About Declan Finn

Declan Finn is the author of Honor at Stake, an urban fantasy novel, and nominated for Best Horror at the first annual Dragon Awards. He has also written The Pius Trilogy, to be released by Silver Empire Press. Finn has also written "Codename: Winterborn," an SF espionage thriller, and "It was Only on Stun!" and "Set to Kill," murder mysteries at a science fiction convention.

Building Character: Scott “Mossad” Murphy

By the time this blog posts, I should be on the road once more, on my way to LibertyCon. But since we’re still a little under a week out from the release of A Pius Man: A Holy Thriller (The Pius Trilogy) (Volume 1), I thought it would be a good idea to bring this up.The idea of Scott “Mossad” Murphy started in 2002, when my father and I were at a family party — they were boring people, and we didn’t know anyone, and I come by my antisocial qualities honestly. We were having a discussion on a few different topics, and came up with two concepts. The first were the Kraft brothers, best known as showing up in the Love at First Bite series. They were “Merle” “Dalf” and “Tal” Kraft.

The other was Scott Murphy.

Scott, you see, was born of a news item that had waves of Evangelical Christians flooding into Israel, post-9/11. But what if someone else had decided to come to Israel, not for political reasons, but for revenge? He wanted to hunt terrorists. To hurt terrorists. And Israel, as far as he could tell, did that 24/7. If the jihadist scum could have Jon “Taliban” Walker, he could be Scott “Mossad” Murphy.

When I wrote A Pius Man originally, in 2004, Scott seemed to be a perfect fit for the role. He’d already guest starred in another book series — one I haven’t published yet, sorry, I’ve been busy — and I had a good grasp on his character.

Obviously, over time, I had to shift things. The image above, for example, of Scott’s Mossad file, has him being born in 1982. This would put him in his 30s. I’m thinking that’s a little old, considering what happens over the course of the novels. Thus, one of the things I had to change about Scott was his age. Also, please consider that things that were high-tech at the time could now be gotten as an app on the iPhone.

So, while I was updating things, might as well reboot him a little in the drafts. His origin, as time went on, went from seeing 9/11 happen while he was in college and wanting payback, to having grown up with a plan to hunt these f**kers down and killing them. He became a little darker as time went on — then again, so did I.

To quote Isaac Asimov, beware the wrath of a patient man.

Murphy is very patient.

It helps that I essentially wrote a short biography for Scott, like I have for all of my other characters. The character becomes alive in my head, and all I need to do is drop him into a situation and let him play.

Though it wasn’t until I started writing short stories for Scott that I realized how much of a stiff he really was. But, then again, I don’t know too many party animals who essentially dedicate their lives to revenge, and decide that the best method is to become a weaponized accountant when they grow up.

Yes, weaponized accountant. And I mean stealing money from terrorists, not necessarily the Ben Affleck film, The Accountant (which is, much to my own surprise, a really good movie, you should check it out.

Of course, after I wrote the program for Scott — his bio — dropping him into the situation just went sideways. He didn’t fit in anywhere in Israel, even his own office, he usually kills or arrests most of the people he spent weeks or months with. At that attrition rate, it’s hard to keep a long term friendship going. And he’s a goy in the middle of Mossad … who’s dating him? Who’s socializing with him?

Yes, when you’re a spy, you can have plenty of friends, as long as you don’t talk about work. But what do you do when you’re entire life revolves around methods and operations, dates and locations? There isn’t a lot to talk about that isn’t already classified.

And then I started considering how much the character of Scott Murphy fit with the end product in the novel.  Despite all of the new things I discovered about his character, and the more his past has developed in front of me, the puzzle pieces of his life still fit together.

I’ve worked on this so long I actually made this for MySpace. Think about that.Of course, parts of this were me working backwards from the end result. The Scott Murphy of my novel is smart enough to never need a gun, avoid every firefight, and plan in such a way that his plans are the weapon. So why shouldn’t he have skipped a year or two of school?

And if you’re a workaholic, who had finished college courses in high school, college is not that difficult with a full courseload during every possible session. And being a workaholic is a good survival trait—the harder he works, the faster he could get out into the real world. Why? Because Scott had never been described as “attractive” in any physical sense, so he’s isolated by looks, by youth, and by intellect (I know something about two out of three of them); the real world had more options for him than school. The faster he went through school and started reality, the better.

So, making him younger fit in with the character. He was able to join Mossad after 9-11 to become the first member of the Goyim Brigade, and still stay in his twenties by the time A Pius Man happens.

By the time of A Pius Man: A Holy Thriller, Scott Murphy will have been a spy for years. He is isolated from the outside world by being a spy. He’s isolated from the Mossad community by being a goy. His work will be his life.

And then, one day he gets called to Rome … And then the fun starts.

And, if you’ve done that….
The Dragon Awards are open and ready for nominations, and I have a list of suggestions you might want to take a look at. If you already  have a good idea of what you want, just click here to go and vote for them. The instructions are right there.

The Love at First Bite series. 

Who hates religion in fiction?

I’m always wary about reviews that talk about how a book is “too religious.” Not even that it’s religious message fic (which sucks) but that the character has religion, or is religious at all.Sometimes I think there are people out there who are hurt at the mere mention of religion in a novel.

And I’m not talking about religious themes, or concepts, or overtones, but religion itself. What moron thinks like that? This is basic, dirt-stupid cultural anthropology. We’re somehow going to have a world completely and utterly devoid of religion? What evangelical atheist paradise is this?

I mean, heck, a world devoid of all Judeo-Christian mythos will still have pagans. Just look at L Jagi Lamplighter’s Rachel Griffin books if you don’t believe me.

But to discount religion or religious characters, there goes half of David Weber, most of Larry Correia and at least two entire series by John Ringo. Hell, there goes Terry Goodkind and his made-up nuns in The Sword of Truth. There even goes William Lehman’s books. There goes Ann Margaret Lewis, Karina Fabian, Richard Paolinelli, John C. Wright….

How about Chronicles of Narnia? Is that going into the wood-chipper too? I’m sure that Tolkein barely gets a pass, because his books were supposed to be a “pre-Christian” mythos, but he himself is Catholic.

But, heck, even the new Wonder Woman film made Ares sound like the Judeo-Christian Satan. I guess that goes down the crapper.

“I don’t like religion in my stories” … yeah, good luck with finding something completely and utterly devoid of faith. I wonder if people like this were offended by Captain America’s line that “There’s only one God, and he doesn’t dress like [Loki or Thor].” Because, you know, that was a line written by an atheist. Even Joss Whedon respects the religion of character more than some people.

But I do try to get my head around this concept or having no religion. Are we now in a position where everyone is supposed to have one, monotonal thought process of Atheism? This is, of course, excluding the idea that Atheism itself is a religion. If you don’t believe me, go out and meet the anti-theist branch sometime (THE IDEA OF GOD IS EVIL AND SO ARE THEIR FOLLOWERS), instead of the more libertarian branch (“I don’t believe, and I don’t care if you do. Next”).

I’m sorry, but I’m generally open to all ideas and all thought processes. I read Eric Flint, atheist Communist. I read John Ringo, Recovering semi-Catholic. David Weber and Timothy Zahn, who are both ministers, if I recall correctly. John and Jagi Wright. Richard Paolinelli, who believes in God, and it’s in his books. Larry the Mormon Correia.

Seriously, in order to pull something like that, I can only conclude one would have to be some sort of anti-religious SJW-zealot who hates religion in general. They’re the only ones closed-minded enough to be offended by a character who might even have a religion.

I mean, good God, congratulations, there goes Dracula, by Bram Stoker. That had the Eucharist! They’re Catholics involved! OMG! I can only conclude that this is particularly painful to read.

Even Die Hard has religious Catholics. The McClanes! It’s directly referenced in movies 1-3. Congratulations, that’s enough to be hated by this sort of person.

And anyone who hates Die Hard simply and absolutely HAS NO SOUL.

I’m sorry, wrapping my brain around a secular universe makes my brain hurt. This is in defiance of all basic cultural anthropology. Despite statements made by random philosophers, there has not now, nor has there ever been, in the history of the world, a society that is purely secular or atheistic. The closest we get in America are Deists among the founding fathers, but  that list also includes Reverends, so that’s an interesting conversation. The first person who cites Thomas Jefferson will have to justify every contradictory statement Jefferson ever made, and citing the Creator in the first line of the Declaration of Independence.

But religion is a thing. It is a part of any society. Ancient Greeks made being an atheist a capital crime — if you didn’t pray to Athena in Athens, you obviously didn’t have the interests of the city at heart, and you had to go.

Now, granted, sure, I’ve had some people make books that are religious message fiction. That, of course, can be problematic. Because message fiction is message fiction, no matter the message. The problem isn’t necessarily the message — Hell, I like the “save the whales” film, Star Trek IV, but that’s because it was funny — but the execution of story, plot and characters …. usually, that there is little to none of any of the above. But one cannot lump that in with Narnia, or Rachel Griffin or anything by John C Wright has written. To do so is BS.

Heck, even my novel, A Pius Man: A Holy Thriller (The Pius Trilogy) (Volume 1) has religious characters in it … a Jew, a Muslim, a half-dozen Catholics. Which one gets hated upon the most? Technically, the story itself isn’t religious, as it centers on a historical element. But there are priests and Popes, and rosaries, and the historical MacGuffin is around the Pope of World War II. I’m certain that’s enough to get those who hate religion to sniff and wave, “move along. Go find your own kind. To the back of the bus with you.”

As Jeffro Johnson pointed out in his Appendix N, religion in fiction goes all the way back into the Pulps, where Christianity can rout the fae, God can be a player. Heck, look at Superversive SF, which is also welcoming to God.

And then there’s SuperversiveSF, the blog. God, faith, and religion are all over the place. You can’t escape it.

And this is why I think that Superversive SF and Jeffro’s Pulp Revolution are probably the future of science fiction and fantasy. There are no gate keeping here. There’s no snobbish, anti-religious bias that I’ve seen. I don’t even think there’s an anti-left bias, as long as one avoids going full SJW, but I could be mistaken.

It’s nice that, among the SVSF / Pulp folk, there’s an open, accepting atmosphere where even a freak like me can feel welcome.

Illegitimi non carborundum

And, if you’ve done that….

The Dragon Awards are open and ready for nominations, and I have a list of suggestions you might want to take a look at. If you already  have a good idea of what you want, just click here to go and vote for them. The instructions are right there.

A Pius Man, Chapter 3: A Pious Visitor

Yup. Here we go again. I’ve done Chapter 1 and was chapter 2, and now we continue with your look at the new edition of chapter 3 for A Pius Man: A Holy Thriller.By now, you’re probably well aware of my yanking this from the shelves when I signed with Silver Empire Publishing.

But right now, it’s back.

And if you’re new here, and have no idea what A Pius Man is … It ate up ten years of my life, and the best use I have ever gotten out of my Masters in History outside of writing biographies of older vampires.

But here you go, here’s the next chapter. When you’re hooked, order it.

Today’s chapter introduces a man from down the street — or from across the Med, if you’ll pardon the expression. The Pope has got a tour planned to go to Egypt, and they need to coordinate security.

Enter, Hashim Abasi.

For the record, no, this will not have a critique of Pope Francis and his security measures — or lack thereof–for his trip to Egypt. Not intentionally. Remember, the first draft is from 2004. I hadn’t even heard of Pope Francis until he was elected Pope.

Anyway, there will be more to come on A Pius Man: A Holy Thriller. You have been warned.
Chapter III:
A Pious Visitor
Hashim Abasi was tall and powerfully built, his broad shoulders accentuated by the fit of his sandy, tan jacket. At thirty-five, he had enjoyed a moderate professional success—given where he lived and what he did, being alive counted as success. He occasionally wondered how long that success would last since he couldn’t leave his job if he tried. Everyone in political circles liked him, mainly because he was one of the few not trying to stab anyone in the back.
He ran a hand over his bald scalp, wondering what had become of his liaison with the chief of Vatican security. He was tempted to slide his reading glasses onto his sharp, angular nose and start flipping through papers on Figlia’s desk. Premature presbyopia annoyed him no end: others only needed reading glasses after forty or forty-five. He was just lucky in his ancestors that his good distance vision had saved his life more than once.
Abasi pinched his sinuses, fighting off the coming headache. He crossed his legs, hoping to become even slightly comfortable in the office chair.
If I ran the office, I would have chairs that made people uncomfortable on purpose. But who knows—the head of the papal detail may be a man chosen because of his virtue, and not because of his security qualities.
Agent Abasi, my apologies, sir, I had a little car accident on the way here,” someone said in English as he dashed into the office. Abasi didn’t even stand, merely glanced at the head of papal security as he rushed through the door.
Figlia’s cheeks were flushed, as if he had run the entire way. Abasi looked over Figlia’s suit, and wondered just how much Figlia dressed in basic black because he blended in, and how much it was affected by being on a SWAT team for so long.
Nothing serious, I hope,” Abasi replied in clear, crisp Cambridge English. It was a voice at odds with his body – most people didn’t expect a voice that educated to come out of a man with physique like a body builder. Then again, Abasi usually tried to stick to gutter vocabulary when he was on the job, it helped with the image.
Figlia smiled, glad that they had English in common—the wonders of the “new Latin,” as the resentful Vaticanos called it. Although that is a good question—were they referring to English as a universal language, or the 2003 Latin dictionary, which had entries for “motorcycle” and “hot dog”?
I will certainly need a new window,” Figlia told him, “but no one was killed … not by my car, anyway.”
Abasi nodded solemnly. He cocked his head and furrowed his brows, his dark copper eyes catching the light. “I hope that was not an explosion I heard not long ago.”
It was.”
Abasi started, and turned towards the source of the new voice.
Special Agent Wilhelmina Goldberg slid into a chair not far from the corner of Figlia’s desk. “Unfortunately,” she continued, “the body of his car needs work because it was body-slammed by a corpse.”
Abasi looked from one to the other. “Is this a terrorist incident?”
Figlia shrugged. “Unknown. This only just blew up in our faces. My people are looking at it now.”
If I can do anything, do not hesitate to call on me, please.” He smiled. “After all, I have plenty of experience with explosives.”
Goldberg cocked her head, looking at him sideways. “Excuse me for asking, but why are you concerned? I mean, outside of the Pope’s safety during his visit to Egypt, why would you care? Even a lot of Catholics I know wouldn’t mind if this Pope bought it … he’s even more militant than the last two.”
Abasi raised a brow. “Indeed? May I ask who you are?”
Special Agent Goldberg, U.S. Secret Service.”
Abasi arched his eyebrows. “Really?” He angled himself towards her. He ran a hand over his bald scalp, and scratched at the back of his neck. “Well, Agent Goldberg, there is something American Catholics don’t have to worry about—retribution should the Pope get killed. You may remember the uproar your president caused when he talked of a crusade against terrorism? For my people, the Crusades are as recent as fifty years ago. Everyone acts as though they’ve been personally traumatized by them, and that a new crusade could happen again at any moment.” He held up a hand to hold off her protests. “The idea is absurd, but that’s what they believe—if a Muslim should kill Pope Pius XIII’, my people believe the West will start their invasion in Morocco and go east.” Abasi looked to Figlia, then back to Goldberg. “Now, everyone in this room knows that, if a crusade should start, it will have nothing to do with religion and everything to do with killing religious psychopaths.
His massive shoulders went up and down in a shrug. “In short, I am here because Egypt does not wish to be wiped out in the crossfire between tribes.” Abasi shifted again, failing to get comfortable.
Goldberg blinked. “Funny, coming from a government that had a new Nazi party only a few years ago.”
Abasi merely smiled. “Regimes change – in the Middle East more often than most. The Muslim Brotherhood alienated many, which is why they’re gone now. The current government wants to change our national image. Allowing the Pope to visit is one part of that.”
Figlia blinked. “And how do you manage?”
Abasi laughed. “Commander Figlia, do you know the key to surviving as a policeman in Egypt? When the Sunnis are in power, all of the criminals are ‘shi’a.’ When the shi’a are in power, all of the criminals are Sunni. It is all a matter of how you fill out the paperwork.” He looked to Goldberg. “And you, Special Agent, what are you doing so far from home? Sightseeing, perhaps?”
She shook her head. “I’m here as a security consultant.”
And they allow this in your country?”
She shrugged. “Yup. Besides, I’m too short to take a bullet for anyone except one of the seven dwarves, so I’m in tactics, strategy, advance work, etc.”
Indeed. So we are all here to keep Kutjok safe.”
Goldberg looked from Abasi to Figlia, and blinked. Figlia said, “Abasi means His Holiness. His name before he became Pope was Joshua Kutjok.”
Goldberg nodded. “Ah, sorry, it didn’t process for a moment. Then again, there’s been so much fuss made in the U.S. over ‘Pius XIII’ ever since he took the name, oy!” She closed her eyes and thought for a moment. “The news coverage, depending on who you believe, the last pope to take the name either did nothing about the Holocaust; said nothing about the Holocaust; or was actively responsible for the Holocaust.”
Abasi said, “True. Before then, I did not know that every historian who specialized in Catholic history was a reject from the seminary, an ex-priest who married an ex-nun, or ‘Catholics’ who, mysteriously, support none of the teachings of the Catholic Church.”
Wilhelmina Goldberg sighed. “I wonder if CNN could get the same results from a historian who didn’t have an axe to grind.”
Figlia shrugged, and tried to move away from the third rail of a topic. “As for his birth name, people might not recall where Pius was from if he did not make noises about it every day.”
Goldberg nodded. All of the historians were just as enraged that, not only had Joshua Kutjok picked the name Pius, but the Sudanese Archbishop had given two reasons for picking the name: “Like my predecessor, I, too, have a mission to save lives from a mechanism of death, which seeks to ‘purify’ a country through murder. Like Pope Pius XII, I will put all of my energies toward ending the murder and slavery in Sudan –North and South – as he did to save the Jews of Europe during the dark years of the Nazi infestation. To commemorate this mission, I will start the proceedings to canonize Pope Pius XII.”
Like most of his predecessors, Pius XIII was on a mission from God.
I have to tell you,” Goldberg told Figlia, trying to get comfortable in the chair, “I think the only people he hasn’t pissed off yet are at Fox News.”
At that, even Abasi had to laugh. “This is true. I remember when few people talked about the decades of genocide, over two million murdered before anyone had heard of Darfur.”
Goldberg arched a brow. I don’t think I’ve ever heard of someone say Darfur like he had a personal grudge. Then again, if I saw a genocide go on for decades, but no one paid attention, I guess I’d be pissed too.
That’s part of the problem,” Figlia said, leaning back in his chair. “The bulk of the direct attacks on the Pope are leveled by the Northern Sudanese government, which has labeled the entire Catholic Church as one unnatural entity. As an Archbishop in the Sudan, when it was one country, the Pope’s own parishioners dragged him off to Uganda because it was safer. I believe tranquilizers were involved. Heh. He is not one to take anything lying down.”
Even Abasi laughed at this. “You are not kidding.” He said to Goldberg, “I recall Kutjok’s first desire being to canonize ‘anti-Semitic’ Popes, Pius IX and XI–one had sheltered and supported Jews, and the other had condemned fascists and communists in the same week. It was announced by a new Secretary of State, a Vietnamese priest who spent years jailed by the People’s Republic of China … that was well-done.” Abasi smiled, obviously appreciative of the political chess involved.
Goldberg rolled her eyes. “That’s nothing. You should have been in Washington when they talked about making a patron saint of spies out of Dr. Thomas Dooley…”
Abasi gave her a blank look; he had missed that one, apparently.
He was a full-time doctor and a sometime spy for the U.S. government in Vietnam,” Goldberg answered.
Ah,” Abasi said flatly. “So that would explain why China and North Korea have the uncomfortable idea that Kutjok has them on his short list of things to do.”
Goldberg gave a short laugh. “I still like that the press release where they announced that one of the Rothschilds would run the Vatican Bank.”
Abasi laughed. “This is true. Though it was still not as brilliantly handled as the elections process.”
Goldberg blinked. “What was all that about? I’m not entirely certain what went on there. Elected priests? I don’t remember the last time a Rabbi took a poll.”
Giovanni Figlia frowned. If this was going to be a conversation about politics no matter what he did, he would at least jump in and hope to cut it short. “Catholic critics wanted elected bishops, and the Pope gave them what they wanted. Mostly in countries with a long history of democracy, and on the condition that the elected were ordained priests, and that Rome had final ratification. The candidates had gone on a tour of parishes under the guise of guest speakers. Not even the parishioners had known there was a campaign. Since the critics hadn’t gone to church since 1965, they never knew the elections happened until after. The 45% of Catholics who regularly go to church were the ones who voted. By the time the critics had heard of the elections, they were over, leaving them without an argument—there were elections, but they failed to show up, and so failed to get the outcome they wanted.” Goldberg stretched her neck to one side. “Anyway, we figure a lot of people want to kill him. So, I’m just here to walk around and point out ways to improve the system already in place. A normal security audit, only more on a theoretical level rather than personally testing the system.”
Hashim Abasi cocked his head. “This should be interesting. May I join your audit? If you, Commander Figlia, decide to initiate any of her suggestions, I would already know the details from the same presentation.”
Figlia shrugged. “I see no reason not to. Agent Goldberg?”
She shrugged. “I’ll ask my boss, but I can’t see why not.”
Abasi said, “Then you will not get any permission; I would fail a background check, because my English is so good.” Abasi’s smile broadened into a full grin, as though he was straining not to laugh. “My name, essentially, translates into ‘stern crusher of evil.’ ” He shrugged. “The hopes of a parent. My father sent me abroad in order to learn the language of the enemy, so I could better kill them. While I was abroad, he was killed while tinkering with a mail-order C4 vest. While I have locked away more terrorists than some Mossad officers, I can’t imagine passing a background check by any U.S. federal agency.”
Goldberg’s eyes glittered. “Ah. In that case, we’d better not tell them.” She looked to Figlia. “I suppose you can coordinate with Agent Abasi after, or even during, my audit, incorporating my advice as we go … depending, of course, on when or how you want to squeeze it in around your homicide investigation. I mean, you worked so hard to win the case, I’m guessing you want to work it yourself.”
Figlia laughed. “I’m certain the autopsy reports will take long enough for me to fit the audit in, between forensics reports.”
Abasi’s eyes flickered from one to the other. “You fought for the investigation? Why?”
Figlia leaned back in the seat. “I started out in what you may call the… Special Tactics team of the police force. After working abroad, I came back, and took the detective’s test, working homicide before coming here. Think of it as a mental game to keep the mind sharp. The Secret Service rotates the members on Presidential duty after a few years, to avoid its becoming routine, yes? This is my version. A little murder to break up the boredom.”
Abasi smiled. Figlia was a man whose posture said cop.
*
Sean, the mercenary, had changed out of his jogging suit only a few minutes after Giovanni Figlia had begun his conversation with Hashim Abasi. Already, he was about to begin the job he was brought here to do.
For several weeks, he had been training men and women into what he saw as a well-equipped fighting force, even if no one else noticed.
He double-checked his box of weapons to make sure that everything was there. It didn’t look like much, but he could make an entire army out of what he had there.
He had been doing just that.
He hitched his gear up and started out into the Borgia Gardens. When he had first been assigned that spot, he had found it amusing.
Sean whipped out his tactical baton and opened it with a flick of his wrist.
Now it’s time to make the Borgias look like amateurs, he thought with a manic smile on his face as he stepped out to see his trainees; the priests and nuns of the Vatican.
If people thought that the Templars were fun to deal with, he thought, just wait until the conspiracy theorists get a hold of what I’m doing. They’ll go insane.
*
The standard trend for Popes went one of two ways: nobles or peasants. In an age where nobles were disappearing, the noble was usually replaced with the academic. It had worked well in the case of Karol Wojtyla, and Joseph Ratzinger – John Paul II and his successor – who were both academics.
Then there was Joshua Kutjok, the latest Pope. He was both an academic and a peasant. He had been educated by the Church, but had also lived in some of the worst places on the planet earth.
And now he was the most powerful religious leader on the planet. He didn’t mind being “the most powerful religious leader on the planet,” but he did mind being called that to his face. It usually got in the way of getting things done.
Pope Pius XIII was a tall, athletic, dark-skinned man. He was a very solid six feet tall and two hundred and thirty-five pounds, his hair salt-and-pepper gray, his eyes dark brown. He had a shoulder span as wide as the seminary bed he kept in his papal offices. His size made him intimidating, but his build made everyone exceedingly curious about how he moved over marble floors without sound.
That wouldn’t have been so crazy-making had anyone had an idea about exactly when he slept: it couldn’t have been more than five hours a night. Pius XIII was either awake or at prayer at any time of the day, according to everyone who saw him at such hours, moving soundlessly through the hallways at three in the morning toward his office, or moving down to the office of papal security.
Even though the offices of papal security were in a completely different building, he wanted the Commandatore on hand—no one was quite sure if he was just being prudent after the repeated attempts on his predecessor, or if this was a habit carried over from his former diocese. It was rumored back during the last papal conclave that he had once beaten a man who had threatened a parishioner. The rumors were never verified.
A priest walked into il Papa’s office in a building next to the colonnade. He was a man with short, gray hair, a strong Roman nose, and brown eyes that twinkled with the anarchy so common among the residents of the Mediterranean, descended from the Roman mobs that ran the city into the ground over a thousand years.
The priest said, “We’ve got a problem, your Holiness.”
Pius XIII looked up at him. “Oh?”
We’ve got two murders on our hands. Gianni took them from the local cops.”
Why? Don’t we keep him busy enough?”
The body fell on his car.”
The Pope nodded. “Most unfortunate. Someone we know?”
David Gerrity and Giacomo Clementi. Clementi landed on Gianni’s.”
The Pope’s lips twitched with annoyance. “Blast! I had such hopes for both of them. Any word on Figlia’s investigation?”
Not yet, it’s only just started. He’s busy with the Secret Service and Egyptian police. Thankfully, my best man was at the scene to meet Clementi. Obviously, something happened.”
Obviously,” the Pope said, unhappy. He stared hard at the Bishop. “XO, this has happened twice already: I can’t let this interfere with what we’re doing together, it’s too important to me, to our people—I’d say to our survival, but it’s too melodramatic. Pius XII must be canonized, no matter the cost, capisce?”
The other man nodded. “Yes, Your Holiness. I guarantee we will not fail. I’m certain.”
Pacelli thought he could not fail, and look what happened. We can’t allow ourselves the luxury of defeat this time. See to it, XO. Remember, any means necessary.”
And, if you’ve done that….
The Dragon Awards are open and ready for nominations, and I have a list of suggestions you might want to take a look at. If you already  have a good idea of what you want, just click here to go and vote for them. The instructions are right there.

Pius Writing

Over the years on my own personal blog, I’ve talked a lot about how A Pius Man came about, and I’ve muttered about some of my research on it. I’ve talked about writing the characters, and their biographies, and their progress from being a biography to being a real person I play with in my head.

I don’t think I’ve ever mentioned my thought process behind the evolution of the novel.

You see, once upon a time, I considered writing a murder mystery in the Vatican. I made the head of security an Irish redhead who had family with the IRA. I was going to murder a bishop or a Cardinal or something like that. I had a Hispanic Pope named Hector (I don’t recall the Papal name), and a few other loose elements kicking around. I may have had a whole page of notes.

Obviously, when I started on A Pius Man, that project went the way of the dodo.

However, one thing that stuck was it was going to be a mystery. I wanted everyone to be under suspicion. I wanted everyone to look dark and sinister, and let the reader decide who to trust, and when they could be trusted. I wanted to cheat, like Agatha Christie, and make even the investigators look like they could be in on the plot.

I wanted it look, at first glance, like every other knock off of that idiot that shall not be named.

Not that anyone would know who that is.

**COUGH** **COUGH**

 

Basically, I wanted it to look like X. Because, hey, if it looks like X, X is a proven formula. X is harmless. X is status quo.

A Pius Man is at once both subversive and superversive. Superversive in content, but I totally intend to subvert the status quo of X stories.

Obviously, as the first 4-5 chapters are released, you’re going to have to tell me how much I managed to make A Pius Man look like the stories we’ve all come to know and loathe, before the story kicks into high gear and becomes a knock-down drag-out thriller.

And of course, it spiraled. Mostly because character son of a bitch just wouldn’t die.

Again, what I intend may not be what you see, but then again, I’m the idiot who thought that Honor at Stake was a light, fluffy throwaway book before it was nominated for the Dragon Award. So I’m not the best judge of character.

But you are. Tell me what you think when you read it.


And, if you’ve done that….
The Dragon Awards are open and ready for nominations, and I have a list of suggestions you might want to take a look at. If you already  have a good idea of what you want, just click here to go and vote for them. The instructions are right there.

The Love at First Bite series. 
    

A Rambling Wreck, with Hans Schantz

The Catholic Geek: A Rambling Wreck, with Hans Schantz 06/25 by We Built That Network | Books Podcasts:

Hans Schantz joins host Declan Finn to discuss Social Justice in Science, and how it relates to his books ‘The Hidden Truth’ and ‘A Rembling Wreck’ 

Dr. Hans G. Schantz is a physicist, an inventor, and a co-founder and CTO of Q-Track Corporation, a supplier of indoor location systems. He wrote the science fiction thriller, The Hidden Truth, a textbook, The Art and Science of Ultrawideband Antennas, and a short history on The Biographies of John Charles Fremont. Hans will be launching A Rambling Wreck, the sequel to The Hidden Truth, at LibertyCon next weekend. Hans lives in Huntsville, Alabama with his wife, and two sets of twins.

Pius Politics

I mentioned politics in the last post, and I meant to really get on that a little more, but I sort of drifted away from politics and into my general temperament, which impacts my politics, but doesn’t spell out what the bleep they are, or how they show up in my novel, A Pius Man — which centers around Pope Pius XII as a MacGuffin.
As I said before, I lean libertarian-right. More laws just means that the government can screw you over in more and more various and sundry ways, so I’m wary on laws for the “common good.” I won’t say kill all the lawyers, but I think tort reform can do that easily enough. Unfortunately, like most people, I’m a bit schizophrenic. I dislike the premise of feeding Moloch, but there are certain people I really want to remove themselves from the gene pool. I’m a New Yorker who thinks everyone should own a handgun, a rifle and a shotgun. I think drugs a really, really bad idea, but hey, legalize them — the more people who get high, the more Darwin awards we can hand out…. except for PCP, not even drug dealers will sell that crap anymore, as a general rule.
Like libertarians, there are a lot of things I don’t personally believe in, and wouldn’t recommend, but I’m leaving the fate of your own soul between you and God. Enjoy.
I generally despise politics with the burning passion of a thousand suns. The government should leave me alone unless I need actual aid — like someone has broken into my house and I’ve run out of bullets.
So, of course, since I truly loathe politics, A Pius Man happens to be the most politically charged book I’ve ever written. With the overall topic of Pius XII, I do take a side. I believe my conclusions are obvious based on my research. For those of you who have read The Irrational Atheist, you probably have an idea about that punchline.
However, the political portions of the book are discussions, not rants. And the politics are driven more by the characters than by me.

For example…

Sean A.P. Ryan. Mercenary. Believes in the free market system, heavy weaponry, and grew up in Hollywood: therefore he has lived his entire life swimming out of a Leftist cesspool, and dove into the chlorinated waters of libertarianism. When queried on his political affiliations, he would say, “I believe people should be able to own marijuana and machine guns. I will laugh at the marijuana crowd, but if I have my guns, I’m happy.”

Scott Murphy. He’s a spy who huts down terrorists for a living. His politics: “I believe in the power of waterboarding. But I’d sooner talk terrorists to death. It’s more painful in the long run. When you can talk them into revealing everything they know, kill them, move up the chain of command. Repeat until they’re willing to be peaceful, or they are peacefully dead.” He’s an accountant by training, so his first thought is how to steal terrorist money.

Giovanni Figlia. Cop. His father was blown up by a Red Army faction in the 1980s, so he has a grudge against extreme, gun-toting Leftists. Aside from that, his politics are: “I have to protect the most powerful religious leader on the planet, and he insists on pissing off nearly one-third of the world’s population. Leave me alone and let me do my job.”

Pope Pius XIII (Born: Joshua Kutjok): Hard right-wing. Has all but declared war on the Sudan. Thoroughly dislikes tyrannies, which means North Korea and China dislike him right back. “I am against abortion, gays being married in my church, and contraceptives are against the religion. Then again, you should only have sex with the person you marry, so abortion and contraceptives shouldn’t be needed. However, my homeland of Sudan is going through thirty years of religious and ethnic warfare, I have better things to do than deal with whining hedonists!”

Father Francis Williams, S.J.: “I’m a Jesuit transfering into the Opus Dei. I speak six languages and I can kill people with my rosary beads … what was your question?”

Maureen McGrail. Interpol. “I’m too busy being shot at to have a political opinion. Leave me alone.”

Secret Service Agent Wilhelmina Goldberg: As a special adviser to anyone who wants the Secret Service to audit their security, she has been all over, and her political opinion is simple. “At the end of the day, America looks good by comparison.”

The above characters have more influence over how the political discussions go than I do. So, the topics will be… interesting.

So, have enough fun yet? Just click here.

And, if you’ve done that….
The Dragon Awards are open and ready for nominations, and I have a list of suggestions you might want to take a look at. If you already  have a good idea of what you want, just click here to go and vote for them. The instructions are right there.

Alt-Pius Politics

I actually did this post once, long ago, when dinosaurs walked the Earth and I thought there was some semblance of sanity kicking around in politics, and would be back in popular fashion after Obama left office.

Nope. Sorry. Obviously, that didn’t happen. Recently, we had the meltdown of “China Mike” Glyer and File 770 after Larry Correia took him to the woodshed. We had a Bernie Sanders psycho shoot up some Republican politicians at a ball game, and democrats trying to simultaneously 1) Disavow all responsibility for it 2) Blame Trump, 3) Try to blame guns for the shooting and 4) Laugh at shooting Republicans. All in the same week.So, no, to quote Chico Marx, “everybody knows that there is a no sanity clause” … especially in politics.

Myself? Most days, I’m somewhere between small-l libertarian or conservative. Most of the time, my politics boil down to “leave me alone, and no one gets hurts.”

But I’m not really Alt-right. I’m certainly not control Left. There are days I’m almost Ctrl+A, Del. Because, good God, “kill ’em all and let God sort them out” really does sound like an action plan.
But no, I’m not a nihilist. I’m at once too Catholic and not energetic enough. Though the world continues to show me just how justified I am in my borderline misanthropic tendencies. I mean, let’s face it, the standard response to a terrorist response should be a calm, reasoned investigation, finding the people behind it — the planners, the money men, etc — and kill every last one of them in horrific ways that will make anyone who has similar ideas think three or four times about doing the same thing ever again. Heck, if I were in charge after 9-11 … well, I’m relatively certain that I wouldn’t be as calm and as collected as Tom Kratman’s response in A Desert Called Peace. And that series includes torturing journalists to death for supporting terrorists, and mining the perimeter of a city, starving them out, including the women and children.
As I’ve said elsewhere, my overwhelming sin is wrath.
But this is why I don’t write anything like that. I’m depressed enough by this insanity we call reality on a daily basis, I don’t necessarily need it in my day to day life. I’m already depressive. So I don’t write nihilistic crap, I don’t read it, and I’m easily annoyed with people who see nihilism as some sort of superior art form. I’m also Catholic, nihilism isn’t our beat.
Oddly enough, I’m probably more of a romantic than anything else. Pick … almost any of my books, sooner or later, you’ll probably trip over a Thermopylae situation of 100-1 odds, love conquering all, and righteous fury is a positive tool for going just that little bit farther as you’re being beaten to death by a 2×4.
…Hell, forget book series, you could say that summarizes several plot points in A Pius Man alone.
I guess I’m just an idealist who hates that the world wouldn’t live up to the standard of. … anything.

But, yeah. My politics don’t lend itself to nihilism, though there are days that I think “genocide” is a viable military option. Thankfully, no one ever listens to me.

So, have enough fun yet? Just click here, and you can preorder it.

 

And, if you’ve done that….
The Dragon Awards are open and ready for nominations, and I have a list of suggestions you might want to take a look at. If you already  have a good idea of what you want, just click here to go and vote for them. The instructions are right there.