MS Word is a Tool

In the Realm of Legend

Oh, the joys. After moaning and complaining ever since MS Word announced my version was no longer supported, I’ve been dreading this day. I know I could go with what I had for the foreseeable future, but not forever, and sometimes you just want to get something you know is going to be unpleasant over and done with.

So today I upgraded to MS 365.

Short version? Not as bad as I’d feared. Some new features might even be useful. Still miffed about it, though. Why? Because—and I don’t think I’m unique about this among writers and even otherwise normal folk—I am a creature of habit. When I sit down to (attempt) to write something, the last thing I want to have to think about is the tool I’m using to do it. And new software forces you, at least for a while, to do exactly that. Can I format a paragraph like I always do? Underlining, italics, bold? How about shifting the margins? Headers? Widows and orphans? Of course I care about widows and orphans…oh, that’s the spacing issue. No. I don’t care about that at all, and I especially don’t care in a rough draft. And yes, I know you don’t know what a rough draft is. And for pity’s sake stop lecturing me about standard usage. Standard usage is the last thing I want. When I use a word or phrase it’s my word or phrase, and it’ll do what I darn well tell it to.

Ahem. Where was I?

Yeah, complaining. Hell, I’m still pissed about having to drop WordPerfect years ago, knowing there are still a few folk around still mad about WordStar. Yes, I know George R.R. Martin supposedly still uses it. Which sorta makes my point. Creatures of habit. I liked WP. It did what I wanted and otherwise got out of the way. But file exports to Word weren’t so great, and the editors by then had all switched to MS Word, mostly because of corporate dictates. So here we are. I’ve learned not to hate MS Word, and most of my best stuff was written on it. Once I get used to the new version, I’m sure it’ll be fine.

That is, until the next version.

I know it’s a tool. But does it have to be such a tool?

Stuck in a Groove

Totally AWOL last week and still concentrating elsewhere, for good or ill. So for this Monday it’s another piece of flash fiction. The only context is this was for the Flash Fiction group, the trigger word was “Toll,” and I was feeling a bit fey. So here is:

 

Another Fairy Tale

Once upon a time there was a good-natured boy named David who didn’t listen.

“You lazy, good for nothing dolt!” Which was his mother’s standard morning greeting, What he heard was: “Good morning, My Blessing.”

“Mother, I’ve decided to go out into the world to seek our fortune.”

“Our fortune? You couldn’t find your arse with a torch!”

What he heard was: “I will miss you. Please be careful.”

“I will, and I love you too.”

She just shook her head. “Mark my words, you will have a heavy toll to pay.”

Having bid his wonderful mother goodbye, David hoisted his pack and left. In five minutes his mother had his room cleared out and advertised for renters.

As happens in such journeys, David hadn’t gone more than a few miles when he met a magical cat sitting beside the road. “Here comes another bungler,” the cat mumbled.

“Did you say you were hungry? Have some cheese.”

David gladly shared what he had. When they were done, the cat sighed. “According to the rules I must help you now. Look under that fallen tree.”

Now the cat may have been magical, but he was also ill-tempered and ungrateful. He fully expected the lad to uncover a nest of hornets and be stung within an inch of his life. Instead David came back with a small bag of gold and the cat just stared.

“I could have sworn I hid that better.”

What David heard was: “This will make your journey better.”

David thanked the cat and continued on his way. The cat stared after him.

“No way this ends well,” the cat said. “I must follow and see.”

So he followed David unseen until the lad came to a river bridge, which the cat knew fully well was the home of a voracious troll. “I will enjoy this,” the cat said to himself.

As David approached the bridge, the troll appeared and roared at him. “I shall make you my dinner!”

What David heard was, “Please make me some dinner.”

“I can’t do that,” David said. “There’s barely enough in my pack now to feed a mouse. But I know what it is to be poor. Maybe I can help you.”

“No tricks,” growled the troll. “No BS about your brother coming and he’s fatter than you. Been there, done that.”

What David heard was: “I’d appreciate anything you can do, and that’s that.”

“Buy yourself a nice lunch.”

He tossed the bag of gold to the troll who opened it and could only stare, dumbfounded, at the treasure, so David crossed the bridge and went on his merry way. Soon he met the same cat again.

“How did you know that would work?” the cat demanded. “That troll should have eaten you!”

“Well, did you see him? He was twenty-five stone if he was one.”

“And what has that to do with anything?!”

“I simply heeded my good mother’s warning. She did say I’d have to pay a heavy troll.”

-The End-

©2020 Richard Parks.  All Rights Reserved.

Tote That Barge

Today I’m posting an excerpt from The Seventh Law of Power (working title) which, if everything works out as I expect, will form Book 4 and finish the Laws of Power series. When I’m far enough along to keep up I’ll likely post draft chapters weekly as I did with Power’s Shadow, but that’s still a little ways off yet.

Oh, and absolutely no context provided. It is what it is:

 

 

 

Tymon, sat on a broken stalagmite studying a stalactite. While he understood, in terms of geologic era, practically no time at all had passed since he had taken up residence and looking for infinitesimal differences was profoundly silly, he still felt the compulsion to do just that.

Then again, five hundred years living in a cave could have that effect on a person.

“Five hundred years a hermit? I expected you to go insane. Instead you’re as focused and dramatic as ever.”

Tymon had been expecting the manifestation. The cool air in the cave had been almost charged with anticipation for the last three days. When a Power’s attention was focused on a person, that attention always revealed itself, if one knew how to look. Now Amaet perched on a broken stalagmite, looking beguiling. One would think she was nothing more than a winsome young woman, if one didn’t already know she was neither young nor a woman, and she didn’t glow like a newborn ember. Tymon knew she chose her appearances carefully for the effect she wanted. The current manifestation was designed to keep him both beguiled and off-balance. There was a time, half a millennium gone, when it might have worked.

“Amaet. To what do I owe this honor? Or rather, what do you want?”

“How do you know you’re not already giving it to me? Oh, honestly. I’ve so missed teasing you.”

“Then why did you leave me in peace all this time?”

“I’d have left you in peace now, save that you’re becoming interested in the world again.  That is, you’re combining interest with action.”

“Because you removed your curse of immortality and replaced it with the curse of knowledge, and thus I am twice punished. The Long Look. I see the future. Again.”

“Not so grandiose, spellcaster. One possible future.”

“One I have to prevent. You knew what I would do.”

She looked at him. “Of course I did, silly. What I don’t know is why.”

Tymon took a slow breath. “If I can prevent disaster and choose not to act, the lives destroyed belong to me. I cannot escape that. Now, the real question is, why did you give me the Long Look again?”

“Because I knew what you would do. Isn’t this fun?”

“Fun? To save what little remains of my humanity, you force me to serve you again?”

Amaet scowled. “Serve me willingly and you could avoid all that.”

“’You only worship a god. With a Power, you negotiate’ as a wise woman once said. I prefer to keep our relationship the way it is.”

“Fair exchange then. I get what I want, you get what you need. Why do I want it? Aren’t you even a little curious?”

“I’m curious about many things, Amaet. First there’s the Long Look, which, whatever else it may do, serves your purposes, not mine. Then there’s the Arrow Path, far more structured and yet every much as goal-oriented as my own curse which, I think it’s safe to say, did not give you everything you wanted yet or why give it back? Nor apparently, has the Arrow Path itself. I do wonder how Marta fits into it all.”

“There are many Arrow Path witches, Tymon.”

“I know. Yet none save for her mother, Black Kath, progressed so far as she has. I do know of your special interest in Marta so don’t bother denying it. I also know what she seeks, but your ultimate goal? Yes, it’s fair to say I am very curious about that.”

“You have had a lot of time to think about this, haven’t you? Still no closer to an answer?”

“I do know, whatever you do, it isn’t out of kindness.” Tymon met the beautiful, terrible creature’s gaze. “I really hate you, you know.”

“I know. And that serves me as well.”

Amaet vanished, and Tymon the Black, the most evil wizard of all time, shrugged. “I was happy when the world forgot about me. Now I have to remind them.”

©2020 by Richard Parks. All Rights reserved.

 

Flashing Monday

Seeing a few hopeful signs. Flour is sometimes to be had. Likewise TP. Most people are wearing masks (homemade or otherwise) and keeping their distance. This is nowhere near over, so be careful and stay safe. For now, here’s a bit of free flash for a Monday. We do what we can.

 

 

Subject to Interpretation

By Richard Parks

“No, that’s not quite it.”

Kenny was doing his best, but it was also proving my point. Human beings just did not undulate. Snakes sort of did, if you overlooked the fact that their wave motion was side to side, not up and down.

“But….”

“If I bothered to plot your up and down motion as points on a graph, it might resemble a wave. Without an artificial interpolation, it is simply you popping up and down like a bloody jack-in-the-box.”

“I saw a bellydancer once—“

“So have I. While I admit a proper belly roll is an undulation, it is only part of her body and temporary and has nothing to do with locomotion. Nor is any part of our bodies above the microcosmic shaped in an undulated fashion. Neither the direct nor alternate definitions of the term fit.”

Kenny glared at me. “I think you’re being a bit too dogmatic about this.”

“The very root of the word is from the Latin, meaning ‘wave.’ Words must mean what they mean. Neither more nor less.”

“When I use a word, it means exactly what I want it to mean, neither more nor less.”

“Said Humpty Dumpty before his great fall, written by a master of nonsense. When I say you did not see a belly dancer nor Elizabeth Morganstern undulate across a room, it’s because that’s physically impossible. Worse, you put a ridiculous image in the reader’s head and interfered in the willing suspension of disbelief. If you’re describing a physical action, it must comply with the laws of physics. Now, write it again.”

By this time I knew Kenny was long past regretting asking my help on his little essay, but I did try to warn him I had no gift for teaching. Writing? Sure, I’m fair to middling most days and borderline decent on others. But explaining how to do it? No. Yet in my time I’ve met people who could barely write a check but give them a lesson plan and one good example and they could turn out the next Tolstoy, or at least a fair humor columnist. It’s a different skill.

So as a tutor, I was a bust. All I could do was point out errors and bad choices and make my students do it again and again until they got it right. If only by accident and the law of averages.

Kenny typed furiously for precisely two seconds. “I quit.”

Kenny stormed out of my office and onto the landing. I’d swear I saw little storm clouds over his head. “Watch the railing—“

Too late. Kenny’s sleeve caught on a gap in the steel. He made a bad step and the next thing I knew he was sliding down the stairs on his belly. Curiously, his body really did make an almost smooth distinct up and down motion traveling from his nose to his feet as he bumped down the stairs.

Assuming he lives, I’ll gladly confess I was wrong.

-The End-

©2020 Richard Parks. All Rights Reserved.

Journal of the Vague Years

I was thinking about re-titling this “Journal of the Plague Years” but that one’s already taken. Not that there’s anything much to journal. My day is pretty much like anyone else considered “nonessential” going through Corvid-19 lockdown.  Twice a week I drive First Reader to physical therapy, which she needs and as a medical function hasn’t been closed down yet. Other than occasional forays for essential supplies, that’s pretty much it. Cook when I want to, order takeout when I don’t. Intending to hit all the restaurants within range since they’re having a bad patch with this and we do what we can.

Trying to stay calm and centered, occasionally ranting about the stupidity of the governor of my home state who is going to get people killed. In a lot of ways I feel fortunate to be in NY state now, even with it being one of the hotspots. At least our governor has a working brain, whatever other human faults he may possess.

Working when I have the energy and focus. I know some of you have been waiting a long time for the concluding volume of the Laws of Power series. I am working on it, I promise, and assuming the virus or something else doesn’t get me first, I will finish it.

As for A Wizard of Earthsea above, It’s because I was remembering a Benedryl-fueled dream from last night. I was back in the house (long since torn down) I spent most of my growing up years in trying to fix a blown fuse. Only the fusebox had been mounted to the side of a tree which had long since overgrown it. Just inside I could see my copy of the Ballantine edition Le Guin’s book, now grown over, woke up wondering how on earth I was going to get it out.

I really should stop taking antihistamine before bedtime.