The Burning Throne, Episode 10: The Nakado

Continued from: http://larrycorreia.wordpress.com/2011/12/16/the-burning-throne-episode-9-traitors-rice-merchants/ 

Christmas is over, so back to posting updates of this serial. 

Kuni Magatsu was a new addition to the group, played by novelist Paul Genesse. Paul is exceedingly hard core. Paul is an awesome guy, and when he games, he is one of those really intense personalities that really gets into it. So what better for him than an extremely powerful, possibly insane, face paint wearing, brutally efficient wizard, who happens to think that he is prophetic, but only when he is drunk.

At this point the novelists involved have gotten rather geeky and the fictions are getting more elaborate. I wrote this next part, and basically dumped an absurdly impossible task onto poor Steve’s character: Find a way to marry this guy who is one step above barbarian to a princess.  

Twelfth Entry

From the journal of Hida Makoto, Crab Clan. 

The Brotherhood of the Paper Lantern…

As I study the characters, I have to marvel at the wisdom of Ide Todo. Paper Lanterns shed light upon the darkness. They are humble, nothing as precious as emerald or jade, yet paper is everywhere. We are officially accepted in the lands of the Dragon, Unicorn, Crab, and Lion, yet we are only a mere group of wandering magistrates, no threat to any local lords. As Todo-sama uses his humility as a weapon in the courts, so shall we use it across the lands.  

Zuko has been appointed to be the second in command of our Brotherhood. I’m sure he will do a fine job, though I must admit that I am disappointed that I was not chosen. I was certain that since I had more military experience that Todo-sama would have picked me, but he said that he had political reasons, and something about how this showed that regardless of clan or background, someone could be a leader in our new organization, and other such courtier talk. It does not matter. To a samurai, pride is a sin. Where he leads, I will follow.

Luckily, Zuko is sharp, and said he’d use me for bossing around the troops. I still think he would’ve made a good Crab.

Ikoma Katsu, the Lion bard, has decided to follow us. I’m sure he will write more songs about how brave Todo-sama was while I was busy being stabbed or Zuko was being set on fire. My brother informed me that he was dispatching Kuni Magatsu to accompany us, and that I was to be the shugenja’s yojimbo. This troubles me, because Kuni… Well… let us just say that the Kuni can be very different. The last Kuni I dealt with had been enjoying himself entirely too much while cutting off Ide Tong’s fingers. It did not help that Kenzan said that Magatsu was particularly unnerving even by Kuni standards.

Great… I’m a glorified armor carrier for a Kuni madman and an anti-social minor-clan former-ronin is my gunso… Kisada, you sure do have a sense of humor.

Kenzan complimented me for my “surprisingly successful” service thus far. His words ring hollow now. He is my lord, and thus I will do as he commands, but what he intended as praise tastes of mockery. Though I can see newfound respect in the eyes of many of my Crab brothers, Kenzan still judges me by the sins of my blood. I held my tongue during our meeting. There is nothing for me to say to him now. The mountain will endure.

Thirteenth Entry

From the journal of Hida Makoto, Crab Clan. 

Over the last few weeks, we have travelled deep into Dragon lands. Kuni Magatsu is a pleasant enough travelling companion, for a frightening, disturbing, possibly insane Earth shugenja. He is a tall man, who I have yet to see without his traditional white and red face paint. Normally I would make a joke about geishas, but I do not think I wish to joke about Magatsu-san. Ever. The Shinjo men have taken to calling him Magatsu no Oni behind his back. They are mistaken. I have fought two Oni in my life, and I would rather face another than Kuni Magatsu.

Our guide is named Mirumoto Hiro. He appears proficient. He does not like ronin Rei, recognizing him as having been cast out of the Dragon.  Too bad, Hiro. Rei, I trust. You, I do not yet.

Each day we climb higher. We have encountered few Yobanjin and countless refugees. The Yobanjin were swiftly dispatched. The refugees… They shuffle by in an endless stream, many carrying their charred belongings on their back. I do not know how to explain it, but their starving eyes haunt me as I try to sleep. Though we are here to help them, the peasants are scared of us. This troubles my thoughts, and I do not understand why.

Despite continuing to pray to the Fortunes for guidance, I have not felt as if I’ve been making progress in my mission. Perhaps I have lacked sufficient determination. The Fortunes have placed me in the company of Ide Todo for a reason. At times it seems impossible, for surely Otomo Yuni is too valuable to the Empire to be wasted on such as I, and will be betrothed to some daimyo. If I am to marry Otomo Yuni as Kisada has commanded, then I must find a way to increase my worthiness. So I have asked a favor of Ide Todo. He has agreed to serve as my marriage arranger. He was very helpful and certain of success… Oh, who am I kidding? He thinks I’ve been in the sun too long without a hat, but Todo-sama is the most honest man I have ever known, so since he has agreed to do this thing, I’m certain it will be done.

The Nakado

Ide Todo looked up from his journal as the tent flap was lifted. The sudden night wind caused the candles to flicker. It was always windy and cold in the Dragon mountains. His yojimbo, Moto Khano appeared and bowed respectfully. “Hida Makoto wishes to speak with you.”

“Send him in.” Todo cleaned the ink from the quill with a piece of silk and placed everything carefully back into his calligraphy set. His musings on his own personal inadequacies would have to wait. The Crab had served loyally since the days fighting the Red Sun. Though sometimes clumsy, painfully awkward in the courts, and seeming to suffer from a curse of bad luck, Makoto was a fearsome bushi, smarter than he looked, and most importantly to Ide Todo, could always be counted on to give an honest assessment of any situation.

Makoto entered, having to crouch in order to not rip the canvas of the tent’s roof with the ornamental crab claws on his helmet. It was rare to see a Crab out of its shell. Todo suspected that whenever they were outside of the walls of a city, Makoto even slept in his armor. The giant bowed. “Todo-sama.”

“Please, sit.” Makoto knelt with a clank of metal on metal. As the Crab removed his helmet, Todo asked, “So, Makoto-san, what do you think of this shugenja that Hida Kenzan has assigned to us?”

“I believe that when goblins have nightmares, they dream of Kuni Magatsu.”

“Oh… Yes. Well then… What do you wish to speak about?”

“I have come to ask a favor of you.” Makoto paused for a long time, scowling, as if trying to think of the words.

“Please continue. We have travelled together and you have served our cause with unwavering loyalty. You have helped defend my people. The Ide are always prepared to help a friend.”

“Well.” Makoto cleared his throat. “It would honor me greatly, if you would serve as my nakado.”

“Your match maker?”

“Yes.” Makoto bowed again.

Todo was a bit taken back. “You wish for me to arrange your marriage?”

“Only once our mission is complete of course.”

“I am aged forty-two years and have never wed. What do I know about marriage? I do not believe I am suited—”

It was extremely rude to cut off someone of greater status, but Makoto tended to forget such social niceties. “You are the most skilled courtier I have ever seen.”

“You have not seen many courtiers.”

“I have seen enough. I believe that the Fortunes have guided me to you for this purpose.”

Ide Todo had never thought about it, but Makoto was in his early twenties and unwed. His education on the other clans suggested that Crab tended to marry young, because the life expectancy of a warrior on the Wall was the shortest in the Empire. Also, it was well known that the Crab were by far the most casual and least complicated of all the clans on the subject of finding a spouse. So it was rather surprising that young Makoto was not yet betrothed, but he also knew from the way the other Crab in Shiro Shinjo had treated Makoto that there was something dark in this particular Crab’s past. That would explain his need for a nakado.

“Would this not be a task better suited for your brother? He is of rather high rank among your people.”

“Kenzan and I, we are in… disagreement on this subject. My family will not help in this endeavor, but they will not stand in the way either. I need an outsider. I know it is customary for a family to pay for the services of a nakado, but I have very few koku—”

“It is not necessary—”

“So I will pay you in dead Yobanjin. You may set the number necessary in order to secure your homeland. I defer to your wisdom on such financial matters.”  

Ide Todo sighed. It was the nature of the Ide to be helpful. Their purpose was one of reconciliation, and Makoto was sincere. “Very well. I will use my skills to help you find a bride.”

“Thank you, Todo-sama, but I do not need help finding one. I know who I must marry. I only wish for you to find what is necessary to secure this agreement, and then arrange it.”

This did not sound too difficult. He had no training as a nakado, but they had covered the fundamentals of the practice in the Ide dojo. It should prove simple enough to send a message the Crab maiden’s family to find out what terms would be acceptable. The actual identity of the suitor could even be kept secret at this early stage of the negotiations. “Very well.”

“Thank you, Todo-sama. I will kill a multitude of Yobanjin on your behalf.”

“So what is the name of this lucky girl?”

“Otomo Yuni.”

Ide Todo tilted his head to the side. Had he heard incorrectly? “Did you say Otomo?”

Makoto nodded. “Yes.”

Ide Todo laughed. Oh, Makoto had certainly gotten him. He had not known the Hida had such a sense of humor. The idea of a simple Wall bushi marrying a daughter of one of the most powerful women in the Empire was preposterous. Gradually, he realized that Makoto was scowling at him. His laughter died off. The Crab was not joking. He was completely serious. “But she’s the daughter of…”

“I am aware of her station.”

“How do you even know of her? Have you ever even seen her?”

“Briefly. Once. It is a long story.”

He dreaded what he had to say next, but Ide Todo was incapable of lying. “You realize that what you are asking is impossible? She is a lady of the Imperial court. Her hand will be sought by clan champions and daimyos.”

“I am aware. I will confide in you something that I have only ever told my lord, and I would ask you to keep my secret. The Fortunes themselves have decreed that Otomo Yuni will become a daughter of Hida and my wife. Kisada told me to do this and he is the one that ordered me to follow you. I know that I am not worthy… Yet. But I will be. You will teach me what I must know as far as courtly things, and I hope that winning this war will shower us with sufficient glory.”   Makoto bowed, picked up his helm, tetsubo, and rose to leave. “Thank you, Todo-sama.”

Ide Todo rubbed his face with both hands. This was ridiculous, but he had just said he would help. Sometimes it was very difficult to be an Ide. “Is there anything else you wish to drop on me, Makoto-san?”

“Well… My grandfather was an eta. The Otomos probably won’t like that much either, but nothing we can’t handle. It is my turn on watch now. Good night, Todo-sama. With you as my nakado, we cannot fail.”

To Be Continued next week with the Lighting of the Paper Lanterns:  http://larrycorreia.wordpress.com/2012/01/06/the-burning-throne-episode-11-lighting-the-paper-lanterns/

Cover of the Monster Hunters omnibus edition

I just barely got this. This is the cover of the new hardcover omnibus called The Monster Hunters. It contains MHI, MHV, and MHA. 

Give the gift of tetsubo this Christmas

What do you get for the hard to shop for man in your life? Out of ideas?

How about a samurai war club?

Because nothing says Christmas like a 14 pound stick that could brain a walrus.

For perspective on this club, keep in mind that I am six foot five. That is one big honking stick.

This is what my kids got me. It is completely impractical. It is ridiculously huge. I have no idea what I’m going to do with it.  It is totally awesome.  :) 

Somebody on Facebook called it “bedazzled lumber”. Indeed. Iron Guard Toru tried to kill Jake Sullivan with one of these in TGC: Spellbound. (only his was made out of steel and weighed 80 pounds, but I don’t have super powers, so I’ll stick with wood).  I’m hard to shop for, so massive props to my children for thinking outside the box.

My favorite short story of all time, FREE today. Tabloid Reporter to the Stars

I’ve read a lot of short fiction in my life. If you would ask me to pick my one absolute favorite, it would be Tabloid Reporter to the Stars by Nebula award winner Eric James Stone. I originally read it out of an Intergalactic Medicine Show anthology (if I recall correctly). I’d read it, thought it was awesome, and then wound up meeting Eric at a convention and didn’t realize he was the guy that had written it. 

Eric has since gone on to become like the baddest dude in short fiction. I believe I heard that Orson Scott Card said that Eric is the best short story writer out there. And like I said, he won the Nebula last year. (and then we both got our asses kicked at the Hugos).

But anyway, here it is. Seriously, it is a blast. I will not spoil it, but this story is great. And I just found out that today only it is FREE on the Kindle store.  You should really go snag it. It is free until midnight.

http://rcm.amazon.com/e/cm?lt1=_blank&bc1=000000&IS2=1&bg1=FFFFFF&fc1=000000&lc1=0000FF&t=monshuntnati-20&o=1&p=8&l=as4&m=amazon&f=ifr&ref=ss_til&asins=B004PLO7E0

One of my short stories reviewed

http://elitistbookreviews.blogspot.com/2011/12/crimson-pact-volume-2.html  This is kind of awesome. Poor Steve.  :D 

For the record, when I first met Steve Diamond he had already reviewed some of my books on his book review page, Elitist Book Reviews, and enjoyed them. I’d bookmarked EBR and found that I agreed with them more often than not. The first time we met was at a Con when he interviewed me and John Brown for his webpage. 

It turned out that by day he was an accountant, so we did the secret accountant handshake and complained about auditors for the rest of the convention. At this point he could still get away with reviewing my books because we didn’t know each other that well. Then a year later I ended up joining his game group. (Writer Nerd Game Night, Steve is Ide Todo if you’ve been reading the Friday serials). Then for kicks we wrote the short story Son of Fire, Son of Thunder together for Paul Genesse (who I had known for a lot longer). 

The story turned out remarkably awesome. But at that point, Steve was pretty sure that he could no longer review any of my books fairly, and would have to turn over all future reviews to some of his minions.

Just recently my day job required a new accountant, and I happened to know a guy… So Steve, book reviewer/aspiring novelist/accountant was inducted into the Evil Military Industrial Complex-Finance Division. So now I’m actually his boss.

So now Steve is definitely no longer allowed to review my books.

But anyways, you should snag the Crimson Pact anthology. It is only $5 and it has a ton of stories in it. Paul gathered up writers ranging from experienced to total newbie, and basically told us to go nuts. So he came up with a huge variety of stories.

http://rcm.amazon.com/e/cm?t=monshuntnati-20&o=1&p=8&l=as1&asins=B005LXST8G&ref=tf_til&fc1=000000&IS2=1&lt1=_blank&m=amazon&lc1=0000FF&bc1=000000&bg1=FFFFFF&f=ifr

(good freak, seriously WordPress? Okay. Click on the gibberish above I guess. And yes, I know how to fix it, but WordPress still won’t let me alter links by sticking them into tags, without just turning the link into dead text)

I had enough fun with the character in the one that I wrote, Santos, that I’d like to revisit him someday with a bigger story. Plus, the nice thing for me about having so many military fans is that when I’m writing a Marine, all I’ve got to do is throw out a request on Facebook and I get 50 Marine proof readers looking over the rough draft in a matter of minutes… Because one thing I’ve learned, DO NOT screw up writing a Marine. You will never hear the end of it. (best advice I got? You really can’t put in too many ooh-rahs or F bombs)  :)

CHRISTMAS NOUN 4: OCCUPY CHRISTMAS NOUN

Tis the season for Noun.

 I know the time has come to begin my careful preparation of the Monster Hunter Nation’s annual Christmas Noun Celebration when all the stores begin putting out Christmas decorations, so mid-September. By early November I know it is really time to get writing because all radio stations switch to playing a twenty-four hour loop of the song Favorite Things.

Which is, by the way, the worst Christmas song ever made, especially since it isn’t actually a Christmas song, but everybody plays it this time of year. This song is evil. Just listen to the lyrics, when you are being bitten my vicious dogs or stung by furious swarms of insects it says you should think of snowflakes and crap. That’s terrible advice to be giving impressionable children. I’m surprised there’s not another verse in there that says when you catch on fire, don’t stop, drop, and roll, but rather pause for a moment and think about icicles and peppermint sprinkles.

I think Rodgers and Hammerstein just hated kids and wanted them to stand there stupidly while being stung to death by bees, but that is a topic for another day.

This is the fourth year I’ve prepared a Christmas masterpiece. Inspired by bestselling novels about Christmas Jars, Boxes, Sweaters, Letters, and other assorted nouns, back in 2008 I decided that I needed to write an epic tale of Christmas redemption in order to cash in and make serious bank. Thus the Christmas Noun tradition was born.

In 2008: http://larrycorreia.wordpress.com/2008/12/22/the-christmas-noun/  Young Tim overcame his hatred of Christmas to battle the Anti-Claus in the Peppermint Thunderdome to save Christmas forever.

Until Christmas was threatened again in 2009 in The Nounening: http://larrycorreia.wordpress.com/2009/12/08/the-christmas-noun-2-the-nounening/ Stabby the Snowman was stopped by the Global Warming Power of Love and the Christmas Noun, and Tim saved Christmas forever again.

Until 2010, in The Gritty Reboot: http://larrycorreia.wordpress.com/2010/12/10/the-christmas-noun-3d-the-gritty-reboot/  Rudolf and the Reindeer Separatists declare jihad on Christmas, and Julian Assange is slowly devoured by piranha. (there weren’t that many of them and they were already kind of full) Directed by James Cameron in mind blowing 3D. In memory of James Cameron, who was lost in a freak reindeer accident during the filming of Christmas Noun 3D.  

Ladies and Gentlemen, without further ado, here are excerpts from the upcoming fourth installment of my epic Christmas saga.  

THE CHRISTMAS NOUN 4

OCCUPY CHRISTMAS NOUN

Written by Larry Correia, Directed by Michael Bay. Soundtrack by Tangerine Dream.

***

Opening Introduction narrated by Ron Perlman.  

As Christmas decks the halls, a darkness decks the hearts of men.

At first came the music. Then came the rage…

The Whos of Whoville had been helpless against his Arashikage Ninja stealth training. He owned the night. Victory had been within his grasp, but a moment of weakness and a runaway sleigh had snatched it from his hands, causing his heart to triple in size.

This dangerous cardiac state caused him to return their snoof and their tringlers and fuzzles. He brought back their pantookas, their dafflers, and wuzzles. He did lots of things that rhymed with made up words and everyone was happy… Or so the story goes…

They called him the Grinch.

Once before he’d tried to steal Christmas, and once before, he’d tasted the bitter agony of defeat. This time he vowed things would be different. Now his evil prepares to consume the Earth, like how your relatives staying at your house for the holidays consume all your spiral cut ham… Yum. Ham.

The Grinch has returned with a dastardly new scheme. Steal Christmas? No… Times have changed. Now the Grinch intends to redistribute Christmas.

The only thing that stands in the way of the Grinch’s nefarious plot is the righteous power of the Christmas Noun.

Because Christmas… Christmas never changes.

***

From Chapter 1

The Grinch stood on top of the overturned police car and shouted through his bullhorn. “It isn’t right that one man determines who is naughty and who is nice! I’ll say it twice!”

His army of disaffected morons were battling the riot police, egged on by the Grinch’s fiery, poorly rhyming rhetoric. They Occupy North Pole protestors held up their signs that read things like:

IT ISN’T FAIR THE GOOD CHILDREN GET ALL THE TOYS.

REINDEER ARE PEOPLE TOO.

SANTA IS A CORPORATE SHILL. ELVES OF THE WORLD UNITE!

1% OF THE HOLIDAYS GET 99% OF THE EGG NOG.

The Grinch surveyed the mob of useful idiots. Their makeshift tent city of Bum Town smelled of hemp and poop. They were stinky, whiney, annoying hippies, but the Grinch knew that he could manipulate them into doing exactly what he wanted,  just like George Soros had before him.

After Julian Assange had wikileaked the Naught/Nice list last year, it had been child’s play to manipulate the lazy, stupid, apathetic losers that wound up on the Naughty list into throwing tantrums about those that had worked hard to make it onto the Good list. The mobs had taken over the cities. Santa’s workshop was under siege. That was phase one. Phase two would ensure that Christmas would be ruined for everyone.

He knew it was evil, but the Grinch had been driven mad from fifty-three years of listening to the Whos’ floofoovers, tartookas, whohoppers, sloosunkas and other gibberish words. His heart had exploded, and worst of all, he had been portrayed by Jim Carrey in a really strange movie version of the events. The Grinch was so damaged that he had developed a terrible compulsion to make everything rhyme.

“Santa will pay. Or so I say,” the Grinch told his evil henchmen. His weird little reindeer dog Max had run away, so he had replaced him with a hippy named Swampy. He had stapled reindeer horns onto Swampy’s head, but the hippy been too stoned to notice.

“Huh?” said Swampy, who had been busy tweeting on his iPhone.

“He’ll rue the day. Okay?”

“Yeah, cool. Whatever man. As long as I get free stuff. I don’t want to pay all those student loans for my degree in gender studies.” Swampy went back to tweeting. “That’s so lame.”

The evil ninja wrecker of Christmas nodded approvingly. The ignorant goons that made up the Naughty list would be more than a match for the power of the Christmas Noun. The Grinch had even painted his face all creepy like the Heath Ledger version of the Joker… Because some men just wanted to watch Christmas burn.

“You put me on the naughty list, I punch you with my fist!” The Grinch roared into his bullhorn. The idiot hippies gave him up twinkles.

***

From Chapter 1

It had been several months since Tim, the man who had saved Christmas three times, Hanukah twice, and even Arbor Day once, had opened his Black Tiger Kung Fu and Mall Santa Prep Academy for Inner City Youths. He watched with pride as his students practiced their roundhouse kicks in orderly rows of red and white padded suits. Chants of “Ho Ho KIIIIIII-YAAAAAA!” filled the air. A whole new generation of Christmas Noun defending warriors would be ready in time for the Black Friday rush. Life was good for Tim.

However, since this was the fourth installment of the franchise, Tim’s character arc required that he finally have achieved happiness, but as an action hero, also be very bored with his newfound easy life. Luckily, Hollywood has a formula for everything.

“Oh, Tim,” said Sally Love-Interest as she joined him on the balcony overlooking the grueling training of the mall Santa dojo. “Our grown son is being troublesome again.”

Tim sighed. “Though Tim Junior is exactly like me in a lot of ways, and we share many of the same action hero traits, I can’t see those similarities at all, and instead focus on our differences. As usual I’ll be disapproving of him until we both learn a valuable life lesson. Don’t you worry… So what is it this time?”

“I’m afraid he’s fallen in with a bad crowd. Tim Junior is hanging out with that OWS bunch and doesn’t appreciate the spirit of the Christmas Noun!”

 Tim put his arm around his lovely young wife, and she really was lovely, because since this was the fourth installment of the series, the actress that played Sally Love-Interest in the previous episodes had been replaced with a younger, hotter actress.  “Don’t you worry, dear. I’m sure some life altering adventure will occur that will make the two of us understand each other better, eventually we will work together as father and son, and then he’ll be ready to spin off the franchise should I get too old or want too much money.”

***

From Chapter 2

Tim Junior had attended the Occupy North Pole rally, not that he really believed in the redistribution of Christmas, which was just a nicer word for stealing, but a whole bunch of clueless college girls did, and Tim Junior had discovered that OWS was a great way to meet slutty chicks. It had been pretty fun for awhile, but the lack of hygiene and the recent tuberculosis outbreaks had been the last straw, so he was bailing.  He had just picked up a copy of Skyrim for the Xbox and knew how he was going to spend the next eighty to a hundred hours.

“Tim Junior?”

“Dad? What’re you doing here?”

Tim Senior had been hiding in the bushes in his ghillie suit, spying on the Grinch’s command tent. “I’m trying to stop the Grinch from destroying Christmas.”

“Come on, Dad. He only wants to redistribute Christmas. Not destroy it. It isn’t fair for some percentage of something to control another percentage of whatever, numbers and stuff.”

Tim knew his grown son wasn’t that stupid. “You don’t buy that line of crap, do you?”

“Of course not.  I realize you’re totally right and that lunatic is going to blow up Christmas, but I’ve got to disagree with you on the principle that we need to have a mandatory father-son conflict. It makes for good drama.”

“Could we just skip that part and get to the kung-fu fighting? We’ve got a huge special effects budget to blow through. We don’t want this to turn into a Transformer’s movie where everybody fast forwards through every scene with humans in it just to get to the giant robot fights!”

Tim Junior swallowed with nervous apprehension. As a desperate attempt to put life into an old franchise as a suddenly grown son, he didn’t want to end up all hated by fans like Mutt had at the end of Indiana Jones 4. Please, don’t make me swing with the monkeys. “You’re right, Dad. Let’s go kick some ass.”

“Let’s kick ass… For Christmas!”  They shook on it and the music got all dramatic.

***

From Chapter 4

“Stop right there, Grinch!” Tim Senior shouted. “Let the Christmas Noun go!”

The Grinch drew his sword. “I was humming, because I knew you were coming. I must fly, but first you die!”

Tim began spinning his nunchucks. “Why do you keep rhyming like that?”

“My heart’s an empty hole. I’ve got garlic in my soul!”

“Seriously, dude. You’ve got mental issues.”

But the Grinch’s ninja fighting abilities were shockingly awesome. “My sword skills shine through! I have the strength of ten Grinches plus two!” Then he threw a leaping back kick and knocked Tim through a wall in a dramatic Matrix style slow motion shot.

***

From Chapter 5

Tim Junior knocked on the door in a panic. It opened to reveal Lance Henriksen. “What? Who are you? I don’t want any. Go away.”

Tim Junior barely managed to get his foot in the door before the grizzled actor could close it. “Are you the ghost of Christmas Future-Past? I need you to help save Christmas!”

“What is it now, Christmas Draculas? –(editor’s note, save this idea for next year.) Beat it, kid. You got the wrong guy.”

“But I recognize your voice from Call of Duty! Half the gamers in America have hit you in the forehead with a throwing knife!”

“Hey, spoiler alert, jerk.” 

“The story didn’t make any sense anyway! Come on, Mr. Henriksen, you have to help me. My dad and the Christmas Noun have been kidnapped by the Grinch who redistributed Christmas!”

“This nonsense again?” Lance Henriksen sighed. “Damn it. Did Walken put you up to this? Terrorist reindeer, murderous snowmen, I’m sick of this crap. I’m retired from Christmas ghosting. I’ve got work on Mustache and the Fat Man. It’s an exciting new buddy cop show starring John Bolton and Chris Christie. I’m this season’s villain.”

“But I need an Obi-Wan character to walk me through a training montage!”

The grizzled veteran of several Christmas Noun adventures looked over Tim Junior disapprovingly. “Are you sure you’re Tim’s kid? You look way too old.”

“Hey, the guy that played Brendan Fraser’s grown son in the last Mummy movie was only thirteen years younger than Brendan Fraser was. Come on, Mr. Henriksen. The Christmas Noun needs you.”

Lance Henriksen rubbed his grizzled face in his grizzled hands. “All right. You’re lucky I’m such an incredible badass that never turns down any work. Did you know I’ve been in like half a dozen bigfoot movies?”

“You really do make everything better. You’re like bacon for movies.”

“I know… Come in.”

***

From Chapter 6

“Your plan is madness!” Tim shouted as he struggled against his handcuffs. “You’ve planned for the Occupiers to stew in their own filth so long that there would be an inevitable zombie outbreak! Millions will be eaten by zombies!”  

The Grinch laughed with his maniacal Grinch laugh.  “I thought of this before! I’ll make Christmas sore! When I unleash my zombies… I’ll… I’ll…” The Grinch frowned. “Uh… Hmmm…”   

“Ha!” Tim laughed at the Grinch. “Suck it. Nothing rhymes with zombie!”

“Flombies!”

To be fair, it wasn’t any weirder than fahoo forays and dahoo dorays.

***

From Chapter 7

Sally Love-Interest and Santa’s elves stood around the television and watched as MSNBC showed the horror that was unfolding live at the site of Occupy Christmas Noun.

“This just in. We are receiving eye witness reports that the Occupy protestors are actually eating people’s brains. We go now live to the scene.”

“Hi, Tammy. I’m down here at Wall Street, and as you can see behind me, the protestors have turned into a ravenous horde of undead monstrosities. It is a scene of unbelievable horror. As you can see, these protestors are actually pulling someone’s entrails out… Now they’re eating his face. Oh, the humanity!”

“Thanks, Jim. Now with me in studio are some pundits from both sides of the political spectrum. What do you think of this development with the protestors, Flaming Pinko Pundit?”

“Well, I just think this goes to show how bad the capitalist pig-dogs have made everything. OWS is a legitimate non-astroturf political movement that totally isn’t backed by Nazis, Communists, union thugs, and evil anti-Christmas ninjas. I’m sure all these reports of rape, murder, thousands of arrests, mayhem, property damage, public street pooping, tuberculosis, scabies, and now a zombie apocalypse are all exaggerations by the vast right wing conspiracy and racist bloggers. And even if they were zombies, it is a result of evil corporations.”

“Thanks, Flaming Pinko Pundit. Now for the other side of the issue. Screaming Liberal Pundit?”

“Just because they are eating people’s brains doesn’t mean that they don’t still have a valid political message. Not like those racist tea baggers.”

“Amen to that. Thank you both for coming on to look at all sides of the issue. Now let’s go back to Jim down live at Wall Street. Jim?”

“Ahhhh! No! No! Not my spleen! NOOOOOOOOOOglrglslglslslll…”

“We seem to be experiencing some technical difficulties from Jim down at Wall Street. Let’s take a brief commercial break. Now a word from our corporate overlord, GE, who pays absolutely no taxes, which is the sort of the thing the OWS protestors probably shouldn’t like, but GE’s CEO is an economic advisor and golf buddy with the president, who the protestors love, so GE is totally not one of those evil greedy corporations all these noble protestors are protesting, because that wouldn’t make any sense at all.”

Sally turned MSNBC off. She looked at the elves. “It’s official. We’re f****d.”

***

From Chapter 9

The action scene that just happened was probably the most mind blowing thing you’ve ever seen. You are going to have to buy the Bluray just so you can watch it over and over again. You literally did not know that someone could have a car chase involving a monster truck driving manatee versus a sentient rocket sled, while simultaneously chainsaw dueling two velociraptors. If I don’t win the Hugo for that, there is something fundamentally wrong with the universe.

Man, I’ve got to catch my breath. Okay… I’m cool.

As the monster truck rolled to a stop, the two Tims jumped out of the back. Tim Junior gave the manatee a high five. “Thanks, Wendell.”

“Mewoooooooooooo” said Wendell the manatee, before he roared off into the sunset in his badass monster truck. Tim Junior didn’t know what to say, because he didn’t speak manatee. So he simply waved at the courageous cetacean.

Tim Senior walked over to the mortally wounded Grinch, who was impaled on Swampy’s antlers.

“Wow…” gasped the Grinch. “How?”

“After last year’s reindeer incident, I had the Christmas Noun insured by Stranger and Stranger interdimensional insurance. Your zombies were no match for a Combat Wombat set on mulch. The Christmas Noun is safe. Your plans are foiled.”

“You heroes are lame. It’s always the same…” the Grinch coughed, choking on his own blood. “I hate Christmas season, without good reason. For lent, I think I might repent. I redistributed the presents, which I suppose was unpleasant. There once was a Who from Nantucket, and—” But Tim Senior was sick and tired of rhyming, so went over and choked the Grinch to death with a string of discarded Christmas lights.

Tim Junior joined his father over the Grinch’s corpse. “So this is what saving Christmas is like?”

“Pretty much.”

Tim Senior’s Santa hat blew by in the wind and landed at Tim Junior’s feet. He looked down at it. “No offense, Dad, but I think I’m going to go back to school and become a dental hygienist. I really don’t think the family business is for me.”

Tim Senior put his arm around his grown son’s shoulder. “That’s for the best, my grown son. Early test audience results say that you really didn’t improve our ratings.”

“So I’m just like Shia LaBeouf?”

“I’m afraid so, son. You are part of canon, but probably best forgotten.” Tim Senior picked up his Santa hat and put it back on. “But don’t worry. Next year’s Christmas Noun will be episode five, and you know what that means.”

“You add the Rock to the cast?”

“Now you’re catching on. He even made the Fast and Furious cool again. And the new GI Joe trailer actually looks promising. Come on, Tim Junior. Let’s walk dramatically into the sunset while the credits roll and the theme song plays.”

Oh Christmas Noun, oh Christmas Noun

How lovely are your adverbs

Oh Christmas Noun, oh Christmas Noun

You kill ninjas with your throwing stars

You save the day, oh Christmas Noun

You did kung fu, with a rodeo clown

Oh Christmas Noun, oh Christmas Noun

You wreck face with a manatee

Oh Christmas Noun, oh Christmas Noun

La la la la something something

***

Final Epilogue narrated by Ron Perlman.

I don’t even know why I’m here… I was the most popular part last year? I didn’t know that. You couldn’t tell from how crappy the pay is for this gig. Seriously, Larry Correia tried to pay me with a gift basket, the cheap bastard… Well, okay, the cheese ball was pretty good…. Port wine and Wheat Thins. Yeah, yeah, it’s in the contract… You’re a terrible agent, Marty. Whatever… Oh, wait. We’re recording already? Dang it. Gotta go.

-clears throat-

Most of the protestors turned into mindless zombies, but hardly anyone noticed. Once it became an embarrassing parody of an actual political movement, Occupy Wall Street collapsed so quickly that it barely even had time to make it into a Christmas Noun story without seeming dated.

MSNBC went bankrupt and their programming was replaced with infomercials for Mighty Putty. Ratings skyrocketed.

Upon seeing him on the news, Swampy’s upper middle class parents kicked him out of their basement, and the thirty-two year college student had to get his first job. He was later fired for licking the frogs at Pet Co.

Wendell the manatee became a great leader amongst his people. He is currently running for the Florida state legislature.

The retired ghost of Christmas future-past, Lance Henriksen, went on to win an Emmy for his role in the hit number one rated series Mustache and the Fat Man for his portrayal of Vito “The Shiv” Scarluchi.  

Tim Junior met a nice Canadian girl in dental hygienist school, got married, and moved to Alberta. Now he occasionally saves Boxing Day.

Tim Senior and Sally Love-Interest continued to live happily ever after, until next December when they will experience the horror of the TWELVE DAYS OF CHRISTMAS NOUN: CHOOSE YOUR OWN ADVENTURE EDITION.

Because Christmas… Christmas never changes.

My Geeky Hobbies: Skorne Army

Because I hit my writing quota for the week, I got to treat myself. So last night I painted minis while streaming Monster Quest on Netflix. It doesn’t take a whole lot to make me happy.

I still need to do the bases. I think these guys need some severed heads or something.

Hakaar and friends

Random updates and fun with internet critics

Monster Hunter Legion is coming along. My deadline to have the rough draft done is the end of January, which I will hit. I was hoping to be on the 2nd draft by January and have the rough done by Christmas, but it has been busy, and Mrs. Correia is due to deliver Correia 2.4 soon.

I think you guys are going to like this one. (the book, not the kid, though he should be pretty awesome too) MHL needs a lot of tune up still, but overall I think it is pretty darn good. After Alpha, this one is back to Owen’s PoV. The project after that will be the collaboration with John Ringo. Post apocolyptic steampunk. Yay! Then book 3 of the Grimnoir Chronicles, Warbound.

This is all with me still having my day job as a finance manager in the Evil Military Industrial Complex, which keeps me hopping. Luckily I just got an assistant manager, which should make life easier. I’m making enough off of the writing now to only be a writer, but really like what I do, so figure that I’ll probably keep the day job for one more year. (I indirectly in a small general and administrative way help keep our fighter jets capable of raining fiery destruction down on our enemies, which is pretty awesome for an accountant).

One of my friends just got back safe from Afghanistan and I was able to see him this week. Welcome home, Tony. Mike is down to his last month and a half.  Once he gets home and settled in we will squeeze in the sequel to Dead Six, which is called Swords of Exodus. My half of that one is about 90% done. Mike has a lot to do on his half, but he’s got a real handy excuse, what with going to war and playing highspeed IED death chess and all that. 

It is a tradtion that Mike come to my house for Christmas. He’s been here 4 out of the last 5 Christmases. (missed one for EOD school) It is really weird not having him around. For my children, Mike Kupari coming over and playing board games is a Christmas tradtion. Correia 2.1 beat him at Risk a few years ago. (her first victory against adults) He better not get blown up, or the Correia kids will be pissed off.  

I’ve been getting this question a lot. The audibook for Spellbound will most likely be out in February. Bronson Pinchot (who also narrated Hard Magic) was unavailable for a bit because he was working on a TV show or a movie or something.  There are currently no plans for an audio book of Dead Six. The MH books have been doing extremely well on Audible, with MHI being one of the top sellers in fantasy for 2011, and MHV being one of the most/highest rated overall. I do believe that is all because of Oliver Wyman’s fantastic narration.

And while I’m thinking about it, if you’ve read Hard Magic and you are a WorldCon member or attendee, you should think about nominating it for the Hugo. I’m just saying… First off, it is actually really good and very original, and second, and far more importantly, the literati hoighty-toighty absolutely hate my guts, I’ll always just be an action-pulp-right wing-gun guy to them, and if I get nominated again their heads will explode. You have no idea how much joy I got from the reviews last year that talked about how if I won it would “end literature forever”.  :) 

Today I’m working on the Christmas Noun 4. I’m out of time and have to hurry up and get that out. It is tradition. You guys need your cheesy Christmas story! On an amusing Christmas Noun note, like many authors I google search my name every so often. The reason being is that you want to see what people are saying about your books, who is reviewing you, what the general vibes are, that sort of thing. Chalk it up to market research. (warning, do not do this unless you’ve got a thick skin, because the internet is filled with mean people who like to poop on everything and kick puppies).  I found a series of forum posts from somebody who despises me, Ringo, Kratman, Williamson, Baen in general, and happiness, who then tried to demonstrate what a horrid writer I was by putting up excerpts from the Christmas Noun. :)

Yes. The annual tradition of really terrible writing is… gasp! Terrible! Oh, man. You totally pwned me!  I can only imagine if he’d found Tom Stranger. It quite possibly might have actually turned him illiterate! It never ceases to amaze me just how hard some people hate my guts. (usually with a link to something where I had the audacity to have a political opinion that differed from theirs).

Oh well. When I get that sort of negative hate review thing on the internet, I simply have to console myself with my tens of thousands of fans, hundreds of good reviews, respect from my peers, prestigous award nominations, TV deals, audiobook deals, foreign sales, a safe full of guns, my hot Viking wife, and then cry myself to sleep in my mini-mansion overlooking a ski resort.  However, if I’m still all torn up inside as a result of their razor-sharp commentary and their incredible knowledge of literature (gleaned from reading TV Tropes and their semester of creative writing), then I just have to carry on in the knowledge that I sold more books yesterday than they will in their entire life.

Yeah. I get by. :D

If you are going to make it as a writer, you either have to ignore reviews entirely, or just not care when you get a terrible one. I remember talking to a friend of mine a few years ago. He’s a very successful YA writer, and had just gotten back from a huge tour his publisher had sent him on. That particular book ended up pretty high on the NYT list. He was on top of the world. Then he read a random, anonymous internet review that called him names. Despite knowing that he was kicking ass, he admitted to us that that one review had still managed to bring him down. He said it was like finding a dog turd in his cereal.

Thing is, this YA writer has gone on to write several more really popular books. He has legions of fans, but as far as I know he doesn’t read reviews anymore. He’s just not wired to take abuse.

Not me. I’m a sucker for this stuff. I’ve gone head to head against highly paid lobbyists to argue over proposed laws in front of a state legislature as a subject matter expert, and I did it for fun. I like conflict. If somebody says Owen Pitt is a Mary Sue, I say maybe, but enough people like him that he’s paid my mortgage for the last few years. Stick that in your English degree and smoke it.

A quick note on internet criticism for aspiring writers: Don’t be a douche. The internet lasts forever and you may regret some of the things that you’ve said about people. For example, you’ll notice that I don’t review movies on the blog anymore. I quit doing that right after the first time I met professionally with the Hollywood types. The realization hit that I had talked trash and insulted the work of men who I was now trying to sell stuff to. Next thing I know, I’m working with people, and in the past I was the one that left the turd in their ceral bowl. So now if I talk about something that I didn’t like, then I’m going to at least try not to be a pretentious prick about it.

I found a blog the other day that trashed MHI. Okay, that’s cool. It isn’t perfect. It’s my first book. I’ve written 7 books since and have gotten a lot better with practice. Believe me, there are things that I’d love to go back and do over again. However, when the review started insulting my intelligence, questioning my fan’s taste, and insulting the ability of the editors/publisher that purchased the book, before going on to talk about how they were still trying to get published and what they could learn from this… Duh. Seriously… You friggin’ idiot.  

Publishing isn’t a huge business. Everybody knows each other. Like I said, I’m used to being insulted, mostly because I was politically opinionated a long time before I got published. And if you are a conservative, you are going to get made fun of. (which is why there are so many right leaning authors but only a handful of us “out of the closet”) But here you are trying to sell a book, and you just insulted a gigantic fan base that you hope to sell books to in the future? Huh?  “Yeah, if you liked this book, then you’re stupid in your stupid face!”  Because that’s a sales pitch.

Okay… If you are in a totally different market you might be able to get away with that. I joke about Twilight, but my target audience is totally different than the Twilight target audience. I’ve made a lot of money off of the anti-Twilight backlash. (and that said, as a businessman and capitalist, I’ve got nothing but respect for Stephanie Meyers, because she now lives in a house made out of solid gold bars).

But if you are working on the same target audience, and your strategy is to come in and tell someone in that audience that if they enjoyed a particular work then they’re idiots who obviously aren’t as smart as you, (and this work has gone through 5 printings, and is still a solid seller several years after release, with a VERY loyal and vocal fanbase), you are a moron.

Back when I was in the gun business, we had a rule for anybody that was working at the sales counter. Never ever, ever, never insult someone’s choice in guns. So if you were helping somebody and he started telling you about how much he loved his Lorcin, you could try to educate him about the diffence between guns, but you couldn’t come right out and say that the Lorcin was a POS. Why? Because if you insult someone’s choices, they will take it as if you are insulting them. People connect themselves to their choices. Boom. You just lost a sale.

(Except for HK, because back then I would rather have gotten dental work done than deal with their customer service, but to be fair I’ve heard they’ve gotten tons better and are actually pleasant to deal with now. But on this topic, just look at the famous HK post that I wrote that is still generating hate mail a veritable internet-eon later. Those folks took me making fun of their choice as a personal insult.)

It is one thing to call an author dumb, but if you call his fan’s dumb, and they find out, they sure as hell aren’t going to buy your book.

Insulting fans is foolish, but when you insult an editor’s intelligence, that takes the cake. Bad move, dumbass. The publishing industry is actually very small and pretty much everyone knows everybody else. I know of a few aspiring authors that are basically toast in traditional publishing because their name is mud.

I’ve got enough books under contract to have guaranteed employment for the next nine years at two books a year, and I still don’t publically insult any editors!  One of these days I might wnat to write something for one of them, or they might end up changing publishing houses.  Why in the world would you be dumb enough to insult someone that can write you a check for your fiction in the future? 

I’m lucky. I love my editors. I have a frew friends that work for editors who I think are complete imbeciles, but I’m not going to name them on the internet, because that’s sort of like setting your career on fire. Word gets out between this small community that you are a know it all jerk, and you might as well wipe your ass with your query letter before mailing it in. The end results will be similar.

All that said, my favorite negative review I’ve gotten this year had to be the one that absolutely hated my guts, and then went on and on and on about how awful MHI was, and how if you enjoyed MHI then you were obviously illiterate, uncultured, and retarded, and then said how it was garbage compared to really good urban fantasy, like for example Jim Butcher’s stuff. Of course this was posted the day after Jim Butcher posted on Facebook about how he really liked MHI. 

I so love my job.

In the interest of full disclosure, the advice I’m giving to aspiring authors about not offending potential readers needs to be taken with a grain of salt. If you’ve read this blog, then you know I’m very opinionated on political topics. Writers are about as politically divided as any other group, but like the rest of the entertainment industry, the right wingers normally keep their mouths shut for fear of being blacklisted. 

I don’t, because A. My publishing house only cares about if books sell well, not it’s writer’s political opinions, so I can get away with it. (hell, one of our bestsellers is an actual Trotskyite Communist, former labor union organizer and on the opposite side we’ve got Ghengis Tom Kratman).  and B. One half of the country is really tired of having their entertainment mock their fundamental beliefs. So for every one potential reader I turn off, I pick up three others who are sick of getting preached at. 

If you haven’t broken in yet, keep in mind that your public politics can turn off potential editors. And you get one guess where most of them fall on the spectrum. (hint, the publishing industry is based in New York City). There are some absolutely phenomenal writers who used to win literary awards all the time, but once they come out of the closet as deviating from the accepted group think, no more awards for them. Orson Scott Card is probably the best example.  

So I’m probably not ever going to get a positive review in Time Magazine, but I was the #1 book of the USS Ronald Reagan carrier battle group. I’m totally cool with that.

Your mileage may vary.

Speaking of Schlock Mercenary, I forgot the board game

Howard launched a kickstarter project to fund the creation of a Schlock boardgame. It went absolutely crazy. I am impressed by his fan base. http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1253203485/schlock-mercenary-the-board-game 

Kickstarter is a pretty neat idea. You put your artistic projects up there, and the people who pledge don’t get charged unless it actually gets done. I will probably end up using this in the future for a few things that I’ve got planned.

I saw this a few days ago and then forgot about it. There are only a few hours left, but now is a great way to jump on and get bonus cool stuff for a board game that you know you want to buy anyway. :)

Schlock Mercenary eBooks now at BAEN!

http://www.webscription.net/p-1575-schlock-mercenary-bundle.aspx  Holy moly, you know what this means? Howard Tayler is a Baen author! :D

For those of you know familiar with Schlock Mercenary, it is a sci-fi web cartoon, and it has updated every single day for TEN YEARS. I read Schlock daily.  http://www.schlockmercenary.com/  And now you can download all of Schlock and all of the assorted bonus stories and materials that you can’t get online right to your eReader.

(if you are curious the other web cartoons I read all the time are Penny Arcade, Order of the Stick, and Sluggy Freelance)

I was a fan of Howard’s work before I ever met him in person. In fact there is a line in Monster Hunter International where a flame thrower makes an Ominous Hum. Then I met Howard, we became friends, and I threw nuance right out the window and Albert Lee was wearing a Tagon’s Toughs t-shirt in Monster Hunter Vendetta.  Because screw nuance.

I have all of the Schlock books in hard copy. My son is learning to read using Schlock Mercenary books. Maybe that’s why he says THOOOM a lot.

Here’s the thing about Schlock, you can read it for fun, there’s a puncline daily, but if you actually read the whole thing and follow the story, there’s a really solid story in there, with interesting characters, and Howard doesn’t skimp on the sci part of sci-fi either.

How good of a writer is Howard Tayler? The John Ringo used the Schlockverse as a jumping off point for the awesome Troy Rising series. Howard Tayler is Tyler Vernon. Yes, the fictional equivelent of Howard Tayler saved the Earth from space aliens using only his wits and maple syrup.

And that’s why you need to purchase this bundle from my publisher.

 

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