out of attempting that task!  Thanks!

What second motive would I have to fade the ground cover, aside from helping you decipher what you're looking at? 

I was walking down the yellow brick...   Oops! Wrong answer. 

So why else make ground cover only to (maybe) fade it nearly into non-existence? (unless you take pity on me) I guess so that the boot doesn't look like it's floating through the air? Oh! Also in the hopes no one asks me why there's a boulder on the cover. Sometimes a boulder is just a boulder.

The cover required that a fighter's boot be on it from the beginning. It represents an essential theme in the novelette. 

The sword--with that persistent "blood moon"--found its way on to the cover mostly because first reviewers suggested I provide some hint to prospective readers that The Last Battle is fantasy. Once I conceded that including a fantasy-type sword would be a good move, I became enamored of the idea. I've dubbed it Essential Cover Element #2.

Spoiler alert: neither this sword nor anything like it appears in The Last Battle.
On the other hand, the sword's trappings fit the characteristics of a number of characters in the story. The blood moon is not false advertising. It's not in the story but its doppelganger is.

On the other hand (or five) the sky, trees, cliffs, ground cover and boulder triumphed over their two closest rivals for the post of cover background. What were their rivals?
White background.
Black background.
Frankly, I just wanted to get this thing done so both those options were very tempting. 

The Last Battle, cover version 3 B follows. I didn't quite succumb to either a black or white cover but I did clean out most of the clutter.

Speaking of which, please help me get this thing done by leaving any suggestions below--with the single exception of "start over". 

It's really easy. Not starting over. Commenting. And safe. Honest. You don't need to sign on using your Google account or your Facebook updated status, or your checking account # and PIN, to post a comment.

While you're visiting, why not read the first two scenes of The Last Battle? Just look for the entry titled, "And Now For Something Completely Different".

Thanks again!

Saturday, April 4, 2015

The Last Battle, cover version 2

The Last Battle cover (second attempt)

"The Last Battle" is a 13,000 word fantasy novelette that I wrote specifically for Tree House Tales.

I hope to publish the story as a standalone on Amazon. Eventually. ;-D

In the meantime, what do you think of THIS cover?  Thanks!


There's already a response on FB, "I can't even tell what's it's supposed to be."

Do you agree? Do you have a different reaction?

Please respond below. I won't bite.  ;-D