Friday, November 17, 2017

Respawn - Flash Fiction Friday

Act more casual she told herself. Stacy fiddled with the slip of paper in her pocket, folding and unfolding it with her fingers until she forced herself to stop. She took a deep breath, trying to relax.

The numbers on the paper were a clear message to her. In code. She recognized it at once. It was a code she and Hillary had used for fun for months now. But Hillary had gone missing last week after confiding in Stacy that she thought she was being watched. Now the code shows up.

It would be easy to decode, but Stacy had to get in the game. She arrived at the gaming cafe and walked in, not allowing herself to look around too much to see if anyone was following her. The cafe was less than half full. That was good. Enough people to blend into, enough open spaces to grab a terminal and get in and out again.

She ordered peppermint tea and took it to an open terminal where she could see the front door without turning. She logged in as a guest and created a new user registration for the game. Every dat that had passed since she last saw Hillary made her more paranoid. She didn't want to leave a digital trail of her own account info.

Once in the game though, the code didn't work. The numbers were in pairs, coordinates on the game map. Each should be a named location in the game and she should use the first letter of the location for the message, but the first five locations were in the middle of nowhere. No name to use.

Stacy sat back in her seat, staring at the screen and thought. What was wrong? Then it clicked. The cafe used the game's local server. Hillary was probably using the one for their home location, which was different. A different map.

Stacy glanced around. Was this the sort of place she could get away with hacking into to change servers? Would they even notice? It was a nice place. Upscale compared to the places she usually hung. There were only two employees, one was behind the counter and seemed to be keeping busy with orders, and the other moving around the cafe busing dishes, wiping tables, and such. She looked at the ceiling. Two black domes which were likely video cameras. Yet there were partitions around each terminal, so she didn't think the cameras were there to see what people were playing. The cameras would have a tough time seeing any screens. The benefits of an upscale place – they wanted customers to feel a sense of privacy.

If anyone wanted to see what she was doing they could always check this station later. She was sure it kept a log of activity, but no one would look until after she had gone, and there was a little she could do real quick to cover her tracks before she went.

Halfway through this train of thought, she had already started hacking into her home region server, and five minutes later had deciphered the code. Hillary was safe. She'd learned it was her ex, Todd, who had been following her. Although he never seemed to accept the 'ex' part. So Hillary had disappeared. Not the first time she had had to do so, Stacy knew.

She also knew that when Hillary disappeared, she had left everyone she knew behind unaware. She had to. Todd could get to anyone and if anyone knew where Hillary had gone, Todd could find out. Stacy knew what it must have meant for Hillary to send her that code. To let Stacy know, to stay in touch at all. It was a risk.


Stacy did what she could to erase her tracks from the rental computer, finished her tea, and left. She thought she should find a way to respond, but she would have to find a safe way. After such a show of trust from Hillary, she would be damned if she would risk bringing her danger. She couldn't let Todd get anywhere near Hillary. But how? Perhaps she just had to wait, and trust Hillary would contact her again when she felt it was safe to do so. It was so frustrating to was to much to help and feel so powerless to do so. Maybe a better plan to keep her friend safe was to find a way to make sure Todd couldn't threaten Hillary ever again. 

Friday, November 10, 2017

Tummy Ache - Flash Fiction Friday

Bethany clutched her stomach with her left hand while leaning heavily on the stair's handrail with her right.  She took one more step up, breathing out in a rush through her mouth.

The pain wasn't that bad, she insisted to herself. She was just over tired. If she could get upstairs and just lay down for a few minutes she would feel much better.

She took another step, this time sucking a quick breath in through her teeth. Looking up the long staircase in front of her, she took one long steadying breath and forced herself upright to start up the steps in as normal a stair-climbing posture as she could manage.

"Merow!" A black furry blur darted down the steps right at her and into a circle that twined itself around her legs forcing Bethany to grab the handrail again or risk falling to the landing below.

"Shadow," Bethany said, pausing again to breathe and calm herself. "Not now sweetie. Come upstairs. I'll snuggle with you there." She took the last three steps slower, placing her feet more carefully as Shadow continued to dart around underfoot.

Shadow would need dinner soon. Add that to all the other things she needed to take care of: picking up the grand-kids from school, checking in with Ms. Brown next door to make sure she was taking her medicine like she was supposed to, running by the marker to get the last few things she needed to make dinner before Henry came home. Bethany just didn't have time to feel unwell. A half hour nap, or at least a lie down was all she could manage. It would just have to be enough.

Chills went through her causing spasms of shivers as she made her way from the top of the stairs to the bedroom, Shadow trotting on ahead. Sitting down on the edge of the bed sent such a sharp stab of pain through her lower right abdomen that even Bethany could no longer pretend this was something that she could overcome with a nap.

She reached for the phone, dialed her doctor's office, speaking with a nurse there who, after a few questions, said she would send an ambulance. Bethany thanked her, and as she imagined the effort to go back downstairs to open the door, she tried to hang up the phone. She missed the cradle, knocking the bedside lamp which tipped and fell to the floor, shattering in tiny pieces.

Shadow leaped onto the bed in alarm, then curled herself around Bethany's head, partially on the pillow, purring and kneading her.


Wednesday, November 8, 2017

NaNoWriMoing with yWriter for PC and Android

I wrote before about my little Samsung laptop that is probably eight years old now is slowing down. It takes so long to power on lately, I was concerned it was getting ready to die. Since NaNoWriMo is upon me, I wanted to make sure I had a reliable way to write when I'm not at home. Buying a new, or even a used replacement laptop was a bigger expense than I could make right now, so I bought a bluetooth keyboard and planned to use it with my phone.

I originally thought I would type in Google Docs because I know I can use that on both my desktop at home, and on my phone, but before November began, I decided to just research if there might be a better option. I found yWriter, and decided to give that a try.

I'm glad I played around with both the PC and android app versions of yWriter in advance of NaNoWriMo starting because it took me a few days to figure out how to sync the two versions. Being able to write on my phone while out, then continue on my PC when I was home was key to my whole plan of living without my laptop, so it was the most important feature to me.

yWriter still actually does (or can, there are other methods too) use Google docs to sync between devices. Both the PC version and the android app save to Google docs. They do so in slightly different ways, and since I'm not super tech savvy, it took me a little while to figure out how to get them to do so. Now that I have, however, it works great.

There are lots of bells and whistles in yWriter that I'm not using. There are outlining tools, and scene breakdowns, and character lists, etc. I already had my outline ready to go for November, and didn't want the extra work of putting it all into yWriter, but looking around in the program, there are some things I'm looking forward to trying out with other books down the road.

Even better, the PC version of yWriter is free, and the android app only cost $4.99. So far, I have to say it was money well spent.


Today on our weekly library trip, my kids finished looking for books and found me typing away on my phone with my snazzy new keyboard and both commented how 'cool' the setup was. Considering all the tech these kids have grown up with, I took that as a huge compliment.  

Monday, November 6, 2017

NaNoWriMoing with my New Bluetooth Keyboard and my Phone

I think I mentioned in my last post that my laptop was dying, and instead of spending a lot of money I don't have to buy a new one, I was just going to write on my phone.

This is the bluetooth keyboard I got, because it had great reviews and was super affordable. I bought the white one because it was a dollar cheaper at the time, and I don't care about color. It looks like both the black and white keyboards are the same price now though.

So far it's wonderful. It's actually easier to use out and about than my tiny laptop was. I'm trying to write on my lunch breaks, or when the kids are in a class or something. Before, if I was sitting in the car trying to write, it was scrunched and uncomfortable because the open screen of the laptop hit the steering wheel, so I had to keep the keyboard uncomfortably close to my body to have it open at all.
With my new bluetooth keyboard, I put my phone in the hands free holder on my dash, and only the keyboard itself is in my lap, so I have more freedom to adjust it to a nice position.

The keyboard is very light. Probably less than a third the weight of my laptop, and I had one of those tiny laptops - it was no more than 10 inches wide. So carrying it around in my bag is much nicer.

There were other keyboards that came with a case, and I was a little worried that this one didn't have one as I know it would be in my bag a lot and I wanted it protected. I figured I'd sew a little quilted pouch for it to live in. With NaNoWriMo in full swing I don't have a lot of free time for sewing, so I've just been keeping the keyboard in the little box it came in and that has worked dandy. The box just fits the keyboard so there isn't a lot of other space or padding or anything to take up more room. Eventually I'd still like to make it a cute quilted bag, but this will work for November.

I'm not exactly a tech person. I love tech, but I'm not especially good at it, and I had this keyboard synced to my phone and up and running on the first try. I was a little confused because the power light doesn't stay on, it just flashes when you first turn it on, then it goes out again. I thought that meant it wasn't still on, or my batteries were bad or something, but it's just they way it's supposed to work to conserve batteries. Types just fine with no light on.

So if you are in a similar position of not wanting to invest in a new laptop, but wanting a portable way to write, I highly recommend this system of using a bluetooth keyboard with your phone. I also bought the yWriter app to write with on my phone, and I'll talk about how that part is going in my next post, but there are other online word processors for you to pick from if you'd rather.

Monday, October 30, 2017

NanoWriMo 2017 starting in 2 days

I'm NaNoWriMo-ing again this year. National Novel Writing Month for those unfamiliar with the term) I haven't won in a very long time, and I really, REALLY want to win this year. Yet I'm no less overwhelmed and overscheduled than I usually am, so we'll see how things go.

This year I'm writing with an outline. As my novel revisions are going very well so far, my NaNo novel will be the sequel to that one. The story so far is fresh in my mind, and I'm excited to continue it. I already know the characters fairly well (although new characters will be introduced). So all this is to my benefit I think, as far as quick word counts go.

Logistically, I'm also trying some new things. My laptop has been slowly dying for awhile now. It takes ages to power on, an off, and is just old and sad. Since I'm too broke to just go get a new laptop, and I have a wonderful pocket computer anyway (aka a smart phone) I decided to get a bluetooth keyboard and write on my phone.

I'm trying out the program yWriter, but so far can't quite figure out how to use it both on my phone and on my desktop. It seems like there is something to do with saving to Google Drive, but I can't figure out how to do that yet. So I have two days to get my learning curve finished with this program, or I guess I'll just use Google docs.

Wish me luck!

Monday, October 16, 2017

Homeschool Literature Project - Watership Down



From the above guide, there was a suggested activity to draw a specific scene from the novel, Watership Down. I think there were 4 or 5 choices. My 9th grader chose to draw Bigwig after his fight with Woundwort, and my 5th grader chose to draw the Black Rabbit of Inlé.


Then in a different section there was a recommendation to write a poem. I don't remember the particular styles they assigned, but they didn't fit with the drawing prompt to my mind, and I liked the idea of having them write a poem to accompany their drawing, so I asked them to write a haiku about the scene they drew.




Earlier in our Watership Down until study, I had the 9th grader recreate a scene from the book in comic format. She is taking drawing lessons and I really like how it came out, although the drawings are very small and I couldn't get a good photo. I liked the project enough that I'm planning on having her draw other scenes from other books in the future.

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Compassion Fatigue

I work in veterinary medicine. Compassion fatigue is a serious problem that can lead to burnout and people leaving the field. I have to assume it must be a problem in human medicine as well. I've taken continuing education classes on it and how to deal with the effects, how to hopefully prevent it in yourself and your coworkers if you see the symptoms.

I feel that we, as a nation, are in the throws of compassion fatigue. More and more people are telling me they can't watch or read the news anymore. When it feels like there are near daily heartbreaking tragedies that need out donations, support, or other emotional energy, and we just don't feel like we have anything more to give on any of those fronts. I'm there for sure. I was trying so hard to be a better citizen, staying better informed and writing or calling my representative more often, but like so many others I'm hitting the limit of what I can take.

How can we go on like this? Just responding to tragedy after tragedy. Doing nothing to prevent, or to overcome. I feel small and helpless and sad. I'm going to cuddle kitties and kids now. 

Monday, October 2, 2017

October

I'm a big ole introvert. So is my husband. Under normal circumstances, we are enough company for one another. October is not normal circumstances. We have three family birthdays in October. There is Halloween and with that comes Pumpkin patch visits, Halloween parties, Harvest festivals, and so forth. We already missed the local Octoberfest because we had too many other things happening this weekend.

I was feeling like an ungrateful brat the other day as I was juggling our schedule and realized that I'd planned something on the same day we had another event already. It was at least the third time this week we hit a major planning conflict in October, and we hadn't even gotten our daughter's birthday party scheduled yet. So I was grumpy. But when I stepped back - what was I grumpy about? Ohh poor me, who is invited to too many fun things. Then I felt like a jerk.

Yes, juggling a busy social schedule is not something I'm great at. Yes, all the extra festivities around the holidays (and beginning in October) do wear at me a bit to keep track of. But, hey - I have family and friends who want me around. Who organize fun things for my kids to do. Who provide us with so many wonderful memories that we will cherish for years. So I think I will learn to deal.

And that's the real problem. If we actually didn't want to do these things or spend time with these people we could just say no and keep out days open and free. But we DO want to do all the things! But all the things are happening at the same time, and my poor little simple brain implodes just a bit. I'll be okay. I will have an amazing time, and hopefully still manage to be productive. If, however, you notice nothing on this blog again until January you'll know why.

Have fun out there!