Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Safari in the Mist - Part 12

They searched the small room for an hour before sitting to rest again. "I think it might be that stone you mentioned a while ago, the one you said might have moved."

"And how does this knowledge help us, Vic? I don't think I can bash the thing in." BA looked around the cell. "Not without something a bit more substantial than my fist."

Vic reached inside the right side of his vest with his left hand, removing two small packets. "Well, no, BA, if anyone could it would be you, but it needs to be weakened." Vic sliced the packets open with a small knife pulled from his vest pocket and put both packets on the floor, carefully pouring water on them. Each swelled to twice the original size, oozing outward like a small blob of jelly. An acrid smoke rose from the lighter one. Vic sighed and took them and mixed them together rapidly, kneading them in his hands. He took the fistful of putty and jammed it tightly into the crevice next to the identified stone and turned back and rinsed his hands until all the putty was off.

"Explosive, I take it?" BA had his hands in his pockets watching the process.

"Of course. Totally safe as long as they aren't combined. A little sensitive otherwise, and burns a bit, actually." He showed BA his reddened hands.

BA nodded. "Okay. How do we set it off? Pressure explosive?"

"Not really. I mean, mixed wrong it might be, but we can set it off with a small charge." Vic tugged on a button at the bottom of his vest, pulling it off and pressing it into the paste on the wall. Turning the bottom of his vest up, Vic pulled one of the seams off and twisted it into the hole in the button.

"Got a light?" Vic grinned.

BA reached in his cargo pants pocket and a slim lighter appeared. He stepped up to the thick thread and lit it.

"Uh, BA, we should probably move further away…"

They were almost to the far side when the sputtering blue flame licked the edges of the button. The putty made a small popping sound and cracks appeared in the stone.

BA moved the light closer. "That was anticlimactic."

Vic grinned at his brother. "Well, yeah, you never really know. You're the climax. Smash that stone and let's get it out of here."

BA turned to face Vic, brought his right arm forward and slammed the back of his elbow into the cracked stone, which shattered into the darkness beyond. He reached into the hole and found the trigger. They heard a click and the wall opened up into a dark passage leading further downward.

Next part, next Wednesday.

Author commentary (if I have one)

Friday, June 23, 2017

Rex Review - Fallout 4 Survival Tips

My buddy Major Rex plays Fallout 4 a lot.
When he gets bored, he just makes a new character.
He plays on Survival, the hardest level you can play. In Survival you suffer fatigue, hunger, thirst and pestilence (I might have added that last one).
So I thought I'd give a Survival character a try.
The most annoying aspect is you can't save the game. You get an auto-save each time you rest, and if you ever played FO4, you know that beds just aren't that easy to find.
If you die, you go back to the (only) saved game you have – the last spot you slept. Played for forty minutes and some radroach kills you? Yeah. You'll see that pest again.
Oh, and there's no fast travel. Now when one of my settlements come under attack I have to wonder – is it worth the trek across the countryside to try to help? Or will I die in the attempt?
I have no idea yet what the consequences of failing to help are – and I've failed often.
I finally went to the Major after a couple of false starts. Here's the Major Method
Build a character with the following SPECIAL stats:

  • Strength 5
  • Perception 4
  • Endurance 3
  • Charisma 6
  • Intelligence 6
  • Agility 2
  • Luck 2

When you find the SPECIAL book in Shaun's room in Sanctuary, add that point to Strength.
The FIRST skill you pick up when you level is LOCKPICK. Let's face it. You need to be able to open things in the Wasteland.
When you level again grab the perk for +20 to health.
Then grab the +10 to resistances.
Now maybe you can survive to the next level and not die so much.
The Major added that you want to level your Armorer and Gun Nut, but don't do them separately!
Gain two points and do them both at the same time. Once you upgrade Gun Nut, the enemies become harder.
Don't upgrade them until you have enough materials to enhance your armor and weapons, though. (I find glue is a problem.)
Once the Major can create a good 5.56 mm sniper rifle, that becomes his main weapon.
The Major also believes in strong supply lines.
He builds a recruitment beacon in each settlement. For most of them, once he hits 12 people, he turns it off. (Maybe he said 8 people.) He'll send one person to another settlement, and immediately assign him as a trader. That gives your settlement access to other materials.
Yeah, I've never managed to do this successfully.
I'll be honest. I haven't implemented this strategy yet. I'm struggling to develop a “stealth” character in survival, with 8 Agility and 8 Luck.
I die a lot.
Time to re-roll and try the Major Method.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Safari in the Mist - Part 11

They moved quietly for a number of minutes. "We have a problem, BA." Vic held his lights above his head slightly to illuminate the two passages ahead of him.

BA groaned. "What a load of crap."

"Quit saying that."

"Well, it is."

"We have a fifty-fifty chance of getting it right."

"Or wrong."

Vic frowned. "Yeah, that too. I say left."

BA groaned. "I was going to say right. If we had agreed, I'd feel a lot better about the choice."

"Me too," Vic grunted. "Coin toss?"

"No, we'll just go left and see where we end up."

The stairs traveled downward for another fifteen minutes, ending in a small room with no other visible exits. They sat for a moment and each gulped down water from their full canteens.

"More secret doors, no doubt." Vic muttered. He took the small crank out of his pocket and connected it to his string of lights, winding it for a few minutes. He handed the crank to BA, who did the same.

"Do you hear anything?" BA whispered. They both sat in silence.

"Nothing." Vic stood up, followed by BA. "Guess we try the other path."

BA led the way back up the narrow stairs. After five minutes he stopped and grunted. "We're in trouble." Lifting the lights he showed two passageways, both with stairs leading up.

"Ouch. I didn't notice that on the way down." Vic paused. "We could choose and risk getting lost in this maze or we could go back down to the room and look for the hidden doors."

"Doors we think the room will have? We're betting on that, you know."

"Or choose one of the paths up." Vic shrugged, invisible in the semi-darkness. "I don't remember the tunnel getting wider, so I don't have a clue which one to take back up, BA."

After a moment BA grunted. "Back down it is, then."

Next part, next Wednesday.

Author commentary (if I have one)

Sunday, June 18, 2017


Limerick Castle in Ireland (I think)

Shouldn't there be a hidden meaning - something funny?
There once was a girl from Kazoo
Who walked wearing only one shoe
Said she when I asked
"It's all in the past.
I left my left shoe at the zoo."

Yeah, but can you play with the words?
There once was a girl from Odessa
Who wore a blue and white dressa
Said she with a smirk
"Don't be a jerk.
Without my dress I'm a messa"

Or it can be really personal (this to you, Leba)
I know a lovely librarian
who moonlights as a barbarian
Adept with big words
and slicing with swords
She really is quite contrarian

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Safari in the Mist - Part 10

Neither brother needed much sleep to stay alert; long years and much experience allowed them the luxury of taking deep catnaps when they could. Almost two hours later, to the minute, Vic shook BA's shoulder.

BA packed his blanket and rolled the furs into tight bundles, tying them onto his pack with spare shoelaces. "We might need them," he shrugged as Vic looked at him sideways.

"The secret door was activated by a mechanism behind a stone. That's what we're looking for." Vic handed a short string of lights to BA then connected another string to a small device in his hand, winding it quickly. The whirring sound seemed loud in the night air. The string of lights glowed brightly in the darkness. BA noticed the windows were covered with Vic's furs and nodded grimly.
The lights illuminated the inside of the room enough to see the mortar between the stones. After an hour of searching BA snarled under his breath. "This might be something, Vic."

Vic brought the lights closer and they examined the tight-fitting square stones. "You're right. These stones are cut differently, but it doesn't seem to have controls on this side."

"Which makes sense. They wouldn't lock us in a room with a secret escape door, would they?"

"In fact, according to the book, that's exactly what we have, if we can find it." Vic placed his splayed fingers on the edge of one of the stones. "Start hitting these stones on the wall, BA."

BA and Vic pressed on a dozen stones, when one of them gave way under BA's fist and the rock moved inward, with a space large enough for Vic to reach into it. He pulled, the muscles in his shoulder straining, and a piece of the wall pivoted outward.

The smell of age and mildew assailed them from the dark opening.

BA grunted, pleased. He shouldered his pack and looked at the narrow stairs leading down into darkness. "I honestly don't recall the book describing this tunnel too well. It's supposed to lead to the other side of the pool and under the temple, right?"

"Something like that. I think it was pretty vague." Vic put the string of lights around his neck, shouldering his pack and heading into the narrow passage. "You want to close the door or leave it open?"

BA stepped in behind his brother. "Closed. Let them wonder a bit where we went." He pushed the thick stone door closed. In the darkness, the lights gave off a faint bluish glow as they headed further down.

"I expect we'll get some people looking for us in the morning." Vic moved as rapidly as he could.

"I expect we will, but I'll take care of them." BA carefully walked down the steps behind his brother, avoiding touching the damp walls.

"I'd rather you didn't kill them, BA."

"I know. That would be too easy, I suppose." BA growled, almost to himself.

"They probably know about the tunnels," Vic said, the blue glowing lights bobbing up and down as he moved down the stairs.

"No doubt."

"So they know where we're going. They probably know a shortcut." Vic paused.

"So they'll meet us there. I expect that." Vic didn't even need to look at his brother's face to see the grin spread across it. "I look forward to a little fun with these guys."

Next part, next Wednesday.

Author commentary (if I have one)

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Writing Word Counts

Word count is a huge topic in writing circles.
Short answer - Tell the story until you're done. For a standard fiction novel, aim to write 100K words or so and edit it back down to 85K.

Even though there are fabulous guidelines, every beginning author thinks they are the exception. None of us are exceptions.

I love short stories. I love to write them. I love to read them. It's like eating a bag of potato chips. Bag open. Salt, oil and chips consumed with gusto. Bag tossed. All without sitting down.
Here's my word count for my currently published stories:
Preparing for the Fiscal Cliff 5639 - nonfiction
My Mother-in-Law Misadventures 28554 - memoir
The Duel: A Von Crapp Brothers Tale 1364 flash fiction
Safari in the Mist: A Von Crapp Brothers Tale 9226 short story
Psychic Toll Call 841 flash fiction
Print Your Own Booklet Using Microsoft Word 2974 how-to
Seductive Murder 1885 flash fiction
Hunting August Moon 84021 novel

(All these links go to Smashwords, where the short stories are free.)
My word counts above include chapter titles, but don't include the Table of Contents, the required cover page and introduction or the final acknowledgments.
My first book wasn't fiction. Non-fiction should be seventy to eighty thousand words, but we wrote this book to meet a specific need. (The Fiscal Cliff still looms, actually. Shame on the government.)
For my second book, I compiled a list of short pieces I wrote when Darling's mother lived with us (for a decade). Still, the book is too short.
I published The Duel as practice. I don't recommend that method of learning to self-publish, but I left the story for the curious. It is free on Smashwords, though Amazon doesn't give me the same option.
Safari in the Mist was just as long as it needed to be to tell the story. That's okay, but at some future date I will compile all my Von Crapp Brothers stories into a single volume with a better word count.
Psychic Toll Call and Seductive Murder came from my reservoir of short stories written over the years, long before computers became useful for writing. As fun stories, I wanted them published, and I made them free (on Smashwords and on my blog site) so people could see my writing style.
Hunting August Moon took months of writing, and I topped out at over 110,000 words. After numerous edits, it dropped to 84,000. Hunting August Moon hits the sweet spot for novels. It doesn't disappoint.

<This is a copy of my blog post at my Author site.>

Sunday, June 11, 2017

The Last Interview

Dr Bailey Smith spoke at Sagemont today.

Most people are familiar with the parable of the wheat and tares. If not, read Matthew 13:24-30 before we begin.
Jesus told them another parable: The kingdom of heaven is like a man who sowed good seed in his field. But while everyone was sleeping, his enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat, and went away. When the wheat sprouted and formed heads, then the weeds also appeared. The owner’s servants came to him and said, ‘Sir, didn’t you sow good seed in your field? Where then did the weeds come from?’ ‘An enemy did this,’ he replied. The servants asked him, ‘Do you want us to go and pull them up?’ ‘No,’ he answered, ‘because while you are pulling the weeds, you may uproot the wheat with them. Let both grow together until the harvest. At that time I will tell the harvesters: First collect the weeds and tie them in bundles to be burned; then gather the wheat and bring it into my barn.

 Pastor Smith commented before the heart of his message that the Bible is not only the word of God, but words that came directly from the lips of Jesus, like this parable.

Years ago Pastor Smith asked Rev. Billy Graham why he spoke so often of "the unsaved church member." Rev Graham said because he once was one, and because it is the greatest mission field available to American churches.

After all, a good fake must be indistinguishable from the real thing.

What a great trick of Satan, placing the lost among the saved - and convincing them they are saved!

But commitment to the church is not commitment to Jesus.

Satan doesn't try to convince good people to do bad things.
Good works are not salvation.
Good beliefs are not salvation. You can believe in soap and still stink.
Good people are not automatically saved.

Ninety-nine percent saved is 100% lost.

You might have made a false decision. "I should go forward so I won't go to Hell."
You might have false assurance. "I remember your baptism, son, so you're saved."

You're saved by Jesus, by His grace alone.

When you're standing before God at your last interview, He won't ask your parents, your friends, your family or anyone else how you did. 

In your last interview, God will ask one question.

Do you know my Son, Jesus?

Look at your heart NOW. Is Jesus there, or is it you?

Dear God in Heaven, I acknowledge my sins to you, and I'm sorry for them. Please forgive me of my sin. I want to be saved. Jesus I trust in what you did upon the cross for my salvation. Thank you Jesus for saving me. Please come into my heart and become Lord of my life. Amen.

Follow up with your church and baptism.

Be ready for your last interview.

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Safari in the Mist - Part 9

The shadows from the sun were long and the light fading when the door creaked open. BA moved faster than Vic's eyes could follow, but he stopped in his tracks, eyes narrowed. "Clever buggers."

A small dark girl with big eyes stared at him in terror, clutching a heavy tray of food to her chest. Behind her, through the doorway, three guards had spears leveled toward the door. BA ground his teeth; the girl let out a yelp, dropped the tray of food and disappeared back through the doorway. Like the Cheshire cat, the only thing visible as the door closed were the grins of the guards as they tossed sleeping furs into the room.

"We can eat the fruit we know, but I wouldn't touch the rest of it," Vic warned.

BA grabbed a haunch of darkly roasted meat and bit off a chunk. "If I die, it'll be with meat in me. And I'll still kill Kobo and his guards before I go."

Vic shrugged and chose a piece of meat also, tearing a small piece off and chewing. "How much do you remember from Haggard's book?"

"Most of it," BA sniffed at one of the fruits and took a large bite, then spat it out. "Watch out for those yellow ones."

"Weren't they kept in a room with a dais?"

BA looked at the walls. "I think so. The one with the secret door?"

"The very one."

"There was a way to open it from this side, too, wasn't there?" BA splashed cold water on his face and neck, rinsed his mouth and spat a stream of water into the corner drain.

Vic removed a collapsible cup from his vest and handed it to BA, who used it to drink deeply from the tap. As he moved to put the stone cap back in place, Vic stopped him. "Let it run, BA. We'll need to fill the canteens."

The darkness was almost total now in the small room. BA sat down opposite the door. "We can't do anything if we can't see." A cool breeze blew in through the barred window accompanied by small insects flying into the room and buzzing around their heads.

"I know. Our guards are gone. I guess we have to wait until we're sure everyone is asleep." Vic sat next to him, rummaging in his pack.

"We still need light."

"I have lights."

"No. Really?"

"In the collar of my vest. LEDs with a small battery. I have a manual charger in one of the pockets."

"Why don't I have one of those vests?"

"You refused to wear it. Said it made me look like a wimp and you wouldn't be caught dead in it."

"Did not." BA grinned and buttoned a few shirt buttons. "It's getting colder. I guess the glacier makes the nights cold in the city. I'm going to get some shut-eye."

Vic started unfolding a compact silver space blanket from his pack. "Good plan. What do you think? About two hours?"

"Yeah." BA dug in his pack for his thermal blanket. "Why do you think they didn't take our packs?"

"Oh, they figure we can't get out and they'll get it all pretty soon anyway, I guess. Kobo took everything he immediately wanted."

"I suppose so. I wish I had my licorice twists." BA arranged some of the furs and covered himself with the space blanket and topped it with another fur. "Wake me in a few hours, Brother." He stuck his bare foot out from under the blankets and was almost instantly asleep.

Next part, next Wednesday.

Author commentary (if I have one)


Sunday, June 4, 2017

Generational Wisdom

We met Mr. Earl Smith the other day and he shared the wisdom of his father, CE Smith, with us. Here you go.

Link to a father's prayer on Youtube.

Before you complain, think of three blessings you have. Once you get to the third blessing, you should forget your complaint.
If you can't think of three blessings, then you might want to think about your life, and look a little deeper. God blesses those who revere Him and follow Him.

If it's wrong, just don't do it. Don't bother trying to bend the rules or justify what you're doing. 
Just. Don't. Do. It.

If you're praying to God, then you must be willing to wait on him. Pray, then wait for an answer. (Cautionary tale here is Abraham's wife Sara, who took God's plans into her own hands because she couldn't wait.)

Don't take bible verses out of context. Know the whole story. I loved the example CE Smith gave his son.
He opened Little Red Riding Hood and turned to the page where it said "Grandma! What big teeth you have!" Then he closed the book and put it down.
So Grandmas must have big teeth.
See what he means?

Wisdom can be passed down from generation to generation. CE Smith passed wisdom down to Earl Smith, and Earl Smith blessed us with it as well.

And now Earl Smith has blessed you as well, thanks to his father.

To all the fathers out there, Father's Day is coming up. You can leave a legacy like CE did. Think about it.

God bless you all. Thanks for reading.