Matt Archer: Blade’s Edge (Chapter One)

 

Chapter One 

When I was fourteen, a supernatural knife chose me as its wielder. Now I’m fifteen, and I’ve spent the last year working with the Army to save the world from monsters, demons and other vicious creatures—while keeping it a secret from nearly everyone I know.

Including my mom.

My name is Matt Archer. And I’m a soldier.

 

* * *

 

Eleven Green Berets lined the benches on either side of the C-130 transport plane. The team sat shoulder to shoulder, each loaded down with a large pack carrying both a chute and supplies. I had a pack too, weighing me down in my seat as the plane bumped along in turbulence caused by the mountains.

Two knife wielders and ten support staff, ready to go.

The middle of the aircraft was empty except for the chute-line track running down the center of the fuselage’s ceiling. A grim-faced Air Force jumpmaster watched us from the front of the cargo hold, scowling like he was worried we’d break something. The interior of the plane looked just as grouchy. Its parts were painted black, army green, or gun-metal gray, including the diamond-plate metal floor.

Uncle Mike stared intently at me from across the cargo bay, absentmindedly twisting his wedding ring around his finger. I couldn’t believe he hadn’t taken it off and zipped it into his jumpsuit. Sure he’d only been married four months, but this was ridiculous.

“You know, Badass Aunt Julie’s gonna kill you if you lose that ring somewhere over the Himalayas,” I shouted over the roar of the engines.

“Probably,” Mike said. “But I won’t lose it—good luck charm.”

Good point. I took a quick inventory of my own talismans against evil. Magic knife strapped into the custom-made sheath sewn into the right thigh pocket of my high-altitude jumpsuit. In my left breast pocket, an LED flashlight, a souvenir from my first solo hunt. My right breast pocket held two things: an arrowhead and my sister’s lucky exam pencil. Mamie was a brain, so giving me her lucky pencil in the midst of SAT prep was a big deal. The arrowhead came from the Peruvian medicine man who made my knife. I never went anywhere without it.

Yep, I had everything.

The knife buzzed, vibrating against the zipper that held its pocket closed and an alien voice murmured in my head, We fight today.

I took a long, deep breath as an irresistible hum filled my mind. My pulse sped up; it always did when the knife’s spirit latched onto my consciousness. I was still getting used to sharing brain-space with a supernatural being, though, and hearing a strange voice in my head was freaky at best. Part killing machine, part external conscience, the knife-spirit’s hold on me was hard to explain. I was one of only five men who could wield a spirit-blade, and the knives were necessary to our mission. Why else would a sophomore be spending Christmas break running around India with Army Special Forces?

“Gentlemen, we’re going to be departing the aircraft shortly, so everyone get set,” Colonel Black hollered.

My breakfast rose in my throat. The colonel must’ve seen the look on my face because he chuckled as he drew a black watch-cap over his salt-and-pepper hair. From the look of things, he wasn’t the least bit concerned about jumping out of the plane, which made me feel like a wuss. That feeling wasn’t helped by the fact that Colonel Black was six-five, every bit of it solid muscle. Sure, I’d grown nearly a foot in the last year and put on some muscle of my own, but I had nothing on the colonel.

“Oxygen on,” the jumpmaster barked. “Eight-thousand feet.”

I sighed and put on a mask like the ones you see in hospitals. We were jumping from high enough up that we had to breathe pure oxygen from the plane’s air system until we switched to the tanks we’d wear on the way down. Uncle Mike explained this was to keep us from getting the bends from the altitude drop.

“So,” Colonel Black called to me, his voice muffled by his plastic breathing mask, “where are you this week?”

“Greece. Field trip for that ‘gifted and talented’ program General Richardson cooked up as my cover,” I said. “So far, so good. If my mom knew I was really jumping out of airplanes at high altitudes to hunt monsters, I think my number would be up.”

“Speaking of jumping…” Mike nodded at me. “You got that thing strapped on tight enough?”

My hand flew to the buckles and clasps holding my parachute pack to my back. “God, I hope so. Does it look loose?”

On my right, Lieutenant Johnson said, “Kid, the major’s just yanking your chain. You tighten those straps any more and you’ll cut off your own arm.” His laugh rumbled louder than the engine. “Stop worrying so much. You’re ready for this.”

“I’ve only done practice jumps, not combat.” I settled back against the wall and glared at Uncle Mike. “Just because you’ve jumped out of a perfectly good airplane onto mountains doesn’t mean I have. I’m allowed to be extra careful.”

Mike’s brown eyes crinkled up at the corners. Mine did the same thing when I was laughing at someone else. “Chief, what did you think being part of the 10th Airborne meant? The word ‘Airborne’ kind of gives it away.”

Schmitz, my hunting instructor, piled on. “Hooah, Major Tannen. We live to jump, sir!”

“That mean you’re going second today, Master Sergeant?” Mike yelled.

“Amen to that, sir!” Schmitz danced in his seat a little. The smallest member of our squad, Schmitz was wiry and less than medium height, his hair a five-o’clock shadow barely hiding his skull. He also practically buzzed with energy. “You hear that, ladies? I get to go second.”

“Not sure that’s a good idea, man. You’re so short, we won’t be able to spot you in the snow and one of us is bound to land on you,” Lieutenant Johnson said.

Schmitz made a face but his retort was cut off because the jumpmaster stood to start the ready protocol. Using a special set of hand signals, he motioned for us to prepare. The roar of the engines changed pitch and I felt the plane jerk as the pilots slowed so they could kick us out.

The jumpmaster gestured for us to stand and hook our parachutes to the anchor cable, shouting, “Green in ninety seconds.”

“You heard the man. Last check on equipment,” Colonel Black yelled.

My stomach did flips. “When do I go?”

“I’ll go first, then Schmitz, then you,” Uncle Mike said. He wasn’t kidding around anymore—his voice was tight and sharp. “Johnson will come behind you. Then the rest of the team.”

We took off our oxygen masks, lined up and clipped our chute lines to the wire suspended from the side of the plane. Schmitz stood in front of me with his head bowed.

“Our Lady, bless us and keep us,” he murmured. “In the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.” He did the sign of the cross then let loose a bloodcurdling “Hooooo-aaaahhhh!”

The praying didn’t calm me down much. Too late to back out now, though, because the ramps at the rear of the aircraft opened. The sky yawned through the wide-open hatch and sunlight glinted off the metal around the edges of the ramps.

The jumpmaster signaled “stand by.”

Oh, man, this was it.

Mike turned around, his face totally intense. “Yellow light. Masks on.”

I slapped my mask into place on my helmet and a plastic smell invaded my nostrils as the oxygen started to flow from my reserve tank. Shouts of “Hooah” came from every which way, while my heart slammed around like a marlin caught in a net.

“Countdown!” the jumpmaster shouted. “In five…four…three…two…one. Green light. Go, go, go!”

Mike ran down the ramp, dragging his chute line, then leapt from the airplane with hands folded over his reserve chute’s ripcord. By the book. Seconds later, his chute opened.

Schmitz followed, screaming “Geronimo, you mother…!”

The last of whatever he had to say got drowned out in the howling wind.

Johnson gave me a shove. “Go, kid!”

I drew a huge breath and held it, ran, jumped, soared off the ramp just like I’d been taught in jump school. I braced myself for the pull of the chute as it slowed me down.

The tug never came.

My parachute didn’t open.

My Grandma

I lost my grandmother yesterday evening. I was very lucky to be at her bedside when she passed, because she meant a lot to me, and after everything she did for my family, I was honored to be able to offer this one small favor in return.

If you’ll indulge me, I’d like to tell you about her. This won’t be a depressing tale, because Lillie Mae Cummings was an awesome woman. A lady, truly. But a lady with a steel backbone and some real nerve hidden under a sweet, shy exterior.

Grandma Lillie was born in 1919, and was a school-aged child during the Great Depression. She told me stories about how her packed school lunch was frequently a hard biscuit, water gravy and a sugar fried pie. She liked the pie…but that kind of makes cafeteria food sound good, right?

She met my grandpa at a taffy-pull when she was in her late teens. When she turned 19, he asked her to marry him, and they planned to meet at the JoP soon after. The morning of her wedding, her aunt came to wake her up to come work in the cotton field. Grandma said, “I’m not working today.” Aunt asked, “Why not?” Grandma’s answer? “I’m getting married.”

That’s right–she didn’t tell her family about her wedding until the day of, probably because they wouldn’t approve, and when her aunt told her she’d never be allowed to come back, Grandma packed a bag, went to town and married my grandpa.

She was kind of stubborn like that.

When Grandma had my father at the age of 21, she and Grandpa were sharecropping cotton and living in a little, 2-room house on their farm. It was the last day of April, so she’d taken down the stove to clean it…at 9 months pregnant. When she went into labor, she walked down to her in-laws’ house (Grandpa was helping out there) and told her MIL, who sent her home to bed and went for the doctor. Grandma had my father right there in that little 2-room house and that night, a blue-norther (as we call it) blew in. Weird cold fronts aren’t atypical in the Plains, but she’d taken the stove apart, and hadn’t had time to put it back together before going into labor, so she and Grandpa spent their first night as new parents huddled under quilts, holding the baby and hoping he wouldn’t freeze.

Grandma at Wedding

Grandma and me at my wedding

From that 2-room house, my grandparents worked hard enough to buy a modest home in town and send my dad to college. My uncle went to college, too. My dad even went on to earn his Ph.D in American History after retiring from a long career with the federal government. My grandma took to introducing him as Dr. Cummings after that.

Over the course of her life, Grandma picked cotton (from the time she was six), learned to wash dishes so young she had to stand on a box to reach the sink, cooked countless meals, cleaned house meticulously, worked in the Haggar Slacks factory sewing seams on men’s dress pants for 8-10 hours a day, raised a family back when it was uncommon for moms to work, and taught me to bake amazing pies.

When my mom died (I was almost 18), Grandma moved in with us to help dad take care of me and my sister, who was 16 and still living at home. Because that’s what she did–Grandma helped people. She was there when I got married, and there to help after I had both my children–never mind that she was 84 when my daughter was born. She was coming to rock the baby, cook the meals and do the laundry and I wasn’t allowed to argue about it.

Grandma suffered a number of setbacks the last 7 or 8 years. Dementia, frail bones and general aging slowly took her away from us.

But I’ll never forget her.

Lillie Mae Cummings

February 3, 1919 — January 10, 2013

Thoughts on Skyfall

Whew, I’m running a little late today! Sorry about that…I know we all need our monster fix, right?  Well, here you go–today’s monster is human.

So, I saw Skyfall over Thanksgiving. I’ve seen most James Bond films because my husband is a fan. I find them entertaining, but it’s not a franchise that I stalk, er, follow like some others. But I’m having a hard time getting this film out of my system. One reason, of course, is Daniel Craig. Seriously, he’s enough to make any woman over the age of eighteen a fan of James Bond. Just sayin’.  And seeing him down and out was particularly interesting. I like a little vulnerability from our heroes every so often.

Yes, Daniel Craig smolders as bond…this is his third Bond film, though; it’s not this “new thing” anymore. So why can’t I get Skyfall off my mind?

The bad guy.

Javier Bardem made Silva dangerous, twisted, yet slick. He was a beast, wearing Armani. He was a genius, while still being crazier than an outhouse rat. I also loved how the movie pushed the envelope in a few places. The way the character was portrayed had every guy in the movie theater squirming with discomfort while Silva interrogated Bond. Frankly, I found that awesome. If James Bond can use his sex-appeal to get information, why can’t that be turned back and used against him? Brilliant.

Silva was chilling because he was possible. To me, there’s nothing scarier than someone who can empty an entire village with nothing more than a computer and his smarts, scrambled though they may be.  And Javier made it even more convincing with his acting. He’s played some freaky/scary bad guys before (No Country for Old Men, anyone? That hairdo was enough to terrify me!), and he’s dang good at it. But think about it…there could actually be a super-hacker out there somewhere, plotting mayhem. Yikes, y’all. Yikes.

Anybody else see the movie? Thoughts? Who’s your favorite Bond villain?

Climbing the Mountain

It may not last long, but I can call Matt Archer: Monster Hunter a bestseller…with a straight face. ::faints for a minute::  My fearless Matt made it all the way to #15 yesterday on the Kindle Teen Fiction list (currently I’m at #45, and by the time you read this, who knows if I’ll even be on the list). Granted, my sales will settle down from their spike, and I’ll slide  down the lists, but my hope is that I’ve gained some readers who will come back from more. 

How Matt leapt onto the Amazon Bestseller lists is easy pinpoint–I ran some strategic ads over the last week to gain exposure, and it worked. Why it happened, I think, is something else entirely.  And that’s because of you guys.

I’ve met some amazing people during the last few years by entering the writing community and I’ve built friendships, both local and long distance, via emailRock Climbing The Southwest, USA and Twitter. I’m always humbled by how much support I get from beta readers, friends and family.  Having that support in the form of reviews, retweets, word of mouth and general cheerleading often gave me courage in a tough, scary market.  Because, y’all, publishing books is like climbing a mountain. The top is steep, narrow and far, far away. To be successful, you have to face rocks slides and Yetis (and the occasional troll). So now I’m going to get mushy and say y’all are the anchors, the ropes and the hand holds that keep me from plunging off the mountainside.  (I know, I know…such mush! I’ll snap out of it soon, promise). 

So, thank you. And thanks from a certain monster hunter who’s currently being forced to return to school after a long hunt, where a host of problems await. (His creator tends to be kind of mean to him… :: evil cackle:: — see, I told you the mush wouldn’t last!)

What’s Next: 2013

Happy 2013!Happy New Year Graphic

At least I hope so. I’m one of those people who has a “thing” about the number 13, so I told myself that 2013 has to be extra awesome to make up from my unnatural disdain of poor #13.

New Year’s Day always seems a little insurmountable to me, too. All these days in a year–what am I going to do to make it great? I’m not one for keeping elaborate to-do  lists, but I do believe in goals. Here’s what I have so far:

  1. Publish Matt Archer 3 (Title to be revealed later) and finish drafting the final Matt Archer novel (MA4). My hope is that MA3 will release in the summer.
  2. Start putting out chapters of my serial novel, Green Sky.  The opening needs retooled, but I think I can start putting out chapters in the fall (I hope). Green Sky is a YA14+, very dark post-apocalyptic set in North Texas. It features almost-sixteen-year-old Jangle–an orphan living in New Fort Worth, who’s facing an arranged marriage and a lifetime of baby-making with a man she abhors–and Asper, a seventeen-year-old escaped slave looking for help to save the other boys still trapped at the Baron sisters’ camp. Add in some cannibals, the disappearance of Jangle’s best friend and an arms race, and that’s Green Sky.
  3. Start planning my next project, which will remain a secret for now, but I’m really in love with it. : D  Here’s a hint–it’s contemporary YA, but pretty twisted.

So that’s my list!  2012 was pretty awesome–I gathered some courage together and published the first two Matt Archer books, and it’s been a very positive experience. A huge thank you to all the beta-readers, reviewers, fans, family and friends who made it happen. It was a scary thing, putting my words out there, but y’all made it worth taking a chance. I’m so lucky to have you all.  Now, forward to the next Big Thing.

How about you? What are your “big things” for 2013?

Baking Therapy

Greetings, and welcome to this edition of  Friday Rambles. Did everyone have a great holiday?  Mine was quieter than expected due to snow and ice; we stayed home instead of driving out of state to visit family. Given how busy my life’s been the last six months, that was an unanticipated slice of heaven. I sat in front of the fire most of the day and wrote (I’m working on Matt Archer 3 at the moment, in addition to thinking through a serial novel I plan to launch in the second half of the year). After weeks of stress prepping for Christmas while in the midst of my busiest time at work, a day with nothing on the docket was just what I needed.

But what if those little moments of rest don’t come? How can you maintain your sanity in a society that is perpetually getting busier, faster and more complex? For me, I go old school.

My grandmother always said she was a terrible cook, evidenced by the fact that the rest of us fought over the last piece of fried chicken or spoonful of black-eyed peas like a band of ravening wolves. Modesty was her motto, and even if we argued the dinner was magnificent, she’d find some flaw to point out. See, Grandma was a perfectionist (gee, wonder where I got that personality trait), and did all of her cooking by hand. For big holiday meals, she’d spend twenty minutes chopping up five onions at the kitchen table. She didn’t know the trick about how to slice the onion into strips and dice it quickly, and no food processor was going to invade her kitchen. No, she carefully cut those onions up, one section at a time, into uniform pieces no matter how long it took.

This is also how she made pies.

Every Thanksgiving and Christmas, she’d mix and roll out her pie crust from scratch, make the chocolate pie filling…from scratch…and whip the meringue (she cheated here, using an electric hand mixer instead of stirring, thank goodness). Grandma would bake pecan pies and caramel pies and cobbler, too, all of it from the basic ingredients. I didn’t even know what canned pie-filling was until I saw it in the baking aisle at the grocery store when I was in high school.

Thanksgiving Pie

A Chocolate Meringue Pie I made for Christmas Eve dinner.

Grandma taught me to bake, and once I got the hang of it, I never looked at boxed mixes again. There’s something so therapeutic about working flour and Crisco into dough that’s still dry enough to be flaky without falling apart, fighting to roll it out so that it doesn’t crumble and carefully transferring it from the baking parchment to the pie dish. Baking is chemistry, artistry and magic. Whether it’s cookies or a double-crust apple tart, you have to  work with your dough, through trial and error, to figure out the little quirks that will make it perfect. And there’s gratification in the end-result–a well-made pie doesn’t last very long.

Books are like that, too. It takes an author a lot of time (and some chemistry, artistry and magic) to create a novel, and the end result–if the story is done right–is devoured quickly, but with great enjoyment.

What about you? Do you love baking? Hate it? Any other holiday stress relievers to share?

It’s Finally Here! Matt Archer: Blade’s Edge

Greetings!

::Looks outside:: Well, no massive volcano has erupted in North Texas, so I guess I can send out this post!  🙂

Now, for an announcement. 

IT’S MA2 RELEASE DAY!!!!

 

Matt Archer Blades Edge 800 Cover Reveal and Promotional (3)I’m super excited to announce that Matt Archer: Blade’s Edge (MA2 for those playing along at home) is now available as an eBook from Amazon, Kobo and Smashwords! (UPDATE — MA2 is now available at Barnes & Noble!). Other retailers, along with the print version, will be added soon, too.  What better way to celebrate the (not) end of the world and the holidays, than by releasing a book? And, yeah, I’m totally dancing like Snoopy about this. 

Blade’s Edge marks a change in Matt’s life. This book was tougher to write than Monster Hunter in a lot of ways. Matt’s older (almost 16), a little more jaded and has Big Things to deal with and overcome. In some respects, it’s my Goblet of Fire — Matt, like Harry Potter, is tested beyond his limits and has to find his way out on the other side. It also marks a change from a younger YA tone (suitable for older MG readers, so 11+) to a more true YA tone (this one is appropriate for readers 12+).  Books 3 and 4, which will come out in 2013, are firmly PG-13 YA.  Since I’m a parent who’s pretty vigilant about what my kids read, I want to be upfront about this. As Matt gets older, so does his story.  I just want to put that out there with the hope it’s useful information.

Bringing a book into the world takes a village, and a lot of people made this one happen.  I want to send a special shout-out to my husband (who read multiple drafts, held my hand when I nearly quit and generally keep my crap together) and to my dad (who taught me to read and helped bring Matt to life).  My beta readers–Lindsay, JR, Jeanne, LaDonna, Elizabeth, Liz, Crash, Arthur, Maria and Becca–gave me a ton of advice…so huge thanks to them!! Finally, the military–particularly U.S. Army Special Forces–factors into much of this book. I want to take this time to thank all the soldiers who sacrifice so much for our country. To you, I give my most humble appreciation.

And the biggest thank you of all?  To my readers, of course! Matt Archer: Monster Hunter got a ton of support, retweets, raves and reviews from y’all, and it meant the world to me. I hope this new installment exceeds your expectations and I’m hopeful you’ll continue on this journey with our intrepid monster hunter.

Now for a little launch fun!  I have a GoodReads giveaway running right now. Two lucky entrants will win signed copies of both Monster Hunter and Blade’s Edge! Check it out via the link below. In the meantime, thank you for all the support, and let’s go hunt some monsters! 

Goodreads Book Giveaway

Matt Archer by Kendra C. Highley

Matt Archer

by Kendra C. Highley

Giveaway ends January 04, 2013.

See the giveaway details
at Goodreads.

 

Enter to win

 

Cosmic Chaos

Welcome to Monsters and Mayhem!  Today, we’re going places.  Like…outer space!

So what does this have to do with monsters or mayhem, you ask? Well, keep your shirt on, I’ll get there. : D

Ever since I was a kid, I’ve LOVED anything astronomy-related (I even took it as my science elective in college). To this day, I still watch “space shows” if they happen to be on Discovery Channel. If you haven’t seen Through the Wormhole with Morgan Freeman, you are missing out! Anyway, my husband called last week and asked if I thought the kids would like a telescope. A guy at work had one, he said, and wanted it to “go to a good home” where it would be used and enjoyed.  I gave that plan an enthusiastic thumbs up, thinking maybe we could get a peek at the craters on the moon, or take a look at Venus.

When I came home, I saw what looked like a small water heater sitting on my husband’s work table in the garage.

“What’s that?” I asked.

“The telescope,” he said.

Okay…I was thinking about one of those white/aluminum jobs with a two-three inch lens. Oh, no, we are now the proud owners of a 10-inch telescope.

“Can we see…Jupiter with that thing?” I asked in hushed tones, scared the telescope would hear me and be offended by my lack of knowledge.

My husband laughed. “Jupiter? Kendra, we can see deep space with this thing.”

Cue Kendra pinging around the garage like an eight-year-old in a bouncy castle.  The hubby later told his work-friend that the kids were excited about the telescope, but the wife was freaking out about it.  (The telescope, if we practice and find a good, clear night, can see Jupiter about as well as the photo to the right.  I was seriously ecstatic about this.)

So, why do I have this crazy fascination with space? Well, it’s cool, for one thing. For another, even with all it’s order and rules-of-the-universe perfection, it’s chaotic. You never know what you might see.  Heck, as a friend once put it, our sun could burp and we’d be toast. Literally. Space is dangerous. In short–it’s Mayhem on the grandest scale possible.

Let’s take my most favorite space object as an example.  I can’t look away whenever the space shows feature this cosmic freak-job: Pulsars.

Now, I bet you thought I’d say black holes…but no. Don’t get me wrong–black holes are pretty dang weird and scary, but if you stay out of their gravitational pull, they’re okay. And they serve a great purpose by holding galaxies together (at least that’s what the astrophysicists are saying these days).  But Pulsars? They’re dying stars that will not go quietly into the black. When a star dies (in this particular scenario), it goes Supernova, and the tiny core that’s left over becomes something new and very, very weird.

So, what are Pulsars, exactly? NASA says:

A pulsar is a neutron star that emits beams of radiation that sweep through Earth’s line of sight. Like a black hole, it is an endpoint to stellar evolution. The “pulses” of high-energy radiation we see from a pulsar are due to a misalignment of the neutron star’s rotation axis and its magnetic axis. Pulsars seem to pulse from our perspective because the rotation of the neutron star causes the beam of radiation generated within the magnetic field to sweep in and out of our line of sight with a regular period, somewhat like the beam of light from a lighthouse. The stream of light is, in reality, continuous, but to a distant observer, it seems to wink on and off at regular intervals.

What NASA’s explanation doesn’t say is that as a Pulsar spins–at hundreds of times per second — its gravitational pull is strong enough to suck up its companion star if the Pulsar happens to be in a binary system. The pulsar itself is only about 12-20 km wide (about the size of a medium-sized city), but has more mass than our sun. So it’s a tiny, heavy, scary star-thief to a binary partner, all while emitting radiation in great sweeps across the universe.  Yeah, that’s one BAMF.

Hopefully when my family goes camping next spring, we can see some close-ups of our solar system and the topography of the moon. Even better, though, maybe we can see neighboring stars, nebulae and a comet or two. I can’t wait!

How about you? Any fascination with space? If so, what would you want to look for out there?

 

Mayhem Top Ten

 

 

Howdy and welcome to Monsters and Mayhem…It’s Mayhem Tuesday!

 I’ve been thinking about ordinary things that, to me, have the potential to become mayhem in the blink of an eye.  For example, letting the crazier of my two cats loose with a catnip-filled toy in the house. If you’ve ever met Katie-the-Mighty, you’d know I was skating the edge of dangerous with that idea.

That let me to dream up my top ten Mayhem Makers:

 10.   Letting a six-year-old “cook” macaroni.  That pot will never be the same again, but we did manage to get rid of the smell of burnt noodles after a few weeks.

9.  Justin Bieber walking into any mall in the Midwest on a Saturday afternoon.

8.  Having a birthday party for a group of 5-year-old boys at home on a rainy day. I don’t think this needs more explanation.

7.  Letting a group of electrical engineers go out for drinks, then handing them a robot-builder kit.

6.  Throwing fake vomit into a pool in the ‘Burbs.  You’ll hear the screaming for miles.

5.   Announcing to a large group of fans gathered at the motor-speedway that the Nascar race has been cancelled. Mass hysteria will ensure, I promise you.

4.  Only half-paying attention when your 11-year-old walks by with a bag of firecrackers, an action figure, and safety glasses, muttering something about a science experiment.

3.  Telling fanboys that LucasFilms has sold the rights to Star Wars to Disney. (This one has been proven true…just look at all the commentary out there.)

2.  The threat of an ice storm in Dallas.  Grocery store shelves will empty, the nightly news will provide dire warnings about driving on slick roads and weird dudes will wear sandwich boards proclaiming the end is nigh.

And the number one mayhem maker is….

1.  Babysitting more than one toddler at a time. They move faster than you think, can climb furniture like spider monkeys, and their every thought is geared to, “Would would happen if I do this?”  If you lose one and it seems awfully quiet, prepare for imminent mayhem.

Well, there’s my list…what’s on yours?

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