Okay, Okay, There IS No Cake

Sorry, guys, still dealing with various things, starting with my having had to get up at six am to get some stuff done that had to be done by nine.  LONG story, and not for here.  Nothing bad, but some things just have to be done…

It also ended up taking most of the day, so even Through Fire was barely dealt with today.

I hate to do this, but I REALLY need to go back and fix Rogue Magic before I continue it.

Here’s a question for you: when I do — and it should be next week — should I change it to multiple third person?  I’m concerned the “voices” are not very different.  Also, multiple first person tends to be market death.

Anyway, I don’t want you to worry about me.  I’m fine, really.  It was just a very busy, kind of scattered day and I wasn’t even allowed to buy pants for #1 son.  (Yes, he needs them, but there’s only one thing he hates more than buying clothes, and that is spending my money.  Yes, he’d rather spend his, but he doesn’t want to do that right now.)

And, oh, yeah, Musketeer’s Inheritance is up.


Pimping Readers and SELF

Before the oyster on the almost complete shell does his thing, Musketeer’s Inheritance should now be up on Amazon and possibly B & N and Kobo, though they take longer.  This is the reissue of A Death In Gascony under the name it should have had.  if I’m continuing the series, it’s going to have proper names.  This is the fourth musketeer mysteries book.  I’m sorry I don’t have a link yet, as I’m posting this late at night.  I’ll look in the morning and link.  Also, An Answer from the North is now free on Amazon  and will stay through the 15th. Don’t say I never give you anything nice.  Okay, it’s an odd story, as it was written in a fugue state and came out ALMOST prose-poetry.

As this week progresses, I’ll be reloading the other musketeer’s books, with links to the next one, if that makes sense.  Also, some (minor at this point) cover changes.  I’m waiting on the printed proof of Seamstress, and Witchfinder is ALMOST ready to go up on paper.

That’s all for now. There will be chapter later today, but we have household things till early afternoon, so it might be late and/or odd.

Happy Saturday, y’all! We’ve a modest collection for you this week, with a classy dash of poetry. Also, fascinating science fiction for you fantastic fiends. Er, friends. Yes, of course that’s what I meant! *nervous laugh* So go, commit commerce, and make sure to leave reviews if you like them. If not, well, just keep it to yourself! :D As always, future entries can (and should!) be sent to my email. Happy reading!
Jason Dyck, AKA The Free Range Oyster
Code Monkey, Mercenary Wordsmith, and Watchman For Hire

Pam Uphoff

Outcasts and Gods (Wine of the Gods)

Outcasts and Gods

*First book* of the Wine of the Gods

Genetic engineering. First they cured the genetic diseases. Then they selected for the best natural traits. Then they made completely artificial genes. As the test children reached puberty, abilities that had always been lost in the random background noise were suddenly obvious. Telepathy, telekinesis. At first their creators sought to strengthen these traits. Then they began to fear them. They called them gods, and made them slaves.

Wolfgang Oldham was sixteen when the company laid claim to him. He escaped, and stayed free for three years. When he was arrested, identified and returned to the company, they trained him to be useful. They didn’t realize that they were training him to be dangerous.

Lost Boy

Lost Boy

Kids these days! What is a social worker to do with a boy who claims to be a Neanderthal running away from his father’s secret base under the Antarctic ice? His father and grandfather had accidentally changed the future, but that didn’t stop him from wanting to find a place in it.

Cyn Bagley

A Flicker of Hope: Poems Written by a Wegener’s Granulomatosis Survivor

A Flicker of Hope

In January 2003, I spent five weeks in a German hospital after my kidneys failed. It took two weeks for the doctors to diagnose me with a vasculitis disease called Wegener’s Granulomatosis. These poems express what I feel about having a rare chronic illness.

Also available from Smashwords

It Ain’t what We Don’t Know . . . by Alma Boykin

UPDATE:  Ladies, Gentlemen and potato weevils, An Answer from the North is now free on Amazon 

*Huns, Hoydens, Dragons, butterflies and Purple Unicorns, put your hands together for the erudite, the extraordinary, the one and only…. Alma Boykin!”

It Ain’t what We Don’t Know . . . – Alma Boykin


It’s what we know that ain’t so. Because everyone knows that. “We’ve always known that. We’ve never found [thing] mentioned in old books, and never found bits of [thing] laying around the ruins, so [thing] didn’t exist back then.” That is, in a nutshell, the history of a great deal of ancient and medieval technology, prior to the late 20th and early 21st Centuries. The trouble is, we’re only just now learning what we didn’t know, and discovering that even now, we still might not know it!

[Caution! Simplifications and generalizations ahead!]


For the past three weeks or so I’ve been reading about medieval and Roman technology and water supply systems, as part of the research for Fountains of Mercy and Circuits and Crises. If you need to understand how a pure gravity-flow water supply system works, how to build one, how to tunnel without modern tools and GPS, and what options you have as far as water sources, the Romans are the place to start. Yeah, the Persians and eventually the Chinese developed systems, especially for irrigation and transportation (Chinese). The water-sweep (shaduf), ground-water tap (quanat) and water-lift wheel (noria) appeared in Persia and Northern Africa as early as 800 BC(E), along with some pretty decent (as in 60 km long) aqueducts in Assyria under Sennacherib (great civil engineer, bad judgment in picking enemies). The Greeks also had aqueducts, notably in Asia Minor. But the Romans really got things organized and applied what other people had thought of, but on a grand scale.

Later people knew about the Roman water systems. It is rather hard to miss things like the Pont du Gard in France, or the Baths of Caracalla in Rome, the still-functioning aqueducts in Rome and other Italian cities, and the baths and bridges north of the Alps. Over the years a number of the systems stopped functioning because of lack of maintenance, wonton destruction, or due to earthquakes: the last functioning Roman bath in Germany only fell into disuse after an earthquake in 1356 disrupted the hot springs that fed the baths. Once the water stopped flowing, people reused bits, or changed the plumbing to match their current needs and repair abilities. But everyone knew that yes, the Romans had been great engineers. During the Renaissance and Romantic eras writers and artists sighed over the Glory That Was Rome and castigated the people who came after for not measuring up to the Roman standard.

But for all that, according to what I learned as a kid and in college, the Romans never advanced any farther because they had no machines, or very, very few, and those were just toys. Instead they relied on slave labor and animal power. Rome stalled out, grew decadent, and starved, or would have if the barbarians had not gotten there first. Or they wasted away from lead poisoning from those water pipes and couldn’t fight off the barbarians. Either way, Rome fell.

Also according to what I learned growing up, the Dark Ages were smelly, dirty, and superstitious because monks thought bathing was sinful. People used perfume to cover their BO because everyone knew that washing made you sick (and a sinner), and people ate half-rotten food (covered with spices) because they were primitives who didn’t know any better ways to preserve things. Then along came the water wheel, and water mill, and windmill, and the cam and trip-hammer, and gears and the screw and pulleys and clocks and SCIENCE! And G-d created Thomas Edison, Marconi, and Henry Ford, and it was Very Good and we moderns are so much more enlightened and wiser than those superstitious monks and imperialist Romans.*

Except those monks had running water and flush toilets. And the Romans had water wheels (three different kinds in four mountings) and water towers, and filtration systems, and knew that water should be boiled to make it safe. And they mass-produced bricks and red tableware (until the Gauls undercut them with cheap knock-offs that sold like gangbusters north of the Alps). And Roman iron technology and distribution systems made hay meadows and the invention of the iron-shod plow possible. Roman commercial bakeries used kneading machines to process grain from water-powered mills. Roman laundries used waterpower to pound and scrub the cloth. And they invented some pretty darn complex surveying and measuring tools, as we are just now (as in, the last fifteen years) discovering. Oh, and those monks with the toilets? Their drains, wash basins and baths sometimes ran into fishponds to use for growing fish for fast days, or for doing laundry, and the monasteries helped provide the municipal water systems for some towns. In Italy and France, a few water supply systems continued in use from Roman times straight through to the 21st century.

We moderns didn’t know that we didn’t know. When all you have are bits of literary sources that were saved (two works on architecture and water system management), Gibbon, and the remains of aqueducts, all you know is that Rome had aqueducts and the Medievals didn’t. Thus, since everyone knows that Rome was the pinnacle and the Dark Ages the nadir, and that Roman stuff was so good, obviously the Medievals actively rejected Rome. And the Moors brought their water systems to Iberia, because either the Romans didn’t, or the smelly Christians had torn up all the Roman stuff to use the lead in their churches. And so people forgot about Roman stuff, and had to reinvent everything, so that it was only by the late 1700s or even mid 1800s that civilization had returned to the Roman levels. Because that’s what we had from the text sources and from later European commentators.

Then archaeology happened, and a touch of anthropology, and people really digging deep into archives, looking at monastic papers. And more than just the monastic chronicles and saints’ lives, but other day-to-day stuff that had been skipped over. Things like bills for plumbing work, and plaints about frozen pipes, and Brother James accidently dropped his scapular in the privy and clogged the outflow. And law suits over pipe and aqueduct right-of-way. At the same time, archaeologists began digging into things that had been skipped before, or that had been mis-interpreted, or simply unavailable for various reasons and found that, wow, Romans had gristmills. Lots of them, all over the place, using side-mounted wheels, as well as the more familiar overshot and undershot wheels. And more underground aqueducts than previously thought, and better agricultural practices than people had guessed. Roman livestock was larger and healthier than medieval stock, for example, or so the bones and sales records suggest. Romans raised deer in commercial deer farms to sell as venison. And they ran out of fuel in the Mediterranean because they’d pretty much deforested the basin, leading to a shift in where pottery and metal work were done.

All of a sudden we’re discovering that what we knew wasn’t true. Which raises all sorts of interesting questions about why Romans did or didn’t do certain things, how they could have slavery and mechanized manufacturing side-by-side, and why didn’t more places have running water? Turns out that some of those Moorish water systems in Iberia were Roman. And that Medieval people boiled their water, or brewed with it, because they knew that drinking from cisterns or from downstream of town tended to make your tummy very unhappy. Just like the Romans did. No one saved Roman engineering manuals, so we don’t have them, but given the standardization of certain practices from Iberia and Britain to Galicia in Asia Minor, the odds are pretty good that they had “Aqueducts and Plumbing for Dummies” or “Building Mills the Roman Way.”

In the 1950s we didn’t know because we couldn’t know. Archaeological technology had not reached the stage where we could identify the remains of the wooden workings of mills or of wooden pipelines. The monastic archives had not been opened, and people had not sifted through all the minutia to find the tiny bits of daily life that reveal big things about medieval water and sewage systems. Now, we can know, and it knocks over some long-held and cherished ideas about the past and the people who lived them. We’d say that the Romans wasted water because their systems ran 24/7. They’d say, “Of course we’re running constantly. How else can we keep pressures under control and the mains flushed and open? Blowing the pipes apart is what’s wasteful.”

What else might we know that ain’t so?


*Setting aside the eeeevil environmental damage started by the Romans and then capped off by modern environmental sinners. In which case the Romans were the snakes in the garden, offering Eve a flush toilet and a hot bath.

How The Writer IS

Okay — so I figured it was time for another update on this weird thing that is the life of a writer.  I’ll admit part of this is because I’m not in the mood to do much or deep thinking.

It’s been an interesting week.

As you know, I brought Witchfinder out this week.  I also put a link to it in the sidebar after one of you nagged me enough — you know who you are.  And, oh, thanks.

Of course, under the course of indie publishing can never run smoothly, so I have not yet uploaded the files for the book version of Witchfinder.  I’m hoping to do it tomorrow morning, before starting work on Through Fire.

I’ve figured out what is wrong with Through Fire — no.  That’s not exactly right.  I found out what was wrong with Through Fire two weeks ago, and I know exactly where it’s going.  The block broke too.  It wasn’t block, apparently, but the final recuperation from whatever last year was (a breakdown seat to music?  No, wait, there was no music.)  It seems — she says in some surprise — that when I run myself down tot he point that I’m getting continually sick, I can’t write, or at least I can but there’s no emotion in it.

Another point of problem with Through Fire was that in chapter three the viewpoint character has … well, a conference with Lucius.  I knew Lucius needed to be an outright b*stard to her, and a manipulative one at that, but after a full book spent in his head and knowing his motives, this was really hard.

Never mind.  that’s been conquered, and all of the beginning has been rewritten, and I know exactly how and where this book is going to go.

However, writing it is still being way too hard.  And I figured out why.  My issue is that I’m between steps again.  How do I put this?  Visualize writing as a staircase.  When you’re between steps, you can see the step below and everything that’s wrong with it (has no one dusted this staircase?  And what’s that cat fur?) but you can’t see the step above, yet, and you’re feeling tentatively for it with your foot, so… it’s an adventure.

But i is getting done.

And in my spare time, because you know what the last few years have been job-insecurity wise (for once not for me) I’m trying to get as much of my back list up there as humanly possible.

Orphan kittens is waiting to be published.  It will probably wait till I finish all three books I want to send to Baen ASAP.

A Death in Gascony to be republished under its original title of The Musketeer’s Inheritance, is edited and in my hands, but I haven’t had the two hours to go over it.  Hopefully I send Through Fire to Toni by Monday and then I do that.  (Or might be Wednesday, because the final typo hunt always takes a couple of days longer than expected.)

So… Where is the writer?

Well… Witchfinder has sold, to date 225 copies.  Not amazing, but we’ll see how it does going forward.  I’ve always been aware the initial push would wear itself out, and then as people read it and word of mouth (and some reviews — if you have a blog and want to review it, I’ll send you a clean copy!) hits, the sales will pick up again.  I’d very much like to see 1k copies in a month among other things because it would make this moving project much easier.  But of course, I have no way to force that.

Oh, wait, there’s a way to goose it — maybe — and tomorrow I’ll have An Answer From The North for free on Amazon.  When it hits I’ll link here, so ya’ll can get it if you wish.

Of course, I set it to go for free, and then looked at the cover.  Tore my hair.  Made another cover.  Then fixed the interior.

When number one son comes on vacation, I’m going to teach him the publishing routine and programs, so he can replace the horrible covers of my early short stories.  It’s an endeavor that really doesn’t need my time spent on it, but… should still be done.

Again, though, a free story doesn’t guarantee sales for other things (though for me, at least, it usually works that way) but it’s worth trying.

And I’m working on Through Fire while Darkship Revenge tries to write itself in my head.

So, I’m very busy, which is my favored state — as you guys probably know.

Now, if I can manage to dig out from the accumulated pile of work from last year, maybe I can manage “busy but sane.”

It’s something to shot for.

One way or another, you guys get to watch it in real time.  If I start going nuts, I’ll yell for you to throw me a rope.

Let me know which way you’ll pull ;)

Stand UP

No, I don’t care if you are counted or not. This is not about voting, or the more open forms of citizenship – it’s just about not shutting up.

My parents, of course, would have it that it’s not that difficult for me to not shut up. It’s sort of what comes naturally. I used to go on continuously, about something or another, even if another was something I read. I’m better now.

But the truth is that for over ten years, I wasn’t talking. Or at least I wasn’t saying anything about anything that was important to me.

We’ve talked about it before, and to long time readers of the blog, it’s certainly no news that for years I kept my mouth shut for fear that if my political opinions leaked to the ears of my New York publishers, my career would be most sincerely dead.

It would be fatuous to assume I was wrong, too. In multiple conversations with various editors, I both heard libertarians referred to as evil people (not just wrong, but evil) and got told about authors who were not bought because “I think his politics were more suited to Baen. Just a feeling.” (Yes, that is a direct quote from an editor I worked with.)

At the same time, I was several times encouraged to amp up the social message. That I couldn’t do. In at least three cases I balked it, and yep, I paid for it with my career every time. But to do it, I’d need to actively support evil. And that I could not do.

It took me longer to realize I was passively supporting evil. That by staying quiet, by not making waves, I not only allowed people to presume things about me that weren’t true (I don’t know how many of them did. Clearly not enough to make me a protected darling.) But the public in general would assume it. And that was bad enough because it enforced a totalitarian presumption of uniformity of opinion. The famous “All good people think this way.”

This article is about the Eich affair.  Or at least the Eich affair was the precipitating incident for the article from the Federalist site. For those of you not acquainted with it, (You so very lucky bastages) this is where the CEO of Mozilla got hounded from his job not because he publically expressed opinions about gay unions but because he privately gave money to prop 8 years ago. (That it was leaked at all, is something else and one that sickens me.)

The article quotes extensively from Vaclav Havel on the “post totalitarian” state — the state we live in.

To explain how dissent works, Havel introduced the manager of a hypothetical fruit-and-vegetable shop who places in his window, among the onions and carrots, the slogan: “Workers of the world, unite!” He’s not actually enthusiastic about the sign’s message. It’s just one of the things that people in a post-totalitarian system do even if they “never think about” what it means. He does it because everyone does it. It’s what you do to get along in life and live “in harmony with society.” (For our purposes, you can imagine that slogan is a red equal sign that you put up on your Facebook page.)

The subtext of the grocer’s sign is “I do what I must do. I behave in the manner expected of me.” It protects him from supervisors above and informants below.

Havel is skeptical of ideology. He says that dictatorships can just use raw power, but “the more complex the mechanisms of power become, the larger and more stratified the society they embrace, and the longer they have operated historically … the greater the importance attached to the ideological excuse.”  We don’t have a dictatorship, obviously, but we do have complex mechanisms of power and larger and more stratified society.

In any case, individuals need not believe the lies of an ideology so much as behave as though they do, or at least tolerate them in silence or get along with those who work with them. “For by this very fact, individuals confirm the system, fulfill the system, make the system, are the system,” Havel says.

As most of you know, I’m a supporter of gay marriage. The reasons for it are complex, but mostly it boils down to the idea that if they can marry we won. We co-opt them into the bourgeoisie.

This doesn’t mean I’m at all divided in l’affaire Eich. What happened was repugnant and sickening. It was a discovery of someone’s private opinion and a hounding him for thought crime. (I will add that my gay friends are just as sickened. Of course, they are libertarians. And some of them are anti-gay-marriage for the same reason people here have mentioned: fear of having the ceremonies forced on the churches.)

I’ve heard a lot of stuff about how this means that gays should go back in the closet or other nonsense – but that will solve nothing.
You see, the issue is not gays. The issue is also not income inequality. The issue is not “War on women.” All of these are wedges the militant Marxists use to divide society and make causes both ubiquitous and repulsive to the rest of us. They both engage minorities to their side with “see, we protect you” and disgust the rest of us with the endless hounding of anyone opposed AND THEN they take the backlash and use it to tell minorities “you need us. They hate you.”

That this is bullshit doesn’t stop it from being remarkably effective. If it weren’t, the crazy gambit of “binders full of women” would not have worked, particularly as no one can precisely say what in hell that was supposed to mean or why it was supposed to be offensive.

And btw, as a fifty one year old woman, whose hormonal treatment is a form of the birth control pill (and it will tell you something about my system that I’m probably more likely to conceive while on it – though fortunately at my age that’s also not likely. Fortunately not because I wouldn’t welcome another child, but because I shudder at what my system would do to a pregnancy) I’m getting SO tired of everyone acting like, you know, if the pharmacy mentions what they’re giving me, the mobs of anti-birth control people will kill me, right there in the grocery store.

This b*llsh*t never happened before the stupid election campaign gambit about how Republicans wanted to ban contraceptives (a complete and bald faced lie.) BUT now my doctor and my pharmacist both whisper about that prescription and play idiotic games with my husband, who is signed in for ALL my privacy stuff. (As is older son, in case husband isn’t home and I crash into a semi.) We get the “Do you know what she’s taking? Can you tell us the name?” (No, he can’t. It’s a strange name, because it’s a form of pill only used for this type of issues.) So he has to call me at home and ask the name, and I have to find the old package, all so he can pick it up. He’s in all my disclosure forms. We’ve been married for thirty years. But the Marxists have this myth that hey, someone is going to pound me if they know I’m taking the pill.

In the same way the Marxist myths about gayness make me want to hit something. Or someone. For instance, there is the ubiquitous “gay bashing” which mostly happens in movies and tv shows. Oh, sure, gay guys can get beaten. If they go to a highly ethnic area in big cities. BUT that is never how shows, movies, books, or TV portrays it. Because that’s not part of the Marxist narrative.

And for the record I get pretty d*mn tired of the stupid equal sign, because it’s used INSTEAD of thought. If you’re going to support gay marriage, you should do it with open eyes, aware of the difficulties, aware of the issues it’s going to cause, including the fact some people will be shocked that legalization doesn’t mean mommy and dad now have to APPROVE. (Which a friend of mine says is why most gays want gay marriage.)

I LOATHE the equal sign, the same way I loathe stupid pat sayings like “Female shouldn’t be a pre-existing condition.” I loathe them because they mean nothing, really once you dig into them. They’re just a quack noise that says “I’m going with the opinion I perceive the cool kids to have.”

It’s the same reason I despise the intrusion of feminist issues into historical fiction. Hang it all, not everyone in the Victorian era was a suffragette or discontented with her lot. If they were, it would have changed much earlier. (In fact in women oppressing regimes, as in most of the third world, women are usually the enforcers of status quo.)

Making your main character a feminist is just a “look at me, look at me, look how enlightened I am.”

You can always tell in which direction the herd thinks it is moving, because people say things like “Grandma was a housewife with five kids, but now I can be a lesbian.” You never hear “Grandma was a lesbian, who had this one kid before joining a commune, but now I’m a housewife with five kids and perfectly happy.” I bet you there are as many of one as of the other (yes, there were communes in the early twentieth. And some of them were really odd sexually.) BUT you don’t hear it worn as a badge. People with that history might joke about it with friends, but they don’t blazon it forth as a “look at me, I fit. I’m moving in the right direction.”

All of this is herd behavior. Naturally humans want to fit in. (Well, some of us have given it up, right?) Outliers are punished, as they are in any social species. This is instinctive.

Except that Marxists or, as in the article quoted above, the “post totalitarian state” exploits that instinct. They want you to at the very least pretend to belong. Because every time you pretend, you lend credence to their lies. When you shut up, it allows them to say that all good/smart/bright/minority/purple/dinosaur people agree with them. And those in the crowd who disagree look and see what seems to be a united front and assume they MUST be wrong. After all, all these people agree…

That more than the threat of force makes cowards of strong and opinionated people. And that – that must not be allowed to continue.

It must not be allowed to continue because we know from history that even a majority of the good/smart/minority/cool people can be disastrously wrong. In fact, the history of manking is a stumbling from idea to idea, forever approximating truth, but never actually getting it.

There was a time when it was believed – to quote Pratchett – that a good stink was the only protection against illness. (Yes, I know not everywhere and not absolutely, but this is a metaphor for a type of wrong headed thinking, and I can’t think of another one just now. Don’t kill me.) This was, of course, wrong since sanitation, soap and regular baths have resulted in amazing decreases in mortality.

However, if people had said “everyone agrees, the debate is closed” and hounded out of debate anyone who disagreed, those weirdos who were into washing and soap and stuff, would never have got a chance.

It takes unmitigated hubris to believe that after centuries and centuries our time NOW has it absolutely right – that the best way to run a society is the way our progressives believe it should be run, and that therefore anyone who disagrees can not be motivated by pure reasoning or logic, or even a desire to protect someone.

The reason for that unmitigated hubris is mass media, and the uniform leftist grip on it. Insensibly, over the decades of the twentieth century, mass media and mass entertainment, and even books, moved more and more left – because the left captured gate keeper positions and they DO discriminate according to opinion. In their book you can only disagree if you’re evil, and would you hire/publish/produce an evil person – and no one dared speak, so everyone thought that was the way to be.

Now they see their goal – which is seizing society and making the herd obey them, NOT in case you were wondering women’s rights or gay rights, or purple unicorn rights, those are just the excuse they use – within reach, and they intend to seize it. Which is why they’re expanding their mau-mauing, scolding and general fit throwing. Hence Eich, the madness in SF, the madness in the gaming community and the general unpleasantness in society.

Which brings us back to “Stand up and be heard.” The counted doesn’t matter. One of us is enough to let a hundred people in the shadows know “yes, I’m not alone.” Imagine how much it would be if all of us came out of the shadows.

Yes, they’ll attack you. This is how I earned my world’s worst person trophy (half shares with Kate.) BUT that doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter because even as they attack you, they’re calling attention to the fact you exist.

Stand up. I’m here to tell you it feels better than lying down and being assumed to be part of the herd.

I know many of you have jobs and obligations that don’t allow you to stand up. I was there. But I commented on line under a thinly veiled identity. I was still speaking up. Not as powerfully as I am now, but speaking.

Don’t let them assume they’re dealing with a herd. We’re a pack. Don’t let them corral you. Talk back. Don’t apologize.

This is why I said yesterday that I think people should talk even if I disagree with them. People should talk, in particular, if they’re going against consensus. PUSH BACK.

In a way you’re saving them from themselves. They’re pushing for various idiotic things, because they think they’ve won.

But more importantly, you’re saving yourself and your children from living in a society where you have to go along to get along, and where you’re not allowed your own thoughts. Where even someone like me, who supports gay marriage, can be pilloried for saying “The equal sign is a stupid thing because gay marriage would never be “equal” as such. Also, it was promoted – true – by a communist front group.” And “If we gave the Marxists everything they want tomorrow, they’d just come back with more outrageous demands, because the end goal is to have the herd obey. In unison. And without back talk.”

Don’t give it to them. Listen to me.

If you can at all, in the measure you can, in small ways and big, stand up, talk back, argue. There is no consensus that is perfectly resolved in anything. Our society is not the end all and be all of history. There is no end of History, no perfect society. Marx was a weird man who smelled, a little hairy inkstained wretch who lived on the kindness of others. His perfect vision was more German mysticism than any science known to man.

We’re not standing athwart history saying “Stop.” History doesn’t run in any one direction. We’re standing in front the sniveling Marxists saying “Very funny. Now stop whining and listen to what I think. I have a rolled up newspaper, and it’s time you grew up.”

Stand up. Time to lie down and enough, once you’re in the grave.


Of Babies, Bathwater, and Blind People.

I always thought that the expression about throwing out the baby with the bath water was silly. I mean, who doesn’t know the difference between slightly soapy liquid and small human? Unless, of course, every adult involved in this is blind and lacks the sense of touch.

Now I’m not so sure, because I see people all around me do it. They mix up baby and bath water, and confuse signs of health and signs of decadence, and generally take the opportunity to bewail the current state of affairs as a sign of terrible things to come, and evil days ahead. And generally make me want to get my broomstick and crack some heads.

Look, I’m not going to say we’re in the best situation possible. I don’t lie to my friends. (I almost typed that fiends, which also applies: Sarah’s Fiends or Shall We Toss Out Baby is a title for a great Victorian novel.)

I have in the past – on this very blog – explained to people the mess we’re in. From the fiat currency in which no one with half a brain can put any faith at all, to the miserable state of underemployment, to the fact that most of us keep retrenching and still coming up short on money.

So, the picture is not rosy. For any other country I’d say it’s impossible. But we’re not any other country. We’re Americans. We fix things. We do things. We built new things. And we have enough of an history of consistently pulling rabbits out of the hat (ours or someone else’s) that I expect we’ll do it once again. Maybe G-d does love children, drunkards and the United States of America. Or maybe we just aren’t good at laying down and dying. Who knows?

What I know is that I’m hearing bewailed as signs of our decadence (supposed. I think rumors of our decadence, like rumors of our death, are grossly exaggerated) aren’t.

I’ll start by explaining: I was raised in a very traditional society. The ah… state capitalism system I was born under (I’m not using “fascist” simply because the regime by itself was neither anti-Semitic nor allied with the Axis and if it stayed neutral in world war two it was more penury and the fact that Spain could have marched in any minute. But State Capitalist it was. Say like China today, if a little less ruthless) was a very traditional society. Very. Like most societies ruled from above by people who think of themselves as do-gooders, it behooved everyone to fit in as much as they could. It wasn’t a good idea, for instance, to shout out bad things about the politicians in charge or the country, or the countries history. And if you were a foreigner, it wasn’t safe to tell people how poor they were compared to the rest of the world. At any rate we already knew it.

There were certain advantages to the situation – no, I’m not actually joking. I’m not defending the regime either – in the sense that it almost stopped innovation, and that things were comfy and familiar. My childhood was better than my mother’s in that we had antibiotics and vaccines, and most of my generation didn’t die. (Though a substantial number did in one epidemic.)

Oh, we were poor as Job and there were no imported luxuries because things like coke were strictly forbidden (in fact the only – very expensive – soft drink I remember from childhood was orange soda. I got it as a treat once a month or so in summer. With peanuts.) And people were so destitute they stole clothes from the line. Also, people would unravel an old sweater, re-dye the wool and knit a “new” sweater.

But we also all lived more or less at the same level. And there were no surprises. No one suddenly struck it rich. No one became poor overnight.

When that changed (and the people who came in were another flavor of socialist but that’s a long story) people became panicky and started talking about things like it was the end of the world.

And I don’t mean political stuff, which sometimes was almost the end of the world, but society stuff. As in, “We now have coke in stores. This is decadence and misery.” Yeah. Because for some reason in humans’ heads the trigger for “Run and hide” is close to the trigger for “things are changing and I have to adapt to new things.”

The reason is probably because when everything changed and our ancestors were barely human, running and hiding was the only sensible thing. Right?

New tribe over the ridge? Run and hide. Earthquake? Run and hide. River dried out? Run and hide.

Unfortunately this doesn’t help in the current state of affairs.

Again, I’m not saying we don’t have reasons to worry. We have tons of reasons to worry. But I’d bet you dollars to doughnuts that most of the free-floating anxiety you feel right now has more to do with the fact that things are changing really fast.

Used to be you could look ahead and sort of predict where you’d be in five/ten years. And I don’t mean the fact none of us knows where he/she will be because, well, we don’t know how to survive in this economy just now. I mean…

Take my profession. In ten years, I have no idea what it will look like, or what things I’ll be doing. Take the launch of Witchfinder. It is not something I’d have even THOUGHT of ten years ago. Or five. Three, perhaps. Barely.

Things change. Fast. This scares us and we mumble of decadence and disorder.

Then there’s yeah, our education is for sh*t right now, partly intentional I’m sure on the part of education luminaries taught by Ayers. But that’s neither here nor there. Over the next ten years, people will find new ways of learning what they know. People are good at adapting. We’ll lose some percentage, but there’s no perfect system. We always lose some percentage. Right now, most of what school teaches is wrong, and do we want them better at teaching wrong things.

But of course what we get is “those illiterate kids! It’s the end of the world.”

And then there Americans’ acceptance of the oddball, the weird, the frankly strange. We have it, you know. All of us.

Look, that was the first thing I noticed when I came here, and remember I was in the North East which is a bastion of conformity, compared to the rest of us.

Anywhere else in the world, an adult with an accent is not just an oddity; he or she is someone to be shunned.

And I don’t know if it’s Portugal’s totalitarian heritage, or just a cultural thing, but I used to agonize about wearing the “wrong” length skirt. Because people care that you wear that year’s fashions and look like everyone else.

My first experience in the states reveled in oddities. The high school students who dressed (clearly) in their grandparents’ clothes. The kids who were pursuing a different course of study. The young people very serious about an artistic vocation and pursuing it without waiting the blessing of their elders.

All these were special to me, as were joke sayings on the teacher’s walls, or the fact everyone was so approachable.

To me it was like coming home. When my mom visited years later, she thought it was the end of the world and “anarchy.”

What I’m trying to say is this: the people – particularly on the right – who think the fifties were the last time this country was healthy should consider the regime then in many ways resembled that which I was born under: it was more conformist, more stultifying than what we have now. Not stultifying enough, though, to keep tech from progressing and when tech changes, society eventually changes. Not immediately, but like the snow flakes accumulating till there’s an avalanche. And when the avalanche hits, that’s when people think it’s the end of the world.

While the end of the world is more likely to come to a “stable” and “top down” regime.

It’s not that diversity is our strength so much – certainly not diversity of skin color which means nothing. It’s that our toleration for the odd allows us to import Odds from all over the world. And Odds, in the way of outliers everywhere, are often the most productive (and the least productive – sometimes the same person – people in the universe.)

Decadence might yet come to America, but it won’t be in the form of wild clothes, or people of different opinions (or sexual preferences, or…) not being afraid to be themselves. That’s rather a sign that we’re not decadent. (Those who have different opinions being persecuted is not so much a sign of people’s oddities or sexual preferences hanging out, it’s a sign of way too many Marxists around. Honestly, it’s high time someone made a spray called Marx Be Gone.)

It’s countries who are dying who do stupid things like pass restrictive laws on private behavior, to seem strong. Russia is doing this because it is dying and a society under stress can’t afford anyone who acts odd, at all. I’m not saying the wounded bear is negligible or that it won’t take a good chunk of civilization down with it. I’m saying that’s not a healthy civilization: birth rate, age at death, and the ever-present flight of women – all speak the dying bear.

We don’t need that. That would be throwing the baby out with the bath water. Next thing you know, as in Iran, we’d be policing haircuts, clothes, and making sure women are REALLY covered up. No, thanks. I’ll pass.

What I first fell in love with, in America, was the fact people could laugh – even at themselves – and that even odd ducks were accepted.

I’m an odd duck who can pass. (Not odd that way. But odd in this SF/F way we have.) But not having to pass frees energies for writing and other world.

And writing, btw, it would be really hard in Portugal, because who do I think I am? Here I think I’m me, and write me, and people buy it. And it’s good.

Which brings me to: don’t throw out the baby with the bathwater. I don’t want to go back to the fifties and you know neither do you. The fifties the lamenters would like to go back to, never existed, anyway. They’re an artifact of looking back. In the fifties, with the kids all having automobiles and the break up of the extended family and the move to the suburbs – you know the world was falling apart and we were decadent.

We always are. And yet, we always remain standing while other countries fall. Because we reinvent ourselves, and, at the last minute, grab the baby of technological innovation and tolerance for the odd (and the Odd) and throw out the bathwater of division, forced conformity and dictation from above in all its forms.

Let’s do it again.

Bubble Warp – A guest post by Cedar Sanderson

Bubble Warp – A guest post by Cedar Sanderson
I was working at an indoor playground this weekend, and in between the mad rush of what I was doing, I overheard parents talking about their children. I’m an inveterate eavesdropper, it comes with the writer brain, perhaps, or maybe just the oversized curiosity bump I’ve got. Anyway, I heard the same line of thought, but from several people, mothers and fathers, through the four hours I was listening. “Oh, don’t go on that, honey, you could get hurt.” To another adult “I think he’s less likely to get hurt on that structure. The big blue one looks like trouble.”


Now, I’m not suggesting that we as parents ought not to protect our children from harms. I’m all for vaccination and will fight for that as a scientist in a couple of years when it’s my job. I’m not suggesting we let the children climb on the cliff without a rope (and harness, and carabiners, and proper belay, and ascenders… but with those, let ‘er rip, kid!). I am suggesting that swaddling them in bubble wrap is harmful to their long term health. We must let them come to a little harm, because it will strengthen them for the adult life they must eventually enter.


As we bring home infants, we sterilize the house, doing our best to rid every nook and cranny of any conceivable microbe. Culturally, we have been doing this for almost a century, and science is discovering with alarm that the effects of over cleanliness and modern medicine are actually damaging our health. Ever wondered why there are now regulations against having peanut butter sandwiches in school? Well, the human immune system is like an engine with the governor taken off, and when the illnesses, dirt, and parasites are taken out of the equation, it is spinning out of control into an increasing array of allergies, autoimmune disorders, and possibly even Alzheimer’s Disease. (http://emph.oxfordjournals.org/content/early/2013/08/11/emph.eot015.full.pdf+html)


Is letting the kid eat that worm he just grubbed out of the garden the solution? Um… probably not. But letting him roll around in the mud and play with the puppy, rather than penned up in a sterile house, might just help. Getting rid of antibacterial products (look for triclosan on the list of ingredients) will help conserve both your family’s health, and that of our environment. Look, I’m no eco-happy environmentalist, and I definitely not a ZPG whack-a-doo, but I was raised to be a conservationist. If you destroy it, and it doesn’t come back, you’ll starve. So don’t overhunt, but don’t underhunt, either. But that’s a whole ‘nother topic.


As the kid gets older, accept that sometimes he will fall off the slide doing something dumb, like not coming down feet-first. There will be tears. There may even be blood, and stitches, and a trip to the ER. It’s a rite of passage, and it won’t leave permanent trauma. Unless you make it that way. I remember vividly reading a passage in a favorite book about the best way to make a child terrified of something, whether it was a snake, or a bug… freak out, as a parent, where the child can see you. If you lose it, your toddler learns that this is the correct and appropriate reaction to the stimulus. Which isn’t so bad when it comes to a big hairy spider (and freakin’ hilarious when that toddler is grown into a 200 lb 6’ guy screaming like a little girl in the woods at a web on his face), but what are we teaching school children with zero-tolerance policies?


That poptart in the shape of a gun? Kids have been playing muskets versus knights since gunpowder hit the battlefield. Cowboys and Indians, cops and robbers… point a finger, pick up a stick and voila, a weapon. It’s not training them to be violent, if anything it’s teaching the opposite. Actions have consequences. I was brought up with the catechism “don’t shoot it unless you mean to kill it. Don’t kill it unless you mean to it it, or it was going to kill you.” I had a healthy respect for guns as tools from a child. Just like I wouldn’t touch Dad’s circular saw, or stick my fingers in the toaster. Respect, not blind helpless fear. No wonder kids get to be bitter teens and decide guns are the way to get the adults to listen to them, they are taught from very small that guns are the ultimate evil. No young thug ever went on a rampage with power tools, which are almost as deadly, nor even explosives. Guns are the demons of modern society, so they are the ultimate symbol to the hopeless rebels. Teach respect for a gun as a tool, and you take away that handle.


Is it too late? Are we so wrapped up in our communal cocoon of bubble wrap that there is no way out? I don’t know. I know my kids grew up playing outside, living in a house with no year-round climate control. They ate fresh garden produce, sometimes outside, standing where they had picked it, without so much as a rub on their pants to knock off the dust, first. They knew where my hunting rifle was, and they knew not to touch it (I’m pretty sure they didn’t know where the ammo was, but you never know). I took my eldest through hunter safety at the age of twelve, and she loved it. They sometimes snagged a bit of cookie dough before baking, or licked the brownie batter off the spoon. They seem to be doing just fine.


My Dad has a greenhouse (Ok, Dad, proper terminology, it’s a high tunnel) and we raised produce in it for a few years before I moved off the Farm. Tomatoes, starts for spring, strawberries, all good and yummy in the fullness of time. But first, in spring, once the starts were ready to go out, we had to go through a process of ‘hardening off’ the tender sprouts. You see, they aren’t ready to just go in the ground. You must get them used to the harsh sun, cool nights, and the wind. It will kill them if you transition to abruptly. Children are the same way. If they aren’t exposed to the buffets of real life, when they must stand on their own, they will collapse in a tangle like the tomatoes who have never felt wind. They won’t grow straight and sturdy, and they might die.


Get them ready. Let them take that fall. Don’t rush over, screaming and crying. Wait. See what happens. He may just sit up, look around, and when he’s not being paid attention to, stand up, dust himself off, and go back to his play. It’s all right, you don’t need to be on hand for every moment of every day. It’s not good for him, and it’s not healthy for you. Unwind the bubble wrap, and let your chick stretch his wings and grow strong.


Free Novel, Rogue Magic, Chapter 43


The prequel to this — Witchfinder — is now up on Amazon.

This novel will get posted here a chapter every Friday or Saturday, or occasionally Sunday.  If you contribute $6 you shall be subscribed for the earc and first clean version in electronic format.  I think it will probably take another three months to finish.  Less, if I can have a weekend to run through and get ahead of the game.  It hasn’t happened yet.

NOTICE: For those unsure about copyright law and because there was a particularly weird case, just because I’m making the pre-first draft of my novel available to blog readers, it doesn’t mean that this isn’t copyrighted to me.  Rogue Magic as all the contents of this blog is © Sarah A. Hoyt 2013.  Do not copy, alter, distribute or resell without permission.  Exceptions made for ATTRIBUTED quotes as critique or linking to this blog. Credit for the cover image is © Ateliersommerland | Dreamstime.com


Lady Caroline Ainsling, sister of the Duke of Darkwater


The path to fairyland was longer than I expected. When I’d gone into it, before, with my mother, it had been a short step through a doorway that I’d opened in a back alley of London. The path Akakios took us through was long and winding and dark. No, wait, not exactly dark, but more like a path through a dense fog, where you can see the way immediately in front of you, but everything else all around is this milky whiteness that might as well be dark, for all you can see.

The path wound, too, which seemed odd.

I leaned over. Akakios was in centaur form, and I was riding his horse-half, side saddle, with my arms around his chest, just under his arms. It wasn’t the most comfortable of rides, particularly when he found the need to gallop full tilt, but it made do.

I drew closer to him, tightening my arms, and said so he could hear me over his own galloping hooves, “Are we being kept out? Of Fairyland? Are we being wound around and are we going to be on this go-around path forever?”
I felt a little shudder go through him, perhaps at the thought of winding around forever, but when he answered his voice was confident if slightly out of breath, “No. I am winding the path to confuse them. They’ll expect me to go to my father, but I’m going to my mother’s village.” And then, after a slight pause, “You’ll like her.”

I wondered. I mean, I had heard about the mothers of centaurs, who were women who lived in a village nearby. They were, most of them, daughters of centaurs. For some reason the change ability, the capacity for turning half-horse only manifested in male children. Even if Akakios had told me that there were legends once of a centaur queen. He didn’t seem to believe the legends, and I was not inclined to give them credit, either.

But they married centaurs, too – I should say there were several villages of them, and centaurs, like my people, tried to keep the relationship between husband and wife as distant as possible, particularly as Akakios told me, his people could be born with the most extraordinary set of birth defects.

The marriages were odd, even by the standards of my society and my class. Husband and wife lived apart, since neither the accommodations nor the relationship could accommodate the husband in his mixed form. So they came to the village only to visit and in human form, while the women lived there all the time. Since the men felt more comfortable in centaur form, they lived in the herd and visited only once or twice a week or so. Notwithstanding which, Akakios seemed to think his mother and father had a warm and close relationship. He’d seen both sides of each at different times, since whenever boys started shifting into centaurs – which could be any time from age six until their late teens – they got sent to live with the herd. He certainly hadn’t considered that dislocation an exile, and seemed to love both his parents equally, but I wondered what his mother would think of his returning home in centaur form, and carrying an out-of-world bride.

I wasn’t given much time to wonder, because – like that – we were out of the fog, and Akakios was galloping on sand and kicking up clouds of it in the glory of a red and gold sunset.

We were by the sea, a blue-green sea with huge waves crashing just feet from us, so that the spray hit me. But even as I was about to protest, Akakios was turning away from it and up a path amid rocks.

The path had clearly been designed for horses, being wide enough and level enough, and yet climbing steadily amid the craggy rocks on either side. Someone had cut this path, or perhaps shaped it with magic since both the side of the rock turned to the path and the path underneath had a melted look. It occurred to me to wonder whether Akakios’ mother, and the other village women had as much magic as their men, or whether this path had been made by the centaurs themselves, to facilitate the visits to their family.

Akakio galloped up the path, even though I could feel his human lungs straining, since he must already be very tired. But when we reached the outskirts of the village – near the first few isolated cottages, where I could glimpse a larger cluster of cottages ahead, he slowed to walk. I understood why seconds later.

First there were chickens. Chickens that seemed to be totally afraid of horses – or centaurs – and went on pecking and looking almost underneath Akakios’ hooves. Akakios seemed used to him. he made an exasperated sound, and then there were slow, slow steps, careful to avoid the balls of feather and dumbness at his feet.

“Would it be easier if I dismount?” I asked, and he shook his head, and his hand clasped over mine, which were in turn clasped together at his chest. But he didn’t answer, perhaps because he had no time. From the village there was a scream of Akakios, and then a young man, who must be only a couple of years younger than Akakios came running down the path, sliding in the too smooth areas, his bare feet seeming to grip to stop his slide. He was wearing a sort of chitton, pinned at the shoulder, and belted, but probably no more than a very large sheet of linen, when all was said and done. His features looked a lot like Akakios’ and his hair was as curly, but the color was, unlike Akakios’ glossy black, a dark wheat.

He screamed “Akakios!” as he ran, and behind him came a cloud of children. That is the only way I can describe it. A cloud of children, in various sizes, ranging from adolescent to young toddler.

The young man reached us first, and his hand reached up to grab Akakios’ wrist, “Akakios. We thought we’d never—We thought you couldn’t ever come back!”
And then the cloud of children was all around us, babbling and calling and demanding attention. Akakios couldn’t move for them – a fat little toddler, completely naked – was holding on to his front leg. I thought I really should dismount but Akakios was still holding my hands, and before I could move, a woman’s voice said “Son.”

I suppose his mother was queen of centaurs. And she was as beautiful as one imagines queens will be – but never are – looking much younger than my own mama, like a woman just at the edge of maturity, maybe 30 or so. She was probably older. Akakios had had a much older brother, now lost. But people in fairyland age slowly.

She had dark brown hair, in long curls, pulled back with a ribbon. And she was wearing a very pretty tunic in pale blue. It covered her to her ankles and looked like a dress a debutant might wear, back in London. But over it she wore an apron, which was a very odd thing for a queen to wear. Even odder was the fact that she was wiping at her tears with the corner of her apron and leaving streaks of flour all over her face.

“Son,” she said again. And then in a sob. “Your father has gone to fight—Your father has gone to try to stop the revolt against Night Arrow. You should go back to Earth. I can’t bear to lose you too.”

It Turns Out There Is No Cake

I’m going to blame it on Amazon which threw some new and very interesting rubs in the way of my getting the book up, including, apparently, a glitch in loading the cover.

It is loaded into Amazon.

It will go up on various other venues over the week, and will be in paper within two weeks (I’m not promising more than that, since it’s a very long book which means the gutter set up for bringing it out in paper, is driving me nuts.  (Yes, yes, I need to get my mind out of the gutter. ah ah ah ah ah.)  And of course, I’m working on this against the background of trying to get Through Fire delivered.

Needless to say, I’d very much appreciate it if any of you who have a blog of face book account echo the buying link and this where people can read more. Particularly if you liked the book and can honestly say so.

I’m also almost done cleaning, which I didn’t finish yesterday because I was writing and then we had an engagement in the evening.  Normally I would now sit down and write you the chapter — but I’m afraid we have another engagement this evening.  (Regular social butterflies, we are.)

I shall send the revised version of the manuscript to the people that got the e-arcs.  Not much different, but it’s amazing how many typos can survive THREE separate editors.

At any rate, the thing is done and it’s up, and now it only remains for me to bite my nails and have this feeling like when you left home in a hurry to catch the bus and spend the entire ride convinced you left the door wide open, the oven on and all the faucets on in the bathroom.  (Well, sometimes it’s true.  I once came home from a play date to find water pouring out under the door of my mother’s kitchen.  The amazing thing is that they didn’t kill me.  The incident was afterwards referred to as “when we replaced the downstairs flooring.”)

I’m sort of hoping I didn’t do something disastrously wrong, and I’m going to hold my breath and hope it actually sells.

And I’ll give your chapter tomorrow.

BUT I’m very afraid the cake is still a lie.  or at least, while there’s a batch of cup cakes cooking on my counter, they haven’t yet invented a modem so I can send one of those to each of you…

You must endure it as best you can.

And yes, I’m still unbelievably nervous and worried, and it feels like I’m standing naked in church.  I didn’t realize how much COURAGE those of you who published  indie had.  I apologize if I ever told you to stop being a ninny and start putting your stuff out because you didn’t need a gatekeeper to tell you it was good enough.  I was right, yes, but I had no comprehension at all of how SCARY it all is.

Hold me.


Today we’re just promoting Cyn!

*And if you wonder what I’m up to — I’m entering the changes and fixing typos so I can keep my promise to bring Witchfinder out today.  Bear with me.

Later there will be a chapter of Rogue Magic.  Also, cake.*

Just one entry this week, from our Poet in Virtual Residence, the fabulous Cyn. Go buy her book, and come back next week for more great reads! Hey guys, we’ll have more books next week, right? Right. Same Hunnish time, same Hunnish place! As always, future entries can (and should!) be sent to my email. Happy reading!
Jason Dyck, AKA The Free Range Oyster
Server Wrangler, Mercenary Wordsmith, and Lackey to the Stars

Cyn Bagley

Living in the Desert

Living in the Desert

Living in the Desert is a collection of short stories about living in the high-deserts of California, Utah, and Nevada. There are stories of wildfires, and desert rescues, including a cougar attack. Also in keeping Nevada stories, there is at least one alien encounter.

The author grew up in the high desert of Utah, where T.V.’s were uncommon and every one had a favorite story.

Also available from Smashwords