Okay, so, that thing I had alluded to in my status post this morning? It’s settled itself. I’ve had a scheduled trip to see my mother set for this weekend, but with newly-minted hurricane Joaquin set to either come in or throw a bunch of rain down our mountain roads as it passes us by, it’s kind of a now-or-never thing. So now instead of leaving Saturday, I’m going to be leaving tomorrow morning. It’s going to be hectic as heck, but better safe than sorry. There may or may not be things of the days for all days in the very near future.
Well, the crisis I reported yesterday is past. You know, every time I rattle the cup, whether it’s for an emergency situation or not, some rando (as they say dans la belle internet) is bound to pop up with a snide comment about “e-begging” or “hipster welfare”, but 9 times out of 10, the biggest contributions come with notes attached saying things like, “I’ve been reading your work for years and it’s time I paid something back.”
The people who criticize these kinds of transactions often claim to be proponents of the free market, but they love to argue with the specific results the market provides.
But enough dwelling…
The Daily Report
So, I had been planning to announce a decision regarding my plans for next week today, but things are a bit up in the air for me right now in a very literal sense, as these plans currently hinge on the behavior of a massive weather system that’s hanging out off the eastern seaboard. Next week might end up being a light one where I’m focusing my energy elsewhere, or it might be a normal week, or it might be a mix of both. Can’t tell you.
I am very excited about a couple of different things, including a brand new story and one that I think has been percolating for well over a decade now, that I’d even written drafts of before. I’m also excited about A Wilder World. I feel like I have a game but organizing it is tricky, and that’s coming together. The morning walk is really helping me gel creatively in a way that I haven’t been.
The State of the Me
I’m feeling great… better today than I did yesterday morning, and that was pretty darn good, flu shot side effects and all. I’m more or less back where I thought I was financially… a little surplus-y at the moment, but ending the month of October in the black and stable. Brain firing on all cylinders. Body performing adequately.
Plans For Today
I’m doing the writing equivalent of doodling until lunch. After lunch, I’m going to spend some time on A Wilder World before settling into Tales of MU at the end of the day.
By Alexandra Erin
First Publication: September 29th, 2015
Word Count: ~500
The wind carried the strange chemical signals away from the crater. The signal-cloud was too light and dispersed to be sensed through the visible spectrum. The molecules it contained were heavy enough to fall like a soft rain in its wake, though, creating a trail that the hive’s scouts discovered.
An individual ant was not equipped to make sense of what it was detecting, any more than an individual rod or cone in a retina can read a book. The first scouts who found the alien scent-trail stopped in their tracks. If they had been people, their reactions would have been as though they’d just read a sentence in which all the words were correct and in the right order but it still didn’t make sense, or as though they’d just heard something that had the tone and cadence of speech but wasn’t.
An ant is not a person, though. An ant isn’t even a mind. It’s more like a slow moving set of impulses in a larger neural network. The ones who found the trail retreated to the hive, where the information could circulate amongst the All. None of the individual ants knew what the signals were. No one could make sense of it.
The All could, though. The All knew what it was looking at.
Ah, the All thought. Chemical formulae. Interesting.”
The hive reached itself out to follow the trail to its source. By the time they reached the crater, the source of the trail had been packed up and carted away by the pesky bipedal monominds who got in everywhere and poisoned everything. The hive did not care. It trusted that if they even noticed the signals, they would have no clue how to read them. All the important information had suffused the soil around the object.
Instructions. Recipes. Technology.
The hive was cautious, but curious. It was always interested in improving itself, and all the necessary ingredients could be harvested or refined easily enough. There were enough young that some could be fed a formula from the stars to see how it would affect their growth. This sort of applied biochemistry was the colony’s stock in trade.
Scouts from other hives began to arrive at the crater. The All of the first hive briefly considered the merits of combat, but discarded it as an option. The markers had dispersed too widely to keep them a secret and there was no hope of defending so wide a territory as the landing site. Better to withdraw and begin applying the new knowledge. If it provided any advantage, then the first hive to develop it would have an edge over the others.
Among the monominds, the message eventually went out that the meteorite had shown traces of an interesting organic compound. This sort of thing was reported often enough that it provoked more debate over the likelihood of terrestrial contamination than it did excitement over the potential implications.
While the monominds bickered, the hives decoded the recipes and synthesized new compounds. The next generation of queens were showing some fascinating potential, and that was saying nothing about the warriors…
The Daily Report
Big thank you to everybody who sent me items on my wishlist and/or tips in the past week. I have a good supply of the pills I need for now, which puts me on firmer ground for dealing with the other issue, which is the money.
I thought I was going to be on fairly stable ground going into October, until I checked my bank statement a moment ago… I screwed up the timing of payments during a period where depression and anxiety kept me from keeping a close eye on my bank statement, and now the balance is negative enough that it’ll swallow half of my Patreon payout for the month.
So I’ve got to keep rattling the cup. If you’ve been thinking about buying any of my ebooks, you can help out by buying them directly. Joining me on Patreon doesn’t do anything immediately, but will help out in the next few days, and it’s especially appropriate if you’ve been enjoying my Thing of the Day posts and wish for me to keep making them.
This is the serious danger of scraping by month to month, and why I’ve been holding out for when I start seeing larger Amazon payouts for at least a few months starting with the end of October. I have reason to hope that there will be an enduring lift even after the surge has died down (as this is how it’s gone in the past, with smaller surges), but even without that, just having extra money sitting in my account so I don’t have to choose between late fees/outages or overdraft charges will make a huge difference.
But that’s the future, and I have to make it there. I’ve got a couple of things on the cusp of being ready for sale that I’m going to try to push through ASAP now (like MU Omnibus VI, the last part of the first volume) in the hopes of getting more of a boost. But right now, what I really need is $200-300 in a hurry.
The State of the Me
Believe it or not, I’m having a pretty good day otherwise? I got out the door on time, started work at time… I didn’t make a status post until now because I found myself with more creative momentum than (non-fictional) things to say. I’ve got enough of my daily braining pills that I can afford to brain fully on a daily basis.
Plans For Today
Motive Force Majeur
By Alexandra Erin
First Publication: September 28th, 2015
You would never ask me why
I build my castles in the sky
if you could only look around
at what awaits me on the ground.
The Daily Report
Another exciting week of doing things creatively. I find myself with not a lot to say at the start of this week, in terms of specific goals. I’ve been thinking more in terms of priorities and obstacles/inhibitions, but it’s not very cogent yet.
The State of the Me
Today I came very close to getting out the door at 9, which is what I need to do for my “commute” to bring me back to the office at 10. I would have made it if I hadn’t managed to cut myself while getting ready. As it is, I’m at my desk at 10:30.
The walk itself went pretty well, after three days off from it. Today I celebrated my progress by buying myself a colorful new skirt on clearance at the Family Dollar. It’s a small thing, but it symbolizes that the walking isn’t just exercise but reclaimed independence.
Plans For Today
Monday is my “mental palate cleanser” day. Today, I’m devoting it to A Wilder World, which has been coming together pretty well lately albeit not in a very organized fashion.
By Jack and Alexandra
First Publication: September 25th, 2015
Word Count: ~1,100
It had taken him months, but he had all but succeeded.
The weeks he’d spent gaining the trust of the members of various gaming boards had been fruitless. No one had been willing to talk about the obvious satanic roots of their so-called “fantasy games”, even with a fellow practitioner… or as they called them, “players”.
He had quickly realized that the truth was so artfully concealed that even those caught in the web of demonic lies did not know it. They mindlessly re-enacted the evil eldritch rituals encoded in the grimoires disguised as mere rulebooks–as if any mere game could require hundreds of pages of arcane rules and tables that detailed actual occult spells and practices in a level of detail that rivaled the descriptions of ancient life found in the Bible itself!
So he had gone straight to the source, bypassing the sugar-coated and watered-down forbidden lore peddled by the toy companies and the book publishers. He had tracked down actual lost volumes of occult secrets, learned the rituals that formed the basis for these so-called games. He had practiced the rites, made the circle, drew the symbols, placed at each of the points of the star one of the bestial graven images used as pawns in the insidious ritual gameplay. He had called to the forgotten powers that he knew they represented, bound them to his will, bid them to come forth, to speak, to reveal their secrets to him and the world.
And he had succeeded, almost! He was so close to revealing the truth about the “master of the dungeon” who had cast his dark spell over the minds of America’s youth for three decades and counting.
There was only one problem.
“I say,” the cloven-hoofed satyr figure said. “Who is this ‘Satan’ chap you speak so knowingly of? Friend of yours? I could get off the line and let you try again.”
“No!” the investigator said. “I will not fall for your tricks.” He jabbed a stubby finger at the miniature minotaur, who mewed in confusion. “You! You are the very semblance of the beast himself! How many souls have you torn asunder?”
The minotaur mooed, heaving a massive shrug of its massive shoulders.
“Not much of a talker, that one,” the satyr said. “Look, I don’t know what you want from us.”
“I want the truth! I’ve promised my producer! I’ve promised the viewers!” he said. “In twenty-four hours, I must go live with the most explosive expose the world has ever seen. You must proclaim that Dungeons & Dragons is a satanic snare for the hearts and souls of the fools who play it!”
“You’re talking out of both sides of your face, fella,” said a two-headed giant. “Do you want the truth, or do you want us to repeat your fancy lie?”
“Maybe it’s not a lie,” said a floating orb covered with eyes on writhing stalks. “Maybe it’s all a matter of perspective?”
“Well, sure, there are two sides to every story,” the other head of the giant said. “But even if it’s not a load of guff, we don’t know anything about it.”
“I think you’re barking up the wrong tree, mate,” said a leafy, lumbering hulk with skin like bark.
“Not that we’re not grateful for the attention, mind you,” the satyr said. “Very few people bother to call us up these days. It’s nice to stretch the old ectoplasm.”
“Liars! Liars! You are called upon every day in basements and dining rooms and even schools all around the country!” the reporter said. “I know you are! I’ve watched the enthralled move you around their obscene diagrams as they plot death and destruction.”
“Oh, I see where you’re confused,” the satyr said, gesturing down at the goat-like legs connected to the square base. “These bits of plastic aren’t us. They aren’t anything. They’re just, toys, I guess? You were able to bind them to us because they bear a certain resemblance to certain aspects of ourselves, as it were, but without you and your ritual, they are as harmless as a child’s doll or a toy soldier.”
The other four figures on the points of the star nodded in agreement, muttering things like, “Yep, that’s be it.” and “Stands to reason.” and “Moo.”
Finally, in desperation, the reporter turned his attention on the one figure that had remained silent: the massive, bat-winged, ram-horned and unmistakably demonic creature that towered over the others, in the center of the pentagram.
“How about you?” he said. “Are you going to be so bold as to claim you’re not a demon?”
“Obviously I am,” the figure said, its voice a deep bass rumble that seemed to come from everywhere except the center of the pentagram.
“I knew it!” the man said. “So the rest of you might as well fess up, too.”
“Oh,” the demon said. “Oh, no. These paltry pagan pests? These primal eidolons? They are lesser beings only, no kin to demons.”
“They’re no angels,” the man said. “So what exactly is the difference between these pagan spirits and demons?”
“For one thing, they are much easier to coerce into this world,” the demon said. “It did not matter so much if they were willing or not. They came when you called them.”
“So did you,” the man said.
“For another, they were far easier for a shaky-handed amateur to bind in a crude circle copied from a degraded copy of a faded book.”
“And yet, you’re still here,” the man said. “And all I have to do is put a camera on you and it doesn’t matter what you say or don’t say, or if you say anything at all. All of America is going to see that I was right. I’m going to be vindicated on national television.”
“I think not,” the demon said.
“Oh? And what exactly are you going to do about it?”
Smiling, the demon vanished.
The man let out an anguished howl of despair, but then he collected himself enough to check the child crumpled in the corner. It wouldn’t do. He would need another, but the other materials were not hard to come by. And after all, he had a whole box full of the damned miniatures left. There had to be at least one obviously demonic creature in there for him to summon. He knew how easy it was, and he knew the circle could be tricky.
He’d have his proof, if he could just stomach dealing with such evil instruments for a little while longer…
Tales We Tell Each Other is a special version of my usual Thing of the Day. These are ficlets that I write from a random plot generator as a collaborative writing exercise with my partner Jack Ralls.
The Daily Report
Had a small panic yesterday afternoon when all three of my active WordPress sites had similar (though ultimately separate) backend issues… before I got it sorted out, I thought there was something much deeper and scarier going on. That’s why I ended up breaking out a short for the Thing of the Day instead of the MU chapter. We’re in good shape for today, though.
I’m very pleased with the feedback some of my Things of the Day have been getting. I’ve been posting a mix of old stuff I’ve been sitting on and new stuff I’m writing, but it’s mostly stuff I feel like I’d have a hard time finding a home for but also stuff that I really enjoy writing (and reading). I know it’s not impossible to get a less-traditional story accepted for publication… I’d just rather keep creating than spend a lot of time pounding the virtual pavement.
The State of the Me
My legs started feeling really worn down early on in my walks the past few days, so I stopped and thought a bit and realized that even at my peak of activity I never took miles-long walks 7 days a week without break, but only 4-5 times a week. So I’m giving myself a break today and then through the weekend, and starting on Monday I’ll just do it weekdays. This should help me
Plans For Today
Well… there might be two things going up today, as I had a plan to unveil something today and I don’t really want to wait until next week, but I’ve also got a chapter I want to get wrapped and posted. We’ll see what happens.
THE HOARD MOST PRECIOUS
By Alexandra Erin
First Publication: September 24th, 2015
Word Count: ~1,500
Ah, so, another little mammal has come to beard the great wyrm in its den. Come, then! Come out and show me who would slay the dragon. Come out and see the hoard you would claim as your own.
What is that look? Is my treasure so much smaller than you imagined? I have roasted a thousand fools as they stood precisely where you stand, and yet I do not think a single one of you has ever found my fabled trove to be exactly what you thought the stories had promised.
Do not be twice fooled, though. If my neat and orderly hoard occupies less space than you were led to believe it must, still I assure you its value has likely been underestimated.
I think it’s the jewels, to be honest. Those who have much first-hand experience with precious stones are rarely driven to hunt the dragon’s hoard, so you have only your dreams to serve as a basis for comparison. You expect a chest of gemstones to be as big as your family’s cedar trunk, and you expect the contents to all be the size of a fist, yes?
Well, there are uncut stones to be had in that size, but unworked materials rarely hold my interest. See this cask of rubies? They were a gift in admiration from a red dragon with whom I once fought over territory. Neither one of us could claim the peak over which we quibbled, and so we sealed the truce between us with an exchange of gifts.
They seem mere pebbles, yes? You could retire modestly on one of them. If you could but fill your purse with the fraction of them it would hold, your descendants would be wealthy forever.
Then there’s gold. Certainly, there’s more of it here than you’ve ever seen, but I feel you were expecting there to be more even than this. Piles of gold. Mountains of gold with me nestled between them. The cave must be stuffed with gold to the point of bursting, or else the treasure-hunters will feel cheated.
Well, by my best conjuring, all the gold ever mined by the hands of man or dwarf would not fill this cavern. Does this surprise you? If it does, you have little knowledge of the nature of gold, of its scarcity, or indeed its density.
If I were to promise you your weight in gold to leave me in peace, you might decide it would be worth it, on the balance, to trade an uncertain fate for a certain fortune. But if I were to show you how little gold it would take to make up that measure, I fear you would be sure I was cheating you.
See that gold rock at your feet? I leave it there for a purpose. Do try to lift it. It fits easily in your hand, but it is not so easy as you supposed, is it? This is what a stone-weight of gold looks like. Fourteen pounds, as the accountants of the day would measure them. Would you like to keep it, with my compliments? As I told you, I have little use for raw material. It is not your weight in gold, no, but it is more than enough to change your life. And think of the story you would have to tell!
Be not so hasty! I make this offer not for fear of my life but for fear of yours. I have no taste for killing greedy fools at this time of my life.
Yes, I called you greedy. The nugget in your hand would be enough to make you very wealthy, and you could carry it out with no more risk to your life than you faced in coming here. What else should I call you, when you turn down a proffered fortune for the slim chance of an even greater one?
What? You think I am the greedy one, to hoard such wealth? If I am jealous of my hoard, it is for a purpose, though I can see no reason why I should need such a purpose beyond the fact that it is mine.
Listen! I was old when the world was new. My bones are as old as stone, but my spirit is older still. The reckoning of my memory encompasses every epoch of the earth, and yet I recall each detail with the same clarity you recall your own life.
That is the crux of it, though. With what clarity do you recall the fleeting moments of your life? Do you not rely on keepsakes, which you call mementos, to serve as signposts as you wind your way through way through the labyrinth of the dusky past? Do you not commit events of great moment to paper in order to preserve a more reliable accounting than your own poor memory can serve?
You see a trove of treasures gilt and gleaming and assume that I covet such things because I am a covetous beast, which means I am but a sinful brute, which makes it virtuous for you to slay me and claim all of this for yourself.
But what would any of this be to you, that you would not find in that chunk of gold I so generously offered and you so cavalierly discarded?
See this bowl? A simple vessel of beaten gold. To you, nothing about it is as remarkable as its composition. The metal alone is valuable. There is not a dealer in art nor in antiquities who would pay a penny more than the gold’s weight for it.
To me, though? I was alive when this bowl was made. To look at it is to throw open the door to a time and place long forgotten. I remember the slim brown hands that held it, the full lips that sipped fragrant spiced wine from it. I can see in the theater of my mind the cushions on which they arrayed themselves, the curtains that hung around them. I can smell the wine, the food, the perfume and incense on the air!
Ah, and what does that call to mind but this gold censer? Its sweet airs once blessed the services of a temple no living being outside this cavern has ever clapped eyes upon. When I look upon the censer, I can smell the incense. I can see the great edifice of the temple. I hear the voices, lifting up in song.
I hear the same voices crying out in fear, and I smell the scent of burning wood and roasting flesh. It was not a nice religion. Or perhaps I was not a nice dragon. I do not recall what the nature of our conflict was, to be perfectly honest. I recall the people, though. So long as this relic remains in my possession, they will not be forgotten.
Few things in life endure. Wood and fabric rots. Iron corrodes. Silver tarnishes. Paint, pigment, and ink fade. Bones are ground into dust.
Gold lasts, though.
See these coins? Relics of rulers I’ve buried and empires I’ve outlasted. You would weigh them and count them, but in taking them from me, you would rob me of an accounting of history. Outside this cave, coins are stamped over, melted down. History is forgotten. Here, it is accounted for and preserved.
Among your kind and mine, I have had friends, and lovers, and enemies. The passage of the centuries dims the distinctions among these groups. I remember all fondly as threads in the tapestry of my immortal life. I would prefer to continue remembering them.
Here is my final offer, then: take whatever you may carry, so long as there is enough of any item you select that you do not deprive me of more than half of it. Take no more than half the fine rubies I highlighted. Select your favorite coins from among the various strikings and denominations rather than pilfering one pile. Take whatever it pleases you to take, just leave me with my memories.
Whatever this costs me, I will have purchased something precious: a novel experience. You would be the first one to accept such an offer, the first enterprising soul to leave my lair alive. After a few millennia I may not recall the color of your hair or the cast of your face, but every time my gaze falls upon a spot where some trinket used to be, I will remember that you existed and you did something remarkable, something without precedent in the course of history.
Are you quite certain?
What follows will not be long, and I long ago ran out of ways to make it memorable.