Monday, April 22, 2019

Pause Button/Slow-Mo Engaged

This weekend I got a little bit of a wake-up call.  Apparently I'm not a young man anymore, and my body served me notice in no uncertain terms. I've been suffering from the damnedest bout of fatigue. No matter how much rest I think I'm getting I always feel like I've been beat up and left for dead. I get dizzy at the slightest exertion and this weekend I had to stop right in the middle of mowing my yard and sit down...right where I was...in the middle of the yard for almost 15 minutes for tension in my shoulders and weakness in my arms to pass. 

It's as frustrating as hell and more than a little scary. I've been down the catastrophic health issue road once already, and I'm in no great hurry to do it again.

My blood pressure is good whenever I check it, but yet here I am.

So while I was "resting" this Sunday I took a long hard look at my workload. Holy shit am I busy! I've got a budget to prepare for my company in the next week or so around being out of the office for a job fair and a then a benefit meeting in DFW, three hours away.  That burns most of two of those days. 

Couple that with the construction project at my house and my broken ass car along with seeing my wife across the finish line with her graduate school, and I'm headed straight for the sanitarium. Do they even still have those? 

Oh yeah, and I'm trying to write in-and-amongst all of that, so if my additions to any of the ongoing stories take longer than usual, I apologize. I'll be back to it more diligently once I clear a few things of the list of "Shit I Have to Do."

-Tole


Wednesday, April 17, 2019

Writer's Group AAR

This last Monday was the monthly meeting of our local writer's group, and we talked about all kinds of interesting things. We had a discussion on the "formula" for romance novels. One interesting thing that I learned that made a lot of things make sense is that romance authors are usually contractually obligated to include a sex scene every 'X' number of pages...usually right around every 60 or so. I guess once an audience is conditioned to have an expectation of how things flow in a typical genre you have to follow it. As a person who constantly struggles with pacing, it seems like forcing me to add specific action points at specific times in a story would only aggravate and worsen my writer's block. I would get so focused on including the required story points that the rest of my writing process would just die.

Our host had informative handouts...as always...on the business of writing. Some of them covered topics like how to do a pre-order if you're self-publishing and how to get your books in front of librarians and other vendors. I haven't really focused on the business side of this industry yet. I'm still learning how to adhere to a writing schedule of any kind.  Once I feel somewhat comfortable with that aspect, then I'll tackle the business of publishing in a way that might even someday make some money...maybe.

There was other discussion about gender bias in certain genres and how authors will take on pen names that are either gender neutral or flat out gender opposite in order to publish their works. One of the more interesting parts is how women still have a difficult time in the sci-fi genre despite the fact that a woman created it (Mary Shelley ring a bell?). The other side of the coin is that several of us know of men who write under a woman's name in the romance genre because publishers believe, and maybe rightly so I don't know, that the target  audience will not buy a romance novel written by a man. Apparently there's a perceived notion that men can't be romantic. Who knew?

As far as the piece I handed out last month went, only one person there had read it. The other few who took a copy didn't make the meeting. However, while she said that it wasn't her genre of choice, she did read the whole story. She said she was lost on some of the genre specific language and skimmed past the swear words, but on the whole she found it solid. I was...let's go with pleasantly surprised. There is one other member who is reading my stuff, but she didn't take the one I submitted. She's reading The Affairs of Dragons and said kind of the same thing.  Not her genre, but she's enjoying the story. I'm good with building an audience one reader at a time.

Enjoy the rest of the week.

-Tole

Monday, April 15, 2019

So I Did a Thing

So last week I did something way outside my comfort zone. I submitted the Working on Terra short story to a competition. It's one thing to put it out on the internet on a blog with only 5 or 6 recurring readers. it's another thing entirely to send something my brain coughed out to an actual publisher. 
I know full well that it’s not going to go anywhere because I’m competing against seasoned authors, but I pulled the trigger anyway. Hitting send on an email should not give a person indigestion, but that’s exactly what happened.
I’ve got two months to wait for results. It would be nice if there’s a critique that comes back, but I’m betting that with the volume of entries that the judges won’t have that kind of time. It’s all good though. As OldNFO said, "I finally came down off of high center." I guess that means I actually moved forward.

Oh well. Carry on,

-Tole

Wednesday, April 10, 2019

The Affairs of Dragons Pt. 5 - A Visit in the Woods


Like I keep saying, the material is coming...just slowly. The part of my brain that makes me a good accountant makes me a terrible artist. I just can't let something go until I think it is right. I have the same issue working on cars. I could never be a mechanic, but I'd make a pretty good restoration/custom car builder. I can't just slap things together and "send it." OH well...enjoy.

-Tole

When Serilla told me she could get me to within a couple of miles of the hunter’s camp, I thought she was signing on to be my guide. Boy was I wrong. If you ever get the chance to travel by dragon, do it. It’s fucking amazing. I’ve flown before…on an airplane. That paled in comparison to sitting in Serilla’s right hand watching the land fly by below me. Yeah that’s right she carried me. A dragon would never allow themselves to be ridden like a common beast of burden, but I guess she’s ok carrying me like one of her young. Regardless of how, we covered a couple of hundred miles in less than a day.

She put us down in a clearing in the forest we’d flown over for most of the day. It blows my mind that a creature as large as she is can move so gracefully. The landing was quiet, almost like she just stepped down from a small step. She put me on the ground every bit as gently and by the time I turned to face her she stood there in her human form again.

“This is as close as I dare get,” she said pensively. “Their camp lies a day’s walk west of this clearing. Their guard patrol should pick you up well before you find the camp. Should I go any further I risk setting off their wards. This forest is not the most hospitable place, but I must leave you here. Be wary though dearest. Fell things dwell in these woods.”

If I didn’t know any better, I’d think she was scared. I guess if there was someone hunting me that I had no chance of defeating, I might be a little weary too.

“It’s fine Serilla,” I told her. “I’m a relatively big boy. It won’t be my first time traveling somewhere where everything wants to eat my face. You need to come to Orta’ahn with me some day. Jungle planet where everything has evolved to kill damned near everything else. Up until now, it’s been my favorite place in the multiverse after my home at The Bar of course. My friend Valsh would love you.”

“You are a strange one Killer,” she said leaning in to kiss me, and yes it sped up my cold little heart. “Good hunting. I look forward to your return to my arms,” she said as she turned and walked away. By the fourth step she shimmered and was a dragon again. She leapt into the air and vanished behind the tree line.

The sun was also quickly disappearing behind the trees, and nighttime in a forest is no time to be wandering around. The clearing I was in seemed like a good enough place to spend the night, so I set up camp on the western edge. I have always camped on the western end of a clearing to catch the sun as soon as it crests the trees. That way I’m up as soon as there’s enough light to walk around a forest and not die.

I toyed with the idea of a cold camp, but fire tends to keep bad things at bay. Most nocturnal predators hunt at night for a reason. Add to that the fact that I stand a much better chance of defeating a threat if I can see it coming and the choice was all but made for me. I built a fire and settled in for the night. Not a roaring fire though. Best not to burn down the forest while I slept. I camped just the way I learned when I was a kid studying the Native Americans. I bedded down on pine boughs and kept the fire big enough to give off light but small enough to not throw sparks into the woods.

About two hours after dark the forest settled into the sounds of night. Insects scuttled through the underbrush. Off in the distance something howled to let the woods know it was on the prowl. I never understood the urge to howl. It’s so much easier to get your target if you’re a sneaky bastard. Maybe the ability to plot is one of the things that separates us from the animals.

After about an hour I got used to the sounds around me and finally settled into a light sleep. I don’t normally dream…well at least I don’t normally remember dreaming…but that night my head was filled with images of a hut on a hill and a dark skinned woman bringing me food and tea. I guess the dreams must have settled my mind more than usual because I never felt dawn approach.

What did wake me up was what sounded like someone running a water hose onto a flat rock followed by the loudest fart I have ever heard in my life. That was followed by a very low voice chuckling quietly. I opened my eyes to see Valsh standing at the edge of the clearing with his back to me.
“The hell man?” I asked choking around the smell.

His chuckle bloomed into a laugh and he said, “Sorry. Did I wake you? Where the hell have you been hiding? I’ve been trying to find you for almost a week. All my scrying got me was a headache. Bobby couldn’t even find you. Just knew what world you’d gone to, but not where you were on it.”

“I was behind some wards. My current employer values her privacy. It’s complicated. What the hell are you doing here?”

“I’m on vacation,” he said around his toothy orc grin.

“Bullshit,” I said getting to my feet and taking my turn at watering a plant or three, “ You need something.”

Valsh held up both hands in surrender and said, “Guilty, but it’s not what you think. I owe you a debt, and I need to clear it. It’s a matter of honor for me.”

“What are you talking about Valsh?” I asked him as I laced up the fly of my trousers. “You’ve paid me for every job I’ve done for you. You don’t owe me shit.”

Valsh walked over to my fire and added another couple of small logs and used a small spell to reignite the flame. He pulled out some dried meat and bread from the pouch at his waist. He offered me some which I accepted. Turning down offered food from an orc is not advisable even if you are friendly. He took a bite of his own and chewed staring into the fire. I just sat down and waited. He’d talk when he was ready.

“You’re right. What I owe you is not for work you have done for me. What I owe you is my life, and I can’t let that debt go unpaid any longer. When we were ambushed by the party from the Desert Reaches Tribe when we first met, you jumped into the fray without cause. Likely I would have died that day. I didn’t because of you. I’m not used to having to be saved like that. I was careless, and it almost cost me. Honor demands I thank you appropriately.”

“Damn man,” I said shaking my head. “Like I told you then I saved you because you hadn’t paid me yet. Nothing altruistic about it. Besides you’ve paid me very well for every job…lots of times way more than I asked.”

“Doesn’t matter. Those were jobs and payments. Asked for and given. This is something different.” He looked at the sky for a second and then continued, “The magic on this world is strong…stronger even than on Orta’ahn. Can you not feel it?”

“You know damned well I can’t. Human remember?”

The words had barely left my lips before Valsh threw five pieces of fruit at me that I hadn’t seen before. He followed it with shards of ice he cast from his fingers on his right hand and that he followed with fire from his left. I didn’t have time to think just to react.

Everything kind of slowed down as the adrenaline slammed home into my brain. I could make out the texture on the skins of the fruit as they approached. I drew my long daggers and picked each piece of fruit out of the air impaling them on the daggers in alternating stabs.

The ice shards were oddly travelling just as slowly as the fruit, so I thought I’d show off a bit and picked each of them out of the air by catching them in a piece of the fruit…one shard for each fruit.

Then came the fire. I rolled to the right along the ground swinging my daggers in an arc to avoid impaling myself. I came to my feet and leveled the daggers at Valsh. Amazingly the fire followed the tips of my daggers, and when I came to my feet, it released back in Valsh’s direction. He caught it with the hand he’d cast it from, and it winked out.

“What the fuck man?” I yelled at him, but he just laughed in return.

“Human indeed,” he said as he continued to laugh. “You moved, and I lost sight of you for a second.”

“Horse shit. The old ‘his blades moved faster than the eye could follow’ is crap. You can always see something.”

Valsh shook his head and continued, “I didn’t say your blades you knucklehead. (He actually called me something worse in orcish that doesn’t translate well.) I said I lost sight of YOU. I suspected something like this. You’re gifted boy, but coming from a world with no magic it’s only reflex. I figured with as strong as the magic was here you’d be able to touch it. Oh relax…you were never in any real danger. The fire was an illusion, and I knew you’d counter the ice with or without channeling any magic.”

I really didn’t know what to say, so I just kind of stood there looking at him.

“Dick. Next time warn a guy would ya? I damned near pissed myself when I saw the fire, and what do you mean gifted?” I asked as I pitched a piece of fruit at his big head. “Humans, well at least the Terran ones, haven’t been gifted with magic for over a thousand years and even then there were only a few. Terran magic petered out a long time ago man.”

Valsh caught the fruit and took a bite. Then he sat back down by the fire and looked at me like I just said the stupidest thing he’d ever heard. He just sat there chewing, alternating between bites of the fruit, the dried meat, and the bread. He’d look like he was going to say something and then shake his head and take another bite of whichever thing’s turn it was. It was almost like he was waiting for me to figure it out on my own. He does that shit to me all the time, and it drives me crazy.

After he finally finished his food he just shook his head again and said, “I don’t mean you’re gonna be a shaman or wizard or anything like that. I don’t think that’s your gift. Your gift comes in killing, and I don’t think you’ll ever be able to call on it at will. It’s just too weak. It just kind of gives you an edge when you’re desperate.”

“Well, if I can’t use it as a weapon, then it’s no good to me. Fuck it.”

Valsh burst out into that deep laugh of his and said, “There’s that orc heart I see in you! Honestly though my friend I would suggest you look into why you are the way you are. It could come to be a weakness and weaknesses must be found and dealt with. I can help you with that.”

“You’ve got a tribe to run brother. You don’t have time to be fucking around with a weak little white skin like me. I’ve lived this long with whatever the hell this is. I’ll be fine.”

He leaned forward and put his elbows on his knees and looked me in the eye. His face took a serious look I’ve only seen once before when he hired me to kill his War Leader and he said,” No. You will not. The more time you spend on world’s like this one the more power your body will draw in. If you do not know how to release it, it will kill you. You won’t feel it coming either. You’ll just die, and besides my tribe will be fine. I have left my oldest son in charge as War Leader while I am away. He is…competent.”

“If that’s the case why hasn’t it killed me already? I mean, I live at The Bar which is pretty much just a big ball of magic in between dimensions.” I was pretty sure I had him there…I was wrong.

Valsh lowered his head and just shook it back and forth mumbling under his breath.

“You’ve been here what? A week? How much of that week have you spent killing something? When you kill, when you travel back and forth to The Bar, even when you practice you expend your stored energy. You have to use your gift to expend the magic. Dolt.” He reached across and cuffed me on the back of the head like you would a dull child who just wasn’t listening.

I sat there thinking. I practice every day when I’m at The Bar, but I’d been so swept up in my time with Serilla that I hadn’t lifted a weapon in just over a week. Shit. This is all I need. Was that what Serilla wanted to tell me after out Communion? Fuck my life. This shit’s just gonna have to wait.

“Look, I’m on a job you big, green pain in the ass. A walking wall of meat really wasn’t included in my plan of action, so you can just…”

“PERFECT! We will kill together while I teach you to control your gift. This will be an epic adventure worthy of telling in The Hall of Heroes!”

“Valsh, no.”

“If you want to refuse my help and companionship, you will have to settle it in orc tradition. Best me in unarmed hand-to-hand combat.”

Shit. Fuck me sideways.

In the end I finally gave in and let him come with me. I really didn’t want to settle it orc style. I didn’t want to damage his honor by whipping his big green ass. Yeah…that was it.

Monday, April 1, 2019

A VERY Special Day of the Year

I get so excited every year when this day rolls around. Today is a VERY special day. Only once a year does something like this happen. 

Today, and today only, everything on the internet is 100%, absolutley, postively TRUE.

Have an awesome April 1 and do your best to make someone mad at you. It's the only day you have permission to do it on purpose.

-Tole

Pickup Progress

So I spent last weekend out at my friend's house and shop.  When we moved my truck, it would just flat fall on its face and die. I knew ...