Sloth Slow Progress

Sloth in Tree

“Work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion.”

– C. Northcote Parkinson

This quote is also, apparently, known as Parkinson’s Law. That might be apt. At least in my writing life, this rings with a lot of truth. I’ve found if a task doesn’t have a deadline, particularly a large task, then it drags on, getting done in drips and dribbles.

Water DropEarlier in the year, I let you know I’m working on editing my novel, Quaking Soul. I gave myself a large amount of time for this, thinking that a couple of pages a day should be more than doable. I had a deadline, but it was far enough out to feel vague. Now, as I look back since that post, I can see the drips and dribbles of progress on that goal. These drips and dribbles were much smaller than a couple pages a day.

SlothAnyway, sloth slow progress equals stress in my brain. Some people thrive off procrastination. Not me. I’m the odd duck who used to get the school paper done in the first week it was assigned even though we were given two months to write the darn thing.

With all this in mind, I’m putting a more pressing deadline on the Quaking Soul edit. This will affect the time I have for other writing, however. I dislike not keeping a regular schedule here on the blog because it messes with my OCD. But there’s a balance between the OCD and the stress of sloth progress.

Gah. It’s a pendulum. For now, the pendulum is swinging toward getting editing done. My goal is within the next two months. After that, I promise, I’ll come back with more adventures. There’s one already outlined =)

Until then, I wish you all an amazing, adventurous spring.

Blessings,

Jennifer

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Smuggling Hertzmer Option Aa2: Jump In

Rushing River - Smuggling Hertzmer

It’s time to see how this adventure ends, to see if you live or die, if you succeed or find yourself stuck in a fix.

If you’re just checking in, here’s a quick recap of this story: you were smuggling a halfling out of the country when three hunters came upon you. To distract the hunters from Hertzmer, the halfling, and Cam, your accomplice, you began to act crazy. You convinced the hunters you were trying to attract a brook nymph by making frost angels on the frozen grass. They insisted you take them to another meadow to try attracting the nymph again. When you arrived, the nymph offered to either wash the three hunters down stream, or to take you to safety but you have to jump into the cold water for her to help you. The vote went for jumping into the water. (If you’d like to read the first three posts, click here, here and here.)

Now, let’s jump in!

Smuggling Hertzmer Option Aa2. Jump In

Water Droplet“You should jump in,” the nymph whispers in your ear. Her voice has gone from excited and slightly teasing, to subdued.

When you glance at the water droplet on your shoulder, it no longer shows the distorted reflection of your ear, but reflects the three hunters who are throwing rocks into the rushing brook and hollering for the nymph to show herself.

“Jump in, human,” she says again, “let’s be away from these scoundrels.”

Somehow, her change in tone is comforting. Instead of possibly tossing you around like a rag doll, she might focus on simply getting you away.

The water hits you like a slap in the face. It’s entirely fed by the spring runoff from the mountains and, as it sucks the air from your body, you have no doubt the rushing brook carries water that was snow only days, perhaps even hours, before.

With your hands and feet bound, you quickly find there’s no way to navigate the water either. It floods over your face and swirls you around until up and down mean nothing.

Rushing RiverBreathe, human, the nymph’s voice sounds in your head.

I can’t breathe water!

Breathe, she insists.

Even if you wanted to argue, your body starts to guppy breathe despite your attempt to hold in your last breath.

Giving in, you suck in—air? Your eyes pop open. The nymph giggles. She’s created a bubble around your face. The rushing brook still swirls and throws you around but you can see the rocky bottom one moment, and the glimmering surface the next.

They hollered like stuck pigs when you washed by! The nymph chortles. But they’re not bold enough to jump in.

You hiccup a relieved giggle and the nymph takes that as a cue to laugh in glee.

Look there, human, she says, laughter still lightening her tone. That’s where the fish like to stay when the sun goes down. And over there, that tree joined my waters seasons ago. She guides you around the long branches of the fallen pine. So much debris has collected in the branches, logs, leaves, even small rocks, that it’s almost a dam. Luckily, the tree’s not tall enough to span to the far side of the water and the nymph carefully takes you through the gurgling portion where the water funnels.

LakeFinally, her brook spills out into a familiar lake that borders town on the north end. The nymph stops you just before you’re washed into the larger body of water.

I can go no further. The lake nymph is—fickle. You ignore the irony in her statement.

Thank you, you tell her as she deposits you onto the bank of the brook.

Jump in anytime, she giggles, I like a human who’s willing to trust me.

You grin even though your entire body is numb from the freezing water. You lie back on the rocky bank and soak in the sun until the tingling in your limbs subsides. You’re just about to stand when a shadow falls across your face.

Squinting, you find yourself looking at a tall, slender woman. She sways in place and her long, silvery hair shifts back and forth with her subtle motion. Dark gray eyes watch you.

“The brook put you here?” she asks.

Considering the brook’s comment about the lake nymph, you slowly nod. This woman looks like the brook nymph, except she seems more solemn. There aren’t a lot of bodies of water around for her to call home.

“She said you were escaping from some hunters, she said you trusted her with your life.”

Again, you give a nod.

“Then you should know the hunters beat you to town. They’ve started searching the far side of the lake, and they’ve gathered a large party to help them.”

With that, the lake nymph dissolves and flows back into the water.

***

You evade the hunters repeatedly with the help of the local nymphs. Although it’s a hard life, you take it as an advantage. If they’re searching for you, they can’t really search for halflings, so after a while, you take it as your personal goal to keep them distracted while Cam continues to smuggle halflings from the country.

The End

Well done! You survived and made some new nymph friends.

Thank you for joining in this adventure =)

Until next time, blessings,

Jennifer

Smuggling Hertzmer Option A. Act Crazy

Snowy Footprint -Smuggling Hertzmer Adventure

Welcome back to the next part in this adventure!

Last Thursday, you tried to smuggle a halfling, Hertzmer, out of the country, but three hunters have come upon you in the meadow where you passed Hertzmer to Cam so she can get him to the boarder. The problem? Hertzmer left large, distinctive prints in the frosty grass. You have to do something to hide those prints before the three hunters can see them. Let’s put our crazy faces on and see what happens =) (If you’re interested in reading last week’s post, click here.)

Smuggling Hertzmer Option A. Act Crazy

The hunters are almost close enough now to see the frosty prints. Whether it’s a good idea or not, it’s time to do something.

You grin at them over your shoulder before throwing your hands wide, twisting and flopping down into the cold grass on your back.

Snow Angel - Smuggling Hertzmer Adventure“Weeeeeee!” you squeal as you swing your arms and legs, making a frost angel like all the kids used to do in the snow. The motion brushes the remaining footprints away but you continue flapping your arms and legs while grinning at the three men.

They pause, varying looks of confusion covering their bearded faces.

The closest man, a sun-wrinkled scarecrow of a person, finally steps closer and kicks the sole of your foot. “Stop that now,” he demands.

You scamper to your feet and pivot around to look at the frost angel. “Did it work? Did it work?!” you exclaim. The angel’s wings are perfectly shaped in the crusted grass. However, where the hunter kicked you, there’s a weird smudge. “Ah, man,” you say, pointing at the spot, “gotta try again!” With a couple steps, you clear the disturbed area, twist around and flop onto your back again.

“Hey now,” Scarecrow shouts. “Enough!”

“But it’s got to be perfect or she won’t come!” you swing your arms with more gusto.

One of Scarecrow’s companions leans toward him and whispers none too softly; “Don’t think this one’s right up stairs, if you know what I mean.”

“Who won’t come?” the third hunter, a burly bear of a man wearing a tattered fur jacket, demands while he fingers the axe hanging from his hip.

“The nymph!” you say. “She’s a tricky one, but if you get the frost angel just right, she grants you a wish.”

The hunters trade glances.

“Think I’ve heard of this nymph,” the one man mutters, again none too softly.

Bear smacks him on the arm. “You’ve heard of everything. Doesn’t make it true.”

“Could be true,” Mutters, as you dub the none-too-quiet whisperer/mutter, insists.

The three hunters have now moved to circle you where you lay in the grass, still swinging your arms. While they argue, you chance a glance toward the tree line. Cam and Hertzmer’s faces can just be seen watching from the underbrush. You’re still too close for them to safely move away.

“Awe, man!” you exclaim, interrupting the three hunters. “Look at all the areas you guys have messed up. It’s got to be a pristine meadow for the nymph to show up. Gotta find a new one.” You scramble to your feet and turn as though about to run off.

A beefy hand clamps down on your shoulder. “Where do you think you’re going?” asks Bear.

“The nymph likes certain spots. Pristine spots,” you say pointedly with a look at the meadow. “There’s another one up the hill a ways.”

Scarecrow - Smuggling Hertzmer AdventureScarecrow strokes his beard as he considers this. It takes everything you have not to look toward the trees when he sends a glob of spit flying in that direction from the side of his mouth.

“You’re going to help us find this nymph,” he finally says. “Now lead the way.”

Bear takes his cue and turns you in the direction you were about to run. “No funny stuff,” he says as he gives your shoulder a shove.

You stumble ahead of them, leading the three hunters away from Cam and Hertzmer. Now that you know they’re safe, you start to consider your own situation. You do know a nymph in these woods. She’s a brook naiad and she’s a friend of yours, but she’s not always the most reliable creature. With an impish nature, she’s just as likely to dump water, lots of it, on your head than she is to help you get away from the hunters. At the same time, if her mood’s right, she might wash the hunters downstream too.

Her brook also happens to be in the same direction as the Avalanche Swath, a steeply sided pass that’s well known for snow slides. With the recent snow that’s hit the higher passes, the Swath will be prime for just such a slide. But you typically avoid the place, not because of the snow, but because of the Rock Giants who call the place home.

Do you lead the Hunters to the…

Aa. Nymph?

Or

Ab. The Avalanche Swath?

Leave your vote in the comments below. We’ll return next Thursday with part three of this adventure. For now, thanks for joining the fun!

Blessings,

Jennifer

Smuggling Hertzmer

Frosted Meadow

Welcome back for a brand new adventure =)

Smuggling Hertzmer

Frost layers the bushes and trees and even the long bladed grass in the meadow with a coating of thick white crystals. No breath of wind touches those layered plants and the soft scampering of a squirrel can be heard in the near silence. To most, the early morning stillness hanging over the meadow would appear normal, just like any of a dozen other meadows you might find in the clear rays of morning sun. But this is no normal place. A faint smell, chamomile and lavender, sweetens the frost scent in the air.

“She’s not here,” Hertzmer grumbles at your shoulder. Even though his deep voice is soft, it breaks the silence like the hollow thud of a drum. The squirrel chatters at him in startled agitation.

You shoot a glare his way and then give a long sniff.

He copies your action by breathing deeply through his thick mustache. Perhaps the mustache muffles the scent. It takes him several sniffs to pick up the chamomile and lavender, but then a grin breaks through his bush of a beard.

He almost stands but you catch his arm to remind him to stay put. The chatter of the squirrel has finally stopped and nothing stirred when it burst forth but that does not mean no one is watching.

You know, for one, that Cam is out there somewhere. Until she shows herself, you are to stay hidden.

Finally, after several more nervous minutes of waiting, something moves in the tree line to your left.

A thin figure motions for you to join her with the pre-arranged signal of three fingers against her lips.

You’re not fast enough this time to catch Hertzmer. He bolts toward Cam’s position by the most direct path possible, straight across the frosted meadow. His steps leave large ovals in the otherwise undisturbed grass.

Cam’s original signal turns into a gasp of dismay. Unless the day turns unusually warm, those prints wont disappear for hours. They sit there like beacons for anyone who might happen by, for although Hertzmer’s broad chest and gruff exterior might be deceiving, he’s still a halfling who walks around bare footed. The print of his big toe sticks out like it’s pointing the way.

If anyone sees those, they’re sure to follow Cam and Hertzmer. Like all other halflings, he’s been banned from the country. A person would follow just for the bounty of gold they’d receive when they turned him in to the magistrate.

On all of your dozens of missions to smuggle halflings to safety, you’ve stopped here and let Cam take them the rest of the way to the boarder, but you can’t leave those prints.

Frosted Tree - Smuggling HertzmerWith a dead branch in hand, you begin to dance through the meadow, brushing away both halfling and human prints alike.

“Hey,” shouts an unfamiliar male voice. “What’re you doing there?”

You freeze. Three prints remain in front of you as you look over your shoulder toward the voice. As you do, Cam pulls Hertzmer backward to melt into the tree line.

Three men emerge from the trees across the meadow. They carry that look about them, the frayed clothing and the mismatched weaponry, that warns they’re hunters. Unscrupulous and unshaven, such men will do anything for a bounty.

They walk your way with suspicious expressions. If they get much closer, they’ll see the few remaining prints and be hot on Cam’s trail. Probably after disposing of you because they wouldn’t want to chance you’re a hunter too.

Do you act crazy to distract them or run to mislead them?

A. Act Crazy?

Or

B. Run?

Thank you for joining in this adventure. Leave your vote in the comments below. We’ll return next Thursday to follow whichever option received the most votes =)

Blessings,

Jennifer

The Path

Aspen Path

Have you ever been on a hike, enjoying the sun shining through the foliage overhead, the smell of pine and spruce on the wind, and then seen something off the path that you had to investigate? A lean-to someone left behind, a meadow filled with spring flowers, a mountain peak that begged for a picture. But when you looked back, things didn’t look the same and the path was no longer visible.

The day’s still beautiful, the sun still shining, but there’s that moment of sharp panic, the thought that you might be lost.

You’re still out in nature, technically where you wanted to be for the day, but the thrill, the enjoyment, is overshadowed, and only when you find the path again does the brightness of the day bring you joy again.

This is self-publishing. It’s a hike—work—but greatly enjoyable. The writing, the editing, the formatting, and even the marketing are all part of it. But once the book’s created, once I’m working on sharing it with others, that’s where I tend to leave the path. I follow a flower here, a mountain lake there and even enter a long-abandoned cabin to see where others have gone before me.

But when I look back, I’ve lost the path, my enjoyment of writing has been deeply shadowed because I’ve lost the thing that leads me forward.

AspensThat path, that clear, meandering trail, is hidden. I’m still out, technically where I want to be, exploring the world of being an author, but without the trail, I’m wandering aimlessly, especially if I go too far.

The passion to write, the clear, if meandering, trail that creates new worlds and fills a story with magic, is my path. Some people are gifted musicians, some speakers, some organizers. For me, I was created a writer. And getting back to the seed of that is where I find renewed joy.

The Adventure has been my start. It was my trailhead and I will continue to reference it as such. (Marketing is never done=)).

Now it’s time to return to the path and continue on, to turn and head up the mountain. Several novels, not adventure stories, lie dormant in my archives. One, in particular, has received great feedback from beta readers.

Let me introduce Quaking Soul, an urban fantasy story about a dryad. After all my rambling, I’ll cut to the chase. My goal is to publish Quaking Soul (QS) next. I originally thought to have it ready by the end of this year, but as I’ve revisited the writing, I’m finding my timeline was super ambitious. QS was written back in 2014. As any long time writer can tell you, the writing ability grows and matures the longer one consistently works at it, much like learning to climb. You start out by powering up the wall on puny strength alone. It’s exhausting and, to anyone watching, it lacks any finesse. Over time, the climber learns technique that allows for more difficult climbs that, to a bystander, look more like a dance than a climb. I need to take QS from a strength-alone climb to something that flows with finesse.

Right now QS is in my personal edits stage. I’ll update as things progress, but in the meantime, I’ll keep the adventure stories rolling, they might just be a little more sporadic =) Thank you for sharing in this journey with me!

Blessings,

Jennifer

 

One Story at a Time

Z Publishing House - Colorado's 2018 Emerging Writers

I must confess, I’ve not been good about submitting my short stories for publication lately. There’s a catch-22 usually with publishing. You have to be published to get published. It’s frustrating but really all this means is, like in most any job, you start at the bottom and work your way up. Not everyone succeeds this way, but it’s the most common way of getting your name into the publishing world.

Usually, when I get a short story written, I’m not self controlled enough to keep it to myself, I like to share with you all the story I managed to get out of my head onto paper, but if I post the story on the blog, most publications consider it already published and don’t want it. So the majority of my short stories aren’t submittable.

There are some publications, however, that don’t care if the story has already been ‘published’ as long as the author still owns all the rights. Since mine have been posted here, I still control all the rights.

z publishing logoZ Publishing House, thankfully, is this way. They like to highlight up-and-coming writers in different genres and different locations. (Yes, this is the publication that accepted Wizard’s Coffee from me last year.)

This year they decided to expand their story selection by allowing stories up to 5,000 words. This opened a world of choices for me since I tend to be long winded.

All this to say, they’ve accepted a story of mine called The Eye for their 2019 Up and Coming Writers! EEEEK!

I don’t yet have a publication date for this, but I believe it’ll be later this year. I’ll update you as soon as I know more.

Just sharing my excitement for now! Good luck in your own endeavors =)

Blessings,

Jennifer

Outcasts Option Ab: Follow the Wolfhounds

Wolf - Outcasts Adventure

This was a close vote but following the wolfhounds won out by one!

If you missed the previous two posts, you can read them here: Outcasts and Outcasts Option A. North Aqueducts.

Or, here’s a recap: You and a group of other outcasts, who have been ostracized due to various illnesses, have decided to enter the abandoned city of Calla Sadum in hopes of finding cures to your ailments. Most of the group were swallowed into a pit before ever reaching the gate. You, with your leprosy, and a heavily burned man named Angus, decided to enter the city through an aqueduct system his granpap used to rave about. The Aqueducts got you in all right, but you were dropped into an underground city full of walking skeleton creatures. It doesn’t look like you’ll find any cures down here, but maybe you can help the rest of the group. You’ve decided to follow a pack of wolfhound skeletons in hopes of finding the other outcasts.

Let’s see where your choice leads!

Outcasts Option Ab. Follow the Wolfhounds

The underground city’s full of skeleton creatures wandering around as though living regular lives. You see bird skeletons hopping around on the roof of a nearby house, pecking at the lichen like growth covering the tiles. One decides to fly off only to realize after jumping that its bone wings don’t hold it in the air. It clatters to the stone below and bursts into individual bones.

Wings - Outcasts Adventure“Ooof,” Angus mutters and then he sucks air in past his teeth as the bones rattle on the stone for a moment and knit themselves back together into a bird.

You move on and see two ferret skeletons working to hang a sign over the doorway of another house by standing on each other’s shoulders.

You and Angus don’t wait around to see one of them tumble to pieces on the ground. The sight of one skeleton pulling itself together was enough.

The hounds are easy to follow as they create a kind of wave among the other creatures. Everything gives them a wide space in which to pass. Finally, after an interminable amount of time, they pass below the city by taking a staircase underneath what looks like a castle.

Fire Below, you and Angus pause in the darkened hall of the stairs because they open into another cavern. This one doesn’t have buildings or skeleton creatures. Large pits dot the floor, highlighted by small fires burning at their rims.

Angus grasps your arm. He stares at the fires and runs his free hand down the puckered scars on his face.

You nudge him with an elbow and point to the wolfhounds.

They’re circled around a pit to your right. One of them holds a bright gold goblet in its mouth while the others let down a ladder into the pit. A moment later, the Commander’s dark head pops up at the rim. He looks around, hesitating at all the skeleton hounds watching.

Several hounds growl. It makes a hollow tone like their bones are rattling against each other. The Commander needs no further encouragement to hurry up the ladder.

The hound with the goblet approaches and lifts its chin, offering the golden cup with a toothy grin.

Goblet - Outcasts AdventureAlthough the Commander tucks his hands behind his back, there’s a gleam in his eyes. The firelight catches the sheen off the gold as the hound lifts its head higher and growls at him.

He raises his hands and still hesitates, but then licking his lips, he accepts the goblet and caresses the gold at the rim.

The hounds hum. They sit back on their haunches.

Angus’ grip on your arm grows tighter.

The Commander drops the goblet and the nearest hound catches it before it clatters to the floor. Even from where you stand, the look of shock on the Commander’s face is clear. He shudders. You blink as his face becomes indistinct like you’re seeing it in a cloudy mirror. His skin floats away, dust on a cold breeze. For a moment his human bones are visible but then he hunches over and disappears within the group of hounds. When they back away, there’s a baby hound skeleton sitting with its head cocked to the side, clearly confused by its surroundings.

“Is that—?” Angus chokes.

“Commander?” hollers a voice that bounces around the cavern. “Commander, you there? You all right?” It’s a high-pitched voice.

“The blind boy,” you whisper.

The young hound glances down into the pit the Commander climbed from and gives a whine with that same tilt to his head. A thinner adult hound nudges it away with its snout and begins to play with the youngster by jumping over the smaller pits.

“Commander?” calls the boy’s voice but by this time, none of the hounds pay it any attention.

“We can’t leave him,” Angus says.

You have to agree. Being blind, the goblet might not lure the boy as it did the Commander, but then what would the wolfhounds do? If someone doesn’t accept the gold, what’s the alternative?

“We could try to capture the hounds in a pit?” Angus suggests even though he’s still rubbing a thumb over his facial scars. Surely luring the hounds into a pit would force you close to those fires.

“We could sneak the boy out?” you counter.

“What if he’s not the only survivor?”

You exchange looks and then Angus gives a shrug. The hand still holding your arm trembles, but he’s game for whatever you think best.

Ab1. Capture the Pack?

Or

Ab2. Sneak People Out?

You’ve succeeded in finding the rest of the group! Leave your vote in the comments regarding how you’d like to proceed in attempting to save them. We’ll be back next Thursday to see how this adventure ends.

Until then, blessings,

Jennifer