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 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.

From Earworm to Mad Science

I woke up with R. B. Greaves’s Take a Letter, Maria playing inside my head. If it means anything, I’m in the dark about precisely what. The Princess would have helped me analyse it along with my dreams, but she says she’s never heard the song. Which I know is inaccurate, since I listen to it in the car whenever it comes on for whatever reason–the lure of familiarity, I suppose. This probably just means I need to listen to it a couple times today to get the song out of my head.

Go figure.

It’s a nice cloudy Monday. I have a new keyboard and took a few days almost-off social media. We call Twitter “hellsite” and it’s beginning to sound less like a tongue-in cheek observation than plain unadorned truth, or even understatement. Still, it has its uses, and I spend most of my time on my Mastodon instance anyway.

The dogs are quiet, for once. They’re probably still exhausted from yesterday, since they had to supervise housecleaning, window washing, and the making of bruschetta. The Princess has a recipe for mimicking the Trader Joe’s tomatoes-garlic-basil-oil-vinegar spread, which is our very favorite over tangy sourdough and fresh mozzarella. (The secret? Citric acid! You can find it in the canning aisle of the supermarket, or King Arthur Flour has some I personally prefer.) I’ve been experimenting with chana masala and cocoanut curries, and she’s been on a real Italian appetizers kick.

In short, there’s been some good eating around here lately. Since we’re mostly still quarantined (for when we’re not, there are plenty of masks, since my writing partner’s way of coping with the first boomerang of the pandemic was to get out her sewing machine) it’s pretty much taking the place of all socializing or field trips.

The Prince (sadly, I cannot call him the Little Prince anymore, both my children are taller than me) has been on a homebrew science kick. I let him take apart my old, battered keyboard to find out how it’s constructed and how it works, and he was thrilled with the idea of repurposing bits of it for “experiments.” I don’t ask questions, I just order the supplies and enthuse over what he tells me of the results.

I feel sort of like a mad scientist’s corporate backer, but I’m sure there are worse fates.

Living in historical times is exhausting, physically and mentally. I want to retract like a salted slug. I know not seeing the disaster is a privilege, I know the disaster is continuing whether I look at it or not, I know if I don’t find some way of settling back into work we’ll be in even worse shape in a few months. Plus, there’s a part of me that sniffs you wrote a whole fucking book about this and they didn’t listen, let them sit in it. I know it’s not fair of me to think it; there were other people far smarter and more famous sounding the alarm who were ignored as well.

I just can’t help myself.

So now it’s finishing coffee, taking the dogs on their ritual ramble, getting a run in, and keeping social media shut off for the day while I go back to work. I don’t want to look at the schedule and see how far behind I am; I just want to put my head down and lose myself in a world where anthropomorphized gods are visiting parties, or a court where the politicking continues while the state’s ship goes down (it occurs to me my main difficulty with the last Hostage book is probably that it feels so familiar), or the Robin Hood IN SPACE story where everything is heating up for the final half of the final season. At least with the new keyboard I’m not in a state of high irritation while typing; I hadn’t realized how much the missing stair behavior of the old one was affecting me.

I have a bunch of Cowboy Junkies and Cocteau Twins queued up, though I’ve listened to Take a Letter, Maria about five times so far today, attempting to scratch whatever earworm itch is in my head. We’ll see if it works. What the Muse wants, the Muse gets, although I’m not sure she’s the one in charge of the sound system this morning. It seems suspiciously like there’s gremlins lurking in my cranial folds.

It wouldn’t be the first time. Might as well just let them play.

Happy Monday, my beloveds. I hope your weekend was calm, and I hope for a sudden volte-face in the state of the world. The latter might not be very likely, but at least I can hope. Dum spiro, spero, and all that.

From Coffee to Flinger

I’ve switched back to the Moka pot for morning coffee; the Chemex, while pleasant, wasn’t doing enough. I suppose if I had two and poured the results of first brewing through the filter in the second it might, which would be a fun experiment but not one I’m going to try right now.

Of course, with all the caffeine I’ve ingested in my lifetime, my adrenal glands are probably the size of pinpricks. Yesterday I found out the tea I thought was herbal actually had green tea leaves in it, which explains why I was almost vibrating in place with an aching head after a couple cups.

Caffeine is a funny thing. I cut my coffee and black tea with heavy cream, but with green tea or herbal that won’t work. Consequently, there’s no buffer when I drink green tea, and I come down with giant flaming headaches most of the time I ingest it.

It’s a quiet, rainy morning. Miss B will like her morning walkies–she is an all-weather dog–but Boxnoggin is going to complain and high-step the entire way, shaking his wet paws mournfully and giving me reproachful looks. You’d think a dog born in Texas would be fine with our much more temperate weather, but all he does is complain it’s not hot enough, what’s with all this moss?

The stress nausea in the mornings is going down to a low grumble instead of a rollercoaster plunge every few moments. I might be adapting to the continuous stress, or all the housecleaning I’ve been doing lately has worked off any residual feeling and left me drained. Six of one, half a dozen of the other, I’ll just be glad to eat breakfast.

I keep telling myself none of this is normal, it’s absolutely reasonable to feel beside oneself, and that the reaction shows I’m in fact conscious and firing on all cylinders. It feels like I’ve been in training for this catastrophe my entire life. Maybe if the disaster ever rumbles into the distance I’ll find myself standing bruised and shaken by the tracks, able to return to some kind of normal functioning.

Maybe.

In the meantime, we’re having a little fun Chez Saintcrow. The Princess, bless her dear heart and quirky sense of humor, invested in a little thing that’s supposed to bring us hours of joy. Curious? So was I when the package arrived.

Look upon this work, ye mighty rodents, and DESPAIR.

That, my friends, is what’s known as a Yankee Flipper. It is battery-powered, a game-changer in our ongoing war (well, not quite a war, more like a fond wish or two) against the damn tree-rats in the habit of plundering our bird feeders. The birds have already found it, and their weight doesn’t trigger any motion–but when a squirrel tries to hop on and help themselves, the bottom part is supposed to spin like the dickens. (I’m sure you’ve all seen the gifs.)

I had my office window open almost all weekend, hoping to hear the thing go off. I am a little worried that it might fling one of the fuzzy little thieves against the house or the tree, which would mean I’d have to take the entire thing down. I don’t want to hurt the fluffy-tailed fauna, I just want them to let the birds have their meals in peace.

I know they’ve been trying to suss out what the hell, because every time Boxnoggin goes out his presence drives a scout–occasionally even Barda!Squirl, Wild Explorer of the Backyard–up the massive fir you can see the entire contraption hanging from. Should there be a dazed or flung squirrel, Boxnoggin stands ready. I don’t think he wants to schnorgle them like Trundles always did, though.

Even Miss B is nonplussed by this turn of events. She’ll eye the hanging feeder for a few moments, then look at me with her eyebrows up. She’s not moving as quickly as she used to these days, having become an elderly statesdog; I’m sure, though, she’ll temporarily rediscover her youth and springiness if there’s a chance to herd Boxnoggin and a tree-rat.

…honestly, I can’t wait. I’ll keep you all updated on the SquirrelFlinger as events warrant. So far it’s been one of the few good things about quarantine.

And now both dogs need their walk in the rain. Wish me luck, dear Reader. I have this feeling I’m going to need it.

Cake, Terror, Love

Apparently the bees are following me even into the kitchen. The Princess brought this home from work for us last night, along with a completely fabulous Dunder Mifflin pillow that was on sale. There was much hilarity.

Since she works at a grocer’s and the general public seems to think the worst is over, I’m terrified she’ll catch the current plague. Of course she’s young and not in the most at-risk group, her store has started providing masks, and my writing partner also sewed us cloth masks, so at least there’s that. And the Princess knows she can quit if she decides to, but she’s determined to stay the course for now. If it was up to me she’d be home and safe, but she’s well over twenty now and… yeah.

I thought I knew what terror was. Then I went and had children. Love rests cheek-by-jowl with fear; after years of listening for their breathing in the middle of the night, constantly focused on the safety of small dependent beings, it’s hard to loosen one’s grip. The habit of constant vigilance, care, and correction is difficult to alter, especially when it was ground in over years of sleep deprivation bordering on psychosis.

Toddlers are not for the weak, my friends. And the thing about children is… they grow up.

Now there are bee cakes and pillows, laughter and hugs, dogs to pet and a cat to cuddle. There’s seeing my babies grow into fabulous human adults, and learning to leave them space to breathe while still holding the last line so they have somewhere to retreat if needed.

And if I get frosting in my hair from perching a plastic bee decoration in it, if I am so excited over a pillow I act like a complete dork, if my pride is still stung by the need to say “You know what, I’m absolutely wrong. Let’s try that again,” daily, it’s an infinitely small price to pay for the love that fills every corner of whatever house we live in and slops out into every other part of my life.

The world is a dangerous place. But we have each other. Love is unutterably precious in all its forms, and the cracks of heartbreak make that organ bigger. The gold of grief hammered into those fissures can grant us grace and strength.

Gods help me never to forget that. And let me always, always be grateful for bee cakes.

King Boxnoggin Abed

I was brushing my teeth and had taken the decorative pillows off the bed–they were left over from the reign of King Trundles, who needed to be propped up so he could breathe and also so he wouldn’t smear schmutz on my personal pillows. I heard my daughter pass the bedroom door, then she began to laugh.

I looked out of the loo and was greeted by the sight of a very tired Sir Boxnoggin, gazing at me like “…whut? It’s bedtime.”

I looked at the Princess, and so did he, with the same air of patent weary astonishment he’d deployed in my direction, and that did it. Both humans cracked up, laughing like loons.

Boxnoggin, of course, had no idea why we were amused. I managed to snap a picture of him looking at my daughter in the door with that regal, puzzled expression.

“Is he… is he making a move to rise in the hierarchy?” the Princess asked, when we could both breathe again.

“Maybe?” I hazarded. “But it won’t do him any good. I’m still the alpha bitch.”

That broke us up again for a good two minutes or so. If sadness and stress takes years off your life, the sheer hilarity of our canine overlords must add them.

I hope your weekend is calm and refreshing, chickadees. The world is nuts, but at least we have dogs.

Welcome to Chez Quarantine

Well. This all seems… rather difficult, doesn’t it.

Chez Saintcrow is in quarantine, at least as far as we can be with one of us working retail. The Princess’s job is pretty important in the current situation–after all, people have to eat. And plenty of big corporations aren’t doing the right thing by their workers because it might impact profits, forsooth. Certain governmental parties beholden to corporations instead of constituents are allowing–nay, even encouraging–such behavior.

Simply put, it’s a mess.

The entire household was stricken by an unusual illness over the past week. I can’t tell if it’s a very bad spring cold (sort of unusual for us), a type of flu the vaccine and earlier flu this season didn’t give immunity for (extremely unusual), or the current plague (the timeline fits, but the symptoms are slightly different in each of us).

Sure would be nice to have some tests available to know for sure, wouldn’t it.

In the meantime we’re quarantining as much as possible. The worst thing about it isn’t being immured in the house–that part’s damn near a vacation–but the idea that we might be carriers so I can’t be of service elsewhere. A lot of people are scared and I long to help, but I can’t take the risk of infecting anyone, no matter what this bug is.

On the bright side, the Princess has a day or so off. Fluids, rest, and yet more rest are called for. We’re lucky none of us have developed deeper symptoms; a single trip to the ER would wipe us out.

Small mercies.

I spent a restless night, but none of the nightmares were of the type I could turn into books or even short stories. For some reason, that felt like the final insult. I can’t even make a damn story out of it; I don’t like it. Not one bit.

Anyway, I’m considering what in my Gumroad store I could make free or pay-what-you-want to give people something to read during all this, and though I intended to take next week off (since Season Two of HOOD is a wrap and the book is up for preorder) I’ll be dropping fiction for all my subscribers anyway.

I can’t do much, but at least I can tell stories and try to spread a little joy.

The dogs need walking, and maybe if I get out the door early enough nobody will attempt to stop us and chat me up. Some people in the neighborhood (there’s always a few) don’t care that one visibly wants to be left alone or that we need to flatten the curve.

All my social media and other feeds are full of people offering support, checking in on the vulnerable, making arrangements, and pulling together. It’s a glorious thing; I just wish the situation didn’t have to be so dire before we all, well, did it. But I’ll take where I can get. As Mr Rogers always said, look for the helpers.

Time to get the dogs buckled in. It’s sunny, so the bees will be out. They don’t care about all this; they’ll probably try to crawl into my hair and nose just as usual.

It’s nice to know some things will stay the same.


It’s Tuesday, which means a new paid-subscriber Haggard Feathers post! This month is Marketing March, and today’s post is on newsletters–deceptively simple, but not easy. It’ll drop at 11am PST, so be ready!