Blogging, again

It has been a very long time since I have attempted to blog on a regular basis. So long, in fact, that WordPress doesn’t look or operate the same way as it did when I last posted.

Isn’t it funny how the need to constantly update technology takes things which were intentionally simple, and makes them more complex. Many of these things were popular purely because of their simplicity. But we can’t have a tool, website or device that stays the same, now can we?

But in spite of the fact that I don’t want to mess with the complexity of my blog site, I have found myself wanting to write again. Not the big things like books. Well, actually, those too. But for the moment I am wanting to write just about everyday life. So that requires the blog.

This means that over the next, however long the feeling lasts, I will be in a WordPress punishment zone, generally referred to as the ‘learning curve.’ I have to learn how to get this editor, publisher, and/or host to submit to my will. In the process one of two things will happen. Either I will figure it out, which might lead to me writing regularly again. Or I might get such a pain from the process that I decide the agitation inflicted by the learning curve is not worth the value I get from the creative outlet.

When you look at it that way, it could be interpreted that WordPress is, through changes and complexity of systems, working against me.

This comes as a shock. I thought it would be the readers who were against me starting to write again.

Salvation’s Promise

It was right at a year ago that a story of mine was published in Splickety. I believe this was the second story I had published with them. The rights to the story reverted back to me after the contract time, so I thought I would publish it here.  I hope to take up blogging again more regularly when life slows down.  Which might not take place soon, but in the meantime enjoy this story.  If you have never read Splickety, you might look them up. Some of the best flash fiction you will ever read.

Salvation’s Promise

“Grass Head, get back to work, useless one.”

Janie’s Cheyenne mistress called her Grass Head because her hair was the color of dried grass. She’d been the woman’s slave for two years. Long enough to learn the language, but not long enough to forget her name was Janie—not long enough to accept her circumstances.

She turned her attention back to scraping a buffalo hide and prayed God would let her die, or at least show her His plan. The hide’s smell made her gag. A sharp slap bloodied her lip, and put her back to work.

A war party returned to the small circle of tents in the grassy valley. A warrior showed his prize, a stallion still saddled with cavalry tack. But the frightened horse reared back, stomping up a cloud of dust.

Villagers gathered to stare at the animal. The brave reached out to steady the horse but received a bite. The stallion slipped free and turned tight circles. Its kick splintered a pole supporting a teepee. The spectators backed off, but not Janie.

She stepped inside the circle of onlookers. The stallion’s brown eyes locked onto her. Janie could feel him pleading with her, begging without words, to the only kindred heart in the camp.

The horse stilled. Janie reached out and gently touched his muzzle. The stallion didn’t bite or pull away. Instead, he sniffed her arm, then backed up, drawing Janie toward the center of the clearing.

“Grass Head, stupid girl.”

The familiar scolding broke Janie’s trance, and she shrunk back. The stallion positioned himself between Janie and her owner, hiding the cruel woman from Janie’s view. His gentle nuzzle reassured her. Janie understood; the stallion loved her. They shared the bonds of loss and bitter treatment.

He swung the reins into her hand, and she obeyed. She hadn’t ridden in a long time, but with his help, she mounted.

“Grass Head, get down, you ugly child.”

Janie looked longingly to the grasslands outside the camp. The horse responded to her feelings, and effortlessly cleared a path through the crowd.

As they rode away, Janie leaned down and hugged his neck. She was certain he understood her pain, and she began to understand and share his. His army training had been harrowing. Learning to endure gunfire and the bloody sights of the battlefield had been difficult.

They galloped over the golden foothills of early fall, speeding and turning and exploring at Janie’s whim. She dismounted by an old oak tree, knowing what would happen next. The braves would come looking. They would return her to her mistress and the stallion to its captor. But her parents had died in the raid. No one would welcome her back to civilization.

She searched the hills for a solution. Her eyes fell on a rock face dropping hundreds of feet. She formed a plan to end their shared misery. He understood and encouraged her to mount. They worked their way up the hills, to the top of the cliff, and stared down. Each longed for relief. She decided and the horse pulled around, got a running start toward the cliff, and then for the first time, disobeyed her.

He was willing to die; he wasn’t willing to carry her with him. She pleaded. He refused. He loved her too much to do this. She realized her selfishness. She had only thought of herself and not of the horse that loved her, the horse she loved. Then the stallion begged her to dismount so he could go over alone. She refused. And slowly they negotiated a compromise.

He would live for her sake, and she would live for his. It was a sacrifice each one would make for the other. Living would take courage, but they would each choose it. Returning to the village, she would take her punishment from her mistress, and the stallion would serve its new owner.

“What will you name him?” she asked the brave as she returned his pacified horse.

“Suicide’s Ride,” he said. “Or do you have better?”

“Salvation’s Promise.”

The brave answered with an admiring glance, and the stallion nodded and whinnied his approval.

FlashDogs: Time

TodaFlashDogs Time covery the third FlashDogs anthology Time, is being released. I have three stories in this volume, which I hope will cause you to want to take a look. It is available as a paperback and as an ebook from FlashDogs: Time on Amazon.

This entire volume is made up of flash fiction. The challenge of flash fiction is that it requires the entire story: plot, characterization, world building to occur in less than 1000 words. It sounds like a rather extreme limitation, but when the right story is crafted by a skilled writer, it is the perfect way to have some creative, light fiction without devoting the time necessary for reading full length books and novels.

All the proceeds of this volume will go to a selected literacy related charity.

Fuel Blog for the A.S.B.C.

I normally post writing news on Wednesday, but I didn’t have a chance to put it in yesterday.  The Arizona Southern Baptist Convention asked me to write a blogpost for their Fuel Blog. You can take a look at it by following that link.

The topic is in regard to our annual car show and using auto events to reach out to car people.

Splickety Prime 4.2

Recently I updated everyone about recent writing events. Now I have some more news.

This past weekend I found out that another story of mine is being picked up by Splickety Publishing. This next story will appear in Splickety Prime 4.2 which will come out in June. The theme of this issue will be the Wild West, so the genre was a little different for me. If you already have a submission to Splickety, watch for it in June. If you don’t have a subscription you might want to check out this flash fiction magazine. (I didn’t mention the title of my story because the title was one of the things that may change as they ask for edits.)

Splickety does pay for its submissions, but as of yet, I have spent more money on my subscription and the ad I placed for my book, than I expect to receive from the two stories. Just saying.

Writing News

Although I haven’t done it recently, I thought I would take today to update everyone on new developments in my writing.

CoverFirst I have received notice from the publisher for The Storeroom of the Heart that they are going out of business. It is entirely possible that the book will become available from another publisher in the near future, or possibly after May 1 it will go completely out of print. Not sure which yet, but either way I still have copies if anyone wants to order a signed copy directly from me.

Second I have had a couple of short pieces published just in the last couple of weeks.prime_cover

Splickety picked up a story I wrote called The Family Business for their detective issue. That is Splickety Prime 4.1 which was their March 2015 edition. I enjoy reading this flash fiction magazine, and I bet you will too. If you are interested in learning more about them here is the general website. http://splicketymagazine.com/ If you are interested in the issue I have a story in, here is a more direct link to purchase it. http://www.magcloud.com/browse/issue/900198

Spiritual Citizens largeAnother opportunity was that Kim Bond contacted me to include a story of mine in a book she was producing. The name of the book is Spiritual Citizens and the story of mine is titled Grandmother’s Scars. It is intended to be circulated as a free ebook, to be used as a witnessing tool. Here is a link to acquire it in a number of different formats. https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/530952 One of the easiest ways to read it is to just view it as a PDF in your browser which can be done at the link above or here is another link that goes straight to it at another location. https://drawneartochrist.files.wordpress.com/2015/02/spiritual-citizens-ebook.pdf

The printed book is inexpensive, but the handling and shipping is high, just so that you are warned. Here is a link to the printed book. http://blur.by/1I5eXou

Heart Problems

About a month ago, I went to the doctor to follow up on my still new CPAP machine and its usage. In that appointment I mentioned to the doctor that I had woken up in the night with a bunch of chest pressure and pain.

He ordered his nurse to hook me up to a box which did an automated EKG on me. I was so relaxed I was almost asleep, but I woke right up when I heard her tone change as she said, “I want to show this to the doctor.” and slipped out the door.

A moment later my doctor came back in the room and informed me that the box had said I had had a heart attack. He was quick to say he didn’t believe that; he believed my slow heart rate and an anomaly in my rhythm had fooled the machine. But to be certain, he sent me for a full stress test which I had done within a week.

For a bit of history, my father was one year younger than me when he had his first heart attack. My middle brother, who is in fantastic shape and goes on long runs regularly, had a heart attack earlier this year. So family history is stacked against me.

In the time intervening I suppose I tried to take it easy, but my schedule was far from normal. I went on a mission trip for five days. I took several days off to paint my house. I also took my wife in for medical tests and attended a meeting which promised to be very stressful for a local ministry.

During all of these events, I repeatedly noticed pressure in my chest. I tried to take it as easy as possible, but I also fully intended to meet all of my obligations. Even the day I went back to get results proved unusual. My car had a tire going flat, so I dropped it to the shop, and walked from there to the doctor appointment. Along the way I thought to myself, if I get a bad report I am going to feel like an idiot for pushing my luck with all this physical activity.

My doctor said the tests demonstrated my heart was completely healthy. As I walked back to my car after the appointment I didn’t notice any pressure in my chest. Since then, I have had some once or twice, but I am ignoring it like I did all my life prior to that first appointment.

This is an example of how life events affect us. Before the box had made the mistaken diagnosis I had never worried about my heart. But from that time until I got the final word, my head (and spiritually speaking, my heart) were filled with concern for my physical heart. This concern caused me to notice things I normally wouldn’t have. Even though I resisted the temptation to live differently, what filled my heart and mind did shape my behavior.Cover

This is an example of why I wrote the book, The Storeroom of the Heart. I wanted to help believers recognize how the content of their heart shapes their potential. Only by doing what we can to control the content of our heart will we allow ourselves to be most useful to God.

If you are interested in purchasing a copy, you can either pick it up anywhere books are sold. You can get it from CrossBooks, or from Amazon. Or if you want a signed copy you can contact me and I will arrange it. You can use the social media links, on the right side of the blog, then contact me by private message.

The Builder

Before the post, let me say that I have been very busy in my ministry and therefore have done a lot less writing. I do plan to get back to Jamison’s Battlefields soon and also expect to begin blogging again more regularly.  For today I am putting in a post I submitted for Flash!Friday. This weekly challenge allows 150 words based on a picture prompt.

StKilda

St Kilda, Scotland. CC photo by Neil Wilkie.

The Builder

The cairn is our home.

For untold generations, we have been safe in the rocks.

It’s the perfect home—nutritious grass, water from the sky and others of my kind.

It’s true, the sky occasionally has a kite, but, if we are vigilant, we will be safe in the Cairn before they get close.

In the past we always believed someone gathered the pieces into a pile. The rocks are stacked so carefully. It is all so well planned for our purposes.

We decided we owed the builder a debt of thanks.

Now our leaders are teaching our young that the rocks got here by some natural process. They believe our adoration of a builder is silly. They make us feel stupid.

Soon my babies will be born. I worry about them, growing up in a world without appreciation for the builder. I fear they will grow up believing the rocks fell into these stacks.

Convoys and Propaganda

The next episode for Jamison’s Battlefields. Here are the previous episodes in order. Like any story you will get the most out of it by reading it in sequence.

The first battlefield was The Battle for the Mind.  Zilkas Asteroid Belt, Jamison’s Rescue,  Dinner with an Alien, Dibolocos Attack, Departure Orders, Homecoming, Into the Darkness, The Family BusinessJewel’s Place, ShanghaiedFirst MarkThe Pirate’s Life, Defensive Position, Adrift, Self Sacrifice, Crash DownThe Lake HouseDancing with Egopods, Lunch with Aliens and Kilkian Alignment

The second battlefield is The Battle of the Hands, Here are the previous episodes in this battlefield Learning to SeeMaintaining Common SenseMeeting CompagnoUnseating DibolocosThe Journey HomewardAmbush on Platinum 9, Refit, Retrain and Rethink and Saved by Rodent Weed.  Today we get Episode 29

 

Convoys and Propaganda

Chambers took her battle group out for training prior to beginning combat duty. During the course of this training she first set up her own command to her liking. Then she assisted the captains in setting up their commands. She met them individually, giving them a detailed view of how she arranged her own structure. Then she allowed them to return to their ship and set up their own commands.  Finally she inspected each ship to verify that whatever command structure the captain chose to use would be functional.

When it was time for her to train Captain Avery she found him to be well versed both as a military commander and as a servant of the Kilkian King. He was already aware of her alignment but did not have the advantages that had been extended to her and Jamison.

Captains Corel and Dremmer both were competent officers and she believed they would both cooperate and follow orders as needed in a battle group. Unfortunately, Captain Bittlesworth seemed to have no intention whatsoever of following orders. On the final day of training she gathered all of them to discuss strategy and experience with pirates. Bittlesworth started off the meeting with a sullen attitude, but quickly progressed to accusing her of being inexperienced and incapable of leading. She reigned him in by assuring him she knew how to fill out a court martial. He quickly submitted, but the exchange made it clear to Chambers that she would continue to have trouble with him.

From there the group went to the moon, Adjupt. It served as a space port in the past, but now it was more like a parking lot. It was filled with ships that were afraid to do any trading. She made the normal announcements for a convoy. Even as recently as six months ago these ships would have jumped at the chance to trade under protection, but now they were afraid to go out even with a full battle group guarding them.

About this time though the news broke, carefully crafted and spun by the military command, regarding Chambers victories against the pirates. When word got around that the battle group was commanded by the same Captain Chambers, a few ships agreed to go out under her direction and protection. Normally a convoy might be as many as twenty merchant ships, Chambers would be heading out with only five freighters. It was a very small start.

As they departed to begin trade with outlying colonies, the merchant captains loaded up with different goods to sell and trade along the way. They would also bring back goods from these different colonies to sell at the home planet.

Prior to departure Chambers hosted a formal dinner with each of the captains both CDF and merchant. At this meal each was interviewed on film so the CDF could publish it later if the run was successful. As she watched this process, she became aware of a sense of danger or anxiety from one of the merchant captains. To make matters worse this captain was also actively aligned with the Dibolocos and seemed to have already formed a partnership with Captain Bittlesworth.

When they headed out the first stop was a relatively close star system with two different colonies on different planets. Chambers planned to go to the larger colony first and to the smaller one after. The whole point of a convoy was sticking together for safety. Captain Bittlesworth sent a communication indicating he was taking the one ship with him to the smaller colony and would rejoin the convoy later. Chambers ordered him to stay with the group, but he simply took off with his new friend. All of these events were faithfully recorded for later publication.

When the trading was done on the larger colony for the majority of the convoy, they started toward the other planet in order to join up with Bittlesworth and his friend. But as they approached the planet Chambers became convinced they were flying into a trap of some kind.  She ordered the colony therefore to stop before getting within firing range of the planetary defenses. Bittlesworth sent numerous communications asking, ordering and even begging for her to come toward the planet. She refused and continued to order him to come out to rejoin her.

Finally he did come out, with guns blazing. On one side of him was the friend, his ship now transformed into a gun boat, and on the other side was a more traditional pirate ship. She quickly configured the group to get the military ships between the honest merchants and the pirates. They counted a total of 11 missiles launched toward them.

She also deployed a volley of torpedoes. Instead of placing the torpedoes in front of the oncoming enemies, she put a missile above two and below the third.  The first connected with Captain Bittlesworth’s ship and disabled it. It should have missed him completely, but he dodged downward right into its path. At the same second the two other ships dodged up. The pirate ship was hit and was completely destroyed. The last ship, the converted merchant, saw what happened and survived the first volley, by a sudden turn away. But Captain Avery had fired a single round into that spot of space and it was also disabled and on fire. After a few minutes it exploded. Most likely internal fires found their way to the ship’s ammo stores.

These successes might have allowed for a moment of celebration, but they needed to identify and deal with the incoming missiles.  A few different defenses were utilized, Captain Dremmer deployed a series of drones which each dispersed a storm of holographic decoys. The majority of the missiles detonated beside one of these. Two missiles remained. The first was aimed at Captain Dremmer’s vessel, but Avery’s defenses managed to destroy it with a close range laser as it passed by him.

The other was aimed right at the bridge of the flag ship. Chambers saw it coming on the read out, and as all other options failed she enabled a tactical display of her own and shot a single plasma burst at it. The normal procedure would have been to fill the section of space with multiple shots, but she fired once and downed the bird. All of these remarkable shots had been guided by Colofen’s advice.

They boarded Bittlesworth’s vessel and arrested him and his remaining crew.  A large number was missing. Chambers could guess they had been sold into slavery or executed.

The ships remaining celebrated the victory and Chambers hosted them again for a formal dinner. More interviews were filmed for use in reassuring the public that order was being restored. But as these activities were winding down the Captains asked Chambers to explain the wildly accurate nature of her shots and offensive. To her surprise, Colofen suggested she tell them the whole story.

After a long explanation of the nature of the warfare, she also described the special training she had from the Kilkians. She did not tell them Colofen had been onboard helping her, but she did give anyone who wanted an invitation to align with the Kilkians. By the end of the meeting every one of the Captains chose to align.  The majority of her bridge crew did the same and the same changes occurred on the other vessels, as well.

All of this was recorded by the communication equipment the CDF had provided.

Jasper Mullins and the Fall of Eden 51

Jasper Mullins was one of the few remaining independent miners. There had been a mining boom fifty years before when technology created mineral scanners, mining lasers and ships capable of fast interstellar travel. Most of his kind had found sudden death rather than sudden riches. Mining was dangerous.

Jasper had survived by being cautious, but he had also never quite gotten rich enough to quit. As mining rights got more and more restricted he found a sweet deal in a star system named Eden 51. The local government was a monarchy, and the King had granted him exclusive mining rights to the asteroid belt between the fifth and sixth planets. The only catch was he could not mine one particular rock. It was sacred, but there were a thousands of others to choose from.

The King was a different race or maybe even species than the people he governed. Jasper thought they must be slaves of some sort. But they were peaceful, passive, happy, and more than willing to trade with him. He would not risk this opportunity worrying about those people.

He had been accumulating small amounts of gold, platinum, silver, copper, and latinum. The real money was in the metal crystals, he had a couple dozen gold crystals, hundreds of silver and one single platinum. These formed in the hardest of rocks, under conditions impossible on planets. Most colonies didn’t even know they existed, but the ones that did valued them higher than any jewel.

The computers had taken over the mechanical process of scanning different asteroids and planning which ones to mine, leaving Jasper with time on his hands. He used it to visit with the King. He studied non-planar calculus. He also wondered about that sacred rock.

The computer had scanned it along with the others. It was too hard for the scanner to penetrate; he had never seen that before. His imagination speculated what might be inside an asteroid that hard. No one had ever found a latinum crystal before. He figured, if such a thing existed, it was there in that rock.

He approached the King asking for rights to mine it. But was strongly rebuked. He offered to trade the gold and silver crystals for the rights. The king refused and positioned gunships nearby. Jasper felt this action signified a final answer. So instead of asking again he planned a way to do it without the rights

Although the gunships would be watching him, he would often go to the back side of the rocks. So he went behind a fast moving asteroid, then when it passed by the sacred stone he slipped around behind it, keeping out of sight of his guards. He left a drone on the other rock doing mining operations to cover the static he would make

So now that he was here, he had to work quickly. He scanned again with the more powerful short range scanner. But still the rock was too hard to penetrate. He made the decision then to use the mining laser to make a small incision. It would be hardest on the outside. Once through this layer he expected to be able to make a successful scan.

The laser took longer to bite into the hard rock than normal, and Jasper feared the electrical and radiowave whitenoise generated would attract the gunboats. Despite these fears he continued until finally he saw a crack open up on the surface. He withdrew the laser and prepared to scan again, but then noticed the crack was spreading.

He fearfully watched as the cracks spread over the entire surface of the asteroid. Jasper knew the gunboats would see it; they might already be gathering. His fate was sealed. But still he had to know what was in there

Then the sacred rock broke apart. He found out what was in it. Not minerals or crystals, but creatures came out. Something like winged dragons, which flew in space by spitting fireballs. Several were fired in his general direction, none hit him, but only because his small ship was nimble. Whatever they hit was destroyed. Entire asteroids shattered into thousands of pieces.

The gunships opened up on the creatures, but failed to hinder them. The creatures destroyed all the fleet in the next few seconds. Thousands of lives lost. Jasper then watched helplessly as the creatures headed toward the heavily populated fifth planet. Nothing in his experience allowed him to process what he was seeing. Not knowing what else to do, he followed them. The King’s ship met him in orbit above the planet.

He was taken to the King’s attending room. The King asked why Jasper had committed this crime. He could only answer he didn’t know this would be the result The King asked what price Jasper would pay for his crime. Jasper had no answer. Instead of executing him, the King made him watch what was happening on the surface of the planet.

The creatures settled down in different spots, and instead of killing the population, they enslaved them. They no longer worked for themselves, but instead were forced to spend their now shorter, unhappy lives feeding and serving the creatures. Billions of free and happy beings were transformed by bitter servitude. They were tortured for the entertainment of the creatures. They died young because of their hard labor and lack of care.

Jasper was forced to watch the process unfold over several months. Then one day the king said it was enough. Jasper was glad; he thought anything was better than watching the misery he had caused. The King made a new sacred stone, then defeated and gathered the creatures which had become fat and incapable of fighting. Once again they were imprisoned in the asteroid. Finally he came and took Jasper, who was transformed into a creature like the others, and placed him into that prison too.

 

The idea for the above flash fiction piece came to me last night. Now that it is written out I don’t especially like it.  Can you see why?  Do you see the parallels and what are the strengths and weaknesses of those correlations?  Comments welcome, postive or negative. After all, I already admitted I don’t like it much.