Tuesday, January 30, 2018

...Annnnnd I'm sick again

I'm kind of amazed that it's taken this long, honestly.

Hello mucus, my old friend
You've come to leak from me again
Because a sickness softly creeping
Left its seeds while I was sleeping
And the vision that was planted in my brain
Still remains
Within the sound of sickness

In restless dreams I lay alone
On the couch within my home
'Neath the halo of a street lamp
I cannot go intp the cold and damp
When my eyes were stabbed by
The flash of a flashing light
That split the night
And touched the sound of sickness

And in the naked light I saw
Ten thousand people, maybe more
People coughing without speaking
People blowing noses glistening
People writing pleas that sore throats never share
No one, nowhere
Disturb the sound of sickness

At least the boys don't seem to have it yet.

Monday, January 29, 2018

Yeah, so...

I don't seem to be writing much for the blog right now.

That's partially because I have plenty of other things on my mind. But it's also, and more importantly, because I'm actually making some progress on a writing project. And that takes time and attention, which means less time and attention to devote to my presence here. (Also: Twitter. But really mainly writing.)

There's probably a better (and better-organized) way to do this, but right now this is what I have and this is what I'm doing. So I'm pretty sure that posting on the Blog o' Doom here is going to be a lot more erratic, but I'm not sure that's a bad thing.

On a vaguely related topic: being over-committed sucks. Don't do it. Get the sleep you need.

Yes, I'm absolutely terrible at taking my own advice.

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Music: Burn It Down

Composed by Daughter as part of Music from Before The Storm, which serves as the soundtrack for the video game Life Is Strange: Before The Storm, which apparently I'm going to have to buy now:

I'm currently using it - the soundtrack, not just this song - as background music while I write.

Thursday, January 18, 2018

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

So much for that test...

So, yesterday afternoon I received a phishing scam in my inbox.

Problem is, it was a fairly convincing one: the email address had been spoofed and looked more-than-reasonably legitimate, the text was clear and simple and didn't have a lot of typos (some, but not many, and nothing that was obviously a non-native English speaker). The only real "tell" was that if you hovered over the link, it went to something random and definitely not anywhere on our site/network.

And I looked at that and thought, "Holy hell! If I got this, then other people are getting it too, and it's too good - somebody's going to fall for it." So I immediately stopped what I was doing, and composed a warning by forwarding the thing with the link removed and a big note at the top that said:

This is not from Information Technology. This is a phishing scam.
Do not click on the link, do not fill anything out. If you already did, please contact the help desk immediately.

Being the good little IT person that I am, I sent the warning to everybody in the organization.
...And immediately got a visit from the Director of IT, because apparently this was a test they were running on the IT staff and I'd just spoiled it.

I make no apologies for this.

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Grief is a process

I'd been writing more about my mother, and missing her, and what that means to me and how it shows up in my life,but...

I'm not done with that.

So here's some Dessa. Because maybe if you're in the same place, it might help you in the same ways.

Friday, January 12, 2018

Dark Normality

Somber was only a little way into the city, walking just behind Frost and Blaze, when Shaira stepped out from an alley and fell in beside him.

"Anything wrong?" he asked. When he'd left her, he'd also left her mother's floatbeast caravan with a dead body in one of the passenger rooms. Shaira had known about it, but they'd agreed not to say anything until later -- after the passengers had departed, after the caravan had begun its trading. Shaira was meant to be avoiding whatever truthspeaker came to investigate the death, but Somber hadn't expected that to extend to following them into the city.

"No," said Shaira quickly. She was small and wiry, much like Frost; but she was darker, brown of hair and eye and skin. "I just wanted..." she made a vague, uncertain gesture with one hand. "I wanted to ask you how you do it."

Somber tilted his head, puzzled. "How I do what?"

Shaira hesitated, keeping pace with him so that he could keep pace with Frost and Blaze, who had fallen silent ahead of them. "Well," said Shaira, "this monk, this man you studied under, who was taking you back to your families... his ghost comes to you, half-dreaming, and you just... wake up, and start making arrangements."

Somber lowered his brows and pursed his lips. "It was what he wanted," he said, feeling his way through the explanation. "That was why he came to me: so that we'd be warned, so that we could... make arrangements."

Shaira shook her head. "No, it's not that, it's... this can't be the first ghost that's come to you. I mean, you didn't wake up screaming. You didn't doubt whether it was real. You just... took it in and dealt with it."

Somber nodded, slowing his steps while he considered. "...Yes," he said finally. "That happens to me. Not very often, but sometimes. So how do I do it? Is that the question?"

Shaira made a cautious, equivocal gesture, but nodded.

"I'm a deathspeaker," Somber said, quietly but simply. He hesitated, then reminded her: "I told you a little about the monastery. Everyone who studied there received a solid grounding in the mundane arts. That's true, but we all have different strengths. I can call dead bones to life with nothing more than a breath. I don't call ghosts, but sometimes they come to me. Blaze is the same way, but with light and fire."

Shaira glanced at the pair in front of them. "And Frost?" she asked, curiously.

Somber shrugged. "Frost is good at everything," he said.

"That helps," said Shaira. "It does. But that wasn't exactly my question. I figured out that ghosts come to you, because... one did. I just wanted to ask..." She hesitated. "...how do you deal with that? How do you get used to something like that?"

Somber shrugged. "How could you not?" He looked away, then looked back. "I don't mean to dismiss. But... this is normal for me. This is... It's like you and the drarok. How could you get used to living and working with deadly flying predators?"

Shaira stiffened, then relaxed. "You did," she said. Then she added: "But yes, I see what you mean. And you're right: there are plenty of groundborn who can't even imagine how we manage to live the way we do, or why we'd want to."

Blaze and Frost had stopped and turned back to them, so Somber stopped also. "We get used to what we do," said Somber quietly. "...And we do what we get used to. What's normal for me isn't normal for you, but it isn't anything you couldn't handle if it were."

Shaira regarded him for a long moment, then stepped in and hugged him hard. "That was a better answer than I had any right to expect," she told him. "Thank you. I wish you could have stayed with the caravan -- I'm going to miss you."

Somber swallowed and hugged her back, but didn't answer. He was going to miss her, too.

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Music: Stop Motion

New music from Stephanie Mabey (and IMO perfect for those of us who found 2017 a horrible burden on our creative output):

Monday, January 8, 2018

Thursday, January 4, 2018

Blaze and the Unwanted

Yes, I know this needs a better title. Yes, this is just a random character assessment scenario. No, it's not really a complete story as such. But it's here, and it's directly related to my primary current writing project, and well... here you go.

"Mayor, they're still out there. You have to do something."

Blaze paused in the hallway of the ancient inn, listening to raised voices through closed doors. He'd never been much for eavesdropping, or for gossip in general, but this was hard to ignore. Tobia Wistrus was mayor of town of Varnmos, and also the owner of its largest and oldest inn. So when the Imperial Guard had done their midwinter sweep of the borders, naturally that was where they'd chosen to stay. Blaze wondered now if that had been a mistake: he was supposed to be learning the ways of Imperial cities and towns, and attaching himself to the immediate, obvious power structures was no way to do that. Somber, he thought, would not have approved. But Somber was gone, and even if he hadn't chosen to disappear, he wouldn't be out here with the guard. He'd be off with his family, whoever and wherever they were.

Blaze stepped closer to the wooden door. His own quarters were here at the front of the building, the best rooms, adjacent to those of the owner and her family. The conversation was taking place just beyond the door, in what was probably the entryway to the mayor's family floor.

"The Green is open to all," answered the mayor, her voice soothing. "They have the right to stop there, and to pitch tents, even in this weather."

Blaze hesitated, struggling to find context for the arguments. The sky had been gray and the weather chilly when they'd arrived at midday; it had only grown colder since, and when he'd gone to take a stroll outside the air had hurt his face. It was so cold now, it was brutal.

"The Imperial Guard is in town, in your own inn. How will this make us look?"

Context be damned, Blaze decided, and knocked on the door.

There was a brief pause, and then the door swung open. Blaze stepped through, not waiting for the mayor to invite him inside. "I understand there's a problem on the Green," he said.

The man who had been addressing the mayor was older, thin and hunched, the loose curls of his hair gone to gray. "Travelers," he said. "They've come up from Norandos. They've pitched tents on the Green..."

Blaze didn't wait to hear who was on which side, or even what the sides were. He wasn't sure he wanted to know. "I will speak to them," he said, and left the room.

* * *

Even with a heavy cloak over his heaviest coat, the evening wind assaulted him. His nose and ears went numb immediately; the skin of his cheeks felt stretched and beaten. But it was as the older man had said: a double-dozen tents were staked out on the Green at the center of Varnmos, to make bedding places for travelers with no animals and no money.

Blaze approached the nearest tent and shook it gently. "Hey," he called. "You in there." Then he coughed. Even with a heavy scarf, the cold air burned his nostrils, throat, and lungs. "How quickly could you strike these tents?"

There was a long pause; then someone inside the tent untied a couple of bindings and eased one side of the flaps barely open. "You can't send us on," said a woman's voice. "We'll die in this cold."

"Yes," said Blaze patiently, "I know. Come into the inn."

"We can't," said the woman. "The innkeeper -- the Imperial Guard have filled it, and they have the Firewing Prince with them." He could barely see her face, only the one eye pressed to the crack in the cloth wall of the tent, but he could see the small child huddled in a jumble of blankets behind her.

Irritation spilled through Blaze, tightening his chest. He and the mayor were going to talk when he got back inside. Tobia was standing beside him now, shivering despite heavy robes: his abrupt departure had panicked her, and she'd followed him out into the closing of the day. The man who'd been complaining to her had followed her out as well, along with Selandra and a handful of the guard. Blaze straightened and looked around, meeting their eyes one at a time. "No," he said firmly. "I don't care. Even if they're all sleeping on the floor in the common room, it's better than out here. Nobody should be out in this."

He knelt again, looking into the tent. "Gather your blankets and whatever else you need. Leave the tent for the morning, if it's too cold to take it down now. Nobody will touch it. Come inside."

He straightened again, letting his gaze pass over the guards and settle on Selandra. "Go to the tents. Spread the word. Bring them inside."

The mayor had opened her mouth; then she closed it, and nodded. "Will your men double up to give them rooms? Or will we put them all in the common room?"

"Selandra?" asked Blaze. She was in charge of this platoon.

She met his eyes, glanced barely at the guards, and said: "We'll double up. Let's get them into rooms. Nathus, go back inside and tell the others." She straightened, but the guards who'd come out with her didn't wait for a formal order. They were already spreading out, shaking tents and telling their occupants to find shelter in the inn.

The mayor made a small bow. "I'd best get back inside," she said. "I'll need to reorganize the rooms... and see to providing some food."

Blaze nodded and she turned. "You there!" The mayor called. "Nathus! Hold a moment, we'll need to sort this!" The guardsman paused for the brief moment it took her to catch up with him, cough, and then march back into the inn. Blaze turned away, and went to empty out another insufficient tent.

* * *

The common room was full now, the travelers all inside. With a large fire roaring in the hearth at either end of the room and the travelers all inside, it was almost warm. Blaze sat back at a corner table, with Selandra and a pair of guards, watching the slow procession to the pot of stew that the mayor's cooks had put out. No doubt they had had disposed of a lot of leftovers that way, but that was fine for now. Judging by the steadiness of the line, this was more than the travelers had had today, and maybe any time this week. Maybe longer. Blaze didn't know and couldn't tell, and that bothered him. He needed, needed to know more about what was happening in the Empire.

He took a slow sip of heated cider, then set it aside as the older man who'd been arguing with the mayor approached.

"I owe you an apology," he said. "The mayor does too, but I'll make it now on her behalf: we misjudged you. This is... more than I expected. Better."

"This is basic human decency," said Blaze, managing -- mostly -- to keep the growl out of his voice.

"Forgive me for saying so, but... that is not what we've come to expect from Imperial representatives. And Imperial representatives are some of the few people who can have a duly selected mayor removed from office, jailed, or exiled."

Blaze stood silent for a long moment, weighing those words. "...Then Imperial representatives will have to do better. Do you know me?"

"Rumors, talk. We never know who to trust when Imperial representatives come though."

Selandra straightened, but Blaze laughed. "You have a truthsayer in your town?"

The older man drew back, nodding cautiously.

"I will say this again before your truthspeaker, if it will help: I am called Blaze, but my true name is Ionus Davrus, Firewing Prince of House Ebastorius, and I'm something like sixth in line for the Imperial throne, may I never get there. And I expect every town and home in the empire to offer this sort of hospitality to those who need it, when they need it, to the limits of their resources. And if any stray Imperial representative complains about that, I want the citizens to inform me so that I can explain to those representatives what it means to represent the Empire."

The older man bowed. "Your lordship, I will hold you to that."

Blaze smiled. "See that you do."

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Music: Wyoming Wind

"Nobody's answer, nobody's friend." Music by Wishing Chair, for your Wednesday:

This is one of the songs I come back to when I'm... musing on things.

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

Nature Cat

So... Secondborn is watching Nature Cat in the living room. Nature Cat... puzzles me. I'm still unclear about why he sounds like Robin Hood, for example. But in this episode, Nature Cat appears to have gotten lost... while hiking... in nature. And, in fact, Nature Cat frequently seems to know almost nothing about nature at all. Actually, the more I think about this, the more I think that Nature Cat may be the least aptly-named feline in the modern world.

I feel like there should be some backstory here. Like, maybe Nature Cat was an ordinary suburban housecat until he accidentally got outside and stumbled onto some sort of ancient temple? And then this Voice says, "You have returned to my altar. You shall be my representative. You are now... Nature Cat!" And now Nature Cat has this vital quest to complete even though he's completely unqualified for it on almost every level?

I dunno. I never saw the pilot episode. But I feel like that's basically how it should have gone.