Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Happy Halloween!

I was going to post a bit of fiction, but I got a bit carried away and I think I need to do something else with the bit I was writing. I don't know. I also need to get a good night's sleep and read over it again. Tonight, however, there will be costumes and candy along with ghoulies and ghosties and long-legged beasties and things that go bump in the night, not to mention a lot of updating things and tweaking other things at work. So we'll be back tomorrow with the riveting tale of the first episode of the boys' new Dungeons and Dragons adventure, and in the meantime I hope everybody enjoys my favorite holiday!

Run from the zombies!

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Missed Connections: Riverbed

You were the young man in the inner tube. I was the soft touch against your legs underwater. I tried to meet you, but you kept kicking your feet and shaking me off. You should have let my gentle tendrils wrap around your legs. You should have come down. The bottom of the river is so warm and dark and cozy at this time of year. You should have been part of me. I know you're busy now, but maybe we can meet again next summer?

Monday, October 29, 2018

Music: Raymond Chandler Evening

Music by Robyn Hitchcock:

...I think this one requires maybe a little more explanation than usual. I first encountered the song as lyrics; they were included in The Crow -- not the movie, but the comic. So when I recite it to myself, it's something closer to a forceful poem than it is to a song (as it will be here). But it sticks with me, you know? "...And I'd like to reassure you, but I'm not that kind of guy." Yeah. First time I read that, I felt seen.

Friday, October 26, 2018

DnD Boys, New Campaign 1: The Introduction

I'm starting a new campaign for the boys, because I kind of let the other one die of ennui. Well, that and lack of planning. This one at least has a definite direction. So here's their opening:

The city of Stalmont begins at the foot of the great mountain, and climbs the steep slopes to the Royal Citadel at the peak. Dwarves work their mines and make their homes deep in the mountain itself, while humans and elves, halflings and halfbreeds make their homes in the walled tiers of the outer city. At the foot of the mountain, the city sprawls out in a disorganized slum, cut through with the stone-paved trade roads but otherwise changing constantly. To the south, just outside the city, a cluster of gnomish burrows forms a sort of suburb. The valley floor to the south and east spreads out into the farms and orchards and small villages that supply Stalmont with food and raw materials, which the artisans and crafters convert to finished goods.To the north lie the foothills that hold vineyards and herders, and beyond them the old forest that supplies the city's timbers. A wide tunnel through the base of the mountain connects Stalmont to the docks of Tradeport, which sit on the edge of the Inland Sea.

Recently, the merchant-noble Ardivil has put out a call for adventurers willing to explore strange and possibly dangerous places. His workers, it seems, have uncovered the ruins of an ancient civilization in the caves of a nearby mountain, and he wants explorers to examine the site before he risks a full expedition. Each of you, for reasons of your own, has decided to sign up. The money is good, it's a chance to escape Stalmont, and how dangerous could a deserted city be anyway?

The boys have already created their characters. In a bit of a dramatic shift, Firstborn is playing a Paladin -- he wanted a combination of hitting things and healing. Secondborn, meanwhile, has taken over the position of Druid, mainly so he can play a wolf as well. He was very insistent about his character's origin, though: apparently he found an ancient statue, and it gave him Druid Powers. I'm throwing in a DM's character as well -- something I normally wouldn't do, except that it's hard to cover the bases with just two players. So my character will be a half-elf street rat (rogue) who will pivot to Wizard after third level. (He has a sort of mentor figure who's a mid-level wizard, who's been training him.) Beautiful Wife might join in, but I'm not really expecting that and we haven't made a character for her yet.

Thursday, October 25, 2018

Music: I'll Kill You That Way

Ladies and Gentlemen and sundry nonbinaries and anyone else: I give you the Slashstreet Boys:

Wednesday, October 24, 2018

Missed Connection: Ankles

You were the small child up above. I was the thing in the darkness down below. You had the covers over your head, so of course I couldn't see you.

But then you stirred. I felt the bed move above me. You were getting ready to throw the covers back. You were getting ready to move.

I was waiting. I knew where you'd go: the bathroom. Where else would you go in the middle of the night? And you must have badly needed to get there. I had my arms out, just under the edge of the bed.

But you didn't put your feet on the floor. You jumped to the chair, and then all the way to the bathroom door. And then you turned on the light, and oh how it burned.

And the next night, you were gone. It was just a sleepover at your grandparents' farm. But I want you to come back. You have those lovely, delicate ankles... and I have the these long arms and these long, curling fingers, perfect for wrapping around them. Sleep above my bed again. Put your feet on the floor this time. I am so, so sorry that we didn't get to meet properly.

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

Monday, October 22, 2018

The Dark Inside Her Bones

Kate stirred on her bed and sat up. Her brother was screaming again, but then he was only twelve and he was still afraid of the dark. She waited for the sound of panicked footsteps, then the creak of her parents' door as Ben threw it open.

Finally, she put her feet on the floor and crossed her room, eased her own door open, and stepped out into the hall. This latest round of night terrors had started three weeks ago, and nobody in the house had managed an uninterrupted night's sleep since it began. At this point, Kate wasn't even scared; she was just fed up. She was sixteen years old, and she liked sleeping.

She could hear voices from her parents room behind her: her brother's terrified description, her mother's soft reassurances, her father's firm encouragement. None of that was worth her time. Instead, she walked down the hall and through her brother's open door.

The boys room was dark, far darker than it should have been. Shadows lay heavy along the walls, spread out from under the bed. They covered the toys on the floor and the posters on the wall. They had even swallowed his Legend of Zelda nightlight, which stood a foot high and was always on. It should have been filling the room with a soft blue glow, but the darkness had taken it. Kate frowned. Did we lose power? No, a soft orange light shone like a banked coal from the top of her brother's desk, where his tablet was plugged in and charging.

"What do you want?" she asked, and took another step into the room.

A shadow stretched across the wall, spread over the ceiling.

"I'm serious," she said. "I'm sick of you waking us up like this. Tell me what you want, or go away."

Something brushed her leg, curled briefly around her ankle. Kate snorted and stepped out of it. "If you could snatch people away, you'd have done it by now. Stop it."

This time the shadow seemed to rear up in front of her, extending to touch her hand and cover her ears. There were no words, but she suddenly had a nightmare sense of cold, darkness, hunger, fear. Lost...

"Are you..." she hesitated. "Are you looking for a home?"

It reached out to her again, wrapped around her hand, and pushed a little way into her wrist. She understood it the way she understood things in dreams, facts accepted without reason or analysis. It wanted to be part of her. It needed an identity, more than a location, to call home.

"All right," said Kate. "You leave my family alone, you let us sleep at night, and you can come be part of me."

There was a momentary hesitation, then the world went dark and cold and silent.

When the moment passed, Kate realized that her father was standing in the doorway behind her. The Legend of Zelda nightlight bathed the room in its soft blue glow again.

"Anything?" her father asked softly.

Kate turned to him. She felt the darkness move inside her, leaning up to look out through her eyes. "Nothing," she said. "You can tell Ben the darkness is gone. He can come back to his bed." She shook her head, lips curling with exasperation. Ben could have done this himself, could have taken the darkness for his own. Boys... "I'm going back to sleep now."

Her father hesitated, then stepped back. "All right." Kate went past him out the door, and back to her room, and the darkness went with her. It stayed inside her, though, content with its place in the depths of her bones, and when she pulled the covers back over herself she felt it relax the same way she did. No, this wasn't so bad. She might even be glad to have it.

Friday, October 19, 2018

Thursday, October 18, 2018

Missed connection: Fire

Okay, so, here's the thing: I think I need you to help me prevent the opening of the Great Seal and the end of all life on Earth.

It was last Tuesday, about seven o'clock in the evening. We were in one of those restaurants on the east side, the kind that has a central fireplace behind a metal grate. I was there with my parents, but honestly we probably just looked like a trio of college students. You were at a table by yourself, but every time you looked at the fire the flames bowed and the light dimmed. And every time I looked at it, it roared back up. By the end of the night we were both staring at it, and occasionally sparing glances for each other.

My parents basically dragged me out of there, because Frost and Flame don't mix -- except when they do, and I think maybe we did. So find me. It might be important. It might be more important than anything.

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Missed Connections: Magician

We're thirty minutes into this birthday party, nobody's served food yet, and the other parents are starting to look pretty tasty when you show up: the entertainment. This family has hired a stage magician to entertain their third-grader and his friends. So there you are, and there I am. And then you started your performance, and it was excellent. Except...

I saw that card fall out of your sleeve, land on the floor, and then jump back in a moment later. It would have been a grand bit of stagecraft, but nobody saw it except me. Or the bit where you held out a coin and then pretended to pull it out of the birthday boy's ear. Nobody but me saw you hold it out. They all thought your hand was empty. And then the birds that came out of your hat? The ones that nobody had to chase out of the house later? That was the one that really gave it away.

I gave myself away too though, didn't I? I looked at something I shouldn't have been able to see once or twice too often. And then you started looking at me. And then the show was over, and you left before I could catch up with you.

Well... I guess by now you've figured out what I am. I want you to know that it's not what it seems. If you want to know more, look me up. You're a lousy magician, but you're a very impressive sorcerer.

Monday, October 15, 2018

Holy Crap Sunday: A Recap

So Sunday was... fraught. (Interesting word, fraught. It's derived from "freight". Something that's fraught is carrying a lot of freight, usually -- the way we use it now -- in the form of emotional baggage.)

It stopped raining shortly after I got out of bed (a solid seven hours of sleep that I could easily have doubled except that my life hasn't worked that way in decades), so in keeping with our current policy I pried the boys away from their video games and took the whole family on a walk around the block. Well, the whole family except for the cat; kitty don't go on walks. Kitty's a hardcore napper. But I digress.

As soon as we got back from the walk, we all piled into my car and I took us to the donut shop, because boys who have been on walks are eager for donuts.

That left me enough time to scramble some brunch: hamburger, bacon, Colby-Jack cheese, garlic salt, and eggs. Sort of like an omelette, except it was more of a splat -- but again, I digress.

I finished eating, and we emptied out the back of the van and ran off to purchase a new treadmill. It turned out to be a bit larger (and nicer) than we expected, but the van has a lot of storage, and we managed to make it work.

(There's a story there. A while back, we changed Secondborn's room into an exercise room. He'd been doing most of his sleeping on the lower bunk in his brother's room, and we needed a way for the boys to exercise inside the house. So, the exercise room acquired a treadmill, a television, a small trampoline, and Firstborn's laptop, which was plugged into the television. The rule was that you could only watch YouTube videos on weeknights if you were active on the treadmill. Unfortunately, on weekends Firstborn liked to play games on his laptop, and he got in the habit of sitting on the front of the treadmill while he was doing so. The eventual result of this was that the front pinched the track while the treadmill was trying to run, and when it couldn't turn it burned out the motor. Around this same time, Secondborn started complaining about not having a room of his own, and asking us to put a bed back in there. So... the arrangement didn't last, but when it was working it worked brilliantly. Anyway, the dead treadmill left, Secondborn got his room back complete with a new bed, and this treadmill represents the second iteration of this cunning plan.)

So: we bought a new treadmill and brought it back to the house. It turned out to be nicer, newer, and bigger than the last one. It also turned out to be bigger than our front door. Or any other doors, for that matter. (Beautiful Wife: "I have made a terrible, terrible mistake.") So I spent the next half an hour disconnecting the very-prominent control panel section so that we could lean it against the tread and maneuver (read: manhandle) the whole thing through the door. In the process we discovered that our Very Elderly Cat had pooped just inside the back door; fortunately, the boys were helping us out and Secondborn cleaned that one up. And then I spent the half-hour after that figuring out how to get the control panel slotted back into place. And immediately after that, I discovered that Very Elderly Cat had also thrown up in our bedroom.


By now it's after 1:00, and I still have some errands I need to do. The first is to check on a maintenance job I left running on a SQL server at work. I started it right before I left work on Friday.

It's still running.

This is, for a variety of reasons, not optimal. Not only is that a long time for a job to run, but it means that two other jobs have kicked off, run simultaneously with this one, and finished -- one on Saturday night, one early Sunday morning. Also, this process locks various tables while it works on them, so while it doesn't take the whole system offline it can cause some really ugly delays. If our departmental politics were less fraught than they are right now, I'd say that this was all part of the troubleshooting process. As it is, well... I'd really hoped to have all this cleaned up by now. And now I have to remote in and check on the benighted thing every so often so I can see when it finishes.

After that, well: groceries. Because people (and cats) still need to eat. Once I had everything I needed, I headed back to the house and put it all away.

And then, finally, I got to take a hot bath and read for a while.

Gentle readers, it was amazing.

There are still things that need to be done. Beautiful Wife is off to a girl's night out, so I'll be the one putting the boys down. That's not as big a deal as it might be, because that's usually my job anyway. I need to get more lines in on the Beauty and the Beast/Heroes Are Assholes story, but it might be better to sleep first and get up extra early to work on that. And there's always more reading lined up and waiting for me. But I think I might actually have adulted my way through this long damned day.

Friday, October 12, 2018

Missed Connection: A Message In Ogham Found Carved On A Stone In Wales

It was a great party, wasn't it? Everybody was there: the king, his knights, all those courtiers... and you, clearly a magician, respected by all despite your half-human bloodline. I tried to catch your eye, but you were focused on that water-sprite instead. And when I tried to look you up afterwards, well... Nowhere to be found. "Trapped in a tree," I was told, or maybe it was a cave, or a stone, or an unseen tower. Talk about missing your chance...

Well, the party's been over for centuries now, and I'm leaving this stele at the spot where that famous table once stood. I think if you ever escape, you'll come here first. It's barely even a ruin anymore, but you'll find this if you look. And you'll know I looked for you. My brother's gone, his kingdom fallen to less than ruins, but you can still find me on the Isle of Apples if you care to look.

I'll be waiting.

Thursday, October 11, 2018

Halloween Short Story: Awakening

I should never have opened the book.

My fingers bleed. They color everything I touch. But when I touch things, I can feel all the way through them. I can trace their shapes from the inside.

My eyes are burned away. They were so limited. They only saw colors, shapes, movements, distances. I can see everything now.

My feet... I remember having feet. No longer. I am wherever I desire to be, however I wish to be. Gravity is no longer my master. Distance was a failure of perception.

My body...

My body... becomes...

As does my mind.

I have no fear of this apocalypse. It is not mine, but I am a part of it, at home in it, satisfied by it. It nurtures me, fulfills me, and strengthens me.

These great beasts? They come against me. They come against us, and our world.

I devour them.

When they are gone, when the world in all its madness and tragedy is preserved, well...

What happens then? What will I do?





I do not shape the end of things, the end of myself. It hangs before me, half-seen, calling me, pulling me on.

I do not shape it.

It shapes me.

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Missed Connection: Statuary

You were at my sister's gallery. You looked at the statues and remarked on their realism. My sister guided you around in her mirrored sunglasses and hijab. I was back at the register, too shy to speak, but you glanced my way several times. My sister started to take her glasses off, but your phone buzzed and you left just after.

I'd like to see you again. Most people who come to the gallery never look at me, not really. And since you gave your name as Percy, I think we might have things to talk about.

Tuesday, October 9, 2018

Classic Fantasy Tropes: Soul-Devouring Sword

Tired: The hero has claimed the most powerful magic sword in the realm for his own. It eats souls.

Wired: Actually, it ate one soul and felt really guilty about it and now it doesn't want to cut its way through armies, destroy legendary monsters, or change the fate of empires.

Inspired: The sword is now inhabited by the soul of Hap, a forty-year-old career soldier who would rather be playing dice and will happily dispense advice on how to avoid dangerous situations. Hap will also explain to the hero, cheerfully and at length, how best to spend his money, why he should just turn in and get a steady job, how much better things were in Hap's day, why you can't trust merchants, and the vital importance of owning a Shar-Pei.

Monday, October 8, 2018

Missed Connection: Human Scents

Last Thursday, just past midnight, under the moon. You were the handsome kit with the silvery back and the black-tipped tail. You smelled just enough of human things to tell me what you really were. I was the red with the pointy ears. We were interrupted, and you led the hunters away before I could introduce myself. If you survived, I'd love to meet you again with our skins on.

Thursday, October 4, 2018

Music: Zombie Love Song

Your Favorite Martian:

Missed Connection: Knocking, Rattling

You were the young woman in apartment 31: black hair, dark skin, and the most beautiful brown eyes.

I was the soft footfall in the hallway, the late-night rattling of cupboards, the persistent chill in the air, and the empty corner your cat kept staring at.

You don't know me, but I'm begging you: move back in. Let me haunt you.

Wednesday, October 3, 2018

Rebuilding / Retuning

I've created a new bedtime schedule for us, partly because Secondborn has been having some issues recently and partly because I have this growing fear that the year is getting away from us. So we started it last night. Which means that for the first time this school year, Firstborn has practiced his bass and Secondborn has practiced his piano. We've also added in a cut-off time for any kind of Looking At Screens, at which point we switch over to about fifteen minutes of general cleaning, then Getting Ready For Bed, then about fifteen minutes of reading in bed before Lights Out.

This actually went pretty well this first time, but I expect more wailing and gnashing of teeth as we continue on with it. Still... so far so good. And if it helps us start feeling like things maybe aren't constantly on the edge of spiraling out of control, so much the better.

Tuesday, October 2, 2018

Can't Post Today

Sorry, Exit Strategy comes out today. It's the fourth of the Murderbot Diaries. I will not be posting anything until I'm done reading it.