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

Sorry this is so late. WordPress ARGH.-SAH

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. A COMMISSION IS EARNED FROM EACH PURCHASE.*Note that I haven’t read most of these books (my reading is eclectic and “craving led”,) and apply the usual cautions to buying. – SAH

Honestly, some authors and their pushy self promo…. ahem:
FROM SARAH A HOYT: Lights Out and Cry (The Shifter Series Book 5)

It is New Year’s Day in Goldport Colorado, the most shifter-infested town in the known universe.
At the George — the diner where shifters gather — Kyrie is about to give birth, Tom is getting psychic messages from the Great Sky Dragon and Rafiel is looking for information on why the mayor exploded.
Fasten your seat belts. This is going to be a fast ride into adventure and shape-shifting, after which things will never be the same.

FROM LAWDOG: The LawDog Files: Revised and Expanded

The entire sworn personnel complement of the department consisted of the Sheriff, the Chief Deputy and two patrol deputies.

That was it.

I miss that county.

To me, law enforcement is tracking an Alzheimer’s patient for four hours through the boonies after he wandered away from home; answering a 911 call because a rattlesnake is about to eat a nest full of baby birds; and scaring off ghosts because the lady of the house lost her husband ten years ago, her children live out of state, and you are the only outside contact she gets.

For me, being a cop is about keeping an eye out for a black-and-white dog of indeterminate ancestry, red bandanna, whose 9-year-old owner is crying his eyes out.

Most new officers will start out in medium-to-large cities/counties and never know what it’s like to patrol when your only back-up is 45 miles away as the cruiser drives – and asleep in bed, to boot.

So, I tell stories and hope that through those, the Gentle Reader can get a glimpse of what it’s like to be a Western small-town, rural Peace Officer

FROM MARY CATELLI: Through A Mirror, Darkly

What lies behind a reflection?

Powers have filled the world with both heroes and villains.  Helen, despite her own powers, had acquired the name Sanddollar but stayed out of the fights.

When the enigmatic chess masters create a mirrored world reflecting her own home and the world about it, it’s not so easy to escape.  All the more in that the people of that world are a dark reflection of all those she knows.

BY J. ALLAN DUNN, BROUGHT BACK BY D. JASON FLEMING: 3 Western Adventurers: A pulp omnibus

Three western-set adventures by masterpulp adventurer J. Allan Dunn!

Dead Man’s Gold

The old prospector knew he was dying when he shared his secret, in parts.Now four friends have to work together to find his rich vein of gold, fighting the elements, claim jumpers, angry Indians, and each other.

Turquoise Cañon

Jimmy Hollister just lost everything he hadin a stock market crash. After a life of polo and caviar, he cheerfully starts building up his life again, eventually following a girl to Arizona and starting a goat ranch. But hostile neighbors want to make dead sure he never learns the secret of Turquoise Cañon!

The Man Trap

When Jimmy Crewe returned from his prospecting expedition, he discovered that his best friend (and the man who funded his expedition) had disappeared. As he looked into it more, he found that a series of men, in several cities across the country, all with certain similarities, went missing in circumstances that, when compared, roused the suspicious mind. Now, Jimmy is going to find the answer to this mystery — what is the man trap, who is luring these men in, and why?

    This iktaPOP Media omnibus edition includes introductions giving genre and historical context to the three novels within it.

BY EDMOND HAMILTON, BROUGHT BACK BY D. JASON FLEMING: Corsairs of the Cosmos (Annotated): The Interstellar Patrol Volume 3: The classic pulp scifi space opera

In 1930, Edmond Hamilton wrote three more installments of his Interstellar Patrol series of stories for Weird Tales before taking a break from galaxy-spanning space opera. In 1934, he wrote one last story for the series, and then left space opera alone for most of a decade.

Corsairs of the Cosmos collects these final four stories, in which the Milky Way galaxy is menaced by a rogue comet(!), a mysterious cancellation of gravity that threatens to rip apart the galaxy, and an attack from within a “cloud”, inside of which visible light cannot exist, along with the titular final tale, recounting the time when the Patrol had to deal with intergalactic pirates stealing stars out of the galaxy to rekindle their own.

    This iktaPOP Media edition includes a new introduction giving genre and historical context to the collected stories.

FROM KAREN MYERS: Second Sight: A Science Fiction Short Story

A Science Fiction Short Story


Samar Dix, the inventor of the popular DixOcular replacement eyes with their numerous enhancements, has run out of ideas and needs another hit. Engaging a visionary painter to create the first in a series of Artist models promises to yield an entirely new way of looking at his world.

But looking through another’s eyes isn’t quite as simple as he thinks, and no amount of tweaking will yield entirely predictable, or safe, results.

FROM LEIGH KIMMEL: The Wolf and the Well-Tempered Clavier

With the coronation fast approaching, the Cathedral of St. George the Dragonslayer cannot afford trouble. But come it does, while the cathedral choir director is at the Dragon’s Breath Organ, practicing the anthem he wrote at King William’s own request. While explaining some technical terms to his understudy, the choir director decides to show off a little.

In the process, he releases an ancient menace from long before humanity came through the worldgate to this place. An entity that strikes him blind, and threatens further harm to anyone who tries to play the Dragon’s Breath Organ.

However, they dare not disappoint His Majesty, not on the most momentous day of his reign. Someone must cleanse the Dragon’s Breath Organ of this malicious entity, and the choir director cannot. So the task falls to Miss Anne Teesdale, understudy organist.

Now she must delve into the history of the cathedral, and the mysterious ancient magic that fills the organ’s windchest. A secret that may well cost this young woman her life.

Or worse, her sanity.

An Ixilon story.

FROM FRANK HOOD: The Devil’s Due

A controversial aging rocker reminisices about his start in the 70’s and tries to set the record straight about his mysterious, unknown love.

FROM HOLLY CHISM: Normalcy Bias: Look closer…things aren’t always what they seem to be.

Look closer. The things that you’re assuming you’re seeing? May not be what you think. Is that really a mouse, or is it a Brownie? Is that really an owl? Is that polished gemstone a stone…or an egg?

We take so many things for granted. Some of them may be harmless, but many are a lot less so. I wonder how many people ignore red flags every day, because they only see what they expect to see?

This collection takes what’s “normal” and asks “What if it’s something more?”


While removing a prototype sensor from the prow of her new Alliance battleship, the Ausa, Captain Elizabeth Goodwin and her crew encounter a setback when one of the engineers sent to remove and stow the device is injured in an accident. Before the other engineer can help the man, the two are surrounded by amoeboid creatures which seem immune to the effects of vacuum.

Thought to be hallucinations experienced by early spacers who had been alone in deep space too long, these creatures – known as “angel fish” – startle the crew by their sudden appearance. Despite her misgivings, Goodwin allows three of the aliens to be taken aboard for study. But less than an hour after the aliens have been brought on the ship, one of Goodwin’s men is killed and another is seriously wounded.

Her search for both the murderer and the escaped “angels” soon leads to a disturbing revelation. Eventually, Goodwin must decide which threat is greater: an old enemy of the Alliance, or the fabled “angels” encountered by the first explorers from Terra.

FROM SABRINA CHASE: Red Wolf: Exile Part 1

Same map, different world.
Nic Duncan must prove she has what it takes to follow her uncle into the Special Forces. To get his backing she infiltrates a lawless area of postwar Asia posing as an adrenaline-junkie hiker. Checking out a newly discovered cave follows naturally as part of her cover.
But in that cave she encounters a strange artifact—and when she emerges, the world she knows no longer exists. While the terrain remains the same, every sign of civilization has disappeared. No road, no power lines, no GPS, nothing.
Starving and desperately searching for a way back, Nic discovers the relics of the past have vanished too – and the pre-technology people she encounters either terrified of outsiders or ruthless killers.

Can Nic find any safety in this strange yet familiar world … and what must she sacrifice to get it?

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: Dangerous

Self Promo and Memes

The self promo is obvious. I probably should complain he used a picture from 20 years ago, but really I’m not going to. I wish I still looked like that.

While on that, there’s also this:

And now….

Because I woke up late and I’m finishing the next refinishing mystery (well, it was almost finished, but it turned out I was trying to write two books in one. And logically, the next in line is the one that’s less done. And I want it out by end of month, which means my copyeditor needs SOME time in which to work. And….

So, in view of all that: THE MEMES MUST FLOW:

Tastless Smeshless…. At According to Hoyt we can and we will!

This one is dedicated to Ray Epps Ken who keeps commenting despite a ban.

And now off the vile political stuff:

And this is to remind you the metric system was invented by the murderous French Revolution:

Shame on the British for going along with the French. When has that turned out well?

and just how life works…

Earthquake Bells

This is a post with a setup, so bear with me. It all gets to a point. And not just on top of my head.

Yesterday, when I quit work for the day, husband reminded me that we had page proofs to go over for a Chris Kennedy anthology, Bonds of Valor. And by reminded me, I mean forwarded the proofs, because we had established at breakfast that I never got it. (Hotmail is whimsical.)

So at nine something I sat down on the sofa to watch the Saint, but with the laptop, instead of crochet. (Curtain. For office.) Anyway, the minute I sat down, I realized one of you had been trying to reach me over social media, because (among other things) she had a sense of impending doom.

As someone who has awakened since December with the cold in the pit of the stomach, staring at the ceiling round about 2 am I get this. It’s awfully like the last days of 2019 and early 2020. (Not that THAT got better.) Husband has been having the same, which is why he insisted we import the DIL IT (daughter in law in training) within driving distance ASAP, because we need to have those we love close, so we can assist and he said “2023 there’s something bad coming. I can feel it.”

Before you think we’re some kind of soothsayers, we’re not. and we’re accurate-ish in these feelings, though this one feels big. What we are is artistic types.

This ties in with the story I was proofing. You remember where you bright boys and girls egged me on to write muse murder mysteries. Well, I hope you’re happy because the story in BOV is the first one of those, starring one Kit Marlowe, somewhat weirdly changed. It’s noir, and he has become a PI who lives between worlds and investigates crimes between or by authors (and artists) and muses. It came to me, as I was writing it, as though a fever dream, and the world setup poured out. (It’s called Great Reckoning in a Little Room and it will eventually be released as part of a series called The Muses’ Darling. Which will be short novels and novellas, like what I have planned for Rhodes and Magis, and the uplifted cats. And yes, those are coming. Shush. It’s starting to pick up speed, despite the I SWEAR every other month health collapse.)

Anyway, when I finished it, I told my assistant who was proofing it (it was 10k words written in 3 hours, and only gone over by me once, which means the typos they were gifted) “I only wish I were sure that the world building isn’t real.”

To explain, in this world writers, and artists and musicians have thought-wires throughout the multi-universe, crossing into and around parallel worlds. We are, sort of, nodes of these wires, existing sometimes more or less beffuddledly (totally a word) between realities. We are not crazy, just cross-wired. We’re also not sane, because it’s impossible to be crosswired, in a multi-verse where everything can happen, and not be more than a little nuts.

So, it starts with the concept of a multiverse, like an infinite deck of cards, stacked together. Most cards differ by very little, perhaps a wrong dot in the printing that’s in different places. This goes along with the whole concept of crossing between worlds and the Mandela effect. The idea that you routinely, more or less, cross between universes, exchanging with one of you (your alternate in that world) and that you don’t notice because the difference is so small. Like the car that was green is now black. Or the numbering scheme changed in a street, so your familiar address is off by two.

No proof of this, of course. How would you get proof? It’s even possible that even if everyone crosses over the line on the regular only a few are equipped to perceive it and remember it. But some of us do.

Granted it involves some kind of altered state, which calls our testimony into question, but then again, it happens often enough it makes you wonder.

Like, once, in high fever, I realized I was writing at my normal desk, but the desk was in a tower of a Victorian by the sea side. And there was a spiral staircase, leading down. I went a flight down, to the bedroom level, undeniably ours due to furniture, and started towards the stairs to the first floor. Except from it I heard my family’s voices… and mine. And scuttled double fast back to the office. Where I sat down, and suddenly I was in my familiar room, in a Victorian in downtown Colorado Springs. It wasn’t till I described it to husband that he said “Remember that house we looked at in Astoria, in 2002?” And I did.

Most other such events are less spectacular. Things you lost or broke years ago are suddenly on your desk one morning. Clothes you never had/bought show up in your closet. They’re your taste, you just never bought them. Etc.

I hear this from other friends, who are artistic types, sometimes with a degree of panic. There was the friend who opened a door to what should be a classroom, and instead it was set with a round “sharing” type table, and chairs around it. He closed the door, opened it again, and it was what he expected.

I keep hearing these stories, as I said, usually with a degree of panic. And it is probably because I’m somewhat of a den grandmother to a bunch of creatives. Note none of my friends or protegees are into funny substances.

But it reminds me of a much younger Sarah, just breaking in to writing, finding herself forgotten in a corner of a room while a bunch of old pros, some of them her heroes, talked about how they “got” stories and things that happened while writing. And closing her eyes, and sending a prayer up that all SHE got were feelings, and a sense of how the dialogue should go, or at the most dictation in thoughts in her brain. Because DEAR LORD it would be impossible to write and look after toddlers while getting the full panoply of sounds, senses, visions, SMELLS from the character. Uh, no. Thank you.

Anyway, the way I explained it in the story was that we are… odd… and have links to either our other selves or just others in all sorts of worlds. Not just the immediately adjacent ones (Which I think are responsible for most people’s hunches, because their other selves know this thing) but all over.

And I’m not sure it isn’t true.

It certainly explains the sudden panics, the “something wicked this way comes” and the way that the late insanity seemed to be one-off from Ringo’s Last Centurion scenario, only in this case the plague wasn’t and… well, the government insanity is an election cycle off. I just hope it goes well.

In proof that we live in other worlds than here, or that our imagination is really weird, I was going to compare us to something that apparently doesn’t exist in this world. Unless I got it from reading some archeological thing, and it was an unproven hypothesis. And I don’t remember where I read it. (I have poorly controlled ADD at the best of times, even on meds, and right now the meds are hyper caffeination though I have an appointment, which means I go on side quests all the time, and read things that pop into my line of vision. And unfortunately my mind is a cement mixer, so I often don’t remember where the original info came from.)

What I dreamed/read about/whatever was that in olden days, in regions prone to Earthquakes, villages had these bells on a hair trigger, which were in turn set inside other bells, or means of sounding, to amplify their sound. The idea being that even very small foreshocks of the kind only modern seismographs register, would make the bell tinkle and hit another bell that sounded louder, which in turn…. So that the entire village would know if there were a bunch of little tremblors in a cluster, and could get ready for a larger shake.

The thing that occurs to me against that system is that we have tiny foreshocks more or less all the time. Back in my thirties and forties, for whatever reason (not anymore. I think it has to do with the internal ear) I was a living seismograph. I didn’t register EVERY minor tremblor, but I registered some no one else felt. I’d tell husband about it, and sure enough later it would be in the news with “you don’t realize this, but the Earth moved last wednesday.” OR whatever. Anyway. So, the Earthquake Bells, which is what I thought they were called, depending on how sensitive they are, would have a lot of false positives.

As it turns out, creatives who “feel” things have a lot of false positives too.

I won’t go into people who hear voices, or see things — I’ve often wondered if we’re related to the ancient bards and shamans and such, or at least descended from them — and how they regulate that, because I don’t know. Till that, awe-struck moment hearing old pros talk, I had no idea anyone got this any harder than I did.

I know how I “regulate” it and it’s by the “strength” of the feeling. We’ll establish that waking up in the middle of the night with my stomach full of ice, and a sense of “something wicked this way comes” is pretty strong. It’s not as strong as what I got for three months before 9/11 when I’d wake up drenched in sweat, and not be able to sleep more than two hours at a time. So, there’s that.

Then again, for the whole Covidiocy I never got more than what I’ve been getting since December. (And getting worse, same as then.)

I have this theory that you feel an event in proportion to how close it is to you (meaning does it affect you, which 9/11 did, because I was tied to NYC publishing) and how near it is in time. So an event vaguely related to you but HUGE will feel about the same as an incident related closely to you (say death of a relative) which doesn’t impact many people.

So, I hate woo woo, and don’t put much faith in it. Because for all I know the feeling I was having all through the end of 2019 was for John Ringo’s Last Centurion world, and not ours.

Yes, I know this all sounds insane, unless you’re one of us, in which case you’re going “Oh, so, that’s why…” And mind you, I think it’s not just creatives. I think everyone can feel this stuff to an extent. And if you don’t want to go with a multi-verse hypothesis, and the sounding bells, consider that our subconscious might be adding things all the time, and trying to give us warning of something wicked this way comes.

Anyway, Earthquake Bells, if they existed, would be super-sensitive. By the time the shock was big enough to make the bells in your local search start to rattle, it would be practically on top of us. Which is when normal people feel it.

What I want to say is two fold: I’ve been getting reports from creatives, all over, of waking up with cold in the pit of the stomach, or all in sweats, or… definitely the feel of something wicked this way comes.

It might be that living in clown world we’re reacting to shadows and intimations of things not there. It might very well be. Remember that. Even though a lot of us are getting it — and because there are connections between us, we’re all probably panicking the next person, like the little bell on a hair trigger making the bigger bell sound, too — it might not be nothing, or it might be very little and got through relatively easily.

For those of my religious persuasion, praying the cup pass us by without our tasting it is always approved. We have the best example on that. (Though remember even He didn’t get what He prayed for. It’s not a vending machine. Sometimes the plot requires what the plot requires.)

The second part is, just because you get the warning, it doesn’t mean you can do anything about it. The bells can’t stop the Earthquake. They just give early (and sometimes false) warning.

This is what drove me nuts in 2019 and early 2020 (heck, all through it.) It was “if I’m sensing this, I should be able to stop it.” But you can’t really. Even when the feelings are more specific, there’s really nothing you can do, even if they’re true (and sometimes they’re not. Or they’re exaggerated.)

So, if you feel that something wicked this way comes, the warning is not really for YOU specifically (Probably, unless it’s extremely personal. Which is unlikely with how many people are getting it) and you probably can’t do anything about it.

I know — I KNOW — it drives you half insane, but all you can do is prepare as best you can, pray as best you can and then resume building over under and around.

And keep your clothes and weapons where you can find them in the dark.

In Praise Of Beauty

Long before I watched The Saint, I’d read all the books, by Leslie Charteris.

I count it as one of the saddest moments of my grown up life having found out that Leslie Charteris didn’t in fact write most of them, but farmed them out to other writers who were going to a tough spot and that he often didn’t say them. The last one is the material point. I don’t hold it against any of my favorites getting work done in whatever way. After all, the book is the book. You do the best you can with it. If you can’t write it for whatever reason and outsource it, that’s fine. So long as you make sure afterwards that you edit it so it matches the previous style, that’s okay with me. It was the fact that he stiffed fellow word-harvesters, including Heinlein that truly broke my heart.

Robert A. Heinlein, of course, didn’t let him have the story he hadn’t paid for. Instead, he filed serial numbers and released it as “They do it with mirrors.”

I don’t actually remember at what age I first watched the Saint. I want to say I was eight, but as I pointed out, in my memory, I pretty much was 3, 8 or 13. Sometimes 16. The other ages don’t seem to exist.

But of course, for the little girl who liked Robin Hood, the saint was catnip. And whatever age I was, I was old enough to appreciate Roger Moore’s looks. Though young enough to have no idea why I liked them.

I didn’t realize until we started re-watching them that the first series aired in the US before I was born. To be fair, the run in Portugal was probably at least 10 years later, since the Portuguese usually got these series as bargain, so they were either really not very successful, or very old.

Anyway, because we live in clown world, and because clown world has decided it needs to mess with even my innocent pastimes, like watching British mysteries, by making them increasingly, every year, both woke and nonsensical, as we were flipping around the many things available for free — mostly old or not very successful, but that’s fine — my husband and I realized that we both had enjoyed the Saint, but neither of us remembered much about it.

So, we decided to watch it at night, after we deal with various… duties and annoyances,. We sit on the loveseat and cuddle, and I do my crochet as a wind down towards bed.

Yeah, some things have struck us as funny or, you know, just not very convincing, like the fist fights. Dan says part of this is because of the fixed camera issue. They simply filmed with only one camera, so they had less latitude to pull punches while appearing not to, or something. I’m not sure I understand any of that, since I don’t in fact know much about filming and photography. (Or no more than I’ve learned playing with DAZ3D)

But black and white and all — because, well, as we all know the world was black and white till about 1967. I don’t remember it that way, only because I was very young, but we have the historical documents. — we’ve been enjoying it. I won’t say the plots are much better than TV these days. They’re not. Though this series has managed to surprise me once or twice.

It is interesting to watch their blind spots, versus current blind spots. I’ll stay silent– No, heck, I won’t.

I was amused, though not offended, at the Saint’s advice that one of his clients (?) spank his woman to earn her respect. On the face of it I’d say that was ridiculous — more or less ridiculous than current film makers’ tendency to make any smart female lesbian, I can’t say. Both annoy me — but given the success of Fifty Shades, perhaps he was correct. Not being a typical female, I don’t know. Anyway laying hands on me in any way I didn’t wish him to, or in any way that caused pain usually lived to regret it. (I mean, the regretting was a given. I think most of them lived. I didn’t check in a couple of cases, so who knows? Also, it was long ago and memory is hazy.) And though I can understand power games in bed (well, it’s much easier to write, for one, because there’s a clear line to follow) I never understood pain. Perhaps because I was sufficiently spanked as a child to associate it with punishment.

On the other hand, despite the fact that we all know, as we’re told so endlessly, the women of that time were horribly oppressed and treated as nothing but objects, I’ve found that the women depicted tend to be of the same kind as those that make good characters today: self actuated, independent, and quite capable of pulling a fast one on the men.

I don’t know, something must be wrong, since obviously — we’ve been told — women in sixty one and sixty two were complete slaves of men, never seen outside without being in chains and wearing an apron (which as we’ve been told is a symbol of subjection, and not something that protects your clothes.)

Perhaps the film makers of the sixty just continuously and consciously lied to us? I mean…. surely it can’t be that today’s mavens are completely insane and suffer from excessive presentism, having been lifted to positions of cultural influence through either strict and loud adherence to Marxist views or diversity that consists in having an interesting skin shade, sleeping with people other than the most commonly expected, or styling themselves as something quite different. Or of course through yes.

Thank you to whomever just slapped my back. I did have a piece of snark stuck in my throat. Hopefully the cats don’t eat it.

Anyway, we’ve been doing this for a week and change, and yesterday it hit me, and I confessed in some dismay that though it’s not the main reason I’m watching it, Roger Moore’s looks, such as they were, are part of the reason that I’m enjoying this rewatching.

My husband laughed at my chagrin, and said, and I quote “So?”

Which is about par for the course, because you know… I have never resented his ogling beautiful young women. Why should I?

Provided neither of us builds a fantasy life in which because someone is prettier or younger (often prettier because younger) than our spouse, they must also be what we want, the sheer enjoyment in watching a beautiful person of the opposite (or same. I mean, not for us, but whatever does it for you) sex is… rather innocent. It’s an aesthetic pleasure, comparable to watching a beautiful sunset, or admiring a gorgeous sculpture, only more so because human and the sex one is attracted to.

I never understood the entire crazy-hole-in-the-head of feminists and other ists who think that because you enjoy looking at someone and admire the way they look, you are objectifying them.

I honestly don’t know a blessed thing about Roger Moore the person, nor am I even vaguely interested. I know he died recently. I also know he was a very good actor (the expressions in The Saint are…. speaking, so to put it. Even if it’s played a bit over the top, as it should be.) I suspect his political opinions were appalling — actors’ opinions tend to be — and … Well, I just don’t care much one way or another.

Is enjoying watching him act, when he was young, and not caring the least what he thought or how he lived “objectification”? Likely if he were female and I male, the feminists would accuse me of it.

But the truth is this: I like beauty. I — being female and heterosexual — particularly like male beauty. Particularly well-groomed male beauty, of a type that is increasingly hard to find.

Beauty is, at any rate, rare. Most people aren’t beautiful. They’re okay. They pass. But they are not beautiful. Worse, very few of those remain good looking as they age. (And seeing a picture of Roger Moore in his old age was very sad, really.) Some do, but those are even rarer than those that are beautiful as young people.

Even though the Roger Moore of the Saint is young enough to be my kid now, I can enjoy his beauty captured on film and rejoice we live in an age of miracles, when such can be captured and enjoyed long after the person aged and died.

I don’t see any reason to feel guilty. If you enjoy my words, I don’t also demand you know what I look like much less find me ravishing (I was all right when I was young, but never ravishing at this time, at this weight, at this age, if you find me ravishing, I recommend a psychiatrist..)

It was important to me, of course, that my husband have an interest in me beyond the way I looked when we got married. Mostly because I knew my genetics, and that things would go downhill look-wise fairly quickly (How quickly and how far downhill was the only surprise.) In my relationship with him, it was important that he like both the way I looked and the way I thought, and the second one a little more, since it’s likely to last longer. (Though not permanent, either. You change. Everyone does.)

But for the vast majority of people out there, supposing someone stumbles on my picture of me at 19 and takes pleasure from it, I don’t require they know who I am, or what I enjoy, or even that I exist and am not an AI creation.

Beauty is damn rare. And we should enjoy it where and when we can.

Because it is all too fleeting. As is life. Which was going to be the theme of today’s post and will probably be tomorrow’s, but I spent the night dreaming of the solution to Dyce’s book, and having figured it out, I want to write it.

Which I should have been doing all this time, but things sidewayed (totally a word) at speed today, so I’m only now about to start.

Go forth and look at something or someone beautiful today.

And take sometime to sit with someone you love and watch something old, or silly or interesting and unwind a bit.

And then return to the fight. Because it’s clown world. You can’t go go go all the time. You’ll wear yourself out.

So take a breath. And then get back to work.

We Lost One Of Our OWn


We lost Geoffrey Withnell I don’t know how or when, but his wife just left a message on my newsletter telling me he was gone.

He’s been a commenter here for a long, long time, and his input was always appreciated.

Ave atque vale, Geoffrey, godspeed until we meet again.

Raises glass. Drinks. Throws glass.

Absent companions.

It’s A Clown’s World. We Just live in It

My friend Kim Du Toit, recently, told me that I had to figure out what is wrong with me and get it taken care of….

I know what is wrong with me. It’s taking care of it that is a problem.

What is wrong with me is that I am someone whose auto-immune responds to stress, living in clown world.

When our financial system and the safety of our very nation are in the hands of clowns who blame things on “capitalism” (We maybe should try capitalism, eh?) or “Trump” or whatever they ate for breakfast there is a certain stress.

In fact, as another friend pointed out about a month ago, we’re all tired. And tiredness and stress bring on their own problems.

Over the last three years we saw what seemed to be a — granted flawed — system of order and institutions become weaponized in the service of — objectively — its own enemies, and turn on its own people with ravening hatred.

Worst, we saw behind the mask of institutions that exist for the public good — the CDC? REALLY? — and now realize it might in fact never have been on our side. It wasn’t bureaucratic and bungling, but outright malicious.

And the fact that our churches, our companies, our media all jumped on the bandwagon and rode it to hell doesn’t help anything. On the contrary.

After the experience of watching the entire world go crazy, I’m not sure I can unsee it.

So…. Yeah, I’m still not 100% sure what the heck consumed the last four days of a lot of sleeping (mostly) but I figure it was just my auto immune acting up, because I’m so tired.

It’s like all of us are living, every day waiting for the next shoe to drop.

It’s like living on the slope of an active volcano, waiting for it to blow up. You wake up in the morning, and you check if things haven’t blown up yet.

It is important to remember that those of us who are over 50 have lived through several cataclysms. They are never as cinematic as it is in movies or books.

What is going to kill us is never what kills us. And sometimes the most terrible things come completely unforeseen. Unless any of you had “The democrats terrify the entire world in order to enrich some medical companies and steal an election” on your bingo card. Because I didn’t.

But what is seen can’t be unseen and the world is now a different place. I’ve been reading my own old books, getting back into series to continue and I keep thinking how young and naive I was.

Only I wasn’t. It’s just that the truly terrible event lurking in the future was too bizarre to guess at.

We can work ourselves into a fret, trying to anticipate the bad thing that might come. Or we can do the best we can and keep going.

There are things we’ve learned are true: the truth always outs. What can’t go on won’t go on. And if we can’t do anything about the big things, we can improve the little things, right here, in our personal lives.

We can build over and under, and around, little by little, day by day, and be ready.

It must be sufficient, because it’s all we can do.

And when the stress gets us down? Dust yourself off, and try again.

SVB – A Guest Post by Francis Turner

SVB – A Guest Post by Francis Turner

As anyone paying attention to the news knows, SVB went at the end of last week after it was hit by an absolute classic bank run. Err Ooops. The big question now is whether the US government / regulators can stop other banks also failing too. Based on some things I’ve found I’m not sure they can do it with what they have announced now, though they may be able to correct that.

There are various reasons for this failure but I believe that two key ones are (US) government actions (and inactions) and right on wokeness. The wokeness almost certainly meant that SVBs management was filled with diversity hires rather than nerds who could figure out that critical assumptions were no longer true, but the critical assumptions changing was entirely caused by government and in particular by the covidiocy. It also did not help that US regulators, thanks to lobbying from SVB and pals, did not make it, the 16th largest bank in the US, comply with many of the regulations put in place by the Basel III agreements in response to the 2008 financial collapse (archive: ) but for the most part SVB did what it was expected to do (including all the DIE wokeness stuff) so that’s not necessarily a cause of the failure.

The wokeness link above shows the wokeness and virtue signalling side of the problem (and notes that the C-suite was distinctly white and male so the wokeness only went so far) so I’m not going to go into that area. Plus it is of course hard to prove that some black lesbian middle manager in the risk department and xer excitingly genderfluid and racially diverse colleagues were not smart enough to read the tea-leaves earlier though one suspects that this is likely to have been the case.

The government caused it

From 2008 until a year or two ago government borrowing was at interest rates that were under 1%. This was even true for long term bonds, although really longer term bonds (30 year treasuries) were up at a massive 2% yield.

As eny fule kno, the wuflu led to the US (and other world) governments printing lots and lots of money and the US government balanced its books in part by borrowing enormous sums of money and issuing medium and long term bonds at these very low interest rates.

The money that the government distributed to businesses was supposed to help them keep the lights on and employees paid even as they worked from home, failed to have customers etc. etc. but a large chunk of it ended up in other places. Some of this was straight up fraud but quite a lot more was more nuanced. It was businesses claiming more money than they really needed because it was basically free and the rules were pretty loose. Lots of small businesses applied for grants and got them and banked much of the money because they didn’t need to spend it all at the time. Lots more went in various ways to VCs and the like to fund new startups and small businesses. SVB ended up being the banker for a lot of that money. So much so that SVB more or less tripled in size from $61B of deposits in 2019 to $189B by the end of 2021. It looks like SVB basically got about 5% of all US Wuflu subsidy spending deposited in it in 2020 and 2021.

The problem for SVB was that it had ~$120B of new money. It had no way to invest all of it in its traditional business, basically lending to tech companies mainly to handle short term cash flow bumps and the like, because it was massively too much money.

Well banks get dinged for not working the money they have on deposit by investors and by regulators and so it had to invest all this moolah in something and do so fairly quickly. In addition to various wokey greeny things which were almost certainly poor investments and not very liquid, it bought what seemed like safe and fairly liquid assets, so-called fixed income securities – treasury bonds of various maturities and mortgage backed securities (MBS). In the low inflationary, low interest environment of the 2010s this would have been a fine decision. Sure those treasuries and MBSs paid a fairly low 1-2% or so interest, but they were considered safe because the underlying assets were stable in value  – increasing in terms of the property backing the MBSs even – and they were reasonably liquid so you could unload them quickly if need be and not face much of a loss, if any, when doing so. By the end of 2022 SVB had about $115B in these fixed income securities (essentially almost all of the money it had taken in since 2019)

SVB had 55% FI securities at EO 2022 (source)

Unfortunately it bought most those assets in 2020, 2021 and early 2022 when interest rates were still in the 1% range but that was about to change. As we know in 2021 inflation started to kick off because of all the loose covidiocy money and a year ago the Federal Reserve started to raise interest rates to try and stop the inflation rate staying high. This abrupt rise in rates from 0.25% in early 2022 to 4.5% now in 2023 has had a number of entirely predictable effects. One effect was that the 1-2% yield securities that SVB had bought declined significantly in value leading SVB (and probably many other financial institutions) to have large unrealized losses. In itself that was not a disaster since if they were held for long enough there was a decent chance that those losses would be recouped as prices increased again.

Unfortunately at the same time the market for IPOs and PE sales of startups collapsed and a significant number of startups found that their product or service was not required by people who now had higher living expenses and the same pay check. This meant that SVB’s depositors were steadily taking money out without there being new deposits paid back in. In other words the $120B windfall of deposits was gradually being withdrawn and SVB needed to gradually sell its investment assets so as to cover the withdrawals.

In theory (and indeed according to financial regulations) all SVB needed to do was sell some of its bonds and MBSs so as to reduce its assets as it paid out its depositors. Except that, as noted earlier, those assets it had were now worth significantly less than all the liabilities (deposits) it would need to repay. Moreover enough of the people who had accounts there and/or running/advising corporations with accounts there could take a look at the SVB financial statements and realize that there were these problems and so decided to withdraw more of their money. Eventually almost everyone wanted their money out and there really was no way for SVB to unload tens of billions of dollars of fixed income assets without suffering enormous losses in addition to the ones it had already booked. That was what the emergency sale of $21 billion of bonds at a (further) loss of $1.8 billion showed. Even the proceeds of that sale ($21B ) plus the cash on hand ($14B) was not enough to repay all the depositors trying to withdraw their money.

The nitty gritty details

If you take a look at the image above it shows that going into 2023 SVB had about $14B in cash. That’s not unreasonable as it is somewhere between 5% and 10% of total deposits and about the same as in the past. And if the FI assets were actually sellable at around the price paid things would be fine even as deposits decreased. The Q4 10Q filed in November 2022 shows roughly $14B in cash and $177B in deposits at the end of September 2022, down from $14.5B and $189B at end of December 2021.

SVB 10Q filed November 2022(source)

The decline in deposits (liabilities) in the 10K is noteworthy in that it is on the order of $1.4B/month and assuming that continued at roughly the same rate it would imply that deposits at the start of March 2023 would be around 170B, perhaps a fraction lower. Given the $14B cash on hand in December that is also not bad, if that were the only need for the cash. Unfortunately the 10k shows two other problems. One is a line of “Short-term borrowings” which stood at $13.5B at the end of September 2022 up from a trivial $71M at the start of the year. I can see no note about when that is due to be repaid but “short-term” usually means a year or so at most. Almost certainly this is related to the unrealized losses in the AFS (Available for sale) and HTM (Hold to maturity) assets and, as things developed after September 2022 those numbers almost certainly got worse.

Even at the start of 2022 there were losses in both but the total unrealized losses was something like $1B or less than 1% of the $120B+ total and that sort of loss would normally be easily covered by profits elsewhere. However by September the losses in HTM had ballooned to $16B (out of $93B total) and in AFS they were just under $3B out of $29.5B total. For those struggling to do the sums at home this is comfortably over 15% of the FI portfolio and more than 10% of the total deposit liabilities. One must assume than in the months since September those losses increased substantially. One thing that does stand out is that the bonds were all in the AFS pile and marked to market (i.e. the ~10% haircut from purchase price to sale value in Sept 2022 was already there), while all the MBSs were in the HTM pile.

This is why SVB sold $21 billion of bonds at an additional loss of $1.8 billion – probably this was almost everything in the AFS pile – and why that was nowhere near enough to stop people demanding their money. Note that the book value of that AFS bonds was actually almost $30B so the $1.8B loss was in addition to prior markdowns to around $23-24B, in all SVB probably sold those bonds for 70% of what it paid for them. SVB still has an enormous mismatch between cost and fair market value of its (AFS and) HTM assets and that mismatch (on the order of $20B or more) is way more than the intended ~$2B share offering.

So what did SVB do wrong?

That, as they say is a good question. This article points out that SVB were basically good boys and girls who did not bet the farm on risky things like cryptocurrencies and I agree with it.

Mostly they trusted the government and did what the government (and regulators) told them to do without doing the work to figure out if this was sensible in the longer term (though they probably also lobbied to evade regulations that would cost them profits such as the Basel III ones). That was fatal because covidiocy showed in numerous ways that the government is not smart enough to figure this sort of thing out and in fact will do things that break other parts of the system because the government’s “top men” are not in fact top (and probably not men).

It is however very hard to figure out where SVB should have put their unexpected load of new deposits. $120B is a very large amount of money to invest and fixed income securities were good, recommended even, investment choices that were perceived to be low risk. Short of saying “we don’t want your money” there seems no way that SVB would not have entered 2022 with a large holding of fixed income securities. It is even harder to figure out where and when they should have moved it out into something else once it became clear that inflation was a thing and that higher interest rates were going to come shortly afterwards. I can imagine them being extremely unpopular with the government if they had started selling their MBSs and bonds in early 2022 and even if they did, it is unclear what they would have invested in instead (banks like Silvergate did invest in crypto and hit other problems).

Will the Bailout work?

We’re going to see more of this as the government bails SVB and other banks out. Note that the imbalance between FI assets and liabilities is almost certainly not even remotely unique to SVB. I’ve seen mention that there are $600B of longer maturity bonds that are underwater (lost the link) and I imagine there’s a similar if not larger amount of underwater MBSs. That latter may be even more of a threat since if property prices drop again as in 2008 then the prospect of these MBSs being bad debts grows further depressing the asset price. So far I haven’t seen too much sign of people defaulting on residential mortgages. But, given the way the wuflu has led to much more working from home, office occupancy rates are way down and unlikely to recover for a while if ever. Since companies will be leasing less space the owners of now much emptier office buildings are going to struggle to repay the loans they took out to build them. Defaults on commercial property loans therefore seem quite likely.

The government (treasury, federal reserve, SEC etc.) have announced that they will redeem government securities at par value thus removing the losses caused by their 20% or so fall in value over the last year. This appears relatively generous, but if done right (as the UK Bank of England did last autumn) it should stabilize the market without the government actually needing to buy all the securities it says it is willing to. Moreover the government can make a profit by selling the stuff again later, which is something that the BOE also did AIUI.

However I’m not sure how this would actually help SVB. As I noted above in my perusal of the 10Q almost all the long dated treasuries were in the AFS pile and had already had their loss mostly booked while what was in the HTM pile was almost all MBS (about $85B bought, valued at $71B in September and probably less now). SVB simply doesn’t have more bonds to sell to the government. The question is how many other banks are more heavily exposed to under water MBSs rather than under water government bonds?

If depositors believe that the money they have in bank accounts is safe enough because enough of the bank’s investment assets are government backed then those banks will likely survive. But I imagine many depositors are going to be looking at recent 10Qs to see if they can see large unrealized losses and particularly large losses in MBSs. As we saw at SVB it only needs 10% or so of a bank’s deposits to be withdrawn in a short period of time for the bank to need to sell assets. If it then starts having to report losses and more losses the withdrawals will pick up pace and shortly we have another bank run.

My expectation is that we may see a few more banks in trouble but probably not the sort of widespread issues we saw in 2008


I’m Okay

I’m not building a rocket ship in my garden shed.

I’m not writing the Great American Novel on tree bark with a pin.

I’m not executing pre-arranged plans to take over Ecuador with a flotilla of paddle boats.

I’m not re-creating the Egyptian pyramids in the backyard.

I’m not plotting world domination with Havelock-cat.

I’m okay. Post tomorrow.

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. A COMMISSION IS EARNED FROM EACH PURCHASE.*Note that I haven’t read most of these books (my reading is eclectic and “craving led”,) and apply the usual cautions to buying. – SAH

FROM SHANE GRIES: The Thin Dead Line

On a hot July day on the plains of Kansas a US Army mechanized infantry company from the 1st Infantry Division gets a very vague warning order and the young troopers saddle up on their steel beasts to go try to control “civil unrest”, whatever that means. Police in a small town start firing on people in self defense, people who seem to have gone violently insane. A prisoner at Fort Leavenworth out on work detail sees a strange murder and is forced to make a run for it. As the situation starts to descend into chaos, confused orders are given, old sins are forgiven in exchange for needed help and the Bradleys and Abrams soldiers fight a desperate battle using every weapon on hand. Chaos reigns in the heartland of America, spreading ever outward.

The Apocalypse written as only a veteran infantryman can, The Thin Dead Line is set as a companion series to the best selling Irregular Scout Team One by J.F. Holmes.

FROM BONNIE RAMTHUN: The Dagger of Incredible Ability: Book Two of the Centerville Chronicles

With great power comes major trouble…

The last time Ray Sebastian got his hands on a magical artifact, it turned out to be the most dangerous thing in the world. But this time, he’s discovered a magic dagger that seems too good to be true. One touch from this dagger bestows incredible abilities—Ray transforms from a wimp to a kung-fu master, his friend Clancy gets the ability to shoot like Robin Hood, and even Ray’s pokey dad instantly learns to drive like a NASCAR legend. Who wouldn’t want an artifact like that?
And that’s the problem. Everyone wants it.

By everyone, that doesn’t just mean the enemies Ray knows about, like the secret society that controls half of Centerville. It also means black-suited squads of mysterious government agents who will stop at nothing to get the dagger for their own agenda. And worst of all, it means the new kid at school, Finn Chatsworth—a genius level super-bully that wants much, much more than to make Ray’s life miserable.

If Ray isn’t careful, he’s going to lose everything—the dagger, his freedom, his family, his friendship with Clancy… and even the one thing he never asked for: his destiny as The Shining One.

BY OTIS ADELBERT KLINE AND ALLEN S. KLINE, PUBLISHED AND A INTRODUCED BY D. JASON FLEMING: The Secret Kingdom (Annotated): The classic pulp lost civilization adventure

Scientist-adventurer Alfred Bell didn’t go to the unexplored depths of the Amazon for adventure, not even for glory — he simply wanted to find and catalog species of flora and fauna the civilized world hadn’t yet discovered. But when he finds a man about to be attacked by a wild beast, he doesn’t hesitate, and with a rifle shot he saves a life and forever alters his own.

For Bell didn’t just save a man, but a king, a king of a civilization that does not want to be found by the outside world. Being imprisoned in a hidden mountain city wasn’t such a bad deal, though — after all, the king was his buddy, and suddenly having six adoring wives could have been worse. Now if only the high priest of the kingdom wasn’t trying to kill him…

    This iktaPOP Media edition includes a new introduction giving genre and historical context to the novel.

FROM LINDSAY PETERSEN: The Reluctant Chrononaut

Kate Thomason, twenty-first century healer, is snatched from an eight-handed clone massage in twenty-ninety-seven by H. G. Wells’ time machine. She awakes in Wells’ bedroom in eighteen-ninety-seven, wearing only a sheer peignoir. Whatever could Wells want her for? He tells her he can’t send her back; what shall she do in a world wholly foreign to her?
Soon Wells presents her at dinner to playwright Oscar Wilde, newspaperman Frank Harris, Professor Aronnax and others. Kate’s scandalous bodice isn’t the only thing on the guests’ minds that evening; Professor Aronnax proposes taking the Nautilus to hunt for the Loch Ness Monster.
The gentlemen are all for the adventure. But what of Kate? Why would she risk such an adventure? The only people she knows will be leaving her alone in London, and her healing skills might be needed on this expedition which all agree will court danger. Surely her skill and modern scientific attitude will serve the expedition well!
This is the first entry in a series of six; the others are free for the cost of your e-mail.


Food and drink for sale; snark for free…

It’s hard to be a god nobody believes in, sometimes. Especially when one spends their days trying to quietly go about his or her life in a world that barely remembers the myths surrounding the old Greek gods, but where some religions still follow the old Norse gods.


Charlotte Fisher lives under colliding skies.

It’s the second half of the twenty-first century, and mankind has reached Earth orbit but not much farther. Orbital debris is a by-product of the industrial activity, and it’s dangerous both to everyone up there and the bottom lines of the corporations offering a prize to get rid of it.

Charlotte heads up a team chasing the Manx Prize for the first successful, controlled de-orbit of a dead satellite. To win, she and her team must out-think and out-engineer a cheating competitor, dodge a collusive regulator, and withstand the temptations offered by a large and powerful seastead.

The sky’s not the limit. It’s the challenge.

If you like hard science fiction, impossible odds, and a touch of romance, you’ll love Laura Montgomery’s Manx Prize. Buy Manx Prize to join the race for space today!

FROM MARY CATELLI: Sorcery and Kings.

Tales of wonder and magic.

A fire master must find a magical starter of fires.

A mysterious queen holds a ball in a city filled with magic.

Magic of roses and gold are needed to fight a dreadful war.

An oath keeps a ghost captive.


Everywhere Evangeline looks, a thin coating of ice makes objects gleam in the sunlight. However, the beauty proves deceptive, for it hides a deadly secret, one only she can recognize.

In her youth, Evangeline had aspired ot master the powerful magics of her world. Those dreams died the day her Gift awakened uncontrolled and plunged her into a vision of a full fleet battle. The Admiral’s Gift will not be denied, and for Evangeline there was no choice but to trade her mage’s robes for Navy blue.

Now she is faced with an enemy she cannot fight save by magic. Except those who bear the Admiral’s gift are forever barred from working magic.


The latest book, collecting thoughts and essays that have brought us to this point. I keep trying to analyze why we’re here and what to do about it. No idea if that does any good but it’s obviously what I’m here for. We never expected to end up to this sort of existence. I’m trying to promote going on strike and fighting back. At this point, it’s basically all I have to offer.

There’s also comic strips on the B-side, collecting all the work I’ve done on The Struggling to this point. I was just a couple of minor jokes I killed time with in 2015 on my last Army deployment, but all of a sudden I’ve been adding more. They’re basically the same topics as covered on the A-side of the book, just, y’know, as comic strips.


There’s something about the Cowboy that speaks to us all. So it only makes sense that, as humans expand into space, they’re going to bring their Cowboys with them.

Join 10 authors as they explore what Space Cowboys would look like, why we love them, and how they deal with the livestock that travels with humanity.

On the fifteenth there will be a novella called Lights Out and Cry in the shifters series. I didn’t mean for it to be essential in the sequence, but…. well, it is. And I meant to have it up for pre-order today, but whatever has been getting to me (probably autoimmune, judging by the eczema flare) has floored me since about noon yesterday. So I’m going to load up on Benadryl and go back to bed. (Nothing to be worried about, just part of my body’s ongoing attempt to off me. It’s failed for 60 years so, so far so good.) But except for my going over copyedits it’s ready to go so I’ll have it up by Wednesday. Hopefully I’ll remember to promote. — SAH.

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: HOLIDAY

Your Lying Eyes

Sometime ago — and forgive me, I’m too lazy and pressed for time (both) to go looking for it — I read a study on memory that was appalling. Appalling because apparently memory is more pliable and plastic than we thought.

By plastic, of course, I mean it is moldable. And what mostly seems to mold it stories.

You hear a story from someone, and you incorporate it in your own story. If something particularly interesting happened to a friend or relative and you heard it often enough, you might GENUINELY think it happened to you. Not a lie, as such (which is why even though the woman lies with every word including the and a, I cut a lot of slack on Clinton’s story of landing in Sarajevo under fire) but your memory being rewritten with bits so cool and interesting, which you imagined happening so vividly that they overrode your own memory of a similar event and got aggregated.

This is particularly true if you watch something on TV. Or a lot of somethings that look the same. Or if you read something, and are the type who lives through events they read about.

This explains why, in my brief stint as editor (I hate editing. I’ll do it, if needed, but I hate it and will go on hating it till the end of time) I kept running across scenes that read the same. They were usually the type of scenes that no suburban kid/young adult had ever seen except on TV repeatedly: A strip club. A knife fight. An encounter with “poor” or “alienated” people. They all read the same. And they all felt like something from a TV show from the seventies or eighties. The knife fights were carefully scripted (ah); there would be sawdust on the strip club’s floor (hello westerns) and/or the hicks were… well, they were straight from Shakespeare, really and dumb as rocks, and interchangeable, because othering “hicks in the provinces” is something that’s been a part of English culture, forever, apparently. They were also, all three utterly impossible. But it was the sameness that got to you.

(I think this is the at the root of the advice to write what you know, but the problem with that — other than the fact that it banishes vast swathes of imagination and adventure — is that people really think they know these things. They’ve seen them. They’re read about them. They’re entered into the memory as if they existed.)

Worse, because most of the news-entertainment-industrial complex are some of the most provincial people in all of human civilization (probably second only to someone raised in middle of Rome at its peak) and have no idea that other ides/forms of thought/ways of living are even possible (even while claiming to value diversity) the story we get from everything we read and watch — or the story we used to get, before blogs and citizen reporters were a thing — built this unified idea of reality that melded with our back brain, so that it was “the truth.”

(As a side passing thing, i wonder how much of the sexual harassment #metoo brought up in women older than I was even true. Look, yeah, Hollywood was bad. But in the business world there would be a normal amount of decent human beings, presumably. So… It seemed to be an excess of secretaries propositioned by their bosses, or felt up or whatever, which were scenes played for comedy in entertainment when I was a kid and before that. And I wonder. Not that it matters much at this point, when the women are vague and the men who might have done something are in retirement homes or dead, but when it’s all “he said” or “she said” it’s worth it stopping and not rushing to judgement. Even if the person making the accusation is sincere and convinced it is true.)

I was reminded of this as I read Phantom’s comment on Canada’s parents not objecting to drag queen story time or whatever. Because it might be true, of course. But then again, it might not.

Not only doesn’t Canada have many citizen bloggers — there are so many restrictions on speech, it’s not astounding — but Canada’s news-industrial establishment is far more regimented than ours. It, in fact, reports things in an absolutely scripted way. (Also they take things from our news and under the assumption our establishment is right-wing spin it further left.)

And then my question becomes: if parents strenuously objected, would you hear about it? Worse, do the parents dare object? (See the restrictions on free speech.)

Silence can be consent. Or it can not. (What it isn’t is aggression, which is what the left claims.) It can be fear of losing your job; being hounded out of your profession; having kids taken away from you; being slapped in jail.

In circumstances — and those of you in professions that have you in deep cover should also remember this — in which speech is prohibited, of agreement required, you don’t know if everyone else around you feels the same or doesn’t.

The indications will be subtle. At the national level, beyond the breakthrough of things like parents protesting insane school curriculum, we have the speed at which Let’s go Brandon became a thing; the fact that “right wing” even demonized institutions and businesses go viral, while left wing attempts to imitate the success always fizzle. The votes which counter the narrative so much they routinely force the left to fraud to unbelievable amounts.

But you still have the memory overlay of every show, ever commercial, ever news article, all of them carefully curated to make you buy the left’s view of the world.

So, you know, I read mysteries in which the homeless are always people down on their luck, who had good jobs, but were done wrong by the man. While there are homeless families (usually temporarily) who just fell through every crack possible, this is by no means most of the homeless population. And all of us know that, particularly as once pleasant cities get destroyed by the plague of locusts.

But do the writers do this consciously? No. They have “encountered” in their minds so many of these “homeless” who were decent people down on their luck that they are the characters that show up. And that in turn shapes other people.

Part of the sense people have that things are falling apart is that the news-entertainment facade used to be really impenetrable here too. So, you know, you got the impression that everyone agreed with the promulgated reality. “Everyone knew” a lot of things that really just weren’t so, but we had no idea because no one dared tell the truth and which had been repeated so much most people thought they were the truth. And those who were alive through the upheavals/whatever had incorporated it into their memories.

So you know, things like “FDR saved us from the great depression. Or Ford was clumsy and incompetent. Or Reagan was extreme right wing or– Just became part of the zeitgeist. People remember it happening that way.

There was a consensus reality and the fact that it wasn’t true didn’t mean anything, because it was consensus.

So, you know, when you get the feeling everything is falling apart remember what’s breaking is the consensus reality. The “everybody knows” which the more I poke about it the more I find had not even a vague glance of truth in it.

Trust your lying eyes. Trust the bits when reality, sharp, jagged and un-reconstructed breaks through the smooth facade of what they want you to believe. Pay attention to things that don’t fit.

Keep believing your lying eyes even if everyone around you seems to have embarked on an elaborate and senseless kabuki play of constructed reality. (The clue that you’re right and they’re wrong is when the numbers don’t add up, like during Covid; or the composition of the homeless in your local big city’s sidewalk for that matter.)

Because the truth is confusing, uncomfortable, and doesn’t fit a smooth story. That’s what makes it the truth. And not the stories “Everybody knows” because they’ve been dropped into their memories and obscured reality.

Don’t assume your co-citizens are idiots. Assume they are isolated by false news and confusing memories.

Most of them are not irredeemable. And the “consensus truth” is splintering because it simply doesn’t work.

Be not afraid.

(And keep your clothes and weapons where you can find them in the dark.)