Flying at Half-mask & Other Oddities; Updates

So, despite the numbers – cases, deaths, hospitalizations – being as bad or worse than they were this time last year or, indeed, at the end of April of 2020, it has been decreed that we can stop with the COVID nonsense, for the most part. Simply dropping all the MANIFESTLY USELESS restrictions and mandates would invite people to point and laugh, so we must phase them out, making sure all the little people know that Our Betters can reinstate them without notice at any time in the future.

MANIFESTLY USELESS, I say, if we’re talking about reducing the spread and the severity of this particular disease. Follow the logic, please, and note that we’re using the numbers generated by the people behind the panic mongering: IF steps taken WORKED, THEN there would be FEWER cases, hospitalizations, and deaths ONCE THOSE STEPS WERE TAKEN. Do not pass go unless you understand this! Sure, any number of Just So stories can be and were generated as needed to explain WHY the damn virus just kept spreading and coming back and killing people despite all the absolutely essential and effective steps that were taken, but there comes a point – summer, 2020 was that point, if you’re taking notes – when, if any of these steps worked at all, we should have seen the spread of the virus crawl to a halt. But ‘we’ didn’t. So, Our Betters kept layering on the restrictions and requirements. We had to wait for a ‘vaccine’ before allowing people to take the horrible risk of going to church, say, or attending a class. So, we got ‘vaccines’ – never mind that the CDC had to change the definition of what a vaccine is in order to shoehorn in the experimental gene therapy Pfizer and Moderna were pushing; never mind that none, as in zero, therapies using this gene therapy had ever gotten past the testing phase in over a decade of testing and billions spent trying to get them approved. Never mind that all the safeguards and testing requirements – you know, the steps and procedures that take typically about 10 years to perform? – were waived. Never mind that – logic, again! – if you test anything for 3 months, all you can possibly know is that what you’re testing is safe and effective for 3 months! Anything that happens after 3 months is simply unknown. Never mind that these ‘vaccines’ were introduced as the solution to COVID in an atmosphere of total panic and fear, then quickly walked back with another bunch of Just So stories when they failed to perform. Your ‘vaccines’ didn’t work for you, because somebody else didn’t get the jab. Then boosters became required, then boosters to the boosters, the concept of ‘fully vaccinated’ became current to shift blame for the fact that the vaccinated were still getting sick and dying away from the makers of the ‘vaccine’ and onto those who were not ‘fully vaccinated’.

As one wag put it: if I got my dog vaccinated against rabies three times in one year, and he still caught rabies, I’d have some questions.

Now, we’re having a little war in Ukraine to distract us from all this – and Hunter’s laptop, assorted election fraud court cases, the farce of the January 6 ‘insurrection’, and an inconvenient number of younger, healthier people dropping dead after getting jabbed. (Note: confirmation bias works both ways, but if every 90 year old nursing home patient and overdose druggie death can be counted as Coof Doom, then by what reasoning do we dismiss all post-jab deaths as just one of those things? How about a real study of both sets of claims?)

Here, for example, is a chart of deaths attributed to COVID in Israel, one of the most heavily jabbed nations of earth, with almost every adult jabbed, double-jabbed, boosted, and boosted again:

After they started jabbing people, deaths went up. Then, we have the Just So story valley in April 2021 – see, it’s Just So that it took a few months for enough people to get jabbed for the wonderful, wonderful vax to be effective on the population! Never mind that airborne viral infections fall every damn spring and have for as long as they’ve been tracked – no! This fall is due to our wonder drugs and the sheeplike compliance of all good citizens!

Then, when the end of summer uptick happens, another story is generated. Pandemic of the unvaxxed! Then finally, once the winter flu season kicks in, and deaths are worse than ever, worse than they are anywhere that remained unvaxxed, we say – ?

It’s crazy-making. On a small local scale, I’ve been noting two phenomena. First, the number of ‘voluntarily’ masked people has fallen, but there is a persistent minority that still wears a mask outside in the sun or alone in their cars. We may be nearing some sort of sanity minimum, where the hard core of those still masked up are certifiably insane. At the sparsely-attended 6:30 morning mass I go to in Lent, there are maybe 3 or 4 masked up people out of 14-20 mass-goers; out shopping, the percentage seems a little higher.

I occasionally see the school children at mass. They are still majority masked up, although many take the liberties I’ll describe next. The damage has been done; logic and evidence, never a strong suit for your average American, are dead and buried under an avalanche of panic and group-think.

The second phenomenon is more amusing: chin masking. We’ve all seen, I suppose, the skip-the-nose masking, common from the start of the masking fiasco. You wear a mask, but below your nose. You want to comply, maybe, but you’d also like to breath, so you go with the totally irrational and ineffective even in theory mask below the nose.

Now, I’m seeing an even more amusing use of masks – the chin mask. This is a mask worn in such a way as to cover neither the nose nor the mouth. It covers the chin. Those schoolkids mentioned above, when they aren’t fiddling with their masks, tend to do something like chin masking or skip the nose masking. Since mom isn’t around to panic, and the rule is that you don’t have to mask, so the teachers aren’t enforcing it, kids, especially the younger ones, tend to take it as the game it is. This would be a healthy challenge to authority and testing of limit, if it weren’t for the guilt-tripping and fear mongering these kids are no doubt routinely subjected to, often by their moms.

So the damage has been done. A generation has been tortured, lied to, forced to comply, taught to fear and dismiss any counterarguments. May God have mercy on us!

Next, MIL is back in the hospital – 3rd time in 2022. This time, she woke up with pain and reduced strength in her right side. While these are typical stroke symptoms, they also, as in this case, sometimes result for seizures. I didn’t know that. Preliminary tests show no stroke; MRIs are to be run today, which supposedly are more sensitive to these sorts of things. She’s 84, very demented, weak but otherwise physically doing OK – until now.

Of course, this is happening as we’re packing up to move and getting the house fixed up. The Eternal Brick Project of Doom is almost done – pics as events warrant.

Prayers for both my MIL and for our move would be appreciated.

Do something today! Practice agency! You are not a helpless cog!

Quick Update: Fixin’ to Move, Music, etc.

1.Still crazy busy. The realtor says: you want anything the prospective home buyer is likely to touch to work. Seems reasonable. Trying to fix everything that a prospective home buyer is likely to lay hands on is proving expensive and time consuming – go figure. We’ve lived, sometimes for more than a decade, with:

  • doors with glitchy nobs, like there is a trick to getting them to open and close;
  • a downstairs shower that is broken – have been stashing the cat food, kitty litter and back-up TP in it for so long, we’d almost forgotten it was there. Do have two working showers, but
  • other showers have tricky ‘features’ as well, like one which drips if you turn it ALL the way off, but doesn’t if you turn it ALMOST all the way off, and another which has lost the relationship between the ‘H’ and ‘C’ settings and the actual water temperature.
  • broken light fixtures

And so on. And. of course, a plethora of broken stuff, including

  • cracked windows
  • broken cabinet doors
  • ratty blinds
  • wobbly banisters
  • warped baseboards

And on and on. PLUS – the Endless Brick Project of Doom. On which I’ve made huge progress with the help of my youngest son, younger daughter and her husband. Pics to follow soon. I even added a project, because of course I did:

There was no step by the south side door. So I built one – out of bricks.
Came out OK.
Had some Mexican tiles lying around, so I sort of decided I stick ’em places. Looks kind of cute.

None of this repair/replace/finish work compares in magnitude to the sort/clean/pack work. Can’t even think about it. That’s coming up soon.

2. Turned 64 on St. Joseph’s Day. Threw myself a pizza party, invited some friends and our younger daughter’s in-laws. Big family, in both senses – a good sized batch of kids, and dad’s a about 6’5″ and built like the former college offensive lineman he is; a couple of his teenage sons tower over 6’2″ me. Nice folks, we had a blast. Our youngest son took over the pizza making duties so I could socialize more, and did a great job. Torch-passing ahoy!

64 seems old in a way 63 or even 60 did not. This, despite my being in better physical shape this year than the last several. Lost 35 lbs so far; got another 65-70 to go. I’m feeling the obligation to get healthy and stay alive to help my kids and grandkids in any way possible. Granddaughter #1 is a little over 4 months old, and a real sweetheart. I expect more will be on the way, given our kids love of kids.

3. Realistically, if I can get into shape and lose the weight, I might have another 10 years of more demanding physical projects in me. This is good, as we hope to buy a ‘hobby farm,’ which sounds like a LOT of back-breaking work, if one is to make it work as one hopes. Big garden, big orchard, some chickens, maybe a pig. Youngest daughter wants a milk cow – fine, if she takes care of it. I want a hobbit-hole style root cellar, with a walk-in fridge and freezer space in the back. Because I’m insane, why do you ask? Then get some solar power to make sure it stays cold….

Then, God willing, I might have as much as another 10 years to work on less strenuous hobbies. My mom and dad made it to 87 and 88, respectively; my mom had her complete mental faculties to the day she died. Dad, not so much. So, best case, music and writing can continue for another 20 years.

The take-away: do it now. Don’t stop. Push. Get it done. And thank the Lord for every single day.

4. On the writing front, I’ve begun to pack all my education and history references up into boxes to be moved to our next abode, almost certainly a rental. No plans to do any writing until we get at least a little settled.

Musically, however, I’ve been greatly inspired by the almost 40 year old music I dug up while packing. It’s both inspiring and depressing – I think I have some real talent which, instead of being developed over the last 4 decades, has moldered. So, now, as an old man, I’m trying to rekindle the fire. All I really want is to give it one big try, finish a small set of compositions, and send them off to some real musicians for feedback and – a guy has got to dream – perhaps performance. It either works or it doesn’t, but I owe it to myself to give it a shot.

So, I’ve been working on some pieces, usually in the morning after breakfast before I get going on home projects, and in the evening after I’ve cleaned up the day’s work. So far,so good. We’ll see.

Further bulletins as events warrant. Both Severain and Briggs have been on fire lately, but I have little time to comment. And I still want to comment on the comments made here lo, these weeks ago now. Maybe after the move?

Update to the Update: Dredging up Memories

On a positive note, at Mass today were more people than even OCD I could unobtrusively count, so don’t have numbers, but it looked like over half were unmasked. Progress, of a sort, but we can’t let this fraud and tragedy simply vanish as if it never happened. People MUST face the facts: the news is now 24/7 war in Ukraine (even though 6 other equally tragic and atrocity-filled wars are going on elsewhere at this moment- ever hear about them? Why not, do you suppose?) just as the news media, especially outside the US, is starting to acknowledge the tragedy and farce that was the COVID response. Masks? Never worked. “Vaccines?” Not so safe and effective. Deaths? Overcounted. And so on.

Overall, the obvious is coming out: the lockdowns, masks, panic, “vaccines”, and all the terror and disruption and destruction they inflicted did nothing to stop COVID, but caused irreparable physical, psychological, and political harm.

Nuremberg trials, or bust. We must not forget, and forgive only once people are in jail or dangling.


Next, as mentioned, in amongst a set of old papers were some compositions I’d started back when I was 25 and a private composition student of Susan McClain in Santa Fe. I transferred the music to one partial piece into MuseScore, a setting of the liturgical text

Domine, non sum dignus

ut intres sub tectum meum,

sed tantum dic verbo

et sanabitur anima me

In English (literal)

Lord, I am not worthy

that you should enter under my roof

but only say the word

and my soul will be healed (and healed will be this soul of mine)*

I’d only set the middle two phrases. Somewhere, unless I threw them out, are pages and pages of draft settings for the first and last phrases. I really liked the settings of the middle two, but could not come up with anything satisfying for the beginning and end.

After hearing what it sounded like sung on ‘ah’ by MuseScore, found I still liked it, enough to want to finish it. So I got on it.

I imagine this happens in writing or any art: one’s style or taste changes over time. I remember one piece I wrote in college, where it went through 3 or 4 style changes over the course of a 3 minute piece, such that the ending sounded nothing like the beginning – that piece never saw the light of day. It’s not automatic that one can recapture the style from almost 40 years ago. But I’m trying. Lots of fun, really want to finish this.

On a less fun note, we are now having to deal with stuff and memories packed away almost 10 year’s ago: our late son’s things. We didn’t have it in us to do anything more than pack it away at the time, but now we’re needing to at least put it into storage.

Yesterday, we moved out a bookcase he had made. He was maybe 18? 19? when he made it, with little help from me. He was our oldest, I had no other experience at the time working with my own children. I knew it was good – at least as good as the ones I make – but didn’t realize how amazing it is for a kid with very little woodworking experience to crank out something that nice first try. Very simple design, but the fit and finish are excellent. He went with a dark stain, and sanded between numerous coats, so it was very smooth and even.

No pictures, didn’t think of it. When we move his desk he made just before the bookcase, I’ll try to remember. Kid was a genius and a saint, with a craftsman’s soul. I miss him.

Anyway, bound to run across many other bits that trigger memorie3s. 27 years in the house, with 5 kids raised here.

Our youngest and I and hoping to finish at least the walls on the last planter today. there are also 4 little towers and a sort of connecting wall to be done, don’t know that we’ll get to them today.

I got to get out of this place. But it’s not like all the memories are bad.

* Doing a lot of word painting, so the words in the order they occur matter.

Update, Hurry Up, Already! Edition

1.The Move prep continues. Got the house painted – came out nice – got the range replaced, got the plumbing and electrical work started. Aaaaand – made significant progress on the Insane Eternal Brick Project:

Last section of planter/wall/fence. My youngest daughter and her new husband, and our youngest son did a lot of the work.
Old metal window bars repurposed as a gate
Where said gate will hang, separating the garden/orchard from the from walk.

Not to mention the 6 or so vanloads of stuff put into storage, and the hours spent looking for a rental an hour and a half drive away – the interwebs are both a blessing and a curse, as I’m sure I’m the first to notice.

2. Some Covidiocy progress: at mass this morning, I, OCD as I seem to be, counted 42 people in attendance. Hard to see all faces, but at least 18 were unmasked. So we’re around 40% saner people, but still have 60% cowering, obedient rabbits. This is down from at least 90% rabbits a mere 2 weeks ago.

Problem is, all these people are still almost certainly convinced that some terrible plague has torn through our country and they just were lucky enough not to die, and now can maybe, maybe, dispense with the mask sometimes.

Unless we can prevent the mass memory-holing of COVID and the duplicity of our ‘leader’ and their lapdog press, the scam worked. Nuremburg trials, or bust!

Flashbacks: Packing Up To Move Edition

Yesterday, in preparation for putting our house on the market, put the first minivan load of boxes into storage. 90% books. Many of these boxes had gotten packed up 17 years ago when we moved out of our house for the remodel/addition in 2005. They were then rifled through at various times over the years as kids heading off to college looked for particular books. (Mom and dad both did Great Books, one of the advantages of which is that you’re not spending stupid money on disposable textbooks but are instead buying enduring classics – that your kids and grandkids can then use when they go off to a Great Books school.) So old, tattered, torn open boxes of books. This is in addition to the 20 or so bookcases worth of books we did unpack. Sigh.

Had to rebox them into sturdier boxes. The great risk here is in looking at any of this. A yawning rabbit hole with a serious gravity gradient.

I mostly resisted, but I’m only human. The worst find in this respect: a box (one of several, I fear) of cassette tapes and CDs. I was in a number of rock bands over the years; I also wrote some songs. These activities seem to spawn any number of tapes and CDs. This box also contained a Discman (with MEGA BASS!) that, it turns out, a couple fresh batteries brought back to life!

So, here I am, standing outside the side door of the garage at a makeshift table of an old door on two sawhorses, with 20+ year old tapes and CDs spread before me, with a Discman and some old cheap headphones. I made the quick decision to ignore the tapes – had no handy way to play them back, and what would be the point? So I just sorted through and threw out empty cases (how one ends up with empty cases but not loose tapes is a mystery). Started putting unlabeled or mysteriously labeled CDs in the Discman.

Threw out a bunch that were bank. I don’t know if I even have a device to burn them anymore. Kept the unopened packages just in case, not sure why. Then found some huge set of carefully labeled boxes which at first I couldn’t identify or remember. Turns out a friend from way back had recorded a whole bunch of live performances of various bands he was in – and I was in a bunch of them as well, so I guess he gave me a set. (The last band I was in with him is also the only band I’ve ever gotten fired from. Boring story – skip it.)

Anyway, I put the first disc on, not knowing or remembering exactly what was on it. Turns out I had performed at the local Walnut Festival (don’t laugh – actually pretty nice paying gig) with a band I don’t remember – as in, AT ALL. The frontman seemed to have been a harmonica player. I have no memory of this. I don’t ever remember playing in a band with a harmonica player.* I had to listen for a while to make sure it was me. The piano sounded like me; eventually, the band did Feelin’ Alright, which is, I suppose, is my signature song. I sing and play. So, I was there, I played and sang.

I don’t even have the excuse of doing drugs. And it’s not like I played out so much that playing the Walnut Festival would be utterly forgettable. One of my fondest memories is playing that festival the first time – they had a team to set up your equipment and sound check and all that, first time I actually felt like wow, I’m in like a *band* band! But this other time? Total blank. The reality: my total earning from playing out has not covered the cost of my equipment. Totally a pay-to-play dude. Hey, it was fun!

Then there were backup tapes and CDs for songs I wrote or worked on, with the unmixed parts. I don’t have the equipment to play them back on. Well, somewhere out there is a old 4-track cassette recorder, so, if it works, in theory, I could play those back. I won’t live long enough, but I didn’t throw them away.

Spent an ill-advised hour or two on that box. Most were not that bad. One place I failed: I have hundreds of old SciFi magazines. I couldn’t pull the trigger. Instead, I used them to fill in in boxes so that they, the boxes, were very full and survive stacking without damaging the boxes or the books in them.

Then there was the box of music, as in, written music, and personal notes. That was the wow box for me. Among other things, it contained:

  • Complete mimeographed sets of the lyrics to the first high school play I was ever in, called Cruisin’, written by our drama teacher, a Mr. Anthony. He anticipated the 50s revival by exactly one year. Great tunes.
  • A piece I wrote for a junior college music class, voice and piano. The teacher, Dr. Williametta Spencer, liked it.
  • Pieces I was working on with a voice teacher at Whittier College, circa 1978. These are tied to what in retrospect was a monumental decision on my part: he offered me one of the leads in a Gilbert and Sullivan production, and it was tempting, but I was all set to head back to New Mexico to finish up at St. John’s. So, if I had accepted, I would have spent another year pursuing music, and who knows what might have happened? Instead, I went back to New Mexico, worked for the Church for a couple year upon graduation, and met my future wife. A mystery.
  • A partial setting of the text Domine, non sum dignus, written around 1983. I was taking composition lessons from Suzanne McClain in Santa Fe at the time. I had written a piece – a Kyrie – for her Santa Fe Women’s Ensemble, and this was the next thing I was working on. It is a setting of only about half the text – I ran into a wall trying to get it finished – but I really liked the part I had written. This was around the time she assigned me to write a string quartet after the style of Mozart – I remember not having any idea what that was like, and going to the library to listen to some. Not sure what her point was in assigning that to me, but I ended up heading down to Albuquerque right around then to study art and piano, so that was end of that.
  • Two brief diaries. For crying out loud! One from college, one from my art school trip to Italy. I don’t think I could stand to read them now. Needless to say, I have no memory of writing them.
  • Finally, a scathing (and never sent) letter to my dad. I didn’t remember how upset I was with him circa mid 1990s. Reading that was not pleasant.

And a boatload of other stuff.

On a happier(?) note: found some mix CDs I’d burned. Lot of Keith Jarrett, lots of 60s and 70s pop – and some Tonio K. Apropos of nothing, here is one of my favorite songs of his, the always topical Funky Western Civilization:

*Not entirely accurate, as *I* was the harmonica p0layer in several bands for a few songs, like Long Train Running, where the skill requirements are low and the harmonica solo indispensable. Still have a box of harmonicas in all the good keys, somewhere.

Writing Research: MHI

Reread Larry Correia’s first novel, Monster Hunter International, this time looking for answers to the million dollar question: what does a highly successful first novel look like? What can I, a very modest writer with 1 – count ’em, I mean, it – *1* paid work published in my soon to be 64 years on this earth, learn from it?

A lot, it turns out. *Spoilers ahoy!*

First off, the overall structure is what you’d expect: epic fight scenes tied together with character introductions and character building. The only surprise, perhaps, is the use of visions and flashbacks to fill in the blanks. So the story looks like:

  • Epic Battle
  • Vision
  • Character introductions/development
  • Prep for next epic battle
  • Repeat to finis.

It’s not quite this clean, as many of the visions are broken up into segments by more connecting tissues. Also, what I’m calling here character introductions/development always involves actions that move the story forward – Correia is way too good to put in very much stand alone yakking. But that’s the overall shape. Starts and ends with an epic battle; key characters are introduced and slowly revealed in a very satisfying way.

Many characters are drawn well enough to make you emotionally invested in them – major characters, including the protagonist Owen, his love interest Julie, fellow newbies Trip and especially Holly, as well as any number of minor characters such as the Orcs Skippy and Gretchen, and Agents Franks and Myers, are generally deftly and sympathetically drawn. The Old Man of the visions and many of the other characters are stereotypes but not, generally, in a bad way. In most cases, they are fleshed out enough to make them distinct enough personalities that you grow to like or loath them as appropriate over the course of the story.

A few don’t quite work as well. Earl Harbinger is supposed to be mysterious, which works to his disadvantage as far as making him likeable or sympathetic. It’s more like you know he’s supposed to be likeable and sympathetic rather than those emotional ties developing more organically. Being utterly indestructible without a Lois Lane weakness to offset it also dampens one’s emotional investment. The elves, intended as comic relief, fall flat, unlike the orcs, who quite literally rock. The difference might be that Skippy and Gretchen get fleshed out and have heroic moments, while the elves are simply appalling.

But these are minor quibbles. Most emphatically, the characters work. The battles are all epic and emotionally (if not always logically) satisfying.

Characters are a major strength in this book. It’s almost the anti-Asimov approach: while the old master tried to wow the reader with cool ideas so that they overlooked the cardboard characters and their often numbingly dumb motivations, Correia alternates between blistering action and getting the readers to invest in the characters. The stand out for me was Holly Newcastle. She is fearless, remorseless, irreverent – and a former pole dancer built like a brick house. By the end, it’s impossible not to love her.

As far as the plot goes, stuff done got blowed up good. The conceit – that B-movie monsters are very real, and we’re being kept in the dark about them because people can’t handle the truth – makes for a lot of hilarious banter, and epic battles. That some monsters – some orcs, one lone werewolf, a Wendigo – might be good guys or at least not bad guys, is a nice touch. But in general, the bad guys are cannon fodder, meant not to elicit any sympathy when they meet their generally gruesome demises. Correia goes out of his way to mock the whole sparkly misunderstood vampire thing, which I appreciate.

Correia lavishes attention on the weapons, which was part of the appeal to his original target audience – other gunnies. I had no idea what he was talking about much of the time, and looked up some guns just to get an idea. Evidently, his descriptions of the gunplay is dead on, which, again, appeals to his target audience.

The way the story unfolds is just amazing upon rereading. Even though I’d read it before, I still was kept hanging: each bit of information about what’s going on and who these people really are is, itself, a cliff-hanger. We are left wondering how much more we don’t know after each bit or clue is revealed. Correia is juggling a lot of pieces, and rolls them out just an inch at a time, yet, by the end, we feel satisfied. The twists revealed in the final battle are all set up nicely. Lord Machado is righteously despicable but not incomprehensibly so, and ends up being the dupe. That Owen ends up being the hero of the prophesy made more sense on this rereading, as the clues were all there.

The magical elements are simply used as needed. I’m usually not aa fan of magic, for precisely this reason – it tends to be an easy out. How do we escape from this inescapable situation? It’s MAGIC! Here, it’s used about as well as anywhere this side of Lord of the Rings. Magic is important, as is the nature of the beast, but not overdone. Character reigns supreme.

The only parts that fell a little flat for me were the elves as mentioned above, and the rather loose logic of the last battle. Stuff just kind of happens a lot of the time. Only once was I taken out of the moment, however. Skippy rescues Owen and Julie who are falling to their deaths from – a mountain in a pocket Universe? Just how does one fly a helicopter into such an event? And figure it out fast enough that you’re already up in the air and ready to go when it happens? And you see it happen? In a story full of vampires and zombies, that was the only time I went ‘O, come on!’ – which is pretty impressive, when you think about it.

I don’t know which would be more impressive: plotting all this craziness out in detail before hand, or winging it an yet making it come out in the end. Either way, this is some good work.

So, what are the take-aways? What should I do to increase the chances that my first novel will find some readers?

First off, on the non-novel side, Correia had a ready-made audience for his writings through his involvement with the gunny community. This only worked because he understood what they wanted and gave it to them.

Next, Corriea is a very intelligent guy, extremely well-read. This allows for him to add all sorts of detail. He writes scenes in modern day Alabama, WWII Germany, and ancient Mesoamerica with Conquistadores and native Indian civilizations. It would be easy to lose people with false steps, but, at least for me, he made none. It all seemed real.

On to the writing itself. The strength of the story for me is the characters. It’s almost a fish out of water story, given the fundamental goofiness of the premises. What we have are a group of somewhat normal people from all walks of life who 1) survived being attacked by B-movie monsters; 2) get trained up as commandos; and 3) face constant life-or-death challenges. The key that makes this work is Correia’s convincing portrayal of the Monster Hunters as real people with understandable motivations and emotions. We get why Owen turns out to be a great hunter, why Holly is fierce and fearless, even why Skippy considers Owen royalty, and so on. It’s a trick, and Correia has mastered it.

While loving care is lavished on the fight scenes, and they are great, it’s really in the visions and most especially just the ‘normal’ interactions of the characters that the story is made. The trick of ratcheting up each battle is largely achieved by ratcheting up the emotional stakes. It’s not just more stuff getting blowed up good, or even the ultimate ‘the fate of the Universe hangs in the balance’ battle, it’s the Hunters having believable emotional stakes in the outcome, especially in the survival of their comrades. The characters care about each other through all their flaws, and so we care about them and identify with them. I need to study more how he does this.

Finally, and I’ll need to think about how universally applicable this may or may not be, but Correia rarely lets a page go by without some sort of comedy. His dialogue is often pretty brilliant and very funny.

What I need to try to do:

  • Never let an opportunity to make a character more sympathetic and human pass;
  • Put them in situations that reveal their character without having to talk about it;
  • Go easy on interpersonal interactions that don’t move the story forward at the same time;
  • Write humorous dialogue where appropriate.

And blow stuff up good.