The State of The Writer

Yes, I know. By now I was supposed to have the fairytale book out so you could order hard copies for Christmas. It’s proofread, and I need to typeset it, but we’ve been dealing with house in Colorado and issues related to.

Let it rest as proven (trust me) that it’s going to take a couple of months to go back up for sale, until then there’s a couple of things that were screwed up and we’d like fixed. So we’ve been trying to get that set up and since husband is working crazy hours, it’s been me. With the normal issues of setting things up by phone when you’re mostly deaf and have an accent.

I think I have a solution worked out, and we won’t need to worry about it from Sunday on. Well, till time comes to talk to agents and select between two recommended by neighbors we like (and who have a vested interest in our selling well.)

So, what am I hoping to do? Well, not to jinx myself as I did two years ago, but I’m hoping to finish books and start putting them out at speed. And this time I do have a plan not just a deadline. Which is kind of the difference between wanting to get across the river and having a boat.

To wit, I’ve arranged for someone to do the parts I can contract out and don’t enjoy. (The covers I enjoy, by and large. But not copyediting/entering stuff, etc.)

Meanwhile, younger son will be doing “Boxes from Sarah’s Garage” and also selling a bunch of things on ebay which we were about to toss or donate. I.e. he’s been rescuing stuff from our hands all this time, including games and tech from the nineties, which apparently people pay for. Who knew? Yes, he’s also looking for work, but in the meantime, he’ll be making some money. Right now he’s setting up his work and filing space, so he can work.

So, the holidays will be weird. Not that I was ever super mom, or super housewife. (Which made it hilarious when someone in Portugal asks what I do, and before I can answer my mom screams that I’m a housewife, leading me to mumble under my breath “I’d be the world’s worst.”)

For some reason, I usually ended up with a novel due the 20th of December and one the 15th of January, so putting up the Christmas tree on the 24th was a thing, and I usually didn’t bother with other “decor.”

But this year will be sad, since we’re still mostly surrounded by boxes, and unpacking has priority over putting up any decoration. I might put up the 4 foot tree, if I find it in time, but honestly I doubt it. My plan is to unpack the areas we’re most intensively living in — kitchen, dining, offices and bedrooms — by the end of the year, and letting the rest go hang.

I have located my toile fabric, so Sunday will be devoted to making and hanging up curtains, before the cold comes. Again, so next week I should be able to work.

It’s funny — probably — that I just want to do my job and keep getting sidetracked and prevented. But the joke has worn thin.

So, wish me luck. It might be a sad set of holidays — but I have the family and we are okay, so…. — but hopefully it ushers in a better and more productive.

Oh, yeah, Another Rhodes is on sale all this week for 99c. There will be a book on sale every week for the rest of the year. This is this week’s.

The Great Relearning

What I found most interesting about the guest post yesterday was how much I have in common with Caitlin.

It shouldn’t be so, because I’m a child of the “children of World War II” (my dad was a child during WWII.) The fact that Portugal was a non-combatant doesn’t seem to make any difference. This is the time at which family lost precedence to the state, and the state’s ever-expanding maw devoured more traditional ways of guidance — church, or even civics — and more traditional structures. In fact, the ever-centralizing states (in the sense of nation-states) devoured the differences between sexes, and we all became producers and consumers.

Despite the fact that I was born half way across the world, in a country where sexism was actually very real (married women couldn’t legally work, unless their husband signed a permission form, for instance) by the time I hit puberty, all of a woman’s worth was supposed to be in a career. Wanting to marry and have children was evidence you were stupid. Smart women had careers. And by the 80s we were all, somehow, strangely, supposed to be executives, and get married, and be perfect wives and mothers, and and and.

We could analyze everything that went into that, and also the less than stellar results. If you’re lucky, you’re no worse off than I was/am, being more neurotic than a shaved cat, and constantly feeling like you’re incredibly lazy, because you’re not in fact super woman sailing through life while effortlessly achieving everything. (Mostly because no one is. The very few people who appear to be, usually have a support team.)

The worst outcomes involve multiple divorces with the kids being treated as afterthoughts. (Note I’m not saying everyone with multiple divorces has that problem. I’m saying that’s the worst possible outcome, and considering I know several families where the kids are ultimately “nobody’s kid” it gets really bad indeed.)

And the medium outcomes are often families where each member feels like he is or should be on his own, and like there’s no one watching anyone else’s back, be it in learning to be in the world, or in being able to be at ease in your own home.

Along the way some of us tried to spit out the expectations of “great career” as opposed to/or beside “do it all family person” with mixed success. Some of us forged extended families of friends, sometimes by the use of duct tape for extra-legal adoption. And we tried to raise our kids better.

Squints.

Kids are the product of their time as much as of you family. So that success is mixed too.

Because apparently subsequent generations also thought they should be Mary Sue, for whom everything is automagically perfect, I thought I’d share the few things I learned along the way.

1- Forget quality time. Go for quantity time. Look, kids aren’t supposed to be with you for the few hours you have to pay COMPLETE attention to them. Frankly, paying complete attention to the kids is not natural and probably unhinges their little brains. Yes, we know, that you have to pay attention to the little terrors, because if one of them gets a blister the social workers will think they’re abused.

BUT you train yourself to look for the really serious infractions that might kill them, and otherwise at least pretend you’re not giving them undivided attention.

Your earliest ancestresses minded the kids while gathering edibles and killing the occasional rabbit. You can do it while cleaning the stove, cooking or sweeping. Or sewing, or writing or whatever.

Some of our happiest moments as a family were while driving around on Saturday shopping and doing errands. Some of my best moments with the kids were writing while they played on the floor of the office.

Now, you have to train yourself (and it’s hard to untrain. So, for the first two months when school started, I became antsy at the silence) to the danger signals.

And yeah, you’re allowed to play with them. Younger son and I made epic train tracks that spanned two floors and several rooms, and then ran trains on collision courses. BUT that was maybe a few hours a month. If I hovered over them, the guys started getting worried.

2- Try to figure out the basics. Yes, cooking, but also how to sew a simple seam, how to put a button back on. In a pinch, can you came yourself look fancy on very little, by adding some lace to a sweater or whatever (if you’re female. Don’t freak out the co-workers, okay?) Can you make the house look comfy? Do you know how to make/refinish/find what you need on a limited budget? If not why not? You have youtube and well… the internet in general.

3- Do find something you want to do, whether it’s a “Great career” or not. Yes, being a mom and a wife are challenges enough. BUT if you feel a need to something more, find something you can do while the kids are little that you can expand when they live the house. If it’s something that brings a little cash, bonus.
Look, most people don’t become “executives”. Not even very smart people. But almost everyone has a talent or an interest they enjoy. Learn to make it pay/expand it/etc. Someday the kids will move out (which won’t actually mean you’re done, but–) and you’ll have time to pursue other things. If you have started it’s easier.

4 – Be a good spouse. This means letting your spouse know your relationship is a safe space. In your relationship you can tell each other everything knowing it won’t be used against you. The motto should be “you and me against the world.”

5 – Do the best you can and forgive yourself. (Yeah, I have trouble with that too.)

6- Remember you’re only human. You’ll get sick, you’ll get older, etc. Give yourself permission to do less when those hit. Learn to adapt.

7- Love your family and friends. This means being supportive, but also means allowing them to fail, and loving them even when they do.

8- Do the extra. No, I don’t mean overwork yourself (yes, I have trouble with that) but you know, if you’re doing something and can make it extra nice with little effort, do so. Even if the “thing” is for you. For instance, I love fresh flowers, and for years when I cleaned the whole house, I’d buy a bouquet of flowers (in CO I only managed cutting flowers a few weeks a year) for the dining room table. Because they made me happy while they lasted. Allow yourself the extra, in the limits of cost.

9- You know that thing about no one lamented the time NOT spent working? But people lamented time not spent with family/friends. It’s true. So incorporate time to hang out with family and friends, even if you’re doing nothing much, and you know you won’t deserve it because you’re not perfect.

10 – Reward yourself, even if you’re not perfect. Do something nice for others, even if they’re not perfect. Don’t feel guilty for existing. And never feel like you owe “the state” or “society” or whatever anything. “From each according to his abilities” is an evil fairy tale. Do your best for yourself and those who depend on you, but not for the vast mass of strangers. That’s just useless guilt.

We are in a phase of the great relearning, in more ways than one. Among the things we will be learning are how to rebuild civilization. And won’t that be fun!

But all you can do is all you can do. And you will do it a day at a time, and an action at a time. Even if sometimes that action is cooking a meal. Cleaning a floor. Writing a book (or a letter.)

You do what you can, every day. And you pass the baton to the next generation when you can’t do it anymore.

You love, you teach, you think, you create.

And you hope the world you’re building will be a better one for those who come after.

The Feral Modern’s Guide to Beginning Homemaking -By Caitlin Walsh

The Feral Modern’s Guide to Beginning HomemakingBy Caitlin Walsh

I should start this by letting you know I didn’t grow up domestic at all.

If I don’t miss my mark, most of us didn’t, mind–too important to attack the glass ceilings and the implicit biases and all of those things. The idea that you should prepare for a future centered around marriage or children (or, frankly, even be able to exist as a bachelor without a stack of Hungry Man or Michelina’s dinners) was fossilized thinking.

…well, it was a pretty picture they sold us and all, but I’m probably not the only one for whom the dream didn’t quiiiiiite work out that way. And, you know, thank the heavens for that, because I am having a lot better of a time focusing on keeping a household and raising two children than I *ever* did working a string of temporary jobs. It’s to the point I’m not sure how folks missed it: you HAD children, how on EARTH did you miss the idea that THIS was the important work you were doing?

(of course, mine are still two and five; I get the impression the Sheer Magnitude Of It All diminishes a bit when they’re not leapfrogging milestones on a monthly basis or trying with all of their might to ensure their premature demise (for which only Your Heroic Actions could save them). But still. This is frickin’ WILD.) [No. It doesn’t diminish. It only gets bigger all the time. – SAH-from the other end of the process.]

(And yes, I’m sure being a Broadway star or whatever my mom wanted to be would have been amazing, too. But it didn’t happen. Can we please compare against what you actually did instead of the Perfect Unrealized Reality that was never actually going to happen anyway?)

…so everything I learned about What Was Important, What Was Real or not was completely wrong. Of course. Most of us here, we probably figured out ten of those before we reached adulthood, and keep finding new ones at alarming rates despite our general cynicism and ennui regarding the Big Message. What else is new?

Well, what else is new is learning how to live with it.

I know stay-at-home homeschooling moms are supposed to do an awful lot of things. They’re supposed to keep their houses neat (and teach the children to do the bulk of it, in time), they’re supposed to keep the children up on their learning (which more and more seems to be something they do almost despite anything I actually manage or not… nevermind), they’re supposed to keep the family fed with meals better than you can get at a restaurant on a fraction of the Totinos Pizza budget, and only on rarest occasions decide Everything’s Gone Wrong And Just Order A Pizza.

…but, come on. The pizza shop literally called our house to make sure everything was all right when my older sister didn’t order dinner. My dad took all of us children out to a restaurant every bleeding week as a way of staying connected in spite of a divorce. As a young adult I was so unfamiliar with what was involved in putting a meal together that I was *sad* when I stopped being able to find macaroni and cheese with little bits of dehydrated broccoli because I didn’t realize there was a more effective way to have broccoli included.

(…also, it turns out the dehydrated broccoli basically added salt and nothing else. Felt a little betrayed by that, too. Add Reading Labels to the list of things I needed to learn.)

WHERE WAS I SUPPOSED TO LEARN THIS STUFF!?

Well, mostly I haven’t, I’ll admit. I spend more than I should, go out more than I should, and still haven’t quite gotten the hang of planning meals that everyone will eat that also provides the vitamins and minerals growing bodies need.

But I’m much BETTER, and I figure I can encapsulate this in a few tips for other people in my situation. Because as dire as I think I painted the picture there… I think there’s a lot of us. We’re in the third generation of acting as though a home and hearth aren’t really things that need to be maintained. That’s going to leave a mark. [From the other end of this – we still eat out more than we should, and I never felt like I was a good housewife. You see, I was going to be an executive and have staff….- SAH]

So what have I learned? Let’s make a list:

1) BETTY CROCKER PICTURE COOK BOOK (1950).

This isn’t a FULL answer, mind you–I still needed to have someone “on the horn” to explain things to me like “What do they mean when they say ‘brown the hamburger’?” But it does go pretty basic! This book is basically aimed at newlyweds who themselves are trying to figure out how to cook for a household, and so it goes pretty far in its explanations, including substitutions, how certain things should be measured, things like that.

But more to the point, the “key recipe” system–where, at the top of the page, you’ve got a key recipe that just has the basic concept (it has a key icon next to it), and the rest of the page is filled with variants to make it the particular item you want. (Thus: Key recipe is “buttermilk pancakes,” and then you can look down for what you need to change to make “sweet milk pancakes,” “blueberry pancakes,” etc etc))–does a REALLY good job of teaching you what the heart of this foodthing is, and what can be changed without issue. And separating chapters by what KIND of food it is (quick breads, yeast breads, cookies, vegetables, meats) instead of by meal type or whatever also makes it a little trivial to understand what’s common about certain classes of food, and what you can mess with.

(Also, it just completely lacks the “trying to impress your friends” element that frustrates me so much about modern cook books. (Or at least keeps it to a few minor sections.) There’s an awful lot of basic ingredients that get reused over and over, and fairly few specialty ones. Symbol of a poorer time? For sure. But if you ARE looking to feed a family on the daily instead of having a fancy dinner party (let’s be honest, the food this book suggests for a fancy dinner party may well not go over right)… well, I think it’s rad.)

Downsides? It’s dated, and there’s a lot of things you’ll probably want to change due to how the price and availability of ingredients has changed. (Add more cheese to the macaroni and cheese recipes. They just don’t have enough.) And some of the terminology is confusing–apparently, when they say “American cheese” in this book, they mean cheddar.

BUT it completely changed my life for being able to cook for my family.

[ROFL. My first step was similar. Two picture books from a Portuguese TV cooking show. -SAH]

2) THERE IS STILL AN AWFUL LOT OF CHEATING YOU CAN DO WITHOUT FALLING ALL THE WAY TO MICROWAVE DINNERS.

Sandwiches are great. Sandwiches are awesome. (They’re also occasionally the only thing containing actual food the children will eat.) Feel a little bad about throwing something on bread and serving it? A minute of frying on each side makes it fancier. Throw a can of green beans on the side (OH WOW if you can find out a canned vegetable your child will eat without complaint YOU HAVE IT MADE. I buy green beans (Daughter) and carrots (Son) by the flat) and it’s even rounded. Hot dogs are probably more of a questionable call, but I’m pretty sure they still wind up both cheaper and taking up less space than a frozen dinner. (…I get free mutton, but kind of a lot at a time, so freezer space is a little dear for me.)

But more to the point, I tend to find if I’m thinking of things as I Must Do Things Right And According To The Plan Always, I tend to fall for my crutches the moment ANYTHING goes wrong. (And that’s one thing about having to share a house with other people: things are going to go wrong. You forgot about ballet class happening when you needed to start the breadmaker*, your husband’s in a grumpy mood and you don’t think the casserole you had planned will go over well, something came up and your husband isn’t going to be home for dinner at all. You can plan all you like, but you can’t eliminate the uncertainty.) Having an In Case Of Trouble backup instead can change things from “AGH EVERYTHING IS TERRIBLE I’M GOING TO GO GET HAPPY MEALS” to “okay, it turns out I didn’t turn on the oven when I was cooking the roast, guess we’re having hot dogs.”

(It turns out my kids love biscuits, actually, and I can turn them out in about half an hour from a handful of ingredients. (Also, Drop Biscuits are waaaaay easier than rolled biscuits.) So that’s made my list for Sudden Grumpiness Reducer Plan.)

* BTW, this is kind of ridiculous, but… if you have anything like the space, check your local thrift store for a bread maker. (Or yard sales, if there’s any in your area! Ours were a few months ago at this point, alas.) I don’t know if you’ll get as lucky as I did (there were THREE breadmakers for less than five dollars! Also, this is when Marie Kondo was REALLY popular), but if you arrange things so that there’s a loaf of bread almost finished when your husband gets home from work? The smell just completely hijacks the brain and says HOME, and all you did was dump a handful of simple ingredients in the jar three hours ago. Now, would it be better to have lovingly formed handmade loaves? Yes, and you wouldn’t even need a machine. But I’ll be honest, baking bread scares me a little and I think I’m not the only one. If you think this might be up your alley, see if you can get a used breadmaker for cheap.

3) PLAN TO USE YOUR LEFTOVERS.

I always thought leftovers were where you eat the same thing five days in a row, except that you get sick of it after two and throw the rest of the roast out. NOT SO! It turns out that people who are GOOD at this have a plan from when they buy the item for what they can turn it into over the next week or so. THIS NOT ONLY SAVES MONEY (by not throwing out half of the whatever and have to buy more) BUT VASTLY IMPROVES YOUR QUALITY OF LIFE.

No, seriously. Being able to turn your pork roast into stir fry, meat pie and soup means that you’re eating different types of food (if you’re like me, you tend toward “saminess” in the first presentation) with different foods with it (this also helps you use up your leftover veggies). It feels weirdly fancier to be able to pull the magic act. AND it increases your flexibility (when you’ve assigned a Brand New Meal For Each Day, all you can do is switch them around. But with leftovers scheduled in, particularly in meals with basic ingredients, you get to push things around at the last minute a great deal more.)

I’m also able to fit a lot more meals in a lot less space, if we compare Single Pork Roast And Other Ingredients I Keep On Hand Anyway versus the much more first-run items I’d have to buy without leftovers.

So, yes. Leftovers are awesome. Try and see if you can come up with good methods for using up basic meats and veggies you use a lot. (Soups, stir fries, and meat pies are my go-tos, and they’re pretty awesome. Flexible, too. Try it!)

And that is Feral Girl’s Beginning Guide to Keeping a Hearth And Home. Maybe I can write more as I find new tricks to actually trying to behave like a human being in a sane society! (I’m not sure if ‘fake it til you make it’ works with transforming the world, but it’s the best idea I’ve got right now.) And please-please-please let me know anything you-the-reader can teach us, add, or even ask about in the comments. (Most of my tips are obviously for the young mother–I think that there’s a bunch of bachelors here who could use cooking-for-one advice, too, if I don’t miss my mark. Empty-nesters as well.)

Thanks for lending me the stage, Sarah! Let’s all try to make the world a little more cozy tonight, huh?

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

book Promo

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 DAVE FREER: Bolg, PI: The Bolg and the Beautiful

A humorous, satirical noir detective urban fantasy, set in a small city in flyover country, which has an unusually high population of Trolls, werewolves, fairies and a dwarf.

Private Investigator Bolg, a Pictish gentleman who happens to be vertically challenging, a self-proclaimed dwarf and tattooed so heavily he appears blue, finds himself called on undertake paranormal cases: This time it’s a retired Fertility Goddess, and her daughter, who’ve been robbed by a con-man from their friendly neighborhood bank. They want a Norse berserker, with a two-handed axe loose in the banking hall. Instead they get Bolg trying to recover their money. The bank might prefer the berserker too.

FROM MARTIN L. SHOEMAKER: Blue Collar Space

The future doesn’t just happen… Somebody has to build it.Martin L. Shoemaker, author of “Today I Am Paul”, presents stories of ordinary people doing extraordinary work. Planning, exploring, constructing… living and growing and dying… across the Solar System.Includes these award-winning stories:Scramble (second place, Jim Baen Memorial Short Story Award, 2012)Unrefined (third place, Writers of the Future, 2014)Racing to Mars (first place, Analog Analytical Laboratory award, 2016)Plus seven more stories!

FROM M. C. A. HOGARTH: The Worth of a Shell (The Stone Moon Trilogy Book 1)

Born to a harsh world, we Jokka have evolved three sexes to survive: neuter, male and female. Twice in our lives we may change from one to another. A change we accept with grace… or resignation. It was our way. …until one female defied all tradition: Dlane Ashoi-anadi, revolutionary, intentionally childless, runaway.

This is not her story.

This is mine.

I am Thenet Reña-eperu, female-guardian, voice of orthodoxy… and Dlane’s first and dearest companion. This is the tale of how we changed each other… and how that changed everything.

Book 1 of the Stone Moon Trilogy (continues with Book 2: Pearl in the Void, and Book 3: A Bloom in the North).

FROM C. V. WALTER: Wed to the Alien Prince: A Fated Mates SciFi Alien Romance (Alien Brides Book 3)

Kaelin knows an alien when she sees one. The trick, given her eyesight, is actually getting close enough to see them. She might as well wish upon a falling star!

Against all odds, one just walked right up to her and introduced himself as Roger. He’s on a mission from Molly, the friend she’s traveled half-way across the country to see, with news of her alien ever after and a shopping list. Apparently, the best technology in the galaxy isn’t stocked with hair conditioner…

When their hands touch, everything changes. Kaelin has a chance to become everything she ever wished she could be… but it will cost her everything she currently is.

Prince Serogero has found the perfect match in an imperfect woman. When he catches her during a seizure, everything he assumed finding his mate would mean is turned upside down. His people’s technology can help her, if she lets it, but at what cost to her, and to him? When his duties and her safety conflict, can they create a happy ending?

FROM CELIA HAYES AND JEANNE HAYDEN: Luna City: Number 9, Number 9 Number 9.

Welcome to Luna City, Karnes County, Texas … Population 2,457, give or take! Fugitive former celebrity chef Richard Astor-Hall faces a new challenge in this new Luna City chapter; celebrating Christmas with Kate Heisel’s extended family, while Jess and Joe Vaughn cope with a pending addition to their family, Xavier Gunnison-Penn the world’s most unsuccessful professional treasure-hunter finally finds a treasure and true love … and Miss Letty McAllister, the oldest inhabitant of Luna City reveals what happened half a century before, when bootlegger and former bandit, Charley Mills was nearly lynched by outraged citizens from the biggest oak tree in Town Square. More folklore, home folks and gentle comedy abound in this ninth outing to the most perfect small town in Texas.

FROM AMANDA S. GREEN: Fire Striker (Tearing the Veil Book 1)

Some say monsters aren’t real. Others say the only monsters are those people who aren’t fully human: the witches and shapeshifters, elves and dwarves, and all the others who one day stepped out of the realm of fairy tales and into “real life”. Morgan Walsh knows the truth. Monsters come in all shapes and sizes, and some of the worst are human.

She didn’t start out life as Morgan Walsh. Once upon a time, her name was Adriana Grace Hensen. Everything, including her name, changed the day she turned thirteen. That day she learned several lessons she’d never forget. The first was that monsters were real. The second was that her parents were two of the worst “monsters” alive. The third was that those you trust the most can and will turn on you.

Morgan’s parents betrayed her because she wasn’t “human”. Now she’s back with one goal in mind: vengeance.

Never, ever conspire against a Fire Elemental, especially one with other “talents” as well. When you do, you’d best be prepared to get burned.

FROM ELLIE FERGUSON: Danger Foretold (Eerie Side of the Tracks Book 5).

Mossy Creek, TX is not your normal town. For more than a century, it’s been a haven to Others, people with special “talents”. Magic and shapeshifting are normal there. Others and Normals co-exist as friends, neighbors, lovers and family. But all that is in danger of being destroyed as an untold evil comes to town, determined to destroy not only those sworn to protect the town and all who live there but the very town itself.

Mossy Creek’s wayward children have returned, one by one, to town. Annie Grissom Caldwell, Quinn O’Donnell, and Meg Sheridan are back and determined to do all they can to stand between their town and the oncoming danger. Dr. Jax Powell, the Rogue, leads them and, in her role as one of the town’s Guardians, will do whatever it takes to keep everyone safe. But another of their group, Maddy Reyes, may very well hold the key to victory.

But can they trust her?

Do they dare?

FROM ANNA FERREIRA: Christmas at Blackheath

Agnes Rawlins would never dream of showing a melancholy face to her brother’s guests. She may be a spinster, and treated little better than any common housekeeper, but she is responsible for bringing Christmas cheer into the dark and rambling Blackheath Manor, and she does not shirk her duty, even when she has little reason to celebrate.

William Marlowe, Viscount Claridge, has reluctantly accepted an invitation to spend the Christmas season at Blackheath. It’s not his first choice- how anyone could wish to spend time in the gloomy manor house is beyond him- but when he meets the kind and gentle lady of the house, he finds that Christmas at Blackheath might not be so bad after all.

FROM T. L. KNIGHTON: Army of the Forsaken

Korr has watched as the young, exiled King Darvos is coming into his own, but he still has much to learn. That education is interrupted by a threat to the Bohgan lands they have called home.

Meanwhile, Duke Orlandis continues to seek Darvos, the last real threat to his claim on the Altrian throne. To find him, he’s enlisted the most despicable allies possible.

When these forces make a mistake that could threaten a budding alliance, Princess Lauranna and Darvos find themselves knee deep in a fight of their own.

FROM MACKEY CHANDLER: Another Word for Magic

Fleeing the Solar System after an attack by North America, the three Home habitats now have to seek their own fortunes. Heather, Sovereign of Central on the Moon saved them but now has to make certain the USNA can never threaten them again.
What was a tentative research partnership with the Red Tree Clan of Derfhome becomes a full alliance of equals. Lee finds she has to grasp authority and act for the Red Tree Mothers and herself to repossess the planet Providence she and Gordon discovered. The Claims Commission on Earth has collapsed without the leadership of North America. Explorers like her are cut off from their payments and the colonists on Providence are left in the lurch too. To do that she needs these powerful new allies.

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.

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.

If you have questions, feel free to ask.

Your writing prompt this week is: TOE

Interesting

Likely I’ll be away from keyboard all day, till wee hours when, with luck, I’ll do instapundit posting. And the week will be spotty. (If you’ve sent me a post and I haven’t run it/told you I wasn’t going to run it, this is your time to seek non-lucrative opportunities in blog guesting!) We’re dealing hopefully (please Lord!) with the last stuff with getting the house ready to re-list (though we’ll probably wait till after Christmas to pull the trigger.) So it will be messy and weird, and involve late night talks, etc, which means I might or might not post even vaguely on time. Be not alarmed, okay?

For today, I was amused by finding this video. Note their recommendations are almost exactly the same as mine. (Despite their seeming to be a bit confused or perhaps obfuscating on what the danger is, at least according to the imagery. Eh.)

Stop obeying. Laugh at them (they are, for the record, utterly ridiculous. Perhaps too much so, because they hit the “Too ridiculous to believe” or “So strange they’re scary.) And, of course “Build under, build over, build around.” Make them irrelevant.

Because they’re too dangerous to let run on as they have. And we will not be stampeded off the cliff.

Drowning in Chocolate

I think I was one of the first if not the first, after the lockdown to post the following tasteless joke:
“We woke up this morning to an introvert’s paradise: no going out, nothing open to go out to, no sports events. We’re all supposed to stay in and socialize via the net.”

Part of the reason I posted something LIKE (I don’t remember the wording exactly) that on Instapundit was that I was furious at the lockdown, which was ordered AFTER the Diamond Princess numbers made clear we had nothing to fear, beyond “bad flu year.” (And the people who came here and bald faced told me that’s because the people in the Diamond Princess had the best possible medical care –…. on a cruise ship, i.e. the kind of environment where people routinely get killed by common viruses, cruise ships being sort of floating, fun virus buckets where isolation is impossible — can go and multiply with themselves.)

The other part of the reason is that I had something scheduled for that week which I had been trying to avoid. (I don’t remember what, after two elastic weeks to flatten that curve since March 2020.) And frankly, for an introvert, as scared as I was of what it would do to the economy and the society, this was a fine excuse to avoid peopleing, which is always, at best, mildly uncomfortable, even when it’s with people I like or love. (Except Dan, apparently. He’s not people. He’s part of me.)

What you have to understand is that every time there is a scheduled get together, I try to come up with excuses to avoid it. How strong the excuses depends on how uncomfortable it makes me feel. So it can range from really creative, up to and including all symptoms of illness, when it’s say an unfamiliar large con, or meeting with people I don’t know very well to discuss business, or other “unknown” situation; to I think up excuses, tell myself I’m being silly, discard them and go ahead and meet: when seeing the kids, or (when I had one) my writers’ group, or meeting a friend, or going out with Dan to walk in the zoo, say.

BUT I ALWAYS THINK UP EXCUSES. Always. And sometimes I find I just can’t people, no matter how hard I try.

Here’s the thing I’ve found, though, in almost six decades in this world: when I manage to avoid going out/meeting with people/interacting with strangers, it makes it harder to do it next time. It also makes me (and most of us, because introverted or not, we are social apes) slightly more depressed, and a little weirder, till we’re too depressed to know why, and too weird to pass in public.

So I try to people, every so often. Even if I’m one of those for whom “Being out, seeing strangers, and ordering coffee” is enough interaction for a day. (Kind of. without larger gatherings, I can still become more averse to those, which apparently are also needed, like once a month.) Which is why Denver’s insanity of closing the churches and requiring masks outside at the zoo and botanic gardens (As an asthmatic, masks — even face shields — bring on an attack fairly quickly) drove me nuts. Because they took away my safe “see lots of strangers.” once a week thing. They also took away huns’ dinner, my once a month “interact with strangers, so you don’t become a total weirdo” thing.

Yeah, things are more open now (though Denver is apparently mask-happy again) and I’m in a place where none of that applies, anyway.

But it’s been almost two years. And in many ways I’m not doing particularly well. For instance having bought a car I was comfortable driving, just before lock-down, I found there was no place to drive to. In fact, at that time, there were signs saying if you were out and driving about — by yourself, in your car — you were being bad, and should stay home. (The epitome of stupidity.) And while we were never stopped on the road, we had the papers for husband who had that coveted “essential” excuse to travel (though his job 99% of the time could and was performed from home, anyway.) Because we’d heard stories of the police stopping other people and being distinctly unpleasant, if not insisting people go home,a nd “escorting” them there. (And think about that. In a real LETHAL pandemic, stopping people who were not at risk in their own cars, outside, driving around, and interacting in close proximity would put the law enforcement personnel at risk for no good reason. Which tells you this was only a Statist Pandemic, not a lethal one (not that people don’t die from it, but most don’t. And most of the measures ostensibly taken to thwart it only thwart normal life and increase governmental power.))

So now that I can/should be driving, it’s like there’s this insurmountable step. I KNOW I can drive, but the back brain doesn’t. And it’s like…. I’m looking at a stairway with normal steps, but the first one I have to climb by reaching as far up as I can and scrambling up. And I can’t get to that first step. Which I have to get around. I just don’t know HOW.

And the same type of thing has set in for actualy going out/meeting people/doing anything.

For the holidays, I both have a strong need to get everyone together and gather the tribe and it terrifies me. Other tribe members seem to be having the same symptoms.

From a conversation with a friend this morning, we’re not the only ones with this issue. In fact, every family of introverts is suffering from this. Yes, it’s worse where one or more family members hold fast to the Covidiocy Cult of Fear. But almost two years into it, and not seeing corpses on the street corner, one must wonder if that’s what they’re really afraid of, or if it’s just “getting out and seeing people” even your nearest and dearest.

Because the covidiocy nuked casual social gatherings/going out to eat/strolls through parks and museums and such, this might manifest even in people who work outside the home. They’ve got their heads attuned to “go to work, come home” and can’t conceive of going out (or having people in) for fun. Even if they know they should be doing it, they find excuses, whether it’s Covidiocy or — the more rational ones — other things/other reasons the isolation must continue.

Here’s the problem: For introverts, excuses to hide and crawl in a hole, and stay by ourselves are like drowning in chocolate. You go from “Oh, this is fine. This is great.” to “I never want to leave this, though I know I should” to …. well, a state you can’t escape. By the time you’re aware it’s killing you, it will be too late to do anything about it.

BTW this is doubly apt to those of you who used to work in an office, or whatever, but are now working from home. But the curtailed/masked/distanced society we were plunged into by dictate of those who have reason to fear the wrath of We The People is doing this to EVERYONE to some extent.

You are a social ape. There is a reason the image of the recluse and shut-in is that of a half-mad person. In one of the few things Eric Flint and I ever agreed on, was when he was talking about how writers are always peculiar. “And if they aren’t before they become writers, they quickly become peculiar. More so as time goes on, because staying in the house, and working mostly with things from inside your head means you lose an external check on your behavior and mood. Until you become too peculiar for normal people.”

Note, this is true even if you go to an office to work, because there the interactions are limited/scripted/circumscribed. The spontaneous interactions we had before this insanity being gone, still makes us peculiar.

Look, it makes NORMAL people peculiar. Imagine what it’s doing to us introverted and Odd. (And yes, I know I can fake extrovert. It’s the panic before and exhaustion after that are a problem.)

As the holidays are upon us, remember that.

This enticing solitude can kill. In fact the “I’m fine, I’m great” till it’s too late is the introvert’s high road to suicide. You fall under your own peculiarities, and stop realizing they no longer interact with reality.

It might seem to you that making small talk with boring relatives is besides the point, but it is not. people need people, and with gatherings and watching faces (not masks) and all that, you’re receiving sensory data that tells your backbrain you have a tribe and are valued. You are not alone, on an ice-floe in the middle of nowhere, and might as well give up and die.

Listen to me. Please. Pay attention to what I’m saying. I’ve battled these demons a long time, and being a writer, and working from home, even back when I had “scripted” interactions with the kids’ teachers or the grocery store clerk, I had time to see the danger and be aware of it.

You think you like being alone. But we’re all susceptible to too much of what we enjoy.

Check whether you might be drowning n chocolate. Secure your (social) oxygen mask, before you secure that of someone you care for.

Get out, get out while you still can.

Because this isolated comfort is another word for suicide.

2021 I AM THANKFUL

In many ways this year has sucked. The search for a house took too long, and we seem to have hired a shady realtor (now fired, thank G-d) which means we’re keeping the house off the market for a couple of months, and putting it up again early spring-ish. As a good-bye he somehow got our email and phone numbers out there, so we have scammers and flippers bothering us (dealing with that.)

Because of trips back and forth, the new house remains in boxes, and it’s hard to clean/organize. And I haven’t written in months, just through lack of time.

Worse, I lost so many friends this year (only two to COVID) that I keep forgetting one, when I try to list them. Yes, it’s my age too, okay? But it still hurts.

Seeing my country under occupation by enemies mostly internal (but controlled by eternal) has also not been a barrel of laughs.

Also Thanksgiving is now a complicated holiday. Thanksgiving is when we moved to Colorado. It was this family’s personal Passover, because life in Colorado was much better than before, in every possible way. Now we had to move away, so it’s a slightly sad Holiday.

HOWEVER to think of it this way would ignore the mountain of good things that happened.

First and foremost, when I hit the wall financially, I asked for help and was overwhelmed. You guys came through (which allows us to wait a couple of months, circumvent scuzzy realtor, and not sell the house at bargain basement prices, after all the work and money we put into it) and helped us financially. But more importantly you showed me far more people read me and give a hang about what I do and if I’m in trouble than I ever knew.

This is literally mind-changing and it’s bearing fruit in how I structure my life and time in the future.

Other things? Sure. I have the best husband in the world, and we survived our time apart (but not happily)

The boys are both well and pursuing their lives, though yet at different levels.

We found a house we love. Needs some improvements, but what doesn’t? And once the house in Colorado sells we should be able to do those fairly easily and make it even more optimal as a writer’s home. And once we stop traveling back and forth to deal with other house, I will be productive.

The neighborhood is great, there is a wonderful park to walk in, and it’s an easy drive from stuff I enjoy.

Best of all, the auto-immune is almost wholly gone: I actually don’t have an eczema patch anywhere in my body for the first time in 28 years, at least.

And despite everything, and this long Valley Forge of ours, our flag is still there. People are starting to resist and fight back. And once Americans do that, nothing stops us. I am very thankful the lot of you mugs let me join the Freedom Gang, the most amazing nation the word has ever known.

Oh, and where we are allows us to range over most of the country on an at most 2 day drive, which means cons, and far-flung huns dinners have become possible. Also vacations where we “travel in elephants” (The Heinlein short story.) Why yes, I DO want to see the world’s largest ball of twine. It’s a very American thing. And fun.

Oh, yes, and I have ideas for books, and other things I have wanted to do forever.

For all this, but mostly for my family, my friends and this community, I am thankful.

I have been blessed beyond anything I deserve or could have imagined.

For that I thank the Author, and every one of you.

The King And The Land

Back when I wrote Witchfinder, some people got all upset that “A libertarian could write a book where the rightful sovereign has a link to the land.”

In other words, Wednesday in fantasy upset some people.

But in fact, there is absolutely no contradiction.

Look, the idea of a sovereign who is linked to the land, who listens to the cries of the common people, and wishes to avenge the ravages perpetrated on the land itself goes so deep into humanity’s subconscious, that we might be mostly made of it.

It underlies a lot of our legends and stories and arguably (don’t hit me. This doesn’t mean it’s not true) our religions.

It probably has origins very early in the human or proto-human band, which was really barely extended family and where the ravages of leadership that didn’t give a hang about anyone else were obvious, while good leadership was equally obvious.

I grew up enthralled by Robin Hood, where the (bad) governor took money from poor people to give to the rich (or government officials) and Robin Hood gave it back. And they waited for Good King Richard to come back and set it all straight.

Of course, reality is not the same as fantasy. Once kingdoms got large, with the unification of vast portions of Europe under one king, wise rule went down proportionately, and well, things went to h*ll in a kingly basket. Heck, I think Portugal is too large for a single king, let alone the rest of European powers. And in America, it’s insanity. The level of power and control the Federales are trying to exert is already insane. They have the illusion they can have it, because of technology, but it keeps going sour on them and they’re going a bit insane, particularly as we turn away from mass-industry and mass communication.

Which brings us to: the king and the land are one.

And the sovereign of the United States, the true king for whose return we wait, is We The People.

When people run around with their heads on fire, afraid of “populist” movements, what they actually fear are the pseudo-populist movements: the French revolution, FDR’s idiocy, the communist revolutions, the nazis. None of those were actually populist. They were the wet dreams of intellectuals, who broke things to a point where common people went feral because they were terrified. But that wasn’t the movement. But no common person ever dreamed up that type of thing completely divorced from reality. (Tell me what common person tries to make weeks, months, or HOURS metric. For that you need to be “educated” beyond reality.)

In America, We The People are the king, and we’re kept from our throne by massive fraud and arrant deception.

Fortunately America has a tendency to defy the odds. They think they can keep us out forever. I think they’re dreaming.

The king is coming home. And the land awaits him. The usurpers won’t like us when we’re angry.

Government Failures Cause Kyles- A Guest Post by Francis Turner

Government Failures Cause Kyles- A Guest Post by Francis Turner

The great and the “good” in the US and around the world have been complaining about white supremacy getting a pass thanks to the acquittal of Kyle Rittenhouse on charges of homicide and so on. As anyone who paid even the slightest attention to the events of August 2020 or the recent trial would know, there is no evidence whatsoever that Rittenhouse was a white supremacist or anything other than an young man with a praiseworthy sense of duty and responsibility.

I’m going to totally ignore all of that (people like Larry Correia have that task firmly in hand) and concentrate on something else, the one place where almost everyone, from the great and good on down to people like me agree: namely that it would have been preferable for Kyle Rittenhouse not to have been patrolling the streets of Kenosha in the first place.

The MSM and the “Liberal” left think he shouldn’t have been there because in their view no one should have objected to the “fiery but mostly peaceful protests”. The rest of us think that is ridiculous but we agree that Rittenhouse and his fellow informal militia members should not have needed to patrol to limit property damage from such “mostly peaceful” protests.

[Aside: it is notable that (almost?) all of the informal militia patrolers seem to have been male. I’m sure that was due to their sexism and nothing to do with the idea of chivalry that strong men protect weaker women… ]

Short of a very small number of willfully ignorant and deluded sorts (e.g. Ayanna Pressley) no one believe that Rittenhouse would have opened fire if the protests had been limited to marches in the street shouting slogans. The one thing that I think even lefties mostly admit, if quietly to themselves, is that Kenosha wasn’t a protest it was a riot. Some of them may consider the riot and property damage to be a legitimate form of protest for something but they do agree that the events in Kenosha the night before and then the night Kyle was on patrol were riots.

So what were the causes of the environment where Kyle felt he should step up and protect property from arsonists, rioters and looters? The quick answer is that the primary causes were “Government” and particularly government policies espoused by progressives/liberals (a.k.a. filthy commies 🙂 ).

Let me explain

The Government Created Kyle – First Strike

Now in normal societies, when there is a riot it is the responsibility of the government to quell it. In Kenosha the government decided not to. We can and should blame the mayor of the town, the governor of Wisconsin – Tony Evers – and so on for that failing. In particular we can blame the governor because it seems he deliberately decided not to send in the National Guard, even though such was offered by President Trump and requested by some local politicians. You may not be surprised to learn that Evers is a Democrat and uttered various nauseating remarks concerning the shooting of George FloydJacob Blake and probably others that I can’t be bothered to go find.

In short the relevant authorities pretty much encouraged the rioting and took no action at all to try and limit the damage the rioters would cause.

Car dealership burning in Kenosha WI, Aug 2020

That is the first way the government created Kyle. If the relevant local government had acted in any kind of way to prevent the riots or provided sufficient personnel to counter the rioters, Kyle would not have felt the need to patrol the streets of Kenosha to protect property from rioters, arsonists and looters. Instead the governor and others made statements that demoralized the police and encouraged the protestors.

If lefties don’t want people like Kyle to patrol the streets of their local towns with weapons to protect themselves and fire extinguishers to put out the fires of arsonists (and in the case of Kyle put out a fire that could otherwise have caused a very large number of casualties) then they should protect the local businesses so that they don’t feel compelled to request protection from militia volunteers.

The Government Created Kyle – Second Strike

But that’s just the first and most obvious failure of (lefty) government. The next most obvious is that governments all across the US have permitted the goons associated with BLM and antifa to riot and burn things. If the authorities in Portland, OR or Seattle, WA or Minneapolis, MN or any number of other places had been willing to use the standard tools of riot control to actually stop the riots and protests there instead of hunkering down and letting their police and themselves be attacked then probably the protests in Kenosha would have been more muted. If nothing else at least some of the protestors would not have been able to be present because they would have been in jail.

But even ignoring those hypothetical jailbirds, I think it is clear that, as anyone who has had the pleasure of housetraining pets, children and the like knows, if you consistently stop them/punish them when they are first bad, they tend not to repeat the experience. See also, for example, the success of the “broken window” policing policy in New York and elsewhere in the 1990s.

Uncle Hugo’s burning in Minneapolis, May 30, 2020

In 2020 Democrat Party state and local government and law enforcement officials all over the USA decided that they should “defund the police” and not react to lawless protests in the name of BLM. Entirely unsurprisingly they got more riots and the the riots and protests were more violent. In places where politicians (generally Republicans) did the opposite the protests were much more limited.

That is the second way the government created Kyle. If governments across had acted to stop riots earlier in the year it is highly likely that any Kenosha protests would have been a lot less damaging and thus there would have been no need to for him to patrol.

The Government Created Kyle – Third Strike

Now let’s step back and discuss the individuals Rittenhouse shot. All three had criminal records, but I think it is fair to say that the first one was the worst. Rosenbaum was a registered sex offender who had served time for pedophile offences. According to a reddit post those sex offences were way more than what was admitted to in court

That ignores the more recent Wisconsin accusations of assault, battery and domestic violence as well as the process crimes relating to his evading the court mandated monitoring and the like.

If there were any sanity to the US Justice system, if he wasn’t still in prison for his 2002 offences he should have been slammed back in there permanently as soon as he assaulted his girlfriend in 2016.

[Aside: in an ideal world he’d simply have been executed in 2003. A lot of suffering would have been averted if he had]

The other two rioters shot by Rittenhouse were slightly less despicable but both they, and Freeland the “jump-kick man” who attacked Rittenhouse and escaped without being injured when Rittenhouse shot at him, had long criminal records. If the two survivors died today the world would likely be a better place. Neither Huber – the second person Rittenhouse killed – nor the two of them show(ed) any sign of becoming anything other than violent criminals. Much the same, by the way, also applies to Jacob Blake whose shooting while resisting arrest was the cause of the riots. Indeed he and Huber seem to share the charming habit of domestic abuse and both quite likely believe(d) they can continue to rape or beat women who become their girlfriends.

A proper criminal justice system would ensure that people like this would either be jailed for their repeat offences and/or be clear that a subsequent repeat offence (such as trying to burn down a gas station) would result in their incarceration for a considerable period of time. It is my belief (see housetraining) that consistently applied rules will not just dissuade the person in question but also others who get to observe their fate

That is the third way the government created Kyle, by not properly punishing repeat criminals who therefore felt free to continue their lives of crime and to take part in a riot.

The Government Created Kyle – Fourth Strike

The fourth way the government created Kyle was in the social services and educational systems that failed in the cases of Blake and all of the people Kyle shot at.

Rosenbaum was apparently abused himself as a child. I’m not entirely clear if this was after he was put in the foster care system or before (or both) but his experience in that system does not appear to have been a positive one. That doesn’t excuse his own abuse of minors but it may be a partial explanation.

Now you can argue that the government does its best and so on, but the fact is that government has more or less put non-governmental competitors for fostering/adoption and so on out of business. In a few cases where abuse was a standard occurrence that may have been a good thing (though child abuse in government care/foster schemes is also rampant – see all those UK “grooming” scandals) but in many others it wasn’t. About 50 years ago it was relatively easy to adopt a child in the US, in the last thirty or so it has become so hard that infertile couples are forced to adopt from foreign countries. It seems quite likely to me that Rosenbaum would have been adopted by some family in the 1960s or 1970s and it is certainly far from impossible that such a hypothetical adoption would have resulted in Rosenbaum growing up to be a useful contributor to society instead of a perennially homeless abuser of children and women.

The others may not have had that level of dysfunction in their personal families but they all had the “benefit” of government provided education. For some reason that education failed to teach them anything about the difference between protests and riots, the ability to critically evaluate reports to find out if they might be biased, or indeed much regarding civic, ethics and morality. Somehow, and one assumes this was due to his (apparently separated) parents and their acquaintances, Kyle Rittenhouse turned into an honorable, civic-minded young man. The others did not.

This is the fifth reason why Government is to blame. The Government has put much of the competition for education and childcare out of business through a combination of regulations and taxes. And has, in place of them, provided an inferior product that doesn’t serve the inmates assigned to it or society at large.

So lovers of government, if you don’t want anymore Rittenhouses patrolling the streets maybe you get the government to do its job right and not fail. 

It’s just the Meds

I wish I could say I didn’t post for some high flung ladida reason. But the fact is I didn’t post because I took benadryl last night. So looking for a post to do a blast from the past put me in an ADD spin.

And then there’s family stuff and — ARGH.

Post tomorrow. This is just to let you know I’m okay. I’m finishing entering changes in the fairy tales.

It’s likely we’ll be out of town/busy all next week, but after that we should be fine, actually.