When the Worst Happens

sickcomputer

 

It seems to finally be happening. I got a popup on startup of my computer saying that My hard drive is failing. I had a moment of panic, realizing just how much work and research is stored on my baby. I never think about what would happen should my hard drive fail. I had to take a few deep breaths and remind myself of a couple of key things:

  1.  I have my “spare” laptop from when I was taking online classes a year or so ago. It is in good condition, just not quite as speedy as my main laptop.
  2. I have some spare external hard drives with space to store my most important files.

So, I took a DEEP breath, and pulled out my hard drives, notebooks, etc. I wrote down any pertinent info I might need (Unlock codes for Writeitnow, my Scrivener info, etc.) Now, with all my most important documents accounted for, I am attempting to store a backup image for use should I decide to replace the HDD on my laptop, instead of purchasing a whole new unit.

While I wait to see how things pan out,  I’ve been thinking about how lax I’ve been about how lax I’ve been about keeping my information safe, in the event of a broken computer. I’m sure I’m not the only one, but I still feel stupid for allowing this to happen. I always start out with the best of intentions when I buy a new computer. I create a back up, do it every couple of months, or when I make a major change to the computer. But then I start getting lax. After all, it is a time consuming process. And then I end up in a situation like this.

I have done a couple of things that are kind of smart. I use both Google Drive and Drop Box, so at least some of my documents are a bit safer. Not perfect, I know, but it is still better than nothing. I also back up all of my photos, videos, and music frequently on my external hard drives (that was a hard learned lesson!)

Is there anyone else out there like me, perpetually on the brink of disaster should your computer bite the dust? For those of you that are more cautious and actually do take preventative measures, what are your tried and true methods to secure your files?

 

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Villains or Antiheroes

The Hydra bucked as a hail of cannonballs rained down upon her. The crew were thrown off their feet, landing in untidy heaps about the deck. Cries of both surprise and pain filled the air in the scant moments before the next volley of projectiles fired from the adversary.

“Quick! They’re coming back around with more ammunition!” The shout came from the vicinity of the bow. While he couldn’t be sure which of his men shouted, Captain Drayton knew that there was truth in the words. He saw the large airship double back. It fired upon the helpless pirate ship again. The envelope of the reserve balloon punctured. The Hydra would not fall from the sky; but now escape was of the utmost importance. 

Drayton turned to his first mate, a thick-jowled Scotsman named James. “Looks like a bad situation, doesn’t it, man?”

James sniffed the air, acrid with the smell of burnt gunpowder. “Aye. Looks like that ship is Royal Navy. If I was a betting man – which I am – I would bet that ship is captained by Commandant Vernon.”

Drayton’s eyes narrowed. “Aye, James. That would be a winning bet, methinks.” He drew his twin pistols and growled. “That man has given me more trouble in the last year than the entire Royal Navy has in the last ten years.” He fired a shot into the air, an animalistic scream clawing its way out of his lungs. 

James drew his sword and let loose a less fearsome, more wounded roar of his own. He looked about, hoping no one had heard him. Only the Captain was close enough to hear, and he was paying him the courtesy of pretending not to hear the pathetic sound.

Captain Drayton reloaded his pistol. “We are going to blow his ship apart. And then-” He paused, panting.

James looked on, expectantly. “And then, Capatin?”

“I’m going to tear Vernon apart, limb by limb.”

Drayton stormed to his cabin and threw the door open. he fumbled and cursed as he rummaged in his cupboard, pulling out his most sharpest sword and extra ammunition.

“Oooo! Are we getting ready to storm the castle?”

Drayton jumped, the whisper startling him out of his enraged preparations. His head jerked about the room, searching for the owner of the raspy voice. If one of his crew had managed to sneak into his cabin without his knowledge, it would be the last thing that fool would ever do-

Except, there was no one. His eyes darted about, searching each corner, each shadow. Still no one. As it occurred to him that there was only one place from which the whisper could possibly have come, a foot shot out of his cupboard, connecting with his chest. 

Drayton flew back, hitting his head as he landed on the floor. As he cursed his attacker to the blackest pits of hell, his attacker came into view. The pirate captain Groaned. “Oh, it’s you.”

The man in black chuckled his raspy chuckle and knelt beside the pirate. “Would you like some help up Theo?” The man held out his hand, which Drayton reluctantly grabbed.

As The Man in Black pulled him to his feet, Drayton sighed. “Thank you. But please, don’t call me Theo. I loathe the name.” The man in black snorted, but bowed his head. “Why are you on board my ship? In the middle of an attack, no less?”

The Man in Black shrugged, disinterested in explaining himself. “I needed to see you, and Commandant Vernon was in pursuit. I figured it was the most expedient way to find you.” 

Drayton frowned at the mysterious figure before him. “Why? Why are you looking for me?” 

The Man in Black chuckled. “You still have a debt to repay, as I recall.” He produced a tattered playing card. It was the Queen of Diamonds. He still had that damnable thing, after all this time? Drayton trembled, in spite of himself.

“I owe you nothing,” he hissed. “I payed my debt to you over a year ago, in full. You said that yourself!” He raised a fist, thought better of it, and lowered it to his side.

“I said no such thing.” The Man in Black raised a gloved hand to his face and tapped his chin. “I believe my exact words were, ‘I have no further need for your services, AT THIS TIME. There is a difference, you see?”

Drayton’s lips drew into a taut line. “That last repayment cost me. It cost me DEARLY.” He brought his hand to his face, lightly touching the eye patch over his left eye socket.

“Oh, come now,” whispered The Man in Black. “I made sure you received the best care, and you came away with a technical marvel in the old eye-hole to boot!” He burst into cruel laughter.

The wound, two months healed, was still quite raw. He sniffed. “What would you have me do, oh master?” He attempted an exaggerated bow, but the ship was tossed again, and he fell to the ground for the third time that day.

“Simple,” said The Man in Black. “There are certain items that a certain man of means requires to perform a set of ‘rites’, if you will.” Drayton scowled. These types of requests were not unheard of , but usually those rites were dangerous, and the items required were often not legal or safe to have in one’s possession. “I will give you the locations of these items. You will then…retrieve them, and store them until such time as you are summoned by me.”

Drayton nodded. “It appears that I have no choice in the matter. Shall I store them at my Villa? Perhaps the farmhouse would be better?”

The Man in Black shook his head. “Neither. They must be stored in a secure location; somewhere protected.”

Drayton stepped around The Man in Black and walked to the fireplace. Strictly for show, it held his most important secrets. He crawled inside and reached around. Producing a rather elegant handbag. He returned to The Man in Black and held the bag out to him. “Will the island do?”


When I have trouble with any of my works in progress, I sometimes find it helpful to take a scene from the story, or even just create a scenario and tell it from the perspective of a character that doesn’t have their own POV within the story. I find that this often helps me overcome whatever block I may have preventing me from writing. 

I find it also helps me to get inside of the heads of some of the other, less well developed characters. Sometimes, it even inspires a whole new story in itself.

One thing I’ve been trying lately is to look at a story or scenario from the point of view of the antagonist. Can I make an antagonist the hero of their own story? Can I make a villain an antihero?

I have come to discover that it is fun to play with the antihero archetype. To have a character that ultimately does the right thing, saves the day, but does it against his or her best interest allows for a lot of interesting possibilities in a story. This character can go through the typical hero’s journey, yet at the end of the story goes back to their previous lives and mannerisms, seemingly not having undergone any permanent change over the course of their adventure. 

I have done this several times in the last year. The results have been interesting (to me, at least). A couple of them could serve as short stories themselves, should I decide to take the time to polish them up and get them published. But, as I am already juggling several projects, I am limiting myself to first completing at least one of my WIP before I elaborate on any of the writing exercises I’ve been putting out for the last several months.

For the writers out there: Do you like your main characters to be heroes? Or do you ever experiment with dark heroes, or antiheroes?

My Writing Prompt – Meeting the Man in Black

baddie

It has been some time since I was able to sit down and get some quality (or not so quality) writing time in. I thought of different ideas for writing prompts, then stumbled upon the above picture, which gave me a couple of ideas. So, my writing project for the day is below. Here goes:

Sean heard the footsteps, slapping against the pavement behind him. He dared not glance back. He could hear two men – no, three men – pushing their way through the crowd on Mayfair. If he hadn’t been paying attention, if he had been absorbed in the open-air market, or the festivities of the harvest festival, he would not have noticed his pursuers until they had pulled him away. That would have been the end of it, of him; if the Reapers had taken him, no one would ever see him again. Not Natalie, the children, or Granny James. He would be only a distant memory.

He passed the livestock stall, the odors of pig, cow, and chicken mingling into a putrid stench that made him heave. No, it mustn’t happen. He was still far enough ahead of the men. If he could make it to the end of the street, There were hansoms passing through all day, eagerly picking up new fares.

Sean moved faster, his jog breaking into a full run. His earlier attempt at blending in abandoned. A gruff voice shouted from behind.  “Oi, He’s running!” Another voice, high-pitched and angry responded. “Quick, boys! Nab him now. Spread out!”

Sean sprinted, weaving his way in and out of the narrow gaps between happy revellers. The occasional gentleman or young woman would shout in surprise, but he paid them no mind. The end of the street was only mere yards away. Freedom was only a few short steps in front of him. Except-

A huge mountain of a man stepped between him and freedom. He recognized the barrel chested creature as Nelson. He worked at the pub. His glowering face, and truncheon in hand-made it clear that he was not standing there to help Sean to safety. The small man whimpered, glanced around the vicinity, and hoped.

Off to the right was an alley. It was narrow, dark, and unpleasant. Much too narrow for Nelson. In an instant, Sean veered to the right, and sprinted with all of his energy into the alley. “With any luck, they will lose me in the crowd.” he thought, his spirits rising.

He passed through the alley, reaching a darkened side street. More of an alley, it ran between the rear of the buildings on either side. But, to his delight, he saw a network of alleys that ran between each building along the stretch. He would be quite safe. As a precaution, he ran past several tenements, removed one of his leather gloves, and dropped it at the entrance.

He continued to run, seeing light at the far end of the street. It should take him back in the direction he came. His pursuers would not expect that. He was safe.

An arm shot out from the alley he as he passed, grabbing him by his collar. The force of the grab yanked Sean back, and he fell to the ground, breathless. He looked around, eyes wild. Finally they landed on…him.

The man stood to his left, dressed in a long, black coat, black gloves and boots, and a black mask. The black mask. The Phantom of the Lower Quarter. Sean wheezed as the man stepped forward.

“Greetings, Mister Mahoney.” The voice was a cheerless rasp. “I was afraid that we would miss each other in the – mob on the street.” The man held a hand out to Sean. Sean trembled, tears forming in his eyes. He had only peeked  at the cards. Not even a real cheat. Why would those goons send this man after him.

The man held his hand out for several seconds before sighing. “Honestly, if you don’t want my help, you can stand on your own. But be quick about it. I haven’t got all day.” The terrified young man sat up, pulling himself onto hands and knees, before reaching a standing position. He stared at the man in black. He had heard stories. The Phantom of the Lower Quarter. He had a habit of finding those down on their luck and  – disposing of them.

This man however, seemed less a monster, and more a frustrated businessman. He seemed annoyed with Sean, rather than filled with murderous rage. Seeing that his prey was standing, The Phantom spoke.

“You know why I am here this afternoon.” It was not a question.

“You have been accused of malfeasance by the establishment known as The Cracked Jug.” Sean nodded, whimpering.

“As you are well aware, the proprietor, a Mister…Levinson, I believe, is a just, moral man.” Sean’s eyebrows raised. “Well, moral for a pub owner with a gambling license.” The man conceded.

“Nonetheless, it falls to me to bestow justice, and punishment for the crime that has been committed.” As he spoke, the man in black unbuttoned his coat, and reached inside. Sean began to cry. a trail of hot, dirty tears streamed down his face as the man in black removed a curved, shining blade.

Sean Mahoney sobbed, realizing the end was near. The man in black took him by the shoulder and guided him to the brick wall of the tenement to the left. He consoled his bounty, as best he could.

“This gives me no pleasure, Mister Mahoney,” he rasped, a sudden sympathetic tone descending. “I promise you, it will be over before you know it.” He turned the young man, so that he faced the wall. “Now, Mister Mahoney…may I call you Sean?”

Through his sobs, Sean managed a tiny “Yes,” and a nod.

“Good,” said the man in black. “Now, Sean, please place both of your hands on the wall in front of you.” The young man did as he was told, his shoulders heaving as he tried to catch his breath.

“I know that this is difficult. But it must be done. All debts must be paid.”

Sean nodded, not hearing a word that was said.

The man raised his blade above his head. He paused, and asked, “We cannot make any exceptions, you know. It wouldn’t do to look weak in front of my employers. Unless…”

Sean turned his head. “Unless?”

The man tilted his head, deep in thought. “Unless, you could be rehabilitated. If you were willing to sign on as my apprentice, I might be able to spare you. I cannot guarantee that you would be allowed to live, but I could try to convince my superiors of your…value.”

Sean wailed. “Yes, anything you want! I’ll be your apprentice. I promise I will never commit a malfeasance again!”

The man chuckled, amused at his bounty’s eagerness. “Very well my young apprentice. Your training will begin in one month.”

Sean couldn’t believe his luck. “A month? of course, but…why so long?”

The man bowed his head. “You will need time to heal.”

“To heal? What do you-”

The man brought the curved blade down with all of his might, severing Sean’s left hand, which caused the young man to collapse to the ground, screaming in agony.

The man calmly produced a cloth from a pocket, and wiped the blood from his blade. He returned the blade to the interior of his coat, and tossed the cloth to Sean. “Bind yourself with that. I will ensure your safe transport to a hospital. There is always a price for malfeasance. Be glad that I was in the need for an apprentice.”

He turned, and walked back into the alley from whence he had appeared.

“Oh,” he said, turning back one final time. “As I am now your employer, I suppose I should introduce myself.  I am Mister Grim.” He disappeared into the alley, leaving his new apprentice. For now.