Welcome to Midnight Oil Diary

I’m glad you dropped by!  This blog contains commentary on gaming, fantasy, and science fiction, along with some of my own stories.  If you’re here for the blog, please read on.  If you’d like to go right to the stories, follow the links below.  You can also find links to the stories on the sidebar at right.

The Stories

ChildhoodsReverberationsA Hand to Hold
The Harp’s Call What We Leave Behind Let Us Then Be Joined Together

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Godspeed, Beverly Cleary

I would have been in second or third grade, sometime in the early 1970s, when our teacher read aloud a book about a dog and his boy, both of whom lived in a strangely-named street in a neighborhood not too different from the one my classmates and I grew up in. The book was Ribsy. The boy was Henry Huggins, and the street was called Klickitat, although it was many years before I found out the city was Portland, Oregon. The author was a woman named Beverly Cleary, who passed away last Thursday at the age of 104.

It didn’t take long to meet the other kids in the neighborhood around Klickitat Street: Scooter, Murph, Ellen, Otis, Beezus. And, oh yes, Ramona. Who can ever forget Ramona? I read lots of Cleary books through grade school, but with more than forty books to her credit, there were a lot more I didn’t ever get to. I suppose I kind of grew out of Beverly Cleary’s books as I got older, but the worlds she created never really left me. It’s hard to say why exactly. Maybe it was her writing style — no more complicated than it needed to be, but not simplified to the point of patronizing young readers. Or maybe it was the characterizations. Henry, Ramona, Beezus and the rest were believable in a way other author’s characters weren’t. Maybe I didn’t know them personally, but I could see bits of them in everyone I did know. In any case, reading Beverly Cleary books was a pleasure I never forgot, and one I had the chance to revive as my own daughters got older and starting reading about Ramona and her family themselves.

I suspect most people reading this post experienced Beverly Cleary books about the same way I did. If you haven’t had the pleasure, her works are still in print and easy to find. An interesting Wikipedia article revealed something I never knew until just a few minutes ago: Beverly Cleary penned three Leave It to Beaver novelizations!

So Godspeed, Beverly Cleary. Sure, we’ll miss you, but your books, and the worlds you created a shared, are things we’ll never have to give up.

Notable Links, March 2021

Hey, Folks! Still working on the next story,* but while we’re at it, I thought I might share a couple of links to other goings-on around the web.

First of all, Elspeth Aurilie writes on! This time, we get the latest in her Dragonborn story, “Under the Purple Sky.” I’ll say it again: If you haven’t been reading Elspeth’s work, you really should be. Her characterization and plotting make her stories very compelling, putting the reader right into the middle of the narrative.

Next, consider author Cedar Sanderson’s recipe for Low-Carb Chocolate Fudge Pie! And while you’re there, consider the rest of her site. She’s a prolific multi-genre author (I’ve read three of her books, and definitely will be reading more), artist, and scientist. Science fiction, contemporary fantasy, science commentary, yummy recipes: What more could anyone ask for?

Hopefully, I’ll have the first installment of our next tale up soon. Until then, stay healthy!


*In the new tale, young Frokken Cari Ayalu, a teenager in modern Skyrim, receives in the mail a thick scholarly tome containing personal accounts of the Dragonborn era, and we get to follow along as she learns what it was like to live in those momentous times!

Notable Links

Hey, folks, still trying to figure out what the next story’s going to be about, but while we’re at it, let’s take a look at a couple of interesting posts on other peoples’ blogs:

First, here’s an update on author Chris Durston’s latest projects. Chris Durston is a busy writer, with a CV featuring a novel, short stories, and a publishing firm. And more appears to be on the way. In any case, a visit to Chris’s extensive web site is well worth your time.

Folks might remember a post I made a few months ago on the Ravenscourt Tragedies, Anastasia Kirke’s spooky web series. Over at The Venture, we can read Visitor’s Guide to Ravenscourt Manor, the scene of the action, so to speak, as it might be viewed by a brave tourist in the present day. Feel free to supply your own suitably sinister music as you read, or just listen to the following:

Have a great February — be talking to you soon!

Some More Fallout 4 Screenshots

Hey Folks, as promised, we did some more romping around The Commonwealth, and brought back a few pictures. Some of these are posed, while others were taken during actual gameplay. It shouldn’t be too difficult to tell which is which.

We’ll start out with a couple shots taken on a foggy morning near Sanctuary Hills:

That shot on the right looks like it wouldn’t have been out of place in World War I. Maybe it would have looked a little like this:

Here are some shots from the rough streets:

I thought the following image of the gang on patrol came out pretty well:

And finally, the gang would like to express their sentiments:

What do you do when you run into a room full of supermutants? Get ready to roast ’em!

Most of you probably know how to do this, but when I come up on a scene with screenshot potential, I use the mouse wheel to go into third person mode, press the tilde (~) key to open the console, type “TFC” plus “Enter” to enable the Flying Camera, then press the tilde again to close the console. Now the scene is frozen, and you can use the arrow keys to line up the shot. To go back into play mode, just repeat the steps above. I edit the shots using Paint.net, which is plenty at my limited skill level. Others might have better luck using Photoshop or GIMP. Hey, if you’ve got any cool screenshots to share, let me know!

In Keeping with the Theme, More or Less

Hey Folks, not much to report, but I did stumble across this video of Jimmy Page and Robert Plant performing “The Battle of Evermore” with Najma Ackhtar. A couple things I did notice: First, Jimmy Page’s three-necked guitar/mandolin. Second, the tune starts of with a hurdy-gurdy, which led me down a rabbit hole of hurdy-gurdy videos, some of which are quite haunting indeed. Enjoy!

Writing and Not Writing

Hey, Everybody! I’m still thinking about what to write next. There are a few ideas swimming around in my head, whether for a totally new story or for revising existing stories. As for new stories, here are a couple ideas:

  • Who was responsible for the death of Jot Sorenson’s parents? An Imperial investigator must team up with a Thalmor agent to find out.
  • Teenage Max Sundberg greatly respects his friend Cari Ayalu’s intelligence and insight, but it takes a mystical experience for him to truly appreciate his friend.

Regarding revisions – I suppose any of my stories have room for improvement! I’ve been thinking about ways to tighten up “The Harp’s Call,” but haven’t quite decided which way to go, yet.

Needless to say, I won’t decide today. Or probably tomorrow, either. In the meantime, there’s plenty to read and learn from. Here are a couple of recent finds:

Remember: it doesn’t matter if your ideas are cohesive, if your grammar is correct, if your spelling is wrong, or even if you’re writing in sentences. The only goal is to build the connection between your two major writing instruments: your brain and your fingers.

  • Elspeth Aurilie has published the latest chapter in her saga, “The Rise of House Sigeweald.” I’ve linked to Elspeth’s site a couple times already, as I’ve always enjoyed her writing and her faithful fanbase. She doesn’t disappoint in her latest installment, either, though I wouldn’t recommend reading this one to your children as a bedtime story. In fact, Old RPM had to loosen his collar and almost had to retreat to the fainting couch!

I’ve enjoyed the two or three years I’ve been blogging, and have come to realize that half the fun is seeing what other bloggers are writing about. This is something I need to do more of. See you next time (I’ll be posting some Fallout 4 screenies soon)!

“Let Us Then Be Joined Together” Wraps Up!

Hey folks, we hope you enjoyed the wedding, but now it’s time for the reception! As hinted at the end of the previous installment, a minor (or major, depending on your point of view) crisis will have to be solved before the party can really start. Will Max be successful in his mission of mercy? Will Cari and Max learn to get along? Find out in the conclusion to “Let Us Then Be Joined Together!”

Eyes forward, Max Sundberg!

Oh, one more thing: I’d like to take this moment to thank the folks who came by to visit this blog and read the stories. When I started this blog in 2017, I had no idea how challenging it could be to come up with new content, or even to update consistently. Your support has made it all worth it. I wish all of you a blessed 2021, and I hope to see you all again soon!

Let Us Then Be Joined Together, Part III

Hey Everybody, the wedding ceremony’s about to start, and you’ve got the best seats in the chapel — you get to see Aunt Teri and Uncle Adrian through Max and Cari’s eyes! This was a fun installment to write, as it allowed me to let my imagination run free for a bit. While experienced Skyrim players are probably familiar with the wedding ceremony that takes place in-game, I had the chance to imagine how the nuptials would proceed a thousand years later. What I wound up with was kind of a mix of North American Protestant wedding, flavored with some symbolic acts and “Maric” philosophy, topped off with the marriage script from the game itself.

So welcome, step on into the chapel. Your pew is here!

“A joyous day for all who witness this union, consecrated by Lady Mara.”

Note: For previous installments, click here for Part I, or here for Part II.

Let Us Then Be Joined Together, Part II

Cari, in her Maiden Attendant Splendor!

Hey, folks! I just posted Part II of “Let Us Be Joined Together,” where we see the runup to Teri Ayalu’s and Adrian Lindström’s wedding through Cari’s eyes. As some of you know, Cari is Teri’s niece, and despite their age difference, they’re inseparable. As such, it surprised nobody when Teri selected her niece as her Maiden Attendant, which is something like a cross between bridesmaid and flower girl. In this installment, I thought it might be interesting to explore their relationship (and Cari’s fears for the future) a little more deeply, though we can count on young Max, Uncle Adrian’s nephew, to pop up for a little comic relief.

To read Part II of “Let Us Be Joined Together,” please click here.

Note: Part I of this story can be found here.

Oh, one more thing: Both Part I and Part II of this story end with a loud, startling organ flourish. In my imagination, it might have sounded something like the finale to Camille Saint-Saëns’ Third Symphony, which I’ve linked to below (yes, do listen, but if you’re easily startled, or have a sleeping infant close by or something, you might want to turn the volume down!).

Let Us Then Be Joined Together

Hi Folks! I thought it might be time for another visit with Cari and Max. In this story, we’re going to travel back in time a few years, to when the pair first got to know each other (and yes, it was a rocky start), as Maiden Attendant and Squire at Uncle Adrian and Aunt Teri’s wedding. Along the way, we speculate a little on how social customs in contemporary Tamriel are observed, and we’ll learn a little bit about how Cari and Max’s relationship developed.

I don’t see this as a particularly long story — three or four parts, at most. So, without further ado: Let Us Be Joined Together, Part I.