Thomas Novosel

blog for art, writing, and games

Author: TNovosel Page 1 of 2

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.

RAW

It was a dive bar with an air hockey table and 50’s monster movie posters for wallpaper. Despite this, the rural crowd liked to come here. The posters may appear to an untrained eye in the dark to be yellowed abstract patterned wallpaper. Or it may just be a stereotype; even fans of Universal Pictures get old and live somewhere. The fans here get a bar that smells like seventy-year-old roses and the glory days.

At the bar, in the bar, on a stool, my right-hand wraps around the pint glass. I take a sip of the cider and look up, no sports today, but Godzilla was devastating the countryside. At the doorway, past the bartender, I saw the bar owner Petey Walker. His hairless head could best be described as an onion in shape and color.

“HEY JONESY!” Walker shouted at me.

“Oh not much, just another Thursday night.” Seeing Walker’s face I drew another breath and belted it out this time.

“NOT MUCH, JUST THURSDAY AGAIN.” Walker caught it that time and gave a lazy wave as he approached the tap closest to me. His elbow connected with the glazed wood and stayed there despite a wince.

“AH! Jay! When are you going to capture a job that gives ya’ two days on the weekend?” He was close enough now that normal shouting would suffice.

When was I going to get a real job?

It’s not like what I did was anything good. I built and repaired rainwater collection systems for self-sustaining homes. That’s French for I’m poor and get hired to do weird shit. That means there is no day-off except the ones I choose not to eat. But I usually work those days too; the ones where I don’t eat much I mean.

What would I even do as a real job?

“When you start raising the prices around here I’ll consider it!” Walker would never raise those prices. Not in a million years. He sells cheap beer at cheap prices to keep people coming in. You would think that being the only game in town meant that you were guaranteed success. You’d be wrong. Not a lot of people are left around to partake in Cheshire Vermont’s finest booze joint.

“Well, I like seeing you around Jonesy. Not a lot of folks like good movies”. Godzilla ripped through the city.

“I just like to see the costumes Walker.”

“I know that. You loved Black Lagoon.” I gave a big nod and drew a long sip. Letting my belly get warm, but not too fast to let it get toasty.

“I do like the city in this movie too though. It’s so big.”

“No, it’s small Jonesy.”

“That’s just because Godzilla is so big. Everything looks small next to him.”

“That too, but it also is a mini-golf thing. A small place.”

“Miniatures?”

“Yeah, miniature golf. Everything was built small and is small.” Walker was watching me closely. I slid my empty cup forward and put another couple dollars down. Walker wadded it into his pocket and passed me another cider.

“Watch my drink Walker. Gotta’ pee.”

“You didn’t have to tell me J… I’ll pause the movie.” Walker looked up at the TV as I walked away. Licking his thumb and rubbing it against the bottom of the screen.

Looking up into the mirror, with water dripping down my face. I could see my face. I could see my eyes and my cheeks were so red. I couldn’t think straight. What was I doing here? Where am I?

Behind me, in the mirror’s reflection was Walker. Standing there in a Godzilla costume. I could see his face revealed by a small panel that had been opened on the costumes lower neck.

“Wake up Jay!” He yelled. His voice hoarse like he had been yelling the entire time.

Looking over to the door, the costume left my peripheral vision and in came another.

“Jonesy what took you so long?” Walker was standing there, bleeding out his nose and onto his whole arm. It took me a moment to collect myself. How long have I been awake?

How long have I been working? Is today Friday?

“Jonesy, you there? You’re looking pretty fucked.” Walker was stuffing toilet paper up his nose.

“Yeah, I’m here. What happened to your nose?”

“You didn’t hear?” No, I heard nothing Walker, my face was six feet deep into my palm. I shook my head and motioned for him to quiet down a bit.

SLAM!

The bathroom door whipped open and there stood an asshole. Not a big brown tear in the air, but Paulie Slimms. Black jeans and a backwards red hat held together by the sparsest moustache I had ever seen.

“WE CAN HEAR YOU DUMBASS!” Slimms yelled. He grabbed Walker by the collar and pulled him out of the room. I followed.

“Open the register and pay your bills.” Slimms pushed Walker back. A pair of feet were on the ground just behind the bar, soles visible. Not moving.

“Yeah, you want to still have this bar huh? Want some customers? Eh? Eh?” This one wore long hair and a pair of green boots. Dark green worn at the edges and gently dusted with sand. He was tossing glasses on the ground at the knocked out bartender.

CLASH. CRASH.

“Hey, asshole! Cut that shit.”

They looked at me. The guy who is exhausted and pale except for a cherry face. I stepped closer and Boots held out a hand.

“You’re looking sick. You should turn back around.”

I stepped closer. This time Slimms had something.

“You heard my associate here. Turn around and give it five minutes, then lunch breaks will be over.”

Another step. Now Boots had a knife. He came closer, cautiously. He marched over, blade out, and smiled.

“I’ll escort him back.”

Fuck. The blade cuts into my side. I drift for a moment. I elbow him across the throat, he goes back a step and I take a swing.

THUD. Went Boots.

KLING. Went the knife.

My knuckles are split, and I can feel the blood in my lips. I give a kick while they’re down.

My jaw is flung up and I see bright lights and black spaces. The ceiling has a black lagoon painting on it, how long has that been there?

My feet are held in place as another punches me till my guts touch my lungs.

A chair flies and stops the onslaught, a Slimms is on the ground bleeding. Back to my first target, each of my punches sends Boots head cracking on the floor.

“JESUS FUCK!” yells someone.

Free, I step to see that Slimms is starting to stand up. My shoe pushes his chest down and my fist rises above his face. His eyes reflect a lightning bolt that is about to strike, bolts of swollen meat cut by teeth.

“Stay down Slimms. Or you’ll wake up tomorrow unable to chew.”

Slimms head fell and his breathing slowed down.

The blood on my hands was first rubbed off on my pockets. Wet stains and smears of dark and darker shades of “reddish” went through and onto my twenty dollars.

“Sorry about the fight Walker. It couldn’t be helped.” I slid him the twenty as he leaned the bartender up.

“I’m taking Chet to the hospital. Look after while I’m out. Lock the doors.”

More spots in my eyes.

“What was that Walker?”

“Local boys, I pay them to keep bringing their crew over.”

Got to make ends meet some way.

“So there’s more of them?” I’m rubbing an ice cube across my hand.

“On Monday.” Walker stepped over Boots.

“I’ll take the weekend off.”

Walker kicked Slimms and left. I locked the door behind him, taped the boys up and looked out the window. No cars and no one walking around. It really is dead here.

I lay down in a booth and dream. I dream about being as big as Godzilla in a town as big as me.

Monsterary: Sun’s Flame Knight

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

A low hanging cloth with singed edges barely billows, despite the never-ending smoke that pours out of the pores across the glowing chainmail that wraps the figure. These chains bend under the heat and pressure of tightly fastened plates curved in a human form. The symbols smeared across the burned armor, appear by inhuman hands, no prints or flesh scratched these symbols.

The Sun’s Flame Knight burns in its armor tall and thin, a tightly bound furnace that pours out smoke and flames. Lights inside give an angelic look when observed in delirious thought. But at the edge of a horizon apart a viewer may see the whipping flames of a hell that has been condensed and weaponized. With only a purpose to wield the glowing blade of the First Stolen Sun in order to punish and uphold the Master Whisperer’s law.

Fear the warrior whose gaze burns long and without falter. Who moves with practiced grace that provides a speed that turns traditional swordplay into a barrage of swings that cuts the air as fast as a hummingbird beats its wings. Only pausing between furies to evaluate how best to eviscerate the enemy, then burn the evidence until it is blacker that space and indistinguishable in texture from the soil.

May the allure of a warm flame and a beacon on the horizon trick your heart into thinking the end to a tortured life is in sight. For even on the rivers of hell a warm flame dances at the final rest stop to the eternal destination.

Statistics

Type: high planar, angelic.

HD: 5

Armor: as Plate

Move: 35 feet

Intelligence: 16/20

  • Precise
  • 2/day: can make an additional action before any character at any time.
  • The sun’s flame knight is made of fire and speaks only in the sounds of whooshing wind and crackling logs. They can unite to a council meeting of other flames using a single finger as if it is wood burning. Burning the prime words (words that translate to all phrase and depths within their first language) into any surface.

Alignment: the sun is the lord, the flame the commander an ally. Any and all allies of The Nightlanders is a foe.

Tactics: methodical, careful with intent and thought. Fights enemies, retreat over death unless under specific orders or dire stakes.

Attacks:

  • 2 attacks per round.
  • Sunblade: 1d10+2; or heavy sword+2. Damage ignores armor as the blades searing light pierces all surfaces.
  • Crackling Frenzy: 4/day, Take 3 main actions on next turn. Damage on all effects is halved for these actions. Sparks fly from a gauntlets flourish, the speed gained through practiced movements comes at the cost of distinguishable tactics being clearly signaled.
  • Overflowing Flaming Tongue: 3/day, Spewing flames from the grates in the scorched helmet, target takes 1d8 damage per round for 3 rounds.

Defense:

  • Deflect: blade attacks against the knight that miss leave an opening, the knight does a basic attack at this moment, rolling twice and using the worst of the two to determine effect.
  • Burning Glare: A strong glint sparks off the shield, a reflection of the sun honed to a daggers point to pierce foes eyes. In sacrifice of a move action, a targets next action has disadvantage.

Special:

  • Can only be destroyed forever using the Sea King Mary’s tears.
  • The Knight glows orange like the embers of a fire in a shadowy forest. This light pierces holes from another dimension, from an age of fire, into the world we traverse. Over the soldier’s entire body, these portals are visible but send eyes and minds reeling into a white haze when stared into.
  • Just like the shining lights of hell at the end of the rivers of shackled flesh, the knight burns as a spiritual signal. A tower in the living world, a world unknown to them, with the trait of mortality which is alien in form and habit. Within 6 miles of the knight’s presence, but only at night, 1d100 dead turn to undead. Roll 1d100 for cities, and roll 1d10 for the countryside (unless reason for bodies to be plentiful is present).

Affiliations

There are some that the Sun’s Flame Knight is connected to, as they are a knight of their own realm and had to spend time in court. Fiddling and navigating the politics of those above and in command or against their own commander.

Flame Commander:

The commander is a solid flame that does not flicker but holds a curved shape with sharp edges. Its commands are issued as sternly as laws of nature and are expected to be upheld in a rigid fashion to how gravity brings apples to fall. A consistency is expected and if not met, punished by extinguishing a soldier. Squishing its heat until it is only coals, wiping away memories and thoughts before kindling the flame back to a young roar. Bringing executed soldiers back to life so that they can forget, cease to exist, and their own physical properties can be reused for another.

The Flame Commander does not care for the individual personalities of their soldiers. The only way that control is maintained is by puppeteering and threats of recycling.

The flame that heats each flame knight or soldier is linked to the flame commander, the commander holds absolutely still in their person in order to make its movements and silent commands known through manipulating the waves and flashes of light of those being controlled. At any point the flame commander can starve an individual linked to the larger flame of air and its energy that is shared. Making them so weak as to collapse under even the weight of their armor.

Unless this link is broken, and sufficient fuel is provided to maintain the energy needed to live, every soldier under the Flame Commander is chained to the army of Hell for all time.

Prime Tree Wood Chunk: the prime tree was the first tree from which all others sprouted. It has long since become lost to the soil, but some of the excess tree clippings that were not used to start the world’s forests were coveted and stowed away by Primordial Collectors. These individuals hide and catalog in personal collections away from prying eyes original progenitors of the world’s materials. They hold in hiding the original seeds which when planted create spiraling and widespread veins of gold.

First Stolen Sun:

Far back in time, before people were ever born or even could think of a name for the blazing beauties that stand ever present in the summer sky. With their gaze coming down and embracing every creature that would ever live. Before we knew the love of warmth and a breezy summer at a swimming hole. Where friends could jump into the water and not be cold, but refreshed so long that the memories of childhood could be a warm blanket in old age.

Before all of this, the Flame Commander was young and brash, there was no king and rulers in the planes of existence just warring bands of elements and essence. The war band of the young spark found the first sun and captured it in a net of stars. This is where the first stolen sun changed into its second form, that of a horse of fire, with the sun changed into a conquerable form the war band cast a spell of chains onto the horse. And it was lead to where the future throne for the Flame Commander would be erected, buried in a hole deep into the stone with only a small piercing faucet cutting through its flesh on one end.

With this turned on, the Flame Commanders weapon smiths can harness star fire to create sunblades. Swords that whip flames and make spotted the eyes of any enemy.

One day, someone may rescue the First Stolen Sun. But only a siege on the black citadel of fire in the volcano Matdrick could make such events occur. It is tempting though? To save a sun? The one that sparked so many others. Certainly the reward for such a task from the Council of Orion would be grand.

Sunblade: burning, blade, damage of a great sword +2 fire dmg. To wield this blade without damage or penalty requires an insulated stone gauntlet which only elemental weapon smiths can forge. If the wielder is made not of flesh, then the blade can be held if they can withstand the temperature (d4 damage per turn held). Spend a main action and choose 1 effect:

  • Next attacks damage ignores armor.
  • The targets next action has disadvantage. They roll twice and take the worst.
  • Fire breath: attack as normal, if you succeed instead of doing the damage of the sword, target will take d6 fire damage per turn for d4 turns.

Master Whisperer:

Lurking in the shadows of dreams and stones, the master whisperer speaks over and over again the laws unwritten. Slay for me, the cold voice groans. Every so often the fingers move like snakes in sand. Darkness clings to the pale skin as the void attempts to pull back the escapee.

My words are unwritten, they speak truths which will bury themselves deep into your being. Act for me. These are the rules the Master Whisperer lays.

Rules from the Master Whisperer creep in only when an individual has fought in 10,000 skirmishes, brawls, and melees. The bloodlust of those without blood but who only see it tempts the Master Whisperer who drinks what comes filtered through the earth and that was wrought of violence “in the name of”.

To some the Master Whisperer will make bargains… But to others, those of elements and essences only commands are uttered.

Heed the Call: At a stone after a long fight a murmur is heard. You are resting and blood pools into the dirt. A leathery voice speaks softly to you “Skin the hundred headed serpent Poison Fang, and give the skin to the Warlord Adam Kraith. Do this and I will allow you to speak once across time and space through the shadows”. If this quest is completed, the Master Whisperer will offer this favor once, for each other completed another is granted. The ability to speak a phrase through the shadows to anyone anywhere in the world awake or dreaming.

The Master Whisperer does this, because the harm will always outweigh the benefit, words from shadows are fearsome beasts of horror not advisors of good fortunes.

Content Consumer 2020 Report

Life is constantly consuming content at this point, whether it be books, movies, or games (analog or digital). The only alternative to consuming the content on this earth is staring at the sun, but even that is consuming. The glorious eye sweat and black spots across my vision inducing beautiful ball of fire in the distance.

What is this post then you ask? Don’t shake your fist at me! This is where I am going to list all of the content that I consumed (games, books, and movies). I will just update this post each time I finish something or consume enough of something to consider my hunger quenched for it.

I will try to put a one sentence review for each. They may not be reviews at all, but more like my favorite bits or a quote. I’ll return to this post and figure out my favorites at the end of the year. 🙂

Video Games

  1. Quake 3 Arena (5 hours, finished on 1/14); fun game. The single player is just a ladder of bot matches but it was a fun game to play through.
  2. Quake Champions (2 hours so far); this is just my bread and butter multiplayer game at the moment (Jan 16th). It’s a lot of fun even if I suck at it.
  3. Thief Gold (2 hours 25 minutes so far); so far so good. I suck at stealth though so I will need to take extra care going forward, also need to loot more to be able to buy mission supplies.
  4. Jazzpunk (0.25 hours so far); what even is?
  5. Doom 1 (5 hours 45 minutes, finished on 1/18); played on Kill Me Plenty. Fun game overall, it feels like I should have been at a higher difficulty though as the boss fights were easy when you hoarded BFG ammo and rockets leading up to them. I’ll have to try again on Ultra-Violence at some point. For this I played from Knee Deep in the Dead – Inferno.
  6. Doom 2016 (1 hour 30 minutes so far); This game is so much metal all the time. Trash cans banging against one another.
  7. DIRT Rally 2.0 (3 hours); this game has race-cars and is me against the clock which is pretty fun. Which is weirdly lower stress than if I were to be playing Forza Motorsports.
  8. The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past (7.5 hours); Got a SNES and a cartridge to play this game on for my Game’s History class. The music is jamming and the secrets are a plenty. A lot of this was played by my project team, but I am playing it on a different save in my off time.

Books

  • A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens
  • Mongrels by Stephen Graham Jones
  • The Beauty by Aliya Whiteley

O Veggie Pizza (short story)

While I am not completely certain that this life is the one I want to live, I do know for sure that I can’t keep eating at truck stop diners if I have any intention of making this a potential life long career choice. The driving is good, but the gas is expensive and I’m sick of soggy burger buns. Which is why, today, I was glad to see that in the middle of nowhere there wasn’t a single diner, but just a lone gas station slash pizza parlor slash county bottle redemption center. The only food for an hour in any way was something different. I wouldn’t be able to sit in the comfort of reoccurring disappointing meals anymore.

Unless, of course, I decided to wrangle some of those loose chickens from the farm six minutes back. I smiled to myself as I pulled into the two-space parking lot.

Me, wrangle a chicken? My best chance of capturing such athletic birds is plowing through the gate and picking what remains out of the grill.

To my side I saw my truck’s neighbor, an antique milk truck I assumed. Its shape and massive tank gave it away, not much else would. All identifying markings had been crudely covered with poorly applied chrome paint. The only bit peeking through was an “O” in the name on the side, just barely visible through a thinner section of the coated portion of the logo.

***

Ding. Ding. Ding. I walk through the front door. An empty shelf is ahead of me and the attendant gives me a quarter of a half-hearted glance while hammering his thumbs across his phone. I take a seat at the nearest booth. I’m pretty surprised. The springs are good and the napkin dispenser isn’t rusted.

Neat.

There’s no ketchup, but there are salt and black pepper shakers, and one of those wire cages full of creamers and sugar packets. I pull out my phone and try to catch up with the world. It’s been a couple hours since I checked, but as is what sometimes is, I have no signal here. So, I snap a picture of the table and its neatly arranged “accoutrements” for later. The cross-country group will be impressed by the tidiness of this place.

The floors are spotless, the only smudges are the black marks where I scuffed the tile with my sleepy legs while on my way to my seat. I wonder where the waitress is, it’s been a couple minutes.

“Sir?” I said to the attendant. His tag said, Sleeve, no, Jacobson.

“Jacob, uh, is the server around?”

Without speaking or allowing the blue glow to leave his face, he picked up some utensils, then a menu and walked over slowly, about as slow as you’d expect someone who was distracted to walk. It was obvious in the past he’d stumbled and tripped around the cluttered room while performing the exact same task with the exact same distraction.

“Ah, thanks. So, is it just you here? Could I have some coffee please? Black preferred but I won’t ignore decaf.” I chuckle, something of a classic ground breaker for a more casual waiter to diner experience.

“All out.” He mumbles. Not to me, of course, but down to his hands.

“Ah, uh, well what do you have to drink?”

Jacob looks up for a moment, taking a look at the counter he had just come from and then finally looks at me.

“We have what’s in the coolers sir,” he says.

I look around and see a small cooler just under the empty scratcher boxes. I can make out the logo on the side. Not really a soda fan.

“Ah, I don’t really drink soda though. What do you have available?”

Jacob, who’s looking at his phone again speaks as he pushes his finger up the screen slowly.

“I’m not sure, but I know we have orange juice. Feel free to take a look and call me over when you are ready to order.”

In the cooler there is less than half a glass of orange juice left in a jug, three glass bottles of milk, a cola with a faded label, and what looks like dust in a beer bottle. Even at home I am uncomfortable with finishing off a jug of anything, so milk it is.

Returning to my seat I open the bottle and then the menu to see what I might have. The advertisements stand out a bit with their wild colors, which are uncomfortably bright as the sun spills through the shades and across the plastic cover. I spend a minute looking over the options. There are some clear and obvious typos, and at least three items which are the same thing described with different words and punctuation. The stuffed mushrooms seem like something I would not trust from a gas station or a bottle redemption center, so a big bowl of spaghetti with a white sauce sounds pretty good. I call Jacob over.

“Yes, I would like the, uh…” I flip open the menu again to make sure I say exactly what I want in the exact manner it is written.

“Yes, the thin spaghetti with white garlic sauce and for bread… the peasant bread. Is it quite hearty… or?”

“We actually sold the last of our spaghetti just before you got here…” Jacob then goes on to explain that a very midwestern family in a very 1980’s midwestern car, had, like any good American family, numerous kids who were young and picky eaters and so the pizza parlor has everything but the small amount of spaghetti that it stocked. Looking back down at the menu I order a medium vegetarian pizza, what I don’t eat can be “on-the-road-food” till I get to Oklahoma.

The broccoli will counteract the extra cheese, so I should be fine. I go to take a sip from the milk and pause with it just below my chin. I talk across the room.

“Hey, Jacob, this milk is fresh right? I hope its nothing like that cola in the back? Heh?”

Jacob looks up from the pile of dough he is rolling out on the counter and confirms that the milk is good. I take a sip and it is, quite good. Pretty heavy, but certainly fresh. No label on any of the milk bottles though, so definitely local and not full of any crap, except for what was on the farmer’s hand. But, in all honesty, it’s refreshing. This is exactly why I wanted to try somewhere new. The change of pace feels good.

It’s also nice to see your food get made to some degree, as long as it is a process which is easy on the eyes and not incredibly gory or so technically challenging that a layman might not understand. It gives you confidence in the quality of the food, a certainty that if you become bound up for a couple days it was an ingredient and not the method of preparation.

As Jacob sprinkles the toppings on and throws the pie under the counter into what I assume is an oven, I choose to partake in the provided reading materials. Looking to Jacob, I see that he has put on thick up to the elbow in length yellow gloves and is cleaning the countertop. I guess he’s the reason it’s so neat around here. I look down at the menu, holding it like a newspaper.

This establishment’s plastic protected “E-Z Menu Publication Advertising Group” brand menu is being sponsored by Sandra the Horse Training and Hutchinson’s Lawyer Sourcing Services with a page advertisement each. Another picture for the group, this one is sure to elicit a chuckle online.

Hmm, halfway down the left side is a daycare with a mascot, a costume which looks like a color edited and non-athletic wear version of the Highwayville school’s sports mascot pictured on the right, just above the hot wing stuffed Stromboli. The page opposite of the school’s flexing mascot features the same costume, but instead of a full getup, it’s just a person wearing the head part it seems. Its wire mesh eyes are pretty well detailed for a fuzzy photo print menu.

Then on the right…

Oh, I’m out of milk. My eyes slowly walk across the room and to the counter. Jacob is back at it again, pounding away at the screen.

“Is it okay if I have another milk?”

He nods. I walk over and pull another milk from the fridge and clearly, to all who may be watching, examine the bottle closely.

“So, whose milk is this anyways? Is it from the same place that truck in the parking lot is from? Smolleys? Or maybe, Smothers? Something with an O close to the middle?”

Jacob looks out of the glass wall that is the store front and then back to his phone.

“No.” Then he adds, “Milk and mail come in on Sundays. I only work Tuesdays. Hmm, yeah, and Wednesday, and today. The person who would know is my boss, Jamie. She works the days I don’t”

“I hope you don’t text and drive in that milk truck. It’d be a pretty dangerous load to even risk wobbling as far as the bulk of that tank is concerned.” He looks up and at me. No, he looks at the timer on the counter in front of me.

“I get a ride to work from my brother, so I don’t have to worry about texting and driving that much.”

Looking around the room and past the empty off-white colored shelving I see two doors, one with a small round window in the top center and a second with a small pale buttock exposed in an illustration of someone hanging a leak with their pants rolled and then scrunched up resting just above the laces of their shit covered boots. The heels dug into the dirt, more like mud, sinking. I’ve been sitting around here for a solid fifteen minutes now, so where is the driver for the antique truck?

“So, is there a bathroom… or…?” I ask.

“Yes, we have a public restroom, but it is currently in use. The guy who drove the tank truck outside had to use it after he tried the mini mushroom cap cheese-y bites, since we were out of spaghetti.”

Well, that makes sense but I didn’t think spaghetti would be this popular at a bottle redemption center slash gas station. First guess having been confirmed, I raise my bottle up and return to my seat.

Just above my table hangs, from a frayed loop of twine, a chalkboard sign. In playful scribbles it says ‘The getti was gr8!’. That must be the oldest of the youngest of the American family! I consider writing ‘I wish I knew! Coulda tried it!’ underneath but looking at the chalk is about as far as I go beyond imagining where’d I squeeze in the words before I hear a loud buzzing noise break across the room. A waft of steam comes up from behind the counter, a smell spreads and it’s pretty good.

It looks good too! Jacob brings over the pizza and places it on some oven mitts and then goes back to his “work”. It’s pretty gooey — a plus — but I decide I should probably let it settle rather than allow it to burn my tongue. I take out my phone.

Ah, yes, no signal or data, but there is a public wi-fi available so I just hop on that. And, it’s a wi-fi that doesn’t have internet. Crap. My hopes crushed in the hunt for a distraction. I should probably fold up the menu.

Carefully lifting the dish as not to burn myself, I fold the menu shut. The left first, not sure why they have a bruised teen watching kids, but who knows. It doesn’t make a good daycare advertisement, and at the very least it seems like a bad way to present a business. Probably good though for understanding why people get angry at kids I suppose. Then on the right, with their sports mascot-

Is that a sport? That’s…

“Jacob, what sport ish — ” As I speak I bring my eyes up from the menu and see that the lights are off. All that is in the air is the sunlight which has pushed through the blinds and careened off the falling dust. Each particle hangs in the air, surrounding me. In my breath they ripple slightly but remain in place. The shelving units are all pushed together and arranged behind the counter, packed up against the wall and each other so that they take up as little floor space as possible. The cooler hums. A soda, a milk, and a grimy jug of orange juice sit there in the cold white light.

Getting up from my seat, I walk toward the counter. No Jacob, no register, just the holes in the wood where the cabling would be strung. Feeling this area I pull back my hand and examine my fingertips. A light grey slime that is warm to the touch. Yes, speckles. Looking down the hole I see just shadows and what my mind assumes is the shape of a trash bin.

The room turns dark immediately. From some sunlight poking into the shadows to a deep black. I see a spasm in the sheet of darkness.

I feel a sense of satisfaction, my mouth waters as I chew. I open my eyes, the lights are on again, the room is clean, the specks are gone and at the counter there’s Jacob. My hands are coated in pizza grease and the pie tastes fantastic. It’s quite well cooked, not a single burn at all. Five out of five if I had the wi-fi to report back on my profile.

“Jacob, this pizza is great. What sport is thi-“

Wait, no that’s not right.

“Sorry, what I meant to ask was where did you learn how to make pizza? Just here or?” Jacob lets out a deep breath before answering.

“It was part of orientation.”

“Oh, that’s good it’s a thing you might use someday.” Turning my head away from him, I’m back at the table, back among the specks. The dust has been disturbed where my hand had reached out, grabbing at the air for a second slice. Each dot slowly moving outward from where I had clutched at it, at nothing.

Getting up, I move with some speed. I am unable to control my movements as I dart to the back of the store. The bottle return machines are exposed, their mechanical guts spilled out and onto the floor, and glass cracks under my heel.

The bathroom is vacant. I touch the handle and it changes to occupied in big red block letters, it spins and the handle twists until it is red hot. I pull my hand back as the metal rolls into itself and into the door as the paint bubbles then settles, but not before a slight ripple goes across the door, across the tile on the walls adjacent, and across the specks in the air. But they aren’t really specks.

I fall back and my forearm slaps into the shards across the floor, with complete control regained for a moment, I let out a sharp yelp.

“ACK!”

A thick white fluid drips out of each cut.

***

Uh, this food is making me parched, and ouch! My hand hurts! I’m out of milk again, weird, I could of swore I just got this bottle.

I did just get this bottle though. I better ask Jacob for some water.

“I’ll be right back,” I say as I stand up. I need a drink is what I tried to say. I felt my mouth move with different words than what I heard. I push myself to try to say something, anything, I get nothing.

I walk to the bathroom. It seems the guy’s gone. It’s empty so I reluctantly grab at the door handle. It’s still a gas station bathroom after all. I don’t want to trust a population in which most likely less than 10% of its members actually wash their hands after wiping their own ass.

Cupping at the hot water.

“Ack! SHIT!” My hand is beat red. The water must be too hot. I turn off the hot and leave the cold on.

Cupping at the water, I bring it up to my face and let it run down over my cheeks and then flow onto and past my lips. I gargle what remains. Reaching for a paper towel, I return to the mirror to wipe off the excess water, but in it I see my face. It’s filthy.

Small droplets of sand cling on. Trying to wipe it away is of no use. The more I pull off, the more sand is visible on my face. I cup the water again and try to soak it. Then I vigorously claw at my skin hoping to peel off the surface, and along with it the sand that must have become attached. I need to try again.

I scream, and in the process kick the cleaning supplies across the bathroom and as soon as my foot makes contact…

Darkness again. Now it’s the quietest and stillest silence I have ever heard, twisting and cascading into my head, rolling into my ears like a mudslide. This silence would have terrified me if not for the interruption of a small silver garbage can connecting with the wall.

CLANG!

It is deafening in contrast. Disoriented, I spin backwards and reach for a hold. I get a grip with my upper teeth on the rim of the sink.

FACK! THUNK.

My body whips against the door to the bathroom. Stumbling with blood in my mouth I reach for a handle. I have to get out of here. I have to get out of here. I can’t stay any longer.

But there’s no handle.

My hands slap across the door. Dull thuds at first, then a wet smacking, then a small crunching comes with each consecutive hit.

Clack. Clack. Increasingly louder, and more painful. CLACK! CLACK!

I have to get help.

Jacobs!

“Jah-cusb! JAH CLUBS!” I call out desperately, as the knives in my mouth scrape across my tongue on the back of each word.

“JAY COBBSH!”

Reaching at my face, I feel a loose sand roll down the outside of my hand. I can feel the pile growing between my knees. My posture breaks from panicked to every muscle in my entire body being wound up and tightened beyond possibility. I hear it so clearly, the sand pouring. I can hear it through my jaw, the vibrations adding an umphf to a sound I wish I could ignore. My hand is buried! I can’t move my hand. It’s trapped under the weight of the sand.

I CAN’T FEEL MY FACE ANYMORE!

***

A low grumble and then a bounce up, then down. The roads are terrible here. And the sun!

I pull down the visor, dust scatters across the air of the small cabin. I crank down the window and the wave of particles rush past me and blow out behind me as I go driving by. I have to watch that I don’t lose balance. I can’t spill the product.

“Let’s see what’s on the radio…” I reach out to the dial and turn through the channels. The remainders of the echo of a slow sob immediately drown in the static. I turn up the volume.

I’m nearly back to Streetwalk Township in Oklahoma, driving my truck to make some deliveries and having recently received instructions from dispatch that the company just got a new contract. It seems we’re taking over the delivery of fresh milk from Family Dairy (an out of state supplier).

Hurrah! A big win for local, Highwayville distribution co., and a good sign that I landed in the right career.

RPG Creature: The Black Ocean

This is a creature for fantasy and horror scenarios.

Note to reader: I am currently over halfway finished reading The Fisherman by John Langan. It is very incredible and seems to me to be like a weird-fantasy or Cthulhu-esque horror scenario with what is going on in the book. I won’t spoil it, but something that is talked about as just a very minor thing at the moment, not even being the big monster or the grand antagonist is a black ocean. The ocean seems incredibly terrifying especially to me, as it can be a vast entity of terror that fills any shape that can dare to hold it. This monster write up is partially inspired by the black ocean where the fisherman casts his lines in Langan’s book.

An unending rage

There are times when the adventuring party will go out to sea or to any body of water and will find a rocky section. This is not the black ocean. The fiercest hurricane’s waves are nothing compared to the depthless rage that is contained in this oceans waters.

How you can tell you have are at the black ocean:

  • Crashing waves that quake across the coast and over the water. Although there is no sign of bad weather or winds as there is a clear sky.
  • Peering into the waters you sense endless depth. Like looking into absolute darkness, you can sense the endlessness of it but cannot see past its walls.
  • On the edges of the water, off the coasts on the rocks lining its edges will be bone dust and shredded flesh. Any fish that is in this water has high chances that it will be shredded apart by its waves until it is entirely unrecognizable. Just bits of rotten fish flesh on whiter than any sands coasts.

Interacting with the water

No vessel can go over the black ocean, any that even attempted to would be likely destroyed or crushed within its grip. But, rumor has it that sacrifices to the ship of the dead may bring forth a vessel that will carry you to its opposite shore. Travelling on this ship is also rumored to take from you, because if the sacrifice is not large enough then the ship will crash itself on a pile of stones in its center. The water’s waves wiping whatever doesn’t starve off the rock in a single day, no blood even appearing in its dark waves.

When a creature not of the black ocean treads even a step into the waves. The waves will lick and grasp at the individual dragging them from an inch of water into the ground. Breaking bones with every wave’s crash, pounding their form into the rocks underneath the yellow foam coming from each pillar where waves meet. It appears like the sea is foaming at its mouth when someone touches it and is consumed. The body will very shortly, after screams and drowned words, be visible as the water retreats. All blood and liquids within the form have been removed entirely, a dried and desiccated corpse remains. Then a final wave will splash along the shore, dragging what remains into the depths below.

If anyone goes under the waves, it is absolute darkness. It is impossible to see through even using magical means. Anyone trapped under the waters will be spun and disoriented by the undercurrents. Unable to sense until the hands latch on, the murmurs of the dead bodies that have sunk below ring true as they reach up to latch onto those who find themselves with their head submerged. These bodies are lifeless, but the black ocean’s currents manipulate their forms so that they twist and snap to take perform its actions. Treat this as you would a very difficult grapple.

Learning about the ocean

The black ocean is only mentioned in the most obscure texts, and even then only mentioned in passing in reference to when the world was born. An ocean that was primordial and later enraged as it sunk below the world into a land filled with darkness, bare forests, and beaches that hold its edges in.

When the black ocean is discovered or comes up in play, here are some questions that could be worth answering or finding answers to:

  • What beast is rumored to live trapped beneath the black ocean’s waves?
  • Who has forged a path to the black ocean in the past?
  • What warnings are found carved into the stones at the black ocean’s shores?
  • What happened when a sample of water was taken from the black ocean?

Black Ocean – Stats

Type: cosmic force,

HD: endless.

Armor: why even ask? This is an ocean.

Intelligence: Unable to be determined. Any sign is incomprehensible as it is a force of energy beyond our scale. It has a sense of scale like looking and gazing at a night sky full of stars.

Align(ment): all are destroyed in the black ocean except for the Sea King Mary and the Ship of the Dead.

Attacks:

  • 1+(1 per character in the ocean) attacks / round
  • Crashing Wave (1/round per character caught): any characters in the black oceans water will lose 25% of their HP for every round in its grasp. No roll is made, attacks always land. A prepared defense will halve the damage dealt.
  • Dragging Maw (2/round): any characters in the water will be pulled 3x their movement speed further from the shore or any safety.
  • Truth Trance (1/round): target will hear disturbing truths and secrets about their lives. Secrets only the dead or themselves may know, these are dark enchanted words spoken in a speech that resembles the sound people make when they are drowning. Coughs and gurgles. This trance makes it so a character cannot move on their turn or act, the trance is broken when the target is touched or shook.

Defenses:

  • Attacks against have no effect.
  • Any items that touch the water have a 90% chance of being pulled in with unmatched strength, characters who hold these items will find letting go in time before being pulled a medium difficulty check. Items cannot be pulled from the water and have a 65% chance of being completely destroyed.

Special Qualities:

  • Entities that are aligned with the black sea have 6x their normal speed when moving under its waves.
  • Characters caught in the water cannot defend any attacks made against them. Any defense made will double damage done by the black ocean against them.
  • Character caught in the water cannot escape it without assistance from an outside force. Even that task would be treated as incredibly difficult, and any success would come at grievous costs.

Page 1 of 2

Powered by WordPress & Theme by Anders Norén