Update and Errata

Okay, first an update on the …. not even identity theft, more of a stealing my phone number and using it for evil sh*t situation.

First let me reiterate that while I DO use hotmail, I’m not stupid. That’s my public email, not my FINANCIAL anything email. Even the buffered paypal (the account it’s linked to is used only for non-trusted web sites, okay?) goes through an email I never put out in public.

A lot of you also yelled at me about hotmail, but in fact the hotmail security is the same as all the others if you use two-factor authentication to your phone. They did in fact also break into my proton mail. It’s just since that’s encrypted, once you change the password, it “shreds” the contents.

I keep that hotmail account because it’s my longest, continuous account, which means I get uh… Let’s say my ping for a current job came through it, because it’s propagated through fan circuits and others. The footsy playing with the movie producer has also been conducted over that email. So, no, I’m not going to get rid of it, as I would lose potential work. Also, again, it’s my public email, and it’s everywhere. Its one defect is that it doesn’t show legitimate emails it decides are spam. But I guess I can deal with that, vs. spam traps. I also use outlook for the book pimping account, because it’s easy to establish and right there. Note that they didn’t break into that one, because no two factor authentication.

Anyway, so, that account is now secured (and off two-factor authentication.)

The phone…. The company is taking it very seriously. I think they had no idea I had any kind of platform, so they got a bit of a shock, stopped insisting it must have been me at the store, at ten pm my time, and are investigating it. And the police are involved.

We need to call today for an update, but they think — or did on Saturday — that the break-in was targeted for various reasons, starting with: they didn’t break into the email associated with the phone, but into an email listed nowhere on the phone, and continuing with they took the time to try to f*ck up what they thought were valuable relationships (well, they are, but not the way they thought, at least for two. Friends are valuable, but not lucrative) before moving on to breaking to dropbox (I guess they thought I might use it to store passwords? Weirdly, AFTER this sh*t I get a come on from Dropbox for their password storing system. NOT TODAY SATAN.) and coinbase (incomplete account because I screwed up something while setting it up, which is good, though to be honest I don’t remember why I wanted it, but it was probably to buy something stupid, like fabric from India. So I just gave up. But it was supposed to be something stupid and small, one time, which is why it was linked to hotmail.) And then devoted most of the effort to breaking into a chat program I mostly use to talk to family. Now that chat program I UNDERSTAND has salacious channels, and I think they thought that’s what it was. I kept wrestling it back, and they got it back 5 times, for a minute, before I finally changed the email for authenticating it (And we secured hotmail at about the same time.) Not that I have anything salacious there, but I also called family and asked them to kick me out of the chat room as soon as I got the compromise notice, because they don’t need to know who is moving, and who needs a job and–

Anyway, from their fascination with the chat program, I think they were mostly looking for ways to discredit me/screen capture…. I don’t know. My devoting time to Portuguese plans for world domination? (If there were any they would start with “reanimate Henry, the Navigator.” So, no.) Or perhaps my secret membership in Mediterranean People’s Uber Allas! (No, it doesn’t exist. And if it did it would be a big fight in a small room.)

So, right now everything is secure, except drop box, and the phone company, having figured out I’m a potential target, and they’re potentially in trouble if this happens again, have put in extraordinary measures to secure our account. Not that I’m using it for two factor authentication, anymore.

On things linked to the phone that held the line: Proton mail and Signal. So, if you want to communicate with me and there MUST be secrecy, use those. I advise a name on proton that has nothing to do with your name, too.

After the exciting Thursday/Friday, I was rather done in, and spent Saturday feeling lethargic, and yesterday painting gourds.

This has morphed into a story.

So, in the thirteenth century, there was the Benedictine Monastery (they work hard!) of St. Gourdamin. There is actually no evidence such a saint ever existed, and he might have been aggregated to the monastery because they did gourds. Anyway, it was believed that St. Gourdamin was buried in a giant gourd, and his followers honored him by growing various gourds, many of which were used for storing things.

During the excavation of the ruined part of the monastery (burned/destroyed under Henry VIII) they found gourds painted with snails, snails fighting knights, and snails fighting rabbits riding dogs, and all sorts of things. They also found fragments of chronicles, detailing the great Snail War of the 13th century, when giant space snails invaded. We’d have been in trouble and no mistake, if uplifted rabbits and dogs hadn’t also arrived — by time machine — to join the fight.

Eventually there will be a store and each painted gourd, cup made of gourds (not safe for food. pencil holder, maybe), and box made of gourds, and fragment of gourd shipped, painted with images of the great snail war, will also come with an appropriately charred and maltreated fragment of the chronicles. Because I’m not right in the head.

Anyway, taking a day to do something not writing seems to have helped, and now I have actual work to do.

Before I get to it, an Errata. Because I was kind of spacey and also because I’m absent minded, I listed the wrong Mackey Chandler book as a finalist for the Prometheus Award.

So: here is the updated listing.


From Mackey Chandler: Who Can Own The Stars?

The Kingdom of Central’s sovereign, Heather Anderson, set L1 as a limit for armed ships to respect, de-militarizing the Solar System. Now that the Earth nations are experimenting with star drives they want to challenge this limit anew. The USNA starship, Constitution is intercepted violating the L1 limit and brings them to the brink of war again. Will Peer Jeffrey Singh be able to negotiate a compromise? Do the Earthies mean to bargain in good faith? The Spacers need to buy time but things on Earth are always so complicated…

And so sorry about linking the wrong one. I’ve got excessive derpage. It was a strange week.

Okay, now return to your own massed confusion. Real post tomorrow.

Book Promo And Vignettes by Luke, Mary Catelli and ‘Nother Mike.

Book Promo

*Note these are books sent to us by readers/frequenters of this blog.  Our bringing them to your attention does not imply that we’ve read them and/or endorse them, unless we specifically say so.  As with all such purchases, we recommend you download a sample and make sure it’s to your taste.  If you wish to send us books for next week’s promo, please email to bookpimping at outlook dot com. If you feel a need to re-promo the same book do so no more than once every six months (unless you’re me or my relative. Deal.) One book per author per week. Amazon links only. Oh, yeah, by clicking through and buying (anything, actually) through one of the links below, you will at no cost to you be giving a portion of your purchase to support ATH through our associates number. I ALSO WISH TO REMIND OUR READERS THAT IF THEY WANT TO TIP THE BLOGGER WITHOUT SPENDING EXTRA MONEY, CLICKING TO AMAZON THROUGH ONE OF THE BOOK LINKS ON THE RIGHT, WILL GIVE US SOME AMOUNT OF MONEY FOR PURCHASES MADE IN THE NEXT 24HOURS, OR UNTIL YOU CLICK ANOTHER ASSOCIATE’S LINK. PLEASE CONSIDER CLICKING THROUGH ONE OF THOSE LINKS BEFORE SEARCHING FOR THAT SHED, BIG SCREEN TV, GAMING COMPUTER OR CONSERVATORY YOU WISH TO BUY. That helps defray my time cost of about 2 hours a day on the blog, time probably better spent on fiction. ;)*


After fighting a demon in the middle of Philadelphia, Zoe O’Brien wants nothing more than to return to her normal, if stress-filled, life as an assistant professor of history at Summerfield College. But she’s an Elemental mage and that means when there’s potential magical trouble on campus, the squirrels come to her.

Who or what is the dark presence moving around campus? Why is it here and what does it want? Zoe struggles to come to terms with her mage powers and the leadership role her colleagues have given her. Complicating everything are all the papers that have to be graded, classes that need to be prepped, and most importantly, cats that require attention. Oh, yeah. She might actually have a boyfriend as well.


It’s hard living next to a giant, even a friendly one, much less a clumsy hostile giant. Earth’s unfriendly billions were an unpredictably restive presence. The Kingdom of Central was on the Moon, and the three allied habitats of Home were already forced to move from Low Earth Orbit to beyond the Moon, dancing around a common center in a halo orbit. That bought them some time, but wasn’t nearly far enough away. The Spacers knew it would come to a bad end. The only question was how, when, and would they survive it? The only refuge was in the stars where they had friends.


FAA attorney Terrence Rogers dreams of space, but he spends his days on informed consent for space tourists. Young foreign service officer Hal Cooper faces real change with the arrival of an alien spaceship, but it means something else for Terrence.

A short story.

FROM NATHAN C. BRINDLE: A Dragon in the Foie Gras.

Captain Delaney Wolff Fox is back.

She’s just led her team on a months-long hunt through the penal world al-Saḥra’ (known otherwise by its semi-satirical name “Sanddoom”), looking for an industrial-sized illegal drug “kitchen” that’s been supplying colony worlds with various illegal substances via a network of involuntary migrant “mules”. That hunt ended satisfactorily, and rather explosively, with the destruction of the “kitchen” and hundreds if not thousands of personnel associated with it.

Now the team is heading back to Earth, hoping for some well-deserved shore leave . . .
. . . but it’s not to be. A long-sleeping foreign agent has been found in a stasis chamber in an abandoned Chicago warehouse, and it’s up to Delaney and crew to investigate the mystery, by traveling back to the year 2017 to find out why the agent was placed in stasis then, and why the stasis seems originally to have been planned to end in late 2020.

And when the sleeper wakes, asks for and consumes an entire pound of goose liver pâté, and asks for more, it’s pretty obvious they’ve got A Dragon In The Foie Gras

FROM NORMA SADLER: Krystal’s Notebook: Not a Romance

Krystal Ferraro’s boyfriend left her for her best friend. A high school junior, Krystal wants a boyfriend who cares about her, but is she willing to settle instead for physical involvement with a senior who says that he loves her? Is that the kind of caring and intimacy she wants? In her notebook, she covers her own experiences as well as what she discovers about teachers and other students.

FROM DENTON SALLE: The Genetic Vampire.

John’s life as an arson investigator was exciting enough, thank you. He really didn’t want any more surprises. So when an arson investigation uncovers an old murder, that’s more than enough.
Unfortunately, he got sloppy and found out he’s got this weird genetic disease. Vampirism.
And there are others with the same “problem” who are making offers he might have to accept.
What happens when the legends of folklore decide to visit you?

FROM ALLENE R. LOWERY: Einarr Stigandersen and the Jotunhall: A Young Adult action-adventure Viking fantasy.

A foiled elopement. A giant’s treasure. An impossible quest that will almost certainly get him killed.

Once upon a time, Stigander Raenson was heir to a thanedom. Until a curse drove him, his family, and his crew out of their homes. For years, they have all wandered the cold seas on the Vidofnir, Stigander’s prized ship, looking for treasure, glory, and a way to end the curse.

Now Stigander’s son Einarr lives a vagabond’s life on the Vidofnir, never giving much thought to the home he barely remembers. That is, until an unexpected squall and a pirate attack send them to winter at the Hall of his father’s childhood friend – and his beautiful daughter. The Jarl intends to marry her to an old man, but they only have eyes for each other.

A desperate gambit lands them both in trouble. Now Einarr has just a single season to convince the Jarl that he would be a worthy match for the Lady Runa, the Jarl’s only child. Will he return in one piece, or will the Jarl’s impossible quest be Einarr’s undoing?

FROM PETER ADAM SALOMON: Eight Minutes, Thirty-Two Seconds.

Over eight billion people died when the world ended. Two survived.L and M don’t know why they’re alive. They don’t remember what happened. Addicted to a drug that kills them for eight minutes and thirty-two seconds, they risk the end of humanity in order to learn the truth.


The “Save The World” department really messed up this time: A vampire, a werewolf, an undercover angel and his succubus squeeze are no one’s idea of an A team. Or a B team. Or possibly a Z team. But then, since this particular threat to the universe and everything good attacks a science fiction convention — composed of people in costume, misfits creative geniuses and creative moron — , any conventional hero would have stood out. Now Jim, the vampire, and his unlikely sidekicks have to beat the clock to find out who’s sacrificing con goers before all hell breaks loose… literally.

FROM CELIA HAYES: My Dear Cousin: A Novel In Letters.

When Peggy Becker married Englishman Tommy Morehouse in San Antonio in the spring of 1938, her cousin and best friend Venetia “Vennie” Stoneman was her bridesmaid. After the wedding, Peg and Tommy traveled across the Pacific to Malaya, where Tommy managed his family’s rubber plantation. There they expected to raise a family and live a comfortable and rewarding life among the British expatriates in the tropics, while Vennie returned to Galveston to continue training as a nurse.
The start of the Second World War changed those comfortable, settled lives: Tommy Morehouse became a prisoner of war, Peg barely escaped the fall of Singapore with her small son, and Vennie Stoneman was a nurse in the US Army Nurse Corps, tending to battlefield casualties in North Africa, Italy, and France. In Australia, Peg waits out the war, wondering if her husband will survive brutal captivity by the Japanese, and Vennie risks her own life as an air evacuation nurse. Throughout all, the two women write to each other, of their lives, loves, of Vennie’s patients and comrades, and Peg’s children and the woes of running a wartime household among rationing and shortages of shoes for her children.

Vignettes by Luke, Mary Catelli and ‘Nother Mike.

So what’s a vignette? You might know them as flash fiction, or even just sketches. We will provide a prompt each Sunday that you can use directly (including it in your work) or just as an inspiration. You, in turn, will write about 50 words (yes, we are going for short shorts! Not even a Drabble 100 words, just half that!). Then post it! For an additional challenge, you can aim to make it exactly 50 words, if you like.

We recommend that if you have an original vignette, you post that as a new reply. If you are commenting on someone’s vignette, then post that as a reply to the vignette. Comments — this is writing practice, so comments should be aimed at helping someone be a better writer, not at crushing them. And since these are likely to be drafts, don’t jump up and down too hard on typos and grammar.

If you have questions, feel free to ask.

Your writing prompt this week is: TUMBLE

Things Moving Along

So, things are moving along, both with figuring out the phone thing and ensuring it doesn’t happen again, and…. House stuff I can’t do getting done…. and….

Everything is moving except me. I’ve done a whole lot of nothing today. Not sure why. Just low on batteries or something.

Going to try to finish some writing.

Just don’t want you guys to worry. I’m okay. I am busy, just not doing much about what I should be doing. Sort of unintentionally vegging because it’s proving too hard to make myself work.

Getting Their Horns Caught In The Thicket

I read somewhere between amusement and horror that the Biden administration wants THE WORLD to create a worldwide corporate tax, to “alleviate poverty” and so that “everyone pays their fair share.”

Of course the reasons they give are nonsense. There might be some idiots who believe them, but by and large they’re nonsense.

And then I realized why they wanted this, and I started to cackle.

Seriously, guys, they have their horns caught in the thicket.

Rams get their horns caught in thickets because Rams response to anything is to well…. ram it. But thickets catch and don’t let go.

Like Rams, the left — the entire Marxist continuum from social democrat to communist — has a one size fits all solution.

Mostly their strategy is “divide and conquer.” Pit races, classes, etc against the other and then pose as the one thing that keeps these people from killing each other. (“Uniters” you know?)

But one of the ways they do that and keep people quiescent is by taxing the “rich” (a totally arbitrary class) to give “the poor” (a totally arbitrary class.)

In the US, and partly because of tech corporations and the stupid way they’re acting, corporations are “the bad guy” though the left culture has painted them as such a long time.

So the dems want to bleed them dry and pay for boondoggles which enrich their cronies but which they sell as “for the people.” Perfect setup, right.

Well, sure, perfect setup when the “corporations” aka, bit employers depended on HUGE infrastructure like vast machinery, etc. As I’ve said before, the left’s ideal world, the place they want us to go back to is the 1930s.

Nowadays most corporations and even manufacturing are mobile. Really mobile.

So their grand strategy can’t work — which I’ve told you for a long time — and they should have known. “Raise corporate taxes” means the corporations flee. “Tax the rich” ditto. And their “let’s stop all gig work” is only going to bite them in the ass as most of it goes underground.

You can’t import a structure from the 1930s and impose it now. If you try, it just runs your head into a thicket. And then you’re stuck.

They’re stuck. They’re re-starting to build the border wall, because they have SOMEHOW tweaked this is not an early industrial society. Illiterate peasants can’t find “good union jobs” and become a voting block. For one coming over the Southern border is not like crossing the ocean on a ship. They aren’t here forever. They’re here for a buck.

And they want the world to tax corporations, because that means the corporations won’t run from the US…. they think. Let’s suppose they manage to impose their will on the world (I doubt it. I think mostly it will be YEARS of discussions in the UN, amounting to nothing.) Other countries will NOT ENFORCE that tax. and the corporations will know it.

The Junta only tells itself it will work.

And then it hit me: it’s the same as the $15 dollar an hour minimum wage. Nothing to do with “living wage.” It’s their attempt to prevent jobs and employers from fleeing blue cities that bleed them dry. If payment is the same everywhere, they’re sure they can keep them because of the “advantages” of cities.

But since the advantages now involve feral homeless camping everywhere, crazy edits on what can be open and closed, releasing criminals to roam the streets, etc. even if they get that national minimum wage…. it ain’t gonna work.

It’s as I told you guys: They can’t win. We can lose (though our loss is another route.) But they can’t win. The economics just don’t work. The country that has financed every other country through Marxist insanity can’t go into it without the world starving. And Marxism falling.

There is no one to SUPPORT us while we go crazy. None of this works.

They have their horns caught in the thicket of reality.

And you can never break free from reality.

Be not afraid. This is going to be horrific, but brief.

To your stations, go. Prepare to survive and rebuild.

Be Careful out There

So, these are sportive and fun fun fun times.

I’ve been meaning to do a PSA for a while, and today is as good as any: I keep getting emails from you guys, some of whom have been commenting here for years and using your real life name, or handles that people at work know you have: the emails ask me to delete their comments on my blog as someone at work is gunning for their job/trying to cancel them/whatever.

So this is a PSA: If you’re using your real name, evaluate your situation and the chances of someone finding you and using whatever you’ve said here, or simply the fact you comment on this blog to destroy your life. And if you’re at risk, you know where to email and just tell me what your new handle will be, so I can approve it.

And yes, I know you should be speaking out more. And I think so. But if you aren’t prepared to pay with your career — and I’m not your mother, or the boss of you and TRUST me I know what paying with your career means — you might not wish to be that exposed. I am only because it was a tight balance between losing my soul/mind and losing my career. Turns out I cared less for the career.

Do I have regrets? Oh, every other day, and mostly in the middle of the night. However, I didn’t feel I have a choice. You make your choices, but be aware the risk is there. Of interest a lot of these requests this month came from people working for engineering/tech firms, where you’d think the rot is not that deep.

The other and more… recent reason for you guys to be careful is that last night I got pulled into a rather insane cyber attack.

It started as I was sitting here, about to go to bed, and mind you, later than I usually go to bed, when we got a ping on our phones saying that I’d changed my phone chip to another phone.

We were sitting here, and anyway all the stores were closed.

Dan went to the office to see if it was just an error and AS I SIT HERE someone takes over my hotmail account. Since it didn’t log me out immediately (it doesn’t for a couple of hours) I could see what they were doing but not send messages/use it.

It only sent out four messages, all highly targeted to people they thought were somehow influential in my career. (They were wrong in two cases, but you know….) The messages were a puerile string of all caps swear words and racial slurs, of course.

As I watched, other things where I’d put my phone as two step authentication and used hotmail for the log in started falling.

And here I want to point out something very important: I have no active financial accounts in that email. I have two that I started to set up, failed, and aren’t useable, but no active financial/money/money data accounts. Because hotmail is my public email I don’t associate anything that can really hurt me with it.

But they got my dropbox — which I mostly use to store covers I’ve made and other such art — a chat account with friends (and that was fun, sending out an email from secondary account going “for the love of heaven, kick me out of chat.) My proton mail, which means they got nothing, because it shredded all previous data, as it does when you change password from the outside which is good to know. They also found a couple of weird accounts (like stock photos) I hadn’t used in YEARS.

But again nothing relating to my financial/shopping life is through that account, not one thing.

Still it was a pain in the ass, including breaking back into hotmail, who — knowing you’re trying to wrestle it because it was highjacked — still expects you to put in the hacker’s password and copy the last few emails the asshole sent.

Targeted or random?

I don’t know. Peter Grant’s lady makes a good case for “it’s random.”

Against it, I have nothing more than gut feeling. For instance, it sent out four emails BEFORE going on to capture other accounts. Those emails were NOT random. Two of the emails he answered had come in MONTHS ago, so it wasn’t the first two in the stack. Hell, they weren’t in the most recent 100. What they had in common is that they ALL sounded like they were about work. (Hint, two weren’t.) And I have trouble believing a random hacker taking the time to send those four emails BEFORE seeing if he could get cash/other info out of this.

The only other thing against it is that my phone was hacked FIRST and the hotmail after, using the phone. But the only place phone and email are coupled are in the diner — where I gave it to some people who asked — or I’ve sent people my phone # in email. So it would seem like it’s someone to whom I’ve given my phone number, or someone who knows them. Here I’ll note that my fans are not trustworthy that way, as I’ve been known to get mail at my not-public address with a note that “So and so gave me your address. He knew you wouldn’t mind.”

Now, this wasn’t your average hack. Changing a sim chip is not something you can do without the physical sim chip.

T-mobile says that it was done by an employee in one of their stores, but won’t tell us either the name of the employee or the location of the store. (And therefore no assurance it will not happen again.) They say they’re “Opening a fraud case.” Look at my hopeful face! Right?

Also hotmail is retarded. No. Seriously. Hotmail has mental acuity issues. Their process practically ensures that if someone breaks into your account, you can’t get it back.

Anyway, some measures will be taken today, including possibly a new even more super secret email. I’m not sure about changing phone services, because all others are fucked and one needs to be boycotted.

If you have emailed me recently and get a mail that seems off — well, they no longer have control of the account, but they might have gotten your address and be spoofing my email — contact me by other means to make sure it’s me. (Though if it’s a string of slurs, it’s not me.) And don’t give “me” any financial data or anything like that.

If you are deep under cover and emailed me, I wouldn’t worry too much. They only had control for 20 minutes, and other than sending those emails, they didn’t spend much time doing things. Mostly they seem to have spent it breaking into more and more accounts, most of them mothballed for almost a decade and not tied to anything that they could even remotely use.

Yes, if it was targeted there is a REMOTE off chance they downloaded the data and have enough to identify some of you. But again, gut feeling, they were too busy finding ways to “punish” me to think of that. That would have come today, if I hadn’t caught them and fixed it in time.

Here’s the thing: I’ve always kept things off my phone, including my social media, because I’m absent minded and if I lost the phone….

But I didn’t LOSE the phone. It was an employee of the company providing the system. The company with whom I’m DEFINITELY not happy just now.

None of this makes me happy right now. The fact that we stayed awake till 3am dealing with the fall out and making sure everything was secure and woke up at 6:30 because someone was trying to hack into Dan’s account is not happy making. (They failed. In fact, they might have sent a warning, rather than break in, but you know….)

It might be impossible to be absolutely safe, even with all precautions, or at least all precautions my non-techy self CAN take.

HOWEVER measure are being taken to make me more secure. And you also should do likewise.

Remember we’re fighting a wounded feral pig. It will do anything to take us down with him.

Be careful out there.

Escape Hatches

My husband and I have been talking about ways that this current insanity is affecting what sells.

Look, escapism is always a seller. But it seems to be selling better. I know that in my own reading whatever the h*ll we’re in the middle of is affecting my reading.

Now, my stress reading is profoundly stupid, unless it isn’t.

What I mean is that I have bad habits when I’m under stress. They’re not even “escaping” so much as “soothing.”

It makes perfect sense when you consider that when I’m stressed I default to “bland, near tasteless and vaguely sweet” food. This is a big problem when we are low carb for health reasons. Because my favorite go to stress foods are in order: popcorn dusted with sugar instead of salt (Portuguese do it that way); oatmeal, creme brulle and marshmallows.

Yes, I do in fact realize this is a profoundly unhealthy diet. How I didn’t die the year older son was born, we were unemployed and on the edge of being homeless, I’ll never know. I remember the day I made something like 40 meringues, then ate all of them and was vaguely nauseated afterwards.

Nowadays mostly it involves wanting yogurt and cauliflower rice, which frankly is extremely pathetic for sinning. But it still works for extreme stress, because what I am doing when extremely stressed is trying to avoid strong emotions. Of course, this also has a serious problem with writing, but that’s something else. For me to hit the point I can’t write because of the emotions is MUCH higher than the point at which I can’t read.

So, anyway, that’s not escapism. Except in the sense that it’s Sarah trying to escape all sensory and emotional input, crawl into a hole and pull it in after myself.

For instance, I read pretty much everything in a normal time, from popular science books (because I’m not good enough to read science/science for most of them) through various kinds of genre fiction, history and on–

When I’m stressed my reading restricts just like my food choices do. It goes through phases. I know I’m in trouble, for instance, if I become “stuck” in Jane Austen fanfic. I know there’s stress, edging towards depression. It is considerably worse when I then fall through JAFF and into Disney comics. The terminal phase of this, when I should be put on suicide watch is when I start reading true crime and can’t pull up. If I stay in true crime for more than a month and can’t pull up — and if my family knew about it, which they don’t — they should be dragging me to psychs. (Look, so far I’ve always pulled up, and the longest I’ve stayed stuck in true crime was three months. And no, you don’t actually want to know what was going on in my life.)

I have, however, lost years of my reading life to Disney comics. And I’m now close on to a year in JAFF. I’ve had excursions out of it, but not for very long, because, well, it’s just too much work.

Lately, I’ve been hitting spots where I peek above the fox hole, and I want …. something. This is more or less what happens when I have eaten all the meringue and — supposing I’m not completely nauseated — start thinking “you know what I could use? Something savory.”

So, yeah, Dan and I have been talking about these things. Mostly because what he does, when I do “I’m crawling in a hole and pulling it in over my head” is actual, for real escapism. The funny thing is that we do this on KU (don’t worry. At the rate we read, we’re costing them money) and for some reason, my husband’s reading shows up in my recommendations. Which is how these conversations begin.

It started with “Honey, are you seriously reading witch PI books?” (Not that Mrs. JAFF can throw stones, mind you.) And it was pretty clear it was escapism for him partly because he’s amused how these women are writing essentially “grown up Harry Potter with female magicians.”

Okay, fine. Then he progressed to thrillers and is now in science fiction, and this led to us talking about how escapist fiction is doing better than ever. For instance, a series he was reading has all the standard tropes of science fiction you could ever dream of, from the really great sentient dolphins who came from space to–

Anyway, this got me thinking about what I consider escapist, the places I loved to escape to.

Heinlein goes without saying, and Pratchett also goes without saying though escapism is easier with some books than others. But others came to mind that I escaped into when I got out of extreme depression. For instance in the early nineties, I pulled myself out of a deep hole with Simon Hawke’s Time Wars, which make no sense whatsoever in terms of world building, but were great fun.

Two years ago, I pulled myself to sanity with Prince Roger which had — somehow — escaped me so far.

Oh, yeah, and 2015 was the Dresden Files.

However I have to tell you in my heart of hearts what I actually crave is escaping into space opera. Something that tastes like Time Wars or Prince Roger.

(And no, Prince Roger doesn’t “taste” mil sf. It is, of course, but what it mostly is is “exploration of new lands while character comes to terms with reality.)

Both of them, incidentally, have individuals facing up to monumental problems and getting through. Not without cost, but getting through.

This is not precisely a request for things to read. I find I kind of have to stumble into my escapist reads, usually sideways and backwards.

BUT I need to write my own escapist stuff. My mind is full of books that have to get out.

Of course life keeps interfering: in the last two days we bought a new dryer, mostly because I’m starting to avoid doing laundry because it’s a drum circle; and we have contracted for major work on the house. Work we knew needed to be done, when we bought it, and which needs to be done fast before we sell.

So, if I disappear from this blog from a day or two, don’t panic. At least not if I’ve answered some comments or posted on social media.

Because if I get a few clear days I’m going to escape.

And then you can escape too 😉

The Value of a Human

When I was very little I loved reading and re-reading The Prince and the Pauper. It pains me that I now don’t remember the name of the companion with the prince, but it’s been a good … 25 years since I last read it. At least, might be more.

The story is one of a genre. Even as a child, I identified it as part of a tradition like the one where the princess or prince gets taken from the castle and made to perform menial labor. Because it shows the pauper doing better with the duties of a prince than the prince with the pauper’s life, it is — of its kind — a bit of a fantasy. Very American, of course, and hurray for Mark Twain (I was so young when I first read him I pronounced it Mark Tvain, being wholly innocent of English, but having seen German brands where the w was pronounced as v.) for pointing out a pauper can make as good a prince as anyone, thereby pointing out the inherent hollowness of titles and honors, and inherited wealth…. but perhaps not quite realistic. Look, I’ve read enough about the life of a prince at around that time to know how difficult it would be just to keep up with everything you should do, if you hadn’t been trained to it.

And in this case, trained to it is rather the point.

Humans are amazing creatures. If we weren’t we wouldn’t be in every corner of the world, including highly inhospitable regions. And we wouldn’t be able to survive things that logically should kill us. Humans have lived for years in situations that should have killed them or at least made them irrevocably insane and emerged…. well, alive if not well.

The various wolf-children might or might not be an example of this, since I have read recently most of them are not exactly abandoned as infants, but rather deficient or sickly and abandoned by their parents weeks or days before they are found “living with” a wolf pack or whatever. And maybe that’s true. I haven’t done a deep dive, so I can’t tell you — and it’s an area filled with legend, insanity and ideology, so any truth there has been very thoroughly obscured. But let’s presume a deficient child, abandoned, is discovered living with animals: the child still survived. And yes, it might be one in a hundred that survives, but the fact that any do shows how resourceful and …. invincible humans are when it comes to survive.

What most fish out of water stories emphasize is how hard it is to adapt/learn to live in conditions utterly different from your own. In these stories usually the person survives and thrives, but I suspect in reality, though it’s a mark of our species resilience that we survive at all, there are very few people who would survive. And look you, I am talking as someone who did this. Though I could be more akin to the pauper who finds himself a prince, it still wasn’t an easy adjustment to change countries and cultures. As I’ve mentioned in other posts, willingly and forcibly acculturating was much like going insane. You have to let go of parts of you, of parts of what you know is reality. Every single day brings shocks to the system and new things where you realize you were completely and absolutely wrong the day before. And I swear to you it was a good five years before I realized I was treating people all wrong and giving off all the wrong signals. And a good ten before I more or less could pass and behave like a normal American. Honestly, I think most of the reason I avoided giving horrible offense and/or getting in real trouble was that the accent gave warning I was not quite “from around these parts.”

Yeah, okay, so this might or might not have been complicated by the fact that I’m one of those people that have little or no ability to read others. On the spectrum? Um…. I don’t think so. I’m actually fairly empathetic and for an introvert, I like people, though I don’t like them with me ALL THE TIME. I think it’s more that you tend to assume other people are just like you — it’s the default assumption — right? And it took me a while to figure out I was wrong. I mean, I never fit in with Portuguese culture but by 23 I could pass. And then dropped into another one, where I couldn’t pass at all and had to learn all signals anew. I’m not even sure if there is any native impairment or just very weird life circumstances. (I’ll point out my family were all Odds, though I think mom is convinced she passes, which meant that our family culture also didn’t prepare me for the cultural baggage of Portugal. I don’t know if I mentioned before, but going to friends’ houses as a little, I found myself very much a stranger in a strange land. My parents had raised us with a weird mix of freedom and informality and demands and almost ritualistic behavior that had nothing to do with formal manners or the way people expected you to behave. I think I mentioned the family acquaintance (she was a close friend of a close family friend) who used to chase me around and say the most horrible things about me, and how I didn’t care for the feelings of others, and generally try to set me straight, including the infamous “If you were mine.” While her intentions might have been good (I’ve apologized to her memory, because I think they were) she went about it backwards, sideways and with quite a bit of malice born of the fact that she ASSUMED I’d been taught “proper manners” for the culture. I had not. In fact, other than the fact that one used inferior-to-superior language to older people, I hadn’t been taught any manners, starting with table manners and ending with never having been taught the formalities such as “no, thank you” instead of a bald-faced “no.” Since Portugal is almost as formal as Japan and definitely as ritualized, and since — for instance — some bits like not letting the door swing behind you, and hit the next person when walking out of a room, were only taught to me by my host family at 18, I imagine I spent the first 18 years of my life giving offense to everyone I came in contact with. Combined with living too much in my own head and reading way too many strange stories, I suspect I presented at best as “impaired.” Now, why didn’t my parents teach me manners? I don’t know. I suspect partly because they expected me to pick them up out of the air, as they expected everything else, from proper diction, to reading to the ability to do various things. (They must be way more “gifted” than I am, as I am not very good at learning complex skills out of the air, without instruction.) And partly probably because from the peculiar circumstances of my birth, they expected me to — and the doctor had assured them I would — be mentally retarded. And I was very sickly until I was about 12. So I think there was a layer of “let’s enjoy her while we have her” combined with “she might not be able to learn.”

I tended to follow my grandmother around and pay attention to her, but I paid attention to her when she was doing interesting things, like looking after the animals or planting stuff. I don’t know if she ever realized I didn’t have any manners, or even if she tried to teach me some. I could be remarkably oblivious. (Still can thank you ADD.)

By the time I was ten they’d started grousing that I wasn’t very well mannered, but you know… They still never provided instruction. I learned table manners by observation. Other things like the “no, thank you” thing it took a friend’s parent correcting me. I did learn. I did adapt. I still have a tendency to go somewhere inside my head and completely forget there are people even around me, let alone that they’re talking to me, or whatever. And I can’t even tell you that it’s because I’m thinking of something important or riveting. Very often it’s because something visual has caught my eyes and I’m staring and not thinking at all. (Oh, squirrel.)

Anyway, other than the fact that one way or another I — and I suspect a lot of the people here — are in various ways fish out of water, I am tending to considering something important: What is the value of a human. What is an Homo-sapiens (with admixture, natch) individual worth?

This is important. It is at the root of all the important debates in the world right now, and probably throughout the entire history of humanity.

For most of history the answer has been “not much” save for a few, rare individuals who, through birth or through learning or through other characteristics made themselves valuable. (Though note that other than birth, and that only birth as a monarch or nobleman of some sort that value might not even have been perceived by the humans of their time.)

And right now for a faction — possibly a growing faction of mal-informed, mal-educated humanity — of the world population your value depends on how deeply you tan, and the color of your eyes, and maybe — maybe, but not really — where you were born.

That is, we are back to the oldest valuation of all: “those of my tribe are worth much, the others aren’t even human.” This is rooted of course in the fact that tribes — and before them hominid bands — were kinship groups. There is value in promoting your kin. Evolutionary value, since they carry some of the same genes you have.

Now of course, tribe can be something utterly stupid like “we are attracted to the same sort of people” or even “we studied in the same institution.” But ultimately, through it all, it’s still the same instinct.

This is, needless to say, a problem. And if you don’t see where it’s a problem, you’re going to cause me to roll my eyes so hard they’ll go under the sofa.

You see, it’s a problem because most of the shitholes of humanity, the places still mired in Neo-paleolithic or close to poverty and misery are that way because of tribalism. You don’t pick the best person, you pick the one of your tribe. You don’t do the job out of loyalty to those who pay you, you try to do the job so it benefits your family and kin. You don’t invent, innovate and strike out in new directions, because that’s not what your kin would do/has done from time immemorial.

And we see the same corruption starting to hit all our institutions, where people will forswear their soul for the sake of those they view as kin, be they racial kin or sexual kin, or any other grouping they’ve been convinced exists.

Part of this, of course, is that it is apparently forbidden to study humans. Human intelligence, human resourcefulness, any other qualities we consider inestimable, are forbidden from being studied by all civilized countries.

This is, of course, the legacy of WWII and the eugenics movement that, before it, pervaded all of the west.

It’s also fairly mentally impaired, and shows the problem with never taking second order effects into account; the government sticking its nose where it never belonged; and in general our species behaving as it has since the early twentieth century: like utter morons in the grip of a stupid idea.

Yes, eugenics was a bizarrely stupid idea, built on mythology and legend, and pervaded with assumptions of what made the worth of human important. The rot is deeper than that, but abide a while. Let it stand it was a stupid and murderous idea. It came mostly from man-the-animal-breeder, applied to humans. Except humans as animals are a very curious animal, and nothing like what the other humans are, since we run on thought more than instinct, and therefore are more adaptable/curious and, well….. annoying than other animals. (Though nothing is more annoying than cats. And I’m not convinced they run mostly on instinct either.

But the idea that because humans were stupid enough to treat humans as cows was wrong, then not studying what makes humans smart, or adaptable or resourceful is the thing to do, is bizarrely stupid, and is causing a lot of the distortions in the world, and turmoil and irrationality in society.

For one, more knowledge is always better than less knowledge. For another, sure, if it were proven that one race is consistently “smarter” than the other or that one type of human is more obedient or more adaptable, there might be a tendency to discriminate on race. Because you know, the stupid theories — and some of them are very stupid indeed, like the idea that the ability to tan makes you empathetic, or that the fact that sub-Saharan tribal populations score worse on IQ tests means they’re dumber, or…. — that humans come up with to explain success or failure at various things are much, much better. Or requiring people to have largely valueless (and increasingly more so) college degrees is better than administering a test to know if they can perform, because if those were different for different races, then the test would be racist.

Humans are going to discriminate and be stupid — is it not written “the dumb shall always be with you?” — but to screw up massively and by the numbers it takes a human government, I guess.

Playing keep away with the knowledge of what humans inherent capacity is doesn’t make us better, or less prejudiced. It just means we tend to confuse culture with genetics to the point that idiots think that having to learn the dominant language of the country is “racist.” As though language were genetic.

It also builds an entire system of philosophy based on “systemic” and largely invisible racism. (Or sexism.) Because the reasoning goes something like this: back when there was real racial discrimination, there were a very few, incredibly successful racial minorities (or women.) Therefore, unaware of survivor bias, people concocted this theory that if everyone were given the ability to succeed then every tanned person/woman/whatever would be a genius, with great success.

Of course, that’s not how any of that works. Humans of any race and sex are mostly…. average. Which means if you remove the barriers most of them are going to perform in an average manner. Combine this with the fact that mostly urban intellectuals tend to think minorities (say black people) are like 40% of the population, and you can see how they would be sure there’s “systemic racism” because 40% of people in positions of power aren’t black. (And btw, if black people in the US perform below the 14% or so of the population they are, the fault CANNOT be of race. Because the technical name for most American “black” people is “Caucasian” as most of them have found out through genetic analysis. So if they underperform the problem is culture, particular the culture foisted on them by the intellectuals and the government, including fatherlessness, a persistent culture of victimhood, and being convinced that “systemic racism” makes it impossible for them to achieve. Any racial or for that matter other group of people treated this way by people in power would underperform and have chips on their shoulder the size of elephants. If we started treating redheads like this country has treated black people since the progressive era dawned, in a hundred years they’d also be underperforming.)

And this in the end is because we don’t know what a human is worth.

If we go by the theory of a human being worth what he/she can do (which we don’t, or we wouldn’t have crazy things like affirmative action, or hiring someone to make sure we have “representation” for some crazy thing or other, including sexual inclination) I’d be damned if I’m worth much.

Since this crisis began, I have told people the problem is that I’m not good for much, which usually makes them indignant. But hell, it’s true. I tested high IQ when young, but I’m still not convinced that IQ tests much but the ability to succeed in Academia, and that spottily. Because of ADD I never had flawless grades. Also I had a tendency to complicate simple tests/questions. Other than that? Well, I can rebuild houses, refinish furniture, I’m not a bad cook, I hate driving, and I can tell stories. That’s about it. And all but cooking (and sometimes even that) and story telling are impaired by the fact I run out of energy far more quickly in my late fifties.

Oh, yeah, and I no longer can get pregnant or have babies, which arguably I was never very good at, and which is a definite value to species survival.

So, as far as survival of the species, and probably my own survival, I’m more of a drag than a help.

If that’s how we measure humans — and it’s how statists tend to measure them, since they view humans as debits against the collective, rather than credits that might achieve something for the collective — I am absolutely no good.

Of course, we can’t measure humans that way, if judged against the history of mankind. Some of the most brilliant humans, who helped propel humanity forward, are not….. well…. I read that Archimedes was so absorbed in solving a mathematical equation that he got killed by a Roman soldier. There’s more to that, but you know, personal survival didn’t seem to be one of Archie’s skills, and all of the Greek Philosophers, at least by repute, were less than useless at passing on their genes.

Or take Leonardo DaVinci, who dreamed the dreams of future mankind…. and who was an erratic genius, who never finished anything. Oh, yeah, and an illegitimate child who at least in theory had dramatically curtailed prospects because of that until he overcame them. And who, in many societies would simply have been killed, and certainly not have been taught anything.

The history of mankind is littered with magnificent bastards, cripples, people who in primitive/tribal societies would never have survived, but who pushed humanity forward, nontheless.

And sure, there is a difference between ethnic groups (this is not even at the race level, btw, but at least in countries not America, where traveling was difficult/onerous until the late twentieth century, by the village/city, etc. Sure strangers came in, or we’d all have eighteen toes and be good at playing banjo, but seriously. Where I came from there was “the village of the crazy people” (more than usual number of mental illnesses) and the “village of cunning builders who are good with math” and yeah, I suspect my village was referred to as “Those very strange people” or at least we sent a lot of people to college at a time when it was very difficult to get in, and was considered a privilege of the rich who could hire tutors (which we certainly couldn’t.)) But do we know what the differences mean?

For instance, leaving race aside, there are a lot of female and male geniuses. There are a lot of male and female morons, too. But the distribution is not equal. There are, relatively speaking more male geniuses — and morons — than female ones. Women’s IQ – whatever the hell that means, because we don’t know — clusters in the middle. Relatively speaking. When meeting a new person, male or female, you should mostly assume they’re average. That’s why we call it average. That’s what “normal” people are. I’m sure it’s not very different for races.

There are weird, hereditary characteristics, but we don’t know what’s hereditary or learned, because we don’t allow ourselves to study that.

For instance, my husband is fond of calling me his “excitable Latina” usually under the heading of “Now look what you’ve done. You’re wound up the excitable Latina.” And my sons are…. louder than normal for their culture and age group. Though I’m not sure that’s true when they’re not with family. With family, though, when we lived in downtown situations I was sometimes sure the neighbors would call the police thinking a crime was being committed,w hen the boys were arguing over superhero origin stories.

What we don’t know and can’t know is “Temperament or upbringing?” I can tell you I’m withdrawn, unusually quiet, and definitely not “interesting” for a female in the area I came from. My kids didn’t believe this, until I was with them at the foot of a monument’s stairs waiting for my husband to do something (I don’t remember. It was 15 years ago, okay? He might have been going to the bathroom. Or perhaps buying tickets) and several family groups and groups of women went by us. At which point my sons said “You are quiet, polite and timid for the region.”

But again, temperament or upbringing? Who knows?

And this is problem because if it’s not temperament, they people could be raised in a way that minimizes issues, right? If there are issues?

Sure in rats excitability can be innate. But it is never a good idea to assume mechanisms are the same between different species, and humans are infinitely adaptable. (Contrary to “ethicists'” beliefs a rat isn’t a human.)

So what is all this about: What is a human worth?

If we studied — say — the genetics of various people, wouldn’t we be tempted to discriminate against those whose genetics show them not to be brilliant. I don’t know. We don’t even really know what our genetics do. For instance, my genetics say I wake up naturally at 7:15 am. BROTHER. They also say some truly strange things, like that I have celliac disease (I don’t.) Or a bunch of other nonsense.

BUT Sarah, suppose we study more and find that say people from a certain city/place are not very smart. Wouldn’t we discriminate against them?

Depends on what “Smart” is. And I suspect we’re going to find real performance is a mix of genetic inheritance, predisposition, upbringing and accident.

Intellectually smart is not the same as smart, and certainly not the same as people smart or cunning. (Witness me and the mathematician trying to sell something, and you’ll think we’re morons. We do sell houses okay, but only because I treat it like telling a story, and because we’re not present when the buyers come through (there’s a reason we always move first) otherwise we’d give the house away and apologize.)

When I was a young, ill-mannered child, one of the things I did was follow — mostly old and crusty — handymen around, looking at what they did.

Most of them weren’t going to pass any IQ test. Hell, most of them barely could read. But they could do things I couldn’t do involving calculations of tensile strength and design. Even if they didn’t know the words for that.

Their “IQ” might be low, but they absolutely were needed to keep the village in roof and walls through the winter.

As for breeding humans as animals, that was always rather stupid. One of the things we don’t know for sure is how “Smarts” are impaired. Or passed on.

One of the “miracles” of the village — a brilliant young man — was the son of the mentally-impaired farmer’s daughter, and (like in the joke) the traveling salesman. Her entire family were tenant farmers and none too bright. Those who interacted with the traveling salesman described him as cunning and unscrupulous but not particularly brilliant (As proven by the fact he barely made it out of the village ahead of the pitchforks.) And yet, the result of this union taught himself to read, outstripped everyone in the village school and went on to outperform practically everyone in a stem degree (I no longer remember which) in college.

Is intelligence hereditary? Well, almost surely some components are.

What does that mean? I don’t know and neither do you. Both of Leonardo Da Vinci’s parents had several other kids with other people. None of them were remotely remarkable. Chances are that Italy is littered with their descendants. Most of whom will be perfectly average.

Oh, yeah, the “mentally retarded” girl in my class, whom I’d estimate at a mental age of six but who learned to read, write and count money, after a fashion, was, in the way such things were managed in the village, married to a boy with similar impairments (which would keep her from being taken advantage of and give her two sets of family to watch over her) and they were given an old house to live in. He did odd manual/requiring strength jobs, and she cleaned houses. They had seven kids before (literally. This is not a joke) someone thought to tell them what caused it. And two more after that but more spaced.

I went to school with this girl. She was very sweet but seriously, I can’t even imagine her keeping house or raising kids, though I’ve been assured she did/does both very well, if at a very basic level.

Most of her kids went to college. With no money for tutoring. With no help passing exams. And certainly with no money for private colleges.

Were both of them impaired for reasons having nothing to do with genetics? Maybe. Or maybe it was the combination that made their kids suddenly above average.

I don’t know, and neither does anyone else.

And this is why both refusing to study humans and the idea of breeding humans like cows are industrial grade stupid.

Humans, as the fish out of water stories prove, are not necessarily “Smart” or “good” or “useful” except sometimes, if we’re very lucky, in a particular niche, where we can excel.

If society values individuals and allows us to be good in our niche (Or as Pratchett put it “find out what you’re really good at”) the result is advancement/better life for everyone. If however we treat humans like widgets with certain genetic characteristics, everyone fares poorly and the world sinks into barbarism.

“But Sarah, that means we shouldn’t study people!”

No, that means I should study how to to swear when I get that kind of stupid response. Because humans are tribal, if you don’t study what makes humans “good at x” they’re going to assume. And they’re going to paint with the broadest and stupidest brush imaginable. So we get “Black people are more empathetic” or “Punctuality is white” or other poisonous, pernicious nonsense that’s actively destroying lives.

Used to be we overcame tribalism and didn’t have to worry about crazy eugenicists because the default mode was Judeo-Christian. I.e. the person next to you might be a moron, but his soul was of as much worth as yours, he was made in the image of G-d same as you, and so you had to respect him/her.

When that broke…. we got eugenics, and attempts to “improve” the human breed by killing job lots in the service of the theories of a lunatic who had seized control of a mega state.

Perhaps I might propose that we need to respect other humans because we are human. Perhaps teach kids that no, they’re not perfect either, and that if they try to eliminate the “dumbasses” they’ll end up eliminated. Teach kids to recognize the impulse to tribalism and the darkness in every human soul.

Other than that? Tread carefully. Every human whose right to exist you diminish diminishes your own right to exist. And yes, that extends to the womb — unique DNA — and to convicted criminals, and to the very very old.

If humans aren’t valued only by what they can do, then all of those are human and you must respect them to respect yourself.

It doesn’t mean it’s never right to kill people. For many humans who are murderers or dangerous, it’s the only way to keep other humans safe from clear and present danger. Arguably more human than life-long incarceration. And yeah, sometimes it is the mother or the child. And yes, not killing, but definitely not engaging in heroic measures to save Grandma for another three days (Much less locking down all of society to save grandma for another six months, endangering children and destroying livelihoods int he process.)

But it means it’s never okay to do it cavalierly, because others are inconvenient; because others are in your way; and because you think you’re somehow superior or have that right. Because every time you do that, you destroy a bit of what it is to be human. In others, and in yourself as well, and in society in general. And at the end of that road lie mass graves.

We must restore the idea humans are worth it because they’re human, as we are human. Each of us is a vessel of unending potential. All of us have the possibility of doing something important. Now, it might be a STUPID important thing, like the ability to chop wood when there’s no other way to get warm, or perhaps just knowing that a certain plant is poisonous because someone told you, once.

But it’s on all these small, stupid things that humanity advances. It is this that makes the future better than the past.

A single human is worth the future. Because there’s nothing else that will build that future.

Find out what you’re really good at, then do it as hard as you can.

Be not afraid.

Book Promo And Vignettes by Luke, Mary Catelli and ‘Nother Mike.

Behold, the rare and Elusive Monday book Promo post!

*Note these are books sent to us by readers/frequenters of this blog.  Our bringing them to your attention does not imply that we’ve read them and/or endorse them, unless we specifically say so.  As with all such purchases, we recommend you download a sample and make sure it’s to your taste.  If you wish to send us books for next week’s promo, please email to bookpimping at outlook dot com. If you feel a need to re-promo the same book do so no more than once every six months (unless you’re me or my relative. Deal.) One book per author per week. Amazon links only. Oh, yeah, by clicking through and buying (anything, actually) through one of the links below, you will at no cost to you be giving a portion of your purchase to support ATH through our associates number. I ALSO WISH TO REMIND OUR READERS THAT IF THEY WANT TO TIP THE BLOGGER WITHOUT SPENDING EXTRA MONEY, CLICKING TO AMAZON THROUGH ONE OF THE BOOK LINKS ON THE RIGHT, WILL GIVE US SOME AMOUNT OF MONEY FOR PURCHASES MADE IN THE NEXT 24HOURS, OR UNTIL YOU CLICK ANOTHER ASSOCIATE’S LINK. PLEASE CONSIDER CLICKING THROUGH ONE OF THOSE LINKS BEFORE SEARCHING FOR THAT SHED, BIG SCREEN TV, GAMING COMPUTER OR CONSERVATORY YOU WISH TO BUY. That helps defray my time cost of about 2 hours a day on the blog, time probably better spent on fiction. ;)*

FROM LIANE ZANE: The Harlequin & The Drangùe: Book One in the Elioud Legacy Series

Olivia Markham lives a complicated life. By day, she is a star CIA officer working a cover as a graduate student in Vienna. By night, she is a self-appointed, kick-ass superhero wearing a harlequin’s hood and wielding a wicked bō.

Life is about to get more complicated.

The sexual predator that Olivia tracks one July evening to Vienna’s Stadtpark calls himself Asmodeus, a demon’s name. Olivia doesn’t care what he calls himself. She’s just there to save an innocent young woman. What Olivia doesn’t know is that Asmodeus has followers he calls bogomili after an ancient sect of believers. She suddenly finds herself fighting to save her own life against these vicious, soulless creatures whose mission is to release souls from the bonds of a corrupt world.

Across the Stadtpark another hears Olivia’s battle with the bogomili. He is a drangùe, a powerful warrior with supernatural abilities who is duty bound to save innocents from Asmodeus. This drangùe will stop at nothing to defeat his age-old enemy—even if it means risking everything to bring Olivia into his world. A world in which the drangùe has his own cover identity. He has good reason to distrust this beautiful young woman who hides secrets that could get him killed or worse…. But the drangùe must keep Olivia close in order to stay one step ahead of Asmodeus. The only problem is that the closer he keeps her, the more the drangùe wants to keep Olivia in his life. And that is not part of his long-term battle plans.

FROM DAVID L. BURKHEAD: The Ships of Elemak (Knights of Aerioch Book 2)

The kingdom of Aerioch has fallen. Only Kreg and his newfound friends remain. And while the fearsome changeling armies are no more, the task of rebuilding Aerioch remains daunting. They must first escape the land of Chanakra and somehow cross the sea of Elemak.It is then, when their troubles will really begin.

FROM CEDAR SANDERSON: The Case of the Perambulating Hatrack.

She was trouble, and from the moment she sailed into his office in search of a PI, Soldagh Dennessey was caught in her wake.

In a city where the streets started mean and went worse, Soldagh had carved a relatively solitary existence out between the goblins in their dens of minty iniquity, and the gnomes who’d snitch on their own mothers for rent money. Rough as it was, he’d come from worse family, and had no intention of going back.

As the case grows tangled and terrifying, Soldagh is starting to suspect the past he’s been avoiding lies at the bleeding heart of the matter. And only the few friendships he’s made and an unexpected ally might be enough to save them now…


Fifteen tremendous authors. Fourteen extraordinary stories. One outstanding anthology.

It is a time of high adventure! A time for noble men and women to say “No!” to the evils that will befall their families and friends if they don’t rise to the task at hand. If their valor doesn’t hold, civilization will fall.

Fifteen authors have spun fourteen tales of hateful wizards, treacherous seas, and scheming foes. Of times when ancient evils roamed the Earth, looking for souls to claim, and dark prophecies foretold what would happen if the Evil Ones were allowed to succeed. This anthology has all of this and more.

When Valor Must Hold focuses on heroes worthy of facing such enemies. A tiny brownie stands up to a massive ogre. A mother races to protect her children. A hunter chases raiders. A guardian serves his king. Heroes lead forces into battle against overwhelming odds. There’s even a goblin trying to save his people by stealing dwarven rum.

Inside are fourteen fantastic stories of enemies testing the valor of heroes great and small. If their valor should fail, they will lose far more than their lives.

Will their swords shatter shields? Will their magic shine forth? Or will they see their homes and families perish when they fail? Step inside and find out!

FROM SCOTT SLACK: By Three Moons’ Light.

Lieutenant Brown has a simple set of orders: Destroy a buried Karstian anti-orbital laser. If he does, the Strathar fleet he’s vanguard for can take the fight to the Karstian invaders who seized the planet from Strath.

Unfortunately, simple’s not the same as easy on the planet Jotunheim. First, his platoon has to make a long march undetected through the deep wilderness. If they survive, there’s still the hard fight against the military installation ahead. If he fails, the fleet and the invasion are at risk.

A story of The Ares March.

FROM SAM SCHALL: Risen from Ashes (Honor and Duty Book 3)

As a Marine, Ashlyn Shaw knows the day might come when she would not return from a mission. As an officer in the Fuerconese Marine Corps, she’s faced the difficult duty of sending the men and women under her command to their deaths. Both are nightmares she, and so many like her, live with. War is a cruel and costly endeavor, but one well worth the cost if it means keeping their homeworld free.

What Ash wasn’t prepared for was betrayal. Betrayal by members of her own government. Betrayal by certain members of the military. Betrayal by supposed allies. Betrayals that cost the lives of too many she cared for.

Unluckily for her enemies, that betrayal has cut too deeply to be allowed to go unpunished. Her enemies will soon learn how foolish they were to push her too far.

FROM T. L. KNIGHTON: With Triumph And Disaster

Alien life is theoretically possible, but what few signs of life are scattered through the universe are of primitive cultures that barely made it out of their own stone age, if that.

So when a big discovery threatens to shake the very foundations of xenoarcheology, it’s big news. The problem? Someone doesn’t want it discovered and they’re willing to kill to keep that from happening.

When an old friend asks Tommy Reilly and the crew of Sabercat to give them a hand, he can’t say no.

That’s when things get interesting.

FROM ALMA BOYKIN: Oddly Familiar.

Ah, October, when the ghosts, and spirits walk, and the Off Ramp of Doom falls quiet. Too quiet…

Lelia Chan and her Familiar, Tay, continue learning about magic and what mages do. When a customer drops a strange silver disk in Belle, Book, and Blacklight, it starts a chain of events that pull Lelia deeper into shadow magic. André Lestrange and Rodney return to help sort out the off-ramp. Someone else returns, someone who wants to open doors best left closed. Lelia and Company have their hands and paws full dealing with the forces of darkness and bad jokes.

Evil walks on All Hallows Eve. It’s up to Lelia and Tay to send it back where it belongs. Or else.

FROM BLAKE SMITH: The Hartington Inheritance.

Almira Hartington was heir to the largest fortune in the galaxy, amassed by her father during his time as a director of the Andromeda Company. But when Sir Josiah commits suicide, Almira discovers that she and her siblings are penniless. All three of them must learn to work if they wish to eat, and are quickly scattered to the far reaches of the universe. Almira stubbornly remains on-planet, determined to remain respectable despite the sneers of her former friends.

Sir Percy Wallingham pities the new Lady Hartington. But the lady’s family will take care of her, surely? It’s only after he encounters Almira in her new circumstances that he realizes the extent of her troubles and is determined to help her if he can. He doesn’t know that a scandal is brewing around Sir Josiah’s death and Almira’s exile from society. But it could cost him his life, and the lady he has come to love.


Like all Private Detectives, Seamus Lebanon [Leb] Magis has often been told to go to Hell. He just never thought he’d actually have to go.
But when an old client asks him to investigate why Death Metal bands are dressing in pink – with butterfly mustache clips – and singing about puppies and kittens in a bad imitation of K-pop bands, Leb knows there’s something foul in the realm of music.
When the something grows to include the woman he fell in love with in kindergarten and a missing six-year-old girl, Leb climbs into his battered Suburban and like a knight of old goes forth to do battles with the legions of Hell.
This is when things become insane…. Or perhaps in the interest of truth we should say more insane.

Vignettes by Luke, Mary Catelli and ‘Nother Mike.

So what’s a vignette? You might know them as flash fiction, or even just sketches. We will provide a prompt each Sunday that you can use directly (including it in your work) or just as an inspiration. You, in turn, will write about 50 words (yes, we are going for short shorts! Not even a Drabble 100 words, just half that!). Then post it! For an additional challenge, you can aim to make it exactly 50 words, if you like.

We recommend that if you have an original vignette, you post that as a new reply. If you are commenting on someone’s vignette, then post that as a reply to the vignette. Comments — this is writing practice, so comments should be aimed at helping someone be a better writer, not at crushing them. And since these are likely to be drafts, don’t jump up and down too hard on typos and grammar.

If you have questions, feel free to ask.

Your writing prompt this week is: WALK

Post Pep talk reaction

So, I gave him a pep talk, and he took it further.
And he’s right.
I’m not even sure war will break out. To an extent that’s the hope talking. It might be complete civil disobedience and then they run away — the ones with power — and EVERYTHING comes out.
I do have a good feeling for “everyhting comes out and they lose all power and credibility.”
BUT it might happen the way he says. There’s a great anger already stalking the land. And it ain’t getting better.
This is not end game. This is not the end of the beginning, even.
Be not afraid.
Push on.

Dio's Workshop

Went over several of my regular reads after reading tha ATH post yesterday

Most of my readers should be familiar with Malthusian thinking, Malthus in particular, and that nut from the 70s that keeps making starvation predictions and walking the goal line forward even though its obvious the theory is skewed.

I am seeing a lot of that Malthusian chicken little shitte again. The pep talk helped me clear some of the fuzz from my eyeballs. First off, the FedGov has isolated itself behind steel barricade topped with razor wire and 20k+ troops of questionable loyalty. (And the PTwB know it hence the attempts to purge all non diverse types from all the branches and why that weasel lipped quisling was assigned to SOF as its key diversity officer. )

Think about that. They barricaded themselves in, an incredibly small territory with the illusion of massive power. Yes, Illusion. Its…

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