The Wrecking Crew

I’m writing this post because I’m tired. As in “I’m sick and tired” and you know what that means in the mouth of a woman my age.

Now we live in dispiriting times – all times are dispiriting which is why religious people hold out for a transformational miracle that will make humanity get over its most trying faults – and sometimes it seems like the enemies of freedom are on the ascendant everywhere, and you should just lie down and give up the fight.

Which is exactly what they want you to do, and why they first took care to take over all the means of communication and even of entertainment, from the symbolic and visual to that involving story and ideas. Which is why they’re so terrified of parade floats out in the middle of nowhere.

They want you to feel isolated, hopeless, and like they’re geniuses bringing all their plans to fruition with perfect brilliance.

And people buy this. Most of you, judging by the comments on this Andrew Klavan piece.

I don’t often agree with Klavan. Or, no, that’s not precisely true. I don’t often agree with his approach or tone to things we at least in general agree on. However, that article was absolutely spot on, and perfectly right and it was a relief to hear it aloud outside my head.

If you need me to explain it, geniuses of planning and legislation aren’t in dire need of controlling every bit of their public image. This is why the US in the past was not very good at it, and why people in Europe thought life in the USSR must be better, because both countries were putting their best foot forward, right?

We didn’t care that much, because when people dealt with us up close, the truth became quite obvious. BUT the USSR had to control every bit of their propaganda so people wouldn’t guess at the rotting carcass of horrible that their system really was, and how bad they really were at planning.

In fact, taking over every form of mass media of any image-making stuff is always the first priority of leftist governments because they’re really fanatical putzes selling themselves as geniuses and because reality – that meany – inevitably fails to conform to their expectations.

Yes, I know, the vultures of doom will swoop into my comments like they swooped onto Klavan’s. There will be Alinsky this and rules for radicals that. And how it’s all working perfectly. PERFECTLY.

I’m not going to deny that this wrecking crew is running a job on our country. What I’m going to deny is that they’re geniuses or even that as much of a wrecking job as they’re doing is necessarily because they want it so.

(Sighs) Look guys, we’re dealing with red diaper babies, mostly. Red diaper babies are people who were brought up in communism as though it were a religion.

The problem with taking communism and putting it in the box marked religion is that it has all the characteristics of religion save for the redemptive factors. It stole the narrative of religion (and before the usual idiots yell at me that the people in the administration are socialists, not communists, bah. In Europe everyone who wasn’t a member of the two parties knew perfectly well the difference between them. “ Socialist is what communists say they are before they have absolute power.” They’re a Marxism of the same color) but without the transformational event (the return/arrival of the Messiah, the transformation of the world by divine power) what we get is a desperate attempt to try to fit their theological frame work to reality-as-it-is.

This is important to remember. Religious people fit their religious narrative to the world-plus-divine-grace or to an after life in which we’re all redeemed and beyond our worst dinosaurian tendencies.

The communists don’t. They just tell themselves that once evil – capitalism and profit – is removed from the world, humans will be different. (If you don’t think this is true, then you never read their tiresome nattering about Homo Sovieticus back when they still tried to justify their nonsense.) But capitalism (as in barter, trade and self interest) are intrinsic parts of being human and can’t be removed without killing society (and the humans that compose it.) And even then, capitalism and the humans that remain only go underground.

In this way Communism is akin to a religion that decided the human brain was the offending organ, without which we’d all live in unending bliss. The truth is that once you remove the brain the human no longer offends, because it no longer does anything but decompose.

So all of communism’s narrative: once there was a society of perfect sharing, without trade or self interest.>Capitalism somehow entered the world>Capitalism gets removed from the world >paradise ensues is a-priori and a-posteriori too, for that matter (they do a lot of pulling stuff out of their posteriori) a system of beliefs that denies reality. And the more the system fails in the real world, the more it denies reality. It has to, because the alternative is to stop believing in the system. And while people who “converted” as adults might be able to do this, or at least to come to a cynical position vis-à-vis communism, where they acknowledge its failures but still think it’s the best, or at least the best for them, people who have been raised in it CAN’T. They either walked away in adolescence or, if they stayed, if they’re the good kids who bought the whole thing hook line and sinker, walking away in mid-life would destroy them. It would break apart their entire ability to see an interpret things.

And that’s what we’re dealing with in the current administration. Sure, of course they’re destroying things on purpose. They’re convinced America is the embodiment of capitalism, and once it’s removed from the world equality and flowers will ensue. Everything they were taught (yeah, the progressives took over education LONG ago) tells them so. So, yeah, they’re taking Alinsky’s methods and destroying everything with remarkable success.

In fact, they’re succeeding beyond their wildest dreams.

You see, they didn’t want to destroy EVERYTHING. They want to make sure they and the other “good people” remain in control, which means they want to discredit capitalism, while making people believe in the benevolent hand of (their) government and the caring of people like them for “the little people.”

And at that they’re failing spectacularly. Because they’re not geniuses. They’re poor, foolish deluded fanatics, who have been sold a line of bull.

Look, guys, their first attempt at the proletarian revolution was Occupy Wall Street. They are so out of touch with reality that they thought once the economy started pinching we’d all join goons who poop on police cars and camp in parks, to put the hurt on the 1%. Because the economy is a closed system, and if they have that much, they stole it from us, and we know it, and for years, we’ve been seething and wanting to take it back. So once someone pointed the inequity to us, we’d just jump on it, right?

Their attempt at gun control involved flooding Mexico with American guns, so that Americans would give up their guns, so that Mexicans wouldn’t kill each other with the guns. (Like the guns are some form of totemistic animal that kills on its own.)

They really, really, really expected their foreign policy to work, too. Because of course, other countries are less capitalist and therefore “peace loving.” They expected that raising Muslim self-esteem would stop Muslim aggression, too. Because they think of the world as sort of a really large kindergarten and they believe bullies bully because they lack self esteem.

There is no contact between their beliefs and reality. If what they believed were true, then they’d get the results they want, but they don’t get those results and can’t figure out what’s wrong, because they can’t question their foundational beliefs.

The current attempt to flood the country with the very young and very poor of Southern parts of the Americas is an exceedingly gifted clusterf*ck that tells you they’ve completely lost their grip on reality. They gained it long enough to figure out that the poor of Latin America were no longer coming in like they used to and are in fact leaving, thanks to their craptastic handling of the economy. This could not be allowed, because, well, you know, the proletarians of the third world are supposed to come in and take over America and make it VIBRANT because that’s what’s supposed to happen. The brown people are supposed to inherit the Earth because exploited. (There isn’t much sense in any of it. They’re religious beliefs, meant to be taken on faith.)

So they’ve engineered it to bring in waves of “children” because they know Americans like children and have trouble turning them away.

I’m not sure what they expect to happen, but if I had to guess, as far as vote fraud goes they might have a point. They’re bringing in that many warm bodies with no right to vote, but the ability to vote anyway, unless we get serious about voter fraud.

But I don’t think that’s their plan. I think their plan is fuzzy and strange and hinges on “they’re brown, so socialism will work with them.”

As someone who tans and who when tanned can give our president a run for the money on the “brown” stakes: You are mistaken. This is as crazy as all your other beliefs.

What I see coming of this ranges from the truly epic blow up at the polls and a serious determination to police voter IDs, to a financial crash and actual civil conflagration. (Why conflagration, nor war? Because I think it will be very, very short. It’s entirely possible Obama thinks bringing in Latin teenagers means he has shock troops, but the fact is that untrained, undisciplined teenagers will melt if people get serious about defending themselves. And people will if it comes to blows.)

In any case, most of these children, I suspect, will end up leaving again, voluntarily, particularly as the economy gets worse (and if you think it’s getting better, there’s this bridge in Brooklyn I’d like to sell you. It’s cheap. We’re only getting rid of it because we don’t like the paint job. We only used it to go to church on Sundays.)

Which is how progressives are not, nor have ever been geniuses. I don’t doubt some of them have high IQs (though not certain people who carefully hide all such information) but they are unable to see reality because of their ideology. And when you can’t see reality, what you’re employing your reasoning skills on is a dream that makes a mockery of your logic.

To buy into the narrative that they’re destroying everything because they’re geniuses and everything is going according to plan is to be as delusional as they are.

Things aren’t going according to their plan, and they’re destroying everything because given their beliefs they can’t HELP destroying everything. When their beliefs meet reality, poverty and misery ensue. It’s what they do.

But that doesn’t mean that after that they can build their thousand year progressive reich. The ultimate far-off longevity of these systems seems to be seventy years, give or take, after which they devolve into either crony capitalism or hereditary monarchies. And even those probably wouldn’t subsist without the existence of the United States as an engine of prosperity keeping some stability and enough material goods that even broke ass countries stay afloat.

Making the leap from “They’re destroying everything” to “they’ll win” is sort of like saying “the wrecking crew has demolished the hovel. They’ll now build a skyscraper.” It’s two very different sets of skills and mind sets needed for each phase.

Our daft rulers don’t care about it, because they “know” the result of their actions. You destroy capitalism, perfect communism ensues, world without end.

But that has never worked anywhere except in their religious tracts. In fact, it is the remnants of capitalism (as in black market etc) that keep communism afloat to the extent it floats. Oh, and help from capitalist countries.

So, yeah, the current wrecking crew are going to leave us standing in the middle of the rubble. And it’s going to hurt like h*ll. That’s what happens when you give leftist-theocrats the run of the real world.

But they’re destroying EVERYTHING, even the things they care for. And their importing of young people won’t save them because most of these young people aren’t the destitute peasants of their imagination. Frankly, most young people come here for the goodness of Capitalist America and the benes of the unrestrained welfare state (they don’t know the two are antithetical.)

Once the later crashes the first, they leave.

And then? And then we rebuild. We have to.

Because that’s what we do. They wreck. We rebuild.

We’re the building crew. Can we build from this? Oh, sure. We’ll find a way. Once they’re done, their solutions will be discredited for at least a generation. (It’s too much to hope they’ll be discredited forever, though it could happen.) And then we can clear away the mess and work. Some of us are working already and build under.

They’re not geniuses. And to be fair, neither are most of us. But we have experience living in reality, not in some Marxist fairytale. And so we can see cause and consequence.

Which is not a bad foundation for a society.

Be not afraid!

In the end, we win, they lose.


A Call to Action – Amanda Green

A Call to Action – Amanda Green


There’s been a joke running around the members of Mad Genius Club that some of have been upset not to be named among the “world’s worst” or the “world’s most evil” by those folks who not only seem to bow down and worship at the feet of traditional publishing but also those who are so quick to condemn anyone who is a white male of a certain age or, basically, anyone who doesn’t agree with them. We’ve had some fun in posts where we’ve challenged the SJW and GHH sets over their demands that we all cling to their visions of what is politically and socially correct. The problem is, they have completely missed not only the point but the boat to the point.


To start, those of us in the United States still live in a country where we can express our opinions – within certain guidelines – without fear of recrimination. They want to stop this. If we aren’t sensitive to their victimhood, we need to be silenced. We are a danger to them, it seems, and so we must be muzzled and re-educated. What they don’t get is that the harder they try to silence us, the louder we will become. Further, they will find that there are a lot more who believe as we do than they ever expected. Why? Because we’ve been polite and patient for much too long. We’ve let them talk over us and step on us. Instead of fighting back, we’ve kept our heads down and done our jobs. We haven’t claimed our victimhood and proclaimed it to the skies.


Things started changing for so many of us in the publishing industry when there was finally a viable alternative to traditional publishing available to us. No longer did we have to keep our mouths shut about how we felt for fear of having our options dropped or of being blackballed in the industry. Still, it was a slow journey into the light. We’d hidden our political beliefs for so long and had been so indoctrinated with the belief that admitting we were libertarian or – gasp – conservative would lose us readers.


But then events started happening that pushed us to the point where we could no longer hold our tongues. Looking around, authors who had been hiding in the political closet for so long saw the new indie authors saying what they thought in social media and on their blogs. Looking at the best seller lists on Amazon, hearts beat a little faster and a spark of hope flared to see authors who shared the same libertarian values these long-silent authors held not only selling their books but selling well.


The breaking point for many came when SFWA declared war on Mike Resnick and Barry Malzberg and suspended the operation of the Bulletin when some of the more vocal of the SJWs and GHHers cried foul over some columns written by Resnick and Malzberg and a chicks in chainmail cover. The oh-so-delicate GHHers were insulted by Resnick and Malzberg reminiscing on how, years ago, they thought a female editor was attractive in her swimsuit. You see, that was sexist. They’d never say that about a man. Victimhood in action!


What is so funny about all this is that the vast majority of authors at Mad Genius Club are female and proud of it. Yet all of us, and Sarah in particular, have been attacked for not being true to our sex. I guess we are supposed to embrace our victimhood and wear it like a badge of honor. Sorry but not only no but hell no. I am not a victim because I choose not to be one. I know how to handle a man who treats me disrespectfully, just as I know how to deal with a woman who does the same thing. I don’t want a hand up – or a hand out – just because of my sex.


But that isn’t the way the game is played, at least not by the other side, and not just when it comes to what gender we happen to be. The latest salvo by them comes not because we have tried to silence them – we haven’t. We’ve been too busy pointing out the lack of logic in their arguments and laughing at them. No, the latest salvo comes because, gasp, someone dared publish a list of “21 Conservative Writers to Read at the Beach”. Included in that list are authors like Larry Correia, Col. Tom Kratman, John Ringo, and our own Kate Paulk and, of course, Sarah.


Oh the howls of outrage. How dare anyone publish a list of – gasp – conservative authors. Why, that sort of list ought to be hidden from view for fear the impressionable minds of our young might be contaminated by their evil values. Independent thought, capitalism, individuality, tenacity, patriotism are all, apparently, values that we shouldn’t be proclaiming. Or maybe it’s just the fear that there might be heterosexual males of the anglo persuasion and women who love them that scares the other side. Frankly, if it wasn’t so sad to know that there are folks who are actually worried by lists like this, it would be funny. Next thing you know, they’ll be suggesting books written by these authors be burned.


Oh, wait, they have already basically done that when they “suggested” that Toni Weisskopf rein in Larry Correia and his attempt to “stuff” the Hugo ballot box. Of course, Larry did no such thing. All he did was what others, including darlings of the SJW ilk, have done for years. He published his list of authors/works he was going to vote for and encouraged others to consider doing the same. But, you see, that’s wrong when you aren’t of the “right way of thinking”.


So now we have the list of 21 conservative authors and the howls of outrage have gone out. The first I saw of it was on the internet where there were collective vapors being suffered by the delicate flowers of the GHH crowd. I could almost picture them in their hoop skirts sitting in the shade, fanning themselves. The only problem with that is it is an insult to all the true Southern ladies. Those ladies have spines of steel. They may speak softly but they make the big stick carried by Teddy Roosevelt look like a twig.


Then my attention was directed to Twitter. Now, I hate Twitter. It is a time sink I just don’t want to get involved with. However, this time, I read with a mix of disbelief and amusement as two of the GHH/SJW crowd decided it was time to teach us the error of our ways, or at least to warn the rest of humanity away from us.


It began with a tweet from Damien Walter, he of the Guardian infamy, tweeted that he might just do a column on “scifis [sic] most crazy, fascist authors” and he asked for nominations. Cora Buhlert responded with “Kratman, Wright, VD, Correia, the entire Mad Genius Club, prepper fic authors, anybody in that Buzzfeed article.”


Those of you who follow Mad Genius Club probably remember Ms. Buhlert. She came to my attention back in February when she misconstrued something Kate had written and ran with it, condemning Kate and anyone who agreed with her because, you know, Vox Day is evil, SFWA is wonderful and GHHers ought to rule the world. Well, to be fair, she didn’t say the last but pretty much implied it. Needless to say, both Kate and I responded. You can see my post here and Kate’s here.


Obviously, we must have hurt her feelings because now, according to her, we are fascist. At least that is the inference based on the Twitter conversation between her and Damien. Now, I find it rather amusing in a sad sort of way that someone living in Germany, someone who I would expect has some knowledge of history, doesn’t know the definition of fascist. But, in case she happens to wander over here and sees this post, let me help her out.


From Miriam-Webster Online, fascism is defined as:

a way of organizing a society in which a government ruled by a dictator controls the lives of the people and in which people are not allowed to disagree with the government


Funny, I don’t remember a time when Sarah or any of the other authors listed have said their way of belief is the only right way. They haven’t said the SJWs and GHHers shouldn’t be allowed to write their message fiction. What they, and the rest of us, have said is that they are tired of being told what to write by the powers that be in New York. They are tired of being told by a vocal minority that they should write only about certain types of people and that having male heroes who are white and heterosexual is wrong.


But they, and we, are the fascists because we won’t silence ourselves. We speak out against those who condemn us. We refuse to accept our victimhood, much less proclaim it and demand concessions because of it. We would rather forge our own way in the world, teaching our children how to stand strong and proud.


In my darkest times, I have visions of a country where the SJWs and the GHHers rule. Writers of uplifting fiction, those who tell stories readers want to read, will have to go underground. Our stories will be whispered in the dark of night because the PC police will come to confiscate our manuscripts and take away our keyboards. We’ll find ways to smuggle our stories to hackers who will put them online in parts of the internet most folks don’t want to know about. But those who don’t want to give in to tyranny will find a way. Just as the Soviet dissident authors found ways to smuggle their works out of the then Soviet Union, we, too, will find ways to get our stories out.


Then reality hits and I hope things won’t get that bad. I look at the best seller lists on Amazon and elsewhere and see more and more of the stories I want to read making those lists and fewer and fewer of the message fiction there. Then I look at outlets like Liberty Island – which has also come under attack from the other side for, gasp, being conservative – and I have hope.


Besides, when the other side has such a poor grasp on reality, we really can’t accept their claims of supremacy and let them win. I don’t know about you but when I was growing up, my parents taught me not to bow down to bullies. I didn’t do it then and I have no plans to do it now. I might be battered and bruised some as a result, but I’m willing to pay that price to write – and to read – what I want. Can you say the same?




The State of the Writer’s State

So, in case you wonder why there wasn’t a chapter yesterday and there isn’t one at MGC now — I’ve been fighting something since Liberty con.  I very much hope it’s JUST allergies, but if so they’re bad ones.  I really need to figure out a more airtight closure to that vent in the basement.  Reason for thinking it’s allergies is that it actually gets better if I go for a walk.

Also, I haven’t had the time to go over the previous chapters of either Rogue Magic or Elf Blood, and without it I”m going to make a mush of the thing.

I am however going to go back and make Rogue Magic 3rd person.  It will be third person close-in as Witchfinder is, so the personalities still come through but we’re not bouncing head to head.  With unreliable narrators that can get downright dizzying, which is why I think I’ve only had about $40 in donations for RM compared to about that multiplied by 100 from Witchfinder at this similar point in the game.

I purely hate skipping chapters but I MUST concentrate on the overdue novella and novels and I’m starting to have serious doubts about my sanity, or what passes for it in a writer, as I never had so much trouble finishing anything — and I mean anything, as nothing but a few shorts have been finished since February last year — in my life.

I keep being afraid I’m broken, but I think it was last year’s illnesses, overwork and now stress.  The illness meant that I did finish Thorugh Fire, but it was … vacated of emotion.  I’m fixing that now, hopefully.

Overwork — well, now you know why I’m not writing for PJM except the joint column with Charlie once a week.  I would much prefer to have kept that job, because it was regular money, but it wasn’t enough money when rewrites and recastings were eating most of the week.

Then there’s stress.  We need to move out of this house, which, because I can’t stage a house I’m living in means renting something else — something that has proven impossible in Denver and Col Springs.  (the requirements are different for each city mind.)

I’m about 1/10th packed and trying to weed out books, the current criteria for them being that I keep the signed ones, the ones I hope get signed (i.e. most Baen books) and the research books (I have no clue why, but I can’t research on electronic books.  Possibly the fact that by the time I’m ready to write a book my research books look like little porcupines with all those stick-on tags.)  The rest is either being donated, dispersed to friends or sold used.

This will hopefully allow us to move to a smaller house, and one with less household dust.  Though it’s looking like the house can’t go on sale till around Spring next year.  (Shrug.)  This will probably cost us money, but I simply don’t see the way around it, particularly since the hail storm caused damage we didn’t see, and which will have to be fixed.

Most of this — except some painting within reach — is going to mean hiring professionals, but the problem is that process takes time, as does supervising them.

Which brings me to the trip to Portugal this summer, which of course mom has been agitating for for a year, and which I’m not sure I can take at all.

To some extent, she has a point in that I normally go every three years and I’d promised to be there for her 80th birthday.  But the way things have gone, between paying our taxes and being left more or less flat broke; trying to catch up on the writing that didn’t happen last year, and now the storm… I have no idea how to fit that time into my already overloaded year.  All this not helped by mom’s demands that I come for a month or it’s not worth it, or her suggestion that Dan doesn’t need to come so I stay longer.  (The problem isn’t Dan, though he can only stay two weeks or so.  The problem is me.  Mom refuses to have internet in the house, and I can’t be away from the blog, let alone my other obligations for a month.  Also, I can’t write while I’m there.  Oh, okay, in theory I can.  I mean, she always tells me I can.  But in practicality she’s worse than my kids or my cats whom the keyboard clicking sends into some sort of emergency that needs my help.)  All this said, I might have to have a tough talk with her about the realities of time and money this year, and explain I HOPE we can make it next year, but even that is far from certain.  It’s “no emergency occurring” — which right now seems pretty impossible — and everything money going just right, which ditto.  OTOH if I don’t make it over and something happens to dad who is the sole survivor of his siblings, I’ll never forgive myself.

I buy lottery tickets (at least once every three months) but the idiots keep drawing the wrong numbers.  You’d think it was an easy task.

Okay — enough whining.  But that stress, combined with the stress of feeling like I need to be at least three people even to just do the weekly column, the daily blog, the publishing of old stuff and the writing of new one is driving me nuts.

For instance revenue on Witchfinder is falling, as I’m pushing the time to have a sequel out — and the next book, The Haunted Air — is writing itself in my head, starting with a crazy woman running away from her evil step mother by rapelling down the wall of a castle in the clouds (but not your usual castle in the clouds, since she’s on Earth) realizing that the rope is too short, making a quick spell and spilling into Michael’s boat… Which is aloft at the time, since he just figured out how to make small craft fly without carpets.  They’re both seventeen, so it will probably get classed as YA.

BUT I’m still catching up on Baen books which are overdue (And btw rewriting is way harder than writing) and I’m trying to pack a house and it means that when I’m not doing one of those things, I feel guilty.  Since I can’t do them all three at once…

Other things that I feel guilty about are not feeding the subscribers in their space and skipping chapters.

And now we’re back to the beginning.

I honestly don’t know how to stop having freakouts and channel the energy to writing.  Only I’m not a mistress of oriental (or even occidental) disciplines, so it doesn’t seem to happen.

Ah well.  Thank you for letting me blubber all over you.  I’m now going to pull my head out of… uh… and go finish the novella, then finish the novel, hopefully this week, so that I can do the other novel for Baen, so I can do the indie novel.

Who knows?  By December my life could be back on track.  It could happen.

And that’s the state of the writer.  For now.  Stupid, with hopes of improving.

UPDATE: the lovely Shadowdancer has made me two designs, one for Carpe Carp and one for “I was Carped” as well as one for “born to be Hun” and “born to be Hoyden” suitable for baby gifts for our ever exploding Hun tribe.  If I get time this weekend (could happen.  Dan would do it, but he’s working his secondary job this weekend) I’ll upload them to the zazzle shop, together with the Usaian one and the gods of the copybook headings one.  Fingers crossed I actually have time.

Look up in the sky! It’s a bunch of books!

Good day, one and all! We have some lovely books for you this weekend, both repeats and new releases. No other real news for the Hunnish Hordes at the moment, so go enjoy your weekend, read some good books, and stay out of the heat if you can! As always, future promo post entries can (and should!) be sent to my email. Happy reading!

Jason Dyck, AKA The Free Range Oyster

Dragons Rescued, Curses Polished, Evil Princesses Thwarted, and Pans Repaired While You Wait

Alma Boykin

Elizabeth of Vindobona

Book Three of the Colplatschki Chronicles

The fate of the Empire rests with Elizabeth von Sarmas.

In the ten years since she fled to the Eastern Empire, Countess Colonel Elizabeth von Sarmas has risen to be one of Emperor Rudolph’s most skilled commanders. Ably assisted by Lady Ann Starland and Lazlo Destefani, she’s fended off the amorous attentions of Archduke Lewis, thus far. But after losing a political battle, Elizabeth and her men find themselves at the wrong end of the Empire when disaster strikes. Court intrigue and surprise proposals fade into nothing when the Turkowi launch a do-or-die assault on the Empire.

And King Laurence has one last dagger in his sleeve, one that may accomplish what ten years of warfare could not.

Laura Montgomery

Manx Prize

In the second half of the twenty-first century, when Charlotte Fisher was just thirteen, orbital debris took its first large-scale human casualties from an orbiting tourist habitat. Haunted by visions of destruction and her father’s anguish, as a young engineer Charlotte follows in his footsteps and determines to win a prize offered by a consortium of satellite and orbitat operators for the first successful de-orbiting of space junk. Her employer backs these efforts until the reentry of a piece of debris kills two people, and she and her team are spun off to shield the parent company from liability. With limited resources, a finite budget and the unwanted gift of a lawyer who, regardless of his appeal, she doesn’t need, she must face a competitor who cheats, a collusive regulator, and the temptations dangled by the strange and alluring friends of a powerful seastead.

Currently on Kindle Countdown!

T.K. Naliaka

In Time of Peril

The Decaturs Book 1

Raised most of his life in the challenging expanses of West Africa, young Chris Decatur has returned to the United States for college, leaving behind dunes and nomads for the quiet halls of academia. Studying the American Revolution, Chris and his classmates embark on a reenactment trip to Upstate New York and New England. A week of hiking and learning, accompanied by a few reenactment volunteers and Chris’s knowledgeable father, Robert, should be an entertaining excursion.

But even the backwoods are no refuge from the dangers of the world. The group stumbles on a terrorist plot in the works and the students are taken hostage as the mysterious plan unfurls. As Chris faces an ordeal of brutal fighters, uncooperative classmates, deadly threats and a battle of wits against ruthless foes, Robert Decatur risks everything in a daring pursuit to rescue his son from the hands of evil.

Joseph Collins

Kill Code

A Former Assassin: Leo Marston is done with long-distance murder and he’ll do anything to keep it in his past even if he has to make one final kill shot.

A Dead Man: Nathan White seeks revenge from the grave—or so it seems when the computer program he wrote prior to his death begins a systemic killing of prominent government officials whom White has deemed enemies of the state.

A Woman in Trouble: Jackie Winn—White’s co-worker and former lover—unknowingly activates the Kill Code program… and then becomes a target herself.

A Fight to the Death: Leo and Jackie form an uneasy alliance in a dangerous attempt to disable the Kill Code program and stop the Black Hand—a group of cunning, professional assassins following the program’s directives—from murdering the government officials as dictated by White’s crazed plan.

The very fabric of society as we know it hangs in the balance as Leo and Jackie discover what they are made of and risk their lives to defeat the the seemingly undefeatable…


The Panic of Crowds

When I was young – I think fourteen, fifteen, but it could be a year more or less. It’s weird how the experience remains a vivid memory but everything around it has become a soup of events and adrenaline – mom and I went to an illegal demonstration in downtown Porto.

For those in the States, Portuguese at the time had the right of assembly, supposedly at least, but you needed to get a license, and that mysteriously was never granted/was delayed/was lost if you were to the right of the people in power.

So people assembled illegally. (At least once, under curfew rule that mandated everyone under 21? 25? be home, to curtail public unrest, I ran from the police into a coffee shop where I was helped out a back door and then through a warren of back alleys and houses/establishments to I THINK a place where I got a ride home. The details are fuzzy and confused these many years later. I might have grabbed a train leaving at that moment. I wasn’t exactly brave, understand, I just couldn’t stay quiet. Congenital inability.)

Anyway, this was an impressive illegal demonstration, with people packed tight in the central plaza. And then from one of the buildings above, someone let loose into the crowd with AK 47s. (At least two someones. I remember the sound vividly.)

A moment before the crowd had been mostly middle-aged people, most of them small business owners being squeezed by the policies of the far-left government then in power.

They were the kind of people who helped old ladies across the street, and took care of stray dogs. You know the type.

In that moment, as people fell somewhere in the middle of the crowd, and blood splattered, the crowd panicked. We were packed so tight that there was barely enough room for people to breathe in and out. We were sitting ducks.

Someone pushed. Someone started running.

I wouldn’t be here today if mom hadn’t had more experience than I had of these situations. Reason being, I was wearing high heel stiletto sandals. I was a runner (marathoner) when I was young, but not in sandals. I’d have fallen. Those who fell were trampled by this laid back, staid, very nice middle aged crowd. (As for the wisdom of wearing such footwear, let’s say I learned that day not to wear it where I might need to run.)

Mom didn’t try to run with the crowd. By main force, she gained a place near the wall and dragged me along, and flattened me against the wall, while the crowd ran by.

In my memory these aren’t even people, but something like an onrushing train. That’s what it felt like.

Besides the dead from the shots, there were people trampled on the steps to the underground crossing. I want to say seven, but my memory is not what it was and seven seems low for the size of the crowd.

I’ve been having images of that crowd as I read the nonsense my colleagues pull out to condemn Amazon and justify Hatchette, even though Amazon, while being a business, offers them opportunities Hatchette doesn’t. Even though Amazon offers them the opportunity to escape the truly abusive model of traditional publishing. (Not saying Amazon is perfect, and it could use competition, but with all its faults it’s miles above Hatchette. And btw, more on this dispute here and here.)

They’re in a panic.

If you’ve never done anything but traditional publishing, I know how scary it is to contemplate going indie. I KNOW. I was terrified.

And if you’ve been well treated by traditional publishing, you have a lot more income to replace, and indie is proportionally more scary. Not just because it’s giving up income even, but because it’s giving up STATUS. Used to be if you were traditionally published, you’d achieved something, you’d run the gauntlet, you could be proud of yourself, and superior to those newbies who simply paid to have their book printed.

It was credentials, not achievement, but in a field that paid almost nothing and where writers got no respect, it was something hard achieved and hard fought for.

Now we see newbies push in and make money we can only dream of.

Do you know the average income of a SFWA member used to be 3k? It’s probably lower now. I usually clocked in at close to ten times that, by writing an amazing amount. It took its toll.

Now I know self-published people making that in a month with a couple of books out and without even trying.

I embrace this, because if they can, so can I. But then I was never one for status. If it was status I wanted, I’d have stayed in Portugal where by virtue of birth and connections I could have claimed some without having to do anything.

But my more conventional colleagues feel the loss of status, fear the loss of income and panic.

Under this go the several SFWA witch hunts and calls for ideological purity (too late. We’re out and running.) The inane denunciations of self-publishing as reactionary, and whatever in holy heck Damien Walters is flapping his lips about at the moment. If he even knows.

Panic. Frothing, spittle-flecked panic.

This explains the bizarre screeds I’ve read in the last year from some of my colleagues who were, yes, left, but always urbane, decent people.

They see others’ careers collapse and they don’t feel secure, and they’re running for that underground passage, pushing and trampling everyone in their path, thinking of nothing but their own safety and saving themselves.

Gee. I’m glad Baen and indie pulled me, and I’m standing here against the wall, watching the crazy rush go by.

But I’m also a little worried.

You see, writing wasn’t the first field hit by this. That was music. Catastrophic, rapid, technology change did a number on that. But music is also different, requiring more equipment, more practice hours to do even bottom level. Also it has a reputation for difficulty. So it got off lighter, I think.

The panic in writing seems to me more widespread and visible. But maybe that’s because I’m not a musician, I don’t know.

On the other hand, what I do know is that the fields set to be hit by the catastrophic change stick are even wider and more visible, including to the average person, than writing: teaching. News (already under the stick.)

We tend to think of these things as good things, because they’ll free us from the dead hand of Marx guiding those fields. And so it is a good thing, just like indie is by and large a good thing. But we don’t think of the “reaction” to rapid change. (It might interest El Grauniad to know that “reactionary” doesn’t mean as they seem to think “right wing” or “individualist.” It, in fact, means “in reaction to change.” Of course, progressives thought the change would always be in their direction, and neither recognize that they’ve taken the positions of power and are, therefore, the establishment, nor that change is now taking us the other way, away from the concentrated power of the industrial age. And that they are the reactionaries, trying to hold on to their conventional power and stave the change. For instance, our current government is not just profoundly reactionary, but if you look in the dictionary there will be a picture of them under “reactionary.”)

Imagine the craziness of SFWA spread out over every school in the land. Imagine the insanity of calling for ever more left solutions coming from every newspaper. (Yeah, yeah, how would you tell the difference? Indeed.)

Imagine as other industries get hit by this – they will, even manufacturing to an extent, and retail is already getting hit because of online shopping.

We’re in for interesting times. Keep your powder dry, or to quote Heinlein (and metaphorically, though it’s also a good idea literally) “Always keep your clothes and weapons where you can find them in the dark.”

We are the forces for change, the ones on the side of a technology that for the first time since the industrial revolution empowers the individual and is targeted to the individual.

It’s going to get all sorts of fun, and some otherwise urbane people are going to turn into foaming-at-the-mouth panic monsters. Some people will get trampled.

Get rid of those stiletto heel sandals now. You can run better barefoot.

And be ready. The crazy times are here, but the crazy times will pass.

In the end, we win, they lose.

The Failings of Experts

I didn’t want to write this post, mostly because I had planned to do a different post on the panic going on from people of inelastic minds (not their fault, most of them were indoctrinated that way) in the face of tech that seems inoccuous but is changing things in ways we can’t figure out. Ah, well, will do that tomorrow.

Today I need to talk about experts.

Look, I love experts – real ones which doesn’t necessarily mean credentialed ones – and having one give an opinion on something I’m trying to master is wonderful.


Well… waggles hand. If you get the right expert, at the right time, in the right mood.

I first learned this when I was a green as grass writer. ALL my group were green as grass writers.

Unfortunately, I was the green as grass writer who did all the work. If the group were a sled, I was the one pulling the sled. I’d come up with a new technique, (new to me, okay? Pipe down) such as starting a story with dialogue. Next thing you knew, everyone in the group was using it. Other things I discovered that are wonderful and startling to newbies, like not having dialogue tags, but tagging dialog with action also disseminated through the group. (It’s amazing. You can read a million books, but you never apply it till a fellow newby does it in group and then you go “oooh.”)

Writers groups are usually like that, though there’s usually more than one innovator. But there’s usually the innovators and the followers.

Not disparaging the followers, they could learn from seeing, which I’m unable to do. (More on that later.)

In our case, because it was so lopsided, I used to get awfully tired. So when we had a writer join the group who had published a book, (remember, guys, we hadn’t even SOLD a short story. Any of us) I not only happily relinquished leadership to her, I learned at her feet, too.

I did say I was green, right? I couldn’t read the signs. This author had published one book ten years before with a very distinctive house. (Yes, it was Baen. No. I’m not going to tell you who it was.) Since then she hadn’t sold ANYTHING. If it were now I’d know that she either had had only one book in her, or only one specific type of book, and that her book hadn’t sold well enough to buy a second or third.

But I didn’t. Green as grass, remember?

She, OTOH had no doubts of her status. Yes, she hadn’t published again, but that was because the publishing industry was wrong. And the public who hadn’t bought her book were wrong. She knew the One Right Way To Write A Novel.

That too, a few years later, would have been an awful warning.

You know those “learning styles” that we (well, I) always assumed were cover for “we don’t know how to teach kids”? Well, turns out they’re real. There is a reason for instance I can’t watch instructional videos and REMEMBER but if I read instructions I’m fine. This has been brought home to be by a son who is an extreme visual learner. I’m actually a kinetic learner. I learn better by touching and feeling something (shut up.) Which is why I can learn better if I’m crocheting while listening to a lecture BUT learn best of all if you make me do it, and correct along the way. (This is difficult with books, which is why I’m largely self-taught.)

Unfortunately, the same way that there are different types of learning, there are different types of writer. The two seem to be correlated.

I can for instance write a novel from outline, but it will be flat. I can do it, because I was taught linear learning, and had it pounded home with a ruler. What I mean is, to an extent (but only to an extent) my suspicions of the “learning styles” thing is right, because learning styles can be ignored, if you’re willing to use force and discard about 30% of the pupils as “too dumb to learn.” (This is a luxury we had when we had kids by the dozen and when there were a lot of GOOD manual professions.)

My best way of writing a novel is to tinker with it, until it coalesces. Which is why I get stopped by illness. However, it gives the richer, deeper substratum. A Few Good Men I could only see one chapter ahead. I understand Pratchett writes like that too (well, wrote) which was a relief finding out. I thought I was broken.

And I usually get the novel from the character who is in trouble.

This was a problem because the woman who came into our group wrote a novel from the plot out. So when I brought in a first chapter about this woman being followed by a mysterious stranger, she told me it was wrong. I didn’t have the setup for the whole plot in the first chapter.   Into the trunk the story went.

Over the two years she was with us, she nixed many stories, both mine and others by telling us things like “it doesn’t have a motor.”

It wasn’t till my first fantasy series was bought and I sent it to her (she had left the group by then) that I realized what the problem was. I sent it to her electronic. She told me I’d never sell it because it was a romance with fantasy elements, not fantasy (she missed the part where I’d sold it already) and that my characters had too much interior monologue.

Now, think what you will of Ill Met By Moonlight. I know I do. Geesh, if I ever go down the rabbit hole of beautiful language again, shoot me. It’s more merciful.

But it didn’t have “too much interior monologue.” It had what it needed to for that sort of story.

And that’s when I realized she ONLY knew how to write adventure SF. (Her book is pretty good, even if it didn’t sell wonderfully.) In her mind this was so much “the one right way to write a book” that she couldn’t even cross sidewise into Fantasy, let alone literary fantasy, and heaven forbid she even considered other genres, because she didn’t read them. (For instance, Ill Met is many things. It is NOT romance.)

She WAS trying to guide us as best she knew, but the only road she knew was the one she could see through her blinders, and she imagined it was ALL roads.

And this is why you should be afraid of self-proclaimed experts, particularly in fields where some of you learn in an intuitive and non-linear manner.

An argument has developed in the comments of the post two posts ago. Only I’m not sure it’s a real argument, because it’s Fail Burton against everyone else. He thinks you should leave covers for experts, or do them as flat and boring as possible, because you’d do less harm. The rest of us think he should shut up and try to understand he’s out of his competence.

I’m not going to address his claims except to say that I read a LOT of sf in the sixties. The cover mockup he put up fairly screams “Ace Double.” If you put that up, you’d get everyone assuming it was not only the reissue of an old book but that the person putting it up was dumb enough to scan in his old cover.

What I’m going to tell you is how I came by doing cover design.

First of all, I do have some artistic credentials, in that I’ve taken about three years of training. This was done to keep from going insane while writing six books a year, because while doing art the words SHUT UP.

Where am I? I’d say better than many people selling their drawings, but definitely not professional. Given time – a lot of time – I can produce something that both my teachers and a leading artist in the field said was about 2 years from ‘cover level’ level. The problem is not just those two years – though once the kids are out I intend to resume training – but the time. For instance what I did for the cover of ConVent, back when I THOUGHT you had to do all your own art (long story) took me about two hours. If I’d taken a month, instead, it would have been pretty good art. (Still sucky for a cover, particularly in the digital age, though.)

I’d like to return to drawing, but if I do it will be to do things like draw something for my husband for his birthday or draw some of my friends as pixies. (You know who you are.) And each of the drawings will take six months or so, in the background of what is going on with writing/life.

But that’s neither here nor there. Suffice to say I had training in art. It’s time for the execution I’m lacking and the time to finish learning to “pro level.” I can do that or I can write. I choose to write.

In most cases that’s immaterial. There is always Dreamstime. The covers for my Shakespeare series cost me a grand total of $50 for all of them, and only because I bought big for eventual print.

The one thorn on my side art wise has been the Musketeer books. There simply are no non-photograph musketeers, and most of the photographs are unsuitable, as there is something in the male brain that turns the possessor into a raving idiot the minute he has a sword in his hands.

The expressions on most of the people posing are variations of “Sword, how cool is that?”

Also, historic mysteries NEVER have photographs on the cover.

Most of the historical mysteries have either full paintings or something “iconic” on the cover, like a piece of architecture from the time period. The problem is that the iconic ones take A LOT of push.

I first tried a contrivance of having the landscape in woodcut, with a figure from one of the many out-of-copyright-because-old musketeer paintings. This didn’t work because it signaled “literary.”

BUT for a while I thought it was the best I could do, so I ran with it.

I did a post on covers at MGC in which I put up that cover.

In the next six hours I got emails from TWENTY experts, offering to do my covers for free. Lettering, etc. Also, I got people coming to the site to tell me that the whole painting would look better. Yes, of course it would. It also signaled “reissue of classic” which you don’t want unless the book is… reissue of classic. (My plan for art involves learning DAZ 3-d which is pretty sucky and stiff without post-render work, and then do post-render work, for which my art training is MORE than sufficient.)

The lettering samples they sent me had… the same issue. Look, a lot of them looked very pretty, very balanced, very professional. No argument on that.

The problem was looking at them I got the feeling of “literary and little” tables at cons.

There were also the “it came from the sixties” look of some of them.

I tried to talk about it to a couple of the more reasonable sounding designers, and got the “there’s one right way to do it.”

Which made me run screaming into the night, to learn myself.

I took the Kris and Dean workshop (which is actually taught by a professional cover designer, one who works in many genres.) And I’ve been trying to implement it ever since, hampered by the fact that I learn by doing. Which means my covers are changing every month or so so drastically that the old ones make me cringe.

However, books do sell better with these covers, and not just my books.

Part of what I do is look at the top 100 paper bestsellers, to see what the houses are doing. I don’t have to like them. For instance, the ones for Urban Fantasy and paranormal romance hit me as tawdry and trashy. But that’s what I want to look like to sell those books.

As for the cover of Witchfinder, well, when I asked the vendors at the con about it, they were iffy until I showed them the book, and then they said, “We’ll send you an email about stocking them.” So I know the cover is okay.

Is it brilliant?

What you have to remember is that you don’t have to be brilliant. You have to be as good as an untrained assistant editor in NYC.

What? Oh, sure, that’s who ends up designing most covers – beginner and midlist. The designers do the high falluting covers for the people they intend to push. You and I get English major who knows some photoshop and gets some guidance “That sucks, try again.” And “use minion pro for fantasy.”

This is for cover design, not art, of course. For art…I’m seeing more and more pro covers which come from dreamstime. From the big houses. Okay, mostly romance, but…

But here’s the thing – almost everyone – Dorothy Grant aside, because the designer is excellent and beyond the risk of most of us – NOT doing literary who pays for covers ends up paying $500 or more for “literary and little.”

Also, as you develop an eye for the art that works for covers, you find you need less and less complex art, because thumbnail. Take your favorite painting and view it from across a conference room. It tells you how it works. Our own Mary Catelli in comments has a lovely drawing of a woman as an icon, but for months I thought it was a blown dandelion. Because, small.

Dorothy tells me the K boards are full of designers coming rapidly up to speed and in a year this might have changed, but right now most designers out there are either retired and stuck on the “good design” of their time, which will make your book seem like a reissue. OR they are people my age who’ve been making a living in small press which has its own style.

So… roll your own. Run it by friends to make sure it’s not atrocious. Take comfort in the knowledge that most of what is out there is OBJECTIVELY atrocious. All you’re trying to do is signal “I’m main stream big publisher published” and your genre. You’re not trying to signal “I’m DaVinci.” None of the people working for big houses are that. And you probably have as much training as they have.

Go look at some covers. See what they do with typography. Read Cedar and Dorothy and people who blog on covers. If you can take the Kris and Dean class. It will help.

But most of all, let it go.

Unless your covers are at the extreme of inappropriate (the most common for this being pictures of a landscape as covers for mystery, which requires a drawn cover) or Science Fiction (drawn and with something having to do with science fiction) it’s not going to STOP you selling. It might make your climb slower. But I know at least one indie bestseller with really bad, no good, scary ugly covers. (But they do signal genre and subgenre well.)

And at some time – as with books – you’ve messed with them enough.

Now excuse me. I have to do the litter boxes and go do a third pass on the novella.


UPDATE: I am aware that this post has grammatical subject/verb issues and a couple of huge typos.  Deal.  I don’t have the TIME to fix it, and I’m on Benadryl, which means likely I’d “fix” it wrong.




The Quest For Truth — or Who Are You Gonna Believe?

“What is truth?” a man of the world asked, and washed his hands.

And now in what was once the land of the free, we’re reading newspapers that sound like echo chambers and we’re asking ourselves, “What is truth?”

I don’t now, and you don’t either.

In some cases, like when “the truth” refers to who created the world, or the date set for the heat death of the universe, this is not exactly a problem.  At any rate, I suspect the answer to the first doesn’t filter well through time/place bound minds, and so, the best we can do is an approximation.  And, as Heinlein put it, one of these days you will know.  Until then, you and everyone else just do the best you can.

In other cases, though, not knowing the truth is a real problem.

I am the sort of person who is always suspicious when too coherent an image is presented — or as my mom puts it, I can’t see a freshly painted wall without making a little scratch to see what’s beneath — which means I never precisely fell for the glossy images the Soviet Union presented in the seventies.  Does anyone but me remember it?  The glowing production numbers, the assurance that there were no poor and no unemployment?  Why in the eighties I read a poor idiotic journalist who’d visited the USSR enthuse in the Charlotte paper about how the very simple cartoon she’d seen on Russian TV represented their embrace of simple living and sophisticated aesthetics.  When in fact it represented their penury, their old equipment and, yes, the fact that their audience had no other choice.

In Europe this sort of self-delusion was almost universal particularly among the intellectuals.  You see, they had bet their future, after WWII on a Marxist-lite mess of pottage.  To suddenly find out that neither socialism nor its big, bad cousin communism worked, would have shattered their view of the world and revealed that they’d in fact been taken for patsies and wrenched the more or less functional core of their country’s economy, and engaged in massive redistribution… for nothing.

So they couldn’t believe that, and instead chose to believe USSR was a finely tuned, humming machine or success.

They managed to believe this despite the fact that visitors to the Soviet Union inevitably caught a feeling for just how deprived these people were.  But of course, they could tell themselves that they were just rich in non-material things.  (Someone tried to make a similar point when I echoed a post by Charlie, on Facebook, in which he pointed out how astonishingly well the Free Market has done in the last fifty years, in making us massively more wealthy.  All of us.)

They managed to believe this despite the fact that escapes occurred overwhelmingly in one direction: from the USSR to the free world.

Humans can believe just about anything if it’s printed in glossy magazines and nice (wholly made up) figures.  Particularly if it tells them what they very much want to believe.

So… You’ve probably by now got the glad tidings, that our unemployment is way down, and we’re roaring…

Do you believe it?  Or does it seem like a repeat of the “roaring recovery through the summer of 12 which continued through the elections, so that smart people said that “the economic policies of the Obama administration are working.  We must give them more time” even as they made fun of us skeptics who said “uh… isn’t this awfully convenient timing?  And lookit the innards of these figures?”

Amazingly when the real news trickled out they were not only bad, but appalling, kind of like the squalor beneath the facade of the USSR.

Steve Green goes into the figures behind our “good news” here.

Is he right?  Or are the people right who say “see, cutting off unemployment insurance works?”  (Of course it does.  Drops people off the books like a rock.)

Look, I know I have my haunch.  Yeah, yeah, the plural of anecdote isn’t data.  Bah.  Do you see the job market superheated, right now?  Are your friends spoiled for a choice of jobs after years of unemployment?  Do you see the restaurants with a wait after work, as they had even ten years ago?  Do you see shops opening?  Do you feel the economy taking off?

Or are you sitting there figuring out how to make your car limp another year, and are your friends in pretty much the same situation?  Are you tempted to cry while grocery shopping, because everything costs three times more? Is your family all out of luxuries to cut, and is now cutting into what you used to consider necessities?

I’ll confess my situation and those of my friends resemble the second more than the first.  I confess after summer of recovery 1 and 2 and 3 and 4 and 5 and… I don’t believe the economy is roaring back.  I confess I think this is a case of lies, damn lies and government reports.

But the the truth is as unknowable as the truth about who created the universe.  While I doubt the fact sand figures of our sad situation are transcendant and unknowable by the human mind, when you are dependent on a government for all your information, and when that government visibly puts ideology over information, you end up not knowing.

Look, it’s entirely possible that people who were dead broke in their town in the USSR, and who knew all their neighbors were broke, yet thought that maybe, possibly, in other towns the economy was roaring.  They had no way of knowing.

By making itself an uncritical lapdog, our media has made itself even more partisan, more unreliable, than the old Pravda and the glossy Soviet Life.

Which means the books are cooked, but we don’t know how far.  We don’t know if some books aren’t cooked.  We don’t know which books are cooked.

The problem is not just that absent information on what’s really happening, we can slide slowly into the abyss, as others before us — Zimbabwe, Argentina, Greece — have.  The problem the information on what is going on with the economy is vital for a hundred different decisions: which job to take; what property to buy; whether to invest in this or that.

Of course, the administration that couldn’t run a lemonade stand doesn’t know that.  They’re academics and ideologues for whom the essential ingredient for success has been fanatical adherence to progressive ideology, not rational analysis of reality.

And so they spin their numbers and they think if they click their heels three times and wish really hard, this time when they stop telling us lies after securing the election, it will really be true.  The economy will be roaring, you see, roaring.

It might very well be true, too.  Being from Colorado I’m used to massive fires, and they do roar as they consume anything of value in their path and leave only ashes and destruction behind.

Which is what I expect to be plain once this last effort of obfuscation evaporates.

But until then even sensible people are believing those glossy pictures.  Because none of us wants to see the real squalor.  It must be that we love simplicity!  Yes, and we’re really aesthetically advanced.  And besides, this is a wonderful day until we get buried in the corn field.

And we don’t know the truth.  Knowing you’re being lied to is not the same as knowing the truth.

They say the truth will set you free.  Perhaps that’s why the administration is so carefully making sure no one (not even the various departments who make up one or the other set of numbers, but assume all others are right) has it.

And meanwhile we drown in a welter of made up figures and pretend facts.

“What is the truth?” a man of the world asked.

At least he had the decency to wash his hands.


Almost Famous

I never wanted to be famous. As far as I can tell, this is weird for people in my field who want fame and fortune.  I just wanted money to live. I’m not at all sure how I imagined this would work, honestly, but I envisioned myself as making a good living from writing, without anyone ever knowing me from Adam. It took me years into this business before I figured out that the two were inextricably linked. Probably.

Part of this – again – was because I had NO interest in the fame part of it. Ideally I would live in either the equivalent of my native village, where maybe not a single soul read the stuff I wrote, or in a large enough city that I could smile and say “it’s the other Sarah Hoyt.” And they won’t know any better.

I could still get lucky and make a living with no fame attached. I mean, Indie allows a lot more scope for making money without becoming “a name.” Hugh Howie went to a local con, and no one had an idea who he was, which indicates that there is less than a perfect overlap between con goers and buyers of sf/f. In fact, to a great extent, they might be completely different audiences. But it also indicates it’s possible, outside our incestuous little circles, to be a total unknown, while being a millionaire.

Or it might be too late. You see, I find myself in the curious position of being “almost famous” and like MacBeth think it would take more effort to go back (and it might cost me my career) rather than forward.

Look, I’ll be honest – I still cringe about going into bookstores and seeing my books on the shelves. I mean, I’m glad they’re there; given current stocking practices, I have to be selling at least a book a week, and that’s good. OTOH it’s me, there on the shelves.

It’s probably easier to understand – maybe – if you know that after sixteen years of trying to publish, my first nationally distributed short story came out (Absolute Magnitude, I THINK 97?) and my friend Charles called me from the magazine stand downtown to say “It’s on the shelves.” And my stomach dropped, and I said, “buy them all. Some stranger might read them!”

The reaction surprised even me. Since then I’ve become more accustomed to the idea that a lot of people read the contents of my daydreams. I’ve become more accustomed to the idea that some people at least will like it. Since then I’ve had at least three stalkers, two potentially dangerous. (At least? Well, I’ve learned to turn it off earlier.)

I’ve learned to walk the fine line between being open to beginners and those needing my help and putting down a pretty stern boot on pretensions, when needed. It’s not that I think I’m high and mighty, it’s that at least twice my not turning things off early enough might have endangered my family.

I don’t view what I do as anything special. I probably would do better at promoting if I could.

It’s a craft, and I’ve worked at it long enough I HOPE I have some competence. But I’m not G-d’s gift to writing, nor do I expect everyone to swoon at my words.

Look, guys, not everyone is going to love a book. Heck, my husband and I are not only close in the husband-wife sense, but we’ve been best friends for thirty years.

But some of the books he raves about I can’t get past page three. And some of the ones I love get me the raised eyebrows look, in puzzlement, when I tell him about them. When you hear of something that’s universally loved (any of the mega bestsellers) chances are they were so “pushed” that people are afraid to say they don’t like it. Most of them don’t even read the books or finish them, they just buy them because “everyone is….”

Alma Alexander, with whom I have severe philosophical and political disagreements, but who is in many ways a very astute person, once told me (well, technically told someone else, but I was sitting right next to her. And yeah, she’s one of the people “on the other side” I talk to, at least for some things. BUT in this case I just happened to be a bystander) that every book you write is going to be someone’s favorite and someone’s most hated book. She was right. I’m lucky that I’m usually surprised at how well people like SOMETHING rather than by how much they hate it. Take Plain Jane, for instance, written under the house name Laurien Gardner. I have no idea why but people rave about it. (I wrote it shortly after getting concussion, so I’m not even sure what’s in it.)

I haven’t had the misfortune of throwing a beloved book out there and getting it pummeled. Now that doesn’t mean my books are universally loved. I wish! Mostly though, they are liked, and then I have two or three reviews that would sting like h*ll if I read them. (I’m not that stupid. I have someone else filter them.)

Anyway – I suspect if I could get out of the door tomorrow and find multitudes bowing to me and comparing me to Shakespeare, other than assuming older son had slipped something funny onto my morning coffee, I’d be well and truly horrified. Because it would take some serious slippage to the fabric of the world to have me be that popular.

In my dream world, 100k people read my books, on average. To put this in perspective, those are dream-numbers, but it doesn’t make you rock-star famous. More than once, while out with Kevin J. Anderson, I’ve been amazed at the fact that normal people – you know, outside sf/f – have no clue who he is. For a while my husband was sure they were joking and tried to get them to come off it. Those numbers are not high enough for readership-wide penetration.  Just for “SF/F wide” penetration.

But see, I want those numbers for the money, for the ability to have a cleaner and a secretary, so I have time to write and time to take a day or so off every couple of weeks. Probably won’t ever happen, but with indie, it might.  The fame I could do without.

Unfortunately, reality right now is a bit more… confusing. I’m not famous, precisely. And my numbers from all I see are closer to a tenth of that wished for number. And SLOW (meaning my books don’t sell right off the door, they just don’t stop selling, so the trickle continues.) Part of the reason for this is that I write in so many genres. Yeah, okay, I have core fans who love Elise Hyatt and Sarah D’Almeida as much as Sarah Hoyt’s fantasy, as much as my SF. But usually my fans specialize. They’ll love the fantasy and the mysteries, and hate the SF for instance, or vice versa. Perhaps the sharpest divide is between the historical and non historical portions of my work. And then there is this blog and the posts on PJM which are very much their own fandom.

The problem is that between all these venues, I’ve achieved the opposite, just about, of what I want. I am “famous” (or at least almost famous) but not rich. I’ve achieved the sad state of having cashiers and neighbors go all weird when they ask if I wrote x and I say yes. And yet the bank account… well, it’s no longer panicking me, but I’m still trying to figure out how to get all the damage from the hail repaired so we can move and sell. (And it might take till next March, because the kids and I will have to do some of the work to keep it within budget. Dan will help too, but he works all day. At least the COSMETIC stuff, like painting.)

As for cleaners? Someday my ship will come. And as for assistant, right now I’ve enslaved the older son, even as he audibly rolls his eyes at my historical stuff.

I tell you, it’s enough to make me wish to write dinosaur porn under an uncrackable pen name. Except I’m busy enough with my writing I don’t have time.

So, what is this other than a long whine? Oh – the problem is this: where I’m stuck, nice people are afraid to talk to me or take up my time. Several of my fans who have approached me about a book but were interesting have become friends. I like that. However, this has become more difficult in the last three years, because people will treat me with “old woman on the mountain deference.” This – besides of course my not being that old – is plain weird. Just yesterday I was a rank newbie. I still feel like one inside.

On the other hand, the crazy people all feel they have a right to accost me and behave as though they owned me.

I have had people I don’t know order me to go to bed via private message. (!) I’ve also had OTHER WRITERS’ FANS approach me and tell me to “order” a mentee or protégée of mine to do something or other.

So, to level set. I am fifty one years old. Yes, I often need a minder, but I have one. He’s my husband.

I’m not going to say I don’t appreciate ya’ll worrying about me or praying for me, or even sending me suggestions on what might be hailing me. I do. Through the HORRIBLE year last year, at least knowing ya’ll were worried kept me trying to get better. (I was afraid you’d come over and shake me, if I didn’t.)

OTOH before you ping me, consider – is what you’re about to tell me something you’d tell a two year old? I probably don’t need that. I have been dressing myself and cleaning after myself for at least 48 years.

Or does what you’re going to tell me grossly exaggerate my influence over the universe? At least THIS TIME I wasn’t asked to rein in either one of my Baen colleagues or my publisher. One should be grateful for a show of SOME clue. (I once had a letter asking me to rein in Jim Baen. I wish I were joking.)

But for the record, see, part of that not wanting to be famous, just rich, is that I don’t particularly want to have power over other people. So I don’t. I mentor people at various levels, from acquaintances I just encourage, to people Dan has read and liked (Hi Mackey!) but who don’t need my MENTORSHIP as such, just some cover help, to people I try to read even if I’m half dead, and whose deficiencies in writing I try to point out and help with.

Most of the people on that higher level of involvement (Amanda, Kate, Cedar, our Dave, older son and half a dozen others who are going to be mortally offended I can’t remember them right now, because half dead) are also friends at varying levels of closeness.

What this means is that they’re independent their-own-people. Sometimes I don’t even agree with everything they say/do/write. They’re neither my servants, nor my children, nor do I enjoy psychic domain over them.

They have been known on occasion to slap me on the back of the head. Sometimes I even NEED it. I have to ask other minions to check their reviews of me. And some of my books don’t work for any given one of them. I like it that way – look, the individualist doesn’t want to own anyone, okay? – because it means I can teach them stuff, but we’re still FRIENDS. Friends is a relationship of equals. Those – mostly. Sometimes I have to beat them – and my other close friends know they should be able to ask me anything, at any time – but they often don’t.

Which brings me to the other half of the recommendations while I’m stuck in this half-famous status. Look, half the time your fawning email hits me between doing the litter boxes and folding a load of laundry.

I’m not living on Mount Olympus, or even Olympus seacity. If I sound distracted, it’s not that I’m upset at you. If I space sending you a story I promised, it’s just that I SPACED. I didn’t suddenly decide that I’m too good for your anthology. I don’t have an assistant right now, not even a voluntary one. Which means things slip. (Look, I bought my son a birthday gift a month ago, and if my husband hadn’t reminded me today, I’d never have remembered. Even though it was something special and one of those in-a-life-time finds.)

I’m a total dits not because I’m stupid, but because I’m living at least three lives. If I said I’d ship something/write something/read something, and I space, poke me in the midriff. (You’re more likely to get a result if you poke me on Friday, because that’s when I catch up with stuff.)

I’m a fairly direct person. If I don’t like you, I’ll tell you so. If I don’t have time to do something, I’ll tell you so (And it doesn’t mean I don’t like you!) If I haven’t told you either or have told you the contrary, assume things slipped. So – in summary – I’m not complaining about being almost famous. I’d rather have more money and less fame. But if I need fame to make a living, I’ll endure it.

One way or the other this in-between state will (probably) eventually end. I’ll either become more famous and richer or sink into obscurity and become very poor. I was about to say either is okay, but I’d rather have money to live – if that’s okay with everyone else, thank you. Still… there’s always other work. If I have to, I’ll even go into politics. (Winks. No, seriously. Think about it. Consider I hate fame.)

OTOH even supposing I get there, please remember that I’m neither an ogre nor a goddess. Don’t imagine I’m spending all my time either in Olympus or in my evil mountain lair plotting the take over of the world. My life is bounded by cleaning the kitchen while I cook breakfast, and writing this blog before going to bed.

In between, I write, drink way too much coffee, go for walks with my sons, and do the litter boxes. If I’m lucky, I get to see my husband in the evening, if he’s not too busy writing, and I haven’t collapsed yet. Sometimes if I have a day off, I refinish a piece of furniture or read a book.

The exciting stuff, for good and evil, happens in my fiction. As it should be.

Men Fight to Protect Their Emotions – David Pascoe

Men Fight to Protect Their Emotions – David Pascoe

Sarah dropped this little gem in a conversation last night (edit: timing unclear. may have been a comment), and I’m not even sure she was aware of it. A further conversation just a few moments ago (yes, I’m under the wire. All of the them. why are they attached to a funny little box that says, “This side toward enemy”?) just proved it, but I’ll let her tell you about that tomorrow. When she’s less likely to physically remove anybody’s limbs. No, really.

Himself is doing well. Growing, growling, and generally making life difficult for me and Mrs. Dave. He’s showing sparks of personality (I tell half a lie (it’s Arthur the Half a Lie (more caffeine!))(wheee! nested partheses!) )he’s been showing signs of personality all along) and doing much better at maintaining eye contact. He’s still not effectively using his words. Communicating, yes, but I want him to tell me why he’s distraught. Fortunately, he still has a fairly simple input/output flow chart. Of course, it is right that this should be so. After all, I am the simplest of men. Should not my son be likewise?

Short aside, aside (yeah: really need some coffee) men fight to protect their emotions. This is a self-evident phenomenon, and one that – depending on your theological bent – is a result of some truly heinous choices by choice forebears of ours. As my sainted *snort* father, the Irreverend, has said, “the Fall was worse than we thought.” Without getting into the theology (do that gingerly, as it treads on well-mined ground. so: probably not here) use that as a metaphor for whatever makes you comfortable. The end result is that we’re broken, and fractally. Notable is how we get defensive. At pretty much everything that even seems to threaten our comfort. See: vileprogs getting mildly tetchy when confronted with facts. Or when we refuse to step into their kafkatraps. See also: when they arrive full of bluster and contumely, sending broadside after broadside of noxious wind.

This is a human pattern as far back as Cain getting his feelings hurt when he brought a sacrifice for the wrong reason. Alternately, when Mog clunked Ogg over the head for looking at his girl (she had such a fine, downy pelt, after all). I’d argue that it’s been a significant factor in conflicts ever since. Before you think I’m suggesting that Great Harry cut off Anne’s brainpan just because he was wroth, or the 20th Century War kicked off because somebody flipped Austria the bird, that’s not -exactly- where I’m going with this. We all do this, but we don’t do solely this.

We’ve also been given an amazing intellect, clouded by levels of not-thinking-ness (which is a word, and I’ll swear a blood oath to it. what? not with my blood; don’t be silly) we’ve barely begun to penetrate. This is what gives rise to such joys as confirmation bias, and survivorship bias, and the sunken cost fallacy. All of this is the source of some delightful verses and aphorisms. Things like, “the heart is deceitful above all else,” and “love is blind,” (don’t let it lead you on trust exercises, per Mrs. Dave) and even, “throwing good money after bad.” This is why the Placeholder-in-Chief is heading to Texas, not to tour the border, but to throw fundraising parties for Democratic candidates (speaking of good money after bad *rimshot).

Welcome to being human, oh Lightbringer. Yeah, I only occasionally like it, myself.

Why bring up such a self-evidently self-evident factor of human existence? Mostly for reminder. We’re good at forgetting things. We’re especially good at ignoring and forgetting things that make us uncomfortable. Witness the electorate’s treatment of just about anything outside of business-as-usual. We need to be reminded – and forcefully so – of how apt we are to settle into our own little worlds where we don’t have to think very hard about how neither Amazon nor Hatchette is a hero in their negotiations. How life is always chaotic and tumultuous and we’d do well to learn to surf. The flip side of that is gaining just an ounce more of perspective.

I’ve read a few comment threads in my day (getoffmylawn,kid) and I’m passingly familiar with the way we’re likely to get our dander up over something someone else has said. Or worse, written on the internet. We do it here on a regular basis, though I fancy we’re a skosh better about it than other communities. Goodness, if you want an education in it, get a Twitter account. I don’t suggest it, as I’m fairly certain it’s the most puerile of social media, but you can learn a lot by watching what people think is worth wasting 140 characters on.

Ultimately, this is a lesson about human nature, and how and why we’ve gotten ourselves to the place we are. As individuals, as a community, and as a species. Most people don’t “think” at all. Ever. They “reason” with their emotions, and react accordingly. I’m not one for rationality uber alles, but a better understanding – and better ways of thinking – among the vast majority of humanity would, no doubt, benefit everyone.

So take a moment before you say something. Before you hit that button to broadcast your thoughts to the world, think about the impact thereof. I’m not saying you shouldn’t drop that bomb; I’m just saying you should be thinking a few steps ahead of the other guys when you do. When you threaten the comfortable place of another person, they’re more than likely to attack, just like any other beast.

Don’t Sit Down, John! – Bill Reader

It is a tradition that I got from my friend Sarah that I watch 1776: The Musical on Independence Day. It’s a flawed gem, unquestionably. It’s brilliant where it isn’t terrible. But I watch it less for its cohesion and thorough historical accuracy than I do for a yearly reminder.

I appreciate that yearly reminders are lame. I’m not yet so old I don’t remember thinking that. Especially because life seems like nothing but a long string of them. And yet, we keep forgetting, and so we need reminding. The whole film/play, every inch of it, is summed up and embodied by Benjamin Franklin near the end.

“…what will posterity think we were–demigods? We’re men–no more, no less–trying to get a nation started against greater odds than a more generous God would have allowed.”
It’s something that, almost two and a half centuries hence, we still can’t quite get our head around. The founding fathers are viewed as a kind of amorphous hive-mind of freedom, and as a unit the founding fathers (TM) are credited with almost saintly selflessness and superhuman ability. And doubtless they were, many of them, quite accomplished men. But it is important to remember that they were men. Brave, mostly, quite successful, mostly.

But they felt, as much as any of us, the burdens, grinds, and fears of daily life. Moreso, in fact, living in a less technologically advanced time and having fewer resources to salve their pains.

So the next time you think about the revolution, think instead of this. Imagine you, your most talented friends, plus an array of equally talented friends-of-friends you didn’t necessarily like, got together in your garage and planned a revolution. That’s perhaps a bit strong. After all, the continental congress was convened somewhat more formally. But it’s a lot closer to the truth than a brain-storming session on mount Olympus.

I want you to remember that, the next time you think you can’t stand up to this or that power structure. Yes, Obama has the IRS, FBI, NSA… the whole can of alphabet soup. But you have a G*d-given right to stand when others tell you to kneel. It’s a lot more powerful than it looks, as better tyrants have learned before him.

Now I have always included this caveat: you are not required to be stupid. I understand the problem. But the economy looks to me to be well and truly cratering. The job market is a not-very-funny joke. The punch line is either “part-time” or “Obamacare”. And regulations are being piled on at a rate of knots. The EPA regulations alone are going to bleed us dry.

Maybe the time has already come for you. Maybe it hasn’t. Maybe it won’t, though if this goes on long enough I can almost guarantee you it will. You might look around you and realize you have very little left to lose.

If you’ve been knocked down by this mess, believe me, I sympathize. But if you can spare a moment from trying to make ends meet, we need you. Your country needs you. Maybe you’ve been quiet for a long time because the ruthless partisans across the aisle tend to have problems with non-compliance. That’s how a lot of jobs work these days. But if they’ve knocked you down and out, ask yourself how much worse it can actually get before you let habit dictate your choice in whether to speak. Freedom is granted, ultimately, by no one except yourself.

And if your instinctive reaction is that you are too uninteresting, ordinary, or humble to assert your beliefs, remember that the men who walked before you cast a shadow no taller than your own. They were brave, but to downplay the weaknesses they fought cheapens the victory they won. And like them, you don’t need to wait for a savior, or hope someone comes to fix things. The revolutionary the country needs… the person who will stand up for our principles and assert their correctness against bitter opposition… will be found not in a history book. There, sadly, you will find mostly saints, and they are all long gone. You and I have only our mirror.