Thomas Novosel

blog for art, writing, and games

Chaos Bandits

One thing that rulers fear is a revolt, the exposure of their corruptions, and the mounting evidence of tyranny. What causes hopes to get high in the final days before the whole thing comes crumbling down? What stalls the collapse of empires? Rulers who take advantage of their power. Who make rituals and preparations to summon Chaos Bandits. They gut gangs, ruffians, and the desperate so that faceless creatures with multidimensional sight can wrestle their way out of the viscera.

Picture of a Chaos Bandit named Glamour.

Chaos Bandits are constructs inhabited by chaos voids. When they walk, bustle and move throughout an area, any who come in contact or near them lose their understanding of chaos. The idea of actions being harmful, that action can change the world or their situation is gone. It cannot be even fathomed. What it leaves behind is a population that is tamed, calmed, and soothed into a state of positivity and eery contentedness.

If a chaos bandit is encountered, any individual will be hard pressed to take arms against them. Their silence but for their wheezing chest breaths, their eyes which cry at daylight and dart in all directions so they can avoid touching any living soul… All of this would strike someone as disturbing, but it doesn’t. The world is too still and calm in their presence to be disturbing.

Using the Chaos Bandit

The Chaos Bandit as an enemy should be treated as a force that cannot be stopped by entangling with them (due to their aura). To unbind the void to the construct, adventurers will need to find out who summoned them and force them to dismiss the Chaos Bandit. Regardless of where the bandits are, they will be transported to the summoners location and the void will be closed with the summoners life energy. This kills the summoner, and the chaos bandits void will devour both its own body and all of the summoners.

If the Summoner is unwilling to dismiss or unable to be discerned who they are, then the only other option the players will have is to destroy the summoning pool of viscera. Doing so will mean that no more bandits can be spawned.

Fighting a Chaos Bandit

Fighting a chaos bandit requires SAN checks, stability checks, or whichever would be equivalent as trying to fight a Chaos Bandit is distressing. It is a first experience of violence, like stabbing cute animals, it is stressful beyond belief. Even the most bloodthirsty person would be trembling and sobbing during the act.

If they are successful, then the same test should be made after each time damage is successfully made against the bandit.

Chaos Bandit (Stats)

  • Number Appearing: Chaos Bandits are summoned in groupings and move as a unit. Roll 1d6+2 to determine the size of each squad.
  • Hit Points / Health: 1d10+10.
  • No armor (treat as unarmored). Their perception and eyesight is supernaturally excellent.
  • Chaos Bandits carry weapons, each is rough and dull and turns to liquid silver when it leaves their palms. It is a weak and small thing formed of metals from the summoning pools of viscera. Use daggers or whichever damage rules would match this description of lethality.

Special Ability: Confrontation or thoughts of chaos, violence, etc cause those nearby a chaos bandit complete happiness and euphoria to the point of soothing them into submission. Fighting without regard to this aura causes SAN checks, Stress checks, or a SAVE to be able to overcome your inner peace and keep your hand steady enough to fight.

On Death: If a Chaos Bandit is reduced to 0 HP their construct shatters and a new one is formed at the pool of viscera where they were originally summoned.

Value: Chaos Bandits hold a lot of value to rulers who are not the summoner. This is because they can reap the rewards without any of the dangers or costs involved in being associated with Chaos Bandits. A caged chaos bandit can be sold to the right buyer for 5d10 x 100 coins.

Loot: Chaos Bandits carry nothing, their clothes are a part of their body and their weapons are useless without their touch. But there is a 10% chance that each unit/group of Chaos Bandits will have on their person a smooth clear stone the size of a pebble weighing 35 lbs. Candle light shined in its presence is enhanced to fill a room with light so bright that it makes it impossible to see. Wherever the constructs are being summoned from, this may be a clue to where.

Conclusion

This description for the Chaos Bandit came from the art that I drew. The art came from me playing around with making new art brushes in photoshop for drawing with as I experiment with mixing art styles and mediums together. Will this be the last? Probably not! This was just a quick post with an idea, so if you use it for your games or your personal monster manual you’ll want to expand on it a bit.

Until next time, have a goodnight.

The Trespasser (Actual Play)

Hello Readers! This blog post is an actual play of my playthrough of ‘The Trespasser’ which is a solo horror game that can be bought here: https://zarwid.itch.io/trespasser

The way this actual play works is that it is a typed version of all of my notes that I wrote while playing the game, and since I was journaling the whole playthrough it should give a fairly clear idea of the story that took place in my playthrough… enjoy! 🙂

The Actual Play

Moved 3 blocks, roll for encounter: NIGHTFALL APPROACHES!

(This is not good, and I am scared because I only have a 2 matches to avoid the dark)

The shadows slip and expand chasing away the light. The only light left is a glimmer off something on the ground. Genevieve crouches and runs her hand across the surface. Feeling its form. Her heart was thumping in the dark before, now it is thrashing in her head.

She feels the round hollow bauble, the doll hair. Her fingers tremble at the torn fabric at the neck.

Genevieve gasps, she holds her breath as she presses the memento into the dirt. To bury it back where it was. She has no idea how her dolly got here, but she knows that she must go. She has to keep moving…

Genevieve lights a match, it glows and crackles. She moves on and finds daylight over a mossy mound. Shadows lick her heels… They try to hold her back but cower at the light, rolling in the shadows. Turning, she looks forward.

Moved 3 blocks, roll for encounter (rolls a 5).

A circle of mushrooms in a small clearing, on top of a waterlogged patch of dirt. Genevieve can’t remember when she last ate… But they look so strange… Her stomach rumbles, she takes a bite. (+1 Vitage)

Moved 3 blocks, roll for encounter (2).

SNAP! Metal teeth spring up at her ankles. (Flight: rolled a 9)

Moved 3 blocks, roll a 1.

The trees, they’re too thick. They wrap around each other, limbs like barbs… I have to move around them…

Moved 3 blocks, roll a 4.

Nothing around but quiet. Genevieve finally notices her breath, the quiet of it stilling as she can breathe easier. But only for a moment.

Moved 3 blocks. Rolled a 5.

Another circle of mushrooms. Time for another bite, the first one hasn’t harmed me so what can another? I think I can see the edge… But I don’t know how long I will be still… One more bite. (+1 Vitae)

Move to the Clearing!

I run and run and the woods they… a clearing! I made it! The electric lights take me back to the car and I can make it back home. I won’t forget what happened but the exhaustion slams against my chest as soon as I hit the bed. I sleep and rest easier now.

The Trespasser (Review)

After I published my last review, that same night a game designer named Evan shot me a message saying how much they enjoyed my review and wanted to see if I would be interested in reviewing their game ‘The Trespasser‘. I said yes! So here we are! The same rules about how I do reviews apply here as they did on the last.

I really enjoyed this solo game of escaping the woods, and becoming un-lost, and since it was semi a journaling game I will also be including my actual play for those that are interested in what an artifact of play could look like (an artifact being any maps, writing, or used character sheets that emerge from playing a game).

NOTE: The Actual Play will be a second post because it would make this one too long to have it also attached to the end of the post. I will update the end of this post with a link to it once I have it typed out and posted. Thank you!

Link to Actual Play post!

I am lost, the woods….

The Trespasser is a solo game with light journaling elements. You play as The Trespasser, someone who has gone just woken up from a camping trip, the fire is dead and a heavy fog wisps between the trees. The trail back home is gone. The Trespasser is only going to stumble deeper and deeper into the strange and ominous forest before they may find their way out.

The player will have to navigate the forest, rolling for encounters after each time they move across a blank grid map to fill in the squares with details. But beware, nightfall can drop at any moment and the darkness that comes with it is all encompassing and will swallow any poor soul that finds itself where it should not be…

The game took me around 40 minutes to play, and I am waiting to finish writing this review before I play it again. The main moods that you should get from this 17 page PDF is a game of: being alone, wandering, sudden descending darkness, and strange quiet.

The quiet only interrupted by the trespassers heavy breathing, the snaps of rusty bear traps, and… the delicious taste of mushroom rings…

The Scary PDF

When I say the scary PDF, it is a black and white PDF with mood setting art and important prose that explains with short lines what to expect from play as a player, but also as a character.

For example, when I first rolled an encounter, I stumbled upon nightfall immediately and it just AHHH! It felt like I was going to be so unfortunate as to not make it out as soon as I left my campsite. I got this feeling because the prose set the stakes of what Nightfall should feel like and the severity of it approaching. With lines such as “You have a limited number of matches to help you see in the dark… Before the night swallows you whole.” This set up that the only thing that would save me are my matches, and I was unfortunate enough to only have rolled to start with 2. That means that even if I made it through this time, I was still many grid squares away from escape and I was on the edge of my seat hoping that darkness didn’t come for the rest of the trek.

Nightfall engulfs the Trespasser.
It whispers temptations into your mind.
It knows you. It knows what you seek.

The Trespasser (page.13)

If it wasn’t for how the game set up the stakes and tone before starting play, the randomness of encountering nightfall may have took me out of the experience. But the quotes throughout the book, the way it is written sets it up so that you are pulled in further. It felt like I was limited in power, and that added tension.

Playing the Game

To play the game all I had to do was read the rules and then create a character. The font is large and well spaced, so don’t think of these 17 pages as a barrier to play but a gentle ramp that eases you into the warm mud.

Making a character to play as was as simple as a couple dice rolls and writing out a name for my trespasser. The rules for creating a character are around 6 short sentences which both explain what the stats each mean (Vitae, Stamina, Injure, and Matches) and gives the instructions for determining them. You need to make sure you don’t run out of Vitae while escaping the woods. Having a low Stamina will increase the number of encounters that you come up against as it reduces your movement speed and decreases the chances of you being able to flee from any dangers. The game ends with you reaching 0 Vitae, Escaping the Forest by getting all of the way across the map grid, or when the nightfall takes you.

Without spoiling too much of what play is by describing the prompts for writing, or the specific details of what you encounter, I want to give the highlights of my experience playing the game. But let it be known that the prompts for writing happen not too often, so this isn’t a heavy journaling game. It has just enough to keep you writing but not so much that you feel like you are behind on an assignment that keeps you from continuing playing the game-y bits of The Trespasser.

The Highlights

The Trespasser is a light weight experience that held me for the entirety of play. But I have made that clear already in this post, so let me recap the main reasons I would recommend this game as well as what it has taught me as a game designer by reading and playing it. THIS IS WHAT I LIKE!

  1. Spacing out the result lists for encounters, roll results, and writing prompts had me turning pages after rolling the dice leaving me wondering what the result that I got was. Having only a few prompts for writing/journaling, and all of them being at the minimum demanding a word or three in response left it up to me (the player) how much journaling I was comfortable with. It didn’t brow beat me for changing between writing a long paragraph or writing a couple words. This is good design! It means the game can form around my ability to play it. It meant that I felt like the gears didn’t grind even once but flowed effortlessly.
  2. As someone who likes the game-y parts of journaling games and even little microgames, I think the trespasser shows the importance of balance between mechanics. There was just enough that I had to do that I felt like I was in control and knew what I had to do to keep playing. I didn’t once feel like I had to have an overview of play, or a numbered to-do list that I needed to reference in order to find out what to do next. With the document being short and the conceit of the game being focused on leaving the forest it was important for my immersion that flipping through the book enhanced my engagement instead of being apart of becoming re-engaged. It enhanced my engagement because I was only flipping pages when I knew something special or different was happenning. An example (not related to this game) is it is more fun for me to look for the spells result/effects table to figure out what my spell did, than to look for the list of steps for casting the spell itself. One is rewarding to find, the other feels more like a failure on my part for not remembering what to do.
  3. The prompts are good and tinge weird, then as you cascade towards Nightfall become even stranger. Like reality-bending stranger. I appreciate this! I struggle for the balance of having light weirdness, because I always go immediately towards the weirdest metal cover imagery I can think of. But if it is all metal cover art, then does it feel like it is metal cover art when you get there? If everything is? The Trespasser does what I struggle to do, it has it being slightly weird while you walk and then becomes increasingly weirder when nightfall comes. It slaps me across the face and it actually stings because it doesn’t happen every time I roll the dice.

The game itself is pretty and moody inside, but these are my three biggest takeaways about how this game succeeds in design. Congratulations to the people who made this, you have influenced me and how I think about the importance of specific page-turning in a game.

If I could ask for more…

I only have a few things that I would want to see if this game was either expanded upon, or revised to make a new edition of it. None of them are necessary, but they could enhance second and fifth playthroughs.

  1. With how the game plays, I made as straight of a shot to the exit of the map as I could. Having potentially something that I could want or desire to find before leaving the woods could make it so that I do more of a spiral or wander around the grid.
  2. I wasn’t certain of how many mushrooms I could eat when I stumbled upon a circle of them in a tile? It felt like I could only take one, but I am unsure if this is true or not. It may be in the rules and I missed it though, so disregard this comment if I am wrong when you play the game.

As a quick note, because I was having some mixed feelings about including things that I would like to see if a game is revisited or re-released. The points that I make are not deal breakers, or detractions from the experience, they are just something that feels like it would be neat to see. These are not me trying to change the game, but just spouting out things “that would also be cool”. Kind of like whenever Vader comes up in a Star Wars movie, having him do more things is always cool. Is it necessary, no! Would it make me sad if it didn’t change? NO! ITS ALREADY GOOD! Would I turn down more cool Vader force stuff though? No!

I hope that makes sense, I felt like I needed to add this with how I felt writing this section.

The Verdict

If you are looking for a short game to play by yourself that is horror-themed then I would strongly recommend checking out The Trespasser. It doesn’t take long to read, and it doesn’t take long to play.

The rules for playing the game and the actual digital PDF of the game work together to deliver an experience that I will remember. It is probably because of my unlucky first dice roll, but that is definitely not the only reason. The game can be purchased on itch.io for $5.00, so if you like what I have said here, or you are looking for a solo excursion that has creepy folk horror forest vibes then please buy this game and check it out.

I want to see them continue to make stuff, and as a designer myself, I know that the best way to encourage this is by buying their stuff.

https://zarwid.itch.io/trespasser

Link to my post of my actual play playthrough: http://thomas-novosel.com/2021/01/26/the-trespasser-actual-play/

Shortsword (Review)

I don’t normally write reviews for games, but I think this is as close as it will get on here. In a game review I want to describe what I find most interesting and clever, as well as describe what I would use the game for. When I say that I would use a game for X or play it because of X, that is because it fits that nook and cranny for me. There won’t be a number rating, or stars, or be about me talking about what I don’t like. If there is something entirely objectionable, it won’t be made into a blog post. If it is just the type of content that I would warn about, then I will include a content warning section in my post.

I will try to use this methodology going forward for TTRPG (tabletop role-playing game) reviews. Now onto the game…

What is Shortsword?

Shortsword is a rules light rpg system written by Giuliano Roverato that is “inspired by grim TTRPGs of old.” I don’t know what this means or what this is referencing, but it is what is described on the product page. It currently is for sale for $1.00 (the recommended price is $4.99). I think that this game should be sold at the recommended price, but that is because I really like it and would want more. The game is 12 pages (it was exported as spreads, so that is actually 7 pages of PDF), and it really is rules-light as it only took me a few minutes to read and then make a character. I think that you could run most pre-written scenarios for fantasy games easily with no conversion necessary due to the way the rules are written (I will explain more in the highlights section).

RAT-CATCHERS

In this game you play as adventurer’s looking “to do odd jobs in hope of gaining some Ceramic.” It is really easy to roll up a random character (3 dice rolls) and each character rolled is very evocative due to the game designer’s efficient use of language.

For example, here is the character I made:

Polo
Origin: Ogre (spiky + big)
Vocation: Disgraced Noble (spellbook, and bottle of champagne)
Skills: Cat Whispering

The picture of my ogre is drawn by me, the rules PDF has no illustrations within except for the cover art.

Each of those three stats has a d6 table with entries of similar quality. What makes it efficient is that without using many words, I feel like I have a very unique and interesting character from then outset without having to write anything more than this to know how to play my character. Like, I can be interesting because I am a spiky ogre, I was a noble so I am aloof a bit and used magic for some reason. Finally, for some reason, I am really good at hearing and understanding what cats have to say. What does this mean? I don’t know, but it is a bunch of hooks and knobs and levers that I can pull while playing the game without knowledge of the world.

Which, since the worlds setting is in between the tables and lists in the rules, this is a good thing.

The GRIM WORLD

When I say that the setting for this game is between the lists, I mean what the lists infer about the world is enough for me to get a good idea of what it is like to live in the world of Shortsword. Since the game is a rules light throwback to grim setting TTRPGs, I know that this is a dark place with big hats and heavy coats.

I know from the origins list that Ogres, Automata (robots?), and Fishpersons exist in this world. And that being an adventurer in this place means you are without ceramic (money) and could be a Mime, Rat-catcher, or a Tuna Fisherman.

What the game doesn’t have is a setting brief, or a paragraph about the world. But it doesn’t need it, that is what character creations lists and the games rules are for.

I like everything that is here, and I think adding a setting paragraph or a section describing a nebulous city or world is unnecessary with what is already here. Could it be useful for running a game? Probably! Especially if the lists are as tight and well-coordinated as what is already inside. But, I think I could just come up with a grim world of my own fine enough without it.

Highlights

That is the skinny of the game. You may be asking me (Thomas) “what are the game rules??” and I would say. The game is super short and I don’t want to post the whole game that someone worked on and put up for sale in a blog post. My job here, or what I am doing, is describing what I like. Which takes me to the game mechanic-y bits that I like:

  1. The game uses d6 for resolving actions (Tests). Rolling an additional d6 for how well suited your character is to the task. What makes this RAD, is that the same rolls are made in combat as when just doing something. Yeah that is a tight core mechanic, but what makes it genius to me is that the lowest die rolled when acting is how much damage the player’s character takes if they fail.
  2. Because damage is not tied to creatures, and abilities are fiction first (mechanics are flavor, so a dragon breathing fire demands the player roll to avoid, damage is tied to failure etc) this means that all I need to do when converting antagonists/monsters is pick how many wounds they can take before dying. Which the game has a guide for (it’s between 3 and 9). This is why Shortsword would work really well for playing most adventure scenarios written for other systems.
  3. Normally, something that can take a little bit of word count and paper space to describe is initiative and turn order and etc etc. The other golden standout for me is this one line of text in the Combat section: “When it’s important to know who goes first, whoever has the least Armor begins.” That is excellent no-nonsense decision making that I appreciate in rules-light games.
  4. All of the lists in the game. They are all excellent.

Those are the things I would carry forward and learn from this game. I want to write lists as good as these that just fit together like a puzzle. I also envy the cleverness in the damage rules, it just makes this game easier to pick up and run with a prewritten scenario.

If I had more…

This was going to come no matter what. Whenever I look at a game, I always think of what I would want more of. What would I want to see added to flesh out the rules a little more. Based on what I read, I actually only have two things that I would want to see from a revision of what is there (and both are purely selfish desires).

  1. I want a d6 list of Spells for the game. As is it was the only thing that I wanted more of as every other list was tight and succinct. I could grab a spell list from another game or just make up magic as I go, but I kind of wish there was a list of spells as short and evocative as there was for skills, origins, and vocations.
  2. The PDF for the game is in spreads, which means that I can’t print the game as a booklet. If I had a version of the game which has 1 page per PDF page instead of spreads for layout then I could booklet print this game.

That is all I would change or ask for. Both aren’t big things, and with how short the games text is, if I really wanted to I could just come up with my own d6 table of spells and just cut the print outs and scan the pages to assemble a booklet version.

THE VERDICT!

I said before that I don’t want to give stars or thumbs or ratings. If I am reviewing something it is because I find it interesting and worth checking out. That said…

I think this rules light system is EXCELLENT and I would recommend it to anyone looking for a quick to pick up system for playing fantasy rpgs. It is especially good for if you have a system-less or system neutral scenario that you want to run, but that you don’t want to create stat blocks for.

Go check it out here and see how good it is for yourself: https://roll4tarrasque.itch.io/shortsword. If you can, pay the recommended price because it is 100% worth it for the rules that you get.

Nicest Detectives

Nicest Detectives is a low rules ttrpg for playing detectives who are clumsy, have families, and still find a way to succeed (whether that changes the world or not, is open to interpretation). For reference, this game is about detectives like those in The Nice Guys (2016).

You can play detectives from any timeframe, as long as everyone agrees to be in the same timeframe.

To Make Your Detective

Each detective has three stats: Person, Family, and Luck. To create a character, distribute 7 points across these three stats. The max any single stat can be is 6. Having a high Person means you are skilled and have a good vibe to what you do. Having a high Family means that you have good relatives, dependable friends, and resourceful colleagues.

Whenever either Person or Family hit 0 after a roll, raise Luck by 1. Having a 0 in Person or Family means your burnt out or you have stressed your relationships as far as you can until you put some time into them. Gain 1 in the stat you work to improve/repair.

Dice Rolls

There are a few times when players roll dice, here they are:

  • When your detective needs weapons, gear, resources, then they roll d6+Luck+FAM (family).
  • When your detective needs to meet contacts, figure out what a clue means, or shmooze it at a party, then they roll d6+Luck+PER (person).

These are examples of two types of actions where stats are added to the dice roll as modifiers. Even without modifiers, all actions are rolled using this rule…

When a P.I. acts, roll LUCK (d6+luck). P.I.’s always succeed (unless the player doesn’t want to). P.I.’s take the changes to their stats based on their roll result, & pick which tags are used to flavor their actions. The other players will ask questions about how it goes down. The GM will play as anyone met, and describe what happens when things go wrong.

  • On a 7+. +1 to BOTH FAM & PER. Choose flawless or stumble.
  • On a 6. +1 PER. Choose tricky or some say skilled.
  • On a 5. +1 FAM. Choose stealing helped or family’s supportive.
  • On a 4. +1 to ANY STAT. Choose Vices can be virtues, or tactics can be distracting.
  • On a 3. -1 PER. Choose underestimated or ignored.
  • On a 2. -1 FAM. Choose bad at cover ops or got a cousin.
  • On a 1. -1 BOTH. Choose sacrifice or failure.

Max out a Stat

Whenever you max out a stat, something big happens. Something BIG. For luck this means that you skip ahead in the adventure, luck is reduced to 0 when this happens for the detective who triggers the skip in the adventure.

For Person, it means that your image cannot be tarnished, it is perfect in how it is. If anything goes against your character, or something comes up that is out of character, you risk your whole persona falling apart. If it falls apart, then person goes down to 1. Circle it, you can’t roll person until you make a big show about who you really are.

For Family, it means that your family relies on you and you rely completely on them. If something threatens them because of your work and you can’t get there fast enough or comfort them, then they need a break. If this happens, then family goes down to 1. Circle it, you can’t roll family until you do something for them.

New Sessions

Whenever a new session is started, rearrange and redistribute your stats scores using what you currently have on your character sheet. If you do this, the session starts with the player describing an event that occurred between sessions to explain why one of the stats increased or decreased.

Core Design

The core rules of Nicest Detectives is that players succeed. Detectives succeed until the players decide they aren’t succeeding. The drama comes from the mysteries that are being investigated and the people they are up against. Adventures are supposed to be planned as most mysteries would for role-playing games. A mix of antagonists and clues and hints.

When making up a clue, give it some hints to where it leads. These hints can only be gotten when the players find and talk to the person it is linked to. The clues are items and documents. The clues always lead to the answer for the mystery, about who did what and why they did it.

Getting enough clues and making sure that no one is able to pry them from your hands is how you solve the mystery and win the game.

Downswings are Hard Feelin’

This is a personal blog post, that means it is just me talking about talking, and writing using writing. I feel a funk in me the last few days, but also an increase in my appreciation of stillness and quiet air. This comes from my walks outdoors around Burlington and along the lake’s shores.

On the Burlington side there is a walking trail that follows the beach and leads to (surprise) North Beach. This trail is parallel for a bit with train tracks, a fence keeps you from crossing over from the park’s greens to the tracks. This doesn’t stop the eye from seeing what’s painted along the stones wall.

Graffiti that says Caked in big blocky letters, by the trail along Lake Champlain.

Graffiti in different styles and colors are there. Some old and some pretty clean looking. There are some walls along the lake that are also painted, it requires stepping away from the trail and through the old skatepark. Getting close to the rail at the water’s edge. Looking down, the small waves slapped against the steel flat that held the dirt sturdy and straight against the lake’s waters.

The trail leading to the beach is next to the long beach, but higher. A dog and its owner play, throwing to the water and bringing things back. Splashing and kicking up big wet clumps high into the air with each jump and racing step. Whole body dropping back into the chilly water then bouncing right back out and out along the sand.

The leaves obscure their play, bright reds and oranges fluttering by as I keep walking. I move towards the green building out at North Beach that I saw back a bit ago. The views are great. The clouds are nice. The sunlight washing through and over the tops and curling under, but only enough to chase the shadows to the edges of their bottoms. It was a good light that makes you think, and your eyes bounce through their billows.

The beach at the end of the public property was empty. Chairs stacked under a roof, and a car lot without any cars. But there was a tree posing for me near the sand. Just standing tall by itself like it wanted to go swimming in Lake Champlain.

Bars, a railing, and the water. Clouds and a lighthouse nearby.

This is how I walk. But I do it with hums and crashes, massive sounds of waves and wind twisting through the form of music and books blurring through my head. Massiveness and sound blare between my ears and make my eyes flare and spin each way. I listen to audiobooks when I walk. I listen to podcasts. I listen to those and everything behind them as I walk by.

Why would I do this? Because it creates an incredible contrast. Silence is amazing, and peace and calm are great. I can’t do it all the time, but on my walk I unplugged when I made it to North Beach. So I could absorb and soak up the sky and sand whole.

A tree wanting to swim on a cloudy day. Alone on the beach.

This isn’t the only reason that this comes up. Sometimes you blare sound when you hit a slump (don’t be worried, I am good and okay).

When I talk about a slump, I don’t mean a rut or depression in the sense that I usually have either of those. I am just talking about having a funky week where work is a little harder. Where you need to sleep because a migraine pops up, and it isn’t an interruption, the migraine is a logical next step in the weeks agenda.

This isn’t bad. It just happens sometimes when you’re working hard and need a break longer than two days long at the end of the week. This means that I had to take a lighter week when it came to homework, which my good grades allowed to happen. Only because I worked so hard to keep good grades meant that I got to have a week where I could breathe a bit and tend my guts being so sensitive.

My desk while finishing up this blog post. Books nearby, drafts of stories on a pile, and a notepad ready for note taking and idea springing.

I just hope that people with similar feelings on week nine of classes have the ability to slow down a bit and let their funk air out. I understand the frustration of being overwhelmed and stressed to the point of anxiety attacks (last semester gave me that). When that happened I had the benefit of seeing a doctor, getting medicated, and having the support system that makes it possible to take a multiple week-long rest. With a month until residents head back home from campus, and a little longer until winter break, I hope that everyone makes it their successfully. I hope they make it there and get the rest they deserve for all of the work they have put in this Fall.

What does resting mean? It is different for everyone. I like a mix of creative short projects and sleeping. This includes enjoying movies in marathons and reading stacks of books while taking in the outdoors. Doing the work of refuelling my brain creatively, and giving myself the time with my partner and quiet without any work to untwist my heart and shoulders. Sometimes I do these in different weird percentages. The summary is that it is different for everyone, and it can be different every time you find yourself in it and needing to get out.

That is what comes before upswings!

Eating Houses (flash fiction)

This story is about houses that sit on the sides of rural highways, the ones that are surrounded and overgrown in greens. You probably have passed by one if you are from rural areas, or have driven through farm country.

This story was written out in pencil in a small Moleskine notebook the other night, and the photo attached was taken at the end of last summer while I was driving through upstate New York. Enjoy this slice of horror, have fun.

Eating Houses

Trees hide broken and lost places. Tall grass aides and abets the forgottoning (to purposely work to forget). With each wave of bushes grown, of prickers spread, of mudholes birthed, the old house recedes further and further from view.

It is first pulled back from the highway (a rural road that many use). Then the weeds poke holes up and through the driveway’s pavement. Breaking the lifeline that keeps the derelict ship connected to civilization.

When the wind blows, the grass rolls in waves against the house. Pushing it towards the tree line. Loose boards and rotten shingles break free and sink into the ground. At each inch they relent, pausing long enough for birds to stake generational claims to the rafters within. The birds will eventually scatter though. They will break out the remnants of broken glass from the windows.

This is how you can tell that the earth is pushing again.

Even if a wall falls, or the roof caves in under the pressure of each blow. The fields will not relent until the forest is fed. The woods hunger for fading memories and lost homes.

The last meal is almost all gone now… All that remains is the fallen stone chimney, and even that will be sunken into the woods dirt belly soon. Maybe a hunter will see the chimney though? See it before it is all gone?

It won’t matter though. It doesn’t ever matter, because human eyes don’t pause for long.

Muddy water will suck those crumbs down between glances. Old cabins will go down, the meals made by people for old woods are soft and simple in construction. Structures that are quickly left behind, or visited so little that woods can lick it down until it is green and soft with moss and red rot.

The woods will be fed though. Someone always has done the work and someone always will. If the grassy fields are purged and burned, then the behemoth will seduce the worship of another. And it may even demand even more of their hands and willpower.

The green is all, and the green is forever, as long as there is green it will hunger. Its endless corridors will beckon the down, the weak, and will always find the willing.

Photo of a steel roof poking through a line of pine trees and overgrown grass.
Taken with my phone on a drive through rural upstate New York.

Reading #2: Stephen Graham Jones nails it again

This is the second post that I am doing for 2020 in this reading series. I told myself that I should post often enough in this series that my reading list isn’t incredibly long (I did not do this). So here we are as I look at my Goodreads reading challenge for the year (I should have posted an update sooner, dear god).

The plus side of reporting on this now is that I have accomplished my reading goal for the year! I have read at least 25 books this year! In fact, I have read more than that and am now at 42 books. I plan on reading more this year still, as I have a stack of books on my shelf in my dorm at Champlain College that are pleading to me to read them.

The common theme in this update is that I read more horror and also sci-fi. I finally finished reading “If on a winter’s night a traveller” by Italo Calvino and loved it. I also read Stephen Graham Jones latest book “The Only Good Indians” and it was terrifying and wonderful and if anyone needed an idea of a gift to get me it would be a copy of that and his other, Mongrels. Plus I read The Fifth Season (which had been sitting in my queue for a while now) and I even read Roadside Picnic which inspired one of my favourite movies Stalker (directed by Andrei Tarkovsky).

Anyways, before I give a handful of mini-not-really-reviews let me share what I have read since the last time I posted.

What I read…

Going forward I will be using asterisks* to identify which books are ones that when they are listed here are books that I have already read before.

  • Roadside Picnic by Arkady Strugatsky and Boris Strugatsky
  • A Head Full of Ghosts by Paul Tremblay
  • Total Recall by Phillip K. Dick
  • The Only Good Indians by Stephen Graham Jones
  • Timequake by Kurt Vonnegut Jr.
  • A Maze of Death by Phillip K. Dick
  • Beowulf by Unknown
  • God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater by Kurt Vonnegut Jr.
  • Strange Weather by Joe Hill
  • If on a Winter’s Night a Traveler by Italo Calvino
  • Full Dark, No Stars by Stephen King
  • Redwall (graphic novel) by Brian Jacques
  • The Last Final Girl by Stephen Graham Jones
  • The Fifth Season by N.K. Jemisin
  • 100 Word Horrors Part 2 by Kevin J. Kennedy
  • Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark by Alvin Schwartz
  • Lock In by John Scalzi
  • Unlocked by John Scalzi
  • The Last Policeman* by Ben H. Winters
  • The Crying of Lot 49 by Thomas Pynchon
  • Of Roses and Kings by Melissa Marr
  • The War of the Worlds by H.G. Wells
  • 100 Words Horrors 3 by Kevin J. Kennedy

Since I will always be tried for space in these posts and I can’t write and recommend everything that I read (nor would I) I will be posting reviews for just a handful of the things in this list. Here is the shortlist of things here that I would recommend though:

The Fifth Season by N.K. Jemisin is an excellent science fantasy novel and the first book in a trilogy. It also has a polyamorous relationship in the book that I found incredibly sweet. The powers (that act like magic, but are not magic) are magnificent and awe-inspiring in the scope of imagination and in the scale of their power to change the world. If you want to read a review, I would recommend checking out what is on YouTube or this review on npr.

If on a winter’s night a traveller by Italo Calvino was good and a fanciful and pretty whimsical story about people just trying to finish reading a book. Its format is that it tells segments of other novels in every other chapter while following the main plot as a framing device in the other chapters where a character keeps finding just segments of interesting books. If I were to recommend either Invisible Cities or this book as a starter to Italo Calvino, I think I would actually recommend this one as it has more story to bite into, whereas Invisible Cities is more prose with a loose framing device. My only major warning here is that it has women characters that seem to be there at times only to be viewed by the POV (point-of-view) character (who is a man) so there is some objectification, but if I am remembering correctly (a month or two later) it isn’t the worst or incredibly egregious.

If you want more or a better description of the book, check out this review by Mary McCarthy posted over on Literary Hub.

And now, let me get into my full (full is a word) reviews on the two books that are sticking around in my head the most at the moment.

Roadside Picnic

Roadside Picnic by Arkady Strugatsky and Boris Strugatsky is (as I often hear) considered a masterwork of sci-fi. Whenever I hear it named, I hear it only in the most positive light. My interest was only increased after I watched the movie STALKER (directed by Andrei Tarkovsky), a bleak apocalypse in lush overgrown ruins. The book is similar in tone, but different in plot. For one, there are literal zombie people in the book. But also the ‘zone,’ which is the place of hidden dangers is explained further as being the landing site of an alien encounter, and the book takes place at multiple points of time in the titular character’s life (the Stalker). I don’t want to spoil the book, but if you like games like STALKER, the Metro franchise, or the movie STALKER (or even Annihilation). Then I think you would enjoy this book. I won’t leave you without a hook though…

Aliens have visited earth, and then they left leaving behind remnants of their visit like a family stopping on the side of a highway for lunch leaves behind trash. The ‘trash’ that is left behind are wondrous artifacts and deadly traps. Batteries of infinite power can be harvested from the ‘zone’, as long as you don’t get crushed by a gravity trap on your way hunting for one. You would think this technology advances society, and it does, but science has no way to understand the original purpose of any device and they are unable to replicate any of the technology. The power of the devices, and the danger involved in retrieving them has made trespassing into the zones illegal and punishable by long prison sentences. But that doesn’t stop people from hiring those who are willing to hop the fence and look, those who are willing are called Stalkers.

Roadside Picnic follows the story of one Stalker through multiple points of their life. They are hot-tempered but clearly have the most respect for the deadliness of the zone. They need to go out there not just because of the financial gain, but because it is what they have always done. And they need to keep going to provide for their family. It is a core pillar of their identity.

Roadside Picnic is an excellent sci-fi book, it isn’t too long (the copy I have is roughly 200 pages) and it gripped me the entire time I was reading. Turning pages as fast as I could because I was devouring every word. It is also rare that I place too many books on my ‘want to reread’ pile, but this one gets a place on that treasured shelf.

Also… you should really check out the movie if you can…

Movie trailer for STALKER (1979) directed by Andrei Tarkovsky.

The horror elements in Roadside Picnic, I would call them mild since the book leans heavily on regular people interacting with science fiction scenarios. If you want some good horror though… Stephen Graham Jones new book is made just for you…

The Only Good Indians

Cover for Stephen Graham Jones “The Only Good Indians”

The Only Good Indians by Stephen Graham Jones is horrifying and the third book I have read from the author. I am consistently impressed with their mastery of imagery, as well as how they write. I cannot express this enough, Mongrels is fantastic and The Only Good Indians is just as good. Both feel like they were made for me because they were all-consuming of my mind while I was reading, and the language used in both makes it easy to approach. Something about the language used feels like I am being told a story around a campfire by someone who I consider a friend. The story and the way it is told compliments each other and just draws me so far into the story.

I can’t remember much of the time that I have spent reading the book since I am writing this recommendation a while after reading. For a full review, check out Gabino Iglesias review of the book over on NPR.org.

Seamlessly blending classic horror and a dramatic narrative with sharp social commentary, The Only Good Indians follows four American Indian men after a disturbing event from their youth puts them in a desperate struggle for their lives. Tracked by an entity bent on revenge, these childhood friends are helpless as the culture and traditions they left behind catch up to them in a violent, vengeful way.

Goodreads.com description

What can I say? This is a horror novel with grotesque imagery and visualizations that will stick with you. If you liked Mongrels, if you like top tier horror novels, then you need to check this one out as soon as you can. I know that after listening to the audiobook, I now am getting the hardcover so that I can reread the book. I know my partner (Beau) is also interested ever since I gave them a copy of Mongrels to read.

I can’t believe both Mongrels and The Only Good Indians were both in the same year for me!

Final Thoughts

I know that I have read a lot more this year than I expected at the beginning when I set my reading goal. I legitimately thought that I was going to be struggling to be able to get over the goal of 25. I thought that during the last few weeks of the year I was going to have to cram in 6 short books in order to get through.

Will I somehow make it to 60 by the end of the year? I don’t think so. I say this because I am back in school and homework takes up a lot of my time. That and working on artwork in preparation of creating a good portfolio to seek work after I graduate, I just won’t have time to sit back and read as often without letting my grades and work suffer as a consequence.

But I will still be reading, just not as much. Which is why I expect I will only need one more post in this series in order to round out 2020’s lists. Right now I have on my desk Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury, The Road by Cormac McCarthy, and a Sherlock Holmes style book. They all are really good and very different from each other. If I don’t read more than those, I can still call myself happy and satisfied with what I read this year.

So, until my next post here on the blog, have a good night and as pleasant of a fall as you can. Good luck out there.

SNAP SNAP (flash fiction)

This is a horror flash fiction that I wrote after reading the first Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark book after re-watching the movie. I hope you enjoy it. It is short, have fun.

SNAP SNAP

On the other side of town there is a house that leans and creaks, nearly falling into the river. You know the one, by the bridge? It is a house with one floor and paint that peels from its walls.

In this house lived a small boy and his father. The mother had left for the coast a few years ago, after the Dad had yelled one too many times. She was lucky because she escaped, but she wasn’t able to take Steven away.

Steven was a small kid. Always covered in mud and wearing ratty clothes. People would drive by and see him playing outside. They would drive by and whisper to each other that it wasn’t right how that Daddy treated his boy. That it was so sad what had happened.

Then they would drive away, little Steven’s eyes glowing red in their tail lights.

As he got older he stayed small. His clothes became threadbare, and he stopped going to school. He would play in the yard all day and night, going to the river behind the house.

People who drove over the bridge would sometimes watch as they saw his Daddy take him by the collar and pull him up the porch stairs and into the house. He wouldn’t be seen for a few days after this. And the yelling couldn’t be heard by those who drove their cars down the road, with their radio turned up.

They turned their radios up because they knew.

Across the bridge was a pet shop, and the owner was friends with the boy’s mother. When she was still in town, they would talk in the library sometimes. That was why she gave Steven the lizard on his birthday.

Steven would smile and chase the lizard around the yard. Collecting coins from the grates on the side of the road and picking up bottles to return was how he paid for the lizard’s care.

Then, Steven’s Dad came home drunk one day. Steven was dragged outside and crying. Cars passing by saw this and saw the Dad holding a dark green lizard by its tail as it kicked and flailed. The Dad gave the lizard to the boy and yelled at him.

“THROW IT AWAY! GET THIS OUT OF MY HOUSE!” He yelled. Steven fell to the ground and cried.

He couldn’t do it.

So his Dad did. He threw the lizard into the river.

The drivers did call for help this time, and when Steven’s Dad came back to the house to take care of his boy after his two years. Steven had something waiting for him.

* * *

People haven’t seen Steven since his Dad’s body was found. His back was cracked in half and head chewed to bits, his lower half was down the river and his upper half at the out pipe for the storm drains. The pipe that was next to his house. Not a lot of people remember Steven now, but a few older people do. Not a lot of older people left in this town now…

You can tell who remembers Steven though. They avoid that house. But that doesn’t stop them from being found dead. Chewed apart down the river.

Those who are still alive won’t live much longer when they hear the child’s voice laughing from the storm drains. Echoing through the pipes. Followed always by short words from an unfamiliar voice that they strangely still know, and the snapping of long jaws.

“You knew… didn’t you?”

SNAP! SNAP!

This picture was found in the British Libraries Flickr collection of public domain images.
You can find it here.

Reading #1

Over on my movies blog that I manage with Beau (my significant other, husband, boyfriend, etc), we do a series of posts called ‘What I Watched’. These posts list what we have watched, how many times we have watched each, and then we include short recommendations for our favorites. These recommendations are not comprehensive reviews, but are how written like how we would recommend them to a friend or colleague. A short pitch with hype and our favorite bits in an elevator ride length statement.

As I had discussed in my January post, I have been journeying to becoming a regular reader of books. Last year I read 11 books. This year so far (at the time of this writing) I have read 18 books out of my goal of 25 for 2020. In summary, I have been reading more and want to continue to read more books. I also want to talk about the books that I read and record my reading habits somewhere besides just Goodreads.

This is why I will be starting a series of posts called ‘Reading’ where I adopt the same list and recommendation format of the ‘What I Watched’ series.

Rules of this Series

Since this series will be new to this blog, I think it is important to introduce some rules:

  1. The items listed are just what I have read. Them being on the list is not an endorsement of quality or a value judgement. A book being on this list just means I read it or started reading it.
  2. I will only recommend books that I would recommend. These will not be comprehensive reviews, just a quick pitch and the content warnings that I can remember from when I read the book.
  3. No number rating systems. Fuck those. They always suck.

These are the rules that I will adhere to when writing in this series. A post may only be two books long, or seven long. If I have a book I want to recommend then that is when a post will be made.

Now for the first list…

What I have read so far…

This first list will be pretty long, as I am going to list all of the books that I have read in 2020 so far in one post. So hold onto your butts, and prepare for my recommendations at the end!

  • A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens
  • Mongrels by Nathan Graham Jones
  • The Beauty by Aliya Whiteley
  • Peace, Pipe by Aliya Whiteley
  • No One is Too Small to Make a Difference by Greta Thunberg
  • On Writing by Stephen King
  • Tuck Everlasting by Natalie Babbitt
  • Orange is the New Black by Piper Kerman
  • Preludes & Nocturnes (The Sandman #1) by Neil Gaiman
  • Ronin by Frank Miller
  • The Drowned World by J.G. Ballard
  • The Ritual by Adam Nevill
  • Pet Sematary by Stephen King
  • Snuff by Chuck Palahniuk
  • In the Tall Grass by Stephen King and Joe Hill
  • Coraline by Neil Gaiman
  • The Cabin at the End of the World by Paul Tremblay
  • I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream by Harlan Ellison

Out of these 18 books there are only a few that I feel comfortable recommending. As in, there are only a few standouts that I would recommend, that are not already commonly recommended on a reading list online.

The Beauty (& Peace, Pipe) by Aliya Whiteley: The Beauty is not a long book. It would actually be a very short paperback if the copy that I ordered did not also include the story Peace, Pipe by the same author. The Beauty was described as a story about love between mushroom people and the loneliness of men in an apocalypse where all of the women became sick and died. The Beauty is more than that, that summary is like calling Pet Sematary a book about cats and cemeteries. The Beauty felt like a story about loneliness and emotional vulnerability where the body horror was fulfilling the emotional needs of the apocalypse’s survivors. That the men who are left behind were willing and wanting to change if it meant that they wouldn’t be alone anymore. That they would accept any change in stereotypical heterosexual partner roles, even if it resulted in physical changes, if it meant they would feel love in coupling again. The Beauty has weird plant sex with people, and people growing new genitals in order to couple with mushroom folks. It’s weird, horrific, and hopeful for a future after a transitional apocalypse.

The second story in the paperback was Peace, Pipe. This story was also a page turner that dwells on thoughts of loneliness and the types of interactions that people need in their existence. That people will find and invent what they need in order to remain whole. Peace, Pipe is about someone who is a linguist who interprets the speech of a pipe in their prison cell, who keeps them company and motivates them to do all in their power to try to fix the mess she has made on another planet and their peoples.

If you choose to check out The Beauty then here is the warnings that I would give to a friend: there is body horror (genitals growing, mushroom child birth), domestic violence signs, and screams of someone being sexually assaulted by mushroom people. Both stories in this paperback are emotionally intense and very good. The most standout horror I have read this year so far.

Mongrels by Nathan Graham Jones: I read this book using Kindle Unlimited but I expect next year to read it again and will be seeking a paperback so I can take notes. This is the first werewolf book that I have read (besides Twilight), and it has set an immensely high bar of quality in what I should expect in future books centered on werewolves. Mongrels takes place in the modern day and is told from the perspective of a young boy who grows up being cared for by his aunt and uncle who are werewolves. Their family is poor and moves often, as people and animals die wherever they go, the family has to move to avoid suspicion.

Mongrels shows what a deep and well explained lore for werewolves can do. They were immensely believable characters that I grew to love dearly in the same way you appreciate your parents more as you grow older. The aunt and uncle are just doing their best to prepare their nephew for being both a person and a werewolf. Teaching him of the dangers inherent in each, and of the unique dangers of being both a wolf and a person. That having to move around often means that you don’t have a income and a job history that isn’t exclusively short stints across the country. Werewolves can just eat what they catch, so this isn’t too terrible, but when you have a kid who can’t shift yet in tow you need human safe food. So you break into cars and dig between the seats for enough change to buy one gas station hot dog. This is a stark description of poverty that is tough to read through, and is only me summarizing one specific instance.

If I don’t read another book with werewolves in it again, I feel satisfied with what I have read in Mongrels alone. I want more of course, but this was a fine treat that I will be hard pressed to find another like it that hits as hard in all the right places as this did. It’s because of this that everything Nathan Graham Jones has written for books was added to my reading list before I even finished Mongrels.

If you are going to check this book out (and I would highly recommend it), then be aware of the following content warnings: pregnancy horror, violence/gore, hunger, and descriptions of poverty. This probably is not a complete list of warnings, but these are the big ones that I can remember months after finishing it.

On Writing by Stephen King: One of the first books that I can remember really digging into and reading completely was a hardcover copy of Stephen King’s Skeleton Crew when I was a kid perusing my local public library. I haven’t read much of his beyond that book, but I have enjoyed most of the movies that I have seen based on King’s stories, and the impact Skeleton Crew had on me may be one of the earliest seeds of my love of the horror genre being planted in my mind and heart. That was one reason why On Writing interested me, I also wanted to read about how Stephen King got into writing and his feelings concerning his writings.

I also wanted to read King’s tips and tricks on how he writes, which is what the back half of this book is all about. Its text recommendations and thoughts on how to set up a space and write. It’s told through anecdotes and stories of his life and was just as energizing to read as well as motivating. After I finished reading On Writing, I wrote a couple short stories and had a reading spree while I still wiped away my tears from reading his description of the infamous car accident.

If you choose to read this book, the major warnings on content are that he details his struggles with alcoholism, drugs, and a very difficult car accident description with accident recovery.

Final Thoughts

There isn’t much left for me to say at the end of this post. I don’t write conclusions for the posts in the ‘What I watched’ series, so it feels weird to write one here. Even if it is the first in a series, the end of a recommendation feels final by itself. I’ll wrap this post up this way I guess… I hope you, dear reader, are safe, in good health, and well.

Until next time, that is all.

Announcement: Suspending the Patreon

This post is copied and pasted directly from the post of the same name from on my Patreon account. If you want to view it, it can be seen here:
https://www.patreon.com/posts/37718255

The quarantine has been exhausting as I am sure everyone knows. The stress of having to keep working, and taking care of yourself while the dark shadow of the news pulls down your shoulders. It’s overwhelming on the good days and numbing on the worst, to the point of pushing someone to become distant. For me, that means watching movies and TV (all of ‘Mindhunter’ in one sitting for example).

Before I go much further, I am going to make my decision here clear: I am going to suspend my Patreon. I am going to stop charging people, what is here will continue to be left up but no new posts will be made for the foreseeable future. This has taken some thought, so this post will be public and is also a little longer than my previous written posts here. Over the past 2 months I have had a few important, or at least big impact events occur. This quarantine is one of them. The second is finishing my 2nd semester of college. The third is realizing that I have fallen out of love with creative work. All of these have congealed into an anxiety monster that has stopped me from accomplishing much of anything.

As some probably know, I am currently a student at Champlain College for a degree in Game Art & Animation. With the conclusion of the spring semester I have finished my freshman year (the first of the four for my degree). Fall was a thrill to be a part of and ignited an energy to work and get things done. I was finishing assignments, I wasn’t late often and I felt incredibly productive. This lead into winter break, where I wrote upwards of 8000 words of game text in mini supplements. With this I felt prepared for a new year and was confident in my ability to release some creative work.

When I started my spring semester I had fun: taking on new duties as an RA and with the assignments in my new classes. However, I quickly started to feel overwhelmed, this was mostly due to how I was viewing my assignments. I was finishing them at the last minute or with just the goal of “getting them done” but I wanted more than to just “Get them done” though. I wanted to enjoy the process. As I fell more and more behind the anxiety started mount to the point where I was sick. I was crumpled over, tired and crying, unable to pick up a pen unless I was absolutely forced to. My grades were ‘okay’, except for one class by the end of the semester, but finals week was the last straw that pushed me into disconnecting from my own creativity. In the process of finishing out my spring semester the quarantine hit. Normally whenever I had a downer mood, over my semester on campus, I would go outside for a long walk. Or I would go downtown to the bakery, or the coffee shop which was off campus. I couldn’t do that anymore though as I was no longer on campus and it was no longer safe to do so even for the businesses in my hometown.

I was stuck without my normal brand of Band-Aids for how I feel. That left me stewing with my thoughts and in a place where I couldn’t even budge on any of my ideas. I couldn’t even finish something to have it finished. In this “relaxed” state I ended up watching tons of movies and even watched all of Patrick (H) Willems YouTube videos (a very good video essayist on films and film-making). Which was great but even that wasn’t enough to keep me out of my slump, or to pull me out of where I was emotionally. It just was enough to keep me thinking about movies and the TV shows I have been watching.

In all of this I was able to start the process of taking anxiety medications with my doctor and will be working with him to continue to seek ways to moderate this anxiety. Which leads me to this…The work I did over this semester and during winter break was different, different than what I thought it was. What I wanted from creating was to enjoy the process and care about what I was making. To be proud of what I write beyond just hitting the finish line, which consistently has been what I have been doing. Each of the mini supplements I have written so far have felt like they had kernels of what I love and enjoy but I never felt when finished, fulfilled.

To remove the excess stress I am currently on vacation and learning about short meditations. I am also taking out of my routine excess stressors (such as my monthly Patreon commitment). This is in the hope that after I am emotionally reset or back to a state of normalcy I can create with the emotions that I desire. To make things and have fun doing so through careful time budgeting and reasonable productivity expectations.

That is it! That is where I am currently at, I will be taking extra care of myself to make sure that I am okay and able to reconnect with my creativity.

And now for a short Q & A!

I know that this leaves a number of questions for those who want to continue to follow what I create. This also brings up questions of what I will do on my Patreon going forward with it closed down. I hope I can provide some answers here, if you have more questions please comment or reach out and I’ll answer the best that I can.

Q: Are you okay?

A: I will be fine! I am only able to make these decisions because I am conscious of the state I am in and what I am able to handle. I am emotionally okay! I have been doing better as I have been preparing to write this post and as I am currently writing it. I actually am taking great care in how I am writing this post and feeling good about how it has gone. The summary of my state: I am good and have been getting better. I have a really good support network made up of my family members and my partner.

Q: What type of creative work are you going to work on?

A: For the remainder of the summer I will be working on whatever keeps me interested. Just work that excites me and is rewarding to finish and complete, this includes practicing 3D modeling, continuing the online math course I am working through, and learning how to blog all over again.

It seems important to me to set up small goals that can be accomplished but that I can also take my time to complete them. That way I can focus on my personal enjoyment over finishing a project. I am hopeful and confident that I can get into a positive groove by the time that school starts up again in the fall.

Q: How can I stay up to date on what you do?

A: If you want to follow what I am doing publicly (blog posts, art, game related works, etc), then I am going to recommend subscribing to both of my blogs for notifications:

As I will be sharing my latest work in blog post form here along with any announcements of products. The movies blog will be there to keep people up to date on what me and Beau watch along with our movie recommendations. My personal website will have more writing work, including short fiction and any articles that I work on. If I find any meditation tactics that work for me, they will likely also be shared there in reflection essays.

If you want to just get the most important information in batches sent to your email inbox, you can sign up to my mailing list here. http://eepurl.com/dHBnLT

My Twitter is @thomasanovosel (https://twitter.com/thomasanovosel) if you want to chat or see mostly jokes. However as I am focusing on my blog more I will be trying to take a backseat when it comes to my social media as it distracts me from my interests more often than it keeps me informed on my favorite subjects.

Q: Will you still be doing commissions and work for hire?

A: Yes! I will still be completing my current workload and taking on new commissions as I receive them through private messages and email. I still have a need for money to cover my personal bills and debts, so I can’t turn down any work. That work is what pays for my needs and also my entertainment budget (movies, books, documentaries, etc).

But I will be avoiding monetizing my personal work or hobbies when possible to avoid its connection to my financial status.

Q: Now for a fun question, what movies have you been watching? And what books?

A: That is a fun question which seems out of place and also very self-serving for my own interests. Right now I am currently reading Italo Calvino’s ‘If on a winter’s night a traveler’, Terry Pratchett’s ‘Hogfather’, and am working on finishing an audiobook of J.G. Ballard’s ‘The Drowned World’. Hogfather is a whimsical book, Calvino’s is poetic fantasy, and Ballard’s is a short apocalyptic sci-fi book.

As for movies, I have recently just rewatched The Invitation (2015) a tense horror movie about a cult from the director of Jennifer’s Body. I have also been rewatching The Birds (1963) for a writing project; I think that I have actually watched it 3 times in the last week and have dozen pages of handwritten notes on it. That project whenever it is finished will be up on my personal blog.

If you haven’t heard of The Birds, it’s an Alfred Hitchcock movie about the beginning of a bird-pocalypse where birds have started swarming and murdering humans on the California coast. It also has a romance plot that is fun!

If I was going to recommend some books, here are two that I think are excellent (keeping in mind that I like horror and so will recommend horror):

  • Mongrels by Stephen Graham Jones: This is the best werewolf book I have ever seen! I know that I have not dug incredibly deep into werewolf media, but this book sets an incredibly high bar as it imagines the life of werewolves when they are changed and when they are not.
  • The Beauty by Aliya Whitely: This book isn’t incredibly long but it includes mushroom people having sex with people and creating weird human mushroom babies in an apocalypse that has killed all of the women. The twist is that the mushroom people grew from the graves of the dead women of the world.

That’s all!

I know that this is a lot of information. That some of this information is me being vulnerable and open with everyone who will see it, but I think that it is important for me to keep it open for myself. I also wanted to be open with my followers here as this shift could lead them to be worried about me. Being honest and detailed hopefully will reassure anyone who had those concerns that I will be okay and have all of the support that I need to work through this.

Until I complete a blog post or have more to say, thanks for being here! Thank you for understanding! The Patreon will be off so that it doesn’t charge anyone, I will leave up what I have posted so far and if anything big comes up I’ll be sure to share a link to it here.

Much love,

– Thomas N.

Addendum:

This post was written up late night on Sunday the 24th. It is unrelated to any recent news. The reason that it was not posted then was so that I could have time to sit on it, reread and edit. As well as to make sure that the decision I had been sitting on for most of the month was a decision that I wanted to follow-through with.

Catalogue: Goat Horn the True Wind-strument

An illustrated PDF of this creature entry can be found on my Patreon and is accessible to Patrons :)

As any breeze would say if it had a mind and words to speak it would shriek to all its leader. The magnificent and terrifying horn of the wild goat Odirius. Every breath shouted through its twisted bodied form is a shout of action, a summons to war in the sky. Bring your mightiest strength eastern and western winds and ride on the cloud chariots. Whip the blue until it is purple, a sky full of blood and lightning crackling down to the earth.

This is the power of the horn of Odirius. The wild goat Odirius would be what is called the grandmother of all hooves beasts, even the lesser forms of hellions and demons claim a bloodline that stretches back in time to Odirius. The goat when it was alive held a massive pack of its young that would jump, trample, and bite any that opposed their grandmothers will to roam and be free. They would wander the world keeping all of the grass and hay short. That is why they can no longer grow to the heights of buildings, because Odirius bit their tallness out of them.

Then, on a later day when Odirius was growing older and older. The horde of munching horned beasts was led to the tallest mountain in the world, whose steps were too tall for any creature to climb. Every creature that is, except for Odirius. On this day, Odirius slept under the empty night sky and taught their young all of the stars in the sky, and to which they must each listen to for commands. For the devils it was the stars below, for these goats it was Three Horns Constellation which took the shape of three spiraling goat horns. Lastly before they all fell asleep together, Odirius took their ability to speak and language but silence or bleats (this is one way to determine a devils lineage). This was so that they may have some peace, rather than ask more questions and keep the grandmother goat up all night before her ascension.

As the sun peaked over the edge of the horizon, Odirius was gone. Bits of stone and sand rained from the mountains wall. A flash was seen in the sky, and then drifting down from clouds in a beam of light three items fell. Two horns as large as any single person, and a pelt which matched Odirius’ fur.

The beasts of Odirius scattered across the world to their homes under their stars, on the orders of their celestial caregivers after hiding the relics of Odirius. Whose two horns each summoned the forces of the sky from either the East or the West, and a pelt which could if worn hold any creature in its place against all forces.

Horns of the East or West

This horn is massive and would require either a cart or multiple carriers to move. If any breath is blown into the tip of the horn (while outside under the sky) a cacophonous blaring goat bleat would ring through the air for hundreds of miles around, so far and booming would its sound be that it would ring as of it came from every direction at once. It can only be used once per month, when used roll 2d6. On a 6 or less hold 1. On a 7-9 hold 2. And on a 10 or more hold 3. Spend hold one for one for any abilities off this list after rolling:

  • Wind gusts of giant strength, anything not tied down is moved 120 feet in the opposite direction of the horns name (easterly horn moves objects and persons towards the west).
  • Lightning crack, pick a target. They Xd6 damage. Where X is equal to tens column of their health +1. For example, a character with 20 Hit Points would take 3d6 damage. A character with 4 Health blocks would take catastrophic damage or a 1d6. This is life threatening damage.
  • Water pours in, raining sideways so hard that it hurts. Movements are slowed to a grinding halt, movement now requires a main action as well for everyone in an area the size of a small town. Fighting requires a movement action now as well. The rain will pour like this under a sky so dark it appears to be a starless night for 6 hours. On hour 6, flooding will occur in any low areas halting any armies and requiring the efforts of townsfolk to stop major damages. An unprepared force will take 48 hours to deal with this issue, most prepared forces will take 24 hours. As soon as the rain is gone, a hot sun will beat down on the water. Making the air heavier and heavier as the humidity rises.
  • A fog thicker than any other rolls in and surrounds the battlefield, it can cover the size of a small to medium sized town in area. The fog is so thick that no one can see more than 10 ft ahead of themselves (unless they see using infrared vision). This fog will hang in the air for 24 hours. It can only dispelled using magical means.
  • Giant columns (1’ diameter, 10’ tall) of ice fall from the clouds in the sky. In a circle of 40 ft each person within has a 75% chance of being hit. Those hit take damage equal to a great sword (1d10 or weapon equivalent), those not hit lose their next action as they are too preoccupied with avoiding falling ice shards.
  • Flying from the direction of the horns name come a cloud of birds. Birds of all shapes and sizes swarm in the sky like a den of cockroaches that clambers one on top of another and creates a shadow that covers the battlefield. Each turn until the end of combat, all enemies have a 20% chance of being attacked by birds, on their turn if it is determined they will be attacked they must choose whether to spend their main action avoiding damage from the birds, or take 1d6+1 damage (or a dagger+1 equivalent). The birds will disperse at the end of combat.

From what isn’t picked by the player, the Game Master may choose one result to use against the player characters or their companions and allies.

As a note there are two horns, one that controls the power of the sky’s that come from the east and the one from the west. They both have the same abilities but if used at the same time and choose the same abilities, they cancel each other out.

Pelt of Odirius

When this massive furry pelt is worn the wearer is held in place by its weight. No force magical or mundane would be able to make them move unless the pelt was taken off of them, or they moved themselves. This property means that anyone who wears the pelt, could functionally walk up walls and be immoveable from any outside force. They could also stand on a rock out at sea and ships would be destroyed by the pelts strength, the wearer would also be mushed inside the fur though since it provides no tactical or armor protection.

Additionally any cold regardless of how strong or magical cannot penetrate its fur. This fur would comfortably also function as a tent for up to 4 human sized people, who would be able to walk around within its tent, but no one would be able to from the outside move said tent.

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