My Lastest Stories

I just realised that I’ve not posted any of my stories for a while. In fact I’ve not posted much at all! I’ve still been writing stories, but most of the time I’ve been polishing ones that I’ve already written.

The stories that I am posting below are ones which I’ve not posted before, but when I’ve figured out how to update files on this site I will update some of the older ones. I’ve not substantially changed them though. I’ve just changed a few sentences, corrected some grammar and spelling mistakes. That sort of thing. I hate seeing mistakes in my stories!

Under the Bridge

The troll didn’t have a name, and the humans teased him. He lived quietly under a bridge, and appreciated the smoothness of a stone, the strength of a rock, and the trickling of the stream. But he saves the humans and meets an intriguing fellow stream dweller.

A Cat’s Tale

There was something about the cat, the Boffin decided, that was not quite right. The Mage agreed, so they kept an eye on her. She led them to an encounter with a prickly Cat Queen, and the Mage and the Boffin uncovered a plot.

The Master and the Student

The Master lives high on the mountain known as the Behemoth. He sees climbers come to try to conquer the mountain and often, they die. The Master knows everything, except those things that he deliberately chooses not to know. He is waiting for his Student to appear from the world below.

The Girl

It’s a time of war, and a time of disruption. The girl robs dead bodies for food because her mother is dead and her father is missing. She is barely surviving, but then one of the dead bodies turns out to be not as dead as she thought.

A Sailor on the Endless Sea of Stars

Azathoth searches for something, but he doesn’t know what. He travels the infinite universes, searching for life and the meaning for his existence. He meets a girl and lives a full human life, but there is more to him than that.

Please note, I’ve decided to share my stories here as PDFs. If you would prefer a different format, for example, an ePub file, just let me know through my feedback form.

The featured image of a cat is from FreeImages and is by Lesli Lundgren.

A Cloud of Ideas

Photo by Jeremy Menking from FreeImages

I’ve written before about my somewhat chaotic writing process. I like to consider myself to be logical, and fairly rational, but it is rare that I proceed from idea to story in a logical way.

Often my stories seem to possess a life of their own, and while I might start with an idea and intend to take it this way, it instead heads off in that direction. That’s not a bad thing – after all a story is being told, even if it wasn’t the one that I thought that I was going to write.

But that is when I get started. Where do the ideas come from in the first place? Well, the answer is that I have them all the time. If I am thinking about starting a new story, and I haven’t yet decided on the topic, then search for ideas is at the back of my mind, and ideas fizz up all the time.

I could write about the adventures of an insect on a plant, just because I glimpsed an insect damaged plant. Or I might see children waiting to cross the road. What if the crossing guard was a robot, programmed to protect the kids, to the point it would lay down its ‘life’ for the kids. Or the thoughts of a tree.

Getting ideas is not hard. There are literally countless ideas out there, and the difficulty is deciding which ideas can be extended into a story. Well, they all can of course, but some are easier than others. I could probably write a story about intelligent dice, maybe ones whose ambition is to escape randomness and become predictable, but it would probably be a bit hard.

So, if ideas are swarming around you, how can you decide which ideas are worth pursuing, and which are not. There have been occasions when I have started to write and the words have petered out. I’m convinced that there is a story in the idea, but it won’t come out on the screen.

One technique for overcoming this is to put the idea and the not-yet-a-story to one side for a while. I’ve certainly done this, but I’ve not really done it consciously. Something else grabbed my attention, and when I came back to the idea I was able to progress the story.

I would not categorise the failure to progress a story as a ‘writer’s block’, by the way. If you have an idea, but can’t progress it at that time, you still have the idea, and know that you can come back to it and progress it later. A writer’s block would mean that you can’t progress anything at all, I would say. But I’ve never written something to a deadline!

If there really are ideas galore, why do we sometimes find ourselves unable to pick one? One reason is that most writers want to write something fresh and new. Even if they are writing a sequel or one a series, it has to be different in some way, to maintain the interest of the writer and his/her potential readers, so recycling old ideas is not a good idea.

For instance, if in the first book, the heroine slays the dragon and saves the Prince, and she is still doing it in book three or four, it would make the series pretty boring (and what would she do with all those Princes?)

Some people like to organise their ideas. As an idea comes to them, they write it down in a notebook or keep a file of random ideas. I’ve done that at times, but it only works moderately well for me.

Others might find help in a websites that provides ideas for stories. There are many of them, and while I’ve looked at them now and then, I’ve not been inspired by them. The ideas seem to me to be too middle of the road and not particularly interesting, but it is more than possible that the ideas these websites provide could resonate with something in one’s brain and result in a usable idea. So I don’t totally write them off.

Another technique for coming up with ideas is to take a standard story and twist it. For instance, there’s the standard ‘Prince saves Princess from Dragon’ story. What if the Dragon saves the Princess from a boring marriage with an arrogant self-obsessed Prince? Or the Prince and Princess get married and later find out that they are incompatible and it’s not ‘happy ever after’?

I use the twisted standard story idea quite a lot in my writing. My story ‘The Boy the Girl and the Dragon‘ is loosely related to the ‘Prince saves Princess from Dragon’ theme, and my story ‘Golden Hair and the Bears‘ is distantly related to the story of Goldilocks.

[I just realised that the film ‘Shrek‘ is a twisted variation of the Prince/Princess/Dragon theme, if you replace ‘Dragon’ with ‘Ogre’. The Ogre saves the Princess from a marriage with the arrogant self-obsessed Lord Farquar.]

One obvious source of ideas is one’s own stories. One could write a sequel or a spin-off. I’m not a fan of sequels, but I’ve written them. I prefer spin-offs, which allow me to use the existing story ‘universe’ but with new characters and new situations.

So, at the moment I’m between stories. I’m hunting around for the right idea. It’s proving a little elusive, but I’m sure, 100% sure, that it is out there somewhere in the cloud of ideas, just waiting for me to find it!

Some of my stories have been published on Amazon (as eBooks and paperbacks) and Kobobooks and Smashwords (as eBooks). Here are the links to my Author Pages on those sites.

Reading by Writing

Photo by Kelly Lacy on

Who am I writing for? What is my audience? That’s actually a hard question to answer.

Firstly, on a superficial level, I’d hope that the age group that I would hope that I’m writing for would be “Young Adult” and above. I looked up what that means and there is no real consensus on the definition, but it can refer to children from the age of 12 or 13 or up. That’s a little low, I think, for Young Adult,

However, that’s not an issue so far as my writing is concerned as my characters don’t go beyond a smooch and a hug or two. What they get up to in private is entirely up to them.

I’d hope that the absence of any salacious bits doesn’t restrict the upper age limit of those who read my books and stories. It’s the story that matters, of course, and the characters.

Speaking of characters, I’ve discovered that, so far at least, I haven’t created a decent villain. I’ve created characters who could have been villains, but have turned out to not be villainous as the story develops. A vampire. An assassin. The few villains that I have created have been unimpressive. An insane Khan who quickly gets killed off. A few inconsequential Kings.

Photo by emre keshavarz on

On the other hand, it seems that I find it easy to create heroines. When I look back at my stories, a big majority of them have a heroine. I wrote ‘feisty’ there but took it out. Nasty word. My heroines can be dominant, but they aren’t, as a rule, aggressively so. They are, in general, the equals of my heroes, but they have a larger role in the story. Maybe they are the prime characters.

My signature characters are the Mage and the Boffin, and they demonstrate this well. The Mage specialises in magic and the Boffin specialises in science (or physics, they would say), but there is a crossover. The Boffin is very much the mother figure, and the Mage is a father figure.

The Boffin quite often takes the lead in their adventures, but it is evident that she believes that the partnership is 50/50. The Mage doesn’t disagree. He follows where his wife leads, but without exception, they are always headed in the same direction. They very rarely differ, and each respects the other and the other’s view of the world.

The Mage does not feel dominated by his wife. In fact, he often finds her direct approach amusing. For example, the Boffin blasts a cell door when someone incarcerates them, and he merely inquires whether or not she is feeling tetchy, since they could have simply ‘stepped’ out of the cell.

So, what would I say my genre was? I’d say ‘fantasy’, but isn’t all fiction fantasy? Technology in my stories tends to be simpler than our technology, but some more modern stuff does creep in now and then.

I’m not too concerned about anachronisms. I’m not worried about inconsistencies, except within a story, and if the same character appears in more than one story, I don’t expect him or her to be exactly the same, to remember the same things, to do the same things.

Photo by James Frid on

I could explain this by pointing at the core mechanism that occurs in many of my stories – the idea of multiple worlds, and multiple versions of a character – but that’s not really the explanation. No, the real reason is that the stories are seemingly linked, but are actually independent.

I do like to keep my storyverse consistent though. It’s just that I don’t fret if it isn’t.

But to come back to my original question – who do I write for? Well, my stories are up on my website, and I know that people do stumble across it. I don’t know, because I haven’t looked, how many people have downloaded them.

Similarly, some of my stories, collected into books, are available as eBooks or even paperbacks. I have looked to see if anyone is buying them, but so far as I can tell, no one is.

So, I still keep writing them and polishing them and making them available, which means that I am, simply put, writing them for myself. I enjoy the process of writing, and when I start a story, I often don’t know where it is going to end. It’s a process that might be called ‘reading by writing’.

I’m happy to keep doing this, for as long as story ideas come to mind. Sometime someone may read on of my stories and enjoy it. That will be a bonus.

Photo by Suzy Hazelwood on

Some of my stories have been published on Amazon (as eBooks and paperbacks) and Kobobooks and Smashwords (as eBooks). Here are the links to my Author Pages on those sites.

Writing and Arrogance


Have you ever written a word and wondered if you spelled it right? You say to yourself, “That word looks weird!” But the spellchecker doesn’t underline the word. It must be right, mustn’t it? I typed “arrogance” above and it looked wrong, but it is right.

Anyway, that is an aside. As I’m taking a break from the GIMP and Blender, I decided to do some writing. I had an idea in mind, but when I started to write, another story decided it wanted to be written. I mean this seriously, though, obviously stories can’t actually decide anything. It just feels like that.

I had vaguely thought of submitting the story, when I had finished it, in a competition, but it got longer and longer and by the time I had tied up all the loose ends, it had exceeded the competition limit. Rats!

So, I took a copy of the story and set about shrinking it. That’s not too hard, in practise, but it does change the story. I got it down below the limit, but then I had doubts about whether or not it was good enough in the shrunken version. Or for that matter the full version.

Reducing the Size
Reducing the Size

So I asked my daughter.  I didn’t show her about the story, but I asked her questions like “How would you react if this happened….” At the end she said something which shocked me. She said something like “It has to be really different from <a TV series>, otherwise it is not worth writing.”

My story did have similarities to the TV series. Was it different enough to make it interesting? It’s a lot of work, blood, sweat and tears, to write a story. Now it appeared that, not only do I have to ask myself, “Is it good enough?”, but I also have to ask myself, “Is it too similar to anything else?” Ouch!

OK, I took that on board and I’ve parked the abbreviated version for a while, and I’m working on the slightly longer version. I’ll see if I can polish the shorter version until it glows like a pearl later maybe.

This is Weka
This is a Weka. He came up in a search for “short” and “long” for some reason.

So, around the time that I was revising the shorter version, I came across several web pages which categorised adverbs as bad. If a famous writer like Stephen King thinks that adverbs are bad, then they must be bad, right? Well, I invite you to go on a search for articles about adverbs and writing, and while they mostly stop short of demonising adverbs, the consensus is that it is best, and usually more descriptive, if you don’t use them.

OK, I’m convinced. Mostly. So I had a look at my stories and replaced or removed as many adverbs as I could find. That added a few dozen words to each version, so I still had work to do to get the short version down to the limit. Oh well.

This is where the arrogance comes in. (The word still looks weird!) I’ve never read any articles or tutorials on how to write stories. I always just sit down and write. I don’t have even so much as a skeleton of a plan, and indeed, my stories often end up in places that I hadn’t even thought about when I started. I have generally been thinking about the story for some time before I start. I usually have a character or characters in mind and one or two scenes (for want of a better word).

Wooden Dragon
Dragon without her rider

Maybe the lead character sits on her dinosaur at the top of the mountain pass and contemplates the view before she descends to the peace conference. Or the big battle. She and I will find out which it is as she follows her friends and comrades down into the valley.

So, I searched out a few articles on how to write a story. I’d expected them to all insist on a plan or a synopsis. A character list, a world for them to interact in, and a reason for them to interact. Days, weeks, maybe months before I would get to write a word.

Of course some do suggest that sort of thing, and sometimes they even suggest using spreadsheets! For the record, I’ve tried that, even before I read the articles, before I’d written much at all. It seemed logical. Get the ducks in a row and you can knock them off one by one.

It might work for some people, but it didn’t work for me. As my story grew, it deviated from my plan, and I didn’t go back and change it. Change it? I didn’t even look at it. But it did give me a start.

People on a Beach
People on a beach. (The logos imply that they are probably filming turtles)

OK, the Prince didn’t rescue the Princess from a dragon. No, the Prince rescued his Prince from a forced marriage to the Princess, who was pleased because she was über-friendly with the strapping female leader of the Guard. Only the Princess’ parents were miffed.

I might use this seed of a story sometime. But it started with the idea of someone rescuing someone from something, and I was already vaguely dissatisfied with standard boy saves girl and they fall in love thing. That’s just the Hero Syndrome. Boring. The above scenario still uses the syndrome, but it does give it a bit of a twist.

But anyway, he said, returning to the point, I discovered that the articles on how to write a story were full of useful advice, including in some cases, suggesting the avoidance of adverbs. Who knew? Well not me obviously.

Problem or Puzzle

The articles were full of good advice, techniques for pressing on when you are stuck, which is something that doesn’t happen to me. Many of them emphasise the trio of people, problem, and place.

What I mean by that is that almost every story needs characters. Oh, of course they needn’t be human. Almost every story needs a reason for the characters to interact, and they to have somewhere to interact.

Take the film “Lost in Space“. The ‘people’ were the Robinson family, together with the Robot and Doctor Zachary Smith. The ‘problem’ was that, because of Smith’s actions they had crash landed on an alien planet and couldn’t make it home. The ‘place’ was obviously the alien planet. Consideration of these three components no doubt helped the writers of the series. I’ll bear that in mind in future.

I’m going to read more of these “How to Write” web pages, to see what I can glean. It was arrogant of me to think that they had nothing to offer me. If I come across something that seems to me to be extra useful, I may write about later.

Alien landscape
Alien landscape

Please read my books. The paperback versions can be found Amazon, and the eBooks can be found there or at your favourite eBook store. Just search for my name, Cliff Pratt. I mainly write fantasy fiction.