Author, Fantasy, Science Fiction, AD&D

Archive for July, 2015

When Truth is Stranger than Fantasy

Here I was in our office yesterday, re-pre-editing chapter thirteen of Atolovus, titled Crossroads, before I recreate the manuscript for my new editor when I hear a noise in the bathroom/ laundryroom. It’s nothing much, just enough to gain my attention and make me swivel about in my chair to scan the two rooms through the open doors. I’m listening for anything more, but all is silent. What the? I think as my curiosity gets the better of me.

I finish the sentence on I’m working on, “As the Darkfeeder’s attention returns to Tau, realization of her situation reflects in her sultry green eyes.” I get up and cautiously wander into the two antechambers, scanning them as I try to find whatever made the noise.

Nothing on the floor, the toilet, the file cabinet or the safe that is out of place. Nothing knocked over either, same is true of the laundry room. “Weird!” I say aloud before running upstairs to get a cup of coffee. Getting back to work, things go along fine for a time, then I’m interrupted again: Tank, Clatter, grind, grind, grind. Now I spring to my feet, and dart to the bathroom, flicking on the light.

Ah-haa! My shaving cream is laying on the floor below the white pedestal sink! How did that haaaapppennn…. I ask myself suspiciously, looking up to the narrow shelf I keep my shaving cream and hydrometer protected behind five thick hinge-top wine-bottles. Yes…they are all empty, and have been for many years, the product of Christmas gifts years back when my brother was trying to make mead.
And then it moves, and my heart jumps a few beats.

Winding behind the bottles and peeking out from where my shaving cream was is the head of a snake! “Seriously?? How the frick did you get in here,” I ask it as it tilts its head as if asking me the same thing. It moves a bit while flicking its tongue at me. It’s got similar markings to a boa, but they are a light brown and the snake is about two-and–a half feet long. Just a bull snake, quite harmless really, I’d like to wait till it slips out a bit more before I just grab it behind the neck, but if it struggles I’m going to have a mess. Fine, I need another solution. I need something to put it into, and something to both hold it while I do that.

To the shop I hurriedly go; lest it slip into some other spot even more difficult to extract it from. Walking slowly past my heavy bags while scanning for the right thing to hold it, I discover a narrow but deep box. Perfect! I grab it, now looking for the right tool to guide it into the box with. I see nothing I like. Hey! Maybe a pair of tongs would do the trick, Hmmmm I have some long ones in the kitchen.

Sooo, back across the deck, and up the stairs where my eyes land on my collapsible rake. It’s a small form of one, and the perfect length and size for my need, *Snatch!* and off I go back to the bathroom.

When I arrive, the snake is busy climbing the wall toward the ceiling and freezes as I pop around the door. It’s making its way over the mirror, and into the cubby selves on the right. As soon as I put the box down and stand up, it stares at me.
“Welllll…” I say curiously with a friendly tone, “What do you think you are doing? This is not a good place for you. There’s no food that you are going to like in here. I’m not going to hurt you, I’m just going to move you back outside where you’ll be much happier.”

I raise the rake slowly so as not to frighten it, but it knows what I’m doing, or at the very least, it doesn’t like the look of the rake, and elects to slither quickly up into the cubbies.

Finally, I can see most of its body; Nice! I try to get the far prong behind it’s body then lift it up and place it in the box, but that only caused it to bolt for the highest cubby which is full of rolls of old coins I’ve collected for my son. I’ll give all of them to him when I transcend this reality for the next.

But now I am faced with a quandary. All four rolls are open, and standing on end, quarter, dime, nickel, and penny. All the half dollars and silver dollars are in the safe. My visitor has decided to wrap itself around the rolls and curl up behind them. Fantastic! I can’t get to it without spilling coins all over the bathroom, the sink, and the toilet. I have to get the rolls out of the way to reach it, but how………….?

The tongs! I’ll lift them off the shelf with the tongs, and if it strikes, well I’ll just have to hope I don’t have to take the sink apart to collect the coins. I return shortly with the tongs. As I reach up toward the rolls, it sticks its head out between the quarter and dime rolls and hisses at me loudly. Ahhh, it knows what I’m up to! Interesting.

I start talking to it in a calm, even tone, reassuring it I wish it no harm, and I’m only interested in taking it back where it will be most comfortable as I grasp the first roll. Picking it up, I place it down by the bottles. Then I repeat the process with the dimes. It has now wound itself up and looks like a lumpy and deflated six-pound Valeo ball.

“Almost there, I tell it, just be cool, nothing bad is going to happen to you. You’ll be just fine.” I manage to get the nickel roll out of the way, but now, it’s had enough. The barricade is practically gone and safety isn’t any longer assured. It bolts for the top of the cubby trying to climb the wall toward the ceiling once again. When it stretches enough, I’ll be able to get the prongs under it, and it’ll all be good.

With my right, I’m trying to get the rake under it and with my left, I’m trying to get the last roll, but the snake decides to wrap its tail around the penny roll as I get the rake under it. There go the pennies everywhere.

Ignoring them, I pick the snake up and gently direct it in to the box. Closing it, I take it out back down to the blackberry bushes and the creek where I coax it out of the box by talking to it, and staying clear of the opening. After a couple minutes it cautiously moves toward the mouth of the box, stopping from time to time to glance up at me, trying to gauge my intentions, and finally slithers off into the brush.


Now I just need to clean up the mess. I find all the coins, everything goes back where it should, and then it strikes me; our basement is solid concrete. It has two small windows, both closed, and my wife refers to it as the dungeon. How did that snake get into our dungeon? There is absolutely no way for it to get in. If it had somehow come from upstairs, it would have had to slink past three cats and a dog. We don’t have carpet for obvious reasons, so no cover there. How weird! Maybe… I think to myself, it’s a blink snake at least that has plausibility.

So what is a Blink Snake you ask? It’s similar to the Blink Dog. They basically teleport over short distances, say fifteen or twenty feet, but they can do it over long periods of time when they must, and they are not susceptible to dizziness, nausea, or lengthy disorientation. They travel in packs, and use their ability for hunting and defense. They themselves are not known to be evil, but then, anything can happen—even blink snakes!

Blink snakes are now listed in my digest of unique Solanarian creatures, and just as a side thought, who knows what blink species you may find in your worlds 🙂
Happy Hunting!

Cultivation Is Art

We got back late Monday evening after touring Glacier National Park and Yellowstone. It was a nine-day experience, and of the two, I preferred Glacier National Park hands down. If you haven’t been there, make it a point to see it. What glaciers are left will be gone in about three decades along with all the phenomenal waterfalls that come from them. The views were beyond breathtaking, and I was within a hands reach of a mother and baby mountain goat, and within ten feet of a herd of Bighorn sheep—I have the photos to prove it.

While we were gone, half our yard burned up in the usual summer heat in our clay-based dirt. My grapevine has flourished, a rather hard to find green grape from Germany that is hailed for the Rieslings made from them, and I’ll have quite a crop to turn into wine this year. Last year I ended up with fifty gallons.

All the rest of our fauna gardens blossomed into wild bushes of leaves and flowers and berries. I spent half my week pruning, mowing, picking, watering, weeding, and anything else you can imagine in order to get caught up and straighten things out. In my mind, cultivation, like writing, is an art, and that’s why I practice both. I have found over the years, and I’m betting the same is true of many of you, that in both cases, the quality of your tools chases off many headaches. So here are a couple that you may not have heard of that I have recently put to the test. I purchased the two from Amazon:

The Hoe has worked well beyond my expectations as I found uses for it that had nothing to do with landscaping. Its shape is very versatile, so much so, I used it to navigate our blackberry bushes back by the creek. Normally, I wear a thick glove on one hand and pick with the gloveless one. But this year I was able to reach further in than I would normally be able to and not bleed out from multiple thorn wounds. Poison oak vines wind their way amid that mess; thus, I normally have to cut them off with a set of pruners—but not this year. This year I used the long edges of the landscaping tool which happen to be every bit as sharp as a store sharpened blade. It only took a slight wack and away went the poison oak. I also used it to dig trenches around my rosebushes, so I could put rose food down and cover it up. Usually I do this with my hand because it’s close quarters, but this year I just reached in with the landscaping triangle without having my hands torn up by thorns and easily dug a trench around the base of the rosebush. When I was finished with the food, I just had to reach back in and push the dirt over into the trench—simple.

The only problem I found with it thus far is that the handle is actually quite smooth. If I was barehanded and I was working in the sun, it’s very likely that the handle would slide out of my hand even if I was gripping it tightly. I usually use thermal layer Atlas gloves for any kind of outside work even construction. I like the rubber layer on the fingers and the palms as it helps with grip. My advice for those who don’t like gloves, and thus do not use them, would be to wrap some hockey-stick grip-tape around the lower part of the handle. You shouldn’t have any further problems, and for the record, I’m going to do that anyway myself.

The second tool, Hori Hori, looks like a good-sized knife, and in truth, it is on one side as sharp as the hoe and on the other serrated like a saw blade. You can use it to saw through limbs and the like. The back part of the blade is smooth while the front part concaves enough that you can use it like a trowel. Another nice feature about this tool is that it actually has measurements like a tape measure that tell you how deep in the ground you are going which allows you to plant your bulbs more precisely.

The only problem I have with this is the sheath. Contrary to what they say on the site, it is carried or stored in a thin “black vinyl plastic sheet and belt loop.” Given its size and sharpness, I expected something thicker, and I’ll probably have somebody make me something considerably more durable as they are not kidding about camping applications. It would be a good knife to stroll around in the forest with. Given that, I would put a hole in the bottom of the sheath to slip a thick string through to wrap around my leg and tie off the bottom of the knife.

I don’t normally give five-star-ratings a huge explanation. The reason for that is I’m very picky; I expect high quality in a reasonable price. I’m tired of cheap items designed to break down in short periods of time to maximize profits. But I can tell you in complete honesty these two tools are worth every penny that you’re going to pay, and if for some reason you don’t believe me, hit those links and read the customer reviews. Whether you’re a professional landscaper or just a garden enthusiast, or a casual or serious outdoorsman these two will make your jobs much easier. Who knows what you’ll find them worth using for!

Flying Around in Juneau