Chris Stoesen Fiction: 2015

Friday, December 18, 2015

CSS Appomattox On Sale - Now through Christmas

I put CSS Appomattox on sale from now till Christmas day on Amazon. If you have not had a chance to read it, now is a good time to give it a try for under a dollar for $1.99 from now till Christmas.

Tell your friends and neighbors. Merry Christmas everyone.

Friday, December 4, 2015


I just discovered this service by accident. Wow is it awesome. It give you access to the two biggest distributors (that are not Amazon) and allow you to post your books up for free which you cannot do if you attempt to do it yourself. I made my short story The Home available on Barnes & Noble, iTunes, Scribd and Page Foundry through them. They also can get books up on Kobo but Kobo is friendly enough to self publishers to allow you to do that yourself.

Nice service and it cost me nothing. Which really helps when you are giving the book away. iTunes takes the longest to approve a book to publish. They were rather picky and declined it the first time when they found an affiliate link to Amazon in it. I had to redo that part and reupload yesterday. Barnes & Noble took about a day.

If you are looking to self publish, use Draft2Digital. They are a fantastic resource.

Update: Now the Home is up on iTunes as well as other platforms. Check the My Books Page for all the possible distribution mechanisms.

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Working on a Cover

So instead of editing the book, I played with a cover for a bit today. This is the cover for Sharpsburg Sunrise. I would love your opinions on it.

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

The Home: Now Live on Google Play and Kobo

Well, in an effort to make The Home a permafree book, I have put it up on Kobo and Google Play for free. Turns out you can't put it up on Nook for free without going to a service like Smashwords. Anyway, if you get a chance, tell Amazon that you can find it for free.

Amazon link:

Google Play Link:

Kobo Link:

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Hunting Season is making Progress

Been hard at work on Hunting Season. It is a follow up to The Home. It is set in a different part of the country than The Home. While never mentioned in the book, The Home is set in central Florida. Hunting Season is set in Middle Georgia. It follows a High School Senior through the opening days of the Zombie Apocalypse through his eyes. I am still working on the cover for it. It will be considerably longer than The Home.

What I am looking for is a picture of a tree stand at night. It is a view looking up at it and through the trees at the moon. Anyone have a picture like that hanging around and want it as a book cover, I would be grateful.

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Antietam Sunrise name change to Sharpsburg Sunrise

Well the more I wrote on the prequel, the less happy I was with the name. Then it struck me, the South referred to the battle as Sharpsburg since that was the town that the battle took place near. Antietam was the creek that ran behind the Union lines to the east of Sharpsburg. If I am writing an alternative history book about the South winning that battle, maybe I should call it by their preferred name. So Sharpsburg Sunrise it is.

I have pinned down the graphics that I want to use down to 2. I currently have permission to use this one:

I like this picture but it is awful small. You can find the original here at: Patti Ballard is the owner and she has been very gracious (not to mention rather speedy) in giving me permission.

I have my eyes set on a second picture but I am waiting to hear back from the owner. I like it a little better as it has the sun rising above the cornfield. Honestly, the first one is probably more accurate as the accounts I keep reading has the battlefield near the 40 acre cornfield bathed in smoke.

Anyway, I will see if Patti is able to find a higher resolution image for me. Thanks Patti!

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Mucking About with Graphics and Other Things

I started fooling around with some graphics to give a small facelift to the blog. Here is the first pass:

Let me know what you think.

I also have three works in progress at the moment.

#1 The Last Airship from Khartoum - The follow up to CSS Appomattox covers the story of Devareaux and his squadron as they assist in the evacuation of Khartoum during the siege by the Mahdist army. This is complete and is undergoing editing. I have it in the hands of some trusty beta readers who are giving me some great feedback. Thanks guys!

#2 Hunting Season - This is another short story set in the same Zombie Apocalypse as The Home. This one takes place at the start of the troubles in a small town in middle Georgia. It is currently at about 3,000 words long and is about 1/4 of the way done. This is one of my NaNoWriMo projects.

#3 Antietam Sunrise - This is the prequel to CSS Appomattox. Follow the journey of a young Confederate officer through the Maryland Campaign and its climax at the Battle of Antietam. In the Alternate Universe of CSS Appomattox, the Confederacy won the Battle of Antietam to secure support from Great Britain and France. This is Thomas Devareaux's father's experiences during that battle. This is my second NaNoWriMo project. Currently it is sitting at 3500 words. It is probably only 1/4 of the way through.

Monday, October 19, 2015

Got some promotion

I got a really nice bump from the fine folks at Rukia Publishing. They posted a nice promo on the Rukia Publishing site. Stop on by and check it out. Nice folks.

Thursday, October 8, 2015

NanoWriMo Starts in November!

While part of Camp NaNoWriMo I got more writing done than the previous six months. This was due to the energy and fun that my "cabin" generated. I wanted to hit my writing goals and was disappointed when I could not contribute as I wanted to.

It was great fun over the summer. I am now looking forward to the November edition. I plan of finishing the second draft of Last Airship From Khartoum and get some work done on a novella as well.

Sign up and join the fun at

Friday, September 11, 2015

Dueling Covers

The sequel to the CSS Appomattox is coming along. I have nearly finished the first draft. So I spent some time on the cover. I had a friend work on it (Thanks Marshall Thomas). Anyway, Thomas Devareaux and crew are assigned to assist the British in the troubles they are having in the Sudan. Here are the covers that I have so far for the new novel.

So which one do you like best? Anything I should change?

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Next Projects

The Last Airship to Khartoum is winding down. I should have the first draft completed by month end. Then it is off to editing land.

So while that is happening, I was going to pick up on two old projects and work on them.

The first is Eliazar's Promise. This project is about an archeology team that finds an unexpected scroll in a cave near Hebron. The archeology team is attacked by terrorists and must find a way to escape and reveal their findings to the world. What's in the scroll? A testament of one of Abraham's followers - Eliazar.

The other is a modern take of a guy just trying to make his commute to work on a Thursday morning. But instead of a normal day, he finds himself in the middle of a terrorist attack.

So which story interests you more? I am willing to push forward with the one you are more interested in.

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Short Lived Triumphs

As soon as the short story went off of the free promotion, interest seems to have vanished. It was quite fun while it lasted though.

Anyway, I have been making great progress lately with the sequel to CSS Appomattox. I should be able to have the first draft completed by month's end.

Monday, August 31, 2015

The Home - First few days

I put the short story on a free deal almost as soon as it went up. The results have been pretty good. I only advertised on my Twitter account and here on the blog. The results have been great.

I went on-line this morning and here is where it was sitting:
Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,512 Free in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Free in Kindle Store)
#2 in Kindle Store > Kindle Short Reads > 45 minutes (22-32 pages) > Science Fiction & Fantasy
#23 in Kindle Store > Kindle Short Reads > 45 minutes (22-32 pages) > Literature & Fiction

The book reached the top 4,000 of all free books in the Kindle store and reached #2 in one of the categories. This may be a fluke but I have to say that I am quite pleased.

If you have had a chance to read it, please let me know what you think. I would love to hear back from you. Should I write more of these, stick with the longer novels or do something else?


Thursday, August 27, 2015

The Home: A Zombie Survival Short Story Published

Well I went ahead and hit submit on the short story. It went live at 4am this morning. I got some early feedback and ran it through both Hemingway and Ginger editors. I fooled around with a cover and came up with something that I liked.

Anyway, I am running a free book promotion on it tomorrow. I don't want to charge the default $0.99 for it since it is a 7k word short story, but I can't figure out how to convince Amazon to lower the price under Kindle Select.

Also, I have finished all of the edits for CSS Appomattox. The 2.0 version is now up on Kindle as of yesterday. Very happy with the edits that Allison did. She did a great job. Hopefully, if you have the previous version(s), the 2.0 update will be pushed out by Amazon.

Anyway, happy reading.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

You Ever Get Distracted?

July was a very productive month for my second novel. I am 3/4th of the way done with the final draft (22,482 words added for July). I was making great progress, then an idea grabbed me.

In Camp Nanowrimo, I was going through some personal issues. My mother had to be moved to a memory care facility as she was no longer able to care for herself. Through the support of friends and family, it has been much easier than I thought possible. As it is written, "A merry heart does good like a medicine," humor came out of the pain.

One of my friends writes zombie stories. In our discussion an idea for a story came out. It hit a point this week where I could not work on anything else. I stopped everything and the story started to come out. In a burst of effort, a 7,000 word short story came out of a five minute conversation.

Now, the question is, what do I do with it?

Friday, July 24, 2015

CSS Appomattox Sale

Well since I have now Broken 1000 total sales on Amazon, I have decided to run a Kindle Countdown deal from July 26th to August 2nd. I have not figured out how to do this for the other Amazon stores yet. Sorry about that. The countdown deal will take the price down to $0.99 at first then gradually go up to the regular price.

I have done some updates to the book including having the first 16 chapters edited. Still need to get the rest done but my editor is still working on those. I have cleaned up the scene changes to make them clearer. And fixed numerous spelling errors and some continuity problems that readers have pointed out.

But what about the sequel? Well that is actually coming along quite well. At this point, I am some 41,000 words into the project. I suspect that the final work will weigh in at 80 to 85,000 words when it is all said and done. I am feeling confident that by the end of August I will be looking for some Beta Readers.

Still, what are your thoughts? Is the title 'Last Airship from Khartoum' a workable title?

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Summer Camp: Camp Nanowrimo

Its July. When I was a child, that meant summer camp. I spent at least 5 or more weeks at different camps every summer. As an adult, I volunteer at a summer camp every year as the Rec Director. It is great fun but its not quite the same thing.

A friend of mine, Phil, sent me an invitation to Camp Nanowrimo. Its an interesting writing challenge. It is to help you get more done on your current projects. I have to say, it is paying off. I have doubled the work that I have done on the sequel to CSS Appomattox. Honestly, it has been fun. The other folks in my cabin have been encouraging and I have made more progress this month than the six months previous.

Anyway, go to camp, have some summer fun.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Need Help with a Title

I am working on the Sequel to the CSS Appomattox. Here is the basic premise of the book.

In this book, Thomas Devareaux is now an airship squadron commander and in direct command of the CSS Greenville. He has been assigned on a goodwill mission to support the British in North Africa.

It just so happens that there is trouble brewing in North Africa among the locals. Devareaux must deal with the British Colonial office who don't want him, crewmen who are rebelling, the Dervish armies of the Mahdi and a mysterious stranger from a hostile European power.

It is set shortly before the fall of Khartoum in 1885 and the subsequent death of General Gordon. I am having difficulty coming up with a working title. What I have so far is "Last Airship from Khartoum: A Thomas Devareaux Alternative History Military Adventure."

The last part is the subtitle which is purely there to contain keywords to drive Amazon search traffic. I think it is cheesy but unfortunately it actually works. So the terrible subtitle will probably stay. But what about "Last Airship from Khartoum?" Does that work?

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

CSS Appomattox Milestone Reached!

I have just sold copy # 1,000 of CSS Appomattox. This is across all platforms (Google Play, DriveThruFiction, Nook, Kobo and of course - Amazon). Since going back to only Amazon as my distribution, sales have improved. Even though I am doing zero advertising.

I have now received edits for Chapters 1 through 16. All of those edits will be applied by the end of the day. Since I am at the halfway point, do I resubmit the book to Amazon with those edits in place or wait till all are done? I am just not sure what would be best. Any thoughts?

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Kindle - The biggest fish in the pond

After going off Kindle Select program back in late February, my experiment in multiple publishers is coming to a close. With Google Play, Kobo, Drive Thru Fiction and Nook all performing extremely poorly, I have gone back with my tail between my legs and clicked the button for KDP Select once again. I may try again at a later date but at this point it does not seem worthwhile.

Friday, May 15, 2015

CSS Appomattox Brief Update

This month and last month were both slow with sales but that is ok. Still working on getting the edits done. That is turning into a longer process than I had expected.

At this point, it has sold 953 copies in total. Of which 938 are Amazon sales. Definitely Amazon is the biggest fish out there with e-books. The rest of the sales are nearly evenly divided among Drive Through Fiction, Nook, Kobo and Google. I had hopes to break 1000 by the end of the month but that seems unlikely now. Still, its all good considering that I have to get the edits completed. Heck, I am pleased as can be that I have as many reviews as I do on Amazon. 16 reviews on Amazon US and 2 on Amazon UK. I have had a surprising range of sales. US is dominant. But I get regular sales in the UK as well. Australia is the next country that I get some decent sales out of, followed close behind by Canada. What has been a surprise is the readers from other countries. They have only been a small handful but it was interesting to see. I have sold at least one book in Spain, France and Italy. All in all, I have to say, that my experiment in online publishing of fiction is a success.

I would like to get some more work out there. I have experimented with putting up a couple of story ideas on both Wattpad and WriteOn but I obviously have not mastered how to market those items as neither story has gained any traction on either site. The Christmas/Holiday story is out of season which may be why that one has had little traffic but the sci-fi one has gathered no readers at all. I am still a complete beginner at this so I still have much to learn.

Thursday, April 30, 2015


I just signed up for WattPad. The experiment with WriteOn so far is a non-starter as there does not seem to be a large amount of traffic there in terms of readers. Writers is another story.

I found an interesting ongoing piece about the Spanish Civil War on WriteOn. It is called Yes, I am Spain by S H Villa. If you have any interest in the Spanish Civil War, you really should check it out.

Anyway, back to WattPad. This seems to be a much more established site. At this point, I am just duplicating the work I have on WriteOn out there. I started with the Holiday Short that I first posted here. I added a WattPad widget off to the right here if you want to track me down over there.

The sequel to CSS Appomattox is coming along. I have 12 finished chapters done so far. I have closed out the initial part of the story and gotten the characters to the location of the main action of the book. I held back on resolving some of the loose ends from the first book. There is some more I wish to do there still but just not in this book.

I have also found some half started things. I have begun transferring all of those from Microsoft Word over to Scrivner. That should make them easier to deal with.

Sorry that I have been so quiet as of late. Been dealing with some family health issues that have taken up much of my time. I will be back.

Friday, March 27, 2015

CSS Appomattox Update

I am closing on five months since the book has gone live. I changed my relationship with Amazon and am no longer exclusive on Kindle. This had a dramatic impact on sales. I think they have dropped by half. Putting the book up on Kobo, Google Play and Nook have gotten me no more than a handful of sales each. Google Play has been better than the other two so far but its only been a month since I changed that.

Still, I am closing in on 900 copies sold. I have not done any more advertising and will not until I finish getting the book professionally edited. So far I am very pleased with my editor. She is doing a fantastic job. Once she is done, I hope I will have a draft of the sequel to throw her way as well. It has been a slow process but I think it has been very good.

In terms of what an author has to work with, I really like the simplicity of the Kobo and Nook author interfaces. They are simple and straightforward. Amazon's are very good and offer much deeper details. Google Play is surprisingly the worst of the bunch. To find out your sales, you have to run a report and open it in Excel. There is not a web interface to show you your sales for the day. There are three reports to choose from.

My attempts to go live on iTunes has been a complete non-starter. In order to upload a book you have to have a mac and their publishing software. It took longer to get to the point where I could (if I had a Mac) upload than any of the others. Amazon by far was the simplest and easiest to get up and going with.

The other site that I originally had the book on was DriveThroughFiction. It is great in terms of reporting that is available. Definitely more cumbersome than Amazon, Nook or Kobo but still better than iTunes. I just brought that listing back alive today.

Monday, March 23, 2015

The Border Crisis

I dipped my hand into an attempt at writing science fiction. If you are interested, the first chapter of The Border Crisis is now up on WriteOn. Swing by and take a look. Feel free to make comments or suggestions. I would really like to hear your thoughts.


Wednesday, March 18, 2015

UK Reviews, WriteOn and ramblings

I just noticed that I had picked up my second UK review. The first was not so good but his point about the editing of the book was fair. I edited it myself and I am not good at editing. However, I hope to have the book professionally edited soon. (Thank you Allison!)

I have actually been making some progress writing the past two weeks. I have fixed some problems in what I had so far for the sequel and fleshed out another chapter. I think I have the first draft about a quarter of the way done. Then I got side tracked. I am about 2000 words into a science fiction story now. Its is a space opera type of story beginning with a young midshipman leading his first boarding group on a friendly vessel that is not responding to their ship's hail. I am debating putting this up on either the blog or on the Amazon WriteOn site.

Have you heard of WriteOn? Its a cool concept where folks can put up their short stories. A buddy of mine has a story up already. Head on over and check out his story One Night Only. The web interface for mobile devices is not so good yet as it gave the impression of a second page when there is not one. Its a quick read. Stop by and let Phil know I sent you.

Anyway, let me know what you think. Should it be posted here or on WriteOn or save it up till its a full book and pop it up on Amazon?

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

CSS Appomattox is now live on Google Play and Nook

I just managed to get the book uploaded to Google Play this morning and onto the Nook platform this afternoon. Neither are live yet. I opened an account with iTunes to have it there as well. iTunes has a much more complicated process to have your book uploaded to it. They require several validations before they allow you to upload a book. Google, Nook and Amazon were far easier to deal with. I am still trying to figure out if these will be worthwhile or if I should stick with selling only through Amazon and their Kindle Unlimited program. My Kindle Unlimited settings expired yesterday. Yet strangely enough, I still had a KU sale today on the sales dashboard. Anyway, Amazon has been very good to me. I am closing rapidly in on 800 copies sold of the book. Thank you all for reading. Update! CSS Appomattox is now live on Google Play. Update again! It is now live on the Nook store as well.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

A Lethargic New Year

This has been a very slow year to start for me. In working on the sequel to CSS Appomattox, from January 1st to the 26th, I had written maybe 100 words to the project. Today was a much better day. I cleared about 1200 words and completely changed how the story begins. Not sure what the motivation problem has been for me. I think I have beaten it though.

I did plan out a few items though. If you are a follower of this blog and have signed up for my e-mail list, you will be receiving a novella that I am writing featuring Thomas Devareaux's father at the battle of Antietam on September 17, 1862. This will be a thank you for giving me a chance and for taking the time to read my scribblings.

Hopefully I can get some more writing in tonight and get the first part of the book completed. Until next time...

Monday, January 19, 2015

CSS Appomattox Kindle Countdown Deal in the UK Store

I will be running a Kindle Countdown deal on my first novel, CSS Appomattox. It starts on January 19th and runs through the week. If you have not picked up a copy and were thinking about it. Now would be a great time to check it out. See the link below.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

600th Sale of CSS Appomattox

Yesterday marked the 600th copy of CSS Appomattox sold. I am quite pleased with this. Thank you everyone who has bought my book and a Big thank you to the ten folks who have submitted reviews on Amazon.

What's coming up? Well, my KDP Select status ends in February. I will be experimenting by placing it up on Nook and the iTunes store to see how that goes. I also have an announcement coming for the Amazon UK Kindle store late this evening. Stay tuned for that.

The sequel is coming along nicely. I have not had as much writing time as I would have liked but it is still coming along. I am trying out a new writing tool - Scrivner. Thus far, I really like it. It is much easier to deal with than a single word document.

I have two other projects that are coming up as well. My Mom has asked me to convert her book from a physical format to Kindle. She wrote the book Crossroads to Freedom back in 1998. It is her story as a little girl growing up in Germany during WWII. It covers how she was living in Dessau when the Americans seized the city and when they gave the city over to the Soviets. It also talks about her teen years when she crossed over with her family from East to West Germany and finally made it to New York. It is a fascinating read, well for me at least. The publisher that she used is now defunct. Before they closed, they gave my 85 year old mother boxes of the books and told her that she can deal with it. So now we are going digital.

The other project I am working on is another alternative history piece that I am co-writing with a friend of mine. We have a high level outline at this point. There is not even a name for the project yet but I'll let you know what comes up.

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

CSS Appomattox: 500th Book Sold

I had not been paying enough attention to the Amazon Dashboard. On January 4th, I sold the 500th copy of CSS Appomattox. I am very excited about this. Thank you everyone who gave the book a chance.

Today was a milestone day as well as I received my 10th review on Amazon. Again, thank you to everyone who posted up a review.

Today I began work on Chapter 6 of the sequel to the CSS Appomattox. Some of the loose ends from book one get addressed as Thomas Devareaux and his men deal with Northern spies.

A Holiday Short

Do you ever have odd thoughts run through your head that you just go with to see where they go? This one came up while watching the holiday specials with my son. So we were watching Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer. I began to wonder if Santa's sleigh would produce enough of a radar signature for a man portable Anti-Aircraft missile to lock on. Could it be that I am tired of the story of Hermey the dentist and the bumble that bounces? Not really. I watch them several times each season. This was just one of those wandering thoughts that did not pass but became something else.

Kamisak Coffee Shop, Ivalo, Finland 0930 hours January 3rd

James Howard Ellison believed that he had to be in the armpit of the world. In his short tenure at the CIA, he had traveled far and wide. But the northern reaches of Finland was a first for him. Sure, it was better than that areas of Afghanistan, Iraq or the Sudan that he had been before. It was definitely not the tourist season here.

The coffee shop was part of a larger complex that included a guest house and a farm for husky's and horses. In his business, you never know where you will end up. He thought his boss was pulling his leg when he said he needed to debrief an elf. Yet here he was. He looked out the window and saw a dog sled team race by. He shook his head in disbelief.

The James leaned over the coffee cup and warmed his hands over the steaming fluid. He stared at the man across from him. Sure he was short, but an elf? There was no way. He did not have the thicker build that he thought midgets had. Sorry, little people or whatever the hell the politically correct term was these days. The guy's body looked like that of a child but he had crow's feet in the corners of his eyes. He could just make out a shock of gray hair poking out from beneath his stocking cap.

"You still don't believe it do you?"

He had heavily accented English. James assumed it was due to his Finnish background.

"What, in elves? Hell no. But my boss sent me to listen to what you had to say. So start talking."

The small man grinned at the American. He was enjoying the American's discomfort.

"OK, James, I will begin with just the recent incident. On Christmas eve, things were going as normal. All preparations were set and the operations staff was ready for the launches."

"Wait, what? Launches? Your people are firing rockets or something?"

The small man laughed. His face took on such a merry cast that the waitress, the sole other occupant in the coffee shop smiled as well.

"Rockets? No, the sleighs but wait. Listen to the story."

A White Hell - 2241 hours Zulu

The shivering was uncontrollable by now. He had improved his position as best as he could. The snow was packed around him up to his chest. He glanced at his watch again and decided it was time. He had stuck the watch in the snow bank in front of him so that only the face was visible. Hoisting the weapon to his shoulder, he managed to power up the radar tracking system in three attempts. As best he could, he pointed it in the general direction that he had been instructed.

Taking a slow shuddering breath, he tried to steady the weapon on his shoulder. The cold penetrated him so sharply, that he could not stop shaking. His eyes were drooping under his goggles. He was not sure that he could complete his mission. The warning light on the weapon's radar came to life and began chirping and warbled out a tone.

"Allahu Akbar," he whispered and jerked the trigger on the weapon without waiting for a lock tone. The backblast of the weapon turned the snow behind him instantly into water and steam. The flow of which rushed into his snowy foxhole. His eyes widened and he dropped the weapon. He never saw the result of his actions.

Over a mile away and some 20,000 feet above the arctic circle, the sleigh attempted to bank to the right to avoid the oncoming rocket. The Chinese engineers had done some of their best work with this rocket. The weapon followed the cousrse of the sleigh. When it drew close the missile exploded sending shrapnel into four of reindeer on the left side killing them. The explosion also tore the paneling from the left side of the sleigh. The combined forces pulled the sleigh and deer over into a descending roll. The roll became tighter and tighter as the sleigh descended directly down into the snow and ice below.

Kamisak Coffee Shop, Ivalo, Finland 0943 hours January 3rd

"Hold on, you are telling me, terrorists shot down Santa Clause? That is it, I am out of here. How old do I look, 10? Give me a break."

"No, I am telling you that they shot down A Santa Clause. Do you honestly think just one guy can accomplish all of that in one day? Oh please, there were one hundred and seventy-five launches that night. It was our largest ever, even with the decline in belief."

James pushed back from the table and slouched in the chair. He stared in disbelief. His boss sent him from his comfortable home out to this frozen waste for a joke.

"We are done here. Maybe I can get an earlier flight home." As James stood to leave, the small man threw a stack of three photographs on the table. The one on top was a man frozen from the waist down in ice that was holding a Chinese Made FN-6 launcher. The man in the picture was dressed in a heavy coat with gloves and goggles. But the long scraggly beard that protruded out of the opening in his hood below the face was visible.

James knew weapon systems. That was his specialty. He studied the weapon. There were modifications to it from the standard FN-6 launcher. He had recently received a report from the Asia desk about something that seemed very similar to what the report described. He snatched up the picture and studied it closely. The snow and ice, both in front and in back of the man, was gray and black from the blast of the launch. His eyes snapped up and he locked his gaze with the little man.

"Do you have access to the launcher? Can I see it?"

It was then that he saw the next image. It was an aerial view of wreckage. It was bits and pieces of a sleigh and reindeer. Wait, is that wrapping paper? And look, they were honest to God reindeer. Well, what was left of them after a missile detonation and a high speed impact with the ground. James' stomach rolled. He had dropped out of medical school when he realized that he could not stand the sight of blood. His predicament normally did not affect his work at the CIA but there was always those few moments. Normally he was better prepared and had some medication to help if he knew something was going to happen. Fortunately, the picture was not a closeup.

He slid the wreck photo aside to reveal the bottom photo. There was three dead, bearded men laying in the snow. Next to each was an identical FN-6 launcher. All three appeared to be unfired. His head snapped up and he looked at the small man.

"You have three complete systems?"

"Do you believe in Santa now?"

The small man scratched the side of his face and in doing so, pushed his knit cap up revealing a pointed ear. He subtly pushed the ear back up under the hat. James dropped into his chair again. He stared at the man or elf or whatever in disbelief. His mind was racing.

"How can we get one of those complete launchers and missiles? What would you like from us?"

The elf handed James an envelope. He retrieved the picture of the downed sleigh and placed it back in his inside pocket.

"We will be in touch. Tell Donovan that we will use the normal exchange."

"Where did the other three come from? What is the story there?"

With a shrug, the elf decided that it would not hurt to give this bit of information.

"Surely you have heard of Frosty the Snowmen?"

"What, like that kids cartoon that comes on every Christmas? You have to be joking. You have living snowmen? There is no way."

"The Frosties are just elves. We have our own intelligence service. We spread some disinformation that keeps the magic alive. The Frosties are the nickname we gave to our long range patrols that guard our borders. With their uniforms and the amount of ice that they tend to return with when on patrol, the name seemed appropriate. Our patrols discovered these three in their firing pits. We were able to stop them before they fired. They drove them back to base where this photograph was taken. We have some information about who sent them and where they came from. Its in the envelope."

The elf stood and began to put on his heavy winter coat.

"We will be in touch. Say hi to Donovan for me and ask him how his son is enjoying the toy truck. It was not easy getting one in that shade of green."

Before James could bring himself to utter another word, the little man was out the door. He watched in fascination as a reindeer approached him. The elf vaulted on the creatures back like a cowboy in a western movie and began to ride off down the snowy street and out of sight.

Shaking himself, James snatched the photographs and placed them in his own coat. The waitress approached the table and asked if he would like any more coffee. He glanced down at his untouched cup and could only shake his head no.

"How the hell do you write up a contact report on this?"

The End