The Burning Throne, episoide 4: The Battle of Shinjo Ridge

Continued from http://larrycorreia.wordpress.com/2011/11/04/the-burning-throne-episode-3-the-ballad-of-ide-todo/

This game night featured a special guest star, my 11 year old daughter, who played Hida O-Hinku. This was also the first time we had one of our game journals turn into a full blown fiction, in this particular case, an action sequence. It would not be the last. This game was a personal favorite of mine, mostly because my daughter got to play a complete badass haunted Crabzerker.

#

Sixth Entry

From the journal of Hida Makoto, Crab Clan. 

It has been many weeks since I joined Ide Todo on his quest. Though I did not think it was possible, I have come to respect the little Unicorn. He searches always for peace, yet finds ways for men such as I to make war more effectively. How can I respect, even like, a man that will not lift his own blade, but will send others to fight in his stead? Before I would call such a man a coward, but Ide Todo is certainly no coward. I do not understand how, but under his meekness hides a soul of steel. He would not last ten minutes on the Wall, yet here I am, prepared to follow him into a war. Strange times. 

We have spent the last ten days on the river heading north into Unicorn lands. As usual, the ronin Zuko does not talk much and avoids the others. Together we have killed many men, but I do not understand him either. He likes his secrets. Kitsuki Tsuze, like all Dragons, is an odd man. He calls himself an investigator, which I think means he likes to figure out puzzles. Puzzles anger me. I think he is here because he does not like the woman he is supposed to marry back in Dragon lands. Then you’ve got our Mantis, who likes his betrothed a little too much, if you get what I mean. Tsuruchi Machio is good company, because he cares for the fake politeness of coddled samurai even less than I do.

Shiro Shinjo seems like it would have been very nice at one time. My travelling companions were distressed by how destroyed and burned the country around it looked, and it didn’t help that there was a giant army to the north. Eh… Trust me. You get used to it. Nicer view than the Shadowlands. Smells better too. I was very surprised to see my family’s banner protecting one flank. This is an odd development. I will investigate when we land.

Seventh Entry

From the journal of Hida Makoto, Crab Clan. 

There is not much time to write tonight. Tomorrow is going to be busy with killing and it is late.

Today was a momentous day. I have been reunited with family. I was able to practice with a proper Hida sensei, (I’m still sore from the beating). And most importantly, my mission to become worthy to marry Otomo Yuni was bolstered when my family was told of my exploits amongst the Scorpion and Lion.  Heh… They didn’t see that coming!

I was surprised to find my half-brother Kenzan was leading the Crab forces, and he brought my half-sister O-Hinku with him. Truly, he is destined for greatness and his skills and courage will bring as much honor to the family as my father ruined. Kenzan was not glad to see me, but little sister was.

Ah, young O-Hinku… They call her the Little-Hida-Face-Wrecker for a reason, her ferocity in battle is unequaled. Her and Kenzan’s father was a Toritaka ghost hunter, and as a result of his many battles, O-Hinku was born touched by Gaki-Do. She is a disturbing, completely anti-social, violent berserker, and I am very fond of her.

I was saddened to find out that her heirloom ono, momo-iro-chou has been stolen. She has no clues as to who has taken it. If I come across Pink Butterfly, (do not laugh at the name, the blade is stained pink from twenty generations worth of blood and tears from its enemies) I will destroy the thief, and return it to her.

The Crab are leading an assault against the Yobanjin positions tomorrow morning. I asked to join.

Kenzan did not want to let me fight alongside my brothers. Too many of the men still consider me bad luck. Curse your cowardice, father… But I am used to this. The mountain does not bend, so I demanded a place in the battle.

It is sad that my reputation is better among strangers than my own clan, but the Akodo and Shoshuro daimyos spoke highly of my skills and told stories of my accomplishments battling many pirates. I think Kenzan was impressed, at least enough to allow me to join O-Hinku’s squad for the battle.

#

Battle of Shinjo Ridge

The air tasted like ashes.

However, it was better to taste ashes than blood. Hida O-Hinku cleared her throat and spit on the ground. “That was not very lady-like,” Hida Makoto chided her. He kept his voice low so the men would not hear. Though they had grown up together, it was never appropriate to tease the gunso.

“Neither is massacring honorless Yobanjin dogs,” she answered.

“I’ve missed you.” Her half-brother laughed. “It will be good to fight with you again.”

O-Hinku nodded. Makoto had certainly changed in the months since she’d last seen him. He was far more confident. Many of the other Crab did not trust him because of his father’s failures, but O-Hinku had often sparred against the older and larger Makoto. She was one of the most naturally gifted warriors to ever come from the Mountain Shadow’s dojo, and had always fought more experienced opponents to test her skills. Makoto may not have been the most agile, graceful, or even skilled of warriors, but he was stubbornly difficult to hurt. More than anything, she was glad to have someone familiar by her side. After all, this was her first time in command.

Makoto turned away to speak with his strange companions. The masked ronin, Zukozuko, was solemnly running a whetstone down a battered katana. He met her gaze with his good eye and did not look away. Tsuruchi Machio was busy stringing his bow and telling a story about eating pork or some such thing. They were odd, but Makoto vouched for them, so that would do.

She overheard a nearby conversation. “What is he doing here?”

“I don’t know. Makoto is bad luck.”

“Shouldn’t he be shoveling dung with the other eta?” The two Crab shared a hearty laugh. 

O-Hinku barely resisted the urge to turn and kill the man that had said that, and only because she would need every sword possible for the coming fight. She gripped the handle of her ono so hard that her knuckles turned white, but the urge to satisfy the desires of Gaki-Do slowly passed.

A horn sounded. That meant that on the other side of this hill, the combined armies of four great clans were on the move, led by her brother Hida Kenzan. O-Hinku was proud that her family mon was at the tip of the spear. She turned to study the two dozen Crab infantry awaiting her orders. Many she knew from home or from the Wall, many were strangers. Some were saying prayers to Osana-Wo, while others were pouring buckets of water over their armor in the hopes that it would dull the pain of legendary Yobanjin death fires. All were eager to fight.

“We move out on the second horn.” She did not raise her voice. She did not need to. Two dozen mempo turned to face her and all fell silent. Though she was only in her seventeenth year, her reputation for violence was enough to get any Crab’s attention. She did not like talking, in fact, nothing made her more uncomfortable, but she knew it was a gunso’s duty to inspire. “Follow me. Move quickly. When we reach the top we will push their archers into the ravine. Kill them all for CRAB CLAN!”

“CRAB CLAN!”  Heavy weapons slammed rhythmically against the hard ground. “CRAB CLAN!”

The second horn sounded. O-Hinku hefted her gigantic ono. “Charge!”

#

The air had turned to fire.

The world was black, spreading ash in every direction. Blood flowed red only to disappear into the black as the fires continually washed over them. The Hida stood shoulder to shoulder, a blue line in the black, heavy weapons rising and falling, rising and falling. This was not war. This was peasants threshing fields. Their harvest was death.

Where they had been told to expect tens of Yobanjin, there were hundreds. Every step forward was against a wall of gaijin bodies. The muscles of O-Hinku’s arms screamed in protest as she swung her ono endlessly. The blade slammed through a Yobanjin’s throat and blood sprayed. Every flying droplet suddenly burst into flames. The blood struck her armor and burned like tiny rivulets of molten steel splashed from a Kaiu forge.

A nearby Hiruma wrenched his katana from a Yobanjin’s belly. O-Hinku closed her eyes as the fire washed across her. She opened them to see the Hiruma stumbling away, his long hair on fire, eyes melting and pouring down his blackened cheeks. He collapsed into a heap. Another man lost. A Hida took his place.

Rise and fall. Rise and fall. Thresh the field under the hot sun.

A screaming gaijin dodged her attack. The ono blade cleaved into the charred dirt. She could not lift it in time, and turned so that her armor would receive the tip of his sword. But the blow never landed. The gaijin’s head ruptured and sprayed a cloud of white teeth. Makoto yanked his tetsubo back, taking the gaijin’s jaw with it.

Makoto nodded at her through the consuming fire. Osana-Wo must surely smile upon her brother for him to bear such heat without flinching. “For Hida!”

“For HIDA!” She smashed another Yobanjin flat and was rewarded with pain. She’d soaked her clothing in water before the fight, but it had long since turned to steam. Only the touch of the gaki, rewarding her with strength for every life she took, was keeping her alive. 

The men were faltering under the onslaught and the heat. Hida Toru fell. Hida Chun was disemboweled. Hiruma Yoriku died choking on his own blood. Does this hill ever end? The Tsuruchi sliced a charging Yobanjin’s arm off, but fell in the resulting explosion. The brave Mantis struggled back to his feet, blood streaming from a multitude of wounds and shouted for more.

Ash fell as if they were trapped in a tainted snow storm. “The top! We’ve made it.” Makoto shouted as he slammed a Yobanjin’s ribs into the earth and kicked another one aside.

Reach the archers and we have succeeded. “The ravine… It’s on the wrong side!” O-Hinku screamed her fury. How? The ravine was supposed to be over there. They would never reach the archers now. They would fail. The ravine was ten feet wide and very deep. Falling down it in heavy armor would mean their end. There was only ten Yobanjin left on this side, but more were coming. In the distance, Kenzan’s army was charging up the hill, but the enemy archers would have an eternity to keep raining arrows upon them.

Kaiu Heihachi caught a spear with his mouth. Hida Ozske killed the spearman, but could not stand the resulting fires and collapsed. O-Hinku looked around. Only half of her men were still on their feet, and most of them did not look like they would be able to leap across the ravine. Hiruma Kaisozu grabbed her by the obi. “O-Hinku-sama. We cannot survive a counter attack.”

The Tsuruchi went down under another onslaught of the Dark Oracle’s foul magic. This time he did not get back up. She looked to Makoto, who understood the difficult decision she faced. He nodded at her, acknowledging her wisdom. He was prepared to die with her. “Kaisozu, take everyone that can walk, carry the wounded, and retreat.”

“But what about you?”

“All those archers aren’t going to kill themselves. Now go!” Kaisozu bowed quickly, then ran to fulfill her command. “Makoto, what are you doing?” Her brother was recklessly charging toward the ravine, alone.

“Buying you time.” Makoto crashed into the swarm of screaming fur-clad bodies. Sword blades hummed through the air. He was completely surrounded. Spear blades bounced off his armor with echoing clangs, and then he was lost from view.

“Makoto!” she followed, only to realize that one other person was still with her. The ronin Zukozuko was courageously still fighting. Though haggard, burned, and bleeding, he charged into the fray.

There was a mighty roar and the pile of gaijin erupted. Two of them tumbled, screaming, down the ravine to explode against the rocks below. Makoto rose, bellowing. One tried to flee, but Makoto’s tetsubo shattered his spine. Then her brother kicked the last one in the stomach and sent him hurtling over the edge. A wall of fire rose around him as he thrust the dripping tetsubo into the sky. “CRAAAB CLAAAN!”  

There would be no talk of eta courage now.

The three remaining warriors shared a nervous glance at the wide ravine. A horde of screaming barbarians were coming. Across the gash in the earth, the archers spotted them and turned to engage. There was no time for hesitation. Zukozuko ran and leapt, smoking robes fluttering behind him. For just a moment she thought she saw one of the black tattoos of the Togashi on his arms, but then it was gone. He sailed impossibly far, and landed easily, immediately slashing and dodging between the archers. The sight inspired O-Hinku, and she hurled herself across the chasm. It yawed, hungry, beneath her, but then her sandals struck solid ground. Makoto was clumsy, but he was strong. He jumped across and cushioned his fall by crushing a Yobanjin flat.

It was a blur of steel and wood. Blood and fire. They herded the archers like so many oxen and flung them to their deaths. The fury of Gaki-Do stood with the blood of Osana-Wo. As the last archer’s head went sailing into the sky and his body exploded, the fire was too much for the Zukozuko to bear. The ronin collapsed to his knees, then fell face first into the mud made of churned ash and blood. Makoto rushed to his friend’s side.

Dizzy from blood loss, O-Hinku gasped for breath. Her hands were shaking. Her muscles begged to stop. There was a ragged line of yobanjin between her and Kenzan’s banner. Had they stopped the archers in time?

The banner dipped and fell.

O-Hinku screamed as rage consumed her. The barbarians would pay for that insult! Without thought, she vaulted over the stone fortification of the archer’s position and ran downhill into the knot of enemies. Her ono was a blur as limbs were removed from bodies, then the battle seemed to open around her.

A barbarian, nearly a head taller than his brothers, was waiting for her as the mob of clashing bodies swarmed all around them. O-Hinku was completely surrounded, but she did not care. She would lift that banner or die trying. Hida Kenzan’s mon lay crumpled beneath filthy fur boots and that was unacceptable. The chieftain lifted a mighty curved sword and taunted O-Hinku in an alien tongue.

They clashed. His sword caught her armor as her ono cut a gash in his cheek. Weeping tears of fire, the chieftain circled. He struck with blinding speed, slashing deep into O-Hinku’s side. Grinding her teeth together, she struck back repeatedly, slamming his sword down further with each mighty blow. The chieftain’s eyes widened in fear as his sword shattered. O-Hinku removed his hand at the wrist, reversed her swing and demolished his knees. He hit the ground and raised his remaining hand, quivering, begging for mercy. O-Hinku lifted her ono one last time, screamed “HIDA!” and chopped his skull in half.

The tattered Crab banner rose again, fluttering and snapping in the hot wind. The river of souls flowing to Gaki-Do would run deep this day.

 #

Coming next week, the aftermath of the battle, Ide Todo finds his purpose in life, and the plot thickens. http://larrycorreia.wordpress.com/2011/11/18/the-burning-throne-episode-5-aftermath/ 

Book Signing and Updates

I’m doing a book signing this Saturday at the Layton, Utah B&N from 7-9 PM. I have totally forgotten to publicize this, so if you’re a Utahn, do me a favor and tell your friends. I’ll have copies of everything, including the just released The Grimnoir Chronicles: Spellbound.

Speaking of which, I got my Bookscan numbers yesterday. It had a pretty darn good release for a hard cover. I don’t know about making the NYT though. Keep in mind that it is calculated based on certain specific secret bookstores that report in, whereas Bookscan is a more general nationwide list that takes account of around 70% of all books sold. I sold a whole lot more books than the folks that were at the tail end of the NYT last week, but there are too many variables to guess about this week, like where they sold, and what else came out that week to compete with me.

That’s the tail end of the list. To keep things in perspective however, John Grisham sold literally 53 times as many of his new books as I sold of my newest book last week. :)  

MHA is still kicking booty even three months after it came out. Here is the Locus bestseller list:

  PAPERBACKS    
1) A Clash of Kings, George R. R. Martin (Bantam Spectra) 11 2
2) A Game of Thrones, George R. R. Martin (Bantam Spectra) 14 1
3) A Storm of Swords, George R. R. Martin (Bantam Spectra) 11 3
4) A Feast for Crows, George R. R. Martin (Bantam Spectra) 10 4
5) The Name of the Wind, Patrick Rothfuss (DAW) 6 -
6) Monster Hunter Alpha, Larry Correia (Baen) 1 -
7) Kill the Dead, Richard Kadrey (Harper Voyager) 1 -
8) Fahrenheit 451, Ray Bradbury (Del Rey) 21 -
9) Empress of Eternity, L. E. Modesitt, Jr. (Tor) 1 -
10) The Hobbit, J. R. R. Tolkien (Del Rey) 29 -

I’m only behind George Martin and Patrick Rothfuss, the biggest name in fantasy with an awesome TV show and the most critically acclaimed guy in fantasy… This is like the 10th time I’ve been on Locus’ bestseller list. Maybe one of these days they will actually, I don’t know… do something crazy, like mention that I exist or maybe review something I wrote.  Naw…

And last but not least, about yesterday’s Book Bomb. To summarize the results.

HOLY FREAKING CRAP

Yep. Best Book Bomb EVAR.

Rob Well’s Variant shot up the charts. You can see the blow by blow in actual post as the stats updated through out the day. The Monster Hunter Nation rallied. The word was spread. A whole bunch of other authors and bloggers picked up the torch. Rob’s friends got on FB and Twitter. They harrassed their coworkers and bought extra copies for their relatives. It was CRAZY.

When I started this, I though we’d give Rob a nice little nudge. In the past book bombs I’ve been able to get people up into the top 20 of their genre. I didn’t know about this one though, because Rob was in one of the most competitive genres in the entire business. But it didn’t matter. You guys were all like, “whatever, gimme ten more copies.”

By the end of the day, Variant’s rating had improved over 10,000% to become the fastest thing moving up the charts on all of Amazon. That means Rob beat books that had just been on TV. Rob beat books whose authors had just been interviewed on national news programs.

Rob beat damn near EVERYBODY.

We got him up to #57. That’s FIFTY SEVEN out of SIX MILLION.  For one day, Rob Wells was in the top 100 books in the world. The only person ahead of him in his genre is one of the best selling series in history with a mega big movie coming out.

So our little Book Bomb beat books with massive advertising budgets, gigantic marketing pushes, TV shows, and big Hollywood movies.

Basically, we kicked serious ass.  :)

And most importantly, it gave Rob a boost. Financially, he wont’ be able to see the numbers for a week, but yesterday should have put a serious dent in his advance. Strategically, his writing is now in front of a lot of new people who will hopefully become long term fans. And morale wise, Rob knows that there are people who love him and want to support him as he gets through his trials.

Good work, Monster Hunter Nation and friends. I am honored to know you. You guys rock.

Veteran’s Day

Thank you.

Thank one of our warriors today. They have done more for us than we can ever know.

And welcome home in a few days, Tony B., of America’s Finest. Now come get your crap out of my basement. :)

Book Bomb Variant TODAY! Get a good book for a good reason

Amazon link to Variant:  http://rcm.amazon.com/e/cm?t=monshuntnati-20&o=1&p=8&l=as1&asins=0062026089&ref=tf_til&fc1=000000&IS2=1&lt1=_blank&m=amazon&lc1=0000FF&bc1=000000&bg1=FFFFFF&f=ifr 

Today is the day to go purchase Variant by Robison Wells from Amazon, and then to tell all of your friends to do the same.

Why?

The purpose of a Book Bomb is to get as many folks to buy the same book in the same general time frame in order to boost that books stats, so that it shows up higher on the various Amazon bestseller lists, which helps them sell even more books.

But why this book?

First off, Variant is a good read. I’m one of the cover blurbs saying that I read it in one sitting. That is true. It is a solid book. I’ve plugged it before.

But secondly, and more importantly, Rob Wells is a good guy, family man, great writer, and a friend of mine, who has fallen on some really tough times. Rob was recently diagnosed with a severe panic disorder. What that means is that something in his brain chemistry has gotten out of whack, and because of that his fight or flight reflex switch is constantly in the ON position. His doctors have been trying different drugs to see what can get that flipped back to OFF, but in the meantime it has been very bebilitating. 

As a result of his illness, Rob was laid off of his job last week. He’s got no ill feelings toward his employer. They did what they had to do. But now Rob’s sick and unemployed.

Rob has written a few other books, but they were for small regional publishers (and trust me, those don’t pay very good), and Variant is his first national sale.

Now normally a writer would love to quit their day job, but most of us aren’t able to do that until we either have a gigantic hit or we’ve got five or six books in circulation. I’m sure Rob would love to be a full time writer, but he sure as heck wasn’t planning on doing it yet.

So the purpose of this particular Book Bomb is to give Rob a boost, in morale and in sales. The dude has had enough stress lately. So this isn’t charity, because you get a really good book out of the deal. You get a good product, but at the same time you get to help somebody who could use a hand. I think that is a pretty sweet deal.

And when I say good product, I mean it. I started Variant thinking that it was a sort of a modern take on Lord of the Flies, and that alone was entertaining, but then there’s a mystery beneath all of that with one heck of a twist. Variant is being marketed as Young Adult, but think of it as a solidly written book for anyone, just without as much violence or profanity you’d get out of a typical Larry Correia novel. :)

Wait, that’s another selling point. Because it is technically YA, that means you can give a bunch of copies of Variant as CHRISTMAS PRESENTS!

Here is the review of Variant from Elitist Book Reviews: http://elitistbookreviews.blogspot.com/2011/08/variant.html 

And Variant made Publisher’s Weekly Top 10 list of best books of 2011. http://www.publishersweekly.com/pw/best-books/2011/childrens-fiction#book/book-1 

Last night Variant was at #6,068 overall out of six million some odd books, and #74 in his genre.

Right now it is at: Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,947 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Through out the day I will update this as it goes up. I want to get Rob as much of a stat boost as possible so that he can sell more books and get new fans.

So, please tell your friends. Post this on your Twitter, Facebook, or blog. Let’s hook a brother up.

EDIT 1:  Already the Monster Hunter Nation is wrecking face.

Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #991 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

EDIT 2:  The Monster Hunter Nation is driving your enemies before you, and hearing the lamentations of their women, Conan style.

Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #426 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

EDIT 3: Congrats, MHN. You just scissor kicked a bestseller list in the throat! (that’s a good thing)

Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #256 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

EDIT 4: We have now put Rob Wells higher on the Amazon list than I got with my top bestseller, Monster Hunter Alpha… Hey, wait a second… I should totally book bomb myself!

Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #106 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Also, of interest, Amazon has a Movers & Shakers list, which shows the books that have shot up the most. Variant is now #3, having moved up 5,624% in one day. I heard that one of the books we just passed was the big interview on NPR yesterday… So congrats, Monster Hunter Nation. You have defeated NPR.

EDIT 5: Well, Monster Hunter Nation, you are the Oprah Book Club of the blogosphere… Only better armed, and with better taste, and if Tom Cruise tried to jump on your couch you would put him in a choke hold.

We have broke into the top 100. This is an amazing achievement.

Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #86 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

EDIT 6:  Rob is going to have to name his next kid Owen Zastava Wells at this rate. We’ve moved from, wow, nice Book Bomb, into HOLY CRAP territory.

Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #72 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

And this just in, Variant is the top #1, biggest improvement on all of Amazon. It is the #1 Mover and Shaker bestseller having improved 10,166% in the last 24 hours. This is truly the best Book Bomb EVAR.

EDIT 7:  I can’t even say how amazing these results have been.  That’s 61st out of every book in the world. Today Rob Wells has Won The Internet.

Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #61 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

EDIT 8: Rob is still kicking serious booty. What an astounding run

Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #57 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Busy week and random updates

First and most important, remember to buy, and thus Book Bomb the hell out of Variant tomorrow, November 10th, and tell your friends to buy the hell out of Variant tomorrow, to help out the ill and recently laid off friend of mine, Rob Wells. http://www.amazon.com/dp/0062026089/ref=as_li_tf_til?tag=monshuntnati-20&camp=14573&creative=327641&linkCode=as1&creativeASIN=0062026089&adid=1B4V4Y5278KQEEAA7GPS&&ref-refURL=http%3A%2F%2Frcm.amazon.com%2Fe%2Fcm%3Ft%3Dmonshuntnati-20%26o%3D1%26p%3D8%26l%3Das1%26asins%3D0062026089%26ref%3Dtf_til%26fc1%3D000000%26IS2%3D1%26lt1%3D_blank%26m%3Damazon%26lc1%3D0000FF%26bc1%3D000000%26bg1%3DFFFFFF%26f%3Difr

Right now Rob is at: Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #6,068 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

I want to see if we can’t get him to #1.

EDIT: Nevermind, he’s in the same category as The Hunger Games. :)  Let’s shoot for top 10.

In other news, I went to the dentist last week, for the very first time in 5 years… Yeah, I know. Don’t yell at me. I was self-employed for 3 of those and didn’t have dental insurance, and since I’ve had my super awesome day job with insurance, I’ve been too busy and procrastinating.  That said, the good news is I only had a single tiny cavity, which isn’t too shabby at all for a man with an aversion to flossing. The bad news is that I had a chipped tooth, broken a filling, and cracked a crown. I spent two hours yesterday getting grinded on, and get to go back for 3 more visits.  

My next door neighbor is my dentist. I need so many repairs that I’m sure he’ll purchase himself a new snowmobile this year to ride around Yard Moose Mountain. I want him to name it Correia’s Teeth.  On a serious note, I’ll plug Capitol Dental in Ogden, because they made having a jagged chunk of porcelein extracted from your gum about as pleasant as could be.

In other news, I’m still cranking along on Monster Hunter Legion. I have a killer deadline, and I’m working hard to get it wrapped up by Christmas. MHL will be out in September 2012.  After that I’ll either be working on the series with John Ringo, depending on where John is on the outline, or I’ll start working on Warbound. The sequel to Dead Six will be worked on at the same time. Mike doesn’t get back from Afghanistan until February or March, but my half of Swords of Exodus is mostly done already.

I will get the Bookscan numbers for Spellbound’s release week tomorrow. I have absolutely no idea how it is doing. So far my MH series is my bestseller, with even the ones that have been out for a few years still turning in solid numbers every single week.  MHI has remarkable staying power. MHA made it 12 weeks in the top 50 in fantasy nationwide. Hard Magic has done well, but not up to MH numbers, though I need to remember that hard backs and trades cost more, and the mass market isn’t out until next year, so I suppose it is actually doing pretty darn. Dead Six has done respectable, but not a big hit like the others. I don’t know if that is because it is out of my regular genre, or because there is a coauthor, which is too bad, because it is awesome. 

The day job has been hopping. I don’t talk about it much on here, but the small military contractor I work for has been growing steadily and winning new contracts. I’m getting an assistant soon, which will be very nice. I figure I’ve got about one more year of doing the two jobs thing, and then I’ll need to start phasing myself out.

Speaking of multiple jobs, November 1st was a milestone. I let my CCW instructor certifications lapse. I hadn’t taught a class in a year. I’ve just been so busy with work and writing that the idea of killing a whole Saturday to teach a pistol class was just impossible. I will miss it, but there was just no way I could stay current and give the quality class that I wanted to. Back in 2007-2008 I was one of the busiest instructors in the state, teaching 10-50 person classes three or four times a month.

It was a lot of fun, I met a lot of wonderful people, and learned a ton. You wouldn’t believe some of the stories I’ve heard. I got to certify a couple thousand people, and I know of a few of them who had someting bad happen, and were then able to go on and get their money’s worth. :)  I will miss teaching.

Prepare for the MOTHER OF ALL BOOK BOMBS

Mark your calender. On Thursday, November 10th, I’m going to book bomb somebody, and not only that, I’m going to ask all of you for help spread the word because this particular author is in dire need of a boost.

I’ve already plugged Variant by Robison Wells once before. I know many of you read it and liked it. Rob is a friend of mine and a member of Writer Nerd Game Night. Variant is an excellent read, sort of a sci-fi take on Lord of the Flies with a twist, and don’t just take my word for it, it made the Publisher’s Weekly list of the top books of the year. (which is quite the honor, despite PW hating Hard Magic and giving it a sloppy review that made it obvious their lazy ass reviewer only read the first 1/4 of the book. Ultra good Grimnoir and ultra evil Imperium my ass) :)  

But I digress. Variant was one of the best books I’ve read this year. I stayed up late to read it in one sitting.

Normally I wouldn’t bomb the same book again, but Rob is also going through a really tough time. A little while ago he was diagnosed with a severe panic disorder. Basically, something in his brain chemistry has gone out of whack, and his fight or flight reflex is constantly switched on. As a result this has really screwed up his life. He has been trying to get it under control and his doctors have been experimenting with different treatments trying to find the one that will click.

Recently, Rob was laid off from his day job as a result of his illness. This is a real financial hardship for him and his family.

What many people don’t realize about writers is that we keep our day jobs until we have about five or six books in circulation, and sometimes longer depending on how well they are selling. Writing isn’t the most steady of paychecks. (I’m doing well enough now that I could just be a writer, but I happen to love my day job, so I plan on doing it for probably another year).  You’ve got to earn back the advance and even then you only get paid every six months. Variant is Rob’s first book on the national market. He had a ways to go before he would be able to quit the day job, but his illness totally wrecked that plan.

So I want to book bomb the HELL out of Variant. I want to shove that thing up the bestseller lists on Amazon and I want to give my friend a hand.

What is a book bomb? Well, Amazon has its own bestseller list. It is calculated hourly and you are given a sales rank based up on how you stack up against the other six million books on there. It is some sort of strange rolling average algorhythm, but what it comes down to is, the more books that are purchased during that particular time frame, the higher you rank. The higher you rank, the more of their top 50 or top 10 lists you show up on. The more of those you show up on, the higher you go, the more attention you get, the more books you sell.

By getting as many people as possible to purchase the book on a single day, it really kicks a book up the rankings.

So mark your calenders, this Thurday the 10th.

Amazon link to Variant:  http://rcm.amazon.com/e/cm?t=monshuntnati-20&o=1&p=8&l=as1&asins=0062026089&ref=tf_til&fc1=000000&IS2=1&lt1=_blank&m=amazon&lc1=0000FF&bc1=000000&bg1=FFFFFF&f=ifr 

If you were planning on buying a book anyway, I highly recommend Variant. I recommended it before its author fell on really hard times.  Unlike most of my stuff, it is appropriate for adults and teenagers. My 11 and 9 year olds have both read it and really liked it, but they read grown up books anyway. So it makes a good Christmas present. Even the lovely Mrs. Correia really liked Variant, and she is the toughest critic I know.  

If you’ve got a blog, I’d like to ask a favor and please post about this. Rob is a good dude and needs a hand. And you get an awesome book out of the deal.

I’ll put up another post on Thursday linking to some reviews.

EDIT:  And here is Rob’s blog, http://www.robisonwells.com/   He doesn’t know I’m doing this yet.

The Burning Throne Episode 3: The Ballad of Ide Todo

Continued from here: http://larrycorreia.wordpress.com/2011/10/26/the-burning-throne-part-2/ 

So continues the journal from Writer Nerd Game Night. This week’s episode had one from me (Hida Makoto), two from Steve Diamond (Ide Todo, and the ever truthful bard, Ikoma Katsu, an NPC that develops quite the case of hero worship), and Robison Wells (Tsuruchi Machio).  The forest fire was a result of our secret fugitive flaming fist monk trying to be awesome when nobody could see him.

Banishing the Moonless Night: The Rise of Ide Todo

By Ikoma Katsu

A legend, he was.  A nightmare.

            The Moonless Night.

            For what seemed an eternity The Moonless Night orchestrated raids on Lion and Scorpion Lands both.  Resources were strained.  Our people lived in constant fear.  The Army of Dark Fire approached from the north, crushing all who stood in its way.  The Badger Clan was ground into dust, and the Unicorn found themselves hard pressed.  In an impossibly short time—all too often the case in wars—our war against the Army of Dark Fire began spiraling out of control.

            Our honorable Lion Clan wanted nothing more than to join the fight.  Could there be any doubt as to the need of Lion armies at the front?  But we could not leave.  We could not help.  The pirates known as the Red Sun, under the direction of The Moonless Night, were crippling our lands.

            Then came Ide Todo.  A savior sent by The Thousand Fortunes?  Perhaps, though he would humbly deny any such grandeur.  But ease our burdens he did.

            The name Ide Todo is now known throughout every clan in Rokugan, but it was not always so.  His skill with negotiation and words among the Unicorn and their neighbors earned him recognition among the royal family, and he was soon commissioned by the Imperial Regent to personally deliver needed supplies to the war-front.

            I first met Ide Todo when he single-handedly—even amidst treachery and murder—preserved a treaty in jeopardy between Phoenix and Dragon.  I was so impressed by his skill (though admittedly still growing at the time), that I approached him beseeching his help in the investigation of the Red Sun plaguing our lands.

            And a plague they were in the most horrific sense, though we did not know this at the time.

            I will not detail the conversations I had with Ide Todo, no doubt you have already read them in the first volume of his works that I have compiled.  Suffice it to say, he consented to help—no, it was more than that.  He promised to resolve the situation.  Not only did Ide Todo promise the Lion that he would ease our burdens, I later learned he promised the Scorpion the same.  We all know the deceit that pervades the Scorpions, yet this simple Unicorn courtier did not hesitate in making himself honor-bound  He humbles me even to this day.  

            To say that I worried for his safety would be an understatement.  He had surrounded himself with fine investigators and warriors, but I wondered if even they would be enough to eradicate the disease of pirates virtually imprisoning us.  When I next saw him some weeks later, he seemed somehow taller, though the weight of the Empire (and his imperiled Clan) seemed to be fully upon his shoulders.  I cannot help but marvel at his ability to attract aid.  In addition to the companions I recognized, he had recruited a formidable Crab bodyguard (I call him a bodyguard for his moving plea for aid on behalf of Ide Todo and the Unicorn—this Crab warrior seemed incredibly protective of Ide Todo for reasons myself and historians can only attribute to the courtier’s exceedingly honorable persona).  In addition I was shocked to see with him a virtual army of Spider Clan (their treachery was not known to any at this time).

            By personally interviewing dozens of Ide Todo’s group, I received what I believe to be an accurate picture of what transpired in that haunted forest with the Moonless Night.

            After saving another caravan traveling upriver, and personally directing a route and slaughter of Red Sun bandits (rumors have it that the caravan was directed by gaijin—was his honor and kindness limitless?), Ide Todo led his band into the heart of the haunted forest in the northern part of Lion lands.  I shudder to think how tainted that part of the land must have felt.  They encountered an old man by a shrine by the name of Karaku.  Lion Clan know this name.  A hermit and a healer belonging to our clan (though no longer).  He directed them, in a most helpful manner, to an encampment of Red Sun said to be led by the Moonless Night.

            Alas, Karaku had treachery in his heart.

            Ide Todo—this from his own mouth and from the leader of the Spider Clan—was the first notice something amiss.  A shadow watching them.  Tracks were discovered leading away from the group.  Though his followers attempted to dissuade him from following, Ide Todo reminded his honorable companions of their promise made to rid the lands of these pirates, and The Moonless Night.  Though fearful, they acquiesced.

            A patch of evil night—of blacker darkness, even—descended upon the brave men and women under Ide Todo’s care.  As is often the case in wars and battles, a rational and calm voice amidst chaos can turn the tide. Ide Todo is not known for his prowess in physical battle (for there are many variations of battle), but it was his voice that his small army heard, calmly and decisively directing the flow of battle.  As warriors fell prey to foul magics—even Ide Todo himself was under direct sorcerous assault—this humble Unicorn courtier kept a level head and used his awareness of the events to lead his men and women to victory.  It was a dire situation, for not only this piece of the Shadowlands itself decimating the warriors, but they also found themselves under the assault of foul zombies.

            Ide Todo directed his best archers, pointing them in the area he perceived to be this evil’s physical presence, and had them loose arrows straight and true into the center of the blackness.

            The darkness evaporated, leaving behind a corpse.

            The corpse of the hermit Karaku.

            With the attacker dead—The Moonless Night himself—the zombies lost their direction and were crushed.  Upon the corpse of Karaku was found a scroll case containing the most wicked of magics.  I witnessed the evil power they contained myself when Ide Todo presented the body of Karaku (even after battle he kept his wits about him) and the scroll case.  Jade was dulled nearly instantaneously in its proximity to the scrolls, but not before it was determined that they were the scrolls and spells of the blood necromancers, the maho-tsukai.

            The Moonless Night was dead.  Ide Todo gained the trust and armies of the Lion and Scorpion Clans for ridding them of this undead plague.  In doing so he fulfilled his promise that he made personally to me.

            Though the Empire was thrown into chaos at this time with the death of the Imperial Regent, tales of the Ide’s honor and glory spread reminding all peoples that not everything was lost.

            And this was just the beginning of the rise of Ide Todo.

Banishing the Moonless Night

The Rise of Ide Todo Volume Two

Ikoma Katsu – Bard of the Lion Clan

#

Fifth Entry

From the journal of Hida Makoto, Crab Clan. 

What a busy day!

Tsuruchi Machio caught up with us after the big fight against the pirates. He just missed running into his betrothed. The Mantis are a strange folk, in that they would arrange a marriage to a gaijin. (I like her, though. She was nice for a gaijin, not that I’d ever met a gaijin before or anything, but I had assumed they would be uglier.) Machio-san had been off delivering a message to the Lion for Ide Todo. Good thing Todo-sama wrote the message, because when it comes to diplomacy Machio makes me sound like the Voice of the Emperor in comparison.

Our Kitsuki followed the pirate’s trail. After a few hours journey into Lion lands, we entered a forest, and came across an ancient shrine to Ikoma. We met a fat old shugenja that healed our ronin, Zukozuko. Too bad his knowledge of the kami wasn’t good enough to fix Shiver’s messed up face. His name was Karaku. Todo-sama (being very educated) could tell that he was trained in a Kitsu dojo.

Karaku said he knew nothing of the Moonless Night, but he did give us directions toward the pirates. In thanks, Zukozuko performed a tea ceremony for us and Karaku. However, some of us got a real bad feeling about the fat man, so we sent one Tsuruchi archer to follow him.

You know, I really like tea. I prefer sake, but tea is nice, too.

The forest grew increasingly silent the further we went in. It got worse and worse. No animals. It smelled a little like the Shadowlands, though not nearly as bad. Iko was nervous as well and I have come to trust her skill as a gunso. Yet, nobody wanted to listen to the Crab or the Spider. Oh no, let’s blunder along and see what comes to eat us! When did I become the smart one?  Sigh.

Ide Todo spotted a shadow in the trees. We went to investigate and found footprints. They were wet. We tracked them for quite some time, but they weren’t getting any drier. Now will somebody listen to me?  No. Of course not.

So of course we were ambushed in the forest. A foul blackness fell on our group, blinding us. Something landed in our midst. I tried to get out of the darkness, but tripped and fell. Then some idiot set the forest on fire. I bet they thought that was a fine idea at the time. Afterwards nobody would fess up.

It took me a few seconds to crawl out of the dark. By then there were many drowned undead converging on our position and their magic was making the other, less sturdy, samurai choke as if they were drowning.

I was having a fine time clubbing zombies. However, the dark cloud leapt into the air and landed down by Machio-san. There was a noise when he managed to hit something with his katana, but then Machio got tossed into the river. I figured it was some kind of wet oni, and it was beating the rice out of everyone else. Iko and many of her men were downed by some curse, and I’ve come to respect this misfit Spider clan. Plus I really didn’t want Todo-sama to die either, and not just for selfish reasons. I have to admit that I’m beginning to like that strange little man.

A proper warrior shouldn’t be wasting his time clubbing stupid zombies when there’s a big evil moist shadow being in need of killing, so I yelled for it to come and face me. It did.

It was dark again. I told Kenzan that he should let me take a finger of jade on my journey but he had said, “Oh, no. There’s no tainted monsters that far north, silly brother! We need the jade here on the Wall.” Well, guess what? Tainted monster. Told you so. The unseen monster called us the Dark Army of Fire. I called it stupid, said we were fighting the Dark Army, and tried to hit it.

I am embarrassed to say that I missed. I should not have. As a child in my village we used to play a game called Oni in the Dark. One child got to be the oni. The other children had to wear blindfolds. Then we hit each other with sticks. I usually won. But I digress.

So then the shadow monster had the nerve to tell me to bow down and worship it. Ha! Foolish monster. It does not know many Crab! I told it to suck tetsubo. So then it blasted me with a spell and bounced me off a tree twenty feet away. Luckily my flight killed another zombie. 

Then Machio managed to stick an arrow into the monsters head. The darkness lifted. Turned out that the Moonless Night was that fat bastard Kitsu Karaku all along. The foul maho-tsukai had managed to put some sort of curse on me though, because the forest fire was extra scary and whispering that it wanted to eat my soul. It was very shameful to show fear, but not getting burned to death did seem like the strategic thing to do at the time, so we had Tsuzi-san’s eta grab the dead body and we got out of the haunted part of the forest. Luckily the curse wore off, because otherwise I wouldn’t be writing this by candlelight!

I made sure to say extra prayers to Osana-Wo so he wouldn’t be mad at me.

The ronin Zukozuko managed to rescue Iko from the fire, which was nice, but then he screwed it up and didn’t put her down when she asked. It made her lose face in front of her men. I like Zuko, and I think he’d make a fine Crab, but sometimes I think he’s not the sharpest sword on the rack. Sadly, we lost two Moto bushi and two Tsuruchi archers, and the one that we’d dispatched to follow Karaku was never seen again. The Spider also took several casualties. They died bravely as samurai should. I will remember their deeds in my prayers.

We found a scroll case on the body. The foul taint was obvious to me and Iko-san. Despite our disapproval, the others still wanted to fool around with the scroll. They asked what was the worst that could possibly happen. I said it could summon Fu Leng. Oh, that time they listened to the Crab.

When we got back to the Lion castle we got the bad news about the Regent’s death. I’m sure the Empire will get by just fine as long as all these other idiot clans can stop their poetry contests long enough to point their bushi in the direction of the empire’s actual enemies and not just each other. However, since that’s who appointed Ide Todo to this mission, I just hope that this doesn’t screw up my chance to impress the Otomos.

All of this courtly intrigue… Kisada help me, I just want to take a tetsubo and smack some sense into these perfumed geishas. 

We took the body of Karaku and showed it to Akodo Haru, daimyo of the Lion. He was deeply shamed that maho was being practiced in his lands. Ide Todo made with the fancy talk. He really needs to get some warriors to help his people before the Unicorn are consumed.

Haru-sama waffled on sending troops because he was worried about the maho in his lands spreading, so I tried to convince him that the empire was depending on him. I really should practice this talking stuff more often because I’m really not very good at it. Todo-sama said I did well, but I think he was just trying to be nice. Then an Ikoma bard wrote a song about Ide Todo or something. The Lion gave us 300 men.

Next we went back to the Scorpion at Three Pillars. The annoying Bayushi Ujiro was gone, thankfully, but we talked to the daimyo with the bulldog. I like him, and not just because he fed us gyoza, but rather because I’m guessing only every other word he speaks is a lie, which is a rather good ratio for a Scorpion. The Scorpion gave us 350 men.

Tomorrow we leave for the front.  May the Fortune of Persistence smile upon us.

#

Unauthenticated Journals of Ide Todo

I am a coward.

            I write this account in the heart of the Three Pillars Fortress.  I have won competitions, preserved treaties, participated in the massacre of pirates, battled maho-tsukai and the undead…

            …and I have watched companions die.

            It sickens me.

            Looking at my companions who have survived the journey thus far, I see judgment filling their eyes.  Perhaps even disappointment.  While they wade into the thick of battle risking their lives—and indeed, their very souls—I stand separate, guarded by those that remain of my Clan.  An ever dwindling number it is—

            I am ashamed.  Thinking of my fellow Clan members as numbers rather than people.  My Clan may soon be razed and blown away like sands in the desert, so the numbers are important.  But never should I think of them as anything less than heroes.  Never anything less.

            I write this in a moment of distress.  The Regent is dead.  What does this mean for my journey?  In truth, I am unsure why I was chosen in the first place.  I feel the weight of the full Empire dragging me down like Tainted chains.  But never must I allow my companions to see my distress.  They think me weak as is.  How can they have confidence in this simple courtier if they see me collapsing under the weight they could withstand without notice?

            And so I do what I have always done.  I put on a brave face, and talk as much as possible.  The more I speak the more they feel sorry for me.  They even do what I say to stop my mouth from rambling on like an age addled woman.  As we fought the Lion Karaku, I cowered blind.  When I could finally see, I was witness as warriors fell.  So what did I do?  I talked.  I played at General directing our warriors towards places they undoubtedly had already noticed.  I was so poor at it that I even heard Iko repeating my orders so that her Clan could understand me through my fear.

            My main failing, however, is one of curiosity.  I love to learn, yet I fail in doing so.  This Spider Clan should be a wealth of information, yet I cannot get even a kernel of rice from them.  I find myself doubting their virtue, then cursing my lack of faith.

            But the worst of my curiosity was when I saw that tube of scrolls we found on the necromancer.  Hida Makoto wanted them sealed immediately, and I understood his fear.  But I wanted to read them.  I wanted to fill in my gaps of knowledge…

            I ramble.  I know why I have begun writing.  I realized I needed to once that bard Ikoma Katsu hinted that he was detailing my heroics for the annals of time—he never even talked to those that have been the real heroes thus far.  I write because in these words I can tell the truth outright rather than skirting around it like I am forced to every time I look at my heroic companions, and every time I open my mouth.  Here I can say that I am not the man they think I am.  I wear a mask to hide my terrible curiosity and my true nature; a mask not unlike that blinding shadow we encountered today obscuring everyone’s full measure of observation.

            My greatest fear—one that I will never voice—is that I will have to sacrifice everything, and every single one of my honorable companions to dam the flow of the Army of Dark Fire’s advance.  I fear that I will have to go down darker paths.

            And that even in winning, we will lose.

Journals of Ide Todo

Authenticity Unconfirmed

Discovered in the Shadowlands 1175

#

Dearest Aramoana,

I hear that I missed your caravan. Worse, I hear that you had an unfortunate run-in with Zukozuko. Of course I don’t believe his side of the story–that he “rescued” you (as if you would need rescuing!)–but I hope that in the process he didn’t get too acquainted, if you know what I mean. (He just “rescued” another woman, Iko, and publicly dishonored her in front of her men.) I tell you, the way these samurai pretend to have honor is pure horsecrap.

That’s one of the many reasons I enjoy being with you–your people aren’t always putting on airs and dancing around their words and hiding their true feelings. It gets old.

I shot a sorcerer in the head. It was awesome. He ambushed us, enveloping us in a cloud of darkness. I was the first to escape the cloud, the first to kill one of his zombie minions. And when he chased me I struck the first blow with my sword, all while blinded.

(Did I mention that I’ve learned the ways of kenjutsu? I have, and in a surprisingly short amount of time. Just natural talent and hard work, I guess. That’s the thing: I got into a duel and realized I needed to improve in the art of swordplay, so I buckled down and learned it. It amazes me how many people sit back and let everyone else do their work for them. I mean–courtiers, am I right?) (I won the duel, by the way.)

Anyway, there were more than fifty of us–my band, and a small contingent from the Spider Clan (don’t ask)–yet the sorcerer only suffered three wounds, and two were from me. If you want a job done, you have to do it yourself.

The shot was amazing, though, and I don’t mind saying it. I’d just got thrown off a thirty foot ravine into a river, climbed out, and then aimed and shot. Boom–back of the head. Cloud disappeared, and Tsuruchi Machio gets to paint another lion on his bow. (Did I mention this sorcerer was a lion? They’re the worst.)

We have a new guy traveling with us, Hida Makoto. You’d like him. He’s a bit of a partier (though you could drink him under the table) and he’s quick with his tetsubo. He was taking out the sorcerer’s zombies while I was taking out the sorcerer. We make a good team. (He’s a little cowardly, though–more than what I’d expect for someone who guarded the Wall. At the first sign of the sorcerer he wanted to turn tail, and you should have seen him once the forest fire started!) Even so, he’s a good guy.

Oh!–Remember my little monk who followed me around all the time? He finally tore off one robe too many.

I look forward to the day when you and I can leave this place and live together on the open sea. We are traveling up the same river, and we aren’t far behind you. I’m sure we’ll see each other soon.

In the meantime, I wrote you a haiku:

Aramoana
I really love your peaches
Want to shake your tree

Till then,

Machio

#

To be continued next week with our first action scene fiction starring special guest Crab, Hida O-Hinku, and the Battle of Shinjo Ridge. http://larrycorreia.wordpress.com/2011/11/11/the-burning-throne-episoide-4-the-battle-of-shinjo-ridge/ 

Fun with Pictures Time!

I love when people send me stuff:

First up, a young man that dressed up as Owen Zastava Pitt for Halloween:

With his own Abomination

 

And that is about proportionate for a Ganga Ram

And check out this Cold Steel kukri that someone worked over:

 

 

From a rail speeder:

Completely unrelated, but just because every time I see this picture I laugh and laugh:

And these pics are from Sinistral Rifleman and his annual Halloween shotgun match

b

Ready to intimidate witnesses

 

b

Keeping an eye on a dangerous beast while trick r treating

And I got a ton of these this year:

 

Review of Spellbound from Elitist Book Reviews

http://elitistbookreviews.blogspot.com/2011/11/spellbound.html 

And if you want to try to buy it try this nifty link that looks like crap, won’t appear as a stupid button no matter what I do, but gets me an extra couple of percent on an Amazon gift card so I can buy more Warmachine. 

[iframe src="http://rcm.amazon.com/e/cm?t=monshuntnati-20&o=1&p=8&l=as1&asins=1451637756&ref=tf_til&fc1=000000&IS2=1&lt1=_blank&m=amazon&lc1=0000FF&bc1=000000&bg1=FFFFFF&f=ifr" "width="100%" height="480"]

Another WordPress tech question

Okay, so I signed up for the Amazon Associates program, mostly because I’m always steering traffic through there anyway, and this way I can get a percentage back. Plus I’m getting over 50,000 hits a month on this blog, I figured I might make enough back in Amazon gift cards to download a song or something. :)

It gives you HTML to copy and paste, which is supposed to show up as a groovy little button.  Over on the left of this post you can see where I put in a text box and pasted in the HTML for links to all my novels.  However it just shows up as weird text, though if you click on it, it takes you to a page that shows the button, that you can then click on to go to Amazon. 

So how do I make it just show the nifty little buttons?

And yes, I am mostly computer illiterate. But I probably shoot better than you do so it evens out.  :)

<a title="Buy Monster Hunter Legion test" href="http://rcm.amazon.com/e/cm?t=monshuntnati-20&o=1&p=8&l=as1&asins=1451637756&ref=tf_til&fc1=000000&IS2=1&lt1=_blank&m=amazon&lc1=0000FF&bc1=000000&bg1=FFFFFF&f=ifr” target=”_blank”><iframe src=”http://rcm.amazon.com/e/cm?t=monshuntnati-20&o=1&p=8&l=as1&asins=1451637756&ref=tf_til&fc1=000000&IS2=1&lt1=_blank&m=amazon&lc1=0000FF&bc1=000000&bg1=FFFFFF&f=ifr&#8221; style=”width:120px;height:240px;” scrolling=”no” marginwidth=”0″ marginheight=”0″ frameborder=”0″></iframe>

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