The Never-Ending Halloween

I went to work yesterday, and they were playing Christmas songs. Christmas decorations were everywhere, and I had to assemble a cardboard replica of Santa’s mailbox to hang gift cards on. And yet just a few days ago, I posted this on Instagram. Halloween hasn’t been over for a full week, and already Christmas is dancing on it’s dessicated corpse.

Of the two holidays, I have to say that I’m more of a fan of Halloween these days. Oh sure, I don’t go trick-or-treating, and I spend more time with friends and family on Christmas than I do on Halloween. But I feel closer to the spirit of Halloween than Christmas. Maybe it’s because Christmas has been commercialized out the wazzu (not that there isn’t a huge commercial element to Halloween as well), or maybe it’s because I’m sick of hearing about the War on Christmas from the more conservative side of the family. But honestly, I think it has more to do with Halloween being steeped in fantasy and horror, my two favorite genres both to write and to read.

Anyone who reads my blog should know I’m a fan of the macabre. I think I’ve posted more horror stories on this blog than any other genre. The same goes for the stories I post on my Patreon. I could make up some pretentious artistic explanation for why that is, such as horror being able to expose our underlying primal anxieties or whatever, but the truth is that I just find it fun to read scary stories and to write my own. I have ever since I was a kid. Seriously, you have no idea how many Goosebumps books I checked out of the school library.

A lot of my current projects revolve around horror, as well. Wednesday marked the premiere of the podcast TerrorTop, a Dungeons and Dragons Actual Play with Gothic and Lovecraftian elements. I’ve been working real hard on DMing the game and working together with my players to create a believable and terrifying world. We plan on releasing a new episode every other week, alternating with out sister podcast Quips and Crits.

TerrorTop
The thumbnail art for TerrorTop, as drawn by Evan La Medica

In addition, I have been working on an urban fantasy/ horror themed indie tabletop RPG, which I hope to eventually be able to publish. Working on developing the rules has been really fun, especially since I decided to work on my own system instead of piggy back off of someone else’s work. Unfortunately, that means I could very well screw up and create something unbalanced and not at all fun to play. But that’s the basic risk that comes with making any game.

Finally, I’m continuing to write horror stories. I’ll be posting a short flash fic later today, and I’m spending time that I’m not working on the RPG writing a longer story that I eventually hope to have published. if I can’t publish it, I’ll throw it on the Patreon and work on the next one. Eventually, I’ll get good enough to be a published horror author. Halloween may be over, but I will never stop celebrating the spirit of the macabre.

WolfNut of Red Larch

The following is a parody Werewolves of London by Warren Zevon. The lyrics are inspired by Acquisitions Incorporated: The C-Team. For best results, sing loudly while accompanied by a classic piano with an occasional guitar solo.

I saw WolfNut with a Draconic menu in her hand
walking through the streets of Red Larch in the rain.
She was looking for a place called the Yum Yum Hut.
Gonna get big plate of beef and romaine.

Hawooo! WolfNut of Red Larch
Hawoo!

Hawooo! WolfNut of Red Larch
Hawoo!

See her howling round your dungeon door,
better not let her in!
Tiny little goblin got mutilated late last night.
WolfNut of Red Larch again!

Hawooo! WolfNut of Red Larch
Hawoo!

Hawooo! WolfNut of Red Larch
Hawoo!

She’s that hairy handed creature
who ran amok in Nemezir.
Lately she’s been overheard in Neverwinter.
Better stay away from her:
she’ll rip your lungs out, sir!
Heh, I’d like to meet her armorer.

Hawooo! WolfNut of Red Larch
Hawoo!

Hawooo! WolfNut of Red Larch
Hawoo!

I saw Jim Darkmagic Walking with Omin Dran
dancing the WolfNut of Red Larch.
I saw Jim Darkmagic’s clone walking with Omin Dran
dancing the WolfNut of Red Larch.
I saw WolfNut drinking an ale at the Dran and Courtier.
Her hair was perfect.

Hawooo! WolfNut of Red Larch
Hawoo!

Hawooo! WolfNut of Red Larch
Hawoo!

Heh, draw blood!

Hawooo! WolfNut of Red Larch
Hawoo!

Asexuality: My Story

I guess you would call this a coming out post. Doesn’t really feel like coming out. A lot of other people already know about my sexuality. For instance, I list myself as asexual on Twitter and Mastodon. But I’ve not really talked about my sexuality much here on the blog. Well, this week is Asexual Awareness Week, so it seems like a good idea to talk about what being asexual means to me. And the best way I can do that is by telling a story.

AceFlag-1024x615

I’ve always known there was something different about me when it comes to sex. Every dude I’ve ever known has been obsessed with sex and romance since middle school. I wasn’t. I had the occasional crush, but I never fantasized about anyone sexually. Still, I felt tremendous pressure to lose my virginity. But this never happened. I never really asked anyone out, and the one time I tried to have a relationship, it was really awkward. Sex and romance just seemed so complicated and terrifying to me. I remained a virgin all through high school and into college.

At this time, I had no idea what asexuality was or that it was even an option. I knew gay straight, and bi were options, and I had had a couple crushes on girls, so I thought I was straight. I thought romance and sex went hand in hand. I had no idea there were people who didn’t feel sexually attracted to anyone. I didn’t really understand asexuality until I read Girls With Slingshots by Danielle Corsetto. One of the Characters, Erin, was asexual. The comic explored her romantic relationship with Jamie, a woman who was sexually attracted to men. The two of them ended up entering into an open relationship so that Jamie could continue to have sex without Erin having to be a part of something she didn’t want to be in.

Girls With Slingshots did a great job of introducing th subject of asexuality to me, but unfortunately also left me with the assumption that asexual people don’t like sexual contact of any kind, something that actually isn’t true. This in turn led me to believe that asexual people don’t masturbate, and that because I had masturbated before, I was disqualified.

Then, in Senior year, I had a bad episode of depression that lasted for several months and almost took me out of school completely. While i recovered from this, I decided that I definitely wasn’t ready for any kind of sexual or romantic encounter. I started referring to myself as “happily single.” Not long after, I got a job and was able to donate to artists via Patreon for the first time. I discovered the webcomic Beefpaper, which is drawn by Shane Sheenan, who is asexual. Not long after, I discovered Hoi Butt a comic by Shane’s then-partner-now-spouse Tasha Dancy, who is on the Asexual spectrum as well. More importantly, I began donating to shane on Patreon and, as a result, I got to hang out with him and Tasha online. Reading their comics and talking with them helped me to understand that Asexuality is a spectrum, and that there was room for me on it. They helped to dispel some myths, including the myth that asexuals don’t masturbate.

Discovering my asexuality helped me to understand myself better. It freed me from the trap of believing that sexuality is compulsory and put a name on the feelings I had been having all my life. And in the process, I had met people like myself, who I could relate to. I no longer feel strange or alone. I feel valid and real.

I wouldn’t have found this, however, if it hadn’t been for my habit of reading obscure comics. I didn’t know asexuality existed before I read GWS, and i couldn’t be sure I was asexual until I had talked to Shane and Tasha. Asexuality is very unrepresented in media. Many people don’t know it exists, and even when it is represented, it often is stereotypical in certain fashions. That is why things like Asexual Awareness week are so important: they help let people know that the asexual spectrum exists and that asexuality is a valid identity.

Nikos
Nikos the Younger, Asexual Eladrin Warlock, as drawn by Tasha Dancy.

For my part, I’m doing what i can as an artist to change that.Nikos, the character I play on Quips n Crits, is Asexual. I made him that way specifically for the purpose of representation. He fulfills a few stereotypes, but he is based on myself in certain ways, so I feel he at least brings a bit of representation into the realm of D&D Actual Play. He won’t be the last character I make that’s asexual, either: I plan on putting quite a few asexual characters in my writing from now on. Expect to see a couple in some upcoming stories.

I hope sharing my story helps people to understand asexuality a bit more, as well as highlights the importance of representation in media. felling seen and valid is important to the human experience. Everyone deserves that feeling, no matter who they love – or who they don’t love, as the case may be.

World Mental Health Day 2018

I’ve talked on here before about my struggles with depression and anxiety. I’ve dealt with these diseases most of my adult life. I nearly had to drop out of college because of them. Luckily, I was able to find help for my condition and begin treatment. So far, especially recently, it’s been incredibly effective. I’m more positive than I have been for years. I’m able to deal with my anxieties in a more effective manner. I’m even able to work through my frustrations more. But I’m privileged in this regard.  not everyone has access to the kind of help that I have been able to get. So today, instead of doing a story or a poem, I want to share a few things you can do to fight the stigma against mental illnesses and help out those who suffer from them.

The first thing you can do, if you have the money, is donate to a charity or organization that helps people with mental illnesses find treatment and support. The National Alliance on Mental Illness is one such organization. They provide help and support to many people throughout the United States. If you are a gamer, a good organization to donate to is Take This, which works to fight the stigma in the gaming community and provide resources to help people with mental illnesses at gaming conventions.

The second thing you can do is listen and be there for people in your life who have mental illnesses. If you know someone who suffers from a mental illness, try and be there for them to talk to. Listen to their experiences and try not to judge them for what they’ve been through. Let them know that you are there for them and that you want to understand and help however you can.

The most important thing you can do, if you yourself suffer from a mental illness or think you might have one, is to take care of yourself. If you think you might have an illness talk to someone. If you are scared of talking to a professional, talk to a friend or family member. If you need time by yourself, take it. If you have a creative pursuit, work on it a bit. Do whatever you can do to try and keep yourself going, because you are valued and wonderful just for being alive.

I hope this post helps people to understand how they can do something productive to help a person with a mental illness. I’ll post something more creative soon. In the meantime, take care of yourselves and each other.

The Coffee Shop

In a small coffee shop in Cleveland, Ohio, not far from Playhouse Square, two men were discussing the state of the war. One of them, a redhead with glasses and a flat cap, seemed particularly agitated. “The president said he wasn’t ruling it out,” he said. His friend, a tall bald man with a long beard, just shook his head. “They already used them in the Middle East,” continued the red-headed man.

“There is a significant difference,” said the bearded man, “between using nuclear weapons on foreign soil and using them against American citizens. Even if they are rebels.”

Jared listened to the two men as he swept the floor behind the counter. He knew eavesdropping on them was rude, but he couldn’t help it. It was that time of evening when hardly anyone showed up. Not many people needed coffee after six o’clock. He and Kelly barely needed to do anything. Jared looked around the shop at the customers. Apart from the two politically-minded individuals, there was a middle-aged couple a few tables away. The husband had on a Cavs jacket and an Indians baseball cap. Every so often he would turn away from his wife and look over at the two men discussing politics. His wife, meanwhile, was trying to keep him engaged in their own conversation, which had to do with school choices for their children and how they were going to pay for college. The only other person in the coffee shop was a young woman, around college age, who was pretending to study a calculus textbook but kept checking her phone every few minutes.

Looking around, Jared realized that, once again, everyone in the coffee shop was white. This wasn’t surprising: people of color hadn’t been coming to the coffee shop for a long time. Jared recalled one particular Middle Eastern couple, neighbors of his named Aleah And Brahim, who used to be regulars. Aleah would get a medium latte and Brahim enjoyed a large black coffee. One day, while Jared was driving to work, he noticed a couple of black vans parked in front of their house. They stopped showing up to the coffee shop after that, and the next time Jared drove by their house there was a for sale sign in front of it.

Even the staff of the coffee shop was now completely white. Jared’s friend Jamal had left the coffee shop a little over a month ago. Rumor was that he’d run away to New York City, deep in rebel territory, with one of the regulars, Marcus, who he had been dating. Jared liked Marcus. Marcus would come in and order a latte with a shot of pumpkin spice every fall, and Jamal would laugh. “You’re such a little white girl, Marcus,” he’d say. But if Jamal and Marcus had been planning on fleeing to New York, they had never told Jared. Sometimes Jared wondered what had really happened to the two of them. Were they really going to New York? If so, did they make it there? Did Jamal join up with the rebel army, or were they living peaceful, civilian lives?

“Would you really put it past the president to go that far?” the redheaded man asked his friend. “He’s always said that we need to get tough on them.”

“But what happens when the war ends, and there’s a big radioactive crater where New York used to be?” replied the bearded man. “Think of all the money that would need to go into the rebuilding effort. Do you really think that the president wants to spend that much, especially with the national debt as high as it is?”

“I suppose not,” conceded his friend. “God, can you just imagine, though? All that destruction, thousands of people dead. And not just troops, but civilians, too.” The bearded man nodded, a grim look on his face.

The man in the Indians cap leaned towards the two gentlemen. “Hey,” he said. The men ignored him.

His wife put a hand on his shoulder. “Jack, don’t,” she admonished. Jack ignored her.

Hey,” he said again, louder. Again, the two men ignored him. Jack got up from his seat.

Hey, you ginger fuck,” he said, “you some kind of rebel sympathizer?”
That got everyone’s attention. Even the woman in the booth stopped pretending to study and was now looking up at the scene unfolding a couple of tables away from her. The red-headed man turned to face his accuser. “I’m sorry?” he asked, a bewildered look on his face.
“I asked,” said Jack, “if you and your friend were a couple of rebel-loving traitors.”

“Of course not,” said the redheaded man. “I wasn’t—”

“Because it seems to me,” said Jack, interrupting him, “that any real American wouldn’t have the slightest bit of sympathy for these traitors. If they wind up dead in a crater, then I say they got what’s coming to them.”

“But what about the civilians?” asked the redheaded man.
“Anyone who’s over there with the rebels is just as guilty as any rebel,” said Jack. “They’re just as guilty of abandoning American values as the rest of them, and they deserve to die just the same.”
“Even the women and children?” asked the bearded man.
“Everyone,” said Jack. “Which brings us back to you two rebel-lovers.”

Jack’s wife stood up and put her hand on his shoulder. “Jack, stop,” she said. “They’re not worth it.”

“Shut it, Martha,” barked Jack, pushing her hand off him. He stepped towards his two targets. “I think we should have a look inside your houses,” he said. “I’d bet we’d find some interesting stuff.” He inched closer. “Stuff like letters to rebel soldiers. Maybe even a prayer rug or two.”

Jared could see where this was going, and he knew he needed to put a stop to it. “Hey,” he said.

Jack turned to look at him. “What?” he asked, annoyed.

Jared swallowed a lump in his throat. Jack was at least six feet tall, and he had a chest like a barrel of whiskey. Standing across from him, Jared felt like a housecat that had just picked a fight with a mountain lion. He shook himself out of it. It was too late to back down now. “If you’re going to continue to harass our customers,” said Jared, “I’m going to have to ask you to leave.”

Jack turned towards Jared, directing his fury at the barista. “Oh yeah?” he said. “You a rebel-lover, too?”

Jared pointed at the flag by the door. “You see that?” he said. “I put that there myself.” He hadn’t, but Jack didn’t need to know that. “Now, do you see the sign next to it? The one that says ‘We reserve the right to refuse service to anybody?’”

Jack didn’t say anything. He just stood there, his eyes going over every inch of Jared’s face as if he were memorizing it. Jared felt a sinking feeling grow in the pit of his stomach. He knew what happened to the people who spoke up. Everyone did. One day a friend or acquaintance of yours would be running their mouth off. A few days later, they were gone without a trace. No one ever wondered where they had gone off to. Not aloud, anyway.

Finally, Jack broke his gaze from Jared’s face and sat back down at the table with Martha. A haze of tension seemed to drain away, and the coffee shop returned to a level of normalcy. The woman in the booth went back to her textbook. Jack and Martha tittered away about the educational prospects of their children. Jared continued sweeping the floor. And the redheaded man and his bearded friend began conversing again, albeit in more hushed tones. The malaise of a lazy Ohio evening began to take hold once again.

A few minutes later, the woman in the booth got up and asked for a refill on her mocha. Kelly rung her up at the register while Jared began making the drink. As she waited, the woman once again whipped out her phone and began scrolling through what must have been status updates. At last Jared finished her drink and brought it over to her.

Here’s your drink, miss,” he said, holding the cup out for her to take. The woman didn’t respond. Jared struggled not to roll his eyes. “Miss, your drink,” he said again. The woman still didn’t respond. She was staring at her phone, her face completely pale, as if all the blood had rushed out of her at once.
“Oh my God,” she said, her eyes glued to the screen.

Jared was becoming a bit impatient. “Miss,” he said again, more forcefully, “your drink.”

They did it,” said the woman, her voice shaking. “They actually did it.”

Something in her tone unnerved Jared. He began to feel that something was wrong. “What did they do?” he asked.

New York just got hit with a nuclear missile strike.”

Every eye in the shop shifted towards the woman. For what felt like hours, no one said a word. Slowly, Jared put down the mocha in his hands. Then he began taking off his apron. For a moment, he just stood there with his apron off, not doing anything, not saying a word.

Kelly,” he said finally, “I’m not feeling very well. I’m going to go home.” Kelly didn’t say anything. Jared went to get his coat from the back of the shop.

Am I just going to be here by myself, then?” Kelly asked suddenly, as if she had just awoken from a trance.

Jared almost told Kelly to call Jamal, but he stopped himself before uttering it. “Call Brent,” he said instead. “He owes me a favor, anyway.” He heard Kelly sigh.

OK,” she said.

Jared grabbed his coat and walked outside. The sun had just finished setting, and a cool night breeze wafted through the air. There was a National Guardsman patrolling the street, his eyes scanning up and down the sidewalk on both sides. Eventually those eyes came to rest on Jared. Jared kept his head down and didn’t say anything.

I wrote this story about a year ago. I tried to get it published in a punk zine, but that didn’t work out. I didn’t try to get it published elsewhere. I was afraid it would be seen as “too political.”

After what happened today in the Senate today, I simply don’t care anymore.

A Dance at the End of the World

Take up your lyre and strike up the band.
Dance all you want, for the end’s close at hand.

The world that we know will soon be no more.
Its refuse and debris shall wash up on the shore

of a darkly lit island at the end of all things,
where the Lord of the Void and the Judge of True Kings

will tally our faults, our sins and our crimes,
and weigh them against our more innocent times.

They will judge if we’re fit to dwell in the sky
or to be ground into dust and finally die.

So although we can’t know our ultimate fate,
let’s take pleasure from life before it’s too late!

 

A quick poem for national poetry day. If you liked it, you can support me on Patreon and get access to exclusive stories and previews of RPG content.

Projects, Projects, Projects

Has it really been July since I’ve updated this blog? Man, I really have been in my own head, haven’t I?

I’m still getting the hang of juggling my OfficeMax job with the other things I want to do, but the good news is that I’m more happy and motivated than I have been in a long time. Having a steady job gives me a bit of financial security, so I can focus on other things and not have to worry about paying my student loans. It of course helps that my parents have been letting me stay with them, so I am privileged int his regard. Still, it’s a load off my shoulders and has greatly reduced my anxiety.

I’ve been doing a lot of work on various projects, most of which are related to role playing games in some form. The first one I should mention is Quips n Crits, a Dungfeons and Dragons fifth edition actual play podcast with some homebrew rules. I play Nikos the Younger, an Eladrin Warlock who has become the firs of his kind to step onto the material plane in generations. He joins an eclectic cast of characters including Breeze the Tabaxi bard, Tribute the Tiefling Paladin, Cas the Half-Elf Eldritch Knight, Talos the Half-Orc Cleric, and  Adela the Water Genasi Druid. Their current quest: figure out how to stop a pirate captain from killing everyone while also tracking down Breeze’s long-lost family and there’s also this thing about a war between the elementals and the gods and…you know what? It will make more sense if you go listen to it.

The second major project goes off of the first. On Halloween, a new  5e actual play podcast will premiere. With myself as the Dungeon Master, and a number of my friends as the players, the new podcast explores the Gothic city of Godsfall, a plce where monsters stalk the streets at night and strange conspiracies intertwine. Pray you are one of the lucky ones who can sleep at night in the city without worrying about what’s lurking down below. The podcast is called TerrorTop, and it brings Gothic/Lovecraftian horror to the realm of D&D actual play. It is legitimately the best campaign I have ever run and I am so excited that I get to share it with the world. Head on over to the facebook page, or follow Quips n Crits, as TerrorTop will be premiering on the same podbean channel.

Also, check out this amazing cover art by Evan La MedicaTerrorTop

The final project is still in development. I am talking with an artist friend about a collaboration. Specifically, a webcomic, one that I will write and they will draw. We are still working on character designs, so don’t expect anything soon. Suffice it to say there is still a lot of work to be done. But we are both very excited about the project and cannot wait until it goes live!

And that is what I’m up to. Hopefully I will get a chance to post something again relatively soon. And I definitely plan to post once TerrorTop goes live.