Learning New Skills: Fun With Photomanipulation

One of the things that’s been slowing down my ability to do a Massive section of “Auntie Yaga’s Home for Wayward Monsters” is the fact that you can’t photograph monsters lurking in the shadows, and while artwork is great, if one is wanting to say, oh, do a Sponsor-A-Monster type thing, photos work better.   Sure, you can do photomanipulation to add them in, but that involves technology, software, and skills that I don’t have.

You can see my problem.

I was poking at the problem the other day, and in the process of chasing down several rabbit holes discovered that my Chromebook has a drawing app buried in it’s factory defaults.  The touchscreen is Wacom, so it’s actually decent for drawing on, and well, one thing led to another, and I’ve been having fun learning how to draw things into photos.

There are very definitely monsters and ghosts in the photos.

It’s looking like I may be able to run a Sponsor-A-Monster program after all, with a little practice!  Some of my travel stories may also be able to get a little extra “help”, too, if I get good enough at this.

*cackles wildly*

(Originally posted at https://www.patreon.com/riversdaughter. Patreon subscribers get to see posts 3 days before they open to the general public.)

Dishwasher Souls, Goblin Markets, and Other Curiosities

I collect odd things.

No.  That’s not right.  I collect ephemeral, liminal things and interesting curiosities.

A dried (probably cursed) pomegranate in a small birdcage.  Several souls, carefully bottled and labeled after washing, stored in a velvet-lined box.  Flowers painted in moonlight.  Somewhere around there’s a star, wrapped in a scrap of silk.  Threads of rose and nettle. Ghosts, moth dreams, roadside gods…you get the idea.

I also collect unusual humans…a mixed media painter who makes amazing abstract art in soap; a soapmaker and herbalist who also creates beautiful jewelry and wall art out of wire and found objects; a professional muse…

Sometimes, I even collect places.  An empty rest area in Maine at 2:15 in the morning in late October.  A chimney with no house deep in the woods in mid-March.  A parking lot antique shop of abandoned amusement park paraphernalia run by retired carnies, only open when the stars are right. 

I don’t know what to do with this, to be honest.  I suspect that, in a different world, I’d have a table or shop tucked away in a corner of a bazaar or open-air market where I’d trade a story or curiosity for a coin or two, or have a little travelling wagon that would appear or disappear with the seasons for the same.

My little curiosities and ephemerals have a harder time in a world that has certain…

expectations

of how Things Are Supposed To Work and it doesn’t like strange little collectors and purveyors of art and other oddities like me.  We are messy and don’t fit into neat little boxes.

Still, I collect my curiosities, my cursed fruit and weird little monsters, and someday, hopefully, I’ll figure out how to share them the way that they need to be.

(I’ve been reexamining what had been October’s Market and wondering if I can get it back to what it was supposed to be, as it got very much lost in the weeds trying to figure out how to make it something that could exist in the “Real World”, and in the process forgot what it actually was.  The fact that we live in a capitalist hellscape that makes it exceptionally difficult to do what I want to do with it doesn’t help, and I need to find a way around that without losing it’s heart again.  I desperately miss my Market.)

(Originally posted on Patreon at https://www.patreon.com/riversdaughter.)

Something Weird Is In The Woods

I was walking through the Woods one night, and saw a strange, pale creature walking along the road.   The Wood was silent as snowfall, despite being a clear, spring night, as if all the other creatures held still and quiet as it walked.  It nodded slowly as we passed one another, and continued on it’s way.  As it passed out of sight, the trees seemed to sigh and the Wood released the breath It had been holding, and the owls and chorus frogs began to call once more…

I have a suspicion that my new friend here may have other friends somewhere in the Woods, as well, and I am looking forward to meeting them.

(Originally posted on Patreon at https://www.patreon.com/riversdaughter.)

KonMari’ing A Room and Life Path To Better Suit The Way Things Are

Lately I’ve been staring at my work room and I’ve got to tell you, it’s been driving me out of my skull.  It’s cluttered, and the shelving (or lack thereof) is not working for me, and the lighting is frustrating, and and and…

I need to KonMari this room, but in the process, I need to figure out what the path I’m going to take going forward from there is, because that is a huge part of determining what stays and what goes.

It’s more than a little daunting, and I’ve been hemming and hawing and staring at the walls and avoiding thinking about it, like a good little packrat.

Earlier today, Himself mentioned that he’s been wondering why we didn’t make this room the bedroom and floated the idea of swapping the master bedroom with the work room.  (He wasn’t aware that I’ve been pondering a massive overhaul in here.)  See, when we first moved into the house, we sort of defaulted to “X is the master bedroom because that’s the master bedroom, so obviously that’s where it goes”, and to be honest?  It’s a massively wasted space.  It literally has the bed, two nightstands, a table for folding laundry on, and a whole lot of unused space.  The dressers are kept in what is basically an antechamber that separates it off from the main house, which doubles as a sort of walk-in closet.  The work room is half its size at the other end of the house (standard New England ranch) , and is a much more reasonable size for a room that is literally only used to sleep in.

So, we’ve decided to swap the rooms and see if it works better.  I mean, we own the house, it’s not like we’re moving any time soon, and if we hate it, we move things back.  Which means that I need to do the thing with the going through All The Things so we can do so is a sane fashion.  Which also means that I need to figure out that thing where I decide the creative path I head down is.

To be honest, I’m pretty sure I’ve already decided that route, but this is going to make it official.  There’s a lot of stuff I’ve been hanging on to, unused, for nearly a decade now, and honestly, if I haven’t used it by now, I’m really not going to, and if I change my mind later, I can replace it.

Something tells me that I will never bother replacing things like the plastic rabbit I found at a junk shop that I was going to incorporate into a mixed media sculpture that I don’t remember anything else about, or the now-rusted shut old tin that once held skeleton keys but hasn’t even been opened since 3 homes and 7 years ago.  They honestly don’t spark joy anymore, or even a glimmer of nostalgia, but are starting to spark guilt and self-reproach, so it’s probably long past time for them to be thanked for the happiness they once brought me, and for them to go on their way.

Let’s face it.  I’ve been mostly focused on writing and paint/ink based art for a long time now, and that’s where I’m happiest.  It’s time my work area reflected that.  (Also, the other room has exponentially better lighting and enough space for me to actually set up and use the floor loom, which the current room is too small for.)  On to new things!

(As a note, for the applicable tiers, due to vaccine-related joint pain, the monthly postcard is going to be delayed a bit.  My hands have been REALLY unhappy with me, and not up for the level of dexterity I need to do something I’m happy with.)

(Originally posted on Patreon at https://www.patreon.com/riversdaughter.)

This Monster-Filled Life…

Apparently getting my first round of vaccination did manage to shake a bit of brain cells loose and once my arm stopped hurting (seriously, Day Two Arm Pain is NOT KIDDING) and the weirdly fluctuating headache and fatigue wandered off (mild, overall, but enough to make me want to do nothing more than eat soup and read), I’ve managed to reorganize my work table, restart an Auntie Yaga story (nightgaunts!  midnight runalong rescue! a cute and fluffy mock-wolpertinger!), and start a new piece of art.

I might also be working on a piece of interactive fiction based on a really neat portal fantasy dream, though I’m still trying to figure out how to present it.  I had to get a cork board to tack sticky notes to to track the paths…

I kind of also impulse-bought a new set of watercolor pencils that should be arriving tomorrow.  In my defense, the current ones I have are an old, cheap set that do well enough for what they are, but are probably not great in the lightfast department (meaning they’ll fade fairly fast), and there are only twelve of them.  The new set is professional-grade and there are 72 of them.  I am super excited!

Hope you all are well!

(Originally posted on Patreon at https://www.patreon.com/riversdaughter.)

Steps Forward, Steps Back…

Just wanted to make a quick post, since I’ve been radio silent for a few weeks.

After having to take a few days off for health reasons (short version, I hemorrhaged a blood vessel in my left eye a few years ago that flares up sometimes), I drafted almost an entire new installment of “Auntie Yaga’s Home For Wayward Monsters”, got 90% or so through it, decided it was exactly nothing like what I wanted to write, and scrapped all but maybe two paragraphs.  Started over, but I’m a bit behind where I wanted to be, as a result. So that’s where I’m at with that.

It’s been a rough month.  Dad ended up back in the hospital and we nearly lost him a couple weeks ago.  He’s fine now, and hasn’t had an episode since, but it wrecked me pretty badly for a bit.  The good news, though, treatment is going well, overall, so hooray for small mercies.  March is historically a hard month for me, as it’s both the month that my mom was born in, and also the month that she died is, two weeks apart, which basically makes me want to just hibernate until April on a good year, so that scare REALLY did a number on my ability to function for a bit.

It’s spring, finally, and good gods, not a moment too soon!   The spring peepers have started screaming their little froggy mating songs in the wetland out in the woods behind the house, and soon it’ll be warm enough to sit on the screened porch and work out in the fresh air.  It’s looking like I should be able to get vaccinated shortly, which will at very least free up a few extra brain cells again, even if it’ll still be a while before I can consider any kind of travel.  (If nothing else, it gives me a timeline on when I’ll be able to visit my dad, even if I can’t resume any other travel-related activities for a while yet.)

So, yeah, just wanted to drop a quick update.  Hope y’all are doing okay.  

(Originally posted on Patreon at https://www.patreon.com/riversdaughter.)

Patchworks and Palimpsests: Stories Older Than Bones

Recently I was wandering down a rabbit hole of podcasts and folklore, and I got thinking…Mythically speaking, New England is really fucking *weird*.

What do I mean by this?

So, most places have a pretty distinctive story type associated with them that is best described as a patchwork quilt, various pieces  sewn together to form a coherent theme.  (For Reasons, mostly that I could write entire libraries on the subject, and for the sake of brevity am going to narrow the field, I’m going to stick with a superficial overview of just the US for now.)  For example, if you’re talking about the New Orleans region, the story fabric is full of ghosts and Voodoo and cypress swamps and is very much this rich tapestry woven of the history of the various cultures who have lived there.  Even if you don’t know that the story is set there, the elements and images are so strongly tied to it, that you know This Is A Story Of New Orleans And Its Environs.  The South is riddled with Civil War ghosts and haunted plantations and again, it’s all tied to the history of it’s peoples, to form a recognizable fabric.  Pacific Northwest, cryptids, the Midwest, LOTS of road ghosts, etc.

Appalachia, though, things start getting – interesting – which I’ll come back to in a minute.

New England is more like a collection of badly scraped palimpsests, held together with a bit of rodent-chewed twine, randomly fished out of a harbor or found in an abandoned cabin out in the woods, which somehow still manage to be recognizably New England Stories.  It shouldn’t work.  There shouldn’t be anything to tie them together, nor link them so notably to this specific region, yet here we are.

(If you’re unfamiliar with what a palimpsest is, it’s a manuscript page which the text has been scraped or washed off of so that it can be reused for a new document.  One of the reasons we have fewer medieval writings remaining than we should is because this was done fairly regularly, so a lot of things were lost to reuse the parchment or vellum, which were costly and difficult to produce.  It’s not uncommon to still be able to see the residual ink or paint from the previous documents underneath the newer writing.)

We’ve got our share of ghost stories, sure.  Mostly Revolutionary/Colonial Era, but there’s also pirates and haunted mills and rather more witches than were ever actually hung in Salem or anywhere else in the region.  We’ve got a surprising number of cryptids, but they aren’t well known, even in the places they’re from, aside from one lake monster up in Vermont.  We don’t really have a solid folklore Theme like other places with the amount of history we have.  Not like other places have.

Except we do.  What we have is the Land Itself and it is Alive and Haunted As Fucking Balls.

This is where I swing back to Appalachia.

See, Appalachia has a LOT of ghosts.  On the surface, they’re much like the ghosts elsewhere, tied to the history of immigration, racism, classism, and violences done there, but when you start to look into it, there’s a lot of those ghost stories that start with something else, and a lot of other stories that don’t have ghosts but they do have Other Things.

They start with the mountains and the land itself.  They start with stories of Things That Are Older Than Humanity, things that are darker and hungrier and wilder that don’t stay quiet and still.  Don’t go out at night, close the curtains and don’t look out the windows after dark, take care in the woods, be courteous to the stranger you meet out by the old abandoned mine or down the holler (the one whose voice doesn’t sound Quite Right, but it wouldn’t be polite to ask about), and no, that’s probably not really a deer, so best stay clear of it….

Interestingly, this is more or less the same thing that happens with New England.  The specifics change, because the histories are different, but the heart of it is the same. It all goes back to the land itself, and the land in these places is a little bit different than it is elsewhere.

There are two things that people often either forget or aren’t aware of.  One, that the Appalachian Mountains start down South, but they also run solidly through New England and up past Nova Scotia.  Two, that those mountains are far older than people think.  It’s easy to miss.  They’re small, as mountains go, worn smooth, and not particularly Exciting to look at.  Not like, say, the majestic cragginess that is the Rockies.  They’re..comfortable looking.

The Rocky Mountain range is, geologically speaking, pretty young.  It’s only between roughly 55-80 million years old; practically a toddler of a range.

The Appalachians, though, are approximately 480 million years old.  They once towered over the heart of Pangea itself, having been born along with it.  To quote a meme going around the internet, they are older than bones.  Those soft, rounded mountains are, very literally, part of a completely different land, relics of a place that ceased to exist before the lands we know of came to be.

Of course the land here is different. The land is older and wilder and hungrier.  This is why Appalachia tells the stories it does. This is what King knows about Maine, and Lovecraft knew about Massachusetts and New Hampshire and why their stories are the way they are, and why this is what people remember about us.

Our tales aren’t about the ghosts of teenage girls killed in car crashes trying to find their way home, or soldiers reenacting battles they died in, because we live in a place where we walk with ancient things from other lands, who never left, and who still watch us from the hollers and hills and the shores, and are older than bones and older than sin, and they Remember that we humans are the newcomers here.  Our mythological patterns reflect that we can still see the lines of them on the parchment clear as day, and know that if we aren’t careful, we, too, will be pulled deeper into the ink.

I don’t think they were necessarily the first, either.

It’s just my observation, though.  I could be wrong.  But I know what I’ve seen when I travel, and the things that I’ve seen in the place that I call home, and I don’t think I entirely am.

(Originally posted on Patreon at https://www.patreon.com/riversdaughter.)

Road Lore: Bridges and Hungry, Old Gods

Not all of the roadside gods are kindly or helpful.  Some are, at best, indifferent to humans, while others…others have little but malice in them, and it’s best to continue down the road away from them and their domains as quickly as you can.

In a quiet New England town, small and forgotten long before the mills shut down and the trees grew through the abandoned factory floors, there sleeps an ancient, blood-stained god.  Its temple and altar stand at the place where two roads meet, over the river that doesn’t quite hide the stains of Its sacrificial tithings.

I came across this god and Its temple many years ago, when an unfortunate detour on my road led me to Its courtyard and I found myself out of gas with a busted engine and no money for repairs, stuck until I could find a way to get back on the road.  I’m ashamed to admit that I didn’t realize, at first, that I was in the presence of an old god, nor that I was at the entrance of Its House.  In my defense, it was in the process of being rebuilt; the previous structure having been left to rot for too long, the townsfolk having forgotten that an old, mad god slept in their town until It had started to awaken, and so it was obscured by the banality of construction.

I had accepted shelter at a house nearby while I tried to get up and running again, and so I was able to watch as the new temple rose by the day.  

After a while, I began to notice the strange way the townspeople talked about what I had assumed was just a replica of an historical site; the exacting attention paid to the way each stone was laid, each board nailed in; the way it was referenced in even the smallest things -images of it in it’s completed state on coffee mugs at the local diner, the name of the small antique shop – but no effort was being made to draw tourists in, which was odd, given the reverent way they spoke of the structure.

The day it was finished, they held a great ceremony at the site, with prayers and speeches and a parade.  It seemed a bit overdone to me at the time, but I gathered that it had taken a near-Herculean effort and some years longer to complete than it should have, so it did make an amount of sense.  I’d be excited, too, if I’d lived through several years of constant construction and inconvenience, instead of the few months I’d been in town.

As the weeks passed, however, I noticed a strange trend taking shape, where every. single. time. a car would pass beneath the roof of the temple, they would honk their horns.  It didn’t matter what time of day it was, either.  This would happen even in the small, silent hours of the night, which changed from annoying to unnerving.  The first day or so, sure. A bit weird, maybe, but nothing notably unusual.  Months later, however, is disturbingly obsessive.

The thing with this god is that during the day, Its temple appears harmless to the casual observer.  Cheerful, even. The river it rests over is pleasant and one can often see herons and other water birds wandering the banks in search of frogs and small fish, and the whole thing is almost postcard-perfect.

And then the sun sets, and night descends.  Oh, then.  Then, does its true nature show.  Then, as the shadows writhe and dance in the mist, bathed in the sickly orange glow of the single street-lamp, while the river gibbers and cackles maniacally to itself, do you realize that you are in the presence of something More.  The reeds whisper and giggle and tell tales of the eldritch thing that lurk in the darkness below the bridge’s shadowed peak, and clings, wetly, to the beams that lie so close beneath the road, and only then do you realize that you are standing before the home of a hungry god.

That is when you remember the odd reddish-brown tingeing that stains the stones and discolors the pools, and how the sounds echo strangely in places where there shouldn’t be echoes at all.  When you realize that the vehicles that you’ve seen pass through that failed to sound their horn in supplication are never seen again, and while yes, it could be coincidence, it’s too frequent to be able to fully convince yourself that.

Eventually I was able to break free of the town and get back on the road, away from the god.  Every now and then, though, I return to the temple out of some strange compulsion that even I don’t fully understand.  Maybe I slept too long beside It and It is trying to lure me back.  I don’t know.  

Yesterday was one of those times, and I noted how the new temple, barely more than a decade old, is already showing signs of decay, and I wonder if the townsfolk waited too long, and if the god is more awake than any of us realize…

I sounded the truck’s horn as I drove beneath the temple’s roof.  I’m not ready to find out what happens to those who fail to offer a prayer to this particular god just yet.

(Originally posted on Patreon at https://www.patreon.com/riversdaughter.)

Fiscal Responsibility Is The WOOOORST

Also, I hate accounting and book-keeping. I hate it like Gollum hates Bagginses. Like a lima bean and liver casserole.

Sadly, it’s a fact of life, and having officially reached a point with Patreon where I actually need to deal with that sort of thing in a more formal manner, I now have the dubious honor of shelling out part of my income for book-keeping software. I looked at a bunch of things and in the end, decided to say fuck it, and went with Quickbooks Self-Employed. They’re all more or less variations of the same basic thing, and at least I’m already familiar with Quickbooks.

I’ve spent the last 24 hours bashing my head against getting things set up, because it would have been SUPER EASY TO SET UP, except for the fact that my bank, in its infinite wisdom, doesn’t think that someone might want to, I dunno, BE ABLE TO DOWNLOAD THEIR RECORDS IN A CSV FOR MORE THAN 2 STATEMENT CYCLES, and converting a bank statement from a pdf to a csv is basically impossible, so I have to manually create the damned cvs to import into the damned thing, so GO ME I GET TO DO A YEAR’S WORTH OF DATA ENTRY BEFORE I CAN DO THE NORMAL SET UP PROTOCOLS.

Oh, and then I have to figure out how to deal with the Patreon/PayPal issue, and get all that entered without triple-entering a shitload of duplicate data that’s all the same data, from each step on it’s little way…

This would have been so much easier last spring, or if my bank wasn’t technologically brainless. The temptation to borrow money from somewhere to pay someone else to deal with this is a likely more efficient manner than I have the knowledge set for is strong, to be honest. Sadly, my $68 a month isn’t enough for that option, so here I am, bashing my head against it, hoping to manage enough in time for getting our taxes done, and uuuuuuuuugh.

Yes. I’m whining about this, because while it’s a “good” problem to have, it’s also one that I’ve got a smidge of PTSD around (thanks, Hell Job!) and the fact that I’m having no luck finding the information I need online isn’t helping. I suspect the answer is, in fact, going to be “figure out how to come up with money to hire an accountant to get this set up properly so I can maintain it from there”.

/rant

Monster Movie Blatherings: The Blair Witch Project

Ever watch a movie and realize, days later, that you still have Opinions about it?  Yeah, that happened, and so here we are, because I had to write about it.

(Note: If you’re like me, and hadn’t watched this before, there’s going to be spoilers, so read at your own risk, I guess?)

The other day I decided to watch “The Blair Witch Project” for the first time.  I hadn’t seen it when it came out, due to a combination of my annoyance at the existence of “Shaky Cam” filming and an aggressive dislike of hype.  At a certain point, something or someone becomes so popular that I get sick of hearing about it so much that I refuse to engage with them at all, and this movie had a serious case of both problems going for it for a long time.

Also, I am REALLY picky about horror movies.  I *love* them, but I consider a lot of the staples (excessive gore, jump-scares, gratuitous sexual assault) to be pretty much the pinnacle of lazy, boring writing and, sadly, this is usually the content of most horror movies, and just… *zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz*.  Gore is gross, not scary.  Jump-scares are relying on the nervous system’s reflexes, not actual fear.  Sexual assault as a shitty plot device is an entire rant on it’s own.  Mostly, though?  I am highly critical of monsters.  I love nothing more than a good monster, but I very much insist that monsters be not only actually scary and also make logical sense.  “Because it’s a monster” as a reason for why it’s doing something is #1 of my Top 5 Worst Excuses For Bad Monster Writing. Finding a horror movie that doesn’t fall into these traps is depressingly difficult.  Everything I’d heard over the years about BWP led me to believe that the “monster” (witch) was going to be the kind that I despise, and so between that, the excessive hype, and the filming style, I just didn’t want to waste my time on that.  Recently, though, it was brought up in several unconnected places and something about what people were saying made me curious enough to check it out finally.

I am not ashamed to admit that I was wrong. In my defense, it had, much like the original Stargate movie, been positioned as something else, and I can only work with what info I have available.  I still don’t think it’s that great of a movie, and that it was very much overhyped, but I enjoyed it.

One of my favorite things is, weirdly, that it’s a monster movie that has no actual monster.  There is no witch.  There is only the creeping horror of watching three people literally drive themselves to madness through the power of their own imaginations, fueled by sleep deprivation and probably mild hypothermia, in an environment that they had no solid experience being in.  The penultimate scene, the guy standing in the corner, is viscerally horrifying not because of any supernatural influences, but because it’s such a brutally, painfully, stark display of just how far his psyche had broken in such a short amount of time.  It’s terrifying as a statement on the fragility of the human mind and how easily it can be destroyed.

As someone who has spent much of her life in woods far deeper and wilder than the ones the characters found themselves in, I know how sounds can carry strangely, and how animals going about their day are louder than one would expect.  Squirrels and rabbits make as much noise as you might think a deer should.  A deer sounds like something the size of a moose, especially at night.  I’ve seen suburban folks cowering in their vehicles, terrified, because they saw eyeshine peering at them from the undergrowth and were convinced it was something far more sinister than a family of raccoons eyeing their improperly secured cooler.  The characters in BWP were suburban folks who had already primed themselves to be looking for supernatural dangers and expecting witches and ghosts, before they ever set foot beyond the treelines, and were not thinking that maybe the screaming they heard were more likely the sounds of foxes dining on rabbits, and less the ghosts of dead children.  They lost their map and didn’t know how to navigate without it.  They were walking around in wet clothing, in the cold, for days, and hypothermia fucks with your ability to think clearly.  This is a dangerous combination even when one isn’t already primed to look for supernatural reasons for everything.

The fact that this movie could only have existed in that specific time in history, due to the way that technology works currently (it was the early days of the internet, and it was a much different place than it is now), makes it all the more delicious.  I’m not sorry that I didn’t get to see it when it came out, because I wouldn’t have been able to appreciate a lot of it then (I was only a couple of years younger than the actors, being all of 19), but I’m so glad I decided to check it out this week.

Still not ruling out one of them being crazier than the others and going on a killing spree, though…

(Originally posted on Patreon at https://www.patreon.com/riversdaughter.)