Short story Wednesday!

Kris here,

It’s sadly been a while since I’ve posted any short stories, so I figured I’d give it a go. I saw a 30 minute writing sprint pop up in a discord channel I’m subscribed to and Tina said “do it!”, then told me to write a Snowflake story. All I had were a pen and paper, but if my ancestors could do it, then dangit so can I. Snowflake is a snow wolf in the novel I’m writing and she’s been a favorite of anyone who’s read the story so far, so I wrote her last day before meeting our protagonist::
_______
Birds chirping merrily in the treetops were her first sensation.

Damn birds she growled.

She’d been up until the sun shone through the treetops hunting, those birds better have a good reason for making this much noise. Yawning quietly, she stretched liberally and padded off to find her pack.

Striding into the clearing, she sniffed tentatively. The strong haze of blood smothered her nostrils, stinging in the frigid air. The wind ruffled her fur pleasantly and took the odor with it, leaving her wanting for the spoils of last night. Curious, she allowed herself to follow the scent on the wind, keeping an eye out for her pack. They should be around here somewhere. The screaming started then, tingling along her spine like an itch.

Seemingly coming from nowhere and everywhere, the high pitched wail suffocated the forest with its persistence. The savage squealing was getting louder with every passing day, alongside whatever screeches and echoes it had accompanied these many, many days. Her pack had discussed hunting down the annoyance before it could become a threat, but surely they’d have awoken her before leaving? The unearthly wail cut short, a deafening silence rising to take its place. Snow crunching beneath her feet seemed to echo in the trees.

She returned to the cave to look for clues, and food. The place smelled heavily of fresh kills and dominance, but nothing abnormal. While she poked around, that shrill screaming started up once more, the caverns around her suddenly feeling much more threatening and malicious as they carried the echoes to and fro. She stalked outside, pinpointing the sounds’ source, determined to do whatever it took to shut it up for good.

A single howl, its baritone note piercing right through her, stilled her feet. The warning call signaled trouble.

Her pack!

The thought of her siblings blazed in the front of her mind. Flying off in a blur of powder and permafrost, she’d gone a hundred steps before she even realized she was moving. Ducking and leaping from side to side to avoid the thick, twisted branches that threatened to ensnare her frenzied journey, she sped at a breakneck pace until she could make out individual yelps just over the ridge. Relying on sound now to guide her path, she rounded the hilltop and ran into a fog of stench like a cave wall – the copper and earth smells mixing into an overwhelming cacophony of death. She bounded out of the scraggly winter foliage into a clearing and the blood froze in her veins.

In the valley below she made out a few of her own brothers and sisters alongside many pack-mates from further away. They were all locked in a lethal struggle with hideously deformed, yet diminutive little creatures. Their broad tails and beady eyes were but deformed mockeries. Wicked fangs jutted from every jaw, and dirty, clawed hands all gripped long branches that they used to keep the wolves at bay. She watched her only younger brother clamp down onto the throat of one of the monsters proudly. Her pride was replaced with grief, and then rage as he was surrounded and stabbed over and over with those same sticks.

Racing downhill like a scream, she barreled into the monsters attacking her brother in a flurry of teeth and claws, maiming 2 and feeling the snap of another’s neck before they backed out of range. She felt, more than heard, the growl of thanks from beneath her, and glanced down to see his eyes close for the last time. Her ears rang with the din of the anguished howl she didn’t remember starting. Anguish fueled the rage boiling inside her. She felt the sharpened spike scrape against her ribs as the monsters approached.

Come to me

She revealed the grin only the feast of a wolf can ever see, and tore one of the creatures in half before he could raise his accursed stick. The others raised theirs to ward her off, but she lodged them into herself with a leap and crashed down into the middle of them. The creatures hissed and snapped at her, the expression they kept when she separated them from their heads. Time slowed down and skipped by her all at once. Nothing existed outside this clearing, nothing mattered but revenge against those who dared to hunt her family. To hunt HER.

Seeing two of them carrying a dead wolf on their flattened tails, she sprang through the air, determined to kill them all at any cost. She crushed one beneath her into a fallen tree and watched it impale him, before realizing too late that she was next. Refusing to show pain, she motored her arms and legs, demanding them to work through sheer will. Those limbs refused her orders, weakly scratching the dead brute she lay atop.

Damn it!

She rocked the tree side to side in a vain effort to break it. She’d gathered quite a crown now and warily eyed the remaining bastards who encircled her. They tightened the circle just the tiniest bit too far and paid for it as she bit into the eyes of the biggest one. His screams rang into the darkening sky as he clutched at his face, yelling and hissing at those nearest him. They each backed away now, keeping a healthy distance. They squeaked and hissed at one another, before finally climbing the hill at her back. After a moment, the air was filled with the crunch of wood and an explosion of splinters rained all around her as they brought down a tree on top of her.

She watched as they stacked monster and wolf alike into a wheeled wooden box and disappeared into the shadowed wood. She growled, then whimpered, and sank into the darkness.

____

The snap of a branch whipped her into reality. Such a nice dream she was having, a pity she still lived.

She honed into the scent of an approaching…human? She watched through droopy eyes as it came closer. Another snapped branch made her twitch, setting off a river of pain flowing throughout her entire body. Growling, she narrowed her eyes as it approached, waiving a chunk of flesh…

A brief howdy-do from Kris

Kris here,

I’ve been practicing that drawing thing I chatted about last time, but I don’t want all my posts to be about the same thing. That could get boring. Here’s an updated 5 minute go at Bob Moss! I didn’t really get very far but I definitely think the shape is better than last time. I thought it would be fun to jump face-first back into drawing and decided to make an entry for a contest put out by a youtuber I’ve been following – the details are in this video if anyone is interested; I don’t want to throw all the details around. Let’s see if you can guess the two I chose – I definitely have work to do! Here’s my current status –

 

 

Enough about that, what about you guys? November is coming up and it’s a great time where we pretend to be responsible and write ten million 50,000 words on a novel to further enrich the literary content of the world. I’ve been doing a lot of world and game designing, working outside, lots of non-novel writing this year, so I thought I’d give it a good run this time around. My story from last year is sitting at about 40,000 words already and I can’t imagine I’m going over 100,000 with this thing, presumably I can get it pounded out for a first draft. We’ve started the pre-month hype on the Undercroft NanoWrimo page over on Facebook – swing on by (and request an invite) if you’re looking to hang out with some like-minded writing types!

So what big projects do we all have going on?

Kris is terrible at drawing

Kris here,

I thought I’d made this week a bit picture heavy and start my “stop sucking” drawing thing that I mentioned 2 weeks ago. I used to be a… proficient, artist. I haven’t done any of it for about 10 years, because it was worse than doing the dishes. But lately, I’ve been losing that mindset  – thanks to my adorable wife – and figured I’d put my skills to the test. I’ve always been a big advocate of “everyone can draw, you just need to practice.”

I decided to start three different images – one from my imagination, one from a reference, and one from an actual object. The first is “Bob Moss”, a big tree guy that I just thought would be amusing to draw. The second is a tripod that definitely wasn’t just sitting a foot away from me after I finished Bob Moss and THAT’S why I chose it – that was my real object. And Tina suggested I draw a Squid she painted a while back for my image from reference- it’s a cute squid, sure I’ll draw it.

One thing I learned from this experience is that…I should probably scan the pictures next time, instead of taking pictures. Another thing to do is probably to draw my sketches lightly on the back of the 5 minute drawings, because this paper was VERY thin, or it’s just easy to smudge graphically. I drew most of this with a mechanical pencil, except the squid, which was a normal wooden pencil. Which was way better, I have to say.

I spent 5 minutes on each drawing for 1 image, then I spent 30 seconds of warm-up, a sketch of the object for 30, 60 and 90 seconds, and then a second 5 minute draw. The warm-up thing is just to loosen your hand up a bit – just draw some shapes or whatever makes your drawing hand comfy. I’m not sure the best format to actually show the images – I was thinking of just pasting them right here, but that would be pretty confusing I think and might look weird. I’ve posted them to imgur for now, and I’ll see how that works for the time being.  Let me know if it’s better to just post the pics on the post – it’ll be more to look at all at once, but will also save a couple of clicks!

Click the links to view the pics, feel free to follow along at home on your journey to become an amazing artist! Feel free to giggle, I definitely did.

Bob Moss the tree guy –
Sketches: https://imgur.com/t0OktYz 
1st 5 minute: https://imgur.com/Cupzgrt
2nd 5 minute: https://imgur.com/hN4nm2l

The Tripod of Convenience –
Sketches: https://imgur.com/Gf4Cetv
1st 5 minute: https://imgur.com/3WycvTp
2nd 5 minute: https://imgur.com/2Rw1gxB

And Finally, Squidly the painting (I need to actually photograph the painting still…foreplanning!) –

Sketches:  https://imgur.com/xkzvriR
1st 5 minute: https://imgur.com/dGrAH9i
2nd 5 minute: https://imgur.com/qZTJRba

As you can see, my artistic skills are incredible. I’ve decided to stick with pencil for now. Once we’re happy with our progress, we’ll spread out into other mediums, don’t even worry about it. If you get inspired to draw along, choose an object in real life, an object from a picture or drawing, or just something you concoct in your own head, and have fun with it!

Hello world!

Helloooooo lovely internet people! Kris here,

We accidentally wound up taking an impromptu hiatus from the blog for a couple of weeks while Zack was visiting last month. We hope nobody wept in sorrow for more than a week in our absence.

The blog has been a sort of litmus test of life for us for the past year or so honestly. I can generally spot the completed blog post amidst the flaming wreckage of my day to day and say “yes, I am a successful man.” The last couple of weeks have been pretty wild, so I’m looking forward to go back to being a crotchety, boring old guy with a blog with which to shout. Get off my lawn!

Tina and I spent a couple of days each week kind of going back and forth and ultimately blobbing onto the floor in a comical fashion until the deadline flew off without us. Looking back, we’ve been updating relatively frequently for about a year and a half, or about a hundred posts. That’s pretty amazing honestly; when Tina approached me with an idea for a blog, I was wholly against it. What am I going to even write about? I don’t have anything to tell these people. Who’s going to read it? There’s so many google entries on the stuff I already know. My dear wife was like “Kris it’s totally fine. There’s so many entries on Google anyway, nobody’s going to read what you write. It’s just a writing exercise, kind of like a public diary. Write it because if you don’t, I’ll cry.”

So I was coerced into being so long-winded you see? All the stuff I just go on and on about, totally and responsibly pushing responsibility off onto someone who isn’t here to defend herself. It’s fine, I do it all the time.

While we were out, Tina and I discussed what we should do with the Keyboard couple blog in the future. It’s pretty unlikely everyone up and decided to become illustrious authors simply due to my amazing writing tips, and we’ve branched out quite a bit on what we’re capable of in the last year or more. When we first started, I was pretty good at video games and, like taking out the garbage sometimes. I could make a mean spaghetti. Forcing myself to stay active just so I had something to chat about has helped me grow quite a bit honestly. I’ve started up two worldbuilding projects, a novel that I’ll never finish (#editors note: yes you will!), a tabletop RPG. We’ve been wanting to branch out what we’re able to accomplish on Keyboardcouple though. As an example, I was recently reminded about how I always hop on a soap box and rant about people who complain that artists are just so danged good at what they do.

My wife and I have moved to opposite sides of the spectrum in the last 7 years in this regard; I went to an art school, I spent a decade drawing and experimenting with art, and by heck if I didn’t just absolutely hate it by the time I moved south. My wife on the other hand, wasn’t very practiced in any kind of art when we met, but she liked to dabble and had so much passion for making stuff. One thing led to another, and here we are – she’s an amazing artist, and I’m actually terrible. This is a great opportunity to put my…pencil? Where my mouth is? No, but I can make a few entries about how you guys are all just great artists pre-greatness by showing my own path to improvement. I believe in you all.

A few other ideas we’ve had include YouTube videos, either showcasing some game or drawing we happen to be working on or playing, some learning posts about constructing a language from scratch (which is amazing and I want it,) or just keeping up our tradition of throwing words at a computer and demanding it to make them legible.

We definitely want to thank everyone who’s hung out with us over the last year and half, it’s been a great ride. Feel free to drop a message or email us anytime if there’s any questions or specific topics you’d like to see us talk about and we’ll be delighted to hear from you!

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!

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!

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.