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.

Attacking Allies

This has been a very strange week for me, but probably not for the reasons you think. This blog isn’t even in reference to any one thing in particular, but a common theme that I’ve noticed over the past seven to eight months. It’s become a trend to attack people on one’s own side. Yes, for those of you keeping score at home, you can include attacks on me if you like, but that’s only a fraction of an overall picture that I have yet to mentally grasp.For the record, yes, I am aware that there is a post that apparently goes after me. I have not read that post. I will not read that post. I’ve read small slivers that have been excerpted by my defenders. So, on advice of council, Mr. Finn is not available for comment, nor will he be. Thank you. Moving on.

But, yeah, it’s strange to see people who are theoretically on each other’s side to tear each other apart. I saw Superversive Science Fiction and the Pulp Revolution people go after each other for several weeks, if not several months, and I’m still trying to figure out where the hate was coming from in the comments (I must stress the comments). Hell, I’m still lost with where the disagreements were coming from. In Appendix N, I saw enough overlap between Superversive fiction and Pulp that I thought that Pulp could easily be labeled the action-packed variety of Superversive. The authors themselves had no animosity towards one another, but wow, the comments on those parts were just a little angry.

So, this has been going on for a while, spread out over multiple places on the internet, and I still don’t get it.

There is the usual “X is not us, I must distance myself from X.” Though I don’t think that Pulp or Superversive ever really had a lot of declarations that one is the other. I see a lot of overlap between the two, but I see few others who do. So I’m strange. Big flipping shock. There is the Sad vs. Rabid debate … but that was so clear, I did a blog post on it that was fairly short. Granted, the post at the time is hilarious in retrospect, but that’s another story. The point is, that the differences were so plain and clear that anyone who couldn’t see the difference was either ignorant or lying. I can’t even say “stupid,” because I think even the moronic could see the difference.

You can even go into politics and see this. You have Republicans spending more time attacking the “Alt-Right” while you have Leftist psychopaths running around burning books, rioting, assaulting anyone who supports the first amendment, all while calling themselves “anti-fascist”… talk about irony … and shooting republicans.  But what are some right wingers spending their time discussing? Two protesters show up and disrupt the “Let’s kill Trump” Julius Cesar play in the park for two minutes, and that’s what’s getting a lot of ink. And, again, it’s right after a nutcase shot up a bunch of GOP politicians during baseball practice … but somehow, the important thing is that they focus on two people who interrupted a play for two minutes. Huh.

I’m a historian. There is a history where wars of independence are usually followed by civil wars. America was lucky in that we managed to hold off on our civil war for over 80 years — luck and a lot of quality politicians who never died (It felt like Clay and Calhoun lived forever). World War II saw the alliance of three people who were at each other’s throats just twenty years before….yes, there was a bit of shooting between Russia and the remaining allies post-revolution. The point is that the US, the UK, and Russia all looked at Germany, and eventually all joined forces to crush Hitler. THEN they spent the next 50 years going after each other.

The counter example to this is the Chinese Civil War. If you remember, the Pacific end of World War II had Japan invading China during their civil war. The communists were, at least, smart enough to fight the Japanese, while their opponents were trying to fight both the civil war and the Japanese. The “People’s Republic” shows you who ultimately won that. The opponents currently run Taiwan.

In the wider case of the GOP, I look at the decision to treat folks who are not against them as the enemy, while there are people THROWING MOLOTOV COCKTAILS AND SHOOTING AT THEM, I have to scratch my head.  Seriously, people, is there a widespread issue of being unable to have the self preservation instincts of Joseph flipping Stalin? When there are people actively shooting at you, deal with them, THEN deal with whatever internal problems there are between you.

That’s why one of the smartest things I’ve seen over the past few months was the end of the Superversive v Pulp debate — Jeffro and Anthony Marchetta saw that the comments were becoming angry, and they shut it down before things got out of hand. Again, there was no true animosity between them. The debate was a debate. They disagreed on things. It helped with blog hits. When it starting going negative, it stopped. The end.

So, yeah, 2017 has been strange. I don’t quite get why those who are technically on the same side go after each other. I don’t get it, I never will get it, and I just wish I could. Hell, even my own personal experience lately is confusing, even to me. Hell, if I can’t even figure out how to quell the storm I’m in the center of, comprehending the logic of the other situations is far beyond me.

Though, to end this on a more positive note, the post title, “Attacking Allies” in this case means two different things. One, attacking your friends. Two, allies who attack on your behalf.

In my own little circle, it has been made strange not by blog posts attacking me, but by people who have extracted their own conclusions from people defending me. Erroneous conclusions. But they are made even more strange by who is throwing these additional accusations. In one case, it is a Facebook friend who I’ve actually done things for out of friendship. He had a kickstarter, and I used time on my podcast to bandy his wares. He was unfairly attacked in a Facebook group by a psychotic harpy, and I had a choice to become a moderator of the group, or defend someone I liked and respected. I chose the latter. He has reciprocated over the last few months by becoming increasingly hostile while interacting with me less and less.

So … huh?

I mention all of this because the confusing thing about it is that, at the end of the day, I actually don’t care about this turnaround. One of the more vociferous voices against me, who I thought was a just and honorable man, turns out to be merely angry. I am actually surprised my my own reaction. Usually, I would expect to be shocked about this sudden but (apparently) inevitable betrayal. But, again, much to my own surprise, I realize that if this is how one goes about treating one’s allies, who needs them? It is time to focus on something else. If an “ally” attacks you … then the “ally” is no longer worthy of your attention. The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune are annoying, but when someone is throwing a Molotov cocktail at your head, some things are a little more important.

In my case? I have a novel out. So if someone would like to attack me, go ahead, you have free reign, because I really do have better things to do. I’m busy, damn it. I hope to have seven books out by the end of the year. But I do suggest you watch out for my friends… some of whom I didn’t even know I had.

Once upon a time, I blogged about an incident in high school where everything had fallen to crap. The strange thing then, as now, is that I had people rallying to my defense who didn’t know me. Or, people who had been paying attention to me well enough to realize how much BS was going on around me.

Now it happens once again. Where people who I though barely knew of my existence have rallied to my defense against people who I thought knew me. It’s been a great comfort just knowing that there are people out there who actually don’t think ill of me. Where there are people looking at the same situation that I am, and coming to similar conclusions: the conclusion being to tilt one’s head and go “What the Hell?”

And these are people who have jumped to my defense.

I hate trite sayings. I hate cliche. I hate overused fortune cookie wisdom. But it really is true: those who stand by you don’t need evidence, and those who stand against you won’t accept it. Several month ago, I have offered several of my detractors evidence and conversation to prove that rumors about me were untrue– they rejected even looking at it. When several people who came to my aid wanted to back me, I offered to show them the same evidence — they didn’t need it, they just believed me. And of those people who have come to either my aid, my defense, or just comfort, not a single one has asked me to justify their faith in me. Not a single one.  It’s embarrassing to realize that I’m not certain that I would be that good a friend.

When my publisher, Russell, first jumped into the fray, I made some sort of comment that boiled down to “Ah, yes, this sort of thing with an author damages the brand.” His response was a quick and easy, “Nah. I’d do this even if you weren’t one of my authors.”

When things like that happens, it’s difficult to be a cynic. I actually have faith in humanity again.

So, thanks should be made to Dawn WitzkeJim Fear, Russell Newquist, Injustice Gamer Alfred Genneson, JD Cowan, Jon del Arroz, Jeffro Johnson, Cirsova Magazine, the Puppy of the Month Book Club, Mr. Oghma, as well as the moral support I’ve gotten from authors at SuperversiveSF. And, as always, His Tankness, Tom Knighton, whose brief exchange helped more than he could know.

In some cases, it’s nice to look out over the lynching party and seeing the people who haven’t joined in. Even if they don’t jump in and try to stop it, it’s reassuring to know who isn’t party to it.

Anyway, I know I’m leaving some people out, but after the first dozen, I lose track. It became a bit of a furball on Twitter after a while. The hash tag was amusing though. If I haven’t mentioned you, it’s just because there were so many. And I thank you all.

It’s good to know that the ones who hate my guts are actually in the minority. Just loud.

Illegitimi non carborundum

Anyway, if you’re interested, A Pius Man might just be your cup of tea.

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 Superversive Novel? #PulpRev

Yesterday, I did an article on whether or not A Pius Man fell under Pulp novels. I think the answer is a strong “Maybe!”Let’s look at the definition for Superversive and see if I can do better this time.

Now, this one comes from qualities mentioned by Corey in his post on Superversive SF. We cobbled it together from a podcast we all did a while back where we compiles the list.

Aspiring/Inspiring- These mean that the characters aspire to something greater than themselves, and inspire others to seek greatness, and not remain where they are. This also refers to characters who theoretically aspire for uplifting things that aren’t necessarily a part of the moral sphere, such as beauty. “Betterment” and “wonder” both fall here.

Oooh, so many choices with this one. I wonder if I should even go into it.

Granted, this isn’t as big or as epic as they’re shooting for. Most of my characters are just trying to live their lives, do their jobs, and go home. Sure, they’re cops, or even spies, so their “Day to Day” is probably thrilling to us. Scott Murphy, the Mossad spy, doesn’t want to be noticeable or noticed.

But there is one thing that they all want in this particular case. There is one, overriding and overpowering desire that all of my heroes are interesting in: the truth. You could say that the truth in this case will also lead to justice, so that’s two virtues, but the lines blur here. You could also say that, as the writer, my goals are truth and justice.

As I’ve mentioned, the plot revolves around the history of Pope Pius XII and his actions during World War II. Those who have already read Vox Day’s The Irrational Atheist already know this answer.

So, if Truth and Justice are something to aspire to, check.

Virtuous- This means that there is a right and wrong in the world. This does not mean there can’t be moral complexity and ambiguity – in fact, when done well this can be incredibly powerful – but even then there needs to be an understanding that there’s a difference between right and wrong. The characters themselves don’t necessarily need to be virtuous, but the concept of virtue must exist in the framework of the story.

Considering that I’m tackling the whole “Hitler’s Pope” discussion? You can be darn certain that there will be a right and a wrong, and moral complexity. There won’t be much in the way of ambiguity … though at certain points along The Pius Trilogy, there are some interrogation methods that are definitely in a moral gray area. Heh heh heh.

So, check.

Heroic- Closely entwined with the second category, the Heroic category means that there is a standard of heroism. While this doesn’t necessarily mean that you’ll have a hero (for a brilliant superversive story that features a protagonist who isn’t a hero, see John C. Wright’s “Pale Realms of Shade”), it means that the protagonist has a code of ethics under which they work, a code of ethics that marks them as something more than a villain. To go back to “Pale Realms of Shade”, the protagonist, Flint, might be a Grade A jerk and even a murderer, but he’s different from the demons he’s fighting against; in fact, he has to be for the story to work, because the temptation to become demonic is central to the story. While having truly villainous villains is something of a lost art nowadays and can certainly help flesh out this category, it is not strictly necessary for an Agnes Trunchbull to exist – but a standard for heroism is an absolute must.

If I recall correctly, Agnes Trunchbull is the antagonist of Matilda, by Roald Dahl, so was such a two-dimensional evil, it was nearly jarring.

However, to work backwards, yeah, I’ve got a bad guy. In fact, he’s such a bad guy, the reason that The Pius Trilogy is three books is due to the villain having so many backup plans, he just wouldn’t stay down. I did everything but drop a house on him. But villainous enough? Well, how about a plan to take down the Catholic church, as many religions as possible, and aiming to be a mass murderer by the time his plan is over? I hope that’s evil enough for everyone.

As for heroes …. well, I did have someone once compare my team here to the Justice League. Though Avengers is hotter right now.

Decisive – This means that the characters are active; their actions matter. They are not bereft of agency, at the whim of fate, or purely reactive to the things going on around them. These characters make decisions that affect the plot, and their decisions have to mean something. Books that ultimately preach the meaninglessness of life and the futility of struggling to change it don’t fit this section.

Check. This part is easy. I even make certain to note at several points over the course of the trilogy that none of these folks are locked into the story. They can ditch at any time.

Non-Subversive- This is pretty much exactly what it says on the tin. These are works that do not attempt to subvert the paradigms of healthy culture, and don’t mock and criticize needlessly. While many great superversive works contain certain subversive aspects – even Lewis’s Narnia series and Tolkien’s Middle Earth books aren’t free of this, nor should they be – the work as a whole should be predicated on building up society rather than bringing it down.

Also easy…. I was expecting more work for this one. Western Civilization is built on the back of Judeo-Christian …. everything. Even the contributions of Greece and Rome were preserved largely by the religious, up to and including Irish monks. A Pius Man basically supports everything built by that history. And if you don’t believe me when I say “everything” …. you’d be surprised what I can cram into a book.

Huh. That was surprisingly easy. I expected another nightmare like with Pulp. I’ll take it.

Illegitimi non carborundum

So, I guess if you’re into Superversive books, A Pius Man might just be your cup of tea.

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 #PulpRevolution? Or Superversive?

I’ve been looking at the Pulp Revolution lately, as well as hanging out here, with the Superversive crowd. Recently, I have been pondering if A Pius Man: A Holy Thriller fits into either of these movements. Mostly because 1) I have no idea, and 2) it might help me understand these movements better if I see what can and can’t match up.Well, as Pulp is mentioned first, I should probably see if I check any boxes. Yes, I HAVE READ APPENDIX N. I’ve even reviewed it. It was awesome. It was also sprawling, and if I used that as the basis for a definition, I’m going to have to do a bullet point for each chapter, since each chapter has a point to it.

I had to go in Castalia’s archives, and found the post … not by Jeffro. In fact, it even cites another blog by Misha Burnett.

Huh. Okay. I guess what I’m going to have to do is go down and break this down as I read along. Basically, I’m going to write the post as I read the blog, like I do with Fisking posts that are so painful, I can only read through it by breaking it apart.

So what I’ll do is break down the Burnett post, and then use the add-ons by Castalia.

With my luck, I’ll make no one happy.

Action: The focus of the storytelling is on what happens. We know who people are by what they do. This does not mean that every scene has to involve a knife fight on the top of a speeding train. Ordinary every day actions can also inform—Raymond Chandler could describe a couple’s relationship by showing us the man lighting the woman’s cigarette. We don’t want the writer to tells us that a scientist is an unconventional genius, we want to see him tearing a rival’s paper to shreds and throwing the pieces out the window when asked to critique it.

Huh. I thought this was called “show don’t tell.” It’s basic story telling. I don’t see how that’s particularly pulpy. I make sure to do that as often as possible.

As for the knife fight on top of a moving train…. [Makes a note to include that in the next book]

Anyway, I do have an action sequence every once in a while. I open with an assassination, then a bombing, and I wait thirty pages before I have a fight scene with a commando priest, who has another fight a few pages later involving throwing scalpels, then there’s running gun battle with the RPGs…

So I have a little action. Here and there.

Impact: These actions have consequences. While a character’s actions do inform us of that character’s personality, significant actions should never be only character studies. They have lasting real world consequences. You don’t go into a pulp story with an expectation of a happy ending. Pulp heroes are fallible heroes, and when they fail, bad things happen. Neither, though, is worse coming to worst a forgone conclusion. Up until the very end a pulp character has the power to change his or her fate. They can always do something.

MAUHAHAHAHAAHAHAAHAAHAHAAHAHAHA

Oh, trust me, these actions are going to have consequences. Over the course of the Trilogy, when they fail, train wreck to follow.  Sometimes when they succeed, a train wreck will follow.

Moral Peril: Consequences are more than just material. In Pulp stories there is not simply the risk that that the hero may fail to defeat the villain, there is also the greater risk that the hero may become the villain. A hero should have a code to follow, and lines that he or she is resolved not to cross. That line should be close enough that the temptation to cross is real—maybe not constantly, but from time to time. There is almost always a really good reason to break one’s moral code, particularly to protect a loved one in danger.

I was actually about to say that A Pius Man[/easyazon_link] fails this part of the test. I figured there was no one and nothing in the entire book that really threatened the heroes. There may have been the temptation just to get out of the cross fire, but that was it.

Then I realized that I quite literally looked past the white elephant in my story. It’s basically the primary subplot, and I didn’t even consider it.

Romance: Pulp heroes are motivated by love. Not always romance in the modern sense of a relationship involving physical attraction, but a relationship that obligates the pulp hero to take risks on behalf of another. An old military buddy, a long lost friend, even a client who paid in advance. The consequences, both physical and moral, effect more than just the hero, and those affected should be given a human face. When the hero is working to thwart a villain’s plan we want to see the potential victims not in the abstract, but in the concrete. “Saving Humanity” is a vague, bumper sticker kind of motivation, saving the fair maiden with the sparkling eyes and plucky wit, or the ragged waif with a mewling kitten is much more satisfying.

Huh. I’m getting the feeling that this is going to be far, far too easy. Then again, I did grow up with Die Hard as my Christmas movie, so maybe I was wired for the Pulpy people.

But, yes, suffice it to say, there is romance. I’ve even done a post or two on this over time. But I’ve got someone there fore love. I’ve got several people who go there because of their jobs, but the reasons they stay … is spoilery in nature.

Mystery: I am using the word here not in the genre sense of a plot concerned with discovering the identity of a criminal, but in the broader sense of the unknown. There are many potential unknowns—the setting, the true identities of other characters, the events that led up to the current crises. Something is going on and neither the protagonists nor the reader should be quite sure what. Things are never quite what they seem which, of course, also serves to increase the tension. A pulp hero is playing a very dangerous game for high stakes, and no one knows all of the rules…

MUAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAAHA.  Wow, have I got this one covered six ways from Sunday.  The long version is over in this blog. I didn’t even know that this was going to be here when I wrote that one. Heh.

Let’s see what else is mentioned …. “More traditional boy-girl romances.” Okay, check. I don’t even have a gay character, to my knowledge (there is a character who I haven’t “asked” yet, so I don’t know. She could just be apathetic).

“More action-oriented fiction.” Check.

“No real distinction between sci-fi and fantasy – those genres should blend more. Into a new genre…pulp” …. well, I understand what JD Cowan meant with I blurred genre lines. Sadly, this has limited SFF qualities here.

But yeah, it looks like I’ve hit a lot of these boxes. Yes. I might even be considered pulpy by nature! Yes!

…. Sigh.

Anyway, so I talked to the guy who WROTE the article. I hang out with him as part of the Superversive Crowd. Jeffro, in the comments, disagreed with him vehemently.

So I then did something I never do, and I dug through the comments….

Apparently, Pulp really does boil down to “I know it when I see it.

I was then referred to a post by a fellow named Nathan, I believe he’s a Nathan Housley of the Puppy of the Month Book Club.

According to THAT post, we can keep action, romance, moral peril isn’t needed, but it can stay…. And “Impact” includes “consequences,” all actions are final. No take backs.  Okay. Still qualifies.

detective pulps “heart interest and human emotion are the special requirements. Stories should be strongly melodramatic, the characters should be very real and appealing, and situations should deal with the poignant phases of crime.” (2) To accomplish this, pulp writers avoided the Cloud Strife ciphers used today as reader surrogates.  Instead, they took likable characters with personality and ratcheted up the stakes, creating tension that built an unease and concern in the reader

Likable characters with personality.

Heh. Yeah. You could say my characters have personality.

Okay. Reading down… mystery can stay, good.

Then there’s story structure…

Sigh. Someone else will have to tell me if I’ve done enough with that. I don’t outline, I don’t really use structure. I have–“Attack! What did this encounter tell us? Move forward. More action. Repeat.” So, it’s a structure.

So, Nathan’s bullet points are

  • Action — Check
  • Romance — Check
  • Moral peril — Check
  • Consequence — Check with smoking bullet holes.
  • Emotion — God, I hope so.
  • Mortal peril — This is an understatement.
  • Exploration of the unknown: We got that. It’s in archives, but we’ve got that.
  • Love for the unknown: [Coin Toss]. Read Sean AP Ryan, get back to me.
  • Story structure: Check. I hope.

Okay. I guess it passes the Pulp Test.

I think I’ll do Superversive in the next post. This was a long one.

Illegitimi non carborundum
So, I guess if you’re into Pulp, [easyazon_link asin="1547196939" locale="US" new_window="default" nofollow="default" tag="superversivesf-20" add_to_cart="default" cloaking="default" localization="default" popups="default"]A Pius Man might just be your cup of tea. Just click here, and you can order 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 Mind of the Maker

When I first started discussing the plot, I mentioned a few times that the reader should trust no one while reading A Pius Man: A Holy Thriller.

Obviously, there are some reactions that go somewhere along the lines of “What the hell….?  What do you mean we shouldn’t trust anyone?  Who’s the main character?”

Well…

Christopher Reich once noted that, in a thriller, the reader should always be prepared for anyone to “get it in the neck” at any possible moment, from any possible angle—including behind you.

I started writing in 1998, before there was a television show called 24, where the only one you trust is Jack Bauer. Back then, there was an author named Jeffery Deaver, whose writing style led you to trust everyone… and then stabs you in the back so firmly, the knife blade jams there. Sometimes the killer that Deaver shows you isn’t the killer you have to be wary of; usually the shadowy looking figure who lurks in the background and mysteriously disappears turns out to be something different from what you expect (a victim, a cop, an ally that no one knew they had).

It’s actually a tradition that goes back to murder mysteries. Agatha Christie has had as murderer: the detective, the narrator, the sidekick, a corpse, and everyone; in And Then There Were None, I don’t even think she really had a main character. There are “police procedurals” where the murderer is someone who was never introduced in the novel, and the last page is filing a warrant for his arrest.

I didn’t intend to go to either extreme when I first started—and I don’t think the “trust no one” paranoia lasts TOO long. Obviously, there will be people readers can trust during the book… eventually. By page 50 or so, every reader will probably make a decision on who to focus on as “the hero(ine).” And every reader will decide when and who in the story they think is the hero.

It’s easy to look at Papal Security Commander Giovanni Figlia and decide that he’s a great lead: he’s got a wife, two children, a long, established career. And then to look at the “security consultant” Sean Ryan and decide that this guy’s nuts: a mercenary who talks about the people he kills with no sign of remorse, puts body counts on his resume, and seems to like what he does far too much. What one does with a Pope that’s to the right of Attila the Hun probably depends on one’s political leanings.

Funny enough, when I started writing the novel, I simply wanted it clear that trusting someone implicitly was not a good idea. The more characters who slipped their way into the book, the more paranoid it started to seem. Writing Sean Ryan from the point of view of someone who knew nothing about him made him look like a future mass murderer. Seeing a priest with SEAL-level training seems sinister. The more they showed to the reader, the more each of them looked like they could be great suspect material.

In the first draft, the whole book spiraled out of control due to that.

Yes, you read that right, my characters nearly took the book away from me.

There are some authors who have described writing as either schizophrenia or multiple personality disorder. If an author does the job well, the characters you read should feel real to you. In some cases, that’s because the author has so well fleshed out the character, the character is alive, and can often make moves that surprise the author.

Author Dorothy Lee Sayers wrote an entire book on the subject, using insight as a writer to look at creating worlds from the viewpoint of God—if you ever thought that writers were megalomaniacs, well…in their own little worlds, they are god.

I can only hope that any actual deity finds life far less frustrating than trying to tame characters.

In the original draft, when it was one book and not a trilogy, I had started with a plan of: dead body → conspiracy → stopping conspirators. Simple, straightforward, and very basic.

Enter characters who don’t know their place.

My villain had a very well thought out plan. In fact, it was so well thought out, nearly everything the protagonists did only served as speed bumps. Unlike some villains I had used in previous manuscripts, this guy would simply not be a good little psychopath and stay down. I did everything but drop a house on this guy—and in one manuscript, I imploded a building with him in it—but he kept finding ways around it. I considered having someone kill him up close and personal, but every fight I came up with ended in a draw.

So, I let the story play out so I could see what it took to stop this guy…. 200,000 words later, I found out.

The story became: dead body → conspiracy → stopping conspirators’ gunmen → fallout → conspiracy contingency plan A → stop that plan → fallout → contingency plan continues with slight modification → help, we’re going to die → let’s go down fighting → fallout.

So, because of one highly obnoxious character, instead of having a simple novel that was completely contained in Rome, A Pius Man  becomes a world-spanning trilogy that all starts because one man found something he shouldn’t have, and ends with a recreation of Thermopylae, with claymore mines.

The next time you see a line noting the paranoia in the book, you can at least understand where it comes from. It comes from the same place as an antagonist who just won’t die no matter how hard I try to ram a stake through his heart. It comes from fairly strong characters who are, in some cases, slightly more crazy than the author.

So, does it look fun enough yet? Just click here, and you can get it on Amazon.

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.

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….
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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….

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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.