“Darling”

Darling, you’ll never know what I do for you.  Here I am, reapplying my makeup just because I know you’ll be here soon, and I want to look good for you.  I can’t remember the last time you told me I was pretty, but I know you’d be distressed if you came home and I wasn’t ready.  I spent hours dithering over what to wear before putting my power suit back on, the plum-colored one with the big shoulder pads.  Maybe its just that I want you to know that I’m a professional too, that I work all day and then I have to have everything just-so for you, never knowing just how late you’ll be.  Sometimes you’re away all night, and it breaks my heart.

I slave away over a hot iron or a hot stove, or sometimes a veritable cauldron of fry oil, just for you.  But it’s never good enough.  Your always complaining that the meat’s raw, or that the vegetables are too squishy or that I burned the dessert.  Even when I go to special effort to prepare one of your favorites, you just look at me like I’ve done something wrong, and you won’t tell me what I could have done to make it better.

I’m waiting for you tonight, and I think I have everything just perfect.  The table’s set, the guests have arrived, I’ve even chilled a bottle of champagne.  It’s our anniversary, though I’ve learned better than to think that you’ll remember.  Of course you’re late.  By the time you come crashing in, the Irish Stew that I made with a good Black and Tan has gotten cold, and it doesn’t matter, because you’ve already started a row.  You never did like my friends, but I thought that, since I’ve had some of your police buddies pinned down since mid-afternoon, that it was only fair to have a few of mine over to keep them company.

You kick out my sewing circle and then your attention immediately turns to your friends.  You’re ignoring me completely, and something inside me just snaps.  I flirt a little with the Comissioner, just to get your attention.  It works too well.  I never know when I’ve gone too far with you: one moment I might as well not be here, and the next you strike me full across the face.  I can’t see what I’ve done wrong, but you’re up in my face shouting about my holding your friends hostage.  I was just trying to be a good host.

You hit me again, and I go flying to the floor.  I feel your boot in my ribs and then you’re on top of me, breathing heavy, into it.  I know you like it this way and, to be honest, so do I.  You’re pulling my hair, smearing my makeup, groping me furiously, slapping and smacking me about like a rag doll.  I’ll be your painted doll, I’d be anything for you, darling.

I’m pressed, face down, into the floor.  Your knee is in the small of my back.  I hear the seams pop as you rip at my clothes, exposing me to your baleful sight.  You have me, your every thrust like another blow, as you grunt and swear your way though my body.  I’m all awrack with pleasure and pain, pain and pleasure as you take me in front of your friends, who just watch the show.  I’m outside myself, taking photos of us, composing an album of our lovemaking, each moment lasting forever.

Until it’s over.  With a shuddering breath, you withdraw, leaving me beaten, exhausted, sated.  You take off with your friends, leaving me slumped on the floor.  You’re so hard on me, and sometimes I hate you for it.  But I’ll never leave you, I’ll never stop loving you, you are my everything.  As I get up, as I look for my pajamas and think about the cost of getting my clothes mended, as I put on fresh makeup over bruises, and dab alcohol on my cuts, I think of you.

I think of you, out there in that dark night, and I have to believe that you know I do it all for you, Bats.  All for you, darling.

for SDCC 2014

Autumn Harvest: Hunting Accident

Kaye was in the foyer of the palace’s great hall, on a hunter’s travois, and he was a dirty, bloody mess, his clothes torn and his breath shallow and pained. Though scratched and cut all over, Kaye was in no danger of bleeding to death. It was Kaye’s internal injuries that worried me. Something had crushed or trampled him, leaving two of his ribs fractured, his right shoulder dislocated so violently that several muscle fibers had been torn, and his left leg broken in several places, with a shattered kneecap. The only good fortune was that he hadn’t suffered any head trauma.

I had the doctors clear away the onlookers, then removed my elbow-length gloves and rolled up my sleeves. First, the shoulder. I felt the area again, gently and thoroughly to make sure I hadn’t missed anything. Kaye turned toward me, smirked weakly, and whispered my name, followed by something I couldn’t hear. I bent closer and felt his breath on my ear as he managed to say, “I’ve missed your touch.”

I almost smiled, then I wanted to slap him. This was in no time for games. “This is going to hurt,” I replied simply, and then reset his shoulder. He cried out, and for a moment I thought he’d lost consciousness, but then I noticed his gaze on me, his eyes bright with pain and silent tears.

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Art by Becca Schauer.

This is a scene from Autumn Harvest: Maiden, a tale of forbidden love between a witch and the prince of a backwards kingdom. You can listen to or read the complete story free on Big World Network.

If you enjoy Autumn Harvest, please consider becoming a patron.

Autumn Harvest: Delta

“Fisherman, I owe you a boon,” she said, her voice high but melodic, with that strange undulation like the tide. “What would you ask of me?”

The fisherman paused for a long time before answering.

“It is enough to have been of assistance to a great one such as yourself,” he replied. “I require nothing.”

“Surely there must be something you…” the mermaid paused and drew in breath, causing her gills to flare and her chest to heave, “want.”

The fisherman felt a little less old as things stirred in the back of his mind and in his loins, but he replied cautiously, “My joints ache and my wants are simple. A good day’s catch with little strain is all I hope for.”

The mermaid’s eye’s gleamed as she spoke, “Then you shall have it.”

"Please, good fisher, do not leave me here. I grow dry."

Art by Becca Schauer

“Delta” is an erotically-charged fantasy romance story, my take on the “magic fish” fable in an eastern setting inspired by Daoist folklore. You can listen to or read it for free on Big World Network, along with other short stories set in the world of Autumn Harvest and the complete Autumn Harvest: Maiden.

If you enjoy these stories, please consider becoming a patron.

Out-Of-Context Comics Panel: Time for Tea

So, now that I have two lovely children, the younger of which is almost seven weeks old, it’s time to start blogging again.

I don’t want to pull a pull a hyperlink or twist my domain name, so we’re starting easy, with an Out-Of-Context Comics Panel. It’s from Noelle Stevenson’s brilliant Nimona. If you’re not reading Nimona, start now: Stevenson is working on the final chapter of the story.

This is a story where mad scientists, shape-shifting monsters, brooding villains, and extremely poncy knights are deeply lovable characters. It's perfect. There were other panels I wanted to show, but most of them were too spoiler-y.

In any case, there's always time for tea.

Writing (and Editing) Update

Last week, Rhiannon Reyes and I had the pleasure of talking with the Not Your Mama’s Gamer crew about The Unconventional Dwarf and the need for stereotype-breaking characters in gaming. We also discussed the thorny issue of cultural appropriation and representing the other. The podcast is available here and on iTunes, and you can read dr. b’s follow-up here.

This weekend, S.I. Hayes will be interviewing me about The Unconventional Dwarf for her 131 Preview Review series, with the review and the interview to go live soon thereafter. I’ll post again when they do.

Also, I am almost done with the first volume in the Autumn Harvest series. Autumn Harvest: Maiden has been serialized through Big World Network and, after a final editorial pass, will be available in print, ebook, and audiobook formats. At that point, I’ll be able to focus more on Rites of Spring, the Autumn Harvest tie-in game.

Between that, revisions for The Unconventional Elf, teaching, and preparing to welcome a second child to our family, I’m swamped. There just aren’t enough hours in the day.

Post for “The Year of Belief”

This I Believe is a venerable (American) Public Radio series on values. For his Year of Belief project, Dylan Horrocks was looking for something more specific: insights into the formation, structure, and transformation of the religious/spiritual beliefs of individual people. I was thrilled by the invitation to participate, but after an effortless first draft, I hesitated.

No, it’s a lot more than that. I experienced one of the most severe blocks of my writing experience. I set aside the draft for most of a year. I couldn’t bear to look at it. It was a revealing piece, but that wasn’t the problem. It was also definitive, and that was a painful paradox for someone who religiously rejects the definitive, who is normally comfortable with paradox, much more so than with the grounded and definitive.

In the end, a large part of why I had to revise it and send it off was a mounting awareness in other parts of my life of how not speaking gives away one’s opportunity to signify, to mean anything but what others first assume. 2013 was a year of loss for me, but it was also a year of growing openness, as I explicitly came out as trans* to large numbers of people for the first time. I’ve spent far too long only showing people the parts of myself that I thought they would accept, the facets that I felt they were prepared for.

My beliefs are different from my gender identity: there is nothing about them that requires your acknowledgement or craves your acceptance. Here they are anyway, in shifting approximate display cases of words, gnawing at the bars and bleeding through the seams.

This is what I believe.

Unconventional Dwarf at Sci-Fi City Orlando

If you’re in the Orlando area, come by Sci-Fi City on Saturday, December. 14th. Writer Amy Walraven, artist Jennifer Brown and I will be there from 10am until (at least) 2pm signing copies of The Unconventional Dwarf.

Come early for a limited-run bonus with purchase.

December 14th is also “Second Saturday” at Sci-Fi City, a monthly event where gamers congregate to meet and play – a good chance to find a new RPG group, a pick-up game of your favorite CCG, or get tips on painting your minis.

Remember to follow us on Facebook  and bookmark unconventionalgames.com

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Jennifer Brown’s visualization of the Anme Namdi’me

The Unconventional Dwarf Comes Out Tomorrow

The first book in my Roleplaying series, The Unconventional Dwarf, will be available in ebook and print from DriveThruRPG tomorrow.

At this point, I’d like to thank everyone who contributed to the book, including writers Kevin Archibald, Sean Boyce, Malcom Dale, Rhiannon Reyes, Jeremiah Smith,and Amy Walraven, and artists Jennifer Brown, Rob Gee, Jelani Parham, and Malcom again (kudos for doing double duty!). Special thanks to everyone at Spectacle Publishing Media Group, including Angi Gray, Josh Lenius, Judy Spring, Rob again, and Spectacle CEO Eric Staggs.

The Unconventional would not exist without Kevin Archibald, who co-created the concept with me almost four years ago.

Above and beyond all, my eternal love and gratitude goes my spouse and partner, Nikki Smith-Eklund, my twin star and my guide whenever I couldn’t see by my own light.

Thanks also to so many friends and family members for their interest and support. We love you all.

The Comics Alternative: David B. & God is Dead

I co-hosted The Comics Alternative with Derek Royal again this week, and we talked about two recently-translated works by French bande dessiné (comics) creator David B, Black Paths and Incidents in the Night. We also discussed the first issue of God is Dead, co-written by Jonathan Hickman and Mike Costa with art by and Di Amorim.

Incidents in the Night was beautifully surreal: stories with shifting, changeable metaphyics make me happy. Black Paths is about the historical micro-state of Fiume, and it’s brief existence in the wake of the 1st World War, a reality nearly as strange as the fiction of B’s Incidents in the Night. I had a harder time getting into God is Dead because of the art, mainly the way women are drawn.

The Comics Alternative: Dash Shaw

This week I guest-hosted The Comics Alternative with Derek Royal. We talked about the art comics of Dash Shaw, including BodyWorld, a story of interpersonal mind-body boundary failure, Bottomless Belly Button, a family drama, and new works 3 Stories (a one-shot comic) and New School, an art-driven book about two brothers in the island nation of “X”, and the Xian ambition to build a vast historical theme park.

My thanks to Derek for having me on.