Percy Rolls For Me

We’ll return to the tale of Boxnoggin, Travis, and the Venerable on Monday. For right now, meet Percy, my liver-shaped D&D mascot.

My current D&D character (I’m playing online with a few friends; we’re using Roll20 and Discord to handle communications and other minutiae) is a baby high elf cleric with an… interesting… upbringing. Somehow, she’s gotten in the habit of collecting organs from those NPCs silly enough to choose combat over discussion with our group1, so her best in-game friend (the rogue with several false identities who just had to steal from the banshee during that one session, don’t ask, we survived, it’s good enough) sent her this beautiful plush liver from IHeartGuts.

His name is Percy, and during our next D&D sessions he’s going to roll for me. Maybe he’ll have better luck with the strength checks than I do. I can hope, right? (Of course, who needs strength when your charisma’s insanely high?)

The world is on fire, but I’m looking forward to having some fun with my group tonight. I hope you have something pleasant to take refuge in as well, dear Reader. If anything can save us, it’s human connections–and it doesn’t get much more human than playing games.

Have a lovely weekend.

Boxnoggin, Travis, and the Venerable, Part I

When I think about it, I believe the squirrel was determined to get into the Yankee Squirrel Flinger, which seemed to be doing its job. I mean, no squirrels had been flung, not that we’d seen, but the black oil sunflower seeds inside had not been pillaged by anything other than avians. So that’s good, but afterward my throat hurt for two days and I am just grateful Boxnoggin didn’t break one of his damn legs or even his fool head.

…Perhaps I should back up.

SO. Remember way back when the Princess bought (with her own debit card! and her own money! that she got from her own job! THEY GROW UP SO FAST!) a Yankee Squirrel Flinger? We charged that mofo up and hung it from the Venerable Straight-Backed Fir (the tree Odd Trundles kept headbutting for various reasons) to await developments. And so far, not only has it kept a charge for a ridiculously long time, but it also appears to be working, although a squirrel had not been flung into the side of the house yet.

For which I was grateful, yet because I am human I must admit slight disappointment. The upshot is, the product appears to perform as advertised, and the damn squirrels cannot plunder, pillage, or otherwise make a mess of it the way they have with every other feeder I’ve tried. (Like the SQUIRRELPROOF 5000 DEATHRIDE. Long-time readers will remember that debacle.)

Anyway, lately I’d noticed a squirrel or two on the Venerable Fir every time I was on the deck. They’re a bit brazen once they get a certain distance up the trunk, and they all seem to be eyeing me with furious disdain. I think they know I’m the monkey responsible for the treats hanging out of reach in the Flipper.

So. The other day I buckled Boxnoggin’s Outside Collar (long story) on him and let both dogs out, then wandered in their wake, blinking. It was just after lunch and I was in somewhat of a post-prandial stupor, clutching a fresh mug of tea to get me through the afternoon. It was a hot day, cicadas droning fitfully since they haven’t had much of the temperatures they like, and yes, I was wearing shoes.

I am slow, yes. But I can be taught.

Anyway, I shuffled for the stairs and paused upon hearing a strange scratching noise. Which meant I stopped dead at the top with a fine view of the entire yard. Normally I would have continued downstairs, enjoying my tea and the sunshine, but not that day, dear Reader.

No, not that day.

For I saw before mine wondering eyes a situation that could only lead to panic, terror, screaming, and anarchy.

…oh, NO.

Boxnoggin had just unloaded his bladder on the other side of the Venerable, and was heading to investigate the rhododendron to the far right, as he usually does every day after lunch, being a Creature of Habit.

“Oh, Lord,” I breathed, and did the only thing I could.

I set down my tea and reached for the phone nestled in my back pocket. Because I was going to get proof of this if it killed me, and I suspected it might. At the moment my fondest hope was that Boxnoggin would continue unaware and the squirrel–oh, let’s call him Travis, that’s a fine name–would have the sense to turn tail (literally) and continue up the Venerable Fir.

It… did not quite work out that way.

TO BE CONTINUED…

Parenthetical Tuesday

The only thing that levered me out of bed this morning was the idea that I could have coffee, and already this morning I’ve had to block someone trying to mansplain the publishing industry to me.

Tuesday is going to be a laugh a minute, I can already tell.

Things I’m thinking about today:

  • The only thing that’s going to stop the selfish asshats who won’t wear masks (in the middle of a pandemic spread by respiratory droplets) is social disapprobation, shunning, and shaming. Next time you see someone not wearing a mask when they should, remember that.
  • There are many divisions in the family of humanity. On my optimistic days I think the biggest one is between those who say “I suffered, so everyone else has to as well” versus those who say “I suffered, so I never want anyone else to go through that.” On my pessimistic days it’s “people who actively like causing pain” versus “people who are horrified at causing other people pain.” Today? It’s a toss-up. You could say that both those Venn diagrams line up perfectly, though. Maybe they’re BOTH right.
  • For a long time, reading history, I’ve had a theory that every nation-state, if it endures long enough, eventually has a fascist stage analogous to a teenager flirting with shitty selfish behavior just to try it out. It is a stage in development with hideous casualties, and it seems inescapable. Nothing about current events has disabused me of this view.
  • If the infrastructure goes down and coffee becomes scarce I will probably become a juggernaut of cranky destruction.
  • More than I already am, I suppose.

Also, someone got to this site by searching “what is Mikal in the Bannon & Clare series” and it makes me smile a little. I love that people are still reading and engaged with those books, and wish I could have written the companion trilogy where Emma and Archibald go traveling. (Of course the middle book in that series was them going to their world’s version of America, and featured Jack and Cat from The Damnation Affair.) But as for what Mikal is… all the clues are there, especially when Emma meets Rudyard, but it will have to remain implicit unless and until I write the second trilogy.

I like giving Readers the space to make up their own minds, and I especially like the satisfaction that comes from figuring out a riddle or two. I don’t hand-hold, and I prefer to leave many things between the lines. So, all the clues to what Mikal is are there, but the more interesting questions are why he attended the Collegia, why he broke Shield conditioning for Emma, and what precisely he intends to do with her later in their life together. The latter is the easiest to answer, I think, since we already know what he regards her as. (A stone is a stone…)

And with that I’m off, since the dogs are ready for walkies and I have consumed the serving of magic morning bean-juice that renders me calm and agreeable (or as close to those states as I ever approach) instead of the silent-snarling misanthrope I habitually roll out of bed as. Today will be a hot day (for our part of the world) and I want to get all my outside duties done before too many humans are up and moving around (since the sun seems to drive them mad) or I expire of the heat.

(Also, today seems to be very parenthetical, as some days are, and I regret not a single bracket.)

Over and out.

Not Further Behind

It’s Monday, I have coffee, and there’s a trip to the grocer’s in my immediate future. We need milk. I dread leaving the house if it’s not for walking the dogs–at least outside I can cross the street to get away from selfish jerks without masks, and the open air means very little viral load.

At least a Monday visit isn’t as bad as a weekend visit. I’m sure the church crowd yesterday was a Petri dish. And speaking of selfish jackasses, someone is still setting off fireworks between midnight and 1am somewhere in the neighborhood. The Princess hopes they run out of them soon and that all their bacon burns–a quite elegant curse, but I have spent some time cogitating on far less gentle wishes.

It’s a good thing I’m not telekinetic. Especially nowadays.

I didn’t peek at social media this weekend, unless one counts livetweeting Netflix’s The Old Guard on Saturday evening–which I enjoyed roundly, by the way. I like watching Charlize Theron in combat. Plus there was Matthias Schoenaerts, whose performance in a different movie I once wrote a whole-ass romance novel around, and KiKi Layne, who is incredible. I liked the movie very much, if you can’t tell. It was directed by a woman and very refreshing to see female pain not being sexualized by and for a male gaze; I had the same feeling while watching Birds of Prey.

I also got some reading in, and it was pleasant to settle on the couch and fall into a book, even if that book was history and as such, a cavalcade of blunders and nastiness. I’m finding very little to be amused about in the human condition nowadays.

I didn’t get half of what I wanted to done during the weekend. I’m feeling a bit under the weather, and the stress of wondering whether it’s the plague, or whether we had the plague back in March, or whether we haven’t had the plague and should dread its advent… it wears on one. But the dogs must be walked, my own tired carcass must be exercised, and the business of living goes on, and on, and on.

On the one hand, it’s not a bad thing. On the other, it’s exhausting.

There’s also a great deal of work to get done today. I have thrown up my hands and decided “catching up” is a chimera; I will instead endeavor not to fall further behind. And to that end I bid thee a civil adieu, my beloveds; it’s time to get the dogs walked before the sunlight pulls other people out onto the street and drives them insane. Honestly, it’s like the big yellow eye in the sky showers most people with cray-juice or something; they start acting like drunken wasps. No wonder I long for rain most of the year.

All right, Monday. I’m not ready, but I am prepared. Let’s see what you’ve got.

Boxnoggin Regnant

This goofy, adorable fuzzbucket was up every two hours last night, his nervous stomach probably reacting to all the noise and excitement from the Mike’s Deck Affair. (For the curious, Part I is here; Part II here.) All the crashing and banging might have upset his tender, shrinking tummy.

I was a little cranky myself by the end of it. Fortunately about 5am things seemed to settle somewhat and I was able to get some decent sleep, but I woke up from a dream that crossed Midsommar with the Jason Bourne movies.

…look, don’t ask, I certainly don’t know. Getting up and going about my day was the only reasonable option after that.

Anyway, Boxnoggin seems to be feeling much better now that the sun’s up, as evinced by his prancing and appetite. The pale knitted item he’s on in this particular pic is a shawl the Princess knitted for herself, which the dog apparently considers the love of his life or at least someone he’d really like to seriously date. Bless my child, for she simply shrugged and said “He’s getting more use out of it than I am, let him have it.”

Since she spent quite a while knitting the damn thing, it’s a sign and signal of the love she bears this particular furry toddler. He more than returns the favor every time she comes home from work; he is beside himself with glee and treats her arrival as a reunion longed for with the fiery yearning of a thousand suns.

And doesn’t he look handsome? Almost regal, I daresay, if you didn’t know that right before this picture he was involved in licking tender reproductive parts of his anatomy. He flopped back down on “his” shawl and looked at me like “…whut?”, and I started laughing so hard I had to snap this very picture to brighten the Princess’s day at work.

We don’t deserve dogs, man. We just don’t. But I’m so glad they love us anyway.

Finally, Sleep

Nobody was setting off fireworks last night, and I was exhausted from the Mike’s Deck Affair. (Suffice to say one of my neighbors was engaging in what sounded like demolition or incredibly enthusiastic home renovation and I lost half a tumbler of whiskey in the calla lilies, with bonus squirrel… look, maybe you just had to be there.) What I’m trying to say is that I actually slept, and so did the dogs. They are bright and bouncy this morning, while I am logy and wishing I could go back for another round of smothering the pillow with my face.

Instead, I have coffee, and the dogs need walking, and I should haul my carcass through a run. I’m sure by the end of the last I’ll feel somewhat energized, and ready to tackle a full day’s worth of work.

Or, you know, I’ll simply be mildly exhausted and wanting a nap, but settling for tea instead and yanking words out one at a time as I chip at the coal face in my mind.

At least The Bloody Throne is proceeding apace. What I thought the book’s shape would be turns out to be close but no cigar, as they say, which means frequent pauses to stop and feel my way in the dark. I know it ends in the same place and I know the major handholds, but that’s somewhat like five different people trying to describe the elephant from constituent parts, as in the old tale.

The book keeping me alive right now is The Black God’s Heart, where a flying seventies-era van just carried the protagonist over a lot of water and to a skyscraper to meet a particular sorcerer from folktale. (Aw, come on, lemme see you saucer, Bugs Bunny crows inside my head, and I’ll have a hard time not putting that in the book, let me tell you.)

I can tell that someone’s going to ask me to make parts of this book clearer, but I am not a writer who hand-holds much if at all. So I’m already anticipating the editorial give and take on this one will necessitate much self-searching–am I refusing to change something because I’m selfishly resistant to altering my word-baby, or do I really have a point? Finding that balance will be difficult, but at least I’ve been through the process enough that I can spot a hurdle or two ahead of time.

Apparently I’m going to be messily mixing and mangling metaphors today, too. If that’s what a little sleep does to me I might as well stay awake.

…just kidding. I’m over forty and have had a lifetime of insomnia, I will always choose sleep. Whether or not I actually get it is another matter.

And with that, it’s time to get out the door, for the weight of a canine stare upon my right shoulder is absolutely crushing. Boxnoggin is near the door, looking very much like an ancient Egyptian statue with his nose pointed at me and his ears all the way up. He is READY for a walk, thank you very much, and as soon as I hit “publish” and bend to tie my shoes he’s going to be nose-deep in my shoelaces attempting to “help.”

Heaven knows I need all the aid I can get today. See you around, dear Readers.

Off the Ground

I can’t quite seem to get off the ground this morning. (Morning, I say, though I’ve had a spot of lunch and settled with a cuppa.) I blame the lack of sleep from some douchewads setting off fireworks at midnight again. It’s past the “maybe they’re just confused” point and well towards “it’s a good thing I’m not pyrokinetic.”

A very good thing.

On the bright side, there was actual rain this morning–not very usual for July, but I’ll take it since it means most people stayed off the road. A Fed Ex truck did follow the dogs and I for most of our walkies–not the driver’s fault, he had a schedule and a route, and the overlap was purely coincidental.

Just try telling the dogs that, though. Boxnoggin was convinced the big vehicle was Up to No Good, and Miss B has never met a delivery truck she didn’t long to chase down and capture. I don’t know what she’d do if she ever actually caught one, kind of like her (mostly unfulfilled) desire to catch a squirrel; nor does Boxnoggin. But damned if they aren’t both going to try.

So that was amusing, and so was the snail plague over half my run route. It was more like an obstacle course or a fast dance than actually running, since I don’t want to crush any of the poor gastropods. The mild spring fading into a damp summer is doing them no end of good; I haven’t seen this many in years. Of course my hostas and some other tender plants are a little worse for wear, but I suppose that’s what happens when one hosts a buffet and suddenly guests show up.

Anyway, the dogs are sacked out after their Very Exciting Walk, and since I’m upping my mileage (it’s taken me forever to get back to the low end of my accustomed runs, injury and illness taking a toll) I’m very nearly there myself. The spot of last night’s homemade dal was very welcome, but I’m already hungry again and staring longingly at my tea mug as if it’ll magically refill without any effort on my part.

I’m 40k into The Bloody Throne, and it feels like I’m never going to finish this book. It never had a long run of easy days near the beginning, which I would have liked a great deal but coincided with the first flush of pandemic lockdown. Maybe the Muse will pity me and give me good wordcount when I finally get to the set-piece battles and the long slide down to the end. I know exactly where it ends and all the handholds I need to swing there. All that remains is to bloody well do it.

Which means I’d best get back to work. I’m taking the week off HOOD trying to catch up in however slight a fashion; I sense today will require a great deal of Hauser playing in the background while I stare disapprovingly at misbehaving characters.

On to Tuesday, then…