Dec 30, 2016

The Road To Armageddon - Ed

The Last Coven - The Tome of Bill 8 - is coming FEB 10 to all major ebook platforms. It's the end of this crazy road, so to speak. To help celebrate this grand finale, I'll be posting short stories detailing snippets from the lives of various characters from series.  We've heard from Bill, Sally, and Sheila.  Now it's time to get inside the head of some of the others, and let them take center stage for a few moments.

-The below story takes place immediately following the events of The Wicked Dead.

It's hard to be surrounded by idiots

I so fucking hated playing the damsel in distress. Yet, somehow, that seemed to be the card I'd drawn as of late. Shit, I mean in the last day alone I'd been adopted by Sasquatches, kidnapped by a guy who looked like the second place winner in a Glenn Danzig lookalike contest, and now I was being carried like a ragdoll by Bill's fucking dungeon master of all people.

Talk about adding insult to injury.

Still, maybe I shouldn't complain. After all, I was alive. That's more than I could say about a lot of people. Hell, I couldn't even say for sure my friends survived, being that the roof of a fucking cavern had been dropped on top of them.

No. That was the wrong attitude to take.

Say what you will about my friends, but damn if they weren't survivors ... amazing as that might be at times. Besides, I had to hold out hope. From the look of things, it was all I had ... aside from the company of rock monsters, compelled vampires, and some psycho chick who, up until a short while ago, I'd assumed was no more than a middle manager in the vamp hierarchy.

"I can walk you know."

Dave gave no response, continuing to march forward like a mindless android. I let out a sigh. It wasn't his fault he was currently enslaved. Sure, he was an abrasive ass, but I doubted he'd willfully ever fall in line with this lot.

I couldn't see much from my vantage point, slung over his shoulders like a sack of potatoes. Go figure, I was apparently the only one in this traveling freak show without night vision. The only illumination in the tunnel came from the glowing eyes of the Jahabich marching with us and it wasn't much. I could barely make out the walls on either side of us, much less how far back our procession stretched.

Where my eyes failed, however, my ears did not. I could tell there were a lot of us - not from the witty banter going on, mind you, but from the footfalls of many feet marching along. Amazingly enough, it wasn't so much the company that creeped me out, nor the fact that I was being kidnapped again for whatever the fuck reason. It was the silence. My voice had been the first since we'd started this trek through the bowels of the Earth.

Other than footsteps there had been nothing except ... hold on. I had to go and think that, didn't I? No sooner had I rued the silence than came a low rumble from somewhere behind us. I was no spelunker, but that sure as shit sounded like something collapsing.

"Um, you might want to walk faster, man," I said from over Dave's shoulder.

Again, no response. I looked around at the vacant eyes of the vampires who'd been unlucky enough to have been ensnared, hoping to see a glimmer of ... anything really. But they might as well have been mannequins from the uncanny valley looks on their faces.

"I don't suppose it's any concern to you fuckers, but I'm pretty sure that's a cave-in we're hearing."

"Of course it is, child," an unconcerned female voice replied from somewhere up ahead. "Who do you think ordered the tunnel to be collapsed behind us?"

I guess that made sense. Would keep us from being followed. Speaking of behinds, though...

"As much as I appreciate you talking to my asshole, it's kind of hard to carry on a meaningful conversation this way."

Before I could say anything further, Dave bent down and deposited me onto my feet - where I was almost immediately bowled over. The procession as a whole didn't bother to stop moving, forcing me to quickly match pace or be trampled.

I spared a quick glance at his slack-jawed face. "Thanks for nothing, asshole."

The tunnel lit up ahead and I turned to see the source. Unsurprisingly, it was the woman in the white dress who'd recently kicked everyone's asses upstairs ... Calibra. A small orb of glowing energy floated next to her.

"My concession to your frail mortal eyes."

"You're too kind."

She was leading the way ... somewhere. The light cast by her magic trick didn't illuminate much, just enough for me to keep from tripping over my own feet.

Unless I decided to take my chances at being a human gopher, there wasn't much I could do but bide my time and hope for a chance to run later. Where to? I had no idea. Hopefully a plan would present itself. Until then...

I caught up to Calibra, being she was both holding the flashlight and seemed the lone other person in the group whose tongue the cat hadn't gotten.

"Hey. What's a nice guy like me doing in a shit-hole cave like this?"

"I see you're a flippant one, like your friend the Freewill," she replied, still facing forward. "Tis a sign of this age, I suppose. Once upon a time, men knew their place when among their betters."

"Ah, I see. I'll be sure to add m'lady when I tell you to go fuck yourself."

"You dare?!" a different voice snarled from somewhere behind us.

I spun to see one of the vamps from Bill's coven pushing her way through the crowd … the hot redhead who seemed to put out for everyone but him. Mind you, she looked a bit less hot with her eyes blackened and her fangs bared.

"There will be no need for that, Elizabeth."

The redhead stopped dead in her tracks. I expected her to offer some sort of protest about not being allowed to play with her toys, but all she did was nod respectfully and fall back again. Wuss.

"Got that one on a short leash, I see."

"She knows her place," Calibra replied. "Something you might do well to consider."

I decided to try my luck. After all, there was obviously a reason they'd taken me. "See, that's the thing. I don't think I need to."

"Oh?" she asked, a bemused quality to her voice. That was fine. Amused was potentially a lot less painful for me than enraged. Still, it helped reinforce what I'd been thinking.

"Yeah. I can't help but notice how everyone seems intent on using me as the trophy in a massive game of capture the flag. Translation for the ancient monsters in the room…"

"I know what you mean," Calibra said. "Unlike some of my children, I have made it a point to stay abreast of current affairs."

Oh. Well, that saved me the trouble of explaining the finer points of online gaming. "Good to know. Anyway, I'm gonna go out on a limb and assume it's not my charming personality that you're all after.

"Your insight is truly fascinating."

"Be that as it may, you need me for something. I don't know what that is, but since I'm still breathing I'm going to assume it's important to you."

"Oh, it goes far beyond me, I can assure you, boy."

She stopped short of telling me what that was, though, leading me to believe I wasn't going to get some super villain soliloquy outlining her evil plot. Nevertheless, she seemed to be in a conversing mood, which was a fuck-load better than a killing one.

"Whatever it is, you have to know it's not going to work."

"I assume you are speaking of your friend the Freewill. How do you even know he's still alive?"

"Bill seems to have a guardian angel hanging over him, several probably, in the form of that big prophecy you all seem to like crowing about. Oh, and I'm not just talking about him. You didn't get to meet her up above, but trust me when I say a certain girl with a flaming white aura will probably be very eager to make your acquaintance."

"The Icon and the Freewill?" she mused.

"Yep. Despite what you might believe, they're working together, and don't doubt for a second they're going to come looking for me." I left out a silent I hope. No point in showing her that in actuality I was pretty close to shitting my pants.

"And that's the best you've got to threaten me with?"

"You're kidding, right?" I asked. "Need I remind you that those two are kind of a big deal in your world? Their big showdown during the end times and all that. Oh, and since I haven't heard anything in those prophecies about you, that tells me maybe you should be worried about still being around to see it."

"I would remind you, child," she replied. "That the prophecies, and I can assure you I am far more intimately familiar with them than you are, also fail to mention you."

"Why would they? Effervescent as my personality is, I'm not a player in this supernatural circle jerk."

For the first time, she turned to look at me, her eyes gleaming in the dim light. "Oh, how wrong you are. You, my child, are the harbinger of a new age. Despite everything you've heard, your friends are the inconsequential ones. Freewills and Icons, their kind have come and gone before. Aberrations they may be, quirks of magic, but nothing more. Why, did you know that the very first Icon fell to my hands?" She shook her head dismissively. "Of course you wouldn't. But it's true. It was an amusing altercation, truth be told, an interesting diversion, but nothing more. Do not think your friends will be any different."

I tried not to show it, but the utter confidence in her voice was causing a bit of a pit to form in my stomach.

"You, on the other hand, are unique," she continued. "Nothing like you has ever appeared on the face of this world. Trust me, I have been looking."

"I like to think I'm..."

"I don't care what you think. Your wants and needs are irrelevant. You will foster a new beginning, but do not think that makes you its master. You are a pawn and will be used as such."

"And if I refuse?" There. It had to be said. Mind you, I was alone and surrounded by a small army of beings of which I was physically the weakest. As far as bluffs went, it was pretty goddamned pathetic.

"Is this supposed to be the part where I threaten the lives of your friends?"

"You could, but there isn't anyone present I'm willing to take a bullet for."


"Oh, so then we've reached an impasse?" That's me, the eternal optimist.

"Hardly," she replied with a grin, eyeing me up and down.

"What are you doing?"

"What is the colloquialism? Ah, yes. I am ... checking you out."

What?! That was her gambit? I mean, sure, she was cute in a crazed sort of way, but seriously? "I'm flattered, really I am. But, unlike at least one of my other friends, I'm not about to sell out the world for a quick lay."

She let out what sounded almost like a genuine laugh. I tried not to be insulted. "Oh, silly boy, that wasn't what I was looking at."

"What then?"

"Your arms and legs, of course. Limbs are an interesting evolutionary achievement. They allow us to walk, run, fight, build, all of the things that have allowed mankind to rise above the muck."


"And," she replied, her eyes darkening, "they are entirely superfluous for the purpose for which you are here. You would suit my needs just as well as the equivalent of a human slug. And if you think I am in any way bluffing, I implore you to say another word to the contrary."

In the last year I'd helped face down monsters for whom I wouldn't have hesitated to flip off at such an ultimatum. This time, however, I didn't get the vibe that there was any sway whatsoever to the threat laid out before me.

I didn't consider myself a coward, but I'm not a fucking idiot either.

Considering the alternative, I zipped my lips and fell into stride beside her.

I had no idea what Calibra had planned for me, but at least for now I was alive and whole. I hoped to stay that way, but that didn't mean I wouldn't keep my eyes open for an opportunity. If one arose, I'd take it. And if not, I'd do what I could to muck things up for her while patiently waiting for my friends to come for me.

Now to only hope they didn't take their sweet fucking time doing so.

The Road To Armageddon:

Dec 22, 2016

Grinching the Christmas Cookies

They say there are two types of people in this world - those who are awesome enough to selflessly bake cookies to share with their friends, and then there are the assholes who contribute nothing to society but eating those cookies and casting baleful judgement upon them.

This is a tale from the latter.

Every year, my wife goes to a Christmas Cookie swap party, and every year I wait eagerly for the tribute she returns with. This year the bounty was plentiful.  But I am an angry god and my judgement is harsh. Thus, I thought it fitting to be a total cock-nozzle and post my thoughts for your amusement.

I didn't know what most of these were called, so rather than be industrious and look it up, I decided to give each it's own name based on appearance and/or taste.

Let the judgement begin!

Dingleberry Chip - You can tell when someone knows their chocolate chip cookies are good when they give absolutely no fucks to how they look. This cookie tells me "I am the baker of chocolaty goodness and you better well fucking know it. Here! Eat what I have shat out for you and enjoy it."

Surprise Turd - Normally, I'm neutral on rum balls, or things like them. But these motherfuckers throw you for a loop with a big chunk of caramel inside. It's like getting a lump of coal for Christmas, then dropping it to find a diamond in the center. So awesome.

Satan's Twat Waffle - In keeping with my fine tradition of being a piss-poor Italian, I can't stand Pizzelles. I don't know who first thought, "Gee, what the world needs are licorice flavored cookies", but I can tell you they had a soul as dark as the underside of the Devil's scrotum.

Cavity Bar - A cookie bar drowned in caramel.  My teeth are rotting just thinking about this. If diabetic shock were given cookie form, this would be it.  Damn good, but pretty sure more than one of these would have instantly kill most people.

Petrified Man - A basic gingerbread humanoid from the Paleozoic era. His kind were known for their sloping foreheads and hunter / gatherer lifestyle. Sadly, they were eventually wiped out by tastier cookies who had the evolutionary advantage of frosting.

The Fuck?! - A not-cookie, covered in caramel, chocolate, and what appears to be mercury shavings. My tongue wasn't upset upon eating this, don't get me wrong, but it was left very very confused.

Intestinal Tract Diorama - Nothing says Christmas Spirit quite like a sonogram of your innards in generic sugar cookie form. 

Nuts To That! - A generic sugar wafer ruined by the addition of lots of crushed walnuts or whatever the fuck they are. Don't know, because I find nuts to be an abomination on the face of a cookie.  Damn you to Hell, cookie nuts!!!! Still better than raisins, though.

Edit: I have been yelled at that these are actually mint chips, not nuts. Oops. Still looks like nuts to me, though. 

Snow Poop - Covering a relatively tasteless ball of dough in powered sugar just leaves it a slightly more sweet tasteless ball of dough. Speaking of which...

Blob of Dough - No idea what this was or what it was supposed to taste like. Nearest I can tell, they ran out of time to actually bake these, just said "fuck it"and hoped nobody noticed.

Who Ate Half The Fucking Chocolate?! - Screw dipping your chocolate bar in my peanut butter. This is a linzer tart dipped in chocolate. A surprisingly kick-ass combination.  And much Christmas cheer was had.

Bizarro World Who Ate Half The Fucking Chocolate?! - Pretty much the mirror universe version of the above, minus the linzer tart filling. Tasty, but lack of filling shall always equal a wee bit of heartbreak.

Festive Snot Ball - These kinda look like someone sneezed  into a jar of sprinkles, but they were surprisingly good. Lemon cookies that simply do not give a shit what you think of their appearance. Peering into my wardrobe, they're kinda like me in cookie form.

Chocolate Distraction - I find that cookies with big lumps of chocolate in the middle of them are often there to hide the fact that the cookie itself is pretty meh. Oddly enough, I am seldom wrong in these matters.

I'm a Tree, Damnit! - Really I am!  No, what you are is a pretty generic sugar cookie. Fortunately, generic sugar cookies are still more than fine in my book. Know that there shall always be a place in my stomach for Christmas Tree deformities.

Rudolph The Red Nosed Spear-Tip - Cute to look at, but pretty meh as far as eating goes. Problem with generic chocolate type cookies is that they really don't taste like much of anything.

Goddamn It! We Ran Out of Sprinkles! - I hope nobody notices. Sadly, yes I did. Although, I may keep a few of these around in case I need replacement googly eyes for my kids' stuffed animals.

Did I Forget To Clean the Cat Box Again? - It is said these cookies are deceivers. They murder men in the night. I know nothing.  Don't be fooled by it's appearance. It is definitely no brownie.

Spooge Wafer - I imagine that this is what DVD covers look like when they're returned to the adult video store. It's like St. Nick decided to bake some cookies and then got overly jolly while doing so. I am forced to admit, though, his "icing" is pretty darn good. I can see why Mrs. Claus stays with him.

Dec 14, 2016

The Road to Armageddon - Gan

The Last Coven - The Tome of Bill 8 - is coming FEB 10 to all major ebook platforms. It's the end of this crazy road, so to speak. To help celebrate this grand finale, I'll be posting short stories detailing snippets from the lives of various characters from series.  We've heard from Bill, Sally, and Sheila.  Now it's time to get inside the head of some of the others, and let them take center stage for a few moments.

-The below story takes place roughly halfway between Holier Than Thou and Sunset Strip.

It has been too long, Beloved.

"You are acting the part of the fool."

Silence descended in the room. Such disrespect would have never been uttered in the presence of my father. But then, considering the would-be usurper who sat upon his throne now - looking down upon me - I should have expected no better.


I knew this was coming. It was only a matter of time.

All assembled were waiting to see how I would respond to this challenge. It was time to play my part. "What would you have me do, uncle?"

* * *

Arghun's stance bespoke of arrogance, of one who was certain of his station. For centuries, he sat at my father's side, advising him. He'd even served as a tutor to me in matters of state. Although, I would have to have been blind to not see, even then, that he felt such tasks beneath him.

All of that I could easily forgive. What I could not, though, was his belief that he and he alone was heir to title of Khan.

And yet he dared call me a fool.

My father had always been an outlier amongst the First Coven. Under him, our lands were ruled in the traditional manner of our great heritage, eschewing their methods. Fear has always been part of the equation of leadership, but others of our kind rely on it exclusively, ignoring loyalty and honor. So drunk are they with power, they don't see how weak it ultimately leaves them.

I could see this same weakness in Arghun's eyes. He wished to lower us by conforming to their ideals. And why not? Such a thing would benefit him greatly. It was common practice among those who served the First that the strongest, the oldest, should lead. What they all failed to realize was that age simply turned one who was born a fool into little more than an older fool.

Arghun was older than I. He was stronger, more experienced, and could compel more to his side.

What he did not see, though, was that this did not make him better.

* * *

He leaned forward in my father's seat and tented his fingers, as if what he was about to say had not be rehearsed a hundred times. "I would have you call off this search for the Freewill, quit wasting resources that could be better spent elsewhere. I would have you admit that you still have a great deal to learn, child."

I glanced over my shoulder at the spoils of war I had returned with. The gleaming skulls appeared to be smiling, as if laughing at the foolishness playing out before them. Fitting in a way. "The Children of Erlik might disagree, had they still tongues with which to speak. I have not wasted so many resources as to be unable to defend our borders."

"You think a single victory over our ancient foes means you are ready for the burden of leadership? What would have become of us had your rash offensive failed?"

"I would be spared this tiresome folly."

Arghun's face contorted in rage at my reply. That alone should have told him and all present that he was unfit to rule. All around us, my followers - servants and soldiers alike - stood in silent attention; unmoving, unblinking, refusing to allow their emotions to show through. Low as some of them might be, they were more worthy than he.

"Your father would see you whipped for such insolence. Perhaps I should too."

There it was, the challenge I'd been expecting. What my dear uncle failed to realize, though, was that he was too late.

Had he openly expressed a desire to lead immediately following my father's death, perhaps he could have made a serious case for such. But this, waiting until I was away leading our troops in battle?  It spoke of treachery. Even if he was able to persuade those who remained behind, a dubious proposition at best, he had to know that the soldiers I led to victory would not so easily flock to his side. They were men of action, warriors who knew of our grand history.

I had seen these same men bristle at my father's inaction these many long years, ruling his lands from the shadows. However, the part he played in history as heir to the great Temüjin spoke for itself. None would have ever raised a hand against him. But with his passing, the time for sitting idle so too ended. It was a lesson Arghun had failed to learn.

I stepped forward, holding his gaze. "You are welcome to try."

* * *

Though the dictates of the First lacked wisdom, there was one tradition which even I would not dare deny - the right of ritual combat. Though I knew my men would have cut Arghun down where he sat, had I given even the slightest sign, that would not do. I had earned the loyalty of many who once followed my father, but it was not enough. I would not allow there to be any doubt among them.

I only realized now, as loyal subjects and cattle alike spread out around us, forming a wide circle, that the room had already been cleared. They had been expecting this. That meant Arghun managed to convince himself he actually stood a chance.

Still, it would have been foolish of me to dismiss him entirely. He had long been trained in the art of war, as were all of my father's advisors. But, where he spent many a night by my father's side drinking wine and telling tales of past glory, I continually trained, honing myself. My father would have me do no less.

Perhaps he foresaw this day coming.

Arghun stepped forward and attempted to stare me down, no doubt hoping to win this battle before it had even begun. Feh! Hope was the bastion of fools. A true leader took what was theirs by divine right.

He smiled, thinking to intimidate me. "I could compel you to your knees."

"Perhaps," I replied. "Indeed, you could compel many of those present to their knees. But you cannot command them all. For those who remain standing, there shall be doubt. And where there is doubt, there will always be a hidden dagger waiting to slit your throat."

"Spoken like a true student of your father," he said with a curt nod of his head. "But a student is all you are.

In a way he was right. But there always came a day when the student became the new master. Arghun did not realize it yet, but that day had come.

My silence was answer enough for him, though. Predictably, he broke eye contact fist, closing the distance between us with all the speed his age afforded him, unaware that he had already lost this battle.

Nevertheless, I would not underestimate him. Interestingly enough, for all I learned under my father's tutelage, that was a lesson that could not be attributed to him, at least not in a manner I could fully appreciate. No, that honor fell to my beloved. I had seen foes demean him, treat him with all the respect an elder would treat a youngling - all to their eventual detriment.

True fools failed to realize that even the youngest of vipers still possessed venom.

Arghun's attack was sloppy, off balance. His form belied the fact that his knowledge had not been put to practical use in some time. I let him strike me regardless, wishing to know the mettle of my opponent. The blow itself was formidable, although, far less so than it could have been.


I dutifully took a stagger step back, allowing him to think he had injured me - a small concession to him on my part. Arghun served my father faithfully for many years. Such service should not be so easily forgotten. I owed him an honorable death, one that would allow him to be remembered as a warrior.

He quickly stepped in, hoping to press the advantage, but my respect had its limits and he had reached them. With one quick move, I sidestepped and delivered a blow of my own.

His was sloppy, mine was not.

Arghun fell to his knees, the base of his spine severed with one quick swipe of my claws. Though his death would be more honorable were I to draw this out, there would be little benefit to me. Ending this quickly would dissuade other pretenders to the throne. All present would accept me as the new Khan and know my rule was absolute.

My opponent, however, was not quite finished yet. "SURRENDER!! BOW BEFORE YOUR RIGHTFUL MASTER!!"

I had thought it best to not underestimate Arghun. As it were, I had done quite the opposite. I attributed to him enough honor to accept his fate with dignity. Instead, he wasted that with one last pathetic gambit to compel me into submission.

For a moment, I felt my legs buckle beneath me, but I quickly steadied myself. The fool. His greater age afforded him the power, but my father had prepared me well. Decades of compulsion from him, building up my defenses, forcing me to develop the will to resist all but the most powerful of our kind. It all culminated in one final test – being left bound in the desert, sunrise only minutes away, compelled to lie there peacefully and accept my fate.

I survived, stronger for the ordeal.

Arghun would not, nor would any who dared challenge me.

The Road To Armageddon:

Dec 7, 2016

The Road to Armageddon - Christy

The Last Coven - The Tome of Bill 8 -  is coming FEB 10 to all major ebook platforms. It's the end of this crazy road, so to speak. To help celebrate this grand finale, I'll be posting short stories detailing snippets from the lives of various characters from series.  We've heard from Bill, Sally, and Sheila.  Now it's time to get inside the head of some of the others, and let them take center stage for a few moments.

-The below story takes place roughly halfway between the events of Bill The Vampire and Scary Dead Things

Tom finds her ... bewitching

I step outside and spot my quarry. He’s sitting on a concrete stoop in front of a fountain, enjoying a hotdog he must have purchased for lunch. He looks so normal, so mundane, but I know he’s not. He is a wolf in sheep’s clothing, a slave to darkness, a thrall.

I know that what I am doing is necessary for the survival of my people. If I fail in my mission then disaster could strike. Our lives, our entire history, could be erased, scorched from the face of this world in a torrent of white fire. The prophecy is quite clear on that point.

Nevertheless, I hesitate in approaching him. Though I know what must be done, a part of me resents the role I am forced to play. For over a decade I’ve studied the art under Mentor Decker. I have worked hard to perfect my craft, spent many a sleepless night invested in one form of advanced spell-crafting or another. I have been called a prodigy, a natural adept. Indeed, my master has often told me that I am his favored pupil, his trusted second in our coven.

Yet, here I am, being asked to play the part of the whore, to willingly give my body to this shell of a man who sits before me. None of my sisters have drawn such a demeaning task. Most of them sit and wait – scrying the portents, looking for signs. The master has assured me that he too is forced to suffer for this task, gathering intelligence so as to fend off our fate. Yet, I’ve seen him. He used his magic to secure a place of power within the beast’s workplace, supposedly a facade until he was ready to strike.

Despite his claims otherwise, I have caught him admiring the expensive suits he has procured for his new station, the shiny Rolexes he now wears. I asked him why not just create the illusion of such, a glamour to fool the lesser minds, but he waved me off. He told me illusions can be defeated, that the stakes were too high for such. We must make this as real as possible so as to remain undetected.

So, too, was his logic upon my suggestion to simply ensnare this human thrall. Mind magic has always been a specialty of mine. Such a thing would be child’s play.

“No!” Mentor Decker had roared. “Do you not understand what is happening here, child? The Freewill, the dreaded Night Spawn, has been reborn. Their power is reputed to be legendary. Who knows what foul compulsions he has placed upon the minds of the humans who serve him? If you are found out, it will be our undoing, for his rebirth heralds the coming of our destroyer!”

The fury in my master’s eyes convinced me to question him no further. But now, with my assigned task finally at hand, I find myself wondering whether there was something else in his eyes too. It is nearly heresy to think it. He is my mentor, my teacher, practically a second father to me. But I can’t help but wonder if he is being driven mad by the events that are transpiring.

I almost turn around and go back to the desk that has been my daytime home for the past three months. It is not nearly as prestigious a position as that which my mentor procured for himself. My job is that of a mere marketing coordinator in the firm within which my quarry bides his time. However, since day one, I have been continually surprised to find that I actually enjoy my work assignments. Not only that, but I’m good at my job too. It shouldn’t be surprising. As a Magi, I have been continually taught to think outside the realms of the box that humanity seems intent on sequestering itself in. Nevertheless, I would be lying to myself if I were to claim I wasn’t growing fond of this façade of normalcy I have undertaken.

That thought stops me in my tracks. If I fail, there won’t be any normalcy – not for me, my sisters, my mentor, or any of the other Magi who live in the shadows of this world. They will all burn in the white fires of so-called faith. None of them deserve that fate.

I turn back and steel myself for what is to come. Fear grips my stomach, not only for what I must do, but what it could mean for me. This human is the thrall of the Freewill. There is no telling what dark machinations have been put in place in his mind. I will defend myself if needed, but I have no delusions. Mentor Decker has warned me of the power against which I am positioning myself.

Collecting my will around me, focused on protecting my mind against the evil influence I am about to make contact with, I step forward and offer a tentative, “Hi.”

He looks up at me mid-bite, his eyes widening in surprise. Despite knowing what he is, I can’t help but think he has a comical look about him thanks in part to the smear of mustard on the side of his mouth. “Um...”

“You’re Tom, right? From Accounting.”

An almost panicked look appears on his face. Perhaps it was a mistake to announce that I knew his name. He’s no doubt been warned against such things. I brace myself for whatever comes next. My mentor has prepared me well. Despite lacking the power of their masters, thralls will not hesitate to fight or die to protect those pulling their strings.

He stands up, facing me. I begin to gather power inside my closed fist, but remember that it’s midday in the busiest city of the country. I need to be careful. I prepare to cast a glamour around us, one that will let me deal with this fiend should the need arise.

The thrall raises his right hand and holds it out toward me. “Nice to meet you. I ... think I’ve seen you around. Marketing, right?”

“Yes. Christy, Christy Fenton.” I play along, tentatively grasping his hand with my own. I’d been dreading his touch, wondering whether it would corrupt me. I’ve never had direct contact with either a vampire or those under their spell. Despite what I’ve been taught, I don’t know what to expect. But his hand is warm, surprisingly normal feeling – if a bit clammy. Unfortunately, in my nervous haste, I forget to dismiss the power gathering in my own. He jumps back at making contact with me. My cover is blown. Combat is only moments...

“Whoa. Holy static electricity, Batman!” He laughs. “It’s nice to meet you. Shocking, too.”

Something about his voice is disarming. My paranoia insists it’s some dark thrall power I’m not aware of, but somehow I don’t think so. His tone is so ... innocent.

An awkward silence ensues between us as I try to process this.

After a moment, he steps back, and asks, quite matter of factly, “So ... would you like a bite of my hotdog?” I open my mouth to reply, but can’t think of an answer to that. “I mean, not mine. I ... could ... get you your own,” he stammers. “That is, unless you really want to bite mine.”

My mouth stretches to a grin, then to a full blown smile. Within the next second, I’m laughing. I know I shouldn’t be, but I am.

“That was lame, wasn’t it?”

“It was,” I reply, but the smile on his face tells me he’s not insulted in the least. “And you have mustard on your face.”

That sends him into a near panic of using the sleeve of his sports coat as a napkin, leaving a yellow smear on it. “Oh, fuck me sideways with Man-At-Arms!” He turns and smiles sheepishly at me. “Sorry. So much for first impressions, eh?”

The funny thing is, he’s wrong. A part of me still insists I should keep my guard up, be prepared for anything, but nevertheless I just can’t seem to summon that earlier dread I was feeling.

The Road To Armageddon:

Nov 28, 2016


Coming Soon! ... Hopefully!
THE LAST COVEN (The Tome of Bill 8) is coming.

This is it! The grand finale to The Tome of Bill series.

Bill's world is in shambles following his monumental ass-kicking at the hands of Ib. Sadly, the rest of the planet isn't exactly in great shape either.

Something needs to be done to stop it all and it looks like that something is the last Freewill and his remaining friends.

The only question is how?

From the buildings of New York City, to the woods of Canada, to the bowels of the Earth, Bill must finally master his powers so as to put an end to the evil that threatens to consume us all. No easy task.

Even if he somehow manages to do all that, though, his destiny still awaits. The final battle of good vs. evil. If he loses, he dies. But if he wins, everyone and everything he's fought for will be fucked.

Some days it really sucks to be the chosen one.

Turns out a full stomach trumped a full mind and I ended up conking out for a while anyway. One benefit of vampire physiology was needing less than half the rest I'd needed when I still had a heartbeat. So even though it had probably only been a few hours, I awoke nice and refreshed ... and thankfully without a pair of crazy green eyes staring down at me. Most importantly, the anger I'd been feeling, the same that I'd let boil over at Sheila, seemed to have receded. Amazing what a little good news and a bit of sleep could do.

I glanced over at my clock in the dark room, but the display was out. Maybe I'd kicked the cord from the socket at some point. Thinking nothing of it, I hopped out of bed and hit the light switch. Darkness remained.

Odd, considering the Apollo what-the-fuck down in the basement. Oh well, maybe it was just the shitty wiring in this place. That I hadn't woken up in a crater told me that whatever was going on was probably somewhat less than cataclysmic. Besides, what did it matter? I could see in the dark.

The living room was quiet and likewise unlit. The power was out there too. Unfortunately, it was the same in the kitchen, meaning the refrigerator was off. That was fine. I had a backup plan. I quickly moved the blood into our freezer. Thanks to years of neglecting to ever defrost it, the walls were solid ice. Not great for the appliance's lifespan, but it made a damn handy emergency icebox during outages.

The blood situation taken care of for the moment, I decided to grab a quick shower. Afterwards, I could meander down and ask Christy when she planned to plug her supernatural generator back in. I didn't smell any liquefied human remains in the air, a scent that was now burned into my olfactory bulbs, so deemed it safe that the situation didn't require immediate Freewill intervention.

Fortunately, the water heater in the building was entirely gas, so my shower wasn't ball-shriveling cold. Sadly, I wasn't quite in the mood for any me time. The presence of Sheila and Sally in the building had made for some good stress relief in days past. Angry jerking off wasn't quite the same as angry sex – or so I had to assume – but it got the job done. But with Gan back in the picture and in close proximity, no fucking way. Door locked or not, the miniature human tornado didn't seem to grasp the concept of personal space. The very last thing I wanted in this entire world – even less than ending up a slave, destined to kiss Sasquatch ass for all eternity – was to have Gan kick in the door while I had my dick in my hand. No, sir, I did not want that.

As if the thought of Gan wasn't enough to cause little Dr. Death to go hide in the shadows, I was just finishing up washing my hair when another unwanted guest reared his ugly head, or skull in this case.

You dare judge me and then perform this foul heresy?!

I see Christy decided to wake up Harry Decker for some reason or other. Just great. Lacking vocal cords, being that he was quite dead, Decker's sole means of communication was entirely psychic – meaning that walls, doors, or fingers in one's ears didn't do shit for keeping him out.

He didn't have eyes either, but at the same time appeared aware of what was going on around him. Who knew how far that extended? Yep, any happy time was definitely out of the question. Knowing my luck, he'd start in with a play by play for the entire building to hear.

Do you think the great Kala sits on her hands waiting for us? The White marches ever forward, uniting those loyal to her cause.

I so hated getting only half a conversation, especially when that half was from a fucking nutbag.

Sadly, Decker was a necessary evil. His knowledge of magical fuckery was greater than Christy's and she needed his help in order to modify the ancient spell we'd discovered into something that could not only stop the Jahabich, but potentially Calibra as well. If he could do that for us, I could deal with his presence for a while longer.

Afterwards, I could always find a convenient landfill on Staten Island to toss him into. The thought of shoveling a couple feet of garbage over him brought a smile to my lips as I turned off the water and grabbed a towel.

Despite the power outage, I was in a pretty decent mood. I figured that after I was done talking to the witches, maybe I'd stop by the downstairs apartment and check on Sally. I was hoping our new plan had snapped her out of her funk. Maybe we could shoot the shit for a while. Hell, even if she wanted to vent and spend an hour verbally eviscerating me, that would be fine. Though she would never admit it, I had a feeling she needed someone to talk to.

Of course, there was also a chance she might not be alone. That gave me pause. I never thought I'd ever consider Sheila a potential third wheel. Hell, I still had no idea where my feelings were going lately. Things, however, were definitely more complicated than ever – and not just because we were preparing for an assault against the center of the Earth.

So much for my good mood.

I got dressed and walked out, my mind full of conflicting thoughts ... thoughts I really needed to stow away for a time after the events of Armageddon had played out. Thus, I didn't immediately think anything of the familiar figure that passed me in the gloomy apartment.

"Hey, Bill."

"Hey, man," I replied idly a split second before realization hit and I came to a screeching halt.

I spun just in time to see the bathroom door close behind an impossible sight – that of my roommate.

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Coming soon to: Kindle Unlimited, Audio, and Paperback

Also be sure to check out The Road To Armageddon for more Last Coven goodness.

Nov 26, 2016

Who Watches the Apple Watch?

I've mentioned this here before a few times, but this blog originally started off, at least in part, as a bit of a tech blog. So, every so often I like to put up a post that harkens back to its roots.

My family awesomely gifted me with an Apple Watch for my birthday this year. Now, I'll admit, when the Apple Watch came out last year, I was fairly lukewarm to it. Partially because, as a rule, I try to never buy any first generation devices from either Apple or Microsoft. Both seem to like to use the buyers of their new products as guinea pigs. 2nd generation, however, seems to be where it's at, though. Thus this year two things happened to make me start to rethink my initial reluctance: 1) Apple announced the series 2 watch and 2) my trusty old sports watch broke, leading to months of me looking down at my wrist to check for time that wasn't there.

Let's just get one thing out of the way upfront. At no point did I feel I needed an Apple Watch. No. This is purely a want device. For most people it will be a luxury gadget, something to splurge your hard-earned money on because, damnit, you deserve it!  Even now, having owned it for a couple of weeks, I can say that for probably a good 99% of the people out there, there really isn't going to be a need for this. The only ones I can imagine who might think otherwise might be the fitness nuts among us.

After Apple's announcement of the series 2, I started dropping some major hints to the family, specifically my oldest son who I know listens when I bullshit about technology. I'm already heavily invested in Apple's systems, with both an iPhone and iPad, so a device that paired seamlessly with them was starting to make more and more sense to me (either that or I am a sucker for Apple's marketing).

Pictured: Professionalism
I personally favored the Nike+ model, because it was one of the more reasonably priced versions and because I just liked how it looked. Over the years,  in an attempt by my family to get to me look more professional, I've owned several leather band watches. However, I have never given two shits what others think of how I accessorize. If a company was ever going to not hire me based on my watch, then that told me it wasn't a place I wanted to work. Thus, rather than going through power watch after power watch, I always ended up falling back on durable sports watches - the kind that I could walk past a brick building with and enjoy the sound of the face scraping across the facade. Yeah, I'm weird like that.

As such, I didn't see a need for one of Apple's premium leather or metal bands (I like to keep the hair on my arms where it is, thanks).  Mind you, reasonable in Apple's ecosphere is still over $300.  And that's at the low end. Prices range to over $1200 for the highest end leather band, ceramic body, with build in blowjob port models (I might be exaggerating on one of those). So, no matter what, we're talking a pretty fucking expensive timepiece here.

So how is?

Well, first off, let's get something silly out of the way. This is easily the most comfortable watch band I have ever worn. No kidding. Most of the time I don't even realize its there. I don't know how the other types of bands feel, but they knocked it out of the park with the sports model. An expensive watch that feels like a torture device this isn't.

Battery life was a big concern to me, but so far I have yet to end a day with less than half a charge left. Would I want to take this on an extended camping trip with me? Probably not, unless I planned on leaving it in in my car to charge. But I'm comfortable thinking I could probably get through a weekend and still have a little juice left.  The wireless charger is neat, but I'm probably going to want to get a spare at some point.

Usage-wise, it pairs with an iphone (or ipad) and you can control it either from the watch itself, or from the phone. Let it be known, without a phone to pair it to it's basically tits on a bull. So you're either all in with this, or don't bother.

As far as that usage goes, well, I have to say the thing I use it most for is ... wait for it ... being a watch. Yep, I know, crazy right?  But I like having the time and date handy when I look down. As an added bonus, you can add additional info, like the current weather, to the face. Super handy for when I'm about to take the dog out and haven't yet grabbed my coat.

Thanks for reminding me what a lazy shit I am
The other major usage I get out of it is entirely circumstantial, but pretty awesome nevertheless. Perhaps the neatest thing about the Apple Watch is the ability to put my phone down to charge, walk away from it, and not have to worry about coming back to a dozen text messages asking "Why are you ignoring me?!" The watch functions as phone / messaging surrogate during those times. Heck, I was carrying something heavy up the stairs a week or so back when someone called. Rather than put everything down and fish my phone out of my pocket, I booped the watch with my nose and was able to answer it ("Yes, mom, I'm still picking you up for Thanksgiving").

The fitness apps are fairly useful, offering reminders throughout the day of little things one can do to improve their health, as well as being super handy for working out ("You're heart rate currently is ... err ... dialing 911 now"). Mind you, being reminded to take a minute an breathe when I'm in the middle of a hard chapter can be an exercise in "Hey Siri, go fuck yourself!", but it is what it is. 

Speaking of Siri, she/it works just fine with the watch.  For instance, it proved to be a great help this past week for cooking, with a quick "Hey Siri, set the timer for 20 minutes".

In short, the Apple Watch is almost entirely a convenience device. A must have? Definitely not.  A nice to have? Yeah, I'm beginning to see that it is. If you're invested in Apple's devices, and can afford to blow the cash, it's a handy little thingee to have.

Can you live without it? That's for you to decide, but I'm pretty certain the answer is yes. I definitely could, but I also can't say I'm not enjoying having it strapped to my wrist. 

Nov 10, 2016

The Future is Ours - One Day at a Time

Let's get the obligatory crap out of the way. Unless you've been living under a rock, you're aware of at least a couple of things: 1) Donald Trump won the US presidential election and 2) the online world is going absolutely bugshit about it.

There's tons of analysis on how this happened. I won't link to any of it. It's easy enough to find. Go on, do a search through Google News, I'll wait.  On the extreme end you'll find some claiming that any vote for Trump is a vote for racism, homophobia, misogyny, and making sure walking out of your house without first kissing a crucifix is a crime.  Personally, the analysis I favor is that, Trump's 12th century sensibilities aside, he represented economic change to a silent but large swath of the country. That they were so desperate for a shake up of the system they felt had forgotten about them that they were willing to embrace anyone who offered the potential of change, no matter how objectionable his personal standards might be.

I prefer to believe this because I still have hope in my fellow humanity. I simply can't believe that a good half of this country are just waiting for an excuse to cut up their white sheets and start burning crosses. I don't want to live in a world where I even contemplate that being a reality.

Sadly, there is, without a doubt, at least a vocal minority who does believe this and they latched onto Trump like the last life boat off of the Titanic. In a way, they have become his unofficial poster children, eclipsing those who feel forgotten by Washington and painting the entirety of his following as mouth-breathing neanderthals.

Unfortunately, in the past day alone, I've read stories of how this small minority of fetid trash has become emboldened.  There are tales of assault - physical, verbal, and sexual - being tried to the mantra that these things are now allowed because Trump was victorious. Their team won, now they get to pretend the laws don't apply to them while they tip over cars and set buildings on fire.

If you're reading this, I probably don't need to say it, but bullshit.

We're at a crossroads today, a chance for real change in DC, the potential for the ingrained (and inbred) establishment to be shaken to its core. But there's a dark side, a slippery slope, and it resides in the hands of those who would use this shakeup to further their agendas of hate. Make no mistake, they will try.

But therein also lies opportunity. I personally hope that silent majority gets the economic change they were hoping for, but we must draw a line when it comes to the desires of the lowest common denominator. We must stand up with our neighbors, our friends, our family, and those in need, to show that we will not let this country slip into a second coming of the Dark Ages. We will accept change, but we will not tolerate hate, abuse, or inequality - not from those who push this agenda, nor from anyone.

To enact that change, that better future, however, requires action. Sitting idly by and hoping things will improve does nothing but embolden the asshole demographic. That simply won't do. The truth of the matter is, it doesn't take a lot of effort if we all try to make a difference. A little here or there will germinate and grow.

Things you can do:
- Donate to a good cause.
- Volunteer at a place that could use the help.
- Talk to your kids. Educate them to understand that this world belongs to all of us, not just a select few.

And, perhaps above all else, DO NOT STAY SILENT. If you see someone being victimized for being different, whether it's the color of their skin, their religion, their sexual preference, whatever, do something. Stand up and say something, call the police, call security, whatever it takes.

It's a time of change, and that brings with it many challenges, but together we can all be the beacon of light that sends the cockroaches scurrying back to the shadows.

Addendum: Just to clarify a bit of the above, I don't advocate bad behavior no matter who you voted for. The above "things you can do", peaceful protests, petitions, etc, are all cool in my book. But everything I said above goes just as much for those whose candidates lost the election as much as those who won. If you've decided that the rules no longer apply to you, then you're as much a part of the problem as the other side you're supposedly protesting.

Sep 14, 2016

Identity - a #HoldOnToTheLight Blog Post

Author's note: The following story is from the viewpoint of Sally Sunset, as part of the Tome of Bill series. You can read more of Sally's story in Sunset Strip (A Tale From The Tome of Bill). It takes place prior to the events of Half A Prayer (The Tome of Bill 6) and contains spoilers for Sunset Strip.

It's part of the special #HoldOnToTheLight blog event (see the bottom of this post for details).

Some days I'm really not sure of who I am, what I should be doing, or how I should act. I don't let the others see it. It wouldn't be befitting a person of my so-called station. Weakness is not tolerated among our kind. Even a momentary crack in our veneer can leave us vulnerable to the predators who are constantly watching.

As for friends to confide in, those are few and far between. Even those few I trust ... I simply can't open up to. It isn't wise to confide in another vampire, not when the elders can force us to bare our very souls with but a few whispered words of compulsion.

A part of me isn't bothered by that - the person I became after years of servitude and abuse at the hands of Night Razor. No, she's too hard for that. She has a shell that is nearly impenetrable, a rough callous formed over her very soul from decades living in a world where life is cheap and remorse isn't tolerated.

The truth of the matter is, I hate who I've become, but at the same time I admire her strength. It's so unlike how I used to be, practically a different life. A foolish young girl named Lucinda Marie Carlsbad once used to lose herself in books and dream of a life in which she'd be respected, in which she'd stand as an equal to any man, and would rise to the top by virtue of hard work and her abilities.

Her father put an end to that, constantly berating her, reminding her of her place as a woman. She should dress pretty, learn to cook, do all the things that could land her a good husband. Only then would she have any worth, and only as an extension of whatever man decided to have her. There were never any fists or hands in those days. No, those came later ... after that little girl died and was reborn, but the shell she ... I ... would later wrap myself in had its beginnings in those days from the scars the constant browbeating left behind.

One could argue those words were the cause of what came next: running away, finding employment in a place that valued only my body, and then meeting the monster who would forever change my life. Little Lucinda died at his hands, but it wasn't an easy death. No. She lingered for years, holding on, refusing to give in, but dying a little bit at a time until she was no more.

Where my father's voice cut me on the inside, Night Razor's fists did their part on the outside and soon I began to think that perhaps my father was right - I had only found my true worth at the hands of the man who would have me. It just so happened that man was an immortal monster with hands so bloody they could never come clean.

That's when Sally was born. All of those years, all of those scars, they added up over time. Little did Night Razor know, though, but the woman he molded in his own image as as if from clay would take his lessons to heart and become his downfall.

I thought then and there that I had achieved parity with my life. My scars were still present - they always would be - but they were buried deep, almost forgotten. And now my tormentor was dead and I had everything I could ever ask for.

I was wrong.

The kindness of one man, someone who dared to be my friend despite everything I did and said to him, began to awaken little Lucinda again. It turns out she wasn't as dead as I had thought. That shell I had built around her hadn't been a tomb after all, merely a cocoon for her to sleep until it was time to awaken. Sally, however, is still the driving part of me and I'm not sure I want her to leave. She's strong, sure in herself, allowing herself to bend, but never breaking.

But, where Sally is cynical, Lucinda sees hope. For the first time in decades, she can envision a future that isn't littered with bodies, where the slightest disobedience is not met with cruel punishment, and where my fate is her own.

Perhaps one day soon it will be time for these two disparate ladies to meet in the recesses of my mind and have a good long chat. Perhaps they can discuss the future and whether they can coexist together: strength and hope, existing as one being.

It might be too much to ask for, but I'm willing to try.

About the campaign:
#HoldOnToTheLight is a blog campaign encompassing blog posts by fantasy and science fiction authors around the world in an effort to raise awareness around treatment for depression, suicide prevention, domestic violence intervention, PTSD initiatives, bullying prevention and other mental health-related issues. We believe fandom should be supportive, welcoming and inclusive, in the long tradition of fandom taking care of its own. We encourage readers and fans to seek the help they or their loved ones need without shame or embarrassment.

Please consider donating to or volunteering for organizations dedicated to treatment and prevention such as: American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, Home for the Warriors (PTSD), National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), Canadian Mental Health Association, MIND (UK), SANE (UK), BeyondBlue (Australia), To Write Love On Her Arms and the National Suicide Prevention Hotline.

To find out more about #HoldOnToTheLight, find a list of participating authors and blog posts, or reach a media contact, go to The Hold On To The Light Facebook Group.

Aug 31, 2016

Rating the Rides - 2016 summer edition

So this past week I took the family down to Virginia for a little R&R. It had been a while since we got away for a few days. Besides, all work and no play make Rick less a dull boy and more a freaking nutcase.

Sanity is my middle name
Yeah yeah, I know the drill ... back to writing, author monkey!

Don't worry. I'm hard at work finishing up The Last Coven (The Tome of Bill 8). For now, though, I thought I'd take a little mental break from all the death and destruction to talk about the thrill rides at the two parks we visited - Busch Gardens and Kings Dominion.

I remember hair ... *sniff*
In between bouts of utter despair at being totally ignored as a walking / talking Bill The Vampire advertisement - all while my wife got tons of compliments about her new hair color - I spent most of my time strapped into chairs and being dropped down steep hills ... on purpose! It wasn't my first visit to either park, but it was my first chance to ride many of the rides there.

So that said, here's my mini-review of some of the rides we sampled.

Let us talk about things that go high and move fast...

Busch Gardens:

Verbolten - 5 stars - Not a super coaster like many of the others, but nevertheless probably the most fun coaster at either park. Part of it is the surprise. The ride is partially indoors, and a good deal of the rest is obscured from view from vantage points around the park. Thus I got on this having no idea what to expect.  I was expecting a kiddie coaster and instead found myself being hurtled forward via linear induction into pitch blackness and a lot of fun. I won't spoil it, but there is an awesome "Holy shit!' moment in the middle of the ride that caught me totally unaware.

Griffin - 5 stars - The best, and by that I mean scariest, super coaster of the two parks. The main attraction is a 200 foot tall 90 degree hill that you hang suspended over for several seconds before your first drop. For someone like me who has a fear of heights, this was more than enough for me to rediscover religion as well as plenty of profane names for all the various deities. 

Alpengeist - 4 stars - A taller version of the suspended hanging coasters you can find at a lot of parks. Still fun, and definitely freaky watching nothing but ground below you from that high.

Apollo's Chariot - 3 1/2 stars - A pretty basic steel coaster.  Lots of hills and quite fast. Not sure whether to dock it a point or add one, but the seat harnesses didn't fully tighten against my youngest son's somewhat thin frame. And of course this was the one ride he felt the need to put his hands in the air for during every hill. My rational mind knew he was safe, but it still freaked the fuck out of us. 

Tempesto - 4 1/2 stars - an awesome linear induction coaster that allows for both forward and backward motion. Tons of air time and inversions.  Only loses 1/2 a star because the nature of the ride allows just one car to be in operation at a time, causing load times to be a bit long.

Loch Ness Monster - 2 stars - Not the first time I've ridden this. Was easily a 4, maybe 5, star coaster when I was a kid, but nowadays feels kind of tame comparatively. Still a fun ride, but showing its age.  Also, the cars are uncomfortable as all hell. Still, not a bad ride to ease kids into the fun of inverted coasters.

Curse of Darkastle - 4 stars - Not a roller coaster, but a 3d ride, similar to the ones found down at Universal Studios. Not quite as good as the ones there, but still a fun ride and well done.

And then we visited ... Kings Dominion

Backlot Stunt Coaster - 2 stars - The linear induction acceleration doesn't make up for the fact that it's pretty much a kiddie coaster disguised as a big-boy coaster.  Also the seats were apparently designed by someone who truly hates their fellow man. It is a horrible ride? No. But not something I'd wait in line for.

Flight of Fear - 5 stars - Holy shit! This one rivals Verbolten as most fun coaster. On the outside, it looks like some shitty 4D experience, like that lame test flight thing that used to bore people at Six Flags Great Adventure. Inside, though, it is living proof that an indoor ride doesn't have to mean a crappy coaster with a prefab metal housing built around it (again, looking at you Great Adventure).  Fairly uncomfortable seats, but an intense ride made even more freaky by 1) being in the dark and 2) multiple inversions with only leg straps holding you in.

Volcano - 5 Stars - Just plain fun.  2 linear induction acceleration points, including one straight up and out of the volcano's mouth.  Wasn't sure what to expect, but it was all smiles from the moment the car started moving.

Waiter, check please
Intimidator305 - 4 1/2 stars - A huge 300 foot drop from a non-linear induction coaster.  The ride up the hill is fairly quick, but took more than enough time for me to consider all of my life's bad choices. Pulls enough g-forces on the way down that I was seeing dark spots at the corners of my vision.  Only 1 hill, though (but what a hill!). The rest is all twists and turns. Still, a pretty awesome ride.

Anaconda - 3 stars - Been on it before. Pretty standard metal looping coaster these days.  Lots of time upside down, all of it over some pretty skeevy looking water. One of the older coasters in Kings Dominion, but still worth a ride.

Dominator - 3 stars - A fun floorless coaster, but there are rides similar to it at Great Adventure and Dorney Park, so a bit of a "been there, done that" quality to it.

Grizzly - 3 stars - an older wooden coaster, but a good one. Lots of airtime spent out of your seat.

Rebel Yell - 2 1/2 stars - also a decent older coaster, but a really rough ride. If you're a full-sized adult, prepare to have the crap kicked out of you.

Richochet - 2 stars - A slightly larger version of the Wild Mouse. My youngest liked it.

Avalanche - 3 stars - not a super thrilling ride, but I always liked those old bobsled type coasters. Not too many parks still have them, so a nice piece of nostalgia. Almost wanted to dock it a point for the stupid kids waiting in front of us, but it wasn't the ride's fault the depth of their end of the gene pool was a bit lacking.

Fun and other assorted weirdness
All in all, I can't complain about any of it. We did more coasters in 2 days that I usually do in 2 years. I think we were all tired as all hell after it was done, but it was a lot fun, and that's exactly what I go to theme parks for. 

Until the next coaster quest...

Jul 13, 2016

Mock Me If You Will...

You might think by the title of this post that there's a big but coming after it.  Well there isn't (aside from my ass maybe ... I really need to put some more miles on the exercise bike).  It stands as it is.  No caveats. Feel free to mock my ethnicity, my geeky tendencies, my hairline ... all of it.  If what you say is clever, I'll laugh. If what you say isn't, I'll most likely mock you back for your lack of being able to string a coherent joke together. I can take it and if you can too then it's all good as far as I'm concerned.

But there are those who would call both of us wrong in doing so.  They'd call us bullies, haters, etc.  For how dare we put down another human being?  How dare we not care about their feelings?  How dare we make ourselves chuckle at the expense of another?

Hell, you can see a good example of this out there right now on just about any social media feed.  Unless you've been living under a rock, you're aware of Pokemon Go.  I hear it's a pretty hot game right now.  Well, first came the game. Then came the memes poking some fun at the game. And now, as anyone living in this day and age could probably predict, comes the shaming of those memes.  How dare you make fun of someone having some harmless fun?  If you do, I've lost all respect for you.  Blah blah blah.

Fuck that, I say.

Eat a sammich!
I've said it before and I'll reiterate it here again. It's all about intent as far as I'm concerned. If your intent is to harm another. If you do it day after day. If you are focused on making another person or group's life as miserable as can be.  All of these things are bullying and/or potential hate crimes.  Yet there seems to be a movement out there that says anything negative - whether it be a shared meme, a stupid twitter post, a joke shared in the school yard - is just as bad.  Bullshit I say.

Now, that's not to say that a singular instances can't make you a horrible person. I've already covered this and what a dick it takes to do such a thing.  But once again, I'd argue the intent is definitely there

There's another side of mockery, though, one those who are overly sensitive don't want to admit exists - and it's entirely harmless outside of perhaps being annoying.  Why, because that's all it's trying to be.  It's just trying to make a joke or make people (including themselves) laugh.  There might be a bit of doucheyness behind it, but there's no ill intent otherwise.

That's actually one of the most common complaints about my Tome of Bill series. People have said the main character is (insert your favorite ist, istic, or phobic here), whether it be homophobic, racist, misogynistic whatever. I'd argue you're inside the head of a character who's a flawed human being just like the rest of us, and with that comes every good thought he has, but it also means you're privy to every petty, juvenile, or uninformed thought as well. And I purposely write him that way because I think it's simple human nature to have thoughts like these. That all of us have someone(s) we secretly fear, mock, don't understand, or feel superior about.  What counts, though, is how we act or don't act upon those thoughts. Actions speak louder than words.  And thoughts are just that ... words in our head.

We give too much power to those words sometimes.  There are times when we should let those words into our soul, but there are far more times when we should just shrug them off and get on with our day.

Goddamned Pikaphiles should be locked up
And that's what I'm getting at. I'll be the first to admit that mine is a sarcastic household. I praise my kids when they do something awesome, but I'm just as quick to joke when they do something stupid. No special snowflakes under my roof, thank you. The thing is, the same holds true in the reverse. There is no punishment for hitting back with a good zinger.  Everyone who dishes it out should be able to take it and I'm no exception.

That's where I think most of this backlash comes from. As I said above, none of us are perfect. We all have not-so-nice thoughts from time to time. The difference being that some want to have their not-nice thoughts about others, but don't want others to have those same thoughts about them or their beliefs. There aren't many guarantees in life, but I'd be willing to put my money down on at least one sure bet - ANYONE who has ever said "How dare you mock XYZ?" thinks they're the exception to the rule and has some group or person that in their mind they think is A-okay to mock away at.

There's a great deal of hypocrisy there, whether or not people want to admit it.

Of course there's the big problem of who draws the line on these things. That's subjective.  Hell, even I've already drawn my personal lines in the sand with my link to a prior blog post. I'm not immune to a bit of hypocrisy myself in saying it's okay to do this, but not that. There's no easy answer to that one, but as I said I believe intent plays a big part in things like this. 

All I know is that there are some who want us to live in a world where we watch what we say for fear of what others might think.  Me, I'd sooner take the good with the bad and live in a world where we don't let the words of others have so much power over us.