Hell At The North Pole

Memorandum:

To: Postmaster St. Simeon Peter

From: St. Nikolaos M. Klaus

Date: May 6th

Subject: Underworld Change of Address

Peter,

I am writing to you with haste, to avoid a potentially ugly situation. Please understand that I am attempting to keep the situation out of the spotlight. The last thing that I want is a general alarm sounded. It appears that the routing for the Damned Souls of Hell have been routed here.

The elves and I, as of this moment, have the situation under control. We have had to cease construction in the meantime. I am concerned about our ability to keep control for long, but I think that we can hold for a short time. This situation will need to be handled with haste to avoid any Divine interventions, if you follow.  

I would recommend rectifying the inter-dimensional channel between Earth and Hell, immediately. Following that a small herald of Angels to be released to the Pole to transport the Damned to the Lower Gate. I would prefer not involve the Seraphim, if possible. We have been lucky so far, the souls that we have received have been mild and easily corralled, and would not require a heavy force to move.

If we can proceed along that course, or something similar, then I think that this should be a minor situation, easily resolved; and allow us to get back to what we do best, making toys for good little girls and boys.

 

Warm Regards,

St. Nikolaos M. Klaus

Head Gift Giver

North Pole


 

Memorandum:

To: St. Nikolaos M. Klaus

From: Postmaster St. Simeon Peter

Date: May 17th

 

Subject: Re:Underworld Change of Address

Nikolaos,

I apologize for the delay and the inconvenience. I appreciate your candor in this matter, I assure that we’re doing everything to rectify the flow of souls to their right and appropriate domain.

In the meantime, as we work to rectify this situation, please follow protocol. These circumstances must indeed seem grim, but I assure you that if you follow the guidelines laid out in the Celestial Management Handbook, everything will be okay.

 

Warm Regards,
St. Peter
Postman & Trans-dimensional Controller
Main Entrance
Heaven


 

Memorandum:

To: Postmaster St. Simeon Peter

From: St. Nikolaos M. Klaus

Date: May 18th

 

Subject: Re:Re:Underworld Change of Address

Peter,

The faster you repair the channel to Hell, the better we all will be. We are following protocol with  our best efforts. However, the number of souls entering our small realm every day is staggering.

The elves began constructing holding cells for them all initially. The cells are similar to the pens constructed for the reindeer. The Damned began tunneling under the walls by midday and the bigger ones simply bowled over several pens.

We enlisted the help of some local residents. Yukon Cornelius is a bit of a local legend, he directed the elves and together they began digging ‘The Mines’ under the workshop. The ground there is solid and holds bars well in the bed rock. With the help of Cornelius’ companion, whom he refers to simply as Bumble a large snow ape of some sort, they began rounding up souls and placing them in the new cells. Even as they are imprisoning the souls, they continue to dig straight down below the Workshop, excavating more cells.

I do not like this business. It is changing the elves. They have always been a whimsical, unsullied by corruption. The men drink too much now, and some have even been witnessed smoking. The women leer at the damned, some of the younger ones gazes last too long.

If this situation is not rectified shortly, we will need reinforcements. The men coming out of the mines are exhausted, and will not be able to keep up their pace for long. We have also lost two weeks of production time to this mistake, so we need help.

Please send me a detail of your plan and time line as soon as possible. I understand that you can’t send it over insecure lines, but these are all that were provided to us. You could come and see the situation first hand, and deliver the details of the plan.

 

With Hope,
St. Nikolaos M. Klaus
Head Gift Giver
North Pole


Memorandum:

To: St. Nikolaos M. Klaus

From: Postmaster St. Simeon Peter

Date: June4th

 

Subject: Re:Re:Re:Underworld Change of Address

 

Nikolaos,

I assure you that we are doing everything that we can to bring this misunderstanding to a quick conclusion. Unfortunately, we live in dangerous times. There are talks of coup and of Lucifer raising an army against Heaven. We must remain vigilant. For all we know, this event might be his or one of his agents doings. In the light of this possibility, I must ask you to remain strong. Follow the guidance of the Handbook, and keep the Faith.

I do bear some good news though. Gabriel is being dispatched to come to your aid! He will be asked to oversee the Damned and the efforts of the elves. As you know, there exists only one greater mind regarding strategy and tactics of dealing with the Damned. He populated nearly an entire ring of Hell himself by delivering living souls to Perdition. I tell you now Nikolaos, you are indeed in good hands having the Archangel to watch over you.

W/r to time lines and plans, again I can not stress this enough. We can not discuss those over these lines of communication. Since there exists no other mode of communication with the North Pole than Post, we must continue using what we have available. I’m sure you understand. Gabriel will be able to fill you in completely on every detail that he can.

Keep up the good work, this will all be over soon. Get some rest, you’re going to need it to catch up on the remainder to the toys needed for Christmas.

Warm Regards,
St. Peter
Postman & Trans-dimensional Controller
Main Entrance
Heaven


Memorandum:

To: Postmaster St. Simeon Peter

From: St. Nikolaos M. Klaus

Date: June 6th

 

Subject:Update from Frozen Beaches of Hell

 

Peter,

The North has changed forever. You can not comprehend what has become of this place that was once a joyous and wonderful place. Things may never be the same here again.

Following your last correspondence, Mrs Klaus and I waited anxiously for the arrival of Gabriel. Obviously we have all heard of his exploits and felt that he would be the perfect individual to straighten out the predicament that we find ourselves in.

When he arrived, I met him at the gates myself. I began apprising him of the situation and what we had done to house and hold the Damned. He cared not a whit about the souls housed in The Mines or the steady stream of wicked souls pouring through the gates around him.

Instead, he seemed hell-bent on interrogating the elves. He is convinced that the situation was perpetrated by one of them. I spent the better part of his first day here trying to convince him that I have known every elf here for as long as modern humanity has existed, and that I vouched for them personally. After much harrying him incessantly, he agreed to tour the mines and to review our provisions.

That is when the real problems began. The Mines, being excavated by elves and Mr Cornelius (a man of uniquely miniature stature) have rather diminutive passages. Gabriel, the Archangel, being of unusually large stature was not able to pass within. He halted at the gate and indicated as much. We discussed it at length, and it appeared that he would have to suffice with diagrams and descriptions. As we were leaving, Gabriel overheard a taunt from one of the Damned in The Mines. He was so incensed that he proceeded throughthe entrance, and bodily destroyed it.

He pursued the unseen cat-caller, through several corridors meaning to punish and discipline the poor fool. As I mentioned before, the passages of The Mine are smaller than average due to the experience of the builders. Gabriel destroyed several hundred cells as he pursued the specter deeper inwards. Gabriel stopped his search after an exhaustive search, and destroying a great deal of the work that had been completed to that point. The source of the taunts was never found. Gabriel departed shortly afterward as well, leaving us to clean up his mess.

The elves and Mr Cornelius, began rounding up the damned and placing them into cells. They spent a full day in this task and thought that they had recaptured all of them. It would appear that a small band was able to hide somewhere in that dark hole we created undetected.  

This group killed all of the guards. They’re elves you see and not trained or bred for this sort of work, they had no chance. The marauders then released population of the damned from their cells.  By this time it was a larger group than we could contain.

Cornelius and several elves were killed in the assault. Cornelius’ snow ape, Bumbles, was grievously wounded. Rudolph, Blitzen, and Vixen were all killed. I fear they sit in the wood, in front of their fires feasting on them, even now.

The entire population has escaped, and the Damned continue to stream in. We have been over run, Peter. Immediate action must be taken on the part of Heaven. I beg you to send down Michael and his Seraphim. If you can not, or will not, I will have to take more drastic action to try to save us.

 

St. Nikolaos M. Klaus
Head Gift Giver
North Pole


 

[REJECTED: PORTAL INACCESSIBLE]

Memorandum:

To: St. Nikolaos M. Klaus

From: Postmaster St. Simeon Peter

Date: June 15th

Subject: Re:Update from Frozen Beaches of Hell

Nikolaos,

I understand your frustration. You’re in a difficult situation that’s gotten a little out of hand. You’ve been around this metaphysical sphere long enough to know these sort of things are going to happen.

However, there is no excuse to do something rash. To do something that might have irreparable consequences. Please consider that before you make any hasty decisions.

Now, with the nastiness behind us resolve to move fwd in good faith with the agreement that you don’t do anything dire, and we will do everyting in our power to fix this.

 

Warm Regards,
St. Peter
Postman & Trans-dimensional Controller
Main Entrance
Heaven


 

Gray ash swirled in the arctic winds, slooping sideways whipping past the band of men wrapped in white. Ash passed by them without touching them though, splitting on one side of the group and rejoining on the other, like a river splitting around a stone. Eddies swirled in their wake forming slate colored dust devils. St. Simeon Peter walked at the head of the group. His face without emotion, no joy or sorrow showing. But neither was there the serenity one would expect to see in the visage of a divine being. They trekked with care through the waste land of what had been a vast forest surrounding the Kingdom of the North. The home of St. Nikalaos, head gift giver, annointed by God to good girls and boys.

Through the swirl of ash something appeared, a glimmer. St. Peter’s browed lifted slightly as the gate of the North Pole edged grudgingly out of the gloom. The gate was built to reflect the delight and joy of those in the domain of Earth below. It was a structure that mirrored the best attributes of men, their craftsmanship, their ingenuity, virtue, and most of all hope. Hope for peace among men. Peace between Heaven and Hell could not exist if it did not first exist between them. It was a great source of pride to all those that hoped for a reckoning between Heaven and Hell, especially Peter.

His brow furrowed, and his lips drew out into a line as it came into the clear eddy that surrounded he and his Vanguard of Angels. The gates were closed and barred from the inside. The gate had taken many forms over the years. Heavy wooden beams with deep celtic carvings, intricate cast iron webbings, and even a sleek stainless steel facade in the last century. What Peter saw now was none of those things. It was a shambling tatter of rusted steel and scrap metal, that looked like it had been parced together with haste. Heavy welds dominated the steel with spikes facing outwards. Its weight was more than its bulk alone.

Heads adorned some of the spikes along the upper rim. And above on the frame, scrawled in red ABANDON ALL HOPE YE THAT ENTER HERE. It looked  as if it had not be applied with brush, but with a sloppy script that could have been the heel of a hand. In the center hung a single piece of golden parchment.

Peter approached and pulled free from its restraint.

The script was unfamiliar to him, but it was certainly of Nikalaos’ stock. He recognized as being his and his alone. It read

 

Peter,

We have closed the Pole. We have done everything that we could, but we were unable to contain the onslaught of the mutiny that followed the escape from Gabriel’s visit. Nearly everyone was dead. Cornelius, most of the elves, Bumbles, and all of my husband’s precious reindeer. He died in the mine. He went into pull out Cornelius, and was ambushed.

I did as he asked. He said that if anything were to happen to him, that I should release the Krampus. God have mercy on us, I did. And now we reap a harvest of despair. There will be no Christmas this year, Peter, and I am afraid any year that follows.

 

In Loving Honor of My Husband
Elsa Klaus
June 21st

 

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Books I Read in 2015

This is a bit heavy on the speculative fiction side. Turns out I like Science Fiction & Fantasy. Who knew? I probably should write some notes about the individual books, but it’s the holiday season, and I’m feeling lazy. Suffice to say, that I enjoyed nearly everything on this list. However, I would like to point out that The Expanse is a very special treat! Oh and City of Stairs? That’s a book that shouldn’t work but does somehow, and OMG is it good! And of course anything written by Scalzi or Wendig is gold.

-Enjoy!

  1. Zer0es (Zer0es, #1)–Chuck Wendig
  2. What If? : Serious Scientific Answers to Absurd Hypothetical QuestionsRandall Munroe
  3. The Devil in the White City: Murder, Magic, and Madness at the Fair that Changed AmericaErik Larson
  4. The Human Division (Old Man’s War, #5)–John Scalzi
  5. The Butcher of Anderson Station (Expanse, #0.5)–James S.A. Corey
  6. Fool Moon (The Dresden Files, #2)–Jim Butcher
  7. Storm Front (The Dresden Files, #1)–Jim Butcher
  8. Red Seas Under Red Skies (Gentleman Bastard, #2)–Scott Lynch
  9. The Goblin EmperorKatherine Addison
  10. Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy: A George Smiley Novel–John le Carre
  11. Elephants and Corpses: A Tor.Com Original–Kameron Hurley
  12. Blackbirds (Miriam Black, #1)–Chuck Wendig
  13. UprootedNaomi Novik
  14. Slaughterhouse-FiveKurt Vonnegut
  15. Confessions of a Freelance PenmonkeyChuck Wendig
  16. Golden Son (Red Rising Trilogy, #2)–Pierce Brown
  17. Nemesis Games (Expanse, #5)–James S.A. Corey
  18. Sharpe’s Gold (Sharpe, #9)–Bernard Cornwell
  19. The Checklist Manifesto: How to Get Things RightAtul Gawande
  20. City of Stairs (The Divine Cities, #1)–Robert Jackson Bennett
  21. Abaddon’s Gate (Expanse, #3)–James S.A. Corey
  22. 2k to 10k: Writing Faster, Writing Better, and Writing More of What You LoveRachel Aaron
  23. The Fall of the Duke of Duval: A Prosecutor’s JournalJohn E. Clark
  24. The Corpse ArchivesKameron Hurley
  25. The Final Empire (Mistborn, #1)–Brandon Sanderson
  26. Hollow WorldMichael J. Sullivan
  27. Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free ProductivityDavid Allen
  28. Guards! Guards! (Discworld, #8)–Terry Pratchett
  29. Caliban’s War (Expanse, #2)–James S.A. Corey
  30. Lock In (Lock In, #1)–John Scalzi
  31. Leviathan Wakes (Expanse, #1)–James S.A. Corey
  32. The Fellowship of the Ring (The Lord of the Rings, #1)–J.R.R. Tolkien
  33. Red Rising (Red Rising Trilogy, #1)–Pierce Brown
  34. Cibola Burn (Expanse, #4)–James S.A. Corey
  35. Grave PerilJim Butcher
  36. Terms of EnlistmentMarko Kloos

American Gods

My wife is awesome!  Check out what she got me for Christmas.  She knows that I love Neil Gaiman, and I especially love American Gods. Somewhere out there she found a signed copy of the Tenth Anniversary Edition.

IMG_20151230_193730

Think that I might have to go back and reread this now…

MICE Quotient

Let me start off by saying that I am a terrible writer. I weeble over grammar, wobble over paragraph breaks, I spend too much time on description, etc. I’m a baby writer. Being new to writing fiction, that’s going to happen. I’m learning, and I think I’m getting better. I am picking up new tools regularly as I learn. I’m building my toolbox with each new technique in description or plotting. I freely admit this is stolen writing advice, but it’s an important tool in my writing toolbox.

Orson Scott Card described the MICE quotient in his book Character and Viewpoint. It is a framework for describing types of stories, and the type of ending that story should have. The beginning and end of a story will generally mirror each other. The beginning of the a story sets up a conflict, and the story concludes when that conflict is resolve.  It is a way of recognizing the type of story that you’re telling and what a satisfying ending for that story is. It is an agreement with your reader about what they should expect from your story. Given below is a quick synopsis of the different story types he described.

Millieu
A millieu story begins when the character enters a strange new place, and ends when they leave the strange place. The promise of a millieu story to the reader is that they are going to explore a strange or alien world with the protagonist, and return from it, likely changed (Character Story subplot!)

Example: Lord of the Rings uses a strong millieu story line. That is not the main plot element. We explore Middle Earth with Frodo as he sees things amazing and terrifying.  At the end of the story, Frodo returns to the Shire a changed man, er hobbit. Stories that are strictly millieu stories are rare. Gulliver’s Travels would probably be the closest thing to a pure Millieu story.

gullivers_travels

Idea:
Idea stories starts with a question and ends with answer to that question. The promise of an Idea story is that there will be a problem to solve. This is one of the most common story types. It can be a mystery, heist, or any other story where a story is asked that must be answered. The satisfying resolution of this story is the answer to that question.

Examples: This is one of the most prevalent story types in use, so there are several examples The Italian Job, Ocean’s Eleven, Murders in the Rue Morgue, 2001, Every single episode of CSI or Sherlock, Doctor Who – Time Heist… you get the point

oceans eleven

Character:
Character stories starts when a character realizes that they’re not satisfied with their lot in life, and end when they change their situation successfully or when they reconcile that they’re stuck like this. The promise of a character story is that a character will change their role. They will start with some dissatisfaction with their role in their community.

Examples: Every buddy cop movie ever. Boil a buddy cop film down and you’ll find a rom-com for bromance. Think of Danny Glover burned out and unhappy with how stale his life has become. Now meet that psychotic, whacky Mel Gibson! Sparks fly, and bad guys die. It’s a match made in blockbuster heaven. If you’re more conventional, Consider Alicia Silverstone in Clueless. In this adaptation of Austen’s Emma, Silverstone becomes unhappy with simply being a superficial popular girl in her school. Introduce mature, socially conscious Paul Rudd. Silverstone’s character struggles, grows, matures, and falls for Rudd’s character.

lethal_weapon_4_3

Event:
Event stories start when something goes terribly wrong, and end when the status quo is restored.

Examples: San Andreas, Independence Day, etc. Most disaster films fit into this scenario nicely.

indepence day
Randy Quaid destroys the alien ship, and Will Smith gets credit for it

Here’s my TLDR crackpot theory on LOTR:

I was really dissatisfied with the end of the final Lord of the Rings movie.  The openeing scene of the first movie was the creation of the Rings of Power. In the final movie [SPOILER], Frodo destroys the Ring of Power. Now the film continued for nearly half an hour after that. This made it feel long winded and was an unsatisfying ending to me. I have a long theory on why I think this works in the book, and not the movie. Regardless, if Jackson would have wrapped up the film quickly after that, I think that it would have made a much stronger story.

return_of_the_king_0
Frodo: OK I’m going to drop this then can we go home? Sam: No, I still have to woo the girl! Frodo: Crap

These can be more than the central conflict. For instance, a novel can contain four or more. While a short story will likely only contain one element from the MICE quotient. Using this

where you start and where you end mirror each other.

There you have it, a quick overview on MICE. It’s an invaluable tool for me, when I am troubleshooting my plot. These principles help me to make sure that I am on the right path, and that the story will have a satisfying conclusion. By understanding what the promises you make to your reader, you’ll greatly improve the odds that it will be satisfying to the reader (or at the very least not annoy them enough to throw the book across the room). And rightly so, if you start a story with the body of a dead senator, you might be a little miffed if it turns into a romance between the interns in her office.

Additional Resources:

Writing Excuses
Karen Woodward’s blog is fantastic!
Character & Viewpoint – where all of this started

This blog is an overview of the MICE quotient talk I presented to the Pueblo West Writers Group  |Blog| |Facebook|

Drug Mule NaNoWriMo Snippet

She struggled to breath as the Benz pinned her to the seat. It rocketed up the on ramp of I-95 faster than she could believe possible. Her eyes were wide as saucers and her fingers ached with the death grip she put on the wheel. Tail lights flew by her like they were backing up their own carports recklessly. She glanced down at the speedometer and said, “No shit?”, as she saw it reading one hundred twenty six miles per hour.

She took her foot of the gas and let the big German coupe idle back to a reasonable speed. She was surprised not nearly as much by the violence of the acceleration, it left her breathless and her head was swimming slightly, but at how smooth it was. Like having an elephant in velvet underpants dive onto her chest.

She was not prepared for it. Driving in circles in her mother’s beat up LeSabre had not prepared her for this monstrosity. She smiled and dipped into the accelerator again, and grunted as the elephant bounded into her chest. Cars began whizzing by her once again. White lines began to blur into a single line as cars became stationary fence posts on a country road zipping by her. She weaved from the left lane to the right and then back again, moving between the cars like a running back through linebackers, occasionally emerging on wide open swaths where she would pour the throttle down and pin it firmly to the floor.  Her entire world reduced to the two lanes ahead of her and the narrow shoulders.

She eased from the throttle as cars gathered on the horizon again. She didn’t dare look down at the speedometer now, the time it would take to look down and back up, she would cover an entire football field at least, more? She didn’t know. She tapped the brakes to eat up the speed, the nose dove and bobbed to the right. She felt the Taco Bell she had for lunch turn to ice water in her gut as it shifted down and right. That couldn’t be good. A line of three sets of tail lights were approaching up to her right, she would back it down to a sane speed and cruise the rest of the way home.

She thought that she could drop the car off in one of the abandoned boat houses east of her neighborhood, and walk home. Tomorrow she could talk to one of Roger’s cousin’s about picking it up and taking it to a chop shop. That would be a quick profit for her. She figured that she could get three or four thousand for it, not even close to what this car was worth, but for an hours worth of work, it wasn’t a bad rate.  That would pad what Roger would be able to extract from Randy’s accounts after he exposed the lousy wife beating piece of shit.

“Fuck me,” Corey hissed at herself as the last car in the line of three decided to pass and changed into her lane. She slammed the brakes and the Benz nosed over hard and veered to the right. Instead of fighting it she followed it.  Skimming behind the lane changing asshole and nearly colliding with the next vehicle.

She weaved out onto the shoulder, and let off the brake. The car gave her its nose back and she straightened and goosed the throttle and bolted past it and the next car.  Her jaw dropped and the elephant that had been sitting on her chest settled into her bowels as she realized that the third car was a Florida State Patrol cruiser. The other two had been running slow, pacing it, so as not to get pulled over.

She  flew by it in a blur on the shoulder, fully in the throttle trying to get by before she reached the barriers of the oncoming overpass. Blue and red lights began strobing before she passed him. She knew her night was over, and probably her life as well.

Pueblo Has a Homebrew Store!

I have lived in Pueblo for roughly eight and a half years. It’s a great place filled with great people, and I love it here. In spite of that, there’s been a hole here, something that’s always been missing. Something just a smidge off, like that kitchen counter I installed that the pencils always roll off of.  It needed something. It needed homebrew store. I don’t say needed as some sense of hyperbole, when you have spent ten hours making beer and your yeast stalls out; you need a new pack of yeast. That generally means a trip up to Colorado Springs, or worse going on the internet and hoping your hops & yeast survive the August heat.

I am so happy to that era homebrew isolation is at a close. Troy Rahner and his wife, Alicia, opened the doors on this weekend of their homebrew shop Rahner Shine Homebrew Supply.

Our Club  was lucky enough to check out the shop early, and it looks like we should be able to hold our monthly meetings there going forward. I am so happy to have a partnership with Troy’s new shop.

Steel City BrewersEducation is at the core of what our club does. Troy gave a talk on chilling wort in the summer months and what sorts of advantages can be gained using a pre-chiller with your immersion chiller .

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Very excited with how the shop looks. Much more excited to have a partnership with someone that has such a strong passion for brewing and homebrew, like Troy, here in town.

Congratulations!

(I will be down to pick up some yeast this weekend)

All Colorado Beer Festival

There are  several things that I look forward to every year, living in Colorado . The Aspens changing colors in October, elk hunting, first snow fall, but beer festival season is one of my favorite times of year. With over a dozen festivals along the Front Range from early spring to late fall there is always something beer related going on. From the massive Great American Beer Festival, to the outlandish Rails and Ales (if you’ve never been to a beer festival on a mountain top, what are you doing with your life?) . But I think the one that I look forward to the most every year is the All Colorado Beer Festival in Colorado Springs.

It was the first beer festival that my wife and I went to, and it is special to me. Looking back, it was a small festival; with no more than two dozen brewers. There were all the local brewers, and even a few from far flung Denver. We had as much fun finding the really good beers as we did finding the terrible ones. Trust me, no matter what fest I go to, there is always some bad beer. My wife is a masochist and a sadist, finding one and her face contorts in anguish. Then she looks at me, and says, “This is terrible! Here try it.”

I Love This Festival. It’s like an old friend that I get to see only occasionally.

It has grown considerably since our first trip, boasting nearly eighty breweries this year. It is gratifying to see the growth in the event and the number of returning faces. Below are some photos. If you’re looking for a fun, local beer fest next year, keep the All Colorado Beer Festival on your calendar for 2016.

2015 All Co Beer 20151107_13362220151107_125010download_20151107_222001Stacy & I