DEAD SIX – Coming soon

 

Michael Valentine, veteran and former member of an elite private military company, has been recruited by the government to conduct a secret counter-terror operation in the Persian Gulf nation of Zubara. The unit is called Dead Six. Their mission is to take the fight to the enemy and not get caught. 

Lorenzo, assassin and thief extraordinaire, is being blackmailed by the world’s most vicious crime lord. His team has to infiltrate the Zubaran terrorist network and pull off an impossible heist or his family will die. When Dead Six compromises his objective, Lorenzo has a new job: Find and kill Valentine.

As allegiances are betrayed and the nation descends into a bloody civil war, Lorenzo and Valentine must face off.  Two men. Two missions. Only one will win. 

Coming September 27, 2011

My favorite book review site

I was talking to somebody the other night about book reviews, about how I don’t really pay attention to the big well-known establishment reviewers, and so where to go to get good book reviews. That reminded me I needed to link to these guys. Elitist Book Reviews is by far my favorite place to go for reviews, and I’ll explain why.

http://elitistbookreviews.blogspot.com/

Now it isn’t because I’ve gotten generally positive reviews there either, because I’ve gotten fairly good reviews on most of the bigger review spots, (except for the Publisher’s Weekly one for Hard Magic, because sheesh, talk about missing the point!) it is more because I personally tend to agree with their ratings. Now I don’t always agree, and there are a few writers they like much more than I do, and a few the other way, but overall I find they’re usually pretty spot on.  

More importantly, they usually “get” a book, and understand what type of book the author was shooting for.  So they tend to judge the book in context.

For example, if I write something that is a glorified B-movie pulp action adventure, and a review place pans it for not having enough nuance and subtlety to get on the Oprah Book Club… The reviewer didn’t get it.  On the other hand, if an author wrote a sensitive romantic character study, and the reviewer hated it because there weren’t enough explosions and laser sword battles, the reviewer didn’t get it.  EBR usually gets it, and judges accordingly based on whether it is entertaining or not.

Plus they’re snarky. I enjoy the snark factor. I’m not big on dry, boring language.

I did an interview with Steve the Bookstore Guy (one of the people that runs the place) a while ago. I found out that he writes a review a week, and didn’t miss a week last year. That’s 52 reviews, most of which are 1,000-2,000 words long. That’s not even close to how many books he actually read either, just the ones he reviewed. And he’s not the only reviewer on the site, so they usually have several new reviews up each week.

There are a few other places that I get reviews from. Bookreporter.com has some writers that I like. I also enjoy The Sci-Fi Guys book review. http://scifiguysbookreview.blogspot.com/  Other than that, I enjoy reviews on blogs that I read, but those tend to be sporadic. (though I love when you guys out there post reviews about my stuff, because Word of Mouth rocks).   

So check EBR out. They tend to be more slanted toward fantasy, but they do get into horror, sci-fi, and thrillers as well. And yes, I’ve made sure that they’ll be sent ARCs of all my stuff in the future.

EDIT: of course, I post this, go on Facebook and end up talking to somebody else that does good book reivews that I forgot. http://frommyshelf.blogspot.com/  Ain’t that how it goes? :p

Attention Kindle & Nook users, you can get my next book NOW!

http://www.webscription.net/p-1327-hard-magic-book-i-of-the-grimnoir-chronicles.aspx 

Yep, $6. Go download the eBook for Hard Magic, book 1 of the Grimnoir Chronicles. It is pretty darn awesome, if I do say so myself… In all honesty, I do believe that this is the best thing I’ve ever written.

Think of it as a pulp-noir, action, hard-boiled, alternative-history, fantasy set in an alternative 1932. This book features a teleporting magic ninja fight on top of a flaming pirate dirigible. :)  You can read the first quarter of the book for free at the link above.

Or, for a little light reading set in the same universe, here is a prequel short, called Detroit Christmas. http://www.baen.com/DetroitChristmas.asp 

A response to the Tax Day response

A few days ago I posted a rant about Tax Day. Like a very large chunk of America, I think that the government takes too much of my money, and then squanders it stupidly. So I wrote my opinions on the matter.  http://larrycorreia.wordpress.com/2011/04/15/happy-tax-day/ Apparently somebody found it entertaining because it went viral and the traffic started coming in. I was linked on Pajamas Media and Instapundit, and from there it was linked to several other conservative blogs. I had 3,000 hits before breakfast yesterday, but then I inevitably started getting linked to liberal blogs and the real fun began.

The interesting thing was that the vast majority of the liberal responses followed the same basic formula, over and over and over again.

  1. Find something to attack about the messenger.
  2. Ignore or cherry pick whatever parts of the argument you feel like. (heck, you don’t need to have read it at all!)
  3. Use step 1 and 2 to prove your intellectual superiority over the messenger.
  4. Dismiss the argument.
  5. Repeat until nobody dares to deviate from the group think.

 

It was fascinating. Here, on the small scale of just one dude’s minor little blog, was a perfect microcosm of what passes for political discourse in our country. This isn’t just how I’m responded to, this is how anybody who disagrees is responded to. Many of you have probably experienced the same thing.

So I’m going to go through the liberal responses to point out the pattern. This doesn’t apply to all of them obviously, because I’ve got several very regular liberal posters here on this blog. We disagree constantly. In fact, Nick, my token idealistic college student, was arguing in favor of social programs in those same comments before the assault nuts swooped in. But that’s the thing, he was debating a point, not following the attack dog pattern. Several other liberal posters had also joined in, and it was all good intelligent discussion, but scroll down, and you can see when the alert was given to the attack dogs.

So, to break down the response pattern, I’ve tried to categorize these. It would be too much work to respond to all of them individually. (not that they would read them anyway!)  They are in italics.  And of course, since they decided to be mean, so did I. (you know, that whole culture of hate thing. Us right wingers just thrive on it.)

To start off, I wanted to see where all these comments were coming from. I’d been linked on a website that I’d never heard of called Pandagon. (wait, a liberal website named after an animal that’s going extinct because it’s too lazy to reproduce… snort) I was linked under “Batshit crazy” and “economy”.

Larry Correia, who is an alleged New York Times bestselling author, (apparently, he made #27 in mass market paperbacks once, which I can’t knock… well, actually, I can), is PISSED about taxes.

So first line we’re hitting point #1.  Let’s attack the messenger. Because I was #27 instead of #1, I’m not a real novelist… Uhmm… No. Actually, that’s not how it works.  Just making that list at all puts me in the top couple  of percentiles of  writers. Period. Oh, and to break it down further for you, I did that on my second book, from the smallest of the major publishing houses, with no big national marketing push, in a genre that does not typically break into the NYT until later in the series from gradual fan base growth or with a large advertising push. I’m friends with writers from Baen, Tor, Harper Collins, Pyr, McMillian, Penguin, Daw, and some others, and trust me, none of them sneer at hitting #27.

So that intro is kind of like a fat couch potato saying that a sprinter isn’t an Olympian, because he only won the bronze.

Also, the NYT is calculated in a strange manner, being weighted toward indy stores and certain regions, so to make you feel better I’ve also been on the Locus bestseller list multiple times, I was #4 in Entertainment Weekly, and as high as #4 in fantasy on the Nielsen Bookscan (which is like the Nielsen TV ratings, only for books).

Oh, silly Correia, but you’ve never won or been nominated for any prestigious literary awards! So I’m not a real writer. He he he… Tune back in next month when I can officially announce something that is going to blow your little mind.

So, I’m “allegedly” a bestselling novelist the same way you are a “allegedly” a nitwit. As in… Yes.

Larry, who works for a defense contractor, is angry about how much money the government spends, on things like defense contractors. He is also publishing four (yes, four) novels this year, which one hopes is edited for the sake of the English language.

Here we see where the lib blogger has set up the attack strategy. Almost all of the resulting posts I got were based around these themes. I’m a terrible writer and I’m part of the evil military industrial complex.

Yes, I am publishing 4 novels this year, because that’s what happens when you are popular and your books sell well. My first novel is in its 4th printing. (for all you PJM and Instapundit readers, buy my books and piss off a liberal today!) And don’t worry, they will also be professionally edited. (because, you know, writing a blog post over breakfast is exactly the same as writing a 150,000 word novel over several months)

The man is Moebius strip of loathing.

Wait, I’m so angry that I went in a circle and rolled over once? Oh, ha! I see what you did there. It’s because defense contracts are paid by the government, and I said the government spends too much money, thus I’m a hypocrite, and thus everything I say can be readily dismissed.  (the author never pointed out that the very first thing I listed as needing to be cut was… drum roll please… the military budget!  In fact, I spent more time on it than anything else.)

I read through all the comments there, and they were basically all about what an awful person I am, how I’m the worst author since John Ringo (Sweet! We are actually writing a series together), and so on and so forth.

So there’s the script.  Hypocrite. Angry. Bad writer. Cry havoc and unleash the dogs of spam!

Everything I said can be safely dismissed because I work in defense contracting:

I believe your “defense contractor” job should absolutely be one of the first cuts we make. Then maybe you’ll have a point. Because after all, what is defense spending but wingnut welfare, patronage, and pork

Well, I’m certainly sorry that my taxes pay your salary. Does that count?

Let me address this point that came up repeatedly. I work for the a private company that is paid to provide services to the military. We compete against other companies, and the winner is usually the lowest bidder, and it is rather cut throat. Not only that, it is fairly common in this industry for a contract employee to get more work done, cheaper, than a government employee. The reason being is that it is far easier to fire a contract employee, we don’t have a union, we don’t have government level fringe benefits, the government doesn’t have to take care of us for the rest of our working career, or do anything for our retirement. If they don’t like us, they can simply not renew the contract, and if we suck, they can fire us.  The military uses contractors to save money.

On the military, even if you cut it in half, there would still be a defense industry. You know those big grey boats the Navy has? Those fancy jets the Air Force flies around in? Guess who builds those… And it isn’t an E-4 that went to tech school. So saying that the entire industry is all corporate welfare is just one big strawman argument.

That said, (and once again, the first thing I listed as needing a cut was the military) if the things that I do weren’t valuable and came up as some of the unnecessary things that could be cut, then cool… So be it. My contracts would get cut. Then, like all private sector professionals, I’d go find something else to do. I’ve also been an accountant in the music and gun industries. That’s life, because nobody, especially the government, owes me anything.

So, I can’t have an opinion on taxes because my company performs services for the government… Do you allow soldiers to have an opinion? (well, obviously not, because we know how they usually vote!) Police? Firemen? Teachers? Remember that bit (well, obviously not, since none of you read the blog post you’re commenting on) about how more people work for the government now than for construction, manufacturing, mining, farming, fishing, and utilities combined?  When the government gets that big, it is involved in literally everything. So by your logic, nobody should be allowed to speak out.

I notice there’s no response to any of the other things I brought up… Just about what I do for a living, and I’m okay with that getting cut. You guys are just looking for the easiest way to dismiss somebody, and since we’re coming up on a third of the people in this country working for the government somehow, that’s a mighty nifty way to shut down potential opposition.

Dude, you’re a middle manager for a company that wouldn’t even exist without no-bid government contracts. Please go Galt. You’d be doing us all a huge favor. You’re not contributing in a positive way to our society by any objective measure. You’re just a pencil pusher for a company that lives 100% off the government teat. Somalia has a low rate of taxation and low regulations. Why don’t you live there instead of the USA? Or, you know, try working for private industry instead of at a no-bid defense contractor? If you’re this great Randian superman, why are you just sitting here whining instead of starting your own company, moving to a country with lower taxes, or something like that? Oh, right. You’re just another sheep who thinks he’s a wolf. Hilarious

As for moving to another country, socialism has wrecked most of the ones that have indoor plumbing, so maybe the better question is why can’t you leave this one alone and move to Sweden? 

I already owned my own business. I was a machinegun dealer for three years. (SOT Title 7) Sold it. Was unemployed for several months in 2008-09 (did not collect any unemployment either) then found my current job. 

Defense Contract Worker Demands Cuts for Everything But Defense! Story on page 4

From somebody who obviously didn’t read it, since once again, the first thing I said to cut was the military, but don’t let facts cloud the narrative.

Mr. Correia, if corporate welfare were eliminated, then the bloated, useless industry you work in would be eliminated with it. If that were to happen, you would need to fall back on your own talents to survive. If this is a representative sample of your writing, then I doubt you would be much in demand; I certainly wouldn’t pay money for this stuff. So it’s likely you would either become someone’s dependent or you’d starve.

I tried to engage that guy by explaining how contracting works and we ended up having this enlightening exchange:

How is paying me to perform a service welfare?

Obviously, paying you to perform a service is welfare because it is a service the country doesn’t need, and is part of an industry which would not even exist if politicians did not need to pay off lobbyists. The only thing that keeps your industry alive is the taxes paid, willingly or unwillingly, by people like yourself. Outside of the power of the government, your labor would return to it natural value of almost zero.

Or, do you just think that we shouldn’t have a military at all?

No, I don’t think that.

Did you catch the part where we have more government employees than construction, manufacturing, fishing, farming, and utilities combined, and you’re okay with that?

It’s not even useful to attempt to have that conversation with someone as deeply deluded about their true place in the world as yourself.

That was his response. I can’t answer that question, because you’re stupid… Well, that’s certainly a display of moral courage. If I’m too dumb to grasp it, how about trying to sway the 7,000 other people that read this blog post yesterday?  Chicken.

Or, I’m just a hypocrite:

Can you post a link for your rants during the Bush administration. You know when we started running huge deficits while having two wars without the tax increase needed to fund them. I’m truly interested in seeing your analysis of that outrage.

You mean the ones under a Democrat congress? No problem. I also went off against Bush’s prescription drug benefit, steel industry protection, and the corporate bailouts. Also I’ve got gigantic blog posts about how much I dislike the big government ideals of McCain, Romney, Rudy, and many other Republicans. Drat! Foiled again.

My points are invalid because I’m angry:

Take two mogadon, get a good night’s sleep and make an appointment with a therapist. Such anger about something as unimportant as money is a sign of a very serious psychiatric disorder.

There’s an old saying, that if you aren’t angry, then you aren’t paying attention.  I love the whole anger angle, though. Interesting thought… if they can automatically dismiss anybody who gets money from the government (which since they keep on expanding is an ever widening chunk of the population) and they can automatically dismiss anybody that is angry (the folks footing the bill) they’ve just dismissed everybody who could ever disagree with them.

Neat trick.

Plus I’m obviously a terrible writer:

First, it’s “whose,” not “who’s.” One would think that a professional novelist would know this. Second, I am fascinated to see someone whose day job at a defense contractor is paid for with MY TAX DOLLARS is bitching about paying taxes. I guess they didn’t teach you about “irony” in Best Selling Shitty Novel School, eh?

Man, she’s hitting all the points!

You know, if I’d been an English major instead of an Accounting major, I’d probably think that socialism was awesome too, but sadly, I learned math instead of grammar… And this has to really tick her off, but no matter how good her grades were in English class, her post right there will be the most widely read thing she’s ever written, and that’s only because I bothered to post it on my blog.  That’s got to sting. :)

As usual, I deleted all the comments that were just incoherent swearing, threats, and name calling.

The reason I posted this was because I think everybody needs to realize how some folks operate. They’re bullies. They don’t like what you have to say, so they insult you until you fall into line. The more people listen to you, the more they’ll mock you. They’ll pick a couple of things, harp and them, and when that doesn’t work, they’ll twist your words into something absurd. I said the government is too big and needs to be cut, so obviously I want all old people to starve to death in big piles.  

If Sarah Palin says anything, you can immediately ignore it because she’s an illiterate moron. Glenn Beck cries a lot. If any Republican says anything, ever, you can safely dismiss it without rational thought because they’re probably racist. Bobby Jindal gave a stilted speech once. Chris Christie is fat. The Titanic just hit an iceberg and is about to sink? Well, icebergs are lame and boring. Nobody wants to listen to you whine about icebergs. Quit being a fear monger!

To my liberal friends that actually have an opinion and beliefs and that are willing to stand up for them. Good for you. Awesome. I think you are wrong, but don’t let any bunch of random attack dogs from my side tear you down either. You have a right to say what you want just as much as anybody else. To their credit, a few of these new posters have stuck around to argue with my fans. More power to you.

To the majority, be proud of your beliefs. Stand up. Have an opinion. Whether it is online, or around the water cooler at work, don’t give in to the mockers. They’re the hypocrites, not you. These are the same people that will scream racism at the drop of the hat and give a pass to Harry Reid for still using the word negro in casual conversation. (and to save the posters from panda-whatever’s time as they’re trying to figure out if it is safe to call me a racist, according to the Department of Labor, I am a minority. However, Harry Reid would probably consider me “light-skinned”, and though my dad is bilingual, I’m not. So you’re safe. Go for it. You can totally play that race card now.)

Speak up. Let them insult you. Let them try to embarrass you until you submit to the group think. Wear those insults with pride.  If you aren’t offending the stupid, then you’re doing something wrong.

Detroit Christmas – A Grimnoir Chronicles short story by Larry Correia

You can read it now over on the Baen webpage.  http://www.baen.com/DetroitChristmas.asp

Let me know what you think. I really enjoyed writing this one.

HAPPY TAX DAY!

So this year I was molested more than ever before. Hooray for success!

I’ve got two sources of income. By day, I’m the finance manager for a defense contractor. Like most of you I do the whole withholding thing where they, oh so very subtly, yank a small portion of my paycheck. (more on that later) By night, I’m a professional novelist, which means that I’m an independent contractor who has to calculate and send quarterly withholding payments myself. The last one I sent for the year literally made me tear up.  I  had to send the government a check for more money than my total income for any year of my life up until the age of twenty-three. (for one quarter) Oh, but my calculations were a teensy bit off, so this week, I had the opportunity to send them enough money to purchase a decent used car.   

Because, you know, I had absolutely nothing better to do with that money.

So in honor of Tax Day, and as a result of having been exposed to a lot of news lately because I’ve been home sick, I’d like to talk about our nation’s current budget issues. You see, we face difficult times, and our noble president says that we are just going to need to give up just a little more.

ARE YOU FREAKING KIDDING ME, YOU STUPID LYING GREEDY SACK OF CRAP?

Government can’t balance a checkbook. They’re idiots. I know finance math. I do it for a living. And when I look at the numbers involved here, (and the interest!) it makes my head swim. Okay, for you non-accountants, when they start bandying numbers about on the news of 4 trillion such and such, and a hundred billion this and that, I know that your eyes glaze over. You think to yourself, “Oh, it is just the same old same old, bunch of politicians spending too much money, blah blah blah.” 

NOOOOO!

Saying that this is the same old same old, is like saying that gophers digging up your lawn is the same level of disaster as Krakatoa. Over the last couple of years we’ve reached a whole new level of crazy. Our spending has gone insane. We’re spending more money, faster, than all of mankind, throughout all of recorded human history. Economists aren’t sure what’s going to happen, because this has never happened before. Ever. On Earth. We’ve strayed into strange new territory here and there are many possible outcomes if we don’t stray the hell back out. And don’t for a second think that any of those possible outcomes are remotely good. No. They range somewhere between the Great Depression and Mad Max.

The government almost shut down last week over cutting 38 billion dollars… That may sound like a lot, but comparatively speaking, that’s like a 600 pound man who’s heart is about to explode congratulating himself that he got a hamburger instead of a cheeseburger… for his fifty-seventh meal of the day. Republicans backed off because they didn’t think they could win the PR battle. Let’s see… the Democrats were willing to not pay soldiers, currently fighting three wars, in order to ensure funding for abortion clinics… And you didn’t think you could win that PR fight? Seriously? Have you ever thought about maybe hiring a marketing major? I know a guy….

Oh, and don’t get all, “Well, Planned Parenthood (or NPR, or grants for African Genital Washing studies, or whatever the hell your stupid cause is) only gets a fraction of half a mili-percent of its budget from the government!  So. F’ing. What… Those are my dollars. Why should they get ANY?   

Every time there is a discussion about cutting some government program, people line up to whine about how that cut is going to hurt somebody. Then you get the sob stories… So we never cut anything. Guess what? They’re not called Budget Pillows or Budget Tickles. They’re Budget CUTS. Cuts are supposed to HURT.

I had a discussion the other day with some relatively intelligent folks about social security. The idea of cutting benefits or moving the retirement age shocks them. “How unfair! But I’ve paid into this my whole life!”

Yep. You sure did. You got lied to and screwed over by evil political opportunists. Deal with it. I’m just shy of 40. I know that I’m not ever going to see a dime of any of the money I paid into Social Security.  FDR’s pet program was garbage when the average old person died a couple of years after retirement and the ratio of workers to retirees was 40 to 1.  How in the hell is it supposed to work when retirees are expected to live for TWENTY YEARS and there’s only a handful of people paying in for every one getting a check?

It doesn’t work. No matter how hard you wish, no matter how hard you hope, no matter how much compassion you can fit in your stupid compassionate heart, no matter how much you happen to like some program that helps somebody do something wonderful… math never lies and interest never sleeps. Caring don’t pay the bills.

On Social Security (because it is the gigantic stinky gorilla in the room) Okay, let’s talk about that little withholding bit first because lots of people still don’t realize this. I got into an argument with somebody the other day about social security, and he actually told me, “I don’t mind them taking out that money. I wouldn’t bother to save it. Plus, it isn’t really that much so I don’t notice it.”

IDIOT.

You’ve probably been seeing 6.2% of your check taken for SS and 1.45% for Medicare (not even going to get into FUTA and SUTA).  What most folks don’t realize is that your employer matches that… So basically you could get a 16% raise tomorrow if it wasn’t for that withholding.  “Oh, but that’s saving for my retirement!”  Bull crap. I could take 16% of my salary, use it to store canned food, and I’d come out ahead of what I’m actually going to get from the government for my retirement. The money that’s been paid in already is long gone, because expecting congress to save money is like expecting crack whores to save crack.  

Basically, if you’re not already old, and you’re counting on seeing money from Social Security, you’re a sucker.

Moving on to all the other stupid taxes, the latest thing I’m hearing is for us to tax corporations more. If only those darn evil corporations were paying their fair share! That’ll solve everything! GE didn’t pay any taxes! Google hardly paid any taxes! They’re using those evil loopholes! People tend to think of “loopholes” as some sort of nefarious trick that only rich people know how to use to sneak out of paying their “fair” share. (rich guys are taught about loop holes at the same time they’re taught the secret rich guy handshake). 

I used to think that way too. That’s how most Americans have been programmed to think of them. Until I took a tax class in college taught by a very sharp tax accountant. Loopholes aren’t secrets. They’re tax code. They’re laws that have been passed, by congress, in order to encourage some sort of behavior. Regular people deduct their mortgage interest. Hell, Married Filing Jointly is considered a loophole to some people.

If congress passes a tax break to encourage some behavior, and a corporation or an individual didn’t take advantage of it, they’d be stupid or failing their shareholders. Don’t get mad at the corporations or the tax accountants. Get mad at congress for decades of nonsensical regulations passed until the tax code is so convoluted that there is literally no right answer.

A long time ago, some university did a test. They made up a fictitious family of 5, gave them dual income, some investments, some rental property, and a few other little things, nothing too weird or complicated, and then had 150 different CPAs, tax accounting companies, and even tax software packages prepare this family’s returns. They got 150 different answers. All of they were equally arguable as being correct. All of them were equally auditable and capable of being wrong What does that tell you about the complexity of the tax code?

GE didn’t pay any taxes because of all the special regulations that have been passed to push the whole Green Energy nonsense. (Oh, don’t even get me started on stupid ethanol. I went from 35 to 27 mpg when they started adding corn and rainbows to my gas)  If they stick it to corporations even harder, it is going to hurt all of the little normal companies that all of us work for, as opposed to the giants that can suck up directly to the president.

You want to boost the economy? Lower corporate taxes. You want to increase investment? Lower the capital gains tax. You don’t want corporations to flee America to move their operations overseas? Quit raping them! We’ve got one of the highest effective business taxes on the planet, and that’s before you factor in the expense of having to answer to fifty different agencies that can come in and audit and fine you.  Personally, I’ve spent about 30% of my professional accounting life just answering to the whims of various audit agencies, and people like me don’t come cheap.

But no matter how screwed up our tax code is, and even if we suddenly had a sensible tax code tomorrow, we’d still be in deep trouble, because the government is spending too damn much.

“Well, Correia. You’re one of those heartless republicans! George Bush spent lots of money too! Tarp! TARP!”

Yes. And he was WRONG. (and oh how quickly we forget who controlled congress for most of that spending) Terribly, awfully wrong. And the country-club, big government republican establishment is wrong. Government isn’t the solution, it is the problem. McCain sucked. Romney sucks. Anybody who doesn’t grasp the dangers of big government sucks. But that said, if your justification for Obama’s spending lunacy is that the last guy was doing something wrong, you don’t do the same damn thing, only FIVE TIMES bigger and TWICE AS FAST. 

We need to cut, cut, cut, and then cut some more. Nothing should be sacred. Nothing should be off the table.  According to the Wall Street Journal, more Americans work for the government now than in construction, farming, fishing, forestry, manufacturing, mining, and utilities COMBINED.  

How in the hell is that sustainable? How in the hell is that acceptable?

The problem isn’t that we don’t pay enough in taxes, the problem is that the government is too damn big. They meddle in every facet of our lives from before we’re born until after we die.

I think Paul Ryan’s budget sounds like a great start. Cut. Cut. Cut. Take a chainsaw to federal spending. Even the things that I happen to like, like having a strong national defense… I’m pretty darn sure we can find some waste and useless projects in there. Do we really need more admirals than we have ships? Cut!

We’re almost done in Iraq. So long. We don’t have a plan in Afghanistan and that country can’t pull its head out of its own butt. I say we bail and turn half the country over to the Gurkhas and the other half over to the Poles.  Rules of engagement? He he he… Why do we still have so many troops stationed in Germany? So that Europe can gut their own defense to pay for absurd social programs because they know they’re safe as long as we’re there to protect them. Nope. Bye Europe. Sorry, England. You may have to double your air force and buy another three planes.

And I’m saying this to my own side. Yep, there are plenty of strategic reasons, but if you can’t afford to be world cop, you can’t afford to be world cop. Cuts are supposed to hurt. The lefties don’t get to subsidize electric cars and we don’t get to leave the 82nd Airborne in South Korea. Come home.  

(and oh, the hypocrisy from the left… No war for oil! Unless of course it is French oil in Libya, then it’s totally cool.  Abu Ghirab was directly George Bush’s fault! Murder squad in Afghanistan recently? Crickets. A few years ago we accidently bomb civilians. Impeach Baby-Killer Bush! We accidentally bomb civilians this month and hey, that’s cool. Accidents happen during Kinetic Military Actions.  And WTF is a Kinetic Military Action?)

That said, I’d rather have another squadron of F-22s than the entire Department of Education. At least air superiority is useful. What has the DoE done for you lately? Hell, ever? Cut! Can anybody tell me what Health and Human Services does? It alone is bigger than LBJ’s entire government. Boom. Cut!  TSA? Ha! Are you kidding me? CUT!  Department of Energy was supposed to get us cheap energy… How’s that working out for you?  CUUUT!!

You know what happens when a regular company runs out of money? We have to lay people off. Why is it when our economy sucks and everybody is hurting that our government grows?  Obama raised government salaries to the highest level in our history, and then to show that he understood our pain, he froze salaries… Let me see if I’ve got this right? You raised your salary super high, and FROZE it THERE and now you’re telling me that’s somehow a good thing. Screw you.

Corporate welfare? Gone. We shouldn’t have to pay $10,000 in subsidies for the ridiculous Chevy Volt so that rich urban liberals can assuage their guilt. There is no Too Big To Fail, because somebody smarter than you will come along and buy your assets. Does that hurt your union pension? Cry me a friggin’ river.

No bailing out states. If California wants to have 500 state agencies, spend money like there’s no tomorrow, while driving out all of their productive people and ruining all their businesses, then that should not become the problem of those of us who live in states that aren’t ridiculous.  

Social Security and other entitlements? It is time to start the painful weaning process. Raise the retirement age. Cut the benefits for those of us not already taking it. And then start ending the stupid program. You can’t fix it. You can’t fix something that is so fundamentally and mathematically flawed. It is either start cutting it gradually until it is gone, or wait for the whole thing to implode so that it screws everybody equally. It is morally wrong for me to expect my grandchildren to have to pay my bills just because I got old. 

No more giving money to foreign investments. My part of the country is sitting on more energy than Saudi Arabia but we can’t get to most of it because the government won’t let us. (F%&$ Ken Salazar in his stupid face). Government meddling has ruined the economy of eastern Utah, yet, at the same time we can give billions of dollars to Brazil to help them drill for oil? Are you kidding me?  That’s not an energy policy. That’s national suicide.

So happy Tax Day everybody. I for one am glad that I was able to send the government enough money to ensure ACORN employees are able to house Honduran sex slaves properly, or to pay the gas for Nancy Pelosi’s jet… Sure, if I’d kept that money myself I could have, I don’t know, done something stupid, like knocked 5 years off the back end of my mortgage, or paid for a gigantic chunk of one of my kid’s college education.  But I’m just glad that I was able to do my part!

Merry Tax Day to all, and to all a good night!

Ask Correia #12: The Writing Process

I got another Ask Correia Writing Question on Facebook.  Cool. I love these.  And by popular request from the last time I did a creative writing seminar, I’ve now grouped all the Ask Correia posts under the Best of MHN tab above.

Hi Larry, I was wondering if you could go over your technical writing process in more detail. Do you come up with a plot and characters then develop a basic outline? Then fill in the outline with more details and subplots. At which point do you get to writing? Thanks. – Felix

That’s a good question, Felix. Let’s see if I can get out of my Nyquil addled, flu-haze long enough to form a coherent response.

I don’t think that there’s one right way to do this. In talking to other authors, I know that we’ve all got different methods. I think the real key is finding the one that works best for you so that you can start producing books. I’m going to share a couple examples.

The IDEA  

For me, books start as a general big idea. “Wow, it sure would be fun to write about X!” I’ve said before that ideas are everywhere. (in fact, there’s another Ask Correia post about where to get ideas from)

Monster Hunter International started out because I loved B-movies and guns, and as anyone that has ever watched a monster movie knows, most of those would be over in a couple of minutes if the protagonist was armed and had a clue, and I thought it would be fun to do something from that perspective. Armed and smart protagonists in a classic B-movie monster setting.  That was the general starting idea, but I hadn’t fully clicked yet. Sometimes an idea needs time to percolate and connect with other ideas that are floating around in your head.

Then one day I read the following quote-  “You know what the difference between me and you really is? You look out there and see a horde of evil, brain-eating zombies. I look out there and see a target-rich environment.”  Boom. Suddenly it clicked.  My armed protagonists would be doing this as a business, and as a small business owner, I understood that world too. That’s how MHI was born in my head.

The Grimnoir world started on a dare. Some English student at BYU didn’t want my opinion on some subject because I was only a lowly “Contemporary Fantasy” writer instead of an “Epic Fantasy” writer like the other authors on the panel. Well, screw you random dude. Nobody tells Larry Correia what genre he’s in! So I asked Brandon Sanderson, who was on the panel and who is one of the leading grand masters of Epic Fantasy what exactly an Epic Fantasy was. He told me what the general criteria was, so I set out to write an “epic fantasy”. After  a brainstorming session with Mike Kupari, I went and created a series that has been described as the League of Extraordinary X-Men meet Dick Tracy as written by Raymond Chandler only with more ninjas.  Whatever… It is totally awesome. Take that anonymous random English major!   

I tell that story to point out that sometimes your initial idea will morph as you write it. That’s fine. Take it to where it needs to go to be awesome. Don’t feel constrained by anything other than: 1. Is it Awesome? 2. Can I sell it to somebody? 

I have a novel I want to write based on a conversation with my wife about reality TV shows involving African warlords, and a sword and sorcery epic based on a scene that I came up with only because I had the song Waiting for a Train from the Inception soundtrack playing in the background at the time. Ideas are literally everywhere. Take the ones that excite you the most and start playing with those worlds in your imagination. Once you’re so excited that you’re just bursting to write about it, that’s when you need to really get to work.

The CHARACTERS

Which comes first, the characters or the plot? That’s a chicken and the egg kind of thing. Sometimes you’ll have the characters formed during the idea phase. Sometimes you’ll have an idea for a plot, but no idea who to populate the story with. Either way is fine. Just run with it.

With MHI, I had the basic idea/plot well developed before I had even thought much about the characters. The protagonist of MHI is Owen Zastava Pitt. I did not have him developed at all when I started. (see the other Ask Correia about Mary Sues, because sometimes writing what you know can come in really handy).  However, some of the supporting characters of MHI had existed partially formed in my head for quite some time. Since MHI was my first real writing project, it probably isn’t the best example of how to do it, since you learn new tricks and improve your skills with everything you write.

I love developing characters, even when I don’t know where I’m going to eventually stick them, or even which book, or series to stick them in.  I have a couple of characters that are floating out there, partially formed, just general ideas that I think would be fun to write. Whenever I think of somebody that would be interesting in a particular situation, I just kind of file them away for future use. They may end up as an arms dealer in the D6 world or they might end up as a creature dealing with MHI, but the personality stays the same. 

Other times you’ll be writing and you’ll come to a scene where you need to add a character. The PoV character’s car is in the shop, and it would be very helpful if the mechanic was a character capable of sharing some piece of valuable back story.  Okay, then take a look at the scene, think about how important it is and how much work you need to put into that character, and go from there. If they’re not that important, they’re just not that important. If they’re pivotal, give them some thought.

The beauty of word processors is that these characters aren’t set in stone. If you write in some minor character to fill a niche in chapter 3, and by the time you’re getting close to the end you have a brilliant twist idea, you can go back and add that character to chapter 7, develop them in 8, and then make the readers cry at their inevitable betrayal in chapter 12. Have fun with it. 

Holly from MHI is a good example of this. She started out in my head as a very minor throw away character. (mostly because if you haven’t realized it by now, every single character in MHI started out as a typical B monster movie character trope, and she was Hot Blonde Girl of Moral Flexibility). However, she turned out to be interesting, and a deep and entertaining back story formed as I wrote about her. By the end she’s a major character that readers really like.

Lorenzo from Dead Six (coming October 2011 from Baen) was a tough one. This story was originally written on the fly as an internet serial. I needed a character personality that was fully fleshed out and ready to roll. Mike and I were taking turns, writing about 1,000 words a day, one after the other, and posting the rough on the internet as we went. So I didn’t have a lot of time to mull him over. But luckily I had a handy character personality laying around in my head that seemed to fit. Lorenzo is basically a rogue named Ozzie from a D&D game I played in college. I took him out of a fantasy world where he was robbing dragons and stuck him in the middle-east in modern times so he could rob terrorists. Problem solved, and the character turned out to be an absolutely perfect fit. Plus it is really fun to write from the perspective as someone who is described by another character as a “self-absorbed, godless, narcissist.”  

Of course you’re going to flesh out these characters as you write. They’re going to grow, change, and adapt to your story. Don’t be afraid to explore that, but remember, they answer to you, not the other way around… Which brings us to…

The OUTLINE vs. FREE WRITING

There are two basic methods to writing. You can either outline or you can free write. Outlining means that you come up with a general framework for your story first.   Free Writing is when you take your basic idea, and then just start writing to see where it takes you. Both work. There are extremely successful writers that do either.  I’ve done both, but I’m primarily an outliner.

Once I’ve got a basic idea and some characters that I’m going to use to explore that idea, I sit down and make a skeleton. My starting outlines are usually only a few pages long, and often times there more just random thoughts and paragraphs of information for me to ponder over. The closer I get to starting however, the more I tend to know what I’m going to do. I usually know what’s going to happen as far as the beginning, middle, and end, and basically how I’m going to get there.  A usual outline for me will only be a few pages at that point, and will sometimes just be a list of basic scenes in their approximate order.

I’m not slavishly devoted to my outline though. The story itself is more important, so as I’m writing, if something in the outline doesn’t work, it gets tweaked. The outline is just a suggestion. The story is what is important.

Dead Six was 90% Free Write. I just kind of jumped in on Mike Kupari’s internet thread and we took it wherever it went. Sometimes my character was reacting to what his did, and then his was reacting to what mine did.  Our total planning consisted of a few e-mails back and forth consisting of “Hey, what if I do this? Will it mess you up if I do that?” Yet, somehow it intertwined perfectly and turned into a great story.

The advantage of Free Writing is that it is fun, and can come really naturally, and nothing reads better than writing that just flowed. The disadvantage is that sometimes Free Writing it becomes very easy to write yourself into a corner and get stuck.  Usually when I meet somebody who says something like “I started this really awesome story, got halfway through, and now I’ve got writer’s block!” The vast majority of the time it is because they were Free Writing and blundered into a story dead end. If that happens, you just need to be analytical about it, back up, and think it through to decide what you’re trying to accomplish.

My friend Brad Torgersen (who is an extremely talented author) once said that he loves to Free Write short stories (which he’s sold a bunch of) but he can’t write novels that way because there is just so much other stuff involved. I know other people that can Free Write a 200,000 word epic and make it awesome, so I guess it depends on how your brain is wired.

Basically, I’m a loose outliner that then fills in the blanks with free writing. Whatever works for you, run with it.

The NOTES

Once you’ve gotten started, I find it really helpful to make notes as you go. If you were to look at the rough drafts of one of my manuscripts, and you scrolled to the bottom, you’d discover several pages of what appears to be nonsense. These are things like lines of dialog that I thought of that didn’t fit at the time, but might be great later. Or possible character names, or interesting places, or factoids, or “Gee whiz, wouldn’t it be neat if it turned out Steve’s grandmother was a mermaid?” kind of stuff. Sometimes there will be items down there that won’t even appear in the book, but may make it into the sequel. (Agent Franks, anyone?) or it might even be an idea that was great, but didn’t fit the current story, but is so awesome it might get spun off into its own book someday.  (And Franks gets to be the star of Monster Hunter Nemesis)

Also, if you’re writing something convoluted or complicated, it might not hurt to start a sort of character bible or fact sheet. I’ve got about 40 pages of notes on the Monster Hunter universe. Mostly because there is a lot of history and a mess of characters.  (this is for the 7 MH books that I’ve got planned so far) This becomes even more important when you’re collaborating with another writer. Mike and I have an extensive list of every character in the D6 universe that we’ve ever mentioned, and basic data about them. This is really important because we’re often stealing and writing each other’s characters, so we have to keep our facts straight.

The RESEARCH

This is also the time where I will do any absolutely necessary research for the project. I’ve got another post about research, but basically get as familiar with the things you need to get familiar with in order to get started. You don’t need to know everything, because otherwise you’ll spend all your time researching and none writing.

Super Writer John Brown is currently working on a thriller. The protagonist is a former Green Beret who is then convicted of a felony and goes to prison.  John has been interviewing ex-cons and I put him in contact with one of my Jack Bauer type friends in order to get his facts right about Special Forces things.  Not only does research make your book read better to people that have a clue, but it is also a great way to get good ideas and little bits of story flavor.

If you’re going to have a book with lots of sword fighting, you need to at least learn a little bit about sword fighting first. But don’t put off writing the book because you’re not an expert on sword fighting yet. You can always start writing and then leave a big question mark when it comes to the specific factoids that you haven’t learned yet.

The BEGINNING

Are your notes perfect? Do you know every character? Is your outline perfect? Have you got a masters degree in the subject matter? Probably not… Good. Go write already!  Don’t wait too long trying to get your ducks in a row. Get going. Strike while you’re excited.  Set aside some time and start typing.

Seriously, go write something.

The WORK

Here comes the dirty little secret of this business. Writing is hard work. Now, work can be lots of fun, but it is also work. You need to set a schedule, put your butt in the seat, hands on the keyboard, and friggin’ TYPE STUFF. 

This is the part that stops most aspiring writers. They have a great idea. They’re enthusiastic as all get out. They sit down and start writing… and writing… and writing… and about 40,000 words in they discover that this is HARD.

Yep, now finish the book.

Give yourself time to work. Don’t kill yourself over it, but you have to put in the time to produce words.  The reason I’m blogging right now is because I’m too sick and high on cold medicine to work on my current novel. I’ve got a killer deadline looming, but a man has to know his limitations.

Writers write. If I have only a limited amount of time, that’s when I’ll go back and edit bits and pieces or tackle small scenes. I save the good stuff for when I’m in the proper frame of mind. If I’m working on a part that’s not clicking, I’m not going to stop the whole project until it does. Nope. I’m going to skip ahead and write the next scene that I feel like writing. I can always go back and fill in that earlier scene when I feel like it.

Writer’s Block is a filthy lie. If somebody says they have Writer’s Block, they’re either being lazy and they really want to go play some Call of Duty, or they’re working on something that they’re just plain not interested in. Okay, fine. Stop that particular project that is boring you and go work on something else instead. If you’re absolutely stuck, go Free Write something to see if you can kick up the creative juices.

Let me tell you though, once you become a professional, and you’re doing this for a living, it doesn’t matter that you don’t feel like writing a particular thing at that time… Because your publisher has paid you an advance for that book and it is now on the schedule to be released at a certain date. You like having a job? I bet you do… Try telling your boss at your current job that you have Accountant’s Block and you just don’t feel like completing these taxes.  “Oh, I’m sorry you’re having a cerebral hemorrhage, sir. I’ve got Brain Surgeon’s Block and I just can’t perform right now.”

See? Put your big girl panties on and write the darned book.

You put in enough time, eventually you’re going to have a finished book.  Yay!

The EDITING

Allow me to channel the Old Spice guy. You finished the book. Now look at the book. Now back at me. It has problems. Now back at your book. See the problems? Don’t be scared. Now look at me. You can be like me.  Look at the book. Now edit the book.

I haven’t even looked at your manuscript yet, but I can already tell you that there is something wrong with it, and I’m not just talking about your spelling or poor punctuation. (heh… Don’t let that stop you. I absolutely suck at teh grammars and I’m a New York Times bestseller!)  There are going to be issues. That’s okay. There are always issues. That’s what editing is for.

When you’re finished, give yourself a little time off. I should have the second Grimnoir novel done by the end of the month. Then I’m going to take a few weeks off while I go on book tour, so that I can come back and hit it again with a fresh perspective. It is hard to edit your work when you’re too close to it.

What if the whole thing is crap? So what if it sucks? Your first book is going to be rough. You can either make it better (if possible) or write a whole new one. Did Michael Jordan win the first game of basketball he ever played? (I don’t know? Maybe? Bad analogy…) There is no such thing as wasted writing. All writing is practice. The more you practice, the better you’re going to get. 

Don’t get too attached to your words. Let’s say that you started writing, and you created a 10,000 word prolog that you think is just awesome… But then as you’re going along, you discover that it is pointless to the story and doesn’t add anything to the book.  CUT IT. 

I know that hurts. That’s okay though. I’m a professional and I’ve had to cut whole scenes when my editor didn’t like them. That’s life. This is a business. You need to be a professional… No editors like working with the “sensitive artist” types. Screw those guys. They usually write one good book, win a couple of literary awards, and then drift into obscurity because they can’t knuckle down and produce. If you want to make a living writing books, treat it like a job. That means if you need to put your feelings aside and take an ax to some of your scenes, do it.

That said, just because you cut something doesn’t mean you should just throw it away. Just because those ideas don’t fit in your current project doesn’t mean they’re useless. You might be surprised what you can use later. My first novel wasn’t Monster Hunter International.  It was a thriller called Minute of Angle. Don’t bother asking.  You will never get to see it, because A. It wasn’t that good. B. I went ahead and stole all of the good bits, scenes, lines, and characters from it and stuck them into the much better Dead Six and its sequels Swords of Exodus, and Project Blue.  Bob, the conspiracy theorist FBI agent was the main character in MoA and he became an important supporting character in the D6 novels. Remember, no writing is ever wasted.  

Once you’re a professional, you will have a professional editor. Mine have been Toni Weiskopf or Jim Minz. Both are sharp and both know what makes a good book better. I love working with them. I just did the Monster Hunter Alpha edits based on Jim’s critique and he had a few items that drastically improved some scenes. Those were some of those “Dur, why didn’t I think of that?” kind of moments.

Before you’ve got a publishing house with a pro editor appointed to you, the best thing you can do is form your own Reader Force Alpha. Find a group of people that you trust to let read your rough draft. I’ve talked about alpha readers before. Remember, don’t trust any one person too much. You’re looking for general ideas. If your mom really hates your book, it doesn’t make your book bad, it just means that it isn’t your mom’s thing.  My wife isn’t a fan of the Monster Hunter universe but she really likes Grimnoir. Everybody is different.

A lot of writers I know love being in a writing group. That’s where a bunch of aspiring writers get together to go over each other’s stuff, offer critiques and feedback, and so on.  I’ve never been in a writing group, so I can’t really comment on how they work.  I know several of my friends that are very successful writers belong to writing groups or started out that way.  The above mentioned Brandon Sanderson, Dan Wells (I am Not a Serial Killer series from Tor), and Rob Wells (Variant series coming soon from Harper Collins) all came from the same writing group. (yeah, no pressure on the other guys in that group, I bet!)

The GETTING BETTER AT THIS STUFF PART

You are going to learn things as you write, and you’re going to learn more things as you edit. Don’t give up after you finish the first book. While you’re shopping it around to publishers, now is the time to write the second one and start planning the third one.

Go to Conventions and Writing Conferences. Listen to writers and learn from their bag of tricks. Network. Meet other writers and aspiring writers. Read lots of books. Read more books. Read books outside of your genre. Read books that you think suck and are lame so you can see what not to do. Think about your weaknesses and then read authors that are strong where you are weak, to see how they do it.

The SELLENING!

Now the hard part. Selling the darned thing. I’ve got another Ask Correia about this very topic. Basically, it is really tough to sell a manuscript to a publisher, but it is totally doable if you’re willing to work at it.

That’s basically the whole process. Wash. Rinse. Repeat. Cash royalty checks and be awesome.

This episode of Ask Correia has been brought to you by Nyquil! The nighttime, sleepy, stuffy-head, aching, runny-nose, hallucinate, and wake up on the lawn in your underwear medicine!

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