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Why, 2K!

Posted by | publishing | 2 Comments

That’s right, as of…well, sometime last week, probably, I haven’t been checking that closely…we cracked 2000 copies of Nine Goblins sold! How cool izzat?

Thank you, everybody who ordered a copy! You’re awesome, and I hope you enjoyed it!

The following bits are probably only of interest to self publishers, but I wanna contribute what smidgeon I can to an often opaque set of numbers, so read on if you like that sort of thing!

In terms of numeric breakdowns, after expenses (mostly editing services and coffee) we’re looking at around $5.5K. For self-pub, that’s not the extreme end of the bell curve, but definitely a very respectable success. If you figure it took about 100 hours to write, that’s a very good wage (although if you figure that it took since 2006 to write, the numbers look…um…less good. And it’s not like you can just sit down and put in a 100 hour work week and have another book. Well, I can’t, anyhow. You know, trying to work this out like this is probably a fruitless exercise…)

Anyhow, as far as I can tell–and I am extrapolating from VERY little data here, so I could be very wrong, anyone with more experience, feel free to chip it!–the initial sales burst comes in the first month or two, then it begins to taper off. I’d guess there’s a spike in sales when you put out a new book (or at least, so I am told!) but as the next Goblins book may take another couple years at this rate, we’ll find out if it applies to other releases by the same author.

Around 90% of sales were via Amazon Kindle. Smashwords is definitely worth it, though, as there’s a lot of readers who, for whatever reasons, will not use Amazon and it sucks to leave them in the lurch. I’ve heard from friends that direct sales from their website do very well, and that’s something to consider, although I dread the tech support aspect there. Suspect that may be the wave of the future, though, as Amazon eventually will start to squeeze.

The nice thing about slow taper, though, is that while it’s not paying my rent as it did for the first two months, it’s still solidly buying groceries, and even as we slither downward, I can probably expect it to keep me in hard cider money for awhile.

That is due entirely to the readers, let me hasten to add–I’m not promoting it beyond posts like this one and links on the website, and it’s the plethora of good reviews and (gasp! the legendary!) word-of-mouth that’s moving copies. I am super grateful for that–I even had a fan tell me the other day that they bought a copy and loved it and didn’t know it was by me. Which, I mean, pen-name and all, but that means the book has a life of its own beyond just yours truly, and that bodes very well for it.

So all in all, my first self-pub adventure has been a rousing success, despite all the weeping and bloodshed that it took to bring it into the world. Thank you, everybody!

And yes! Promotion! I can do this! If you want to buy a copy:

Smashwords

Amazon

Birder Directions: A Play In One Act

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So there we are, at a hawk watch station, asking for directions to the nearest Aplomado Falcon.

And we got them, but they were Birder Directions, which are a special kind of instructions similar to country directions, only worse and more so. “Go down to the end of the road, turn left at the scary-looking goat, look for a house with a green roof, and there’s a tree in the yard there, and if you wait five minutes, an Oak Titmouse will pop up.” There are directions like this in books.

These were delivered unto us by two elderly gentlemen, one of whom was as sharp as a tack and one of which was a trifle fuzzy, but could tell a hawk from a handsaw when it migrated overhead.

Needless to say, the fuzzy one was the one primarily giving directions, while Tina took notes.

(As I cannot remember the names of the two elderly gentlemen involved, I shall call them Bob and Frank.)

BOB: So you come out of here and you get on the big road…ah…511. 510? Maybe it’s 510. Does it have a number?

FRANK: 511, I think, if it’s the place I’m thinking about.

BOB: Right, right. So you take 511 and you go past the battle.

URSULA: …the battle?

BOB: Ah, you know, the old battle. There’s a marker. Maybe it’s a national park. Can’t think of the name of the battle. They’ve got a marker, though.

FRANK: Palo Alto.

BOB: Right, right. Don’t know why I couldn’t think of that. Anyway, it’s on the left. I think. There’ll be a marker or a park or something. Anyway, go past that.

TINA: Past it. Got it.

BOB: I don’t know how far past…couple of miles, I guess. You should pass Port Isabella Road. Not Port Isabella, though, the road. The old one. There’s a new one, but not this one. Actually, you could just take that road if you wanted…Do that. It’s easier. Well, anyway, so you pass the battle, right? Couple miles, I think. Do you know, Frank?

FRANK: Not that far.

BOB: Right, right. Okay, so then you come up on a road. Named that that fellow. Emerson Road. Is it Emerson Road? Doctor Emerson, that’s it.

FRANK: Thought it was Hugh Emerson.

BOB: Definitely Doctor Emerson.

FRANK: If you say so.

BOB: So you go past that, there’s a stoplight.

FRANK: Two stoplights.

BOB: Four stoplights.

FRANK: I don’t know if it’s that many.

BOB: Anyway, then you’ll see a bridge to nowhere.

FRANK: Heh.

BOB: It’s an overpass. You’d go under it, right? Except you don’t. Don’t go under it. There’s a frontage road, right? You know how they love their frontage roads here in Texas. Go on for miles. Every on ramp is like a mile long. They love ‘em.

URSULA: We’ve noticed.

BOB: But not this one. It’s short. Up to the bridge. Which doesn’t go anywhere.

TINA: Does it just…end…?

BOB: Sorta. Anyway, you take the frontage road and then you turn left and go over the bridge that doesn’t go anywhere–

URSULA: *has horrifying visions of the rental car hurtling off a cliff with Tina yelling “DO YOU SEE A FALCON!?” as we plummet to our deaths*

BOB: –and it’ll turn into a gravel road, right? And then you go–lord, Frank, how far is it? A mile?

FRANK: Not even.

BOB: Maybe a mile.

FRANK: Not a mile.

BOB: Well, anyway, there’s a railroad track. The old railroad track, they don’t use it any more. Maybe a mile down.

FRANK: *gazes upward*

BOB: And you go over the railroad track up to the bend in road–is it a mile to the bend, Frank?

FRANK: It is not even close to a mile.

BOB: And at the bend in the road, you stop and look left.

FRANK: There’s a nest box on a pole.

BOB: And a bunch of palm trees.

FRANK: Yuccas.

BOB: Yuccas. Right. Don’t know why I said palm trees. Anyway, there’ll be a falcon in the yuccas.

FRANK: They eat the yucca blossoms, and don’t ask me why a falcon eats yucca blossoms, but they do. It’s very strange. You’ll need a scope.

TINA: *stares at directions in mild dismay*

URSULA: *begins laughing with quiet hysteria*

So we did. We didn’t mean to, but we got lost trying to avoid a toll road and suddenly there was Dr. Hugh Emerson Road, and we passed it and the world’s shortest on-ramp (we had to actually reverse on the highway to get to it, it went by so fast) and the overpass did indeed go to a gravel road almost immediately, and nothing like a mile past the railroad tracks we stopped the car and looked to our left.

Sitting in solitary splendor among the yuccas was an Aplomado Falcon.

So, y’know. Birding.

Home at last…

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So Texas was wild and crazy and I stepped in a chigger nest, and boy, that’s a thing, isn’t it? My feet and ankles look like I have chicken pox.

But it was worth it! We saw marvelous and strange birds. Lots of them. 35 lifers* for me, out of over 150 species seen, between the hill country and the Rio Grande valley.

Of particular note–the Tropical Parula is beautiful, the endangered Golden-Cheeked Warbler is stunning, the Common Pauraque is…um…a freakish mutant bark bird, and the Ringed Kingfisher is noble and magnificent. Green Jays are wonderful, Great Kiskadees are stunning. Wires full of Green Parakeets preparing to roost (in the trees around a Walgreen’s, corner of 10th and Dove in McAllen, Tx) are bizarre and delightful.

But the dawn chorus of the Plain Chachalaca is really unbelievable–a half-dozen chicken sized dinosaur-birds, at the top of a tree, screaming a very unmusical “Cha-ka-cha-ka-cha!” A few of the birds do a kind of descant over the top–”Eee-ow-ee-ee-ee!” We stood in the parking lot watching several trees full, which would go in sequence–Tree One would scream for about fifteen seconds, then stop, Tree Two would scream, then stop, Tree Three would scream, then stop, and Tree One would start up again. It was a sort of round, done by an utterly tone-deaf choir.

Obviously I fell deeply and immediately in love with them.

Since they prefer dry scrub and I cannot immediately import an entire flock to North Carolina, I returned home with a somewhat heavy heart, and also I was exhausted because I’ve been getting up at variations of 4:30 for a week. But I came back to the best season, when the trees are full of new leaves and there is a blinding green haze of leaves and the dogwoods are blooming and the moss phlox is covered in flowers, which always surprises me, and the groundcover roses I’d planted around the birdfeeder to discourage cats have come back from the dead with a vengeance. And I am terribly, terribly glad to be home.

Could do without the chigger bites, though.

*In birding terms, that’s a bird you’ve seen for the first time, and now enter into your lifelist, the record of all the species you’ve ever seen. My life list stands at around 450, with 427 of them what are known as ABA species–those appearing in the US and Canada, as recognized by the American Birding Association. If you keep such a list, you are what’s known as a lister (and not all birders are) and you can aspire to see over 700 ABA species, although to get there, you have to chase after a lot of rare birds blown in from Asia and Europe. (Not counting rarities, there are probably 650 species that actually live in North America or immediately off shore.)

A lifelist at or over 700 ABA birds is very difficult and requires a great deal of dedication and travel. My buddy Tina is over 600, and the joke is that that puts her halfway to 700. At 427, I am in a respectable neighborhood, but not a terribly elite one.

Pokemon Gardening

Posted by | Art | 2 Comments

I was supposed to be working, but there was a thing going to draw yourself as a pokemon trainer, and…well…

I’m weak.

uvchampsona

Digital, Painter, prints not available because fan art.

Poke-verse Ursula is a gardener who grows Grass-type pokemon in an effort to attract provide rare Bird and Insect types with a safe haven during migration. (That these occasionally chew holes in the Oddishes is, after all, the reason she grew them in the first place. Fortunately Oddishes respond well to pruning and many sport punk haircuts as a result.)

She writes a regular gardening column “Beyond Butterfree: Habitat Gardening For Less-Charismatic Pokemon.”

She is prone to collaring strangers at parties to inform them that Tall Grass has declined in the last century to unsustainable levels. “Do you realize that less than 5% of Tall Grass remains untouched in this country?” she cries, brandishing her mojito. “If something isn’t done to stop habitat loss, wild Pokemon may become something only seen in zoos!”

(She will also tell you things about the mating habits of Gyrados that you were probably happier not knowing. It’s best just to nod and back away slowly. Depending on the number of mojitos involved, there may be hand gestures.)

When not documenting the migratory habits of Mothim, she occasionally goes off to watch Bird-types, accompanied by her faithful Quagsire, Quag-Bob.

AAAAAGUUUUGGHGHHH*pantpant*GGHHHHH!

Posted by | Uncategorized | One Comment

It is the day I face the Tax Guy.

I have prepared. I have pre-paid. I have unwadded all the receipts and tallied them up and breathed into a paper bag.

And still, in my heart of hearts, a tiny voice screams “THEY WILL TAX YOU AT A 150% RATE!”

I know this is irrational. It does not quell the tiny voice.

The Vision of Crazy-Wool

Posted by | Writing | 9 Comments

There has been a crazy awesome turn-out on the Patreon thing. You guys blow my mind. It pays for KUEC AND my antacids AND my coffee. I don’t know how to thank you.

So, err…have a story! For those of you who’ve played CrypticStitching, here’s a small prequel for your amusement. (And if you haven’t played it, Crazy-Wool is the stuffed Sheep shaman of Wool-Tribe, Quippet is his apprentice, and the (probably) Chosen of the Spirits…well, that’s the point of the game, after all.)

The Vision of Crazy Wool

It was dawn, or a little past it, and Crazy-Wool the shaman felt the urge to go into the forest.

He didn’t like the urge very much. Shamans get urges, same as the rest of us, mostly for naps and tea with extra honey in it. But they also get deep dark shamanistic urges, when the Unpatterned Land reaches out and pokes them.

The Unpatterned Land was poking Crazy-Wool now.

“Really?” said the Sheep aloud, glaring up at the smoke-hole with his one good eye. (His other eye was also perfectly good, but it saw into the world of the spirits, so it tended to be a little wild and rolling and not so good for mundane tasks, like glaring at the ceiling.)

“Really?”

The Unpatterned Land poked him again, in the urges.

Crazy-Wool swore. He swore with passion and depth and extraordinary breadth of knowledge. A moth that had gotten into the tent wandered within range of the shaman’s voice, which turned its wings soot-black and sent it crashing to the floor.

He swore some more.

Then he climbed to his feet and shook himself off. Bits of lint flew from his matted wool.

“Quippet! Quippet!”

Crazy-Wool reached into the aether a very short way and jabbed his apprentice’s brain.

There was a bleat of dismay from the tent that adjoined his. A moment later, his apprentice was fumbling at the tent flap.

“Master Crazy-Wool?”

“Make some tea, Quippet,” said the shaman. “There’s spirit work on the hoof.”

Quippet scurried into the tent as well as a small blue Sheep can scurry, and poked up the fire. He dumped a hoof-full of herbs into the mammoth bladder that served as a teapot and went rummaging for the honey jar.

“What sort of spirit work, master?”

“Haven’t the foggiest,” said Crazy-Wool. “The usual sort, I expect. Somebody needs a pebble moved six inches to the right so that the world doesn’t come crashing down around our ears. Some old spirit wants somebody to pay attention to them. Rains of fire and yams. You know the kind.”

Crazy-Wool grumbled his way through the tent, found his walking stick–bipedalism was harder than it used to be, the seams at his hips were stiff–and took down a sack in case whatever the Unpatterned Land was dumping on him required transport.

Quippet poured tea into one of the broad, shallow mugs favored by Sheep. Crazy-Wool lowered his head and drank deeply. Sharp herbs, sweet honey. He sighed. His mind was as alert as it had ever been, but his senses occasionally needed joggling.

“I hope you live to a ripe old age, Quippet. But not this old. Someday I’ll find the secret of my longevity, and when I do, I’m going to kick its stuffing out through its ears.”

“Yes, Master,” said Quippet dutifully. Quippet was always dutiful. Crazy-Wool didn’t know what he’d done, at his time of life, to deserve a conscientious and thoughtful apprentice. It was more than mortal fabric could bear.

He started for the tent flap and stopped.

His seams creaked as he reached down, picked up the stunned moth, and breathed life back into it. Its tattered wings flexed outward, suddenly the color of honeyed amber, and it turned its tiny, fuzzy antennae toward him.

Crazy-Wool grumbled and set it on top of his head, where it would be out of the way.

Then he stomped out of his tent and off toward the woods and whatever damnable destiny the universe had in store for him today.

He went into Withyjack Forest as deep as he cared to go, and then he stopped. One of the secrets that shamans know is that any place can be made sacred, if you’re willing to put your back into it. Some places are just more responsive than others.

The Withyjack Forest was occasionally a little too responsive. Gods had walked its rootbound halls in ages past, and it liked to wallow in nostalgia. Crazy-Wool thumped his cane on a tree trunk and Quippet jumped.

“You! Pay attention. No, not you, Quippet.” He cleared his throat. “I’m going to sit down here and try and get some work done. Make sure nothing terrible jumps down my throat while I’m doing it, eh?”

“Certainly, Master–“

“Not you, boy.”

The Sheep waited.

The wind overhead washed the leaves and set them rustling. One fell, fluttering, to the ground between Crazy-Wool’s front hooves.

“Good enough,” said the shaman. He sank down to all fours and stretched, then, regretfully, sat back up. It didn’t do to get too comfortable at his age. You laid down to do a little spirit work and you wound up taking an afternoon nap while the universe unraveled around you.

There, that was good. Nothing painful, nothing jabbing into him, but not in danger of going to sleep. He wiggled a bit to make sure his tail wasn’t getting pinched. There.

He closed his good eye and focused his spirit eye on the world.

It looked more or less the same, at least at first.

Same trees, same stones. The leaves glittered with a tracery of energy, and the fire at the heart of mountains burned inside the stones. The beech trees sang with golden light and the aspens shattered silver around him.

Same as it always was.

Quippet was surrounded by spirits, as usual. They danced around him like a gentle, permanent snowfall. The little Sheep was making discreet shooing motions, trying to get the spirits to leave while Crazy-Wool was spiritwalking. For some reason, his apprentice still thought that his spirits were a secret. Crazy-Wool was waiting for a properly dramatic moment to disillusion him.

Other than that, nothing.

The leaves rustled with green fire overhead.

“All right,” said Crazy-Wool, annoyed. “You’re the ones poking me. What’s so blasted urgent that I had to get up at the whalloping crack of dawn for it?”

A few minutes slid by, and then Crazy-Wool turned his head and there was a hare watching him.

The hare was as blue as a summer sky and had silver button eyes.

Well, these things happened.

It was watching Crazy-Wool in a way that an ordinary hare would find quite unnatural.

Crazy-Wool narrowed his spirit eye and stared at the hare.

The hare narrowed its silver button eyes and stared back.

Unhurriedly, almost reflexively, Crazy-Wool assessed the spirit world around him. The trees would help him if he asked–trees loved to be asked to do something. They were giving in ways that would be quite self-destructive in a mammal.

The stones might or might not help him. He could generally wake a stone from its slumber and make it pay attention to the here-and-now, but it took time that he might not have.

He spun his consciousness out, farther, farther, and there was Wool-Tribe’s meadow and the familiar gods of his people. None of them were actually paying attention, but he could call them up quick enough if he had to. The Snowfleece Maiden was positively soppy about Quippet, She’d be there in a heartbeat if She thought he was in trouble. That had to be worth something.

Farther out, across the steppes, roamed the Great Spirits, Tiger and Mammoth, Hyena and Bat–they would come to his aid if he called. Mammoth was almost as bad as a tree, and Hyena always liked it when a shaman owed Her favors.

Very well. He was not without protection. He turned his attention back to the silver-eyed hare.

“All right,” he said. “Show me.”

The hare leaped

It charged down the embankment toward him, doubling and tripling and quadrupling in size. It was larger than a mammoth when it landed before him, kicking up a fountain of leaves.

Crazy-Wool didn’t flinch. It was a point of professional pride.

The hare jumped over him.

As it passed over him, it grew again, until its body was the entire sky, the blazing blue of a summer afternoon. Its final leap seemed to have kicked the world away underneath it, for Crazy-Wool was no longer surrounded by forest, but by sky. If he looked closely, he could see the pale lines where the hare’s legs curved and trace the long sweep of its ears.

It was a neat trick. As visions went, this one was pretty good.

He appeared to be a small black cloud in the hare-belly sky. Crazy-Wool turned his head–best not to think too closely about his cloud anatomy–and gazed down.

The vast steppes stretched out beneath him, running to the ice wall in the north and the forests to the south. The glacier was a blinding rim of white around the world.

But what was this, to the south?

It was as if the glacier had developed an unnatural twin, dark instead of light. Shadow lay around the southern edge of the world, shadow as far as he could see.

Shamans do not fear darkness. Darkness is their element. Crazy-Wool preferred night to day, if only because you couldn’t see the stray bits of lint so clearly in daylight.

This was different.

Crazy-Wool scowled as fiercely as a cloud can scowl.

The light faded. The moon came up in the hare’s eye. Stars spangled its darkening fur.

The glacier blazed in the moonlight. Grass rippled on the steppes.

And the darkness to the south reared up and crashed like a wave, pouring over the world.

Crazy-Wool would have given a great deal to look away, but he did not.  His vision of himself would not allow it.

So he bore witness as the blackness reached his valley, pooling in the depths of Withyjack, then reached out to extinguish the campfires of Wool-Tribe. He watched the wave pour over the steppes, saw great mammoths pulled down by a shadow that seemed to have a thousand mouths and a thousand grasping claws.

At last the shadow reached the glacier, and there, at last, it broke. Crazy-Wool had only seen the sea in visions, but that was what it looked like–the sea smashing against stone, and the stone resisting.

He hung alone in the sky, while the world under him turned black.

After what felt like a long time, he turned his head. The sky-hare blinked the moon at him.

“Very well,” he said. “Very well. This is the shadow I’ve seen coming, then. The darkness at the edge of my mind. I was hoping I was just going senile, you know.”

The sky looked faintly abashed.

“You’re not telling me anything I didn’t expect. Not,” he amended, sighing, “that I wanted to be alive to see it.  I was rather hoping to pass along the word to young Quippet, gasp out something like “Believe in yourself. The fate of the world depends upon you,” and then slip gracefully into the Unpatterned Land.”

The moon blinked at him again.

“I suppose you’re right,” muttered Crazy-Wool. “If you want the world saved, you can’t leave it to spring lambs.”

He looked down at the crawling darkness and felt his lips pull back from his teeth, or whatever passed for teeth and lips in this body. “Nasty business.”

The moon closed in assent.

“You’re giving me some help, though,” said Crazy-Wool.

The sky-hare considered this.

“That wasn’t a request,” said Crazy-Wool testily. “I may be a cloud right now, but I’ll kick your pole star halfway to the equator if you think you’re leaving this all on me and Quippet.”

The sky moved. The moon swung close, and then Crazy-Wool was standing on the sky’s shoulder, looking down at the darkened earth.

The shadow had retreated. The terrible night of his vision had not yet come to pass. The darkness only lapped at the edge of the world, instead of consuming it, and yet Crazy-Wool could see it creeping closer.

And then there was a spark.

It had something of the silver shiver of aspen light. It was on the very edge of the shadow, shockingly bright against it.

“That better not be a chosen anything,” said Crazy-Wool. “I’m not kidding. I am way too old to deal with a–oh, son of a–“

The earth spun dizzily as the sky-hare bent down toward the light.

The light was moving closer. So was the shadow. It hardly seemed as if the light could outpace it, and yet it did, just a little.

Light and dark crawled with agonizing slowness along the bottom of the world.

It was a single figure, walking alone.

Crazy-Wool leaned forward and strained his spirit vision. He could not make out anything about the figure–young or old, Mouse or Sheep, Wolf or Bear. It could have been anyone.

It was very small, and the shadow behind it was very large.

He lifted his spirit eye to the darkness. For a moment, something seemed to flicker, like the movement of a fish just under the surface of the water.

Something gazed out of the dark at the shaman.

Crazy-Wool threw himself backward, off the shoulder of the sky.

Immediately he was falling. This was unsettling, but not nearly so unsettling as the thing that had looked at him from the shadow.

The sky-hare turned its head and caught his fabric in its teeth. It jerked its head and flung him sideways, out of the Unpatterned Land.

The shaman’s vision filled with shapes, going by too fast to see. He grasped for them but they turned to fragments and fled away from him as he fell–the flash of fireflies, a twisted tree, sunlight shining on the glacier’s edge.

Crazy-Wool was starting to worry that that he was going to fall forever in the spirit world, and just thinking that he should do something about that, when he fell back into his body and face-planted into the forest floor.

“Master!” gasped Quippet. “Are you all right?”

“I am fine,” said Crazy-Wool with dignity. “The world is most likely going to be destroyed and we are the last line of defense, except for some plush who is probably going to die before they get here. Other than that, completely fine. I hope you brought more tea.”

Quippet stared at him in abject horror.

“Tea,” said Crazy-Wool patiently, still chin-deep in leaf litter. “It is a beverage. You make it with hot water and herbs. You’re very good at it, which is the primary reason why you’re still my apprentice. That and your misplaced sense of duty.”

“The world is going to be destroyed?” whispered Quippet.

“Trust you to seize on the least important aspect of the whole thing. Yes. The world is going to be destroyed. That was always inevitable. We are merely forestalling the inevitable, which is what shamans do.” He considered this. “Also heroes. Also tea.”

He gave Quippet a very pointed look.

It took his apprentice a few minutes to cobble together a small fire. In the end, the little blue Sheep mumbled a request under his breath and a spark leapt up and danced between his hooves.

Sure, thought Crazy-Wool, half amused and half annoyed. Sure, the spirits love him. Well, that’s just how it is. Quippet was lovable. Crazy-Wool had been cynical even as a lamb, and the spirits respected him, but they didn’t fall all over themselves to smooth his path down, either.

Whether they’d fall all over themselves to smooth the way for that unknown plush out there…

Crazy-Wool closed his eyes and groaned.

“Are you all right, Master Crazy-Wool?”

“I am being crushed by the weight of an unkind universe. Other than that, fine. How’s the tea coming?”

By the time the tea was ready, he was just about ready to get up. Quippet hurried to brace him up.

He slurped up a few mouthfuls of tea and exhaled.

“Better–“ he said, and the world was engulfed in shadow.

He had only a heartbeat worth of warning. He flung himself over Quippet, knocking the smaller Sheep down, while blackness flowed over the forest.

Everything became muffled and flat. He could not see. The trees let out long, wordless vowels of pain.

“Master?” whispered Quippet.

“Hush.”

Crazy-Wool was reasonably certain that he wasn’t in the Unpatterned Land, for the simple reason that his joints didn’t ache when he was in the Unpatterned Land. Whatever was happening was not quite real, but a long way from a hallucination.

A wind struck them, smelling of cold earth. Things rustled. In the dark, something was searching for them, making wet, snuffling sounds.

Crazy-Wool reached out to the trees. They shuddered with fear, as much as trees can be frightened.

Under his touch, they quieted and listened.

Hide us, he said. Please.

The trees leaned together, whispering. The wet, searching noises came nearer.

A pile of leaves as large as a grown Sheep dropped onto them.

Quippet let out a thin bleat of terror. Crazy-Wool stifled a laugh. Ask trees for help, and get leaves. Well, what had he expected?

They lay in silence, hidden under the leaves.

Whatever the thing was, it came closer. Assuming that they were still in the same clearing—and Crazy-Wool wasn’t sure that was a safe assumption—it was just on the other side of a line of trees.

Nasty sound. Like a pig with a head cold.

The snuffling came closer—tried—and to judge by the noises, ran into a wall of branches. Crazy-Wool strained his ears and heard the crack of wood and a muffled squeal of pain.

Just so long as we don’t make a sound, the trees will keep it out. If it knows we’re in here, trees might not be enough.

He didn’t dare poke Quippet, either physically or with his mind, for fear of startling his apprentice. He prayed the little Sheep would stay quiet.

Either he had chosen his apprentice wisely, or a spirit had whispered wisdom into Quippet’s ear. There were no sounds.

It was enough.

The thing that searched for them searched in vain.

A long time later, he heard it howling, far away, a howl of failure and despair. Its master would not be pleased.

Crazy-Wool exhaled and rolled off Quippet.

“Ow,” said his somewhat flattened apprentice. “Is it safe now?”

“Safe,” said Crazy-Wool, rolling the word around. “Safe. Interesting question. It’s not quite as dangerous as it was, how’s that?”

“It’s still dark,” said Quippet. “And I can’t hear the–“

He stopped.

Can’t hear the spirits, finished Crazy-Wool internally. No, because they’re smarter than the rest of us, and they didn’t want to call attention to you, so they cleared out and didn’t get stuck in here with us. Very sensible of them. I wonder what would have happened if that thing found us? Would the Snowfleece Maiden have come in like a blizzard and frozen it in its tracks, or are we beyond Her sight as well?

It was an interesting thought. He hoped he wouldn’t have to put it to the test.

He looked around, which was a pointless endeavor, because the world was still as black as pitch.

“What’s happening?” asked Quippet.

“Someone appears to have torn a hole in the world,” said Crazy-Wool.

“That sounds bad.”

“Trust that feeling.”

“Does it have something to do with the end of the world?”

Crazy-Wool snorted. “No, it’s because I was a damn fool and tried to make eye contact with a nightmare. Stupid. You’d think at my age I’d know better.”

“I’m sure no one could have done better,” said Quippet loyally.  Crazy-Wool gritted his teeth.

He turned around in a circle, or what felt like one. It was difficult to tell.

“Are we stuck?” asked Quippet.

“Not if we can find our way out. If we can’t, the world will sew itself up–it doesn’t like holes–and we’ll be stuck on the wrong side of it.”

He considered an eternity stuck in a pocket universe with Quippet’s earnest good nature. It did not bear contemplating.

“You never told me that was possible,” said Quippet.

“I didn’t want to worry you,” said Crazy-Wool. “You might have stopped making tea.”

Quippet gave him a betrayed look.

“All shamans lie to their apprentices. Nobody would ever become a shaman if they knew what it was really like. Incidentally, I saw that look you just gave me, so something’s happening.”

The light was very faint, but growing stronger. Crazy-Wool could see tiny reflections in Quippet’s eyes.

“It’s coming from your head,” said Quippet, staring at him.

Crazy-Wool tried to see through the top of his own head, which was impossible even for shamans.

The light moved.

The honey-amber moth spread its wings and flew.

It circled Quippet’s head twice and landed, very briefly, on his nose. The little Sheep’s eyes crossed trying to look at it. It waved its antennae at him.

Then it lifted off and flew away.

“Follow that moth!” cried Crazy-Wool.

The two Sheep staggered after it. Crazy-Wool’s right side was not happy with the way it had been treated, and Quippet had to shore him on that side. Like three-legged lambs, like drunks, like shamans, they wobbled after it, threading between the dark lines of trees, and emerged suddenly into the sunlight.

Crazy-Wool fell down and took Quippet with him.

“Are we safe now?” asked Quippet.

“You keep asking that…” He closed his eyes. His wool was full of leaves. In a few hours, he was going to have to get up and dig around until he found that pocket universe and turn it inside out. The trees didn’t deserve to be stuck in there.

And after that, the end of the world, sole savior of plushkind, all that crap.

After a minute, he said “You know, I could really go for a cup of tea.”

Quippet sighed and got to his feet.

The amber moth spiraled upward, into the daylight, and was lost against a sky as blue as the belly of a hare.

Okay, let’s give this Patreon thing a try…

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All right! So as some of you recall, we spent a lot of time talking about Patreon recently, and I really appreciate the various insights from people on the topic. And while I had originally been a little iffy, some of you made some really good points, and we never get anywhere if we don’t try.

I’m willing to give it a try. We have super small donation tiers–$1 or $2, recurring monthly–so…let’s try it.

Buy Ursula Coffee (or Antacids) Fund

Now, the plug may get pulled on this at some point, if I start feeling like I’m not giving people good value for money–I love that so many of you want to kick me down a few bucks, but certain parts of my psyche are fragile in weird ways. And I absolutely, positively PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE don’t want anybody to feel that because they can’t kick in a buck a month, they are somehow less of a fan. You’re not, I love you, I’ve been there, it’s totally cool.

But hey, let’s see how this thing works!

Twine, Stuff, Games, Stories, Nothing Much

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I’ve successfully ported approximately a quarter of the StoryNexus version of Cryptic Stitching over to Twine. The occasional card gets pruned, the occasional card gets added (there will be words about all those hamsterhide towels!) but mostly it’s holding pretty similar. Achievements are now much fewer, since I don’t need those markers to keep track of variables. (God, hidden variables, best thing ever!)

Thank you, by the way, to everybody who’s said such nice things playing Cryptic Stitching! It’s so cool to have people like a game I’ve made–I mean, art, sure, writing, sure, but this is a whole new field for me and I went way overboard rather than starting small and establishing my skills and all the stuff you’re probably supposed to do. It means a lot to me that so many of you are enjoying it! (Also, in answer to an e-mail–yes, you can totally do fan-fic or fan art if you want, I’m not allowed to read the fic, but I’m delighted to see the art. Consider it a blanket permission, this is not at all a world I’m bothered by having people playing in!)

And I was thrilled to realize today that I do not actually have any art that I’m under deadline for! (There’s plenty of stuff I still need to DO, but at least I’m done with that book and can’t yet start the next one!) It was so liberating I sat down and finished a short story that’s been kicking around for a few weeks. This will undoubtedly end once I finish editing the Hamster Princess book (hopefully tomorrow) and send it in.

Finishing a short story–it’s going to get submitted somewhere, and then if they don’t bite, it’ll go into that anthology I keep threatening to do–I started trying to add up my various stories, just as my own particular metric…

12 short stories (Most which y’all have seen already, and not counting various little vignettes, like the one about Peter Pan and “Night is the longest running show in the universe” and so forth….)
3 adult novels (counting Black Dogs as two, and the one Beauty & the Beast thing out with my agent now)
2 novellas (Nine Goblins, and Boar & Apples, which is out for editing right now, and will form the backbone of said anthology.)
13 kid’s…ah…if I go by wordcount, they’d be considered “novelettes.” Actually, I kinda like that term. Lets them stand by themselves. A dozen novelettes sold, then, two forthcoming, one lurking and unsold. Give it time. (My agent swears we will someday be vindicated on the Battlesheep.)
2 kid’s novels (the witch book, which will be titled Castle Hangnail and the bread wizard one, which is currently in a weird limbo, but will hopefully come out of it in the next couple years.)
Digger, which I’m just leaving as its own thing, because hell. Digger.

That’s…not terrible, actually, in terms of completion. I’d like there to be more novels.

Then I go rummaging through my hard drive and there’s a bunch of things that have been lurking there for awhile, unfinished but which get pulled out and words piled on occasionally. Of those, there’s

1 short story
2 kid’s novelettes (the second Hamster Princess book, in progress, and the poor stalled sequel to Nurk)
6 adult novels
4 kid’s novels
5 novellas (including the next Goblin story)

not including:
2 novels which appeared permanently stalled out, although one never knows…
a couple of odds and ends that could turn into anything

Which seems like a lot of stuff unfinished, I realize–ten novels! Lord! That’s a huge number!–but I find it rather comforting, actually. If I get a mad urge to finish a book, I have stuff where I am finishing, not writing from scratch. And I can be pretty sure that most of those will get finished some day–I do finish things, fairly regularly, and that works primarily because I have nearly finished things lying around. (Next time I get an urge to work on the ninja accountant story, for example, it’ll probably be to finish it.)

So that’s nice.

I could totally be working on my big computer, but it is a cold gray day, so I am under the electric blanket with my laptop. It is lovely. I have tea. I believe will go port more Twine cards. And drink tea.

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