Of Despair, Hope, and Climbing Paths- A Blast from the Past from September 2014

Of Despair, Hope, and Climbing Paths- A Blast from the Past from September 2014


It’s not a secret to anyone that I’m of a depressive turn of mind. This does not mean I’m depressed – at least not right now – but that when faced with a stress, my mind tends to head down towards depression. When faced with a question of guilt, I tend to blame myself.

Now I hear you clucking and saying something about medicines for that. Of course there are.

But here is something our overly therapeutic age misses: guilt and fear of being terrible have a purpose.

I’m not going to link the book, because I think it would bring on us the mother of all trollings, but those of you who are on Sarah’s Diner on Facebook know EXACTLY what I’m talking about.

There is a man who wrote a book that he claims he’s been writing both since 75 and for twenty years. (We didn’t ask what year it is in his world, so it’s our fault.) He painted the cover himself, and the drawing isn’t bad for a 12 year old or so.

Anyway, he thinks the book is the best thing since sliced bread. You see, it’s not about one of them troubled teenagers. It’s about a good girl who does everything right. He thinks this puts it on a par with several greats of literature (though how he got there, since the greats of literature all write characters with flaws and the ones he mentioned surely didn’t write about good girls, is beyond me.) His book is so much better than all that trash featuring vampires and werewolves, because those are unimaginative. His is the first time that story got told. And it should be assigned to every high school student.

If you’re already seeing the several threads of delusion there, it gets worse. Though a lot of the comments made about his grammar do not in fact make any sense (and enlightened for me why so many people think that all indie books are full of grammar errors. It’s because they learned grammar on Mars or something) some are spot on. He certainly has typos. But beyond all that, his stuff is stilted and weird, impossible to follow and there’s no narrative line to attach to.

And then he put his magnum opus out. And waited for praise, accolades the Novel [sic] prize and the Oscar [?] to just roll in.

What he got instead was a whole bunch of people pointing and laughing. And he can’t understand it, because after all, his book is the most original, most uplifting, most everything EVAH. So these people must be jealous of his brilliance.

Some of the Huns had great fun baiting him in the comments, but here’s the thing: I could grin at their comments (and his behavior is horrible enough to make one want to hit him) but I also felt that little cringe one feels when one sees a bit of oneself in a crazy person.

Because I started out like that. Oh, not under the impression what I was writing was so original or that everyone who writes vampires and werewolves is “unimaginative.” I’d read way too much for that. (Which I think Mr. Original hasn’t.)

But I started out writing things that had no discernible plot, characters only I could love, and ham-fisted prose. [Okay, the last one was not so much “started out” as “last week”.]

I got rejected.

And then because I don’t have a healthy self-esteem (or much self-esteem at all, really, though the audience is helping me) I bought a bunch of books on how to do it, and I started analyzing it.

So, I couldn’t just self publish them, and yeah, that’s a difference. BUT I suspect if I had self-published and no one bought, and I’d got awful comments (except given what I was writing at the time it would probably sell on kink. Aliens. No I’m not telling.) the process would have been the same.

Because my idea of myself is not diamond-hardened and fire proof, I’d have gone “Oh.” And I’d have considered the idea that maybe my stuff really did suck and I only didn’t see it because it was mine. And then I’d have got the books/followed the same road.

So, to an extent, this depressive turn of mind, and this self doubt serve a purpose. The reason I run so hard is that me is following me, and I know the b*tch. If she catches up to me with all her doubts and insecurities, I’m going down for the count.

But sometimes she does catch me. And that’s an issue too.

My books take an average of two weeks to actually write – active writing time. In between there is a needed silence of two weeks to a month. The “battery recharging/ideation” time.

So how come I average two books a year (and some years I write six?) Well that’s the silences that aren’t necessary.

This is going to sound completely crazy considering I make a living at this, but I go through entire months of being convinced everything I ever write is drek. And then I can’t write at all. Extracting words from my mind becomes sort of like passing a novel out through a narrow crack in a wall, in papers the size of fortune cookie fortunes.

I could do without those silences. I could do without the fears so bottomless that I will accept any suggestion/criticism, no matter how ridiculous. I’ve learned over the years to do nothing to past works when I’m in this mood, and certainly not to read reviews/comments. Because if I read them at that time and then go and change my work, I will kill it. At best, I make it into soup without direction as I try to be all things to all people. At worst… You don’t want to know.

Now imagine someone with this turn of mind and the years of apprenticeship required to write something halfway decent. (I think I achieved that last week!)

Don’t nobody call no ambulance (yes, the grammar is intentional. Yes, I know. Nails on chalkboard) because it’s been years since this happened – but sometimes I felt I was spiraling down, with each level of shame/guilt worse, and constant memories of every humiliating/stupid mistake I’d made, to the point where often the only thing keeping me from committing suicide was knowing I had kids, and a duty to them.

It occurs to me that most of you are more of my stamp than of Mr. Greatest Thing Ever Written and You’re All Envious Hacks. And also that even for those who aren’t writers, these are tough times.

Not only are many of us struggling to make ends meet in Summer of (no) Recovery Six, but technological change is doing to the texture of our everyday life what hormones do to a pre-teen boy just before the jump.

You know the change is needed and largely beneficial, but we’re not a teen boy, and we don’t know where it leads. Everything is changing, and we’re caught in the middle of it. Unlike our “elites” we aren’t trying to take the world back (way back. Into feudalism) to where we feel more comfortable. But we do get scared and confused and wonder if what we’re doing is really for the best, like a beginner writer caught between two ways of writing and not sure which one is best (since it’s not just what he likes.)

In both cases: be good to yourself. Do the best you can. Few things in life are permanent. If what you are trying proves wrong, try something else.

And yeah, most of us have been tightening and tightening and tightening and cutting out all entertainment. And no, it’s not by choice.

But here is a suggestion: let that belt out a little bit. Shop advisedly. Buy bang for the buck. Amazon Prime furnishes us with a never-end of free movies and tv series, for instance. They’re a little old, but hey, we don’t have cable (expensive) so they’re new to us. And I’ve just joined Kindle Unlimited Lending Library. Now I know they pay a little less to writers, unless the story is 2.99 or under but here’s the thing: with it I read more than I could otherwise. So I don’t feel too bad for my fellow writers. $2 or so is better than what I would pay them otherwise (nothing, pretty much) and it allows me to read back up to the levels I like.

We also got a zoo membership and a membership to a couple of museums. These are expensive, relatively, but they give us a chance to run away every time things get to be too much. Weirdly, my family (each working three jobs or so) hits that wall at the same time. Most weekends we’ll all be working, catching up on things, maybe stopping for a movie in the evening (though not often.) And then one Sunday, usually dark and dreary with snow on the ground, we all go “this just isn’t working. I’m not getting anything done. Let’s go to—” And at that time it’s good to think “sure” and not “Do we have the money.” (Besides, when you have four people, one entry to a museum for all of us is half a year’s membership.)

That usually keeps the worst of depression away, while you’re working and don’t see an end in sight, and aren’t sure you are any good or will ever get anywhere.

When it doesn’t…

We humans are tormented/followed by the idea that our life must have a purpose. What I mean is, even the most irreligious of humans feels that he must be here for some reason.

Last week I posted the free book by James Owen, which I really do think is a wonderful pick me up if you’re trolling the depths. A couple of hours later, I had a thank you in my email. One of you – not a commenter, but a reader here – thanked me, because he’d been spiraling down the pit of hopelessness and trying not to think of doing away with himself. The book came just at the right time, and it stopped the spiral.

And suddenly I thought “Wow. What if my entire life, everything I’ve done, everything I am, was just for that purpose? To give a man a rope as he was slipping down the slope?”

Then I remembered an Agatha Christie story (in her bio) which I now don’t remember if it was a family thing or something that was told to her (I know she used it in a short story, later on) of someone who goes out to a cliff intending to throw himself down. Only there’s a woman there, sitting and looking out at the sea. And he can’t kill himself in front of someone. So he doesn’t. He goes back to life and it gets better.

I don’t remember how she explained it, but the thing is that the woman was also there, contemplating ending it all, and then (she somehow finds out what happened) she realizes if she’d killed herself before he arrived, he’d have been lost.

What I’m trying to say is even if your purpose in life is to just sit there at the right time and the right place (or if you don’t believe in purpose, your usefulness) there is something only you can do. It might be what you intend to do or it might be an entire accident (Glenn Reynolds, asked how he became instapundit “Like most things in my life, it happened by accident.”) But just by being here, you can become a lifesaver, and the life you save might change the world for the better.

In the same way, just by trying the best you can – at writing or life or whatever – you can sometimes become extraordinary. Perhaps most times. Yes, there is survivor bias in stories of “I tried, and I succeeded” but perhaps the arrow goes the other way. Perhaps if you really try, and are willing to admit you’re not perfect and to see clearly, you mostly succeed.

It’s just most people don’t. Because either absolute self confidence or its lack (yes, even that) are in a way far more comfortable.

But if you neither leap into the abyss, nor stand there frozen at its edge, telling yourself there is no abyss, if you learn the paths down and up the cliff, and if you lend a hand to those on the same road… perhaps, just perhaps that black cliff can become an enchanted cove where many find solace and life.

It’s worth a try.

Domestic Virtues

Yep, you guessed it, Darkship Revenge isn’t done yet.  I can honestly say it’s taking me the longest on the “snip and integrate” pass, something I honestly don’t even do on most of my books, or at least only minimally.

It’s not just the moves, really, it’s the fact that this book has a cast of dozens, too, and I’m juggling at least five subplots all through the eyes/mind of a woman who doesn’t even know about them in the beginning.  It’s not impossible.  I’m not the sad naif with no more craft than talent who once tried to juggle a revolution with a cast of thousands (a book that will need to be rewritten sometime and put out, but probably not this year.)

And I’m starting to see the end, but the book finished short and I know where those last 20k words go and what happened and I’ve got the betrayal scene all wrong.

Part of the reason I think this book is so different is that it’s about children and parents.  Motherhood, mostly, and what a mother is.  For various reasons that’s a difficult subject for me, not the least because I had no clue what I was doing as a mother and because I never expected (I wanted to, but never expected) to be one, I had no preconceived ideas.

I ended up being the sort of goofy mom who would build railways with younger son all over the house, and play rousing games of aliens versus dinosaurs in world war two with him until he was sixteen or so.  (The dinosaurs were on the allied side.  As one knows.)

And Robert, being the older, just got integrated in “things mom does.”  Which included an unnatural knowledge of the hardware store, and knowing how to build a balcony by the time he was 13.

Which doesn’t mean I don’t have traditional domestic virtues, and the kids learned that too: cooking, cleaning, which means when they each went out on their own, they were pretty good at it.

From Dan they learned computers, programs, and a goofy interest in really corny movies.  (The younger one.  The older one learned to roll his eyes early.)

From the cats they learned bonelessness and snuggling.  I think.  Though Robert claims he learned cursing from Petronius the Arbiter (first cat ever) and bravery from Pixel Who-Walked-through Walls (Best cat ever.)

It’s possible.

The thing is I was never very good at “roles.”  For various reasons, but really mostly because I couldn’t compete with my mom (she didn’t take female competition very well.  Most of my attempts at doing things that were in her domain got the stuff taken out of my hands and me screamed at.  Yeah, openly it was because she couldn’t see me struggling with it and didn’t remember her own learning time, but mostly I think is that mom really didn’t like female competition.  She was still comparing my looks and feminine demeanor unfavorably to hers when I was in my twenties.  This went along with the “no man will want you” which in turn is why I never expected to be a mother.) I grew up more like a boy than like a girl.  I spent one summer assembling a radio from old parts of various other radios; an earlier summer was devoted to making rubber band powered cars (from matchboxes, which were made of balsa wood.)

Mostly I spent time inside my own head, which means I was completely detached from my body and what my external form gave people the impression I was or should be.  I think, from pictures, that my look was the “innocent baby doll” which considering I spent time in my own head building a detailed empire which put the Game of Thrones to shame (except that I didn’t kill for the hell of it.  I’m not 2016 or GRRM) always seemed weirdly at odds.  I was virtually impossible to shock, but I sure didn’t look like that.

In college I tried to be more “present.”  I’ve since realized, from reading other people’s biographies, that I used my imagination like other people use drugs.  I would withdraw into it and be somewhere completely different.  I think it was my Junior year in high school I realized this was a problem because I wasn’t really living, and limited the daydreams to morning and evening.  Tried to.  It was a process. Then I became an exchange student and tried to be really there, and tried to be normal.  Anyway, in college I found a good way not to be absolutely terrified to be out in public was to have “war clothes” and war paint.  For some reason most of the time (not always.  Sometimes I was very eighties) this consisted of thirties-style clothing, including silk lace stockings and stilettos, and hobble skirts.  Those of you who met my older son: he comes by it naturally, even though he never knew of my retro-style years.  Something there is in the genes that codes for the thirties? Who knew?

Though I dated — and got engaged — before, I never really expected to get married, and Dan’s and mine was sort of a whirlwind romance which grabbed me and threw me accross the ocean before I could stop myself.  Which was good, because despite my love for the US marrying Dan meant being utterly irresponsible for the first time in my life.  It meant leaving behind my family, their network of connections, but more importantly rendering my training irrelevant.

In Portugal, with seven languages, four of them fluent, and a college degree, I could have written my own ticket.  (Heck, a friend who never made college, with just semi-fluent English got a job escorting executives around Porto when they had to visit town.  Yes, we made jokes about her being an escort.  No, I’m almost sure that’s not what she was doing.  The almost part came from the fact that she didn’t… uh… she wasn’t the most chaste of women.  But at any rate, I’m sure it wasn’t part of the job description or expectations.)

In the US languages aren’t very useful.  The world speaks English.  And there was no internet for hooking up with freelance work, piecemeal.  There were three or four full time translator jobs that opened a year in the US, but you sort of needed connections (of the “went to school with you” type) to get them.  I had no connections and no job experience in the US.

Yes, once the world stopped spinning, the idea was that I would write.  But I was home all day and Dan was running the beginning-programmer gauntlet of 16 hour days and more during crunch.  Which meant mostly most of the time what I could do was cook and clean.  So I became a little obsessive about it, in a justify-my-existence type of way.

And when we had the boys, even if Dan was mostly mommy and daddy to Robert the first six months (because I was very ill and he was unemployed) after a while child care defaulted to me, without a blueprint.  In retrospect I obsessed about all the wrong things, like REALLY clean FLOORS. And carrot cake.  Because if I finished a chapter people said “Oh, good then.” BUT carrot cake got me enthusiastic grins.

We sort of fell into traditional roles because of our relative occupations.  I’m still — though doing better at it now the boys are grown and mostly moved out (yes, the older is in the basement, but it’s his apartment, not really our house) — struggling with the idea that writing is a real occupation, and that I’m not ALSO required to do all the house work and keep a spotless house, even on deadline.

I’ve since found this is not so much a “feminine” thing — falling into the housekeeping role — as a writer thing.  The writer in the house normally cooks and cleans, because he or she is there all the time, and their spouse is often out, earning the “regular” part of their living.

If you look back far enough our whole idea of the domestic role being feminine comes from women staying in the house and doing the tedious every day work, because they can bear children (and a pregnant woman can’t run for miles) and they’re weaker, relatively.  Men had the outdoor dangerous, difficult, unpleasant and often lethal work (I love how we talk about the historical oppression of women because we had to stay inside and do the boring, soft (relatively) work.  The  case could be made that women oppressed men throughout history by making them go out to war, or hunt, or protect them.  It’s only that for whatever reason feminism values male role over female.  I’m not going to pursue the rabbit hole as “feminism is a projection of women’s mysogyny. But a case could be made.  More easily than for the oppression of women, in fact.  Of course a case most of all can be made for contemporary intellectuals shutting their mouths about a past they haven’t lived and don’t understand.  In many things, really.)

In our case we fell into a very traditional role, but it was really “What can I do” which is why I ended up doing most of the remodelling on the two Victorians we lived in and fixed while living in.  Because I could.  (Dan did plumbing and electricity because though I could figure it out, I don’t like it.)

And away from mom’s eyes, I did an awful lot of sewing.  Taught myself.  Because we bought clothes at thrift stores that needed to be altered for the boys.  Or I made myself dresses because nothing fit and I couldn’t afford the store prices.

Only I spent a lot of the time feeling guilty about cooking and cleaning and sewing because my school-upbringing had taught me it was a mark of oppression.  Just like my family upbringing had taught me I wasn’t good at it and shouldn’t even try.

In restrospect that seems completely insane.  they were chores that needed doing, and I could do them.  What is there of more oppressive about them than, say, with my refinishing the thrift store furniture we bought?  In retrospect all that is crazy cakes.

I’ve settled into just being me.  Sometimes I cook elaborate meals (usually when both boys are here for dinner) and I don’t feel particularly opressed or feminine.  I just feel I want to show the boys love.  And most of the time I’m the one who cooks, though I suspect when we are really just the two of us alone, that will dwindle to maybe once a week, because we can get take out or grab a salad.

The elaborate almos tdaily meals are an expression of being a family of more than two, of getting together.  Perhaps in my somewhat damaged psyche, it’s easier to say “I love you” with food. This probably explains all of our weights.  (“Mom couldn’t say she loved me, so she baked me carrot cake.”  My husband says that both of us, growing up, displaced “I want to be loved” to “I want chocolate cake.”  Eh. And we’ve lived on diets most of our lives.  Don’t go there.)

In Revenge I find myself struggling with that, because Athena just became a mother, and she’s growing into being a mother in other ways too, as there are feral children who fall under her sway.  So she finds herself doing a lot of the feminine tasks.  Not cooking.  I don’t think she knows how (never asked) but just about everything else.  Partly because she’s not a biologist, which is what they need, partly because she has to watch the baby because her baby was already kidnapped once, so she tends to have Eris (yeah, I know.  Don’t blame me.) with her ALL the time.  Which limits what else she can do.

The conclusion she’s coming to is that she’s doing these things because love seeks an expression.  And the idea is as weird to her as it was to me, as I came to realize it, as the boys grew up.  “Because I can, and because I love them” is an still small voice with which to beat back the years of “female work is oppression.”  But it was all I had, and by and large it worked.  It seems to be working for Athena too.

None of which is nearly as difficult or as funny as writing Athena trying to teach morals and why we shouldn’t just kill babies to a feral young man.  Because Athena herself doesn’t have what you’d call a moral structure.  It’s sad and pathetic and funny and tear inducing all at once.  or it was for me.

Not to give you the impression the book is a delicate bildungsroman devoted to interior development and feelings.  I mean, it is that, but it opens with a battle and has explosions and the part I need to write which is missing, and which caps the emotional development is an all out raid, with fighting in tight spaces, explosions, sabbotage and deaths.

But that’s because I am who I am.

And I’m okay with that, domestic virtues, carpentry and all.  They’re all me.

And now me is going to drag her behind back to the work computer and go (G-d willing, please?) finish that novel.


Gone Writing

Sorry guys, I did not close the book last night (mostly because I got in a fascinating biological talk about the research for it with older son.  SORRY.)  So today I’m working.

If you want to amuse me, and keep yourselves busy so you don’t blow up the world, I’m running low on “You might be a writer if….” jokes.  We used to have tons of them when I had a writers’ group, and it made great impromptu posters, but I can’t think of any now.

I’ll give one: You might be a writer if you spin up a “Zombie Nazi Sharks On a Plane” concept as a joke, and then realize you have three main characters in your head and the sharks are named Adolph, Hermann, Joachim and Cuddles.


The ‘Rashomon effect’ in book readers – Nitay Arbel

*Oh boy is this true.  Sometimes radically different books.  I’ve been shocked to find that AFGM is a feminist opus, or DST a communist paean.  (Admittedly that one, shared with a friend, almost caused his co-workers to send for the men in white coats, as it kept him suddenly breaking into cackle for weeks.)*

The ‘Rashomon effect’ in book readers – Nitay Arbel


Writing and publishing my first novel (“On Different Strings”) was a learning experience in many ways. One that especially struck this “writer’s apprentice” here was: how X people can read the same book — yet afterward, all have read a slightly different book.


I have encountered a similar phenomenon in my day job as a scientific writer/editor. With a long scholarly essay or scientific paper, it is not unusual to discuss it with people afterwards and find one’s head scratching about why they are taking away a completely different — or even opposite — message than you did. Sure, some of this can be ascribed to different degrees of familiarity with the paper’s academic subject — but even among mavens on that very subject, guru A may take away a different message than guru B.


Now for  “rapid communications” that are very short and focused on one specific point, generally this happens much less, and those who have read the paper are much more likely remember the same basic take-home message.


Methinks these are simply the limits of human cognition at work. Remembering every major point from a 50-page academic paper (a mini-dissertation, really), for an insider, is probably similar to remembering every character and plot twist of a 300-page novel for a voracious reader. Both the researcher and the bibliovore are reading so many other such works that brain storage, and especially brain indexing space, gets to be at a premium.


So what is somebody reading your book going to remember? Mind you, not somebody who’s “with their nose on the subject” like your editor. It’s probably what they love or hate about the book, but for some reason sticks out in their brains. And guess what: these are often the things — positive and negative — you see showing up in reviews — or in private reader comments.


If a character is one they find particularly sympathetic — or particularly annoying — they will remember it.


If some aspect of the structure or writing is unfamiliar or unexpected to them, that will stick out on their memory of it. Somebody who’s been brought up with third-person omniscient and more-or-less linear writing and suddenly sees a first-person book and/or one with a nonlinear structure for the first time may be annoyed or delighted — but they’ll remember that aspect.


If some genre convention is violated, aficionados of that genre may feel cheated — or, if they’re eclectic readers to begin with, they may actually find this refreshing.


If you introduce some setting or tech element that is unusual to the reader, that’s what they will remember.


Some specific examples, mostly taken from my “apprentice novel” and reader responses.


One would normally try hard to make characters speak like people with their specific backstories might. The price one pays for that is, for instance: anybody who’s never spent time in academia might think my professors are annoyingly wordy and formal in their speech, while anybody who’s never lived in the Deep South might similarly raise eyebrows at the most “Texan” of my characters (the protagonist’s mother). More action-oriented novels might offend some readers through the salty speech of military or law enforcement characters — which is quite familiar to anybody who’s worn these uniforms, or whose loved ones have. (For this specific thing, bowdlerization may offer a compromise here between authentic grit and keeping things somewhat PG-friendly.)


Concerning conventions: I felt I was laying on the lovey-dovey romantic stuff too thick, while one romance novel reviewer wrote me privately I hadn’t laid it on thick enough! I was agonizing over one, veiled, love-making scene in my novel — until I read a few “contemporary romances” and was startled by how many graphic sex scenes they contained. (I nearly cut it out, then left it in after both editors assured me it was tasteful and moved the story forward.) Guess what: precisely that earned me praise from one reviewer. A third reviewer used the term “genre-busting love story” in saying it wasn’t a conventional romance at all.


Concerning characters: I recast my antagonist from an antipathetic character into a much more complex, conflicted persona, and offloaded some of the worst misery she inflicted on the protagonists onto a secondary character. The new antagonist stood out positively for several, while the “throwaway villain” apparently could have done with adding more depth.

And all of us have had moments where one encounters real-life characters that make one go: “if I put somebody like that one in a novel, editors would tell me this one is cartoonish and over the top”.


Concerning settings and tech: at times, there can be a thin line between creating authenticity and “info-dumping” or “geeking for the sake of geeking”. I was not a bit worried about whether I’d overdone all the music (theory and technique) stuff in my book: to my surprise, neither editor told me to tone this down, and I have received only positive comments about that aspect.


And of course, if some point of view expressed by a character — even in passing — particularly catches the attention of a reader, that may affect their entire impression of the book. (All too many readers assume points of view expressed by the main characters must be shared by the author.)


Finally, all of the above may cause aspects that ‘stick out’ less to a reader either way to be forgotten or misremembered.


At the end of the day, you end up with a sort of ‘Rashomon effect’ among your readers: everybody seems to have read a slightly (or not so slightly) different novel, because of what crosses the ‘observation and remembrance threshold’ or fails to do so.

Don’t Poke The Writer

I’m still mired in book, and part of it frustrates me, because it SHOULD have been done a week ago.  Heck, two weeks ago.  The problem is for this phase, particularly for this book — the going over the book and seeing it as a whole and balancing the parts — I need to concentrate on it, and concentrating has been a little in short supply recently.

Most of it is stupid cr*p.  I’m still waiting to book the medical stuff, but I also have to get hold of the neuro and I haven’t … well… I haven’t braved myself to talk to an office.  You’d think a big ass (literally) woman like me would be fine talking to an office, right?  Not just a medical office, but any office?

I would, but I have an accent and I’m mid-range deaf.  I’m okay talking to people I know really well, because they will say “No, Sarah, I didn’t ask you about your pirouettes — do you have pirouettes? — I asked if you’d do my cover in exchange for edits.”  But even then most of them text, because talking to me on the phone or in a noisy place (a hotel lobby, my kitchen with seven appliances running, my car on a windy day) is like going insane, just a little.  I don’t hear what you asked, I answer a completely different question.  ‘iz fun.  I mean, I’m used to it.  But the insidious part of mid-range hearing loss is that you don’t often realize you didn’t hear the question.  Your brain rearranges the syllables you did hear into something coherent.  This is how talking to an editor in a crowded restaurant I heard her say “I just bought a great YA novel” and I answered “You must tell me the title, I have an 11 year old and a 9 year old who love reading.”  What she’d actually said was “I just bought a British hard SF novel.”  Yes, her look told me I’d got it wrong, and I made a joke out of it, but I had no idea I hadn’t heard what she said before.

Well, on the phone you don’t get the weird look, and this is a doctor’s office.  The thing is one of you told me — and I’ve since checked with medical professionals — that the white matter abnormalities were probably part of having been hypothyroidal very long.  Or rather, one of you mentioned it, not knowing I’d been hypothyroidal for over a decade (probably started twenty years ago, and proceeded by degrees.  If it can be caused — the autoimmune kind — by a massive illness, which I seem to remember somewhere I read, then it started when I almost died of inter-cellular pneumonia 22 years go.  I kind of remember signs, but hey, fatigue and not being in your right mind is normal when you have toddlers.  And that’s part of the problem — or not, if it had progressed fast, I’d have gone insane — the symptoms worsened so gradually they didn’t become obvious until the last five years or really really bad till the last three.  Hypothyroidal dementia is a good description because the last three years sort of felt like that.  Facts and memories just vanished into a hole.  Weirdly, this is what white matter abnormalities are: tiny holes.)  It never occurred me to tell the neuro that, though he took a very thorough history, and I have the meds in my chart.  I think he assumed it was caught and treated early.  But apparently if not, these white matter abnormalities are fairly normal.

Here’s the thing: if I call the office they’ll become convinced I have egg whites in the brain, or think I do.  So I’ve been putting it off.  I wish you could just text doctors.  (Add to it that his personnel is a little odd like most busy offices.)  Putting things of that sort off is really hard work and prevents you concentrating on the things you want to.

But there’s been other stuff, and I’m not going to go into it here.  There is no point.  You guys either know what’s been going on or care nothing about it, and those few who don’t and know should go and read Amanda’s and my posts this week at Mad Genius Club.  No, we don’t name names, because we’re giving the guilty party a break (though more and more I wonder why) but the sequence is laid out and fairly clear.

However, there are a few things you should know, as my readers.

The first of them is that I’ve been getting angry this week as I never have before.  Yes, anger can be caused by thyroid meds.  Or at least escalated, but the thing is I’ve been at this level prescription for a while, and anyway this is not that type of anger.  It is not what my friend who has the issue calls “getting angry at nothing.”

It is rather getting angry at things that anyone else would get angry about, but which I haven’t, for years.

My modus operandi has been to let things run, until something is SO fricking giant I have to deal with it.  I thought I’d acquired an easy going personality in my mid thirties or thereabouts, somehow.

The actual fact is that as years went by, I was more and more tired and chronically depressed.  It took a spectacular blow up to get me in the fray, fists bunched.  If you consider the culture I come from, that should have been your first clue.

Now… It’s not that I’m more angry:it’s that I’m more awake.  I’m paying more attention, doing more, saying more.  I feel more.  Happy and sad and tender, and competent, and yes, angry, when anger is warranted.

The problem is that I’ve laid down a pattern of “I can get away with this” among people who only know me online, and not well enough to see I’m more “here” now.  So people think they can away with all sorts of crazy-ass things, and I will just ignore it, because I don’t have the energy to deal with it.

Which is what originated the blow up.  Someone thought he could just get away with sneaking the cheese he’d been told he couldn’t have.  There was another one yesterday, because someone presumed to interrupt my writing to tell me what I should or should not care about, and how I should do things.

I try not to blow up at people doing that, particularly men, because I try very hard not to fall in the feminist nonsense of “he’s lecturing me because I’m a woman.”  But in this case it’s not.  In this case, it’s the ramping up of crazy I saw when Brad was doing SP3, and the backbiting crazy sh*t I’ve seen about how Kate did SP4.  So, I’m going to lay some facts on you.  No, I don’t care if you like them or not.  No, I’m not being dictatorial.  I’m a libertarian.  That means I do what I want with my own, and this is my own.  You don’t like what I’m doing with my own?  Get your own.  Your life, your problem.  You won’t catch me saying how you should live it or how you should solve it.

I’ve, in fact, for years refused to tell newby writers how they should break in, how they should write, or what they should think about their writing.  I normally don’t even tell them when I see them doing really stupid crap.  Unless apparently they make me really mad and I have the energy to react.  (And then I’m, basically just looking for a place to stick the shiv.)

So I’m going to give you the facts, take them or leave them.  I don’t frankly see anyone on this blog getting worked up enough to be very upset about them, but I want this out there, just in case one of y’all takes crazy powder one morning.

  • I’m running Sad Puppies 5.  This is not up for discussion.  No, I’m not too sick or busy to do it, I know when I am too sick or busy which is why I deferred two years.
  • I’m doing it my way. This is, at this point, a tradition.  I didn’t agree with everything Brad did, and I wasn’t too fond of some things in Kate’s plan (which turned out to work, but hey) BUT it was their turn and their direction. The only way individualists like us can have some sort of passing on of the leadership is to step back and say “I’ll support you, even if I think your idea is not right.”  The group, such as it is, comes from mutual trust and friendship and believing others are adults.
  • No, you cannot claim you’re leading Sad Puppies 5, even if you think your idea is teh awesome and you think you’re a Sad Puppy Leader.  The initial group was Larry, Brad, myself, Kate and Amanda.  I’m doing it this year, Amanda next year.  Because we’ve stayed in touch our ideas have sort of evolved together, and my friends are in accordance with where I’m taking this, if not with the details.  This is the only thing you can do with the movement at this point.  We feel since it was our idea, we can’t allow it out in the wild where it can become — unwittingly or not, and in most cases I’ve seen it would be not — a false flag operation.
  • But you want to lead Sad Puppies.  You think what I’m doing is all wrong, and you want it to be a good old fashioned fight, like SP2, with Larry in charge.  You want to show the old fandom they’re no longer in control.
    Great.  You shine right on, you crazy diamond, but not as leader of SP 5.  Too bad, so sad.  You can even call it something puppy.  It seems to be a tradition now.  Perhaps you like the sound of Deplorable Puppies or Perfect Puppies appeals to you.  Go for it.  You start it.  Given that some people just want a good fight, this seems like a great idea and you’ll probably get a following.  But not under our movement, not under our flag.  We’ve been maligned enough in the national press, we don’t want just anyone claiming to be us and tarnishing everything we’ve done and tried to do, okay?  Deal with it.  You can’t have it.  This is not changing.  Should I collapse and die tomorrow, Amanda will pick up the flag and do the thing.  Or Kate will have another go. (I hope not, as she’s finally writing again.)  You want it?  You can’t have it.  Too bad, so sad.  And yes, I’m going to come down like a ton of bricks on ANYONE saying they’re collecting a “list” for “the sad puppies recommendations for the Hugos.”
    Don’t like this?  Well, if I say “Excuse me, you realize the impression you’re giving?” Apologize and change it.  Remember, I have more energy.  You have no idea how mad the Latin chick can get.  Don’t push.
  • A brief history of Sad Puppies: Sad Puppies changed in goal and attitude with each leader, or even the first two years with Larry.
    SP1 was just Larry having fun.  SP2, after he got a bizarre reaction to SP1, was Larry trying to prove that, despite denials, the Hugos had become a trophy of a clique.  He proved that, on the “Get off our lawn” alone.
    Brad… Brad is the knight sans peur et sans reproche.  You can’t help liking him, even as you go “Oh, my friend, you’re gonna get hurt.”  He thought he could prove that if you just presented a list collected in the open and truly without political color line, fandom would go “Oh, you’re just fans like us.  You just have a different orientation than lit-crit.  Sure, come on in.  Here’s a place at the table.”  I think his disillusionment started with people being bullied until they dropped out.  Then there was the national media campaign to paint us as something we definitely were not.  And somehow, people with power to call in favors and get almost the same article published places like Entertainment weekly also screamed they were the underdog and discriminated against.
    What a long, strange trip, culminating in wooden assholes.
    What that, and the fricking rigging of the rules so the vote counters get to throw out whatever they want to proved the Hugos were dead to me.  I’d have moved away from the award.  But I was ill and moving, and Kate got it.  And Kate is a battler, and thought she’d try ONE MORE TIME, really open, really clear what she was doing, everything aboveboard.  Yeah, some people on the other side woke up, but not enough.  There were still the usual attacks.  Heck, there were attacks when I announced what I’m doing at Mad Genius Club, a few months back.  How my plan could get anyone’s dander up is beyond me.  And I mean dander up in a “She’s threatening us” kind of way.  I really don’t get it, but the crazy people on the other side started a drumbeat about how horrible I am, and people in the other Puppy movement got offended because I was “ignoring” them.
  • This brings us to what I’m doing:
    I’m not attempting to prepare a list for the Hugos.  Seriously? You want to do that?  After the award has been dragged through the mud?  You want to give them money to throw a splendid party with AND tell just so stories about how you’re a huge monster they fended off?  In the words of my people: F*ck that.  Ain’t happening.  Not on my watch.  I didn’t send in supporting membership last year, and I will not do it this year.  As such, I cannot tell anyone to spend their hard earned cash.  Buy a few books instead.
    But they why am I doing this, and what am I doing?
    I’m bringing this movement in for a landing and making it permanent.  This ties in with Human Wave, too.
    The gatekeepers have given push to a kind of book, sometimes under the guise of a “popular award.” That’s fine.  It’s how they make money.  However because the gatekeepers favor the lit-crit set (there are reasons for this) it leaves those of us who think reading should be a ludic activity out in the cold.
    Also, in post-gatekeeper landscape, a lot of us want to find places to discover great books to read.  Being found is particularly hard for indies.
    I’m taking the idea Kate had and automate it.  There will be a site (might be next week as the book isn’t done) that will have a place to enter book, date of publication (I’m not restricting it to last year’s or this year’s) what awards you think it’s eligible for and why you liked it.  The program will kick up the top ten every month.
    But what about pranksters?  What if it is all Chuck Tingle books.  Glad you asked.  Four people will have the keys to the site, who can not only fix that, but also ban the user/s who did it.  Yeah, the site will have registration (though you can use whichever name) and yeah, in our own house we will stop vandals.
    But what if the books are all leftist?  Glad you asked.  We don’t give a damn.  If these are books enough people enjoyed it, they go up on the list. (I am right now binge reading an obviously very progressive mystery author.  But since it only comes in when she mentions someone’s politics, and she’s otherwise a great writer, I’m still reading.)  At any rate, if the books aren’t good and this is just a coordinated campaign, it won’t work.  My followers are not exactly dumb bunnies.  They can read the blurb and figure out if this is just the same push as from gatekeepers.
    What if I hate all the books that rise to the top?  Then we’re probably related.  Half the time I hear people raving about a book, I go “Oh, you did?  I didn’t get past the first chapter.”  Which probably explains my stunning success at popular fiction.  But you know, no matter how much this favors “majority opinion” you’ll also get the occasional quirky find (you always do) that will link you to an author you’d never otherwise find.  Which is why it’s worth to check, and it won’t require much of you.
  • What can you do? Well, you can check the lists and buy the books you like.  You can also, if the site is up and you like it, make it popular.
    Yes, there are other recommendation sites.  Those were some people who got awfully offended with this.  Look, I’m in the field and I didn’t know of them.  And you’d be shocked how I hear of just about everything relevant from people around me.
    Am I saying they’re failures?  That we can do better?
    No, I’m saying that you need all kinds, and all slants.  I know why I didn’t hear of those, they’re not the sort of thing my friends go to.  And my site won’t be the kind of thing that other people go to.  That’s fine.  In the age of gatekeeping, there was the Locus list.  There were others too, though not as important.  Now?  Let there be lists for every taste.
    Does using the Sad Puppy name make ours more important?  NO.  It just makes it ours, because we’ve been in this from the beginning, and we’re broadening and embedding the movement into a permanent force now.
  • But isn’t Sad Puppies about awards?  How can you DO this to us?
    Ah. No.  Sad Puppies was about restoring integrity and fan power to the field.  The Hugos is just where we started.
    Now that the Dragons will probably eclipse the Hugos, we’re opening this to “these are the books people like best.  Read them and, if you like them, vote for them for awards.” On the site, there will be a page with awards and their requirements.  If you think the book qualifies for an award, check it out and put it on your recommend.  And if you’re starting a new award, send it to me (ONCE THE SITE IS UP, FOR THE LOVE OF HEAVEN NOT NOW) and I’ll put it on the page, and also if the author needs to submit the book or not.  There will also probably be a permanent page, which I’ll add to with lists of award winners, when I’m notified of results.
  • But what about the fight?  Aren’t you going to fight?
    Reclaiming science fiction for ludic purposes is not a fight.  Or rather it is, but not a fight against specific people.  Even if a clique is holding an award captive, they’re a tiny part of the whole.  The fight is to reclaim the culture, and to get over the new literary theory idea that novels have to be “socially relevant.”  It was a bad idea when it took over in the twenties, it’s a bad idea now, and it’s destroying reading for enjoyment, which is bad for everyone who works in words.  Also, possibly, for our polity, but that’s a post for another time.
  • “But I want you and him to fight.  I’m going to send you tweets where people at TOR call you a poopy head.  I’m going to send you posts from the blogger that shall not be mentioned and tell you his plan is much better.  I’m going to tell you the latest File 666 slander.  You must care.  It’s vitally important.”
    And if you do that, particularly in PM, late at night, when I just went to facebook to announce I’ll be at a con next weekend, before I forget to let anyone know, I’m going to curse at you, your friends and your allies.  And I’m going to stomp around the house wishing I had the power to reach through the computer and strangle you. And then I’m going to ignore you and go my merry way.
    I’m not your monkey.  This movement is not to amuse you.  It’s a long-term movement in the cultural war.  I don’t have time nor, despite my improved energy, patience to get involved in little petty squabbles.  Tons of people are going to hate what I do, people on my side, people who think they’re on my side, and people who think I’m trying to lead a wave of unwashed into their hallowed precincts.  Don’t care.  I’m a libertarian.  I want to be left alone, but I also don’t care what people do or by and large say about me.  Oh, sure, there are things that will get me pissed off, like when the bright turnip thought she’d found traces of racism in my blog or pretended to, to score a hit.
  • Which brings me to things that will piss me off: stop doing sh*t like claim I’m too sick to do this, or attributing the fact I just chewed your skanky behind up and down the street to my being ill or going crazy.
    I’m not going crazy.  My brain issues are in a place and of a type that MIGHT minimally affect my vision and MAYBE cause irregularities in my heartbeat.  (MAYBE.)  They don’t affect my thinking.  In fact, the longer I am on hypothyroidal meds, the more my memory (the only part that was affected) is coming back, and is now almost normal, except I’m 54, not 30 some anymore.  There is no other effect.  Unless you’re my husband, and afraid I’ll pass out in the shower because my heart went wonky, my physical condition is none of your concern.  Yes, I might need brain surgery in the future.  The white matter thing might or might not recover.  BUT none of it affects my emotions.
    To the extent my emotions are affected, it is because I have more energy, and also because I’m not used to having more energy, so I’ve lost the habit of controlling myself.  It hasn’t been needed for 20 years.
    OTOH I saw Brad and Kate, who are MUCH nicer than I am, have this sort of rage too.  It goes with the job.
    But insinuating someone isn’t functioning properly because you think the Sad Puppies crown would look mighty nice on your pinhead is slimy, despicable, and WILL get me mad.  Mad as in furious, not crazy.  And now that I have more energy, who knows where my mad will lead me.  Don’t try it on. (Also, Sad Puppies doesn’t have a crown.  It’s more of a beanie hat.)The other caveat, if you need one, is that it’s a really bad idea to poke the Sarah in this phase of book finishing and when my deadline is somewhere behind me and I don’t want another book delayed, please G-d, no.
    I always grow fangs and claws at this phase of the writing (No, ask younger son.  “You threw a dictionary at my head for asking you a question.  I was three.” In my defense, I have lousy aim.  He was in no danger.  But it served to send him scurrying down to daddy and leave me alone to write.) But now I have more energy for using those fangs and claws.  Don’t do it.  It’s not worth your life.  Also, this entire year is booked end to end.  You probably can tell what place of the book I’m in by this blog.  But in any case, it might never be safe.  And it is NEVER safe, let me assure you, to try to “Let you and him fight.”  That is a good way to get your head ripped off your shoulders and get beaten to death with it.  (Never mind, go with it.)And that’s all.  I have a book to finish.  I promise not to throw dictionaries.  Most of you are very nice people anyway.  I just thought you should know where I’m at and what is going on with both the book and SP5.  Oh, yeah, and I’m not going mad maaaaaaaad, except that if this keeps getting repeated, I’ll go mad in the sense of furious.

    I don’t want that.  As entertaining as I’m sure it is to watch, I have a book to write.

You Won by Kate Paulk

*I’ve been sitting on this post for a while.  I didn’t put it up before because it’s basically an excuse for Kate to get very entertainingly insulting.  But today, if I weren’t up to my eyeballs in book, I’d been writing “Freebleeding left or how 4chan Pwned John McCain and the MSM”.  They’ve left reality with pee pee gate, a scandal only those who believed in binder gate could get bent out of shape about… or more importantly care about.  So this is a great day for Kate to do her yelling at the big babies on the left.  I’ll be back when I’ve finished the book.  PROBABLY tomorrow.-SAH*

You Won – by Kate Paulk


… the World Championship Dummy Spit, that is.


For those not familiar with Australian vernacular, a “dummy” is a baby’s pacifier. “Spitting the dummy” refers to throwing the kind of tantrum where said pacifier exits the baby’s mouth at speed, usually achieving an impressive arc before coming to ground somewhere hard to reach. Chances of the parents convincing the baby to put the thing in its mouth after it’s been located and cleaned are… minimal.


Winning the World Championship Dummy Spit is a rather Australian way to say “You can quit the tantrum now. The adults don’t care.”


Seriously, I don’t care how disappointed you are. I don’t care if you think the President-Elect is Literally Hitler (he’s not. The last person who was shot himself in a bunker over seventy years ago) and is going to herd you all into extermination camps (he’s not. Even the most useless of you are capable of spending money, and he’s a savvy enough businessman to know a good business needs people to buy what it sells). I don’t care if you think I’m the biggest ___ist ever to walk the planet (I’m not. At least, not since I lost weight).


Life is not fair. It will not always do what you want. To go all Australian on you, shut yer gobs and rattle yer dags because you drongos are going to help clean up the fucking balls up you’ve created even though collectively you might be about as much use as a two-bob watch. Maybe. It’s a fucking tough world out there and Mother Nature’s a stone bitch. I’m from the land of everything trying to kill you: I know this shit.


You’ve wasted years using every lurk and perk you and your slimy pollies could dig up, and you think you can sit back and whinge while the rest of us work our arses off then enjoy the bennies? You’ve got yours and Buckley’s mate: it ain’t happening. Quit trying to beat your best dummy spit, and pitch in or bugger off.


You galahs claim to be for a fair go, but a fair go’s the last thing you want because deep down you know bloody well you haven’t got a leg to stand on. If you didn’t, you wouldn’t be chucking a wobbly like this: you’d be in with the rest of us to help clean up.


Oh, right. You think a bit of hard yakka’s gonna make you kark it.


(Translation: Close your mouth and start working. You idiots will have to help clean up your mess no matter how useless you are. The world is a tough place.


You’ve wasted most of your life exploiting whatever advantages your fellow-travelers and politicians could give you, and now you think you can complain while others work; then you think you can make use of any good things that others produce. You have no chance of that happening. Stop throwing tantrums and either help or leave everyone else alone.


You fools claim to be all about equal opportunity but you know very well that you aren’t capable of anything if there aren’t any barriers to other people achieving. If you really wanted equal opportunity, you wouldn’t be throwing tantrums, you’d be helping clean up the mess.


Oh. Right. You think hard work will kill you).


Those who are interested might like to search for “epic dummy spit” – there are some interesting tantrums thrown by supposed adults there.

Sweet Liberty – a blast from the past post from November 2014

*Reading this, some of you will go “I note the collapse didn’t happen.”  And that’s true.  We’re in the early stages of the collapse.  Doctors are leaving and retiring.  Part of the issue with my thyroid and other things is that for two years now, I’m lucky to see a Nurse Practitioner.  And no, they don’t have the same training. There are things I know more than they do about simply because I grew up around doctors.

There is a lot of ruin in a nation, particularly this nation, because we’re good at doing, at making do, and at inventing new ways to do things around the crazy regulations.

But we still can’t afford socialism.  No one can.  Venezuela has far more natural wealth than we do (remember I know, I have family there) and even they couldn’t afford socialism.

We might have got a respite — maybe — I’m still “cautiously optimistic” on the coming administration with the emphasis on “cautious.”  But in the end if we don’t fight back, if we don’t fight for the minds of the young, they and us are lost, and there will be no more liberty, only a nation like others, where we subsist at the whim of those who rule us.

Don’t let government by the people perish from this Earth.  The responsibility is yours.*

Sweet Liberty – a blast from the past post from November 2014

Let’s suppose you were born with an inheritance, something that accrues to you by virtue of being born and being human.

It’s something you can spend, but not directly, like a lot of cash.  But you can trade for it.  Let’s say it is a beautiful, rare, exquisitely cut diamond.  You can wear it, but it’s not quite suited for display.  It’s just something you’ve always had, more precious than anything else you have except life.  And if you keep it, lifelong, your kids will be given equal ones when they’re born, and then your grandkids too.

How would you go about safeguarding such a jewel?

Would you keep it always under your control, where you are the only one who has a say on whether it’s kept or taken away?  Or would you trust politicians – politicians who btw are telling you they can keep your jewel for you by taking other people’s jewel away and trading it to keep yours safe – to safeguard that jewel by putting yourself, your life and everything you own in their power?

I’m very afraid for a number of people the answer is the second.  And that the answer is the second for even one person scares me beyond reason.

I was watching Bill Whittles’s excellent video Cannibals, which details our fiscal and cultural troubles.  I wanted to leave a comment (ended up not doing it because youtube drives me nuts on registering to do so) so I looked at the comments.

Comment after comment, with names like “proudfree American” said things like “I voted for Obama because I don’t want to have to bear a rapist’s child.  My body is mine and no one else can make decisions about it.”

(A friend pointed out these are pathetic comments both in search of approval of like minded people, and sticking one in the eye of what they imagine to be the opposition. Let that stand for a moment.  I’ll come back to it in the end.)

Abortion is, of course, one of those complex things.  It is not a natural right.  It can’t be a natural right because a human woman in a state of nature who tries to abort will more often than not end up offing herself along with the child.  You could say infanticide is a natural right, as it has been practiced by most civilizations throughout the ages, less so in Judeo Christian lands, but impossible to stamp out just like murder is impossible to stamp out.  Of course it violates another person’s natural right to life, but in the case of infants that is always iffy as “natural” as they require someone else to defend them.  So, it is a very complex thing, not from a moral but from a NATURAL point of view.

Let’s leave aside for a moment that no one in this election – not even Todd Akin – ever said a woman BY LAW should bear a rapist’s child.  What Akin (who is an idiot for the way he expressed himself and for walking into the matter at all) and the other guy said was based on their own moral judgment, involving “if it happened to someone I love.”  Let’s leave aside, also, that my answer would be rather similar to theirs, and it’s more germane, since I CAN get pregnant.  (In theory.  Well, it happened once naturally.)  “If I got pregnant by rape, it’s impossible to know what I would do, but it would be hard to get over the fact that the child DIDN’T commit the rape, and that what causes a man to become a rapist is not necessarily genetic otherwise every man and woman born would be a rapist, because we’re all descended from rapists several times over.  Though I can’t say for sure what my state of mind would be, there’s a good chance I’d decide the moral thing is to keep the child.  Because I like children, because it would still be mine, and because it’s not the child’s fault.”

That is not important.  It’s also not important that while Mitt Romney made noises about abortion, the MOST he could do – and he wouldn’t, any more than he would abolish the department of education.  That’s not how DC works – is sent the matter back to the states.  And he NEVER said anything about outlawing abortion in cases of rape or incest.

Let’s instead assume that it is right and just, always, for a woman to abort a rapist’s child.  This right to “not carry a rapist’s child in MY body” is not only NOT a natural right – it is one that depends on an advanced enough technology, a functioning economy, and no one being able to regulate what kind of medicine is practiced upon you.

There is an English proverb “He who pays the piper calls the tune.”  Same thing.  Updated “you buy your CDs, you buy whatever music you want.”  However, if the government is giving you free music, then you will listen to whatever they want you to listen to.  And it can change.

So, let’s suppose that for these young women the most important thing in the world, truly is that if they should get pregnant  from rape – unless you extend rape to “changed my mind afterwards” a small enough chance – they should be allowed to abort the child.

Very well.

To secure this non-natural (because it requires functioning high tech) right they voted for the man who promised them this AND contraceptives for free.  I.e. they voted for someone who said he’d pay for what these women consider a need, so that the women can “control their own bodies.”  Further, to secure this, this man – this party – is trying to make people against whose conscience it is to pay for such things… pay for them.  That is, they are willfully violating what is a natural right of other people: the right to not pay/endorse things that violate their conscience.

And these women think giving this group of people the right to pay for/decide what is done to them gives the women control of their own bodies.

It never occurs to them apparently that those who give them contraceptives/free abortions today can also deny them tomorrow.  Or that the fiscal mess Bill Whittle is talking about in the video means a diminishing level of wealth and therefore of tech.

What I mean is even if the government isn’t lying to you – and frankly, after Benghazi how can ANYONE believe these people won’t lie to you and with a straight face – their policies are almost guaranteed to make doctors flee the country in droves, or go into retirement.  They are also guaranteed to add a layer of bureaucracy that will delay everything.

The end result might be that you did in fact get raped – I understand in countries where law breaks down completely this is a risk women run from eight to eighty – and you got pregnant.  (Or you had a night of sex with your boyfriend and didn’t take precautions, so you’re being “punished with a baby.”) You have a right to your free abortion.  Great.

Only the nearest hospital is chock a block with more urgent cases and the nurse practitioner who could have done it is full up for six months.  In six months it will be a high-risk abortion, and gee, we just don’t have the equipment.  Maybe if you go to Mexico?  I hear they can do these same day, for ten thousand dollars.

Think this is unlikely?  This is almost guaranteed.

Other nightmare scenarios include the government running out of contraceptives.  (No?  When something is free, people get it.  And when it’s free there’s no incentive for companies to research better stuff OR to make it cheaper or more abundant.)  I once heard an – hilarious, because it wasn’t me, and because these people had escaped – interesting story by a group of Russians, at the end of the USSR, discussing how this group of ten men shared a condom which they washed after sex and which, btw, the one of them who worked in a rubber plant patched more than once.  If you think that can’t happen here, you have missed the fiscal mess we’re in to which we’re adding an unimaginable amount of debt for an “entitlement” that can’t be secured without enslaving doctors and other health professionals to serve at the pleasure of the government.

So, suppose you run out of contraceptives and your ONLY contraception is abortion.  But the birth rate is going through the floor and our lords and masters become aware they won’t have enough of a next generation to bear the massive burden of debt.  Think they won’t forbid abortion?  Or they can’t decide you’re from a non-favored group and they don’t want you reproducing at all, so they mandate that you be sterilized and your existing children killed.  Think it won’t happen?  It’s happening in China.  Google “dying rooms” China and children, and I hope you have a strong stomach.

You think it won’t happen here?

Why do you think that?  Show your work.  Is your body any more sacred than other people’s convictions?  Why?  Why should a government that has the power of life and death over you, a government that can literally decide that you’re too expensive to keep alive and send you home with palliative care (no?  It happens practically everywhere the state runs medicine.  Maybe everywhere.  Reporting on these things is iffy) NOT make you bear a child because it suits the state’s needs?

You were born with this special, priceless jewel: Liberty.

You can keep it – that includes covering the costs of it, both monetary and in informed citizenry – and get to decide what to do with it, and in which circumstances to apply it.  OR you can entrust it to people who lie and whose very nature is predicated on having power over you.

Whether the liberty is freedom of religion, of assembly, the right to bear arms – no matter what those rights are, entrusting them to the government is a bad idea.  All the more so when those “rights” require a complex, functioning civilization to be effective.  (For instance, I would not vote for a government that promised me free weapons, because I know how bureaucracies work and in the end I’d have the right to a chipped bit of flint.)

No, you do not have a right to your own body.  No one does.  You can’t say “I won’t bear this child” any more than you can say “I won’t die from this cancer.”  Both of them involve a complex civilization and other people’s skill and knowledge to avoid.  And neither can be granted to you by a tyrannical government who HAS to control other people’s work, intelligence and freedom of thought to grant you this.

You do have a right to your own mind, and that so many people have chosen to give up their natural right to inform themselves and make informed decisions makes me seethe.

My friend was right, on the people who commented on that video being special snow flakes in search of social approval.  Of course why they think that idiotic statement makes them sound “correct” is why we must speak out.  For too long we’ve let the idiots own the air waves and the soundbites, because we didn’t want to rock the boat.  And what we’ve created is sort of a state religion, in which young people repeat platitudes that don’t make sense, in the sure certainty of social approval.

It’s time to start taking back their minds.  And then maybe they’ll understand how to keep control of their bodies.  And maybe they’ll understand the meaning of liberty.

You can’t enslave a free man.
Only person can do that to a man is himself.
No, sir—you can’t enslave a free man.
The most you can do is kill him.  Free Men by Robert A. Heinlein


No, I’m not going to talk about the department.  Yes, I remember how panties in bunch people got because they thought “Homeland”had Nazi connotations.

Of course we’re talking about people who think the seal of the speaker of the house is a Nazi symbol, at least when the speaker is a Republican, and who try to explain away that they didn’t jump all over little Nancy Of The Gavel Walk because “the way Paul Ryan draws it it’s flatter and it looks more Nazi.”  You heard it here first. Only art teachers know Nazis. Considering how many of those idiots were my esteemed colleagues, our field must be in way more trouble than I thought.  If that wasn’t the classic “roll over and die” maneuver, I don’t know what was.

Leaving aside all that nonsense, there really isn’t a better way to express the concept, or at least not one my only-one-cup-of tea brain can figure out.  (I’m trying to change to tea because coffee for me — no matter what my boss at insty thinks! — requires sweetener and I’m trying to cut down on sweetener because it still gets insulin response.)  At any rate for the Germans it was Fatherland, which is closer to the word Patria I grew up with.

When I was eight years old, I knew when I grew up I was going to be a writer and live in Denver.  So far so good, though it took twenty years to make it the 100 miles from the Springs.

I was having breakfast this morning, looking out the sunroom windows as the city lights in the distance flickered off, and the sun painted the sky a delicate pink, and an overwhelming sense of being home came over me.

In my young days I liked traveling.  I’m getting settled in my old age, and part of the reason the last two years were so difficult is that I like my comforts.  I like my breakfast routine: feed the cats, boil the eggs, and usually make the coffee.  We’ll see how tea works.  Even when I drank mostly tea I tended to drink coffee in the final push of a book, when I was working sixteen hour days.

Okay — I’m obviously more scattered with tea — back to the subject.

I loved the village when I was little.  Not just “I love living here” — in fact I often didn’t — but I loved the smell in the air, the quality of the light on certain days.  I loved the smell of the vineyards when they ripened.  I loved fireflies in summer evenings.  I loved the rhythm of the seasons.  And some how it was all tied up with grandma and my dad.  Of course I loved them and they loved the place passionately.  (Weirdly, my brother, who was less attached, never left because he can’t bear to.)

I’ve talked before about the time I spent after I moved to the US, missing Portugal: the village, my regular haunts in Porto, the markets, knowing where to find things.

When I go back all that is gone.  The village has become a dormitory community for Porto, thanks to the highway and widespread car ownership.  The funny thing is that they still call it rural.  Let’s put it this way, though there are still some fields under cultivation, the prevalent high rises and malls make it about as rural as downtown Colorado Springs and less rural than Aurora — I remember shopping for apartments with Robert before he started medschool, and we’d take a wrong turn and suddenly there were fields and cows — or in American terms, not rural at all.  They’ve paved over the pond where bamboo grew, and where dad used to walk me to watch fireflies and make flutes.  They’ve paved over where we fed the ants.  The woods are reduced to tiny squares. And masses of “Strangers” came in, so it’s rare to see a face I recognize.  Most of the people who moved in don’t even realize I exist.  They think my mom, like her sister in law, had only one son.

I’m not complaining.  It’s not my right to complain.  I lived there a shorter time than I’ve now lived in Colorado, and that’s a fraction of the time I’ve been in the US.  No.  I daresay even the stack a prol apartments are better places to live than the low, conjoined little houses most people lived in.  Apartments have toilets.  And running hot and cold water.

And I’m not complaining that Porto has become a touristic Mecca, which, considering it has the general climate and look of London I’m sure is for the history and the monuments, or perhaps because now people are painting the houses in primary colors (never when I was little) and Northern Europeans think it’s a poor-man’s Caribbean. Though I’d hazard it’s mostly the wine.

My kids loved Porto, and they’d have hated it as it was when I loved it: grimy, gritty, workaday, with nothing for tourists, the sort of place that — but for a lack of diners — would have made a great setting for a noir movie. (It still rains more of less all the time, except at the height of summer, a dispiriting, weepy drizzle.)

And if you read the paragraph above you’ll find I loved it.  I loved it  because, coming from the village, it meant freedom.  No one watched your every movement in Porto.  Oh, sure, crazy men might follow you on the street calling you names, but at least you didn’t have the village gossips concoct fantastic tales about your secret love affair just because you felt like wearing a more daring shade of lipstick. It also meant books.  It meant at least four bookstores, within easy distance of the train station, and later a lot more, as I discovered the alfarrabios, the used book stores.  Used bookstores doesn’t describe it, or not precisely.  There is a difference between used bookstores in the US — stores in the US in general — and alfarrabios, which were often the two bottom floors of a family home, so there was no urgency in making every inch pay.  So books came in, got put somewhere, generations changed.  They never even bothered changing the prices.  Some of my early in-English reading happened because I found a nook at the back of an alfarrabio (from the fact that rag is farrapo, I wonder if the word is arab for rag cellar, and the book thing just accrued to the profession as books came in) where they had early twentieth century, leather bound English language books.  I read all of H. G. Wells that way. (And most of  Twain.  And Dickens, though I don’t remember Dickens because I never liked him.  And other writers I don’t remember.  I wonder what English-speaking lost soul sold them to the store in the first place) And now I wonder what the heck happened to those books, as I suspect they were first editions.  I suspect I lent them out and lost them.

And speaking of feelings of home and nostalgia, I still get mushy at the memory of that nook, which even at early twentieth century prices took me years to explore and buy out.  I’d go in and sit on the floor, and look through the books to decide what to buy.  The ceiling was too low for me to stand up, but at the end of the little nook there was a grime-encrusted dormer window, which filtered the light in all yellow and hazy.

Oh, and Portugal had Chinese restaurants, and museums, and movie theaters, things I still like in a cityy.  No, not sure why, it’s just who I am.

Most of the alfarrabios have closed, possibly because real estate is at a premium in the far more prosperous cities, and these bookstores were like the ones Pratchett describes, where the owner wears carpet sleepers and reacts to your trying to buy his book like you’re kidnapping his child.

I still have some of those feelings of “home” for specific places in Portugal — it just so happens those places don’t exist anymore, nor the people who made those places special — absent the charming idea that heaven stores all the dearest places of the heart, I’ll never see them again.

How did this extend to “homeland” To patriotism?

I tried.  I tried really hard.  I even managed to convince my sister in law, who of course, hadn’t known me from childhood.

Look, if you had stacked places “Portugal or Spain?” even now I’d say Portugal, only because Spain is that horrible mix of the familiar and the “what the heck?” and even if Portugal has become more so, the past 30 years, it’s not that bad.

But there was never a song in my heart when I referred to myself as “Portuguese”: the best way I can explain it is to say it was like my birth name.  I hated being called by my birth name, and my closest friends had a dozen nicknames for me.  It wasn’t so much that I hated the name.  It’s an okay name and fine for everyone else, but it didn’t “fit”.  I felt like I was impersonating someone of that name, and there was an automatic cringe-and-duck which I don’t feel the slightest need to do when anyone calls me now.

The same way, referring to myself as Portuguese was wrong.  I found out in my teens, when I started visiting friends for long periods of time, that my family REALLY wasn’t that Portuguese.  Not noticeably.  Or at least not normal Portuguese.  Dad loves the country, but it’s an intellectual love.  He loves the history of the country.  He can and does describe medieval battles vividly and poetically when we visit the sites (including to my sons, as I’m struggling to translate that fast.)  He does know the kings and queens of the past, as though he’d been their elementary school friend.  And dad loves the village.  Because he was there for the transformation, he doesn’t realize, I think, how little of the village I knew is left.  Or if he does, by the time I was born it had so changed from his village, that it doesn’t matter.  He talks of the place where he and his friends played a prank, and in his eyes — like a man long-married seeing his wife as she was when he met her — it’s the same place.

But my family doesn’t behave like other Portuguese families, and I can’t even tell you why.  The day to day is different.  At Liberty con, I complained of my shoes pinching and an author of Portuguese ancestry said her grandmother would have told her it was a punishment for the sin of vanity.

My family lacked that all pervasive Catholicism, that view of “you deserve punishment for looking good” and the most my family would have said would be “didn’t they have the shoes in your size?” (Which was a common problem, when I was young.)  My family didn’t eat the same foods, or have the same manners, or… It was almost like I’d been raised in a foreign enclave in the middle of Portuguese society.  Those early forays into visiting friends made me feel even more alien than I normally did.  All the more so because I couldn’t betray ignorance of customs or behavior, and had to pick up and play along as best I could.  After all, I was a native.  (Since I’m as good at picking up on hints as most of you, you picture the disaster.)

Much as I loved the history dad told, I always felt like a  little alien.  Then I took to English history.  At some point, on this blog, someone berated me for not writing more books based on Portuguese history.  There’s tons of reasons for that, including that the audience would not have any resonance with Portuguese history, so it would take a lot more work to make it meaningful.  I intend to borrow some things — most of them royal life episodes — for a space opera series, eventually, but that’s because I can give them their own background and meaning then. What he was missing was that beyond all that, I do love English History and started learning it at an early age, and reading it for fun.

There will always be a vaguely anglophile part of me.

In my teens I fell in love with America.  It was an intellectual love.  I loved the principles and the ideas of the founding.  I loved that America comes as close to a classless society as humans ever have.

Note this was long before my mind decided I was going to live in Denver and be a writer, and I knew about as much about Denver as I did about being a writer: really, nothing but I’d seen on TV and you know how accurate that is.  And no, to this day still I can’t answer you “why Denver?”

Most Portuguese — I was explaining this yesterday to a friend, trying to get across why Deportugal is an unlikely thing, and why Portugal will cling to the shards of the US as long as they can — love Portugal on the “home” level.  They love the landscapes, the customs,  the language, those traditions I never fully shared.  They are however at best ambivalent on the “homeland” the more abstract level.  They will get crazy in love with Portugal when supporting it in a soccer match, for instance, and that’s about the only time you’ll see anyone flying the flag.  My mom was shocked when she visited (in July) that almost every home flew the American flag.  In Portugal there are various jokes made about the flag, and the national hymn.  Part of this is that they were changed so often in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century.  Part of it is that patriotism is not only not pushed in the schools, but is considered vaguely shameful  (yes, they’re trying to do the same here.)  The twentieth century international socialists diagnosed “nationalism” as the cause of Nazi atrocities because they couldn’t face that SOCIALISM was the actual problem  (it can kill you fast, it can kill you slow, it can kill you hard or it can kill you softly, but in the end socialism, like its communist cousin, will kill you. It’s just it’s slow in most places, and people don’t notice.)  So patriotism was treated as a bad thing.  Even though most Portuguese loved living in Portugal day to day, they had no intellectual affection for the notion of the country.  It’s a bad way to live.  The EU relieved this psychic tension by giving most of them the chance to immigrate without immigrating.  They were now allowed to consider themselves “citizens of Europe” while still loving their little corner of it fiercely.

I understand it, because my love for the US started with only the intellectual level.  Oh, it was strong.  I think I kissed the gentleman who first looked at my green card and said “welcome home.”  I’m sure I hugged him.  I remember his shocked face.  And I always kiss the ground when returning from abroad, a ceremony I taught my kids, because ritual is important.

But for years, the slant of the light was wrong.  The feel of the air was wrong.  The morning sounds were wrong.

I don’t know when that changed.  After I left the Carolinas for sure.  And yeah, part of it is that the rocky terrain and the sparse pines look more like the area around the village when I was little, though the village was (you might have got that feeling) way more moist than the high desert.  And way less mountainous..

But casual poking around at my ancestry revealed people from so many different places (the North of Portugal was  a sort of dumping ground for English ne’er do wells and troublemakers — before England had colonies for that purpose — and the napoleonic wars left enough French and English blood strewn about to considerably confuse things. That’s without counting imports from the PORTUGUESE colonies.) that I really don’t see a link between land and blood, or between “my ancestors lived in this kind of climate, it’s the right climate for me.”  In fact, all of Portugal was characterized by the Germans as “mud people” since Portuguese genetics were a mess (Why, thank you.  Hybrid vigor, sonny! Also, all people are a mix from  Ur of the Chaldeans onward, mostly due to “humans will sleep with anything.”  Apparently even hominids, given recent findings. If you think otherwise, your knowledge of history is funny.  Also deficient.  [And no, the DNA tests aren’t very exact.  They’re, as older son, the one who knows human biology puts it “mostly bogus.” He could probably explain why to you.  He’s explained it to me, but my eyes glazed over.)

No, I’ve found that loving where you live is more a matter of habituation and perhaps of individual taste.  I loved Denver the first time I saw it.  It survived even the winters (and I hate cold.)  Why?  I don’t know.  Why do you love certain kinds of features and not others?  Unless you were raised in a very insular place it’s not “Because they’re like the faces I know.” There is more to it.  I loved redheads before I knew they existed.  that is, the first one I met rendered me speechless and I followed the poor guy around like a lost puppy, which considering I was twelve and he mid-twenties must have been a great annoyance.  My kids’ tastes in girls are almost opposite. Why do they like what they do? Who knows?

In the same way I liked Denver on sight.  I liked the light and the air, the noises of the city.  I like Colfax before it was safe.  I liked the way the city sprawls, more horizontal than vertical, and the open feel of it.  Who knows why?

I can tell you why I love America: the principles of the founding, the constitution, our struggle to bring into being something that has never existed before — a society where all are equal before the law.  (I’m not mad crazy about the push-pull when one side insists on equality of outcome, but humans aren’t perfect and I suspect it’s inevitable.)

I can’t tell you why I love my corner of it.  I just know I do.  Having breakfast in the sun room early morning, with the park and the trees to my right, and the lights of Denver slowly fading in front of me, eclipsed by the rising sun, is a feeling of … being home.

I’ve always loved the “land” part, the principles, and even the boisterous can-do of the nation, the way we don’t take no (or sometimes even yes) for an answer.  I loved it before I came here.

I’ve loved Colorado since I first saw it, which is the reason we haven’t moved even as Californians moved in and messed up our polity.

In this house, I feel like I have the best of Colorado, and the two unite into a feeling of “just right.”

It’s good to be home.  This home, in particular, but the state and the country too.  It’s good to love my homeland, and to feel absolutely no compunction to cotton to people who think that patriotism is a bad word.

I raise my cup of tea to my homeland, and hope the disease of international socialism that invaded the weakened mechanisms of Western Civilization post WWI can be flushed from the system, before it destroys us all.

Let’s work to make it so.

Almost the End of The World

Somewhere in the Pacific Northwest, a young mother looks past the kid learning game on the computer.  “I’m sorry, Princess.  I just need to– just a minute.”  She pulls the tiny chubby hands away from the keyboard and looks intently at the image.  “Oh, this is not good right now.  I can’t deal with it right now.”

In North Carolina, an accountant looks at the blog comments and calls out to his beloved spouse, “Dear, is Foxfier trying to pick a fight with me, or is this a code?”

CACS rushes to the computer and looks at it.  She gets a pad.  “I see, let me check a couple of anime references…”  Half an hour later, she hands RES the notepad.  He blanches.  “I see.  Well. There’s only one thing for it.  Wayne Blackburn must be told.


Wayne thinks long and hard, and then writes a seemingly innocuous email to Bobtheregistered.


Bob the registered gets off Baen’s bar and sighs.  “This won’t end well,” he says to himself as he sends a message off to Emily Nelson.  Who reads it, discusses it with Steve and says “So, what do we do? We can’t send Nemo.  I refuse to risk him.”

“I know, but I think I can write some code that delivers the message.  Let me see, who would it be safe to send to?  Do you think Herbn will get it?


A day later, Herbn pauses in the middle of reading a kindle book.  No, this paragraph definitely doesn’t belong.  How did it get there?  Is it time to let 60 guilders know?


Three days later, Shadowdancer opens a jar of vegemite, and finds a folded paper inside a carefully sealed bit of plastic.  She opens it and reads the message from 60 guilders.

She calls Dorothy Grant on a carefully secured line.


“I see,” Dorothy says.  “Pass word onto Dave Freer, I’ll rally Alma Boykin.”


Meanwhile Orvan Ox, on his delivery route notes that a certain house has a flag displaying three daisies hanging from its front porch.  It would be normal in Spring, but in January, really?
He gets on the phone and calls roommate “Call Amanda Green,” Ox says.  “Tell her to pass on the word and get ready  It’s a real one.”


In a small house in TX, Amanda Green opens the trapdoor on the floor and gets out the equipment that’s been waiting this day. She makes a comment on Suburbanshee’s blog and hopes Banshee gets it.  Did she get that word play about St. Catherine’s birthday jsut right, that banshee will get “Wheel in the sky?”


Joel gets the message from Banshee’s encoded email and starts plotting access to a tall roof.  The problem is carrying the weapon through New York City.  Everyone is so suspicious these days.  Maybe he can disguise it as a flowerpot?  Oh, yeah, and he has to get a message to Kate.
After long thought, he sends her a postcard showing the Empire State Building, with a single sentence “The butterfly sings.”  That should do it.


In Pennsylvania Kate Paulk is getting the secret equipment assembled in the outbuilding.  “Bugger if they get away with this.”  Almost casually, she dials David Pascoe and tells him “The kilt is purple.  I repeat, the kilt is purple.”


David Pascoe rescues a crucial piece of the weapon from the baby girl and glares at it.  He has to assemble it before the toddler finds another use for the parts.


Drak Bibliophile sighs, then starts removing his books from the bookshelves.  Why had he thought it would be a good idea to put it behind the shelves?


‘Nother  Mike in Japan, is trying to remember where he hid his equipment.  Oh, yes.  He’d put it in the classroom, disguised as a student project.


Around the world, Cyn Bagley, Alpheus, William Stoddard, Francis Turner,  Mary Catelli, Eamon,  C. Taylor, Uncle Lar, Caitlin, Dr. Mauser  and TXR and many, many others set up their weapons, and look at the messages they received, make sure they have the right coordinates and struggle to program them in.


Deep in her secret laboratory, Sabrina Chase checks the calculations.  “D*MN it,” she says and sends a hurried correction through the grape vine.  Stephanie Osborn receives the correction and adds solar activity effects.  Then corrects the corrections.


At Pete’s Kitchen, having a seemingly innocent dinner with the Denver contingent, Sarah asks Kortnee “Did anyone tell Chris Chupik?”


In the frozen wastelan…. we mean civilized parts of Canada, Chris gets a phone call from Captain Comic.  He’d earlier failed to get a message sent by moose, because there are no moose in his neighborhood.  Really, what do you people think Canada is, eh? And some people thought that Bieber was disproportionate aggression.  Ah! I’m glad we send you Bieber. Yes, I am that heartless. He thinks all this, but aloud he says,”What?  Again?  ALL of us?  Are you sure?”

“Sarah said the carp fly at midnight. She used that phrase at instapundit last night, too.”

“Yeah, yeah, right code.  Oh, damn, I planned to write tonight.”  As he gets off the phone he thinks, “I bet no one has told Kirsi.  I’d better call Finland.  Us great white North people have to stick together.


Five hours later, as the alien ship approaches the Earth, it is hit by coordinated rays from the secret weapons long ago distributed, secretly, to the seemingly normal readers of an unassuming little blog.


A few minutes ago:

Sarah struggles to her blog.  These emergencies really need to stop being so tight.  You’d think the galactic alarms would get tripped before yet another invader is less than a month from attacking the Earth.  Coordinating a defense all over the world is not easy.

But hey, the Huns did it again.  She makes coffee by touch, because her eyes refuse to open until the second cup.

Better put up a seemingly silly post on the blog, to let everyone know the danger is past.

No one will suspect such a far-fetched thing is real.  It’d be like suspecting us of having gone back to change history after that horrible election.  No one would ever believe any of this drivel.

Good work, everyone.

Morning After Regrets

So, I’ve been reading less because I REALLY need to do the final push on Darkship Revenge, a) before something else goes wrong with my body b) so that my publisher doesn’t kill me.

But I’ve still been reading, because, well, one needs to go to the bathroom, and read something (even if just a couple of pages) before going to sleep.

Mostly I’m reading from KULL both because until I turn books in we’re semi broke (not broke/broke, but being careful) and because, well, I am not paying close attention to the books.  Not right now.

Because books are from KULL, it is easy to start reading and then put it down without thought, and move on to another one.

I’ve done a post on MGC on Wednesday about stopping points.  This post is about how I didn’t stop, even though the book’s worldbuilding makes as much sense as American Rednecks drinking gin and pounding hapless paleontologists.

But I do have morning after regrets, and a sort of nauseous feeling I did something awful.

This post is to explain both the mistakes, and why the book seduced me.  If we’re going to break the stranglehold of the left, it is important to know how to keep people who disagree with us (or in this case who think this is from another universe) reading.

As a side note, this book is not self published, but put out through an Amazon imprint, which just shows you the new forms quickly get like the last.

So, first the sin count and why they’re sins:

The South is so exotic, it’s another planet covers most of these sins.  This pisses me off, as I’m fairly sure most Southerners are still human (my friends excepted.  They’re SUPER HUMAN) and also having lived in the South, yep, there are differences, but again, the basic rules of life end up being the same.

1- The entire book hinges on four generations of a family being put in a madhouse and killed there.  The most recent one escapes.

This is present day, and she’s supposed to be involuntarily committed to a mad house and disappear.

Oh, hum.  Yeah, sure thing, Bob.  Beyond impossible now.  But let’s get back to that, “involuntarily committed for generations, then killed there” and no one ever got curious, and the family is still political and really big.  Uh uh.  It’s also implied the family is (of course) conservative.  Apparently these people haven’t met our press.

Anyway, there is an explanation for this.  It’s stupid.  Moving right along.

(On a side note, I ran across this while reading a book on — of all things — Porto.  There was some home for upper class emotionally disturbed women that operated in the eighteenth and nineteenth century.  I’m okay with the idea parents and husbands used this to get rid of inconvenient women (not kill them, but put them away) SOMETIMES.  I’m even okay with the idea that things we consider pretty normal were insanity in those days, like, you know, consistently talking back.

It’s the assumption that it was ALWAYS used to get rid of rebels and perfectly sane women that gets under my skin.

[Let’s unpack this, shall we: So women never get unstable, or are a danger to themselves and others?

So, you’re saying that in a more rigid society, being completely outrageous shouldn’t get you put away?  You’ve never lived in a traditional society if you don’t get that achieving outrageous behavior means something has already gone seriously wrong.  Well behaved women might not make history, but crazy-behaving women and men simply don’t survive in REALLY traditional societies.  Look to the middle east if you have doubts.

Also, there were the same type of limits on men as on women. SURE different limits.  But men could get put away just as easily by acting outside society’s norms.

This is probably the subject for another post, but in our anything-goes society it’s hard to picture that one already needs to be wrong in the head to let one’s freak flag fly.  And yet, it’s true.

I’m not saying it’s right, I’m saying it happens in different cultures — I’m also not sure that our “no madhouse, let homeless people widdle on themselves and talk to invisible people on street corners” is more compassionate, but that’s something else — and that the stupid assumption that a madhouse for women or a woman sent to any madhouse is just “brave feminists being oppressed” is idiotic and provincial.  Mrs. Lincoln might have been a “brave feminist” — she wasn’t — but you can’t avoid realizing, if you read primary sources, that she was nuttier than a fruitcake. Possibly for one of the many reasons that made madness among women more common in the past: lack of hormonal therapy, frequent miscarriages, frequent emotional shocks with children’s deaths and in general a far HARDER life than our feminist flowers can even imagine, much less endure.]

Beyond all that, again, two/three generations in a row dying in a madhouse, in a political (particularly a conservative) family, the press would be all over that like flies on sh*t.)

2- The plot only hangs together, to the extent it does, because all the police in Alabama are in the pocket of the kkk.  Yep, still.  Because “in Alabama these things never go away” or some such bullshit.

Let me put it right here, right now, that yep, the KKK had a lot of power in some places, 20s and 30s.  The elementary school my kids attended (In Colorado) has a cornerstone stating the building was donated by the KKK.  When I attended my older son’s college graduation, the dean read a letter about how when the KKK controlled state government, they tried to get the college to kick out “all Jews and Catholics” and when that didn’t work they cut funding to the college.  The letter he read was the dean’s response, and it amounted to “Dear KKK influenced state government, these are my middle fingers.”  Only it was much more polite and beautiful than that, because the dean wasn’t me.

So I know the KKK was, historically, a force to be reckoned with.  Historically.  Right now they are a dying and tiny movement, no matter how much the left keeps trying to resurrect them.  (They were a leftist movement anyway.)  The idea they have that kind of influence in Alabama amounts to thinking the south is a place like in that story of rednecks drinking gin and beating on paleontologists because… no reason.

This is the South as seen from NYC.

3- Continuing with the South as seen from NYC: a not inconsequential part of the plot hinges on some girl having climbed a water tower naked (in the thirties) claiming her brother was sleeping with her and she was pregnant.  When she threw herself down, she only broke an ankle (let it go) and was confined to the madhouse, where they kept the baby after she was born because… cheese.

Okay a) It is NOT normal, in the South, even in isolated communities for brothers and sisters to sleep together.  That’s a calumny put about by pseudo cosmopolitan idiots.  b) I think it’s based on the fact that in isolated communities cousin marriage is tolerated, whatever the law says, because, isolated.  Some idiot made a joke about incest, and the pseudo cosmopolitan idiots swallowed it hook line and sinker and have been propagating it forever.  c) it happens.  It happens in all human tribes from isolated mountain communities to the pseudo-cosmopolitan-enclaves.  It just happens.  RARELY.  d) when it does happen, the traditional communities are much better at dealing with it than the big cities.  (Terry Pratchett whose environment in childhood seemed to be much like mine had it right about the “rough music”.) Yeah, in a big city, in relatively affluent circles, I could see finding a way to put the girl and the baby away and never talk about this again, while the brother went on to probably do it again.  In a traditional community?  Oh, hell no.  Everyone knows everyone else’s business and trust this woman who grew in such a community (and one arguably more patriarchal than anywhere in America) something very bad would have happened to that brother, while the girl would have been allowed to forget or pretend that it had just been a traveling salesman.  Or more likely someone would have taken the baby to raise (usually a distant relative) and it wouldn’t have been mentioned again how that baby was conceived.  But that guy, if he didn’t get away and stay away?  He’d have suffered a mysterious accident, or committed suicide by beating himself to death with a half brick.

You see, traditional communities are already relatively inbred by force of circumstances.  They can’t afford to let this kind of thing happen.  No, they are not geneticists, but they have the traditions of generations.  And whatever feminists think, it’s usually the guy who pays in this case.  (And in most cases of this sort, it is the guy who should.  Though, yeah, there are exceptions and we know some historical ones, where it was mutual consent)

4- We are in the head of an unreliable narrator, a woman just out of treatment for drug addiction, who keeps stealing pills and putting them in her purse (although she doesn’t take them) but we’re supposed to believe her version of the story in a murder mystery.  Sure, it can be done, but in this case given the other problems of the book, I’m still working out how all this could be her insanity.

5- Women in the south so crazy!  This is another of the “sins against flyover country”.  While I’ll admit that the South like Portugal has a tradition of “romantic crazy” in which very smart or misunderstood geniuses are supposed to be a little nuts, it’s still too much to expect us to treat as perfectly normal that the main character sees things.

6- Her brother alternates between sounding like a more or less reasonable, occasionally unpleasant politician and trying to kill her.  0 to murder in ten seconds.  And we’re supposed to buy this character, and that he functions well enough to be in politics.  Also, that during an active political campaign, NO ONE WOULD BE TRACKING HIM WITH CAMERAS.

7- Oh, yeah, even though she identifies at least the family of the most recent murdered girl as being Catholic, the book keeps talking about how she was a snake handler with a crazy evangelical sect.  Even though a Latin Catholic prayer has been passed down through generations of the family, one of the boys is in the KKK — in fact, the author seems QUITE unaware that the KKK targeted Catholics as much as black people — and in the whole, I’m forced to assume this person thinks that the Catholic church and one of the snake-handling evangelical churches are one and the same.  This is at best really bad editing and at worst completely delusional ignorance by someone so far from religious belief as not to realize there are SECTS and different branches of Christianity.

Proceeding from those kicks to reality, there are about a dozen minor ones.  And yet, I read the book.

So, why did I read it?

1-It starts with an intriguing title.  This book is called Burying the Honeysuckle Girls.  I was going to download and read at least a sample, given that title.
Let’s dissect it, shall we: Burying: perfect for a mystery cue.  Honeysuckle — brings with it a sensory load of sense and taste. Girls — signals women in peril, which is a subset of thrillers.  Honeysuckle-girls together projects an ethereal fragrant image.

It’s a seductive title.

Compare that to a mystery title for a mystery and did download but read only a few pages, because the language is clunky, and the name of the detective distracting:

The Heiress of Linn Hagh, the second book in the Detective Lavender series.  The title is completely non-alluring and not descriptive.  Heiress does not signal murder mystery. Linn Hagh is a bad-sounding combination.  And detective Lavender sounds like it should either be a gay mystery or a Chinese mystery.

I am not disparaging that last.  While the story threw me out, it apparently appeals to many people, as it sells well and has excellent reviews. (Good for them) but even one hint of bad world building in the first page and I’d put the book back, since it doesn’t seduce me, and the title promises nothing special.

2- The first person voice is convincing and lyrical.  We’re in the head of a woman recovering from addiction and just released from a half way house, and she feels “real”.  The character is there, present, and even when she does crazy shit like steal pills, you want to believe her, and you sympathize with her.

3- The stupidity comes on slowly.  In the first chapter her family seems fairly normal.  The strangeness between the Catholic church and the snake handling evangelical church is not evident till almost the last chapter.

4- In the first few chapters the family dynamics make sense and are heart-wrenching: the father dying of Alzheimers, the sister in law who wants to believe the girl is recovered from her issues, the brother who gives her the benefit of the doubt, and all along, the woman who is unreliable and somewhat unstable.

As part of this they turn on her too fast and somewhat unconvincingly, but I kept reading because, well, she had an history, maybe they had a reason, etc. (Turns out no, the entire family behaves like they’re bipolar, all through the book.)

We don’t find out till the middle of the book that the misfit-love-interest is working for her brother.  BTW from that point on he’s not fully convincing, and her getting together to him in the end is oh, um.

3- Though the plot conclusion is not satisfactory, the clues laid out, etc, are intriguing.  You only realize the idea of all these murders isn’t believable AFTER you’re done reading.  So, fast-moving, intriguing narration and intriguing clues will keep you reading, because you think there will be a pay off.

4- While there is obviously feminist stupidity in this book, the writer herself might not realize it’s there.  It’s deep laid beliefs in things like women could just be put in a madhouse and no one would ask questions.  Or murders in a little town aren’t talked about. Or these men FROM OUTSIDE THE FAMILY who kept marrying the girls in the family, all connived in their murders and never protested I guess because all men naturally want to murder all women.  BUT IT WAS NEVER STATED UPFRONT, it was buried in the text, and thus it never came up and smacked you in the face while you were reading.  It only did so afterwards. By the time you realize how preposterous it is, you’re done reading the book.

So, in conclusion, if you’re selling a world view, it’s probably best if you’re going to sell a point of view, if it’s so deeply laid-in that you don’t know it’s there.  However, if you don’t have that, at least try to hide it in the plot and the playing out of the story.  Hint, to you it will feel like you’re not putting any message in at all, because these are the things you believe.

A good or at least fast paced story will hide a multitude of errors, and a lot of sins and keep the reader reading.

However if you want THIS reader to read your next one, and not to have morning-after regrets, doing a modicum of research helps.

Yes, I know, comedians, other books, and all the right people have assured you that the South is like this.  However, it helps to actually go and look and talk to the locals, or read biographies of people who grew up there and who aren’t trying to ingratiate themselves with the glitterati.  And if you grew up there (I honestly didn’t read the author’s bio) it helps if you get out of your circle of Yankee transplants and would-be sophisticates and talk to people you think are beneath you.  No, really.

Also on the “southern women so crazy”, I put up with the visions because I NORMALLY read fantasy, so I’m willing to take a bit of weirdness in my books.  BUT the author never explained why the voice character sees red ravens and streaks of gold.  I guess all Southern women are crazy or mystical or stuff.  (Maybe all women.  Maybe they psychically talk to plants.  Who knows.)  Which doesn’t help with morning-after regrets.

You guys know I never do a harsh review and name the book.  This is not a harsh review.  This is how despite defects (and they’re massive) the book kept me reading.  And it has the reviews and ranking to prove it kept a lot of people reading.

Go you and do likewise. Seduce the reader, even if she knows better.  Only you, do enough research, and make the plot tight enough to make sure she doesn’t regret it in the morning.