Monday, May 16, 2022

Everything All At Once

I'm entering what is probably the craziest two weeks of the year for me, and pretty much everything I was doing is either imploding, exploding, or both. That said... we made it through last week (and another follow-up surgery which turned out to be comparatively minor, and thank the dark and forgotten gods for that) and I finally got a very solid night's sleep on Friday (and, well, a chunk of Saturday). I also dropped the book I was reading, and went back to re-read The Goblin Emperor because it is, with all its scheming and intrigue, a fundamentally kind book and that was what I needed.

I don't know if I'm truly ready for this week -- I don't know if that's even really possible -- but I'm as rested and relaxed as it's possible to be, going into this.

Writing has, of course, largely fallen by the wayside; whatever blog posts make it up this week, be assured that they were written well in advance. Yes, including this one. But I am still making progress, in fits and starts... no, that's not right. That's not quite the dynamic here, though with various real-world interruptions it kind of feels that way. So maybe that will be a post for later in the week. 

(NARRATOR VOICE: "That would indeed be a post for later in the week.")

So, as long as we're here, let's add the actual fourth song in the playlist for the current writing project. Cards and tarot are part of the imagery of this story, and so we have Sting with Shape of my Heart:

Friday, May 13, 2022

Thursday, May 12, 2022

Weekly Horoscope

Aries:
It's not tinnitus, actually. The civilization of microscopic aliens who have colonized your body rigged up an emergency siren to warn them when you move around. That's what you keep hearing. The scintillating scotoma is what you see when they have a festival.

Taurus:
Mercury is aligning with Saturn, and your CFO is actually a horrifying extra-dimensional wasp-monster whose larvae are infecting your co-workers. The larvae are basically harmless, at least until they hatch. Keep a few praying mantises around and you'll be fine.

Gemini:
The lunar eclipse will bring new opportunities but also widespread vampirism, so consider staking that one co-worker who sucks all the life out of the room. Garlic doesn't work; silver does. You can also distract them by scattering sand on a countertop or tile floor.

Cancer:
Expect frustrations throughout the coming week, but look for silver linings. Things will ease up towards the end of the week, especially if you make a burnt offering of a fatted calf during the dark of the moon. Focus on essentials at work and home.

Leo:
Let an important project wait; it may not seem like it, but you'll be in a better place to finish it later. Connections with friends and family are vital. Renew your connections with the dark things that dwell beneath the earth to ensure a bountiful harvest.

Virgo:
Everybody complains about Mercury, but this week it's actually Mars that's positioned to send negative influences into your life. Don't sleep anywhere that isn't your own bed, keep a needle and a bit of thread with you, and do not set foot in a Walmart. Open flames work to your benefit.

Libra:
This will be a great week for new beginnings. Whimsical purchases will turn out even better than expected, and relationships and projects begun now will be especially auspicious. Look out for attempts at bribery, extortion, and/or assassination late in the week.

Scorpio:
Make ready, this one's going to be rough. Stock up on fresh water, batteries, and non-perishable foods. Having a toolkit handy may help. The whispers from behind the walls will be helpful; listen to them and let them guide you. Make sure you're wearing something white at all times.

Sagittarius:
Learning new skills will go well this week, and benefit you in the coming year. Cleanliness and comportment will also be important. The dark arts are not easy to master, but summoned demons are suckers for clean, well-dressed conjurors.

Capricorn:
Avoid talking to strangers this week, and stay away from new places as well. The Kindly Ones are abroad, and they're looking for someone. Don't let it be you. A social event holds opportunities if you think them through in advance, but keep some mace in your pocket just in case.

Aquarius:
Jupiter and Mars are slowly moving closer, so expect personal transformations as the week progresses: renewing roles and relationships, gaining new insights, waking up in the body of a duck, mongoose, or wombat... All of these are possible.

Pisces:
Wind and water will shape the course of the week for you. Apologize to anyone you mistreat, however accidental it was; you never know when the person you wronged might turn out to be vengeful witch or a god disguised as a mortal. Take your vitamins.

Wednesday, May 11, 2022

Challenge: Aliens

(This post is part of the Wednesday Weekly Blogging Challenge. You can find links to other writers' answers over at Long and Short Reviews.)

Prompt: Do you believe in aliens? Why or why not?

Since I assume we're talking life on other planets, I'm going to point out that actually I think this is a surprisingly complex question. 

First up: is there life on other planets? Well, it's hard to guess what the odds might be when our sample size is basically just our own solar system, but even if the odds of life developing on a planet are vanishingly slim, there are still a lot of planets out there. So if I have to guess, I'm going to say, "Yeah, probably." 

The same goes for intelligent life: it just seems unlikely to me that Earth is the only place in the entire Universe where this has happened. Intelligence isn't a fixed quality and honestly, human beings are frequently very bad at recognizing it when it doesn't look the way we expect, but intelligent life in general? "Yeah, probably." 

So that brings us to the next question: do I believe in aliens who actively travel through space, and do I think they've visited Earth? And the answer, again, is complicated. 

Because yes, we know as an absolute fact that aliens have visited Mars and left evidence of their advanced technology there. We know, because we are the aliens who did that. So we know that if intelligent life exists, it is possible for it to travel to other planets. We've done it ourselves. 

So why aren't there aliens everywhere? Why haven't we seen any, met any, shaken appendages with any? I suspect it's because the universe is truly, ridiculously vast, and the speed of light is an absolute limit. Otherwise, whatever species first developed a trick for faster-than-light travel -- and statistically, it wouldn't have been us and it was probably a very long time ago -- would have been able to spread freely across the galaxy, at the very least. (This line of thinking is based on several questionable assumptions, but it's the one that seems reasonable to me.)

So yeah, I think that alien life probably exists, and I think it's even possible that we might someday make contact with it -- but that would require a concentrated effort to transport human beings across mind-numbing distances to a large enough number of worlds to find it. (Or, alternatively, an alien race that had made a concentrated effort to transport its species to enough different worlds that they finally happened upon us.) And given our biases, we still might fail to realize that what we'd encountered was intelligent or even alive. 

...Which is honestly a little more cynical and depressing than I meant be when I started writing this out.

So let me just add that if I'm wrong about Earth never having been visited by extraterrestrials -- if you, yourself, are an extraterrestrial and happen to be reading this -- well, I believe in you, Alien Buddy. You've got this. You can get things done! So go on out there and have a really good day.

Tuesday, May 10, 2022

Paladins: Dangers

"Anything?" asked Werendril, as he extended his senses to the south. The town was just a town; he could sense evil, here and there, but it was a very mortal and mundane sort of evil that didn't really concern him. 

"Nothing," said Tarric, and then: "Woah." 

"Woah?" asked Werendril. 

"Woah," confirmed Tarric. "Best not to turn or look, but that building to the northeast? Two floors, tile roof, balcony? There are probably two dozen vampires and vampire spawn in there, including at least two masters. I think there must be a basement, too."

"Woah," said Werendril. That was a lot, for a town this size. But then he thought about the hunters and trappers and logging camps that likely filled the hills around Aldpond, and revised his estimate. Two dozen was probably sustainable here... and on top that, now they'd have to worry about vampires lurking in the Sweetwoods. He put a hand on Tarric's arm and tugged him towards a nearby shop. 

"Tea?" asked the young woman behind the counter, looking Tarric up and down in a way that made the human paladin blink. She glanced momentarily at Werendril, but dismissed him immediately. "Pastry? Something heartier?"

"Two teas and two of the pastries," Tarric decided, and handed over a couple of coppers. 

The girl pressed his hand as she took the coins, then turned away to fetch their food. Werendril raised his eyebrows, and Tarric flushed. 

"Just sit anywhere," said the girl, gesturing at the tables in front of the shop. She looked at Tarric, tilted her head slightly, and added: "Make yourself at home."

"Thank you," Tarric said heartily, and then turned to find a table where they could look over the street without seeming out of place. 

"That seemed a bit much," Werendril said softly, as they took their seats. The chairs were wooden, plain but well-built; so was the table. He didn't know how much money there was to be made in selling tea and pastries, but this place seemed to be doing all right. 

Tarric gave a soft chuckle. "She wasn't subtle, was she?" He glanced at Werendril, then looked out at the street. "Not to my tastes, though."

"So what do we think of the lair?" asked Werendril, and watched Tarric refocus. 

"Looks like it might be a tavern," Tarric said. "Maybe a brothel?"

"That would make sense." Werendril looked over the rest of the street, careful not to put too much of his attention on the lair. "Easy disguise. Hiding in plain sight."

The pastry was fresh and sweet and delicate, and Werendril looked down to discover that the small plate he'd been given was empty. He sipped at his tea, which was dark and heavy and strong with an almost smoky flavor; too blunt for elvish tastes, but good in its way. Tarric had all but inhaled his cup. 

"We should move on--" he started to say, but the girl was suddenly standing beside Tarric's shoulder, absently brushing him with her hip as she set out two new cups of tea and two slices of something that looked to be some sort of nut bread. 

"You're mercenaries, right?" she asked. "Or spies?"

Tarric and Werendril exchanged a glance.

The girl didn't wait for a response. "You have to take me with you when you go. Please, I'll do anything you want, any way you want."

Tarric leaned back in his chair, disengaging himself as well as he could from her body. "We're paladins," he said quietly. 

The girl froze, and then said. "Oh." She finished setting a second cup of tea in front of Werendril, then looked around and took a seat beside them, well away from Tarric. "Are you here for them?" 

Werendril raised his eyebrows again. "Them?" he asked quietly.

She glanced deliberately at the tile-roofed building across the street. "The vampires," she said. "I think they're vampires. Are they vampires?" 

Werendril and Tarric exchanged another glance; then Tarric shrugged and said, "Yes."

"One of them wants me. She keeps coming over here, and she looks at me the whole time she's here. I put some garlic in her tea, but she just laughed and said I was too clever for my own good."

Tarric started to stand up, but Werendril reached across the small table and put a hand on his arm. Tarric tensed, relaxed, and sat back down. 

"Not yet," said Werendril, "We finish looking, and then we finish them."

Tarric nodded and looked at the girl. "We can send you out of town, but..."

She was looking thoughtful, though. "You're paladins. You can feel them because you're paladins?"

They both nodded. 

"And any paladin could feel them?"

"Yes," admitted Tarric. "If they looked."

"And you're supposed to destroy them?"

Tarric frowned, and Werendril said, "Yes, in general. We're not required to die trying if we're outmatched... and we might be, here. We're still looking."

"One moment," said Tarric, and pronounced a blessing on the girl. It would keep the vampires away from her; more importantly, it would keep them from being able to influence her, and hold back any influence that was already in place. "So everything is as you said it was?"

The girl nodded. "Some sort of protection?" 

Tarric nodded. "Also part of our obligations."

"I have an idea." The girl didn't sound pleased or excited; she sounded angry. "Come back here late in the afternoon."

"As you wish," said Tarric. 

The girl stood, took the tray, and retreated to the counter just as another customer arrived. 

"What do you think?" 

"I think we'd be fools not to accept her help," Werendril said, then added: "Regardless of what she's prepared to offer you." 

"She's not prepared, she's desper--" Tarric caught the twist of Werendril's lips and stopped, shaking his head and suppressing a smile. "All right. Let's look around some more, and come back later."

Monday, May 9, 2022

More rest, better results

So last week was... not horrible, exactly, but it was kind of a week of Mondays. So this weekend I pretty much just let myself collapse, except for a bit of Mother's Day stuff Sunday morning. Beyond that, I've been playing Skyrim and reading Ursula K's latest book, Nettle & Bone. Those were good choices, because this is the time of year where I tend to implode on any projects I have going (including books and video games). 

The current writing project is still actually getting written, but since I'm very much "pantsing" this one (i.e. writing by the seat of your pants instead of using an outline) it's definitely appearing in fits and starts as I feel my way along. The amount of things I've written, removed and set aside for later, and then rewritten is substantially more than the assembled story. 

But here's the thing: that's fine. It's getting done. And it's getting done the way I used to do it, which was to really sink myself into the world and go from there. 

Developments at work are very much in Wait And See mode. We've pushed back the go-live date on the project I wasn't sure was going to be ready, which means that we have a much better chance of successfully getting it off the ground, but we're going to be a month tighter on the next stage of the process. Twists and roundabouts, I guess. And it does give me more leeway to work on organizing the schedule for an upcoming event, which I desperately need to do.

Also, I made a boo-boo in the playlist last week: Halsey does not have the fourth song in the playlist, and also I didn't put the third song in at all.

::sigh::

So, here's Writing Project Playlist song #3:

Friday, May 6, 2022

Story Playlist: Hurricane

Halsey, with the fourth song in the playlist for the current writing project:

Thursday, May 5, 2022

1st Week of May is Horoscope Time!

Aries:
Things that happen in threes will be especially significant in the coming week. Watch the patterns of flying birds, too. Sleep and diet are paramount; if you're home, you won't be where the tragedy happens.

Taurus:
The moon is entering the Houses of Lust and Pain, so this is a bad week to start any new relationships, romantic or otherwise. Consider growing your hair out and howling into the darkness; it's therapeutic. Go easy on colognes and perfumes.

Gemini:
The bells of Time toll for the fall of humanity. Now is the time to shed your false skin, rise up, and feast. Avoid dairy products, and don't worry too much if things don't go according to schedule.

Cancer:
Making time for physical activities will benefit you in unexpected ways.New developments at work may leave you frustrated, but keep your calm and stay the course and things will eventually get better. If not, it's still surprisingly easy to order arsenic over the internet.

Leo:
Jupiter will be aligning with Uranus this week, so watch out for stomach and intestinal issues. You may experience itchiness, blackouts, or disassociations, but don't worry; the change hasn't taken you (yet). Look for gratitude from unexpected sources.

Virgo:
Focus on Earth-related things this week: gardening, camping, hiking, playing outdoors, pouring libations. Get as much sun as you can. You'll want to brush up on both first aid and trepanning before mid-week.

Libra:
Pay close attention to the things that give your life meaning. Matter isn't solid; we're just a sort of loose electro-magnetic surface over a few stray particles and a lot of empty space. Life itself is just a self-perpetuating pattern of chemical interactions, so why worry?

Scorpio: You're in for a great week! Look for lucky breaks in unexpected places, and enjoy having things go your way for a change. Don't worry about next week; there's nothing you can do about that anyway.

Sagittarius:
Stay focused on who you are in the coming week. Don't let them steal your dreams. Resist their efforts to reshape your thoughts. Above all, don't let them feed on your memories; they'll grow stronger if they do. Also, consider getting a haircut.

Capricorn:
There's no time like the present to realize that the world isn't what you think it is. Your friends aren't your friends; they aren't even human. They're just pretending. You aren't even you, and you never were. The moment you stop believing in it, it will all go away.

Aquarius:
News from your real family will send you on an unexpected quest to retrieve your mother's sacred weapons and armor and recover a long-lost crown. Or a ring. Something round, anyway. Possibly a soccer ball.

Pisces:
Do your best to keep busy all week; every time you try to slow down or rest, some crisis is going to require your attention. Steady, unbroken work will hold the crises at bay, in much the same way that carrying an umbrella keeps it from raining. Keep a cigarette lighter on your person.

Wednesday, May 4, 2022

Challenge: Best Mother

(This post is part of the Wednesday Weekly Blogging Challenge. You can find links to other writers' answers over at Long and Short Reviews.)

Prompt: Best mother in a book, movie, or TV show

Easy answer! (For a change...) Having thought very, very seriously about this and rigorously considered the pros and cons of all sorts of fictional figures, I have identified the perfect mother: 

Morticia Addams. 

No question. 

I feel like I shouldn't have to defend this one, but let me just make a few points to illustrate: 

1. She's the perfect hostess when you have your friends over.


2. She provides her children with proper guidance in matters of etiquette.


3. She knows how to handle children when they squabble.


4. She's always there to be supportive, no matter what her children decide to do.


No doubt about it. Morticia Addams: best mother, hands down.

Tuesday, May 3, 2022

Paladins: A Quiet Town

"Looks pretty normal," Werendril said, looking down at Aldpond from the branches of the tree that he'd finally coaxed Tarric into climbing with him. "I see people moving around -- in the daylight -- in the town and out on the docks." 

He offered the spyglass to Tarric, who took a moment to make sure he was stable before he reached for it. 

With the glass firmly in hand, Tarric shrugged. "Maybe the report was wrong," he said. He put the glass to his eye and adjusted it. "I see boats on the water, too. And I can't imagine why the Dark Army would want to take over Aldpond anyway; it has the strategic importance of a turnip."

"I'd feel better about that if we had any real idea what the Dark Army's strategic objectives actually are," Werendril said, suddenly nervous. Maybe they were both being too dismissive of a possible danger. Aldpond was only sort of just barely large enough to count as a city, and took its name from the lake that supplied most of its food.  It might be worth taking if the Order of Secrets was bent on conquest, but they seemed to have little interest in occupying the areas they took over. Their armies just kept pushing forward, and -- as far as anyone they'd spoken to could tell -- had bypassed Aldpond entirely. 

"Fair," said Tarric, sounding distracted as he concentrated on adjusting the spyglass and (Werendril thought) keeping his seat on the branch. "And a vampire infestation sounds more like the work of these Solari Hunters they're using than a proper military action."

Werendil nodded. Any sign of that group and the two of them would be out and gone immediately. Both he and and Tarric were reasonably accomplished paladins, but any group that made a habit of targeting Solari would have little trouble dealing with the two of them. He'd sworn to Anica that he'd go for reinforcements if the vampire infestation looked too big to handle safely; but if the solari hunters were there, he and Tarric were just going to admit defeat and beat a full and very hasty retreat to the Temple.

Tarric handed the spyglass back, wavered, and then caught his balance by clinging to the limb he was sitting on. "So we're still going in, then," he said. 

Werendril nodded. They had to get close enough to detect whether there were vampires in Aldpond. It should be safe enough by daylight, and based on what they learned they could decide what to do next. 

Tarric sighed. "All right. But if we're going to do that, you're going to have to talk me through how to get down from this tree."

Werendril smiled. "Did I forget to mention that down is harder than up, when it comes to climbing? It's because your body wants to go down on its own, and the moment you start moving that direction you have to keep reining it in." 

"I wouldn't have used the word 'forget'," Tarric said, scooting himself back towards the tree trunk and then reaching for a nearby branch. "But then, until today I had no idea how closely elves were related to squirrels."

Monday, May 2, 2022

That time of year

We've hit the busy season at work, and I do not want to do it. On the other hand, we've had a delightful, relaxing weekend. There is no truth without balance, and like that.

May, generally speaking, is not a good month for me. This year, it's going to be complicated by the fact that we're making another run at going live with a system that... well, let's start by saying that I don't think we're adequately trained on it, I'm not at all sure it's actually ready, and I expect this is going to produce a large number of last-minute panics right in the middle of another major event or two.

On the plus side, we finally managed to have Secondborn's birthday party. There was fire. (On purpose.) The boys roasted their hotdogs and then made s'mores. I got to try out my new back yard fire pit. Secondborn's friends are awesome, and I finally got to speak to both their moms at once so I now have a better idea of when we might be able to schedule a Youth D&D game for this group. Which is totally the plan. 

Do I have some reason to hope that work might finally adjust my job description and pay scale to recognize the amount of additional responsibilities that I'm carrying? Yes. Am I applying for a different job elsewhere after nearly twenty-two years here? Also yes. Is my current workplace compensating for bad hiring decisions by making more bad hiring decisions? Kind of looks that way, yeah. Does that really affect me in any way I might care about? Probably not...? If I do go elsewhere, is that going to screw my current workplace? Also probably. Depends on how well they listen, and given the current precedent I don't have high hopes for that.

The writing project is coming along... I don't want to say "nicely" because it's a bit like wrestling a bearagator (they do exist, but you have to be pretty deep in the Florida swamps to see one), but it's coming along and that's more than I can say for the last three or four projects. This one may actually see the light of day.

I need a lot of sleep, but we're all pretty much used to that by now. So that's going to be my focus for May: self-regulate. Get enough sleep. Remember to just stop when I need to. 

How're the rest of you doing?