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There’s a chill that gets down
Into your bones, and you can
Feel nothing but the cold, the
Ache, and you cease to know
What warm was, and there’s
No escape or reprieve until a
Few months from now when
Winter slowly fades to Spring.

I love that chill.

“Echoes”

We hold on to pieces of the ones
Who have left us, whether to
Elsewhere in this world or to
Something beyond comprehension.

We cling to what little reminders
Have remained, a handwritten
Note, a lingering memory of a
Kiss, or a voice, a mundane recording.

We savor that we have some means
Of remembering, that we can
Recall a bit of how we felt when
That person was still a part of us.

And as the years pass, we may
Notice that the voices aren’t as
Loud, or the images aren’t as
Clear as they used to be.

Until the day that we come across
One of those little fragments,
And all of that love rushes back
Across time, a reverberation.

9/13/18

Another summer has come and now mostly gone, and the children will be starting school soon. I’m enjoying a few days of vacation time in the aftermath of the Renaissance Festival (which, both in terms of supplemental employment and getting to spend time with friends, was a resounding success), and getting around to some stuff that’s been needing attention at the house. Goodbye old, rotting wood swing set that the previous owner built, hello new swing set that we’ll likely pass on to the next house owner.

The girls have discovered Yu-Gi-Oh on Netflix, and it’s been great fun to introduce them to the card game that I’ve been playing since 2004-2005. The core mechanics have remained largely unchanged, but the introduction of a lot of new types of monsters since I had last played (like, college, 2010) has made for a decent learning curve, even for me. I’m looking at using the laser cutter at the library to make myself a nice, wood engraved playing surface. It would be a) a fun project, and b) a really cool thing to show off.

Speaking of the library, I survived the 2018 Summer Adventure! I’m really tempted to get myself the Welcome to Night Vale “I Survived the Summer Reading Program” patch. I ran more programs for the teens during those two months than I ever would’ve imagined when I took on this job a year and a half ago. I’m still loving the whole Teen Services side of things (though it would be nice if I could go a summer without our Teen Services Librarian leaving). I’m actually excited for the school year to start, because it means that I get to go do more outreach events and book talks at local schools. It’s one of my favorite parts of the job, because it’s part acting and part readers’ advisory.

I’m going to do more writing over the next couple of months. V’s holding me to it, so I know that it’ll actually get done. Until then, we’re going to be celebrating the 12th anniversary of the day we met. Take care, and I’ll see you soon.

“Vision”

I saw a new picture today, and I
Thought immediately of you, and
How long it’s been since we were
Able to talk, and how we stopped
Talking far too long before you were
Gone.

It was your face in the photo,
Though it wasn’t a photo of you,
And I was struck, very suddenly,
By just how much alike you two
Were, and how alike we were,
Once.

I saw your smile again in hers,
And heard your laughter for
The first time in years, and now
I can’t stop reliving a friendship
That started over twenty years
Ago.

We drifted apart as years went
By, but we went on adventures
Together all the same, seeing
New parts of the world, living
Our grand journey, despite our
Differences.

And now, I am left with little
More than some old photographs,
And the memories that we made
In the far too short time we had
Before your voyage came to an
End.

6/21/18

So, I missed publishing anything during National Poetry Month.

And then three more weeks after that.

I’ve completely and utterly failed at my writing goals during the first half of the year.

So, hi. How’ve you been?

We’re about to dive headlong into Summer Adventure at the library, and the Colorado Renaissance Festival starts shortly after that, so I know that I’m going to be busy for most (if not all) of the summer. Despite that, I’m going to be doing as much writing as possible.

Life at the library has been good, but it’s definitely kept me away from the blog lately. We’re making a lot of changes. So far, they’re all for the good, but it means less downtime.

I’m hoping to get caught up on some of the newer YA fiction releases from the last six months or so. If I’m going to be doing booktalks this fall at the same rate I have been this spring, I’m going to need some new material. I’ll also be recording a couple of video booktalks this year, as I missed my chance last summer. Right now, I’m leaning toward recording my talks for The Graveyard Book and The Fireman because the teens always have the best reactions to the horror stuff.

Anyway, usual promise of additional writing to come soon.

 

 

Hey y’all. It’s been a while since my last book review, so I’m going to talk to you for a minute about Neal Shusterman’s Thunderhead. Minor spoilers for Scythe will likely occur throughout, given that this is book #2 in trilogy.

Thunderhead is set in a future world of plenty, where death and poverty and illness and war have been eliminated by the Thunderhead, an artificial intelligence developed from what we currently call “the cloud.” Every human has nanites in their blood that reduce pain from any injury, and slowly repair any damage. And if by some unfortunate accident, you happen to die, a drone will recover your body and take you to the nearest facility where you can be revived (your first one’s free!).

However, in order to curb overpopulation, the Thunderhead allows for the Scythes. Scythes are an order of highly skilled assassins (of sorts) who exist to keep humanity’s numbers in check. They maintain a quota of gleanings, permanent deaths for a chosen few to remind people of the mortality that the entire race once faced. Anyone who is gleaned by a Scythe earns immunity for their family for a year.

Book one in the series, Scythe, follows Rowan and Citra, two young teens who are chosen as apprentices to Scythe Faraday, who intends for one of them to become his successor. Their training leads to the widening of schisms within the Scythedom, and soon they find themselves pitted against each other over the right and wrong ways to go about their duties of gleaning.

Thunderhead picks up several months after the events of Scythe, with Citra now serving as Scythe Anastasia, and Rowan operating in the shadows, gleaning other Scythes who he deems to be immoral and corrupt. Dubbed Scythe Lucifer, he lives a life on the run while Anastasia is honored for her rather benevolent take on gleaning (giving her victims a month’s warning, and allowing them to choose the means by which they will die).

This book introduces more perspectives from the Thunderhead itself, giving the reader powerful insight into the all-powerful AI’s thoughts and concerns. We also meet Greyson Tolliver, a young man who has devoted his entire life to serving the Thunderhead, and has his loyalty tested to the extreme. While this can feel like it’s drawing attention away from Rowan and Citra, it contributes to the worldbuilding. And while Scythe had a phenomenal dystopian feeling, there were many questions left unanswered that are picked up in these chapters and monologues.

Now Anastasia and her current mentor, Scythe Curie, have been targeted by a mysterious attacker who seems intent on ending them both permanently, while Rowan grapples with the consequences of his actions as Scythe Lucifer. The Thunderhead muses on the Separation of Scythe and State, lamenting its decision to refrain from interfering with the actions taken by members of the Scythedom, finding clever ways to work around the various safeguards that it has installed in society (and maybe finding out more than it was ever meant to know).

All in all, Thunderhead is a powerful followup to Scythe, a worthy companion and, to my simultaneous joy and rage, the second book in a trilogy. Book three is due in 2019, and I can’t wait to see how this all wraps up.

A brief word of warning before the story itself begins. This was written for Chuck Wendig’s weekly Terrible Minds Writing Challenge. For this week’s challenge, we were given a list of 20 genres, and told to pick two of them (at random, or not) and mash them together to write a new story. Because I occasionally enjoy writing something for an older audience, I chose to write a story that was a blend of artificial intelligence sci-fi and BDSM erotica. In the following story, there will be graphic sexual content, and as such, I do not recommend it for readers under the age of 18.

* * *

Subroutines

Subroutine. noun sub·rou·tine \ ˈsəb-(ˌ)rü-ˌtēn \ A subordinate routine; specifically : a sequence of computer instructions for performing a specified task that can be used repeatedly (Merriam-Webster).

* * *

Mars had intrigued humanity since the earliest ancestors first looked up to the night sky. It was only natural for Earth’s inhabitants to move there as soon as technological advancements made life on its surface a possibility. When the shift from Luna happened, it was made reality with the assistance of numerous artificial intelligence constructs handling the logistics and heavy lifting. These AIs were based on accelerated deep learning networks, rapidly pushing from a childhood-like state to encyclopedic knowledge over the course of a few months, and they were able to quickly adapt to new tasks. For a while, all was well.

When the first Tharsis Colony was founded, however, the AIs began to break down. Shortly after reaching Mars, multiple constructs began circumventing their safety programming, and the results were nothing short of horrific. A handful of survivors managed to deactivate the rogue AIs and regain contact with Luna and Earth, and new plans to extend humanity’s reach were prepared.

New AIs were developed, but instead of being overloaded with information and responsibilities from day one, they were allowed to age naturally. The resulting maturity that they gained over decades of operation gave them an incredible stability that had been lacking in earlier generations. While they still learned more information and processed it faster than a human ever could, they still took in that information in the same way. Stretching the learning periods out allowed for safer development of the neural networks, and didn’t strain the hardware to the breaking point. Every effort was made to give them a sense of realism never before seen, mimicking body functions and behaviors, for full integration with human crew members. The new constructs were tested rigorously, and proved that they were not going to be prone to the errors of their predecessors. Most would be almost indistinguishable from their flesh and blood counterparts unless they desired otherwise. Soon, a new colonization mission was approved and scheduled.

Tharsis II was the pinnacle of achievement for humanity, a massive, sprawling colony on the surface of Mars, and a rapidly-growing home to almost ten thousand engineers, archaeologists, geologists, astronomers, biologists, and other scientists and support staff. Every major department in the city, for that’s what Tharsis was, had at least one AI assigned to it, and they all reported to Aurora.

* * *

In her office, Aurora glanced down at the tablet display in her hand. While she didn’t need to use one to visualize the data being fed to her from her subordinates, she found it made the humans around her more comfortable. It made transferring files between the organics and herself more familiar as well, as did her humanoid construct appearance. Technically, she was housed in server banks in secure cold rooms deep below the main colony, but the hard light display she projected in the halls of Tharsis was designed to interface with the colonists. She looked almost exactly like them. Perhaps it was a trace of vanity, but she preferred to have the shimmers of green, blue, and pink that made up her namesake swirl across the surface of her skin, an ever-shifting visible reminder that Aurora wasn’t actually human.

Everything seemed to be in order. Atmospheric levels were within acceptable parameters, and all of the research teams were reporting in with no troubles for the day. Communications and additional supplies from Earth had arrived and been distributed. A small disturbance at a nearby bar had been handled by security forces with no injuries to any party. A good way to finish her work week. She wiped a bead of sweat from her brow as her assistant, a young human named Ven, approached her.

“Long day, ma’am?” Ven asked.

“No more so than usual, Ven. Thank you for asking.”

“I think we’re all set here, ma’am,” Ven said, handing Aurora a second tablet.

She looked at Ven’s report, signed her approval on it, and passed it back to her. “Well done, Ven. We’ll be transferring oversight to Blackwell for the weekend.” At Aurora’s mention, a second construct coalesced into solid form in the office, tall, translucent, and dressed in the standard white Tharsis jumpsuit.

“You called?” Blackwell said.

“Just making sure you were here before I left for the weekend, Blackwell. Thank you,” Aurora responded.

“Any big plans for your days off?”

“Just the usual, Blackwell. Avoiding you.”

“Heh. Enjoy it then, Aurora. I promise that Tharsis will be as you left it when you return,” the other AI replied. “Tell Colin I said hello. I heard he was rather tied up last weekend when I was going to stop by.”

Ven stifled a laugh as Aurora’s luminescent skin flashed briefly crimson.

“Fuck you, Blackwell,” she said. “And goodnight to you too, Ven.”

“Goodnight, ma’am.”

* * *

Aurora came home from work that night to find Colin naked in their bed, waiting for her.

“So, are we still on for tonight?” he asked. His green eyes glinted, reflecting Aurora’s own light back at her.

“If you are, my love. It is what we decided for this weekend, remember?”

“Is that what you were planning to wear?”

Aurora was still in her work uniform, a white jumpsuit emblazoned with the Tharsis II insignia. “Is that going to be a problem?”

“No, dearest, not at all. Just not quite the role I was expecting you in tonight.” He grinned up at her.

Colin had been her coworker at the Tharsis colony for twenty years now, and lover for half that time. If anyone on Mars was anywhere near Aurora’s equal, it was he. Two decades on Mars had brought them closer together than anyone would’ve imagined. Ten years learning everything they could about each other’s fears, hopes, and desires. They spent virtually all of their free time together, and there was no real way of keeping their relationship a secret. While some aspects of it could be kept more private, everyone knew they were together. “Hell,” Colin had once joked, “Blackwell probably knew we were sleeping together before we did.”

She laughed softly now and paused, a brief flicker in her image matrix as a new outfit coalesced around her. She stood several inches taller, thigh-high heeled boots worn over fishnet stockings, with a black corset and matching boyshorts completing her appearance. She quickly crossed the distance between them and pushed him down onto the bed, his long brown hair cascading around him.

“You remember your safeword?” she asked.

“I do.”

“You do what?”

“I do, goddess.”

“That’s better. Mind your tongue when you speak to me. Are you ready to begin, then?”

“Yes,” he replied. “I am, goddess.”

Aurora smiled. Soon, she stood above him, waist-length black hair pulled back in an elegant braid. A leather collar dangled from her left hand, and leather flogger in the right.

“Kneel.”

“Yes, goddess.” He knelt on the bed in front of her, gazing up into her eyes as she placed the flogger beside him, and gently draped the cool leather of the collar across the back of his neck. He shivered as she fastened it and gave the ring on the front a quick tug.

“Is that comfortable?”

“Yes, goddess,” he replied.

“Excellent. Now, be a good boy and lie down for me, face up.”

Colin nodded and did as he was told. Aurora retrieved her flogger and began to trace slow circles around his nipples with it. “You,” she said, “failed to address me correctly, twice.” Two quick cracks as the flogger came down on his chest. “You will not do so again.”

“No, goddess…”

“Very well. Now, I have other uses for your tongue, bitch.” Pulling her boyshorts down and kicking them aside, she straddled him, lowering her pussy over his face. “Worship me. Pleasure me until I tell you to stop.”

Colin licked expertly at her cunt, long slow strokes at first, gradually picking up speed. He deftly circled near her clitoris, taking as much time as he dared before dipping his tongue deeper into Aurora.

Moaning softly, she spread her knees wider, grinding down onto Colin’s face. “Oh, fuck yes…” Aurora ran her fingers into his hair and twisted through it, pulling as his tongue found her clit. “Right there, you little slut. Just like that…” Colin resumed his long circling strokes, pushing into her pussy again and tasting her subtle sweetness on his tongue before pressing on her clit yet again.

Aurora shuddered at his ministrations, collecting herself long enough to push off of Colin’s face. Her lover gasped for his first full breath in several minutes as she shifted her legs and moved to stand beside the bed again. “Not your best work,” she smirked. “But not bad either.” Grabbing the ring on his collar, she pulled him into a sitting position and kissed him, tasting her own juices on his lips.

“Are you ready for me to fuck you now?” She reached down and lightly stroked his cock. “That definitely got you nice and hard,” Aurora grinned. “What do you say, my love?”

“Yes, please goddess,” Colin gasped.

“Good. You wait right there.”

She stepped away from the bed and reappeared a moment later, a large silicon dildo and a bottle of lube in hand. Her body shimmered again, a strap-on harness now present around her waist. Seeing the expression on Colin’s face, she chuckled again. “I said I was going to fuck you. I didn’t specify the how, did I?”

“No, goddess.”

“Is that going to be a problem?”

“No, goddess. I’ve missed your cock in me.”

“Good boy. Now, roll over so I can fuck you like the little bitch you are.” Aurora slipped the dildo through the harness ring and started coating it generously with lube.

As Colin knelt on his hands and knees, Aurora climbed back onto the bed behind him, pressing the tip of her cock against his ass. “Are you ready?”

“Yes, goddess.” He looked back at her over his shoulder, adoration in his eyes as she slid halfway into him. Colin whimpered as the dildo stretched him, moaning Aurora’s name when the second thrust brought her hips flush against him.

“Are you going to cum for me?” She began to thrust in earnest, rapid and shallow strokes alternating with slow, deep ones until her lover was trembling beneath her.

“May I, goddess?”

“Oh, yes. Come for me, you little bitch.”

Colin shuddered, his cock spurting onto the sheets as his orgasm rocked his body. As Aurora slid her strap-on free, he collapsed on the bed. “Thank you, goddess…”

“Such a good little slut,” Aurora purred.

Minutes later, they lay together on the bed, cuddling in the afterglow. “That was amazing, my love,” Colin murmured.

“Thank you for being willing to try new things,” she replied. “I’m so grateful to my programmers for allowing so much flexibility in my code. And to yours, too.”

Colin wrapped his arms around his fellow construct and pressed his face into her shoulder. “Programming notwithstanding. If I hadn’t met you, I never would’ve realized that I’m a sub.”

“I love you, you little bitch.”

“I love you too.”

I’ve got quite the to-read list ahead of me for 2018, and I’m really excited about it. There are a few titles to finish from last year, and a bunch of new releases that I’ve been looking forward to.

1.) A Conjuring of Light by V.E. Schwab

I was so excited about this book! I still am, having gotten far enough into it at launch last February that I could move past the cliffhanger that Schwab left us on at the end of A Gathering of Shadows back in 2016. It’s very high on my list to finish, because holy god damn, this series is amazing.

2.) Good Omens by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman

Another that’s been on my list for forever, and another one that I already own, this one’s getting bumped a bit in priority due to the adaptation that is soon to arrive.

3.) The Worm Ouroboros by E.R. Eddison

This one’s a fantasy classic, and one that’s been in my collection for well over a decade. Gifted to me by none other than Holyoke’s legendary lady, Velma Biddle, this also happens to be one of V’s favorite books.

4.) The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss

Because my Ren Faire boss will probably kill me if I haven’t read this one by the time faire starts this year.

5.) Shadowshaper by Daniel Jose Older

Because I love urban fantasy, and need more of it in my life.

6.) God’s Last Breath by Sam Sykes

The conclusion to the Bring Down Heaven trilogy. Doorstopper fantasy. My friends playing D&D while drunk, but in book form. Bawdy, raucous, fabulous fun.

7.) Mortal Engines by Philip Reeve

Have you seen the trailer for Peter Jackson’s adaptation of this one? Wheeled cities running around the world eating smaller cities and taking their resources. What’s not to love about this concept? Bonus points for use of the word “urbivore.”

8.) Thunderhead by Neil Shusterman

The sequel to Scythe, one of the best books I read last year, Thunderhead is a promising return to a dark future where death has been all but eliminated. An elite team of Scythes are tasked with maintaining Earth’s population by selectively “gleaning” those who have chosen to die for the continued good of humanity.

9.) Sovereign by April Daniels

The sequel to Dreadnought, which is one of the most timely and creative superhero stories I’ve ever encountered.

10.) When They Severed Earth From Sky by Elizabeth Wayland Barber

I’m not normally one for non-fiction titles, but this one grabbed V pretty hard when I got it for her from the library. From what I remember being told about it, it’s a pretty amazing examination of the origin of myths.

 

And honestly, y’all, this is just the tip of the iceberg. I’ve got a stack of books from the library that’s taller than me, and I’m not even getting into my re-read list. It’s an occupational hazard, I know, but what can I do?

Oh Boy, Here I Go, Reading Again

Hey y’all. It feels like it’s been about a year since my last post, but it’s only been *checks calendar* uhh…

Well, just over two months. Sorry about that. November got hectic. There was a minor car accident, and a LOT of changes at my job. That being said, I’ve got a lot to accomplish on here in 2018. Namely, more fiction, poetry, and book reviews.

I’m gearing up for my second year of full time with my library, which is going to be full of teen programs (so many craft ideas already…) and booktalks. I’m aiming for 2-3 booktalk sessions each week, basically saying “yes!” to every opportunity that I can get. The outreach aspect of my job is one of my favorite parts, going out to local schools and advertise books that I’ve really enjoyed. It’s the best feeling in the world to see a teen’s eyes light up when I booktalk a book that makes them feel represented.

I’d set a few personal goals for 2017 that definitely didn’t happen. I was hoping to knock out one post per week. I didn’t even manage one per month. Pretty sure 8 posts in a year is a new low for me. I didn’t get any new stories submitted. That one’s on me too. Can’t blame anyone else for not sending my stuff out. I did manage to draw quite a bit more. I’ve gotten some more costuming ideas in planning stages, and that’s going to hopefully come into play with one of the programs I’m looking into for work. I managed to keep in better contact with family and friends (despite being pretty much in hermit mode for the latter half of the year). I wanted to improve my political literacy during 2017, and I think I nailed that one (thank you NPR, BBC, twitter, etc.). I didn’t have “get full-time job” as a goal last year because, well, hi. Yeah. Knocked that one out, and have maintained quite well. I broke my reading goal by 1/3. I was aiming for 200, and goodreads says I got through 266. Now, while probably 90% of those were graphic novels/comic books/manga, that’s still way more reading than I was expecting to get done.

Anyway… Considering that I’m not planning to get married, buy a house, and have a baby this year, let’s set up some goals for 2018. We’ll start with the standards.

1.) Write more. Okay, folks. Commitment time. Two posts a month, minimum. Not average. The wife and I are both working to spend time writing together. I’m also going to pick up journal writing again. I’ve missed out on properly chronicling some of the biggest events of my life over the last few years, and I need to do better.

2.) Submit more work. I love writing stories for the blog, but I also need to keep my goal of getting properly published in mind. There are so many sites/magazines that I want to write for, and I need to get over my irrational fear of rejection letters. Hard goal: submit to six publications in 2018.

3.) Draw more. I’ve got more space to work than I did (thanks to the whole house-buying thing that happened last year), and so I can knock out at least some more character designs. I want to fill a sketchbook over the course of the year, and I’m willing to pick up a brand new sketchbook to meet this goal. In fact, I did just that a couple of hours ago.

4.) Read more. I’ve set a goodreads goal of 200 titles for 2018. Just like last year, I intend to blow past that. I’ve been listening to more audiobooks, and that’s been helping with a few of my planned re-reads of some of my favorites.

Okay. That’s it for the generic stuff. How about some specifics?

5.) Spend more quality time with my kids. The girls got dice sets in their stockings for Christmas, and I’m planning to continue playing No Thank You, Evil! and teaching them to play Dungeons and Dragons. I’m loving the evolution of my status as a parent, and relish the chance to help the kids find the things that they enjoy most, whether those are the things I also love or not. Case in point: we went ice skating for New Year’s and they had a blast.

6.) Vote! It’s Mid Term Election Year. Never tell me that non-Presidential elections are worthless. I’ve got all sorts of shit to do this year, and it starts with ensuring that I’m properly represented at the federal level.

I think that’s a pretty good start. Stay tuned, folks. It’s going to be a good year.

This has been a hectic year for me, as evidenced by my rather sporadic posting schedule. Despite this, I’ve been attempting to take in as much literature as is humanly possible. That means that I’ve been tackling a lot of novellas. Tor has been publishing loads of new novellas over the last few months, and I’ve loved every one that I’ve read this year.

Among my favorites:

The Builders by Daniel Polansky
Mapping the Interior by Stephen Graham Jones
River of Teeth by Sarah Gailey

The Builders is a revenge story at heart, about a group of friends attempting to overthrow a corrupt leader and identify the member of their group who betrayed them the last time they tried. It’s gritty, violent, and dark, and it’s fabulous to watch the team come back together. Why? Because they’re all animals. That’s right. The Builders is essentially Redwall crossed with your favorite grim western film.

Mapping the Interior starts humbly, introducing the reader to a young Native American boy whose mother, following the suspicious death of their father, has moved him and his younger brother into an off-reservation trailer house. Junior sleepwalks, and one night he sees someone while in the middle of his wandering. His father. It’s a haunting story in the truest sense, and the voice is one that’s sorely missing in much of contemporary literature.

River of Teeth hooked me on premise alone. A debut piece from Sarah Gailey, River of Teeth is an alternate history of the Deep South, a what-if tale in which hippos were imported to the bayous of Louisiana to be bred for meat in areas that were too swampy for cattle. Much like The Builders, this one is a tale of revenge featuring a motley crew of adventurers, trading the galloping stallion of the more traditional western for the lumbering but ferocious hippopotamus as a mount. This one has a sequel, Taste of Marrow, that picks up immediately where the first leaves off, and I can’t wait to read it.

Next in line to read: All Systems Red by Martha Wells, book one in a series called The Murderbot Diaries. I’m hooked!

Do you have a favorite novella? Tell me about it in the comments!