Organisational Tools: Trello

One of the things about me is that I find it difficult to have just one project on the go, and I have far more than one creative hobby. As such, it can be quite easy for things to get lost along the way to completion, to forget my progress on something, or just forget about a project entirely. I’ve tried several systems for keeping track of things in the past but none have really captured what I wanted or needed.

Enter Trello.

So, in my day job, last year I was assigned to a team that works using a management system called “scrum.” Now, ignoring my personal feelings on that, there was one particular aspect of it that I really liked. The Scrum Board. A board with all current works to be completed within a certain time period, laid out in columns including “to do,” “in progress,” etc. And I thought there was a far more fun application of this than WORK.

I did a quick search and found Trello, a website that allows you to make your own boards for your own projects. I did, and I love it. What are some of the features that make Trello work for me?

Columns are the first useful thing. This is to separate out what state everything is in. The above screenshot is from my personal board, which holds ALL my projects in it. I have “In Waiting,” for everything that I want to do, but isn’t currently on my radar. “To Do” is for things I want to start working on next. “Doing” speaks for itself and of course “Done” is the WOO HOO column. In particular, I like having the distinction between the “In Waiting” and “To Do” columns because it stops me feeling overwhelmed by too many projects, while giving me the reassurance that nothing is being forgotten about.

Example Trello column headers.

Projects or tasks are made into “cards” that can be moved about the board. These cards can be given as much or as little detail as you want. The ones on my personal board vary wildly between paragraphs and paragraphs of detail to just the title. You can add due dates, attachments, and custom fields of your own. I have a custom field for estimating the “size” of a task, so I have an idea of what I’m getting myself into while looking through my list to pick what to work on next.

Example Trello cards. Ignore that overdue blog post…

One of my favourite bits of Trello is that it lets you add brightly coloured labels, which speaks to the part of me that has many binders covered in brightly coloured sticky markers. This is very useful for me in particular as it allows me to keep all of my projects on one board while still being able to pick out what sort of thing I’m looking for at that point in time. These can all be customised, so the board tells you what you need it to tell you.

Example Trello labels.

And finally, another personal favourite. Be it a badly scrawled post-it, the back of my hand, a phone app, or that expensive notebook I’ve finally worked up the courage to use, I love making lists. Lists are awesome. Not only does Trello let you add checklists, it lets you add multiple to one card. For example, one my novel progress I like to have checklists with the big steps such as “rough draft,” “first draft,” etc but I also like smaller ones so that I can track progress on the actual part I’m working on. A sense of progression helps me keep working, otherwise it’s all too easy to become overwhelmed by a project that doesn’t feel like it’s moving.

Example Trello card checklist.

So this is Trello and why I love it. It’s also very easy to keep up to date, which means… that’s right! The Project Status page is getting revamp! And by revamp, I mean a link to a public, trimmed down Trello board that will display all my project progress in an easier to handle fashion. Here’s a nice direct link to the CM Schofield Progress Board

Do you have your own methods for organising your projects? What do you find works for you?

The Tower of Storms: Part 4

Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3

Tamin had descended the stairs a half an hour prior. Baird waited, back pressed against the wall adjacent to the entrance. The only entrance. They were at the top of the tower here, with nowhere to go should things go wrong. A good few things could – Tamin betraying him being at the top of the list. He hoped against that for several wildly varying reasons.

Something stirred below. A voice. Baird held his breath and tightened his grip, sword in one hand and the mark of Oblear in the other. In Baird’s former cage was a makeshift dummy constructed from straw and armour taken from the dead. It was a poor likeness but the plan wouldn’t allow the sorcerer to stare for long. Echoing footsteps rose from the stairs.

“Idiot boy,” the elder grumbled, voice carrying up the stairwell. “There’s no way that fool could damage my bars, I don’t care what chemicals you thought you smelled.”

He reached the top step, striding past Baird into the room. A thrill went through him – this might actually work. The sorcerer halted.

“What the-“

Baird lunged, bringing his sword down in a sweeping arc towards the fiend’s back. With unnatural speed the sorcerer half turned and looked at Baird with wide, manic eyes. In the time it took for Baird’s sword to move an inch the sorcerer thrust out his hand. It felt like he had just been slammed in the chest by a bear. He took off from the ground and was thrown down the stairs. The impact knocked what little air he had left completely from him. His armour protected his bones from the solid steps but momentum and gravity sent him tumbling down the rest of them, landing in a dizzy and aching heap, wheezing for breath.

By the time he had his senses the sorcerer was already stood over him with a satisfied smile. Shouldn’t have taken the pendant off, Baird thought as a hacking cough racked his body. I hate magic. His sword could have been anywhere but the chain of Oblear’s mark was still wrapped around his fingers. At least he still had that – and the elder sorcerer hadn’t noticed it yet, instead calling for Tamin. He appeared from behind one of the painted wood partitions on the other side of Baird, looking timid.

“Come here, boy,” the father said and Tamin reluctantly approached. “Now is your chance to repent for this morning.”

“Yes, father.”

Uh oh, Baird thought.

The elder sorcerer turned his attention to the still struggling adventurer. “You’re going to tell me how you got out of that cage.”

Ratting out Tamin would just get them both killed. Plus Baird wasn’t exactly the type to bend to his enemies’ will. He was much too stubborn for that.

“Rot in the Pit,” he spat.

“As you wish,” the elder said before nodding to Tamin.

The young sorcerer paled. He lifted a trembling palm toward Baird. Baird froze, his hope extinguished under a volley of ice water. Tamin’s mouth twitched, eyes watered.

“I’m sorry,” he whispered.

Baird didn’t know what to say. The young man was terrified of his father. This life was all he knew. All Baird could do was brace himself for pain. Tamin thrust his hand forward and he winced.

A gust of wind blew through the room. It tingled Baird’s skin but assailed him no other way. The elder sorcerer exclaimed in surprise as his clothes passed through his flesh as though through water, billowing out and falling onto the steps behind him. It took both Baird and the sorcerer himself a moment to adjust to the fact that he was suddenly stood there in nought but his boots.

Baird was the first to react, pushing himself up with one hand and throwing the mark of Oblear hard at the wretch’s chest. The sorcerer thrust out his hand and a look of panic struck his face as the sigil sailed past his fingers. Baird grinned. The sigil hit the sorcerer square in the middle of his saggy, sallow chest.

He opened his mouth but no sound came, face twisting in agony. The sigil stuck to him and the flesh around it turned grey, blossoming in a grotesque wave across his body and turning to dust. He crumbled away until there was the clattering of bones into a dusty pile. Baird held his breath, watching the remains, but no retribution came. A small, pained sound came from behind him.

Tamin was on his knees, face in his hands. The weather raged on outside. Baird pulled himself up and crouched next to Tamin, wrapping his arms around him. Tamin’s whole life, everything he had ever known, just disintegrated before his eyes. It was seconds before the young sorcerer’s arms were around Baird’s neck, face sobbing into the metal plated crook of his shoulder. It could have been relief or despair. Probably both.

Baird resisted a long moment but could no longer wait, hating himself a little for his lack of restraint.

“How can I stop the storms?” Baird whispered into his ear as he held him.

Tamin pulled back from him and wiped his eyes, keeping his head down and avoiding Baird’s gaze. He rose to his feet and headed for the other partition, giving his father’s ashes and bones a wide berth. His movements bordered on mechanical. Baird felt a pang of guilt as he followed.

“What happened to him?”

“The mark turns the user’s magic against them,” Tamin said, voice small. “The magic that kept him alive past his years reversed.”

Baird placed a hand on his shoulder. “I’m sorry.”

They rounded a partition and came to a grand bedroom, lavishly plastered in rich fabrics and gold adornments. At the end of the master bed was a mahogany pedestal, a glowing blue orb upon it. Turbulent mist twisted and warped beneath the surface. Baird was drawn to it, soothed by it. Warming, unseen tendrils snaked into his being, calming his bruises and setting his mind at rest. He was unaware of his hand moving slowly toward it until Tamin grabbed his wrist.

“Don’t,” he said. “It makes people strange. Like father. Like mother.”

Baird’s skin crawled and he withdrew his hand. “What do I do?”

“Shatter it,” Tamin said, voice cracking slightly. “Set her free.”

Baird shook his head clear as the orb’s influence took another stab at him. He glanced behind himself and saw a small foot stool. Not wanting to risk the thing’s spell a moment longer, Baird grabbed the stool in both hands. He spun, bringing the makeshift bludgeon down on the orb with all his strength.

This was it, his moment, his self-appointed destiny. It all hinged upon the word on a man he just met.

The orb did not shatter. The stool sunk into it and it burst like a soap bubble. Mist from within swept into the air like a puff of pollen. Baird stumbled away but Tamin stayed put, releasing a giddy laugh. Baird panicked. Had he been played? The mist engulfed Tamin and he collapsed in a haze of blue, falling to the floor. Baird backed against the partition wall as the blue spread but it did not approach him. A warm, pleasant voice filled his mind, forcing upon him a brief wave of euphoria.

The ancients will not forget this heroism.

The mist was gone. It didn’t so much vanish as it just wasn’t there anymore. Worry struck him as he realised the voice was the last thing he heard. He smacked his ears with his hands but became confused as his armour rattled. His jaw dropped. He clambered to his feet, dashing past an unconscious Tamin, and approached the window.

No rain lashed against the glass. No wind howled, rocking the building. In that moment, Baird experienced silence for the first time in his life. It frightened him, the vast emptiness of it, the sheer depth of nothingness. Before that fear could grow too deep, the sprawling black clouds split like curtains and a beam of golden light fell upon his face. He began to tremble as he lifted his hands to his cheeks. It was warm.

Baird dropped to his knees and laughed. He’d done it. He’d actually done it. He laughed some more. Of course he had. He’d always known he could. Definitely. He pushed thoughts of the cage away and pulled off his gauntlets, wiping the joyful tears from his face. He loosed a deep exhale and buried his triumph. He needed to check on Tamin.

The young sorcerer hadn’t moved since he collapsed, breathing softly. Baird knelt next to him, carefully brushing the hair back from his bruised face. He looked so peaceful it was almost a shame to wake him. With his other hand, Baird softly tapped his shoulder.

“Tamin?”

It took a couple of attempts before Tamin’s eyes fluttered open. Baird frowned when they did – they were a rich, swirling blue. This faded so rapidly, returning to the proper soft grey, that Baird was certain he’d imagined it.

“Are you alright?” Tamin said as he tried to focus his weary eyes.

Baird blinked. “Me?” he asked, incredulous. “Of course I am! I’m a famous adventurer! You’re the one who collapsed.”

“Oh…” He closed and opened his eyes a few times. “Yes, I am well,” he replied. Physically at least, Baird thought. A sadness hung about him.

Baird smiled. “Good. I have something to show you.”

He helped Tamin to his feet. He was unsteady and shaken so Baird took the liberty of wrapping an arm around his waist. Purely for support. Tamin didn’t complain, leaning his weight against Baird as he was guided to the window. He gasped as they stepped into the warm beam of light, face filling with wonder at the landscape before them, laid out clearly for the first time in both their lives.

“It’s… incredible.”

Pride swelled in Baird’s chest. He had done this. Of all the heroes who had come and tried, it was Baird who had succeeded. Released the Glen. Avenged his father. Without Tamin though, he never would have. He grinned as he looked out of the window. He couldn’t quite see Glen Feen but the view was more than a victory for him. Flat, barren and laden with water, to Baird it was beautiful. He pointed to the horizon.

“You see where the sky touches the land?” he asked. Tamin nodded. Baird looked down at the slight man and their eyes met. “Just beyond lies your new home.”

They smiled at each other and looked back to the landscape, damp and bedraggled as it was. At his side, Baird’s fingers lightly grazed against Tamin’s. Slowly, their digits twined together as they both watched the clear blue sky before them.

And Baird would even have been telling the truth, if they had been looking out of the other window.

Fin!

A Very Brief April CampNaNo2020 Update

Trying to do NaNoWriMo in the middle of a pandemic has been an interesting experience, definitely. It wasn’t helped by my addictive personality and a wonderful gift from my partner for my birthday which devoured a lot of time. I’m not regretful of that at all, to be honest. If people ever needed a good distraction it’s now, and it is a great outlet for creative energy too – and probably one that I’ll talk about in another post. Working from home full time is difficult enough. Maintaining concentration past that to keep writing has been a huge struggle.

With five days left, I have a third of my word goal left to go. Uh oh. The actual numerical value is, on paper, something I’ve smashed out easily in normal times. These aren’t normal times though and I’m determined not to beat myself up about it if I don’t hit that goal. No matter what happens between now and the end of the month, I still have ten THOUSAND more words towards a full draft of this novel and that feels like a lot. 

I guess my point is, celebrate your successes and don’t sweat the small stuff. 

The Tower of Storms: Part 3

Part 1 / Part 2

Baird sank to his knees, still clutching the bars, and hit his head against them. The pain took its time in subsiding. Baird breathed through it, letting his mind clear, and when it passed he got to work. First he tried to examine the lock only to find it absent. Nothing physical held the cage closed. Next he examined his belt. Most of his provisions were still intact. He had two different corrosives and tried them both. Neither effected the bars, dripping away as harmlessly as water. The second did a number on the stone floor, sizzling with activity, but he had nowhere near enough to burn a gap he’d fit through. He was well and truly trapped, now in a cell with at least quarter of the floor covered in flesh eating potions.

Baird slumped against the back of the cage with a despondent sigh as he looked to the skull of his cellmate.

“Am I arrogant?” he asked it.

The skull did not respond. For now, he was taking that as a good thing.

Baird rested his head against the bars. His list of ideas had been reduced to sitting there waiting to starve to death. This genius could yet be thwarted by being tortured to death. He’d have to wait and see. He had planned for many eventualities but being taken alive hadn’t even occurred to him. The great Baird of Glen Feen would never get captured, his own words from a few years ago rang in his head. He cringed and despair saw his weakness and pounced.

It hit him like a horse at full gallop, a cold hollowness in his gut where hope and pride once lived. It was all he could do not to cry out. He wouldn’t debase himself in front of that sadist or his son. He was more than that. He was-

Baird bolted upright. His son! His son who, with hindsight, seemed a far cry from his father. His son who, against direct orders, spared Baird’s life.

“Tamin?” he called as softly as he could. The last thing he wanted was the elder to hear. “Tamin, can you hear me?”

There was a shuffle from across the room and he felt a faint spark of hope. He glanced at the stairs and risked another whisper, eliciting another shuffle.

“I’m not supposed to talk to you,” came back Tamin’s small voice.

“You were supposed to kill me though,” Baird replied. “It would appear you have an issue with authority. I can relate to that.”

“Please,” Tamin said desperately. “He’ll punish me.”

“He’s going to kill me.”

There was silence for a moment before the young sorcerer’s face appeared from between two rows of cages.

“If you’re so afraid of him then why not kill me?” Baird asked.

Tamin rested his back against a cage and drew his knees up to his chest. “Sometimes they leave.”

“I’m not the first you’ve let go?”

He shook his head. Things began to make sense. Only in recent years had deflated wannabe heroes returned. Before that, nothing. By the gods.

“You’re not like him,” Baird ventured.

“I just…” Tamin trailed off, staring at the ground. “I don’t know why we have to kill. I don’t know why we need the storms.”

A thrill went through Baird. “The woman on the lower level… Your mother?”

Tamin nodded. “She wanted to stop the storms.” He wiped a tear away with one of the long sleeves of his cloak.

“He killed her?”

“He’ll kill me too if I help you.” The young man’s eyes met Baird’s. They were stormy grey. Tormented.

“I’ll kill him first,” he replied, pulling himself to his feet. “I have to. Do you have any idea what these storms have done to us?”

Tamin’s jaw trembled as he shook his head.

“Let me go,” Baird said. “Help me and I’ll show you what we’ve had to endure. Take you to the Glen and show you what we’ve lived like.”

Tamin’s head lifted, eyes wide. “You’d free me?”

Baird blinked, speechless. Then internally cursed himself. It hadn’t even occurred to him that the young man was a prisoner. Parents don’t need bars to hold their children captive. Tamin was one of the people he was trying to protect. He pulled one of his gauntlets off and pressed himself against the bars, threading his arm through and holding his hand out to Tamin.

“Come to me.”

He looked startled a moment but slowly rose to his feet. He approached Baird’s cage with caution and took an age to raise his hand, quivering like a leaf. Finally their fingers met and Baird stared into his eyes again. There was something there, inexplicable yet powerful. He felt for this man. Something made Baird desperate to protect him. His resolve hardened.

“I swear to you, Tamin, get me out of here and I will stop these storms. We will both leave here together as free men. I swear by the ancestors of the Glen, I will make this true.”

Tamin trembled, water welling in his eyes. Baird took his hand, smooth and warm, and pulled him close, eliciting a gasp. Baird threaded his fingers through Tamin’s and reached his other arm through the bars and around his back, holding Tamin against the cage, against himself. Baird towered over him. He could see the small man’s face clearly, slim, and sharp. 

“I swear to you,” Baird whispered, drawing his face closer to Tamin’s. “Help me, and I will see you free or die trying.”

Tamin’s voice caught so he simply nodded. Baird’s hope ignited to a flame. Pulled by Baird’s grip, the small man suddenly jerked closer, pressed fully against him, one hand resting against Baird’s breastplate. The bars along that side of the cage were gone. Vanished, as though they never were. He turned his face back to the young sorcerer. He’d done that without lifting a finger or uttering a word. Baird was free. He squeezed the sorcerer’s hand before letting go and gently cupping the side of Tamin’s face.

“Thank you,” he said. Tamin winced and Baird lifted the stray lock of sable hair away from his cheek. It had been concealing a deep purple bruise, peppered with cuts. It wasn’t fresh. “I’m going to kill him and then you’re coming with me.”

Tamin nodded and said nothing. Baird forced himself to let go of the man and retrieve his sword from the cell floor. He was free again and it felt good. He did however have more pressing matters to attend than hugs, such as killing the sorcerer that hundreds of adventurers before him had fallen to. Great. No problem. He stepped out of the cage and Tamin backed away, still skittish. He did a quick check over his arsenal as he thought up a plan.

“I need him thinking nothing is wrong,” Baird said as he worked his hand back into his gauntlet. “I need you to go down there just as you normally would.”

“I’ve never been up here before,” Tamin said, wringing his fingers together.

“Never?” Baird asked, lifting his head to peer at him. Tamin nodded. “What made you come up today?”

“You.” Baird’s eyebrows rose and Tamin’s mouth flapped open and closed. “I- I mean, you’re different. You’re special.”

The adventurer straightened, smirking. “Am I now?”

“I mean… You can do it.”

This gave him pause. “What do you mean?”

Tamin pointed to one of the sigils on Baird’s chest. “Oblear the Devourer.”

“Yes,” Baird said, picking it up. It was the solid silver stick figure with a shield over the chest. “She led the ancient crusades against the Mages of the West.”

Tamin took another step back and put a hand to his heart, where the sigil had pressed against him. “I could feel it. Burning. If it touches his flesh, he’ll die.”

Baird’s heart fluttered. I knew I could do this.

“He won’t let you get close,” Tamin said rapidly.

“Not without a little misdirection,” Baird said, letting the pendant fall back to his breastplate with a clink.

“I… I thought I just had to let you out. You want me to help kill my own father?” Tamin asked.

“Yes,” Baird replied, blunt and absolute. “He hurts you, keeps you prisoner. He killed your mother.” He held Tamin’s eyes. “And my father.”

“I…”

“Please Tamin,” Baird said. He hesitated. The next words were difficult. Agonising, even. “I need you.”

Wordless, Tamin nodded.

Part 4

Camp NaNoWriMo April 2020

It’s quite amazing how much a person’s life can be turned upside down in the space of three weeks. It becomes an even stranger experience when you know everyone in the whole world is going through the same thing, maybe a few weeks sooner, maybe a few weeks later, but we’re all being effected by this one gargantuan event that has swept the world.

I’m a very introverted person and I’m also very happy staying at home with my various projects, hobbies and games. On that side of things, I’m pretty well set. The issue for me comes from my anxiety disorder(s, as I recently found out) and I’ve been struggling on and off. Mostly I’m fine, but I have off days every so often. I haven’t been doing much of my creative ventures which normally help keep me sane, but I’ve been lucky with the release of a couple of very mental health friendly games (Nintendo always has my back, I swear).

It has made me call into question whether I want to attempt Camp NaNoWriMo next month. Do I want to put that pressure on myself? This is a question I’ve had to ask myself many times over the last few years and the answer has always been the same. I don’t like things beating me and stopping me from doing the things I love is beating me.

Camp NaNoWriMo is a good event to remind myself that I can always work on my projects because it lets you set your own goal. Even doing a tiny goal feels like participating and gives progress to one of my many beloved writing projects. A goal of 15,000 words will let me write the small number of 500 words per day which, on a good day, I can knock out in about 20 minutes. It also gives a sizeable chunk of a novel at the end of the month.

Due to the circumstances surrounding us, I’ll be continuing work on my very unmarketable passion project Monarch Necrotic, which still doesn’t have its own page on here yet. I’ll fix that, I promise. If there was ever a time to work on something just because you love it, now is certainly the time.

As I said at the beginning of the post, I’ve got my struggles like everyone but I am and will be okay. I cope with things by forcing myself to work on my creative projects, because that’s what I love and what I refuse to give up. If that isn’t your process, that’s okay. If you can’t create right now, there’s nothing wrong with that. Find your own way to survive and don’t let other peoples’ methods bring you down.

I hope the rest of you out there are hanging in there and if you’re not, reach out to people. We’re all in this together, and we won’t let it beat us.

The Tower of Storms: Part 2

Read part 1 here!

Baird balked and turned on the spot, sprinting for the stairs, throwing himself down them three at a time. Like a clattering juggernaut, Baird hit the ground floor and rounded on Frenzy, sliding to a halt. Someone in a long, dark hooded cloak was softly patting the horse’s nose with one hand and feeding him a carrot with the other. The figure was startled and turned to him, dropping the carrot. An unperturbed Frenzy casually bent his neck down and retrieved it. Baird’s heart was doing triple time. He had finally seen his legendary adversary. It was a little underwhelming.

The sorcerer appeared to be a young man, about Baird’s age, slight and porcelain. He also appeared to be terrified, quivering like a rabbit. His eyes moved from Baird’s face to his chest and back again. Baird grinned deeply – the sorcerer must have recognised one of his protective sigils, one that was effective. His work had paid off.

“At last,” Baird said, deepening his voice to sound grand. “You, vile sorcerer, shall finally meet your e- HEY!”

The sorcerer raised his hands with a flourish and within the space of a second he disappeared from toes to head, as though he were a rapidly drawn up blind. Baird cursed and stomped his armoured foot. Frenzy shrugged.

“Bastard! Coward!” he spat. “I’ll find him Frenzy and I’ll kill him! You see his face?” He frowned, remembering sorcerer’s visage, and shook his head. “ONE of these trinkets works and HE knows it!”

Frenzy blinked.

“I just… Why did he give you a carrot?” Baird’s eyes went wide. He rushed to Frenzy’s side. “Was it poisoned? How do you feel?”

Frenzy blinked again, thinking he’d be a lot better if this idiot went and did his job so they could both go home.

Baird spent another anxious minute with the horse but it seemed more irritated by his fretting than it did sick so he resumed his climb of the tower. The first three floors were much of the same. The five after were simply deserted rather than derelict. There was nothing except a thin layer of dust across the hauntingly empty floors. The tenth flight of stairs took him to one that was both the same and different. Utterly deserted like its predecessors but absolutely spotless. The faultlessly clean windows meant that this floor was brighter than the others, only accentuating the difference. The floor glistened, pale stone marbled with blue tendrils. Baird’s steps echoed gently as he approached a window. The weather was fierce as always, battering against the glass and howling like a league of wounded animals. He had never been so high up but couldn’t see far before everything turned into dark grey haze.

Before today is through, he thought with conviction, I will stand at this window and see all the way to the Glen. So distracted Baird was by his fervour that he didn’t realise he was looking in the exact opposite direction to Glen Feen.

He continued to scale the endless supply of steps past many more pristine and empty floors until something was different again. A soft blue light came from the top of the next staircase. He carefully unsheathed his sword. With renewed caution, he carried on upward.

As he ascended the last steps, a large glass sarcophagus came into view alone in the centre of the room. He paced closer. Azure light radiated from it, soothing and peaceful. Inside lay an immaculate woman. The tint on her lips and the darkness around her eyes added to the unnatural stillness telling Baird she truly was dead. The faint thrum of magic was present. Preserving her, Baird guessed. He wondered if it was grief fuelling the sorcerer’s torment of the land and scowled at the thought. No good woman would want such suffering in her name.

He glared at the next set of stairs. He must be getting close now. The sorcerer clearly wanted her near him. He stepped past the coffin and started upwards again. Nearing the last steps, he rose up into a room so lavish it could have belonged to the Duke. Everything was rich, dyed and velvet. There was a creak above Baird and he looked up to see a bundle of extravagant furniture suspended over his head. Then drop. He dove forward onto the thick, spongy carpet, rolling and springing back to his feet. The furniture clattered against the stairs.

“Why aren’t you dead?” came a voice, deep and menacing.

Baird spun to face the sorcerer. “Ah-HA- …ah.”

The man before him was more than double the age of the one he’d seen before, with a long, greying beard and the trappings of an especially vain king, all jewels and finery.

“Give me some credit,” he said. “You’ll need more than a sofa to-“

A low coffee table shunted toward him, straight into back of Baird’s knees. His limbs flailed as he sprawled across the carpet. The man—the sorcerer?—sighed. “Just another fool with a sword.”

Baird raised his chin and sneered. “Not quite.”

He yanked one of the glass bulbs from his belt and hurled it at the sorcerer. There was a soft ‘thwp’ sound as it collided with the sorcerer’s glorious crimson robe and again as it impotently dropped to the carpet. The sorcerer raised an unimpressed eyebrow at him and Baird grinned before burrowing his face in the soft pile, covering his head with his hands.

The bulb exploded, showering the room in tiny shards of glass which tinkled against Baird’s armour. The sorcerer wailed and yellow streaks of wild magic crackled around the room. Shelves were sheared in two and cushions exploded in puffs of feather down. Baird sprang to his feet, darting for the only exit – the stairs leading up. He shot up onto a floor like the last but partitioned. Furious, uncontrolled magic followed him so he carried on, ignoring the separate rooms to his sides and running for the next set of stairs. He needed just a moment to compose himself.

With far less bounds than there were stairs, Baird was at the top of the next flight with his back pressed against the wall, breathing hard. It wasn’t the extravagant bedroom Baird was expecting. Before him was a latticework of cages, dark and shadowy with boarded up windows. It stank the foul, foetid stench of death, stinging at Baird’s nostrils. Some of the cages had skeletons or badly decomposing bodies. Some wore armour Baird recognised.

“You shouldn’t have come here,” said a small, shaky voice. Baird caught sight of the younger sorcerer. He looked afraid. “No one should.”

Baird raised his sword. “I can’t let you continue to torment the realm.”

“He’ll kill you,” the man said, backing away.

“I’ll kill you both first.”          

“Tamin!” boomed the elder’s voice from Baird’s side. Startled, Baird stumbled deeper into the dungeon. “I told you to kill this wretch.”

“I thought he was leaving,” Tamin wailed, fear thick on his face.

“I said kill,” the elder spat, backhanding thin air. Tamin was lifted from his feet and launched across the room, slamming against a cage so hard half the room rattled. He slumped to the ground out of sight. The elder looked to Baird and shook his head. “Don’t have kids,” he advised.

He swatted the air in Baird’s direction. Nothing happened. He gave until the old sorcerer looked truly confused before allowing himself a grin.

“Some kids do their homework,” he said.

Baird struck at him with his sword but the sorcerer recovered quickly, conjuring a metallic staff from motes of light to block the blow. He was freakishly strong, stopping Baird’s arm dead. The shock through his limb was so painful he almost lost grip on his blade. The sorcerer grabbed him by the throat and shoved. Baird staggered backwards into a cage, tripping on bones and crashing against the bars. The door clanged shut and he felt sick with panic. He kicked at it but it didn’t even rattle.

The sorcerer’s shadow fell over him and Baird looked up into his sneer. There were a few bleeding cuts on his face and a burn on his chin. “On second thought, I’m glad Tamin didn’t kill you. Such an arrogant little boy. I look forward to hearing you beg.”

Baird went cold as the sorcerer turned away. He scrambled to his feet and shook at the bars. They didn’t budge. He watched with growing despair as the sorcerer disappeared to the lower levels. He had failed. The sorcerer had beaten him without even trying. And now he was going to die.

Read Part 3 here!

First Success of the Year

The synopsis is finished! The first thing ticked off the Goal Post! I even earned myself a box of doughnuts out of it thanks to a very kind and encouraging co-worker who promised me them if I hit the deadline. They were delicious.

Success has never been so yummy.

This marks another large step on my journey. This has been blocking me for a long time and honestly has taken far longer than it should have done but unfortunately the way life has been, I’ve just really struggled to prioritise it and work on it to the level it needed. That is behind me now though, and my life has been far more suited to actually pursuing my creativity again. I’ve gone from no capacity for it, to the parts that I enjoy, and now finally to the struggles and hard parts that just need to get done. I’m at the point now where I can dedicate the time and energy to really pushing for what I want. And that’s to keep pushing and move through the “writing” part of this journey and onto the “publishing” part. 

Unfortunately, this part comes with a lot of tense waiting, a lot of hurt and disappointment, and rejection. Then a whole lot of getting back up off the ground and going headfirst back into it again. Is this really what I want, I wonder? Yes, it is.

What are the next steps for me?

  1. Submissions! Eeeep! Time to start sending Through the Black off to agents and keep it on submission. I’m hoping to have a quick turn around from hearing back from one agent and getting it out to the next. This step is going to need thick skin and a lot of chocolate. I fully expect to spend a lot of it questioning myself and wondering why I’m bothering. I’ve worked hard for a long time to get to this point though, and I’m not going to let feeling bad make me give up now.
  2. Focusing on other projects! I mentioned at the start of the year that it was time to get The Fishperer beta ready, and now that this synopsis is out of the way I can actually get back to some of the fun parts of writing! Huzzah!
  3. Relaxing! I’ve been pushing pretty hard since the start of the year on several different things, so with the releases of Rune Factory 4 and Animal Crossing, you can expect to hear from me again in about 6 months.