Thursday 4 May 2023

Dissecting a Trope: Ancient Man, Young Woman

Contains spoilers for Sarah J Maas's "A Court of..." series, though I've only read the first 2 books and I really enjoyed them and you should read them too, and I'm going to try to remember to get them out of the library on the walk home from picking my little one up from nursery today and did you know there's a library app that lets you download audio books and I just had to correct a typo and have turned on a podcast to shut up my brain so I can write this whole thing properly rather than rabbit holing with a suspected ADHD brain. It's incredible how much background noise like TV/podcasts can help me focus. For me, documentaries are much better than lyricless music.

Let's start again.

This contains spoilers for Sarah J Maas's "A Court of.." series, and may contain spoilers for Twilight/50 Shades of Grey/Buffy the Vampire Slayer though nothing that isn't widely discussed already.


I've been contemplating an apparent contradiction: I feel that I strongly dislike stories with a romance between a young, innocent woman and a powerful, ancient being, and yet my favourite romances in roleplay games are between Svetlana and the King, an older man, and especially Taji and the Undying Fury of Creation, which definitely falls into this trope.

Doesn't it? He's thousands of years old, incredibly strong and powerful; she's in her early twenties, a bit lost the way people in their early twenties are, dealing with a dramatic childhood.

And Svetlana. Ok, so Noleski isn't ancient, but he is powerful: he was Regent when they met, King when they married, and he's older than her - only a few years, but still older. That feels similar. 

I am deeply uncomfortable with Edward/Bella in Twilight. Full disclosure, I haven't read Twilight; I read Reasoning With Vampires instead, and that was a few years ago. However, he's an ancient, powerful vampire, she's a naive girl. I have read 50 Shades of Gray and (having grown out of alt universe fan fic) it leans heavily on that relationship. The power imbalance.

It's like in Buffy. I love Buffy; I grew up with the show and it gave me a female protagonist who was allowed to be angry, who was allowed to make mistakes and figure things out and find her own way. Oh, but but but! Then there's Angel. The way he followed her around. It was creepy to me. I saw that she was attracted to him back, per the story, but it made me uncomfortable and I didn't understand why. The relationship with Spike was more honestly broken.

Which moves me on to A Court of Thorns and Roses. This was described to me by a friend as a take on Beauty and the Beast, but as she talked I commented it sounded more like the Ballad of Tam Lin. She hadn't known this story, but the version I knew runs basically as: a young woman called Janet or similar is told by her father that she will rule all this land (always made me think of the scene in The Lion King even though the ballad is much older). This includes a woodland in which lives a mysterious man who demands sex from women as price of passage. She goes through the wood and tells the man she owns it so he can't demand anything, but they have an affair anyway. She returns to her family, and her uncle realises she's pregnant and helps her get back to Tam Lin who is a mortal taken by faeries and due to be sacrificed to hell. She saves him by lying in wait, pulling him from his horse and clinging to him as he is changed into various beasts and elements. The fairy queen isn't happy, but gives him up, and Janet finishes her labour and gives birth (Janet is nails).

I promised I wouldn't get distracted again; I've shared this because it's another version of this trope and there's a lot in it I like. Not the way the titular character will sexually abuse women, but the way the main character is a strong-willed woman who saves her love while pregnant. It's not especially well known so I thought it might need more explanation than, say, Twilight.

A Court of Thorns and Roses actually leans into the abuse aspect of this trope, but subtly. If you were a fan of Twilight, you might not even pick up on the ick in the way the High Fae Tamlin treats young mortal Feyre. The sequel makes it overt, unmissable even to the most blinded Christian Gray fan. She finds and falls in love with another of the High Fae, also ancient and powerful, but the relationship is more balanced: the first book ends with her becoming High Fae herself, so there is less power imbalance, and Rhys treats her respectfully and as an equal.

And this, this difference between Tamlin in Thorns and Roses and Rhysand in Mist and Fury, is the heart of why I love the trope as applied to my roleplay characters and hate it in Twilight. Because it's not about the age gap, it's not about the power, it's about how it's applied, about the relationship itself.

So let us return first to Svetlana and Noleski. He's the King; he has more political power. She helps bolster that power, but it is a love match. She chooses to be with him for herself, not for their power, and it's a free choice: he has never manipulated her. He never tries to control her, although their natures are different. He respects that she is restless and needs to travel, and she responds to that by talking to him when she is intending to go on an adventure (out of character, he's not going to stop her because the game is about the group's adventures, and he can be a source of adventures). 

And Taji and the Undying Fury of Creation. This one is much more akin to A Court of... - the High Fae have a soul mate (can't remember the precise term used), and this binds Fayre and Rhys (Tamlin tries to pretend he has this link with Feyre and it's part of how tries to control her). Taji is a Solar, Fury is her Lunar mate: this bond ties them. In game mechanic terms, their bond has Legendary status (I'm so excited about this, because it's evidence of player agency in our world! When we first met, I sent a message to another major NPC and the words I used made my GM doubletake, then pause the game to scribble loads of notes, and it's this, the strength of the bond was born in that moment). Anyway, this bond makes them want to be near each other. In standard game terms, Lunars have a compass-like sensation, direction and distance, that draws them to their Solar mates, while Solars usually have nothing. For Fury, this bond is inescapable. It's so strong, Taji feels it to, a sense of the distance between them. So they're linked, connected like that. And he's ancient and powerful, and she's young. But she's strong-willed, she knows her own mind, she has dreams and the grit and determination to achieve them. She's lacking knowledge and experience and makes plenty of mistakes, but isn't naive. He supports her; she has taken his protection and support for granted due to her youth, but this is something that changes as the story develops. And she loves him for the him of him, the thoughtfulness and gentleness he shows her. It's not the bond forcing the love (other bonded people are intensely close friends, for instance), but their bond does impact how they feel. And Taji has the potential to live long enough that this age gap will become minimal.

What's the difference? In the games, a huge part is the agency and control I have as the person playing the young woman. In fiction, when the relationship seems based on mutual respect and support, when the power is balanced in a healthy, shared way, that's when I really enjoy it.

(I can't think of any examples where the roles are reversed. Where an ancient, powerful woman and a naive young man end up in a long term relationship. A few flings, maybe, always from the male perspective.)


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Tuesday 21 March 2023

My Murder Mystery World - The Detective Team

I've wanted to write a locked room murder mystery style novel for many, many years, but never felt confident to do so. Years of thoughts and ideas have percolated through, though, and I think that maybe, maybe I'm ready. Maybe I finally have a good enough idea.

I'm getting a good sense of my detectives. And starting to build the world, too, a fantasy setting because that's where I'm most comfortable.

Let's meet my team:


Temmy is the main detective. She's taller than average for a woman of her local area, light tan or maybe white skin, black hair, slender build. Wears glasses and has additional lenses to help her see closer and further. Wears a lot of black, sometimes including sunglasses. Appears quiet, calm and steady in public, but needs lots of time in cool, dark, quiet rooms to recover. Thinks deeply and frequently sideways. Listens more than she talks. Comes from a wealthy family, which is largely how the enterprise is funded.


Secondary detective. Good friends with Temmy; they've known each other since school. A little below average height for a woman in the area; a little chubby, hiding strong, athletic muscles. Tan skin, bright red hair (henna over brown). She has changeling blood, enough to give her a few little quirks including the ability to control her eye colour, excellent low light vision, and some sense, some awareness of when magic is being used, or sometimes when it has been. Comes across as chatty and excitable; wears lots of bright colours. People tend to like her and open up to her, maybe admitting more than they meant to (maybe another impact of her changeling blood). Has a big crush on Stick, but comes from a similar background to Temmy so knows her family wouldn't approve.


The receptionist and general office dogsbody. Tall and slender. Darker skin, dark hair, black eyes. Non-binary, but uses he/him pronouns in the first book and in the sequel will have started to move to xe/xey but still get misgendered by people who know xem forgetting. Comes across as quiet in public because xeir shy around new people - confident around friends. Can ask the questions the reader wants answered (hopefully). Does a lot of the fetch and carry work, but capable in xeir own right and hopefully we'll see this progress through the series (if it works out and I get to write a series!)


Maybe a little shorter than Temmy, and broader, more muscular. Tan skin. Has a lot of underground connections - is the one they turn to for anything that might be difficult or less than legal to acquire. Not part of the team in an official sense, but the most significant character outside the actual team. Stick is a nickname; need to figure out where it came from and what his real name is.

Yes, I'm aware there's lots of tropes I'm leaning on or into here. I'm hoping to twist and subvert others as the story develops. I've got a strong idea for one murder, and a vague outline for a second. I need to figure out the details of the twists, red herrings and motives for the first story; I know some characters but not most. The second story, I've got  an idea of the victim and one of the suspects and their motive.

Monday 20 March 2023

Exalted - catch up timeskip

I can't wait more and must get back to telling you about Exalted because I adore this game so much and no one's letting me info dump my joy on them at the moment. But there's so much that's happened since I last wrote anything so I need to catch you up super fast!

Well, we fought in the Black Chase, convincing Undying Fury and The Emissary to help us. One notable thing we found was a weird black sarcophagus that filled us with dread, and which the Anathema destroyed.The fighting was fierce and we were glad we'd convinced the Anathema to join, or the Imperial Army would have been destroyed.  However, the Realm didn't see it that way, and we were returned to the Cathak estate and placed under house arrest. Following a show trial, we were sentenced to death but our unit helped us escape the night before our execution. I was worried about what would happen to our uncle, but he reassured us. I believe I painted the sunrise over his estate, using lots of the Cathak fire colours, as a parting gift. 

Somewhere around here, the Empress disappeared. We sent her Infallible Messenger messages to say we would look for her, but had no idea where to start. 

Can't remember exactly where we went, probably Nexus. Don't remember the adventures until we decided to go to Thorns.

It was horrific. We looked for our sister Mei and for Captain Ling, but found neither. Their houses were neat and tidy, though, which somehow made the Dead place creepier. Eventually ended with an epic battle against the Mask of Winters on top of their behemoth, during which we Exalted and briefly met with Ignis Divine himself, who called us his children and blessed us and told us help was on its way and it was super dramatic and I fired an arrow of golden light and I really want to write this up properly at some point but I'm racing through to get to where we are because I love where we are so damn much.

The Azure Titan and his band arrived in the Five Metal Shrike (I think these are all things from the rulebook, but please remember everything in our game is heavily adapted). He summoned the sword, Edelweiss, from its home in the sun and defended us as we ran to the Shrike (a spaceship type thing). The Emissary lost an arm and was killed, maybe? Kito and I were taken to New Meru, where we were given training in our new powers. Azure Titan (known as Big Blue to his friends) is Dawn Caste, as is Kito, and taught us about fighting. Meredith is Twilight and I love her to pieces - she looks messy and swears constantly and is probably the best sorceror to have lived. Eskill is the Zenith, the priest, and taught us about prayer. Sabine, the Night and tried to teach us stealth and subtlety and was impressed with my archery, given I was so newly Exalted. She's a bit of a tease. The Eclipse only met with me, as a fellow Eclipse, and only ever for brief periods. She taught me some stuff but not loads. We stayed in the houses that had belonged to our previous incarnations. Mine was light and airy and filled with poetry; I quickly converted an upstairs room to a studio and painted the view, painted places we visited and people we met. When we left, I knew I'd have to leave the paintings behind, which felt ok. Like a promise we'd come back. Kito was a bit surprised by his place. filled with statues and artwork that turned out to be of his previous incarnation, by his previous incarnation. They were, apparently, a bit vain. 

Eventually, we had to return to Creation proper. I think a year had passed? And I forget exactly why, but I think it was Hak we met and he said we had options about what to investigate and we decided to go to a shattered archipelego (something to do with the way Solar souls had been prevented from returning to Creation, or something, I forget). I think we started in Nexus, in the Emissary's tower, and our former unit were there and Hak suggested we call on our allies, and I sent a message to Fury and then went to open the door and he was there, the intensity of his expression emblazoned on my brain. He followed me up the stairs and sat beside me as we decided what to do. Kito was - is - still afraid of him, but I haven't been since that moment I bowed my head and apologised to him for what was done at the Hold of White Idols.

Anyway, he joins us for a few adventures, including one where we hide in a river boat that was smuggling drugs (possibly for the Empire?) and he saved me when I nearly died from breathing some of the dust, and then we went to cross the ocean to get to this archipelego. Kito used his cloud to carry us, and when he got tired, found a boat to request refuge on, but they tried to kill us. In character, I remember nothing because I was almost immediately nearly killed. Out of characetr, Fury took me below deck and worked to save my life while Kito hit his first limit break and brutally tortured and murdered the entire crew...

We made it to the land, with me still drifting in and out of consciousness. Eventually recovered but still not enough to join Kito. He found a blacksmith and there was something about him and it was the Emissary who'd used a fancy charm to live as someone else for a period of time in order to not die when the Mask of Winters killed him. 

More stuff, and we decide to go to the ruined city of Deninsor to use as a base. Lots of drama there, but I managed to attume to the hearthstone just in time to stop the automata etc from killing the others. The city is mine. We try to get a few people to come join us (secretly, safely) to get the factories running again. Kito still wary of Fury, but he's reluctant to leave us. We have to go se tup safe houses and safe routes for people to travel to us, and he stays to look after the city but I message him frequently to let him know how we are and he responds each time with "ok". But one night, when we're staying at the pub we first stayed at in whichever city it was, the Laughing Badger, I think, with Lawrence, there's a knocking and I go to the window, feeling like it might be him... and it's not. It's Lawrence at the door and I have to let him down gently. 

We find a baby solar somewhere else. Fury destroys an Immaculate Monastary: he holds them responsible for the death of his mate. Rey exalts but doesn't tell us for ages.

Eventually, we do something and have a big party to celebrate and Fury finally tells me what I'd hoped for ages: he is my lunar mate. I relax. I draw Fury as I first saw him after Exalting, but surrounded by birds. Weird dream shared with Kito, "the well is hunting you".

Game goes on sabbatical.

Picks up. A year has passed, trying to rebuid Deninsor. Emissary decides it's time to visit Speramin. Fury and Tiger join. Fury has calmed a lot over the year, and wants to be known by a former name again, Brilliant Rain. Only Taji sticks to this. He freaks them all out a bit by being so calm. He tries diplomacy with the beastmen outside, though it doesn't work until he calmly squishes the skull of one. We're led to the lunar who's set up home here. He tries talking to her, but she doesn't recognise him and the Emissary ends up crushing her. He and Kito then stroll around the perimeter of the city until they're able to unpick the magics that hold it in stasis. Kito becomes guardian of the city. Fury and I return to Deninsor, the Emissary to Nexus, and Rey and Tiger stay with Kito.

It's a bitter winter, and the heating breaks under Deninsor. My craftsmen show me what's needed to fix it, and I head to Nexus to retrieve it, getting caught in a blizzard, losing my beloved wingblade and nearly dying in the process, but eventually make it. The Emissary figures out some of what I put myself through and I feel bad: people died the previous winter because I delegated, and this winter I nearly died because I didn't. He is sympathetic, understanding that I'm trying to learn but swinging from one extreme to another. He helps me get the piece back safely. I try to downplay the experience, but Fury holds me while I cry and doesn't ask difficult questions.

I miss Kito. We see each other rarely. Fury has to visit his holdings, a pilgrimage he has undertaken before, and I miss him too. I find being alone very hard. I paint a huge piece, depicting the Emissary's Tower, and figure out a way to send it to him to be a surprise. It will take months to arrive.

Hak visits and sets us a task, to learn about Death Knights. He suggests we capture one. I visit Kito to plan, bringing things I've found in Deninsor I think will make good gifts for Kito, Rey and Tiger - and Kito's lunar mate (Kestrel), who's shown up and I haven't heard much about except that she's there. Turns out, she was travelling with a friend who is Tiger's solar mate (Violet). Feel bad I haven't brought anything for her.

There's a couple of Shadowlands we consider starting in. One is not far from the floating mountain Metagalapa, and Kito wonders if we could hide the death knight under there. We go to investigate. He flies up it with Tiger and Kestrel; I stay on the ground with Fury and Violet. We're there long enough I get restless, and we creep beneath the mountain, quickly deciding it is not a place to bring a creature of darkness. Fury tells us to stay quiet and leave quietly, and I do not argue: something swims through the ice beneath our feet, and it frightens even him. We set up campfire. I fret about Kito, but the others reassure me. Fury sings a lunar song of the First Age; I lie nestled into him, sketching his hands. We sleep, and are woken by Hak, who takes us into the mountain. The group there have discovered it's a crashed Directional Titan; the Emissary is already there, cackling with glee. My heart sinks: Kito looks so happy without me and with his new friends, and now he's found a better gift for the Emissary than I could ever provide, I squish the feeling, try not to let it add to the sense of loss and inadequacy that's been building. Kito goes back to Speramin to make use of the genesis lab to create a temporary crew for the Titan. There were 4 in the First Age, flying battleships powerful enough to destroy a whole city, and Kito has found the newest.While he's in Speramin, I explore. It's beautiful, carrying a pattern of cherry blossoms, a sense of the fury of nature, of working with nature to protect nature. I assist the Emissary as he makes as many repairs as possible. He thanks us with weapons and armour from the sets that matched the decor. Working with my hands, carrying out the repairs, it helps stem some of the sense of loss and helplessness I've been feeling.

The Emissary and Hak work to move the mountain that had formed on the back of the Directional Titan (as people were living on it); they adjusted Fate so it seemed as though it had always been in its new place. Even though I watched them  move it, it still affected me. Strange experience. The Emissary finds a place to hide the Titan that's equidistant between Nexus, Deninsor and Speramin. We return to our respective cities to make sure things are ok (I sort out a few disputes that the team I'd left in charge had struggled with - Cainen, Rhiannon etc are good fighters but aren't so strong as city leaders. They do their best).

Kito, Rey, Fury and I meet up again and last minute decide to go to a different Shadowland than originally planned. We explore the ruins during the day, but realise we'll need to go in at night to actually find anyone. Waiting outside, Fury tells us the history of this place: a mad king who burnt the entire city as funerary offerings, creating a Shadowland in the process.

Night falls. As the sun dips below the horizon, green fire restores the city to... not life, but some mirror of it.

Monday 6 March 2023

Monday Update

Health Update

Has been a hectic year already. I feel like I can't get well at the moment, but I realised that my asthma is utterly out of control. It might sound stupid that I didn't realise sooner, but I've had several colds - I have a four year old, so that's expected - and I'm still dealing with grief and a broken finger and my mental health is shaky.

The finger is healing. I only need to wear the splint for risky activities, so aerial, when I'm sleeping (because I fidgit a lot) and when I'm playing with my little one (because it's hard for him to be sufficiently careful). It still hurts in the joint nearest the break, and there's always going to be a deformity there, which is a bit annoying but shouldn't affect function so I don't mind.

The big issue is how bad my asthma is, and I feel like if I can get it back under control then I might be able to make better progress in other areas. There's a lot going on in my brain and body, and the asthma is potentially an easy win.


Writing Update

I wanted to get a story in to Cloaked Press's sidekick themed summer collection, but the deadline is this week and with everything else going on I don't think I'm going to get there in time. I feel like I'm a week behind in my brain. A group of friends and I are working on a collection of post-apocalyptic short stories that will be published via Amazon. I'm hoping to get at least 2 stories in that, both of which have been rattling around my brain for a long time.


Roleplay Update

No games to report on; Hunter is an ad hoc arrangement, and Exalted hasn't been on for the last couple of weeks because I've been so ill and my GM had a conference. We are at a super exciting place in Exalted, though! We were tasked with finding out more about Death Knights, and in the process one of our NPC Solar friends and Taji's Lunar mate have been taken. We have a plan to get them back, and I really hope it's successful! There was some talk Taji might have been taken instead (and it could still happen), which could end up with a story arc where she becomes a Death Knight and we work on her redemption. I am happy whether we go down that route or stick with the main path that we were facing, but I have some anxiety at the idea of her mater being a bad guy - I'll need to get reassurance from my GM that we will be able to redeem him before I am comfortable with that path. I like that I am in a group where I have the confidence to ask for accommodations like that.

Monday 27 February 2023

Hunter Begins!

So excited! We actually got the first Hunter game done!


I had 3 players lined up. One couldn't make it; we discussed quickly and she would like to be involved but couldn't commit to that date. Knowing how games can be excessively delayed, I suggested the rest of us make a start and we can slide the third player in when she is free.

So, H & S came over for character generation and an intro. H has run a couple of D&D sessions but hasn't been a player, and they're using pre-genned characters so she hasn't had a go at character creation before - and of course, White Wolf works very differently to D&D!

H has put a lot of thought into her character. His name's Jim, he came to Aberrheidol 7 years ago to study Medieval Literature but dropped out and now works in a pub/nightclub (Samsons and The Villa; this is a location transplanted from our local area where, it turns out, we both worked, she starting shortly after I left!), with a second job at a bookshop (I need to talk with H about this, because I have a few ideas). He's got a few named friends: Anna, his co-worker crush, his best friend who is an Arabic history specialist (if I remember correctly), and his roommate works at the hospital.

S is playing a sort of New Age healer-type named Vasha, who lives in a mobile caravan and has a pet hedgehog, Gerald. She wears a lot of scarves and occult-esque jewellery, but is actually good at medicine, albeit from a more mystic stance. The character doesn't exactly fit the vibe I was intending for the game, but the game isn't just mine so I'm doing my best to roll with it.

I explained we were starting in Pier Pressure, a club on the Pier. I let them choose why they were there: Jim had been invited by Anna to hang out with her other friends, and Vasha was looking for Gerald who had gone missing and she'd found him there before. They individually spotted a man with a very drunk woman; Vasha spotted blood trickling down the woman's leg as she crawled looking for Gerald, while Jim was concerned by the guy's attitude towards the woman. Jim looked for a bouncer - there was one in the corner, but studying the ceiling and Jim couldn't get his attention. The players intervened, the man raced down the stairs out of the club, dragging the woman with him.

I did my best to build Pier Pressure from my vague memories of my one visit to the real world place that inspires it, the carpet that eats your shoes, the stench, the awful lighting - and the smashed mirrors on the stairs.

Vasha glimpsed the man as he ran down, and noticed that he didn't seem to have a reflection. She didn't get a good enough look to be sure, but already believed in vampires the way some people do in our reality. Jim, however, has no such predisposition and got a very clear view. He went white with shock, and told Anna he thought he was seeing things. They wondered if his drink had been spiked.

Vasha got out first, and saw her favourite scarf had got stuck on the woman's shoe as the man carried her away, so she gave chase. She was smaller than the injured woman (easily kidnappable), and more full of blood, so the vampire dropped its first victim and grabbed for her instead. Anna said she'd call the police, and Jim told her to also look after the first first victim while he ran after the vampire. He threw a punch, and in the tussle Vasha managed to get free and the two pinned the vampire down - there was no way they could mistake it for anything else this close. Jim saw that Vasha had a cross among her jewellery, and she spotted Gerald nearby. Jim shoved the cross into the vampire's mouth, and Vasha used one of Gerald's spines to pierce the heart. 

The corpse went stiff.

Jim returned to Anna, saying they had to run because he was worried he'd knocked the guy unconscious, and they went to hospital to make sure he hadn't had his drink spiked. Vasha took over looking after the injured woman, managing to stabilise her from where Anna hadn't known what she was doing. She used herbal poultices and a scarf as compress to stem the bleed, and legged it home to make sure Gerald was fed.

I let this work on the vampire although it isn't RAW, but I like the idea that Hunters aren't entirely human and things that wouldn't work if a normal human tried them will work for Hunters. They left a vampiric corpse on the seafront, along with an injured woman. Aberrheidol is a centre of weird, so I think there are people in authority engaging in a degree of cover up, but they will have questions about the strange method of dispatch, as well as where the vampire came from: it was already weak, I think recently roused from torpor. Someone unleashed it on Aberrheidol for a reason - I've got ideas what those may be...

Friday 24 February 2023

Fiction Friday - Souls

Everything was bleary, inside my head as well as my vision. Sounds rang in my ears, but whether voices or music I couldn't discern. I blinked a few times, tried to get my bearings. An uneven path lay before me, the sandy, dry ground crumbling as I staggered forward. Beyond the path, the landscape was a dead heathland: grey heather disintegrating into grey sand; sparse black trees clawing at the grey sky.

I followed the path through the dusty fog, becoming aware of the thin, black line meandering through the landscape ahead. The path didn’t seem to head directly to it, yet it grew larger and wider until the roaring, wailing scream of it overwhelmed my senses, and I stood before it.

A figure stood on the jetty, tall and skeleton thin, wearing dark robes. Dark eyes held mine, and they held out their hand in silence. I looked at the pallid flesh on the palm, and back to the sunken eyes. A deadened, rising panic made me pat my pockets, checking for the coin to pay the ferryman. And when the panic reached my eyes, I looked at the figure again. Their long, strong arms reached forward to grab me, turn me and push me, and understanding flooded me as the water enveloped me, as the river took me down and along and back, memories falling as I tumbled through the currents.

No wonder Earth was so full of souls, if no one remembered to bring a coin for the ferryman.



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Monday 20 February 2023

Buy Me a Coffee?

I've set up a "buy me a coffee" page. Feel a bit rude telling people, but I need the money. It exists. If you like what I do and want to help out, there's a link. Thanks. I'm working mostly on writing and aerial, and it's hard to make a living that way but my health has reached a point it feels like the only viable option. So wish me luck!

Broken finger makes it harder to create new aerial content (I am working on it, but while supporting healthy recover). I've written a little bit of flash fiction to go live on Friday. Here's a few photos I've taken recently that I hope make you smile today.

Monday 13 February 2023

A quick life update

I've got a date for Hunter character gen! Very excited: 2 weeks. I'll give more detail after. Am also really nervous, because it's new to me to be the one in charge...

Broke my finger. It hurts. Got caught in the fabric when I was doing a drop, and I didn't realise until it was too late. First confirmed broken bone of my life (hairline fracture on my ribs, and possible broken toe first week of uni, but this was far worse and impossible to ignore). During x-ray, I said "it hurts!" and the radiologist went "I can see why!" and with that acknowledgement that there was something real, the pain faded to a much more tolerable level. Physio tomorrow: as an aerialist and being hypermobile, it was really stressed to me that I must attend even if I feel ok.

I usually manage my fibro pain through exercise, so I'm not feeling great at the moment. I'm doing what I feel I can, but it's so much less than normal. I can just about straddle to the hoop on one arm, though, which took me by surprise.

Getting support to do the ADHD forms tomorrow. The more I've looked into it, the more I've realised it's the missing bit, part of the reason I could hide being autistic so well. It's helping me find ways to manage myself better, to be accepting and forgiving, which leads to less time spent feeling like a failure and more time spent trying. 

I'm still tied in knots of grief, and that's ok.

I'm still writing.

I'm still here.

Monday 30 January 2023

I Defiantly See Wrinkles as Evidence of Shared Joy.

I never expected to be stood here today. Deep inside, I think I believed Granny would live forever. Of course, it would be unfair to wish immortality on another person, but Granny wasn’t just any other person: she was a force of life, an avatar of kindness, love and compassion. Cultures around the world have concepts of deities of life and as far as I can find, none take the form of an elderly lady, yet what greater celebration of the glory of life is there than the elderly matriarch with the family she loves?

I felt her love wrapped tight around me as she held me close when homesickness had induced a meltdown in me (I was 4 and staying away from home for the first time and Grandad had given me Ribena in the wrong cup and the world ended – and instead of being cross or impatient, she wrapped my in herself until I was ok again). I taste it every time I drink sweet, weak, milky tea – the cure she gave me for the shock of falling in an icy puddle. I watched it flowing from her, filling the room, the house, the whole world as she held my son for the first time, gazed at his little baby face. Her great-grandchild, and far from her first but still given that same awe-filled adoration as if he were her only child, a glowing protection he will carry with him always, even if he doesn’t know it.

She taught me a lot about how to move through a world that can feel unbearably hard at times. I remember her telling me you grow into the face you deserve: if you face the world with a smile, your face will reflect that. It is a hard lesson, but I think of it whenever I find myself struggling through a hard time. I remember that Granny, too, faced difficulties, faced incredibly painful things, and that she did so with love. I remind myself I want to earn my wrinkles, my kind face, and so I set myself to finding the small, shared joys. Whenever I think of her, I think of the smiles drawn deep into her face.


A pale pink rose

I read this at my Granny's funeral. I waited outside with a few other family as the hearse came round. Pink roses were strewn over the wicker coffin - beautiful and just right, yet how could my kind, vibrant Granny be in there? She was carried in, and we followed. 

I don't have words for the ceremony, but hearing how full her life was, and seeing people nod to my words has helped start me healing.

My husband and son didn't come to the ceremony, but instead spent time with my cousins' wives and children. They joined us at the pub after, the kids running around at everyone's feet, laughing and playing. The older generations, we talked and ate and reminisced - and smiled at the children.

The flowers were brought over, with the thought everyone could take some home. Pink roses, to match her favourite plant in her garden. The children used them as wands, casting silly spells on us all. Full of joy and life, like Granny. She'd have loved that.


A middle aged woman looks at a male kestrel standing on her gloved hand

And elderly woman in a red top stands in a kitchen, a triumphant pose with arms raised and a joyful smile

An elderly woman starts to climb a large tree, two grandsons watching (day before her 90th birthday)

Monday 16 January 2023


It feels strange to write here, like I have to pretend I'm not in mourning when I am, or like I have to pretend I'm so deep in mourning that nothing else exists.

And neither's true. Both are true. It's never as simple as black and white; when we think that way, we don't just miss the shades of grey, but a full spectrum of colour.

Going through this bereavement with an understanding that I am autistic and have ADHD helps me understand a lot more about how I have handled (and not handled) grief in the past. It's still a tangled mess in my head; I might find the words one day but at the moment I'm still getting the sense and shape of it.

And this isn't where I wanted to go with my writing here today.

I've been rediscovering my tactile creative side: Ziggy (who now prefers Zigzag as a nickname. He says Zigzag is his Blood Bowl name, and his real name has been relegated to his "other name") let me play with his air-dry clay and I can see that becoming a real hyperfixation if I let it. It was pleasurable to mold the clay, and the ways it shaped surprised me. Waiting for our projects to dry so we can decorate them.

The anthology I'm published in is out in paperback here. I don't get royalties or commission or anything, but I am excited to share it.

What did I want to talk about today? I want to share my joy in the Exalted I'm playing in. I'm back in Second Age Exalted as envisiged by Rich, playing Taji alongside Bells as her twin brother, Kito. I love the relationship between the twins - I really enjoy having a close relationship with another PC. And there's wonderful relationships with the NPC's too, and they are different for each twin. Kito is terrified of Taji's lunar mate, for instance, yet Taji is utterly and deeply in love with him. She knows he's dangerous, but sees him as guardian rather than threat. Then there's the Emissary, a character from the meta but taken into his own by our GM, a friend and mentor - even a father figure - for the twins, supporting them individually as well as guiding them together. I really enjoy the depth of character Rich has created for each of the major NPC's, whether entirely his creation, or inspired by characters named in the book. The love, the fear, the laughter. It's an important part of TTRPG campaigns for me: it's the relationships that keep bringing me back.

I want to offer that to my Hunter group, help them build the bonds between the PC's and give them friendships, meaningful relationships outside as well. I want to give them the ties to make them fight harder...

I'm not sure how to do this, and I won't know what I need to learn until I've tried.

First session hopefully in Feb. Got to confirm and finalise a date.

Wish me luck!

Tuesday 3 January 2023

Ru Rainbow

My Granny died on New Year's Eve. I have so much I want to say, but right now the grief is too huge so all I can manage is a photo.

An elderly lady smiles at a baby. Her face is wrinkled with love.