Friday, April 30, 2010

New Art Thursday: Tesseract

(A geometric figure I don't completely understand).

This is only my 5th or 6th serious attempt (that blonde chick, myself, that scene girl at that Starbucks that one time, me again, that dancer girl, that actress... yeah 6th) to draw a "real" person; and it's the first time I tried to draw someone who exists in my world without resorting to recreating an existing image of her.

I should have stuck to what I know. As an image I'm happy with a lot of things about this drawing. I still don't know squat about detailed highlighting, but my use of color feels stronger (is it?). I am fucking in love with that pant's leg. I completed this image (start to finish, including rough's, pencils, inks & color) in under 6 hours - so I'm getting quicker.

It fails to do the thing it was meant to though. If it wasn't already Friday, I'd have scrapped the whole thing and started over from scratch.

Looks like I've got some learning to do.

It feels to me like when a bad (no - not "bad" - a not quite as good as you're used to) artist takes over a comic title you love to read. If you were reading this comic book and saw her here, you would probably know who she was - there are enough "cheats" thrown in to give that away; new readers are never going to know how much better she looked when [insert favorite artist here] was drawing her, though. I just wish I was better.

Maybe she was right. Maybe it just wasn't my day, and I'm being too hard on myself. Hope so.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

60 Paper Cranes

This week is a bust.

So is this post. I have no inspiration.

I set out to write this long, boring diatribe about how disappointed I was in my handling of the time given me these past few days (decades). Then I remembered that I've done that already, so I'm not going to subject you to that bullshit again.

Monday was my 37th birthday. Aside from a nice dinner with the family and a few drinks with friends, however, it just seemed like Monday.

I got the pull-up bar I wanted for my legs & back routine. Pokémon: SoulSilver for my DS. A bag of Gummy Bears, I'm ashamed to say I ate (Gummy Bears contain Gelatin, which is pretty much just powdered bone slime). I got twenty bucks.

It's more than I deserved, and I'm really happy to have the people in my life that I do.

I found out that there really is a way for me to attain the previously unattainable goal of owning a motorcycle by year's end. I am completely blown away that - after writing the goal down (with no knowledge of how it might happen), a pathway opened up. I don't want to get all new-agey and weird, but that's fucking amazing. Even if it doesn't work out.

I didn't write anything this week.

That's not true. I wrote the notes of a story I thought I wanted to write about young Jesus. But it's been done, and - pretty much - after Last Temptation, you don't need another Jesus story. I also wrote about 10,000 words of what amounts to choose-your-own-adventure fanfic, set in the Firefly universe. Now that I'm not caught up in the whirlwind of "the technology makes it possible so it must be amazing," it feels pretty stupid.

I doubt I made anyone's life better this week. I was superfluous.

Like Donald Kaufman, I'm learning that "you are what you love, not what loves you." That's pretty great. I wish I'd learned it thirty years ago. I have love in me again. I'm so amazed by the possibility of that, I just don't know how to react to it.

It's got me rudderless, though - blowing about every which way. I find myself sitting in the dark flickering light of the screen, late at night, wondering what direction my life will take now. Where am I supposed to go? Do? Sometimes wondering what direction my life should have taken. But the past is just the ripples of now.

I want more. I guess that about sums it up.

Friday, April 23, 2010

New Art Thursday: Densjak Tribeslayer

Meet Densjak Tribeslayer, Goblin Wizard, and his familiar companion Bristlepig.

Densjak was something of a magical prodigy, who slew his own wizardly master to take his place as chief shaman and wondermaker of his tribe. But he was an experimenter, forever tampering with the very essence of magic; and his experiments eventually led to the death of his tribe.

All of them. In retaliation, the God of the Goblins marked him (his grey color) and shackled him with the boar - his familiar (a faithful and loyal companion to the end, but the eyes of Maglubiyet no less). He no longer has anything to do with goblinkind (because they attack him on sight, trying to rip out his throat in honor to Maglubiyet), so now he must truck with humans and their ilk - no matter how he despises them.

Densjak was a character concept I came up with some time ago, but never got to play. I wrote a short tale about his "fall;" it never went anywhere. He became an NPC, but with 4th Edition, I'd sure like to give him a shot in the PC ring.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

38 Paper Cranes

First of all, this post was due Saturday. I botched it. Second, There should be 88 paper cranes by now; there are 38. I am falling dangerously close to behind.

My week has been - not bizarre, but - unusual. Three specific things are effecting me quite profoundly.

Firstly, I'm becoming increasingly aware of the fact that I don't believe in an afterlife. This puts me in the rather unenviable position (that we may all find ourselves in) of reflecting on the worth of my existence. Am I living? Am I grateful to be some of the mud that got to sit up? How can I show that, or change it if I have to? Am I wasting my time here?

B. I haven't written poetry in eight years, and I'm dubious as to the quality of that verse; I still tend to think of poets as kind of silly.

There's this girl I know...

This is how all the trouble starts, but nothing will come of this. Not because I don't like her or think of her that way - not because she's this unattainable illusion (a common problem) - not because she's out of my league.

I don't even think we're playing the same game. But she's really pretty. She's just got that face and eyes like [what's her name] and the best smile, and hair the color of chestnut something or other. And she's smart. Funny. Every time she opens her mouth something amazing (or at least mildly interesting) happens.

She does these sickeningly sweet, cute little things - the kind of stuff you'd roll your eyes at if you saw it in a movie or if someone else did it. But when a girl you like does it.

Melts you a little.

She reminds me what it's like to be in love.

I don't think I'm in love. My heart hurts a little and I don't not think about her, and the sun and moon and stars (which were just so slightly out of whack) have come around again and lined up in her absence, and all I hear on the radio is love song after love song after - and I didn't realize they were all so good. But it's not love.

I won't go into all the reasons why it won't be (one or two may even be legitimate). It's just nice to feel that again. Feel alive again.

And I sure could use a new friend right about now.

Three. I'm focusing (pretty well) on these goals. On this idea that I can make my life better.

I haven't written another page of the book, but I was telling someone about the concept and it got me pretty F'n pumped again. I really believe in this story. It's something I think I can do (and do well); I just haven't yet. It's not writer's block. It's what Kevin Smith calls "writer's Laze." And I've got it in spades.

I have been working out, and I've got the sore muscles to prove it. I didn't do cardio Saturday, because my back was sore [blah, blah, blah], which made me feel lousy. All there was today was stretching, but I managed to get right back up and do it. I'm optimistic about tomorrow. I haven't been eating right because I'm broke, but that too will change soon.

I'm still working at the fucking grocery store. It's still sucking a little of my soul out of me every time I walk through the doors, but I managed to at least get the ball rolled half-way up the hill so we can get this whole e-business thing going. I'm going to pick up my first appraisals today before work, and then I'll get them scanned in and (hopefully) up on eBay before the week's out. Our intention is to use proceeds from these auctions to finance the site.

I asked for an iPhone for my birthday. I'm not going to get it; but my folks are at least (possibly) going to look at the insurance on my old phone to see about my upgrade. I've done exactly jack and squat about a motorcycle or a home. This angers me a little, so I'm going to stop writing about it. Maybe working on financing a new venture is working on those. I think it's a cop-out, though it also covers the "working on financial goals" bit. Damn it.

So there you have it. I'm going to die. I remember what it was like to be in love. I'm working (in a half-assed, slip-shod way) on attaining my one-year goals. Also, I'm 50 cranes behind on my folding quota. I'm writing though (if maybe the wrong things). And I'm drawing. I'm working on gaming, but it doesn't swallow my life. I don't even seem to give a damn that I'm weeks behind in all "my" shows.

I'm pretty grateful to be some of the mud that got to sit up (Vonnegut, by the way - not mine). I'm struggling with an idea I heard recently that went something like "if you're not making someone else's life better, you're just wasting your time," but in a good way. I mean, I'd like to enrich someone's life. All the time. But maybe a little rest isn't exactly a waste of time (finite though it may be). We should enjoy our lives. We only get a little time to do so. I just have to remember - I don't know how to say this. I don't know how many times I can write "time" in the same paragraph.

I spend too much time (sigh) enjoying myself, maybe. I don't know how to write this, but this post is already cyclopean* in scope anyway. I've got some paper folding and other stuff to do.

The wind blows her scent across my path
Even days after I last laid eyes on her.
I am not in love

Every time she opens that cute little mouth
She is smarter, funnier, better.
I am not in love

I see echoed in her laugh, her eyes, the shape of her neck
Every girl or woman I've ever fallen for.
I am not in love.

I haven't written poetry in eight years.
I haven't felt the warm smile of another
Stamped so indelibly on my heart.
I haven't been in love.

I am not in love.

*I am so freakin' excited to have been able to use
that word in a sentence I just want to do my
Unspeakable Dance. In fact, I'm going to.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Free Fiction Friday: Mohan's Tale (Part One)

The Fire and the Western Wall

We sat in the flickering light of the fire for an eternity before someone broke the silence. Grolnar hunkered against the tall rock, sharpening his axe, occasionally muttering something in Dwarven under his breath. Morek and I were too exhausted from the battle to do more than stare at the fire. Raevon gnawed on a boar's leg, stoking the flames up around the beast as he chewed. No one knew where Anali got off to, but then, when did we ever? Zannamerlynne reclined in her tent, some distance away – her old books and ancient scrolls illuminated by wizard's light.

It was the cleric who broke the silence. That strange heretical priest we'd picked up in Haesenflay; he said, “It's nice to sit beside a fire after these long nights with goblins at our heels. I am sorry they had to die, but I must admit a certain gratitude for the respite,” he looked up at a moon the color of blood and rust. “I don't think it will last.”

Raevon spit.

“You may be right, priest,” I said, absently stoking the embers in front of me. “We're near the edge of Merridan's map. If he's right about the Goblins, I think there will be a lot more killing before we're through. You may even have to pick up a cudgel yourself.”

The old man sighed. The lines on his face deepened. His scars seemed to turn white in the dancing firelight. When he looked up at me, his eye – the bad one, the white one – it turned and fixed me. I think I lost a year off my life then.

“Can I tell you how I came to be in the service of Pelor?” He looked so tired then. We knew he was twice as old as any of us – well, maybe not twice as old as Grolnar and Raevon – but he was past his prime. Again I found myself wondering how he'd talked us into letting him come along. Sure he'd proven himself since. Even with that damn vow of his, he stood up in a fight. We were all still living, and that was proof enough of his worth, but -

“Do I have a choice,” I asked, half in jest.

“Of course,” he said, removing his heavy cloak. The bronze and iron clasp – one of the many holy symbols he kept about his person – he placed gingerly atop the folded cloth. Even in his age, the man was huge. A Mountain. “I would not seek to bore you, but you asked me about my Divine visitations. This was one of them.”

“Let him talk,” the Dwarf said, laying his axe down for the first time since the battle was quit.

“I want to hear this too,” Anali said from somewhere in the shadows to the south. I searched for a moment before spotting her in a low tree branch, reclining against the trunk. The Cleric did not wait for the rest of us to consent.

I am... No. I was General Daskehgandé, of the Army Luxlucitus. Don't make that face. I led the Shadow-Cloaks against the Wyrm Frostclaw. I was there at the sacking of Narvellan. When the Solis Battalion and Laerian charged the White Gates and took the Crown, I stood under the Western Wall against the King's First Legion.

Raevon was smirking. He didn't believe the cleric any more than I did. “The Army of Light was evil,” he said. “They threw down the Boy King and Laerian took the throne before anyone knew what had happened.”

Anali piped in, “Narvellan is a disgusting, evil place,” she said. “And King Laerian is the most despicable tyrant in a hundred leagues.” She was hooked already. Poor little thing was too gullible; Halflings love to hear about the fall of Narvellan.

Let me tell you two things about the Sack of Narvellan. First, the Boy King was untested, unschooled, and unprepared for an attack upon his Crown so soon after his father's death. But the bards would have you believe that Luxlucitus stood against the boy alone. They wanted villains, and villains don't fight armies. But I stood with my troops under the Western Wall that day.

Three-hundred and forty-seven men died there. Two-hundred and seventeen of them were mine. Most of them no older than you lot. Some of them were only boys – you've seen how the militias recruit. Luxlucitus was no better.

And I won't excuse their actions. We knew knew Laerian before we followed him into the first battlefield at Kairlown. Hell, he was my friend. I stood beside him when he first took command of the Luxlucitus. He made me a general. He was our leader, and the few remaining Shadowcloaks flocked to his banner when he put on that crown; but I did not lead them against a child.

Laerian's Solis did that. I wasn't in the throne room, but I know the story. Laerian slit the boys throat with a boot knife and then watched him bleed out on his mother's favorite Fey-weave rug. Then he took the woman to bed and declared himself the new monarch at sunrise.

I was gone by then, but here's the second thing you need to know about the Sack of Narvellan. The bards were right. Orvan should have been king. He was a good man, even at that tender age. Laerian was the villain. The valiant Army of Light sent by the gods to liberate Narvellan and bring peace to the Three Cities was an army of conquerors. And we brought neither peace nor anything good to that Kingdom.

When it was over and done. Maybe even while Laerian was slaughtering the child, I put my sword in the ground and sat on a low rock in the shadow of the West Wall. My armor was caked in blood. My joints hurt, and I wept.

Two of the King's bowmen had fallen from the ramparts and lay entangled in a mass of corpses in some sort of mock orgy. I didn't even know them for the King's men, their body's were so entwined with my own soldiers. I had to pull up their tunics to distinguish the color. Even then I had to look at their faces to be sure.

This was a graveyard now. A haunted place, riddled with death. Already, the black spots in the sky heralded the carrion feeders. It was no different than any other corpse-field I'd seen a dozen times before. But I was gripped in a Melancholy.

My father had wanted me to be a teamster. I knew I could never make a living as he had though. Killing is the only thing I was ever good at.

I said I wept. I wept after every battle. My men called me “the Old Woman” when they thought I was out of earshot, and then eventually to my face. It didn't matter. Until that battle, I'd never led them astray. I'd have died myself for each and every one of them, and they knew it. They were my men.

But I didn't weep for them. I wept for this curse. For all the rage and anger and adrenaline and fear and hurt welled up inside me. For this inability to do anything else well. It sickened me. Not the killing, but the necessity for it. And the pointlessness of it all. Luxlucitus marched against Narvellan under the pretense that the Boy King would rule with iron and flame – no better than his father. And so we replaced the could-be despot with Laerian the tyrannical. Two-hundred and seventeen of my men died for a cause that was a lie. A hundred and thirty more trying to stop us.

Sitting on my rock, staring at the fallen all around me, my head began to ache. I saw the light of the setting sun flare up and become brilliant, blinding. I could not shield my eye against it.

And then, he was there. The Servant of Pelor. Quicksilver and Fire, on wings of golden light. It strained my eyes to look at him. Yes, “eyes.” I haven't seen out of my right eye since the battle of Hewn, when I caught Old Trauggar Axehand's legendary blade in the face; but I swear it to you. Both my eyes strained to be able to see him.

He lit on the battlefield before me, slinging his radiant greatblade onto his back, between his wings.

He told me I was at a crossroads. Continue as I had. Become Warlord for the newly crowned King Laerian and see many more battles – much victory and blood. Riches beyond my imagining and glory, fame and infamy to pile on top of it.

Or, by the grace of the Shining One, I could walk away.

Lay down your weapon and never again take it up,” he said.

My protests seemed to fall on deaf ears. What would I do? How would I turn away from Laerian – My friend? Why would I turn away from the promise of wealth and glory?

When he finally spoke, I knew the answer before the Angel of the Lord gave it voice. “Laerian is not a good man.”

Again I protested. Neither was I. Who was I to call myself Laerian's better? How could I be any different?

“Lay down your weapon and never again take it up.”

In the end, I stripped off my armor and wrapped one of the bowman's cloaks around my leathers. All the while, the Angel hovering behind me, watching. Before I left, I turned back and looked at him one last time.

He bid me make my way to the Temple of the Weeping Dusk. They would have me, he said.

“Mohan,” I said when he finished, “Daskehgandé died at the battle of Narvellan. Everyone knows that.”

“Yes,” the Cleric's voice as somber, “and his body lies in the great tomb beneath Orvan's Castle. His Armor and Great Blade hang in a place of honor in the King's War Room. I've heard all this.”

“Then how can you expect us to believe -”

Anali was standing just inside the fire's light, her dagger drawn. “Laerian couldn't very well tell anyone his second in command had abandoned him,” she said. Her dark eyes never left the cleric's haggard face.

“What?” I asked her, “you don't believe him?”

Anali sheathed her dagger, but the darkness never left her gaze. Neither did Mohan. “Yes.”
The others were silent for the first time since we'd all come together. No one else spoke up. The air had grown heavy.

“My parents died in Laerian's purge of the Three Cities,” Anali said. “We were all marched out the King's Way toward the Vales. I was only a babe. Someone picked me up and stuffed me into a linen cart when they fell.” She was in the cleric's face before I even realized I might need my sword. I had no idea the Halfling could move so fast.

“You did that,” she spit, but his hollow, blue eye just stared back at her. I didn't see that she'd drawn her dagger again until she put it away. I had no idea that she'd cut him until after we'd pushed the goblins back at Kaerfalevel, when I was trying to stop his bleeding from the spear in his shoulder, and I saw the wound.

“You saved my life, human,” she said, “and then you saved it again. And again tonight against the goblins. But I will never forget what you did to me. What you did to my people. Everyone knows Laerian would have fallen before sunrise if the Shadowcloaks and their gods-damned weeping cyclops hadn't been there to throw down the First Legion. Corian might have become King, or Haris – maybe the Queen herself would've taken the throne – though I doubt it. Not with her dead child's ghost haunting the throne room.

“But if it wasn't for you Laerian would be dead and gone and the Halflings of Narvellan would still be in Narvellan where they belong. My parents would still be there.”

Raevon must have seen the dagger. He was standing near them, his spear at the ready - I have no idea what he thought he was going to do with it, but it gave the rest of us pause. We just sat there in silence.

“I won't fight you, Anali,” Mohan said, finally. “And you're not wrong. I have a great many crimes to answer for, and I intend to answer them. If you think my death serves that purpose, then finish your cut, and go with the blessing of the Sun Father.”

She put her knife away then. “I don't have any idea why Pelor would choose a mongrel butcher like you,” she said, “but even I'm not dumb enough to put an end to what gods begin.”

She turned to me then, “but I'm done with this. I'll finish what we started, whether we find the ruin or not – I'm done once we're back to Haesenflay. I won't ask you to be rid of him before we go up against what is sure to be a vicious enemy – he's a good healer – but I won't travel with him after this. And I won't travel with you if you'll have him. Even for one battle.”

And she was right. No matter who came back from those next few days in the dungeons below Kaerfalevel, it was over that night. Our company was broken before we even entered the ruin. I'm amazed anyone lived.

That was all Mohan's doing. I could blame him for breaking us up, but he saved us. He even kept Anali alive through to the end.

She left – just like she said she would. She wouldn't travel with the Butcher of Kairlown. But there was sadness in her when she went. She owed that man more than just her life. We all did. And we all knew it; there is a dark evil below Kaerfalevel.

So we few survivors, split the treasure and went our separate ways. True to his word, Mohan took none of it. Only those things that were clearly meant to be his. The Holy Symbol we found below the Stone Arch – the scrolls of Mayaheine he gave to the local temple, what little silver Zanna put in his coin purse to carry him on his way.

And like that he was gone. They all were.

It's not how I thought it would end.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

New Art Thursdays: Mohan, Cleric of Pelor

Meet Mohan, wandering cleric - heretical servant of Pelor - the Sun God. Mohan is a pacifist adventurer. That may be the wrong word. He does not oppose violence, he simply abstains from it. He sees his purpose in protecting those who would venture into the dark places of the world, and to retrieve what relics of the faith he can find, to return them to the church.

He travels the free kingdoms seeking out adventurers and mercenary bands that may need a healer or a priest, in return asking only for what share of the spoils the gods make clear are due him - and those provisions the band wishes to purchase that he may serve them better.

Mohan is older than most human adventurers - closing on 60 (he has a long and somewhat dismal past), but there's no system for that in 4e, so I just assumed his faith in Pelor, and his unswerving dedication to his vows give him vigor unknown to other men his age.

This is the character I'd like to play in the next 4e D&D game we put together (or any D&D game, really).

One thing I've found that I like about 4th edition - it not only makes this possible, but he even manages to be a useful, contributing member of the party. Who might not get squushed.

More Mohan tomorrow.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

I don't like this.

In the months since I stopped working out (because, you know - that was a good idea) I've gained 23 lbs. back and I feel just as bad as I did 40 lbs heavier.

I wanted to start exercising again for all the usual reasons; but when I took the before photos ('cause, you know - that's what you do), I was sickened. I do not have this mental image of myself looking like this. I don't know what it really is, but not this. Anyway.

This is all the "before" information from Monday:
  • Weight: 143 lbs.
  • Height: 5' 8"
  • Neck: 16"
  • Chest: 45"
  • Waist: 46"
  • L. Thigh: 27"
  • R. Thigh: 27"
  • L. Bicep: 15-1/4"
  • R. Bicep: 15-3/8"
If you really want to subject yourself to the horror of the before photos, they're here. (I'd wait until I have something to compare them to. They're pretty bad).

Monday, April 12, 2010


I've been remiss in my manly duties of late.

I often carry cash in my pocket, but it is seldom that I can afford to spend it. I've usually looked out for myself, rather than those around me, be they women, friends or strangers. I can cook eggs, which is something; but I don't eat them, so there's that. I have all but given up on the television, but I don't really make things any more.

I want to make a bookshelf (and I want to put a secret door in it), but I've never made a rock wall or a table or tuition money. I've never rebuilt an engine or a watch. I've never had a fortune that needed rebuilding either.

There's no one looking for my kind of expertise. I've squandered my know-how, and so it will not survive my passing. So I am no longer immortal.

But I can speak to dogs, and there is kung-fu living deep inside me somewhere. I know how to sneak a look at cleavage, and I don't really care if I get busted every once in awhile. I can be good at my job - though I often am not. I go to work but have no avocation, I rarely pay more than lip service to my hobby, and I have no real career. I'm very good getting a new job if I don't like this one. Too good, I think.

I have learned to look you up and down and figure some things out. Before you say a word, I made you. Suitcase, watch, posture. I infer.

A man owns up. This is why Mark McGwire is not a man. And neither am I. I hate this. I often fail to grasp my mistakes and I seldom lay claim to who I am and what I was when I do not like them. Too often I assume no one has noticed my mistakes and I let them pass.

I love the human body. The revelation of nakedness. The sight of the pale breast, the physics of the human skeleton, the alternating current of flesh. I am thrilled by the snatch, the wrist, the sight of a bare shoulder. I like the crease of a bent knee. I often feel that thrum that only a man can feel - but I seldom act on it.

I seldom do the dishes, though I look out for children. They stand behind me. And I do know how to bust balls.

I have had liquor enough in my life that I no longer need sound breathless, clueless, or obtuse when I order a drink. I don't need to think. I order Scotch or something on tap.

Never the Sauvignon Blanc.

I shy from the coming of age, though it should free me. I shied away from the upper hand and I fear now I won't know when to step aside.

Maybe I never will, but I figure I could knock someone, somehwere on their ass if I had to.

I often rely on rationalizations or explanations, winnowing winnowing winnowing until the truth is humbly categorized, intellectualized, written off with an explanation. I am lost in the great sweeping maw of humanity. It's what makes me a liberal - but not a very good one.

I do get the door without thinking. And I have stopped traffic when I needed to.

I question belief and while I don't embrace ambiguity, I accept it. I revisit my beliefs frequently. This is why I am a conservative - though not a very good one.

I don't know much about tools, though I know all too well how to lose an afternoon drinking, playing Grand Theft Auto, driving around aimlessly or shooting pool. God I miss pool.

I could lose a month too.

I don't listen very well, which means I don't argue very well. I spit opinion, and I hate that.

I love being alone, actually. I sleep.

I no longer stand watch though. I have not interrupted trouble in some time. I am no longer a state policeman or a poet, when I should be both of them.

I do loving driving alone, however.

I had style a decade ago. Now I feel contrived, with no set rules.

I understand the basic mechanics of the planet, but I cannot look up at the sun with squinted eye and tell you the time of day. I can no longer readily discern north, where to find food or where fish run. I understand electricity better than most, but the internal combustion engine is a mystery to me. The mechanics of flight make sense, but a pitcher's ERA is like Greek to me.

I don't know everything, but I too often try. I feel threatened by what other men know.

I can tell you I was wrong. I did wrong, and that I planned to. But I avoid the conversation at all cost. I apologize too readily, just to put an end to bickering.

I do not wither at the thought of dancing, but I avoid it.

I watch. Standing on a street corner watching stuff. Considering. But someone had to teach me this - to be quiet, to cipher, to watch. To be like a zoo animal, captive and free. But too often, I think you know what I'm thinking, or who you think I am, or what I may do next.

This is personalized, but nonetheless plagiarized blatantly from Esquire Magazine's "What is a Man."

Saturday, April 10, 2010

10 Paper Cranes: Goalsetting

An old Japanese legend tells us that someone who folds 1,000 origami cranes will be granted a wish by a crane (one of the holy creatures). 1,000 cranes are hung in your home for luck and prosperity, they are given to newlyweds for 1,000 years of happiness. Here's my Thousand Paper Cranes - a physical manifestation of the time-limit I've placed on my short-term goals.

Thousand Paper Cranes updates Saturday. These first couple of posts are probably going to be a rehash of posts I've made in the past. I've known for years what I want out of life, I just haven't always known why I wanted or how I planned to go about getting.

Here are three sets of unreasonable goals, why I want to attain them and something I'm doing today to get them started.
  • Write A Novel. I know I can do this because I've done it once, because it's the reason I'm here. Writing and telling stories is what I'm all about, and when I finish this goal this year, I'll be more fulfilled, more engaged in my chosen life-plan, happier, and probably more interesting - more dedicated to writing, to being published, to becoming a professional novelist. Just going to write 2,000 words before bed.
  • Be fit, get back down to a 32" waist. I'm treating these two goals as one, because I want to be fit and healthy and sexy all at once. If I get my waist down (and my muscles up), I think I can be. I'm totally committed to being in the best physical shape that I can possibly attain, and I know I can do it because I know how far I've come already. I have the tools and the desire to stop being the fat guy - physically and in my head. I am about to knock your fucking socks off by how goddamn fit I'm going to end up this year. Going to clean my room so that I have room to work out.
  • Quit my job, make a living selling jewelry for Mom. Here's another two that tie together. I know mom has the stock that will sell and is worth enough, and I know I only want to make 20K a year doing this so I know it is possible. I have the determination because I'm so excited right now about not working in this or any other bullshit monkey job. I just cannot stand another week of this shit, let alone a year, so I am totally and irrevocably set on this course. I will quit my job and find an alternate source of income (Mom's jewelry, writing, gaming, drawing, the internet - whatever). I am just going to make it happen. Period. Going to call mom and get her to put together what I need once I get the ball rolling, going to get my paypal straight and sign up with eBay.
  • iPhone. iPhone is my word for smart-phone, because it's the touch-screen multi-purpose smart-phone I know; and I bloody hell want one. I am so sick of not having such a cool device. My life could benefit from the versatility and it would just be so fucking awesome to finally have something like this that I set out to own. It would help considerably to cut the tether I've attached myself to. I just... I could keep up with my internets, keep notes for writing, take pictures - three things I most want to do next to drawing, and I could get an iPad for that. Due for an upgrade. Gonna find out (when I call mom) what I'll have to pay once I get one.
  • Motorcycle. I want a motorcycle because I want a fucking motorcycle. Probably the least expensive bike I can find - used or one of those knock-off scooters from Solano, maybe. It'll mean getting my motorcycle endorsement when I get my new license, but so what? I want one because I'm sick to death of having to ride my bike everywhere, of begging for a ride or THROWING MY FUCKING MONEY AWAY ON TAXIS, and I really don't need a car yet. I want a motorcycle because they're cool. They're fun. I just want one, okay? Gonna look around online to see what I'm gonna have to pay.
  • A House. In St. Augustine. This is the most unreasonable goal I've had. I want to own a house in St. Augustine, Florida because it will give me the - what? The appearance of having a solid foundation from which to do all the crazy shit I want to do. Write for a living, draw comics, sell stuff online - all the crazy stuff no one I know seems to think will sustain me - all while traveling the world and just being the general goof-off I'm supposed to be. It'd make people more likely to accept my lifestyle if they know I own my own home. Plus - I'm so tired of feeling like a transient. Gonna start shopping online and probably look at low-income housing and whatnot.
  • 1-Year Financial Goals: Within the next year, I expect to be making $2,000 a month, be paying into a retirement plan of some sort, and have complete medical/dental insurance coverage (including optical). I'm so sick of worrying about whether my next paycheck is going to cover the rent, or whether or not I can buy something to eat because I've got to pay the electric bill, and sad as it seems - $2,000 a month is more than twice what I'm making now and that would be plenty. I'd be so fucking happy making 2K a month I'd shit. It would let me set money aside for retirement, for large purchases and I could afford (finally) full medical coverage, which means I could get my teeth fixed, get new glasses and contacts, and maybe go to a damn doctor every now and again. I'd be so fucking happy I just can't express how much I want this. I have to have this. It's mostly taken care of in the above goals; but I also need to find out what an IRA is, and look at my other options for investment. My current job offers insurance, but since my plan is to be out of there before the end of the year, I need to shop around.
These are the Nine (there are three in the 1-Year finances) most important 1-Year or less goals I've got on my lists. Here are the rest if you're interested:
Write another novel, go vegan again, be on time, Smart Car, speak fluent German, Drawing Studio, Painting Studio, Go to a movie a week (movie-night), speak fluent French, Play the guitar, Start Painting again, Publish a web comic, New Drawing Table, speak fluent Japanese, Write the homeward bound novel, iPad, find love, An Aptera, Finish and Publish Rotworld comic, add some new friends to my life, Ink a comic, get my teeth fixed, go to a Tony Robbins seminar, Pencil a comic, A Car, A Porsche, Travel around the world, A Home in Nevada, become a NYT Bestselling author, A Home in Germany, be clean, Vacation in Egypt, get published, keep my room clean, read 2-dozen books a year, be nicer to people, live in the now, be more fun, workout every day, no more sodas, fold 1,000 paper cranes, swim more, visit Nepal, visit Australia, Live in New Zealand, visit the Louvre, Speak fluent Kiswahili, be someone's hero, Secret Door Bookshelf, New computer desk, new computer, 3D Printer, Sword collection, garden, electric guitar & amp, New laptop, $5,000 a month, give at least $1,000 a year to charity, $100,000 a year, set aside $1,000 a month for all children, nephews and nieces for college, $1,000,000, Never want for money, $10,000,000, Never retire but never need to keep working.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Free Fiction Friday: A Long Time Coming

This was originally part 1 of a longer story; but ended up being the inspiration for Rotworld. I posted it on a writer's site that has since collapsed, but I don't know if I've made it more widely available. I think I spent too many words telling you about it instead of showing you, and I'm not sure about the ending, but what do you want?

The road out of Montgomery is just like every road; Reggie's bike handles it easily enough. Like all the other roads, all the other cities, all the other people, all dead.

He brushes his dusty hand along his windswept hairline. It's only been three months, but his locs are already starting to come together. He doesn't even bother using the hair pick now, just twists his hair at night and brushes it back with his hands in the morning.

Even just sitting on his motorbike, a Chinese 250cc Touring cycle that belonged to his brother, he appears dejected, beaten. All of the hope has gone out of Reginald Romero. If it wasn't for the Geeks he'd just go back home.

He can't bring himself to use the “Z-word.” It's too fantastic. Too fucking scary. Instead, he calls them “Geeks.” It comes from an old horror comic he used to read back in Maryland, sitting on his best friend's front porch. Deadworld, or something. Seemed appropriate.

They weren't zombies, anyway. Not really. Oh, they looked like zombies; and it took a lot to bring down a Geek. A hell of a lot. A good solid blow to the skull could do it; but you usually had to follow that up with another – to really fuck up the brain matter. Bullets through the brain worked too, if they hit right and splattered out the other side. And just beating the snot out of them worked too, if you were brutal enough. No still-living severed hands crawling across the floor, no headless monsters. At least that was something.

Geeks were hungry; and they ate anything that moved. They were stupid and mindless and if they saw food they attacked it. Which pretty much meant they attacked anything that wasn't a Geek.

The third night after it happened, Reggie cried himself to sleep in the abandoned house he'd sheltered in. He'd been out scavenging for food in a Safeway in Silver Spring; and he'd had to fight off a couple of Geeks that surprised him in the parking lot. One of the ugly bastards bit him.

He'd stuck a pistol in his mouth a dozen times or more that night. He was suffering from hot flashes, vomiting, and the worst pain he'd ever imagined stretching from his gut all the way up to his shoulder, where the Geek's teeth had ripped out a chunk of flesh.

He knew he was done. He was going to wake up a mindless zomb-

But he didn't. And dwelling on it wasn't going to get him anywhere. For whatever reason, Reggie had taken the hit and pulled through. The sickness stayed with him for weeks. Before it was over, the pain had spread to every muscle and nerve in his body. He'd lost a couple dozen pounds and any desire to stay in D.C.

He made a tour of surplus stores and pawn shops, stocking up on anything he could load onto his brother's motorcycle. He took the bike because it got such great gas mileage, and he had a long way to go. He planned on taking the highway south along the coast, then follow the southern border to California.

He spent a couple days in every town and truck stop and bullshit little tourist trap he came across – restocking ammo and supplies; and looking for another survivor. Any other survivor. How the hell could he be the only one left? He'd been so desperate, that he was taking longer and longer to search through each town. Now he was just sick.

Every five or ten minutes, his thoughts came back to it. He was alone. There was no one left in the world; and if there was – they were probably in Africa or China or some shit. Even if there were a whole bunch of people, he was going to die here alone. Probably at the hands of a god-damned Geek.

H already knew he couldn't off himself. Even when he'd thought he was going to end up a brainless, half-starved walking corpse.

“Fuck it,” he said to the world, “fuck you all!”

He held his head up, gave the throttle a little twist and stretched his legs out on the highway pegs. With no working radio (it'd been damaged during the fight of his life at some bullshit tourist trap called “South of the Border”), he started singing back the loneliness.

“I was born by the river in a little tent
and just like the river I've been running ever since.
It's been a long, a long time coming
but I know a change gonna come, oh yes it will.”

It was an old Sam Cooke song his mom used to sing to herself. All of the sudden, it just popped into his head.

“It's been too hard living but I'm afraid to die
'Cause I don't know what's up there beyond the sky.
It's been a long, a long time coming
But I know a change is gonna come, oh yes it will.”

He stops the bike and pulls off the road. He stands the Fujian Sanli on its kickstand and leans against the seat. He wears a pair of Metal Storm 9mm caseless FBI guns slung low on his hips like six-shooters. He picked them up at the Quantico Marine Corps Base in Virginia. The same place he'd found the two 10mm Glocks he kept in a double holster in the small of his back. The Metal Storm guns were amazing. He can put three bullets into a Geek's skull before the recoil even kicks up; and each clip holds 24 bullets. They were a pain in the ass to restock; but worth it once he'd learned how.

On the left side of his gas tank, a shotgun was mounted in a long holster, like in the old west. Right next to it is a katana he'd taken from a military base in D.C. Across the backseat – along with his bedroll, was a Remington 7400 deer rifle. In a make-shift sling by the saddlebags hung a hunting bow and 27 arrows.

He'd taken them so that he wouldn't be wasting bullets on food.

This was before he realized that there were Geek animals; and before his ego let him accept that he was a lousy shot. He was getting better though. He'd managed to kill a couple of squirrels and a rabbit; and just outside of Savannah, Georgia, he shot a deer. It ran off, but he'd hit it.

Reggie had a knife stuck in each one of the hiking boots he'd picked up after his Ponies got trashed in a fight. An 8-foot hose was coiled up and tied to the bike opposite the hunting bow. In a gas tank bag, he's got a Bowie knife supposedly carried by David Bowie himself. He picked that up at the Smithsonian, along with his sunglasses (which once belonged to Ray Charles), a great big, blue diamond (in the saddlebags), and the ivory armband he wars under his leather jacket (a 16th century piece from Nigeria).

Even before he'd picked them up, he knew he wasn't very good with any of the weapons. Now though – four states from home – he figured he must not be as bad as he'd thought; and he was definitely the luckiest motherfucker ever.

He'd tangled with so many Geeks now, he couldn't remember them all. And he was standing while they were all brain-dead. He took a deep drink from his canteen.

But it was just dumb luck. Dumb luck and whatever tiny bit of skill he'd managed to develop in the last few months. In Maryland, his Mom had taken him to church every Sunday of his life. He'd always believed in God and Heaven and Jesus and the Holy Ghost. Only... None of that mattered when you were face to face with a fucking Geek.

He was holding one of the Glocks now. Checking the clip, flipping the safety, cocking and releasing, cocking and releasing. It brought him comfort. No rapture, not trumpets. If this wasn't the end of the world, then why wasn't it in the Bible? If it was, how the hell was he the only one left standing?

Did God forget about him? No. That was stupid. And there was no way he was the only one righteous enough to stay out of hell. He sure as hell wasn't the only motherfucker who didn't believe enough in Jesus.

Well. He might be the only one now.

He laughed. It was pitiful though; and he put it away with a scowl, slamming the clip back in place.

This was his God now. His Savior.

No. To hell with that. He was his own savior now. He was a fighter, a survivor. In the last
months, he'd done things he'd never thought possible after living his life relying on god. Please give me this, please give me that, oh god please don't let Deschelle be pregnant, please please please. Now he struggled every day just to keep breathing. He crapped in the woods and hunted and killed his own dinner (when he was lucky enough to hit with his bow).

Now he prayed to himself, “C'mon Reggie, don't miss.”

“Oh shit, Reggie, kill this motherfucker, fast.”

“Keep your eyes peeled, Reggie. It's getting late.”

It saddened him that there was no god. Just another casualty of June 16th. God was either dead or he was a Geek. Running around heaven biting the heads off all the angels.

Now he laughed hard. It was still nervous, but it came easier. He smiled and mounted his bike again.

“It's been too hard living but I'm afraid to die
'Cause I don't know what's up there beyond the sky.
It's been a long, a long time coming
But I know a change is gonna come, oh yes it will.”

“I go to the movie and I go downtown
somebody keep telling me don't hang around.
It's been a long, a long time coming.”

Reggie's voice was strong and clear, even over the rumble of his Chinese motorcycle. It didn't seem to fit, coming out of this dirty road-warrior, armed to the teeth and carrying his life in his saddle bags; but Reggie had been a good singer. His Mom had wanted him to try out for American Idol when they came through. No chance of that now. He kept singing though. The song gave him courage. Filled him with strength.

“But I know a change gonna come, oh yes it will.”

“Then I go to my brother
And I say brother help me please
But he winds up knocking me
Back down on my knees,”


Reggie's brother is dead now too – the only one of his family (that he knew about) who turned into a Geek. Reggie had to beat his older brother's head in with the baseball bat Ron gave him on his 14th birthday. All the rest just got the rot and died. Reggie rubbed at his shoulder.

Underneath his leather and the layers of shirts, the skin of his right shoulder was scarred and misshapen.

When it got infected, he'd thought he was going to end up with the rot. Like the lepers in the jokes and the old movies (and nothing like real leprosy) – people just fell apart. Reggie's own girl, Deschelle died of the rot on the 16th, along with everyone else. They went to bed and everything was fine; maybe she had a little headache or a stomach virus, but that was it.

When he woke up she was dead. And she looked like she'd been that way for weeks. The skin on her face was -

No. Bad thoughts. Reggie wasn't ready to deal with that. He pushed it down and sang instead.

“There been times that I thought I couldn't last for long
But now I think I'm able to carry on
It's been a long, a long time coming
But I know a change gonna come, oh yes it will.”

Reggie camped in the woods near the roads. Geeks were too stupid to drive; and if Reggie was smart enough to drive on stolen gas, maybe others were too. Maybe he'd wake up to the sound of a passing car. Plus, Geeks didn't much seem to be bothering with roads. They went were the food went, so there was always a chance that he'd run into trouble; but Reggie felt reasonably safe by the roadside.

When he camped, he slept in the sleeping bag he kept strapped to the back seat of his bike. And from one of his saddle bags, he withdrew a couple dozen bells and a spool of twine. He strung this around him in about a 20-foot radius, so that touching the string rattled the bells and (hopefully) woke him up to defend himself.

He hadn't put this to the test yet, but his sleep was light these days, nervous. And he was certain that even the slightest tinkle would snap him to attention. He spent a half-hour or so setting it up every night, and taking it down again in the morning.

After another week of traveling and searching, Reggie found himself in Mobile. He'd found an iPod with a full charge in Greenville; but it was all Country & Western, so he packed it away, just in case he'd find some power and a computer to put some real tunes on it.

In a pawn shop in Mobile, stocking up on ammunition and looking for a CD player and some CDs; he found a big, black cowboy hat made of leather with a white-gold buckle for a hat band. He couldn't help himself, so he snagged it, pushing it down over his locs. It was tight; but he figured that was perfect. Maybe it'd stay on his head while he rode. He went ahead and took a Rolex out of the jewelry case, as well. Why not?

Mobile was almost completely free of Geeks; and he found a generator that ran on gas in one of the nicer hotels. He spent two weeks there, before heading west on 1-10.

In Mississippi, Reggie found himself off the interstate and driving through the wilderness one morning on 110 Crop Unit Road; when he found a dirt road leading back into the woods.

“This is where you get lynched boy,” he said to himself in his worst southern accent. But his curiosity had him by the scruff and he turned onto the unpaved trail.

It wound back about a quarter-mile and ended in some kind of idyllic, Mississippi swamp-house. Everything Reggie had ever thought about the South, about Mississippi, about Rednecks. It was all written right there in the dirty, single-story house with the run-down porch screens, the auto parts in the front yard. Empty dog pens lined the left edge of the yard. Reggie expected they weren't really empty; but that he just couldn't see the carnage from here. He didn't want to see it; but he dismounted and walked closer.

“Holy shit!” Reggie screamed, kicking his legs straight out behind him and falling flat on the ground as the echoing retort of a large caliber rifle sounded from somewhere near the house. He scrambled for his pistols, and shouted louder, “Holy Shit!”

He was almost sure he could hear the reloading and cocking of the rifle in the distance.

“Hey,” Reggie screamed again, “Hey! Holy Shit! Are you fucking human?”

Silence from the house. For a half a moment, Reggie was sure he'd imagined it all.

“Who 'dat 'dere?” The accent was thick and cumbersome, almost comical. “Ya'll cain't fool me, ya' dirty zombies!” The rifle fired again, but over Reggie's head. He could see the man now, leaning out from behind a shed in the backyard. He was clutching the rifle. “Ya won't take me alive!”

Just great, Reggie thought, gripping the pistols tightly. “Zombies don't talk, man!” The word felt dirty in his mouth. It actually made his stomach turn when he said it. He thought of the Louisville Slugger slamming into Ron's -

Son of a Bitch. “Look, dammit – I'm not a fucking Zombie!”

More silence from the house, then Reggie added, “can I please stand up and not get shot?”

The redneck came walking around the house with his rifle held half-way at the ready. He was shirtless, in a pair of over-alls. A caricature of the South. “Well, come on 'den. Les' get a look 'atcha.”

Reggie picked himself up out of the dirt and holstered his pistols. His hat had come off and he replaced it on top of his head. He brushed himself off and then looked up at the approaching man. The redneck had a sly grin on his face that wasn't easy to read.

“Don't dat jes' beat all,” he said, “months and months without a human soul in sight; zombies in town tryin' ta eatcher brains; and now I gots me a negger cowboay come a callin'.”

Reggie didn't react to the racial slur, but neither did his hands stray more than 6 or 8 inches from his holstered guns. “I can't believe you're alive,” he said.

“Yeah,” the redneck drawled. His rifle was relaxed now. He seemed to be looking Reggie over, sizing him up. “Well, you come a long way then, boy?”

Reggie squinted against the morning sun, “D.C.”

“Yankee negger,” the redneck half-asked. “Guess beggers cain't be choosers,” he stuck out his right hand, “M' name's Cleve.”

Reggie shook his head and took Cleve's hand, “I'm Reggie.”

Cleve turned away and indicated the house. “Reckon yer' hungry. I gots a couple a' chickens ain't turned. Doan' wanna eat 'em; but I gots eggs. Slaughtered the pig last Tuesdee. Got goat milk and some beer. Beer ain't real cold; but's Busch, so it's good.”

Reggie chuckled. “Thanks a lot, man.”

Cleve started toward the house. “I swear to God. If my daddy knew I's about to have a negger over for breakfast...”

“Yeah,” Reggie replied, “ain't that a bitch?”

Reggie and Cleve ate breakfast together, recounting their stories since the world turned to shit and everybody died. Afterward, they wandered out back to a little stream where Cleve had a couple dozen bottles of beer tied together in the water, along with a handful of Tupperware bowls and jars of something Reggie couldn't recognize.

Cleve fetched up two bottles and handed one off to Reggie.

“Here's to yer, Reggie,” Cleve toasted.

“And to you, Cleve.” Reggie touched the neck of his bottle to Cleve's then took a big swig. He almost spit it again when Cleve finished up with “Happy Halloween.”

The two men spent Halloween reclining beside Cleve's fireplace. At first, Reggie was uncomfortable just sitting in silence; but he glanced across the room at the redneck who was staring off into space, scratching his chin in thought. If my daddy knew... he'd said. Reggie smiled, then went back to watching the fire. He didn't want to be staring at the man. He was just grateful he wasn't alone.

The next morning, he gave Cleve the iPod and showed him how to use it. Cleve tried to turn it down; but Reggie told him it was a gift, in return for his hospitality. Adding that he didn't like country music anyway.

They ate another big breakfast, then Cleve suggested they should walk into town and “hunt up” some supplies.

Reggie stayed with Cleve for a little more than a month. He tried to convince the redneck to come along with him. Offered to teach him to ride a motorcycle, filled him with tales of life on the road – the possibility of other survivors. Cleve would have none of it. This was his home, had been his family's home for generations.

In the end, Reggie decided it was enough just knowing that there was someone else. Even if it was a backwards redneck in a Mississippi swamp. They shook hands, and Reggie rode on out of Mississippi. He found himself singing an old Roy Rogers cowboy song, “Happy Trails.”

New Art Thursday: Ambush! (Unfinished)

Ambush! It's a scene from the Rotworld script I've been working on for about a week (split up over the past year or two). Unfinished Ink over scanned pencils. It is entirely probable that this pic will be WAY too dark. We'll see.

Friday, April 2, 2010

New Art Thursday: Beastlands of Pluto

I think it's going to have "Beastlands of Pluto" across the top (and maybe "a Six-Gun Davey Grant Adventure," with "An Electroverse Tale" at the bottom. It'll also be in color. Hopefully a little easier to make out the details.

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