Checking In

The state of things for the last while has been a bit chaotic, so I thought it might do me some good to write a quick [Narrator voice: it was not quick.] check-in post and let y’all know how I’m doing. (And you should tell me how you’re doing! Let us channel our inner Livejournalers together.)

Writing

Editing on The Shivering Deeps has been going a little slow, but it’s going. I’ve been working on rewrites lately, and thus drafting new words, but I fell off the end of my current outline so now I need to figure out where the next chunk of the story is going. I have a feeling a lot of what I’ve been writing is going to get cut in the next draft, but I’m still happy to be giving this book a lot more breath and life than it had after it was first chopped off of the other half of the Doorstop draft.

I haven’t been doing well in terms of submissions. Most recently, like a dummy, I thought that Fireside submissions closed today instead of yesterday. So that was embarrassing. I’ll get ‘em next time! Two of my stories are still searching for homes, but I haven’t sent them out in a bit. I think I need to get each of them out to some new markets today.

I’ve also got a few short story ideas kicking in the wings, but I’m not sure I want to let myself work on them until after I’ve finished this batch of edits/rewrites on The Shivering Deeps. I’m worried I’ll lose my excitement over them, but I’m sure at least a few of the concepts will still hold together and get me fired back up. Hopefully. (And if not, there’s always more ideas out there, right?) Continue reading

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Have Fire, Will Travel: Part 1

At the encouragement (read: fun stories) of some friends in a Slack I’m in, I decided to jump back into Skyrim. (The Special Edition, on PC, and unmodded, for those of you keeping score at home.) And what better way to bring you all along on this adventure than a series of Let’s Plays? With that in mind, let’s begin.

We start the game with at atmospheric, incredibly slow carriage ride (see up top). Then there’s some with a dragon and potential executions and Helgen getting destroyed, but screw that. That’s not important. What is important?

This guy. Awesomenus Lizardus Maximus, who is also Spartacus. By which I mean K’lathan. I ran with an Argonian because I will always run with Argonians until I die. I’ve decided this time around (read, seconds after I took this screenshot) to make a mage, because I’ve never done it before. Also killing things with fire sounds fun, and the potential for mayhem with imprecise spell casting is not to be underestimated.

 

I rolled with Hadvar on my way out of Helgen, because the Stormcloaks are xenophobic dicks and I don’t want to deal with that. Besides, I’m totally innocent of whatever the Imperials think they caught me doing, so clearly I have nothing to fear. No one has ever, EVER been executed for a crime they didn’t commit before. Ignore that moment twenty minutes ago. Anyway, Hadvar’s nice! After our little adventure he tells me to go Riverwood, then proposes splitting up. I’m like “fuck that,” and run with him. Which mostly means I get a great view of his back.

Well, at least he looks great in a leather skirt.

 

I stop a few times to just take in the scenery. This is a beautiful game, and though the special edition’s new coat of paint can’t completely mask the age of the engine, there’s still a lot of beautiful landscape to be had.

 

We make it to some standing stones, and I, $charname, finally get to make a decision: do I want to be a fighter, a mage, or a thief? Truly the most subversive choice in any Western RPG. Regardless, I choose mage, cementing my semi-impulsive decision made while running down the road with Hadvar.

Hadvar then immediately says “Well, to each their own.” Hadvar, you shade-throwing bastard. I LOVED YOU. But now you’re off the list and are on my middle tier of potential victims for a magic apocalypse. So, you know, we’re still friends. I’ve just acknowledged you’re flammable.

 

On the road, we are attacked by wolves. Because nothing attacks humans more than one of the more intelligent species of animal that really just want to go eat a deer. Anyway, I help Hadvar by setting them on fire, and they die almost as terribly as this screenshot’s legibility.

 

Finally, Riverwood! Civilization.

 

Hi, Hadvar’s Uncle, sir. I have already forgotten your name, but thank you for your kindness and hospitality. I’ll just be—oh, wait, you want me to what? Deliver a message? Sure, that sounds easy enough. Though it is urgent. Time to book it out of town without engaging with any of its residents! Meep meep! * dust cloud *

 

I also continue my career as an amateur postcard photographer.

 

On the road I find an elk, and do as all right thinking folk with magic fire at their disposal would do. I try to set it on fire. It escapes into the river, showing a remarkable amount of tactical acumen.

 

This rabbit proceeded to hop directly in front of me, and I was more successful. Strangely, I then looted a raw rabbit leg from it. What’s the point of fire magic if you can’t charbroil your enemies and then eat them?

 

Oh, right, THIS is the point. Take that, wolves!

 

A nice sunset appears!

I get my first view of Edoras Whiterun.

 

Oh shit, the fuzz! I bail off the side of the road and down the hill rather than risk catching up to them wearing a uniform looted from their barracks. Also, Hadvar, MY ONE AND ONLY FRIEND IN SKYRIM, told me to lay low until I could get my pardon confirmed by General Tulius. I fully expect this to be followed up on by him in a timely manner, so I’ll stick to his advice.

 

In a nearby field a local metal band is attacking a giant, and I join in, because flamehands. Aela gives me compliments and suggests I might want to try The Companions. Which, I’d have given a different name to your metal band, but I guess that works. I’ll check it out! Maybe! How much fire can I use?

 

Heading into the city I ask Bjorlam the Cart Bro about the city. I learn that there’s conflict between two families, and I should keep out of it. DONE.

 

I also find an escaped NPC from The Witcher.

 

The family conflict meets me at the gate, in the form of one of them demanding a ridiculous number of swords from the local blacksmith. She puts him in his place before accepting the job, and seems badass. I hope she will be my friend.

 

THE FAMILY DRAMA CONTINUES, in the form of one kid threatening the other for his money. Good, start ’em young.

 

Lars, despite being a pushover, is weirdly forthcoming when a strange adult lizard comes up and asks him what he does for fun. Climbing to the top of the Dragonsreach is pretty badass, kid. Don’t let your dad tell you what to do! Climb up there and find more birds eggs! Live life on your own terms!

 

What a nice garden you have. Full of flowers.

 

WHICH ARE NOW MINE.

 

I head up to the fortress to deliver my message, and Irileth comes at me with steel drawn. So that’s great.

 

As I explain myself, the game takes a moment to rotate my view and make sure I really admire that floor texture.

 

The Jarl’s a chill dude! I deliver the message, he has a little freakout and argues with his staff, and then he gives me a reward. Perfect. I’ll just be going–

 

No, wait! I don’t want to do anything else for you! I’m just a messenger! LET ME LEAVE.

Dammit. Now this bozo wants me to go find a stone tablet down in some ancient crypt. Are you even going to pay me? How will a stone tablet help you fight dragons? Why should I care? Does it let me throw more fire? He does give me a lead on a mage’s college, though, which I appreciate.

 

As I leave, fully intending to let Farengar find some other stooge to send to his death in search of something that might not even be there, I’m pleasantly surprised to find Irileth doing her job incredibly promptly. Fear not, Riverwood! These guards will help you evacuate and limit the number of you eaten by any passing dragons. To, like, six, probably. So half the town. Better than all of it!

 

I am sure these symbols were left by local youths and have nothing to do with any guilds whatsoever. Wait, did they also carve that into the rock?

 

I finish up the night by renting a bed, and falling asleep to the dulcet tones of the local bard singing about the Age of Aggression…

 

A song I then wake up to six hours later. Way to party all night, Whiterun! Look at those sweet moves!

Posted in Have Fire Will Travel, Let's Play, Writing About Games | 1 Comment

With A Little Help From My Friends

Since the events of that last post, it’s been a bit of a rough week. While I no longer feel like my heart has been torn from my chest and ripped in half in front of me, there’s still a definite subtle-but-constant sadness going on. There are moments where it gets worse, but at least I’m now I’m more able to focus on the positive memories.

I’ve been getting a lot of help from the other wonderful animals in our household, so I wanted to talk about them a bit. Getting to know them better and their sweet personalities has been a good way to keep myself busy and heal a bit as I process Chrysanthemum’s death.

Jerry the leopard gecko looking at the camera while standing next to a big stick.

Bugs?!?

First we have Jerry, our geriatric leopard gecko. He is adorable and we just moved him up into the upstairs bedroom so it feels less lonely in there. I have also decided that he must be very wise, given that he is seventeen, so hopefully he will have plenty of sage advice for me. He also gets hilariously intense whenever he realizes there might be delicious bugs for him to eat, so watching him take a meal is always fun. Continue reading

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Goodbye to Chrysanthemum, the Best Lizard

A picture of Chrysanthemum the bearded dragon, looking up at the camera.This is a post I was hoping I wouldn’t have any reason to write for a long time.

Chrysanthemum, the bearded dragon, passed away suddenly on Sunday morning.

Her health had been troubled for a little over a month now. She was receiving treatment for several ailments that could have been the cause, and had been showing a lot of improvement. I took her to the vet on Saturday, who didn’t detect anything wrong with her, though the blood test that was being done might show otherwise once the results get back. As such, it was very unexpected. She went from understandably stressed out for the day after her vet visit to unconscious and unresponsive when I checked on her on Sunday. We rushed her to the emergency vet in Bothell, who confirmed our fears. After determining that hospitalization would a) have less than a 5% chance of success, b) bankrupt me in four days, and c) even she did recover, she would likely have significant brain damage that would limit her quality of life, we decided to humanely euthanize her. It was one of the hardest moments of my life, but I hope she could feel me giving her a smooch on the head beforehand and holding her hand as they did it. I wanted her to know I was there for her until the end.

I didn’t have the chance to know her long, only having the privilege of being her human for four and a half months. But she was wonderful every second, a total grumpy goofus who I loved to interact with, to feed and cuddle and have her ride around on my shoulder. She was also the best roommate, and I still can’t look at her home without tears threatening to come.

We got the results of the necropsy (which is a dark word, come on vet industry) today, which indicated medical issues that weren’t even on our radar. Her liver and gallbladder were both in incredibly bad shape, and she was essentially suffering organ failure. Peter and I talked over the results and we’re guessing that it was a congenital thing, possibly neurological in nature given some of her other symptoms. While this doesn’t make it any easier to lose her, there is a measure of comfort in knowing that it’s highly likely there was nothing I could do. I tried to give her the best life I could, with delicious roaches and warm spots to bask in and time to explore the world outside her enclosure. In the end, that’s the best I could have done for her, and I hope it made her happy.

I’m heartbroken she’s gone so soon. Chrysanthemum and I had walked a long road to try and get her healthy again, and I was no longer as ready for something like this to happen as I was a month ago. I was looking forward to seeing her finish growing up, and getting to have her around for years longer. The time I had with her was wonderful, though, and I wouldn’t trade it for the world.

I’ll miss you, little girl. I hope wherever you are now, everything is beautiful and nothing hurts. That there’s warm rocks and delicious hornworms and all the walls you could ever want to jump at and fall off in an attempt to climb them. That there’s laundry piles to try to poop on and sheets to burrow under and go to sleep. I hope I get to see you again some day. Until then, know I love you, and I miss you, and I’d give anything to hold your little hand again.

Rest in peace, Chrysanthemum.

Chrysanthemum laying down, tucked up against a pile of blankets.

Preferably half-burrowed underneath something, like I know you liked it. <3

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God Damn, I Love Patricia Briggs

I mentioned in a write-up a little back about the books sitting in my to-be-read pile that I’d gotten burned out on urban fantasy. There’s a lot of the same characters put in the protagonist roles: men who are (or become) crazy powerful while still being snarky; snarky badass women who shoot first, ask questions later, and still love an alpha male; everyone’s a private detective or other investigator, even if that’s not their job description; etc.

(I want to note before I continue that I fully accept that a lot of this experience with urban fantasy may simply be because I’m not widely read enough.)

Despite this self-proclaimed burnout, I decided to pick Dead Heat to read next, by Patricia Briggs. (Links: AMZ, BN, GR, Kobo, IB.) It’s the fourth book in the Alpha and Omega series. I wasn’t sure I’d be able to stick with it, but it had been on my shelf for probably two years at this point and I wanted to at least give it a try.

Within twenty pages I was reminded of everything I love about Patricia Briggs. Continue reading

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Comic: On Running In Discovery Park

A four panel comic. Panel 1: Ian running through the woods, with the line "When I run, there are often noises in the bushes." Panel 2: A close-up a fern, with a "rustle" sound effect. Panel 3: Ian runs off-panel. Top of the panel reads "What actually happens." Bottom reads "Nothing." Panel 4: Top of the panel reads "What actually happens." Image is of Ian being mauled by a Mountain Lion.

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Snips and Clips

Hi all! I’ve spent the last few days more prone to motion sickness than a pregnant woman on  a tilt-a-whirl, which means that I don’t really have any one big thing to blog about! So you get a bunch of small things from around the internet instead. There’s something for everyone!

Disabled Heroes and Where to Find Them by Elsa Sjunneson-Henry

My buddy Elsa is Barnes & Nobles newest blogger! This is a great post about finding disabled characters in genre fiction, and how just because a character doesn’t have the exact same disability as you do doesn’t mean they’re not exactly who you need to see to feel represented. It also reminds me that I really, really need to read the Vorkosigan books at some point. And Necrotech.

The Steam Summer Sale Begins

Like death, the Steam Summer Sale eventually comes for us all. I’m looking at picking up a bunch of expansions to Crusader Kings II, because it looks like a good handful of them expand on all of the elements of the game I dig the most. (More character decisions! Less watching time tick by with nothing happening!) But I think literally everything on my wishlist is on sale right now, and if that’s true for me and my outdated wish list I bet something you want is on sale, too, and then you can save a few bucks. Though, as always, I’d encourage you to check out Good Old Games first, because DRM free might well be worth a couple extra dollars. Continue reading

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The Top Ten Series I’ve Been Meaning to Start But Haven’t

BETCHA CAN’T GUESS ONE OF THEM.
Source.

Hey, it’s Top Ten Tuesday, a fun little meme/post prompt thing from the folks over at The Broke and the Bookish. This week it’s about the top ten series I’ve been meaning to start. I have no good excuse for not digging into these yet. Some I don’t own, but even the ones I do have been languishing in the TBR pile, buried under other things. Hopefully this list will provide a little inspiration for me to move them up the priority queue. Though I know I’m not the only one with more than a few series (and trilogies, and duologies) waiting in the wings of their reading theatre.

The Iron Druid Chronicles by Kevin Hearne

I’ve sort of burned out on urban fantasy at this point, but I love Kevin Hearne on Twitter and this seems like a very fun take on the “high powered supernatural person in a normal world” concept. It’s mostly been on my TBR list forever because the library doesn’t have an audiobook of it, and I sort of keep hoping they’ll get one in. However, the print version has a relatively short hold list, so I’ll hopefully read it that way soon!

The Expanse by James S.A. Corey

I know, I know, bad Ian. I love science fiction, especially clunky-spaceship, lived-in science fiction and from everything I’ve heard The Expanse will scratch that itch. I have a copy of the first book, but it’s so big it’s hard to carry around, so I haven’t given it a shot yet. I have seen a few episodes of the TV show, though, and that just made me want to read the books more.

The InCryptid Series by Seanan McGuire

Funny story: one upon a time, I put Discount Armageddon, the first book in this series, on my wish list because an urban fantasy with a ballroom dancer as the protagonist sounded awesome. I still think that! But I shied away from reading it because I wasn’t sure where the book fell in the series, or if I even needed to read the InCryptid books in order. Well, it turns out it doesn’t matter, because it’s the first! Now I just need to remember to track down a copy when I’m in an urban fantasy mood. (And probably after I’m caught up on Patricia Briggs’s work, because a few of those books are staring at me from my shelves already.) Continue reading

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Hey Ian, Watcha Into Lately?

It’s been a while since I did one of these, so I thought it might be fun! Is it? YOU CAN BE THE JUDGE. I HAVE NO AGENCY.

*ahem*

Without further ado–

Books

Star Wars: Aftermath: Empire’s End by Chuck Wendig

I’d gotten about 1/3rd of the way into this book and put it down because I ended up busy with other things, and only recently picked it back up. I’m so glad I did. I’m loving it. The characters are well established at this point, and Wendig is having a field day by having them bounce off each other and showing just how much each character has grown since the start of the series. Conder also made a triumphant return, which was more than I was expecting from a relative side character from book two. This makes me incredibly happy, because non-LGBT-specific literature needs more gay boyfriends, even if, at the point of the story I’m in, they’re ex-boyfriends. I’m very much rooting for him and Sinjir, and I hope I’m not disappointed. The action is well-written, and Wendig’s pacing is on-point as always. Even the interludes, often just used to paint a picture of the broader galaxy, are tying into themselves in new and interesting ways.

I’ll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson

Jill recommended this book to me many moons ago, but I haven’t gotten around to reading it until now. I’m stalled about halfway through, because I’m a fool and started reading this while I was still in the middle of Empire’s End, but I really like what I’ve read so far. Jude and Noah have very distinct voices, and that they vary so much with age is even more impressive. I’m waiting for my feelings to get stomped on later in the book, as the anachronistic order is definitely setting me up for something. I just haven’t figured out what yet. Continue reading

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June Check-in

A suspension bridge spans across the Columbia river. The sun beams down from the top of the frame. A few bushes and trees appear on the edges, closer to the camera, but do not obscure the bridge.

There’s a lot I feel like I should write about right now. I just finished the audiobook of The Ghost Map, by Steven Johnson, and should write a review. I have at least one gamemastering article half-written in my head. I’ve been having lots of thoughts on friendship, loneliness, depression, and other mental/relationship health things lately, and while I’m not sure any of them amount to more than a self-pitying wank of an essay, maybe I should try to write that, too. But, instead, mostly because of those issues, I’m giving you all an update on how I’ve been doing this year. Overdue, too, since I haven’t written one since…MARCH?!? Sweet Historical Jesus.

#

Writing Consistently: This has been improving as of late! I’ve been getting more editing in, and I even managed to do a quick draft of a few flash fictions the other day. I really miss putting together new work, but prioritizing editing means I’ve been making semi-consistent progress on Shivering Deeps, and I love how that feels. Now I just need to get to the point where there’s no week-long gaps between editing sessions and I’ll be happy clam.

Picture of a left hand in typing position on a keyboard. A small bearded dragon lizard stands next to the hand, facing away from the camera, with one foot on the hand.

My sometimes-assistant is very sweet, even if she gets in the way of my typing sometimes.

Reading: I’m currently mired in a ton of books, from I’ll Give You the Sun to Aftermath: Empire’s End. I did just finish The Ghost Map and learned more about 1800s London’s poop-disposal systems than I ever thought I would, in the service of learning about the 1850s cholera epidemic. It was fascinating, though! I’m hoping to wrap up the couple of books I’m in the middle of right now, read my library book on frugality, and then roll into reducing my TBR pile a bit. Continue reading

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