Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Tooth and Claw: Alice Takes a Road Trip

Prologue, Words and Shadows, part two

Wednesday, July 4th, 2012

                Alice sits at her desk, smoking a long black cigarette.  It had been a few days before she had been able to reach out to Jennie; something of an emergency had come up, trouble in the dreams of some of her fellow mages.  It was one of those things that seems to be nothing, then suddenly blows up in your face.  The Maestro had put her on the case, and it was shortly determined that there was a lesser demon trying to work its way into the world.  Life and spirit were Alice’s main concentrations, and she was something of a dabbler in fate magic as well, so she had been rather well-suited to tackle the problem.  Having put out that fire, she returned to the matter of Thomas’ missing hourglass, and put out a call to Fae Jennie.
                That was eight days ago, a week and a day, and Alice had a feeling that Jennie would be calling her today.  Her calendar was clear – her head, not so much.  It was brimming with questions and possibilities, slowly bubbling away on the backburner these past few days, and she hoped to have them answered soon.  Knowing Jennie, maybe not so soon, but there would at least be another bread crumb on the trail.

Monday, January 28, 2013

A True Work Conversation

My coworkers are a pretty bright bunch.  Generally.  I mean, it's hard to work on locks for a living, with all the mechanical and electrical work that it involves, while being dumb as a sack of hammers.  Some of my predecessors have been dumb as a sack of hammers.  They did not last long.

So when I hear someone say some shit, I try to give them the benefit of the doubt.  "Oh, that's probably just how he was raised," I tell myself.  "Oh, she's from another generation," I think with a mental wave of my hand.  "Oh, I don't feel like getting fired for not being able to keep my mouth shut," is what's usually behind all that.  But sometimes... just... no.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Tooth and Claw: Words and Shadows, part two

Prologue, Words and Shadows, part one

                She spots Vernon after disembarking and turns in his direction without breaking her brisk stride.  Vernon spots her easily:  despite her black suit, she walks with the casual assurance of an experienced martial artist.
                “Vernon Christopher,” he says as she approaches, extending his hand.
                “Jones Kelly,” she replies, taking his hand and shaking it.
                “Any baggage to claim,” he asks.
                “No,” she says, adjusting the carry-on hanging from her shoulder.

                The Hunters leave the airport in Vernon’s car, a dark gray Lincoln.  Vernon takes an instant disliking to his new partner – something he can’t quite place about her eyes.  He studies her in small glimpses while looking this way and that as he navigates through the traffic.  Then he spots it:  as Jones tucks a lock of her shoulder-length black hair behind her ear, he sees a thin silvery scar encircling her left wrist.  As she folds her hands back in her lap, the scar is hidden by the cuff of her sleeve.  But now that he knows what to look for, it is unmistakable:  her hands don’t quite match.  Her left hand is the tiniest shade paler, the fingers a little more bony.  It’s a very good match, but not perfect.
                Vernon had heard of this before, but today was the first time he had seen it with his own eyes.  Hunters were garden variety homo sapiens, driven by vengeance or principle to war against the supernatural forces that threatened human civilization.  But the Hunters had one crippling disadvantage, which was that they had not gained dark powers by sacrificing their humanity.  Some seriously misguided Hunters (by Vernon’s judgment) had taken it upon themselves to even the odds by sacrificing their humanity in bits and pieces, to gain small amounts of the very tainting power they fought against.  Vernon found this to be the very height of hypocrisy and self-delusion – one does not extinguish the enemy by becoming the enemy.  Act like the enemy, when necessary; think like the enemy, when planning; infiltrate the enemy, when possible; but to become the enemy was to lose sight of why you were fighting in the first place.  It was worse, in a way, than simply joining the enemy outright.  At least the bloodsuckers and the dogs and the rest of them had the honest conviction to go all-out.  These monstrous abominations, no matter their technical proficiency, try to straddle the fence and just end up getting crushed in the middle.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Tooth and Claw: Words and Shadows, part one

Prologue, Whispers at the Window

Saturday, June 30th, 2012

                Vernon Christopher stands in the Winslow-Lindbergh Regional Airport arrivals terminal, holding a placard that simply reads, JONES.  He had needed to think about this decision quite a lot more than he would have liked.
                Last night, he had received a terse note in his mailbox, hastily written:  KELLY, JONES.  W-L RGNL, UAL f718.  So he had to pick up KELLY, JONES at the airport; but KELLY, JONES would doubtless have no more idea how to identify him than he would have of how to identify KELLY, JONES.  So he decided to stand with a sign, as he’d seen done in movies.  He’d be wearing a suit, after all, and wouldn’t look out of place.
                But what to write on it?  Just KELLY might draw attention from all the Kellys who might be excited to get surprise limo service; just JONES could do the same for all the Joneses; KELLY, JONES would perhaps be indiscreet.  And how would he recognize this KELLY, JONES, anyway?  Was she a woman named Kelly Jones who had a mix-up in her personnel file?  Or a man, for that matter?  Or was this person actually named Jones Kelly – as someone with a given name easily switched with his surname himself, Vernon Christopher was sympathetic to the plight of this KELLY, JONES, whoever he or she was. 

Sunday, January 20, 2013

What I Believe, part two.

When I started this blog, I made a post attempting to condense my philosophical views on things.  It has proven useful in debates, and provoked comments, and I'm more or less proud of it.  However, it has also been a work in progress, and I have updated it several times since then.  Here is another update, taken from my responses to the 30-question philpapers.org survey.  If you'd like to take the survey as well, just go to the site and register - it will ask for your name and email and other stuff, and you can just answer questions and opine from there.  The issues are all Google-able, though you may or may not need to do hours upon hours of research to answer a question you're unfamiliar with.  For my part, I was able to identify all but a few of those questions, and say, "I am insufficiently educated on the subject," which means that I don't want to spend two weeks reading what everyone has to say before I make up my mind.  :)

Interestingly, they provide a multiplicity of options for answering each question:  you can agree with a side, or say that there's insufficient information to decide the matter, or admit that you're insufficiently educated to answer the question (which I had to do a few times).  I know, right?  Leave it to philosophers to provide weasel options on a multiple-choice test.

Anyway, my answers (and their corresponding elaborations) are below the cut.  I will probably integrate them into my introductory post in the coming week.  Either that, or I'll just forget about it all and write about how the Hunters are trying to recruit Stephen (Willy's preferred initiate for the Winslow pack) for their purposes.  Have a great one!

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

I do not think that correlation suggests what you think it suggests...

TL;DR version:
Kevin Drum:  Wow!  When you add in a 23-year time lag, atmospheric lead levels correlate wicked close with violent crime rates - in every nation on the planet where we've measured these.
Jim Manzi:  Hang on a second!  One correlation is hardly conclusive, and there are all kinds of finicky fudge factors at work here; this is sure interesting, but there's almost certainly more going on here than what we're seeing.
Kevin Drum:  Dude, you just kinda made my point for me - I'm saying that atmospheric lead is one of those background factors that we've been missing.

Kevin Drum wrote an article in the latest issue of Mother Jones, opening with Giuliani's running for mayor in 1993 on the promise that he'd get tough on crime.  True to his word in a kinda-sorta way, crime dropped.  There were about three flies in this ointment, though:  first, crime actually had been dropping before Giuliani took office, peaking in 1990 and falling from there; second, a foretold rise in crime due to a demographic boom of prime candidates for thievin' and murderin' simply failed to materialize; third, crime wasn't only dropping dramatically in New York City - it was dropping everywhere, because the nation was one giant dubstep show and crime was its bass line.

On the one hand, I feel kinda iffy about that one; on the other hand, I use metaphors to keep my posters rolled up when I move.  I think I'll stick with it.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Tooth and Claw: Maintenance!

I spent the weekend ironing out the timeline in Tooth and Claw, which I thought would be easy but was complicated by noob mistakes.  Like, y'know, having Virgil watch Bad Ass with his friends on Friday night, then having Keira call DHS from work the next day.  Rock star accountants don't work Saturdays.  Oh, and I also gave no indication of the ten-day time jump between then and Della's confrontation with Ferraille, to stick to examples from the same chapter.

Gosh, it's almost like I'm making this up as I go, or something...

Anyway, most of it was pretty minor, though I couldn't resist amending the occasional infelicity.  But chapter eight seven (yes, I failed at counting - no, I can't change the URL now) wound up with significant differences at the end, so I edited it to include the changes.  And since I also moved around the end of chapter six, I'm fixing that, too.  The rest is staying as-is, because that's what first drafts are for - what's on here needs to make sense, but it's still very much a first draft.  I did, however, add links to every section (to the prologue, what came last, and what comes next), since navigation is otherwise a hopeless endeavor on this tangled knot of words.  There are also some weird formatting issues on Blogger's end - pasting the last paragraph in a totally different font (and then not letting me change it, grr!), adding a superfluous carriage return at the start of the entry (but only after I post, so I have to immediately go and edit it, grr!), and inconsistent jump spacing (so I have to trial-and-error it every time, grr!).  But I'm not sure how to fix those, and it's nothing to do with the book per se, just "how the first draft shows up on the internet," which is unimportant enough to let it slide (but relevant enough to make me go grr again).

Also, I think I probably need Scrivener.  My pile of notes is getting steadily messier (one page is dedicated just to tracking the time loops I'm gonna have, and holy shit, if I ever lose that sheet of paper...), and stained from its double duty as a coaster.  On the plus side, it's starting to get that sketchy supernatural conspiracy vibe, so maybe that's not such a bad thing, after all.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Tooth and Claw: Whispers at the Window

Prologue, Showdown in the Desert

Thursday, June 21st, 2012
                Elias runs across the desert, taking care not to stare down the setting Sun as he settles into his runner’s trance.  He parked his truck at the rest stop on highway 40, just past the end of Red Gap Ranch Road.  He keeps the railroad tracks in sight to his right; it’s just over five miles to Canyon Diablo.  He can’t run all the way from Winslow yet, not at one go, but he’s able to run great distances (by his own standards) with sufficient breaks to rest.
                After his first mile, he takes a swig from his water bottle and splashes a little on his face.  His beard is definitely a beard, though a somewhat scraggly one.  He’s found that he can trim it without affecting his fur too much when he changes (which he does rarely).  He thinks of his pack.
                Carter and Willy, such opposites – but like two sides of the same coin.  They took such vastly different approaches, but always with the same goal in mind.  Uma, the shaman’s apprentice – tuned in, but off-key.  Maybe that, though, was due again to his standards.  She lived off the grid, like Tajo, like people would live if they had only themselves to rely on.  Of course, she still had to pass as a standard garden-variety civilian, which involved certain concessions to the surrounding culture.  No wonder she seemed ill at ease among what he thought of as the comforts of civilization.
                Then there was Tajo.  Even Carter deferred to Tajo’s judgment, whenever the shaman so much as voiced disagreement.  Carter was the alpha, unquestionably – but Tajo was the man behind the man.  He was aged, that was clear; but he moved with determination and vigor, and so did not seem old.
                And here Elias was among them, fresh young Midwest transplant from the trail business, don’t you know we take people on hikes in the desert?  Yeah.  He was gonna fit in just fine.
                Elias took no notice of his second mile, and ran on, slowing only to drink freely from his water bottle once he’d set foot on Hell Street.

Monday, January 7, 2013

Tooth and Claw: Showdown in the Desert

Prologue, Chapter Seven

Monday, June 25th, 2012
                It was just as Father Dragon had said:  Death was coming from the West, smelling of rose petals and citron, bearing an hourglass.  She had the wind at her back, and so the pack caught her scent on the air before she came into sight.  Beneath the fruity floral scent, there was also the unmistakable smell of decay – blunted by the perfume, but their keen noses would not be deceived.  The straights wouldn’t register it on a conscious level, and were too polite to pay attention to their instincts; they’d just judge everything a bit more harshly around her without even realizing it.
                So that’s how the dead walk among the living, Willy thinks.  His heartbeat kicks up; the others remain calmly alert.  They are crouched on the roof of the Barringer Crater museum, Willy in the lead.  Carter is at his right shoulder, with Uma and Tajo flanking and Elias at the rear.  Willy stares into the night, but he can’t see anything beyond the glare of the sodium vapor lamps below.  They are shielded from sight by a low safety wall at the roof’s edge, and in exchange their own sight is limited.  Loose gravel crunches under Elias’ shoes as he shifts in the electric darkness, the buzz of the lights carrying on beneath the drone of the air conditioners.  They had chosen to wait on the very Southwest corner of the building, as far as they could be from the parking lot lights and rooftop machinery while still being on the roof itself.  To their left was the crater, where Father Dragon watched in the Wild with doubtless equal anticipation.  To their right, the audiovisual cacophony of civilization, electric torches blazing against the night while machines grind against the silence.  And above, the crescent moon waxes, as much Tajo’s moon as it is Uma’s tonight.
                A long silence passed in tension, the pack’s hackles raised, waiting for their quarry to arrive.  There was a tactical advisability to it:  to wait and watch when facing an unknown foe.  Let her do her business and then, then, when she has passed from the eyes of civilization – then you may chase.  But until then, watch.  Wait.  It went against all their instincts.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

The Legend of Falconheart, Chapter Three

                Cooper sits in the night, alone with his thoughts despite the Southbound sky elf walking beside him.  He is cross-legged, his chin hovering over his steepled fingers, elbows resting upon his knees.
                If she were going to kill us, she could have done it already – and easily at that.  She might not have killed me so swiftly, as an ape magus is of unknown social standing to her.  Yet she would not have hesitated, had she known I am exiled:  an exile and a lone wandering goblin are unlikely to be missed.  Yet there is the goblin again – whether her aims were malicious or merely mischievous, she’d be best-served eliminating us as soon as possible.  I cannot guess at why she might not do so, except that she is telling the truth when she says she aims for redemption.
                In any event, she has not yet killed us, and I need sleep to be alert as I am able.  We are headed South into the crescent of the blighted desert, and unlikely to run into anyone overnight.  Tomorrow we turn Eastward, and by nightfall we shall be upon the scrub plain, making either for the Southern jungle or the central plains.  From there, we are much more likely to be in either ape or goblin territory – and if not, we shall enter the gods-forsaken warzone between.  Whatever the glyphed knight’s aims, the danger shall only increase down the road, and I shall need rest upon our journey together.
                “Our” journey.  So it is.  Whatever she’s up to, I had better keep an eye on her.  If her aims are noble, I must aid her; if her aims are foul, I must – what?  Stop her?  I could no more stop the world from turning.  Unless I could persuade her, somehow.  Or at least warn others of her coming – and if so, I must know where she is coming from, and would be better served knowing whatever it was that tipped the scales toward disaster.  No, it’s settled:  my place is here.
                And so I must sleep.
                “Will you walk on through the night, then,” Cooper asks, turning his head up to the silent soldier.
                “I shall,” she says with a nod.
                “I can tell my carpet to follow you while I sleep.  Will that be all right?”
                She nods.
                “Thank you,” he says, after a pause.
                She walks on.  Cooper lays back on his carpet, legs still crossed, the young goblin curled up at his knees.  He falls asleep under the sparkling stars.