Daily Thoughts 80: Game Videos Posted and Other Challenges

Author's Selfie I’ve had a busy weekend! This morning I enjoyed an opportunity to play test my game Wizardly Librarians with my victims (family). The play testing showed clear areas for improvement in the game. I filmed the test. The result (speeded up) is posted on the website at Shush Games. I also posted an introduction to the gameplay and some more images of card text. In the next iteration, I need to spend time working on the cards. It’s too difficult to add titles right now. That won’t be soon. I’ve got too much to do—including developing more games for upcoming assignments!

400-Word Challenge

2017 Writing Pledge Banner The 400-word writing challenge starts tomorrow. I plan to dictate on the drive to work. At this point I’m tracking manually with the spreadsheet template I’ve used in the past. I’ll post updates in my daily thoughts post, and track progress in the sidebar. I want to track the streak in terms of weeks, the number of weeks in a row in which I write 400 words for 5 days out of the week. I can take two days off each week, they don’t have to be sequential. Since I plan to dictate I should be able to meet the goal. I may not always have time to redraft what I dictate. We’ll see.

Daily Sketch Challenge

Artwork for 2017 sketching pledgeDo I need another challenge? No. Am I going to try another challenge? Yes. Crazy? Maybe. I know I have more than enough to do. The thing is—

It doesn’t have to be perfect.

I’m not doing this to produce finished drawings. I may not spend more than a couple minutes on a sketch. It could be a sketch of anything. A pencil. A rock. Shapes. It doesn’t matter. I’m going to sketch something and stop. I’m keeping the sketches small. No bigger than that challenge image. Template for sketch challengeIn fact, I’m going to use it as the template (minus my drawing of our dog). I’ll put the date at the bottom of each and share them here. It’ll give me a consistent frame in which to work on the challenge. Same rules as the writing challenge: draw 5 days each week, for 50 weeks. It’ll be a good practice to get out of my way and stop worrying about whether or not a sketch looks good. I’ll start it tomorrow as well.

 

Daily Thoughts 79: Wizardly Librarians

Author's Selfie I didn’t get much sleep last night. As I mentioned in my last post, I stayed up late. I’d meant to sleep in but as it turned out I didn’t. In fact, I woke up at about 3 AM and then stayed pretty restless and unable to sleep for the rest of the night and finally gave up a bit after 6 AM. Today still went pretty well, despite being tired. I finished a number of things for school.

Wizardly Librarians

Mostly, I’ve focused on my game for INFO287-11. Admittedly, I’m carrying it too far, but once the idea popped up I needed to make the game. I spent a good part of the day creating the 129 cards for the game (plus play order cards). They aren’t done. It’s a rough, initial alpha version to test out the gameplay. We played one game tonight and tomorrow I plan to record a game so that I can post a video to the website I also created for the assignment.

Did I mention that I took this too far?

screenshot, figuring out card distribution
Figuring out card distribution.
View of librarian cards
Librarian cards (artwork pending)

Okay, maybe I did take it too far. But I’m having fun!

Although set in a fantasy world, Wizardly Librarians focuses on an everyday process in libraries—filling hold requests. It’s a daily scavenger hunt. The game incorporates many other elements of libraries in a fun and engaging way. I’m looking forward to filming the video tomorrow.

Daily Thoughts 78: Standing Up at the Midnight Hour

Author's Selfie Midnight approaches! I hadn’t meant to stay up this late, except I had a lot to do for my classes, so late night studying! Most of the time I don’t have to stay up. My schedule this week made studying a bit more difficult.

Standing Up

At work, I have an adjustable height desk and spend most of my days standing up. I’ll usually only sit down when I take breaks, or when I’m working on things where I need to spread out work on the desk. Part of the reason I end up standing comes from years working in public libraries, standing at the desk.

Standing laptop deskI didn’t have a similar option at home until today. I ordered this height-adjustable laptop desk the other day. It didn’t take too long to put together. The whole thing is on wheels, easy to move, has space for textbooks and my thermos. The adjustments are manual, but it can also go down to a sitting height as needed. I find standing is helpful for my productivity—and it certainly helps me stay awake when I need to!

 

Daily Thoughts 77: Early Start, Busy Brain

Author's Selfie Today started early! And it followed a night when I couldn’t sleep. My schedule always has a degree of variability to it, but most of the time my morning routine is consistent. Not this week! Different days, different start times, it’s been all over the place.

Busy Brain

via GIPHY

I love new ideas! Too much sometimes. I think of a new idea and want to run with it right away. Being back in school encourages this behavior.

One of my classes focuses on gamification of information, or how we can use game elements to help with learning, exploration, and creation. I have an assignment to create a game this week. Not finished, polished, and beautiful, but a game with an information science focus.

I came up with a wonderful idea the other day in the shower. The idea didn’t work for the assignment, but then I realized I could use the same or similar game elements for a game targeted for the assignment and that led to even more ideas! I have other things to do over the next several days but I’m excited about this idea. I plan to have a working model of the game in a couple days so that I can film an initial gameplay attempt to turn in for the assignment.

The game idea keeps pulling my attention. I lay awake last night thinking about details. Hopefully, tonight will go better.

 

Daily Thoughts 76: Challenges

Author's selfie I managed to sleep most of the night without waking up! That’s a big deal for me. I did wake up an hour or so early, and then tried to sleep more but at that point, I was done sleeping.

Challenges

A few weeks back I posted about excuses and suggested a 400-word challenge. I hesitated at taking on the challenge slash made excuses for why it wasn’t a good idea.

via GIPHY

As if I didn’t know better. Seeing as that’s the case, I’m going to take on the challenge anyway!

2017 Writing Pledge Banner

Plus I made this pledge banner. The original said ‘novel’ but I’m not writing a novel. I plan to focus on short stories. I want to write more stories for DriveByStories.com and I want to write stories to submit for publication in some magazines.

Tracking

Of course, with any great challenge, comes great tracking. I’d like to have the awesome plugin that I thought about this morning. I’m not waiting for that to happen. Instead, I’ll track manually at the start and then if I end up creating a plugin, great! Or maybe I’ll find a plugin that I can use. I do have one I created, but I want to do it differently now.

I’ll post my progress in the sidebar on the site, and of course point out when I complete new stories.

Start?

I plan to start this next week, on the 21st, so that I get a full week (looking at my Tue-Sat work week).

Daily Thoughts 75: Procedures, Hurrying, and Legion

Author's selfie Back to work today, catching up on a variety of tasks that happen behind the scenes in libraries, e.g., one thing I worked on today was our internal list of performers. Exciting, right? That one thing took working with the software used on our intranet, checking files, updating records, and talking with other people who care about what is tracked and who does what with the information. That was only one thing. Look around when you’re out. Notice how many businesses and government buildings there are around you. Try to get a sense of how many people work in that location. What do they do? How many details go into everything we do? It’s one of the things that often gets lost, simplified, and trimmed down in fiction. Mostly, I think, because it is seen as an uninteresting topic. Unless you’re writing a police procedural, then maybe you’ll get a sense of some of the procedures involved.

Hurrying

No matter what I’m doing, I try to fight the desire to hurry. It’s hard. I have more to do than I have time. More novels to write, things to learn, pictures to create, programs to write, and changes to make. There’s always a sense of wanting it now. At least when I don’t just want to go to sleep. My desire to sleep wars with my desire to get more done and is ultimately the undisputed champion. Sleep wins sooner or later. Like death, just less permanent.

Legion

Yesterday we watched the first episode of Legion.

I enjoyed it! Not much of a surprise. I also enjoy the other Marvel shows (and movies). Originally I was always more of a DC fan (can you say Batman?), but Marvel has done a good job with the movies and shows. I’m looking forward (when I find the time) to seeing more of this one.

 

Daily Thoughts 74: Valentine’s Day

Author's selfie I’m tired today! Packing up a library yesterday (moving all of the boxes from the library to the container) left me worn out. I logged over 17,000 steps yesterday on my FitBit. I had errands to run this morning. The car needed an oil change and I needed to get my cholesterol tested. I took today off work. Normally I’m off on Monday. Since I ended up working, I took today instead. Not the most romantic day!

Other than errands, fasting this morning, and feeling worn out from moving the library yesterday, I spent most of the day working on an assignment for my Gamifying Information class. It included a graph (assessing Pokémon Gothat took me too long to figure out how to create:

Pokémon Assessment graph

On the other hand, it was a great exercise to learn some additional skills. The rest of the assessment was more narrative-based.

Daily Thoughts 73: Data Selfie and Packing a Library

Author's selfieI spent a good part of the day boxing up a library. For much of that time, I moved and stacked the boxes of books. It isn’t a big library, so we were able to box up the entire collection in just a few hours.

 

Data Selfie

I found out about this extension today. It shows you the sorts of data that Facebook collects. Looks interesting!

Locked Out

Cover art for Locked Out

Lynn Hutchins found the perfect place to escape her husband. Jack couldn’t find this cabin, her, or the kids.

But someone found them. The thick iron-bound cabin door kept the man out. He tried to break in. Claimed he was Jack. He lied.

No way for him to break in. The cold outside leeched the heat from the cabin. The freezing cold kept her and the kids safe.

💀

The inside of the house was just as dark as the outside and nearly as cold. Lynn crouched in front of the sole spot of warmth, right in front of the wood stove. She couldn’t see it, but what little heat it gave off warmed her face and fingers. By memory and feel, she found the coiled metal grip of the door handle and pulled it to the side. The hinges protested a bit, metal on metal, and then the dull red glow from inside spread out around the door and restored her vision.

She blinked and coughed a bit as wisps of wood smoke coiled out through the opening. She reached for the next small piece of wood, moving quickly before the man outside noticed the light.

The remains of the last two logs pulsed and glowed with a deep red light beneath the black and white ash. Flickers of yellow flames danced across the coals and vanished. Lynn tossed in the new log. A cascade of red sparks swarmed upward like angry bees, and eager yellow flames flickered back to life, sipping at the wood with the delicacy of hummingbirds.

Lynn shoved the door closed and grimaced when the metal squealed again. Surely the man wouldn’t hear the noise over the snow storm blowing outside or see the brief bit of light seeping out the cracks between the shutters that protected the windows. By now he must have given up and moved on, realizing that she’d never open the door and let him in.

There came a knock on the front door, dull and muffled by the thick wood. Knock, knock.

Then a voice, faint, but clear. “Please let me in. It’s freezing out here!”

Lynn stood in the dark and turned to face the door she couldn’t see. The stove warmed the backs of her legs. “Go away.”

“Honey, you’ve got to let me in.”

She bit her lip and shook her head. She had already told herself she wouldn’t fall for his tricks. He had shown up after she put the kids down to bed, knocking on the door and claiming that he was Jack, her husband.

But that wasn’t true. Jack couldn’t have found her, and wouldn’t have looked anyway. Whoever the man was outside, he wasn’t Jack, and she wasn’t going to let him anywhere near her children.

Three more knocks against the door, hard and fast, as if he was angry. Lynn hugged her arms tight. The door was thick wood, barred with a four-inch thick wood bar. The shutters on the inside of the windows were also thick and locked tight with iron bars. Whoever this man was he wasn’t going to get into the cabin easily. She felt guilty about not letting him in given the conditions outside but what was she supposed to do? Risk her children? And he was up to no good, trying to claim he was Jack. He didn’t even sound like Jack. She heard his footsteps retreat from the door on the wood porch. Then his footsteps came fast and hard, boots pounding against the planks. A loud thud as he smashed against the door. It held. Between him and that door, she bet on the door. If he kept that up, he’d probably break his bones before the thick planks that made up the door. In the dark, she couldn’t see it, but she knew the massive iron-bound door well from memory. It was one of the things she had loved about the place when she first saw the cabin.

Lynn padded silently through the front room by memory. Past the large leather couch, across the colorful rugs woven from alpaca wool, to the entrance to the dining room, kitchen and the hall to the back bedrooms. She stepped down from the wood floor to the stone floor and turned left down the hall. Through her thin slippers, she felt the cold of the stone against her feet. The air back here was much colder too. Since the generator died, she hadn’t been able to run the fans that circulated air through the cabin and the small fire she kept going in the wood stove wasn’t nearly hot enough to heat the entire cabin up. By feel, she found the first bedroom door.

Michael’s room, the padlock cold beneath her fingers. No sounds from inside. Good, he must be asleep. Next down the hall was Tina’s room. Again she found the padlock and listened for any sign that the man had disturbed her children. Nothing at all. Across the hall, she found Briana’s room. Little Briana, with her dark curls. The lock was secure, her room silent. Lynn breathed a little easier. She shivered with the cold in the hallway. At least the kids were asleep. She went silently back to the kitchen.

After all of these months when the sun didn’t rise she knew the cabin well enough to find her way around without lights. In the kitchen, she went to the stove and reached out for the tea kettle. Her hand brushed the cold hard plastic handle. She lifted it up and shook it. It felt heavy and solid in her hand, no sound of sloshing water. It must have frozen solid again. She put it back down and reached up in the dark for the matchbox she kept on the second shelf. Her questing fingers found the cardboard, and she took the box down, slid it open and selected a match. She struck it on the side of the box, and the kitchen sprang into view as if magic had simply created it out of the darkness. The thick granite counter top with her tea mug sitting beside the stove, the rich wood paneling of the walls and the gleaming dishes on the open shelves above, all formed by the flickering yellow light of the match. Lynn turned the knob for the burner and heard the propane gas hiss out. The smell tickled her nose. She extended the match, and blue flames sprang up around the burner. She shook the match out and slid the tea kettle back onto the burner.

The blue flames cast weak light out from beneath the tea kettle, only enough for her to see dim outlines of the kitchen. Not enough to draw the attention of the man outside, even if he made his way around to the back side of the cabin. At least the propane still worked. With the generator down she didn’t have any power. The pipes had frozen already, leaving her melting snow on top of the wood stove for water. Except now she couldn’t even get snow because of the man pretending to be her husband outside. She had a few gallons of melted snow lined up along the wall by the wood stove. It’d last for a couple of days if they were careful, but beyond that, she’d need to get more snow.

By then she wouldn’t need to worry about the man outside anymore. He was out in the worst of the cold and the storm. He couldn’t stay there and survive. Soon he had to give up and move on if he had any sense. She didn’t dare risk letting him in.

A sharper thud hit the door as if he had used something else to hit the door instead of his shoulder. Lynn went silently to the opening to the front room and listened. Whack! Again he hit the door. It sounded like wood striking wood. He must have gotten a piece of firewood from the pile and was using it as a battering ram.

She stepped up into the front room and walked closer to the door. The meager light from the stove didn’t reach so far. Whack! She jumped a little when he hit the door again.

Whack! “Lynn! Let me in!”

“No,” she whispered.

“Let me in!’

“Go away!” The shout tore itself from her throat. She covered her mouth with both hands.

Several blows struck the door in rapid sequence. Lynn reached up and covered her ears.

He yelled, a wordless enraged cry. It sounded loud even through the thick door and walls. She turned away from the front room and took a couple of shaky steps back toward the kitchen.

The glass shattered behind her. Lynn shrieked and flinched away. Whatever he was using hit the shutters next. The shutters held against the blow, but it sounded much louder than when he hit the door.

Bang! He hit the shutters again.

“Let me in, before I freeze!” With the glass shattered his voice sounded clear as if he had entered the room with her. It certainly didn’t sound like Jack. This man sounded like a life-long smoker with a harsh rasp to his voice, and Jack had never smoked so much as a single cigarette.

Lynn took another tiptoed step away.

“You can’t leave me out here.”

She kept moving and stepped carefully down into the kitchen. The cold felt like it had frozen her clothes and left her bare. She hurried over to the stove and held her hands out above the kettle. The heat felt so good it hurt, but the water wasn’t hot yet. She stayed there and hunched over the kettle for what little warmth the stove produced. She didn’t want to go back into the front room by the wood stove because the man outside might hear her walking across the wood floors.

“I don’t understand,” the man said. He could have been standing in the doorway to the kitchen, hidden by the darkness. “I know what I did was wrong, but you can’t leave me out here. I’m so cold. My car won’t start. Please, let me in.”

No. Lynn shook her head. No, no, no. She had to think about the children. She had locked their doors to keep them safe, but if he got in, he might find the key.

“Let me in,” he pleaded.

No. The kettle started to whistle. She turned off the burner. The last of the light vanished. It didn’t matter. She held her cup and poured by feel. A few drops of water dripped on her hand, but she ignored the brief flares of pain. The drops cooled so quickly that they wouldn’t even burn. She put the kettle back and carried her tea toward the front room. She stopped right at the doorway and sipped the rapidly cooling tea. It wouldn’t have time to steep properly.

“I’m so cold.” His voice sounded weak, defeated. He had to move on now. “I can’t feel my feet or fingers.” He laughed, a hollow, empty sound like air escaping a balloon. “I think my nose is frozen too. Probably going to end up with a hole in my face.”

Lynn stepped carefully into the front room. She took each step one at a time, trying not to make any noise at all. She shivered so much that some tea spilled on her fingers but it had already cooled enough not to burn. Her teeth chattered. Lynn sipped the tea again as she made her way over to the wood stove. She sank onto the floor in front of it and put her mug down on the bricks. It hardly gave off any heat now. If she wanted to keep it going, she needed to add more wood, but there wasn’t much left. Four or five logs lay in the holder beside the stove. Enough to get through the night if she was careful. When morning came, she’d have to risk going out again for more wood.

“Please?”

The question startled her, sounding like a whisper in her ear. She listened, but the only other sound she heard was the wind against the broken window. At least she had the shutters to keep out the worst of it and the snow.

Lynn picked up the mug and drank the cooling tea. When morning came, she’d take a look outside and see if the man was still around. If it looked clear, then she could get more wood and build up the fire. The kids would like that.

💀

Crack! The log split beneath the ax into two smaller pieces that toppled onto the snow lit by the battery-powered lantern. Lynn bent down and picked up one, tossed it to the porch, and then the second. That one rolled against the foot of the man. He didn’t react, of course, he was frozen solid when she peeked out this morning. She’d have to do something about him, but she couldn’t move him. He was a big guy, over six feet tall with a broad chest and a long bristly gray beard. As big as Jack, but otherwise nothing like her husband. She picked up the next log and put it in position.

She heard the whine of snowmobiles and leaned on the ax. Lights danced around in the trees. Lynn watched warily. The snowmobiles were following the drive up to the cabin. Friends of the man on the porch? She picked up the ax and the lantern and ran up onto the porch. She kicked the logs ahead of her into the house. She got inside and shoved the door mostly closed, then turned out the lantern. She’d shut and bar the door if she needed to. It was probably too much to hope for help.

The snowmobiles came out of the woods and coasted up to the cabin next to the cars buried by the drifting snow. Her car and the one the man had driven up to the cabin. In the lights from the snowmobiles, she saw that the men wore the brown of the sheriff’s uniform. A sob escaped her lips. Lynn grabbed the lantern and turned it on.

“You in the house, come out with your hands where we can see them!”

Lynn slipped out the door with her hands out to her sides, the lantern in her right hand. When she walked out past the man, one of the men swore.

“Hold it there.”

Lynn looked down at the frozen man. “He tried to break into the house last night; I don’t know why he didn’t give up and leave.”

“Come on down here, ma’am.” One of the police beckoned.

“Okay.” She walked out across the porch, and down the steps. She stopped next to her chopping log.

The other policeman went past her and up onto the porch. He turned on a flashlight and aimed it at the frozen man.

“Yup, boss. It’s him alright. That reporter from California. Jack Hutchins.”

A deep chill settled into Lynn’s chest. She coughed. “Jack? That’s not possible. It isn’t him. It’s somebody pretending to be him.”

The policeman near her touched her arm. “Ma’am? What’s your name?”

“Lynn Hutchins.” She chuckled. “But that can’t be Jack. You don’t understand. He ran off with some starlet.”

“Mrs. Hutchins? Where are your kids? Are they inside?”

The kids! Lynn started toward the house, but the policeman held onto her arm. She looked down at his hand. “Let go. I need to check on them.”

“We’ll do that ma’am. I need you to wait here with me. Stu, go ahead.”

The policeman by the body, which wasn’t Jack, it couldn’t be Jack, stood up and disappeared into her house. A few seconds later she heard a crash and splintering wood. Then silence. After a moment another crash, more wood splintering and then again. Then rapid footsteps and Stu ran out of the house. “Boss, it’s bad. The bedrooms, she had them padlocked shut. I busted them down, but it’s an icebox in there. The kids, um, they’re all froze up, just like him.”

Lynn shook her head. “What? No. They’re sleeping. You’re all mixed up. What kind of policemen are you? They’re sleeping, and whoever that man is on the porch, he’s not my husband!”

She tried to pull away from the policeman, but he held her tight.

“Get on the radio, Stu. Get a snow-cat up here with the coroner.” She tried to pull away, but he twisted her arms back behind her. She felt cold metal snap around her wrist.

“Let me go!”

The policeman shoved her back to the snowmobiles instead and made her sit. Lynn slumped on the seat with her breath fogging in the light from the other snowmobile. These policemen were crazy! That wasn’t Jack. It couldn’t be. And the kids? She laughed and shook her head. Just sleeping, that’s all. It must be the dark. In the dark, the policeman just couldn’t see the truth.

💀

2,787 WORDS

Author’s Note

This story is the 87th short story release, written in January 2011.

If you’re interested in longer works, feel free to check out my novels through the links in the sidebar or on the Books page. Next up is my story, The Overlap.

Daily Thoughts 72: Powerless

Author's selfie I’m busy these days with the iSchool. I spent time today reading in the car while Kate took Xander with her to take care of the shopping. We ended up with a bit of a traumatic event. She texted, asking me to come in to take Xander to the restroom. I escorted him in and he finished his business first and went to wash his hands, not realizing I wasn’t following him. Then he thought (for some inexplicable reason) that I had already gone out. He went out, didn’t see me, and panicked! I heard him yell. By the time I zipped and went after him, he had already bolted down the hallway yelling for me.

I gave chase. Helpful folks pointed which way he’d gone. He’d already made it down the line of registers hollering for me before he heard me and turned around. It’s a powerless feeling when your kid suddenly takes off.

Powerless

Speaking of Powerless (I wasn’t, but now I am), we watched the first two episodes today.

It’s a fun DC comedy series with Alan Tudyk and Vanessa Hudgens. I wasn’t familiar with Hudgens. I mostly wanted to watch it because of Tudyk, and it looked funny. It’s silly. Everyone in the city is jaded because of the constant superhero destruction and Hudgens’s team must come up with inventions to protect people. I’ll be curious to see where it turns up.

My other superhero fixes right now include Luke CageLegionArrowFlash, and looking forward to Doctor Strange. I just don’t have much time to watch any of them right now.