So a big thanks to everybody who sent me links to Twine as an engine. I’m checking into that now for Cryptic Stitching, because…well…I couldn’t bear the thought of everybody in Cryptic Stitching vanishing into the aether. There’s so much I love about the world, and I want other people to love it, too. (Or hate it. But at least get a chance to meet it!)

Twine looks very promising. (Kevin got into the open-source code and started doing arcane things to the computer and making appreciative noises, anyway.) I think I could probably get it to do something reasonably akin to what I wanted Cryptic Stitching to do.  (Certainly I can import a lot of the text…) There’s the inevitable issues of figuring out how to translate things, and Twine would require a certain linearity, so it’s less open world (although I suspect that people have worked out clever ways to make it feel pretty open.)

(And there is no limited number of turns. You could presumably burn through the game in an hour or two if you wanted, if you’re that sort of person.)

The nice thing about this is that since it’d be locally hosted, it generates HTML and it’s open source, I don’t have to worry about the developer stopping support. (Heck, it’s Python. Kevin can troubleshoot, if things get rough.)  (My thanks to people who speculated about Kickstarter, but I A) do not want to go to that well too often B) get really iffy about taking money for stuff that I don’t already know is possible and C) was really not keen on taking money for something that hinges on somebody else’s intellectual property/engine/thingy.)

So, I guess my next trick is to try to figure out how to port this sucker…

Cryptic Stitching

Well, as some of you may recall, way back last year I was fooling around with making a game on the StoryNexus engine, put out by Failbetter Games.

They announced a few months ago that they’re not going to be developing for it any longer, because they’re very busy and there’s no money in it. And I am entirely sympathetic to this, and understand their reasoning. But–the downside–I probably won’t be pursuing this game any longer because once the maker stops supporting it, stuff gets tricky.

But y’know, I put a crapload of work into the world and I love it very much and I would like people to be able to see it.

Act One is playable. It is occasionally buggy–they broke some of the art options–and there are quests that don’t wrap up and the Act ends on, not so much a cliff-hanger but with a whole lot of stuff unresolved. And parts of it are dull and grindy and parts of it are probably not at all intuitive and I did not do the best job of design. The art is 99% stock because, as I said, they kinda borked some of the art options, and though I did a few new pieces, I couldn’t begin to illustrate all 400+ cards, and even if I had, they wouldn’t work right now.

So I am not recommending this as a great gameplay experience, because it’s not all that great.

But it is a first effort, and y’know, despite all those caveats, I’m kinda proud of what I managed to accomplish in terms of worldbuilding. I love these guys very much, I love Quippet and Crazy Wool and the Tangerine Rabbit and the Silver Rat and all the rest.

I’d like to someday follow their story. It might be as a book or it might be as a comic or I might just set up a “Random World Website With Stories And Art And Poetry Written By Stuffed Sheep,” or I might even find another way to do a game like this.

But if you want to play it, here it is. (Please note: If you find bugs, I can’t do much about them anymore, and sometimes art shows up labelled as “Placeholder Image” which, again, that’s a new one and kinda them. So tech support is not gonna be great for this However, if you get actually STUCK–as in it’s broken, not as in “I don’t know what to do next!” then use the support e-mail and I will try to get you unstuck!)

(If you hate games that require some grinding, you will not enjoy this. It’s okay, they’re not for everybody, no reflection on you! It’s cool!)

It can be reached here: Cryptic Stitching

It requires a Failbetter Games account. If you would like to give them money for more turns, that’s between them and you–I do get a small cut, but not much, and honestly, I’d prefer you just played it and had fun. At standard browser rates, it’ll take a few days or weeks.

And you can hopefully spend a little time in the world and maybe see a little of what I was trying to do, even if events have conspired against it.

Growing Tired of Fantasyland

I was at the bookstore today, and my buddy Mur (who is awesome and also just got interviewed by USA Today, and has a new book coming out which includes many things that really truly happened to us in New Orleans) gave a book a vague recommendation. “It’s okay,” she said. “It didn’t work for me, but it might for you. I’ll loan it to you.”

“Eh,” I said, realizing that there was no chance I would read this book. “I’m just not reading very much genre fiction these days. Well, our genre, anyway.”

And this is the truth. My genre–my great love and the one that everything I write wanders into–is fantasy. I love fantasy. I love it dearly and I believe it is terribly important and it was the one thing I wanted to read as a kid and god help me, I am so very sick of nearly all of it.

There are still a few authors that I will buy instantly, immediately, without checking my bank balance. Most of them are fantasy, though a couple of mystery/horror have slunk in there. And I read them. And I enjoy them.

And I go on jags where what I want is Miss Marple or Brother Cadfael (and the nice thing about being me is that my memory is not what it used to be and I can’t always remember who the bad guy is.) or Georgette Heyer, and I re-read them with great love. And there are times when I re-read fantasy I love, and I still love it very much. It is a visit to an old and much-loved friend’s house.

But I scan the new book section of Barnes & Noble and go “Cloak-guy, Cloak-guy, Steampunk Guy, Cloak-guy, Tiger, Cloak-guy, John Jude Palencar That I Would Buy A Print Of But Not The Book, Tough Urban Fantasy Woman, Cloak-guy.*”

None of it excites me. It’s the setting, I think. Has to be. I picked up The Ghost Bride and read it in two fascinated days. When I discovered Sarah Addison Allen’s magical realism books, I devoured every single one, one after another.

I think I am tired of Fantasyland.

You know where it is. It’s the vague European city and countryside that has no sense of place to it. (Chocolat, for example, was magical realism set in a European city, but it by god had a sense of place to it that is not remotely found in most fantasy. I would not cry if most of these cities were half so clearly rendered as Chocolat.) There are no plants in it that are not darkly dripping trees, healing herbs, cloak-catching brambles or grass suitable for feeding horses/rolling around in. Oh, and heather. You can order a DLC pack with heather in it, if you’re trying to write a vaguely Celtic fantasy. Angry carnivorous vines cost extra.

The only birds are crows, swans, eagles, and vultures, forming a somewhat improbable aerial food-chain.

This is not, however, a call for more non-Eurocentric fantasy, because people have made that call better than I will, and anyway, I write many things set in vaguely European fantasy worlds and so I have no moral high-ground whatsoever.

(Perhaps that’s part of the problem. A book set in Fantasyland is not escapism for me anymore, it’s attending a party at work. Reading most fantasy novels now is pretty much a staycation.)

Perhaps it’s just a call for books to take me someplace that I haven’t been already. Many, many times.

Most of the books I read and love now are set in places, when I think of it, some of them real-ish, like–McCall’s Botswana or Peters’ England, some of them not, like McKinley’s Damar and Pratchett’s Discworld. (The rest seem to have grisly murders. Suitably grisly murders will stand in just fine for a sense of place, apparently.)

I cannot bear what China Mieville does to his characters most times, and I will still buy any Bas-Lag book he puts out, even if Iron Council did make me want to yell “Yes, we get it, you’re a communist, that’s fine, you’re among friends.”  Because his books will take me somewhere I have not been.

And I return to LeGuin’s Kesh whenever I am reminded, because that is a place, a real and true place, that merely happens not to exist. Gont and Atuan too, though not quite so starkly.

Hand in hand with my increasing ennui toward Fantasyland is a great boredom with its denizens. You will have to do something truly extraordinary with fairies to impress me these days. Otherwise they are just more people from work. “This is Oberon, from Accounting.” (Do not even talk to me about vampires.) Dragons have been done and dragons that are friendly characters have been done and I have witnessed many states of their done-ness and about the only one that I still find interesting is the one where they are a not-particularly-exciting form of vermin, because very few people do that yet.

I am desperately tired of farmboys in search of their lonely destiny, and if you are going to introduce yourself as a ranger, you goddamn well be putting out fires and fretting over declining woodpecker populations in the next paragraph.

If you are plucky or spunky or feisty, I come pre-tired of you.

If you are from the Kingdom of Blah, ruled by blah, and must awaken the blah within yourself, with the aid of a rag-tag band of misfit blahs, in a desperate race against time before the terrible Blah occurs, we are done here.

(And yet I still love fairy tales. They still work for me. I do not know why this should be, but it is. I could read fairy tales and fairy-tale retellings all day, and sometimes I do.)

This is not, believe it or not, a call for recommendations. I am actually pretty okay with my ennui. It is as if I have acquired a weird and genre-specific form of depression–no, I don’t care, I don’t even care that I don’t care, there are days when I care very much but not many and mostly there is simply no reason to get out of the fantasy bed in the morning if the day is only going to be more dragons and heroes and vampires and nobody is going to bother to grow peas.

Sadly, while I have dealt with depression as it applies to life, I am not sure how one deals with it when it comes to a genre. They do not make fantasy-specific Zoloft. There are no therapies available for when you have burned out your sense of literary wonder.

So I flail away at my books set in deserts and my gardener heroes, I throw saints into everything because fantasy is sadly bereft of saints, and I try not to feel too much guilt about that thing I just finished that was set in a vaguely European forest or that other thing with the castle. I write about priests and grandmothers and hoopoes in waistcoats.

But mostly I just scan over the new releases and feel no desire to read any of them.

(And some of them are by friends! Who are good people! Who I want to support, and who I KNOW are doing exciting things with the genre, and I just…got nuthin’. Mind you, I still buy the books, because I want to be supportive. And Kevin reads them.)

So I sit in the tub with gardening books. And mysteries. And Gothics. There is no shortage of reading material out there. And except for the vague feeling of guilt that I should be reading this because I’m writing it, and if I don’t love it enough to read it, why the hell am I writing it?–I’m fine with that.

I have no desire to write mysteries. If I try, the protagonist turns into a were-bear. (I tried. It happened.) Fantasy is the thing I do.

I just find, increasingly, that when I’m off work, I want to leave Fantasyland and go someplace else for awhile. And so few books in my genre seem able to do that.



*Seriously, Cloak-guy is getting around. Mur and I counted sixteen hooded figures in flowy cloaks on covers last week, and only two of them were on Assassin’s Creed novelizations.

Morally Ambiguous Honey Badger Love

It started with this…


and then that proved terrifyingly popular on the internet, and I got into this badger thing with MCA Hogarth, which sort of started on the SFWA forums and went very strange places…

and then I decided to make Honey Badger Valentines, because I love you all.


It’s been an odd few days.

You may print these out or send these to anyone who needs them today, although please don’t make money on it.

Please Note: Morally Ambiguous Honey Badgers are morally ambiguous! The creative mind behind them does not endorse actual violence against one’s enemies.

That is all.

Morally Ambiguous Honey Badgers

Twitter went weird places this afternoon. All I have learned today is that clarity is hard, but honey badgers are surprisingly easy, and some day I should do a children’s book featuring honey badgers named Harry and Henrietta.

And then this sort of happened. (Henrietta is the one on the right.)


First Amendment Honey Badgers

At the request of the divine MCA Hogarth (and slightly modified for clarity)


I am SO TIRED of conflation of anyone telling you “shut up, already” with “MY FIRST AMENDMENT RIGHTS ARE BEING VIOLATED!?!!1!one!”

So very…very…tired….

52+ Photos: Week 5 & 6


Well, those weeks got away from me.

I have been busy, and I think the weather is getting to me. Lots of stuff is getting done–or at least words are getting written–but part of my brain is going oh god the world is broken and it is so large and I am too small and I cannot fix it and nothing is working and everything is going to hell and someday I will stand before the saints and angels to justify my existence and they will say “Everything going wrong with the world, and the best you could think to do was plant heirloom beets?!”

The fix for this is either more sunlight or less stupid people and I suspect buying a sunlamp is easier.

But I did get a photo done! Only one, but it’s something!


Nothing Much To Report

I have managed to hammer out nearly 10K so far this week, which is pretty darn good for me. (May never go anywhere, but it’s nearly 20K at this point, and generally once it cracks 15K it’s alive and is A Thing That Will Happen Eventually, so I am cautiously optimistic.)

I got a review that called “Jackalope Wives” “not a great story” and I spent two days moping at the bottom of the Weeping Closet, from which I was extracted via Cheesecake Factory.

Penguin sent me a check. (We eat! Woo!) Amazon UK also sent me a check, because I had my preferences set wrong, and that meant that the poor tellers at my local bank had to work out how to cash a check in pounds from Luxembourg, which is not something that comes up much in rural North Carolina. (Dusty binders were removed from dusty filing cabinets. They were very nice about it.)

My agent informed me that she was sending Regency Ninja out to an editor who requested to see it. I have no real hope, but I’m thrilled that she still loves it enough to be trying to get into editorial hands.

I ordered a bunch of vegetable seeds and bought a couple of books on vegetable gardening in the Southeast, in hopes that I will find the one book that says “You. Ursula Vernon. With the wombats. You are to lay down cow manure on this date, follow with some garden soil because that crap clay you’ve got isn’t dirt. You are to plant seeds on this date in this precise place and then you are to mulch when the seedlings are X high. You will fertilize with THIS on the following dates. DO I MAKE MYSELF CLEAR?!”

This book does not exist, but I keep hoping.

Really, nothing much going on–just holding on until spring.

Valor Under Fire

No, not the paladin–the GM.

He had an encounter all planned out. It was a good encounter! There were drow warriors and blade spiders and all the trimmings and they marched up to the castle and demanded to know where Drow-Bob was and what we had done with him.

…it got a little out of hand, after that. About the point where we started comparing the sort of salt we sowed fields with, say. “Dried from the tears of mind-flayers.” “Oooh, nice. Mine’s kosher.”

The exact sequence of events that led to us trying to take the enemy to the brothel is, perhaps, best left to the ages. Then we convinced them to come with us to find Drow-Bob, so that they could see he was happy and hadn’t been brainwashed. Drow-Bob was, theoretically, at the Temple of the Weasel, so a group of drow riding spiders and the party on horseback marched through town to the temple, only to find a note that said “Gone Crusadin'” and a couple of interns saying “They went thattaway.”

By this point, the party was becoming annoyed. Nobody drafts OUR butler! The drow were becoming annoyed. Where was their cousin? And the GM was becoming annoyed because he’d already made the map for the clearing we were supposed to have the encounter in, but he didn’t have one for the town or the temple and how had things gotten so horribly out of control, anyway?

We rode off toward Lowerton, the town that everyone had gone off to.

GM: You see flames. The town is on fire.

PALADIN: What, all of it?

GM: Yes.

DRUID: Now what?

GM: I don’t know. I just set the town on fire and now I’m not sure what to do with it.

PALADIN: Oh, don’t worry, happens to Rooster all the time…

From questioning some of the not-quite-dead bodies, we determined that our drow were Group A, and Group B had happened to the town, and made off with our butler.

PALADIN: Damnit! Where’s the Lord Marshall? Who’s in charge here?!

DYING KNIGHT: I…think…you are….sir…

PALADIN: …well, shit.

PARTY: (laughs and points)

DROW: (roast marshmallows over the flames.)

PALADIN: (takes deep breath) All right, then. Wilhelmina! Take a deck of cards off the thief and start doing triage. Spades for the dead, hearts if they can be saved, diamonds if they’re walking.

WILHELMINA: (the gnome healer) I don’t think I’m gonna need many diamonds…

PALADIN: Ceri! (that’s the thief) Ride back to town on the double, go to the co-op, tell them to send emergency supplies on the Weasel’s tab. Then go to the temple, tell them to get their asses out here immediately, we have an emergency, and if that idiot at the door gives you any trouble, tell him I am the Acting Lord Marshall and I will bust his ass back down to private if he isn’t here within the hour!

CERI: Aye, aye, sir! At once!

PALADIN: Rush! You’re a druid! How good is your weather magic?

RUSH: Uh…I was gonna go after Drow-Bob.

PALADIN: We have a situation here, Rush! The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few, blah blah, somebody dies, very touching, we all cry. Now make me a rainstorm!

GM: (laughs hysterically for awhile)

RUSH: I’m going to be useless after this, you realize.

PALADIN: I will personally carry you home if I have to.

RUSH: …very well.

(Rush’s player gets mad props here, by the way, for a very nice bit of improvised ritual, and the GM gets props for letting him do it. The end target number wound up being 150, and by pretty much burning every healing surge he had and converting it into magic, plus a couple donated by the healer, he hit 158.)

RUSH: *faints*

PALADIN: *catches Rush*

RUSH’S PLAYER: Are you sure you wanna stand next to him? There’s lightning and…

PALADIN’S PLAYER: Rooster asked him to do it, Rooster stands next to him.

GM: It rains. It puts out the fire. The town is more or less saved. It’s flooding a bit now. There are people hiding in basements.

PALADIN: Rush, I’m putting you up for a medal. Hang on, wait, I’m in charge! Rush! You get a medal!

RUSH’S PLAYER: *sighs*

PALADIN: *carries druid to infirmary* Okay! You two, start pulling people out of the basements.


RANGER: The gnoll is harmless, This is not an invasion. You can trust me, I’m a…well-dressed lizard woman…

GM: Oh yeah, they’re real calm now.

DRUID’S SPIRIT GUIDE: *appears in the form of an owl*

WILHELMINA: Do you have a significant other?

PARTY: ….did you just try to chat up a magic owl?

WILHELMINA: I’m building an ark. For the flood. We need two of every….Oh, never mind…

SPIRIT GUIDE: I have to take the druid back. He needs to be restored by the primal spirits. That was a powerful magic.

PALADIN: I do an Insight check on the magic owl.

GM: Magic owl’s tellin’ the truth.

PALADIN: All right. You can take him, but if you don’t bring him back, I’m gonna dedicate my life to hunting you down, and I’m a half-elf so that’s a really long time.

SPIRIT GUIDE: I, too, am granted a long life.

PALADIN: Then think of all the fun we’ll have.


PALADIN: I’d bring him back if I were you. *hands over the druid* Don’t suppose you have any extra healers around, do you?

SPIRIT GUIDE: No. And I must go. We’re getting the band back together.

PARTY (suddenly remembering Ancient Gil) Ohhhhh….

PALADIN: All right, I’ve got three laying on of hands left, who’s next?

CERI: *returns from town with the cavalry in tow*

GM: Funny thing, but when you passed the Thieves’ Guild, there was a note on the wall in thief-sign that said “Not here. Getting the band back together.”

CERI: Ohhhh….

GM: You’re exhausted. You’ve mostly saved the town, but now Drow-Bob’s captors have a three-hour head start. Your drow are getting bored.

PALADIN: Okay, where’s the damn hippie from the co-op?*

DAMN HIPPIE FROM THE CO-OP: Hey, man…we brought organic healing potions, man…

PALADIN: I want organic stimulants. I don’t know. Something with goldenseal in it.

DAMN HIPPIE FROM THE CO-OP: These are all natural. They might have some side-effects, though. Some users have, like, reported hallucinations, man…

PALADIN: Don’t care.

DAMN HIPPIE FROM THE CO-OP: And they’re locally sourced and–

PALADIN: I don’t care if they fell out of Vecna’s asshole, give me the goddamn pills!

PALADIN: *hands out pills to party* Here. They’re organic or something.

WILHELMINA: I’m gonna wait to take mine, so that the hallucinations are staggered a bit.

GM: Picky, picky…

PALADIN: Okay, who’s the highest ranking person from the temple here?

GM: It’s the cook.

PALADIN: Good enough. I draw my sword and give him a battlefield promotion. Arise, Sir Cook. You’re in charge. We’re going after our butler.

COOK: Goddamnit. Fine! I want three hundred gallons of boiling water! We’ve got people to feed!

GM: He wanders off, yelling orders.

PALADIN: When the Lord Marshall comes back from crusade, we are having words. This town was shamefully underdefended. I want homing pigeons in every outlying community so they can call for help at a moment’s notice.


GM: Jesus, I’m a little scared what happens when you put Rooster in charge.

PALADIN’S PLAYER: I can only role-play a competent adult, alas.

GM: We’ll take you to Magfest, have you role-play a competent member of security.

RUSH’S PLAYER: I approve this plan.

PALADIN’S PLAYER: No. Unless I get a big sword.

RUSH’S PLAYER: You can’t hit people with it.

PALADIN’S PLAYER: No deal, then. Fizzgig, follow Drow-Bob’s scent! We ride!

GM: *begins whistling the Lone Ranger theme*


Somewhat later:

GM: Man, I should just not plan ANYTHING out….

PALADIN’S PLAYER: Yeah, but if we’d just killed the drow, it would’ve been over in two sessions. You got a burning town AND sending the druid off AND a crusade.

GM: I should just trust the players.

PALADIN’S PLAYER: Let’s not go nuts.



*The Adventurer’s Co-Op is a longstanding institution in our games.