Alien, Victorious Us

I was at the supermarket the other day, saw this fellow, and burst out laughing because I’m writing an alien romance (in all my copious spare time, naturally). I would have picked him up if he’d been on clearance, but I’m going to have to wait.

If it’s meant to be, it’ll happen.

It’s Friday! We survived another week. I’m very nervous–the skies here are apocalyptic, and stepping outside means trying to breathe through a LOT of smoke. We need rain, badly. I’m going to have to run on the treadmill, which isn’t really a hardship, but still… the anxiety is living in my chest, making itself comfortable in a trembling tight-curled ball.

At least it’s D&D night, which means I can let my id out to play. I think we’re planning an owlbear rescue operation. Our group is about two things: animal rights and seducing, with a healthy dose of killing the rude and/or the evil.

If you’re thinking “that sounds hella therapeutic” you are 100% correct.

Have a good weekend, my beloveds. Be gentle with yourselves. This is all awful, and like I keep saying, survival is a victory.

A toast, then. Here’s to victorious us.

Smoke, High-Strung

The sun is a red disc hanging low in the sky, it reeks of smoke, and I can’t stop coughing. Running today is going to be an adventure, I can just tell. At least this is what we have the treadmill for; I can run inside and not perish. At least, hopefully.

The smoke is from the California and Oregon fires; we’re right on the border between Oregon and Washington. Come afternoon it will probably stream out to sea, but in the meantime we’re breathing it. I can barely imagine what it must be like in California right now. Last night my writing partner remarked “I said 2020 could go die in a fire, and I guess it took me up on the offer.”

I’ve been using the D&D fanfic to keep myself going. There’s a certain Murder Himbo NPC my character’s getting involved with, which is a lot of fun. In game and in fiction, it’s super hot. In real life, it’s a restraining order waiting to happen, and I’m exquisitely glad for that division. It’s fun to play my psychotic teenage id constrained only by dice rolls and the whim of the DM, but it’s also good to crawl into my nice safe bed with the dogs each night.

I mean, I love me a good murder himbo, but I wouldn’t want one around the house. Imagine the cleanup.

Today is for dropping a lit match onto the carefully stacked kindling in The Bloody Throne. Throne is Book 3 (The Poison Prince comes out in November), so it’s the payoff I’ve been building towards for two and a half massive chunks of text. I’m also in the last half of the third season of HOOD, and just about to write Maid Marian, Friar Tuck, and Little John breaking a planetary embargo to bring back King Richard and end Prince John’s reckless, despotic rule. So each writing session is slow but paradoxically mentally a bit easier than usual, because I’ve stacked all the blocks carefully and now just have to make sure they fall in the correct pattern when I yank the keystone out.

That’s a lot of mixed metaphors, but you get the idea.

I may have to take a couple days off soon, because my wrists are still hashed from the portal fantasy I wrote during my semi-nervous breakdown and also from spending the weekend dumping out 16k or so of the D&D fanfic on top of regular work. The spirit is more than willing–work, running, or game sessions are the only times I forget everything else happening in the world–but my flesh is beginning to think I’m a bit of a martinet.

Ah well. Ice, stretching, and ibuprofen are the order of the day. I am wondering if it’s worth taking the dogs out for a walk in this smoke-haze. Boxnoggin is a Sensitive, Nervous Fellow, and is already skittish from the few days of high winds. He really, really doesn’t like the smell of burning. Miss B is sanguine, of course–not much disturbs her as long as I’m nearby. She has largely consigned both winds and smoke to the realm of “things my goddess does I don’t understand” and leaves them to me to sort out. Which is as it should be, but Boxnoggin still thinks he has some sort of responsibility to Take Care Of It, and of course he’s manifestly unfit so it stresses him out.

I keep getting nervous, high-strung pets nobody else will take. Gee, I wonder why.

I’m glad of my own precarious bubble of safety today; I wish I could share it with everyone on earth. Be kind to yourselves, dearly beloveds. Right now, survival–in whatever forming whatever fashion–is winning. Illegitimati non carborundum, and all that.

Bastard Latin, yes, but it gets the point across. Happy Thursday, over and out.

Dungeon, Dragon, Lockdown

The wind is pouring through the Columbia Gorge; yesterday afternoon it bore smoke on its back, darkening the sky in the space of an hour and turning the sunset into a lake of blood. This morning most of the burning is gone, though I can still taste a tang or two as the wind shifts. It sounds like the sea, and the trees are flinging bits of themselves away with abandon.

It’s a nice day to be back at work, a nice day to walk the dogs, and a particularly nice day to write fanfic of our D&D campaign. I can’t do the last until I finish actual work, but I can long for it all I want.

Our weekly game was started during lockdown; our DM takes morale during uncertain times very seriously and, after a small starter campaign that almost broke us (it wasn’t designed for our play style, but we muddled through anyhow) we are now embarking on a homebrew. I haven’t played since high school, and am surprised by how much fun it is with adults.

We have the half-orc barbarian whose sartorial sense is only rivaled by his backhand and his cooking skill, a sylvan half-elf ranger obsessed with weapons and linguistics, a rogue with several past marriages and a gnoll toddler (both things unrelated to each other), an elvish vengeance paladin who keeps muttering oh my goddess, not again, and my own character–sort of my id let loose–a very young elf cleric whose last major act was biting some jerk’s nose off in a tavern.

We are a lot of fun, if you haven’t guessed. The entire session is a cacophony of laughter, in-jokes, moaning or cheering at dice rolls, lunatic roleplaying, and the DM throwing up her hands and sighing “Y’all need Jesus,” at least twice a session.

The first “Y’all need Jesus” is always celebrated with much glee.

Honestly, if I’d known it was this fun, I would have started doing this ages ago. But my initial experiences with the game were… well, it was a bunch of teenage boys who didn’t like a girl playing, so that was unpleasant. And I’m told we’re not the usual group–seducing the catfish is our preferred method, although when the murder starts we’re frighteningly good at it. The homebrew campaign is going to be a sort of mafia-wars thing in a Waterdeep-based city, and our first night in town we made a gigantic enemy who will probably kill us all.

And we regret nothing. Even the whole “steal from the banshee and almost die” affair.

Amusingly enough, with three paying projects on the burners and the alien romance tapping its foot and waiting impatiently, I’ve started doing quasi-writeups of our sessions as well–suitably altered for fiction, of course–because it’s hilarious, and it gives me a version of the fun feeling the game does. It will probably remain unfinished forever, or its finished version will eventually bear absolutely no relation to the game, but for the moment it’s therapeutic as fuck.

The biggest thing for me is a few hours each week where I don’t have to be myself, and further don’t have to perform emotional labor for everyone in range. There are consequences to actions in-game, of course, but very few outside, and that is utterly liberating. The feeling of pressure slipping away when Friday afternoon rolls around is luxurious. It’s been one thing keeping me sane through lockdown, and the story is just a bonus.

I suppose it wouldn’t work quite as well if DM, rogue, cleric, and ranger hadn’t been friends for almost a decade. The communication strategies evolved during long-term friendship have stood us in good stead, and there’s a deep comfort to doing outlandish things with people who understand your weirdness.

Not only that, but the DM created an NPC for my cleric that tickles all my narrative kinks. If that’s not saying I love you, I don’t know what is.

Happy Tuesday, my beloveds. I’m beginning to think I might get through, you know, all this. (Imagine me waving my hands wildly, indicating the entire world on fire.) At least I’ll go down laughing, if I must fall at all.

Over and out.

Bee Ware

You might not be able to see it, but the crack between the concrete and the dirt behind the sign holds the entrance to a beehive. On warm mornings they are busily flying in and out, pollinating, gathering, doing their bee business. The people who live there put the sign up a couple weeks ago, and I think they absolutely mean to leave the bees alone long-term since they’re not harming anyone. Which makes me feel good; every time I pass plenty of the little fellows come to say hello and play tag with Miss B.

When I’ve felt like humanity is a shitshow not worth saving this week, I’ve thought of this–people quietly leaving the bees alone, merely putting up a sign to protect both the hive and passers-by. And somehow, it makes the rest of us worth fighting for.

We don’t have to be awful. And really, most people aren’t.

Gods grant I remember it.

Loud Dreams and Earworms

I dreamed in hyper-colored Castlevania this morning; I am somewhat surprised to find the sky blue instead of blood-colored. I also still have Feel It Still running through my head. The earworms are all but constant nowadays.

It doesn’t matter. I have coffee, the Prince is embarked on his last year of high school, and it’s a pleasant morning even though the sun’s out. I’m sure it’ll be sweaty later on today, so I’d best hurry if I don’t want to expire of heat-related illness during the morning’s run.

Still, it’s nice to absorb my coffee in something like leisure. I’m just so relieved the local school district isn’t forcing children into the equivalent of plague pits. They are providing meals and as much daycare as they can, too–an illustration of a district doing things right, for once.

I’m trying to treat the earworm with other things–a-ha’s Take on Me, for example–but so far, Feel It Still is the reigning champion. If I have to pull out Toto’s Africa it’s going to be even more interesting inside my skull.

I’m a little discombobulated from the Castlevania dream, to tell the truth. It was very vivid, down to the smell of sere dust as I walked through a dead wasteland towards a giant castle. The forest smelled better, but it was full of ice-demons, and the trees kept exploding.

It was kind of a loud dream, too, come to think of it. I’m not sure why; my bedroom window was closed and the dogs rarely snore that loudly.

Anyway, the coffee dregs need to be chewed, the dogs need walking, sunscreen needs slathering and a run needs to happen. Then it’s all epic fantasy, all the time, until it’s done. I am through messing about with this book; I don’t care how many times I have to stab it. It’s going down.

It could be the combination of earworm and vivid dreaming is just a sign my creative engine has reached the proper pressure and is ready to propel me forward. It would be nice to think I have enough energy again. Apparently even pandemic and fascist coup can’t keep me down for long; the words, like the spice, must flow. I’m sure I’ll overwork today and wake up exhausted tomorrow. Apparently I possess zero chill, but then, nobody around here is much surprised by that.

Tuesday approacheth. Time to pick the coffee dregs out of my teeth and get going. Books don’t write themselves, more’s the pity.

Enjoy your day, dear ones. The name of the game is survival, and if you’re reading this, we’ve won for the moment. Might as well celebrate it.

We might not get another chance. And with that wonderfully affirming and not at all pessimistic thought, I’m off to the races.

Blurry Snail

It was a Morning–Boxnoggin shimmied out of his harness and went walkabout, and that was just the FIRST thing to go pear-shaped–so the Friday photo is a little late this week, but better that than never, right?

We had beautiful, glorious, life-giving rain yesterday, and I got this (blurry, for which I apologize) snap of a snail on the deck steps. People who move to the PNW are Not Prepared for the damp, the moss getting everywhere–and I do mean everywhere–or the slugs. We didn’t have snails at the old place, but we had plenty of the houseless gastropods. Still not sure whether I like the change, despite the rich associations riding the spiral shells.

I meant to get some writing in today, but all my energy’s gone towards staying upright and not going back to bed. Time to shut everything off and just sit quietly for a few minutes, until the energy–and the will to go on–pools back in my palms and starts spinning out my fingers again.

I hope you have a lovely weekend, dear Reader.

A Little Grace

Rain.

RAIN!

I didn’t believe it when the weather app said “chance of rain” yesterday. I’ve been hurt by hope too many times. 2020 seems deliberately attempting to murder any ability I once had to feel hope, let alone allow it to soothe me.

I woke up between 3 and 4am, smelling something odd and smoky. Still don’t know what it was, but the dogs were mildly perturbed. It felt like something very large and very inimical was passing overhead, but I was too exhausted to care much so I patted the furry beasts and went back to sleep with them both pressing against me.

And I woke up to rain. Tapping the roof, slithering through leaves, sinking into the ground–not just a brief cloudburst but the best kind of summer rain, relatively warm and coming down enough to reach through the tree canopy to let thirsty earth drink deep. The break from terrible enervating heat (yes, I know it wouldn’t qualify as real heat nearer the equator, but it does here) is ever so welcome.

I was getting seriously close to packing it in. The heat, the fascist coup, the unrelenting bad news, the lack of consequences for any of the shitheels letting sickness rage through the vulnerable–all of it is still piling on, pressing down, punching repeatedly.

But there’s rain.

The cedars are bathing and drinking like ducks. The apple trees are dripping. The firs are stretching, turgor pressure returning, roots and mycelium delighting in freshness. The petrichor is overwhelming; my nose is full of green.

Even my soul–oh, that useless, painful baggage I can’t do without–is expanding again.

Of course the dogs will be underimpressed by having to wade through, especially Boxnoggin. “THIS IS NOT LIKE TEXAS,” he will complain, high-stepping to keep his precious paws from getting too damp. It’s a losing battle, but he still tries. Just like Miss B, attempting to herd the unherdable because it’s in her nature.

I’d say more–maybe a few pithy observations about how dogs must dog and writers must write–but it’s still raining, and I want to get out before it stops. I want to be kissed by the clouds, I want to run through puddles, I long to arrive home miserably wet and peel out of my sweat- and sky-dripping clothes.

It’s a small joy, but it’s mine. And just when I was beginning to sink under the burden, something beautiful saves me. Ridiculous how many times that happens, right as the hammer descends onto the final bell.

I hope something saves you today too, dearest Reader. Even if you don’t need it, even if you can’t see where it might come from, even if you’re not at the very end of your strength, we all deserve a little grace. It looks like we’re gonna need it, but that’s a problem for tomorrow.

For today, there’s the rain.