Brown River Queen cover art

Friday, July 18, 2014

Bonus Friday Rage Rant!

It took a few hours, but I have been reduced to a quivering, tooth-gnashing fiend, a fiend bent on violence, vengeance, and possibly also velocipedes.

The source of my furious derangement?


What is Poser 10, you ask, from what you hesitantly deem a safe distance?

Poser is a software package that, ostensibly, confers the power of artistic creation on hapless, ham-fisted fellows like myself. I can't draw a stick figure without getting sympathy cards or, in numerous instances, death threats. I've devalued museum paintings just by looking at them. Invertebrates lacking even rudimentary appendages have executed artworks many orders of magnitude better than mine simply by excreting slime on smooth surfaces.

In my case, art is something that happens to other people.

I wanted to see if I could change all that. So I bought Poser 10, because (I thought) if there is one bloody thing I can do, it's make a computer do what I want.

Hah. What a fool I was!

I installed the Poser 10 software. No issues. It worked the first time, which I can only assume is a cruel ploy to lull the unsuspecting into a false state of confidence. That trick certainly worked with me.

Now, Poser comes pre-loaded with all sorts of objects and figures. Basic human figures are among these, but even my brief exposure to the subject revealed that Poser figures are considered crude and unfinished. No, it's DAZ Studio figures you want, my lad!

Word is you can buy DAZ figures and simply install them in your Poser library. Why, the process is even automated! It's so simple a recently-stunned blowfish could do it!

Well, my recently-stunned blowfish just walked off the job, and I remain convinced that the whole wretched Poser / DAZ Studio relationship is nothing but a devilishly cruel prank.

It should be simple. The trick appears to be getting the DAZ files installed in the proper Poser directory. I understand file structures. They're not some esoteric mystery.

But regardless of what I do, how often I do it, or how many user guides I consult, the process always fails. Always.

I swear I hear faint laughter in the distance.

It's not always the same error, either. DSON errors? Sure. Python fails? Got 'em. Sometimes Poser just locks or crashes.

My machine is a monster. It has enough memory and CPU cores to run ten simultaneous copies of Poser. And land space shuttles. And fling Bitcoins in every direction as it does so.

But nothing I do works. Because via some odd violation of cause and effect, wherever I put the files is the worst possible place they could conceivably be. 

Here are the guidelines for installing DAZ files into Poser libraries:

"You must install your DAZ files into the proper Poser directory. Remember that last folder you tried? Not even close. The one you're looking at now? Hah! YOU ARE CRACKING US UP. Seriously, all your DAZ files should go into the Poser Runtime folder, except they must NEVER enter the Poser Runtime folder. They should go instead beside it, or under it, or maybe inside it before quickly being removed and written to 1.44 MB floppies which are then hidden under the couch. Go ahead, try anything, it's a slow night and we love the way your right eye twitches involuntarily when you get that DSON runtime error over and over and over..."

Oh, and before you suggest Googling the errors, I've done that. Google returns the same tired half-dozen help links and then starts listing suicide prevention hotlines, because apparently it's been through this before.

I thought I had the DSON errors beaten, but now I'm seeing Python Object Call warnings. I could Google that, or strike myself in the face with a fan belt. I'm leaning toward fan belt, impact of, repeated. It will be just as effective as messing with Python.

It seems the Universe is trying to tell me dabbling in art is a waste of time. I wish the Universe had just sent a card.

If anyone from Poser or DAZ is reading this, for the love of all that is holy make at least a token effort to ensure your products can move between platforms without inducing insanity. Or warn buyers with a disclaimer, perhaps something along these lines:

"Thank you for purchasing Poser. We hope you will enjoy our software. We also hope you have easy access to a mental health care facility if you dare attempt to install DAZ Studio products for use on our program, because <snicker> we value you as a customer <snort> you do realize we can watch your face turn purple with impotent rage via your webcam, that never gets old, watch as we issue another Python runtime error, Google THAT, buttercup <giggle> oh man he's losing it WHAT A MAROON HAHAHAHAHA!"

I give up. I suppose my only option now is to go nuclear -- un-install everything, that is, and start all over. Possibly after sacrificing a flawless young goat.

Seriously, DAZ and Poser, if I can't figure this out, the problem isn't entirely mine.

If anyone needs me, I'll be in the corner, drooling and rocking.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Head Full of Fog

Foggy. That's how it was was when I took the picture above.

Foggy is also how I feel today. It's as if the fog in the photo didn't burn away in the morning sun, but retreated into the vast empty space between my ears instead.

Which means I should probably shut up and let my characters do the talking today. They are, after all, usually far more clever and amusing than I am anyway. 

Favorite Character Quotes

"Deception wears many masks. Take care to remove them all, should you undertake to see the face of truth."
-- Wistril the Wizard, from Wistril Compleat.

"The stuff of legends is nothing but trouble to the persons unfortunate enough to make them. On the whole, I’d rather have been off fishing.”
-- Tim the Horsehead, from All the Paths of Shadow

"You know you're having a bad day when vampires drop by to chat and you're pleased by the sudden distraction."
-- Markhat, from Hold the Dark

"I don’t believe in ghosts. Except when I do."
-- Markhat, from The Five Faces

“If I were privy to the secrets of Creation, I’d kill your ass where you stand. But I know about the arcane seasons.” I put my gun down on the table and forced myself to sit. “So you’re the god of chance. Nice to meet you. Hope you die screaming real soon.”
-- Markhat, The Five Faces

“It’s not much of a universe these days. If it unravels, so be it. Let the gods amuse themselves with an eternity of vacuum.” Her eyes took back their old steel. “What sort of a surprise do you have in mind, Captain?”
-- Stitches, The Five Faces

Sneak Peek: The Darker Carnival

I'll close tonight with the first few pages of the new Markhat book, which is so new it's still under consideration with the publisher. But I don't think they'll mind if I post the opening here.

So, here it is, the world premiere, so to speak, of the latest Markhat adventure, The Darker Carnival!


My body lay sleeping, snug in my bed, but I walked the woods far away.

Once upon a time, I’d have called my walk a dream. Called it a dream and dismissed it with a laugh, if I acknowledged it at all. 

Once upon a time, I'd been a damned fool.

I’ve grown far too intimate with magic, though. First I told the huldra my name, let it sneak into my heart when I thought Darla dead, when rage drove me to throw away my soul for a whispered promise of vengeance. Then I’d walked with the huldra, cloaked in its dark sorceries, spilled blood while it rode me and took root.

I’ve dreamed with the Corpsemaster. Danced with things Hag Mary dredged up from some timeless deep. Stepped out of time itself, seeing this tired old world through a banshee's ageless eyes. I’ve brushed up against so many dark and deadly powers even the Corpsemaster and her kin can no longer see the truth of the stains the old magics have left.

So when I found myself striding through the night, with the mightiest and oldest of the forest oaks brushing my knees, I knew damned well it was no mere dream.

I was outside Rannit’s walls, well south of the city. The Brown River lay like a silver ribbon in the moonlight on my left. The low hills the Regent recently clear-cut to make ties for his new railroad shone bare and ravaged at my feet.

I walked, three hundred feet tall, now and then, but I did not walk alone.

The slilth ambled along at my side, its flexible clockwork legs coiling and curving in the moonlight, each leg a narrow shaft of quicksilver glinting in the night. It made no noise as it walked, not so much as a whisper, its legs slipping between bough and branch as deftly as a dancer’s, and as light.

The slilth has no face, no body, no head. It is merely a gaggle of legs which hold aloft a smooth, featureless ovoid lacking eyes, ears, or any visible orifices at all.

Stitches the sorceress claims the slilth to be an ancient construct of immense and irresistible power. 

It dipped its ovoid head at me, as if in silent recognition, and together we crossed the river, one step, two steps, three.

The barren hills lay below us, scraps of bare timber and freshly wounded earth all that remained of the ancient forests. 

The slilth paused, turning its eyeless face this way and that across the midnight sky. Then it diminished in stature, until its silver not-face barely peeked above the closest hill.

I followed suit, shrinking myself, fixing my eyes on the spot I judged the slilth to be watching. We waited together in silence.

An hour passed. The slilth, ever silent, raised a delicate silver tendril toward the east, and it was then I saw the first balloon.

The first, and the next, and the next, sailing in line as if tethered. They floated out of the night, soaring high, but dropping until I saw the lanterns that hung like yellow-gold jewels on the cables that held them together.

Five balloons, then ten, then another and another and another. Thirteen in all, each larger than the last, all lit by cautious lanterns.

I didn’t hear the mastodons until they came charging over the crest of the nearest hill. A line of the brutes three strong appeared, and the tread of their furry tree-trunk feet shook the ground beneath me.

The beasts wore enormous yokes, from which ropes rose up, vanishing into the night.

“So that’s how they do it,” I said, to my silent silver friend.  

The slilth made no acknowledgement. The mastodons thundered down the hill, shouldering aside the few bent saplings the lumberjacks had spared. 

A trumpet blew, and the furry beasts came to a halt. They stood swaying, tusks worrying the ground, snuffling and stomping and head-butting, but remaining more or less in place.

The stink of them washed over me, dream-state or not. I pushed it aside with a casual tug at the shadows that hid me.

The balloons bobbed into sight above us. Trumpets sounded in the sky, were answered by ones on the ground. Ropes fell. Men shouted. More horns blew.

The slilth dipped a silver tendril down and scribbled in the mud left by the lumber-jacks and their wagons. The pattern the slilth traced out was foreign, alien, a thing that wasn’t quite letters and wasn’t quite a drawing and wasn’t quite a warning, but something in the sweep and swoop of the lines it drew in the moonlight sent shivers up and down my fifty-foot spine.

The first two balloons touched down. Men leapt from the boat-shaped baskets, swarming about like ants, driving stakes and casting lines and making them fast.

A mastodon raised its trunk and trumpeted. Soon, its fellows joined it in a primal, ancient roar.

The slilth never made a sound. But the tone of its silence changed, in some subtle sense my slow poisoning by magic allowed me to discern.

The slilth’s not-words, had they been spoken, would have been something very much akin to ‘here we go again.’

I cussed.

The slilth’s scribblings flared, as if each furrow was filled with oil and set suddenly alight. Just as I was about to make out the meaning of the spiraling lines my fool body woke and my wandering spirit fell headlong into it as the slilth  absently waved goodbye.