01
Dec
19

NaNo. Nah. No.

I didn’t make it. Not even close. Final count was 12,044.

Hadn’t even gotten to the second act. I don’t know if I’ll come back to it and try to finish it or not. We’ll see. It’s still an accomplishment, I suppose – most I’ve managed to write in over a year – but very disheartening.

Being chronically ill is the absolute shits.

KA Spiral no signature

23
Nov
19

Guilt

I’ve been away from my keyboard for almost 48 hours. As I noted yesterday, there’s stuff going on, and scribbling doesn’t seem to help the mindset. But I’ve discovered stopping myself from doing it isn’t all that helpful, either.

This is a nothing post, a quick blurb, but sitting down to do it scratched the itch and banished the guilt demon. It also aggravated the lung, back and head demons who weren’t happy about being dragged upstairs, sitting in the chair, or the frequent panic of what to write. Win some, lose some.

I feel like I’m going insane. More insane than I actually already am, that is.

News as it develops.

KA Spiral no signature

22
Nov
19

Sabbaticals

I have done my very best to write every day, to post every day. I have somehow managed this feat for around 110 days.

That’s pretty impressive for me, especially given my condition. I have at least a small sense of pride about it, even if it’s unwarranted and ultimately pointless. It’s ranked second at the moment in points of personal pride (first place is my PSN Trophy Count. Yes, I know that’s sad.)

But the holidays are coming. Stress levels are rising. I just had to move and there’s still a lot to unpack. My health continues to deteriorate, and doctors want more and more time to poke me.

I need some time away, I think. Not too long. But hitting this every single day is draining me and not realistically feasible at this point. So if you see me skip a few days (no more than a week at a time, I promise), nothing’s wrong, I don’t hate you, and I’m not dead.

For those of you I miss, happy holidays, happy Thanksgiving, merry Christmas, happy New Year’s, etc, etc. And if you don’t celebrate those particular variants of holiday festivity, please interpret that as being well wishes for your favored day, or if you are of a denomination that avoids them all, then take it as “have a great couple of months.” No hate, folks.

Take care, everyone.

KA Spiral no signature

21
Nov
19

Snippet: Chrysanthemum Graves

Figured it might be nice to not do something involving the spook, and instead do the beginning. Enjoy.

-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=

“What the fuck are you doing? Where the hell are your shoes?”
The voice came from somewhere further inside the house, the heavy walls and their tapestries deadening it, killing any echoes and making it hard to tell where it had come from. Still, Danny knew it well enough. Calm, despite the words it chose. Deep, rumbling like a subterranean landslide. Faint traces of an accent, but one that was almost impossible to define.

“Taking care of the floor, man! Isn’t that some shit you’re into? Don’t wanna track all over the place.”

Danny’s voice was shrill, nasal, almost the human equivalent of nails on chalkboard. He hated the sound of it himself, and would complain about it to anyone who even vaguely touched the subject, but there wasn’t much he could do about it. Puberty and its mysterious ways had been unkind to him in that regard.

The owner of the other voice had appeared at the end of the hall leading from the entryway. Contrary to his irritation at Danny’s lack of footwear, he was barefoot. A pair of gray sweats were the only clothing he wore. His chest was bare, shiny with sweat. Danny assumed the other man had been in the middle of one of his routines when he’d heard the bell.

“I like to keep my floor clean, yeah. That’s why I don’t want your nasty feet dragging on it. I mean, couldn’t you at least wear some socks? Go put your shoes back on. Then meet me in the kitchen.”

The man turned to his left, slipping through a beaded curtain that blended so well into the wall that it would have been invisible if you didn’t know to look for it. He was silent as he did so, and despite the rattling Danny knew he’d provoke by walking through it, the beads barely moved, as though they refused to defy the master of the house.

“Uh… right. Whatever you say, Ichi.”

His voice shook more than usual, and Danny cursed himself for it. Ichiro had never done anything to make him feel the pulse of fear that always quaked through him in the other man’s presence. Nothing to him, anyway. But Danny still always had to wonder if one day that would change.

He slunk back up the two short steps that separated the main room from the entrance, slipping his feet into the battered sneakers that had last been replaced sometime during Obama’s first term, before moving to follow Ichiro through the curtain.

He slipped past the beads, suppressing a shiver as they slid over his shoulders in a way that made him think of creatures raking their nails against his body in an attempt to snare him. Ichi’s kitchen was clean, though not in the way Danny would have preferred.

A clean kitchen, to Danny, spoke of use and care. Nicks in the counter, a permanent stain under the coffee pot that was so old and ingrained that it was seared into the fabric of the table but shone with polish anyway. Curtains that had faded a little, that maybe had a blot of pie filling at the edge.

Ichi’s kitchen was clean the way a sterile room was clean. Gleaming white tile, black and chrome appliances that looked like they had just come from the showroom floor minutes before, perfectly clear windows without adornment, pots, pans, and cutlery polished to a mirror sheen and arranged on metal runners more suited for display than usage. To Danny, it looked like a surgical ward, and part of him wondered if it had ever been used that way. It wouldn’t have surprised him.

Ichi was sitting at the table in the middle of the room, an oak affair on iron legs that would have looked more at home in a boardroom than a kitchen. Arrayed at five points were short stools of black steel with glass seats. Not comfortable looking in the least, but Danny was thankful he wouldn’t be sitting cross-legged on the floor. Ichi was prone to making him do that, and it always made Danny’s knees ache.

One of Ichi’s brows rose, as his hand gestured to one of the stools.

“Sit. Stop staring. I pay you for information, not to mess up my floors and admire my decor.”

Danny’s head bobbed with enthusiasm, and he slid across the floor putting as little weight into his steps as possible. He made it to the stool without incident, but pulling it out produced an unpleasant shriek of metal on tile, and as he dropped into the seat he saw the black scuff mark the chair leg had left.

Ichi’s expression was unchanged, but Danny thought he could smell the other man’s irritation. He gave a pained smile, shrugged, and sat down.

“Yeah. You do. S’why I’m here. Information.”

Ichi continued to glare, eyes boring into Danny. Danny hated it when Ichi did that; sometimes it felt like the man was sifting through his guts and brain simultaneously, digging up every piece of dirt he could. When Ichi looked at him like that, Danny wondered why the man needed people to bring him information. All he really needed to do was stare someone down, and if he couldn’t just read their mind, even some of the toughies on the Southside would start spewing whatever info Ichi wanted.

“Um. Yeah. You told me to keep an eye out for anybody who’s real particular about their collars, doesn’t ditch their shirts or coats even when it’s boiling outside, don’t talk much. Especially if they’re hanging around the kid, right?”

Ichi said nothing. Danny wasn’t surprised. He cleared his throat before continuing.
“Well, there’s a couple that just got into town. Haven’t seen ’em myself yet, but one of them was asking around for the kid, and the other’s been asking around for someone who sounds a lot like you. Mentioned your back and everything.”

The other man’s hands clenched, producing a click as the thick silver ring on his right index finger rapped against the table. Danny jumped at the sound. Ichi’s teeth shone through his lips in a grimace.

“So they’re here. Finally.”

His voice was a growl, lacking in human inflection. Danny found it most interesting, as he’d expected Ichi to at least be surprised. Or angry. Or anything. Snarling resignation hadn’t been the response he thought he’d get.

“Um, yeah. Sounds like it, boss. I’ve got a couple guys sniffing them out, checking their credentials. They’ll call me as soon as they know more, and I’ll call you right after, but I figured you’d wanna know ASAP.”

“For once, you’re correct.”

Ichi steepled his fingers, bowing his head into them for a moment and closing his eyes. If he hadn’t seen the behavior before, Danny might have thought Ichi had slipped into a narcoleptic fit or something. He knew the other man was just thinking, though, and thinking hard. Danny remained quiet, giving Ichi time to muddle through whatever was going on inside his skull.

“Daniel.”

“Yes, sir.”

“Where is Raioh?”

“The kid? Last I saw him, he was on the schoolyard, playing baseball or something. Mark’s got an eye on him, will pick him up after school. You told me not to mess up his life too bad unless we have to. Since they haven’t found him yet, figured we didn’t have to. Yet.”

Ichi nodded, keeping his head behind his hands.

“Correct. So long as they don’t go near the school, he stays. Have Mark take him somewhere else. A vacation. You do not know where, I do not know where, no one knows where. Mark and Raioh only. Understood?”

“Yeah,” Danny said. He’d learned there was no such thing as a disagreeable order a long time ago. What Ichi said was how it went down, and asking questions was liable to become more trouble than it was worth.

“Good.”

Despite the word, very little of Ichi’s expression seemed to imply anything good about the situation. He folded his hands on the table, staring at the reflection of his own fingers in the mirror sheen for a long moment, then spoke again.

“You say they are asking about me. Or someone a lot like me, anyway. What, specifically, have they asked.”

Danny coughed into his hand, looking away. Bringing up this subject was liable to get Ichiro ansty, possibly even angry, and Danny preferred not to talk about it. But when your boss’s back is covered in an exceptionally elaborate tattoo that quite a few of the less-than-savory folks in the neighborhood are aware of, it tends to be a central point of identity.

“Well, they were… uh… asking about a guy with a tattoo.”

Ichi’s face remained stony, eyes unblinking. Danny took it as a cue to keep talking.

“Said they’re looking for a man with a big flower on his back. A chrysanthemum. Stylized. Heavy ink.”

Ichi nodded.

“Unfortunate. But not entirely unexpected. What else?”

Danny gulped. He wasn’t looking forward to the next detail.

“They also mentioned that the flower might be covered up or overlaid with a dragon or a snake that wraps around the guy’s shoulders.”

He glanced down into his lap, not daring to meet Ichi’s gaze after that. The other man had done some touch up work on the elaborate tattoo once he had settled here, and supposedly only a handful of people were aware of the changes. Even if someone had come looking for him, the change should have thrown them off, at least for a time. But if these goons were asking about the serpent as well as the flower, that meant they knew something they shouldn’t… and Danny could be held responsible.

Ichi surprised him, however. There was no anger, no accusations. Just a slow nod.

“I see.”

Ichiro took a deep breath, eyes closed, as though centering himself. Danny took the opportunity to raise his eyes again, watching the other man carefully. Several seconds passed with neither moving before Ichi spoke again.

“It will be fine. Bring them to me. Make no threats. Make no promises. Find them, and inform them that I wish to speak to them. Give them my name.”

Ichi’s eyes opened, locking on Danny’s and seeming to spark with a fervor and passion Danny rarely saw coming from the man.

“But do so only after Raioh has been escorted away.”

Danny nodded.

“Uh, sure. Yeah, I can do that. But…”

He trailed off, throat running dry.

“But what?”

Danny coughed again, then bit the tip of his tongue to force some spit through his mouth.

“Is that the best idea? I mean… what if they’re here to cause trouble?”

Ichi laughed, a low rumble like the idle of a diesel truck, but Danny didn’t think there was any actual amusement in it.

“And if they are? They know who they are looking for, and know enough to be aware of things that have changed since the last time their organization saw me. Better to face the tiger head on than hide and have it strike you in the back. Besides… they may only be looking to curry favor with Oyabun Kenose. They will not receive such favors, but let them try, regardless.”

Ichi pushed up off the stool.

“You know what you are to do. Now do it.”

He turned away from Danny, giving the man a full view of the elaborate flower that had been painstakingly etched into his back. Circles of yellow and white, done with a traditional chiseled style, the chrysanthemum. Ichi had told Danny once they were flowers of mourning, done to remember the dead. Danny had never asked who was being remembered, but had often suspected it had to do with the boy Ichi was so determined to keep safe.

Laid atop and intertwined with the flower was a much more recent addition. A long black serpentine dragon, claws digging into petal groups, with the tail circling around to Ichi’s ribcage and the head lapping at his neck. Being significantly fresher, Danny could still see some of the blood beads caused by the chiseling.

Shaking his head to clear it, knowing he had better things to do than admire the craftsmanship of Ichi’s tattoo or worry about the implications of it, Danny stood up.

Through some miracle he avoided causing anymore gouges in the tile floor.
He scurried out, phone already going to his ear and Mark’s number being speed-dialed. Best get it done.

-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=

KA Spiral no signature

20
Nov
19

Snippet: Chrysanthemum Graves

Figured I’d post another chunk of the WIP. Let me know what you think.

-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=

Magoichi Saika was feeling unwell. It had started just as they’d been getting ready to leave the little punk’s house, a tickle of nausea and dizziness that he’d written off as a bad taco and the heat. How anyone lived in this hellhole, he didn’t know. One hundred plus degrees, practically year round, and air conditioning was still considered an optional luxury? Insane.
When they’d gotten back to their hotel, he’d cranked up the AC – that had cost them extra, but thankfully Oyabun Kenose was generous – and plopped himself directly in front of it, shrugging out of his sport coat and undoing all the buttons on his shirt. It hadn’t helped. He was cooled down, sure, but it only seemed to make the sickness worse. Rikya had asked him if he wanted dinner, and Saika had waved him off. That had been about an hour ago; Saika figured his partner must have found something else to keep him busy besides a burger run.

That was fine. He hated other people seeing him when he was sick. It showed weakness, and Saika hated looking weak more than anything.
Sweat was running down his face in rivers, which was a bitter joke given how cold he felt. But the cold didn’t feel like it was coming from the air conditioner in front of him, or the room itself, despite it probably being below 60 degrees overall. The chill was coming from somewhere inside, like he’d buried an ice cube somewhere in his chest that was somehow freezing the rest of him from the inside out.

“You’re going to pay.”

Saika jumped, knocking the flimsy plastic chair out from under himself and falling to the ground. He landed face first, and could feel blood dripping from his nose as he sat back up.

“What?” His head snapped from side to side, eyes rolling in the sockets as he tried to spot the source of that voice. They’d swept the room when they first came in, and it had been clean and inaccessible except through the front door. Rikya was gone, and would have likely announced his return; no one should have been able to get inside, let alone do it without Saika noticing and get close to enough to speak to him and vanish again immediately.

The room was still as empty as it had been when they’d first checked in, the only sign that anyone had been there at all being the suitcases sitting on the beds, the toppled chair, and the AC grinding away as it chewed up the hot clouds the natives had the nerve to call air and spat out a blessedly cool, moist breeze. Nothing – no one – here.

“I’m here,” the voice said, and this time Saika realized where it had come from.
His own mouth.

“What the fu-”
His jaw snapped shut on the words without his own will issuing the command. When it opened again, the voice that came from it was not quite his own. It almost sounded layered, as though there was another voice saying the same thing a half second early and in a higher pitch.

“Shut up. Your time is done. You’re going to pay.”

Saika’s hands went to his throat. He could feel the muscles beneath his fingers, flexing in tune to whatever puppetmaster was using his mouth as a speaker. The flesh of his neck was cold and clammy, making his fingers feel frostbitten as he pulled them away with a gasp and a wince. Moving was growing harder, and felt as though something was resisting him, something or someone pulling his muscles in the opposite direction of however he was trying to move.

“It’s not fun to fight against someone stronger than you, is it?”

The voice had lost most of Saika’s resonance, now being distinctly feminine, with an accent that reminded him of the rubes down in Kansai. He could still hear his own voice, but now it was the backbeat, no longer dominant. His arms had run cold as well, and the ice was seeping into his legs as they pushed him up.

He found himself stalking jerkily towards the bathroom. He tried to lock his knees, to will himself to fall down, to turn and run the other way, to do anything, but he was completely at the mercy of whatever force had come over him.

“It’s not fun when someone like that shoves you into a tub, and does whatever they want, is it?”

He saw his hands reach down and take hold of the tap controls of the tub, but couldn’t feel them. They were no longer his hands in any way that mattered. They spun the handles and clear water sprayed from the faucet, already collecting in the deep end and starting to pool even before his hands dropped the plunger in place.

“Looks like it was a little clogged, doesn’t it? That’s alright, though. It won’t matter.”
He reached into his pocket, digging past the smattering of change and the small keyring to fish out the knife. His hands held the knife in front of his eyes for a moment, turning it from side to side, making sure to catch the gleam of the overhead lights against the gunmetal gray hilt, before it slid the blade out. He saw his thumb run along the edge, splitting the flesh and causing several drops of blood to splatter on the floor.

He had no control of what was going on now. He felt nothing in most parts of his body, complete deprivation of feeling, except for the tip of his thumb where the blade had bitten. He could feel that with an exquisite sharpness, as though all his consciousness was focused on that one part of his anatomy, tangling with the severed nerves and screaming in unison.

That scream went unvocalized. His mouth instead emitted a laugh.

“Hurts, doesn’t it? It’s going to hurt more soon enough.”

One of his legs lifted up and over the lip of the tub, the expensive leather shoes doing nothing to prevent the water from flooding in and soaking the skin beneath. The water level was rising, coming up over the hem of his pants leg. The force moving him didn’t seem concerned, as it lifted the other leg into the tub, and sat down.

His body leaned back, bracing the legs against the wall, so his head was against the bottom of the tub. His hair, growing wet and losing some of the gel that held it in place, began to tickle against his cheeks and neck.

“So what’ll it be? Drowning, or the knife? I don’t remember which you did to me, so I can’t decide.”

In the back of his mind, the only place that Saika could still think of as “his” – unlike his body, which was continuing to do whatever it wanted and completely divorced of any of his control or sensation, or his voice, which seemed to prefer spouting nonsense that didn’t have any correlation to his actual situation – an image flashed. Him, standing in a bathroom – one not nearly as nice as the one in which he now found himself, but definitely more personal and homey, something that belonged to someone who tried to take care of it, with a fuzzy toilet seat cover, a picture of a cat hanging across from the toilet, a dolphin-shaped soap dispenser and the like – and staring down into a chipped tub.

A woman was floating in the tub. Nothing unique about her to his eyes. He’d seen plenty of girls that way, half-submerged, eyes open but staring at nothing, wrists slashed. His father had shown him how, and he’d done a dozen himself. He didn’t know which one this was, or why she was taking the wet nap – there was always a reason, though he rarely cared what it was – or even when it was. But it was one of his, and he remembered how good it had felt, that spark of joy and vitality he felt right when they finally stopped struggling and whatever it was that kept a person up and moving slipped out of them.
Thinking about it, the feel of his hands around their throats, pushing them down and holding them beneath the water while they stared up at him was arousing. Apparently at least one part of his anatomy was still listening to his brain. His unwelcome passenger was able to sense it, too; her voice pushed the images and sensations aside.

“Ah, so drowning! Won’t need this, then.”

His hands tossed the knife aside, launching it in such a way that it embedded itself in the wall beside him, quivering. Then his body crunched down as low as it could, submerging his face beneath the rising waters.

He tried to scream. Tried to thrash. Tried to do anything. No part of him responded, and his screams only echoed back to him in the emptiness of his own mind. He could feel the cold water soaking through his clothes and lapping at his skin, could feel it flooding his mouth and stomach and lungs and chilling him from the inside out. He could feel his lungs straining, desperate to fill themselves with something other than fluid, felt a horrible bursting sensation inside as one of them ruptured from the strain.

Through it all, he heard laughter. The laughter of a woman, the one who’d told him he would pay. Behind that, a man’s voice, counting to ten.

Then, nothing.

-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=

Chrysanthemum Graves is up to 11k this week. Trying not to let it stall, even if it doesn’t make it to the 50k in a month. How’s your NaNoWriMo going?

KA Spiral no signature

19
Nov
19

Trophy Hunt – 11/19

Gaming_Cave.jpg

It has been a period of reflection, for the most part. I finished Catherine: Full Body, with the exception of the Rapunzel minigame and the Babel levels. Both are being picked at, but my frenzy for the game has subsided a bit. Code Vein has fallen to my determination, with two of the four endings checked off. The last two can be done in one run (essentially, ignore an item, kill the last boss; reload your save, pick up that item, kill the boss again), but I’ve been picking at it slowly. The Cathedral area is pain personified, the least navigation friendly zone in any Souls-like game I’ve ever played, and doing it a third time (while having to poke into all the corners, because you need to collect all the doodads for the final ending) is just not making me a happy camper.

But, as noted, it’s been about reflection. Going back and ticking a few boxes on older games. I’ve been working on Indigo Prophecy, which I remember enjoying when it originally came out, and which still has some charm to it, but whenever it pops up the “get ready!” prompt in the middle of the screen, I cringe. Whoever decided to make the controls operate off of a pair of Simon Says machines running in the middle of the screen at fast pace never stopped to contemplate folks who’re down an eye. Kinda hard to focus on both of them, and you need to if you want to pass the QTEs. Still, about halfway through.

I also redownloaded Beyond: Two Souls, intending to give it a try again. I’ve absolutely demolished Heavy Rain, I’m about halfway through Detroit, I beat Indigo Prophecy when it originally came out and have hit the halfway mark on the PS4 version. What was missing? David Cage’s other magnum opus.

God, I hate Beyond. It makes me want to punch Ellen Page right in the nose. I hate Jodie, I hate Aiden, I hate the storytelling, I hate the lack of an actual story, and while Cage frequently has questionable control schemes (as noted, Indigo Prophecy‘s QTEs are annoying, and Heavy Rain and Detroit both have some iffy moments), Beyond seems determined to make me smash the damned controller. “Press the direction of Jodie’s movement when the camera slows!” the game tells me helpfully. Sure. Mind telling me which part’s movement I’m following? How about not changing the camera angle mid-input? Some indication of when to actually press it? No? Okay.

I don’t know how he managed to convince Sony to let him make Detroit after Beyond, but I’m apparently in the minority. Oh well. I’ve gotten up to where Ellen Page is homeless and feeling very indie-film, so I think I’m about a third of the way through; I can slog through the rest. Don’t know if I’m going to get the Platinum, though; among other things, it requires playing through the whole game in Duo mode, which I am not looking forward to.

Also revisited an old survival horror game called White Night. It’s a weird little artsy noir ghost story. Has some good ideas – the graphical presentation is definitely different and interesting, the story so far (I’m in chapter 3 of 6 currently) is interesting, grotesque enough to make you go “ewww” and subtle enough to make you have to work out the details and connections yourself without it feeling too vague and airy.

The controls are fucking awful, though. Combined with limited save opportunities, limited resources and one hit kills, as well as 150+ collectibles, it’s a slog. Another one that’s probably not going to be in the Platinum cabinet; among other things, you have to beat the game in one sitting between 8PM and 8AM the next day, which given how tedious and frustrating the game can be, I don’t know that I want to do it. But I’m pretty sure I can knock it into the 90%+ range, if I just sit down and do it.

All this backtracking and picking at things long dormant in my trophy list is about to push my overall percentage to 50%. I will do a little dance when that happens. (Probably about the same time as I finish either White NightBeyond, or Indigo Prophecy, though completing the Rapunzel minigame in Catherine or getting the last couple of endings in Code Vein might do it, as well. Pushing a 15-20% into the 60%s seems more likely than tipping an 80% into a 90%, though.

Ghost Parade is on the way from GameFly; how no idea how that’s going to go. Apparently it’s a Metroidvania set in a forest full of Indonesian mythological and supernatural creatures? We’ll see. No one’s done a trophy guide for it yet that I can find, so it’s going to be mostly blind. We’ll see if I can wring a Plat out of it. Doesn’t seem very popular or played, either. Could end up in the rare shelf. Exciting!

What about you folks out there? What are you playing? What’s in your to-do list? What do you think should be added to mine? Let us know down below!

KA Spiral no signature

18
Nov
19

WorldBuilding: Naming Techniques and Philosophies — A Writer’s Path

A bit of handy advice for those of us dreaming up names for fantastic people and places. (Comments disabled here, please visit the original post.)

by Whitney Carter Last week at my Saturday writer’s group, we had a discussion about character names. One of our people is taking her first crack at fantasy, and one of the questions I had for her was whether or not she intended to change the plain Jane names she was using in […]

via WorldBuilding: Naming Techniques and Philosophies — A Writer’s Path




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