Thursday, December 31, 2015

2015 Status Report

I've gotta say, 2015 has been one heck of a ride. A heck of a lot has happened, and has perhaps been the most eventful year of my life. I became independently published, got my first taste of love, my first taste of tears resulting from heartbreak, purchased and played Fallout 4 and finally got a copy of Tombstone on DVD. Pretty darned eventful!
There has been plenty of stress and strife too, but that comes with the territory. I aim to make 2016 even better! I'm not doing New Years Resolutions, since I tend to forget about them, and instead just keep on with the plans I've already set and do all I can to accomplish them. Y'know, things like moving out, writing more books, making enough to live off of, finding my One True Love, taking over the world, getting someone with half a brain into office, that sort of stuff!

I have noticed however that this year really took a toll on the entertainment industry, as we lost some absolute titans. Leonard Nemoy, Christopher Lee and Akira Toriyama are now sadly laid to rest, but left behind massive legacies that will continue on.

Let us all be thankful for all that we have, all that we have accomplished and look forward to what we can do in the upcoming year! Things have been mighty dark in 2015 at home and abroad, but we can always do something, even something small, to improve ourselves and those around us. So let's hop to it! Happy New Years Eve everyone!

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Merry Christmas!

Here I sit upon my chair, clacking away when I should be spending time with my family, but I did my good deed for the day so I should be okay.
Today is a plain old jolly day, and I hope it is for all of you too! Merry Christmas everyone! Or whatever winter-time holiday it is that you participate in! :D

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Weird Weapons of the Wild West

The Winchester, Sharps, Remington, Colt, Smith and Wesson and Ballard guns are all almost synonymous with the weapons they produced in excess throughout the 1860's on. Thousands of reliable rifles and revolvers were produced by all, producing robust and effective designs that won the hearts of countless explorers, hunters, lawman and criminals alike. But few people realize that behind these firearm behemoths was a plethora of guns that run the gamut from strange to just bizarre. Dozens of inventors began cranking out creations that would have caused any mad scientist to salivate. Most of these inventors were crushed under the heel of Oliver Winchester who wanted to corner the market on lever action rifles, an onslaught that only Marlin would survive. Others were just too strange to truly thrive, but are more than worthy of mentioning.

Here I'm going to cover some of the most unique guns ever produced by the eccentric brains of the American inventors.

At first glance the Bullard repeating rifle doesn't seem that unusual. Not to be confused with the Ballard rifle company, the Bullard rifle company produced a series of single shots and one of the most unique repeaters ever designed. Unlike the Winchester 1873 cousin which operated on the toggle-link action, the Bullard used a rack and pinion design which was infinitely smoother and very advanced for the time. According to many owners it is one of the fastest and smoothest actions out there, and perhaps the smoothest of all lever actions. It was produced in both a frame for pistol cartridges and full sized rifle cartridges, both being of very high quality. The design was also wonderfully strong for its time, and wouldn't be surpassed until the invention of the 1886 by Browning. Another feature that makes this rifle completely unique among  leverguns is that it is loaded through a loading gate on the bottom of the receiver, much like modern day shotguns. All Winchesters and Marlins are fed through a loading gate on the side of the receiver.

If one takes a look at the Bullards assembled by collectors you'll quickly notice that no are exactly alike. Each has some variation that makes it different from its brothers. A different barrel, different magazine tube, lengths, stocks, sights, all vary slightly. This indicates that these were produced as high quality custom guns for highly discerning customers. While an admirable and certainly appreciated business model, it may have helped lead to its downfall, as the high prices would have put it beyond the means of most frontiersmen.

The inner workings of the Bullard
Unlike the Winchesters, the Bullard never gained major popularity, with only a few thousand made. Another factor against it was the lack of chambering in more common and popular cartridges such as the 45-70 Government. Oddly it was chambered almost exclusively in privately patented cartridges. This would have made it far less appealing from a logistics angle. As an interesting note, the 50-115-300 Bullard was the very first rimless cartridge ever developed in the United States, and most likely the entire world! Even with these factors against it, one model made its way into the hands of Teddy Roosevelt, although little is known about it.

Although its chamberings were uncommon and made little logistic sense, they were by no means weak. The 50-115-300 would have been one of the largest cartridges ever able to be stuffed into a repeater, putting even the 1876 Centennial to shame. A fifty caliber three hundred grain bullet pushed by one hundred and fifteen grains of black powder would have been capable of slaying anything on the continent. It would have been able to take down the largest brown bear, moose or bison with ample authority. It's a testament to the versatility of the design that it was able to handle such long, fat cartridges while still being so compact and handy.

Perhaps the most important factor in the fall of the company was the designer himself, James Bullard. He appeared to be an impulsive, artistic type in that he would focus on one project obsessively for several years and then move onto something completely different. His firearm designs were nothing short of brilliant, and had he stayed on with the company he developed and continued making designs the company may very well have been one of the major competitors to Winchester and Marlin. But in just a few years he abandoned the company and began working on a steam powered car, among other things. He was extremely prolific in his designing, but never stuck with one thing.

Overall the Bullard was a weapon ahead of its time. It was elegant, powerful, and one of the most gorgeous rifles produced during the era.

One would think that with the introduction of guns like the Spencer repeater or the Henry that the US military would be licking their chops. On the contrary, the head honchos showed suspicion and fear towards the fast firing weapons. They worried that soldiers would waste ammunition uselessly in rapid fire. Seven or sixteen shots available at the same time? Heaven forbid! I can only imagine these gentlemen suffering multiple simultaneous heart attacks when in the immediate aftermath of the Civil War a most ambitious inventor presented them with the Meigs rifle in 1866 which somehow boasted a fifty round tube magazine!

The darned Western gun they load on Sunday and shoot all month!
While the Spencer and the Henry were undoubtedly the first true combat rifles invented, the Meigs here was perhaps the first assault rifle ever invented. Utilizing a sliding trigger assembly that worked back and forth and a butt-stock magazine, the rear tube was stuffed to the gills with potent 50 caliber cartridges, very hot stuff for the time. A soldier had the potential to unravel all fifty in only nineteen seconds. This was light years ahead of the three shot per minute muskets that had been employed by the tens of thousands of troops just the year before. Even more impressive, once the gun had run dry a soldier could simply replace the spent tube with another, not unlike the Spencer, but on steroids.

The generals of the time recoiled in horror at the idea of men armed with these, which would have put even the impressive Gatling to shame. Unlike the Gatling, the Meigs wouldn't have required a crew and extra gear to set up the weapon. But the idea of spray and pray apparently haunted their dreams, and the Meigs swiftly fell into obscurity. Only three were ever made which now reside in museums. Although it never saw the face of war it is an extraordinarily potent and fascinating piece of engineering, certainly not something one would have expected during the time it was made.

Although only in prototypes, they supposedly discharged 38,000 rounds for tests without malfunction. If so, then this was a remarkably reliable design that would have been a terror to face down at close range.

The Burgess shotgun, developed much later in the late 1800's, is one of the most fascinating and innovative shotgun designs ever made. Aside from the 1887 Winchester lever action shotgun, the pump actions reigned supreme in the hands of law enforcement and hunters in the 1890's. Then the Burgess arrived. At first glance it appears to be nothing unusual, with perhaps a slightly stubby frame and an odd grip. But these details are deceptive, for the Burgess is perhaps the fastest shooting shotgun besides the semi and full autos. Like the Meigs it used a slide action in the grip. When rolling with the recoil one naturally pulled the slide back, and once they were on target again slid the action up and were ready for a follow up shot. An experienced shooter could unleash five or six rounds of twelve gauge fury in the time it took for his hat to fall to the ground.

The designer, Andrew Burgess, was, like many other inventors on this listing, a prolific inventor. His method of making a sale with this gun however was certainly unorthodox. His salesman, Charlie Dammon, did an exhibition for a notable New York Police big wig who boasted a pair of glasses and an unmistakable walrus mustache. Haven't guessed who it is yet? Well, it was Teddy Roosevelt, one of the overall most hard core and awesome gentlemen to have ever set foot on this dirt ball. Now, most salesmen would have shown some schematics or perhaps shown his new fancy gun in a well-manicured case. This gent went a little further than that. While talking with one of the coolest men ever he pulled the weapon free from under his coat and rattled off an entire magazine of blanks. Somehow avoiding getting perforated for his shocking enthusiasm, he was instead rewarded with a bulk purchase. Teddy loved his guns and was thoroughly impressed with the capabilities of this shotgun.

But what made this weapon even stranger was that it could be folded in half, like something out of a cartoon. Even coming with a special holster, a New York officer could walk around with a full length twelve gauge riot gun under his coat and have it ready to go in no time at all. The images below, borrowed from Forgotten Weapons, show just how elegant and compact this design is.

Sadly it didn't get as much traction as its competition, but it made a distinct imprint on history and will never be completely forgotten.

Yet another queer repeater that will certainly leave a few people scratching their heads is the Evans repeater.

Developed in Maine in 1873, the same year as The Gun That Won The WEst, by a dentist by the name of Warren Evans and his brother, they, like so many other weapon designers of the time, sought the coveted military contract. And like so many others, didn't get it and switched to giving it to sportsmen and frontiersmen. Like the odd Meigs it had a hollow tube magazine sandwiched between two pieces of wood for the stock. With a barber-pole screw mechanism the lever would twist the cartridges up and into the receiver. Depending on the model, it could hold between 24 or 36 rounds, an astonishing capacity for the time, surpassed only by the Meigs. Firing stumpy .44 Evans rounds it was a decent short range fighting gun.

Around 15,000 were produced in different models, which wasn't a bad number at all at the time, but not enough to keep it afloat.
Apache with Evans rifle.jpg
An Apache with an Evans. Note the decorative brass tacks driven into the fore-stock, a common feature among guns owned by Native Americans of the time.

Although not one of the strangest guns, the Merwin Hulbert revolvers were innovative but were also some of the most finely crafted and fitted guns of the entire 19th century.

Unlike its contemporaries, the Merwin Hulbert didn't have an ejection system like the brake open or SAA models. Intead the barrel was twisted to the side and pulled forward along with the cylinder, popping all of the spent cases free. It was a very swift way to get rid of shells, although after unloading them with the rapid double action it might have been a royal pain to grab that barrel for unloading.

Mechanism for unloading

What truly sets them apart though wasn't just the design, but the almost unmatched quality. The machining and metal fitting were extraordinarily precise. The metal fitting was so close in fact that when trying to unload a vacuum was formed and would pull the gun part way closed by itself! I've never heard of this happening with any other gun. The Merwin Hulbert company it seems wanted to not just produce pretty guns, but some of the best working-man guns out there. Most were shorter barreled .38 and .32 caliber pocket guns, meant more for being in the pockets of city folk rather than trading fire on the prairie. Some models even had a hammer spur that folded forward to avoid getting caught on clothing when being drawn. Mighty clever!

A fair number of these were produced and made a decent dent in the market considering their competition with companies such as Smith and Wesson, Colt, Remington and others, but never earned the same respect or love.

I hope to find more such oddballs and bring them to your attention. The Europeans especially came up with some queer designs during this period which differed drastically in concept and design, illustrating the different thinking and priorities from their Western neighbors.

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Krampus movie

Krampus poster.jpg
Either that's one small house or Krampus is huge
Holy crap. Hoooooly crap. I always associated terror with Halloween or high school algebra, not with Christmas, the holiday of celebrating the birth of Jesus or selfless giving to others or being grateful for all that you have. I've known about the folklore of the Krampus for a few years, and even wrote last year that I scared some of my siblings with stories of him to keep them in line. And then this movie comes out. You can bet just mentioning it to them gets them pretty freaked and promising to be good.

This movie is basically National Lampoons Christmas Vacation Horror Edition. It starts out similarly, abrasive and conflicting family all bottled into one home during the holidays and emotions are brought to a boil. But instead of ending with a kidnapped boss resulting in a huge bonus and a pool for the whole family, they get Krampus, and he doesn't pull any punches just because there are children present. They are fair game in this movie.

I want to avoid spoilers for this movie, so if you think it's worth checking out, go for it. It has one of the most jarring slap to the groin endings I've ever seen, and makes this movie darker than I thought it could be, which is saying a lot. It also has a bit of a Gremlins vibe. I swear they used some of the voices for some of the minions.

I have to give points because this isn't an idiot plot. I mean, there are idiotic moves, but they make sense and isn't purely a case of 'well, need to keep the plot moving, gotta off someone.' Most of the time anyway. They actually do have weapons in this story and use them to good effect, but at the same time it doesn't relieve the tension at all. It's rare when you're well armed in a story but it's still scary. They pull that off. Instead of feeling confidence when they investigate a noise with a shotgun at the ready, you want them to pull back and stay within safety. Sure, the shotty might work, but you don't know what's around the corner. Krampus isn't afraid to unleash a horde of minions on you. He doesn't just want to kill you either. He wants you to be terrified to even breathe. He wants to watch you squirm and watch as everyone you care about is picked off one by one before he moves in for you. That should give some understanding of the horror-craft at work here.

Before I move beyond guns, I would like to give them points for shooting a revolver six times and then ending on an empty chamber. Most movies usually let you get off with nine or twelve, depending on who's directing. Then again later on someone gets off around eight or nine shots with a shotgun that has a six round tube magazine. But hey, they tried. Tried harder than most others.

I think that the characters all come through pretty well. They start off of course as mean-spirited, abrasive, annoying and at points really do go too far and push other characters over the edge. But as the movie progresses and things get bad they do ease up and actually show the better parts they have to offer. I like it when a movie puts characters under pressure and it reveals the best in them, not the worst, although I'm not against that. It's very humanizing and makes them feel more real, apologizing and showing affection even though things aren't peachy. That just sucks you in more since everyone is at risk of dying. I really didn't know how far this movie was going to go. As far as I knew, everyone was fair game, and knew killing everyone, including the kid main character wasn't off the table. That really built up the tension.

Jump scares? There's a few. But I don't think they were abused. Except at the very end. I haaaaaaate it when a horror movie just has things catapulted at your face with a loud burst of music. That's not scary. That's jumping out of a closet and slapping you across the face. Here? They build up the tension nice and slow. They seem to take Alfred Hitchcock's advice to heart: Tension is when there's a bomb under the table and it doesn't go off. Here's it's like there's a bunch of bombs hidden throughout the house, except they go off silently and scurry around cackling as they get ready to mutilate you.

One of the scares actually made me feel physically ill. It was actually pretty disturbing imagery and I flashed back to The Thing when it first tries absorbing the dogs. Brrrrr! I sort of have an issue with clowns, or things that are clowned theme, and this movie didn't help with that. All I can say is if you are a professional clown and you're in my midst, please keep your distance and your hands where I can see them. I can't promise that I won't inflict harm by reflex. Clown stuff just naturally triggers the animal part of my brain that kicks in when my life is in immediate danger.

The imagery, lighting and mood are fantastic. Well, most of the lighting anyway. At points you get strobe lights that make you feel like you're at a rave and I was worried someone was going to get an epileptic seizure. But at points the lighting is amazing. I especially love when it's early in the morning but in only a matter of seconds the light dims and goes dark. It really feels like some onyx cloud moves across the sun and blots it out, rather than just set lighting being turned low.

Only real complaint I can think of is that we see Krampus's face. Chances are he'll come after me for that crack, so if I vanish this Christmas then you'll know what happened. His face isn't bad so much as it is just obviously a mask. It's creepy at first, but it never changes expression and gets a tad silly at certain moments. If it had been a Jim Henson animatronic with shifts in expression it would have been terrifying. However a friend of mine suggested that it might be adhering more to the German tradition of Krampus masks at festivals. If true, then that's actually another point in its favor for getting more of the real lore and tradition down.

I should also mention that they actually try to get real German spoken for the grandmother. They call her Omi which is German for grandmother, although my colleague tells me its Oma, but hey, again, they tried. The flashback scene is also frigging fantastic. They actually have a stop-motion flashback scene explaining how the grandmother knows about Krampus and crap is it good. If it isn't stop-motion but actually animation then holy crap, give those animators some awards cuz I couldn't tell.

It also felt frigging cold in that movie. I really could believe that the actors were freezing their faces off. There are a lot of outside shots and the snowfall and wind effects make it feel like you've really stepped into the middle of a blizzard. It's like frigging John Carpenter's The Thing where you could only see a few feet in any direction because of the snow fall.

Overall, this thing really did get to me. I won't have nightmares, but I actually had to force myself to relax at points because my muscles began tensing in the theater. This whole thing is really solid in my opinion and I'd absolutely go see it again. It may have ruined Christmas for me a bit though. I'll get over it. Nothing cheers the spirit like watching It's A Wonderful Life!

Happy Holidays and Spooky Salutations! Have fun watching the best Christmas horror movie since The Nightmare Before Christmas!

Monday, November 23, 2015

Fallout 4: My new full time job

Hello everyone. My name is Eccentric Cowboy, and I have an addiction. It has been about twelve hours since I last played a Fallout game, but I don't know how much longer I can last. I've tried pills, counseling, group therapy, even a camp, but nothing seems to work.

What can I say? Fallout is hands down my favorite game franchise ever. Nothing else comes close. I've dumped so much time across Fallout 1, Fallout 2, Fallout Tactics, Fallout 3, Fallout New Vegas and now Fallout 4, that I could have probably made millions in high frequency stocks trading. I can't help it though! The writing is fantastic, the worlds are huge and have an insane amount of depth, and there is an almost endless variety of things to do. This won't necessarily be an objective super informative review, and more of my personal thoughts and a shameless love letter to the game, so if you like hearing someone gush for a few pages, then you'll probably want to keep reading.

Since Fallout 4 got released on the 11th, I've racked up 79 hours total. That's just in two weeks. That's pretty much a full time job worth of game play. I confess, the first three days were a bit slow as I tried to adapt to the new setup, but after awhile it gained momentum and I began having an insane amount of fun. No, Fallout 4 isn't perfect. There are a few kinks that get in the way, but dangit, what's good is really good.

One of my issues with Fallout 3 and New Vegas was the aiming. It always felt stiff and clunky, not what you want when a deathclaw is trying to pull your spine out through your anus. The best way to describe it is if you have a broom tucked under your arm, and have both arms extended until your elbows are locks and aim by swiveling your torso at the hips. But here the aiming is just plain smooth and reflexive. I can swing on target quickly and start de-braining Gunners with surgical precision. Now we're talking!

One of the biggest changes that took me by surprise was that I didn't need to repair my weapons. Say wha-? I've been so used to lugging around extra weapons to cannibalize or weapon repair kits that it's almost impossible for me to not grab every weapon I see lying around. I've been programmed to grab everything not bolted down, so weight can be a big problem fast. At least for me anyway. If you just want swag and a few weapons, you should be fine. Me though? I instinctively grab enough weapons, armor and ammo to outfit my own army company. And wouldn't you know it? In this game I can finally do that!

There have been a lot more games with construction parts to them, thanks Minecraft. I was a bit worried about how that would work out here since I mostly play Fallout to level up and shoot mutants in the face, but thankfully it's not a huge hassle. It doesn't handcuff you to the building part and punish you if you don't want to do it. I mostly engage because I like the idea of building my own mini-empire in the Wasteland, and have fortified the Castle to the point where I can handle most invasion attempts and outfitted a good number of my settlers to the balls with combat armor and decent weapons. Bring it on Wasteland!

Oh, and you have some extra goodies here. You can call in sodding artillery strikes. Artillery! Throw a smoke beacon and your guys will rain fiery death down upon your enemies. Frigging. Awesome. The primary limit to what they can do is their range is limited, so you'll often want multiple settlements with an artillery piece and someone to use it. I haven't used it much, just because I'm conservative to a fault when it comes to gear. The artillery beacons are pretty much unlimited if you grab them, but they weigh me down and I only wanna use them for heavy targets. 30 ghouls coming at me? I've got that.

Oh, and the gear modding? It's awesome. You have a LOT of options on what you can do. My favorite weapon right now is a highly customized bolt action rifle that I've renamed Slayer. A 50 cal bolt action with a large magazine, bayonet, marskman stock and reflex sight, I have a killer short to medium range combat gun and can butcher most things that come my way. 50 cal is great medicine for deathclaws and just about anything else you can come across, although it's not as good for large numbers of enemies, although it still works for them too. I have an obscene amount of fun with the bayonets in this game. Firing a volley of shots and then rushing them like a World War 1 bayonet charge, then stabbing and shooting at close quarters really gets the blood pumping.

I just hope they bring in a lever action with DLC. For some reason there are no leverguns in the game at the moment, which makes me sad. But I'm praying to the Fallout deities that they'll have one later on that I can pimp out. Just think of it! A 50 cal lever action with a bayonet and scope? I'll be unstoppable! I'll be the ravager of the Commonwealth, slaying all in my path! None shall stand before the general of the Minute Men!

Oh, and for once I really like the power armor. In New Vegas I almost never used power armor, finding it to be too cumbersome and not worth the repair bill, so I'd always go with medium armor, my favorite being Elite Riot Gear. Looked frigging awesome too. Here? You're a walking tank. You can actually pic and choose how to model your armor for once, and my gosh is it glorious. Just last night I was laying waste to a raider stronghold while their pathetic 38 caliber bullets bounced off of my armor and was playing The Terminator police station music, slowly and methodically clearing the building while spraying them with bursts of SMG fire, cutting them down like mannequins. It felt pretty darned awesome. You still have to repair it, but it's not as much a hassle as before. Unlike New Vegas or Fallout 3, you don't have to pull out your gold fillings to pay someone to repair your armor half-way, nor do you have to cannibalize every suit you get. You just have to find a repair station and use some steel and other components. Yay! You still need fusion cores to keep them powered, which are rare and expensive, but are worth it. I've been stockpiling them, so it's not as much an issue for me at the moment.

Mirelurks are still a monumental pain to deal with. And are creepier than ever. I don't know what it is about crustaceans, but they make my skin crawl. So seeing ones the size of football players rushing at me, joints crackling and seeing their lifeless doll eyes roll at me as they try to rip me apart is less than pleasant. So of course, they are pretty awesome. Also, the Mirelurk Kings now appear to have gone from the Gillman to Deep Ones from Lovecraft. Is Innsmouth near the Commonwealth? That'd explain a bit!
Oh, and Mirelurk Hunters are now giant prawns instead of horseshoe crabs, and they suck to deal with. Mirelurk Queens though? Holy crap. I hit one of those xeno-queen wannabes twice with a Fat Man. She just got mad. That one was pretty intense.

I really like how most of the creatures now have different looks based on what type they are, even within the same enemy hierarchy. So now there's a lot more variety to the terror you experience as well as blow up! Oh, the ghouls? If they didn't scare you before, they might now. Their skin is clammy, shrunken and pulled tight, with lips that look like the Flukeman from The X-Files, and will keep coming even after you've shot their arms off. Those ones aren't very fun. Oh, and they hit way harder now. The combat in this game is WAY harder than in previous ones. I've gotten absolutely wrecked here. In the two before, death was usually due to me being stupid or just bad luck. With having lots of stimpacks, I was generally pretty safe.

The Commonwealth doesn't screw around though. The raiders pack some serious heat, and aren't afraid to sacrifice themselves to take you out with them. Oh, and because the super mutants aren't tough enough already, they have suicide bombers that lug a mini-nuke on a timer while bum-rushing you at full speed. They WILL make sure that you're blasted into radioactive dust within fifteen seconds unless you put them down.

I recall one particular incident with the raiders that was extremely difficult. I exit a building, having run through the gauntlet, and see a mere two raiders up in a bombed out building. Well, I still had some space left and could always use the loot. So I start shooting at them, kill the weaker one not in power armor, then try to move to where I can get up to them at close range. Then I evaporated in a world-shattering explosion from seemingly nowhere. Huh. Odd.
So I start again, sniping the weaker raider and then shooting the one in power armor right in the face. It's then I notice a large weapon on his shoulder and something about the size of a football flying towards me, followed again by an explosion. Oh! He has a Fat Man! Huh. Not used to that. Okay, fair enough. I'll snipe him from farther now!
So I reload and begin firing on him first instead of his puny friend to take advantage of the sneak attack double damage on the headshot. I try to take cover to where he can't hit me, but his shot goes over my head and behind me, leaving me to get caught in the concussion blast. Oops.
By now I'm gritting my teeth. Okay, fine jerk. I decide that since he's using a doomsday long range weapon, I should get up close and deny him the ability to shoot. Surely he's not stupid enough to put ground zero of his mini-nuke six inches from himself. So I pull out my machete and race up the stairs, ignoring the puny raider and attacking the boss, slashing at him like Freddy, backing him into a corner and denying him the ability to flee. I had him! Then he fired anyway, reducing me to radioactive ash on the breeze while he was just a little worse for wear.
... Okay, bullcrap. He was close enough to see his fingerprints on the mini-nuke when it went off, and he didn't take enough damage to die? Agh!
I finally managed to just snipe the bugger by being cheap, but wow it took a lot of effort to get that one guy. Yes, I could have simply left and moved on, but I took that fight personally. How can I see a raider in power armor with a Fat Man and not fight him? That's absurd!

And yes, the questing is fun. I just tend to get distracted by the intense desire to destroy anything that looks red. So much good combat going on! <3
The people in your settlements are kind of moronic though. Although I'm the general of the Minute Men, it seems like I'm also the elite special forces, fire department, police commissioner, secretary of business management, agricultural executive and babysitter. I get the feeling that I'm not exactly breeding self-sufficient warriors here. Anytime so much as someone steps on a thumbtack I get called in for help. Granted, I am the most qualified for kicking in the Gunners' front door to rescue hostages or wipe out a horde of feral ghouls, but come on, not one other soldier in my settlement of over a hundred is doing anything but defense. Come on people! We've got the Institute to fight! I can't do it all by myself! I mean, I can, but it'd be nice to have some help now and then.
It would be nice to know which settlers have an assignment and which don't. There's a lot of them and its hard to tell which of them are working jobs already and which aren't. They look a like half the time. Hoping that'll get patched.

I still haven't beaten the game yet. Lot's of killing to do, but I'll get around to it! This has slowed my writing business down a LOT lately. It's hard to focus on writing when a siren is singing to you about Fallout 4 and you're tired. Dangit, this game is too good in some ways! It's too much fun!

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Black Friday Book Discount!

Howdy all! Just in time for Black Friday I'm going to be putting all of my books out on sale for one dollar each! This will last for three days, so even if you get caught up in the borderline apocalyptic rampages that take place during the mall sales you'll still have a chance to get in on the deal. Oh, and for those of you wondering why I didn't schedule it for Cyber Monday, that's because I entirely forgot of its existence and wasn't reminded until I'd already set up the discount time frame. Kind of a hilarious fail on my part. Ah well, live and learn, right? :)

So get ready to buy Primal Frontier: Hunter From the Red Hills, Stalkers in the Storm, and The Mines of Madness together for just three dollars! :)

Any reviews would be much appreciated as well. A single opinion might help swing sales into favor, which I could really use. I only want honesty though, no sycophant behavior here! 

But more importantly, be sure to enjoy Thanksgiving! This is a time to remember all that we are thankful for, especially with all this crap going on in the world today. Prepare for the Christmas season and share all the love you can spare. This is certainly the time to do so!

Monday, November 16, 2015

The return of airships?

Hoping to lighten things up a bit, and thought I'd speak on a much more interesting and uplifting subject. It's uplifting in more ways than one! Back in the day dirigibles were intriguing novelties with some practical purposes, but soon became eclipsed in the wake of faster and safer modes of transportation. The Hindenburg was the railroad spike in the coffin for most directed lighter than air craft.

Interest for them has lingered, but for the most part there hasn't been much practicality for dirigibles. After all, planes and jets are faster, smaller, and overall seem vastly superior. But once again the climes are changing and with advances in technology it seems as though dirigibles might indeed make a return. The setup that sticks out to me the most is a fairly new group, Solar Ship. Take a look!

What strikes me most about this company is the utter practicality of not just the ship design itself, but it's intended use. Old dirigibles and airships had torpedo shapes and relied primarily on the lifting force of hydrogen or helium with ballast to keep it under control. This is a fascinating hybrid system in which the balloon itself not only holds the light gases, but also functions as a wing so that when speed it built up in can ascend, meaning that it has no need for ballast and thus frees up a great deal of space for valuable cargo.You can also take off and land on much shorter landing strips than are required for plains or jets. Even in the event of losing propulsion, the descent should be slow enough that the passengers shouldn't be pulverized into jelly. Brilliant!

It's power is also a hybrid system, using the tried and true gasoline engine but also utilizing the large surface area on top of the gas bag to incorporate solar cells, giving these models two different types of power to utilize. Now that is robust, efficient and clever!

All of these help aim towards their goal of having an efficient and reliable means of transporting people and goods throughout Africa. For those of you who aren't bush savvy, there are many isolated territories in the veldt that are hard to reach. Scrub, trees, rough landscapes and the like are extremely hostile to land cruisers and trains. It can be done, certainly, but it's brutal work. So the folks behind Solar Ship decided that utilizing the easy take off and landing capabilities of a dirigible would be a godsend to the folks of Africa, and they seem to think so. I recall reading in this company that people who get injured often die because they can't reach help in time. Transport is of course difficult and slow. Planes are sometimes utilized, but you require a big runway, something not always available in the scrub.

But these airships can land on much shorter runways, and with lower fuel requirements it could lead to saving hundreds of lives, being able to evacuate them with ease in even some of the harshest spots. They also aim to deliver disaster relief supplies to those who are hard to reach in the wake of problems, something Africa is never short of.

I'm very impressed by the wise and practical application of these features into real world scenarios, and hope that they continue to build and become more mainstream.
Dirigibles of this type are actually becoming more attractive to airlines. With fuel shortages growing and the cost of materials involved in making aircraft, they are becoming far more costly to maintain. A dirigible though such as these require far less materials and offer backups for actually moving. They are slower, sure, but these models can do everything from pleasure cruising to large scale cargo transport. They'll have a bit of trouble in a hailstorm, true, but with the advent of carbon fiber nano-tube technology I think even that can be solved.
Modern airships are far safer than their ancestors. Building techniques and advancements in technology have armed engineers with an impressive array of assets that they can use to make craft we never imagined before.

Solar Ship in particular I hope gets further support and becomes successful. I would relish the return of airships, being able to float through the sky and have an affordable way to connect with our foreign neighbors. With prices of things increasing, these might very well be an excellent and cost effective alternative to other forms of transportation. Who knows what the future holds?

Sunday, November 15, 2015

How To Fight Terrorism

I've thought a lot about the current goings on in the world, and in the wake of the most recent terrorist attack in Paris, I've decided to share the conclusions that I've come to.

It should be abundantly clear by now that there can be no peaceful co-existence with the likes of ISIS. It doesn't matter how much we want peace, they don't. They want a war. They want carnage. They want conflict. And no matter how passively we react, they'll continue to inflict tragedy on those that aren't one of their own.

And no, this isn't a blanket endorsement against Islam. Nor is it racism. This is specifically aimed at the Islamist extremists, those that will not countenance any other belief. Many people are now rightfully in fear of their lives, not knowing where or when the next attack will take place. This happened with many Americans after 9-11, being afraid to simply take a plane flight.

This is exactly what the terrorists want. They want us good, peaceful people to be afraid to simply go out and do what we enjoy doing. Unable to enforce their laws upon some of us through force of arms, they strive to control us through fear. Notice how these terrorists in this latest attack targeted a concert, a place where people usually go to have fun. This is not the act of someone angry at a foreign government, but rather an aim at the culture itself. They want to make us afraid to do what we enjoy, to express ourselves and do what we wish.

It is my belief that one step in fighting against terrorism should be done by the average citizen, and an important moral demonstration: Not giving into fear. I recommend going out and doing what you enjoy most, regardless of the threats of these petty barbarians. If we continue to enjoy our lives and not let the vile acts of these scoundrels affect us, then the very aim of their violent actions are in vain. One of my favorite quotes is "Live well. It is the best revenge." I plan to get lots of revenge of this variety, and you should too.
This is something that all of us should do, since most citizens abroad don't know how to actually fight, which brings me to my second point on how to fight terrorism.

The second method of fighting terrorism is much more straightforward: Prepare for combat. This is for citizens who are worried they may be confronted by terrorists, and how they can actively deal with them. Don't wait for the police. It's up to you to deal with the threat. Fight back, even if they are armed and you aren't. Terrorists don't expect resistance from civilians. They got the compliance they desired in the Paris attack, where none of the victims fought back. True, it's difficult to fight against those who have firearms, but it is possible.
People, you need to wolf pack these monsters. Depending on what country you're living in, you have different restrictions and options, but you should take advantage of all of them.

In the US we still thankfully have the Second Amendment and millions of citizens are armed and prepared for such attacks. If you don't have a carry permit already, I recommend you get one now. If possible, carry a rifle in your vehicle with ammunition and have it ready to go. Terrorists by their nature are not up front fighters. They want helpless victims that they can annihilate at their leisure, so don't expect them to announce where and when they will attack. They don't want a fair fight, and neither do we. When encountered they should be met with irresistible and unrelenting force.

Now, for my European neighbors, things are clearly different. A lot of this article is actually aimed at you guys. Europe is far more vulnerable due to the open borders being flooded with immigrants and lack of fighting culture among the citizens, few of who are armed. Europe, now is the time to learn how to fight. Firearms still aren't an option for the vast majority of you, but you have options. Simple items laying around the house can effectively be used to subdue those who wish to do harm. Baseball bats, golf clubs, crow bars, hammers, tire irons, wrenches, ratchets and the like can be very effective. Aim your blows at the skull, neck, wrists, and legs. Blunt force trauma against bone is far more damaging than against flesh. Plus, with tools you can keep them close at hand in your vehicles without arousing suspicion from authorities. After all, metal tools are extremely common and you might need one to fix your car if it has a problem, won't you?

Keep situational awareness. Be aware of what's going on around you, especially when you are out and about in the city, the most likely terrorist resorts where there are lots of citizens and easy escape routes. When someone is getting ready for violence they will be tense. Look at body language. They will likely be sweaty, shifty eyed, maybe doing something physical to help vent pent up energy. Even combat veterans in the military feel anxiety before entering combat. When someone knows they are entering a fight you can often feel it.

What do you do if you don't have any items on you that you can use as weapons? Well, you can even use your cell-phone as a weapon. Grip it with your thumb on one side, your pointer finger on the top, and the other three fingers on the side opposite of your thumb. The bottom you can use as a bludgeon with a fair degree of stability. If you get into close quarters, drive that corner at your opponent's eyes and temple, which is just behind the eyes. This is a vulnerable point and can result in a cracked skull.

I highly recommend researching Krav Maga, a form of militarized street fighting forged by the Israeli Army from Grand Master Imi, a veteran combatant. It is extremely effective but differs from martial arts in that it focuses on raw efficiency and dealing with armed assailants. It utilizes the body's natural reflexes so that one doesn't have to do rigorous and regular sparring, as you are using what your body already has installed. Mind you, this style of combat is relentless and brutal, seeking to overwhelm your opponent with offensive force before he can counterattack. Women, this is particularly useful for you as well, as it doesn't require the same level of physical strength as other forms of hand to hand combat.

Follow the link for some of the basics. This isn't meant as a full run down, but to get you the basics so that if you find yourself in a conflict you have an idea of what to hit and how.

A few other fighting methods I recommend include sticking your fingers in an assailant's eyes. It's simple, but ruthlessly effective. A highly underrated technique is simply grabbing an assailant's finger and bending it until it breaks. You'll notice no one does this in MMA fights. That's because it's sickeningly easy and it isn't allowed. Grabbing the finger also allows you to manipulate your opponent and put them in a more vulnerable position. Even when they are holding a firearm, if you can get close enough you can grab ahold and bend it against the trigger finger. This prevents them from aiming and can break the digit. Never underestimate a swift blow to the testicles either. If you're facing a legitimate terrorist, spare no brutality in subduing them. Punch, kick, knee or stab them in the groin, anything to get them down fast. Fight dirty. Your honor isn't in question when dealing with these guys.
I also highly recommend a chisel punch to the throat. The throat is a vital and vulnerable part of the body, and if struck hard enough it can swell and seal off the wind pipe, which can lead to suffocation. Women, pay attention to this one. Even if you aren't facing a terrorist, there are men out there who are still interested in doing you harm in more ways than one. Nothing will slow them down quite like a punch to the throat and making it hard for them to breathe.

On the governmental level, urge your representatives to address these evil people. Upon learning of the mass immigration taking place and refugee acceptance, I actually anticipated an attack like the one that took place. In the hundreds of thousands of unchecked immigrants, I predicted, correctly, that many would be insurgents sneaking in along with the rest of the crowd to get into position to attack. This has proven to be correct. What's more, they are apparently able to smuggle weapons in.

Sweden has had a rash of grenade attacks along with the influx of immigrants, something that is almost unheard of even in the US where we have access to all sorts of weaponry. The attacks in France were done not with hunting rifles, but fully automatic AK-47s, which are insanely illegal throughout Europe. Yet they were brought in anyway. This should come as no surprise. Firearms are much easier to transport than people, as they take up far less space. They can easily be filtered through in duffle bags and backpacks. Or if pressed, they can be broken down into smaller parts divided into different packages and assembled later.

This could be stifled very effectively by simply not letting refugees through unchecked anymore. The open border practice is horribly misguided and is an open door for the extremists, who are putting them to good use. Shut the borders. Shuttle most of the people back. Those that show signs of violence should be prosecuted. I've been swarmed with accounts of rapes taking place in the wake of many immigrants. Sweden is now one of the biggest rape capitals in the world according to some articles I've seen. Rapists in any culture should be treated to the harshest extent of the law. I personally prefer punishment via firing squad, but that might be difficult to get through congress.

Also, this is an extremely important point for the United States as well, as there is a great chance that extremists are flooding into our country through Mexico. I personally believe thousands already have and are preparing for attacks. Border and coastal states are likely to be at the most risk, while those closer to the interior are less suspect. But don't count on it, as these incidents can be unpredictable. US, it's time to finally get this ridiculous border situation under control. At the very least seal the border off to prevent further unchecked immigration. We need to let the FBI and CIA do their jobs, but at the same time not sacrifice our freedoms and our privacy. These guys know what to look for, and it is up to us to assist them. Many breaks are due to simple people being vigilant and reporting important information.

Don't assume that all ISIS fighters will be black bearded caricatures that look like Bin Laden. It appears that some people from America have gone over seas to join the ranks of ISIS. Be on the look out for those on the web that openly endorse these murderers, as they are likely sympathizers or even open supporters. Don't be fooled by thinking such people will remain silent. Even in World War 2 there were Nazi sympathizers in the heart of America proudly proclaiming their support. With the advent of social media and internet anonymity these people can sometimes be pointed out. Now, this isn't to suggest you should look for ISIS sympathizers under every rock and tree. We don't want another Red Scare. Simply be aware of those that seem a bit too energetic about those who are carrying out these massacres.

It's also time for the US and Europe to take a stand against these cretins and take the fight to them. Despite what much of the media claims, the campaigns in Iraq and Afghanistan weren't repeats of Vietnam. On the contrary, from what I've examined they were some of the most one sided wars in human history. A colleague of mine served in Afghanistan, and when I mentioned the Vietnam comparison he grew indignant and informed me that it was nothing of the sort. ISIS must be fought wherever it takes refuge, including countries that we aren't at war with. Those that race to the borders of other countries to escape the long reach of Western military forces shouldn't be given the luxury of hiding and violating warfare law. They don't abide by the laws of the Geneva Convention, and therefore it does not apply to them and they should not benefit from it. This won't be a short campaign though.

I predict that it will go on for decades in fact, simply by the virtue that these guys will spread and fight in guerrilla attacks, avoiding direct conflict and not having sharply established borders and territories. I don't suggest that we carpet bomb areas. In fact, I heavily believe part of why ISIS is thriving is because the US didn't finish the job during the Afghan and Iraqi wars. Not just the job of ferreting out insurgents, but not rebuilding the infrastructure. Lack of jobs and structure led to anarchy in many places, many people so impoverished that there is nothing else for them to do. Reconstruction and helping a country get back on its feet is paramount to lasting peace. Japan after World War 2 is an excellent example. Far greater destruction was wrought upon the cities of Japan, not just the nuclear bombs, but the air raids and incendiary bombs that set fire to countless buildings. But with the reconstruction they were able to recover and now boast one of the most successful modern economies today.

I don't expect this exact scenario to take place in the Middle East, as it is very different from Japan. But providing stability will help establish allies from the local population and reduce the numbers of insurgents. We don't need vast carpet bombings or nukes, but boots on the ground. We need men who can identify threats and put them down while minimizing harm to those who simply wish to live in peace.

Don't mistake such a campaign as being a threat against all of Islam either. On the contrary, it is for the benefit of peaceful Muslims that such a conflict should take place. There are hundreds of millions of Muslims in the world today, and most of those look down with disdain or disgust upon the actions of ISIS. And yet it is by far mostly Muslims that ISIS is slaughtering in the Middle East right now. Those civilians are just as much victims as those who died in France. There is no good reason that those people should be dying en mass and enduring the biggest rape rampage since the Nanking Massacre. If there has been a bigger surge in sex slavery and wanton rape in the last hundred years, I am unaware of it. Countless young girls are being bought and sold as items on the market, many being savagely beaten and raped by their new 'husbands.'

Don't take only my word for this. Do your own research. Learn what you can about ISIS and what separates them from other Muslims, as they come in infinite variety. But it should be abundantly clear now that ISIS is a breed that is the equivalent of the Heath Ledger Joker. This is not an exaggeration. They have made no demands that most of us would expect. No calls for succession of territory, no demands for money or equipment, not even conversion to Islam. They simply call for violence against all that they deem to be an enemy of themselves, which is the majority of the human race. They don't want to negotiate any terms. They are want to kill. The only way to respond to these men is with the full force of our military prowess. In a joint operation, I believe we can crush these guys. It is time for the good people of the world to stand together and fight against a common enemy.

As a word of caution to us all, we must take care not to devolve and sink to the depths of those we are fighting. No matter where we are we must be mindful of the innocents caught in the crossfire. The greatest danger from foes like these is not the physical threat they represent, but the moral threat, the threat of making us apathetic to others. Becoming callused and not caring about those who aren't involved and degenerating into moral apathy is a much greater threat. We risk ostracizing many innocents in our fear, and even crippling our own rights designed to protect us. Even if we eliminate our foes, if we are still paralyzed with fear and treat every aspect of our lives with suspicion, then they have won. As I said before, we must work to maintain our moral integrity even in the face of terrorism.

While it's easy to be galled by the atrocities being committed, we must remember that even under these conditions the kindness of the human spirit can prevail. Don't be disheartened by those who dwell on hatred. The best weapon many of us have is simply helping up our fellow man, showing love and kindness without any expectation of a reward. It's in the harsh times such as these that some of us can truly shine and show that even under the worst of circumstances, kindness can still exist and even flourish.

I hope that this article has been of some help. I pray for those who are suffering and hope that those of us who are good can pull together. Stay vigilant, stay strong, and most importantly stay hopeful.

Saturday, October 31, 2015

Happy Halloween!

Sorry for the delays on updates here, I'm hoping to rectify that sometime in the near future, but in the meantime I wanted to wish everyone a happy All Hallows Eve!
I eagerly look forward to going to my big work shift to feed hundreds of people, then taking my younger siblings from house to house, yelling for them to stay out of the yards, especially the ones with cactuses, to not run into the people's houses, and upon the night's end enacting a candy tax upon their hoard. Hey, with five kids trick or treating, they're bound to get a good haul, and it's only fair that they share with their big brother who so selflessly led them to their glorious bounty, eh?

Oh, and can't forget buying all the discount candy on Monday! Walk into Target or Walmart with 20 dollars and you can return home like royalty with those bonuses. And just in time to stock up for the upcoming Fallout 4! It's only eleven days away! ELEVEN!  Yeah, I've actually requested time off for its release.

Hopefully I'll have an article or two done before that happens, so what followers I have left can actually have something to read. I'm actually working on a review of Tremors 5, because it elicited such intense rage. However, I think I hate it so much that my subconscious keeps it buried to protect me. I keep forgetting it exists, and even though I know I have to get it done, my brain keeps preventing me from remembering most of what happened in the movie. Not good signs.

Ah well, until next time! Enjoy the candy and the scares!

Monday, October 19, 2015

New book release: The Mines of Madness!

Nevada. The Silver State. Gold and silver ore pours in by the bucket-load, bestowing fantastic wealth upon whoever is lucky enough to find it. But when the Broken Back Mine falls silent, the owner seeks the help of Pinkerton Agent Jan Wheeler to help him find out what's wrong.
He knows it could be anything: Highwaymen, Indians, or even the miners themselves. When he arrives, he is shocked to find the gold is untouched. Yet no living man is there to greet him. Only the dead, shriveled bodies of the miners and the carrion eaters that feed upon them. It's up to him to find out what happened to the miners. The answer to the mystery lies somewhere deep in the belly of the Broken Back Mine. However, unbeknownst to the agent, something ancient is dwelling in the bowels of the earth, waiting.

My new book is finally out, and just before Halloween! Take a look and enjoy this subterranean horror! :)

Carboniferous Forest Simulator

After having played Ark: Survival Evolved, I thought they had pretty much cornered the market on paleo-themed games. And, okay, they still have. No other game I've played with dinos comes close, but that hasn't stopped these guys from making a very interesting game themselves!

Yup, these people took it upon themselves to make an entire simulator of at least one prehistoric time period, that being loooooong before our favorite animal group showed up. I mean, look at this!

I admit, I've been wanting to see more of prehistoric environments for awhile now to help me with my writing. I don't want it to all either be generic jungle or redwood forests. There were lots of bizarre plant forms back in the day, but it's hard to get a really good grasp on what such an environment actually looked like. I could read a 400 page book on paleobotany, but that's more something for someone wanting to know all of the elaborate science behind it rather than just getting a general grasp of functionality and applying it in a practical manner for entertainment.

Well, this game seems to fit the bill nicely! It's in extremely early stages of development, so it is of course very primitive. Kind of like the environment it's trying to convey, it's just barely getting started and trying to develop. Pretty ironic actually.

I just played a very short session, and this is purely an educational game. No tricks, no cheats, no competition, just hopping into a prehistoric world and learning about the plant life around you. It's actually not quite as boring as you think, as it is quite atmospheric. Thank you guys for the background sounds! I'm hoping ya'll get more. :) Here are a few screenshots!

Intro screen! Yay! 

Cousin It disguised a tree

Educational windows upon examining plants
 Maybe I'm just an uninteresting nerd, but I'm eager to see what else this produces. It's certainly something I haven't seen before!
Good luck to you guys and keep on developing! :)

Saturday, October 17, 2015

My dream revolver: Ruger Redhawk 45

I think out of all of the calibers that have come and gone, the 45 Colt is my favorite. And not just for nostalgia's sake. This cartridge was popular back in the day for a good reason. It put bad guys down and put meat on the table for many frontiersmen, soldiers and lawmen. Even today it holds a solid niche amongst shooters, even with competition from competitors like the 44 Magnum and others. It can fire fat heavy bullets for big game, or lighter 250 grain bullets for dealing with two legged predators with just as much authority as it did back when horses were still the primary mode of transportation. In fact, it's even more potent today with the advent of advanced expanding bullets. A 200 grain 45 caliber hollow point is deadly medicine for anyone not from Krypton.

To my bafflement though there has been a curious lack of moderate length barreled double action revolvers in the caliber. Sure there is the S&W Governor and Taurus Judge that can fire Colts along with 410 shotgun shells, and while superb guns, are a bit bulky. The cylinders are much longer and make them much larger in order to accommodate the longer shotgun shells. There's the S&W Model 25, but very few have the practical four inch barrel, instead opting for the Harry Callahan appearance with a seven inch barrel. A bit difficult to fit in a holster on your hip.

But low and behold, Ruger has at last answered my many prayers and delivered this glorious creation to the realm of mortals!

45 Colt and 45 ACP chambering
Unlike earlier Redhawk models, this one can accept moon clips and fire 45 ACP, a caliber that is in greater abundance than zombies in video games.With a practical four inch barrel, adjustable sights and the ability to switch between two of the most potent handgun calibers available, this is a versatile and wonderfully balanced gun. This can easily switch between being a trail gun whilst hiking, stoked with Colts for things like bear and feral dogs, to 45 ACP in an urban situation to cull the criminal populations. They are a bit overpopulated in the US last I checked. And with moon clips available you can get another six shots into the cylinder lickety split and be back in the fight.

I hope dearly to own one of these myself someday! It's like it was made for me! :D

For a more detailed review on this new model, I highly recommend clicking on the link below to the fantastic site, the place I found out this beauty had graced our timeline with its presence.

Saturday, October 10, 2015

World Building Academy

Hey, want to know a little secret? Building an entire country, culture, continent, or even a planet takes a LOT of work! Staggering, I know, but it turns out that all those folks making movies, RPG games and books have to do a heck of a lot of planning and thinking to make solid and believable worlds whether it be fantasy, scifi or anything else.

Thankfully with the wonders of the googlewebs, we have all sorts of tools at our disposal! One of the best examples I've seen so far is The World Building Academy. Okay, it's not an actual academy where you have to sign up. But it's a series of detailed articles meticulously built to assist game makers and writers to make believable and fleshed out worlds. The author of the page, Deborah Teramis Christian, has devoted a great deal of time and effort to helping us all and has been doing a dazzling job.

Have you ever thought of the logistics of keeping a rural road in working order in a fantasy setting? Or how disease effects a community or region? What about guilds approving you to work in their village? She certainly has! 

I highly recommend looking at the Academy and the articles, and even the books if you're serious about world building. It's darned fun and stretches your brain muscles. So go ahead and take a look! :)

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

The Mines of Madness: My next book!

I've got my third book of the year coming up for release. Unlike before this isn't a Primal Frontier story, but a horror western. And just in time for Halloween too! Crackerjack timing on this one. :)
Keep your calendars marked for October 20th, and you'll get a hold of The Mines of Madness!

Follow the Pinkerton agent Jan Wheeler as he is sent to investigate the now vacant Broken Back Mine. Where have the miners gone? What happened to them? And will the same thing happen to our agent? Stick around to find out!

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Primal Frontier free short story

Since I haven't gotten any major work done, I thought I'd post a quick little freebee Primal Frontier story, a little exhibition to give ya'll a taste of my writing style. Have fun!


A scale-draped figure crouched close to the ground, peering intently upon the muddy track. The long tawny hair upon the back of his neck and beard bristled like the mane of a lion.

The splayed, three toed print was the first good sign Ansgar had cut all day. His booted foot easily fit inside its center. A feral grin touched his lips. It was a big predator. The depth was perhaps two inches. Weighed two tons maybe? Two and a half? Ansgar guessed it would be around 22 feet in length and nine feet high. A formidable predator. A horned jakura. Or bull jakura as the white men called it. The hunter's pulse quickened in his veins at the thought of it.

The sign was only a few hours old. The beast might be within only a few miles. Ansgar lifted his head and began following. His tread was swift and silent. The weight of his rifle was reassuring in his hands. The hunt had begun.

The fronds of innumerable ferns brushed against his legs like an ocean of green while sunlight trickled through the branches of the towering conifers. He inhaled deeply, enjoying the smell of living wood and damp earth. It wasn't at all like the musty stink of towns and cities with cobbled stone streets and oily buildings. No, this was the smell of a vibrant landscape filled with life. Ansgar smiled. 

The sun rose high and beat down upon the lone hunter. A single bead of sweat trickled down the side of his face and into his tawny beard. The sign led him to the crest of a hill, the ferns gently bowing towards him in the wind. Good. The wind was in his favor. If the animal was near it wouldn't scent him. He walked in a crouch up to the hills, the trees thinning out and gazed upon a meadow of sorts. The ferns glittered radiantly like emeralds now that they were no longer shut out by the trees. Lizards skittered through the underbrush as they foraged for insects.

To the left of his position he saw a thicket, and beyond that the curve of a creek snaking it's way through the landscape. Taking a brass telescope from one of his pouches, the kenwari examined the thicket closely. In this heat most animals took to the cool shade. He noticed that many of the dwarls fluttered about in the upper branches. None were occupying the convenient lower ones. Keeping out of bite range most likely. It was a safe bet that the big lizard was taking a nap in there at that very moment.

The Finn closed his eyes and inhaled through his nose slowly, letting the wind bring him it's subtle messages. He had a snout that put most hounds to shame. He smelled damp leaves. Fecal matter from the flying reptiles. And the acrid scent of a jakura.

"Ahhhh, there you are," he whispered. Sure enough, the creature was in that thicket, enjoying the shade during the midday heat. Now to coax him out into shooting range. He estimated his position to be around a hundred and fifty yards away from the thicket. He crept to a nearby tree and settled behind it, still peering at the shady tangle beyond. He worked the lever of his gun until the ejection port was half way open. A finger-sized brass cartridge lay nestled inside. Loaded. He closed the action with a solid clack of metal.

He reached into another pouch and pulled out his ocarina, a ruddy brown instrument of curious craftsmanship. Touching it to his lips he covered the proper holes and seemed to cough into it, producing an awkward, throaty squawk. He made the sound twice more at short intervals. It was the sound of a wounded katatonda. It was a trick he'd used many times to lure predators from their hiding places. The promise of easy meat was often too much to resist.

He put the instrument away and watched the treeline with breathless anticipation. For a minute nothing happened. Then the dwarls began squawking and shrieking, taking flight from their perches and gliding away. Ansgar felt the hair on the back of his neck prickle with excitement. And then he saw it, the blunt snout of the predator poking out from the foliage, looking around. The scaly upper lip hid all but the very tips of its sharp knife-shaped teeth. Above each eye was a thick horn.

Ansgar sucked in his breath as he saw the size of them. He'd seen plenty in his day, but these were among the largest horns he had ever seen on such an animal! His heart began beating faster, the adrenaline slipping into his blood. He took a breath to calm himself. A fast heart would spoil his aim. The jakura warily looked this way and that, trying to detect the source of the cry it had heard. It lifted its snout into the air and sniffed deeply, trying to catch the tell-tale scent of blood.

But the wind was against it. It cautiously began to emerge from the thicket, revealing the rest of its carnivorous bulk. Ansgar's blood grew hot with excitement. No matter how many times he beheld these animals, these dragons, they always took his breath away. He watched as its lizard torso became exposed, its back and flanks studded with bony ostoderms. Its body was held horizontally, balanced upon a pair of muscular legs and a stiff tail that bobbed with each step. Its body was ivy green with rivers of creamy yellow running between its scales. At its chest dangled a pair of pathetically tiny arms. They reminded Ansgar of the limbs of a newborn child, underdeveloped and useless. A swarm of insects buzzed about its mouth, trying to get at the pieces of rotting flesh stuck between its teeth.

The beast began heading towards the hill, swinging its great head back and forth as it sought to spot the supposedly wounded animal. The Finn licked his lips. Placing his left hand upon the trunk of the tree and extending his thumb he rested the barrel of his rifle and took aim. It was a remarkably sturdy shooting rest. His body and brain became flooded with ice-water as his shooting instincts took over. He placed the brass bead of the front sight onto the barrel-chest of the jakura where he knew the vulnerable heart and lungs were. It was an awkward angle, but he knew that his hardened 56 caliber bullets would find their mark. They always did.

The rifle cracked like a peal of thunder. Five hundred grains of hardened lead slammed into the jakura's torso, bullying through muscles and ribs and boring through the blood-filled organs inside. The animal staggered and let loose a terrific roar of surprise and pain. The head swung around, searching for the source of its torment. Ansgar worked the action of his rifle and sent another bullet crashing into it. Blood oozed from the pair of thumb-sized holes in its chest, less than a hand's breadth apart. Shrieking with pain the bull-headed beast whirled around and thundered back into the safety of the thicket. A third bullet followed it, striking it at the base of the tail.

And then it was gone, swallowed up by the thick tangle. Ansgar ejected the spent shell and began feeding fresh rounds through the loading gate. All his shots hit home, but it looked like this jakura wouldn't be going down so easily. Some dragons had astonishing vitality. But that made it all the more fun. He sat for a minute, thinking over his options. Ideally he would wait for the blood loss to do its work. His bullets had cut deep and it would inevitably die from its wounds. But that might take hours. Dragons bled slowly. Besides, waiting wasn't as sporting.

No, he would follow it up. It was dangerous to go into such close quarters after a wounded animal, where it could rush him from only a few yards away, but that was part of the appeal. Facing a deadly predator on its own terms? The thought made Ansgar's skin tingle. He slunk down the slope of the hill, the butt of the rifle tight against his shoulder as he watched the fringe of the thicket. The wind was still in his favor. At forty yards he halted, rifle at the ready. At any moment he expected the horned devil to burst from the foliage. But it didn't. He gave a shout, hoping to coax the animal into charging and giving him a clear shot.

Still nothing.

The hunter grunted in mild surprise. Horned jakuras were prone to blindly charging threats. Perhaps it didn't see him, but surely it had heard him. Had it bled out already? Or was it hiding ? His keen hazel eyes struggled to penetrate the woven branches and leaves before him. He couldn't see anything. He then began to follow the blood trail inside.

Ansgar weaved his way through the grabbing branches, moving as silently as a wraith. His eyes continued to fall upon the ruby droplets. Oh yes, it was hard it. At any moment he expected to come upon its lifeless body. Then the wind shifted. Instead of blowing into his face, it now came at his back, blowing his scent forward.

A bone-chilling roar rocked the air as the jakura began thundering towards the hunter. Its muscular legs propelled it with irresistible force, the blunt snout held down as if it intended to gore the hunter. It was only eight yards away, tearing through the foliage. Instinct took over. Ansgar's rifle seemed to raise of its own accord. The brass bead settled upon the serpentine neck, seeking the throat. The gun snapped. A blue-edged hole suddenly appeared in the animal's windpipe. A strangled wail of agony oozed from its mouth, staggering and losing its forward momentum.

The silver barrel swung downwards and lined up with the knee. Another crack and a fat bullet annihilated the jakura's kneecap. Like a tree it began to topple forward. Ansgar dove and rolled out of the way as the horned head thudded where he had been crouching. Droplets of blood spattered on his back. The Finn spun around and pumped another round into the writhing creature's skull, just below the eye. The head bucked under the impact. Chunks of red mixed with white sprinkled across the foliage, but the beast moved no more.

With a gurgle it lay still. It's reptilian eyes glazed over and stared without seeing. Ansgar took slow steady breaths, still watching the animal, unblinking. Dragons died slow. The scars on his wrist had taught him a long time ago to be cautious even with dead dragons. He worked the action of his rifle and put one last round in the neck where he knew the spine lay, severing it. A spasm rolled through the hulk. The muscles quivered violently and then went still. One of the tiny arms vibrated as death reflexes kicked in.

The hunter's heart began to slow its war-drum beat until it returned to normal. He calmly began reloading his gun. One never knew if another predator might show up. He then drew his hunting knife and set to work skinning his latest kill. It was time to add another trophy to his already heavy necklace.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

The problem with sacrifices...

This is a quick joke story I came up with when driving with friends to an event and thought ya'll might enjoy it. Take a peek!
And for the record, I have been to the below mentioned con, so I'm throwing myself under the bus too. ;)

A dozen robed figures stood about a brazier, casting lurid shadows upon their shrouded countenances. The room in which they stood was as dark as night. Feathers of smoke weaved through the slots on the brazier and into the air. The twelve figures chanted ominously in words no outsider could understand, bodies swaying from side to side like the swinging of a man in the gallows. On some unseen signal the group stopped and all heads swiveled to a thirteenth man who stood upon a podium. His chalky, gnarled fingers curled around the edges of the wood.

"My brothers, welcome. I have summoned you here today for a subject of great importance. The time of the Ascension rapidly approaches. But we have one massive obstacle yet to overcome." Murmurs passed from mouth to mouth. The thirteenth raised his hand.

"Yes, the final obstacle must finally be overcome. It can wait no longer. We need to find a thousand virgins to sacrifice for the Ascension."

"But where could we possibly find a thousand virgins?" balked one of the followers.

"We have so little time! How can we gather them?"

"I don't know, but we must think of a way! The Ascension waits for no one!" the leader boomed. A fourth figure raised his hand.

"Do the Rites say what manner of virgin must be sacrificed?" he asked in an inquisitive tone. A silence settled over the congregation as they looked to one another.

"They don't..." the leader admitted slowly.

"Then I perhaps know of a place where we can acquire a thousand virgins with ease!"

"Where? When? How?" the group demanded. The fourth who spoke reached into his robes and pulled out his i-phone. The screen glowed with brilliant illumination in the dark room. The device beeped and clicked as his fingers danced over the screen until at last he held it up for all to see. And there on the screen lay an advertisement for the Star Trek Convention.

Monday, September 21, 2015

Ark: The Evolved, super fun game!

Have you ever come across a game that felt like it was tailor made just for you? That's how I feel about Ark, the new Steam game. Survivalist games are nothing new. You build your own house, gather resources, build tools all from the ground up. Minecraft is perhaps the most popular currently. Rust is another pretty big one, and from all accounts they are pretty good. They're just missing one thing: Dinosaurs!

Ark provides an absolutely insane level of fun. I was excited for The Stomping Land which had even gone to the trouble of hiring the awesome artist Rodrego Vega for concept art before pulling the plug on the thing after they had nabbed a thick wad of cash.
Ark is nothing like that. Although still in Beta, I'm amazed at how much I can do. Before I got my souped up computer I couldn't even boot it up and feared that it was a crudely cobbled together monstrosity that couldn't even start without dying. Thankfully this is not the case. It requires some intense hardware, but it's worth it!

Let's start with the animals. It's not just dinosaurs alone. There is a huge selection of animals from different time periods. Everything from trilobites in the Permeian Era to Gigantopithecus long after the dinos bought the farm, you've got around 35 different animals to start off interacting with, including some of our classics like the ever present T-Rex which is legally required in anything dinosaur themed. But thank Odin, we have some far lesser known cast members in the line up! One that really surprised me was Sacrosuchus, the Super Croc. A big dino eater from Northern Africa back in the way back when, this sucker is a super predator prowling around by the water and is a real wake up call.

There is Spinosaurus, but to my intense delight it's actually scientifically accurate! Not a biped, it's actually a water-dwelling quadraped that owns the shallow rivers and water ways and is a spectacular sight to behold: Slicing through the fresh water as it prowls around in search of prey, which includes anything smaller than itself, which is almost everything.
Then again, the Dilophosaurs have frilled necks and spit venom, which will undoubtedly drive the paleo-nuts into fits of rage, but you can't have everything, eh? I'll take what I can get!

I had to laugh at Titanoboa though. Although history's largest snake, this one isn't a constrictor but also has a frill around the neck and has venom! I think this is actually because animating a snake coiling and constricting other animals or players would be a headache that would kill half of the programming staff, so I'll give them a pass on that one.

And they have WAY more animals coming! Including one of my favorite animals, Kaprosuchus! Oh heck yeah! Can't wait for that one!

Everything has it's own behavior and predictability, making them feel more alive. And the skins aren't all the same. There are a lot of different color patterns that really set the animals apart. And the textures! Good grief! I'm not one for graphics, but this game is gorgeous and the scales on these beasties are unreal. They look amazing. I can spend a ton of time just looking them over as if they were real creatures. It's fantastic.

Of course, you can tame and ride them, which is all sorts of fun! The taming is a hassle, requiring you to first knock them unconscious with either blunt force trauma or slipping something in their drink, usually on the end of an arrow and keep feeding them drugs to keep them in a stupor until they somehow trust you.

... Man, when I type all that out, it sounds pretty terrifying. You're getting these poor animals to like you through Stockholm Syndrome! Using drugs and forced feeding until they do your bidding? I think I'll stick with the cheats to make them trust you instantly.

The crafting is darned fun too. It requires a lot of resource gathering, but it's fairly fast if you're even half decent. Unlike most games where you have a leveling system, this game doesn't ask you to perform 500 quests or build 10,000 ice cream cones before it will grant you the privilege of leveling up. Here you get XP for doing just about anything, including not dying! As long as you're doing something, anything, you're slowly gaining experience. It's nice, because it doesn't make you choose between having fun and leveling up.

So many games handcuff you to the escalator of level grinding by making it so that you have to perform certain tasks to get XP. That makes it feel more like a job than a game. This solves that problem nicely in that you're doing whatever the heck you want and you level up anyway. Hooray!

Anyway, back to the crafting itself, I'm actually very impressed by how versatile it is. Many games only let you operate within a pretty narrow field of building. Often it's just a building already that you can only place in a certain location and can't modify. This lets you build from the ground up, allowing you to tailor your structure to your preferences with everything from lockable doors, windows, ladders, ramps, pillars and other goodies. You can make anything from a single room hut to a multi-story mansion to bridges to towers or even an obstacle course if you have the time and ingenuity.

I was even able to make a few shooting platforms where I was able to hunt from with relative safety. Those were fun! But it's not just stuff like wood and thatch you can build from. When you get the resources and levels, you can make far more advanced stuff like fabricators, metal strutwork, electric lights, generators, radios, GPS, and even automated turrets! This game is like a sped up version of human history, going from the stone age to industrial age.

The environment itself is breathtaking. The plants, rocks, landscape, everything feels alive. I've kept mostly to the coast and thinner forests where you can see the critters coming at you, but I have delved to some level into the thick forests. In there it feels like the world is closing in around you, cutting out the sunlight and swallowing you in shadow. Now that is when you feel like you've stepped into another world, and you react accordingly. Playing there I've felt my tendons tighten like piano wires with tension, looking around for signs of danger.
And gosh, the sound! I thank whatever deity that answers to game makers for the sound in this game. Every animal makes unique and realistic sounds. The burbling rumble of a trike, the tittering of the reptiles, the shriek and roar of the predators, the bass rumbling of the crocs, everything. Crap, it just swallows you up!

So do I like this game? Let's pencil in a yes. Like I said, it's like this game was made just for me. It hits all the right notes. I can't wait for the next update when we get more dinos. I just hope we get a little bit more weapon variety. Not that I hate what is already present. I really like the longneck rifle, which is a single shot lever action falling block rifle, not terribly unlike a Sharps 1874 or Winchester 1885 but with a full lever instead of a tiny one. I'd like to see some other weapons between the very old cobbled together guns and the more advanced automatic weapons.
Heck, some modders have done a few things already. I'm just hoping for a lever action repeater! My love for those things borders on being a fetish. I could also do with a big double rifle or harpoon gun. That'd be all sorts of fun! :D

Anyway, I recommend taking a good hard look. It's worth your time if you can play it! I'll upload screenshots later to convey some of my disastrous forays into this strange and savage world.

Update! As promised, here are some screenshots!
Riding a carnotaurus and enjoying the view of the red river.

Delving into the humid swamps upon the back of my sarcosuchus!


No dinosaur is a match for a good rifle and steady aim!

Me stalking the rare nose-bearing boulder. 

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Brief Update

Sorry folks for the lack of action here. Crazy Town has gotten crazier, but for the better. I just got myself a brand-spanking new computer powerful enough to handle Fallout 4 when it arrives, which has me all sorts of excited! I'm now indulging in games my system wasn't powerful enough to handle before, and it is FUN! :D

On the downside, I've had to reinstall ALL of my old programs, which means writing has been stalled. I'm in the midst of editing another Primal Frontier story, and right after that a horror western which I think you all will enjoy quite a bit. :)

After that it's onto finishing up some other stories I've left unfinished, and then making some new ones! I've got other horror and weird westerns on the brain and am hoping to begin work on a steampunk series, The Xenogenesis Chronicles, so stay tuned!

Saturday, September 5, 2015

Now THAT is a collection!

I'm always amazed at some of the things people manage to collect, but this guy puts everyone else to shame. You'd perhaps expect him to have some cars, coins, or something mundane in his basement in Germany, right? Nope!
This fella somehow had ahold of a sodding Panther tank from World War 2!!! Nor is that all: He apparently had all other sorts of weapons, including torpedoes. By the Power of Grayskull! How he managed to stash these away in his basement I have no earthly idea. Some of the oddest items have an uncanny way of making their way into the oddest places. It reminds me of a French bathtub somehow finding its way into the heart of Marajo Island in a jungle hunting camp.

Pretty darned impressive overall, take a look!

I also can't help but imagine that the police raid went something like this: