The Flame. A poem.

The flame
burns like phosphor,
ignited and soaring by degrees:

The passion,
the anger
(and the shame).

The flame,
super luminal intensity, burns
me up,
turns me
ashen.

(For how long will I shine before the all too brief spark burns low and fades? How long before the darkness encroaches again?)

The flame
wakes me from listlessness,
brings me to back to life,

again
and again.

Light me up, turn me on,
and never

fade away.

The Laidback DM #12 – Free Village Map!

Time for another of my irregular Laidback DM posts, and a new free map! Map drawing for D&D adventures is my thang. I now have far too many maps, so I’m giving them away free each week.

This week: Village at the Crossroads!

At first this may seem like a boring little map, but imagine your player characters defending it against an attack by Hill Giants, Trolls, Ogres and Ogrillons, led by an Arch Mage! Just got a lot more exciting, huh? And imagine there’s a mysterious tomb under the local temple that the Arch Mage is trying to access to recover a powerful magical staff, that will give him enough power to take over the region (gotta start small: today, this village and region, tomorrow, THE WORLD! Bwah-ha-hah!

Actually, I drew this map in the style of those found in the old Judges Guild’s City State of the Invincible Overlord supplement. Anyone remember that classic? Ah, memories. What good are they…

Village at the Crossroads - 13x20 - stevestillstanding

Above: Actual map is 13cm x 20cm. Just right click and save.

This map is free to use for non-commercial purposes, as long as you acknowledge me and my website stevestillstanding.com. If you want to use it commercially, please send me an email and we can talk terms.

Happy Gaming!

Steve 😊

Acquiesce. A poem.

Acquiesce to the night’s probing fingers,
an invitation 
          given without 
                      betrayal.

Shake and stutter in these jealous hills and vales.
Writhe in a cave 
           of dream-inspired 
                      torment,

until dawn awakes the feeble sleeper
and time restarts;
           a clock has no
                      end.

Bad Reader, Bad!

I’m a bad reader. Not a bad reader, as in slow or illiterate, but bad as in I read 10-12 books at a time and as a result often find myself returning to a book, months after I started it, wondering what happened previously. I think this has something to do with my short attention span…hey! Look, a pretty butterfly…

What was I saying? Oh, right, books. One of the books I recently returned to after a four month absence was Justin Cronin’s The Twelve, sequel to The Passage and the middle book of his super-cool post-apocalyptic vampire trilogy. If you haven’t read this yet I urge you to stop doing what you are doing RIGHT NOW, jump on a bus/train/plane/teleporter, get to your local bookshop, find they don’t stock it, argue with the shop assistant about why they don’t have the quality literary works you want in their store with them saying “look I just work here”, go back home in a bad mood, order it on the internet, wait two weeks for it to arrive waterlogged after the postal worker drops it off in a rainstorm and it’s  too big for the mailbox, dry it out in front of your old heater which sparks and nearly burns your house down, peel the pages apart, ring up the internet book seller and explain why you want another copy, they tell you they can’t as it was the postal service’s fault, you tell them huffily “that’s the last time I buy anything from you” (as you make another online purchase on their site), then read it. It’s freaking awesome and worth the hassle.books

It’s a bit easier trying to remember what you read months ago with fiction then with non-fiction. With non-fiction I may as well start the book again as I can’t remember what it was about after being away from it for a week, let alone a month (aaah, A History of the Renaissance. That was something to do with…the three musketeers? Stealing art. Lasagne. Wormholes. Or something).

I know what you’re thinking. ”Steve, why don’t you just read one book at a time?” Oh come on! That’s like saying only eat one colour m&m (and as obsessive compulsive as I am, I like all the colours. Wait a minute–maybe if I only eat all of the same colour at a time, the packet will last longer…). I like variety in my reading. And despite my claims that I do nothing all the time*, I actually have a lot going on** with my uni courses, music, gaming, TV watching, workouts, eating…okay now that I read that back, it sounds like I’m a bit of a layabout with time on my hands.

New leaf! Even though I have a lot of books on the boil, I will endeavour to finish this one before going back to another! Wow. Who would have thought reading a book from start to finish would require so much work…

Cheers

Steve 🙂

*This claim is completely unsubstantiated. Or would be, if I had the time to substantiate it. Or unsubstantiate it. One of the two. 

**The term, ‘lot going on’ is completely unsubstantiated.

Avoidance? I think not, my friends, I think not.

Sooooo…today, I had to do paperwork for my long-suffering and very overdue property settlement (like a promised rain storm after years of drought, it shimmers like a mirage in the heat haze…sorry, got distracted. That happens). Seeing as how I’m very focused (Yes, I won the ‘Far Too Focused’ award at work three years running from 2003-5) on getting things done, an over-achiever (I won the ‘Far Too Much of an Over-Achiever’ award at work three years running from 2006-8) and certified obsessive compulsive (no, missed out on that award. Was beaten by Jenny Falucci. Damn you, far too overly obsessive compulsive award winner Jenny Falucci!! There’s a place in obsessive compulsive Hell for people like you!*), I saw that considerable pile of paper and…did other stuff.

After a workout (no biggie there, I usually exercise every morning, part of my overly excessive compulsiveness), a three kilometre walk (no biggie there, I often walk in the morning, but not compulsively. I do it because I want to…along with the lunges and calf raises. That’s right, biatches, feel the burn! Oh, that’s right, I burned. I guess I just burned myself. I get distracted easily…), shaving my head (it was time to get a haircut, and as a universally known cheapskate and all-around poor person I preferred doing it myself. Did I say prefer? I meant no one else is good enough to do my hair. What little there is of it) so that I now look like a criminal (not my wisest choice, especially after buying a year’s worth of illegal hair wax, but at least when I’m arrested trying to sell large volumes of illegally voluminous hair wax to balding crackheads I’ll look just right for the mug shots), compulsively re-arranging my room (yes, I live in a tiny room, I’m over it now. But it’s so small…), marathoning Brooklyn Nine Nine compulsively (season 2 to be precise. Maybe I should watch season 1 first? Hey, it’s not Game of Thrones, I can live with that), I decided to write this blog post. That was possibly one of the longest sentences in history. Or was it…

Now, really, I should have focussed on getting that paperwork in order. Time is ticking and I would like to get the property settlement finalised this year (think of it as a time bomb, just waiting to go off—in my ex-wife’s face!! Yeah! How do you like them apples! Oh, sorry, got carried away…). I’ll have time after this. Although my guitar is looking very lonely on its stand and I haven’t picked it up since about one minute after I got up this morning…

Okay, it’s now ten minutes after I almost finished this post. I played guitar (okay, I noodled around. That’s jamming with yourself, which is sad in itself, but also not achieving any real outcome. Like playing a song, for instance). There’s this thing called ‘avoidance’. If I was a pop-psychologist (which I’m not) as opposed to a gynaecologist (which I’m not), I’d think the painful memories of my ex-marriage (which they’re not) were making me avoid doing my paperwork (which I’m not. I’m just lazy). Which I’m not, I’m just lazy. Oooh, déjà vu, anyone?

I think I might do some D&D stuff instead (what’s D&D you say? Click here). Where was I? Short attention span. Hey, my guitar looks a bit lonely over there…

Okay, just finished playing a guitar concerto in B minor (okay, no I didn’t, I just noodled. But I sounded really self-important for a minute there…). Now that’s over, perhaps I’ll give this avoidance thing a little more thought. Do paperwork?

Hey, my guitar looks lonely over there…

Cheers

Steve 😊

PS  Why the cat? Because I could. HAH!!

* Let me set the record straight: Hell is not for overly obsessive compulsives. Just those who steal awards from me. That’s right, Falucci, I said STEAL. That award was mine!!

Corridor. A poem.

I wander down life’s corridor.
Testing doors: I open, close.
But through this hall I walk alone,
the only path I’ve ever known.

“Save my soul,” I cry tonight.
Take my hand, hold me tight,
help me find the door that’s right.
Kill this pain and bring me 

back to life.

Train Wreck. A poem.

(I lay
awake.)

I’ve been hit by a train,
and my mental innards lay
strewn
over miles of track.

Don’t think of her,

because that way lies
endless
insomniac hours,
of wondering
how
and
why
she’s run me down
again;
ploughing
into my station,

the end of the line.

I am a train wreck,
crushed and bent,
overwrought and steaming.
A less than urban
tragedy,
built on years
of trauma and recovery,
and a long time need:

to be loved and freed
from
these
rails.

The Laidback DM #11 – Free Dungeon Map!

Yes, it’s that time of the week, and in the tradition of my irregular Laidback DM posts, here’s a new free map. I really enjoy drawing maps (nerd alert!) for D&D adventures, so much so that I have more maps then I know what to do with. So, I’m giving one away free on my blog each week.

This week: Plentar’s Mine!

I created this map because I really wanted to learn how to draw raised shelves (not cupboard shelves, cave shelves) and ledges properly. I was happy with the results. So happy, in fact, that I’m not even going to give you any hints for a scenario. You’re smart enough to stock this baby yourselves.

Plentar's Mine (Map)

Above: Actual map is 19cm x 13cm. Just right click and save.

This map is free to use for non-commercial purposes, as long as you acknowledge me and my website stevestillstanding.com. If you want to use it commercially, please send me an email and we can talk terms.

Happy Gaming!

Steve 😊

The Optimist’s Trial. A poem.

There once was an optimist
Who tripped, fell
Lost his wife
Respectability
His whole life
For some reason lost his optimism as well

He picked himself up
Dusted himself off
Set about finding a new life
But it wasn’t easy
So much was tied up
In his head and heart
It wasn’t easy to forget the strife

Three years later
And the optimist returned
In drabs and dribs
A piece at a time
A patchwork quilt
Of emotion and anxiety

There once was an optimist
Who got up, looked around
For a wife
Respectability
And a life
Dim as a broken bulb
But no longer in strife
He searched far and wide
But no luck so far

I guess that’s just me

And maybe always will be

It. A movie review.

Nein spoilers!

A mini-series of Stephen King’s horror novel, It, was made in the late ’80’s. At the time it was considered pretty scary, but by today’s standards it’s very tame. My favourite horror movie is The Grudge and I tend to compare it to every other horror movie I see, in terms of scare-value. It is not in The Grudge‘s league, but it’s a solid viewing experience.

The new version of It focusses on the first half of King’s book: titular fear clown Pennywise terrorises and murders children in the Maine town of Derry in the late ’80s, is confronted by a motley collection of nerdy kids who dub themselves ‘the Losers’, and general creepiness and gore ensues. There’s also encounters with bullies and overbearing and abusive parents.

The direction and production values are excellent, but some of the scenes are telegraphed and less scary as a result. A cliched score doesn’t help. Despite this, It remains compelling viewing.

img_0563

One of the things I took away from this movie was the stark portrait of emotional and physical abuse perpetrated by the parents of several of the child characters. In some cases this was more shocking than Pennywise the clown’s antics. More than anything else, It is an empowering coming of age tale, as the Losers overcome not only the clown, but the monsters in their own homes.

It is a good Stephen King movie adaption, and it’s not often you can say that. The already in production sequel, It Chapter 2, will cover the ‘kids grown to adulthood’ side of the novel. Based on It‘s box office performance alone, I predict a spate of King books-to-movies appearing in the next few years, riding the horror rebirth gravy train.

It is not as scary as one would have hoped, but it is a good movie, one that most horror fans will enjoy.

Rating: B

Safer Path? A poem.

Stick to the path
Safer there?

Than thickets and brush
Hidden
from prying eyes
That seek to
Rend and blind

Seek the safer path
that winds on

Lingering like
dawn’s afterglow

The safer path?

Nothing Further. A poem.

I don’t hate you
Nothing could be further from the truth

Just because I don’t smile when I look at you
Or avert my eyes as I catch yours
Just because I get tongue-tied when you’re near
And I avoid you whenever and wherever I can
Or talk to others about you rather than directly to you

I don’t hate you
Nothing could be further from the truth

The prospect of losing you
Is my greatest fear
And I am the greatest fool

Because eventually

I will

(No) Compass. A poem.

I thought I was
                    free of anger
But it rages

there!
inside!

Everyday

Over every 
           little   
                 betrayal

Surrounded by tears
That lurk just
behind the veil


Release me from hurt

And leave me 
                    be
For I have lost 
                    myself

And have no 
                    compass 

to find my way home again

The Laidback DM #10 – Free Map!

Yes, it’s that time of the week, and in the tradition of my irregular Laidback DM posts, here’s a new free map. I loooooooove drawing maps for D&D adventures, so much so that I have more maps than I know what to do with. So, I’m giving one away free on my blog each week.

This week: Slaughter Sewers!

Who doesn’t love a good sewer to romp in. And very appropriate, given that my last poem, Enthroned, was about sitting on the toilet (read it, you’ll get it then). These sewers could be under an existing town or a ruin; up to you.

I love monster versus monster conflict in D&D games. In this instance, Lizardfolk and Troglodytes are having a go at each other. Additionally, a bunch of Wererats have moved in and set up house. And a Myconid group for good measure. And lots of other beasties I’m sure you can dream up.

The daughter of the Lizardfolk king and the son of the Troglodyte king have fallen in love (a Romeo and Juliet thing), and the opposing kings don’t like that one bit. The PCs can help solve this dilemma via diplomacy. Or killing lots of things. Either way.

In the meantime, the Troglodytes have started worshipping a Giant Shark that found its way into the central water pit and got trapped when the underwater tunnel collapsed. It now depends on food sacrificed by the Troglodytes, Naturally there is a nice bit of treasure down at the bottom of the pit, but watch out when crossing that wooden bridge: the shark can leap out of the water (gives ‘jump the shark’ a whole new meaning…).

I see this as a 2nd level scenario (watch that shark, though, players!), but get that imagination flowing and come up with something better! Happy to hear your ideas in the comments.

Slaughter Sewers - 14x21 - stevestillstanding

Above: Actual map is 14cm x 21cm. Just right-click and save.

This map is free to use for non-commercial purposes, as long as you acknowledge me and my website stevestillstanding.com. If you want to use it commercially, please send me an email and we can talk terms.

Happy Gaming!

Steve 😊

Enthroned. A poem (and a dedication).

Enthroned
Commissioned at the hearth
Creation at both ends

Poetry of motions
Movements and quotients

Seated and relieved
The uncanny mind projects
And words flow on

Moreso than the waterfall
Or waste disposal

Until the final act is done

And the seeds of doubt
Are flushed

Begone!

.
You may not have guessed (or maybe you did), but this light-hearted poem is about me writing poems on the loo (oooh, how fourth wall of me). A most productive time that I would be remiss not to write about.

It’s dedicated to Victo Dolore, a doctor/writer who has an amazing blog about her doctoring (in a good way), her love for her kids and life in general. She has a wonderful ‘thoughts from the throne’ column every Thursday, where she literally blogs from her toilet.

Here’s to you, Victo. Great minds think alike (or is it great bums?). If you haven’t checked out Ms Dolore’s blog, do yourself a favour and click here.

Cheers

Steve 🙂

The Pitch. A poem.

Every time I see her
The briefest moment fleeting
My time with her is limited
To a nondescript meeting

It takes less than a minute
To make the magic pitch
To appeal to better nature
Before regret becomes an itch

But then the meeting’s ended
No optioned heart’s desire
For two souls to be blended
Dream buried in the mire

One thing appears so obvious
And this I’m certain of
I’m really not a salesman
I’m just in (unrequited) love

10 000 views!

Thanks so much to everyone who has visited, commented and enjoyed or hated my blog! I’ve reached 10000 views. Yay!

I started this blog on 9th January 2017 as a way to encourage my writing, and to be a catharsis for my mental health issues. Over that time I’ve posted almost every day, and I’m still loving it.

So thank you all, once again. And if you’re reading this for the first time, please check out the menu above,  click on a category, and enjoy 🙂

Cheers

Steve 🙂

Toxic. A poem.

The world is toxic
Bioengineered
Gene-spliced
Consuming me
While I’m consuming it
Chemical carcinogens and biological tumours

Oh, for a world free
From genetically modified food
And environmental waste

Only in dreams, now
Fairy tales we tell our kids
While eating plastic snacks

A Question of Purpose

How do you define yourself? When you have nothing to define yourself with? When your past has been forcibly ejected and you’re holding on for dear life as your plane flies headlong into the ground? When you run out of reasonable and unreasonable metaphors to express yourself?

I hear a lot about purpose. About predestination. As a Christian I’m a believer. But at the same time I find myself purposeless. And I have to ask the question: I’m on God’s path, so what and where is my purpose? (I’m a Christian. I didn’t say I was a patient Christian.)

It’s a simple question, and one that I’m sure has vexed many of you as well. Many people define themselves by their jobs, or their upbringing, or by their education or money. Some by their friendships or achievements. But when you don’t have any of that, what do you do? (Live with your parents, I guess. Question answered? Nope.)

Now, I’m an intelligent man (or so I like to think). I’ve been around. I had a successful career. I’m well educated. I had a loving family. I had the respect of my peers. I did great (and not so great) things. I had purpose. I was fulfilled.

And I lost it all. One day I tripped, fell, and by the time I got back on my feet they were all gone. Like pristine white linen blown from the emotional clothes line during a raging storm. Hmm, that was a terrible simile. How about ‘like a paper boat whirlpooling down life’s storm drain’. No? Okay, I’m out*.

Now, here I am, a creative writing student with no job, no money, no family. Now, I am essentially purposeless**.

I’m searching for the woman of my dreams (is there such a thing?) in the vain hope that with her I’ll regain that missing purpose. But that search has turned out to be more complicated than expected. It seems most women nowadays value men with jobs and money***.

So my question of purpose goes unanswered. I continue to ask everyday. And I wait (less than patiently) for an answer. 

Three years and counting…

Steve 🙂

* I’m not demeaning or making light of my situation. Okay, I am. But if you can’t learn to laugh about your trials and tribulations, you end up going crazy. Maybe I’m there already.

** Except for this blog, I guess. And yes, I do have some family who I love very much, but it sounds far more dramatic and the alliteration works better saying ‘no family’. Stop criticising my creative liberties! Oh, you’re not, that’s me. Sorry.

*** My apologies to any women who think I have summed them up as a cliche–I’m aware I’m generalising. It’s true though ;p

Thoughts of Love. A poem.

Bury those thoughts of love
They are not for you

She is blind to you
Not even hallucination
Or an oasis mirage
You are the poltergeist
Invisible in the room
Ever-present and in pain
Locked into an endless cycle
Of feeble-mindedness
And lonely, wanton disdain

So stop your wishing
Stop your dreaming
Curl yourself up in a foetal ball
And lose yourself in dank despair
Let the black dog by your side
Drag you down into the oily darkness
Grinning as he does
His teeth gripping tightly on your vacant heart

Bury those thoughts of love
Because she is not for you

For you will always be

The fool

Free Fall. A poem.

Recently I found myself in

free fall

Wondering when I’d hit the ground running
And if I’d ever touch terra firma

at all

But two heads are better than one
So join me and we’ll free fall

together

And maybe being grounded

won’t matter
after all

See the Light. A poem.

How I wish to see the light
No matter how much it hurts and blinds
My eyes, so used to darkness here
To anxious crowds and bloody sights

Wave a torch, a beacon shining
Like a firefly that flutters in the night
Something I can reach, to aspire
Before the final round of this fight

When the canvass finally catches me
Punch drunk and exhausted
Let me see that final light
And know that it was worth it

Conveyor Belt

Here I am again. Back on the conveyor, darkness seeping to my core. I tried to get off but just wasn’t up to it.

I float through the day, lost in motion that takes me no where. The conveyor clicks and clanks and rolls and on I flow.

When I’m down like this I find it hard to break out. Hard to raise my head and look for a way. Hard to find a reason why I should. Hard to find a reason to go on. Everything is too difficult. Too pointless. But I don’t give up on life. I’ve been down and out enough times to know that’s no longer an option. 

So the conveyor rolls on, guiding me through the darkness that surrounds my head and heart. Maybe even now, there’s a light at the end of that long tunnel. Maybe then I could lift myself up and leave this place behind.

But not today.

Steve

Storm on my Horizon. A poem.

Storm on my horizon
Raining on my dreams
Hailing on my hope
Flooding my reason
With dark clouds
And windy betrayals
Storm on my horizon


Just when you think you’re feeling good about life, the clouds roll back in and deliver bucket-loads of blues. The downpour is unexpected, unpredictable and definitely undesirable.

Steve

Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets. A Movie Review.

Spoilers? No, none needed for this. And even if there were, they wouldn’t spoil this mess.

Luc, Luc, Luc. Here you had the perfect opportunity to wow audiences with some unique and memorable SF, and what did you do? You blew it. Here I was, waiting for the next The Fifth Element, and you gave me this fiasco instead.

Luc Besson’s Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets (try saying that five times fast) is NOT his brightest movie moment, and will probably go down along with a number of his other forgettable movies as yet another misstep. It has gorgeous special effects, but aside from two sequences early in the film (a marketplace in another dimension and the hero running through a number of walls on the space station), you’ve seen it all before. And I’m sick and tired of cutesy space-monsters. Not to mention three aliens that look like winged platypuses that just aren’t funny, despite the fact they’re there for comic relief.

The story is a yawn and devoid of much humour at all (which this flick desperately needed). In the 28th century, Alpha, a giant space station floating through space and home to a thousand races, is under threat. Valerian and Lorelei need to uncover the dark conspiracy behind it and save everyone. Yeah, that sums it up. In between: a few nice special effects scenes, the usual bad guy stuff, some lazy writing and a short nap, depending on your age and/or attention span.

Dane DeHaan (Valerian) phones in his performance (he’s not a bad actor, he was excellent in Lawless) in perhaps one of the most poorly miscast roles of the year. Cara Delavingne (Lorelei) brings little to her role, but does look great in body armour (why do you only see half their heads in the shot above? Because the rest of their faces show just how disappointed they are). Clive Owen and Ethan Hawke aren’t given much to do, although they are much better actors than the rest of the cast and beefing up their roles would have helped the story no end. Rhianna dances well. ‘Nuff said.

I am waiting, waiting, waiting for a movie that doesn’t let me down. Where are you, non-disappointing movie? Find me!

Rating: D

The Loneliness of Being

So what is life when you’re alone?

Many might say life is what you make it: that if you’re alone you make the best of the situation. But for others being alone is a wasteland that sucks the essence of their soul and leaves them a withered husk. Unfortunately, I fall into that category.

It’s not that I don’t have friends. I have a handful I can turn to in times of need, but the problem with having so few true friends is I hate to burden them too often.

There is one person that I long to have in my life, but she doesn’t know me (well, not really) and I will probably never have the strength to tell her. I am paralysed whenever she is around, unable to overcome my fear of rejection.

I’m sure there are others out there who experience the same thing. But it’s not the sort of thing you bring up in casual conversation. And so I linger, festering in my own self pity, lost.

I know I have much to offer. But that matters little when weighed against such fear. But for now I long for sleep. Maybe a new day will bring better things. 

Steve

The Laid Back DM #9 – Free Dungeon Map!

Yes, it’s that time of the week, and in the tradition of my irregular Laid Back DM posts, here’s a new free map. As you know I like to draw maps for D&D adventures. Often I have more maps then I know what to do with. So, I’m giving one away free on my blog each week.

This week: Lava Caves!

The raised path is three feet above the surface of the lava river, which flows beside and under the path. This cavern is occupied by Firenewts and their Giant Striders, plus a few Firenewt Warlocks (see Volo’s Guide to Monsters), who will vigorously defend their lair. There are heat-acclimatised Piercers along the path through the caves, which will drop down at inopportune times when the party is fighting Firenewts. Additionally, in the lava at several points along the way are Fire Elementals, which will leap forth and drag PCs into the lava.

At the end of the path is a giant, crystalline formation, which is the hibernation shell for an adult Red Dragon, who was trapped by a spell many years before, encased in crystal. Of course the PCs are unaware of this, having heard about the ‘huge crystal’ and investigated. The Firenewts worship the crystal, but if the shell is broken the Red Dragon will awaken…

Lava Caves

Above: Actual map is 18cm x 12cm. Just right click and save.

This map is free to use for non-commercial purposes, as long as you acknowledge me and my website stevestillstanding.com. If you want to use it commercially, please send me an email and we can talk terms.

Happy Gaming!

Steve 😊

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