Yukon Cornelius and Bumble surveyed the carnage. Icicles of blood littered the field. Blackened pine trees still smoldered, turned to brittle black skeletons by elfin flamethrowers.
The calves had all survived, but two adult reindeer and an elf lay dead. Bumble let out a howl of dismay. Cornelius patted the abominable snowman’s fur-matted, thick-muscled arm. Bumble had grown fond of Santa’s herd over the years, and they had adopted him like a big, not-too-bright brother.
“It’s ugly all right,” said Cornelius. “Doesn’t look like the snowman had any strategy beyond smashing whatever he could find.”
Mrs. Claus’ stern voice buzzed from the speakers in Cornelius’ yellow earmuffs. “Can you track him?”
A microphone braided into his moustache carried his answer back to the Pole. “Of course I can track him. I’m Yukon Cornelius! You just make sure Jack Frost holds his breath a little longer so he doesn’t bury the trail. The last thing we want is a blizzard covering Frosty’s tracks.”
Frosty hadn’t gotten away unscathed this time. According to the reports, the flames had thinned his armor and set fire to his broom. The snowman had been forced to flee, belly-sledding away at speeds neither elf nor reindeer could match.
As Cornelius walked, he checked to make sure his silver and gold-inlaid revolver was fully loaded. He had grown up in the northern wilderness, and had faced everything from angry yeti to rabid reindeer. These days, his beard and moustache were more gray than red, and he wasn’t quite as quick to pick a fight, but he was still twice the hunter and tracker of any man within five hundred miles.
Bumble sniffed the air. His lips peeled back in what would have been a fearsome snarl, if Hermie the elf hadn’t pulled his teeth all those years ago. The flat, too-white dentures just weren’t the same.
Cornelius dropped to one knee and jabbed a finger into the ice-crusted snow. It tasted of pine, blood, and soot. Relatively fresh. They couldn’t be more than an hour behind. “Don’t you worry. We’ll find this snowman and be home in time for dinner!”
“Just find him,” Mrs. C said sternly. “Do not engage.”
“Understood.” He pulled his pick axe and shifted his belt, making sure the revolver was in easy reach. The point of that axe could punch through stone. It would crack Frosty’s frozen armor like a nutcracker through a chestnut. He might not be planning on a fight, but he’d be a fool not to prepare for one.
A second set of tracks intercepted Frosty’s trail. Cornelius jabbed his axe into a human-sized footprint, then licked the tip. The tracks were fresh, and from the residue, they weren’t local. Elf-made boots had their own sugar-sweet aftertaste. These tracks tasted like old rubber.
He touched his moustache. “Frosty’s not the only one wandering our woods.”
A less alert man would have missed the sharpening of Mrs. Claus’ words. “His master?”
“Won’t know that until I find them. Yukon Cornelius doesn’t make assumptions.”
The tracks did follow the same path as Frosty. In several places, the human prints indented the smooth slide of Frosty’s path, meaning the human had followed behind the snowman.
Bumble grabbed the top of Cornelius’ head, and turned him gently to the right. Unfortunately, the beast’s oversized fingers also prevented Cornelius from seeing what Bumble was trying to show him.
“I can’t see through your hairy mittens, you big oaf!” He pried the hand free and looked around.
The pine trees here were thin and undecorated, unlike the woods closer to the Pole. A short distance ahead was an icy crater, lightly dusted with snow. It looked like an enormous ice cream scoop had gouged the ground. In the fading sunlight, Cornelius could make out something sparkling in the center.
He readied gun and axe and moved closer, checking the trees to either side for movement. “Looks like a bomb went off here.”
The tracks continued on, passing the crater a ways to the side. It didn’t look like they had stopped. On a hunch, Cornelius approached the edge of the crater and jabbed his axe into the snow. He circled slowly, squinting and tasting. He had gone halfway around when his tongue confirmed what the snow had hidden – the human had been here. Three, maybe four days back.
“It’s some kind of ornament,” he said. “Crystal, maybe. Busted all to pieces now.”
“Don’t touch it. I’m sending Rudolph and a pair of elf researchers your way. Can you tell what the ornament used to look like?”
Something in Mrs. Claus’ tone made Cornelius’ moustache itch. Bumble’s hackles raised, and his eyes spun to and fro, searching the shadows.
“I’d say a star. Or maybe a snowflake.”
“Get back to the North Pole now.”
He spun, gun raised. “There’s nobody here, Mrs. C. Just me and Bumble. And we still don’t know where Frosty—”
The snow exploded as if the snowman’s name had summoned him up from an icy hell. He was larger than Cornelius remembered. Without missing a beat, Cornelius put two bullets through the center of Frosty’s head. “Found him!”
Frosty roared and leaped, broomstick raised like Death’s scythe, but Bumble tackled him from the side. They fell into the snow, rolling like cats. Bumble was all claws and fury and angry growls, a regular Bumble rumble.
Cornelius charged in. “Get out of the way, you overgrown hairball!”
Snow swirled to his left. So focused on trying to line up a shot that wouldn’t hurt his friend, Cornelius ignored the movement a second too long. By the time he spotted the figure stepping out of the snow as if through a curtain, it was too late.
“Clever girl,” he whispered.
“Cornelius, what is it?” shouted Mrs. Claus.
He spun, throwing his axe and raising his pistol, but his limbs had already begun to slow. Cold seeped into his bones.
He saw Bumble jump to his feet and start toward him. Frosty clubbed Bumble’s knee with his broomstick. With an angry howl, Bumble seized Frosty by the head and hurled him through the air at one of the pine trees. The pine tree broke with a crack like bone, and Frosty went down.
Bumble charged to Cornelius’ aid. Blood matted his fur, and one of his ridiculously huge eyes spun in circles, a sure sign of concussion in bumbles.
“I’m not afraid of you, beast.” The woman’s words grated like death itself. Ice flew toward Bumble’s face, sharp as shards of broken glass.
Bumble howled again, but he kept coming. However painful his physical injuries, his grief and determination were stronger. Bumbles were loyal to the end, though it was unusual for a Bumble to show such loyalty to humans and reindeer and elves. As long as Cornelius was alive, Bumble would fight to the last breath to save him.
What had an old prospector ever done to deserve that kind of friendship?
As his strength ebbed and his hands stiffened, Cornelius forced his wrist to bend, until he was peering down the barrel of his own pistol. “Get out of here, you dumb Bumble!”
With Bumble’s anguished cries echoing through the woods, Yukon Cornelius forced his frozen finger down on the trigger.
Mirrored from Jim C. Hines.
It's been a pretty good year for me, productivity-wise. I've published four short stories, a novella, a novelette, a piece of flash fiction, and a novel. And I've written and delivered a whole bunch of stuff that's not coming out until next year...
Yours truly chats with the master.
“It’s that old silk hat they found.” The glass orbs hooked to Mrs. Claus’ belt clinked softly as she paced the perimeter of the map room. Each colored orb held a different mixture of magic and modern explosives. Right now, she wanted nothing more than to jam them into Frosty’s snowballs and blow him to flurries. She knew each elf at the Pole by name. They were family, every one. But there would be time to mourn Kane and the others once this crisis was over. “We knew the hat was magic. We never asked where that magic came from.”
“He’s made of Christmas snow.” Hermie the elf looked at the snow-dusted map of the North Pole, a living sculpture of frosted crystal. Frosty had struck three times over the course of the day, testing the outer defenses. “Doesn’t that mean he can never be destroyed? Santa said so himself.”
“Christmas snow is magical, yes,” said Mrs. Claus. She knew that deep down, despite everything he had been through, Hermie the elf still thought of himself as a misfit. But he was tougher than most people gave him credit for. Any dentist who could pull the teeth from an Abominable Snowman was a dentist to be reckoned with. He wore a dagger made of an Abominable Snowman fang through his sash. “But something—someone—used the power of that hat to shape the snow into what we always believed to be a jolly, happy soul.”
The map room was traditionally used for planning out Santa’s Christmas route each year. It could foretell the weather five days in advance, and used a form of supernatural radar based on tiny particles of ice in the atmosphere to track even the most sophisticated stealth aircraft. No one wanted to risk another Roswell incident.
“What about Jack Frost?” Emma was a relatively young elf who had transferred from Cookie Dept. into R&D a mere ten years earlier. She and Hermie had been smitten with each other for months, but they were taking things slowly, which was the elfin way.
“Jack is strong enough, but what does he gain by attacking the Pole?” Mrs. Claus shook her head. “Despite that awful Tim Allen movie, Jack and Santa have always been allies. Santa was best man at his wedding.”
“Krampus?” suggested Hermie.
The demonic anti-Santa who kidnapped naughty children certainly had reason to attack the North Pole, but he lacked subtlety. The Awgwas, perhaps? But they had been dormant for decades. Mrs. Claus pulled the radio from her pocket and called Galleta in the Vault. “What’s the last known location of Professor Hinkle?”
The would-be magician had once tried to steal Frosty’s hat, and had temporarily succeeded in melting the snowman, until Santa arrived to restore Frosty. Santa had shown mercy to the nasally professor, but mortals had been known to mistake mercy for weakness. If Hinkle’s defeat had festered all these years—
“He’s working a Disney cruise,” said Galleta. “I show him on the nice list, though he’s borderline. Looks like he cheated on his boyfriend earlier this year.”
“What about his rabbit?” asked Hermie. “Hocus Pocus was a friend of Frosty. He might know—”
“Hocus Pocus died two years ago,” Mrs. Claus said gently. Elves understood the ephemeral nature of childhood, but tended to forget how short the lives of mortals were. “He was fourteen years old, which is elderly for a rabbit.” She stared at the map, trying to uncover any hint of a pattern, any clue to suggest where Frosty would strike next.
Galleta’s voice cracked over the radio, half an octave higher than usual. “Vixen has eyes on the snowman! He’s in the woods to the east!”
Hermie zoomed the map in on that location. “That’s close to the flight school.”
The reindeer calves would be in the midst of their training. “All available forces to the flight school.”
“What if that’s what he wants?” asked Hermie. “Frosty could be trying to draw us away from the Pole.”
He was right, dammit. “Belay that. Send teams three and four. Tell the reindeer to hold back. I want them circling the whole perimeter.” To Galleta, she said, “Track down everyone Frosty’s been close to, and put them under guard. Especially Karen.” The girl had been Frosty’s closest friend when he first came to life. When people erupted into this kind violence, they often targeted those closest to them.
More than anything, Mrs. Claus wanted to arm herself with shield and flamethrower, and to ride Blitzen into battle to protect her home. But with Santa in post-Christmas hibernation, it was up to her to remain here to coordinate the defense.
Had Frosty and his master timed this assault deliberately, knowing Santa would be vulnerable in the weeks following Christmas? That the North Pole would be protected not by Saint Nicholas himself, but his wife?
If so, they were about to find out how serious a mistake they had made.
Mirrored from Jim C. Hines.
I ended up at this Bloomberg article by Megan McArdle via Martha Well's Tumblr who got it from Sarah Rees Brennan...OK, enough of provenance.
Among other things the author mentions the discomfort of running into the same authors she'd reviewed and knowing that they remembered that review. Yep, that can be a problem, especially in these days on the internet where every word continues to exist forever. It's a valid consideration for a reviewer.
But the author then goes on to say this:
I have written some epic snark, and I have written a book, and let me just tell you, there is no comparison. Books are hard. Reported features are hard. Sarcasm and outrage are easy, which is why they tend to peak in adolescence, unlike, say, mastery of nuclear physics.
I also think this is rather true. I've seen some epic denunciation of my book which left me more bemused than anything else.
But here's my take on this particular issue:
Not every book is going to be to my taste. Most of the time when I don't like a book, it's just because it didn't speak to ME. That doesn't necessarily mean it's a bad book. And to be honest, if it doesn't speak to me, I'm probably not going to finish it. And carrying that through to the next level, I'm not going to spend time reviewing it, either. I just don't write bad reviews because I can't be bothered to do so.
The truth is that there are some great books I just don't like. Let me give you an example that won't hurt anyone's feelings. A friend of mine in college lent me a copy of Starship Troopers. I plowed my way through it but what I remember about it was that I found it a dead bore. Clearly, millions of people disagree with my assessment. And that's OK, because I know that the problem was that the book simply didn't speak to ME. I'm not sure if it was the format or the main character (or because someone told me I HAD to read this book), but I never could develop much of a connection to the book.
The link to the article about reviews was weirdly timely for me because a review of my book popped up today where the reviewer didn't care for my book. He found it boring and distant (my term there, not his). And at the end, this is what the reviewer said: Good novel that probably just isn’t quite to my tastes.
I have to say that this is an excellent review, even though he didn't like the book. He's not snarking at me. He's not insulting. He's giving his opinion, telling people who share his tastes not to spend their money on my book because they're probably going to be disappointed. This is valid information, and I have NO beef with it.
Now I'm not a reviewer, so I don't have a reader base who are expecting me to review books. I have the luxury of not bothering with books I didn't like, so I don't write bad book reviews at all.
Anyhow, I found it an interesting series of linked articles, particularly given the timing...
So. Did some 3300 words’ worth of rewrite on Apocalypse Pictures Presents, so Magic Meter now looks like this:
Hey, it’s better than last week. A little. The trend is upward, and that’s the right direction.
Yeah, right. Whatever ya gotta tell yourself, Rotundo.
Anyway, your snippet:
“Got a message for you, Catherine.”
With no cell phones or land lines still functional, shortwave operators spent much of their time relaying messages. Granddaddy Telsa was good, and he charged accordingly.
“Who for? Over.” She kept her pen at the ready.
“I just said it’s for you, didn’t I? I thought you had me five and nine, over.”
“For me, personally?” That was a first. She tried to think of people she knew in the Bakersfield area, drew a blank. “From who? Over.”
“Someone who prefers to be . . . cautious.”
By which he meant anonymous. Catherine set down her pen, eyed the microphone warily. “Ah . . . I’m alone here. But I suppose anyone could be listening in.”
Thought it was unlikely, shortwave radio signals were easily intercepted, and she and Granddaddy Tesla would be none the wiser. Whoever was trying to contact her apparently knew that, and was concerned about it. Wariness deepened into suspicion.
No updates for Write Club.
Forging ahead . . .
Current Music: "Tear the Roof Off"--Triumph
You might have a tongue tie, likely a small one. Basically, your tongue is attached to the base of your mouth by a bit of flesh. It's totally fine. Sometimes though, the ties are quite bad, which can interfere with breastfeeding. (There are also upper-lip ties.) Doctors have grown savvy to this, supposedly, and check newborns for ties. But, there are multiple kinds of ties...
See IV, over there? Hard to find, I guess, since eleven professionals, including four lactation consultants and three doctors (pediatrician, family care doctor, and ear/nose/throat specialist) couldn't spot it on my son despite his issues with weight gain. (He was in the bottom 8 percent of growth) We finally went to this consultant (link to Yelp reviews, many of which have a similar story) who spotted the ties immediately, and sent us to a pediatric dentist with a laser to burn the ties off. Nine-hundred twenty bucks later (babies don't normally have dental insurance—no fucking teeth!) he's fine and eating well and gaining ~1oz a day.
But anyway, if you have a scrawny newborn, especially one who falls asleep on the breast, look for a Type IV tongue-tie.
I don't game.
No, seriously. I have never in my life played a LARP or an MMORPG. I've never played Dungeons and Dragons. I played the first level of ZORK once. That's my total RPG resume.
Now as a kid, I did play my share of Monopoly. We had Battleship, and I played Chess and Backgammon with my dad. Normal kid stuff. Dominoes (42), Card Games (Spades, usually, and Arkansas Stuff).
But left to my own devices as an adult, I have only one board game (chess)* and I haven't played that in years. I have Solitaire on my computer, as well as Mah Jonng, which I play on rare occasions.
A LOT of my friends are pretty hard core gamers. Some of them write for games. I have nothing against them. But if they invite me to play, I'd rather sit back and watch other people play.
This simply isn't a way that it occurs to me to spend time.
*I have played Scrabble once, with a student. I won, so I will never play again so that my Scrabble record will remain perfect.