Kris finds more things online to take up all his time

Kris here,

Sorry we went totally AWOL last week – we had a crazy week and the 4th of July was just all up in our grill. Haha! Grill. We didn’t cook outside because it started raining and I’m already 90% inept in the ways of starting fires as it is – thunderstorms truly are my kryptonite.

 

For those not living in the US, the 4th of July is where we celebrate not being blown up by trying to blow ourselves up. It’s a great pasttime, very traditional.

 

This week I thought I’d plug a couple projects that have been taking a bit of my time recently and probably a lot more time in the near future. Project Gutenberg and Librivox. They’re both sites dedicated to crowd-sourcing the digitization of public domain literary works, but the former works in print and the latter produces audiobooks.

 

I know a lot of public domain works get a lot of bad rep sometimes, but spend some time perusing the libraries and I’m sure you’ll find something interesting. The part of the sites that has such a draw on myself personally is the contribution bits. I don’t mind reading something from a hundred years ago or some dry piece of information, but I have a really hard time focusing on one thing at a time. In this case, you get a chance to read a bit and help preserve at the same time, and that’s totally great by me.

 

Librivox is a little different in that they need listeners to help listen to recorded works and make sure nothing is amiss, but you can do some of the recordings yourself. I’ve always been a huge fan of audiobooks, helping to make them personally sounds pretty interesting. Give them a look the next time you’re bored and check it out – the worst that could happen is that you get to read or listen to free books!

Mark – 3 – Short story Saturday

Hi Ya’ll, Tina here again! I know you missed me.

Yeah last week was kinda left to the side lines. Kris was cleaning, I was getting to be mother to both of my boys at the same time and deal with my Still in training crazy pupper Izzy. Well, Now I am back home in my amazingly beautiful house(Thanks Kris!!!) and ready to get back to work. School has started back up and I am excited to finish out my very first year of college! Now, To continue the story of Mark and see where it goes.

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Ding, Ding, Ding, Ding, Ding. The bell chimed five times. The smell of smoke filled Mark’s nose as he took a deep breath in, waking up from his nap. He blinked his eyes and slowly looked around. The room was a deep rich brown color filled with Victorian looking decorations. It looked as if he had just stepped into a Sherlock Holmes novel. To be sure, it was one of his most cherished books as a kid and well into his adulthood. He could recite the various titles by heart and give you a run down of each one. He looked around the room and then down to his own two feet.

His shoes were nothing but some very soft looking house slippers. He was wearing loose fitting pajamas and a robe over a night shirt. He looked at his hands. The long lines and tawny strength of them gave him the faint memory of his teen years working around the small town he grew up in fixing things and helping with general projects. He was missing some scars that he had rightly acquired as a young man and they seemed to be much softer then he recalled.

The soft click of the door being opened brought him out of his self evaluation.

“Master Mark, Your dinner and Ms. Arthur are waiting in the dining room.” The soft, older voice of a woman called.

“Uh, Okay. Thank you very much!” The door shut and Mark stood up. As he did he spotted himself in the mirror above the fireplace. A younger looking man with the breath of youth still in his eyes was looking back. Mark realized that this dream was a nightmare, he was 16 again. No one wants that.

~~~~~

Walking into the dining room Mark took note of the man standing off to the side looking like a proper butler. Seated at the table was a beautiful young woman with golden waves of hair and an elegantly styled bun upon her head. She looked up and smiled. The smile and crinkle of her eyes reminded Mark of something foggy in the back of his mind.

“Oh, Mark dear! Have a seat, you must be famished.” The woman cooed.

Mark started to take a seat in the chair across from her on the side of the table. A curt cough echoed the room from the man near by. He lowered his hand and walked over to pull out the chair at the head of the table. Ms. Arthur’s face broke into a small grin. Mark scurried over to the chair, feeling slightly odd about taking the head seat at the table.

“Um, Ms. Arthur was it?” She nodded as plates were brought out. “What is going on? Why am I sitting at the head?”

Ms. Arthur’s smile faded, “Do you not remember anything? The conversation, the Trip, the conversion?” Mark shook his head. “Oh, dear, you must be so confused. Well, after we got here they gave you the age you had asked for and then reviewed your tastes to see where we might be best placed. I didn’t really have any preferences but they said for the job you were here to do, This would be the best setting and time placement.”

Mark shook his head as food was placed in front of him. A warm soup that smelled slightly sweet and savory. “I-I’m not quite sure what is going on. Can you explain more?”

Ms. Arthur thought for a moment and seemed to jump slightly in her chair as she though of an idea. She reached over and picked up a book from the floor next to her.

“Here, they said this should help you understand.”

Mark took the book and saw the words that were so familiar to him. ‘Tales of Sir Sherlock Holmes’.

Kris definitely not going stir crazy

Kris here

Tina’s been in OKC for a couple of days visiting everyone so I’ve been down here with a lot of time on my hands. Awesome right? I can do all kinds of VIDEO GAMES WOOOO. I totally did too, I played the Witcher 3 finally, and colony survival and I got some Tales of Berseria in. These are fabulous games, you guys should check ’em out. Do you know what else they are?

That’s right, they’re roleplaying games. Okay Colony Survival is technically not a roleplaying game but it kind of fits so let’s play pretend for a minute.

These are all pretty fun, but I’ve noticed a huge downturn in my desire to actually play any kind of electronic games for quite some time. A BIG downturn. Like I didn’t turn my computer on except to write the blog from February to May. I wasn’t doing anything better though, I’m not some born-again workaholic or anything silly like that. I’ve been turned off recently by the odd boundaries game developers seem to be implementing when they clearly have the technical capabilities to do something I think would be simply amazing – or they can’t actually push that boundary because of the technical limitations. So instead, I’ve been working on Dads ‘n’ Dragons. I’m sure a few of you have heard about it , especially since about all of my recent posts have been about nothing else.

So I’m hanging out by myself in a sweltering Texas summer (air conditioning is expensive yo) just writing up some cool ideas I have to stow away, or use in the finished product, when I run across a question in my mind. Has another game done this? Am I copying someone? Is there a better way of calculating this number without forcing it on the players? A quick google search and two weeks later and I haven’t even touched my own game since like day 2. There are a pantsload of tabletop games being published every single day, and they’re pretty good! I didn’t give up on my own of course, that would be silly. But I’ve found myself wandering a repetitive cycle of the last week or so essentially doing yardwork, housework, and gamework. And games.

Okay, I did spend a few hours just gaming while listening to game developer podcasts, but that’s fine and I forgave myself. These guys repeat a lot of talking points I’ve learned over the last few months, I actually really like the format they work through and listening to someone from an industry repeat the things you’ve learned through reading is awesome. Like “Yes! It wasn’t a waste of my life! In your face Reddit!”

We’ll be visiting with Zack for a few weeks once Tina gets back from OKC, so I thought I’d see about a few tabletop games we could use to hang out with the children too, since I have all this free time on my hands. (Literally reading, writing or cleaning.) “But Kris what if the kids won’t because it’s not electronic?” I hear you readers, don’t even worry. I have a plan. I’m gonna make Tina play instead and then the partypoopin’ munchkins can just go to bed at like 7 or something so we have time. It’s foolproof I know.

I’ve run across quite a few I think would be good to learn, but I narrowed it down to three for the sake of time. Pokemon Tabletop United because children and also Pokemon. Mutants and Masterminds because my wife has convinced everyone that they like superheroes. Lastly, Call of Cthulhu. Okay the last one isn’t necessarily children themed, but I mean. They’re old enough to learn about our lord and savior Cthulhu. That, or I can convince the rest of the regular Pathfinder group to try it out; honestly most of the local group is more into the roleplay and less about the hack and slash of the game in the first place, which this game is amazing for. Which is fine, but also sad, since I myself am way interested in finding cool combinations to work together and murderhobo an entire universe worth of monsters.

Allow me to summarize each game briefly, so I don’t send everyone on a wild goose chase trying to figure out what these words mean.

The Pokemon tabletop game is exactly what it sounds like. It’s a Pokemon game, played on top of a table. It actually took me a little while to figure out some of the finer details of even just creating a character or building the teams since there’s quite a bit of involvement, but it’s a lot of fun. Imagine playing a pokemon game where you could have a team of like 2000 just waging war against a neighboring nation. Okay don’t imagine that, Pokemon are not instruments of war you tortured, angry souls. As long as you can put in a bit of effort to do some reading and watch a few youtube videos, this game has a pretty solid foundation – and if you find something broken, you’re welcome to fix it, because it’s your imagination!

The Mutants and Masterminds game is actually one I wasn’t super interested in at first. I’m not a fan of superheroes or their universes for the most part. I got to listening to some gamers on YouTube play through a few sessions of their own game and it was a lot more interesting than I figured it would be. I think the context of a dystopian future or a distant past mixed with the ramifications of being a super person in their own time can actually make for a pretty interesting story. I mean sure, you could rip everyone opposed to you in half, but that has consequences. Saving damsels in distress will make the bad-guys angry and attack more innocents. Helping the bad guys will make innocents angry and everyone will hate you! Dang that Captain Castor Oil is such a rascal!

Lastly, Call of Cthulhu is basically the polar opposite of the M&M game mentioned previously. Where you’re playing super powered heroes in that game, in THIS game you’re playing their mild-mannered alter egos trying to solve a case. Except you don’t have the super bit and you’re detective-working a case that will pit you up against world-ending monsters who can’t be comprehended with mortal minds. The game is a lot more focused on the “role” aspect and is pretty fun to listen to and design for. Ideally, you’re playing with people who like gritty worlds full of despair and horror, but I’m willing to bet I can come up with some lightweight games that even a twelve year old could play. Heck, maybe even Tina could play!

Road Trips

Howdy everyone. Tina here.

I am currently out here in Oklahoma so that I can act as a taxi for my eldest kiddo. Taking him back and forth to Band camp and Robotics camp. I got to see a really awesome thunderstorm and have been working on some new shirt designs that I really enjoy. I have to say over all this trip has been useful. It is my first trip in a long time without Kris which made both of us super nervous. Lots of texts and phone calls. I have still had my share of panic attacks, anxiety fueled nausea, and bouts of not being able to walk without assistance. However, the major thing is, I have been able to keep going. I am still here. I am still doing all the mom things that need to be done and I am finding a way past my own problems. My husband has been an amazing support system and I still call him when I start to feel overwhelmed. However, being here and doing these things has helped me mentally to understand that I can still be a mom and get done the things that need to be done.

I love my family and every day that I get to spend out here with them helps to remind me of the love and support that I have with me in my life. My family is also learning that the young girl they knew as she grew up has matured and grown as an adult as well. That minor things that I may have blown out of proportion as a younger Tina are no longer met with world ending panic. Now I just shrug and have a more, “Welp, if I can’t fix it now, it wasn’t meant to be changed.” kind of attitude.

Seeing how I have grown based on the reactions of my family has been a blessing to be sure. It is often hard to see ourselves or our own changes because we have such an up close and issue focused perspective. If I could give you one piece of advice, it would be to allow others to grace you with the gift of their own perspective. Allow yourself to understand that what you see all the time might leave out the leaps and bounds of changes you have made. Also, I love you all. Keep your chin up and understand that what happens today doesn’t have to happen tomorrow.

Short Story Saturday the June’th

Kris here,

Komona is the final, unintroduced character played by our lovely roommate Watson. She’s a lady of …..quality, and, mystery.

_____

 

Komona’s bleary eyes opened hesitantly against the bright sunlight. She draped the comforter back over her head and stretched warmly in the darkness, soaking in the silence.

Her client was supposed to have woken her up before he left for the day, but she couldn’t hear any sign of him from her perch.

Hmm.

She rose and dressed, using the full length mirror against the wall to fix her mussed hair. It’s not like she were late for anything, but it would be nice to get out of here before the streets filled with people. Sighing, she crossed the room to her shoes and, after some last minute glancing down the halls, took the nicer pair hanging by the dresser and replaced them with her own. If someone noticed, she’d have to give them back. If no one noticed, she had a new pair of shoes. No harm in trying!

“Oh yes. OH YES.” They felt like wearing a masseuse made of clouds to rub your feet after every step. Time to make herself  scarce.

Komona floated through the hallway and down the stairs, moving through the house like a whisper. No sound from the front or the back. She strained her ears, listening for sounds of life. As she approached the kitchen, she heard a muffled banging from below.

What was that?

She entered the bright kitchen warily, cautiously stalking over to where she’d last heard the noise. Something felt…off. Where was the noise from the streets? The housekeepers?  Finally getting a good look outside, she was shocked to see it was already mid-afternoon. How long had she slept! Had her client found the sleeping poison she hid and used it on her?

She yanked the small knife holding her hair in place and checked the secret chamber. It looked full?

Yes, something was amiss.

CRACK

She leapt over the island behind her as the wall under the marble counters slammed itself almost in half.

“Who’s there?!”

She grabbed a heavy knife from the block on the island and came back around to investigate. What in the-

CRACK

Komona stared into a pair of lifeless eyes, frozen by fear. The maid’s pallid face pierced her with a hungry stare, lacerations and gouges covering the rest of the horrific head. Where did all that blood come from?

“Are you…Are you okay?”

The angry older woman growled at her and flailed at the rest of the wall keeping her trapped in the cellar, splintering it to pieces.

Wide-eyed and fearing for her life, Komona flew from the kitchen and out the front door as fast as humanly possible. She slammed the door open and bolted into the empty streets.

Wait. Empty streets? Her mind whirled a mile a minute. She stowed the knife she’d been fleeing with into a bag. Probably for the best something terrible was happening, it would’ve gotten her arrested to run about the rich quarter with a giant knife at hand. She made for the gate – best to get home to stow her payments.

But the gate was closed.

“Why is the gate closed!” She said it aloud more to make a little sound in the creepy stillness hanging over everything than to get a response. The gatehouse was closed anyway.

“That’s what we’d like to know too, but there’s nobody around to ask.”

The slender woman nearly jumped out of her new shoes. She whirled to face the woman who answered. Strong and dour, with two holstered cats at her side. The woman glared for a minute, sizing her up.

“Where did you come from anyway? We’ve been looking all over for anyone still living. Any others locked up where you came from?”

Komona looked around the stout woman to see the old man and small girl she was traveling with. “No. I suppose you three are the first living people I’ve seen today too. What happened around here? Where is everyone?”

The trio took a few minutes filling her in. A plague cure, people littering the streets like rats, the deafening quiet smothering the city.

“Wow, a lot of things happened while I was asleep. Is it really Tuesday? I’m beginning to think I overslept more than I realized. What are you guys planning from here now with everyone gone?”

“Ah, they’re around here somewhere all right. Damned rich folk always have a contingency plan up their sleeves somewhere. What are you doing here anyway? Surely you’ve seen something. Colby-Jack by the way, these are Tess and Fenton. What’s your name girl?”

Komona introduced herself. “I’m a …messenger. I was. Messenging?”

Fenton cackled until he couldn’t breathe. “A messenger she says!”

“Well Komona, you’re welcome to tag along with us if you like, especially since everyone in the main districts seem to be dead.”

“Just as long as she washes her hands!” Colby-Jack smacked Fenton’s arm and he collapsed into laughter once more.

 

Mark – Short Story Saturday

Tina here again.

What? You were expecting Kris? Well it appears that when I leave the state, his body goes into shutdown mode. Kris has been working hard at the house cleaning things up and not being able to sleep because I am not there. So when he laid down on the couch to take a breather, he passed out. And texted me in a tissy because he didn’t have his story typed out or fleshed out. Ten mins till a post is due to go up, Okay so here I am. I love doing quick writing flashes like this. I considered going with Alma, but I think Mark is hanging around waiting for his explanation.

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Mark looked over at the old woman who now sat there with sparkling eyes. “Wait, so you are going to go to the future but you get to be 25 again?”

She smiled, “Yes, I also have to take on a new name as well. I have already picked out mine and just have to wait to get there and make sure it fits in the system.”

Mark shook his head and took a small sip of the cup of tea in his hand. “Sure, Who doesn’t want to relive their teen years with the knowledge of age behind them. Sign me up for 16.”

The room was starting to fill with a smoky haze but felt no warmer then before. Mark though that he should feel…something about this. Something about smoke made his brain buzz. There was something he should be doing right now. He took another sip of the tea. Wow, this was so sweet. Was it sweet before? Looking up Mark noticed that the people that had been behind the lady were now seated next to him. He smiled. This was a lovely tea.

Bells chimed. Mark looked around the room for them. As he did the colors of the room seemed to run along his vision causing them to smear across the room. He tried to look back but this only had the effect to bring the smudges back around, clouding his vision from seeing anything but colors. Mark laughed. Well, this tea is lovely. What a beautiful sight. It reminded him of the paintings his mother used to do. He missed his mother. She was beautiful. The bells grew louder but more soothing in his brain. His brain was feeling quite warm. He closed his eyes and took a deep breath that smelled like the sweet tea.