... Yes, I finally finished Switchpoint. No doubt I shall spend a considerable amount of time later in the year being not-finished with it.
Upcoming projects for the year:
- I do have another novel waiting in the wings. Some of you may have heard something about the premise: It revolves around the police officers of a fairy-tale world, dealing with accidental transformations, too many magical artifacts, seventh sons of seventh sons, and more idiotic youngest princes and princesses on quests than you can shake a stick at.
- Possibly some sci-fi. I never got around to finishing editing the short story formerly known as Body of the Week, (Currently pretending it's named Doors Nowhere) largely because work got busy. But I do have some fun soft-boiled sci-fi with aliens to do.
- I have a couple potential shorts brewing in Allie and Lindsay's universe. I'll get dragged back in eventually.
Mostly working on strengthening my feet. (I say, as I sit and stare at my once-more-swollen ankle.)
Erm... last five worked on? I've been editing Switchpoint forever, to the point where I may be able to start NaNo some time in December...
1) “Thanks for dinner, Mrs. Ramaswami!” said Azalea, as they all stood outside the door, “it was delicious.” (Shadows Fall, the haloween sims short story that will have pictures soon if my game ever loads.)
2) We appeared out of nowhere in the middle of a slowly darkening field. (Switchpoint.)
3) There is a door in the wall down near the edge of the subway tunnel, leading away into the dark. (Doors to Nowhere.)
4) Eight made it to his desk in the lower hall only sixteen minutes late and slightly damp, and blushed furiously when his deskmate Ila looked up at him and rolled her eyes. (working title is "Pieces of Eight")
5) Date: November 17, eighteenth year post Transversum. (Fines Iustificare, which will, chronologically speaking, be the next Elven Heritage Legacy Interlude.)
... I'm sorry about that last one, but spoilers! And it should be out by some time in November since I'm not doing NaNo anyway. (I already have about 1/3 of the pictures...)
Aaaah cover art!
In which College happens, Lydia investigates, and Nymea demonstrates that she is just as awful as her parents.
WTF is an embed, Slideshare? Do you even know? Why are you so goddamn unfriendly? WTF is your fascination with linkedin
why are you such a butt trying to make me give my location...
If you find any Slideshare problems, please point them out! This is honestly probably the last slideshared chapter, I can't be having with leaving for 9 months and then them overhauling the whole site...
... No, this is not Short Story September's promised story. (I'll be sitting on that and submitting it places.)
This is what happens with this tumblr prompt and the fact that I spent Saturday Night helping my mom go through old photo albums from the 70's.
(No cut because if you're too young for one swear, go play outside.)
Frustrated, she tossed down the shirt and flung open her closet, and began counting her ruined items of clothing. “One, Two… Why then, now’s the time to do it. Hell is murky!” She seized a brown velour pantsuit off its hanger and threw it to the ground. “Fie, my lord, fie! A soldier, and afeard? What need we fear who knows it, when none can call our power to account?” Sequined mauve bellbottoms were tossed away in a fit of pique, before seizing the next ruined garment. “Yet who would have thought the old man to have had so much blood in him?”
The Doctor and the Gentlewoman who attended her looked on in horror: they had never seen so much canary yellow terrycloth in their lives.
So, I got a job just last Thursday: I'm going to be a proper chemist (well, "Contract Formulations Chemist" but yeah, not an internship, actually doing chemistry,) as soon as I start on Monday.
This may mean I'm less social in the immediate future while working on other projects. Speaking of -
- I'm a hair's breadth from finishing the first draft of Switchpoint.
- Progress has been made on the new chapter of the EHL. Granted, large portions of that are written rather than filmed, but I have less than twenty new scenes to film (as of now) and a better plan for the next two chapters, which will include an interlude. This one may even be relatively short - no four-post several hundred picture monsters this time around.
- Despite my better judgement, I made a simblr for those of you interested in that. It updates on a "when I can be assed to import pictures to the laptop" basis. I'm also still working on the graphics for the banner/my new EHL banner in general. Yeah, I'm mouse-drawing trees again.
- I am now almost caught up with Secondhand Reviews, meaning that I ought to finish one of the two books I'm currently reading (Diana Wynne Jones' The Tough Guide to Fantasyland, Ursula K. Le Guin's The Disposessed.) Especially since I finally ovaried up and reviewed the shitpile that is Lunar Descent, which has been sitting on my "to do" pile for almost three months. It is almost (but not quite) as bad as the Gideon Crew novels, if anybody here besides MM remembers my first attempt at book reviews. ;)
- I made massive amounts of progress cleaning a triceratops braincase/squamosal fragment. (I'm no expert and it's not quite clean enough for diagnostics yet. Whatever undergrad inherits my glorious bone had better be grateful and avoid scraping the edges.)
In other news, I continued to publish fanfiction: I blame Jupiter Ascending for being a terrible trainwreck with bees.
... with no little shame, I present to you Sovreignty: or Space Bees, the Ficlet.
And I'm going to PaleoFest next weekend, which is a formal-dress convention for fossil nerds in Rockford, IL. (It probably means I'm going to hang out with my dino-lab coordinator and the professor that runs the museum while satisfying my curiosity about the Triceratops I've been working on, but the fraternal unit has plans for meeting and greeting the senior paleontologists in 'his field' rather than learning about pollen like me.)
I tried to write something for femmeslash February. It didn't work, it isn't finished, and you guys are just going to have to wait for me to stop trying to get through Switchpoint for pointless Allie and Lindsay fluff. Until then, have something I wrote in December for the 30 day OTP challenge, in which Allie and Lindsay watchThe Cabinet of Dr. Caligari and thus ensure that they will go to the special hell reserved for people who talk in the theatre.
The Special (Effects) Hell
“It’s such a lovely painted circus tent,” I said to Allie, sotto voce, as we watched the crowd onscreen gather around a stage. She nudged me for silence, though we were the only people in the theater besides the projectionist and a young couple in front who were thoroughly engrossed in each other: the benefit of going to the movies at two on a Tuesday afternoon. “It looks like the walls are made of rubber,” I added a moment later, as two young ladies, their arms around each other’s waists, bought tickets.
The orchestra segued from playing a jaunty tune suited to a carnival, to an odd tense scampering as the magician worked his magic. I couldn’t help but glance over at Allie to see how she took it – she was busy rolling her eyes.
“Somnambulism,” she muttered.
“Sleepwalking is a magical experience,” I told her with a grin. She didn’t dignify that with a response until a moment later, when she read the card onscreen. “Look into your future?” she hissed, incredulous, “seriously.”
“Shhh, we’re in the theater,” I told her facetiously. The next title card, which read you die at dawn, seemed to me to be a little overdramatic, but we followed the orchestra along and then saw a young woman in a long shawl walking through a ridiculously crooked “alleyway” with two young men, and I started laughing – trying hard to stifle it to avoid drawing the attention of the young couple in the front row.
“Theater, remember?” Allie murmured.
“The shadows are painted on the walls,” I said, when I could breathe, “I don’t care about the quack magician, this might just be the best movie I’ve ever seen.”
Allie rolled her eyes and slipped her hand into mine. I smiled warmly over at her and settled in, still giggling a little, to watch what I was sure was going to be the funniest horror film in the world. The only thing missing was the popcorn.
~ *** ~
*Popcorn was "invented" well before 1900, but it was popularized in movie theaters until the very late 1920's, which is both a little too late to be equivalent to the world where Allie and Lindsay chose to live most of the time, and waaaaaay too late to be congruent with early silent films. Yes, I did research for a 300 word drabble that isn't canon. Fear Me.
... I promised you some fanfiction, didn't I? Here, have some absolute crack, courtesy of my Marvel-obsessed college friends finding out that my neighbor's Husky was named Loki.
Title: Nick Fury and the Dog Walker Initiative
Word Count: ~4,000
Rating: T for Fury's pottymouth.
Warnings: Swearing and Squirrels?
It started in the last week of September, when his buddy Phil told him he was going to leave the country on business. Nick knew that Phil had two dogs, and Phil had decided for some ungodly reason that Nick was the best person to take care of them for two weeks, rather than someone who actually lived anywhere near Phil, or who had any experience with animals whatsoever. Nick thought it was a damn stupid idea, but Phil eventually persuaded him by pointing out that:
1) Nick was going to have nothing better to do the first few weeks of October, since Congress had made the stupid-ass decision to shut down the government rather than working together. This way when Nick had to take a furlough, he wouldn’t be sitting on his couch flicking between bad cop shows, bad old James Bond films, and bad celebrity talk shows while he failed at playing brick breaker on his blackberry.
Yes, he still had a blackberry. There was something comforting about actually having real buttons on his phone.
2) It would get him the exercise that Nick was always complaining that the doctors had told him to get. Phil might have insinuated that he knew that the last doctor had told Nick to lose thirty pounds pronto, or diabetes was going to come and take his other eye, but he did it with plausible deniability. Which still made him a granola-munching asshole, but that wasn’t even old news so much as how Phil operated on a daily basis.
3) Phil would pay him. Nick’s mouth dropped open when Phil told him what the average price for a dog-walker in DC was, and that was just for one walk for one dog. Considering that Phil had two dogs, and someone needed to come around and feed them, walk them, water them, and clean up their shit, Phil said he was getting a great deal offering the same price to Nick.
Nick figured that Phil’s dogs couldn’t be too much trouble, and rode the subway down to Phil’s place the next night after work to meet the dogs.
He’d thought that Phil would have something small, like a yorkie and a dachshund, apartment sized dogs that he could just pick up and carry off if they got into trouble. Instead, he got rushed at the front door by an overexcited German shepherd and something reddish brown with a ridiculous amount of fur and a grin full of teeth. Probably some sort of direwolf.
“What the hell is that?” Nick asked Phil when Phil grabbed both fucking wolves by the collar.
“Natasha?” Phil asked, letting the German shepherd go get his nose up close and personal with Nick’s pants while he ruffled the ears of the fucking wolf. “She’s a Central Asian Shepherd – I think,” he said, “and Clint there is a Belgian Malinois.” That meant absolutely jack shit to Nick, but Clint sat down on top of his feet and leaned his head against Nick’s leg, so Nick reached down and ran a hand over the thing’s head, working on the assumption that he’d get all ten of his fingers back.
“Why do you have two fucking wolves, Phil?” Nick asked when he got his hand back intact.
Phil just sort of shrugged. “They needed me,” he said, “I got Clint two years ago when he was retired from Afghanistan, and Natasha’s from a working dog rescue group in Arlington. She was there for months because everyone thought she was too big.”
In Nick’s opinion, they were right. Phil then let the furry monster go to investigate Nick’s crotch while Nick watched her warily.
“I took Clint down to the shelter to check that they’d be okay together, and Natasha kind of glommed onto him and they’ve been sort of inseparable ever since,” Phil went on, while Clint nosed Nick’s hand insistently and Natasha finished smelling him and disappeared through the door to the living room.
“They’re really just a pair of great big teddy bears, but it’s really hard to convince anyone to take care of them because they’re so big. And because working dogs like Belgians and German Shepherds have a reputation of being territorial, so that puts a lot of people who walk multiple dogs off...” Phil shrugged, but Nick understood. Phil was up shit creek without a paddle unless he wanted to pay some random stranger a lot of money, and he trusted Nick not to let his ridiculous animals starve to death and not to steal his TV when he gave him a house key. It was okay, though: Nick picked up enough shit at his job (when Congress deigned to let him do his fucking job,) on a day-to-day basis, he figured he could deal with a couple of collared wolves for fifteen days. After all, it wasn’t like he was going to have to live with them or anything.
Nick arrived at Phil’s house the first day prepared to be zerg-rushed by two four legged maniacs. He was not disappointed: both of the dogs went beserk, barking and running in circles around his legs like they’d never seen a human being before, despite the fact that he knew Phil had left for the airport just three hours ago. They weren’t out of food or water yet, so he gave them each an awkward pat, hooked up their leashes, and let them out the door.
Despite their carrying on inside, once Clint and Natasha hit the sidewalk they actually weren’t a complete pain in Nick’s ass. They didn’t pull or bark their heads off, but they did walk along with their ears up and both pee on the same tree at the end of the block. By the time he brought them back (Phil said he walked them a mile every morning, but Phil was a jackass who ate yogurt and did yoga,) their tongues were hanging out and they walked straight to the bowl and drank all their water, then lay down on the kitchen tiles panting. Nick gave them fresh water, stayed ten minutes in case they had to pee again, then bribed them each with a biscuit and left.
Taking care of dogs was easy.
Nick spent the first two days wondering what in hell was going on with Clint and Natasha’s good behavior and actual eagerness to see him, thinking that either his bribes were extremely effective, or maybe they were going to stage a coup or something. Of course, that was before Phil’s neighbor caught on to the fact that Nick was walking dogs.
Phil’s neighbor was a tottering old lady who was probably a relic of World War Two, by the name of Peggy Carter. She had a scrawny tricolored mutt that Nick vaguely recognized as being mostly Border Collie and retriever. (He’d looked shit up after Phil had described how he’d narrowed down what the hell Natasha was, and most mutts in the country were part Labrador retriever. Peggy Carter had helpfully pointed out that you could usually tell: if the dog had webbed feet, they were part of the retriever family. Webbed. Fucking. Feet.) Nick thought the dog looked like a Fido or a Rover if there ever was one, but it only answered to Steve.
Peggy had had her hip replaced for the second time and this was keeping her from taking Steve on their daily walk, which wasn’t good for him in the least. Nick thought about it, then decided that he was going to be in the area anyway, he was already going to be sweaty from walking Clint and Natasha, and he had a doctor’s appointment on the thirty first, so maybe if he lost ten pounds he could get his doctor off his back about the fact that he still ate potato chips. Besides, being around dogs was supposed to lower your cholesterol or some shit like that.
He charged her half of what Phil was paying him, on account of the fact that she was old as dirt and probably on Medicare, despite her crafty secret-agent eyes that kept watching him, and she’d brought him actual, honest-to-god lemonade.
Steve had the advantage of not being the approximate size of a bear, and of acting exactly like a dog should, at least according to Nick’s hazy idea of dogs from tv and books. He wagged his tail at everyone. He fetched. He shook hands. He had a spot over his eye and one ear that was always turned inside out. Nick worked up to walking sixteen blocks combined, (eight with Clint and Natasha, eight with Steve,) twice a day. Clint and Natasha even listened to him when he told them to sit, and sometimes he stuck around for half an hour after the walks so that Clint and Natasha would stop carrying on like Phil had died or something, rather than leaving them for Europe.
On Friday, the fourth day of dog walking, Nick went out for a drink and ran into a friend that used to work in the same building that he and Phil had, years ago before Phil fucked off to the commercial sector to do people’s accounts without getting the stink eye from everyone who didn’t want their budget cut. (Which was, to be fair, every person in the damn bureaucracy, so Phil probably had a point about going somewhere where he’d be hated less.) The guy’s name was Rick Jones, and Nick remembered him mostly as doing something with radio and being way too fucking young. Since Rick worked for the CIA now, and they weren’t being forced to take a furlough, and he had a dog waiting patiently for him at home too while he was working overtime… things just sort of happened.
Rick’s dog, Bruce, was the sort of dog that people didn’t recognize as a breed, just a great big striped rage machine dripping with slobber and with shoulders crisscrossed with scars. To be fair, Rick had been honest upfront about the fact that his dog was almost two hundred pounds of goddamn English Mastiff, but Nick hadn’t known enough to be prepared. Bruce laid his head on Nick’s knee within seconds of his arrival and drooled. The dog practically produced lakes wherever he went.
On the other hand, Bruce was the most Zen dog that Nick had ever met, even though his expertise in dogs wasn’t even a week old at this point. He walked, he stared, he slobbered. That was pretty much it. Nick liked him.
Rick explained how the poor thing had been abused by not just one, but two masters before Rick got his hands on him, and that the second bastard had tried to make Bruce fight. Dogs as big as Bruce generally only lived about eight or nine years, and Bruce had spent half his life at the whims of some sickass control freaks who wanted him to be some sort of weapon.
It was seriously depressing, to the point that Nick actually went back to Phil’s place afterwards and gave Clint and Natasha surprise biscuits. Then he denied to himself that he was actually getting attached to any of the cadre of furry monsters he’d been assembling, while Natasha tried to herd him into Phil’s living room to play tug.
Rick and his dog weren’t a problem, because Rick’s house was only one subway stop from Phil’s… but Rick had to go and tell one of his neighbors that Nick Fury was taking up a temporary job as a full time dog walker. The neighbor was a reclusive programmer genius named Jarvis (and Nick never did figure out if that was his first or last name,) with a British accent, a weird house, and a tuxedo-marked jack russell terrier named Tony.
Nick found out via extremely weird e-mail that Tony barked a lot, chewed things up whenever he was stressed, regularly swallowed pen caps, had playdates with a Sheltie named Rhodey, and regularly got bossed around by Jarvis’ ginger tabby cat, Pepper. What Nick didn’t find out until the first walk was that Tony was actually the worst goddamn dog ever. He did nothing but run in circles like he’d eaten a whole pack of energizer batteries, yap, and pull on the leash, except when he sat or laid down on the sidewalk and refused to move. When Nick picked him up, he got growled at, scratched, and headbutted in his good eye for his trouble. He tripped over Tony four times before Tony peed on his shoe.
Nick seriously considered not going back, but Jarvis was paying him the most out of the lot, and Tony’s walk was the last of the day. When he was done with Tony, he usually stopped in at Phil’s again to borrow an hour of his superior cable (hey, the guy was still paying for it even when he wasn’t using it,) and watch Breaking Bad while Clint pranced around the room like a dumbass, bringing him tennis balls and Phil’s socks. Nick thought it was disgusting and sort of hilarious, and Natasha seemed to agree. He had an agreement with Natasha that if she didn’t tell Phil about the cable, he wouldn’t tell Phil that she’d been busy shedding on his couch.
It took him until the tenth to think of walking them all together, which was a good idea in theory.
Clint, Natasha, and Steve were the kind of dogs who could walk for miles, and well behaved too, so he let Steve exchange a round of curious face and butt sniffs with the other two, tied all three leashes together, and headed down to the neighborhood where Rick and Jarvis lived.
The first stumbling block came when all three of the dogs were afraid of Bruce and his deep, booming bark. Tails went stiff, hackles were raised, and Natasha even growled at Bruce, which was a sound that Nick had never even thought would come out of her mouth. By some sort of miracle, though, nobody bit anybody else, mostly because poor Bruce cowered under the combined menace of Clint and Natasha and then submitted to Steve’s cautious inspection by nose.
The second problem was, of course, fucking Tony.
Nick had tied all four dogs to the nearest tree and was just using his key to open the door when Tony ran up his leg, used him as a goddamn springboard, and launched himself right out across the lawn like he thought he was some hot shit. He barreled right over and got up in Bruce’s face yipping and yapping and growling with his head down and his paws up everywhere.
There was a terrible moment where Nick fantasized about Bruce actually taking a chomp, right before he remembered that Tony was his responsibility and that he should be worried that Bruce would swallow Tony whole like a cocktail sausage.
Bruce… didn’t. In fact, when Nick caught up to them, his tail was wagging. He sniffed at Tony (who wouldn’t hold still or shut the fuck up,) and then let out a great, big, happy bark that made Tony practically backflip, which lead directly to Nick actually catching the little bastard and dragging him back to the door by the collar for his leash. It wasn’t dignified, having to stoop down, but if he’d picked Tony up the little shit would probably have peed on him again.
Fortunately for Nick, when he got them all moving again Tony ignored him in favor of running back and forth through the other dogs’ legs, yapping periodically, trying to zoom off into the grass only to get himself choked by his own collar, and generally annoying the shit out of all the other dogs. He and Steve had a growling match that Nick cut short by a quick yank on both their leashes, but compared to the first time he’d had to walk Tony, they were actually making good time to the park. And nobody had bitten anybody else so far.
Of course, that was before a husky ran up out of nowhere, jumped on Clint, and took off. Then Clint ducked out of his own damn collar and took off after it, which meant that the entire assemblage of dogs took off after Clint with Natasha in the lead, dragging Nick and an empty collar behind while Nick yelled himself horse trying to get them to cut it the fuck out.
Even without Clint, the combined force of the dogs outweighed Nick by about a hundred pounds. Maybe a hundred and ten pounds if you counted Tony. Either way, it was all Nick could do to hang on and not faceplant and be dragged to his death like some sort of dog charioteer, and that wasn’t going to last long.
They barely made it across the street and to the park (miraculously without being hit by any cars,) before the loosely tied leashes were ripped out of Nick’s hands and the dogs swarmed like furry, barking bees. Nick could only watch as Steve, Natasha, and Tony homed in on the luckless husky and bowled him over. Bruce followed them halfway and then gave up and lay down, panting, in the nearest patch of shade, and Clint was still zooming around the park in figure eights because he was a goddamn dingus. How the hell had that dog ever been a bomb sniffer?
Fortunately, even though it was Saturday, nobody was around to witness Nick’s dogs massacring the husky with their slobbery wet tongues, or the fact that Steve and Tony were fucking standing on it – actually, Tony was chewing on its tail, because he was an asshole with fur – so he marched up to Bruce, grabbed a hold of his leash, and made to drag him over to a bench to tie him down so he could catch the rest of his morons. Nick looked up just in time to see an absolutely massive golden retriever burst out of the bushes and knock Tony tail-over snout into the grass.
Steve, for some reason known only to God and people who actually liked dogs, took exception to this, and bared his teeth at the retriever despite being about two thirds of its size, and the two of them proceeded to demolish a flowerbed by jumping on each other and rolling around, with Tony trailing after them like a caffeinated comet on a spring. Nick took the opportunity to collar the husky so he wouldn’t cause more trouble, and drag him over to Bruce’s bench, where he tied him down with the other end of Bruce’s leash and some creative knotwork.
Then it occurred to him: where the fuck was Natasha?
“Clint! Natasha! Come here now!” Nick yelled at the park in general, hoping that they hadn’t been hit by a hotdog cart or something. The last thing he wanted was to have to explain to Phil that one of his precious children had been run over by a food vendor and that the other had gone on a hunger strike because Phil’s dogs were a pair of codependent little shits who Nick absolutely had not taken a picture of curled up together on Phil’s pillow this morning.
Fortunately for Nick, Natasha came trotting up to him, trailing a Clint who had finally started acting like a reasonable being, and who clearly knew that he’d been acting like an idiot, given that his tail and nose were almost dragging the ground. Nick got Clint’s collar back on him and dragged them both over to the bench that was serving him as a timeout box.
Three things happened then.
The husky from hell slipped out of the knot Nick had used to tie him to Bruce. The retriever, who saw him take off, came speeding towards the bench like a thunderbolt, trailing Steve and Tony - and Bruce, who had apparently been infected with the crazy like everyone else, pulled his leash so hard he flipped the motherfucking bench over.
As soon as the bench went over, Clint and Natasha were loose too. They didn’t quite knock Nick over. He did an awkward sort of half-flop onto the tipped-over bench and watched as chaos was born from the ashes of his once-glorious dog-walking initiative.
He’d just gotten back on his feet and was about to go start grabbing dogs again when the first squirrel appeared like it had dropped from a hole in the sky. If Nick had thought his dogs were unmanageable before, he’d been wrong. At the first sign of squirrel, they all went absolutely nuts.
At any given point in the next fifteen minutes, at least two dogs were chasing the husky (or being chased by the husky, Nick wasn’t entirely sure,) and the rest were trying to singlehandedly murder all the squirrels in DC. The park was filled with every range of bark from Tony’s yapping to Bruce’s actually fucking scary Cujo bark. Nick tried to get them back, but the collective dog mass was about two and a half times his size and in seven different places at once, as well as being one hell of a lot faster than him. It didn’t work. The little fuckers were hyped up and squirrel crazed and it wasn’t like they’d ever listened to him in the first place.
One thing was for sure: he was never walking all of his dogs together again.
Four tipped-over trashcans, two decimated flowerbeds, and a ringing headache later, it was all over. The Husky had made the mistake of trying to barrel straight through a squirrel-mad Bruce, and been knocked right back down into the grass with Bruce snarling at him. The husky rolled right over and showed Bruce his belly and just like that, the fight was over.
All the dogs crowded around to see, and Nick was able to gather up Clint, Bruce, Steve, and Natasha by stepping on their leashes so they couldn’t run away again. Then, he problem solved a little by hooking Clint to Natasha to ensure his continuing good behavior, and borrowed Clint’s leash for the husky from hell. The goddamn golden retriever had the nerve to walk up to him wagging, so he got clipped to the husky and tied to the nearest light pole like Bruce and Steve already were, alongside Natasha and Clint.
Nick checked the tags on the husky and the golden, only to find that they had no phone numbers. Instead, the golden retriever’s tag read Thor: please return to Odin Alfodr. Weirdly enough, the husky belonged to the same guy, except the husky’s name was Loki and when Nick looked into its cunning demon eyes (seriously, it had one green and one blue eye, which was about the spookiest thing Nick had ever seen,) he was tempted to just find a phone booth and call the dogcatcher. Assuming they still had a dogcatcher in Washington DC.
It struck Nick that he was still missing somebody. Who, though? After a quick head count, he came up with one ridiculously big dog, Phil’s pair of fucking wolves, Steve lying half on top of Bruce, two mysterious troublemakers… and no Tony.
Tony had apparently missed the memo, and was still yapping up a storm while trying to tree every squirrel in Maryland. Nick thought that if he kept up like he was, he’d either end up stuck in a tree like a cat, or pass out from barking more than he could breathe. Fortunately for Nick, Tony was distracted enough to be easy to catch and drag back to Steve and Bruce’s pole.
Nick looked at the seven dogs he had chained to three street lights, and decided that whatever professional dog walkers got paid, it wasn’t enough. Then he crossed the street to one of the park vendors’ carts and bought himself some Shawarma, low cholesterol diet be damned. He’d earned it.
Things I need to do this coming year:
1) Finish Swtichpoint. This one's non-negotiable - it's not done yet because, as it turns out, having a 40 hour work week is actually slightly more work than my last semester of college was. (Also, there's that plothole in the middle, but we don't talk about that - if it thinks it's not welcome, it may go away!)
2) Go looking for a more permanent job. Unfortunately, this will cut into the time I have to do everything else, but better now than this time next year when my internship suddenly ends. Fortunately, I've still got quite a few months, and my current boss is pretty pleased with me, so she'll be a good reference. I just hope that something actually worth my while comes up... it would need to pay significantly better than what I've got now for me to be able to move.
3) Put out some more chapters for the Elven Heritage Legacy. It forces me to write modern-day, primarily character conflict stuff, which is something that I do not do on a regular basis if I can avoid it. (It also forces me to write a variety of ages and a relatively large cast.) The other reason it's good for me is that I miss it when I haven't worked on it in a while. It's stalled because I'm procrastinating taking pictures, I've been spending too much time on Tumblr and on other projects - including my book reviews and the chapter I sporked of Draco Sinister, and I managed to catch a very nasty cold two weeks ago that makes me sleep a lot. Fortunately, as of tonight, I'm rid of both the cold and the sporking. Well, I finished the sporking, and that cold better see itself out the door.
So far, I've read:
The Bean Trees, by Barbara Kingsolver (5/5)
A Murder of Quality, by John Le Carre (3/5)
A Plague of Angels by Sheri S. Teper (0/5, insert panicked octopus noping here)
Star Wars: Heir to the Empire by Timothy Zahn (4.9/5)
Nerilka's Story: A Pern Adventure by Anne McCaffrey (3/5)
Pegasus in Flight by Anne McCaffrey (2/5 officially: 4/5 if you don't read the last two chapters)
Next two in the lineup are The Golem and the Jinni, by Helene Wecker, a gorgeous book that I'm still writing up, and Murder on the Orient Express, because it's about damn time for me to gird my ovaries and accept that though I will never be Agatha Christie, I sure as hell can learn from her.
... I will be deeply indebted to anyone who wants to spork A Plague of Angels. That may be the only way to wash its stain from my mind.
As I listened to the rantings – no, the ravings! – of Montressor, there remained no doubt in my mind that the man had finally gone mad. The fits of pique and passion to which he was subject, the whims that I must needs indulge him or face his wrath, the very mercurial aspects of his personality: these I had patiently borne, knowing my company his only comfort in his decline and considering that, in all other ways, my position in the crumbling manse of the Montressors was an easy one. The old man, perhaps seeing something of his youth in me, preferred my company to that of all others as his health failed and his world narrowed to the scope of his ancestral halls, then finally to his own private rooms, where he pored over the tomes of his forefathers and dreamed of the long faded glory of his progenitors until he was half convinced that he was in fact imbued with the power and the authority of his forefathers, the utmost master of his own domain, untouchable, beyond reproach so long as his honor remained unsullied, and the family motto Nemo Me Impune Lacessit gleamed proud underneath the ancient heraldic crest, a serpent rampant striking, with its last breath, the human foot that crushed it.
For the better part of a year, I had watched the decline of the mind of the last of the Montressors, and smiled in his face as he decayed from a man of unparalleled brilliance to the decrepit wreck that he was now, infected by honor, raving about the imagined slights of other gentlemen of the city, some of whom I was convinced had never existed. I showed my teeth at his purposeless ramblings, feigned a laugh at his imagined triumphs over his neighbors, lied with kind eyes as I explained why men long dead would not visit – not that the living ever haunted our halls! No, I, and I alone, bore the changing of days and the decay of the house around us – I alone, too distant a cousin to bear the old man’s name or any resemblance to the gloomy portraits hung upon the walls, cared enough about the old man to let him die in peace. All other friends and relations had abandoned him; little wonder that it was I who he addressed as one who knew the very nature of his soul. None other still addressed him as anything other than a patient, to be dosed and quieted and sent to bed.
The months had served to all but wipe away my memories of a happier time before the old man’s mind had begun to rot away – I had long since ceased to think of him as anything other than the wreck he was – when I noticed a new turn in his mind. Where before he had told boastful stories of his youth, his prowess at debating, the respect he was afforded by the town, hunting parties, whatsoever else came to mind – a mind previously as quick as a steel trap, which now resembled a selection of lost pieces from a child’s jigsaw puzzle – his tales, (or perhaps some still were memories,) began to take a much more sinister, even grotesque turn. He claimed that he had been a member of any number of secret societies – had overseen arcane rituals to turn lead into gold – had seen one midwinter night the ghost of his father, begging him to dig him up out of his grave and release him from the suffocating earth. I paid these stories as little mind as I possibly could, as he rambled by candlelight in the dank, empty house with the winter wind whistling through the gaps in the shutters.
The story of Fortunato I dismissed almost instantly as pure phantasm. There was no family named Fortunato in the city, nor had Montressor spoken before of such a man – though when he spoke, it was with the deepest and most vehement hatred of him, such that I shuddered to think – for the old man’s mood had been angry and volatile for so long, now – what he should do if he had any such enemy living, and was not kept under constant watch. For in some things, Montressor’s mind was still as cutting and agile as ever: he spoke with the same impassioned fluidity of old, but he knew not to whom he was speaking; each crevice and cranny of the old house was still known to him, yet it had been over half a year since I could trust him outside of its doors; he would in a day remember events from fifty years ago and forget the events of the day before. In time, the preposterous imaginings of the old man grew far more bizarre – ominious, confused, and at times disturbing despite his growing bewilderment and vitrol towards the world – and his story of vengeance in the crypts below the palazzo was all but blotted out of my mind, replaced with more trials and tribulations of the old man’s dwindling life, such as a night spent tending to a detailed delusion that he was dead already, with centipedes crawling about under his skin. After that, I took the advice of the local pharmacist, and Montressor grew quiet at last.
In the bitterest dark of the winter – in fact, just after Carnival – that the old man caught influenza, then pneumonia, and finally died, though not quite peacefully. More people came to his funeral than had come to see him in the last year. They toasted to his memory – to a friendship that they pretended to fondly remember, though all the while I watched, knowing what the late, great Montressor had thought of them in his final months, and saw nothing on their faces but condescension and smirking deceit.
Then they were gone, and I was left alone with the crumbling wreck that was the manse of the Montressors; fit, I thought for a few wild moments, only for burning to the ground. Yet it was mine now, for the old man had no closer kin, and loathe as he was to allow it to pass out of the family proper, he would have been horrified to see it leave his bloodline entirely. How he had thought I would manage to keep the moldering skeleton in one piece was entirely beyond me – had there been money for the necessary repairs, it would already have been spent on them – so I resolved all at once to sell it, crush that last ounce of patrician vanity, the only legacy of a dead man, take whatever I could get, and make a new life far away, in a land where my connection to the Montressors raised no eyebrows and my name carried with it no shame.
And yet, as I lay listening to the rats scratching through the walls of the newly emptied house, alone save for my candles, I could not sleep.
I did not miss the old man’s waking nightmares, his mirages cut from whole cloth, the way he had laughed smugly at the world outside, seemingly unaware that his lot in life had diminished to little but delusions of grandeur – but it had covered the noise of the questing rats and the wind whistling about the house. It had kept the shadowed portraits at bay, and the thousand morbid fantasies that the night bears to a waking brain – and I could not go on in that house, not without knowing the answer to the thought that had begun in that night to gnaw at my soul.
Surely, the old man had only imagined it all – far stranger things had he told me, of a woman buried alive, of guilty murderers who heard the hearts of their victims beating on and on even after death until the drumming drove them insane, of secret signs and symbols, of pirate codes and buried treasure, of portraits that stole the youth of their subjects, of vengeance extracted after years through slow poison, of the tortures of the inquisition, and of impenetrable mystic rites that conferred upon the recipient of a draught of lamb’s blood the ability to read men’s souls and find precious metals in the earth. Next to such fuel for dreadful fantasy, such a thing should have quickly been forgotten.
And yet, I had not forgotten, for the old man’s eyes had flashed so, the spittle had flown from his lips, the cold and unholy light of vengeance had lit up his whole countenance, the words fell from his lips with an inviting surety: he had felt sure, I thought, that I should celebrate with him his great victory over the oafish, the drunken, the bumbling Fortunato! I should feel in the marrow of my bones that the insult to our house by the smug aficionado could not be borne – that Montressor’s course of action was the only which was right, which was just, which would preserve the dignity of those who, no matter how poor and how decayed, should never suffer such impudence against them without swift and terrible retribution. The untold numbers of our ancestors – his, not mine, though at the moment he had extended to me the hand of acknowledgement, perhaps not even remembering who I was – should turn over and over again in their crypts, should have haunted him until he destroyed that serpent, that buffoon, that motley bedecked dunce for daring to –
I had not the least idea what insult Fortunato was supposed to have offered my recently deceased cousin, nor any belief that such a man had ever existed, save as a confused compilation of all Montressor’s most abhorrent acquaintances, a face to attribute every imagined slight of his youth – a face that he had conjured in the absence of his so-called friends during his slow decline, and hung upon the hated visage every bewildered memory of the indignity that he had suffered – old, childless, poor and yet too proud to do aught but rot in it, draining the dregs of the family fortune that my own father’s cowardice had barred me from with each pipe of Amontillado! No, I no longer had to smile and bear the old man’s diatribe with placid blandishments – I was free, free from the long-forgotten heraldry, from the often translated motto – for there was nothing left of the Montressors! I was soon to wash my hands of it all! I resolved to go as far as I could, to Britain or Austria, for the company of millionaires reviled by the rest of the town for their gauche and presumptuous ways was far preferable to the poisoned insincerity of genteel poverty and a slow, agonizing slide into the darkness of ignorance and obscurity, pitied by all and valued by no one! No, I had no sympathy left for the old man – for he knew not what it meant to be truly, and honestly, despised for circumstances he could not change, nor what it was to scrabble for acceptance, to curse his paternity at every sly smile, at every moment of condescension, knowing that it was impossible to gain that which he so desperately sought – for should you please anyone, you are “well mannered, considering your birth,” and should you give offense, you are instantly lowered – for who should truly consider one so misbegotten worthy even of their anger? Even in his old age, when I was willing to aid him in his illness, the old man had always had a self-righteous look about him, as if to say “I give you the crumbs off my meager table only so your mouth may water at what little more I have,” the cruelty of one beggar to another. It was only as his mind had begun to fade and his fair-weather friends, his creditors and his connoisseurs, had abandoned him, that I, my ancestry forgotten, became his bossom companion, his only confidante. But for an accident of birth, I should have shared equally in the name, the reputation of the Montressors – and I should not have drank and gambled myself into poverty and obscurity! Yet he sought to give me his bleakness, his desolation, his macabre mockery of gentility and his obsession with a dead era of nobility and honor! How then, should I believe in his fearful chimeras, why then, should I lay awake near-drowning in the impression of his voice, his boundless arrogance, his certainty of purpose?
Why should I shiver at the thought of a dead man in the crypts below? There were any number of dead men, for the crypts had been used as an ossuary for many years before my cousin had taken possession of the house. Rationality told me that they were naught but bones, that being aware, so suddenly, of where they lay unburied underground, behind perhaps only a few doors, did not change this – for no ill had come of them in the past decades, and no ill would come of them tonight. Yet it seemed I heard, in the voice of Montressor, hushed and yet gleeful, as he was wont to be when he told me of his superstitious exploits or his exaggerated prowess in revenge, the words, “No harm has yet come to a Montressor from the remains of his ancestors.”
I lay awake as the candle guttered: I thought that Fortunato would not have died quickly, even bricked up in the vaults. He first would have exhausted himself, testing his chains and shouting, hoping fiercely that it was all a fit of dark humor on the part of my cousin, that he had now been well and truly humiliated for whatever offense he had given, that any moment now he would be released… as hours passed, that perhaps someone would hear him beyond the catacombs, that he should be rescued by a steward lost in search of some rare wine, that he would miraculously be encountered. If his chains had been long enough, he would have tested the wall – he would have clawed at it until his fingers bled, his nails worn down to stubs – he would have thrown his weight against it, tried to break the shackles, tried to knock the bricks loose before they set – known that the bricks were what would kill him quickest, had they been properly set, for soon he would run out of air –
No! For the last time, there was not – never had been – a man by the name of Fortunato! Therefore, no man had suffocated alone in the vaults of the manse that I now owned, nor starved, nor died of fear and despair and betrayal; therefore there was no body hanging, shackled, behind a wall, mute evidence to the depravity of my line; therefore I must snuff the candle so that I may sleep through the night and wake in the morning to make the preparations to sell the wasting pile as fast as I may. Yet when I reached for the candle, my hand was shaking.
All at once I stormed up from the bedclothes, candle in hand, and was halfway to my chamber door before the freezing stones against my feet became unbearable. I dressed with undue haste in some of my warmest clothes, and then, candle in hand, I descended to the depths of the vaults.
It was indeed as damp and cold as I had thought: nitre hung from the walls and the ceiling like frost stiffened moss, and my breath fanned out in front of my face like a silent shroud. Everywhere there were racks, filled haphazardly with empty bottles of wine stacked one upon the other, and glass fragments of brilliant colors that would have dignified a cathedral glittered on the floor. As I searched amongst the wreckage for a torch, I cursed the biting air and my cousin’s drunken, wastrel heart – then, warming my hands one at a time by the new flame that threw the lurking shadows of the catacombs into stark relief, I blew out my candle and placed it upon the steps.
The catacombs of the Montressors were vast, descending deep beneath the Palazzo in long, winding passages cut into the rock of the hill beneath – vaults and caverns older by far than the Montressors. It would be far too easy to lose myself amidst the walls of piled bones, the emptied barrels and flagons, which grew only more deeply encrusted with white nitre as I descended yet another stair, passed under another series of low arches, and began to come upon the small bones of rats mixed in with the powdery debris of human existence. The air became oppressive – not yet foul, but heavy with the weight of the earth above me, the dust that stirred at my footsteps, the ever-present smoke of my torch and the silence that, save for my footsteps and the hiss and crackle of my light, reigned inviolate. Though I knew it to be only a trick of the mind, I fancied myself able to see a deeper weight to the shadows, as if they had passed beyond mere darkness, out of the reach of my torch, and into some life and animation of their own – as if they moved of their own accord, a sort of antithesis to light rather than it’s mere absence. As I stood and the faint, wet echo of my footsteps died away, the silence grew louder, until I felt that my heartbeat must be as loud as a drum, my breath the sound of a whirlwind, the very blood in my veins the roaring of the ocean.
I should be pleased when I was finally quit of this place, and all the morbid fascination that it contained. Let some foolish scholar, some young pomp pleased with his own fortune inherit this gloom, this reproachful silence!
Gripping the torch in fingers that felt raw with cold, I descended once more to the lowest level of the crypts, far below the bed of the river. The air had grown from merely still to actively foul, and the flame of my torch sank low against the wood. Although there seemed no reason for any rational being to enter, these chambers were also filled with bones - in the smallest, they were stacked on three sides and scattered across the floor, surrounding a curious wall, where some bones were clumsily stacked across three feet of space between a pair of rough hewn pillars was sealed with badly mortared stones.
Though I did not remember all that my departed cousin had said on the matter, I knew without a doubt that this was the place. Here were the bones of the quiet dead, thrown down to clear the way for his delusions. There was a dark niche fit only for hiding the most gruesome of secrets – here too was the foul air that would quickly kill a man with a chronic shortness of breath, the oppressive darkness and the silence that might drive him mad with fright when he recognized the onrushing pace of his own death. How must he have gasped, fighting to breathe against the crushing weight of the earth above him, when my own breathing was even now a little labored? How must his heart have beat its way out of his chest as he saw the face of one he counted friend distended by the madness of vengeance for some unforgotten ill? How must he have died, despairing, alone save for the nameless, faceless bones complacent in their tomb, filled with the body and yet empty of the soul of the house of the Montressors –
With a cry I threw down my torch and seized the first object to hand – a trowel thrown down amidst the bones – and I hacked at the wall. I would prove that this was nothing but a phantasm, brought on by the disturbed mind of my mad cousin! I would open the wall and see only a dark passageway, bricked up to stop the foul vapors from rising, the memory of which had prompted Montressor to elaborate upon his invented revenge! I would have peace, would sleep at night in the house I now owned, would, by destroying the very foundations of his delusions, exorcize the ghost of the last of the Montressors!
The masonry crumbled beneath the tip of my trowel, never having been dry enough to set, and the first block fell almost upon my feet. I could see nothing beyond it in the dim light, so I yanked out first one stone, then another, until they came crashing down in a ragged wave and I jumped back, seized my torch, and thrust it into the opening, already giving a little cry of exultation as the light reached smooth granite, empty of all save a rusty band of what must be metal, no, two, a pair of chains depending from them –
My cry of exultation gave way to a gasp of horror as I saw the truth. The years had not quite mummified him, though the nitre must have to some degree counteracted the damp – in places the sagging skin peeled back from the bones, and there was no way of knowing , save for the rags of the oversized garb he wore, that the corpse had once been a large and fleshy man. Yet I knew – I knew it with a certainty that to this day shakes my bones, that still causes me to see in my mind the skeletal, half-rotted face with hair that might pass for a living man’s hanging down around it – that this was the mortal remains of Fortunato, bound in chains to the stone wall. His cap bore three bells: it must once have been motley.
Happy (early) Haloween, everyone.
Yes, I wrote a fanfic of The Cask of Amontillado. Blame medleymisty for that: she assured me that Zombie Poe would not actually rise from his grave to come snack on my brain for it. I'm crossposting it to my AO3 account (Quill_of_Thoth) just as soon as I figure out how to make that work.
Previously on Poe will rise from his grave and eat my brain: I Was no Annabel Lee.
Someday, somehow, I will get the embed right on the first try. Of course, the fact that either Slideshare or Livejournal changes their interface between chapters tells me I need to start producing them faster...
Also, if my math is right, this is my sixth Legaversary! Approximately. I've forgotten the exact date I started playing (it was sometime in the summer after Junior Yea of High School) and I know my first upload to the Exchange was sometime in late August of 2008, but all records of that are, of course, gone. So I'm just going to say that my Legaversary is approximately twelve to sixteen days into August from now on. Screw it, it's just the 13th. I can remember that.
For those of you who don't care how I draw: look at that snarl and that shark!
Last up, one of my own darlings, Aliea (Allie) Veldon. (A few of you may know her from her appearance in Poor Unfortunate Souls.) I'm slowly learning to color properly in GIMP. The colors are still a little flat (and I have no clue how to draw buttons,) but it's a start!
To do this to a drawing (after I've blocked in light colored pencil, and finalized in regular pencil, and scanned) I keep upping the contrast and dragging down the brightness, and color selecting and erasing the colored pencil, until I get lines like this. Then I lasso each colored area (say, the skin) create a new layer for it under the lines, and fill it with the appropriate color. Then I muck around and add highlights and shadows that are horribly timid and make very little difference.
I don't remember how long it took to draw her (too long) because I did it back in January. It took me about 40-50 minutes to clean and color her, mostly because I kept derping and having to fix my selections. Coloring something with more people would take longer... which is what I'm working on now, because I don't know when to quit.
Anyhow, this has been my adventures with the scanner!
When we were children we shared the same dreams,
We sighed the same sighs and we screamed the same screams.
Yet when we met again the other day,
You said things I never thought you’d say.
Fifteen years ago we both thought that the world
Was beautiful and endless, full of choice,
Like a map just waiting to be unfurled.
Yet now that we’re old enough to find our voice,
I see how much further inward for you it’s curled.
I remember that I checked out banned books for you,
We sat in the tree behind my house and you read, one chapter at a time,
What you had been denied.
You loved fantasy and were deprived of magic.
They told your parents it was wrong: the devil’s work.
We never truly believed in any magic not of our own making,
Just childish secrecy and midnight wondering.
We laughed because your mother thought I was a good influence.
Thank you for sharing a little of the shit I went through,
I’d like to look back on the innocence of those years,
But we both know that no nostalgia can make that true.
These memories are why your rejection of me brings me to tears.
I would ride my bike to your house at least twice a week.
I picked up the phone when you called, day or night,
I helped you discreetly bury the evidence when you burnt an entire batch of cookies.
You took hours and hours of your life to teach me,
(Unsuccessfully) to knit; the best way to make pizza dough
You told me I was clever and important when I needed it most.
You told me you couldn’t wait to get out, leave home;
Even then, your parents’ world was suffocating you.
I felt so guilty leaving you behind to go to school;
We knew then that it was the end of an age
No more time and space for our youthful misrule.
We were both ready to turn a new page;
I thought we would remain the same, and I was a fool.
Over the years the world has made us different women,
Strong, as you knew we’d be, maybe even enough to
Square off against a cold and unforgiving future, more or less alone.
I don’t know why I stayed silent – perhaps I was afraid,
Yet ignorance always screams louder than truth.
These ugly words were placed in your mouth by another’s hand;
Last December, you told me I was unnatural and wrong.
(You didn’t know you did, but my heart hurts all the same.)
* * *
I dump my poetry on you at the beginning of every summer, it seems. Though, now that I wrote this one, it doesn't hurt anymore.
First off, literary fiction is a myth, and I mean that both figuratively and literally. The western tradition of writing comes not from what we think of as realism in the realm of literature, but from a mythical and allegorical understanding of the world. Some of the earliest literature that most students are exposed to is Homer’s Odyssey and Illiad, (some students get to read Virgil’s Aneid and the Epic of Gilgamesh as well,) which contains magic, action, interpersonal relationships, contradictions, people’s political and philosophical thoughts, improbable adventures, romance, horror, gods, fate, and long sea voyages. It’s also one of the world’s best-known works of fanfiction. (After all, Homer did not invent the stories of Odysseus or Achilles any more than Hesiod invented all the stories of the Olympians. Homer is just who we attribute the composed and written versions to.)
Most “literary” fiction that is presented to students as a classic has similar elements, yet escapes being labeled as “genre” fic because it’s old, or written by famous people. Just going down my own high school required reading list – Frankenstein and Dracula are both in many ways horror and adventure novels, Great Expectations (actually, anything by Dickens) is a long, slice-of-life type soap opera with adventure, mystery, and supernatural elements, Romeo and Juliet is actually just a stage adaptation of a much older tragic romance, (Shakespeare is the world’s most famous author of fanfiction in the English language,) The Scarlet Letter is essentially a work of magical realism with some psychological horror, The Great Gatsby is yet another tragic romance with slice of life and soap opera tendencies, and Brave New World, 1984, and Fahrenheit 451 are all sci fi.
All of the above were not written to fit the specifications of “literary” fiction as imposed by English teachers: they were all written for the mass market of their day. Any teacher who insists that “fantasy,” doesn’t sell should be banned from teaching anything with magical or supernatural elements, such as Dracula, Hamlet, Macbeth, The Odyssey, The Divine Comedy, and many works of Edgar Allen Poe, to name just a few staples of the middle and high school English curriculum. (They’re also living under a rock, since many of the best-selling franchises of the 90’s and the first decade of the 2000’s have been fantasy or sci fi, a genre which also includes superheroes somewhere along the spectrum.)
( There is no one true literature, and here's how genre fiction makes you write better anyway )
TLDR; If you teach "literary fiction" as being both completely seperate from and better than "genre fiction," you're doing it wrong. If you say that "It's that way because that's how literature is taught," you're committing a variety of logical fallacies, foremost among them being appeal to authority. If you say that my essay is essentially wrong because I have a degree in science instead of literature, you're technically launching an ad-hominem argument in conjunction with your appeal to presumed authority. And since anyone with access to wikipedia can sit here and play spot the fallacy as well as I can, it's time to start thinking critically about why people revere literary fiction so much (besides that they're taught to in school.)