Category Archives: Fiction

Checking It Twice – Short Story

I wrote this recently in response to a request for stories to be included in an online magazine. It didn’t quite manage to make it to publication but it was fun to write so I thought I’d share it here.

The theme of the issue was Lists, and this is what came to mind, about as far through the year from Christmas as you can get!


The list got longer every year but his patience seemed to get shorter.

‘Have you seen some of these?’ His huge voice bounced off the log cabin’s walls as he flailed a letter in front of her face. ‘I mean, what possible reason could there be for a five year old to ask for a sunbed?’

‘Maybe they have a lizard?’

‘A two metre long sunbed!’

The fire crackled in the hearth. ‘It could be a big lizard?’ The small woman was wearing a jolly green suit, which almost matched the current colour of the big man’s face. ‘How many times have you checked the list, Father?’ She used his honorary title, as it often helped calm him down when he was in one of those moods.

‘I think this is the third, but what with one thing and another it’s a little hard to tell. Look at this,’ his ample white beard seemed to grow more imposing as he quoted the words written on the cheery yellow piece of paper. ‘Ahem…’

dear satna

could i have a fluffy tedy bear that talks, the new leggo set i want and the last sereis of HOUSEWIVES OF ARIZONA on blueray happy crissmas

Cortnee age 7

‘…Do they not teach spelling and grammar these days? And that show is M rated, shouldn’t the parents at least have a look before these go up the chimney? And talking of the parents… What’s with that name, did they never watch Friends?’

The woman looked into the old man’s face, having to crane her neck up to do so or she would have been staring into his ample stomach. ‘I think you need a break, Father, I’ll get you a nice warm mug of cocoa.’

‘No, Adelaide, I’m finding the complex carbohydrates are affecting my waistline, can I have a glass of water please?’

Adelaide backed out of the room with a concerned look on her thin face. The elves had been helping out round these parts for thousands of years. Just because the festival had rebranded a few times and swapped icons occasionally didn’t mean that someone wasn’t needed for the production and logistics side of things.

In fact elves was a bit of a misnomer, the race was more akin to gnomes, who had excellent fine-motor skills, especially in the footwear department, and a fondness for shiny objects. The historical records suggested the race had been slowly edged out of their natural habitat in the northern hemisphere’s forest tundra, because of man’s ever increasing hunger for land and resources. Eventually they found themselves living in caves carved out of the permafrost and subsisting on a diet of boiled extremophiles and the occasional directionally challenged, and subsequently, extremely frozen avian.

When The Big Man took up residence the gnomes decided that a well stoked fire and as many marshmallows as you could eat were preferable to another night of Burkholderiaceae soup, Sphingomonas stew or freeze dried ivory gull with an aperitif of not-quite-thawed ice.

The ancient spirit’s eyes, so dark as to be indistinguishable from the final midnight at the end of time, stared forlornly at the boxy shadows in the corner of the room. His gaze was still fixed on them when Adelaide returned carrying a tray almost as big as she was. On top of it rested a large mug of, oh yes, cocoa and a plate with a bonsai mountain of mince pies.

The elf followed the burning trail of his gaze then looked back at his worried face. ‘It isn’t as scary as it looks, Father. I can help you get started, if you like?’

The machine had been provided by The Authorities to “Improve Efficiency and Help Provide a Better Standard of Customer Service to Believers”. For some reason the higher powers believed that messages had more impact if Written In Capital Case! The old man tried to calm down when he saw his friend and co-worker riding on a knife blade at the edge of terror. ‘I’m not averse to technology, Adelaide,’ he conceded, ‘it’s just that I’ve been working this way for as long as I can remember. The letters arrive, I check who’s been good or bad, the naughty list gets transferred to the vault, the good list gets dispatched to the workshop manager, and we’re good to go on the 25th. A “computer” will just make things more complicated.’

‘But Father,‘ Adelaide put her hand on his knee, ‘when you started you only had a handful of believers, even at the height of Saturnalia there were only about 60 million Romans! These last few decades have seen the whole world start believing in you, there are seven billion children to cater for now, how do you expect to even carry a list that long? The reindeer would have trouble getting airborne.’

‘You’re right, of course.’ The Big Man rubbed his red gloved hands through his mass of white hair and stood up, then walked over to the foreboding machine and pressed the power button, something went “ping”. ‘Show me how it’s done then, my young friend.’

Adelaide nervously climbed into the special chair, “With Six And Five Eighths Degrees Of Freedom”, which had mysteriously arrived when the computer turned up. The screen was already showing a friendly looking greeting, written in Comic Sans:

DeiOS 4.2 – Soul Control from Home.

She tapped a few keys until another pleasant message was displayed:

WishScan DDR: Digitising Dreams into Reality.

‘All you need to do is put the letters in here.’ She inserted one of the wish lists into the hole on the front of the machine, ‘and they’ll be scanned in and automatically categorised and added to the list.’ A message flashed on screen: Scan Complete – Behaviour Checked – Gifts Assigned.

‘Seems simple enough. Can I have a go?’ He picked up one of the letters and fed it into the opening. There was an electronic sound, a bit like vzzt, and the letter was spat out of the same opening onto the floor at his big black boots. The screen showed:

Orientation Error – 0x07338D93 – Change Position And Try Again.

‘Was I standing in the wrong place?’

‘No, Father, it means the paper was the wrong way up. Here see, put it in as if you’re about to read it.’ Adelaide showed him the correct way and, once again, the document disappeared in a small puff of enchantment.

After a few more attempts, some head scratching and a few choice words, some of which were new to the gnome, The Big Man finally managed to get his first letter to go in the hole without being spat out, shredded, turned into a lace handkerchief, or set on fire. ‘Ah, I think I’ve got it now,’ he said, ‘would you mind staying while I try a couple more, please?’

An hour later, Adelaide finally closed the door behind her. She had shown him how to view the scanned letters, look at the lists and search through the names or gifts. He told her he was just going to try a few on his own before he went to bed.

***

The next morning Adelaide prepared the Chief’s breakfast, placed it on a tray and proceeded to his office. Opening the door she was surprised to find him crouched over the machine, ‘Come here, Adelaide, this is amazing.’ The letters, which were previously in two piles almost to the ceiling, were now all but gone. The old man fed another in and watched it disappear into the device. As he turned to Adelaide she saw that the whites of his eyes were tessellated with tiny blood vessels and there were dark rings round them the colour of coal. It was obvious that he hadn’t slept.

‘How are you feeling, sir?’

He fed another letter into the machine and watched with wonder as it was added to the gift list. His bleary eyes juddered slowly towards her as his booming voice vibrated the fixtures and fittings, ‘On top of the world, my friend. You know, I don’t think I’d have managed to get through these before the big day if you hadn’t shown me how this contraption works.’

He fed another letter into the machine and gave a satisfied smile as it disappeared into the mystical ether. Adelaide watched as he continued to robotically insert the wish lists and checked the Naughty List, the Gift List and the occasional letter for scanning errors, to make sure a recipient was going to get what they had asked for, rather than a toy house (horse!), radio controlled chipper (chopper!!) or a solitary parrot (Monopoly!!!).

Eventually the final letter was entered and the machine made a satisfying bing noise as the old man turned it off. He slurped the steaming hot mug of cocoa and took a bite out of the cold turkey and stuffing sandwich, ‘Delicious!’

The gnome lifted her own cup from the tray and took a sip, ‘So, what are you going to do now, Father?’

A number of looks rolled across the old man’s face, like a series of 15,000-pound bombs detonating around a rural village in Kentucky, as he realised he had done himself out of a job until the big day. ‘What do you do around this time of year, Adelaide?’

‘Well, mostly bring you mulled wine and mince pies, sir. I could fetch the newspaper, if you like?’

‘No, no. I think I’ll just have a bit of a sit down for a while.’ As Adelaide pulled the door shut he collapsed into the comfy chair next to the fireplace. After a few minutes there was a deep breath and then snoring. In his dreams lights flashed and speakers blared, a series of terrifying machines marched through his mind, electronically yelling a chant which sounded, for all the worlds, like “we’re going to take your job old man”.

He woke up with a start and involuntarily declared, ‘I’m still useful.’

Adelaide had just entered the room, ‘Yes Father, you are. Here, have some roasted chestnuts and a hot chocolate.’

He took the proffered food and drink and sat in front of the computer again, scratching his bearded chin and looking thoughtful. ‘Who sent this device, Adelaide?’

‘The receipt states it was from,’ she searched in her pocket and pulled out a crumpled piece of paper, ‘Minerva – Virgin Goddess of Wisdom, Handicrafts, Strategic Warfare, and Trade.’

‘Hmm, takes all sorts,’ the old man said. ‘Could you get me some parchment and a stylus, please?’ When he had thought for a minute he started scratching out some beautifully choreographed words on the page.

My Dearest Minerva,

For Christmas this year I would like an automated present delivery system that can be used to ensure that each girl and boy get their allocated gifts, both on-time and to agreed service levels.

If this could be delivered before the commencement of my activities on December the 25th I would be in your debt for the next millennium.

Yours sincerely

Utu, Xipe-Totec, Ekkeko, Ptah, Odin, Zeus, Sancus, Nicholas, etc., etc.

He left the room as Adelaide read the note. When she was done she turned round to find him in a noisy Hawaiian style shirt and shorts. She said ‘Um…’ as that was all that came to mind.

‘I’m going on holiday, somewhere hot! Could you hold the fort please? You seem to have the hang of all this technomancy. I’ll leave it up to you to get the deliveries and gift receipting done. I’m sure you’ll be fine.’

Adelaide stood in stunned silence as the door was shut. Her face was a picture of consternation but eventually she rubbed her hands together and said, ‘Right, there are going to be some changes around here!’

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The Glorious 25th

Just a quick post in my lunch break today, If you were drawn here by the title then you already know what I’m talking about.

If not, suffice to say, it’s a reference to a series of events as outlined in Night Watch, one of Terry Pratchett’s Discworld novels. It’s a much darker story than many of his other books and recounts a few days around the 25th of May, 1957, 30 years before the present time (in the book’s timeline).

There are many places you can find out about what happened, but this is a good place to start.

In some ways it seems ridiculous to memorialise something that didn’t really happen, but many religions have survived this way for thousands of years, so if a bunch of Discworld fans want to make the world a better place because of some fantastical fictional events then I say, good luck to them (us!!!).

For my part this year, I have created the following image:

25th

However there are many ways to help raise awareness of the plight of the people who lost their fictional lives that day, and if you are a bit tech savvy, then you can take a look here (although the GNU Clacks codes are actually taken from a much later time in Discworld history, but as we’re all friends I figured that doesn’t really matter!).

Anyway, for those of you who want to remember the Glorious People’s Revolution of Treacle mine road, and those who made it into a lot less of a massacre, I salute you comrades.

#GNUCecilClapman

#GNUNedCoates

#GNUDaiDickins

#GNUJohnKeel

#GNUHoraceNancyball

#GNUTerryPratchett

#GNURegShoe (Temp)

#GNUBillyWiglet


Short Story – The End of Politics

II just wrote this. It doesn’t make a lot of sense but I had to do something to help me process today’s rather odd events.

It’s a Discworld story based in Ankh Morpork, one of the fantastic locations from the mind of Sir Terry Pratchett, by the way!


The quiet leaked out of the palace grounds like a cold, heavy blanket, the city ground to a halt beneath the desolate wave of silence, as if Old Tom was ringing in the end of the Universe. Traders halted mid-holler and barking dogs suddenly seemed to think better of their wolf heritages and sit down in contemplation.

At the Watch House, Vimes’s pen stopped scratching signatures out on paperwork he didn’t really trust and definitely didn’t enjoy. He dropped the pen on the table, stood up, leaving the chair at the jaunty angle where its journey ended and went down the stairs and past the front desk. The watchmen were mute, Cheery watched him go without asking why, Carrot stood in the doorway like a statue, but one of those really good ones by Leonard of Quirm – with rippling muscles and an expression that you couldn’t quite place but which made you wonder why the Disc wasn’t a better place.

He proceeded along Lower Broadway and across the Brass Bridge, the feel of the cobbles through the paper thin soles he had somehow managed to acquire without Sybil finding out wasn’t giving him that warm comfortable feeling it should do.

He managed to get to the palace without anyone interrupting his journey to ask why the pigs hadn’t been rounded up after the cart accident in Sator Square, or what he was going to do about the one which had escaped into the Unreal Estate and was now floating merrily over the Butchers’ Guild and taunting the red-faced meat merchants.

The guards at the palace gates stood aside to let him through without threatening him with their halberds or proffering any sarcastic and misjudged comments about the men and women under his command.

He climbed the stairs and walked straight past the Oblong Office, opening the door of the next room without knocking. The small bed at the far side of the room was shaded but the shape under the sheets was unmistakable. Drumknott was standing beside the bed, Vimes had always considered the clerk to have as much emotion as a stuffed herring but when the man’s face turned towards him it was clear that the deathly calm that was smothering the city had started in this room, and was deathly for a reason.

The walk across the minimal bedroom seemed to take much longer than the dimensions would have suggested but finally Vimes stood next to Drumknott and looked down to see the face he knew so well, only slightly paler post-mortem than it had been pre-mortem.

Vimes knew that no crime had been committed here, other than the one which ultimately lies in wait for any mortal being and sings with the swish of a scythe blade. He reached down and placed his fingers on the incumbent’s throat, an action which he had done more times than he wished to remember in the course of his duties, only this time the lack of any blood flow seemed to make his own pulse ring in his ears.

‘You know,’ Vimes said after catching his breath again, ‘people always said that he was a vampire, and I almost believed them. I guess it was just a good way for the city to avoid facing this possibility.’

***

In the corner of the room another conversation was taking place, but not one anyone would hear unless they were gifted in certain thaumic arts.

‘I expected you to be taller.’

I AM EXACTLY SEVEN FEET TALL, IS THAT NOT QUITE WELL ENDOWED IN THE SIZE DEPARTMENT?

‘Perhaps, perhaps!’

There was an awkward silence, as if something was meant to be transpiring. ‘What happens now?’

The skeleton shrugged his shoulders, I WOULDN’T NORMALLY SAY, BUT I GET THE FEELING YOU ALREADY KNOW. GENERALLY THE NEWLY DECEASED MOVE ON TO WALK THE ENDLESS DESERT UNTIL THEY REACH THEIR PERSONAL IDEA OF THE AFTERLIFE. BUT YOU SEEM TO BE UNUSUALLY EXTANT.

‘Yes, I don’t think I’ll be doing that. There are so many places I’ve wanted to go but you know how it is what with one thing and another?’

NO, NOT REALLY.

‘I think I might go fishing.’

I WOULD SUGGEST GETTING AWAY FROM THE ANKH THEN!

To Death’s surprise, without moving a muscle Havelock Vetinari was suddenly not visible. Being of the omnicognisant variety Death knew he was still there but was having some difficulty placing his exact location, WELL, I’VE NEVER SEEN THAT BEFORE.

“It’s a talent.’ Said the voice of Vetinari as Death resheathed his sword and mounted Binky for his next appointment.


Competition – Win Yourself A (Kindle) Copy Of Jump

If you fancy yourself as a bit of a sleuth and would like to get your hands on a FREE copy of my, frankly, already dirt cheap novel Jump, then you can do so by going to Twitter and searching out the Twitter handles for six of the characters who star in the book.

To win simply find them (some are easier than others) and fill their handles in on the form below. The winner will be the first person to give the correct Twitter usernames. I’ll email the mobi format book to the address given in the form, email addresses will not be used for any other purposes and will not be kept after the competition finishes.

Good Luck

Dan

Jump by Dan Ladle

Jump by Dan Ladle


A Tweet in the Dark

I am currently working on marketing Jump, and when I say working on it is a bit like a full time job. Let me outline my strategy.

From the eleven characters in my book I picked six, there was some reasoning behind my choice, as some are no longer available at the end of the book and some are not the sort of people to go around “expressing themselves” in public. For these six characters I set up accounts on Twitter, this included finding profile pictures (I didn’t use photographs of people’s faces, that might have caused some issues), I also found some images for the backgrounds and headers and got them all prettified.

After the initial account details you are asked to choose people to follow, I decided not to go for anyone who might actually know me, instead I decided what sort of things each of them would like and started adding, e.g. bands, organisations and people.

So I ended up with six accounts for imaginary people who I then needed to allow to start having opinions and things to tell the world about. This was an interesting exercise because, although some of them are a little like me, e.g. similar taste in music or technology or etc., they are also quite different people. However, after writing a book about all of them I felt relatively confident that I could come up with some interesting things to say (on their behalves!).

Initially I set up the accounts and purely logged in and out of Twitter on my computer, but this soon got a bit tiring so I added each of their accounts to my phone, fine but not super easy to cope with swapping between and responding to each other’s Tweets, after all, they know each other and have worked closely together so are a pretty close group who interact a lot, although they are all starting to build up their own group of followers.

Now though, I have settled on using TweetDeck, which is a fantastic little program you can install on your desktop computer, then add Twitter accounts and receive, compose and respond to Tweets. My favourite thing though is a function I am just trying out, its possible to schedule your messages to be sent at a later time and/or date. So far today I have found a number of different things of interest which I have written Tweets about and marked for sending between about five PM tonight and half three tomorrow morning. This is very useful when your characters live in a completely different time zone and part of the world, as mine do!

Anyway, my plan is to get these six people interacting with a bunch of (probably, you can never quite tell) real humans, then slowly leak out bits of the story, eventually admitting that they are actually characters from a book and trying to appeal to their followers to buy their story.

I have no idea if this will work, but its quite a lot of fun pretending to be an attractive thirty-something woman with an interest in shoes, or a multilingual translator, or a guy who built a time machine.

If you like you can try to find and follow them, but I’m not giving you any sort of hints so you’ll just have to seek them out for yourselves!


Five Minute Writing Challenge Four

So, to the final five minute writing story! The word we were given for this one was “Spoilers”, which obviously made me immediately think of Dr Who, which made me think about time travel (what can I say, I like time travel)!

So the story which travelled to my fingers, without the inconvenience of journeying through my synapses, was this one. I call it Spoilers.


 

 

‘I wish you hadn’t done that.’

‘What?’

‘I was rather hoping that I might be able to see the movie without finding out what happened at the end beforehand.’

‘You mean you don’t know?’

‘Well, no. Why should I? No one I know does!’

‘But it’s the most famous story in the world!’

‘Really? That’s funny, none of my friends have ever heard of it.’

‘But how. It’s formed today’s culture!’

Buck suddenly realised he didn’t recognise where he was. His gaze flashed around the surrounding area trying to find something familiar, eventually alighting on a date under the clock in the cinema foyer.

November 6th, 2086. He’d travelled 70 years into the future.

Suddenly a holographic sign flashed up showing the main feature.

THE BIBLE.

 


 


Jump by Dan Ladle

So today I published my book. This would be the book I’ve been going on about for quite some time on this ‘blog. It’s a time travel adventure where eco-terrorists try and obliterate the human race.

I wrote a special introduction to go on the Amazon page, which is a recording of one of the characters telling us a bit about herself, you can see it below. I also included a bit of information about myself, along with some ideas of what to expect from the book.

If you want to read it you can search for my name “Dan Ladle” on your local Amazon site or, if you’re a bit lazy, click on one of the following links:

America

UK

Australia

This is what Emily says:


‘How does this work? Oh, is this on? It is, isn’t it!’

‘Okay. Hi, I’m Emily Harrison, I’m a translator, mainly specialising in archaic and extinct languages, although I can speak quite a few modern ones. I used to work in a little office in the nether regions of a university. It was quite a good job, hard on the eyes though.’

‘Anyway, where was I? Yes, that’s right, these days I spend my time, if you’ll excuse the expression, flitting back and forth between the present day and prehistory, trying not to get crushed, rebuilding factories, destroying my rather fantastic clothes in unpleasant muddy forests, having affairs with super-intelligent physicists, talking about dragons and, last but not least, trying to save the world from impending obliteration out of the spacetime continuum.’

‘What, was I meant to make more of that last bit? Um, so this time machine we travel around in, the Jump Box, is apparently being taken by a group of eco-terrorists and used to change the past, which is messing up the weather and, frankly, not doing good things to my hair.

Still, with the aid of Cooke and Celia, who are pretty special, Masterson, who’s a bit on the military side, the Jameses, who are an interesting couple and Moulder, who’s a bit on the quiet side but good with animals, we ought to be able to figure the whole thing out and make the present a bit more pleasant again.’

‘What’s that, they’re coming? How do you turn this thing off Cooke…’

Transcript of recording, recovered from jump base three weeks after the events covered in the novelisation of events entitled “Jump”.

Jump is a fast paced adventure through space and time but grounded firmly in the real world, encompassing millions of years into the past, two weeks into the future and a good percentage of the landmasses of the planet.

With nods to Michael Crichton, Isaac Asimov and Stephen Baxter but with a style all of his own, Dan Ladle draws on experiences from his life, along with new scientific developments and a vivid imagination. He is an exciting new author with a brain full of ideas. Dan is not a scientist, nor is he a historian or indeed a savant or a polymath. However, he is interested in the world and how it works and is always trying to find outlets for his fizzing neurons.

Dan lives in Perth, Western Australia with his wife, his son and their cat, Snuggles.

This is Dan’s first book!

Jump by Dan Ladle

Jump by Dan Ladle