Category Archives: satire

The Demonsouled Beginner’s Guide

After my post on technical books, a comment on Facebook suggested writing a Demonsouled Beginner’s Guide. I don’t think I’ll do that, but I do wonder what the back cover text for the book would be like… 🙂

Born Demonsouled? Don’t know how to use your powers? Fear not! THE DEMONSOULED BEGINNER’S GUIDE gives new Demonsouled an overview of their supernatural abilities, from simple regeneration and combat enhancement to advanced domination, high sorcery, and empire-building.

In the Guide, you’ll learn how to:

-Quickly heal wounds, both major and minor. No more trips to the emergency room!

-Use the dark power of your heritage to enhance your strength.

-Use Demonsouled power to augment your speed. Never be late for an appointment again!

-Employ the fury of your Demonsouled blood to succeed, whether in the boardroom or your personal life.

-Travel instantaneously through the shadows. You’ll save a fortune on gas and car maintenance!

-Use your power to command Malrags and lesser undead. You can create your own army of personal assistants and unholy creatures, 24/7!

-Enhance your magic with the wrath of your Demonsouled blood. No more embarrassing spell-casting failures!

-Command legions of loyal followers, using your supernatural charisma.

-Prevent nightmares from deranging your sanity. No more psychotic breakdowns or hallucinations of dead enemies!

-Ascend to the heavens and rule the earth as a god (advanced users only).




Caina vs. Mazael – who would win in a fight?

This is a common reader question, and like all good questions, the answer is “it depends.” 🙂

Specifically, it would depend on the circumstances. If Caina and Mazael were dropped in a small room together by an evil wizard (or a malicious author) and told to fight to the death, Mazael would win handily. Mazael has Demonsouled strength and speed and healing abilities, and while Caina is in excellent physical condition and unusually clever, she is in all other respects a physically normal twenty-one year old (by the time of GHOST IN THE FORGE) woman. In some circumstances, brute force prevails.

But if Mazael and Caina had a larger battlefield – say, Castle Cravenlock or the Vineyard, then they are more evenly matched. Mazael is an excellent tactician, but so is Caina, and she’s very good at tactical improvisation. Additionally, the longer Caina observes Mazael, the greater her odds against him. If she observes his strengths and weaknesses long enough, she has a better chance over devising a strategy to kill him. But if Mazael can catch her right away, before she can observe him at any length, he can kill her.

In a city the size of Barellion or Malarae, the odds definitely favor Caina. She is adept at disguise, and Mazael is not. Mazael is a knight, which means his skill set favors battlefield tactics and personal combat, not standing unseen in a crowd. Caina could easily gain the time she needs to observe Mazael, gauge his strengths and weaknesses, gather allies, and prepare a trap capable of defeating him.

So, the answer is that in a straight-up fight, Mazael wins. But the longer she has to prepare, the more likely it is that Caina wins.


Edmund Pevensie Got Ripped Off

I tried Turkish Delight for the first time this weekend.

Turkish Delight, of course, is most famous as the candy the White Witch uses to tempt Edmund Pevensie in CS Lewis’s classic THE LION, THE WITCH, AND THE WARDROBE. I first heard of Turkish Delight when I read the Narnia books for the first time in 2004, but I never tried it until now.

I have to say…I was underwhelmed. Essentially it is a lump of viscous Jell-O powdered with sugar. Not bad…but not enough to tempt me to sell my soul to the icy Satan figure of another world. Edmund sold out his siblings for this? Granted, I know it was wartime Britain, with rationing and all. And it wasn’t really about the Turkish Delight, but Edmund’s willingness to keep malicious secrets and sell out of his family to this weird strange lady he met in the woods.

But still. He should have held out for cake. Or at least some pie!


UPDATE: A reader suggests that the Turkish Delight was actually a psychic mirror that let you taste whatever food you are most tempted to gorge yourself upon. In my case, that would be pepperoni bacon pizza with a french fry topping.

James Bond is actually a Time Lord of Gallifrey

I saw SKYFALL recently, and it was excellent.

However, it occurred to me that James Bond has been on the air for fifty years (much like DOCTOR WHO) and he has taken an incredible amount of physical abuse in that time. I began to suspect that he was in fact a Time Lord who regenerates between movies, which, of course, is the only logical explanation.

And then I found this article that proves it.

It’s nice to be right.


The Five Stages Of New Gadget Lust

Now that Amazon has announced new Kindle HD tablets and the Kindle Paperwhite ereader, I think it’s safe to say that many, many people are experiencing a sudden uncontrollable case of gadget lust. And, in fact, gadget lust corresponds quite neatly to Kübler-Ross’s Five Stages Of Grief:


Amazon has come out with a new Kindle HD? I don’t need that. I just finished reading a book on my Kindle Touch, and my Kindle Fire is running just fine. A bigger screen would be a waste of money. And who uses Bluetooth anyway? 


Argh! I don’t need a new Kindle! Why do I WANT it so much? This all just MANUFACTURED HYPE! I don’t want a new Kindle! I don’t want a new Kindle! I don’t! I don’t I don’t I dontIdontIdont!



OK. I still have $23.98 left on that one gift card. And if I have Ramen for dinner every night for 37 days, that might swing it. And I can give my old Kindle to Suzie for a present! So if I buy myself a new Kindle, that means I’m really getting Suzie a present! So really I should be doing this for Suzie, not for me.


I am going to put myself in the poorhouse because I CAN’T STOP BUYING SHINY TOYS!

(drinks heavily)


Hey everyone! Check out my new Kindle Fire HD unboxing pics on my Facebook page…


the five stages of traditionally-published author grief over ebooks

I was, once upon a time, a traditionally published author with a traditionally published book. I was not, however, a terribly successful traditionally published author, so I had no reservations about embracing self-epublishing.

But in the last two years, I have seen many successful traditionally published authors become gradually aware of self-epublishing. In fact, they frequently say the same things as they acclimate to the new paradigm. In fact, (somewhat tongue-in-cheek) it’s like they go through Elisabeth Kübler-Ross’s five stages of grief.

So, without further ado, I present the Five Stages Of Traditionally-Published Author Grief.


“Self-published ebooks are not on the same level of traditionally published books. They are terrible and filled with horrible typoes. Publishers are necessary, because they screen out the unskilled riffraff (like you) and only let in the truly talented (like myself). The public appreciates the necessary curating function of publishers, which helps ensure the future of quality American literature, such as my series HIRSUTE WEREWOLF LOVERS OF WASHINGTON. Self-publishing is for amateur writers, but you’ll find real writers at traditional publishers. Also, people love the smell and feel of real books and no ereader can ever replace that.”




“Maybe I’ll try dabbling in ebooks. Just as an experiment. To see what happens. A collection of short stories, completely unrelated to my other work. My real work, my real books, I’ll keep with traditional publishers, thanks.”


“American literature is doomed. We shall all drown beneath a sea of crappy ebooks, and no one will ever be able to find anything good to read ever again, anywhere, for any reason, for the remainder of the history of the universe. My publisher passed on my next series, and it’s all your fault for buying ebooks!”


“Good news, everyone! The first volume of my SF/paranormal romance series BUXOM VENUSIAN VAMPIRES IN VENICE, is now available for $3.99 on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, and Smashwords! And in even better news, I’ve gotten the rights for HIRSUTE WEREWOLF LOVERS OF WASHINGTON  back, and the ebook editions will be coming shortly!”

(Note that some patients may experience the additional phases of Abject Horror, Existential Freakout, and Total Internet Meltdown.)


Computer Repair, Epic Fantasy Style

What do I do all day? Pretty much this:


Heed my words, and hearken well to them, for I am the technomancer. The daemons of Linux are mine to command, and I have the words of Command Line power to bind Mac OS X, and the innermost secrets of Windows have yielded themselves up to me. And lo, many come from far and wide to hear my counsel, for their computers are recalcitrant beasts, and they cannot remember how connect to the wireless, or yea, even to unpin Internet Explorer from the Start Menu.

And one day, in the frozen heart of winter, a young man did come to my tower, bearing a laptop.

“Alas!” spake the young man. “My laptop has fallen to evil fortune! For a wicked virus has seized its faculties, and overthrown its reason. Now I am bombarded by advertisements for both Viagra and discounted Ugg boots, and regularly does the evil virus beseech for the secret number of my credit card!”

“How did such a calamity befall you?” I spake.

“I know not, wise technomancer,” said the young man.

I gave him a look magisterial in its sternness.

“Perhaps,” spake the young man, “I may, in a passing moment of folly, downloaded a pirated clip of Monday Night Football. For surely I say unto you, I do enjoy my Monday Night Football. Also, cable in my neighborhood costs $85, which is like total BS.”

“It may be that your folly has undone you,” I spake. “Yet I shall do what I can.”

And I did take up my USB flash drive of Eightfold Gigabytes, and waged war against the virus. Yet my efforts availed me not. For the virus ringed itself round with cunning protections, and it was invisible to the eyes of Microsoft Security Essentials, and did baffle the installation of Malwarebytes Anti-Malware, and shielded itself from the keen talons of AVG.

Then the virus manifested itself, and spake tauntingly unto me.

“Fool!” spake the virus. “Think you to destroy me, mortal man? For I cannot be deleted! Erase my executable, and shall only be reborn, stronger than before! Buy Ugg boots now! Discounted Ugg boots, amazing bargains!”

“Speak not so haughtily, braggart software,” I spake. “For I have undone many a virus in the long years ere you crossed my path. And if need be, I shall unleash the cleansing fire of the FORMAT command, and renew the computer from scratch.”

Yet the virus only laughed. “Do that, and this fool’s data shall be lost! And you will have to reinstall Windows, a process both laborious and tedious. Discount V1Agr@! Be a stallion for her! Discount V1Agr@!

I answered not, for I knew the virus spake truth. Yet if brute force would not serve as my sword, then cunning perhaps would do. Therefore I powered off the laptop, and removed the hard drive, and connected it via USB cable to my Mac Mini. Then I summoned the powerful daemon Sophos Antivirus For Mac.

“I summon you,” I spake, “and bind you with this task. Seek out the virus upon this hard drive, and destroy it!”

“Scanning now,” spake Sophos Antivirus For Mac.

But the virus’s protections warded off the powers of Sophos, and it stood unharmed. But Sophos, though it failed, did give me the location of the virus’s files and registry keys, the secret repositories and reservoirs of its immortal life. Protected its files were, guarded from the flames of deletion, but I plugged the hard drive into a Ubuntu system, which heeded not the file protection of a Windows computer.

Quickly I conjured forth a shell script to unleash the cleansing fire of deletion upon the virus’s files.

“Think you these petty tricks can overcome me?” spake the virus. “Fool! I am invincible! Your computer has been infected with 11453 viruses! Pay $89.99 to remove them now!”

“We shall see,” spake I, striking the ENTER key and unleashing the shell script. “Foul virus, you are undone!”

“NOOOOOOOOOOOOO!” spake the virus, but it was too late, for Ubuntu had bypassed its defenses, and the virus was cast into the outer darkness of the Recycle Bin, where the worm does not die and the fire is not quenched and the directories are not indexed for local search.

Victorious, I returned the cleansed laptop to the young man and received my free.

“Awesome!” spake the young man. “Now I can watch pirated Monday Night Football clips again.”

“As a dog returns to its vomit,” I spake, “so too a fool to his folly.”

“You have a dog? Where? I like dogs!” spake the young man.

Verily, I shall spend some of my fee on a stiff drink.


For I am ever obedient to my King

I haven’t had a fix in six weeks.

Been trying to take better care of myself. It shows, I guess. People say I look better, and even those who didn’t know about my little…habits. I even feel better. Head’s clearer, for one thing, and the breathing comes easier.

But the…jonesing, I guess you could say…the jonesing never quite goes away. Sometimes it’s all I can think about, for hours on end. The smell, the texture, the taste, the feeling…and I thought to myself, everything in moderation, right? I work hard, don’t I? Nobody can call me lazy. I deserve a little break, don’t I? A little way to relax?

All the old justifications. I know them well.

So on a rainy Friday night I find myself driving to a run-down parking lot by the river, across the street from an abandoned gas station. I drive up to a man with greasy black hair, acne scars, and a neck tattoo not quite hidden by the collar of his jacket. There is a certain grim cynicism in his eyes. And why not? He sells his wares to anyone, even children. The only thing that matters is if they have the cash.

And I have the cash. I give him some crumpled bills. He hands me my fix, and I get out of there, since I don’t want to linger. And I really, really want that fix.

I take the freeway home. Fewer cops there, at this time of the night. I can smell my purchase. It fills my car. It is maddening. Absolutely maddening. I have to put the bag in the back seat so I don’t reach for it while I drive. Hard to concentrate. But I do it.

When I get home, I make sure everything is absolutely perfect. The lights, just right. The music…Beethoven’s 7th Symphony, I think. Movement II, Allegretto. Yes. Perfect. A tray table by my couch, with a glass of cold water.

Ready. At last.

I put the bag on the table, lie down on the couch, and reach inside the bag.

A moment to savor the smell, the texture.


And for the next fifty minutes, I slowly and carefully eat my large order of Burger King french fries.


4 Reasons Going To The Gym Really Sucks

From July of 2009 to July of 2010, I lost 135 pounds through diet and regular exercise. Since then, I’ve kept the weight off, but I’ve discovered a dismaying fact – the only way to keep the weight off is through diet and regular exercise. That sucks, but it’s better than starving to death or morbid obesity.

But I live in Minnesota. And attempting to go running outside in Minnesota in January is asking for a broken ankle. Or death by hypothermia. Or both. Like, come April, some dude will be raking his yard, and find my half-defrosted corpse in his bushes, and no one wants to find a dead guy in running shorts in their shrubberies.

So running outdoors in a Minnesota winter is not an option. That leaves going to the gym. Now, going to the gym has its upsides – you don’t have to worry about getting hit by a car, the treadmill keeps you honest, and there’s usually attractive women in spandex. However, there are numerous downsides. Let’s take a look at some of the horrors that await you in the gym.


When you arrive at the gym, you probably don’t notice the machines, or the trainers, or the people sweating and grunting atop the machines. No, you probably notice the flat-panel TVs, dozens of them, hanging from the ceiling. And you will quickly realize the one infallible rule of gym TVs:

Whatever is on the TV will be crap, and it will be turned up to the maximum possible volume.

Seriously. It never fails. Come into the gym at 5 in the morning, and one of the TVs will be showing the Country Music Network. (“She done took my pickup, y’all, and ditched it in the junkyard of love!”) Or the Nancy Grace Show, which is the first thing corrupt lawyers see when they arrive in hell. Or reality TV. Or, God forbid, “Jersey Shore”. Someday, when some future Edward Gibbon is penning “The Decline And Fall Of The American Republic”, “Jersey Shore” will be Exhibit A.

But you can’t ever turn down the TVs or change the channel. Oh, no, no. Because someone will be watching Nancy Grace screech at the camera, and if you have the sheer effrontery to turn down the TV, Nancy Grace’s devoted acolyte will take it all the way to the Supreme Court. Or worse, the gym management.

And if you dare to turn down the volume when Toby Keith is on the Country Music Network…well, may God have mercy on your soul.


Exercise is hard work. If you get a good workout going, you’re going to sweat, and breathe hard, and maybe start wheezing a bit. This is entirely natural.

You do not, however, need to grunt and bellow like a elephant in heat. Especially if you are performing exercises that do not merit those kinds of grunts – it’s like taking the day off from work because you sneezed.

Like, a couple weeks ago, I’m running on the treadmill, and I hear this noise:


Then followed by heavy panting.

I looked over, expecting to see someone having a heart attack, or at least a bad bout of constipation. Instead, I only see a guy lifting weights. With that kind of noise, I expected him to be bench-pressing a lot of weight. 300 or 400 pounds. Triple-digits, certainly.

Forty pounds. Bags of potting soil often weight more than that.

There’s another guy who does bicep curls with 10 pound weights, and with every curl, makes a sound like a drunken Viking berserker on uppers. “RAGH! RAGH! RAGH! RAGH!”

I suppose the grunting makes the effort easier – but for a 10 pound weight? Seriously?

Men are mostly guilty of this one, but women aren’t immune from generating gym annoyances. Which brings us to…


Let’s be clear – I have a strict policy against bothering other people during their workouts. And after losing 135 pounds, I look something like a particularly unkempt Nordic elf, so people tend not to bother me.

No, it’s the things that other people talk about in the gym, things that I have no choice but to overhear.

Women (sorry ladies) are particularly bad with this. Many people come to the gym to exercise. Some, however, come to socialize, and will walk at a leisurely 3 MPH on a treadmill while discussing important affairs of the day. And by important affairs of the day, I mean why their coworkers are evil harridans.

Or their most recent shoe purchases.

Or the sexual inadequacy of their husbands/boyfriends/affair partners.

Or they talk on their cell phones. Seriously? If you’re exercising, and you have enough breath to carry on an extremely complicated conversation on a cell phone, you are not exercising correctly.

You never have this problem running outdoors. Granted, you might get run over by a semi, but at least the truck won’t talk about its relationship problems.


November, December, January and February are when winter is at its nastiest in Minnesota, and when it’s the most necessary to run indoors.

Unfortunately, due to scheduling errors, that’s also when the Big Three of American holidays – Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s – take place. Why is this a problem? Well, Thanksgiving and Christmas are generally a festival of calories, delivered in the form of delicious, delicious pie. And Christmas cookies. And stuffing. And gravy. And giant roast elephant steaks. (I have some exotic Christmas meals.) And since our metabolism assume that famine is always imminent, all those calories get converted into ample body fat. After Thanksgiving and between Christmas, people panic and start to hit the gym.

And then after New Year’s, the entire population of North America resolves to lose weight, and so hit the gym as well.

It gets a wee bit crowded. In the same way that molten lava is a wee bit warm, or politicians are a wee bit narcissistic.

It is of course good that people want to get into shape and take better care of themselves. Nevertheless, it is immensely frustrating to get up to go running at 5:30 in the morning only to find that every treadmill and every elliptical is full. What’s even more frustrating is that many of these people do not take it seriously. It’s a little annoying to want to run seven miles, only to find all of the gym’s treadmills filled with people walking at 3 MPH. It’s the same reason in college I could never get along with other writers – I wanted to write and finish a novel, and they were going on and on about experimental short-form poetry that almost always ended with a symbolic sex scene. (This is what happens when people read too much Foucault, and too much Foucault is any Foucault.)

But there’s an upside. By the end of February, most of the holiday people will be gone. A lot of people say they want to exercise more, or lose weight, or write a novel, or do whatever – and only a few of them will actually do it.

I hope you are one of the people who will do it.

But quietly.


Star Trek vs. the iPad

I read an article arguing that the Apple iPad was in fact inspired by the PADD handheld computers that everyone used on “Star Trek: The Next Generation”. There’s one flaw in this argument, though – the iPad has wireless, both Bluetooth and wi-fi, and Commander Riker always walked into Captain Picard’s ready room and dramatically handed over the PADD to his commanding officer. Obviously, the PADD did not have wireless, else Riker could simply have emailed the report to Picard’s desktop terminal.

Then I wondered what would happen if the “Star Trek” cast actually did have iPads…


(COMMANDER RIKER walks into CAPTAIN PICARD’S READY ROOM, holding his IPAD at the ready.)

RIKER: Sir, here is that report on Borg activity along the border.

PICARD: Very good, Number One.

(RIKER manipulates the IPAD’S controls.)

RIKER: Emailing it to your terminal now, sir.

(Several minutes pass, and PICARD frowns at his terminal.)

PICARD: I’m not getting it.

RIKER: It’s in my outbox, sir, from to

PICARD: Oh, there’s your mistake. My email is actually

RIKER: Really, sir?

PICARD: A first officer ought to know his commanding officer’s email address, Number One.

RIKER: But I’ve been sending my reports to for the last five years now. The reports you always said were models of clarity and concision and…oh.

(A long, awkward silence.)

PICARD: Er. Yes. Those reports.

RIKER: Sending report. Sir. I’m sure you’re looking forward to reading it.

(Another long pause.)

PICARD: I’m still not seeing it, Number One.

RIKER: It’s in my outbox, sir.

PICARD: Well, there’s the problem. It hasn’t actually been sent yet. Are you connected to the wireless? See if you can get on the Internet.

RIKER: Trying, sir…ah, I’m getting the “Page Not Found” error in Safari.

(PICARD rises, circles around the desk.)

PICARD: That explains it…wait. Number One, your homepage is

RIKER: That’s a typo.

PICARD: Get on the wireless and send me that damn report, Commander.

RIKER: I’m trying, sir…I can’t seem to get an IP address.

(PICARD sighs, slaps his COMBADGE.)

PICARD: Picard to Enterprise help desk.

(The voice of ENSIGN WESLEY CRUSHER comes over the COMBADGE.)

WESLEY: Hello, thank you for calling the Enterprise-D Help Desk, where our mission is to provide enterprise-class technical support for all Starfleet personnel. May I have your operating number, please?

PICARD: Ensign Crusher, this is the captain, and…

WESLEY: May I please have your operating number?

PICARD: Mr. Crusher! This is the captain, and Commander Riker cannot connect his iPad to the wireless network!

WESLEY: Oh, that. Sir, we enabled MAC address filtering for our new 802.11n network last week, and to get an IP address, Commander Riker will need to send us his iPad’s MAC address.

PICARD: What in the hell is a MAC address?

WESLEY: Sir, you don’t…know what a MAC address is? Oh. My. God! Like, you’re the Captain of the biggest ship in the Federation fleet, and you don’t know what a MAC address! That is hilarious!

PICARD: Shut up, Wesley! How do we find this RACK address?

WESLEY: MAC address, sir. Go to Settings, and then tap on General, and then on About, and scroll down until you see something that says “Wi-Fi Address”.

(Long pause.)

PICARD: I’m not seeing it, Mr. Crusher.

(WESLEY sighs loudly.)

WESLEY: Sir, it’s right there, at the bottom of the screen. A little icon that has gears in it. You can’t miss it.

RIKER: Wait…I think I see it. This icon here…let me tap it.

PICARD: Actually, I think that’s the video icon.

(A VIDEO begins playing on the IPAD.)

RIKER: Wait! Wait! Stop playing! Stop playing!

PICARD: Dear God, Number One! Is that Counselor Troi?

RIKER: Um…yes.

PICARD: That is not conduct becoming a Starfleet officer.

(PICARD watches the VIDEO for a moment.)

PICARD: Or that. Definitely not that.

WESLEY: Oh, you guys found one of Commander Riker’s ‘home movies’?

RIKER: You’ve seen these?

WESLEY: Like, totally. You should really password-protect your home folder, Commander. Everyone in Engineering has seen them. In fact, Lieutenant Barclay made this awesome mashup where it sounds like Counselor Troi is like totally singing an Iron Butterfly song in Klingon…


RIKER: The connection. It dropped.

PICARD: Plainly.

(He slaps his COMBADGE again.)

PICARD: Picard to Commander LaForge.

LAFORGE: Go ahead, Captain.

PICARD: Report to my ready room immediately. We have a technical emergency.

LAFORGE: Sir! I’ve explained this to you before. I am not a help desk technician. I am a highly qualified warp drive engineer! Asking me to fix your iPad is like asking the President of the Federation to go get coffee! I am a…

PICARD: That is an order, Mr. LaForge!

(A long, despairing pause.)

LAFORGE: Yes, sir.

(Several hours later, the ENTERPRISE’S entire ENGINEERING STAFF is gathered in PICARD’S READY ROOM. LAFORGE holds the IPAD.)

LAFORGE: And…there. Commander Riker should now be able to email you his report, sir.

RIKER: And…ah, you took care of the ‘home movies’ I mentioned?

LAFORGE: I’ve never been more grateful to be legally blind, sir.

(Suddenly a KLAXON goes off.)

COMPUTER: Warning! Fifteen seconds until warp core breach!

PICARD: Mr. LaForge, report!

LAFORGE: We were in the middle of refitting the warp drive when you called us all up here. I guess someone forgot to plug in the coolant lines.

PICARD: Son of a…

(The WARP CORE breaches, destroying the ENTERPRISE.)


Yeah. So maybe it’s better the Enterprise didn’t have iPads.