Taking a week off, coming back after New Year. But I leave you with this short story. Enjoy!

***

Light stabs my eyes as the hood come off. My hands are bound, so I cannot shield my face. A figure is silhouetted in the bright light. No, not silhouetted. Some of the light seems to come through the figure, as if it isn't all there. I am already bound, helpless and terrified, yet the sight of this translucent form makes my guts feel like ice.

They have me. Them.

"Name?" the figure says.

"Please," I say. "What have I done?"

"The sooner you answer, the sooner you will be processed. Name?"

"I am Oswick Bozzbaddle."

It raises a clipboard, opaque against the light, and makes a tick. The sound of the pen on paper is hard; precise.  "Do you like Christmas, Bozzbaddle?" ...continue reading "Yuletide 101"

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterest

It was almost a week before Christian saw Pennington again. This wasn't good news. Christian was holding onto his job by a thread, and he was terrified that he'd be fired before he could speak to the alchemist.

A whole dozen people had been fired. Low performers, chronic latecomers, suspected pilferers. To be fair to Ms Shan, she didn't play favourites – though to be unfair, that might just be because she never remembered anyone's name. Only a couple of weeks before, Christian would have thought himself invulnerable to anything less than a complete shutdown of the Handy Pavilion, but his indicators were all down since the Phantasm's disappearance. He might have escaped the last round of layoffs, but the next round would take him out.

He needed Pennington's help before that could happen. ...continue reading "Do It Yourself: Chapter 43 – Never Pay Retail"

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterest

Adam: Works in garden furniture. Seems perfectly normal.

Alfred J. Pilbrook: Owner/manager of Arthur C. Clock's timepiece shop. A timid, aging gentleman.

Ali: Head of the power tools department.

Angela MacGregor: Head of the curtains and blinds department. Angela rarely impacts on the plot directly, but is often present when someone makes an uncharacteristically unpleasant or ruthless decision. Sister of Sadie MacGregor.

Axel Platzoff: a 'reformed' supervillain, formerly known as Professor Devastato. Axel has been channelling his villainous tendencies into the struggle against the DIY Barn. Archenemy of Captain Stellar, sometimes mentor to Norman and Fiona.

Belinda: An extremely annoying Pavilion staffmember. She changes departments frequently, presumably deliberately shuffled around by irate superiors.

Bruce: The ghost of one of the electrician. He was one of contractors who originally built the Handy Pavilion. Another contractor – a concreter – discovered that Bruce was sleeping with his wife, and buried him in the concrete. Bruce finds the afterlife somewhat unrewarding.

Buck Dusty: A cowboy who works in power tools. Buck reports to a mysterious organisation of mysterious western types known as COWBO. COWBO seems to report to something called the 'Grey Barn', though it is not clear if this is related to the DIY Barn.

Captain Pete: Sinister one-handed aquarium specialist at the Place O'Pets.

Captain Stellar: aka 'Vincent'. Superhero and member of the Vigilancers superhero team. Former archenemy of Axel Platoff. Boyfriend/former boyfriend of Cycloman

Carol: Owner/barrista at the Super Centre's only good source of coffee. A slightly annoying new-agey hipster type, Carol is also completely fearless. In love with Zorbar.

Carlos: Works at the Pavilion key-cutting counter. Carlos is the object of Laura's affections, but it has not been revealed how he thinks about her.

Christian: A young but highly successful sales assistant in power tools. Christian's rise in the power tool department is orchestrated by his mistress, the Phantasm.

Claudia Lebeau:  Manager of the South Hertling Super Centre. Girlfriend and ally of Ms Shan. Senior to Karl Wintergreen.

Cycloman: Boyfriend/former boyfriend of Captain Stellar.

Delia Crispin: Owner of the Storage Universe store. Severe, but basically good hearted.

Donna: Junior member of the lighting department. A disciple of Sadie and, later, a friend of Fiona.

Fanaka: A time traveller from an alternate history, Fanaka hails from a nineteenth century Steampunk-futurist Africa. He is a friend of Nalda.

Fiona: An initially hapless young worker in the plumbing/bathroom section. Fiona has water control powers of unspecified origin. Initially an ally of Axel, a friend of Norman and Wellsey.

Gwen Harper: A dryad who takes the appearance of a middle-aged Kiwi woman. In love with Norman.

Jemmy Harrison: Owner of the music shop and possessor of a powerful holographic projector.

Karl Wintergreen: Owner of the local stationary shop, editor and sole reporter for the South Hertling Super Centre Newsletter. A conspiracy theorist and a genuinely terrible writer, his researches do occasionally hit upon the truth.

Jane Nguyen: Works on the equipment counter. Seemingly normal?

Laura Cho: A new employee who gains super powers when one of Axel's superweapons explodes. She becomes the superhero Voyager, and is vexed by the appearance of her own doppelganger from the future. In love with Carlos.

Marlon Dillinger: The duty manager at the Handy Pavilion. A soft-hearted tyrant. Ally of Ms Shan.

McKinley: A cartoon cat.

Mildred Po: Owner of the Stars in their Eyes telescope shop and amateur rocket scientist.

Mr Smith: The General Manager of the DIY Barn. A somewhat inept Fascist who is nevertheless a threat. Fortunately he is entirely fictional; in the real world inept businessmen/Fascists never threaten anybody.

Ms Shan: Jasu Shan, the General Manager of the Handy Pavilion. Ms Shan wants to view the Pavilion in a bloodless, corporate sort of way but discovers a hidden sense of loyalty to her employees. In love with Claudia Lebeaux. Occasionally also spelled 'Ms Shen' for reasons that I can only assume stem from subconscious racism on my part. Seriously, I can't remember a four letter name?

Nalda Teheintausand: A killer cyborg from the future who works in the arts and crafts department. Also an excellent arts teacher. Very good with children. Friend of Fanaka.

Norman: A young man who dreams of being a big deal in power tool retail. Friend of Fiona, after their involvement in Axel's first plot against the DIY Barn. Comes from a strange family background.

Phantasm of the Pavilion, The: A mysterious hooded and masked figure who seems intent on causing chaos in the Handy Pavilion. Served by Christian.

Richard Pennington: A customer. An alchemist, almost certainly with sinister intent.

Ron: An inhabitant of an alternate world, stranded in South Hertling.

Sadie MacGregor: Head of the lighting department. Sadie is an extremely moral person, possibly supernatural in nature. She is often present when someone makes an uncharacteristically high-minded decision. Sister to Angela MacGregor, mentor to Donna.

Seamus: A garden gnome who comes to life under the full moon. Speaks in a stereotypical Irish dialect, but the good people of Ireland would like to disavow all knowledge of him. Friend of Zorbar and Bruce.

Stavros Theopoulos: Owner of the Super Center's kebab shop.

Wellsey: Former petty criminal, now head of the plumbing/bathrooms department. Well meaning, but basically in over his head.

Woman in Laplander Hat: Too mysterious to possibly.

Voyager: See Laura Cho.

Zorbar Ofthechimps: The son of a wealthy Sydney family, for unknown reasons he was raised by a family of chimpanzees. He used to work in the Pavilion garden centre. In love with Carol.

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterest

The toilets were out of commission at the Handy Pavilion. That wasn't the terrible thing in Christian's book. There were a couple of porta-loos out the back, so it wasn't like no one could go. It did mean that the customers would be asking questions about the bathrooms all day, in spite of the dozens of big signs up explaining the situation. So annoying! But still not the problem.

The problem was that the plumbers would be digging up part of the toilet floor, and in doing so they'd find the passage to the Phantasm's lair. They'd have to. Wouldn't they? And then what would happen? ...continue reading "Do It Yourself – Chapter 35: Toilet Humour"

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterest

I got a warning from the Blog Police today, reminding me that every writer's website needs a bunch of writing tips on it. Well, speaking as someone whose writing sales are in the tens of dollars, I have to say that they are right, and it is my clear duty to impart my great experience to you, the little people. Bask, then, in the light of my wisdom: ...continue reading "Writing Tips"

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterest

Marlon had never liked Jasu Shan, but now he was happy beyond words to see her. Ms Shan was abrasive and talked over him and would change the topic of conversation right in the middle of one of his sentences, and there wasn't a damned thing he could do about it because she was the General Manager and he was just the Duty Manager.

When Ms Shan taken ill, Marlon had been quietly pleased. He'd expected corporate to put someone else in charge for a while, preferably some quiet little pen-pusher who would take care of the big picture stuff and leave Marlon to the rest. In fact, head office had made Marlon acting manager. He'd been doing double duty as General Manager and Duty Manager in exchange for a nominal--and temporary—raise in salary.

Even that he might have coped with, had sales not started tanking when the DIY Barn had opened. That had put him in the awkward position of being both the good-guy boss he liked to believe himself to be--champion of his staff against the penny-pinchers at head office--while simultaneously acting as a penny-pincher from head office. It was vexing. ...continue reading "Do It Yourself – Chapter 12: Tea and Scandal"

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterest

Seamus awoke to the full moon shining down on the Handy Pavilion garden centre. He yawned and stretched, though even at full extension his arms didn't go very far. He smacked his lips and put his pipe in between his teeth, though he did not, could not light it.

Standing, he began his inspection. All the neat rows of plants, all the trees and seedlings, all the ferns and that little corner full of bonsais. Walking slowly on his little legs, he began his methodical rounds, examining the leaves, testing the dampness of the soil, squinting in the moonlight for any sign of aphids or thrips.

He had one night to do it. He had to make it count. ...continue reading "Do It Yourself – Chapter 11: Silver Men in Moonlight"

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterest

Axel sat in the loading dock. It was nearly midday and it was as hot as an oven. A little drop of sweat made its way down his face to the point of his chin. It hung there for a moment, then dropped down to the green collar of his Handy Pavilion shirt, where it soaked into the fabric. Axel ignored it. His eyes were focused on a spot between the Place O’ Pets’ building and a parked truck. He could only see a little sliver through this gap – a busy roadway, and beyond that a small section of concrete wall, painted an unpleasant yellow.

The DIY Barn.

The enemy.

“Hot out, eh?”

Axel was aware of the voice in the same way he was aware of the drops of sweat down his face--there, but distant from his thoughts. He heard his own voice reply: “Going to get hotter, they say.” ...continue reading "Do It Yourself – Chapter 5: The Shirts"

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterest

It was a Saturday morning, and the hot sun beat down on the hardware centre. The centre’s air conditioning struggled to put up a fight, but it was still anyone’s battle.

Axel Plazoff was restocking a shelf of caulking guns, when out of the corner of his eye he spotted a familiar face. It was a handsome face, screwed up in an expression of concentration, and it belonged to a big man who examined the label on a can of exterior varnish with the intensity of a bomb-disposal expert wondering which wire to snip.

Oh God. It was Captain Stellar-- not in his uniform, just a t-shirt, shorts and sandshoes. Please, Axel thought. Please don’t let him recognise me. ...continue reading "Do It Yourself — Chapter 1: The Reunion"

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterest