Spellbound audiobook coming soon

The audiobook for Spellbound will be available from Audible.com on February 21st, read by Bronson Pinchot.

http://www.audible.com/int/Coming_Soon?ie=UTF8&pf_rd_r=14XS2KDKQ5GE9QR0BN18&pf_rd_m=A2ZO8JX97D5MN9&pf_rd_t=101&pf_rd_i=adblbestsellers&pf_rd_p=1331309382&pf_rd_s=left-12

It is kind of surprising to me how well my books have done as audiobooks. For example, MHI is still in their top 20 bestsellers even after all this time:

http://www.audible.com/adblbestsellers

So it is me, Stephen King and Steve Jobs, just kind of hanging out. Honestly, I blame the MH novels audio success on Oliver Wyman’s amazing narration. If you haven’t checked them out you really should. They are awesome.

LTUE 30

I spent the last weekend at the 30th annual Life, The Universe, and Everything writing symposium. This year it was at Utah Valley University instead of its regular spot at BYU. I didn’t really notice much difference in the venue change except that this time the cafeteria had caffeinated beverages.

I’ve been a panelist at LTUE for the last four years. I always have a good time. LTUE is a great chance to for the writers to hang out with other writers, for aspiring writers to learn stuff, and for everybody to network. It is three days of panels, discussion, hanging out, and goofing off.

I mostly go for the goofing off.

So Thursday I did my big panel on Writing Action. I do this one every year. I kind of have a rep for being good at that topic for some reason. Go figure. I believe it went really well, and was very well attended. I normally also do a panel with Super Author John Brown about developing story ideas, but John couldn’t make it this year, so bummer. That one is always a blast.

But more importantly than teaching stuff is the goofing off. So Thursday night I went out to all you can eat sushi with a bunch of other writers. i.e. MonkeySlothCon II.  It was good to see many old friends. I ate too much sushi, then went back to the hotel and crashed into raw fish shock.

Speaking of the hotel, I stayed at the Super 8 in Provo. It was not Super. The room itself was okay. But the shower was awful. I travelled to 11 states last year. I’ve stayed in a lot of hotels in my life. This Super 8 didn’t just have the worst shower of any hotel, it had the worst shower IN AMERICA. The temperate started at 200 degrees Celsius, and then would randomly switch to the core of Europa. Burnfreezeburnfreezeburnfreeze. Don’t try to adjust it. That will just make it angry. Then it will burn, burn, burn, and as your skin is boiling off you think that you can live with this long enough to use soap, but then you get lathered up, it laughs and you have been deceived it pelts you with ice water. You can deal with one misery or the other, but MAKE UP YOUR FREAKING MIND!

Friday I was on several panels. I did one about how you do different types of magic systems in different types of fantasy novels. Then there was another one about marketing and how to do effective book signings. My last one of the day was about book bombs, at topic which I’ve developed a bit of a reputation for.

I want to talk about the book bomb panel. Book bombs are a relatively new phenomena. They are just another cool tool for marketing a book. Mine have been a bit more effective than most, with a couple of them being downright crazy. You guys know, you’ve been here for them. I told the audience during the panel to not come and ask me to do one for them, but I still got about twenty requests for book bombs.

The issue is that I can only do them so often. I figure about once a month, and any more than that I start to dilute their effectiveness. Next, they need to be books that I think that the Monster Hunter Nation would really like. I can’t just do them because I’m friends with the writer. One of the reasons you guys like my book bombs is because you trust my opinion enough to take a chance on a book. I knew that I was going to get a ton of requests, and it always makes me feel bad when I can’t do it, but it is what it is.

Also on Friday, Bob Defendi, man mountain of awesomeness, brought me this:

That is a 3×4 foot map of Rokugan, which is the fictional empire setting of Legend of the Five Rings. For those of you that have been reading the Friday serial, this is the place Writer Nerd Game Night plays in. Bob made this for his own personal use, and then printed an extra copy to give me as a gift. I’m getting this thing framed.  

Between panels I spent a lot of time hanging out in the hallway just talking with and answering questions for aspiring writers. I always enjoy that part. Many of these people feel like they are bugging the authors, but honestly I love helping out and sharing whatever knowledge I can.

I recorded an episode of the Writing Excuses podcast that day. It will be out in a couple of months and the topic is Writing GUNS. Before we started, Brandon Sanderson asked me if I could talk for about 5-7 minutes about things that writers get wrong about guns… Multiply that number by ten and I would just be getting warmed up. Overall I think the session went pretty good. The audiobook pick of the week was Spellbound, which will be available on Audible.com on February 21st.

Okay, helpful writing stuff out of the way, back to the important business of goofing off. (don’t laugh, cons are about the only time I actually take time off) Friday night I went over to Howard Tayler’s house to play some Warmachine/Hordes. Howard even cooked steak. Jordan Sanderson, knowing that I’ve been building a miniature samurai themed army even brought me a couple very cool minis he’s found. Thanks, Jordo.

Then the best part of LTUE weekend, my Skorne army defeated Howard Tayler’s Trolls. Kevin was MVP and punched many trolls in their big blue faces. It was a lot of fun. (in the other game, Dan Wells Khador was defeated by Jordan Sanderson’s Cygnar. The night was a bloodbath of tiny painted men) 

In actuality, the only reason I didn’t get my ass kicked was because Howard’s friend Alan came over, and Alan knows how to play Skorne and offered me helpful advice every time I went to do something really stupid.

Saturday was a lazy day (which was good because all of that troll killing meant that I went to bed late). I didn’t have much scheduled as far as official con business until late in the afternoon, so I mostly hung out and shot the bull with people. But then I got drafted to play a game of Star Trek: Fleet Captains board game. I’m not a Trekkie, but it had strategy, combat, and little ships. I’m a sucker for little ships that fight. Me and Dave Butler were the Klingons and Dan Wells and Eric James Stone were the Federation. Four writers enter only two will leave. Let the death match commence!

I’ve played board games with Dave before, and I know that he’s one of those very analytical, super-strategic, good at winning types. Neither of us had played, and Dan Wells is also a hard core gamer (who had played), but I figured me and Dave could pull it off. But little did I realize that it isn’t just Nebula award winner author Eric James Stone that we were facing… It is Captain Eric James Stone of the USS Sutherland, Starfleet hero, and he got his Kirk on and whooped our Klingon asses. Curse you, Captain Stone, you magnificent bastard.

My last thing to do was a reading. However they scheduled my reading at the same time as Dan’s reading. Which meant that we’d have to compete against each other. Which extra sucks since many of the people there are fans of both of us. So we just combined it. I didn’t want Dan’s self esteem to get hurt when my room was way fuller. (on a serious note, Dan’s novel Partials is the next book bomb. He read from it, and it is awesome).

Once it was over I went to dinner with Paul Genesse and a bunch of friends. It was the second time I managed to eat Thai food in one day. Then I drove the two hours back to Yard Moose Mountain.

All in all, it was a really fun weekend.

Is there a lawyer in the house?

I ran into a friend this weekend and he told me about some legal troubles his family is going through. Without going into a lot of details, one of this guy’s kids was accused of something, and is in trouble with the law, has been tossed into juvy until the trial, and it sounds like a weird call on the part of one judge. The kid has a couple of serious disabilities. The accusation sounds fishy, with some odd holes in the accusation. Now of course I’m getting this information from the kid’s dad, who is biased, but if he is even half right about what’s happened, then this situation is messed up.

The issue is this family is not well off financially. They don’t have much money. They consulted with an attorney specializing in juvenile criminal issues, but that’s $250 an hour. So they are stuck with a public defender that doesn’t seem interested in talking to anybody.

So if there is a Utah attorney here that can do juvenile criminal justice, and would be willing to consult with this person, and possibly do some discounted or pro-bono work, please leave me your contact information and I will forward it on.

BOOK BOMB! IRON DRAGON series by Paul Genesse

Here we go again.  This book bomb is for my friend Paul Genesse, who is releasing the 3rd book in his Iron Dragon series of epic fantasy novels.

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=B006V5Q3PY

For those of you who don’t know about Book Bombs, I pick a book or an author that I really like, or who I think is really deserving of a boost, and then I tell you guys about it, and encourage you to all buy it on the same day, and also to tell your friends about it. This does a couple of things. It helps the writer move up in the stats on Amazon, which gets them more attention, which gets them more sales, and more potential fans. And hopefully, you will share this on your blog, facebook, and tell your friends, which will build up even more momentum. If we can get them onto a top 100 or top 20 list, then they will be seen by lots of potential readers.

Plus, it helps the writer make his house payments.

Our Book Bomb this time is for Book 3 of the Iron Dragon series, the Secret Empire. If you haven’t read book 1 and 2, I would really recommend picking those up also. The eBooks are very affordable. I believe Paul set it up so that you can jump right in on this one if you haven’t read the first. There are also hard copies available of all three.

I really enjoyed the first two books in the series. They are straight up, epic fantasy goodness. I let my older kids read them as there wasn’t anything too awful or nasty or anything like that, but I believe these were intended for adults.

Besides really liking the story, and being friends with Paul, the main reason I wanted to promote his work is because Paul is the perfect example of a good author that has been shafted by the publishing business.

Paul has published a ton of short stories. He’s edited anthologies of short stories. He’s probably one of the hardest working and sharpest marketers I’ve met in this business. My first ever panel at a Con was because I talked to Paul right before it started, and he found out that I was about to be published by Baen so he drug me up on stage. Paul’s a sharp guy who always goes out of his way to help aspiring writers, but despite all of that he got screwed.

He sold his Iron Dragon series to a small publishing house, which released book 1 and 2, which were by far the best selling fantasy books that house had. But before book 3 could come out, the publisher ran into financial trouble.

That is a writer’s nightmare. 

So Paul was stuck with a floundering publisher, and even though his books were some of their bestsellers, they couldn’t get their crap together enough to release the next one. I don’t really know the details. Time passed. Paul tried to get his rights back and he did, finally, but only after the momentum from the first two books had tapered off. Aspiring writers, you think it is hard to sell a book? Try selling a book that is #3 in a series when a different publishing house already put out the first two.

So now Paul is doing it himself. You can grab his eBooks on Amazon today, or if you are registered over on CreateSpace you can get them there for a little cheaper. (full disclosure, I believe Paul actually makes more off of CreateSpace, but I love seeing the stat boost on Amazon because it is bigger, most of you already shop there anyway, and when you order anything through the links on my webpage, I get a percentage of the sales to immediately blow on Hordes miniatures on Amazon) :)

As of right now:

Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #23,384 Paid in Kindle Store

And we will check back through the day.

EDIT:  Another fun fact about Paul Genesse. He’s a cardiac nurse. Which means he routinely deals with life or death freak outs and dying people while holding human organs in his hands, so he’s actually pretty chill on the whole publishing thing. The dude can handle stress.

EDIT 2:  Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #17,376 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store

More Paul Genesse Fun Facts. Paul and I once had a conversation with a ghost in an abandoned cemetary. It was very Scooby Doo of us.  http://larrycorreia.wordpress.com/2010/04/16/talking-to-myself-in-the-dark/

EDIT 3:  Now that’s what I’m talking about:  Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,912 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)

Book Bomb Tomorrow

I should have posted this sooner, but 1. New Kid. 2. Past Deadline. 3. Audit Season.

Head’s up everyone. I would like to do another book bomb. This time for my friend Paul Genesse and his new release. I will put up the post tomorrow.

Paul is a great writer and all around good dude. He has an epic fantasy series that I have been recommending for years. Sadly, he wrote the first two books and then his publishing house fell apart. (when I talk about the dangers of signing with a small press, I’m thinking about Paul).

So here Paul was with an awesome series, two books in, and fans waiting for the third one. It didn’t matter how good the books were, no publishing house was going to come along and buy a series that had already been started by somebody else. So he was basically screwed.

But with the eBook revolution, Paul can now do it himself. Now that the rights have reverted to him, he can rerelease all 3 books on eBooks himself. Which is sweet for those of us who have been waiting to finish the series, and good news for the rest of you who haven’t started it yet.

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=B006V5Q3PY

More details to come tomorrow.

The Burning Throne, Episode 14: Duty and Faith

Continued from: http://larrycorreia.wordpress.com/2012/01/27/the-burning-throne-episode-13-the-mountain-spirits/

I love this one. First up is a little recap journal from my character, but then after that is a short fiction from the PoV of one of the Mountain Spirit ronin.

After Steve’s epic from the gaijin invader’s perspective, and then this one, we pretty much can’t have any NPC come along who doesn’t have the potential of getting their own epic backstory. Yes. This is a short story about a guy who guarded a hut.

#

Fifteenth Entry

From the journal of Hida Makoto, Crab Clan. 

I write this by the light of a shielded candle. It appears that our enemy controls the skies, and we cannot risk an open fire. It is cold and I ache from today’s battle. Zukozuko and Tsuruchi Machio have not returned from their scouting mission and I am concerned that something has happened to them. I do not have much time, so I must continue.

This morning we broke our fast in the village of the Mountain Spirit ronin group. The fed us millet, food fit for swine, but at the time, we assumed it was all that they had to spare. Nobu’s hospitality left something to be desired, and it was obvious that the former Tamori did not care for our presence. I have tired of his constant complaining about the Dragon clan. Disliking the strange Dragon is one thing, but I did not like his tone when he spoke of the Empire or the Celestial Order.

Breakfast was interrupted by cries about Sky Riders, and the villagers took cover beneath a large canopy. It appears that the Yobanjin ride some form of giant bird mount and the ronin were prepared to hide from these scouts. I was not able to get a good look at them in the distance.

During the commotion, Ide Todo noticed that there was one suspicious hut in the humble village. It was kept locked and two ronin were posted there to protect it. As soon as the eagles disappeared from the sky, the guards immediately returned to their positions.

Ide Todo, Kitsuki Tsuze, Kuni Magatsu, and I went to investigate the hut. The guard at the door refused to admit us, despite intimidation and coercion, and though we could easily have killed him, (and he was aware of this fact) he held firm in his loyalty to his ronin brothers. I respected the guard’s devotion to his duty and so we decided to spare his life. Magatsu-san contacted the earth kami instead, and asked them what was inside the hut. Nemurani. Magical items. It appeared that the Mountain Spirits had already looted the High House of Light.

This was unacceptable. Those nemurani belong to the Dragon clan, and Todo-sama had been tasked with recovering them if possible in our quest for the shame sword. We approached Nobu’s hut. The ronin commander told us to go away, daring to flaunt the authority several great clans had bestowed upon us. Magatsu offered to simply burn the house down, but to avoid conflict with the entire ronin group Ide Todo decided to be more discrete and sent me instead. It is sad when a Son of Hida is the discrete option.

I knocked. Politely. And demanded Nobu come out and face the great Ide Todo. He did. With swords in hand. Nobu threatened us and blasphemed the Celestial Order. Kuni Magatsu shouted that Nobu’s sword was magical and that he was showing signs of taint. Could it be the mighty shame sword? Nobu’s mad rantings drew the attention of his men, who clearly did not believe their leader was being influenced by dark magics. The Paper Lanterns were spread throughout the crowd. Ide Todo argued with Nobu, demanding that he stand down in the name of the Empire. Nobu ordered his men to attack, but Akimi was hesitant to comply. Ide Todo ordered the Lanterns to hold their positions.

I did not wish to see this village slaughtered. I did not wish for any more of my companions to die in another pointless battle, wasting their lives for nothing instead of against the real enemies of the Empire. Though I thought that the already formidable Nobu might be armed with the mighty shame sword Penance, which Kuni Magatsu had warned me could more than double a man’s strength and abilities, and that it would probably result in my death, I challenged Nobu to single combat. I could only hope that during our fight his dark magic would become apparent to all.

Nobu was more fearsome than I’d predicted, but Kisada smiled upon me and Kuni Magatsu enchanted my grandfather’s tetsubo with angry fire kami. (to a Crab, there is no such thing as cheating when it comes to fighting anything with the Taint) I was struck repeatedly, but Crab armor is well made, and I was able to strike Nobu with several mighty blows, each of which should have been enough to utterly cripple any normal man.  Ide Todo argued with Akimi as we battled and the ronin grew increasingly angry. Kuni Magatsu called down the power of Jade upon Nobu and revealed his corruption for all to see.

Nobu was the best warrior I have ever fought. Bleeding from several cuts, I could barely stand. Nobu’s body was regenerating like some foul Shadowland’s beast before our very eyes. Akimi ordered the Mountain Spirits to ready their bows. Now they understood the truth. Then Magatsu-san saved my life, by ordering the kami to rip a mighty rock from the earth, and hurled it at Nobu. He was crushed beneath, and I used that opportunity to finish him off.

The ronin were shamed. I berated them for their selfishness. Ide Todo called them to repentance. All begged for forgiveness. Three of the Mountain Spirits immediately swore fealty to the Paper Lanterns. The shame sword was placed in a special container provided by the Mirumoto daimyo. The hut was explored, revealing tons of food, and several nemurani looted from the High House of Light, including a scroll case made of jade, a shield from the Burning Sands, and an untainted Meranae statue that weeps human blood. (Well, Magatsu said that it tasted like human blood at least. The Kuni scares me) We have secured these for transportation to Shiro Tamori. I destroyed the tainted amulet we found on Nobu’s chest with the righteous tetsubo of Moshibaru Junaro and the fury of Magatsu-san’s fire kami.

I am eager to hear the song that Ikoma Katsu will sing about this day. It will be fascinating to hear how Ide Todo single handedly battled a tainted, regenerating, swordsman with the strength of an ogre, and won by hitting him with a boulder. Sigh… I need my own bard. 

Later that day we took the shame sword to a shrine, where Magatsu spoke to the spirits trapped within. They spoke in riddles and lies. I do not trust this sword, and it fills me with a terrible unease. The sooner we are rid of this cursed blade, the better. 

#

Duty and Faith

The young ronin Danjuro had once been known as Tamori Danjuro, promising student of the Mirumoto Taoist sword method, and member of the Tamori house guard. Great things had been expected of Danjuro before the war had come along and changed everything. He had loyally followed his lord, Tamori Nobu, into exile and joined the Mountain Spirits. In the span of three years, Danjuro had gone from guarding the halls of a mighty Dragon fortress to guarding the bamboo door of a dilapidated peasant shed, and now two very terrifying Crab were about to murder him.

“I do not know what is in the hut,” Danjuro repeated for the third time. “But I am to guard this hut.”

“In the name of magistrate Ide Todo, we demand to see what’s inside,” the larger Crab growled. The giant was called Hida Makoto, and it was said that during the previous night’s battle he had hit Rohata so hard with a tetsubo that brains had come out Rohata’s mouth.

Danjuro swallowed. “It is forbidden.”

“Move aside or else,” the second Crab said. The one called Kuni Magatsu was not quite as big as Makoto, but he was far more terrifying. Dragon clan mothers often whispered horrifying tales about the mad Kuni to scare naughty Dragon children. His head was shorn like a monk, but this was no monk. His face was painted like a kabuki actor, but this was no actor. Magatsu was fear cloaked in flesh.

“You saw what my friend here did this morning?” Makoto asked. “He is friends with your mountain. You are walking on my friend’s friend. You call yourself the Mountain Spirits, but your mountain likes Magatsu-san a lot better than he likes you. Do you really want to make him angry?”

The great earth kami had been the most terrifying thing that Danjuro had ever seen. Even the Yobanjin horde paled in comparison. “No. I really do not. But I have my orders.”

The Crab warrior’s voice was cold. “I do not wish to kill you…” The rest did not need to be said. But I will.

Danjuro knew he did not have a chance. “I will not move.”

“You would die for the likes of Nobu?” Makoto scoffed.

“He is in command.”

“He is a blasphemous fool,” Magatsu spat. “He disrespects the Empire.”

That was over Danjuro’s head. He had pledged his loyalty to the Mountain Spirits first. “I do not see an Emperor here,” he suggested with as much bravery as he could muster. He had been taught that a samurai must be prepared to face pain, humiliation, and even death to fulfill his duty.

The Crab took a step forward, towering over Danjuro. “What would you do if I just pushed my way inside?” Makoto asked.

He was a capable swordsman, but not that capable. “I would try to stop you.”

“You wouldn’t be able to.”

“Then I would surely die…” Danjuro grew hopeful. “But then you would have to fight all of the Mountain Spirits, and there are three times as many of us as there are of you!”

“Then it would be a fair fight,” the Hida said simply. “You might be able to defeat the Paper Lanterns, but at the cost of most of the warriors in your village. Do you think whatever’s in this hut is worth that?”

“I do not know. It is not my place to decide.” Danjuro swallowed again. His mouth was suddenly very dry. He didn’t even know what was in the stupid hut. “I have my orders and I will obey them. If I have to die to do so, then so be it.”

“No one has to die. Let’s make this easy for both of us. Look away for a moment. Say that when you got back from hiding from the Sky Riders, we were already inside. Nobu doesn’t have to know. We get to look inside. Everyone is happy.”

It was tempting. Danjuro looked to his companion for support. The other Mountain Spirit was quivering. Otaya had turned grey and appeared as if he was about to be sick. He would be no help. It seemed that Danjuro needed to be strong enough for both of them.

The war, and the Dragon defeat, had shaken Danjuro’s faith. He had followed Nobu ever since, because Nobu had been his lord, and Nobu would never betray them and leave them to die like Togashi Satsu had. Danjuro had always felt that his path to enlightenment lay through loyalty, but it seemed that with the Dragon Clan, loyalty only worked in one direction, with leaders expecting it, but not giving any in return. Nobu on the other hand, had always been loyal to his men and a protector of the weak.

Of course Danjuro had his doubts. Nobu had become… erratic recently. Their leader seemed to be filled with an ever increasing hatred for all outsiders. He had begun to say things that felt wrong, things that went against the teachings of Shinsei that Danjuro had studied since he was a boy.

However, it was not Danjuro’s place to judge his superiors.

He gripped the hilt of his katana with renewed determination. “No. That would be dishonorable. Kill me if you must, but I will not do such a thing.” Danjuro prepared himself for the kami’s fury or a tetsubo to the face. “Now, go away, Crab-sama… Please?”

The Hida slowly nodded. He turned to the Kuni, whose painted face remained inscrutable, and then back to Danjuro. “You have a remarkable devotion to your duty. Such a thing is rare outside of the Crab. You bring much honor to your people.” The ronin was very surprised when Makoto gave a very respectful bow. He actually sounded impressed. “Thank you.”

The two Crab walked away to speak in hushed tones with their leader. Danjuro could not hear what they were saying, but the Unicorn, Ide Todo, did not look happy. Magatsu said something else, and the Unicorn nodded. The Kuni removed his tetsubo and began reading from a scroll wrapped around its shaft. The earth shifted at the Kuni’s feet and he started having a conversation with the ground.

“Oh, thank the little prophet,” Danjuro whispered to Otaya, who had finally started breathing again. “I thought he was going to have the mountain swallow us or something.”

Several minutes passed as the Kuni communed with the earth. The Paper Lanterns kept glancing at the hut, and then toward Nobu’s house. Then, seemingly angry, the group walked back toward the center of the village. Makoto tied the straps on his helmet and then pulled on his armored gloves before unslinging a gigantic spiked tetsubo. The other members of their strange order caught the determined sight, and moved to protect their Unicorn leader.

A sudden, nervous energy filled the village. Women began shooing their children indoors. Akimi appeared at the head of a group of their warriors. A dog began to bark. 

“This is not good…” Otaya muttered. “They wouldn’t be stupid enough to start a fight with all of us. They’ll be slaughtered!”

Danjuro shook his head. The slaughter would not be limited to one side. The entire village would be drenched in blood. “I’m afraid that these samurai have a duty to fulfill as well.”

#

Nobu was inhuman. He was too fast, too strong, and had shrugged off blows from the tetsubo that would have dropped oxen. The Crab stumbled away, gasping, chest heaving, blood running down the inside of his armor and splattering into the dust. Nobu circled, blades spread wide in the niten style, teeth barred in a maniacal grin, eyes wild.

Something was terribly wrong.

Danjuro knew it, deep down inside. This was not the Tamori Nobu that he had followed into battle. This was not the leader of the Mountain Spirits that had cared for his men like a father. Nobu had said blasphemous things. He had maligned and insulted the teachings of the Tao. He had mocked the Kami, insulted the Fortunes. Danjuro felt nauseous.

“The blade is tainted!” the Unicorn leader shouted. “Can’t you see that?”

Akimi did not respond. Her face was like stone. Danjuro had his katana ready, but he was too confused to know what to do with it. Ten feet away, one of the Paper Lanterns, a Lion bard, was watching him with a no-dachi held low at his side. Danjuro had decided that if Akimi gave the word, he would cut that Lion down without hesitation.

It was his duty.

There was a grunt of pain as Makoto was struck with Nobu’s wakizashi. The Crab’s sandals dug into the soft dirt as his armor absorbed most of the impact, but a few droplets of red blood seemed to hang suspended in the air before falling to be devoured by the dust. “The Empire has already fallen! This is my kingdom now,” Nobu snarled.

“BLASPHEMY!” the Hida roared. He swung the flaming tetsubo in a mighty arc. Nobu was struck in the torso so hard that everyone in the village could hear the ribs explode. The ronin leader was knocked off his feet and flew back inside his house to crash hard against the floor.

No one could have survived that hit…  But Nobu got right back up and walked back outside. The Mountain Spirits gasped in surprise.

“The evil of Jigoku!” the Kuni said as he extend his hands. Jade colored light streamed forth, leaping and popping, as it covered Nobu. The light seemed to crackle and burn across Nobu’s torn chest. “Behold! He is tainted!”

Everyone in Rokugan knew about the Taint, even if it wasn’t spoken about in polite company, and in the same way, everyone understood the power of jade. It was obvious that Nobu had been corrupted.

Faith shaken, cheeks burning with shame, Danjuro lowered his sword. His leader had fallen under the sway of Jigoku. Danjuro’s understanding of honor, of the Tao, everything… He had been wrong.  

Nobu twisted his neck and vertebra snapped back into place. One arm extended, Nobu rotated it as the bones of his forearm ground back into solid pieces. Strips of flesh, ripped free by the spikes, pulled back into place with a sickening sucking noise. Nobu opened his mouth and poured out more lies, but all Danjuro could hear was the blood rushing in his ears. The Unicorn was saying something, pleading with the Mountain Spirits for calm.

The only words he understood were Akimi’s. “Mountain Spirits.” The gunso’s command cut through the haze. “Sheath your swords. String your bows.” She sounded so very sad.

Hida Makoto and Nobu clashed again. The Crab brought his tetsubo straight down in a powerful overhand swing, but Nobu lifted and crossed his blades, catching the spikes inches from his helmet. The Crab strained with all of his might to force the swords down, but Nobu, unfazed, simply shoved him away as if the mighty Crab were a small child.

“Enough of this.” The Kuni gestured at the ground, and with a rumble, a rock of considerable size, as large as two men, was torn free from the earth. He pointed, and the rock flew through the air with blinding speed to strike Nobu in the chest with a wet thud. Nobu disappeared beneath it. “Be gone.”

Grimacing, Makoto looked toward the Kuni and gave him a small bow of thanks. It was said that the Crab lived closer to death than any other clan, and he could see that was true in this samurai’s eyes. He had known Nobu would be inhuman. Danjuro understood why this Crab had challenged Nobu to single combat now. He had been trying to prevent another battle that would have consumed the entire village. He had been hoping that in his death, Nobu’s foul magic would have been revealed to all. And with this realization, Danjuro’s shame increased.  

The wounded Crab limped around the boulder to where Nobu’s head and shoulder’s were free. Blood was pouring out from under the rock, but still, Nobu was trying to fight. Makoto lifted his tetsubo one last time and shouted, “CRAB CLAN!” He brought it down hard and Nobu’s skull exploded into a red and white cloud.

It was over.

Except for the cold mountain wind, the village was deathly silent.

The blood-spattered Crab reached the center of the circle and slowly turned, glaring at them all. The ronin looked at their feet. “This is the man you have followed!” he bellowed. “Deluded by pride and consumed with foul magic, and you! You have listened to his lies. I heard him complain about how the Empire abandoned you during this war. For that he was prepared to mock the gods, yet you followed this blasphemer. You have only been fighting this invasion for a few years. My Clan has been at constant war for twelve hundred years. Twelve hundred years! And within a few short years of struggle, you turn your back on your clan and the Empire?” Makoto was furious. “How dare you? You have disgraced yourselves and your ancestors. You disgust me. I am shamed by your actions.”

Without another word, the Crab pushed his way through the crowd and made his way to the stream to tend his wounds. None of the ronin would meet his gaze.

At first Danjuro did not know why he could not see, but it was because his eyes were filled with hot tears. The Crab was right. The Mountain Spirits had been dishonored. Even before Nobu’s corruption had been exposed, they had believed his words. The path Danjuro had chosen to follow in search of enlightenment had been the incorrect one. What was the use of duty, when it was pledged to the wrong cause? In trying to follow compassion to protect the weak, he’d abandoned his Clan and his teachings. They had become little more than bandits. He was a failure of bushido.

Most of the other Mountain Spirits had families and children to attend to. They would carry on. Danjuro had no one. He did not even have a Lord who could grant him the honorable release of seppuku. What good was a swordsman without a lord or a purpose?

Akimi stepped forward and asked Ide Todo what they could do to atone for their misdeeds. The Unicorn began to speak of the Paper Lanterns, their noble goal, and the mighty task that still lay before them. Akimi immediately knelt at the feet of Ide Todo, held out her katana, and swore fealty to his cause.

Danjuro looked to where the wounded Crab was rinsing the blood from his battered armor. He had been prepared to sacrifice his life, not just out of loyalty to his commander or his brothers, but to protect a village of misguided ronin he didn’t even know. The Order of the Paper Lantern understood duty and its warriors had faith in their purpose. 

And Danjuro’s path became clear.

He was the next to humbly present his katana at the feet of Ide Todo.

#

Up next, some journals from Paul and Nick. I thought that was this week when I posted last week, but I’d gotten things out of order. http://larrycorreia.wordpress.com/2012/02/17/the-burning-throne-episode-15-sword-of-penance/

Quick updates

Have to share because this made me laugh this morning. Which is saying something since I’d been up since 3:00 AM.  This was posted to the HK Suck And Hate You Thread:

Excellent weblog here! Additionally your website quite a bit up very fast! What web host are you the use of? Can I am getting your associate link for your host? I desire my web site loaded up as quickly as yours lol 

And it was posted by Young Porn Video.  :D 

You can see why I approve comments here first. Which ever presidential candidate steps forward and boldly proclaims that he’s willing to respond to Nigerian spammers with nuclear weapons has my vote.

Next up, why was I up at 3:00? Correia 2.4. And I was trying to be nice to my very tired wife so she could sleep in our actual bed for a few hours. So I had the opportunity to watch the Groundhog Day Celebration LIVE on the couch, at 5:00 Utah time, with the sound off. Because kids are awesome.

Mike Kupari got back from Afghanistan yesterday. I’m glad that he is home safe. And yes, we will get to work on the Swords of Exodus right away.

But first I need to wrap up MHL. I’ve still got to write the last couple of chapters to finish the rough draft. Which means that I am now about two weeks behind schedule. Go figure. After that it is the collaboration with John Ringo, which I’m really excited to work on.

Next weekend is the annual Life, The Universe, & Everything writing conference. LTUE is normally held at BYU, but this year it will be held at Utah Valley University. Feb 9-11. I’ll be on a bunch of panels and will be doing a book signing there too.  If you are an aspiring writer and you are in the area, you really should go. Most of Utah’s successful writers usually attend, and this is a good chance for you to pick their brains.

 

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