Tolerance, Redux

















Pushing Past 50K

Dang if it isn't happening.

For a couple of reasons - sickness and family being two, the holidays being the third - NaNoWriMo turned out to be a wash for me, but it did encourage me to write, which is a Good Thing.  I mananged to just about double my word count this month, which is a cause for rejoicing.

So, with that - here's another snippet for you, discussing long life, memory, and personality.



The walked along the edge of the tarmac towards the main building, Mike leading the way with she and Sophie trailing along on either side.  She couldn’t help but notice that spite of his even words, Mike seemed annoyed.

“Is he always like this?” she asked.

“Coy?”  Mike shrugged. “Yeah.  Pretty much.  He’s…” he trailed off for a second, thinking.  “Not flighty.  That’s not the right word.  Easily distracted?”  He shrugged again.  “Don’t know how to describe it.  Sometimes he just gets an idea in his head, and he goes after it.”

“Sounds like ADD,” said Sophie.

“Maybe,” said Mike.  “That’s just he way he is.”

She frowned, trying to recall… “You said something like that at the diner.  Has he always been like this?”

Mike stopped walking, and she and Sophie stopped as well.  He gave her a long look, considering, before he spoke.

“I don’t know,” he said slowly.  “I can’t remember.”

“How…” she stopped, shook her head.  “What do you mean?  I got the impression that you two have been friends for forever.”  Mike raised his eyebrows, and for some reason, she found herself blushing.  “For a long time, I mean,” she said.

“I know Coy’s talked doing stuff out in California with you during the gold rush days,” said Sophie. She cocked her head inquisitively as she spoke.  “I thought y’all went back even further than that.”

Mike sighed.  “We do,” he said.  “Weren’t aways friends, but we knew each other.  Thing is… Me and Coy, and folks like us.  The long-lived ones.”

“The Methuselahs,” she said.

“Yeah.  See, when it happens, you… you don’t always know right away.  Sometimes you do.  Take Alexi.  He knew right away that he had run into something that changed him.  It’s not always like that.  It wasn’t that way for me, at least.  Not for Coy, either, from what I gather.”  He jammed his hands in pockets, and looked down at his feet.

“You just kind of… live longer, at first.  I just thought I was in good shape when I was younger.”  He glanced at her and gave her a wry smile.  “Young men are stupid.”

“Amen,” said Sophie, emphatically.  Amy chuckled, and Mike’s mouth quirked up in a small smile.

“Guilty as charged. Of course I was stronger, of course I healed faster than most people, but when you’re young, you just figure that you’re lucky that way.”

He pursed his lips and looked off into the distance.  “Then you start getting older,” he said quietly. “Folks tell you that you’re aging really well, you don’t look a day over thirty.  That sort of thing.  You just figure you’re in really good shape, really lucky… then the people around you start dying.”

She glanced at Sophie.  The sasquatch shook her head slightly, and said gently, “That must have been hard.”

Mike snorted.  “A bit.  That’s when you get a clue that there’s something different about you.  You’re sixty, seventy years old, and you still feel like you did when you were twenty-five.  Maybe the people around you start noticing, start giving you odd looks… so you move, maybe.  Pull up, find someplace new to settle down.”

“Then, around the time you’re hitting the century mark, you realize that you can’t recall some things.”  He half turned to look at her.  “What your dad did for a living.  What the color of your sister’s favorite dress was.”  As he spoke, he seemed to shrink into himself.  “Your mother’s name.”

She opened her mouth, decided that there was nothing she could really say to that, and chose to remain silent.  In that brief glance from him, she had seem the same look in his eyes that her Dad did when he was remembering Mom.  The pain of loss.

Mike was silent for a second, then sighed and straightened up, taking his hands out of his pockets. “Coy’s got some thoughts about it, and from what I can tell, it makes sense,” he said in a more normal tone of voice.  “We live a long time, but we’re still human.  Only so much space up here,” he tapped his head, “and it eventually gets filled up.  So whatever it was that you haven’t thought about in a long while starts getting dumped out, so you can put new memories in those buckets.”

“That… that sounds a lot like Alzheimers,” said Sophie.

Mike nodded at her.  “Yeah.  I think that’s the way it works for most people, actually.  It’s just more noticeable with us.”

“So… what?” asked Sophie.  “You just forget things?”

He grimaced and started walking again.  “As time goes by, yeah.  You get used to it, eventually.  You compensate.  Coy and I both keep detailed journals, for instance.  It helps fix things in your memory longer - you remember doing something, then you remember writing about it, then you remember reading about it.  Even with that, though, you find you can go back maybe forty years or so before things start getting fuzzy.  Past seventy, and it gets really sketchy; you recall the big things, but little stuff is pretty much gone.  Past a hundred, and, well,” he spread his hands, “that’s why we keep journals.”

“So you don’t know why Coy’s the way he is,” she said, slowly.  Mike looked at her and gave a tired little chuckle.

“Know why he’s the way he is?  M’am, I couldn’t tell you why I’m the way I am.”  He shook his head again.  “I’ve forgotten the things that shaped me, made me who I am today.  I couldn’t tell you why I like horses, why doing things right and proper is important to me.  I just know that that’s the way I am.”

“Isn’t that true for all of us, though?” said Sophie thoughtfully.  “One way or another?”

“Might be some truth in that, Miss Sophie.”

They walked for a few seconds in silence before she put her hand out and touched Mike’s shoulder.  He stopped and turned his head to look at her questioningly.

“That’s why you’re, I don’t know.  Forgiving?  Willing to give Alexi some slack,” she said, as she dropped her hand.

“Not sure what you mean.”

She frowned, trying to put the thought in order.  “Empathy.  Something… happened to him, but he can’t remember it.  It changed him, though.  And now he’s got to deal with being who he is, even if he doesn’t remember how he became that person.  Kind of the way you and Coy have to, just on a smaller scale.”

“Huh,” said Mike.  “I don’t think I would have ever put it that way.”  He frowned, then nodded.  “Probably pretty close to the truth, though.  Mind you,” he continued, “it doesn’t mean I like him.  He did break my nose, if you recall.”

She raised her eyebrows.  “Oh, believe me.  I remember that.  I’ve got my own bone to pick with him.”  Her leg was still sore from the pummeling Alexi had delivered the night of the election.

“Still,” rumbled Sophie, “Your enemy is never a villain in his own eyes. Keep this in mind; it may offer a way to make him your friend.”  Mike looked at Sophie quizzically, then back at her as she chuckled.

“If not, you can kill him without hate — and quickly,” she said, finishing the quote.  “Heinlein,” she said to Mike by way of explanation.

“Hm.  Let’s hope it doesn’t come to that, then,” said Mike.  “And let’s get something to eat.  I’m starving.”

In Communist Cuba, Bingo gets YOU!

One (1) Internets to the first person who identifies a single article that fills the board.


NaNo NaNo

Since I've got a novel in flight, as it were, I decided to officially participate in NaNoWriMo this year.  If you're so inclined, you can find me registered here.

At the start of NaNo this year, I had about 30k words written.  I figured participating in NaNo would be a great way to push myself to bang out another 50k words, which should (hopefully) get me close to something that might resemble a finished story.

First week went really well.  I was more or less on track, and ended up about 1k words short of my goal.  Not to bad, considering that means I'd written 10k words (woohoo!) even in the face of having to take a couple of nights off for various activities, including our annual bonfire.

Then, of course, the election hit.  If you've read my blog for any amount of time, you can probably guess that following the election coverage and the aftermath was a bit of a time sink for me.

Just as that started to settle down, I got hit with a head cold, which pretty much left me wishing I could just sleep for 48 hours.  I actually gave that a pretty good shot over the weekend.

None of that was especially conducive to the idea of "butt in seat, writing".

So as of this morning, I'm currently sitting at 15k words worth of progress on my NaNo goals, which is around 8k short of where I want to be.  Not bad, but I can do better.

One thing that I've learned from participating in NaNo this year: writing and editing have to be separate activities for me.  When I started, I was researching and editing as I went, which meant that I was managing to write about 500 words/hour.  Overall, they were pretty good words.  Nice.  Polished.  They pretty much said what I wanted to say.

For NaNo, I've had to move to just writing - I pay attention to my use of the backspace key, and unless it's to correct a word or a misspelling, I force myself to skip it.

Sentence seems a bit awkward?  Ignore it - I grok what the meaning was, I'll clean it up later.

Need to know what type of four passenger plane a private pilot might own and fly?  Just make a note, come back and fill in the details later.

Can't quite figure out how to join these two passages?  Eh.  Make a note of that, forge onward.

Stalled wondering where this scene or conversation will go?  Switch over to something else.  Write a snippet that may or may not fit in elsewhere.

Whatever happens, just keep writing.


Just by making that effort, I've managed to come close to doubling my output - I can manage about 1k words per hour.  It's difficult to sustain that pace - I can do 2-3 hours before I need to take a break and recharge - but it has definitely been worth it.  My prose isn't as complete or as polished as I'd like, but the important thing is that the story is progressing.  I can see things moving,  What has been living solely in my head for the past year is now making it on to the page, and even if it isn't as nice as I want to eventually make it, it's there.

That's a good feeling.

What's even better, I think, is that getting my editing brain out of the way is helping me to realize things about my characters that I didn't even know were there.  My writing brain says, "say this", my hands go tappity-tap-tap, and I think, "Where did that come from?  I mean, it makes sense..." and now I have a reason why Coy's a flirt, why Mike is willing to give Alexi the benefit of the doubt, why Amy is unwilling to just pack up and go home instead of going on a wild goose chase down to North Carolina with a couple of folks she just met.

Long story short: NaNo is helping me, not just in terms of discipline in time spent writing, but in learning how to write in a way that I've not ever really tried.  And I'm kind of excited about that!

"Tolerance"

... or not.













I Just Winged It

I somehow managed to miss the article that Slate put up that answer the question of How Do I Explain to My Daughters What Happened in This Election?

Which meant that, lacking their sophisticated guidance, I had to fly by the seat of my pants and pretty much wing it...
"Hey kiddo. Trump won."
"Hillary lost?"
"Yep."
"GOOD."
I think it went pretty well.

QOTD, and some advice for the Democrat Party...

"Next time you want people to vote for a lesser evil, make sure they actually have reason to believe it's the lesser evil."

And The Winner Is...

... Slate Star Codex, with a collection of good bad story puns, including this gem:
By 2050, screens have shrunk and become more flexible until the dream of “programmable paper” becomes a reality. Citizens of the future read newspapers like the ones in Harry Potter that include moving images and even videos of important events. This new technology even makes it as far as the US Post Office, where they decide to include programmable stamps. Instead of a static picture of eg George Washington’s head, it will have a moving image of Washington speaking and giving his famous Farewell Address.
Unfortunately, the technology isn’t ready for the kind of abuse that envelopes undergo on their travel throughout the country and the world. Most of the computerized stamps become corrupted and “crash”; in a particularly common bug, they try to reload but just end up displaying “GENERATING IMAGE…” permanently. The government has no money to fix the problem, so people just get used to stamps on their letters that say “GENERATING IMAGE…” instead of having interesting pictures on them. 
Moral of the story: If you want a vision of the future, imagine a human face booting on a stamp forever.

Snippet

He was strolling through the open air marketplace of Vedna, thinking about getting something to eat, when his earpiece chimed.  He tapped his phone to complete the connection.

"Cowal here," he said absently.  Potato pancakes, maybe?  No matter what star system you were in, potatoes were pretty much potatoes.

"Lieutenant," said Cory, his ship's AI.  "Are you able to talk?"

He sighed.  "Cory, I told you, they re-activated my commission just as a formality for the courier run we have coming up.  You don't have to call me Lieutenant."

There was the barest of pauses before Cory replied.  "My apologies, Commander Cowal."

Paul frowned.  "Commander isn't any better.  Or accurate.  Just call me skipper, like you always have."

"I feel that would be inappropriate at this time," Cory said, hesitating slightly before continuing. "Captain," said Cory.  "In any case, I am currently in receipt of..."

He didn't the let AI finish the sentence.  "Cory, are you OK?" he asked, concerned.  "You're all over the map.  Run diagnostics, please."

"But..."

"Diagnostics.  Now."

Cory hesitated, then said, "Diagnostic scan commencing.  Preliminary report, all systems normal. Detailed diagnostics will be available in three minutes, Admiral."  Cory rarely displayed emotion, but Paul could tell from his modulation that he was frustrated.

"Good.  You may not have noticed it, but you've been using different forms of address for me," he said.  "I'm worried you might have picked up something from one of the public nets..."

"SIR!" Cory shouted.  Paul winced at the volume and cursed.

"If you would please let me finish," said Cory, hurriedly.  "I am currently in receipt of military subspace traffic from the Coral navy."

Paul stopped, and looked up at the sky.  "Wait, what?  How..."

"Part of the encryption package we got for the courier mission," said Cory. "That's not important.  I have been receiving real-time updates of a running battle in Coral space.  A numerically superior force entered the system approximately 4 minutes ago, and engaged the fleet.  Projected losses are statistically indistinguishable from 100%, Acting High Admiral."

Paul froze, and opened his mouth.  He tried to say something, but words would not come.

"Based on those reports, you are almost certainly the last active member of the CNS Fleet still alive," said Cory.  "In addition, 34 seconds ago I received what I presume is a final transmission from the CNS CARTAHENA," said Cory.

"Go," said Paul, quietly.

"Shortly after the attack commenced, they reported sub-lightspeed kinetic energy weapon impacts on the capital, Fleet Command, and all visible major cities."  Cory waited a second, then continued.  "Following the succession rules enumerated by the 194th Coral Tricameral, and in accordance with the Founding Charter and Constitution..."

"No," said Paul.

"... until such time as a more qualified survivor is located, you are to be considered the acting President and Commander-In-Chief of the Coral government," said Cory.

"Crap on a crutch," breathed Paul.

"Indeed," said Cory, dryly.  "Your orders, Mr. President?"









We Interrupt Our WIP

Yeah.  Dresden Files fan fiction.

It popped into my head this evening, and... well, it wasn't going to let me get anything else done until I had at least sketched it out.



My name is Leo Armitage Kozlowski.  I’m a dentist.  Not the new school type, with all the bells and whistles and flashing lights and computers doing 3D realtime modeling of your bite pattern.  No, I’m old school.  Picks, mirrors, wax impressions, fillings, all done by hand.  Artisanal, even.

I should put that on my cards.

I have a couple of full sets of tools.  Every dentist does - you need them to get through a typical day, since it would be bad manners and worse hygiene to share them around.  Unlike most dentists, though, I also have some custom sets of complete instruments, hand-made from cast bronze.

They’re for my special customers.

See, nobody really likes visiting the dentist in the first place.  I understand that.  Heck, I’m a dentist, and even I don’t like visiting my own dentist.  A regular cleaning is bad enough.  When you know there’s something wrong, though, that’s a special sort of bad.  When you call to make an appointment that you know, just know, will lead to drilling, filling, or - even worse - the juxtaposition of the words “root” and “canal”… well.  Even I can get a little titchy.

So when something out of the Nevernever gets cranky and desperate enough to start asking around for a dentist, believe me, the last thing I want to do is go rooting around in some Faerie’s mouth with iron tools.

Yeah. Chicago gets deep disk pizza, the Bulls, and Harry Freaking Dresden.  Pittsburgh gets pirogies, the Steelers, and the world’s only practicing Faerie dentist.   Which might not seem fair, but Chicago will just have to learn to live with second place, I guess.

I was in the office early on a Monday, standing behind the front desk, going through the weekend mail.  Bills, bills, bills, and… oh, yeah,  More bills.  I sighed.  The life of an independent businessman.  Well, there was an invitation to the annual ADA convention.  In Detroit.

I was contemplating whether spending a weekend surrounded by dentists in Detroit would be a net positive or negative to my nearly nonexistent social life when the phone at the desk rang.  I picked it up and cradled the receiver in the crook of my neck, keeping my hands free to continue sorting through the mail.

“Kozlowski Dentistry,” I said.  “Kozlowski speaking.”

“Hey, Jinx,” said the voice on the other end.  Manny Carlucci.  He’d been my Council sponsor, way back when.  When he found out what the guys on the ship had called me, he had picked up that nickname with glee.  It wasn’t my fault that I was a wizard, nor that I hadn’t even had an inkling of the fact until I was 10 years into serving the Navy as a dentist.  I was such a minor ability that the Council had debated whether or not I could really be considered a wizard.  They had erred on the side of caution, though, so at the tender age of 33, I had found myself shanghaied into Council membership, whether I wanted it or not.

Yeah, yeah.  I know.  The irony of a Navy man getting shanghaied is not lost on me.

The name came from my ineptitude with, and general inability to be in the vicinity of, electronic equipment.  Which I know is related to the wizard thing, now.  My first decade in the Navy, though, things just tended to go wrong around me in interesting and sparky ways.  I had eventually earned my Surface Warfare pin, but not until the Captain of the second ship I tried to qualify on had banned me from ever stepping foot onto the bridge or into the Combat Information Center ever again.  Seems the radar techs in CIC had a thing about keeping their equipment up and running without having to put out electrical fires every few minutes.

“Manny,” I said.  “Do I owe you money or something?”

“Or something,” he said.  I could hear traffic noises in the background.  “Just wanted to give you a heads up.  Audit next week.”

I tossed the mail in the general direction of the inbox and managed to get most of it in the general location.  I took the phone in my hand and closed my eyes, pinching the bridge of my nose.  “Manny, they just did one a few weeks ago.”  The Wardens were always on the prowl for incipient warlockry, and for some reason, they had decided that I was a prime candidate.  Maybe they thought I was doing illegal dentures for Black Court vamps, or that I was doing bridge work for the wrong type of troll, or something.  Whatever it was, I had ended up on somebody’s short list.

“Yeah, I know,” said Manny.  He sounded apologetic.  “There’s a new guy taking over the ward.  Mallory.  He’s doing the rounds, and wanted to start with you.”

“Any idea why?” I asked.  There bell above the door jangled as someone walked it.  I glanced at the clock.  Nine o’clock on the dot.  I didn’t have any appointments until ten, but we did get the occasional walk-in.  I raised my hand in the general direction of the door to ackowledge whoever it was, and turned away slightly to keep the conversation with Manny private.

“Nope,” he said.  “Probably nothing.  Guys seems like the type to go in random order, just to shake things up.”

“Great,” I sighed.  “OK, Manny.  Thanks.  I owe you one.”

“Told you you owed me something,” he said cheerfully.  “Beer me later, man.  Friday at Industry?”

“Sounds good to me,” I said.  “See you then.  And Manny - I mean it.  Thanks.”

“No problem,” he said.  “Catch you later.”

I hung up the phone, put on a smile that I didn’t really feel, and turned around to greet my first customer of the day.  “Sorry about that.  What can I do for you…”

Yeah, I kind of trailed off.  The woman standing at the counter was beyond striking.  Easily six feet tall, with a narrow face, piercing green eyes, and long, red hair.  She was bundled up a bit against the cold in a pale green leather coat that matched her eyes, and wearing a gold necklace that looked like it was studded with emeralds and opals.

All of which was secondary to what really made me draw up short.  I generally don’t get many dragons as walk-in clients.  By which I mean, I never get them.

Her aura was so strong that I didn’t even need to look at her with my second sight to know what she was.  Her face was carefully neutral, which I think was her way of trying to be polite.  It worked.  If she had smiled at me right then, I’m pretty sure that mind hindbrain would have crawled out my ear and slid down my torso in an attempt to escape, gibbering in fear.

“… M’am?” I finished the sentence that I had started what now seemed a long, long time ago.  I was distinctly aware that my voice squeaked in a way that I hadn’t heard since puberty.  I worked on shutting down my second sight as tightly as I possibly could.

“Dr. Kozlowski, I presume?” she said.  Her voice was melodious, beautiful, and nearly as scary as her aura.

“Yes!” I said, with a little too much emphasis.  My mind raced.  What was the protocol for dragons?  Was I supposed to bow?  Shake hands?  Fall to the ground weeping?

She made the decision simple by holding out her hand.  She was wearing a pair of black gloves.  I looked at her hand stupidly for a moment, then took it gently.  The corner of her mouth quirked up slightly as I shook her hand.

“M’am,” I said, letting go.  I decided that absolute honesty was my best bet, took a deep breath, and spoke carefully.  “I understand that I am in the presence of someone much, much older, wiser, and more powerful than myself.  I beg you to forgive any slight I might inadvertently give, and to understand that if I do so, it is entirely out of ignorance, and not an indication of any lack of respect.”

She did give me a smile at that point, but I was ready for it.  “I have heard good things about you, Doctor, from some… associates.”  She tilted her head slightly in my direction.  “Your honesty is refreshing, but I am not looking for a diplomat.”  The smile faded.  “I am afraid that I find myself in need of your services.”

I blinked, and looked at her, not with my second sight, but with my experience.  She was doing her best not to show it, but… yeah.  She was nervous.

I told you.  Nobody likes going to the dentist.

QOTD

Quinn Norton at Medium tell us that Everything Is Broken, and reminds us that not only is computer security terrible, it's even worse than you imagine:
The number of people whose job it is to make software secure can practically fit in a large bar, and I’ve watched them drink. It’s not comforting.

QOTD

From the friend of a friend on the Book of Faces:
When they said 'anybody can be President in this country', we should have taken that as a warning.

She's Already Lost The Critical Sasquatch Vote

I have it on good authority that Bigfoot exists, and is generally uninterested in politics.

His niece, however, votes Libertarian.

"Describe yourself..."

"... as three fictional characters."


QOTD

From Michael Z. Williamson on the Book of Faces:
They're called the "left" because they are never right.

Back From Vacation

Spent some time with the family at an Undisclosed Location [1], and had an absolutely wonderful time. Sun, surf, and swimming with da goils, and waaay too much good food. [2]

Oddly enough, the lovely Mrs. Robb and I did not discuss the zombie apocalypse at any point on our travel to and fro. Instead, when we were on our way home, we ended up on an area of highway that simultaneously had one lane ending (merge right!), one lane becoming exit only (merge left!), and if that wasn't enough, signs warning about construction ahead. With instructions to, you guessed it, merge.

Oy.

The missus mused aloud as to why they do stuff like that, and pretty much fully formed in my head came the following response...

Well, it's completely intentional. They selectively hire sociopaths.

See, after WWII, members of the German Anhenerbe scattered. A couple of them managed to make it to the US, where they used fake papers to get jobs with the Department of Transportation. They encouraged and eventually helped plan the interstate highway system, and used their influence to lay out the interstates in a specific pattern. Hidden in the interstates is a Great Rune that would summon the Old Ones. The traffic moving along the roads powers the Rune - it's kind of like water running a Tibetan prayer wheel. It would take decades, but eventually all that traffic would generate enough power that the Old Ones could pop in for a bit of armageddon.

When the CIA finally caught up with them in the mid-70's, it was way too late. Too much of the roads were already laid out and in use, and the Rune was gaining power every day. The government couldn't admit that it did anything wrong - even knowing that the Old Ones exist is highly classified, need-to-know stuff. It would be political suicide for anyone to even suggest putting together a program to demolish tens of thousands of miles of perfectly good roadways for no apparent reason.

The engineers at the DOT figured out a long-term plan to completely disable the rune by re-routing certain parts of the interstate system slightly. They're doing that now. That's why, sometimes, you see a new section of interstate being put in, and you wonder why those idiots are building a new road when there's a perfectly good one right here.

That takes time, though, and has to be done oh, so carefully - it's kind of like working on a live high voltage wire. When they screw up, the repercussions are painful. Freak weather, reality TV, clown infestations, the 2016 primaries... Meanwhile, every day, all the traffic on the still-effective sections of the Great Run are still slowly powering the cursed thing up. The DOT knew what they needed to do, they just needed to buy some time to get it done.

So they started intentionally bunging things up.

Interrupt the flow of traffic along the interstates, and you change the rate at which the Rune powers up. That's why you see miles of construction cones with nothing actually going on... and when there is something going on, it always seems to be done in the most inconvenient manner.

It only took them a little while to figure out that the best folks to do that sort of planning were - you guessed it - sociopaths. So these days, they actively recruit construction planners that absolutely delight in making road work completely and utterly suck for everyone who encounters it. The negative emotions that they manage to generate that way actually draw additional power from the Rune itself, so it's even more effective than you'd think. Enough so that they've been able to table the idea of nuking New Jersey in 2022. Though from what I understand, that's still on the table as an emergency backup plan if Jersey Shore gets greenlit for another season.

So - next time you encounter road construction, remember that it's completely intentional, and absolutely required to keep us safe from Things Best Left Unmentioned. Our very best - by which I mean, our very worst - men and women are working hard to make sure that each and every construction delay you encounter is even more annoying than the last.

Just make sure you do your part, as well, and curse the misbegotten spawn of drunken illiterate imbeciles who are responsible for turning your particular strip of interstate into a parking lot. There is, quite literally, no better way to show your appreciation for their job well done.

[1] OK, OK. The Outer Banks. Specifically: Avon, North Carolina. As close to Heaven as you can get on Earth, IMHO.
[2] The Captain's Table in Buxton, NC. Give the scallop dip a try.

Gone Fish^H^H^H^HWriting

Hit 25K words total on the current work in progress.  Looks like the prologue is actually going to end up somewhere around chapter two.  As frequently happens in any endeavor, initial plans (and outlines) have been modified and altered as things progressed.

In terms of tools, I started off using Google Docs.  It became apparently quickly that while that's a great thing for short (4-5 page) editing, it doesn't quite work for longer form stuff.  I tried splitting things up into separate chapters.  Then separate scenes in each chapter.  That was kind of OK, but I kept forgetting where I was, and keeping all my research notes organized was a hassle, and geez I wish I could search everything at once...

At which point, I recalled a "writer's editor" that I heard mention of in the past. A quick search reminded me that I was thinking of Scrivener.  They had a 30-day free trial, and the features looked really, really good, but... I mean, you know how these specialized tools are.  You give them a try, and yeah, they do just what you need, but then you look at the price and...

Wait, what?  HOLY COW!  It's only $45?  Are you serious?  I can afford that!

At that point, I figured it had to be worth trying out.  I mean, yeah, maybe it was overhyped.  If it turned out it was a halfway decent editor, though, at least I could afford it, and anything had to be better than a bunch of random Google Docs strewn all over the place.

So I downloaded it, spent an evening going through the tutorials, and... wow.  I'm a programmer in my day job, so I've got some pretty strong opinions on editors.  Scrivener does a lot of things right.   A lot of things.  It's got some quirks, but overall, it's amazing.  What really sold me on it, though, was the way it lets you put things in multiple documents within a project and "compile" them to produce a final product.

This is exactly what I was trying to do in Google Docs, poorly.

It's like they read my mind or something.

It took me just a few minutes to import my work to date from Google Docs.  Then I spent about an hour refactoring it (which is a highly technical programmer term that means "split it up and shove it around").  When I was done, I had a document structure that reflected my outline, split into chapters and scenes.

Writing a book?  Hard.  Writing that one scene? Then that other scene?  Then jotting down some notes?  That's a whole lot simpler.  A couple of days later, I had doubled my word count, imported a bunch of reference docs, and had notes and metadata all through my work in progress.

I'm sold.

The only thing that I was kinda sorta worried about was backup.  Scrivener will do automatic backups of your project to any local drive, but I wanted something on remote storage.  For a couple of reasons, just mounting Google Drive or Dropbox or whatnot locally is not an option for me.

Then a friend at work mentioned something called rclone, which is a free command-line program that lets you sync files to a rather large number of cloud providers.

Did I mention I'm a programmer?  Command line tools are awesome.

It took me a few minutes to download an install rclone, get it set up to talk to my Google Drive account, and then I got to spend a couple of minutes writing and debugging a shell script to do periodic backups.  Of course, I wanted to generalize my backup script, so I needed to set up a couple of additional Scrivener projects - one for for some snippets I've been working on, another for the Sweepers story that I tried to do for last year's NaNoWriMo.

I suspect I'll create another for sermons and preaching notes before to long.  Scrivener just makes it so easy.

Scrivener and rclone.  A+++, highly recommended, would buy again.


I Hear That The Pink Ones Are The Most Dangerous

Went for a walk along the river the afternoon, and came across a small croc sunning itself on the shore down by the stadium.

Be careful out there, folks.


Night Poll: Snippet #1


I have been doing my best to keep my butt in the seat, writing, for the past few weeks.  While I haven't always been successful, I've done well enough at it that I have an outline, copious notes on characters and places, and 15k words written so far.  Once Da Goils are back in school, I'm hoping that I'll be able to keep to a more regular schedule.

So - here's another sample.  There's a lot still to be written, obviously.



Coy knelt next to Mike.  “You going to make it?” he asked.

“Broke my node,” Mike slurred.  “Ag’in.”  Coy thought he sounded more annoyed than anything.  “Hurts like a son of a bitsh.”  He put one hand on the ground and tried to lever himself up.  Wincing, he lowered himself back to the ground.  “Ribs.”  He waved at the truck.  “Warn ‘em e’s in da woods.”

Coy stood up and trotted back to the truck.  He reached in through the open passenger side window and grabbed the radio.  “Jon Paul.  You there, kid?”  he said into the handset as he walked back towards Mike.  He waited a few seconds, then said, “Jon Paul, are you there?”  Again, no answer.  He looked at Mike.

Mike peered up at him.  “Dere’s a button.”

Coy grunted.  “I know, I know.  You just sit there and let me do all the work, as usual.”  He keyed the talk key on the radio.  “Jon Paul, Jon Paul.  You there?”

There was a short pause, then a brief bit of static before Jon Paul answered.  “Coy.  Jon Paul here, over.”

Coy shook his head.  Of course both the folks who were familiar with using a radio were in one group.  He looked at Mike and made a show of pushing the call button.

“Jon Paul, Alexi’s in the woods, and probably headed in your direction.  Mike’s down.  Got clocked pretty bad.  Couple of busted ribs.”  He stopped, bit his lip as he thought.  “Not sure what we can do for you.  Mike’s in no shape to go for a walk in the woods, and we don’t want to come any closer than we already are.  We’re going to have to stay put.”  He let go of the call button, then pressed it again.  “Over,” he said, giving Mike a smug look.  Mike rolled his eyes.

“Coy, hon, this here’s Sophie,” the sasquatch drawled.  “Jon Paul and Amy are putting their heads together to try and figure out what all we can do, ‘sides keep an eye out for him.”

“Sophie, where are you?  Any chance you could circle around and head back?”

“Don’t know, hon.  Bean’s got the GPS, but it’s been flaky.  Should be a straight run up to their farm, but JT thinks we might have gotten turned around some.”  She paused for a second.  Coy could hear Jon Paul and Amy in the background, though he couldn’t make out what they were saying.  “Hold on,” Sophie said.  “Amy wants…” there was a burst of static.

“Lost you there, Soph,” said Coy.  “What does Amy want?  Oh, yeah.  Over.”

“Coy, Amy.  We really need to work on your radio discipline.”  Coy glanced at Mike, who snorted and winced.  “What was his status?  Is Alexi armed?  Was he injured?  Over.”

“Amy, Coy.  No.  Mike popped him once or twice, but otherwise, he’s ok.  Don’t think Alexi had a gun.  He’s dangerous as is, though.  If he finds himself an old tree branch, you could be in a world of hurt.  Best thing would be if you were to avoid him entirely.”

There was another burst of static.  “What’re you doin’ to that thing?” Mike asked.

“Just pushing the button and talking,” said Coy indignantly.  “That wasn’t me.”

“Coy,” said Jon Paul.  Coy waited a second, then smirked and keyed the radio.  “Coy here.  Did you mean to say over, kid?”

“Coy,” said Jon Paul again.  Another burst of static, longer and louder.  Then Amy said, “What.”

Coy frowned.  “Amy, lost you there.  Repeat?”

“Coy.” Jon Paul again. “Coy.”  Amy.  “Coy Coy CoyCoyCoy.”  Their two voices, alternating and then blending into one another.

Static.  Silence.

“Crap,” whispered Coy. He looked at the radio, then at Mike.  “That does not sound good.”

The radio chirped.  “Coy, Amy here.  That wasn’t us.  Say again, that was not us.”  Her voice was clipped.  He could hear the stress in it, even over the radio.  “Does Alexi have a radio? Over.”

“Amy, Coy.  No, he doesn’t.  I don’t know…”  He trailed off as the radio gave a squeal that devolved into another burst of static.

“Dangerous,” the radio said.  “Hurt.”

Mike licked suddenly dry lips.  “Coy,” he said slowly, “that was your voice.”

Coy looked at Mike, then up at the mid afternoon sun.  “It’s already awake.  Damnit.  It should still be…”  He trailed off and forced himself to take a deep breath before he keyed the radio again.

“Amy, Jon Paul.  Sophie.  Listen.  Forget finding the Cole’s pot farm.  Just - just leave.”  As he spoke, static played back and forth over his words.  He raised his voice.  “Amy, answer if you can.  Leave now.  Say again, leave now.  Avoid Alexi.  Go northeast, look for the Blue Ridge Parkway.  We can come pick you up.”  Static.  “Amy, Amy.  Answer, Amy.  Can you hear me? Amy!”

The radio squealed loudly enough to make him wince, then went silent.  He opened his eyes.

“Dangerous,” it said in his voice.  “Hurt.  Come.  Stay.  Stay stay stay stay stay…”  A final bust of static, then the radio squealed continuously until Coy finally turned it off.

“It’s talking on t’e radio,” Mike said angrily.  “T’e radio!  Why did’ you say t’ey could do ‘at?”

Coy sighed and crouched down to get his arm around Mike.  “I didn’t know,” he said.  “The last time we did something like this, Marconi wasn’t even a glimmer in his dada’s eyes.”

“Ah, right,” Mike grudgingly admitted as Coy helped him to his feet.  “F’got.  Sorry.”

The Faerie's Godmother


Larry Correia, this is all your fault. It may end up being a heaping pile of suck, but dang it, I've got a story to tell.
You need to set a schedule, put your butt in the seat, hands on the keyboard, and friggin’ TYPE STUFF.
Giving it my best go. I'll let y'all know when I hit 40k words, since I'll apparently need some encouragement around there, according to the ILOH.

Night Poll : Prologue

Blue Ridge Mountains

“Hon?  It’s almost time to go.”

J.T. nodded in the general direction of… well, not his wife.  Partner.  Life-companion.

“In a minute,” he said, staring into his cup of coffee.

Eight thirty in the morning.  That was no time for a decent man to be up, he thought, staring into the last dregs of coffee in his mug.  Not for the first time, he realized that if it wasn’t for Bean, he would be completely useless.  A slacker, his dad use to say.  Sleeping until noon, drifting through life, not amounting to anything.

He chuckled to himself, lifted the mug, and downed the last of the coffee.  It was lukewarm and wonderfully bitter.  He paused for a moment, gathering his thoughts.  Yeah, ok.  He was living in a shack in the middle of the Blue Ridge mountains with his… life-companion.  Might as well be wife.  They made a living, sort of.  By being slackers.

A certain type of slacker.  And they were good at it.

He let the coffee mug drop to the old, scarred oak table with a satisfying thump.  They had found it left out for the garbage man one night when they were coming back from Asheville.  A perfectly fine table, left out for whomever happened by.

Story of his life, he thought.

“Hon?”

“Coming!” he called.  He pushed himself back from the table.  Another cast off they had found.  Their whole shack was like that.  Made up of things that looked useless, but still had some good life in them. Just needed the right person to appreciate them and make them worthwhile.

Kind of like him.  Da… Dang.  Some ways, Bean was a pain, he thought.  He sighed.  She didn’t like him swearing, so now he was not just watching his speech, he was watching his thoughts.  “It’s for the children,” she’d say.  Not that they had any, right now, but neither he nor Bean were getting any younger, and she was talking more about kids these days.

He looked around the shack.  It wasn’t the best, but… yeah.  He could raise a kid or two here.  Maybe it was time.

“Hon?  It’s getting late.  We gotta...”

“Coming!” he repeated, standing up.  Time to make the donuts.

He stepped out into the morning light, Bean was waiting for him, two battered old backpacks by her feet.  She already had them all packed up and ready to go, he thought.  She was a woman on a mission.  Bud, their golden lab, was sitting next to her, already panting in the morning heat.  Bud looked at him expectantly.

J.T. raised his arms above his head, enjoying the feel of the muscles in his back stretching.  Yeah.  He was ready, now.  He walked over to Bean, and gave Bud a scritch before looking at his… Well.  Wife.

Best to get used to that, he thought.

He cocked his head at Bean, and enjoyed the sight.  At five ten, she was just a hair taller than him.  Even after all these years, he couldn’t get over just how wonderful she looked.  Even in her jeans and a flannel shirt, she looked good, with her big brown eyes and her dark hair falling around her shoulders.

“Ready?” she asked.  “We gotta get going, or…” she trailed off.  He knew what she meant.  They’d have to head out now if they wanted to make it to their patch by noon.  Any later, and they might as well call it a day.

Which was tempting.  He could imagine a lot of pleasant ways to pass a lazy day in summer with Bean.  But they had done just that, they day before, and the day before that… and they needed to check on their patch.

He winked at her.  “Ready as I’ll ever be,” he said.  He grabbed his pack, gave Bud another scritch. “Who wants to go for a walk?”  Bud looked at him, and started jumping up and down on his hind legs. “Oh, you do?  Want to go for a walk?”  He grinned at Bean, and she smiled back at him.  Stifling a yawn, he patted Bud on the head, and leaned in to give Bean a quick kiss on the neck.

“Right,” he said. “Let’s go.”

They headed off towards the edge of the forest behind their shack, with Bud gamboling around them.  Three hours, more or less, to their patch, assuming they didn’t stop along the way.  A beautiful walk in the late summer morning with his woman at his side and his dog keeping them company.

“So,” he said.  “I was thinking…”

“Mmmm?” said Bean, looking at the trail ahead.

J.T. looked over at Bud.  “Ya know, If we hurry, we might get back in time to head into Asheville.”

Bean looked at him.  “Night out?” she said.  “It’s Wednesday.  Not a lot going on.”

J.T. took a deep breath.  “Yeah,” he said. “But.  Um.  You know, um.” He stopped for a second, there amid the trees.  Bean took a few steps, and looked back at him.

He scuffed the dirt with his foot, and carefully said, “Well.  The JP stays open a bit later on Wednesdays.  I was just thinking, um…” He stopped, and looked up at Bean.

She was grinning like a madwoman.  The sight of her melted his heart.

“Why, J.T.,” she said.  “Are you thinking of finally making an honest woman out of me?”

He looked at her for a moment, then took a deep breath before lowering himself to one knee.  Bud immediately came careening over towards him, and he pushed his dog away with one hand.  “Well... yeah.  If you’ll have me.” He fended off Bud’s kisses again, and looked up at Bean.  “Whatd’ya think?”

Bean got a serious look on her face.  “I think that if we stop along the way, we won’t have time to make it to the JP tonight,” she said.  Then she grinned again, and reached down to take his hand and pull him up.  “And we will stop, you dork!” she said, just before she planted a kiss on him that was… well.

If he had known it would be like this, he would have proposed years ago.

When they she finally let him go, she looked him in the eyes, and said, “I don’t think we’ll make it back in time, do you?”

“Um.  Probably not?”

“Darn sure not!” she said, kissing him again.  She pulled back, and grabbed his hands.  “But tomorrow, right?  First thing?”

He looked at her.  God, she was beautiful.  Everything he had ever wanted in a woman, and she loved him.

“Yeah,” he said.  He smiled at her.  “First thing, for sure.”



They had met in high school.  At first, they were just part of a crowd that hung out and smoked together.  Stoners, the lot of them.  Some of their crowd had drifted away, into harder stuff or onto the wagon, but he and Bean were content to just be themselves and enjoy whatever came their way.  That attitude brought them closer together, and before long, one thing had led to another.  By the time they graduated, he and Bean were a couple.  A couple of what, he wasn’t quite sure, but they fit together like peas in a pod.

Right around graduation, folks started asking them what they planned on doing with their lives.  They both made some noises about going to college, or maybe getting a job.  By then, though, they both knew they had the same dream.  A small one, sure, but they agreed that small dreams were the ones that you could actually work out.  A cabin in the woods, just enough work to keep their bellies full, and… well.  Just time together to smoke and contemplate life, and each other.

By that point, “contemplating each other” was a big part of their lives.

They might have ended up going their separate ways, like a lot of high school couples seemed to do.  Except that right after they graduated, Bean’s uncle Lucas died.  Out of all the folks in her family, she’d be the closest to him, his favorite niece.  She was the only one who had patience for the old man, the only one who loved being out in the middle of nowhere in God’s own creation as much as he did.

After the funeral, a lawyer sent Bean a letter, letting her know that good old Uncle Lucas had named her as the sole inheritor of his few worldly possessions.

Including his little shack in the woods a couple hours north of Asheville.

It was a bit of a rough time for Bean - she really had loved her uncle - but that cabin, falling into her lap like that, had made half their dream a reality.  J.T. saw which way the winds of fate were blowing, and called in some favors with some friends.  With some seeds set aside, and a bit of scouting, he found the perfect place, and made the second half of their dream a reality.

Their own little patch, up in the hills.

They worked their tails off that first year, making everything work.  Cleaning out the shack, tending their patch.  J.T. and Bean both worked odd jobs to make ends meet.  It wasn’t the easiest life, and they didn’t have a lot except each other.  

That was enough.

By their second year in their shack, it felt like home.  J.T. had scavenged enough materials from construction jobs he worked that they were able to build a wood shed, and off further into the woods, a drying shed.  Just in time for their first harvest from their little patch in the woods.

More than enough to keep them both happy, with some to spare.

The idea was to just grow enough for themselves.  Keep a little patch, off on the edge of the Pisgah National Forest, somewhere where nobody would bother to look.  Big grow operations attracted attention, but a little clearing with a few plants?  Nah.  Nobody would ever pay attention to that.  Especially if they were careful, and picked a good spot well away from the cabin, and just, you know, let it grow.

They had never really meant to start dealing, but… well, that first year, they got a bumper crop. J.T. had found the perfect little dell a couple of hours into the woods.  There was a nice little natural clearing in between a couple of ridges, right next to a spring.  They tilled the land, laid down some seed, and the stuff grew like… well, like weed.

Excellent, primo, mellow, smooth weed.

J.T. didn’t know if he had scored some really good seeds, or if he had just picked a good spot, but their little patch produced more than they could possibly use in a year.  When they looked at the excess, and looked at each other, selling a little bit to make ends meet just seemed like the easiest thing to do.

Bean stopped taking the odd job that fell into her lap, and soon after, J.T. was more or less out of the work force as well.  Oh, he still took the odd construction job just to keep busy, but really, once a year, they would meet up with his friend Chaz and pass on a bale or so of really, really good stuff.  J.T. knew Chaz made more from selling it off than they ever saw, but even then, they made more than enough to keep food on the table, money in the bank and just live the life that they had always wanted: the two of them, a shack in the woods, and enough weed that they could just kick back and enjoy their life together.



J.T. was broken out of his reverie by Bud.  They had covered a good five or six miles or so, hiking through the woods.  Bean would occasionally check her GPS, and reorient them so they were headed in the right direction. They tried to never take the exact same path twice, to keep from beating a trail that anyone could follow.

Right around 10:30, though, Bud pulled up short next to J.T., and started whining.

J.T. looked at him and sighed.  He hadn’t always been like this.  Last year, though - no, the year before that, he corrected himself - Bud had started getting antsy around the patch.  As time went on, he got more and more anxious the closer they got.  Today, they were still a good two, three miles out, and Bud was calling it a day.

J.T. couldn’t really blame him.  He told himself that Bud was just getting old.  About the time that Bud started getting freaked out about the patch, though, he noticed that there was a change in the woods.

The first couple of years, he and Bean would generally head up to the patch later on in the afternoon, and make their way back just before it got dark, in the cool of the day.  Then things started getting… well, spooky, he admitted to himself.  There was no other word for it, he thought.

One day, Bud had balked at going into the clearing.  He had sat at the edge of the woods, whining the entire time Bean and J.T. were checking on the plants, pulling weeds and making sure everything was good.  It had freaked both him and Bean out, to be honest.  Without really mentioning it to each other, they had moved their departure time from the shack up so that they ended up arriving at their patch earlier and earlier in the afternoon.

Now, they only came out in the full light of day.

Bean looked at J.T. as he leaned over to scratch Bud behind the ears.  “Already?” she asked.  Her brow was furrowed.

“Guess so,” said J.T.  He gave Bud a pat, and straightened up.  “We’re going on, Bud.  Head on home.”  Bud just sat and stared intently at him.

“Go on, git!” he shouted, slapping Bud on the butt.  Bud jumped, and looked over his shoulder, and let out a low growl.

J.T. looked at Bean.  She looked a the GPS and gave him a quick, nervous nod.

Bud was barking towards where their patch was.

J.T. stooped down and gave Bud a quick hug.  “Go on home, boy,” he whispered.  “We’ll be fine.”  Bud gave him a quick lick on the face, then stood and trotted back the way they had come.

J.T. straightened up and glanced at his watch.  10:30, on the dot.  He look at Bean, and took a deep breath.  “Let’s go, then,” he said.  His voice seemed suddenly loud to him, and he realized that the normal woodland sounds of the forest - the insects, the birdsong - had quieted.  He could hear the soft sound of the wind in the trees, but nothing else.

“In and out, right?” said Bean, quietly.

“In and out,” he said, just as softly.  “Then back home, and I’m thinking maybe a night out after all.  We can get a room, stay in town, visit the JP first thing in the morning, OK?”  He gave her a smile.

Her eyes got wide, and she smiled back at him.  “Sounds like a plan.”

He looked back at where Bud has disappeared for a few seconds, before saying, “Yeah.  Then maybe next week we, we should maybe look for a new place for our patch.”

Bean glanced at the woods, and whispered.  “Yeah.  Works for me.  Let’s go.”

Proud Son

About 18 months ago or so, I made mention of my Dad's brain surgery.  While things went well... any time you start taking a scalpel to brain matter, you generally end up with a long road to complete recovery.

The past few months have been particularly hard on Dad.  I won't go into details, but will mention that they have had him on medication that has left him incredibly tried and often struggling to get his thoughts in order.  For him, that last bit has been a real trial.

This past Saturday, we went to visit, and took him out to see the local fireworks display at my old home town's Community Days.  Dad was - almost literally - a new man.  Still not back to 100%, but very, very obviously doing better.  Walked around, talked to some folks, and generally was more like his old self than I've seen him in a long time.

Now, Dad's on the borough Council.  He was president for a few years, in fact, when his party (call them Party A) was in the majority on council.  Things change, and while he's still on the council, Party B is now in the majority.

So I was kind of surprised that while we were there, waiting for the fireworks to start, he stopped by to talk to the folks manning the booth for Party B.

I kidded him about getting in trouble for talking to them, and he said, "You know, I tried to resign from the council last week."

"You had said you were going to if you weren't feeling better.  Didn't they let you?"

"No.  They talked me out of it."

"Why?  They didn't want to have a special election or something?"

"No.  (Party B) would have gotten to appoint somebody."

"So (Party A) talked you out of it?"

Dad stopped and looked at me.  "No.  (Party B) did."

"Wait a minute.  They passed up the opportunity to appoint another (Party B) guy to council in order to keep you around?"

Dad just shrugged.  "Yep."

Dang.

I mean... I love him.  He's my Dad.  I think the world of him, despite his faults and failings (just as he loves me, despite mine.)

But when your opponents would rather have you around than someone they agree with?  Man.  That is a special kind of awesome.










A Hearty Welcome

It kind of caught me by surprise when the Adaptive Curmudgeon was kind enough to link to me, but I want to make yinz guys and all y'all feel welcome and at home while you visit.

So - welcome!  Here's a picture of my wood shed.


It's filled up a bit more since this picture was taken, thankfully.

I would warn you about ending up on someone's watch list by visiting, but let's be honest - if you're coming from the AC, you're probably already on a list somewhere.  Welcome to the club.

My Day...

[ The phone rings.  SMB Server picks up. ]

SMB Server : Hello?

SMB Client : Hello!  Can we talk?  I speak a dozen different dialects!  Pick one!

SMB Server : Oh, sure!  How about German?  I speak that the best.

SMB Client : English it is, then!

SMB Server : Wait, I said... Ah, never mind. I'll speak English.  What can I do for you?

SMB Client : Can you handez-vous das datei over yonder, señor?

SMB Server : ...

SMB Server : There's something seriously wrong with you, kid.

[ SMB Server hangs up. ]


But... They're Just Ponies... Right?

So... taking Eldest Daughter to her SAT prep class this morning, the topic of My Little Pony came up.  (I'm the father of three girls. Don't judge me.)

Specifically, I was wondering - where are all the male ponies?

The Alldaughter pointed out that there's Big Mac, of course. There's also some male ponies - royalty, mostly - in Canterlot, and a few others. But the majority of the inhabitants of Equestria seem to be female.

"It's a show for seven year old girls, after all," she said.

Which kind of surprised me. I mean, there's one situation that immediately came to mind when I though about the lack of males hanging about...

War.

Total war.

A war so brutal that it has sucked up just about every remotely qualified male pony in Equestria into its unforgiving maw of death and destruction. A war so unforgiving that only the mentally deficient, the elite, and the infirm can keep from being drafted to serve. A war so horrifying that those left behind cannot even bring themselves to make mention of it, instead carrying on as if life was sunshine and roses.

Which got me thinking...

We know that the ponies can perform magic. They are also able to move between certain locations in Equestria and our world; and when they do, they do so directly. Their males are drafted to serve in a relentless war that those who remain behind dare not speak of.

Who else knows of a hidden, relentless war taking place in a realm just a hop, skip and a jump away from our world?

That's right... Harry knows.

Equestria is located in the Nevernever.

The strongest of their population - the male ponies - are off at the Outer Gates, fighting and dying in Mab's endless war to keep all of creation safe from the Outsiders.

Ah-yep. I just shoehorned MLP:FIM into one of the most epic storylines of modern urban fantasy.