Not much posting – lack of interwebs on home computer + COD:MW2

I haven’t posted much lately, as my only access to the internet has been at work, and I’ve been swamped there.  My home internet should be up again soon.  My wife got a new computer for Christmas, and I managed to take down our wireless router trying to hook her up.  I should have wireless for my laptop again soon though. 

That said, I’ve still been able to plug into Xbox live.  Thank goodness. 

I was given Modern Warfare 2 for Christmas.  It is massive fun.  Sadly, my first couple days of playing consisted of my being slaughtered by 14 year olds who’ve been playing for a month and are already at 10th prestige.  And it is true, dual shotgun guy is a dog rapist. 

Anybody who says that MW:2 is “ultra realistic” needs to be smacked upside the head.  Last time I looked, there weren’t a lot of teleporting ninjas running like olympic sprinters with a 100 year old ten-gauge in each hand on the modern battlefield.

My kill ratio is currently a pathetic .68, but I”m starting to get back in my grove.  In my first match with my beloved old standby from MW:1, the P90, I managed to get a 19 kill streak.   Running a chopper’s gun is a pure slaughterfest.

Opening bits from the upcoming novel, Dead Six

As many of you know, I’m currently cowriting a thriller with Mike Kupari.  This is a little different than most cowritten books, in that we’re both writing in the 1st person POV.  Mike is writing the character of Valentine, a mercenary, and I’m writing the character of Lorenzo, a criminal.  The book is basically two seperate, but intertwined stories.  It flips back and forth, and no, they are not friends. In fact, every time they meet somebody ends up getting shot or stabbed. D6 is based on the Welcome Back, Mr. Nightcrawler serial from THR.  

Mike is on active duty right now, but he is almost done with his half of the book, and should be done by New Years. Then we will be going through process of editing everything together, cleaning it up, and trying to sell it.  This bit is from the 1st draft, so it is still very rough.  

Here are the opening pages to Dead Six:  

VALENTINE

Cancun, Quintana Roo

Southern Mexico

          There was an angel standing over me when I opened my eyes. She was speaking but I could barely hear. Every sound was muffled like I was underwater except for the rapid pounding of my heart. Am I dreaming? Am I dead?

          “On your feet, damn it!” the beautiful angel snarled. She grabbed my load bearing vest and hauled me off my seat. My head was swimming and every bone in my body ached. At first I wasn’t sure where I was.  It came back to me a moment later. We were still in the chopper. We’d crashed. The angel was pulling me toward the door. “Can you walk? Come on.”

          “Wait,” I protested, steadying myself against the hull. “The others…” I turned to where my teammates were sitting. Several of them were still strapped into their seats, but they weren’t moving. Dim light poured through a gaping hole in the hull beside them. Smoke and dust moved in the light but behind that there was blood everywhere. My heart dropped into my stomach. I’d worked with these men for years.

          “They’re dead, bro,” Tailor said, suddenly appearing in the doorframe. At least one of my friends had made it. “She’s right. We’ve got to get out of here before they start dropping ****ing mortars on us. This isn’t a good place to be.”

          Still terribly disoriented, I shook my head. “Yeah…yeah, okay.”

          “You’re in shock,” the angel said, pushing me through the door of our wrecked NH-90 helicopter. “What’s your name?” she asked as we stepped onto a large, tiled surface.

          “V…Valentine,” I stammered, squinting in the early morning sun. “Where are we?”

          “In a pool,” Tailor said, moving up a steep embankment ahead of me.  “Ramirez is dead. Half the team’s gone.”   He dropped a half-empty magazine out of his LWRC M6 and replaced it with a fresh one. “Hostiles will be on us quick. Are you locked and loaded?”

          My head was clearing. I looked down at the DSA-58 FAL carbine in my hands, and retracted the bolt slightly. A .308 round was in the chamber.  My good luck charm, a Smith & Wesson .44 Magnum, was still in its holster on my left thigh. I was still alive.  It hadn’t let me down. “Yeah, I’m ready,” I said, following Tailor up the incline.

Our chopper had crashed in the deep end of a huge, pear-shaped swimming pool that had been mostly drained of water. It sat at an odd angle, still smoking, the camouflage-painted hull absolutely riddled with bullet holes. There were deep gashes in the tile where the rotor had struck.

          “What happened?” I asked. The angel didn’t answer at first. I remembered then; her name was Ling, the one that had hired us. She followed me up the embankment, clutching a suppressed Sig 551 assault rifle.

          “We crashed,” she said after a moment, as if I didn’t know that. “Don’t you remember?” We cleared the top of the incline. A handful of armed people waited for us in the shallow end of the empty pool. Aside from Tailor and me, only three were dressed in the green fatigues of my company, Vanguard Strategic Solutions. I closed my eyes and tried to catch my breath. “It’s coming back to me,” I said, trailing off. Ten of us had left on this mission. Half hadn’t made it. God damn it…

          “You alright, Val?” Tailor asked. “I really need you with me, okay?”

          “I’m fine,” I said, kneeling down to check my gear. “Just a little shaken up.” It was early morning, and apparently we’d landed in the middle of a sprawling resort complex. The city had once been covered in places like this, but now they were all abandoned. In front of us stood a cluster of white towers that must have been a luxury hotel. About a hundred yards behind us was the beach and ocean as far as the eye could see. The place had probably been evacuated back when the fighting started. It was dirty from disuse and littered with garbage and debris. Several plumes of smoke rose in the distance. Cancun had seen better days.

          “Mr. Tailor.” I looked over at Ling as she talked. She was Chinese, and was dressed in black fatigues and body armor. “You’re in charge now, correct? We must keep moving.”

With Ramirez gone, Tailor had just been promoted to team leader. He quickly looked around, taking in our surroundings. “And where in the hell do you want to go? This part of town is covered in hostiles.” His East Tennessee twang more pronounced with his anger.

          “Somewhere that is not here. I have multiple wounded,” Ling said, nodding toward the rest of her teammates, all members of the same mysterious Exodus organization that had hired us for this mission. Like her, they were heavily armed and dressed in black. They were clustered in a tight circle in near the edge of the pool, waiting for instructions. In the middle of them was a young girl. She appeared no more than fifteen, and was being tended to by their medic. “We have to get her out.”

          “Look, damn it,” Tailor exclaimed, “We’ll get your precious package out. That was the deal.” He jerked a thumb at the young girl as he spoke. “Let me try to get help again.” Tailor squeezed the radio microphone on his vest and spoke into it. “Ocean-Four-One, this is Switchblade-Six-Alpha.”

          While Tailor tried to raise the base, our team sharpshooter, Skunky, ran over to see if I was okay. He was a skinny Asian guy, in his mid-20s like me. He clutched a scoped, accurized M14 rifle in his hands. “Dude, you’re alive.”

          “Yeah, I’m fine,” I said, standing up. “What the **** happened?”

          “They hit us with some kind of big gun right after we took off. It punched that hole in the chopper. The pilots were hit with frag…they died trying to find a place to land.”

          Tailor looked over at us, flustered. “I can’t raise the base. I still can’t get anyone on the radio. I don’t know what the hell’s going on. This is bad. This is really bad.”

          “Switchblade-Six-Alpha, this is Stingray-Two-Zero,” a new voice said, crackling over our radios.

          “Tailor, that’s air support,” I said. Driving the point home, one of Vanguard’s Super Tucano turboprop attack planes roared overhead, circling our position. Vanguard was one of the best-funded companies in the business. We did not screw around.

          “Stingray-Two-Zero, this is Switchblade-Six-Alpha,” Tailor said. “What’s your status?” 

          “We were going to ask you the same thing, Six-Alpha,” the pilot said. “We’ve lost communication with the airfield. It looks bad down there.”

          “We’ve got multiple wounded and multiple KIA,” Tailor said levelly. “We need an immediate MEDEVAC. Five of us, Six Exodus personnel, and the package,” Tailor said calmly. “Eight confirmed KIA, including the crew of the chopper.”

          As Tailor talked to the pilot, trying to figure out what was going on, I looked over at Ling and her people, and at the young girl that we’d gone through so much trouble to acquire. I didn’t know who the girl was. I didn’t know why Exodus wanted her so badly. She had to be important, though. Ling had offered us an ungodly sum of money to go into Cancun, guns blazing, to rescue her. The fact that we’d be violating the bull**** cease-fire between Ramon Mendoza, the local warlord, and the UN hadn’t seemed to bother her.

Tailor let go of his radio microphone. “Pilot says there’s an armed convoy headed our way up Kukulkan Boulevard. Looks like Mendoza’s militia. They saw us go down, I guess. Couple trucks full of guys and some technicals. Heavily armed. He’s going to try to give us some cover, but he’s low on ammo and fuel.”

“Just like us,” Skunky interjected.

          Ling put her gloved hand on Tailor’s shoulder. “I need you to get your men moving,” she said. “I’ll contact my people to see if I can find out what’s going on.”

          As Ling trotted off, Tailor turned back to us with a worried look on his face. “Val, Skunky, c’mon, we gotta go.” Nodding, I followed him as he waved to the others. Standing away from the Exodus people, we huddled up. “Listen up, Switchblade Six,” Tailor said, addressing us as a team. “We’re in some serious **** here. I don’t know what the ****’s going on back at the base. I got a bad feeling though.” Tailor looked over his shoulder as an explosion detonated to the southeast. The Tucano had begun its attack run.

          “This is the third time we’ve broken the cease-fire this month,” Skunky said, anxiously grasping his M14. “You don’t think…”

          “I know what I think,” Tower, our machine gunner said. Sweat beaded on his dark face. “I think they left us here.”

          That got everyone’s attention. Being abandoned in country was every mercenary’s worst nightmare.

          “It doesn’t matter,” Tailor said. “Everybody shut up and listen now. I don’t trust these Exodus assholes. When we start moving, y’all look out for each other. If we have to, we’re going to ditch these guys and head out on our own.”

          I flinched. “Tailor, they’ve got wounded and a kid.”

          “Don’t argue with me!” Tailor snapped. The pressure was getting to him. “We’ll figure it out. Now get ready. We’re moving out. Keep your spacing, use cover, and watch out for snipers.”

          “GET SOME!” the rest of us shouted in response.

          “Mr. Tailor, I’ve got some bad news,” Ling said, approaching our group. She had what looked like a satellite phone in her hand. “I don’t think anyone’s coming for us.”      

          “What?” Tailor asked, his face going a little pale.

          “Something happened,” Ling said. “According to my people, the UN shut down all of Vanguard’s operations, including the airfield at Playa Del Carmen, about an hour ago.”

          “The UN?” Tailor asked, exasperated. “But the Mexican Government…” 

          “The Mexican Nationalist Government dissolved last night, Mr. Tailor. I don’t have all the details. I’m afraid we’re on our own.”

          “All we have to do is get to the safe areas in the city, right?” Harper asked. Since the cease-fire, half of Cancun was controlled by UN peacekeepers.

          Ling took off her tinted shooting glasses and wiped her brow on her sleeve. “I don’t think that’s wise,” she said, putting her glasses back on. “All employees of Vanguard Strategic Solutions International have been declared unlawful combatants by the UN. I’m sorry, but we need to go, now.” We all looked at each other, and several obscenities were uttered. We were now on our own in a country where we’d made a lot of enemies.

          “Mother ****ers sold us out,” Tower said bitterly.

          Tailor spoke up. “It doesn’t matter. The only thing that matters now is getting out of here alive. Let’s move.”  He took off after Ling. The rest of us followed, spacing ourselves out in a small column. Ling rallied the Exodus personnel. They too came to their feet and followed her as she climbed over the edge of the pool. Two of them were always within arm’s reach of the strange young girl.

          Following the Exodus operatives, we quickly moved across the courtyard of the resort complex. The grass was overgrown and the palm trees were untended. As we weaved our way toward the hotel itself, Tailor told me to contact Stingray-Two-Zero and inform the Tucano’s two pilots of the situation.

          The pilot never responded, and it was obvious something was wrong. The small attack plane zoomed back over the resort in a steep right turn, ejecting flares as it went. An instant later, a missile shrieked across the sky, trailing smoke behind it. The Super Tucano exploded in mid-air, raining burning debris into the ocean below. An F-16E fighter jet with UN markings then roared overhead, turning to the east. A second jet could be heard in the distance somewhere, but I couldn’t see it.

          Our entire group froze in disbelief. This day just kept getting better and better.

          Tailor grabbed my shoulder and pulled me along. “Go, go, go!” he shouted, breaking out into a run. Beyond the scream of the jets’ engines, I could hear a helicopter approaching.

          “Into the hotel, quickly!” Ling said. Behind us, a huge Super Cougar transport helicopter descended past our crashed chopper and set down in the hotel’s courtyard. Like the F-16, it bore UN markings. More than twenty soldiers, clad in urban camouflage fatigues and blue berets, spilled out of the chopper. They fanned out and started shooting at us. Rounds snapped past my head as I ran across the hotel lobby. I jumped, slid across the reception desk and crashed to the floor below. I landed on top of Tailor. Harper landed next to me.

“What do we do?” I asked, climbing off of Tailor. The lobby was lighted from overhead through a huge, shattered skylight in the ceiling. The wall in front of us was pockmarked with explosions of plaster and dust as bullets struck it. The reception desk was heavily constructed out of marble and concrete. It provided decent cover. The hotel lobby was ruined from disuse and stunk of rot from water damage. No-one had been around to clean up after Hurricane Calvin had struck six months earlier.

“Why the **** are they shooting at us?” Tailor screamed.

Ling was behind the counter with us, crouched down next to Tailor. She looked over at him and shouted in his ear. “I told you, they declared you unlawful combatants. We broke the cease-fire. They’re just following orders!” She then stood up, leveled her assault rifle across the counter, and ripped off a long burst. “Return fire!” Ling ordered. “Protect the child.” The Exodus operatives under her command obeyed her order without hesitation. The two men guarding the young girl hustled her, crouched over, to the very back of the room. The rest started shooting, causing the UN troops outside to break their advance and dive for cover.

The UN had just declared war on Vanguard. I glanced over at Tailor. “What do we do?”

He looked around for a moment, swearing aloud. “**** it,” he said. He raised his voice so he could be heard over the noise. “Switchblade Six! Open fire!” Tailor’s command was followed by a series of short bursts from his carbine.

My team was aggressive to the last. Tower opened up with his M60E4. The machine gun’s rattling roar filled the lobby, making it difficult to hear anything. I saw a UN trooper drop to the ground as Skunky took his head off with a single, well placed shot from his M14. Harper’s FAL carbine barked as he let off shot after shot.

I took a deep breath. My heart rate slowed down, and everything seemed to slow down with it. I was Calm. I swiped my carbine’s selector from SAFE to SEMI, and quickly stood up, aiming over the desk. The scope on my FAL was zoomed all the way to four-power. I aimed with both eyes open. The green chevron reticule hovered in front of my field of view. I found a target, a cluster of enemy soldiers advancing toward the lobby, and squeezed the trigger. The shortened steel stock bucked into my left shoulder as I fired.

One of the UN troops, much closer, tried to bolt across the foyer. Two quick shots and he went down. Another soldier crouched down to reload his G36 carbine. The palm tree he was hiding behind didn’t conceal him well. The blue beret flew off in a spray of blood as I put two bullets through the tree and through his face.

I flinched. Something wet had struck the right side of my face. Red droplets appeared on my shooting glasses. I reflexively wiped them off in a smear. Dark red blood stained my green glove. Harper was lying on the floor. Blood poured out of a gaping exit wound in the back of his head. Bits of gore and brain matter were splattered on the wall behind him.

I ducked back down behind the counter and dragged Tailor with me. I pointed at Harper. My mouth opened, but I couldn’t find anything to say.

“He’s dead?” Tailor asked, yelling to make himself heard.

I nodded in affirmation. My face was still smeared with Harper’s blood. “We’re gonna get pinned down! We need to get out of here!”

“Got any grenades left?” Tailor asked, reloading his carbine again. I nodded. He looked over at Ling, and tugged on her pant leg. She ducked down behind the counter.

 “Hey!” he said. “Val and me will toss frags, then I’ll pop smoke. Then we move back into the hotel. They’ll find a way to flank us if we stay here.”

Ling nodded, then shouted orders to the rest of her men. Tailor and I pulled fragmentation grenades from our vests and readied them. A moment later we both stood up.  “Frag up!” We threw our grenades then ducked back down. The lobby was rocked by a double concussion a second later as the two grenades detonated nearly simultaneously. Dust filled the room, and the remaining glass in the skylight broke free and rained down on top of us. Tailor then threw his smoke grenade over the counter. It fired a few seconds later, and the lobby quickly filled with dense white smoke.

“That way!” Ling shouted, pointing to my right. At the far wall was a large doorway that led into the main part of the hotel. Her men filed past us at a run, stepping over Harper’s body as they went.

One of Ling’s men stopped. He was a hulking African man, probably six-foot-four, and looked like he was made of muscle. The G3 rifle he carried, even with a grenade launcher affixed, looked like a toy in his hands. “Commander, come on!” he said. Behind him, an intense-looking Chinese man fired off short bursts into the smoke, keeping the UN troops busy as we fell back into the building.

          Behind him came the young girl, flanked by her two bodyguards. She looked down at me as they hustled her by, and everything else dropped away. Her eyes were intensely blue, almost luminescent. Her hair was such a light shade of platinum blonde that it looked white. It was like she was looking right through me.

          “I’m sorry about your friends,” she whispered. At least, I could’ve swore she did. I don’t remember seeing her say anything, but I definitely heard her.

          “Val, go, God damn it!” Tailor said, snapping me back to reality. He shoved me forward and we followed Ling’s people into the building.

#

LORENZO

Disputed Zone

Thailand/Myanmar Border

Men with AK-47s waited for us at the gate, illuminated by the headlights of our stolen UN two-and-a-half ton truck. The guards approached the windows. One of them was wearing a necklace strung with dried human fingers.

“Decorative bunch,” Carl stated.

The voice in my radio earpiece was not reassuring. “Lorenzo, I’ve got three at the gate. Two in the tower. FLIR shows lots of movement in the camp.” Reaper was a quarter mile up the hill, one eye on the glowing blobs on his laptop screen and the other on the road to make sure the actual United Nations troops didn’t show up.

I was signaled to roll down the window. Complying let in the humid night air and the scents of cook fires and diesel fuel. The lead guard shouted to be heard over the rumble of our engine. My Burmese was rusty, but he was gesturing with the muzzle of his rifle toward the only building with electricity, indicating our destination. I saluted. The guard returned it with a vague wave.

The heavy metal barricade was lifted and shuffled aside. Carl put the truck into gear and rolled us forward. “They bought it.” The gate was shut behind us, effectively trapping us in a compound with a thousand Marxist assholes. My driver smiled as he steered us toward the command center. “That was the hard part.”

“For you,” I responded as I took my earpiece out and shoved it back inside my uniform shirt. Scanning across the compound showed that our aerial reconnaissance had been spot on for once. The main generator was right where we thought it would be, ten meters from the loading dock. The machine was a thirty-year-old monstrosity of Soviet engineering and our source had reported that it went out constantly. Perfect.

More soldiers, if you could use the term for a group this disorganized, were watching our big white truck with mild curiosity. Many of the local peacekeepers moonlighted smuggling munitions so our presence was not out of the ordinary. I opened the door and hopped down. “Wait for my signal,” I said before slamming the door.

Carl put the truck into reverse and backed toward the loading dock as a pair of soldiers shouted helpful but conflicting directions at him. The truck’s bumper thumped into the concrete. The tarp covering the rear opened and a giant of a man stepped from the deuce and onto the dock. My associate, Train, spoke in rough tones to the thugs on the dock, pointing to the waiting crates of mortar rounds. They began to load the truck. The rebels paid him and Carl no mind. The various UN peacekeepers they had on the take changed constantly, only the officers, like I was pretending to be, actually mattered.

The guard at the entrance held the door open for me as I trotted up the steps. The building had once been part of a rubber plantation and this had been a reception area for colonial-era visitors. It had been rather nice once, but had slid into the typical 3rd world shabbiness of faded paint, peeling wallpaper, and spreading stains. The air conditioner had died sometime during the Vietnam War and giant malarial mosquitoes frolicked in the river of sweat running down my back. There was a man waiting for me, dressed nicer than the others, with something that casually resembled a uniform. The guard from the door followed me inside, carelessly cradling his AK as he stood behind me.

“Good evening,” the warlord’s lieutenant said in heavily accented English. ”We were not expecting you so soon, Captain.”

“I need to speak with your commander,” I said curtly.

He looked me over suspiciously. I had practiced this disguise for weeks. The fake beard was perfection, my coloring changed slightly with makeup, my extra inches of height hidden with thin-soled boots and a slight slouch, and my gut augmented with padding to fill out the stolen camouflage uniform. I had watched the Pakistani Captain, studying his mannerisms, his movements. I looked exactly like the fat, middle-aged, washed-up, bureaucrat hack from an ineffective and corrupt organization.

Since the receptionist didn’t pick the AK off his desk and empty a magazine of hot lead into my chest, I could safely assume my disguise worked. I watched the guard over the tops of the Pakistani’s spectacles. I had replaced the prescription lenses with plain glass after murdering the real Captain this afternoon. Finally the lieutenant spoke. “Do you need more money?”

“Those border checkpoints won’t bribe themselves open,” I responded, my accent, tone, and inflection an almost perfect impersonation. I made a big show of looking at my watch. Carl and Train had better be loading that truck fast. “I must be back soon or my superiors will suspect something.”

“General is busy man,” he said, the sigh in his voice indicating what a bother I was being. He gestured toward his subordinate. “Search him.”

I raised my arms as the soldier gave me a cursory pat down. I was, of course, unarmed. I couldn’t risk the possibility that one of these amateurs might take their job seriously. Bringing a weapon into the same room as a rebel leader was a good way to get skinned alive. The search I received was so negligent that I could have smuggled in an RPG, but no use crying over spilt milk. I lowered my arms.

“Let’s go,” the lieutenant motioned for me to follow. The three of us went down a hallway that stank of cigarette smoke. The light was provided by naked bulbs that hummed and flickered weak yellow light. We passed other rooms flanked by soldiers. Quick glances through the windows showed village laborers, mostly old women and children, preparing narcotics for shipment. Revolutions need funding too. Finally we reached a set of double doors with a well-fed guard on each side. These boys were bigger, smartly dressed, wearing vests bristling with useful equipment, and kept their rifles casually pointed at me as we approached.

The general’s personal bodyguards and the lieutenant exchanged some indecipherable dialog. I was patted down again, only this time it was brutally and invasively thorough, making me glad that my weapons were in the truck. The guard pulled my radio from my belt, yanking the cord out from under my shirt. He started to jabber at me.

“Regulations require me to have it at all times,” I replied. The guard held it close to his chest, suspicious. “Fine, but I need it back when we’re done here.” The two led me into the inner sanctum while the lieutenant and the first guard returned to their post. That just left me with two heavily armed and trained thugs to deal with. The odds were now in my favor.

Now this room was more like it. Most warlords learned to like the finer things in life. While their army slept in mud huts and ate bugs, they lived plush and fat. Being the boss does have its perks. The furnishings were opulent, but random and mismatched, a shopping trip of looting across the country. The air was twenty degrees cooler as a portable AC unit pumped air down on us.

The warlord was waiting for me, reclining in an overstuffed leather chair, smoking a giant cigar, with his feet resting on a golden Buddha. This man had spread terror over this region for a generation and grown obscenely rich in the process. He’d also become soft and complacent, which worked to my benefit. He was grizzled, scarred, and watching a 56” TV on the wall, tuned to some situation comedy that I couldn’t understand. The volume was cranked way too high. “You want see me, Captain?” he grunted, puffing around the cigar. “What you want?”

He was ten feet away. I had a guard standing at attention on either side of me. “If I am to continue smuggling ordnance for you, I will need more money.” I put on an air of meekness, of subservience, while in reality I was taking every detail, calculating every angle. My pulse was quickening, but I gave no outward indication. I coughed politely against the cloud of Cuban smoke.

“Eh? I already pay you. Pay you good. Maybe too good…”

“They set up another checkpoint just north of the river. I’ll need cash to payoff the garrison commander there.”

The warlord sighed as he stood. “UN troops so greedy.” He limped over to the wall and pulled back a tapestry, revealing a vault door, just where my informant said it would be. “Old days, we just kill each other. Peacekeepers make it so complicated now. Peacekeepers…” he snorted. “No better than my men, but with pretty blue hats.” No disagreement from me on that one. The UN was less than useless, though their ineptitude created plenty of business opportunities for men like me. “Maybe someday my country not have war, then my men get pretty blue hats, and we can go to other countries and rape their women and take their money. Hah!”

I waited patiently for him to spin the dial. That vault was state of the art, rated TXTL-60, and would have required quite some time and a lot of noise for me to defeat on my own. Better to just have the man open it for you. I glanced over at one of the waiting guards. He had a Russian bayonet sheathed on the front of his armor. He smirked, taking my look to be one of nervousness. After all, what did he have to worry about from a middle-aged Pakistani who was just padding his paycheck? The guard turned his attention back to the TV.

“How much you need?” the warlord asked. The lock clicked. The vault hissed open.

The man at my right snickered along with the laugh track as my hand flew to his sheathed bayonet. “I’ll be taking all of it.” Steel flashed red, back and forth, and before either guard could even begin to react, they were dead. I jerked the knife out from under the second guard’s ear and let the body flop.

“Huh?” The warlord turned and saw only me standing. His bleary eyes flicked down to see his men twitching on the ground, then back up at me, dripping bayonet in hand. “But, what…” then he said something incomprehensible but obviously profane as understanding came. He saw his end.

The general’s pistol started to come out of his holster. I covered the distance in an instant, ran the knife up the inside of his arm before driving it between his ribs. I removed the gun from his nerveless fingers and left the old man tottering as I went back for my radio. The warlord went to his knees as I hit the transmit button.

“I’m in.”

Carl came back before I even had the earpiece back in place. “–truck’s loaded. Status?”

Stepping over the dying warlord, I glanced inside the vault. It was about the size of a walk-in closet. Rebellions ran on cold hard cash. There were stacks of money inside. A quick check revealed that much of it was in Euros, which was good, because many of the regional denominations weren’t worth the effort to carry out.

“Status? Filthy rich… Train, bring three of the big packs. You’ve got two guards in the entrance, three more in the hallway. Carl, you got a shot at that generator?”

“No problem.”

“Execute,” I ordered before noticing that the warlord was still breathing, gasping for air around a perforated lung, one useable hand clamped to his side, the spreading puddle of blood ruining the nice Persian rug beneath. I squatted next to him. “I must have hit you a little lower than expected. You should already be dead. Sorry about that.”

“Who… who…” the old man gasped.

`“You don’t know me. It’s nothing personal, just business.” The lights flickered and died as Carl killed the generator. It was pitch black inside the old plantation. I rested next to the dying man and waited. The warlord finally breathed his last and embarked on his short journey to Hell. A moment later the door opened and a hulking shadow entered. Train pressed a tubular object into my hands and I quickly strapped the night vision device over my head. The world was a sudden brilliant green. “You get them all?”

“Yeah. Smoked ‘em,” he answered as he handed me my suppressed pistol. The can was warm to the touch. “Where’s the cash?”

The two of us stuffed as many bills as would fit into the three big backpacks. I threw on one, and Train, being half-pack animal, took the other two. I took point and led us out. I had to kill one more guard who blundered blindly into the dark from one of processing rooms. We didn’t even slow as I put a pair of nearly silent 9mm rounds through his skull. Bodies were scattered around the entrance. It had started to rain. Carl started the truck as Train climbed into the back. I handed up my pack of cash.

I crawled into the cab and pulled off the NVGs. “Let’s go.” Carl nodded and put the beast into gear. I kept my pistol in my lap, and I knew that Train was ready to fire a belt-fed machine gun through the fabric back of the truck, just in case the alarm was raised before we made it out.

The rain comes hard in Burma. The gate guards barely even paid us mind as the truck approached. I watched them through the windshield wipers as they sullenly left the security of their overhang to move the barricade. The man with the finger-necklace glanced back toward the command post and shrugged as he noticed that the lights were out again. I saluted as we rolled out. The muddy jungle road stretched before us. We were home free. I activated my radio. “Reaper, we’re out. Meet us at the bridge.”

“On the way,” was the distorted reply.

“We did it,” I sighed. The spirit gum pulled at my cheeks as I yanked the fake beard off and tossed it on the floorboards. The glasses and idiotic blue beret followed. “There had to be at least a quarter mil in the vault.”

“That was too easy,” Carl said, always the pessimist.

“No. We’re just that good.”

There was a sudden clang of metal from the back, then a burst of automatic weapons fire. I glanced at Carl and he was already giving the truck more gas. Somebody had raised the alarm. “Told you,” he snorted.

“Lorenzo, taking fire,” Train shouted into the radio. Then there was a terrible racket as he opened up with the SAW and ripped the guards at the gate to bits. Bullets quit hitting our truck, which was a relief, since it just happened to be filled to the brim with high explosives.

I checked the rear-view mirror. Through the raindrops I could see headlights igniting. They were coming after us, and they were going to be really pissed off. Train had just popped the men who would normally be moving the barricade, so that would buy us a minute, but our stolen truck would never outrun all of those jeeps on this kind of road.

It could never be simple… “Go to Plan B,” I said into the radio.

We reached the bridge over the Say-Loo river nearly a minute ahead of our pursuers. A hundred yards long, it was the only crossing for miles and had been built by captives of the Japanese army over five decades ago. The wood creaked ominously as our heavy truck rumbled over it. We stopped halfway across and bailed out. Headlights winked through the rain three times from the other end of the bridge, confirming that Reaper was waiting for us. Train tossed a bag of money to Carl and the detonator to me. He shouldered the other two bags with one hand and carried the SAW like a suitcase.

The three of us walked to the waiting Land Rover. I could hear the approaching rebel vehicles. “Bummer about the ordnance,” Train said. “That would’ve been worth some serious dough back in Thailand.”

“Beats having our fingers end up on that one guy’s necklace,” Carl muttered.

We reached the waiting vehicle and piled in. Reaper scooted over as Carl got behind the driver’s seat. Carl always drove. He spun us around through the mud so we could head toward the border. I glanced back at the bridge, noting the swarm of flashlights swinging around the UN truck. I waited until we were several hundred yards down the road before pressing the button.

The explosion detonated the block of C4 that Train had stuck to the crates of 82mm mortar rounds and 155mm artillery shells. A tenth of a second later the truck was destroyed in a spreading concussion that blew the pursuing rebels into clouds of blood and meat and turned the Say-Loo river bridge into splinters. The shockwave washed over our vehicle and popped our ears.

My crew gasped at the intensity of the display. “Impressive,” I mumbled, before turning my attention to counting the money.

Movie Review: Mother of Tears

Movie Review: Mother of Tears  http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0804507/

As many of you know, I’m a huge fan of horror movies.  (Duh) My tastes run more toward monsters, and the lower budget the better, than to slasher flicks.  (it’s kinda hard for professional self defense instructors to watch a movie where one dude with a knife is supposed to be so terrifying) I’ve watched literally hundreds of horror movies, (sad, just think of how many more novels I could have written during that time, except that I need the inspiration that only B movies can give) and if you’ve watched a lot of horror, you’ve watched  a lot of Italian movies.  And if you’ve watched a bunch of Italian movies, you’ve watched something that involved Dario Argento.  (he wrote & produced Demoni 1 & 2, Demons in America, two of my favorites, which are so amazingly awesomely rocking over the top in a bad/good way that they are absolute classics of the 80s).

I wanted to like Mother of Tears, I really did. I like the director, I like the idea, I even like the lead actress, but despite some good bits and an overall cool look, it was at best a Meh…

I warn you now, the rest of this will be filled with SPOILERS. 

Well, actually I can sum up the spoilers pretty quickly, there are boobies, a handful of people die, the protagonist runs away, it doesn’t make sense, then there are more boobies. The End.

Now for the more detailed version. The story starts with a construction crew unearthing a body buried with an urn. Wait, I digress, the story actually starts with a really long opening credit sequence that shows various pictures from art history textbooks.  You know, people suffering in hell, guy with goat head, woman with goat head, more suffering in hell, more goats, etc.  My wife was an art history major in college. I’m pretty sure she has that book still. I think it was called 15th Century Catholics really hated goats.

The urn is apparently filled with an absolutely evil McGuffin, so a monsignor (apparently realizing how evil the McGuffin box is) ships it to a museum where some expert on the occult can look at it.  In order to ensure that the box will only be examined by an absolute expert, and not some art history students who will accidentally bleed on it and unleash ultimate evil, he seals it in wax.  Because apparently actually putting a note on it to not let the art students dick around with it would be too bothersome. (or just reburying the damn thing in the ground where apparently it has done just fine for a couple hundred years).

 So Asia Argento and her colleague (her name doesn’t matter, she’s a chick in an Argento movie, she’ll be dead in minutes anyway) open the box and unpack some statues and a badly knitted sweater (from Etsy I’m betting). Then Asia wanders off long enough for some evil creatures, a hot chick (I think, editing wasn’t clear if she was actually there) and a totally random monkey to show up.  Now I’m not sure if they came out of the box, or they just walked into the museum, or what, but anyway the other girl gets stabbed, mouth-ercized, and choked to death on her own intestines.   

Which brings me to a point to ponder. Are Italians really that difficult to kill? I mean these guys take the cake in horror movies. People don’t just die quickly in Italian movies, they die for at least five minutes.  Italians can’t die from a single stab wound. You also have to gouge their eyes out, set them on fire, and toss them off a ledge.  Apparently Italians contain high volumes of blood kept at a very low blood pressure. So there’s lots of it, but losing it doesn’t seem to do much.  Most humans work on basic principles of biology, but Argento’s people work off the hit point system.

Asia is chased by the evil monkey, but escapes. And no, it isn’t a particularly large monkey. It is just one of those little annoying ones. But come on, working for an ancient evil witch is way cooler than collecting change for that guy at the pier with that little music box thingy. (called an Organ Grinder apparently, thanks Wikipedia).  By the way, one of those damn little monkeys bit me once when I was a kid. There was an organ grinder at the beach one day, and I went to give his stupid monkey a nickel, and the little bastard bit me on the thumb…  It was traumatizing. It was probably the same monkey in the movie, or at least I’ll assume it was.

Well, I’m not five anymore, monkey. Yeah, if any punk-ass simian tries to chase me now I’d kick a field goal with them… I don’t know if you can tell that I’m still a little bitter.

I’m not sure if the witch came out of the box, but anyways, once the box is open, people in Rome start to go crazy. Random acts of violence occur. In fact, for the entire remainder of the movie, people will be in the background of nearly every outdoor scene, listlessly shoving each other.  Seriously. Every single scene, and sometimes they’re back there for quite awhile. Argento decides to up the ante however, by having some woman toss her baby off a bridge. This was to be the first of many random acts of violence against children, because nothing shows that you’re “edgy” like picking on children.

There is an effeminate British guy that is apparently Asia’s boyfriend/curator of the museum, not that the script or the actors gave any indication that they were romantically involved until when the scene changes and they’re in bed together.  (I don’t know about you guys, but nothing says romance to me like watching one of my coworkers get strangled with their small intestine!) 

More random stuff happens, the British guy’s kid gets kidnapped. (and later I think cannibalized by witches, but the editing was a little unclear).  The Brit disappears. And Asia heads to the train station, where we are introduced to the fact that witches all dress like they’re straight out of a bad 1980’s video and prance about cackling in large groups like an episode of Sex in the City. (not that I’ve ever seen that, mind you).

And then it turns out that Asia can turn invisible. No.  Really.  Then she kills the wicked witch of the far-east by hitting her head in a train door a couple of times.  It didn’t look like it took much force to cause the head to completely explode either, but it is a well known fact that witch’s skulls are very porous.  Witchcraft is the #2 cause of osteoporosis.  

Then there are more random boobies. Then Udo Kier.  Then more violence against children. The Udo gets a meat cleaver to the head and then more stuff happens.  Some woman who we don’t know shows up and randomly info-dumps the plot into our lap, complete with a slide show. (oh yeah, Asia is hearing voices and it happens to be her dead mom, who happened to be a Good Witch, who killed a bad witch, and this random woman just happens to be here to helpfully explain everything) Asia then escapes a bunch of lunatics (luckily only the pretty ones are topless) and her car speeds dramatically away, only it happens to be a Fiat, and there isn’t really much that you can do to make a French economy car look “dramatic”.

There is a brief scene where Asia returns home, and there is actually a timer on the light bulb for the stairwell.  Gotta keep them carbon emissions under control. Pardon me while I laugh at Europe for a moment… Okay, with that out of my system.

Luckily, the info-dump woman just happens to be a Psychic German Lesbian, (and yes, that would be a great name for a band), who teaches Asia how to see spirits.  Then there are lesbians… but sadly the monkey shows up and ruins everything.   I don’t know about you, but if I was a Psychic German Lesbian, and I was hiding someone from a super-evil witch with her own death cult, I wouldn’t get all distracted with hot lesbian sex… Oh, who am I kidding?  The PGL is murdered in a totally unnecessary manner with a spear while Asia runs away again. (are you sensing a trend yet?)

I may be getting the plot out of order, but I don’t think it matters.  The effeminate British man turns up, only he’s apparently already had his throat cut.  The symptoms of having your throat slashed are very similar to swine flu.  Asia sets him on fire, and she is rescued by her mother’s ghost so that she can run away again.  Oh, and the ghost effect?  We’re talking Power Rangers level special effects here.

So then Asia goes to an alchemist (his assistant was a finalist on American Idol) who will teach her how to use her Good Witch powers.  She doesn’t actually learn anything, but is given a book that shows a picture of the witch’s house that is somewhere in Rome.  So Asia is driven around in a cab, because though the city is melting down, and there are people listlessly shoving each other in the background of every exterior shot, you can still catch a cab. She better have given that cabbie one hell of a good tip.

(Here’s a tip. It’s the apocalypse. Get the hell out of town!)

Asia finds the Mother of Tear’s top secret hideout by randomly spotting and following a group of women that were Tina Turner’s backup dancers from that video about Thunderdome.  The evil death cult has a super advanced security system though, and Asia is forced to use her wits and cunning to—Naw, I’m just messing with you.  The security system is apparently a single homeless guy and a secret door that is clearly labeled as being a secret door.

So then we get to our final, ultimate, climatic showdown, between Asia the Good Witch and the Mother of Breast Implants.  You may be expecting an awesome battle of good vs. evil, but instead the monkey pulls Asia’s hair and she is easily captured. But while the Mother of Nipples of distracted, Asia uses a spear to pull off the witch’s Etsy sweater and tosses it in the fire.  The sweater burns and that is pretty much it…

So… a super powerful witch that has been terrorizing Europe for thousands of years is defeated when her sweater is burned? That has got to be nearly as big a punk-out as the witch from Wizard of Oz dying from friggin’ water or M. Night Shyamalan’s candy-ass space aliens.   So why didn’t all these occult experts just burn the sweater to begin with?  Sigh…

So then there is a big earthquake.  The spire falls off the house, through three floors, and just happens to stab the Mother of Boobies to death.  A big rock squishes the monkey!  Take that you banana-eating bastard! Yay!  Then Asia randomly runs away, screaming, and falls in the mud, where she is rescued. AGAIN.

The End.

I could have liked this movie. It really looked good in a lot of places. It had tons of potential, but it just didn’t work.  I could have disliked it for the many plot holes, but I’m a B movie nerd. Plot? I don’t need no stinkin’ plot! But I think what really did it in for me was how the protagonist was basically useless.  She didn’t really fight. She just ran from one place to another. Somebody would try to help her, then die. Run. Repeat. Burn sweater.  Throw some boobies in and that was pretty much the movie.

All the Grimnoir Quotes

My next upcoming series is called the Grimnoir Chronicles. The first book in the series is called Hard Magic. It is an alternative history/epic fantasy that takes place in 1932 in a world where magical powers began to appear in the 1850s. Each of the chapters starts with a fake historical quote designed to flesh out the differences between the TGC world and ours. That enabled me to concentrate on the important things, like using a Thompson on a demon or big magic fights agains the Imperial Japanese.  Because that is just how I roll.  Toni enjoyed Hard Magic, so it will be coming out from Baen. Hard Magic will probably be released in 2011.

I’ve posted a few of these here before as I was originally writing the book, but I don’t think I ever put them all into one place. So here are the chapter opening quotes from Hard Magic.  Hopefully they’ll give you a bit of a glimpse into the TGC universe.

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One general law, leading to the advancement of all organic beings, namely, multiply, vary, let the strongest live and the weakest die. The appearance of esoteric and etheral abiliites, magical fires and feats of strength, in recent decades are the purest demonstration of natural selection. Surely, in time, that general law will require the extinction of traditional man.

Charles Darwin, On the Origin of Man and Selection of Human Magical Abilities, 1879

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We now have over a thousand confirmed cases of individuals with these so-called magical abilities on the continent alone. The faculty has descended into a terrible uproar over the proper nomenclature for such specimens. All manner of Latin phrases have been bandied about. Professor Gerard even suggested Grimnoir, a combination of the old French Grimoire, or book of spells, with Noir, for Black, in the sense of the mysterious, for at this juncture the origin of said Powers remains unknown. He was laughed down. Personally, I’ve taken to calling them wizards, for the very idea of there being actual magic beyond the bounds of science causes my esteemed colleagues to sputter and choke.

Dr. L. Fulci, Professor of Natural Science, University of Bern, Personal Journal 1852

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The learned gentlemen from the university have asked me if I relied on Einstein’s General Theory of Relativity or if I used the simpler rules of Newton’s Law of Universal Gravitation on the evening in question when I accidentally took Sheriff Johnson’s life . Shit. I don’t know. I just got angry and squished the fucker. But I’ve gotten better at running things and I promise not to do it no more.

Jake Sullivan, Parole Hearing, Rockville State Penitentiary 1928

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As soon as the idea was introduced that all men were equal before God, that world was bound to collapse. Behold the failed America, a culture steeped in rot, their magics used publicly in the streets, without control, even allowed to the despicable Jew.

Adolph Hitler, Final Munich speech before his arrest and execution by firing squad,1929

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I do not know why almighty God saw fit to give to man, within this very decade, magics of the elements and a quickening of the mind, Powers beyond reason and comprehension, and spells of energy and the spirit, when we were already so poised to destroy ourselves on our own. We enter tumultuous times. Left to our own devices I believe that I could stay this nation’s course, to hold this Union firm, but now I fear. Only five years have passed since the magicians began to appear seemingly at random from our people and I know not where this path will lead.

Oh why, Lord, did you see fit to give that accursed Stonewall Jackson the strength of ten?   

Abraham Lincoln, Document discovered in the Smithsonian Archives, date unknown

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Gentlemen, we have now reached the last point. If anyone of you doesn’t mean business let him say so now. An hour from now will be too late to back out. Once in, you’ve got to see it through. You’ve got to perform without flinching whatever duty is assigned you, regardless of the difficulty or the danger attending it. If it is steering the clouds and calling down lightning, if it is hurling fire or steel, if it is breaking the German’s will, or dragging their Battle Zeppelins from the sky, if it is the closest kind of fighting — be anxious for it. You must know your Power, how to shoot, and how to stay alive. No matter what comes you mustn’t squeal. Think it over — all of you. If any man wishes to withdraw he will be gladly excused, for others are ready to take his place.

General Theodore Roosevelt, from speech given to 1st Volunteer Brigade (Active) before second battle of the Somme 1918

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MAGIC LEADS TO TERROR – City Firemen were unable to contain the FIRE that ripped through a Mar Pacifica estate on Sunday evening until there were only charred remains of the home, belonging to famous big game hunter L.S. Talon. A TERRIBLE DISCOVERY was made once the DEADLY flames were extinguished. So far, SEVEN human bodies have been recovered from the scene. Local residents say that there was a great commotion and much GUNFIRE before the conflagration spread.  RUMOR is that Mr. Talon was a supporter of MAGIC and was himself an ACTIVE. He has been missing since Sunday and is believed to be amongst the DEAD. 

Article, San Francisco Examiner, 1929.

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Why did I join the 1st Volunteers? That’s a tough one. My older brother, Matt, he just liked to fight, and  figured Germans would serve good as any. My other brother, Jimmy, he was simple. He went wherever we went. Me… I was the one that liked to ponder on stuff. Roosevelt did like he did before with the Rough Riders. My daddy was a Rough Rider in Cuba. President Wilson didn’t want him to go, but General Roosevelt wanted to prove that Actives were good for the country. Got himself killed in the process. Never did like his politics, too Progressive for me, but I’d follow that man into battle anytime. Lousy politician, great leader… Sorry. The question… Why’d I go? I guess I felt a duty to show that Actives could be the useful… that we could be the good guys… I was a fool.

Jake Sullivan, Parole Hearing, Rockville State Penitentiary 1928

#

 

 

My cavalry unit was camped eighty-two kilometers south of the Podkamennaya basin that morning. Despite driving the Green Cossack army back for nearly three months, the Nipponese troops had withdrawn earlier in the week. Their retreat was unexpected, but a welcome chance for us to regroup, tend to our wounds, and fatten our fighting bears on the local reindeer herds. We discovered the reason for the Imperials’ retreat around breakfast. A blue light appeared in the northern sky, rising from the horizon as a pillar, until it disappeared into the clouds. Scouts estimated the disturbance was near the position of our main infantry encampments. Kapitan Kurgan had a pocket watch. He said the disturbance started at exactly 7:00. Flocks of birds and large numbers of forest animals retreated past our camp in the direction opposite the light. At 7:05 the light had grown so bright that it was as if there was a second sun. Then the noise came, like the sound of artillery. The earth shook. All of us were knocked to the ground. The sky split in two and the light turned to fire. The fire grew until the entire north was fire and it came toward us. The hot wind came after the thunder, snapping down all the trees of the forest and flinging our tents. The temperature increased until it was unbearable. Our clothing caught fire and our bears went mad from the pain, turning on their Controllers and rending them. I was thrown approximately two hundred meters into the river. The water boiled. That is all that I recall.   

Leytenant D. Vasiliev’s animated corpse. Testimony to the Tsar’s Investigative Council on the Tunguska Event. 1908

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It was nearly eleven o’clock – an immensely late hour for those latitudes – but the whole town was still gathered in the Gatlinburg courthouse yard, listening to the disputes of theologians. The Scopes trial had brought them in from all directions. There was a friar wearing a sandwich sign announcing that he was the Bible champion of the world. There was a Seventh Day Adventist arguing that Clarence Darrow was the beast with seven heads and ten horns described in Revelation XIII, and that the end of the world was at hand. A charlatan magician was escorted from the premises for pulling a rabbit from a hat, while nearby a fundamentalist of the Merlin-Baptists pontificated on the epistles of St. Paul while shooting lightning from his eyes and none dared interrupt that sermon.  There was the eloquent Dr. T.T. Martin, of Blue Mountain, Mississippi, who had come to town with a truck-load of torches (the wooden, not the human kind) and hymn books to put Darwin in his place. There was a singing brother bellowing apocalyptic hymns. There was William Jennings Bryan, followed everywhere by a gaping crowd. It was better than the circus.

H.L. Mencken, Editorial in the Baltimore Mercurium about the Tennessee Magic-Monkey Trial. 1926

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People ask me how I do it. It is hard to explain. There is just this thing inside, like a battery. It charges up on its own, and I can turn it on when I really need it. The battery runs down fast, too fast, and it takes time to charge back up, but when it is on… I can feel the individual pistons thumping, the air over the wings, I can see the propeller turning… everything. It is like time slows down. Well, mister, let’s just say that when I’m on, I own that sky.

Lt. James H. “Jimmy” Doolittle, Interview after breaking the world airspeed record in a Curtiss R4C Parasite 1927

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Man found that he was faced with the acceptance of “magical” forces, that is to say such forces as cannot be comprehended by the sciences, and yet having undoubted, even extremely strong, effects. The false idea of some comprehensive, unexplainable “ power” was thus born in the collective unconscious … Now that the realm of magic had opened for man, our greatest neuroses have been laid bare, so we explain them away with imaginary things.

Sigmund Freud, Letter composed just prior to his death by cocaine overdose, 1925

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 I am by heritage a Jew, by citizenship a Swiss, by magical gift a Cog, and by makeup a human being, and only a human being, without any special attachment to any state or national entity whatsoever.

Albert Einstein, Letter to Alfred Knesser, 1919

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You can go a long way with a smile. You can go a lot farther with a smile and a gun. A smile, a gun, and a Brute get you the key to the city.

Al “Scarface” Capone, Interview 1930

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 …And on this momentous day, let us remember the brave sacrifice of Junior Assistant 3rd Engineer Harold Ernest Crozier of Southampton, who was lost after an ice collision on our maiden voyage. His natural magical gifts, combined with his great moral fortitude, enabled him to control the incoming waters before there was any other loss of life. He was a credit to the Active race. We shall now have a moment of silence for Engineer Crozier.

Captain Edward J. Smith of the RMS Titanic, on its 5th anniversary cruise, 1917

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As an eminent pioneer in the realm of high frequency currents, I congratulate you on the great success of your life’s work, but I am of the sad belief that your Peace Ray may have been inappropriately named.

Albert Einstein, Letter to Nikola Tesla for Tesla’s 75th Birthday 1931

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It seemed like a good idea at the time.

William M. Jardine, United States Secretary of Agriculture, after the MWAB (Magical Weather Alteration Board) backfired and resulted in record droughts across the Midwest, 1927

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Among the many misdeeds of the British rule in India, history will look upon the act of depriving a whole nation of magic, as the blackest.

Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, 1930

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 It was during my wandering time that I first met an American. The black ships of Commodore Perry had recently arrived in Nippon. These foreign barbarians did not ask the shogun for permission to open trade; they demanded it from the decks of their warships while ringed in cannons under a cloud of coal smoke that blotted out the sky. There was an assumption of this absolute right. The strongest does not ask, cajole, or beg. It is the duty of the strongest to command and the weakest to obey. I had long made my way by selling my sword, and whatever lord I served inevitably became the strongest, so I was well acquainted with this concept at the individual level. Yet, it was the Americans that opened my eyes to the greater possibilities. As the strong lord must rule over the weak peasant, so must the strong nation rule the entire world. I owe them a great deal as I have tried to apply this lesson ever since.

Baron Okubo Tokugawa, Chairman of the Imperial Council, My Story, 1922

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Gott im Himmel. Lassen Sie uns bitte sterben.

Translated: God in Heaven, please let us die. Graffiti seen in Dead City 1925

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The white men were roused by a mere instinct of self-preservation. The negro during Reconstruction was threatening enough, but negroes with powerful magic were an inconceivable threat. At last there had sprung into existence a great Ku Klux Klan, a veritable empire of the south to protect the Southern country, to keep the magical negroes in check. Active Magicals, because of their chaotic nature, must be kept under constant scrutiny, especially those of untrustworthy races.

Woodrow Wilson History of the American People, 1910

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Billy Clanton and Frank McLowry commenced to draw their pistols at the same time Tom McLowry jumped behind a horse. I had my pistol in my overcoat pocket where I had put it. When I saw Billy and Frank draw their pistols I drew my pistol. I knew that the McLowry brothers had the reputation of having wizard’s magic and I aimed at Frank McLowrv. The two first shots which were fired were fired by Billy Clanton and myself he shot at me, and I shot at Frank McLowry. I do not know which shot was first; we fired almost together. Morgan then shot Billy Clanton. The fight then became general. After several shots were fired Ike Clanton ran up and grabbed my arm. I could see no weapon in his hand and thought at the time he had none, and so I said to him, “The fight has now commenced. Go to fighting or get away.” At the same time I pushed him off with my left hand. He started and ran down the side of the building and disappeared between the lodging house and the photograph gallery. My next shot struck Frank McLowry in the belly. He staggered off on the sidewalk but was still able to pick up a horse to throw at us. Virgil was struck by the flying horse before Holliday, who had the shotgun, fired at and killed Frank McLowry. Tom McLowry was unarmed, it made no difference, for his kind does not need a pistol to kill, and I shot him in the head.

 Testimony of Wyatt Earp, Tombstone Epitaph 1881

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We’ve been warned about magic since the days of Adam. Wizards from Canaan and Babylon were always there to lead man astray. Why should now be any different? What if what we’re seeing in these times is a quickening of mankind, tempting us to stray one last time before the last days? This is nothing new. The serpent has just got himself a fancy new suit. Join with me, brethren, and demand that Washington round up these heathen wizards once and for all!

D.W. Griffith At the first screening of his blockbuster film The Death of a Nation, 1918

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The Imperials have a war cry. Tennoheika Banzai. It means something about the emperor ruling for ten thousand years. The emperor is a puppet, but the soldiers meant it when they bellowed it at the tops of their lungs. Their Actives would often charge numerically superior, entrenched positions, with complete disregard for their own lives, confident in the rightness of their cause. Banzai!  

Captain John J. Pershing Army Observation Report on the taking of Vladivostok 1905

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I must tell you, Kermit, of these three particularly remarkable Heavies amongst the volunteers. They come from brave stock, as their father had been with me during the advance on Kettle Hill. Though all three are exceedingly similar physical specimens, these Sullivan brothers could not be of more disparate temperaments. One is a simpleton, with the gentle soul of a child, yet a more diligent soldier you could not ask for. One is a killer of men, a force of calculated belligerence, I fear he is only obedient to his officers because a discharge would jeopardize his opportunity to murder more Huns. The last is a thoughtful young man, the quietest of the three. He shows great promise as a leader. Never before, in all my years of campaigning, have I come across such stalwart troops. I tell you, son, the three are a terror to behold in battle, and if I had a thousand more Sullivans, this war would already be won. 

General Theodore Roosevelt, personal correspondence posted before second battle of the Somme 1918

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We have tried everything. Bullets bounce off. Bombs thrown under his carriage have turned it to splinters and killed the horses, but don’t so much as muss the Chairman’s hair.  He does not sleep so we can’t sneak up on him. He does not eat so we can’t poison him. We’ve tried fire, ice, lightning, death magic, crushing gravity, bone shards, blood curses, all without effect. Decapitation might work, if you could come up with a blade sharp enough, but the finest steel simply dulls against his skin.  Even if you were to wield this modern Excalibur the problem then would be that you can only touch Tokugawa if he lets you. He is all knowing, all seeing, moves faster than the wind, and can Travel in the blink of an eye. You don’t touch the Chairman. The Chairman touches you, and as far as we’ve observed, that only happens when he’s ripping the very soul from your body.

Frank Baum, knight of the Grimnoir, testimony to the elders’ council, 1911

#

I swear before my God and these witnesses that I will stay true to the right and good, that my magic will be used to protect, not to enslave, that all my strength and wisdom must always shield the innocent. I swear to fight for liberty though it cost my life. The Society will be my blood and its knights my brothers, and that I will always heed the wisdom of the elders’ council. I willingly pledge my magic, my knowledge, my resources, and my life to uphold these things.

Oath of the Grimnoir Society, original date unknown

 

 

A snippet from Monster Hunter Vendetta

Recently Toni Weiskopf from Baen suggested that I needed to post some snippets of upcoming works.  Monster Hunter Vendetta is the 2nd book in the MH universe, and will be released in Fall of 2010.  This is from the unedited version.

“When monsters have nightmares, they’re dreaming about us.”

-MHI Company Handbook

 

 

 

 

Monster Hunter Vendetta

Chapter 1

            It was less than a year ago that the illusion shattered and I got my welcome to the real world. Up until that point I considered myself perfectly average, living a normal life, with a regular career. That all changed the night my accounting supervisor turned into a werewolf and tried to eat me. Now there are basically two ways to deal with such a problem. Most people confronted with something so hideously impossible tend to curl up into the fetal position and die. On the other hand, those of us destined to become Monster Hunters simply take care of business. He almost ended my life but I tossed him out a fourteenth-story window. He died, I didn’t. That makes me the winner.

            After that initial encounter I was approached with a job offer. Apparently survivors like me aren’t that common, and as a result killing a monster is a real resume builder. I was recruited by Monster Hunter International, the premier eradication company in the business. We protect mankind from the unnatural forces that come crawling out from our darkest nightmares, and in return, we get paid the big bucks. 

It wasn’t that long after I started my new job that MHI came up against an unfathomable evil from the past. It took everything we had to survive, but in the end, the Cursed One was defeated and I literally saved the world.

I was employee of the month.

#

            The biggest chupacabra in the pack was only four feet tall, but what they lacked in mass, they made up for in sheer ferocity. Being unable to get to their dinner was making them even surlier than usual. The peasant girl had been futilely tinkering with the engine of her broken down Chevy Vega when the first chupacabra had come sniffing onto the jungle road. Her screams at seeing the little demon-lizard-insect-thing hopped down the dirt lane like a demented miniature kangaroo had driven it into a frenzy, and she had barely managed to dive into the car ahead of its snapping jaws. Her continued cries from behind the locked doors of the old rust bucket had attracted the rest of the pack, and now there were a dozen of the creatures clambering on the car.

            Chupacabras do not normally attack people. The puncture tubes that jut from their mouths could pierce a human skull like a screwdriver through a milk jug, but instinctively they stick to preying on small animals. Once a chupacabra pack has tasted human blood, however, they absolutely will not stop, and killings become more and more frequent. From what I have seen in this business, people must be either extremely tasty, or addictive like monster crack.

            The creatures were scratching and clawing at the car’s windows and roof. The girl just kept on screaming. She had a remarkably good set of lungs for this kind of thing, which is why we’d picked her. Her cries spurred the monsters on, and they all began to shriek as well, echoing across the dark jungle canopy for miles.

            The four-footer jumping up and down on the hood of the Vega was pissed. It had to be the pack’s alpha male, and it couldn’t figure out why the glass wasn’t breaking. I watched it carefully through the night vision monocular.

            “I think he suspects something,” Trip Jones whispered.

            I nodded. They might be clever for creatures with brains the size of tangerines, but the goat-suckers had never run into bulletproof glass before. Finally the alpha hopped off the car and scurried over to the side of the road. I almost keyed my radio, but he hesitated there, looking for something, and came up with a rock. He crawled back on the hood, raised the rock, and started banging away at the windshield. The others cheered and hooted him on.

            “Hey, I didn’t know suckers knew how to use tools,” Milo Anderson said over the radio. He was positioned on the other side of the road. All of us were wearing ghillie suits and had been lying in the underbrush being eaten by insects for hours. The foul smelling grease that we had rubbed on ourselves earlier to hide our smell from the chupacabra’s sensitive noses also served as seasoning for the region’s bugs.

My radio crackled. “We’ll have to update the database,” Julie Shackleford replied, the roar of the chopper’s engine could be heard behind her. “Tool use… That’s fascinating.”

            Apparently our fake peasant, Holly Newcastle, didn’t think it was nearly as fascinating from her position as bait in the front seat of the Vega. The theatrical screaming stopped for a moment. “Uh… guys…” The rest of us could hear the glass cracking in the background. “Guys?”

            We had three members of Monster Hunter International hiding in the brush, one in the decoy car, two more on the rapidly approaching attack-helicopter, carefully positioned claymores along the roadside, piles of guns, thousands of rounds of ammo, state of the art night-vision and thermal imaging equipment, a lot of attitude, and a general dislike of evil beasties.

I keyed my microphone and unleashed hell.

“Execute.” 

            My name is Owen Zastava Pitt and I kill monsters for a living.

100 Reviews on Amazon and still at 5 stars! Yay!

http://www.amazon.com/Monster-Hunter-International-Larry-Correia/dp/1439132852/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1260575069&sr=8-1

Today I hit 100 reviews on Amazon, and I’m still at 5 stars.  I know it is dorky as sin, but I really had my fingers crossed that it would be at 5 stars when it hit that milestone.  Yes, I am a nerd. Mea culpa.  Writers are weird like that I guess.

In other news, all the patches and signed copies will be going out Monday, except for the last 5 books that were ordered.  I ran out of books today, and all my local bookstores are sold out.  I’ve got a few others that I can hit on Monday on my way back from work, but it looks like I’ll get everyone except for the people who ordered in the last week.

MHI patches from around the world

Or from south west Asia at least:

Operation Baen Bulk was a project started by some of the Barflies over at www.baen.com They’ve been sending care packages and books overseas for Christmas.

So for those of you who’ve ordered patches recently, but haven’t gotten them yet, it was because all my remaining ones went to these guys. You’ll have to take it up with them…  Okay, just kidding, UPS just dropped off another box of patches to me, so I’ll get all the autographed copies and patches out the door in time for you to have them for Christmas.

THE CHRISTMAS (NOUN) 2: THE (NOUN)ENING

As many of you may remember, last year I started a Christmas tradition. I released snippets of my as-of-yet unpublished epic Christmas novel, the Christmas (Noun).  http://larrycorreia.wordpress.com/2008/12/22/the-christmas-noun/   (which I recommend that you read first, so this will make more sense)

 It is a tale of forgiveness, redemption, love, and Black Tiger kung-fu.  Yet, because the Christmas (Noun) was such an amazing story, so far beyond any other work of great traditional literature (like Moby Dick, or Schlock Mercenary) that I’ve yet to find a traditional publisher daring enough to buy this story of Christmas awesomeness.   My regular publisher asked me if I was off my anti-psychotic medications again, and yes, I was, but that’s entirely beside the point.

So despite this, (and egged on because all those other Mormon writers keep making billions off their Christmas novels featuring Jars, Letters, Sweaters, and other nouns), I have produced The Christmas (Noun) 2.  Market research has not yet determined what the noun will be at this time. I’m still working on that.

So, ladies and gentlemen readers of Monster Hunter Nation, I present to you, snippets of the epic masterpiece, The Christmas (Noun) 2: The (Noun)ening:

***

 From Chapter 1.

“I am the Ghost of Christmas Past,” said the ghost of Christmas past.

Tim frowned suspiciously. “I don’t know… you look a lot like that one dude, what’s his face? Christopher Walken.” And as we all know that is kind of scary.  I mean, have you watched the Prophecy? Holy crap.   

 The Ghost of Christmas Past paused and adjusted his bowtie. “Maybe, but contractually, I cannot comment. A man’s gotta work you know. Now are you listening or not?”

“Sure,” Tim shrugged. “But I don’t get it. I already saved Christmas last year. I learned the true spirit of the Christmas (noun), fought the Anti-Claus in the Peppermint Thunderdome, and rescued Hulk Hogan and a bunch of puppies… what else do you people want from me?”

The Ghost of Christmas Past handed Tim a big stainless .45 automatic. “Christmas needs you, Tim. To save it… in the FUTURE!”

Tim took the gun. “You know, this violates the heck out of my parole.”

***

From Chapter 2.

The children laughed and played after they found the magic hat. And when they put it on a snowman’s head, it came to life. But it didn’t really dance or do anything cool, so the kids thought it was pretty boring.  

“This is stupid,” said one of them. “We should have put the magic hat that makes stuff come alive on something that didn’t suck.”

“Like a monster truck!” suggested another. “Or a dinosaur!”  The village children were not very smart.

“Hey, everybody! Maybe it’ll be like Frosty the Snowman,” suggested one of the children. “Dance, Frosty!”   

“Frosty?” The snowman asked, and then sucker punched the kid in the face. “Frosty? I’ll show you Frosty…” he started after them, but the children were already running for their lives. He shook his fist in the air. “Frosty is a punk. I’m Stabby the Snowman,” the evil snowman shouted as it broke a razor sharp icicle off a nearby roof and tested the balance.   “And Stabby don’t dance.”

 Even though it was snowing, there was an ominous crack of thunder.

***

From Chapter 3.

Sally Love-Interest waited beneath the mistletoe for her boyfriend Tim.  Sally had a crush on Tim since they were eight years old and Tim’s entire family had been torn apart by Christmas.  She loved him extra more now that he’d learned the true meaning of Christmas and killed all those zombie old folks. 

“Where, oh where is Tim?” Sally asked.

“I don’t know, Sally,” said Tim’s mother, gesturing about the mall with her stainless steel candy-cane hands.  “But I’m worried.  There are things I haven’t told young Tim… Terrible Christmas secrets.  You see, Tim’s grandfather was a member of a secret society that protected the Christmas (Noun). Something wicked this way comes this very Christmas Eve. Something wicked and terrible is coming our way now!” She pointed one hook dramatically across the food court.

“Huh?” Sally was easily confused.  “Like from the Orange Julius?”

“Good thing you’re pretty, honey, ‘cause your brains sure won’t pay the bills,” Tim’s mother said, and then proceeded to explain the plot in one big info dump, complete with vague historical references taken out of context, and some poorly researched pseudo-religious innuendo… kind of like a Dan Brown novel.

***

From Chapter 4.

Why are all Santa’s elves making magic hats?  Wondered Tim as he lowered himself on a rope from the skylight like Tom Cruise in Mission Impossible, not the really bad one that John Woo did with all the unnecessary slow motion shots, but that other one. 

Tim couldn’t figure it out. The elves had been kidnapped from Santa’s workshop, and were being forced to make cute little top hats on an assembly line.  A nutcracker cyborg walked behind the elves, randomly hitting them with a bullwhip. Tim hated nutcrackers.

“Stabby is building an army of evil snowmen,” growled the Ghost of Christmas Present, who looked suspiciously like Clint Eastwood.  “He’ll destroy Christmas for sure.” He pulled a .44 magnum from his shoulder holster. “You ready, kid?”

“Born ready,” answered Tim.

***

From Chapter 5.

The army of snowmen was right behind him.  It had been a trap.  They had underestimated Stabby, and despite the sheer radical awesomeness of the ensuing jet-ski chase, the evil snowmen were closing in.

With the Ghosts of Christmas Past & Present trapped in the magic snow globe of pain, there was only one man that Tim could turn to melt the army of snowmen before they ravaged the entire town.

Tim banged on the mansion’s front door.  It opened slowly and a fat man in a bathrobe regarded him suspiciously.  “Former vice president Al Gore?” asked Tim hopefully.

“Yes.”  Al Gore answered suspiciously. “Hmm… you don’t look like a caroler.”

The snowmen were closing in. The mansion was surrounded. Tim had no time to lose, so he karate chopped Al Gore on the neck and carried him inside.

 ***

From Chapter 6.

Al Gore woke up tied to a chair. “What’re you doing? Are you nuts?”

“Nuts like a fox,” Tim answered quickly as he peered through the blinds.  The snowman army was there, waiting for him to make his move. “But I need your help.”  Tim pushed the vice president’s chair to the window. “Check this out.”

Al Gore screamed when he saw the evil snowmen rampaging.  “They’re terrifying, what with their eyes made of coal. Coal is a leading cause of green house gases, just behind farting cows. However, I am glad to see that they are using biodegradable materials such as carrots for noses.”

Tim pimp slapped Al Gore. “Get a hold of yourself, man!”  He thought better of it, and slapped Al Gore again, just because it was kind of fun.

“What can I do to help stop this terrible army of evil snowmen?” Al Gore asked. “Anything. Just please make them go away!”

“I need you to let global warming happen!” Tim said. “Rising temperatures will cause Stabby and his army to melt. We might not be able to save Christmas this year, but we can still save humanity. I’d rather be farming Greenland than impaled on a giant icicle.”

Al Gore grew quiet. “Uhm… well… that may be a bit of a problem…”

“What?” Tim cried. Outside the snowmen were building a siege engine.

“Yeah… that global warming thing. We… uh… we made it up… The data was all fabricated.  I… uh… I just wanted to be important. And I used the money to buy a rockin’ private jet. You must have missed that thing with the e-mails.”

“But… but you won the Nobel Prize!” Tim gasped.

Al Gore laughed. “Are you kidding? Haven’t you been paying attention? They give those things out in Happy Meals now!”

***

From Chapter 7.

Sally Love-Interest screamed in terror as Tim stumbled into the mall. “Tim! You’re covered in blood!”

“Don’t worry, it’s from Al Gore,” Tim answered quickly.  That Stabby sure lived up to his name.

Sally screamed again as the giant-ice-sculpture-main-battle-tank crashed through the mall entrance and rolled through the shoppers at the food court, like a tank through a bunch of squishy things.

“Tim! You have to unleash the power of the Christmas (noun)!” Tim’s mother cried as she tried to lift the Christmas (noun) with her ineffectual hook hands. “Darn it, Sally, be useful for once and pick up this darn(noun).”

Stabby the Snowman leapt from the top of the ice tank, twirling a razor sharp icicle in both hands. Tim dodged as Stabby tried to murder him to death!  Tim picked up a giant Styrofoam candy cane and blocked the attack.

“Is that the best you’ve got?” Tim taunted.

“Freak, dude, I’m made out of snow. What did you expect? Bruce Lee?” Stabby answered.

***

From Chapter 8.

The melting snow was pink with spilled blood.  The mall had been totally wrecked in the epic final battle sequence. Sparks fell from the attack helicopter that was dangling from the Christmas lights, on fire, but the rotor was still turning slowly and dramatically. The Swedish bikini team fanned out with their assault rifles to make sure all the snowmen were melting. Tim picked up the carrot that had been Stabby’s nose and ate it. Tim liked carrots.

“Christmas is saved again,” said Sally Love-Interest gleefully. “Thanks to the Christmas (noun) and the global warming power of love!”

 “Good work, son,” said the mysterious man who magically appeared.  

“Who are you?” asked Tim.

“I think that’s Lance Henriksen, one of only two actors to be killed by a Terminator, an Alien, and a Predator,” said Tim’s mom. The others looked at her. “What? I spend a lot of time on IMDB. I don’t have hands. You expect me to take up bowling?”

“I’m the Ghost of Christmas Future,” said the Ghost of Christmas Future.  “You’ve saved Christmas again, Tim, and there’s somebody important that wants to say thanks.” The guy from Millennium stepped out of the way, and who else should appear, but Santa Claus!

“Tim, thank you for killing that awful snowman and freeing my elves. They made something for you,” and Santa reached into his magic sack and pulled out a present. Tim unwrapped it and saw that it was the limited edition Optimus Prime with laser ax and eyeball cannon that he had wanted when he was eight. “Clerical error down in Naughty/Nice filing,” Santa explained. “I’m sorry your grandfather died for nothing.”

“Sweet!” Tim said. Since it was still in its original packaging, this thing would bring a fortune on E-bay.

And everyone lived happily ever after, until next Christmas, when Rudalfo the Red Nosed Hit-deer and the Reindeer Mafia came to collect on Tim’s gambling debts.

THE END

(once again, a note to readers, The Christmas (Noun) and The Christmas (Noun) 2: The (Noun)ening are not real books. They are spoofs. Do not let the sheer awesomeness of the above writing excellence scare you away from purchasing any of my actual novels that are on sale at Amazon and fine bookstores everywhere)

Merry Christmas!

Signing books, it is not just a job, it’s an adventure. Or. Back from Denver.

Colorado was the last stop of the book signing tour for the year.  

Author John Brown http://johndbrown.com/ and I drove out to Denver this last Friday.  We hit every Barnes & Noble on the way down, did two signings on Saturday, and then had dinner with a bunch of really great people. The first signing went pretty well, the second was awesome.  Several of the B&Ns ordered in lots of extra books for us to sign, even if we were just doing a drive by & sign, in order to have an end cap of signed copies for Christmas sales.

I was able to meet a bunch of people that I know from blogs and forums.  I met Dravur from THR, and then at the night signing I was able to meet Justin http://multigun.wordpress.com/ , and Larry & Sandy Ashcraft, who I’ve known for like ten years on the internet, but who I’d never actually met face to face.  I was finally able to meet Farmgirl http://tractortracks.blogspot.com/ who is awesome, and her mom.  Then a bunch of Colorado bloggers from www.peoplespresscollective.org came.  And I’m probably even forgetting some people.

We ate dinner at a local place, which was good, and then crashed at the hotel, brain damaged and exhausted with low level carpal tunnel from signing so many books.  Luckily, John Brown was not stalked by any Reptoids this trip. (that we know of…)

Denver folks, I love you, but from now on I’m only driving across Wyoming in the summer.  The trip home was just spiffy. It snowed most of the way. We saw eight wrecks between Longmont and Fort Collins.  It was icy, and I discovered that the reason my Focus gets such great gas mileage is because it weighs approximately fifteen pounds, which means that it doesn’t exactly stick to ice very well, and Wyoming/Hoth style winds will shove you around a bit.  At one point I was forced to kill a Tauntaun and crawl inside to stay alive.  I think I actually drove past the Terror and the Erebus. But fifteen hours of white-knuckled terror later, we made it out of the surreal winter wonderland. (If Utah’s motto is “This is the Place!”  Then Wyoming’s motto is “Eh…close enough.”)

I do love Wyoming though. It is the Keep Off My Lawn State. Wyoming people don’t screw around. They don’t take crap off anyone, and since they live through the winter there, they are tough as nails. Wyoming is always the first state to tell the federal government to go to hell on most topics. So I love them. So no offense intended to my Wyoming readers, I just hate your howling winter death winds.

So I’m back, working from home today because we’ve already gotten a foot of snow this morning on the Oquirrh benches, and I don’t feel like driving through anymore snow. 

One little update, if you’ve ordered books or patches from me in the last few weeks, they are going out on Thursday.  I ran out of patches, but UPS says that they are on the way.  Then it is back to work on Alpha, and I will be putting out another Christmas Noun, probably later this week.

John Brown’s review of MHI

http://johndbrown.com/2009/12/monster-hunter-international-by-larry-correia/

John finished MHI while we were on our signing trip through Denver.  I’m swamped trying to catch up at work now, but I’ll post about the trip as soon as I can. We had a great time.

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