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April 18th, 2019


02:50 am - Work + My Cat
I'm done with my revisions on the book I have out for approval, but I'll be checking it tomorrow before I send it in. Doing this, and doing my normal workload for the project I'm currently writing has been exhausting, but I'm done and checking it over won't take long, and my part of the Dragons book remains well on schedule, if not a bit ahead.

However, what I'm mostly thinking about is my cat Josie (pictured here). She's not the brightest creature - our kitchen (where all three cats get fed) has 2 doors. The other cats know that if they see one door closed to go to the other one. Josie just sits in front of the closed door - although perhaps this is due to her bossy personality rather than limited intelligence, since I then either pick her up and carry her (a process she enjoys) to the open door, or open the closed door.

However, one of her oddest behaviors is something I've never seen another cat do. When we feed them, they all typically run in, and both Flash and Button start eating. More than half the time, including tonight, Josie stops and stares at the eating cats, then she stares at her food, approaches it, again looks at the other cats eating, and then starts eating. Tonight, she was sleeping and came in late, and the other cats were done eating, and she still stared at the other food bowls and at where the other cats would be.

We regularly joke that Josie is either an alien who needs to be reminded how to pass as a cat, or that she is somehow baffled by the sight of food, despite her being the biggest eater (and largest cat) of our three. We also regularly narrate this process "What are they doing? What's that in the bowls? Are they eating? Oh, hey cat food."



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April 17th, 2019


12:44 pm - Ugh
I was starting to feel better about my crappy yesterday, and my mother called again, talking about how disappointed I wouldn't be coming until early June (2.5 weeks after when she wanted me to come) and how it's so long and also so close to my next visit in August, maybe I just shouldn't come for either visit. Thanks gods I haven't bought my ticket yet. Part of me is happily grasping at straws that I won't have to go, while I also know that if I don't, I'll be nagged about it for months or years, and I might not get to go to GenCon, and my mom will likely find other consequences.

OTOH, I really don't want to give in and go earlier, since it takes me weeks to brace myself for visiting them, and always has, and also [personal profile] teaotter and I will be going to visit dear friends in Oakland in late May - which I'll need to keep secret from my mom or I'd be nagged about visiting friends when I should be visiting my parents. I'm exceedingly sick of my mother, and am halfway considering canceling that trip and visiting my mom when [personal profile] teaotter visits our friends just so I won't have to deal with the current level of my mom's hostility.



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April 16th, 2019


02:45 am - Injury Healing and Mad Science
[personal profile] amberite is an awesome mad scientist wizard who has again greatly helped me. Click for very mild body TMI and a story of how mad science is curing itCollapse )



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April 15th, 2019


05:02 pm - Pronoun Pin
I borrowed [personal profile] amberite's "They, Them, Theirs" pronoun pin today and put it on my coat when I walked out to the store. No one commented on it, or possibly even noticed it, but I did not myself being slightly nervous when stepping out of the house. I'm reminded of when I started deciding to dress more femme and flamboyantly 30+ years ago - the nervousness of presenting "me" in some true and accurate sense in public, and while new additions to this will almost certainly continue to produce nervousness, it's always been worth it. It's time to get my own pin.



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12:47 am - Name Change - John Heron + Origin Story
I'm deeply amused that after recently announcing a pronoun change, I'm announcing a name change, at least in person, but it is for entirely different and unrelated reasons. As has likely been apparent to anyone reading my journal, I'm having increasing difficulty with and decreasing tolerance for my mother, and no longer wish to share a last name with either of my parents. For issues of inheritance, I'll likely wait until I inherit to change it legally, but I'd dearly love for everyone to call me John Heron in person.

Heron has also been my name for 27 years - when I had my first Wiccan initiation in late 1992, I needed to pick a magical name. Almost everyone else in my coven used the names of various deities, but I specifically did not want a gendered magical name. At the time, I had no concept of non-binary or transgender - back then my world consisted of cis men, cis women, transmen, transwomen, and me - at the time, I identified as a sissy and a fop, but the idea of choosing the name of a male deity bothered me a whole lot in a fashion that I had difficulty describing or understanding.

In any case, I was at the beach at Santa Monica one night, I think it was after going to see the Cirque du Soleil, and I was talking about magical names with two friends I'd gone to the performance with, and was entirely frustrated, since nothing I thought of seemed to fit. Then, I saw a night heron walking along the beach. While I have always had greater affection for and been more drawn to great blue herons, I considered that a useful sign, and instantly choose Heron as my magical name, and have always been very happy with it.

However, getting called Heron as a first name always felt weird, and also reminds me of my interactions with the creepy angelkin cult back in early 2004 that some few of you may remember - they called me Heron w/o prompting and refused to call me anything else, so I'll never be using that name. However, I had a dear friend spontaneously call me John Heron a decade ago, and I quite liked it.

Since it's vividly clear that I'm in another time of changes, and have more than sufficient reason to abandon my last name, it feels like the time to do this. I'll handle announcements of using this as my writing name more carefully, because I am in the odd (for me at least) position of having fans, and I most definitely want them to be able to continue finding my work. Thankfully, I have a good friend who is an RPG author who changed both her first and last name a few years ago, and continues to be popular, so I'll be getting advice.



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April 14th, 2019


03:26 pm - Work Going Well
For me every writing project follows a similar timetable, regardless of length or topic - it takes me a while to get into it, and for a while writing goes slowly and painfully. Then, I hit a break-though point, and writing goes much faster, until I'm almost at the end, when I start having to fill in bits I've overlooked and craft the thing into a coherent whole (or a series of coherent wholes, for projects that are distinctly modular). Both due to feels both related and unrelated to this project, and also both the distraction of unrelated developer duties and stomach troubles and other minor but annoying health weirdness, this project has been like pulling teeth for a bit more than a week, which sucks for something that I could normally write and edit into a solid first draft in 3 weeks. However, last night I wrote 1,000 words in slightly more than an hour, and I am fairly certain that I've hit the breakthrough point for this project, which gave me a definite feeling of relief.



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April 13th, 2019


12:58 am - Ambition Both Large & Small
Work Both Large & Small
My awesome partner [personal profile] amberite wrote this impressively thought provoking post, which naturally got me thinking. I long ago realized that that while I admire and am often drawn to people who aspire to do large, flashy, and impressive things, I am not such a person (here's a discussion of a wonderful book that helped me better understand this tendency). Instead, like my partner [personal profile] teaotter, my first goal is to be happy and to lead a comfortable life where I can bring joy to the people I know well and care about, and where my own life brings me joy.

I aspire to more than this, but only in limited, and frankly timid ways. In part, this is simply because my relationship to ambition and the purpose of my life is somewhat uncommon and very unlike [personal profile] amberite's. That said, I also understand I have notably more ability to influence others than many, because I write RPGs that see reasonably wide distribution. I try to use this access for good. I find violence troubling and the urge to commit violence or to enjoy violence, including watching media violence, to be baffling, and thus I try to include options in games for action heroism that looks more like firefighters, alien first contact teams, archeologists, and search & rescue workers than soldiers or assassins. Similarly, I attempt to depict worlds worth protecting, because I think ours is and see that the urge to protect and nurture is far too often less well regarded than the urge to destroy. I also try to depict positive or heroic societies in ways that I consider to be actually positive and heroic.

I am not flashy in this. Much of the reason is that I'm simply not a flashy writer, but to a small extent it's on purpose. I do not hide my opinions, but I also avoid setting myself up as a target. I sometimes feel sad that while I have numerous fans in the RPG community, I’m nothing like a “big name”, and can’t see any likelihood that I ever will be. In part large, this is simply because my tastes in both rules and settings are somewhat eccentric, but it’s also that I avoid boldly presenting “grand new ideas” and do not try to reshape gaming. That’s not what I’m interested in, nor what I’m particularly good at. Instead, I build off of others’ ideas, and I excel at matching my writing style and the style of my world building and mechanics to the project at hand. I’m not flashy, but I like to think that I’m often somewhat indispensable.

I also don’t make bold statements and do not seek too much attention. I saw a good friend who became a G-G target effectively stop writing fiction for several years because the harassment she got. Being white and widely perceived as male provides me with a fair amount of protection from this, and I something think I should do and say more, but I have also seen all manner of people become targets of hate.

I am also vividly aware that on rare occasions I can be seriously impressive, and could perhaps cultivate this, but I also know doing so would not be comfortable, both due to my social anxiety, and the simple fact of burning that brightly casts shadows, and these days there are lots of angry shadows out there. Also, I think learning to burn like that in any remotely controllable fashion would be difficult for me.

Ultimately, one thing I know I can do is support, nurture, and reassure those people I care about who are both sufficiently skilled and sufficiently brave and able to become highly visible, while working in many small ways myself.



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April 11th, 2019


03:57 pm - Blech
Today is officially fired. Around midnight, my stomach started bothering me, which is normally due to having eaten on of the various things I have food sensitivities too, but I can't think of what it might have been. Which leaves me with the most likely option of something seemingly fine actually had sufficient amounts of something problematic to bother me. However, events like this also makes me wonder if I've suddenly developed a new sensitivity to some food I love, if my body has just decided to feel like this from now on, or I have some dread illness (the later two are vanishingly unlikely given my generally awesome immune system, but ugh). This is also making me notably more anxious, making work go slower, and is one reason (along with yet more unexpected developer work) I asked for a week extension on my current project, which I utterly loathe doing, but thankfully wasn't a problem.



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April 10th, 2019


10:17 pm - Attempts at Crow Frienship
So, a while ago, I read that crows have special calls that they use for people who feed them - essentially, they have names for people they like. I also checked and found out that crows regard unsalted dry roasted peanuts to be an excellent snack, that are also health for them.

So, now when I walk to the store or otherwise walking around my neighborhood, I now carry peanuts in a bag, and then standing a few yards away and watching them eat. I've had a few successes, including the picture below. So, far I've only gotten single crows to eat the peanuts, despite others occasionally watching them do so - I suspect they are evaluating if I'm a crow friend (or at least food dispenser, which I'm not certain is different for crows) or a crow predator.

An amusing and entirely unsurprising to me side-note, while I'm not fond of unsalted peanuts, I've found myself buying and eating salted dry roasted peanuts now, because I'm just that suggestible.

click for photoCollapse )



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April 9th, 2019


01:09 am - Changing Pronouns - They/Them
Around 4 months ago, I found out that a friend of mine who I think of as occupying roughly the same gender space as me changed their pronouns to they/them and that got me thinking about my own gender. Two weeks ago, I found out that another even older friend who also occupies the same gender space as me had changed their pronouns, and that got me thinking even more, and I'm, sort of trying things on for size at this point, but for now They/Them it is.

As anyone who has met me knows, I avoid traditional masculine presentation, and while the only major cosmetic changes in my body that I'm interested in making would be either pure vanity (long straight hair and no baldness) or well outside the human range (amber-colored cat eyes would merely be the first step of many), I've never felt social male.

I suspect that I fell out of touch with one old friend in part because he was one of the few people who regularly and actively gendered me as male in conversation. I also know that if intermediate gender had been anything like an acknowledged option when I was a teen, I'd have jumped at changing pronouns, and the only reason it took me this long now is force of habit + nervousness.

Life is a journey...



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April 6th, 2019


10:30 pm - Done!
I have just completed development on the latest book for Trinity Continuum: Æon (Distant Worlds, a book of alien planets, and aliens, including playable aliens). It's an awesome book and I both loved writing my part and reading what my authors wrote, but damn am I glad to see the last of it, it's almost exactly 100,000 words long, and the final grammar check drive me completely crazy. I am now sorely tempted to bite the next author who turns in a draft with lots of passive voice in it (despite the fact that one of my own most common faults is using too much passive voice). However, I'm a good cat [1] and won't bite my authors. Also, my eyes have entirely glazed over, and I'm reading novels for the rest of the night.


[1] As this post details, perhaps calling me a good cat is going too far, but I'm definitely not a bitey cat.



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April 4th, 2019


09:17 pm - RPG Developing Amusement
Well, that's never happened before - I did a wordcount of the book I'm almost done developing - my goal is 100,000 words, and that's exactly what it is now. This will likely change by a 100 or so words by the time I'm done, but it's surprising and nifty. Typpically, I aim for within 2-3%, which given me and the authors I choose always means 2-3% over, bit this one is going to be a lot closer.



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April 3rd, 2019


09:24 pm - Various + Spring & Cats
Work is going well if slowly because some of the sections need a lot of work *sigh*, and today was non-awesome because [personal profile] amberite had to take [personal profile] teaotter to the airport, so she could fly to LA to give a deposition for a case she's working on - thankfully, she'll be back tomorrow night. Also, my mom was again horrid and insulting on the phone.

OTOH, it remains absolutely gorgeous in Portland. This is the season I call "petalfall", when cherry (and other) blossoms collect on streets and sidewalks like snow. I didn't see any areas that looked sufficiently photogenic today, but here's a post on the same season, with many photos, from 2008.

I also had an amusing experience with my cat Josie last night - I was doing some stretches before going to bed, and she interrupted me for what I refer to as "stretch petting", meaning one arm stretches, the other arm pets her. I put one arm on the couch to support a stretch, and she gently nipped my knuckle, at which point I naturally started to pet her. The, she began walking along the back of the couch (still being petted) until I grew tired of stretching, walking, and cat petting, and used firmer petting to keep her in one spot.

Finally, here's Josie demonstrating whose chair it really it:

Josie in "my" chair



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April 2nd, 2019


01:59 pm - Tired but happy
I’m fairly tired today, by virtue of only getting 6 ½ hours of sleep. The reason is not difficult to figure out – yesterday I started work on my part of the Dragons book, and misremembered that the deadline was April 19 (I couldn’t remember if the deadline was April 19 or April 29, and chose to believe the former), which left me with just enough time to write my part. Unfortunately, it didn’t leave me any time to read Edges by Linda Nagata, the first in a sequel series to her awesome Nanotech Succession series. Then, I made the mistake of checking and found that my draft is instead due April 29, so I shifted gears back to the book for Trinity Continuum: Æon that I’m developing, and once midnight arrived, I purchased Edges, and started reading. Thankfully, it was a fast read, so the sun wasn’t yet up when I finished it. It was excellent though. There are times that I have the willpower of a brine shrimp.



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March 31st, 2019


10:15 pm - A good & odd day with some stress
The good consists of spending time with my awesome partners – going out to breakfast with [personal profile] teaotter and taking a walk in amazing weather and everything blooming (yay), making a nice dinner, and then [personal profile] teaotter & I rewatching one of the better episodes of the Chinese web series Guardian with [personal profile] amberite - rewatching is especially helpful with a series with English fansubs of highly variable quality.

The odd was two-fold, the simple physical oddness of [personal profile] teaotter and I dyeing our hair with henna, and having to sit around with henna and a plastic bag on my head for 5 hours *ugh* (but the result looks awesome, and so I do this every couple of months). Also, I’m getting ready to start my new assignment, which is a supplement for the game Scion (about gods and the descendants of gods and people empowered by gods) in a mildly variant modern day setting. This book is about playing the descendants of dragons and people empowered by dragons. Given that I identify as draconic otherkin (as I discuss here & here), this is a fascinating assignment that is likely to be some deeply personal writing for me. I’m looking forward to it.

Also, I read the Scion corebook in more detail than before, and being me immediately had an idea for a bizarrely gonzo supplement set in a space opera future where starships travel faster than light by skipping through various magical realms and the universe is one of gods, monsters, vast magics, huge spacecraft, and interstellar dragons. I'm going to see if I can pitch this as a supplement.

The stress was talking to my mom – she wants me to come home for my dad’s birthday in May, given his current state, he likely neither knows nor cares. She utterly rejected my offer of coming for 3 days (arriving Friday evening, leaving Monday evening) as too short and said in her typical nasty passive-aggressive fashion, that maybe I shouldn’t come at all, if I couldn’t come for longer. I’m tempted to do just that, and will see if I can manage this, assuming she doesn’t manage to browbeat and threaten me with changing their will or any of the various other things she’s done over the years. Ugh.



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March 28th, 2019


02:02 am - Pages & Pages
In case anyone ever wondered who turns all the page XX references in RPG books into actual page numbers, in the case of Trinity: Continuum: Æon for Onyx Path, which I'm the developer for - that would be me. I spent all day doing this, and my brain is fried, but I'm done - all 373 pages worth and gods knows how many page references. This is my first time doing this, and while I got it all done in one day, it was one of the most mind-numbing activities I've ever done. Tomorrow, I'll do some spot checks (and more checks if I find any errors), tonight, and the rest of tomorrow is for reading novels.



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March 17th, 2019


03:37 am - Thoughts on Libertarian Failure Modes
I was getting ready to write a post about an excellent article about how many libertarians became fascists over the last few years, and it got me thinking about some of the libertarians and libertarian-adjacent people I've encountered in SF&F fandom and in college, and in both cases one common feature I repeatedly encountered was engineers who had utter contempt for politicians and bureaucrats, and who firmly believed that the world would be vastly better if engineers ran governments, and it occurred to me that we now know how this looks. China's autocrat Xi Jinping has a degree in chemical engineering, and so do some of the other senior level Chinese leaders.

They have changed China somewhat - it's doing surprisingly well wrt climate change and energy, but their understanding of economics is clearly somewhat limited, and China has become notably more repressive and authoritarian, especially wrt social media, where their Social Credit System seems poised to become a horrifyingly effective mechanism for oppression and control, and where Xi Jinping uses some of his impressively vast power to make absolutely certain that no one in China can compare him to Winnie the Pooh.

When I thought about it, this seemed exactly like what I should have expected would happen in this sort of situation, since the people who talked about how engineers running nations would vastly improve them had the exact mixture of utter devotion to their own personal freedom and general disinterest in the personal freedom of other people, especially other people who disagreed with them, that is common among most other libertarians I've encountered.



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03:34 am - Awesome Caitlin R. Kiernan story
I actively dislike most horror and am bored by almost all of the rest, but I seriously enjoy many of Caitlin R. Kiernan's works (her novel Daughter of Hounds remains one of my favorite novels of all time, but some of her work is too bleak and grim for me). So, when I started reading The Unicorn Anthology (edited by Peter Beagle), I started with Kiernan's story - there are works by Jane Yolen, Nancy Springer, Garth Nix, and Patricia McKillip in this anthology, and I assume they will all be wonderful, but I was very curious to see what sort of gloriously messed up wonder Kiernan had written, since it not like anyone associates her with unicorns.

The story was titled "The Maltese Unicorn", was set in 1935 NYC, the protagonist was a hard-boiled occult book seller, and it involved demon brothels and a search for a dildo made from a unicorn horn. It was both awesome, and perhaps exactly what I should have expected. I recommend the story and imagine the rest of the anthology will be both quite different and differently awesome.



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March 16th, 2019


03:30 pm - Thoughts on modern "literary" fiction and it's surprising origin
While the vast majority of my fiction reading is genre fiction, mostly SF&F, I occasionally read older fiction that isn’t typically classified as genre fiction, but I’ve yet to find a single piece of post WWII fiction of the “literary” genre that I’ve enjoyed or been able to finish, perhaps something of this sort has been written in the last 20 years, but I suspect not. When I was in High School in the late 1970s, I was assigned a remarkable amount of such literature and it bored me silly, despite having found at least some enjoyment in older works.

A friend of mine linked to two articles that helped bring my taste into perspective. The first is by SF&F author and editor Cecilia Tan, which I think does an excellent job of explaining how the modern “literary” focus on “universal” experiences and “truths” (meaning in almost all cases, the experiences of white, middle-class western authors who were often academics and usually men) is deeply limiting and ultimately problematic, and is why I consider “literary fiction” to be a very specific genre, and one I have little interest in.

The same friend also linked to this article, which reviews a book (Workshops of Empire by Eric Bennett) that looks to explain the origin of this genre: Perhaps unsurprisingly, the origin is US governments efforts to flight communism. I also found this more in-depth discussion the ideas in the book and its ideas:

The basic idea is that the government liked the idea of literature that specifically wasn’t social criticism, and that such work should focus on “‘sensations, not doctrines; -experiences, not dogmas; memories, not philosophies.’ The goal, according to Bennett, was to discourage the abstract theorizing and systematic social critiques to which the radical literature of the 1930s had been prone, in favor of a focus on the personal, the concrete and the individual.” In short, literature specifically designed to not question either authority or the structure of society.

In addition to finding that the fact that the entire US literary fiction genre becoming bland and tepid was at least in part a government plot, the idea that the CIA was involved in creating and promoting both the literary fiction genre and abstract expressionism in art is deeply surreal.



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March 9th, 2019


02:15 am - Favorite Songs
I’ve mentioned my favorite musicians and bands before, but today I listened to Airships by VNV nation for the first time in several years and was reminded how its my favorite of their songs, and that got me thinking about my other favorite songs, so here’s my top five (in no particular order), which range from Flying Sorcery, which I first heard and fell in love with more than 40 years ago, to Velodrome, which I first heard less than a year ago.

Airships by VNV Nation

Flying Sorcery by Al Stewart

Never Look Away by Vienna Teng

Your Fire, Your Soul by Dar Williams

Velodrome by Dessa

What are your favorite songs?
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