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
Voices of the Dragonborn Era

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Cobblestones and Mud, Part IV, and Happy New Year!

Hey Everybody! I hope you had a great Holiday Season — ours was a busy one, with kids and extended family flying in, flying out, going this way and that. This is the first time in a couple weeks I’ve had more than an hour or two for myself! Anyway, I finally managed to complete Part IV of “Cobblestones and Mud.” I spent Part III setting up the week’s events, and in Part IV, we reach the story’s climax. The day of the Greater Solitude Amateur Sports Ball has finally arrived, but is everything as it seems? In this installment we consider the following:

  • Can Max manage everything on his plate the day of the ball?
  • Does Cari trust Max to show up when he’s supposed to?
  • What do little Gus and his family really want?

Click here for Part IV of “Cobblestones and Mud!”

Note: Previous installments can be found here:

One more thing: I’d like to thank everyone who stopped by to visit in 2022 — your visits really mean a lot!

Notable Links for Late November

Hey folks, just thought I’d pass along a couple interesting links I ran across lately. First of all, Kent Wayne, the DirtySciFiBuddha, has just published his first YA novel. In A Door into Evermoor, our young hero, an ordinary kid, ventures into a a mysterious realm, where he meets “….a Wolven King and an Elerican Witch, the last Wayfarer, and a half-Elf Princess!” Sound like a perfect thing to download on my tablet, don’t you think? And remember, this is the guy who writes books about a Barbarian Valley Girl, so you know you’ll be in for quite a ride!

Also, if you aren’t familiar with Cedar Sanderson’s book yet, here’s a perfect opportunity. Tanager’s Fledglings is on sale for only a dollar through the end of this month, so go get it! She describes her book as “space opera with a puppy in it,” but there’s a lot more to it than that. I read Tanager’s Fledglings a few years ago whilst on a brief road trip, and enjoyed it very much, so I recommend it highly. And remember — this sale is only good through 30 November!

Oh, by the way, when you visit Cedar Sanderson’s web site, be sure to check out her recipes section. Yum!

See you soon!

“Cobblestones and Mud,” Part III (FINALLY)!

Hey everybody, at long last, I’ve posted Part III of “Cobblestones and Mud,” wherein our teenage friends endure some good-natured ribbing about their upcoming date, Max engages in a little introspection, and we learn a little more about Max’s new friend Gus!

I was a little worried about this chapter. If you hadn’t already guessed, I don’t plan these stories in any great detail. I’ll have a pretty good idea of a starting point and an end, but wind up taking it as a matter of faith that I’ll know what to put in between. Sometimes the plot comes to me quickly and I can get it up and posted in short order. Other times it’s not so easy. I know where Max and Cari (and Gus) are supposed to be for the big finish, but getting them there in a logical way wasn’t easy. In any case, I should have this story wrapped up in two more installments. With any luck, you’ll see 2022 and this story end at around the same time!

To read Part III of “Cobblestones and Mud,” please click here!

To read the previous installments of this story, please click the links below:

Part I

Part II

Yep,We’re Back!

Hey everybody! I’m back in Virginia now, having flown back from Ohio last Tuesday in one of those cramped little jets they use for short and medium runs these days. By contrast, the first time I flew in an airplane was 1978, and I was 13 years old. The plane, which was bound for New York, was a Boeing 727, with plenty of room. We boarded in Dayton, Ohio, with further stops in Columbus and Philadelphia before finally arriving at JFK. Different now, though I don’t know exactly what changed or why.

Anyway, it was a nice to visit my hometown and my family. My nephew’s wedding was lovely – outdoors in Ohio’s autumnal twilight. At some point during the reception, the DJ had all the married couples come up to dance. Then, group by group he dismissed them, starting with couples who’d been married five years or less, then ten years or less, and so on. The last couple to leave the dance floor had been married 61 years. That couple was my Mom and Dad.

Sixty-one years!

Anyway, I’m back now, and it’s back to work. Couple things I thought I might bring to your attention:

  • First, Brandi Untz’s Tara of High Rock (which I linked to a few months back) continues apace. She’s up to 74 chapters now. I think I’m up to Chapter 65 or 66 – I’ve got some catching up to do! The story’s pretty fast-paced, though, and you’ll find yourself going through two or three chapters at a time!
  • And here’s something new I just found the other day: Selina Elliot’s Inscriptions from the Heart blog. Lots of stories here. I’m reading one called “Elemental Emotions.” Werewolves? Yep, it’s got werewolves. Vampires? Got those, too! How about elementals? What do you mean, what’s an elemental? Go read the story and find out already!

So that’s all for now. I’ve got work tomorrow, and I really need to figure out how to wrap up the next chapter of “Cobblestones and Mud.” See you soon!

On Travel

Hi Folks! I meant to post something earlier, but have been pretty busy the last couple of days, having hopped on a plane yesterday to travel to Ohio, where I grew up. I’m here to attend a wedding. As proof, I offer the following shot I took at DCA while waiting to board my own flight, rendered three different ways through Paint.Net. Regarding the shot itself: It was more or less dumb luck. I was trying for a neat shot of the Washington Monument when the plane sailed into view. At that point the shot went from “picture of a static object” to “dynamic little story.” Here’s the original shot:

A plane landing, the way it actually looked…

…using the Oil Painting Effect

…and using the Ink Sketch Effect!

Fun and easy — if I can manage it, I can’t imagine who can’t! That’s all for now. Will try to get something substantial up here in the next day or two. So long!

Once Again, What I’m Reading (and What You Should Be Reading):

A bit over a year ago on this blog, I talked about love stories. I mentioned what should be pretty obvious – not all love stories are romances, or even have a significant romantic arc.

Back then I was referring to Chris Durston’s Each Little Universe. Today, I’m referring to The Great Passage by Shion Miura. If there was ever a story of single-minded dedication, a years-long devotion to a labor of love, this is it.

In this story we meet a fellow named Mitsuya Majime. He works in sales at Genbu Publishing, a position for which he’s uniquely unsuited. Disheveled, distracted, and lost in thought, he’s not the picture of a charismatic salesman! But his fortunes change when he’s asked to lead the effort to create a brand new, comprehensive dictionary of the Japanese language. It’s a big job, and even with the guidance of the retiring senior editor and the professorial senior advisor, it often seems overwhelming. Creating the dictionary is painstaking work, the results of which may take years to be apparent. Does Majime have what it takes to bring the dictionary to fruition? Will he grow into his new job?

How else will Majime grow? When Kaguya, his landlady’s granddaughter fresh from culinary training, moves to their rooming house, Majime is absolutely enthralled. With all his knowledge of words, will he pick the right ones to win her over?

Did I need to end the last two paragraphs with question marks? Not really. This story does have a romantic arc; Kaguya finds Majime’s awkwardness charming and his devotion inspiring. While both have their own dreams, the pair find they can pursue them together.

Would I be spoiling anything be revealing that they had a successful marriage? That she became a chef and opened her own restaurant? That he finally finished the dictionary? No, because suspense doesn’t play a role in The Great Passage, and it wasn’t meant to. This story is more about what it takes to make one’s dreams, ambitions, or duties a reality. As the story progresses, the author drops hints about how much time has transpired, and by the end of the book we find out that the dictionary has taken well over a decade to put together!

This book is utterly charming, and packs an emotional punch. I found it hard to keep my eyes dry during the final scene at the dictionary launch party. What did it take to get to that point? What did it take to make Kaguya’s career a success? Devotion, dedication, certainly. And love – labor of love, romantic love, whatever you want to call it – played a role as well. That might be the one thing that stuck in my mind after reading (and re-reading, more than once) this wonderful book.

Note: The link above is for the paparback book, via Amazon. You can also watch the wonderful anime adaptation at Amazon Prime Video. Check out the trailer below:

Prologue for a Novel Nobody’s Written

Hey Folks, just an idea I’ve been playing around with. This has nothing whatsoever to do with Elder Scrolls, leaning more towards science fiction. Whether the world needs another novel about robots is anybody’s guess. Whether I’ll be able to come up with a novel’s worth of story is another question all by itself, but who knows? Maybe I will write it. In any case, here it is:

It was an absolutely horrible day. Even in his adulthood, he remembered his initial disbelief, and then, as the truth forced its way in, looking at his mother, his father, and his nanny through a blur of tears. They didn’t understand. No, it was worse than that. Nigel thought they were doing their damnedest not to, which added rage on top of his grief.

“Lily was my best friend,” he yelled indignantly, desperate to keep his voice steady. “How can you tell me she’s gone?”

“There was nothing we could do,” said Father. “Our best people tried everything, and I mean everything, to get her on her feet.”

“But she was fine until last night,” whimpered Nigel. “Until she started hiccuping.”

“That was the problem. That hiccuping you talked about was a software bug. At some point, Lily didn’t have a response for some stimulus or another. When that happened, Lily stopped working and couldn’t be set right.”

“But you didn’t have to –” Nigel started to say. He knew if he completed the sentence, he’d get a long lecture on how that was impossible. Nigel knew he was right, but it was a hard truth to face, either way. Lily looked so real, smelled so real, giggled so real, cried so real. A friend was a friend. Flesh and blood or Howland Technologies Companion, it made no difference to him.

Nigel Slim-Howland, nine years old, had lost a friend, and it felt like a slap, a theft.

The moralizing, the lack of sympathy only made the pain worse. “We didn’t, Nigel. You know that.” Mother was speaking now. “We had to shut her down. Because of the time you spent with her, we can make better companions for young people like you. What you’ve done is important, you’ll see.”

What you’ve said is no comfort at all, Nigel thought, but he dared not say it.

And then what happens? I don’t know for sure. Maybe I’ll add to it later. Stay tuned!

More Odds and Ends

Good morning! Continuing where we left off yesterday, I thought I would share a few more images that didn’t wind up as illustrations for the stories on this blog, at least not in the form we see here. While I’m not particularly talented at drawing, I found that I was halfway decent at manipulating screenshots and other images. After a while, doing the illustrations that way became almost as much fun as writing the stories! So where were we? Oh, here we are:

“Let Us Then Be Joined Together” (2020)

I had an absolute ball writing this one, which once again stars little Cari Ayalu. This time, she’s a very self-concious ten-year-old, participating in her beloved Auntie’s wedding. We also get to meet the groom’s nephew, Max, who’s also in the wedding ceremony and is just Cari’s age. Do they get along? What kind of story would it be if they did! Anyway, this story allowed me to speculate on what modern-day Skyrim’s customs might look like, while also setting up a baseline for Cari’s and Max’s developing relationship.

I did lots of screenshots to set up the illustrations for this story. Here are a few:

Cari sure looks indignant about something, doesn’t she? Maybe she’s telling her Auntie that her dress doesn’t work at all against a white background! That explains why I didn’t use the middle shot, anyway. But Cari would never be deliberately mean to her Aunt Teri, so something else might be on her mind. Like her Talking Vilja doll, maybe?

Read on, so we can talk about Talking Vilja!

Continue reading “More Odds and Ends”

Some Odds and Ends

Hey Folks, I know it’s been a while, so I thought I’d let you know I’m still around, and haven’t abandoned blogging. I’m still working on Part III of “Cobblestones and Mud.” (Really. I actually made some progress with it this week!) I’ll give you links to some other stories I ran across tomorrow or so. Today, I thought I’d share some Skyrim screenshots that were built to be illustrations for stories on this site, but I never used. As I explained in previous posts, I would edit the screenshots using Paint.net or similar programs. We’ll try to do these in more-or-less chronological order.

“Childhoods” (2017)

This was the first story to appear on this site. Below is an illustration for a promotion post I put up for the last chapter of the story on Emma’s Elder Scrolls Forum*. It’s supposed to represent (of all things) a refrigerator magnet one could purchase at the Blue Palace Museum and Interpretive Center gift shop. They were right next to the Talking Vilja dolls, you see (more on Talking Vilja later!). In the picture you can see Frida/Astrid’s growth from a small child to an elderly woman.

Continue reading “Some Odds and Ends”

Fallout 3 Picture Story, Part II (Sort Of)

Hey Folks! I thought I’d post a few more shots of my latest Fallout 3 playthrough. I started posting these screenies with the idea of telling a coherent story, but as I went on, I realized the pictures were becoming awfully repetitive. There were only a few different shots someone with my skill level could actually take: Yep, here’s the main character firing a weapon. Here’s an enemy falling down dead. Repeat.

On the other hand, every now and then I might manage to get a particularly compelling shot, or manage to edit a shot into something I thought was interesting or noteworthy. It’s those sorts of shots I would like to present below:

Here, we see Iris and Brisa’s new companion, Vanessa. An experienced fighter, she’s able to get everyone reading off the same page.

Her discipline is important. In a place as heartbreaking as the Wasteland, it’s too easy to fall into careless melancholy after seeing what the world had lost.

That didn’t mean combat became that much easier, or less dangerous. A tough scrape in Seward Square downtown cost them dearly. One can see Brisa leaning to one side in considerable pain.

Iris kept quiet vigil at Brisa’s side while she recovered from her injuries. During her recuperation, Brisa reassured her friend that she was alright, and wanted nothing more than to continue their adventures together.

Note that Brisa and Vanessa are Fallout 3 mods, available at Nexus Mods. Brisa can be found here, and Vanessa here. Hey, if you have some screenshots to show off, go ahead and link them in the comments — I’m sure everyone would love to see them!