BHS Blogress Report: 2018, Week 4 – YouTube Screw Job

Week 4 – YouTube Screw Job

Welp. My plans to make extra money with my YouTube series have taken a fairly serious hit. Starting on the 20th of next month, all channels with less than 1,000 subscribers and 4,000 hours of view time over the past year will be kicked off the monetization program, making it even harder for people who don’t already have massive fanbases and/or large amounts of money to pour into advertising to make a profit through the platform. Since I’m currently sitting at around 840 subscribers, I’ve been trying to promote Silent InvenTOYry in as many places as possible to try to beat the deadline. I’m good on hours, and I thought I had found a few ways to boost my sub count… but then on Saturday YouTube started purging dead or inactive accounts from people’s subscription numbers, which knocked me back down again. I’m not gonna lie: this really, really sucks. I want to keep doing my show, but if I can’t break 1K in the next four weeks, it’ll be that much harder to justify spending money on it.

Therefore, I’ve kicked preproduction of the next InvenTOYry episode into overdrive. The item I’m reviewing doesn’t ship until the end of the week, but I’m doing as much of the episode as I can in the meantime so I can get the episode posted as close to the release date as possible. As I said, I’m also trying to promote my channel in quite a few new avenues, with mixed results so far. Readers: if you or people that you know are interested in Japanese toys and collectables, PLEASE SUBSCRIBE. If you have subscribed already, you can still watch, like, share, favorite, and upvote whenever you can… the more people I have watching, the more likely it is that I’ll draw enough attention to pull in the 160+ subscribers I need. Links to all seven complete episodes are below:




I’m working on putting together a special celebratory thank-you stream for when I do hit the magic number, but that’s still in the very early planning stages. More on that later.

As you might imagine, this impending YouTube crisis has made it hard to concentrate on anything else. The last few days have been spectacularly nonproductive on the writing front, but I plan to sit myself down tomorrow and grind out at least two pages for either Soulsnatcher or Shattered Skies before I get distracted by other stuff. Easier said than done, I know, but…

– BHS

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BHS Blogress Report: 2018, Week 3 – Too Cold to be Clever

Week 3 – Too Cold to be Clever

Silent InvenTOYry Episode 06 is done!

And thanks to another round of YouTube auto-flagging drama, I’ve set up an alternate account at Daily Motion to post my episodes with their intended soundtracks. This is going to be the case from now on: the versions with the public domain music go up on YouTube, and the versions with music from their source material go up on Daily Motion. Here’s the link: http://www.dailymotion.com/silentinventoyryuncut

So if you watched ’til the end of the video (and you should have), you saw the announcement that I’m celebrating “Precure Month” by doing two more Precure-themed reviews in the coming weeks. Both forthcoming episodes will be Semi-Shorts, and the timing on both of them may vary depending on shipping times and other factors, but I’m at least reasonably certain that both of them will be worth watching.

That’s about it for news of my projects this week, honestly. Work continues on all the usual stuff.

MEILIN STILL EXISTS. Thank you FantasyCrest for sending me word, you made my Sunday morning very happy indeed. Now I just need to hope she appears in person.

Hate cold hate cold hate cold hate hate hate hate hate cold…

– BHS

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BHS Blogress Report: 2018, Week 2 – So Pure

Week 2 – So Pure

After doing about seven hours worth of work on Silent InvenTOYry today, I realized that I wasn’t going to finish it by tonight, as I had planned. Which sucks, but I did at least make a ton of progress on it. I only need to shoot one more segment and then maybe reshoot my outro, then I’ll be done. I’m gonna push to get it uploaded to YouTube by Friday at the absolute latest.

Speaking of InvenTOYry, by the way: I had to delete and reupload the SoC Megazord episode, as I caught a pretty serious audio sync error in its last few minutes when I watched it again a few weeks ago. See, YouTube still has that wonderful system that forbids you from changing a raw video file after it’s been uploaded, so if you catch a mistake, the only option is repeating the whole process again with the fixed file. I’d appreciate it if you all could watch, fave, share, and upvote it again, since that one’s currently my most expensive episode. Thank you.

Cardcaptor Sakura: The Clear Card Arc‘s anime has finally started! And oh, what a start it was. The animation was drop-dead gorgeous, and seeing and hearing Sakura, Kero, Tomoyo, and Shaoran again felt like coming home. I’ve long espoused that the original CCS is a pure, fluffy, damn near perfect cinnamon roll of an anime, and Clear Card looks to be continuing the tradition. I can’t believe I’m saying this, but: I kind of wish Sailor Moon Crystal had gone this route. I mean, not that I’m knocking Crystal… I’ve said before that it improved massively as it went on, and I understand that there are multiple reasons why it couldn’t and didn’t retain all of the cast and music from the original. It’s just that when I see the huge, lavish budget put into Clear Card and when I hear not only the entire original cast returning but selections from the first anime’s soundtrack… I’m like “Come on, Toei. This is how it’s done.” Maybe when they finally put out those Season 4 movies, they’ll take note?

Ah, anyway. Sakura is a terrific antidote for these stressful times. For the next three months, at least, I’ll have a surefire way to brighten my mood on Sundays.

– BHS

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BHS Blogress Report: 2018, Week 1 – New Years D(el)ay

Week 1 – New Years D(el)ay

I hate to start off the year with news of another delay, but hey, I’ve got a decent reason this time: I took advantage of a recent Humble Bundle to upgrade my video editing software from Vegas 13 to Vegas 14 Pro, which has given me a whole new array of options to tinker with for Silent InvenTOYry. Unfortunately, since Pro 14 is such a big step up from what I had before, I’m having to sort of relearn the program on the fly. Hence, I’ve temporarily paused production on Episode 06 so that I can figure out what I’m doing. I think the end product will be quite impressive, though. I’m aiming to have the episode done by the 15th, and there’s a Semi-Short that I’ll be working on very soon after that.

I’ve discovered that the end-of-the-month Patreon deadline is indeed a fantastic motivator for me to get off my ass and write Tasakeru chapters. Yet again, I managed to finish a chapter on the last day of the month, making four months in a row that I’ve been able to update on time! Not that I want procrastinating until the last minute to become a habit or anything, but… if it helps get the chapters out so I can get paid, so much the better.

Goals for this year are below. I’m not doing resolutions this year, because knowing me I’ll forget about most of them by mid-February.

  • Finish Soulsnatcher; start on and possibly finish Book IV: Twilight Dreams
  • Finish the long-neglected Book II Appendix, and begin the Appendix for Book III
  • Rerecord the Tasakeru soundtrack in Music Maker, transfer all tracks to BandCamp, and make them available for streaming/download
  • At least two full InvenTOYry episodes and at least three Semi-Shorts

And of course, I’ll be continuing Shattered Skies and Viluy’s Database as well.

Here’s to a new year. May it be better than the last.

– BHS

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SOULSNATCHER, CHAPTER 8

Chapter 8

New discoveries

Regroup and counterattack

Dewdrops trembling

“THE HOLY RECORD OF THE SILVER ORDER

Lily Argenteus, 34th Grand Mistress

Year 1349, 11th of Raigatsu

“Casualty figures for the Soulsnatcher’s rampage on Aedis Centralis have been confirmed: thirty-seven dead, twelve robbed of their souls, and over three score wounded, including my own daughter, Nadeshiko. Funeral rites for the bodies of the dead are underway, and I have informed the mortuary that I shall indeed perform the ceremony of interment.

“The tallyers estimate that it will cost at least a hundred thousand tri to restore our temple, including the cost of replacing all the floors sullied by bloodstains. Some are concerned that we cannot afford such an expenditure; to those I have countered that we can scarcely afford not to. Whatever has transpired, Aedis Centralis is still the Order’s holiest ground… by the grace of the Greatmother shall it continue to be so.

“I write these words as I sit by Nadeshiko’s side in the infirmary. My Little One sleeps soundly for now. She is given the best care that any sentient can ask for, but while she sleeps I cannot help but stare at the bandages covering the wound that the Soulsnatcher left her. That wound is in part my fault. I lacked the strength to strike that creature down, and for that failure, she shall carry a scar for the rest of her days.

“Hollis, do you think she can ever forgive me? I am in need of your counsel…”

 

Naole leaned to her left.

Legion leaned to his.

Naole touched her nose with her index finger.

So did Legion.

Naole wrapped her tail around herself.

Legion attempted to do the same… but his tail was a good deal longer, fluffier, and heavier than the doe’s, and he did not quite have the hang of moving it yet. The tip of his tail whapped him in the snout, and he stared at it cross-eyed, as if perplexed how it came to be attached to him.

That was enough to send Naole into another fit of helpless laughter. Oh, her aching sides.

The Silver Order often took in orphans, though it was not Naole’s job to teach and evaluate them. That was beyond the duties of an apprentice Healer. She was a good observer, though, and she was familiar enough with the basic tests given to judge a child’s mental faculties: the capacity to distinguish different shapes and colors, follow direction, and communicate clearly with their elders. At least in the mental sense, Legion was no newborn; from the hour-plus she had spent with him so far, she estimated that he was on the level of a sentient child, perhaps five or six years old. Maybe even older, given how quickly he was progressing, gathering and retaining every bit of information that she gave him. Physically, he was a full-grown adult… an adult what was still in question, though she supposed the word “hybrid” was good enough. Not a half-and-half like a wolfox, either, but a true mix of traits and features from all sentient species.

He (and Naole was now quite comfortable with the idea of Legion as a “he”, not an “it”; perhaps a fox would be better at introducing him to the complex subject of gender, but that could come later, when he understood a bit more. A non-intrusive peek at the relevant area told her that Legion was indeed a male in terms of equipment, so that would do for now) was a fast learner. He grasped new concepts well no matter how many she introduced, and he was always eager to learn more. True, he couldn’t speak for himself, but Naole knew well more than a few speaking sentients not even half as quick-witted as Legion clearly was. Speech, she thought, was no indicator of intelligence, and her new hybrid friend was proof positive of that.

Being with him and seeing his eyes light up when he learned something new was almost enough to make her forget her imprisonment. To forget the gloom of the strange cavern, the pool of blood now stagnant in the center, and the otherworldly beacon of blue flame pulsing languidly over their heads with its silver orbs spinning around it in tow. There was nothing either of them could do about any of those things, so they ignored them as they continued with their lessons and games.

“It’s kind of…” Naole paused and furrowed her brow, the tip of her tongue poking out from between her lips. “Hmm. How do I explain this?”

Legion mimicked the same expression, tongue and all, and the sight of that cheerful, goofy face gone so mock-serious threatened to cause another giggle fit.

“All right,” she said, stifling herself before she could get distracted again. “It’s soft, like your tail or your belly fur, but a different kind of soft. Not hairy soft, but kind of chewy and fluffy.”

The hybrid tilted his head to one side.

“And the center is sort of… sweet, but a little grainy.”

Legion blinked.

Augh,” said Naole to herself as she recognized her error. “How do I describe ‘sweet and grainy’ when you haven’t even eaten anything yet?! This is harder than I thought.” Crossing her arms, she blew a puff of air upward, which ruffled her bangs. “I suppose you’ll just have to try sweet bean mochi for yourself once we get out of here.”

Delighted by this new discovery, Legion swelled his cheeks and blew. His sleek black forelocks were quite a bit longer and less tidy than Naole’s, and they fell back into his eyes on the downdraft. Undeterred, he blew again and again, sounding a bit like an overenthusiastic bellows operator.

That sight sent Naole into another fit of laughter, which only stopped when the first familiar wisps of light-headedness and shortness of breath that indicated an imminent fainting spell forced her to either calm down or pass out. “Ha… ha… whew…”

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BHS Blogress Report: 2017, Week 52 – Twelfth Night

Week 52 – Twelfth Night

Happy winter holiday of your choice, everyone. I wasn’t sure I’d be able to get in a Blogress Report on time, given that Christmas fell on a Monday this year, and there was a rather important event happening tonight… but here I am.

About half an hour ago, for the first time ever, I was able to watch a Doctor Who episode live. That episode, “Twice Upon a Time”, was the finale for Peter Capaldi’s Twelfth Doctor, the debut of Jodie Whittaker’s Thirteenth, and the final episode of Steven Moffat’s near-13-year run as writer and nine years as showrunner. It was the end of an era, a true turning point. Over the last four months, I marathoned six years of Who in hopes of being ready for tonight, so my expectations were high…

… and I’m happy to report that, at least in my opinion, Moffat and Capaldi knocked it out of the park.

I won’t bother spoiling, since detailed analyses of the episode will be everywhere by tomorrow, but I’ll just say that I loved “Twice Upon a Time”, and that it had two scenes that honestly had me in tears. It was as magnificent a send-off as I’d hoped, one that earns its spot in Who history. And while saying goodbye to one of the Doctors is always sad, I’ve learned that the best farewells are the ones that leave the viewer thrilled to see what comes next. That’s absolutely the case here… I know I’ll be there watching when Thirteen’s first full episode kicks off next year.

Anyway. My Christmas was quite pleasant this year, with no unwelcome surprises. You can’t ask for much more, really.

As you can see, I managed to finish Chapter 31 of Shattered Skies a couple days ago, after working on it for about two months. The Jamais Ville sequence was the reason this one took so long; I was dead-set on nailing the tone of off-putting wrongness of the city that I was shooting for, and that took a lot of extra effort. I’m happy to say that the effort appeared to pay off handsomely.

I’m going to put Skies on a short, temporary hold over the next week so I can focus on finishing Silent InvenTOYry Episode 06 and what will likely be the last chapter of Soulsnatcher by the year’s end. Having a pressing deadline seems to have been an effective motivator for the last couple months, so I feel good about my chances.

So, that’s enough from me. Thank you all for sticking with me for another year of Blogress Reports, you’re helping me more than you know.

Peace on Earth, goodwill towards all.

– BHS

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BHS Blogress Report: 2017, Week 51 – A Big, Fat, Rancid Cow Pai

Week 51 – A Big, Fat, Rancid Cow Pai

Welp. This past week had some very good news (Doug Jones won, and Patreon abandoned its fee hike!) and some very, very bad news. As I’m sure you’ve heard by now, Cheeto puppet and former Verizon corporate stooge Ajit Pai ignored damn near everyone and voted to repeal Net Neutrality… that much wasn’t a surprise, of course, but I hoped the two other Republicans on the voting board would grow spines long enough to see which way the wind’s blowing… nope.

It’s important to note that the fight for Net Neutrality is NOT over, not by a long shot. Until the repeal goes through both houses of Congress and His Fraudulency, we still have a shot. As of this writing, the Attorneys General of 17 states have announced plans to sue Pai and the FCC, and at least a dozen Congresspeople have invoked the Congressional Review Act to reverse the FCC’s decision. It’s also come out that Pai may have known about the 2 million pro-repeal comments on the issue that came from false or stolen identities, which could land his smarmy ass in jail. The important thing is to keep the pressure on. Do NOT let them weasel out of this. Keep calling, writing, faxing, and protesting. You can still use Resistbot or go to battleforthenet.com to get in touch with your lawmakers. It’s a tall order, but if we keep hounding, we can kill the Net Neutrality repeal, and maybe even the abomination of a tax bill that Cheeto’s cult keeps trying to ram down our throats. Scream loud enough and long enough, and somebody will have to listen.

Anyway. Also a net positive for the week: The Last Jedi. I got into one of the first showings last Thursday night with a bunch of friends, and I had an absolute blast. The ways this movie upends the Star Wars saga are nothing short of brilliant; its central message is that things need to change, and man, do they ever. And even better: I found out today that many of the alt-right’s manbabies are throwing fits and saying that this movie “ruined” Star Wars for them, to which I say “WOOHOO!” That’s how you know Rian Johnson done right.

I had to spend a lot of this past week doing some rather intensive paid work, but since I got it finished yesterday, I’m intending to spend most of the week on writing and putting together the next episode of Silent InvenTOYry. I think I can get Shattered Skies Chapter 31 out by the end of the week if I really buckle down. It’ll be easier to focus now that I’ve uninstalled Heroes of the Storm. I finally determined that HotS was giving me very little actual enjoyment compared to all the time I had invested in it… frankly, it was starting to feel less like a fun pastime and more like a chore.

There was one other sour note this week on the writing front, I’m sorry to say. A self-appointed rules lawyer on FF.net was “nice” enough to inform me that the Stars Above Demon Profiles were “not a story” and thus against the site’s rules, and that keeping them up could cost me my account. I asked as politely as I could manage for them to show me where exactly the rules define what constitutes a “story”, and why my story instead of the countless numbers of scriptfics, songfics, misspelled drivel, and works of pornography that litter the site, and I was given the rule in question along with an extremely rude reply. Said rule still has a shaky definition of what a “story” is, but I decided not to risk my account over it and took down the Demon Profiles along with Shattered Skies: Viluy’s Database. Fortunately, you can still read both the Profiles and the Database here, on AO3, and on Wattpad (Database only, for the moment). Change your links accordingly if you have them.

Christmas is always a frantic occasion around here, given that my folks are both very devoted churchgoers, but I, being an agnostic heathen, should have little on my schedule for the next week… provided I don’t get any last-minute calls from petsitting clients, that is. And without HotS to distract me, maybe I’ll finally get back to work on that Tasakeru Appendix. We’ll see.

– BHS

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BHS Blogress Report: 2017, Week 50 – Patronizing

Week 50 – Patronizing

In case you weren’t aware: Patreon has recently implemented a hike in minimum fees charged to patrons. What it boils down to is that instead of $1 being the minimum pledge amount, it’s now something like $1.34. Patreon has tried to paint this as “a boon to creators”, a statement that was quickly and roundly debunked. I already wrote a more detailed post about this over on my Patreon page, but I’ll restate it here: I’ve lowered the minimum pledge amounts on every reward tier save for the $1 level to offset these changes.

Now, ErinPtah also found a few articles that explained this issue better, which you’ll find linked here. Supposedly, Patreon has been losing money on every pledge under around $15, and this rate hike is to keep the service running. That may be, but this also looks like a move made to make any potential investors happy… see also the restrictive new rules regarding adult content that were implemented earlier this year. What I’m afraid of is that this signals that Patreon, like almost every other relatively consumer-friendly service these days, is about to get bought out by some giant megacorp that will proceed to ruin everything that was good about it. Maybe Apple, maybe Google, maybe Verizon, I don’t know… all I know is that companies that support the little guys are vanishingly few and far between, and if Patreon goes under or stops paying out, frankly, I’m screwed.

That’s not the only ominous portent of doom this week, either. Tomorrow is the hotly contested Alabama Senate race between Democratic candidate Doug Jones and racist, convicted pedophile Roy Moore. The fact that the race is actually close, and that Cheeto Hitler’s party generally refuses to condemn Moore at all, let alone force him to drop out… well, it’s a worrying indicator for the state of things in this country. Any #Alabama voters reading this, you’d better damn well show up to vote tomorrow. Do NOT let another unrepentant rapist pedophile steal another government seat.

And then there’s the Net Neutrality vote on Thursday. Cheeto’s puppet Ajit Pai seems committed to ignoring all the millions of phone calls, emails, letters, and protests, so we can only hope that either the rest of the board votes no on the repeal or that it’s thrown out in court. I’ve been phone banking and I’m participating in #BreakTheInternet tomorrow, and I encourage all my readers to do the same. The Internet is my life, and it’s on the line.

Boy, this Report sure is a barrel of laughs, huh? Sorry about that. It’s a nerve-wracking week.

Anyway, better news. ErinPtah took a commission from me that she posted a couple days ago, a Shattered Skies promo poster with a design suggested by VDrake. Check it out below.



My new Silent InvenTOYry episode is proceeding nicely, without too many problems, and I’m still gunning to get it done by the year’s end. I think you all will really like the wallet gag for this episode’s intro; I got a bit ambitious with it.

I managed a head start on the next Soulsnatcher chapter after I cut a scene from Chapter 7 to make my deadline on time. So that’s at least a little progress. I’m going to work on Shattered Skies Chapter 31 and the second Viluy’s Database entry tomorrow, if I can concentrate.

Oh yeah, and there’s some movie opening on Friday that a few people, myself included, are a bit excited for. More on that next week.

– BHS

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BHS Blogress Report: 2017, Week 49 – Seriously, Save the Internet

Week 49 – Seriously, Save the Internet

I don’t have that much to say this week. I finished Chapter 7 of Soulsnatcher on time by the skin of my teeth, so yay! Three months with no missed updates! Work has started on Silent InvenTOYry Episode 06. There’s something I still need for this episode that likely won’t be here until Saturday at the earliest, but I’m doing all I can in the meantime. Shattered Skies Chapter 31 is coming along slowly but surely, and my various other projects are proceeding as normal.

I’m going to use most of the rest of this week’s Report to do my civic duty and repost information regarding Net Neutrality, what it is, why you should care, and how to stop it from being revoked. I’m begging everyone who reads this, if you care about me or my work in the least, please do everything you can to fight to maintain and enforce the current rules. This is not hyperbole: if Title II Net Neutrality rules are revoked, I will no longer be able to post ANYTHING, anywhere. There will be no way for me to afford the extra cost of putting up my writing, artwork, videos, or anything else if Ajit Pai’s repeal plans go through. If I can’t afford to go online, I can’t produce content, which means I can’t get paid via Patreon, YouTube, PayPal, or any other source of online income. My business, my leisure, my relationship with my best friends, and my entire social life in general all depend on a free and open Internet.

So, what can you do?

Allow me to copy-paste a helpful post that’s been circulating on Tumblr:

Imagine paying $40 extra a month for Tumblr

That’s what is going to happen if we let Ajit Pai, the FCC chairman, go through with repealing Title II (AKA Net Neutrality).

Simply put, without Net Neutrality, Internet Service Providers like Comcast, Verizon, and AT&T will be able to “bundle” websites much like cable ON TOP OF paying for internet connection. “Want access to Netflix AND Tumblr? Get the Entertainment Package! $40 a month. What about Amazon and Ebay? Add an extra $20 a month to get the Shopping Package.”

Not only will they be able to bundle websites and charge more, they will also be able to censor and block websites that they don’t agree with entirely.

THIS WILL BE THE END OF INTERNET AS WE KNOW IT.

For business owners, it will be even worse. Ex: Comcast will ask Amazon to pay high fees to be available in a low-cost package, fees that websites like Poshmark or Etsy will not be able to pay. Therefore, only Fortune 500’s will be available to web users at a low cost. Say goodbye to Etsy (unless you’re willing to shell out $70 a month for the “All-Inclusive” package).

To learn about Net Neutrality, why it’s important, and/or want tools to help you fight for Net Neutrality, visit BattleForTheNet (https://www.battleforthenet.com)

There are five people deciding the future of the internet, three men (Rep) and two women (Dem). The two women have come out as No votes. We need only to convince ONE of the other members to flip to a NO vote to save Net Neutrality.

There are many ways you can help:

WHAT TO DO IF YOU’RE A LAZY TUMBLR USER WITH ANXIETY WHO TRIES TO HELP WITH JUST REBLOGS / LIKES:

Here are 2 petitions to sign, one international and one exclusively US.

International: https://www.savetheinternet.com/sti-home

US: https://petitions.whitehouse.gov/petition/do-not-repeal-net-neutrality

(After you sign make sure to verify via email, it may take up to 30 mins to receive the email).

Text “resist” to 504-09. It’s a bot that will send a formal email, fax, and letter to your representatives. It also finds your representatives for you. All you have to do is text it and it holds your hand the whole way.

HERE ARE MORE STRAIGHTFORWARD ACTIONS YOU CAN TAKE:

These are the emails of the 5 people on the FCC roster.

Blow up their inboxes!

Ajit Pai – Ajit.Pai@fcc.gov

Mignon Clyburn – Mignon.Clyburn@fcc.gov

Michael O’Rielly – Mike.O’Rielly@fcc.gov

Brendan Carr – Brendan.Carr@fcc.gov

Jessica Rosenworcel – Jessica.Rosenworcel@fcc.gov

You can support groups like the Electronic Frontier Foundation and the ACLU and Free Press who are fighting to keep Net Neutrality:

https://www.eff.org/

https://www.aclu.org/

https://www.freepress.net/

https://www.fightforthefuture.org/

https://www.publicknowledge.org/

https://www.demandprogress.org/

Set them as your charity on Amazon Smile here (https://smile.amazon.com/)

Write to your House Representative here

(http://www.house.gov/representatives/find/)

And Senators here: https://www.senate.gov/general/contact_information/senators_cfm.cfm?OrderBy=state)

Write to the FCC here (https://www.fcc.gov/about/contact)

Add a comment to the repeal here (https://www.fcc.gov/ecfs/search/filings?proceedings_name=17-108&amp;sort=date_disseminated,DESC)

Here’s an easier URL you can use thanks to John Oliver (http://www.gofccyourself.com)

Also check this out, which was made by the EFF and is a low transaction cost tool for writing all your reps in one fell swoop.

(https://democracy.io/#!/)

Most importantly, VOTE. This should not be something that is so clearly split between the political parties as it affects all Americans, but unfortunately it is.

PLEASE HELP SAVE OUR INTERNET!

Keep fighting, and don’t let up until the plans to kill Net Neutrality are dead and buried for good.

– BHS

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SOULSNATCHER, CHAPTER 7

Chapter 7

Early morning cold

Invasion, an intruder!

Rain upon the leaves

 

“With our every step, we tread upon the ashes of the past… our sins, our legacies.”

[Attributed to Yourichi Shinen, 10th century poet and philosopher]

 

Misty, prismatic fingers curled around Zero as he floated in the wake of the ancient wolf. Not walked, floated; if there was solid ground beneath him hidden somewhere in the fog’s depths, what he desperately hoped were still his feet did not touch it. He could not turn or deviate from his course, he could only follow after Drake… who, he noted, was not floating. However the wolf moved forward, he did it slowly, trudging through denser, darker, more threatening clouds that clung to him as if trying to drag him down.

Apart from those, the fog bank was lighter and more colorful than Zero felt like it should be. Of the many things he had experienced in the past few months, this ranked as among the strangest. As he was, he was barely less ephemeral than the fog, and he could not shake the fear that one strong gust of wind would blow him apart.

Wherever Drake was taking him, through whatever bizarre magic this was (if it was magic), he was right about one thing: it was not more pleasant than traveling by boltpath. Not in the least. Bolting, as sick as it made him whenever he was forced to use it, was at least over fast, with a minimum of sensation between one state and the other. This, though? Zero felt like a living ghost, divorced entirely from the physical plane, and that turned his stomach in knots.

As they moved, he saw things, shapes in the fog. Blurry and indistinct, but if he looked at them long enough, they almost resembled people, faces… No sooner would he try to focus on these phantoms than they would melt away into featureless swirls. Once or twice, Zero thought he saw the shapes reach out to him with ghostly hands…

And there were the sounds. Not quite words, they would drift out of the fog, whisper urgently in his ear, then disappear as quickly as they came. Fragments of emotion without any meaning attached to them, voices speaking a language he could not understand. They gave him the crawling horrors.

Drake pushed on with Zero following, seeming unbothered by the whispers or the strange shapes. He said nothing, he paused for not a moment, until-

rain

Ahead, Drake came to a brief stop, for no more than a second at the most.

rain

That word cut through the maddening vagueness of the other whispers with such clarity that Zero would have shuddered, were he solid enough to do so. Rain?

rain

Now that he concentrated on it, he could feel a dim pattering of warm, soft droplets upon him, almost like tears. Zero glanced upward. Above him were thick, bloated clouds the color of bruises, clearly the source of the rain… but something in him stirred. There was nothing special about them that he could determine, they were just ordinary rain clouds, but… he found them beautiful.

rain

And there was something that sounded half like a laugh, a musical sound bubbling out of the mists. Then the acrid smell of smoke, and…

The rain stopped. All at once, as if the heavens had slammed a door shut.

Zero opened his mouth to scream, but no sound came out. With the end of the rain came a tempest of emotions not his own: grief, an unbearable heaviness, his chest filled with cold lead. Wrath, rivers of molten steel scouring his veins. An insatiable hunger, a need to make someone hurt, make someone bleed. As terrible as if someone had murdered Hanami or Naole, but without meaning, without context… Then those too faded, and there was nothing but emptiness. He was little but a shell, his insides hollowed out. He would never be whole again…

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