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KRAD's Inaccurate Guide to Life
ramblings from a mad fedora'd writer
Sooper-seekrit TV tie-in #1. While I've done several drafts of this, we keep getting new information about the show's upcoming season that requires me to add new material and change existing material. Nothing major, but it's keeping me from the "acceptance" part of the delivery and acceptance payment. *sigh* Still, it will make it a better book. I really look forward to being able to announce this....

Sooper-seekrit TV tie-in #2. This is a small project, just a thousand words that will be part of a nifty thing. I thought it was due early next week, but I found out yesterday (after we'd already bought tickets to see Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them for the 9.20 show last night) that they needed it this afternoon. Oops. So I jammed on it last night and this morning (staying up until 6am and then getting up at 9.30am to finish it), and sent it off a few minutes ago.

Sooper-seekrit TV tie-in #3. This is a project I'll be doing next year, but I have to get a proposal out shortly for it. It'll be very nifty keeno, for the same property as #2 above.

Collaborative thriller. The tie-in projects have been butting in on this, but I plan to spend December jamming on this to finally finish it. All parties involved (my collaborator, the person who brought me into the project, and the guy who's got the film rights to the story) are loving what I'm doing so far, which is encouraging.

Star Trek: Prometheus. I'm in the midst of editing the English translation of this Trek trilogy that was published originally in German by Cross Cult and will be published in the States as well. Basically, I'm taking the raw translation and turning it into more solid English. I'm midway through Book 2 and should have it done in the next few days. Book 1 is done, and I'm waiting on them to send me Book 3.

Bram Gold. Once the thriller is done, this is next on the docket. About five chapters of A Furnace Sealed are already written, and I'm looking forward to jamming on the rest of it in the new year. After that, I have to figure out the plots for Books 2 and 3........

Dragon Precinct. Both Mermaid Precinct and "Baker's Dozen" (the waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay overdue Kickstarter story) are going to be done after I'm done with A Furnace Sealed. Dammit. After that, I will probably do more Kickstarted short fiction in the universe (since I'll have used up all the good novel titles for the series....).

Human Finder. This is my science fiction universe that's only one story old so far -- and that story, "The Stone of the First High Pontiff," was just reprinted in The Best of Defending the Future. I'm also doing a Human Finder story for Humans Wanted, the Vivian Caethe-edited anthology that was recently Kickstarted. And maybe some day, I'll write a Jin and Timm novel.....

Cassie Zukav. The latest Cassie tale, "Behind the Wheel," was just recently submitted to Frontier Publishing for their second TV Gods anthology Summer Programming. Still haven't heard if they like it or not. I have a ton of other Cassie stories to tell -- the UFO on the Dry Tortugas, the dragon in the garden behind the Bottroff House, a story called "Ragnarok and a Hard Place," a spring break story -- just waiting for time and/or markets.......

Super City Cops. The novellas Avenging Amethyst, Undercover Blues, and Secret Identities will be released next week, next month, and in February, respectively (full information here). If they're successful, there may be more -- so buy them!!!!!

Mystery. I have no idea when I'll have time to get back to this project. But I really want to. *sigh* I'm hoping that Wrenn's freelance work picks up again enough in 2017 that I'll be able to take a few months to write this.

Shirley & Jack. The first Shirley Holmes and Jack Watson story, "Identity," will be in Baker Street Irregulars Volume 1 in March (the book will be debuting at HELIOsphere), and I'll be doing a second story with them for Volume 2, the deadline for which is 31 December, so I should get a move on at some point.....

Marvel tie-ins. I have several proposals in with Joe Books that may or may not happen as followups of a sort to the "Tales of Asgard" trilogy. We'll see.

I think that's everything.......................................

Current Mood: busy busy
Current Music: "O Holy Night" by Bob McNally

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From three years ago, me and Wrenn on the observation deck of the Empire State Building. Photo by Elizabeth Donald.

Current Mood: busy busy
Current Music: "God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen" by Jethro Tull

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Everything started out okay. I went down to Greenwich Avenue to get my haircut from Alan, the same guy who's been cutting my hair for three decades. Then I went to McNulty's on Christopher Street to pick up some good coffee beans, and I headed to the Sheridan Square 1 train stop to head to midtown.

That was when it all went to shit.

First off, it's been raining for two days, so it's bleak and wet and awful. The entire city is soaked and water-logged and it's just yucky.

On top of that, the wait for the 1 train was endless. After five minutes, they announced that the next 1 would arrive in 11 minutes. Eleven minutes later, sixteen minutes after I entered the platform, a completely empty 1 zoomed through the station -- it had obviously been taken out of service. Another 1 pulled in two minutes later that was packed, as it had two trains' worth of people on it, and I couldn't even fit into it. Then another 1 zipped by on the express track, skipping my stop entirely. Then, finally, a 1 pulled in, and I took it to 50th Street.

My intent was to check my PO box, which is located under Rockefeller Center. Unfortunately, the cops had barricaded every entrance to Rock Center, only allowing people with ID badges showing they worked in one of the buildings. This was security for putting the tree up, supposedly. The tree has never had anything remotely like this kind of security before (I've had a PO box in Rock Center since 1999, so I know whereof I speak), and somehow I get the feeling that this is the fault of the president-elect.

So I went to a McDonald's that has free wifi and outlets, and I'm drinking a much-needed hot chocolate and bitching about my day to you all on my blog. *wry grin*

Now I get to go home in the middle of rush hour. Sigh.

At least I got a good haircut (and beard trim) out of it:

Current Mood: grumpy grumpy
Current Music: "Coming Home to You" by the Don't Quit Your Day Job Players

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Ever since The Case of the Claw was released in 2011, I've had people ask when I was going to write more adventures of the cops in Super City and how they deal with all the costumed heroes and villains in town. Those people were generally unsatisfied with me only doing short stories ("Stone Cold Whodunit" in With Great Power and "Send in the Clones" in The Side of Evil/The Side of Good), but now I have good news for them!

Bastei Entertainment -- the same publishers who did the Heroes Reborn novellas last year -- are releasing three new Super City Cops novellas: Avenging Amethyst, Undercover Blues, and Secret Identities, to be released as eBooks in December, January, and February.

Here's the promo copy and preorder links:
The great metropolis of Super City is the home of dozens of costumed heroes -- the Terrific Trio, the Bruiser, the Superlative Six, the Cowboy, and many more -- who do battle against the super-villains who terrorize the citizenry.

These aren't their stories ...

When the heroes are done punching out the villains, it's left to the stalwart men and women of the Super City Police Department to restrain them, arrest them, and hope that this time there's enough evidence to actually convict them.

Just another day on the job for the Super City Cops.

Avenging Amethyst

Amethyst, one of the most renowned and mysterious costumed heroes of Super City, is found dead on a rooftop. Detectives Kristin Milewski and Jorge Alvarado of the Super City Police Department are assigned to the case-but every answer they turn up with regards to who Amethyst is and how and why he died just gives them more questions.

Complicating the investigation are the rest of the superheroic community, who are looking for revenge for their fallen comrade-plus there are reports of a new Amethyst! Same powers, same costume, but a much nastier attitude ...

Kindle | Nook | Kobo

Undercover Blues

Detective Elias Vondelikos has spent months working undercover to infiltrate the organization of Apollo, one of Super City's most dangerous and insane supervillains. But working for crazy bad guy has its risks, and the job the undercover cop was hired for turns vicious in a hurry.

Meanwhile, Detectives Kristin Milewski and Jorge Alvarado follow a trail of dead bodies left by the new Amethyst-whose methods are far more brutal than the average superhero, and whose true identity will rock the SCPD to its core!

Kindle | Nook | Kobo

Secret Identities

Lieutenant Therese Zimmerman's life is turned upside down when a badly injured Spectacular Man stumbles into her apartment and reveals himself to be her on-again, off-again boyfriend, philanthropist Marc McLean.

At the same time, Detectives Kristin Milewski and Jorge Alvarado investigate what seems to be a simple murder of four homeless people by a powerful supervillain. Unknown to them, the murders are connected to how Spectacular Man got hurt. Now Zimmerman must choose between the person she cares about and her duty as a cop.

Kindle | Nook | Kobo

(I swear, the choice of music I'm listening to is a total coincidence based on iTunes's shuffle function, but damn it fits...)

Current Mood: happy happy
Current Music: "Heroes" by David Bowie

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Ron Glass is someone I knew and loved far more as Detective Sergeant Ron Harris on Barney Miller than as Shepard Derrial Book in Firefly and Serenity, but I loved him in both roles, and got to write him in the latter when I novelized Serenity. I got to meet him a few times, most notably at the Big Damned Flanvention in 2005 in Burbank, where I was amused to discover that Ron watched Laker games with the same enthusiasm and passion with which I watch Yankee games.

Tonight, in his honor, I plunked "The Harris Incident" episode of Barney Miller into the DVD player.

He was a good man, and he will be missed. *raises glass*

Current Mood: sad sad
Current Music: "St. James Infirmary" by Dave Van Ronk

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The fine folks at the Winchester Family Business web site have put together a comprehensive gift-giving guide for the Supernatural fan in your life.

Money quote:
If your Supernatural fan is a bit more of the solitude type, don't forget that there's a LOT of books out there. From behind-the-scenes & episode guides for 1-7 to "additional adventures " taking place between episodes. My personal pick is anything by Keith R. A. DeCandido or "The Roads Not Taken" a choose-your-own-adventure style book that's actually pretty awesome in its execution. If you need the ultimate coffee table book (emphasis on ultimate) there's the Essential Supernatural. I have a copy I still haven't finished (mostly because it has so much awesome in it, looking inside is like staring at the sun). [Emphasis added]

For the record, my three novels in the series are Nevermore (the boys deal with Edgar Allan Poe-related murders in the Bronx), Bone Key (a demon supercharges the spirits in Key West), and Heart of the Dragon (a monster recurs every twenty years in San Francisco, and it's fought by the Campbell family in 1969, John Winchester in 1989, and Sam, Dean, & Castiel in 2009).

Current Mood: happy happy
Current Music: "Why Aye Man" by Mark Knopfler

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We're on vacation at Mohonk Mountain, and it's possible I won't be at the laptop at noon, so just in case, I'm putting this here now......

"You can get anything you want......"

Current Mood: happy happy
Current Music: "For a Thousand Mothers" by Jethro Tull

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On this Thanksgiving Day, I'm thankful for many things.....

...for my family, which includes both people I'm related to and people I've chosen to be part of my life, for support and love and wonderfulness: the Forebearance, Wrenn, Meredith & Anneliese, Dale, Lilly, Alex & Bridget & their kids, Tom, and Matt.

...for my friends, of whom I am blessed to have tons, and whom I can't possibly list all, though I will mention some: Laura Anne, Dave M., Glenn & Brandy, Laura, Jonathan M., Amanda, Janet, Peter L., Lisa, Karen, Orenthal, John D., Jay & Pam & their kids, John O. & Carol & Arren, Catelynn & Mark, Tara, Helena, Dave A., Aaron & Jen & their kids, Caren, Lindsay, Luke & Heather, Danielle, Bonnie & Brian, Meg N., Em, Dalyn, Will & Meg, etc., etc., etc. (Apologies to all those I left off, but it's early in the morning....)

...for my agent, Lucienne (as well as Pete & Ty), who is both the best agent ever and the best friend a guy can have.

...for my readers and my fans, who are the best ever.

...for Shihan Paul and everyone else at the dojo, for providing me with strength and spirit and a place where I can thrive as both a student and as a teacher.

...for the Boogie Knights, past and present, for giving me a place to make music.

...for all the editors with whom I have worked over the years, in particular this year Jonathan, Kelly, Al, and the various folks at Joe Books.

...for all the folks at Tor.com, Emily, Bridget, Chris, Katharine, Leah, and the rest, who have given me an outlet to express my nerdity and who are also some of the finest people around and who I am proud to call both friends and colleagues.

...for the Mohonk Mountain Resort, where we are spending this Thanksgiving weekend with the Forebearance and the Godmommy, and for the Forebearance in particular who are paying for us to be here, as we can't afford this place ourselves. *wry grin*

...for Joe and JoAnn, our new landlords, and for our new home, which is magnificent.

...for, once again, Wrenn and Meredith and Lilly.

...and for everyone and everything else I might have forgotten to include because there's just so damn much I'm grateful for.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

Current Mood: thankful thankful
Current Music: "A Song for Jeffrey" by Jethro Tull

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This Arlo Guthrie tune has been one of my favorite songs since childhood. It always makes me happy.

Current Mood: happy happy
Current Music: "Gabriel's Mother's Highway Ballad #16" by Arlo Guthrie

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We kick off the animated adventures with an investigation of a nifty ship and an invasion by a weird alien. The TOS Rewatch goes "Beyond the Farthest Star."

An excerpt:
Having said that, we do get the wonderful alien ship, which provides the best parts of the episode. Part of it is Scotty geeking out over it—and Doohan’s greater experience with voice work means he actually conveys that much better than any of the others manage—and part of is the superb visual of the ship. It really looks alien, the first of many examples of the show taking advantage of the format to really give us some nifty looking aliens and alien landscapes and, in this case, alien construction.

Current Mood: geeky geeky
Current Music: "We Used to Know/For A Thousand Mothers" by Jethro Tull

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With the completion of "Behind the Wheel," scheduled to be in TV Gods: Summer Programming next year, it's time to update the guide to the stories I've written taking place in Key West featuring Cassie Zukav, weirdness magnet. This is a cycle of fun urban fantasy stories that feature Cassie, the ghost of an old wrecker captain, an immortal barfly, an FBI agent, the members of a house band at a bar in Old Town, several folks from Norse mythology (Odin, Thor, Loki, Tyr, Sigyn, Eitri, Brokkr), and lots more.

Up until 2013, all of Cassie's tales were collected in Ragnarok and Roll: Tales of Cassie Zukav, Weirdness Magnet -- but there've been a few Cassie stories since then, so I provide them now in chronological order of when the stories actually take place relative to each other:

"Down to the Waterline" (in Buzzy Mag)
"Ragnarok and Roll" (in Tales from the House Band Volume 1, Ragnarok and Roll, and Apocalypse 13)
"Undine the Boardwalk" (in Bad-Ass Faeries: It's Elemental and Ragnarok and Roll)
"I Believe I'm Sinkin' Down" (in Tales from the House Band Volume 2 and Ragnarok and Roll)
"Love Over and Over" (in Ragnarok and Roll)
"William Did It" (in Story of the Month Club and A Baker's Dozen of Magic)
"Cayo Hueso" Part 1: "A Farewell to Cats" (in Ragnarok and Roll or as an eBook)
"Cayo Hueso" Part 2: "The Buck Stops Here" (in Ragnarok and Roll or as an eBook)
"Cayo Hueso" Part 3: "Twisting Fate" (in Ragnarok and Roll or as an eBook)
"God of Blunder" (in Ragnarok and Roll)
"Fish Out of Water" (in Out of Tune)
"Seven-Mile Race" (in Without a License: The Fantastic Worlds of Keith R.A. DeCandido)
"Behind the Wheel" (in TV Gods: Summer Programming, forthcoming in 2017)

Current Mood: pleased pleased
Current Music: "Look at the Animals" by Jethro Tull

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On Friday, I started writing "Behind the Wheel," the latest tale of Cassie Zukav, weirdness magnet -- a cycle of urban fantasy stories set in Key West, Florida, involving scuba diving, rock and roll, Norse gods, folklore, and beer drinking, not necessarily in that order.

Yesterday, I finished the story and sent it off to Jeff Young for the anthology TV Gods: Summer Programming, the second TV Gods anthology from the fine folks at Fortress Publishing.

The anthology should be released some time next year.

Current Mood: accomplished accomplished
Current Music: "Living in the Past" by Jethro Tull

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Behold, the cover to Baker Street Irregulars!

Edited by Michael A. Ventrella & Jonathan Maberry, this anthology features a baker's dozen (ahem) of stories featuring alternate versions of Sherlock Holmes. My own contribution, "Identity," features Shirley Holmes and Jack Watson in modern-day New York City. Other stories include Holmes as the host of a reality show, a doglike alien, a hologram, a vampire, a musician, an automaton, a parrot, and much much more

Here's the full table of contents:
    "’Locked!" by Mike Strauss
    "Identity (An Adventure of Shirley Holmes and Jack Watson)" by Keith R.A. DeCandido
    "The Scent of Truth" by Jody Lynn Nye
    "The Adventure of the Reluctant Detective" by Ryk Spoor
    "A Scandal in the Bloodline" by Hildy Silverman
    "The Fabulous Marble" by David Gerrold
    "The Scarlet Study" by Jim Avelli
    "Delta Phi" by Heidi McLaughlin
    "Beethoven’s Baton" by Austin Farmer
    "The Adventure of the Melted Saint" by Gail Z. Martin
    "Automatic Sherlock" by Martin Rose
    "The Hammer of God" by Jonathan Maberry
    "Code Cracker" by Beth W. Patterson

You can preorder the book, which will be released in March, at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or Indie Bound. We're hoping to have a launch party for the book at HELIOsphere, where David Gerrold, Michael A. Ventrella, Hildy Silverman, and I will all be guests.

Current Mood: happy happy
Current Music: "Beethoven's 5 Secrets" by the Piano Guys

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It's the triumphant debut of Yvonne Craig as Batgirl, which is one of the few good things about this third-season premiere.... The Bat-rewatch declares, "Enter Batgirl, Exit Penguin."

An excerpt:
Let me state for the record that I love the addition of Batgirl to the cast. I’m the child of librarians, so I approve of a heroic character who is one (see also: Giles, Rupert; Carsen, Flynn), I like her cheeky attitude, and best of all I like her costume. It’s a small thing, but the red hair that sticks out from under her cowl is a brilliant bit of concealment, since hair color and style is one of the main things we use to identify people. I find it impossible to credit that anyone who sees both Bruce Wayne and Batman, and especially anyone who sees both Dick Grayson and Robin can miss that they’re one and the same, but I can buy it with Barbara Gordon and Batgirl.

So while I enjoy her introduction—especially the misdirect in thinking that she’s the helpless victim who needs the Dynamic Duo to rescue her, only to have the tables turned and she’s the one who rescues them—it’s just a pity that it has to happen in an episode that makes absolutely no sense.

Current Mood: amused amused
Current Music: "White Innocence" by Jethro Tull

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Kang! The Romulan commander! Tholians! IDIC! Strong female characters! Alien aliens! Way too many romance-in-an-hour episodes! Shatner overacting! The TOS Rewatch does the third season overview: the good and the bad of the final live action season. (Yes, there is some good....)

An excerpt:
There are times when you gotta wonder if Bjo Trimble should, perhaps, have kept her enthusiasm to herself.

That’s not entirely fair, but man, you gotta wonder how much better a world it would be if Star Trek had only the two seasons. Might it have been even more well regarded when it took off in reruns if those daily strip syndication packages didn’t include “Spock’s Brain” and “Plato’s Stepchildren” and “And the Children Shall Lead” and “Turnabout Intruder” and all the other dross from this season?

Current Mood: nerdy nerdy
Current Music: "Rosa on the Factory Floor" by Jethro Tull

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I need to see this movie. So does everyone else.

Current Mood: impressed impressed
Current Music: "Sossity You're a Woman" by Jethro Tull

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In the hugger mugger of everything, I forgot to mention that Atomacon, at which I was to be Author Guest of Honor, had to be cancelled due to the hotel sustaining damage from Hurricane Matthew.

So I will instead be attending Philcon 2016, though my last-minute ability to go has limited my schedule to just three items:

8-9pm: "Writing for Media," w/Michael D'Ambrosio, John Skylar, Jay Smith, and John Vaughan (Crystal Ballroom 3)
11pm-midnight: "The Eye of Argon Chapter 3," w/Bethlynne Prellwitz, Peter Prellwitz, Hildy Silverman, Ian Randal Strock, and Michael A. Ventrella (Crystal Ballroom 2) -- I'm not actually listed on this, but let them try to stop me from joining..... ;)

1-2pm: "Writing Hand-to-Hand Combat," w/Elizabeth Crowens, Michael D'Ambrosio, Anna Kashina, Barry B. Longyear, and Bernie Mojzes (Plaza VI)

I also may turn up here and there at the eSpec Books table in the dealer room. Hope to see folks there!

Current Mood: awake awake
Current Music: "Singing All Day" by Jethro Tull

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Apparently it's National Pickle Day! At least, that's what MAD Magazine says, so it must be true! Here's their advice on how to celebrate............

Current Mood: amused amused
Current Music: "So Far Away" by Mark Knopfler

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My wonderful agent Lucienne Diver has written a book birthday blog to celebrate the release of three books: one is my new novel, Marvel's Sif: Even Dragons Have Their Endings, and one is the paperback release of the mighty Christie Golden's Assassin's Creed novel, Heresy. The third is Lucienne's own YA thriller Faultlines.

Check it out!

Current Mood: happy happy
Current Music: "Telegraph Road" by Mark Knopfler

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It's release day for Book 2 of the "Tales of Asgard" trilogy, Marvel's Sif: Even Dragons Have Their Endings!

The town of Flodbjerge is being menaced by a dragon, and it's up to Sif to save the village from being destroyed -- but the dragon holds a nasty secret that could mean more danger for the people of Flodbjerge and for Sif......

It's Sif vs. dragons in this second book of the epic trilogy that's on sale today! Ask for it at your local bookstore or order it online from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, or Indie Bound.

(Don't forget to pick up Book 1: Marvel's Thor: Dueling with Giants [Amazon | B&N | Kobo | Indie Bound], and you can preorder Book 3: Marvel's Warriors Three: Godhood's End [Amazon | B&N].)

Here's an excerpt from the book:

Flodbjerge was not too far from Asgard, at the base of the Valhalla Mountains. To get there, Sif and Frode had to traverse along the Gopul River.

Frode had no mount. “Many of our horses have been wounded or killed by the dragon. The few able-bodied ones that remained were deemed too valuable to risk on a journey to Asgard.”

As Sif clambered over a large rock that blocked their path, she said, “I understand why. The passageway to your village is not suitable but for the heartiest of steeds.”

Even as they continued on foot along the Gopul, Sif noticed that they were not alone. Someone had followed them from Asgard, but Sif decided that the trail was difficult enough that eventually their pursuer would have no choice but to reveal herself. She kept her counsel for the time being, not wishing to worry Frode. While the young man was abject in his insistence that Sif was a perfectly adequate substitute for Thor, Sif also knew that the rest of the villagers might not think the same.

She had dealt with such idiotic disappointment in the past more times than she was able to count. “But you’re just a woman!” “You’re not Thor.” “But there are three of the Warriors Three!” “You seem rather, well, small for a warrior.” “They call you a shield maiden—shouldn’t you be carrying a shield instead of that heavy sword?” And so on.

At one point, they had to cross the Gopul. The western bank was no longer passable, but the eastern bank opened up to a wide plain that Frode said would lead directly to Flodbjerge. Looking up, Sif could see the Valhalla Mountains, at the base of which was located the village.

The river was also at its narrowest here, and several rocks that were larger than the river was deep allowed easy passage across.

“It shouldn’t be long now,” Frode said as he leapt onto one of the rocks. “Be wary, milady, as the first rock is slippery.”

“Thank you.” Sif followed him, making sure to keep herself sure-footed as her boot landed on the wet stone.

A minute later, when she and Frode were most of the way across, Sif heard a small scream and a splash.

Turning, Sif looked down as Hilde flailed her arms and legs in the river, having slipped on the first rock.

Leaping back a few rocks to be closer to Volstagg’s daughter, Sif smiled down at her. “And you were doing so well up to that point.”

“You knew I was following you?” Hilde asked, treading water.

“As I said, Hilde, I have not come close to teaching you all that I know.” Sif reached out with her hand.

Hilde grabbed the hand and allowed herself to be pulled out of the water. Sif guided her to the eastern bank, where Frode was waiting.

“Who is this?” Frode asked, confused.

“Hildegarde, daughter of Volstagg the Voluminous. Hilde, this is Frode of Flodbjerge.”

To her credit, Hilde attempted to curtsy, though it was difficult in water-logged clothes.

Introductions finished, Sif looked down at their pursuer. “Why have you followed us?”

“Um...” Hilde looked away. “I’ve never seen a dragon before.”

“I should send you back to Asgard.”

“Please don’t!” Hilde grabbed Sif’s armor and looked up at her with a pleading expression. “I want to see the dragon! And I want to help! You spent all that time teaching us—I want to put it to good use!”

Sif shook her head. “You realize that if anything happens to me, your father will likely sit on me until I expire.”

“He won’t! I promise! Besides, I can take care of myself!”

Frode spoke up, then. “Milady, we must hurry.”

Shaking her head, Sif pulled Hilde’s wet hands off her armor. “Oh, very well. It’s probably more dangerous for you to find your way back across the Gopul without me keeping an eye on you.”

Hilde grinned. “I thought I was keeping an eye on you.”

“Ha!” Sif chuckled. “Come, let us tarry no longer.”

“We will be there within the hour,” Frode said. “I fear that Oter will attack again soon.”

“Oter is the dragon?” Sif asked. Frode had been parsimonious with details up to this point, so focused was he on his mission.

“Yes, milady. He named himself the first time he attacked. ‘I am Oter,’ he cried, and then breathed his unholy, flaming breath upon us. However, those three words are the only ones he has spoken aloud.”

“How often does he attack?” Sif asked.

“There has been no pattern to it, but what is most passing strange is that he turns his attention to a different portion of the village on each occasion.” Frode shook his head sadly. “Our village will be naught but a cinder soon, unless you stop him, milady.”

Sif had no response to that, and so instead asked the next obvious question. “Where does the dragon come from?”

“The mountains, milady—but a more specific location, I could not say. Fast is Oter, and wily. He comes from a different spot within the Valhalla Mountains on each occasion, and we cannot see his destination when he departs for all the smoke caused by his foul breath.”

Hilde spoke, having spent much of her time since they crossed the river trying and failing to wring the water from her soaked clothes. “We should try to track the dragon. Perhaps we can beard Oter in his lair!”

Regarding Hilde dubiously, Sif said, “‘We’ shall do no such thing, young Hilde.”

“But you said my tracking skills were excellent!”

“Of a deer, which does walk through the forest upon hooves that leave distinct marks upon the ground. How, pray, shall you track a dragon through the air?”

Hilde looked down, abashed. “I hadn’t thought of that.”

“In any case, child, it is I who shall do any bearding.”

Frode pointed and said, “There it is!”

Turning, Sif followed his finger and spied the village. Several small structures lined the river, with larger ones a bit farther inland. Sif also saw many boats in the river, all close to a natural port at the water’s widest point.

As they drew closer, Sif observed that many of the structures were burned and pitted; there were also many piles of wood, ash, and stone that had once been buildings.

“We have been fortunate thus far,” Frode said, “in only one way: The dragon has yet to turn his attention on our fishing boats.”

Hilde smiled. “My father has often spoken very highly of the fish from Flodbjerge.”

For the first time since Sif met him, she saw a smile on Frode’s visage. “High praise indeed from Asgard’s finest epicure.”

Sif noticed a boathouse that seemed abandoned—but also not burned. “What of this structure?”

“The Gopul overflowed last spring, and it caused water damage to the boathouse. It was always too small for the purpose in any case, and so we built a new one farther north. This boathouse is no longer used.”

Two women and one man ran toward them as they passed the abandoned boathouse. “Is he coming?” the man asked breathlessly.

“The god of thunder is unavailable,” Frode said.

One of the women said, “You were told to bring Thor.”

Sif stepped forward. “Thor was badly injured in battle with the frost giants. I am the Lady Sif, and I promise I shall defend your village from this scourge.”

Both women looked up at Sif with awe. “We are honored, milady.”

“Thank you for agreeing to defend our village.”

The man, though, just frowned at her. “I thought you’d be taller.”

“When did Oter last attack?” Sif asked, pointedly ignoring him.

Before anyone could answer her question, a voice cried out from the direction of the port. “The dragon is back!”

Amid the screams, wails, and curses that followed, Sif turned back toward the river and saw a distant, green-scaled form winging its way toward the village. In the small amount of time it took her to register the dragon’s presence, it was almost on top of the port.

Quickly, Sif brandished her sword and sprinted toward the river. She ran as fast as she could, but the dragon had reached the port and was breathing fire upon the fishing boats.

The dragon flew up into the air, and then circled around to take another pass.

Sif kept running, but slowed her pace so she would reach the water’s edge at just the right moment.

As Oter made a low pass near the river, again breathing fire at the fishing boats, Sif leapt onto the creature’s left wing.

The wing was about twice as long as Sif’s height, and her extra weight caused Oter to list to the left, nearly plummeting into the river.

Sif plunged her sword into the wing. Oter screamed, fire blasting from his maw.

Oter started to flail about. Sif yanked out her sword and struggled to gain purchase on the wing. Green blood oozed from the wound and down the wing, making it slick to the touch. Sif felt herself unable to hang on.

“You will trouble this village no longer, dragon!” she cried as she attempted to clamber along the wing toward Oter’s body.

The dragon replied in a deep, resonant voice that sounded as though it came from Hela’s domain. “If I cease, it shan’t be thanks to your pitiful doing!”

With that, Oter dove straight for the river and through the surface.

Water smashed into Sif’s body, and she struggled to breathe while holding onto both the dragon and her sword.

She maintained her grip on the sword, but when the dragon broke through the river’s surface to once again take to the sky, he left Sif behind in the water.

She managed to swim to the surface, and found that fewer of the boats were on fire as had been before Oter dove underwater. No doubt the splash from the creature’s displacement of the river soaked many of them, thus negating the dragon’s work.

Of the creature himself, she saw no sign. His speed was as great as Frode had indicated, and he was already long out of sight.

“Next time, Oter,” Sif muttered under her breath.

As Sif started to swim toward the port, she heard a familiar voice cry out, “Don’t just stand there, get those rafts moving!”

It was Hilde, directing the villagers, who Sif saw were standing stunned at the devastation wrought by Oter.

Frode was the first to act on her words, saying, “She’s right—we must retrieve those people before they drown!”

“Help!” came a voice from behind Sif. She whirled around to see that there were two people, a man and a woman, struggling to stay afloat.

Quickly, Sif swam toward them and grabbed each with one arm. “Hold on,” she said, and then used her powerful legs to kick herself toward the shore. It was much slower going without the use of her arms to swim, but she managed to get them safely to the port.

Frode and two other men were waiting for her, and they pulled the two people out of the water. Once they were safely on dry land, Sif hauled herself up—her armor now even more soaked than Hilde’s clothes had been after she fell into the river earlier.

Over the next hour, Sif helped retrieve all the villagers from the water.

At one point, she noticed Hilde helping people off a boat that had been docked during the dragon's raid. Sif walked over to Volstagg’s daughter, who was giving a blanket to a soaking-wet child, and asked, “Was this boat attacked, as well?”

Hilde nodded. “It’s the only one that was in dock that was hit. Bad luck.”

Sif, though, wasn’t so sure.

As night fell over Flodbjerge, a boy ran up to Sif. “Excuse me, milady?”

“Yes?” Sif knelt down so she was eye-to-eye with him.

“I bear a message from the village council. They’re ready to see you as requested.”

“Excellent.” Sif stood upright. “Where?”

The boy pointed.

Sif followed the boy’s finger, which led her to the town’s meeting hall. Or rather, what was left of it. The walls were made of stone, but there was still considerable fire damage, and the roof had been destroyed.

“Can I come with you?” Hilde asked as they approached the hall.

Shaking her head, Sif said, “No, Hilde, I wish you to aid the healers. Many were injured.”

Hilde rolled her eyes. “Anyone can do that.”

“Perhaps.” Sif stopped and looked down at Hilde, putting a hand on her shoulder. “But look at these people, Hilde. Their homes have been devastated, and they’ve spent the past several weeks cleaning up after repeated vicious attacks. They’re exhausted. I believe that the sight of a strong young woman of Asgard who does not walk around as if she’s already been defeated will do wonders to help the injured get well.”

“All right,” Hilde said. “I want to help.”

“This task will help immensely.”

Nodding, Hilde ran off.

Sif entered the hall. Without a roof, the inside was just as cool as the outside now that the sun had set. Stools had been brought over from the tavern—which was also a burnt, pitted wreck—as the hall’s furniture had been destroyed by the dragon.

The village council sat on the stools, along with Sif. The council included Frode; two other men, Bjorn and Olaf; and one woman, Helena. Olaf and Helena were two of the trio who had greeted Sif on her arrival—Olaf the one who’d expected her to be taller. The third person she'd met was Bjorn’s wife, who was the town healer, and was well occupied elsewhere in the wake of Oter’s carnage.

Helena spoke first. “To begin, Lady Sif, may I express the gratitude of all of Flodbjerge for your assistance today. Several of our people would have died had you not driven off the dragon so soon, and then aided in the rescue efforts.”

“Of course,” Sif said with a bow of her head. “Although I am not entirely convinced that I was the cause of the dragon’s departure. But of course, I am pleased to aid you in whatever way possible.”

“Again, thank you.”

“To that end,” Sif continued, “I would like to know the full story of how the dragon came to beset you. Frode began to tell me, but the dragon’s attack curtailed his narrative.”

“Of course,” Helena said, and turned to Bjorn.

Bjorn leaned forward on the stool. “We have always been a quiet, peaceful village. We have relied lo these many centuries under the protection of Asgard and Lord Odin. We sustain ourselves through trade, as the fish in our waters are considered delicacies by most of the Nine Worlds. While oftentimes our citizens have been conscripted to do battle against Asgard’s foes—for example, many citizens of Flodbjerge fought against Surtur’s minions—for the most part, we have lived our lives in peace. That changed a fortnight ago, when Oter first attacked.”

Frode shuddered. “It was horrible.”

Nodding, Bjorn continued: “That first time was a bright, sunny day, much like any other. Midday here is our most active time: The boats have come in from the river, and the daily catches are sorted and stored. It was, in fact, right at midday when the dragon first appeared.”

Bjorn closed his eyes and exhaled slowly. This was a difficult thing for him to remember, and Sif felt a pang of regret for asking, but she needed information. Tyr may have taught her how to wield a sword, but it was through her own millennia of experience in battle that she learned the best weapon in warfare was intelligence. It wasn’t enough to know a dragon attacked the village. She needed details of how, which might lead to why. And why might lead to another how—to wit, how to stop Oter.

Finally, Bjorn went on. “He seemed to come from nowhere. One moment, we were sorting the fish, the next he was upon us, his girth blocking out the sun as he descended.”

Helena shuddered. “He destroyed an entire section of the village.”

Leaning forward, Sif asked, “Which section?”

“Does it matter?” Helena was confused at the query.

“It might.”

Olaf said, “The northeast corner of Flodbjerge. Four houses near each other. It was only those four, and then he departed.”

“And after that?” Sif asked.

Olaf looked helplessly at Sif. “After that, what?”

“I must know where Oter attacked each time.”

The council exchanged glances with each other.

Urgently, Sif asked, “Can you show me on a map?”

“Of course.” Helena rose from the stool and walked to a table with several scrolls, a few codex books, and a large map.

Sif joined her.

Helena pointed at the map's northeastern section. “That is where the first attack occurred.” Then she pointed at a place a bit farther west, but still on the town's northern edge. “Then here.” Then the northwestern corner. “Then here.”

The pattern Helena described indicated that the dragon was moving methodically through the city—almost in a grid.

Almost, because she skipped two sections. One was near the center of town, which should have come after the attack that damaged the meeting hall and tavern. The other, on the town's northern outskirts, should have been the third place raided. “He didn’t attack either of these two spots. What are they?”

Pointing to the northernmost section, Helena said, “There are four houses there that were destroyed in an avalanche last winter—and the same has happened five time in the last decade. The families who lived there chose to rebuild their homes elsewhere, and we have all agreed to leave that region free of construction.

Frode indicated the section nearer to where they now sat. “This is our storehouse. It is kept cold by spells we acquired from Niffleheim, and our winter stores are kept there so that we may eat even when the Gopul River freezes over.”

“So there are no people in either place?”

Olaf shook his head. “No one uses the storehouse in these warm months, no. Why?”

Sif nodded. “It makes sense. I believe that Oter is not attempting to destroy your village.”

“That’s absurd!” Bjorn said. “How else do you explain what has happened?”

“If he wished to destroy Flodbjerge, he could have done so the first day he blotted out the sun and ravaged the northeast corner of your village. But he did not. Instead, he has been moving methodically, predictably. Indeed, I can say assuredly that he will next set his sights upon this collection of structures along the riverbank.” She placed a finger on what would be the next spot on the grid.

“The repair shop.” Frode shook his head. “That is the facility where our seacraft are taken for repair when they are damaged. Much of the equipment stored there is unique and will be difficult to replace.”

“Then I suggest you remove those items, and quickly,” Sif said sternly.

“But wait,” Bjorn said, “he hasn’t been moving predictably. Like you said, he skipped the three homes and the storehouse.”

“Yes. Because I believe that he is not out to destroy. I believe he is searching for someone. The storehouse is empty at this time of year, yes?”

Helena nodded. “We filled the place to capacity months ago, and it is not yet winter. No one has set foot in the storehouse since long before the dragon started to attack.”

“That follows. Oter is in the mountains, and therefore has an excellent vantage point from which to observe your comings and goings. But he must be searching for a specific person, and so he is checking each of the populated areas. He is skipping those parts of Flodbjerge that are uninhabited because they do not serve his purpose.”

“But for whom does the dragon search?” Olaf asked.

Sif shook her head, sadly. “I do not know. But if we are to learn that person’s identity, we would be well to do so with dispatch.”

Current Mood: pleased pleased
Current Music: "Seattle" by Mark Knopfler & Ruth Moody

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The third and final Mr. Freeze in the third and final Mr. Freeze episode, as Eli Wallach takes over from Otto Preminger and George Sanders in the second-season finale. The Bat-rewatch does "Ice Spy"/"The Duo Defy."

An excerpt:
In his autobiography, Eli Wallach tells the story of how he complained to his wife, Anne Jackson, about the fact that Arnold Schwarzeneggar got millions of dollars to play Mr. Freeze in Batman & Robin when Wallach only got $2500. He asked her what he had to do to get that kind of money, and Jackson said, “Grow muscles.” Schwarzeneggar—by then, governor of California—heard about the exchange, and sent Wallach a pair of miniature gold barbells.

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Current Music: "Killer Tango" by Canadian Brass

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IN FLANDERS FIELDS the poppies blow
Between the crosses row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

---Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae, MD (1872-1918), Canadian Army

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Current Music: "Dúlamán" by Clannad

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On this Veteran's Day, I give thanks and praise to all those who have served.

Both my grandfathers served in World War II. My maternal grandfather served as a soldier in the Army in Italy and North Africa (including spending some time in Casablanca). Here he is in uniform:

My paternal grandfather -- who was nearsighted, had flat feet, and was deaf in one ear -- was drafted in 1944. As he joked later, "By the time they got to me, they were done scraping the bottom of the barrel and had picked up the barrel and were scraping what was under it." He knew shorthand, so they made him a court stenographer at a stateside base.

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Current Music: "In a Lifetime" by Clannad

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Because 2016 isn't done fucking us in the ass, Leonard Cohen died this week at the age of 82. *sigh*

Here's some of his best:

And here are a couple of tributes: the Washington Squares' cover of "Everybody Knows":

And the Austin Lounge Lizards' "Leonard Cohen's Day Job":

Rest in peace, good sir.

Current Mood: sad sad
Current Music: "Leonard Cohen's Day Job" by the Austin Lounge Lizards

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Long term, the U.S. will survive. We've survived the country being sundered, we've survived natural disasters, we've survived world wars, we've survived attacks on our soil.

Short term, we're probably seriously fucked. Surviving as a country is one thing, but I'm genuinely scared for the individual lives that will be lost by the free pass that a Trump presidency will give (real or imagined) to bigots and predators who wish to be violent toward their targets, and by the people (like me and Wrenn) who will lose their health insurance, and by the people whose lives will be lost in any war that we get involved in because our president has no self-control.

The only way we get through the next four years is if Trump proves incapable of working even with a Republican Congress and nothing actually gets done. I don't expect this (though it would be in character), but I see it as our only avenue to individual survival.

Current Mood: depressed depressed
Current Music: "Cross-Eyed Mary" by Jethro Tull

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