Not NaNo – Chateaux of the Night

This one needs rather a lot of work, but it’s an idea I”m kicking around. Please bear with me on Gus. I’ll be working on his dialect to make it proper cockney, but more research is required :).

Mortimer pinched the bridge of his thin, pale nose with two bony fingers and closed his eyes. He took a deep breath, not that he needed to, after all, Vampires didn’t need to breath. When he opened his eyes, the situation failed to improve. The small goblin butler that Mortimer regretted hiring, some decades ago now, stood a still as a statue, massive reflective eyes fixed up at him. In one hand, dangling to the goblin’s side was a smallish rubbish brush and in the other, held up like some kind of morbid trophy was a dust-pan heaped with ash.

With as much confidence and dignity as he could muster, Mortimer asked, “And that’s all that’s left?”

Gus turned his enormous eyes at the heap of ash on the dustpan then back up to Mortimer. “I got as much of ‘im as I could, Mort.”

“I’ve told you to stop calling me that!”

“Don’t see why, Mortimer is one of them pansy-posh names, innit? As I was saying before being so rudely interrupted, the wind kicked up an’ just started blowin’ ‘im about. It was a right pain in the ol’ bottle and glass, I can tell you.”

Mortimer gritted his pointed teeth. “I needed this to work.”

“An’ I needed a good Rogan Nosh, but ‘ere we are. Where do you want the brown bread ‘ere?” Gus asked, holding the dustpan a little higher.

“Just chuck him in the bin and fetch me another Alchemist.”

“I reckon you’ve killed ‘em all then, innit?”

Mortimer frowned at the goblin. “What do you mean killed them all?”

Gus shrugged, spilling a bit of the last alchemist on the floor. “I didn’t make ‘em into vampires an’ march ‘em into the daylight.”

“No, not that,” Mortimer said shaking his head. “I mean the thing about there not being more. What do you mean there aren’t any more?”

“Ah, yeah, that bit,” Gus paused. “No, this was the last one. I reckon your rubbish bin is got the most bits of alchemists in the world in.”

“That can’t possibly be.”

“We’ve been at it for about an ‘undred years. I expect it is. This one took me a month to track down”

Mortimer tipped his head back. “I’m so tired of all of this skulking about in the dark.”

“That’s the lot of a vampire, innit?” Gus asked. “Why not just enjoy it?”

“I can’t enjoy it!” Mortimer exclaimed, wishing there was some sort of table or shelf or something to pound his fist on. “You know what I want?”

“I do. You’ve only told be about an ‘undred times.”

“I wanted to be a –”

“Painter of landscapes,” Gus intoned.

Mortimer balled his fist in front of him. “Painter of landscapes,” he said. “And you know what landscape painters can’t do?”

“Paint landscapes in the dark.” Gus replied quietly, audibly settling into the impending monologue.

“All I ever wanted in life–.”

“Just a reminder, you’re undead now.”

“Was,” Mortimer continued, “to paint landscapes, and you can’t very well do that when you burst into flames at the very sight of the sun!”

 “I’ve been telling you for ages, you just need to lean into the dark lord of the knight thing. It’s what you are and I reckon you could get pretty good at it.”

“Alright, fine,” Mortimer said, “maybe I’d like to go out and watch a soccer game.”

Gus showed a mouthful of horrible, crooked teeth and growled.

Mortimer rolled his eyes. “Football match, you happy?”

“It’s better, I can’t abide that horrible American word. You know every country in the world, the goblins, the trolls, all the other vampires, and even the whole lot of were-people call it football?”

“And yet you can abide fetching me totally unworkable alchemists.”

“You know they wouldn’t burst into flames if you didn’t keep turning them into vampires, right?”

“They would be turning right back into regular alive people if they got their elixirs right, wouldn’t they? It’s not my fault they’re rubbish alchemists!”

“Still no excuse for calling it soccer.”

“Just dispose of old max there and work on getting me another alchemist.”

Gus turned around. “Right-o, I’ll just pop an ad in the newspaper.”


Image by Anja from Pixabay

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Time to get back to the books

Happy (belated) new year! For the past several years, I’ve written some type of new-year blog post about my writing goals. The posts usually involve burning something I’ve been struggling with or that I need to move away from and what I’m looking forward to. This year, I didn’t really spend a lot of time writing. I did put in a bit of time on the sequel to Wine Bottles and Broomsticks but hit some snags that I didn’t feel I could solve easily. I suppose I could’ve burned that, but I also haven’t given myself any goals for writing. Instead, I’m focusing on getting my master’s degree finished. The past almost 12 months have been focused on work, prepping for school, doing school, and trying to unwind where I could. Come January 1, I felt I had nothing I could burn and I certainly didn’t set any writing goals for the year. To be clear, none of this means I’ve given up on writing. I just have a different focus for a little while.

I think I’ve said this before on this blog, but I realized a few years ago that writing wasn’t ever going to pay my bills. For most writers, it doesn’t. That’s why I have to go to grad school. Not because I need a better job, but because I’m not at all confident that the education and skills I bring to the table will continue to sustain my career without significant augmentation. (I’ve got a whole rant here about companies bitching about not being able to hire and not bothering to call qualified candidates – or pay wages that make any kind of sense at all, but I won’t treat you to that) So, here I am, readying myself to start a second semester tomorrow. Even as I write this, I’m starting to get the introductory e-mails to the two courses I’ve signed up for. It’s going to be 20-40 hours a week on top of a full-time job and parenting. This is nothing I ever expected I’d be doing, but here I am.

What I really wanted to say with this post though is that yes, school starts tomorrow and I’m going to be thinking about little else besides that and work, but I’m not done writing. What’s more, I think the break from writing to focus on other aspects of life has been good. Over the past few days, the last of my winter break, I’ve started to seriously get my writing motivation back. By the time I’m done with this degree, I suspect I’ll be ready to tackle several projects, and having gone through the rigor of grad school is certain to help me develop the discipline required to allocate time to writing, and the focus to deal with problems effectively. In the end, no matter what I do still won’t result in my turning my writing into anything profitable, but I’ll be more confident about my ‘day job’ and so it’ll be easier to remain focused when I do have time to write.

Anyhow, those are my thoughts, I expect it’ll be a minute before I’m able to get back out here to blog again, but I will be back.

A new year and nothing to burn

Normally, I ‘burn’ a book on the new year. This year, I have nothing to burn. I simply haven’t been able to write.

It hardly needs to be said, but it’s been a difficult year. Writing has been pretty far from my mind for most of it. I even have to remind myself I published The Dark Queen of Darkness in February. I’m absurdly proud of that book and I had high hopes for the launch. Instead, the whole world shut down, hundreds of thousands of people (millions?) lost their lives, and folks who rely on in-person events for their livelihood found themselves without a source of income. My hopes for Hexe hardly even seem relevant looking back on it.

On launching Hexe this year, I had planned a whole PILE of new and interesting things to try and amplify my platform. I was going to start doing regular blog posts on my experiences. I had planned YouTube videos (not the airplane ones, those are a fun 1-off) that talk about my experiences. However, after everything shut down, and my author event was cancelled, effectively killing my book launch, the day job pretty much took over my life.

I’ve spend my last 10 months at the epicenter of contingencies to adapt our processes and tools to work in a remote environment. And for anyone who thinks that after the pandemic is ‘over’, that we’ll just get to go back to old and comfortable ways, that’s a fantasy. The pressure to continue remote work to ‘reduce costs’ and ‘improve efficiency’ will absolutely remain and are likely to increase. My division (or section? I don’t know anymore), spent more than 40 years honing and perfecting data collection practices and tools that make us a world-class organization. What we can tell you about subsistence in Alaska is quite literally unparalleled in the subject area. In March, I found myself repeating: “Yes, we can adapt, we can because we have to.” Now that I’m mid-way through that process, I’ve got two observations. The first is that you can change long-standing business practices nearly overnight. The second is that it’s crushingly difficult, but not for the reasons you might think. It’s emotionally exhausting, creatively exhausting, and takes a significant mental health toll. There’s no time to take a break and not think about it. This is all on top of the routine work we do.

I think this is a long way of saying. I’m exhausted and by the end of any given day, I can’t face it. I open my iPad to pluck away at Apple Pie and Comfortable Shoes (the sequel to Wine Bottles and Broomsticks), and immediately feel overwhelmed. What’s more, those books are intended to be a satirical take on how we treat each other and how people manipulate each other and how in the end we’re all just bloody human and make bad decisions. The “witch hunt” is meant to refer to the colloquial expression and also literal expression. Doom-scrolling through Facebook after an emotionally exhausting day has me fully unable to cope with it.

So, that’s it, I’ve got no writing goals for the year, no goals to keep up with my blog, no goals to get my YouTube stuff in order. It’s not because I’m lazy or giving up, as much as I just can’t cope with another thing right now, especially when that thing, though I love it, doesn’t pay the bills or ensure future employment. I do hope your year is a good one and maybe next New Year’s I’ll have a more upbeat post.