Fort and Light

Fort - Fort and Light Adventure

A new adventure awaits you! Let’s jump right in and see where it takes us.

Fort and Night

“Hello, -ello, -ello, -llo, -llo.”

You stop mid-step. The shout fades until only silence surrounds you but you’re sure someone just hollered from within the old fort.

With a slow turn, you look back at the barracks of the war monument. The park ranger is shutting the gate and you’re one of the last people to leave as the sun sinks behind the concrete walls of the fortress on the river. You spent the last several hours exploring the dripping tunnels of the place, enjoying the history described on the small placards placed throughout the monument, but now that dusk is quickly laying its fingers across the place, you don’t really want to hang out.

“Hello, -ello, -ello, -llo, -llo.”

This time you’re sure it’s a man’s voice, echoing out of the fort. When you glance back toward the gate, the ranger’s swinging it closed. It’s not a big deal. You’re parked on the other side and there’s a footpath for visitors to bypass the gate on foot, but with the clank of the metal latch sliding home, it becomes chillingly clear that you’re the last one in the park and the ranger didn’t hear the voice.

“Hello?” you call into the fort.

Unlike with the echo, your voice doesn’t seem to travel far into the structure.

“Shine the light, -ight, -ight, ght.” Comes the clear reply.

Intrigued, you retrace your steps to the closest, heavy metal door into the barracks. It’s cracked open, so you duck your head through to peek inside. Beyond is pitch black, so maybe the man is talking about needing light to get out. Maybe your phone light with work. You switch on the built-in light on your cell phone, and squeeze between the heavy door and the wall to enter the damp room beyond.

You stumble. Not because your foot catches something but because the world around shifts with a stomach jarring blur. After blinking half a dozen times, your vision clears and you give a surprised gurgle in your throat.

The light in your hand is no longer a phone but a heavy, old-fashioned flashlight. Instead of a pitch-black barracks room, you’re surrounded by metal-framed beds covered with thin mattresses, and along the ceiling hang lights with metal cages around them.

“Shine the light, -ight, -ight, ght.”

This time your ear tunes into the source of that echoing voice. On the far wall is a small, hollow tube. From it comes the voice like in the child’s game played with tin cans and a string except it actually seems to project the voice into the room.

With five strides, you stand before that hollow tube. “What?” you ask into it.

“There’s a boat on the river. Get up top and shine the light, -ight, -ight, -ght,” comes the reply.

To the left of the tube is a dark hallway. You know from your earlier exploration that at the end of that hallway is a ladder up to the observation deck that gives a clear view of the river beyond the fort.

Curious, you head down the hall, passing a man who’s lighting the stove in the small kitchen on the left just before you head up the ladder. It’s kind of a relief when your head emerges into the cool night air at the top. Unlike with your earlier exploration, however, the fort is alive with activity on the observation deck.

Seeing you, a man shouts, “what orders?”

“Um, light?” you say.

Instantly, the man translates this into, “BOAT!” His shout sends the hive of activity into chaos as men scamper to respond.

“Get up here!” he hollers. “Get that thing lit.”

It’s only because he points that you know what he’s talking about. To the left on a high platform sits a lighthouse with a massive, unlit lantern inside. When ignited, the mirrors around it allow a person to shine a solid beam of light across the river.

Responding to the command in his voice, you scamper off the last rung of the ladder and toward the light tower. About halfway there, you realize you’ve only your small lighter in your pocket to work with.

On instinct, you reach into your pocket and find, just like your cell phone-turned-flashlight, the light in your pocket is now a rattling box of matches.

The lit wood stove in the kitchen below flashes through your mind. You could run below for a brand from the stove or you could try the matches in your pocket.

As the choice looms before you, movement out on the river catches your eye.

“It’s a Jolly Roger,” says one man closer to the observation deck railing. He cups a hand around his ear and, as you listen, you hear the sharp snap of a flag being caught by the wind.

Do you light the lantern with…

A. A brand from the kitchen?

Or

B. Your matches?

Leave your vote in the comments below. We’ll return next Thursday to see if you get the light tower lit before the pirates pass the fort.

Thanks for joining this adventure!

Blessings,

Jennifer

(If you liked this story and are interested in more adventures, you can find my book, The Adventure, on Amazon.)

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Crystal Pit of Time Option Ab1: Return the Coins to the Clock

Crystal Pit of Time

Pt. 1: You were caught steeling bread. The king sentenced you to seven days in the crystal pits and gave you a tiny coin clock that counts down your sentence. It’s unlikely you’ll survive the pits alone, so when you meet a strange young man who sounds old, you hope he can help you survive, but he tells you to pitch the small clock before following him. Reader’s voted to pitch the clock instead of hiding it. (If you’d like to read the beginning, click here.)

Pt. 2: You pitched the coin clock and a pit worm ate it. Then Andrew, the strange young/old man, took you to a group of people who have managed to survive in the pits. They’re pretty sure the coin clocks are somehow aging those they’re given to and readers have voted to sneak into the library to see if they can figure out what’s happening. (If you’d like to read part two in full, click here.)

Pt 3: When you sneak into the library, you find a book with drawings of the large clock that sits above the king’s throne. However, before you can really read the book, you’re captured and brought before the king, who sentences you to the pits again. As he’s pulling more coin clocks out of the base of the big clock, one of your fellow companions points out that there are small spots in the drawing of the big clock for the coins to be returned to. You’ve no idea what’ll happen but readers voted to try and return the coins. (If you’d like to read part three, click here.)

Here goes your mad dash to reach the big clock!

Crystal Pit of Time Option Ab1. Return the Coins to the Clock

Clock - Crystal Pit of TimeThe tiny clock that the king slid across the floor toward you comes to rest right at your toes. In the silence that follows, the ticking seems to bounce off the marble floor and your eyes settle on the number seven in the small window at the bottom of the round device.

You crouch to pick the thing up and give the other three a sideways glance. For whatever reason, they’re looking at you for direction. Your fingers curl around the copper coin.

“Give me your clocks,” you say at the same moment as you pick up the coin and step away from the nearest guard.

Lily grins. Instead of picking up her clock, she follows the king’s example and slides it across the floor. The other two, who paused at your words, do the same.

“Stop it!” the king commands, but you’re already moving and the other three have moved as well.

You dodge the nearest guard who tries to catch Lily’s clock with his boot. He misses and you scoop up the coin right after his boot comes down with a heavy thud. Seconds later, Lily’s small body slams into the man from the side. For such a small woman, she’s all the guard can handle and you easily retrieve the other two coins while Andrew and Simon distract the guards nearest them.

That leaves you and the king to face each other alone.

A snarl lifts his lips and adds wrinkles to his already aged face.

“This’ll bring you the death sentence,” he growls.

“This was already a death sentence,” you say.

He flinches and give a nervous glance at the large clock over his shoulder, which just strengthens your resolve.

ThroneYou feign to the left and, when he commits to blocking you on the steps before the throne, you dodge right and jump the three steps in a simple leap. Your soft shoes barely make a slap on the marble as you land beside the throne. With a shove, you topple the giant chair onto the king. He gives an angry shriek as he and the chair tumble off the steps. At the bottom, the chair comes to rest on top of him, pinning him to the floor, where he continues to yell with wild anger.

It only takes you two more strides to reach the spinning clock on the wall. As you come to stand under it, you see the small circles that Lily pointed out in the drawing. This close, you can also make out the small indentations that mimic the faces of the tiny coins in your hand.

You fit the first coin into the clock. At first it doesn’t do anything but as you let go, small pinchers slide out of the copper frame to hold the coin in place. The mechanism clicks and the giant clock chimes as though it were three o’clock. The heavy tolling reverberates through the room.

When the tolling ends, you fit the second coin into the next slot. Instantly, the giant clock chimes again and this time it tolls out six notes instead of three.

“Look!” Lily shouts. You glance to see her pointing at the face of the giant clock. It’s no longer spinning without purpose but the hour hand is sitting on the six and the minute hand it straight on the hour.

One of the guards breaks loose from Andrew by kicking his peg leg out from under him. As the large man runs toward you, you quickly set the third coin into place. When you turn back to face the guard, the tolling of the ninth hour makes your ears ring.

From behind the guard, Andrew makes a desperate dash to reach him. He stumbles as the connections of his peg leg break and he hits the floor in a bruising slide. Just before the guard takes the first step of the dais, Andrew’s fingers close around his ankle, tripping him up the steps.

The guard kicks Andrew’s hand away but the brief pause is just enough time for you to fit the fourth and last coin into the clock.

This time, the click makes the whole mechanism shudder on the wall. The guard stops, mouth a gap, as the clock begins to chime the twelve.

Beneath the throne, the king’s shouts change from angry commands to terrified shrieks. He thrashes so hard that the heavy chair wobbles back and forth. That thrashing grows weaker and weaker with each metallic toll until, with the twelfth chime, there’s a puff of dust and the chair settles into stillness.

Everyone stares. As the silence stretches, Lily finally breaks it to approach the throne. She heaves if away from the king to find only a pile of dust and royal robes.

“He’s—,” she swallows, “he’s—.” She just shakes her head.

Hand“Look,” Andrew says in a clear voice. He’s sitting on the bottom step with his shattered peg leg sticking out in front of him. But it’s his hands he’s staring at with wonder. Where before his hands shook with age and the skin pulled tight across sharp bones that showed the nobs of arthritic fingers, he holds out straight fingers that could hold a sword as easily as any of the guards in the room.

***

After a closer look at the book Lily found, it becomes clear that the king was using a form of old magic to pull life from the prisoners he sentenced to the crystal pits. Since the king lived for so long, there is no living heir to take his place. Oddly enough, it’s Simon who steps in as temporary king. He was once the old king’s first councilor but had been sentenced to the pits when he questioned some of the king’s reasons for sentencing local farmers to the pits.

The first thing Simon does is destroy the large clock on the wall. He then forbids life altering magics, and the book itself is removed from the library.

The End

Yay, you survived and stopped the king! Thank you for joining this adventure.

Next week I’ll return with an update on Quaking Soul, my current work-in-progess/publishing project.

Blessings,

Jennifer

The Jewel

Saphire

Mug of Cider - Set Up Adventure StoryA common idealized picture of a writer might have a desk, a cozy study, and a warm cup of coffee, or hot chocolate, or maybe a glass of scotch. It’s a solitary picture where the writer’s wrestling away at crafting beautiful sentences that build into captivating stories.

It’s a picturesque idea that makes my heart ache for such focused time. But realistically, our day and age does not allow for such time unless we wrest it, kicking and screaming, from our electronic devices, our bloated schedules, and our own over-zealous expectations.

And if you’re a self-published writer, that time is all the more precious. I knew, vaguely, how much went into producing and promoting a book, but the hats of editing, designing, marketing-the list could be endless-can be as heavy and demanding as a hat made of lead.

It would be easy under that weight to forget the joy of simply creating the story, to forget why all those hats are worth it when the day’s finished.

The joy of writing is a precious jewel. We’ll call it a sapphire. And the setting that holds it is the time we carve out for it. Writing and time. Jewel and golden setting. I plan to cradle those things in my hands and remember why I love this business.

Usually every year December is my month for family. I take a break from everything else. This year, I’m starting a smidgeon early and am going to take the time to cradle that precious jewel and remember why it’s worth the other hats.

Thank you, Dear Readers, for an amazing year. You make this journey truly worth every minute. I hope your holidays are blessed and filled with lots of chocolate, beautiful music, special people, and whatever else makes this season extraordinary for you. I’ll see you in the New Year, perhaps with something newly crafted and captivating.

Until next time, blessings,

Jennifer

Time and Value

Clear warning, this post is a bit different. I don’t usually talk about myself in depth but I always feel a bit guilty when I take time off and I thought I’d share a little about what’s happening in my little brain. There is a real person behind the adventures, I swear =)

Here goes.

Yay! Cake!

Yay! Cake!

A little bit ago I turned thirty. Not even sure what to say about it. It just happened. Kinda snuck up on me and laughed in sadistic glee as it whizzed right by. Crazy things, time and age. I don’t feel thirty.

I somehow thought I’d be more comfortable in my own skin by this age. Now I’m realizing it’s human nature to find fault, especially as a woman, in myself. It’s human nature to wish for straight hair when the humidity turns my god given locks to ringlets. To crave clear skin when I’ve got a healthy body that keeps up with my passions for climbing and hiking and snowboarding.

The list of ‘have-nots’ is endless if I let it. It’s so, so easy to focus on the ‘have-nots’ and completely forget the even longer, more uplifting list of ‘haves.’

And I’m coming to realize focusing on the list of haves is not a comparison thing. I can’t compare myself to another woman or compare my good traits with my bad. That way lies grief and tears because, inevitably, it either leads to pride or the pit of have-nots again.

The list of haves is simple fact. Something we each can own as who we are, beautiful, or handsome, in our own right.

I’m beautiful. Shut up internal dialogue that says otherwise.

I’m also successful despite the fact that I haven’t completely accomplished all my dreams and goals yet. Failure only drowns me if I stop trying, stop living for the things that God’s instilled in me to enjoy and have a passion for.

But sometimes those passions, those values, conflict and it feels like failure to back away from one to accomplish another for a time.

When I look in the mirror and focus on the things I have, I see the deep blue irises I inherited from my dad, the slightly wavy hair of both my parents and the shape of my mother’s graceful face. These are a legacy of a family I greatly value.

Here’s where the passions conflict right now.

Writing’s always a passion for me. There’s a drive in me that just won’t quite. To take time off feels like I’m failing myself and those who actually read my work. (Thank you to everyone reading this! I greatly appreciate you.)

But time with family is precious beyond anything I can describe. Over the next month, my husband and I have the opportunity to spend time with family that we haven’t had in several years. So it’s been placed on my heart to focus solely on them. To step back from the writing in order to appreciate the blessing that is family. Perhaps this is where the wisdom of thirty comes in. I considered trying to do both but, in all honesty, I doubt I’d do either justice if I did.

So thank you to everyone in advance for understanding a month’s break from the adventure. (And thank you for being patient with my rambling today =)

I encourage you over the next month, and beyond that, to focus on who you are individually (no comparisons) and find value in the things that make you uniquely you. You’re beautiful, handsome, and amazing simply because you are who you are and there’s not another person like you.

Until July, blessings,

Jennifer

Meet Murphy

Meet Murphy. He’s a special kind of guy who doesn’t quite fit the acquaintance category but definitely doesn’t get put into the friendship realm. He’s like a house guest that you try to ignore because when you look at him he engages you in a long, drawn out conversation without focus. You see, Murphy’s last name is Law.

And if you look him up, you’ll find  he lives at the anything that can go wrong, will go wrong address.

A little over a week ago I wrote about being intentional with your time and I suggested an exercise in writing down your day to see where your time goes.

My exercise went like this:

I met a friend to walk the farmer’s market and eat breakfast. This took all morning. Considering I hadn’t seen this friend in over a year, this makes complete sense.

Then I headed home to work on writing. Except I got a call to pick up wax paper and crisco for my husband’s baking project. This should have been a warning to hide out somewhere out of sight but I missed it.

By the time I got home, my husband was on his second attempt of his cappuccino cake. I handed over his missing items and set up shop to write.

Couple sentences in I was asked to help mix something…

Let’s just make this story short and say baking at over 9,000 feet of elevation can do some wacky things. Six attempts later, my husband had a finished product to take to his work’s pot luck and I had two, two sentence paragraphs written. (To be fair, my husband also made a cake for the family, so he made two cakes. Yum=)). I closed my computer and gave up for the day.

Why? Not because I couldn’t have written more but because, at a certain point, you must breathe and accept life will throw you curve balls. Plus, I fully believe in Stephen King’s view on this. He says:

“In truth, I’ve found that any day’s routine interruptions and distractions don’t much hurt a work in progress and may actually help it in some ways. It is, after all, the dab of grit that seeps into an oyster’s shell that makes the pearl…” -Stephen King On Writing

So the thing isn’t to be hidebound to a schedule but to have a schedule but not beat ourselves up over the distractions that will happen.

Instead, keep the goal in mind with the steps to get there. A goal without steps is, after all, just a dream. So have the goal and steps and, when Mr. Murphy interferes, tell him ‘that’s nice’ and get back on the horse the next day.

Persistence is the thing I’ll add to being intentional. As William Feather said: “Success seems to be largely a matter of hanging on after others have let go.”

So here’s to hanging on and striving toward our dreams, I mean goals=)

Jennifer

Where’d all the Time Go?

Do you reach the end of the day wondering where your time went? Why you didn’t accomplish what you’d hoped?

Happens to me a lot. I’ve heard the advice to write down what you do with your day to see where all your time goes. Honestly, I’m scared to find out. It would reveal a lot of wasted time. Things always seem to happen beyond my control. Life’s always a bit crazy. But as I think these thoughts I’ve got to be brutally straightforward with myself. I let things distract me. I allow the outside distractions to push and pull until I’m weak and tired and confused about where my good intentions went.

Time: It’s pretty clear. There’s never less of it or more of it but somehow there’s never enough of it to get things done. But that’s a lie that lets us off the hook for letting things control us. Perhaps that’s a bit harsh but that’s the way I see it. There is enough time for the things we value. We either control our time or the world will do it for us.

Mindset: This is huge! I can’t stress this one enough. If your mindset starts off “I can’t,” “I don’t have enough,” or “It’s beyond me” than you’re right. You’ve already failed. I do this to myself all the time and lo-and-behold, at the end of the day, I didn’t, time ran out, or I lacked the ability.

We’re taught to be busy, busy, busy because there’s always more to do. Hogwash. In a world that’s quickly becoming bussier, half of the ‘more to do’ is pointless. It doesn’t add value to our lives, so why are we doing these things. Such as checking facebook ten times a day. Cut that in half even and there’s a good hour of time. Plus, you won’t miss a thing. Facebook doesn’t change that fast.

Solution:

-Intention:  We’re not taught this anymore but it’s the key I’m figuring out as I write and it’s as big as mindset. I must know what I want before I’m able to actually accomplish anything. Otherwise, I’m thrown willy nilly across noon and into the evening without a guiding source to direct my actions. I must be intentional about my day. I encourage you to be as well.

And while we’re being intentional, we need to be reasonable. Let’s not set ourselves up for failure. For instance, if I need to run a friend to the airport in the morning, perhaps I need to let go the desire, for that day, to write 1,000 words before noon. It just won’t happen and I’ll depress myself expecting it will.

Mindset again=) Especially in the United States, I’m not sure about elsewhere, we’re told a lot to ‘relax’ at the end of the day. Sounds good right? Except our ‘relaxing’ has become mindless as well. We watch tv until way too late or zone into a video game or stare at facebook. We tell ourselves this is the way to relax and wind down before sleeping. This is our mindset.

But what’s more satisfying? Watching tv or writing those 1,000 words you’ve been trying to get to all day? Playing a video game or taking a walk because you’ve been wanting more exercise? I’ll argue, you may not agree, that it’s easier to sleep when we’re satisfied. And winding down is whatever we tell ourselves it is. I repeat because I think it’s important. Winding down, relaxing, taking time for oneself, is whatever we tell ourselves that means. Writing, if it’s your passion, can be time for yourself. The key is to tell yourself it is and believe it.

-PrioritizeIf you’re anything like me, you’re overly ambitious about how much you can get done. I’m horrible about thinking I can do everything in a day. I can write, clean, walk the dogs, see a friend for lunch, sand and finish a few chairs for the dinning table… All of these things (or whatever’s on your list) are good things. But if I intend to do them all in the same day, I’m going to fail. So once I’ve figured out what I want to get done, I need to sit back and decide what comes first.

Schedule it! I’ve read recently, perhaps from Michael Hyatt or Jeff Goins, I’m not sure which, that if it ends up on the schedule, it’s far more likely to happen. This is true. We’re creatures who like structure. I’d go so far as to say it depresses, frustrates, or angers us when we don’t have it. Don’t know when you work next because the schedule’s not out. Frustration blossoms because you can’t plan anything else. You get the point.

So here’s the solution I’ve found works for me when it never seems there’s enough time.

1. Figure out what you want so you can be intentional with your time.

2. Pay attention to your mindset because if you’re thinking you can’t before you start, you’re right. Also pay attention to how you view things. If walking’s thought of as a chore even though you want exercise, than it’s going to be a chore and you’ll hate it. Instead, try viewing it as your chill time. Time to think, slow down, or maybe spend time with a friend who also enjoys walking. The mind’s amazing in the way it shapes the way we view our world.

3. Decide what comes first. What’s our priority in the things we want to be intentional about?

4. Schedule it. Don’t just think, “Okay, I’ll do this thing today. I’ve got all day to do it.” It’s a trap. All day disappears in a wash of laundry. But if you’ve scheduled your task than the other, distracting things are what get shrugged aside instead of your priority.

Mission, if you choose to accept, write down for a day what you spend your time on. I’ll do the same and come back later to tell how it went. It might be a bit scary=( Feel free to comment on what you find helps keep you on track.

Blessings,

Jennifer

P.S. Monday starts a new Adventure story. Hope to see you then=)