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Sarah Hoyt

Sarah Hoyt lives in Colorado with her husband, two sons and too many cats. She has published Darkship Thieves and 16 other novels, and over 100 short stories. Writing non-fiction is a new, daunting endeavor. For more on Sarah and samples of her writing, look around at Sarah A. Hoyt.com or check out her writing and life blog at According to Hoyt.com.
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How Low Can the Nobel Peace Prize Go?

Friday, October 4th, 2013 - by Sarah Hoyt
Nominated for Nobel Peace Prize.

Nominated for Nobel Peace Prize.

And in other news, the Nobel Peace Prize still lacks all credibility. According to the Washington Times:

Russian President Vladimir Putin was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize by an advocacy group that credits him with bringing about a peaceful resolution to the Syrian-U.S. dispute over chemical weapons.

The Russian advocacy group International Academy of Spiritual Unity and Cooperation of Peoples of the World nominated Mr. Putin, characterizing his forged agreement with Syrian President Bashar Assad — to turn over admitted chemical weapons cache to international authorities — a world-class and prize-worthy piece of diplomacy, United Press International reported.

The group also took a dig at the United States.

While announcing the nomination during a press conference in Moscow, group officials said Mr. Putin deserved the Peace Prize much more than President Obama, who won the recognition in 2009.

Um… that group name sounds a lot like a survival from USSR Communist times. They were big on unity and the cooperation of peoples — on paper — while they positioned the boot just right to crush the unwary’s windpipe. But to give the devil his due, you cannot deny that Putin deserves the Nobel Peace Prize more than Obama did.

Putin might be a tyrant, a dictator, and responsible for the oppression of innocents in his own land and abroad, but he does do more than look good and say he’s not Bush.  Which is all Obama did to win the Nobel Peace Prize.

We live in very funny times, for anyone with an appreciation of black humor.

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In Iran, Men Can Now Marry Adoptive Daughters

Thursday, October 3rd, 2013 - by Sarah Hoyt
Who will speak for the young women of Iran?

Who will speak for the young women of Iran?

According to an article in yesterday’s Washington Times, Iran has passed a law which, if ratified by the “Guardian council,” would allow men to marry their adopted daughters once the child reaches the age of 13.

This might seem like a non-event, since the law currently already allows for the marriage of girls at the age of 13 with their father’s consent. But if you realize that Iran allows for polygamy and that a stepdaughter most certainly counts as an “adopted daughter,” the evils of the law will become evident.

Children’s rights activists are alarmed, The Guardian in the United Kingdom reported.

“This bill is legalizing pedophilia,” said Shadi Sadr, a human rights lawyer for Justice for Iran, a legal group headquartered in London. “It’s not part of the Iranian culture to marry your adopted child. Obviously incest exists in Iran more or less as it happens in other countries across the world. But this bill is legalizing pedophilia and is endangering our children and normalizing this crime in our culture.”

Lest we forget or wish to pretend all cultures are alike and that Iran is a civilized and reasonable country.

*****

Image courtesy Shutterstock ©Pete Sherrard

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Putting Time and Effort into your Creative Life

Saturday, September 28th, 2013 - by Sarah Hoyt

Organizing your Creative Life in 13 Weeks, Week Thirteen

When organizing your creative life try not to get to this stage.  It plays havoc with creativity.

When organizing your creative life try not to get to this stage. It plays havoc with creativity.

So, we’re coming to the end of this series.  How did it work out?  Did it organize my creative life?

It was a good start.  I’m not by any means perfect yet at applying Getting Things Done (particularly the part about putting things on paper and out of my head, so they don’t cause stress.)  And sometimes I forget my penguin timer, or deliberately leave him behind, particularly if I’m going to be writing in a room with another person.

Still, these 13 weeks helped me at least start retraining my brain into working for longer stretches of time, after the years of “induced ADHD” brought about by working while watching small children.

I am producing more copy and working better and were it not for having contracted a massive sinus infection which then doubled back and hit both ears and my throat, I’d probably have finished Through Fire, now overdue to Baen Books, who publish my Space Opera series.

Instead, I’ll have to keep applying the methods to finishing the novel as soon as possible, once I’m over this upper respiratory infection thing.

Yes, I know I thought I was getting better last week, but then it doubled down.  In the meantime I had to fly to Texas, where I’m teaching a workshop this weekend at the Bedford Library, and that in turn seems to have caused a serious worsening of my condition.  I spent yesterday sleeping, and today I’m only working at about half power.  Those who know me will know how serious this is, since I need to be very ill indeed to not even try to work.

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You Really Should Take it Slow While Recovering

Saturday, September 21st, 2013 - by Sarah Hoyt
Have you no mercy?  I've just written 100 pages of relentless action!

Have you no mercy? I’ve just written 100 pages of relentless action!

Organizing your Creative Life in Thirteen Weeks — week 12

One of the things that’s hardest to remember is that you don’t get over illness like switching a light off.

At least it’s one of the hardest things to remember for me. And it’s really hard to remember – or to believe – for any writer how… physically demanding writing can be.

I remember a time, when the kids were still very small, and I was writing a military fantasy novel.  It involved a series of battles.  I’d spend the morning writing and afterwards I’d be exhausted and so hungry that the only thing I could do was call for pizza.  And I don’t like pizza. But there simply was no way I could cook after – as it felt – spending the morning slogging through hip-deep mud, and crossing ravines on suspended ropes.

Of course, in real life I hadn’t been doing any of that, but my body seemed to think I had. And the funny thing is I never gained weight from all those pizzas.

Perhaps there is something to research which seems to indicate that imagining something in extreme detail has the same effect on the muscles.  (And yes, I’ve tried to convince myself I can just imagine walking three miles a day, particularly in the middle of winter when imagining it is less likely to give me hypothermia.  Unfortunately imagining something with that kind of detail means almost living through it… which pretty much means writing it.  And writing a walk of three miles a day might get a little tedious for the reader.)

Time after time, when I’m mentoring writers, I come across this effect.  The first time they have a breakthrough in writing action, and write a big fight scene or dangerous slog through the wilderness, they are surprised at how tired it makes them.  I tell them it’s perfectly normal.

But I forget it is perfectly normal when it comes to my being able to write for long periods of time, or in a very focused way when I’m just recovering from illness.

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Why Digital Rights Management is a Bad Idea

Wednesday, September 18th, 2013 - by Sarah Hoyt
From whom are you protecting that content?

From whom are you protecting that content?

Or The Fine Art of Making your Customers into Criminals

It must have been in 2000 or around there, when I had just three short stories out and electronic books seemed a thing of the distant future or perhaps of the shady present, that I for the first and last time endorsed some form of digital rights management and donated money to Harlan Ellison’s quixotic attempts to hunt down pirates.

Within the year I’d realized not just the futility of these efforts and that I’d not lose any money – not real money I might have earned – to these acts of piracy, and might in fact acquire some new readers (though given the demographics of pirating and reading, this is not highly likely either.)

It didn’t take me much longer to understand the dangers of applying digital rights management to your property and thereby not only making it difficult for the customer to purchase it and enjoy it, but also implicitly accusing your customer of intended dishonesty.

Lest anyone accuse me of endorsing piracy or even having pirated books: I will confess somewhat shamefacedly that I have never in my life attempted to pirate or copy a book that wasn’t legitimately mine.

I am in fact so ridiculously aware of how little most writers make, and how much pleasure they give me that I often try to compensate them for books they were already paid for.  Back in the days when I was dead flat broke and could not afford even a paperback without feeding my family pancakes for dinner for a week, I cruised the “rejects” of the used bookstores nearby every week.  This was the bookshelf where books that were either too battered or too strange to be saleable were abandoned by former owners who couldn’t trade them in for credit.  I spent the early nineties happily reading tattered gothic romances and nineteenth century biology manuals, because it was better than not reading.  Yes, most of those books were awful – but every once in a while I found one that seemed exceptionally well written.  If the author was still alive, I would send a fan letter to the publisher, and inside it a dollar bill, for the pleasure the author had given me.  (I never got an answer, and I wonder how many authors I confused.)

My first run in with Digital Rights Management was not in books, but in music.  I can no longer remember the details, so bear with me.

Like most writers, I often need a specific piece of music to write to.

As I was trying to write the opening of a novel, I realized the “soundtrack” at the back of my mind was of a British album that I’d last heard in the middle eighties.  I also realized having the album would make the chapter easier to write.  So, I start hunting for it, to find it, both used on Amazon in CD, and for download in this small music service that had just been acquired by one of the giants of the field.

I hated spending the (extra) money to have it in electronic right then, but I wanted to send the proposal to my agent the next day.  So I bit the bullet and bought the album electronic.

It downloaded, DRMed and with a password that would supposedly unlock the album.  I tried it.  It wouldn’t unlock.  I tried again.  Still wouldn’t unlock.  I called customer service and was told “so sorry, with our being bought those codes are messed up, so here is the new code.”  I tried that and, ta-da, the album opened, revealing the song titles.  I thanked the customer service representative, hung up, and cued the music to play on the computer.

The first song starts and a pop up appears – the code isn’t right, so they think I pirated the album, and are locking up the rest of the album.

I call customer representatives again.  “It shouldn’t be doing that.”

Two hours later, I realize I will not be able to listen to that music or finish my chapter that day, tell them I want to return the album for a refund, and I order the (much cheaper) used CD from Amazon.

In my mind that experience will always stand for “the joys of Digital Rights Management” and I will always remember my fury at being accused of stealing something I’d in fact gone through a great deal of trouble to purchase.

I’ve heard of people who have gone through the same experiences with books.  In fact, I’ve found myself frustrated trying to buy a digital book that was only available for a device I didn’t own.  If the book has no digital rights management software it is possible to buy it and to convert it to the device you do have.  Otherwise, the book is inaccessible to you and might in fact disappear forever if your device breaks down.

Audible, which I adore, has pulled this sort of thing on me, by their “three devices” rule.  Since they insist on downloading into my computer’s player (where I do not want them) this restricts me to two of my mp3 players, and when one of those broke on me, I had to go through a great deal of trouble to activate another one.

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Great Britain Embraces Plastic Money

Tuesday, September 17th, 2013 - by Sarah Hoyt
For preservation of your money, do not leave it near a window in summer; or store close to the stove!  Carrying it in your pocket during a hot date is entirely up to you.

For preservation of your money, do not leave it near a window in summer; or store close to the stove! Carrying it in your pocket during a hot date is entirely up to you.

Remember when the derogatory word of the sixties was “plastic”?  To say something was plastic signified it was fake or not quite what it pretended to be.

Well, Great Britain is now all set to embrace plastic money.  And though it will cost more to produce and be more slippery (insert joke here) the money should last longer, be water proof, and of course, be considerably easier to clean.

Charlie Bean, deputy governor, said: “Polymer banknotes are cleaner, more secure and more durable than paper notes. They are also cheaper and more environmentally friendly. However, the Bank would print notes on polymer only if we were persuaded that the public would continue to have confidence in, and be comfortable with, our notes.”

The Bank said it has been researching potential materials for the past three years. When it put its printing contract out to tender last year, bidders were told they would need to be able to use a variety of materials.

Britain’s De La Rue currently has the contract, but rival bidders are thought to include Munich-based printing giant Giesecke & Devrient; Landqart – the bank note division of Canadian wallpaper and pulp company Fortress Paper; Note Printing Australia, a division of the Reserve Bank of Australia; UK-based Innovia Film’s subsidiary Securency; and France’s Oberthur.

Bidders have to demonstrate that they can print 500m notes a year at a single site, and will need back-up premises. Last year, the Bank produced 1.3bn new notes and notes in circulation were worth £58bn. Some 845m notes were destroyed.

However, for all the virtues of plastic, there remains the feeling that it is “slippery” in more ways than one, and not quite the thing.

The UK has toyed with the idea in the past. A plastic £5 note was launched in Northern Ireland to mark the millennium but it did not catch on.

Mark Carney, the Bank’s Governor, introduced polymer notes to Canada in 2011 when he was Bank of Canada Governor. Canadians were not immediately smitten, as they found the notes hard to separate and preferred their “folding stuff” to fold.

Still and all, apparently New Zealand, Mexico, Singapore, Canada and Mauritius have made the switch to plastic.  I wonder if we’re next.  Though for an adequate representation of our money’s value we’d need something less durable than plastic.  Kleenex.  Or perhaps hot air.

******

Image Courtesy Shutterstock.com, © t.peter photodesign-tp de

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Oh, the Wonders of Postmodern Marriage!

Monday, September 16th, 2013 - by Sarah Hoyt
If you have to look through the keyhole, you probably shouldn't.

If you have to look through the keyhole, you probably shouldn’t.

The Telegraph assures us breathlessly that we humans have an insatiable curiosity over other people’s intimate affairs.

I overhear snippets of conversation from the open kitchen window that always make me wonder why two people who clearly dislike one another intensely stay together.

“Don’t you dare use that against me!” was one blast of unhappiness that drifted out into the crisp morning air last weekend. Back in July, the exchange was still more venomous. “Why don’t you just tell me what you want me to do, and I’ll do it,” snapped a man’s voice. “It would make things a hell of a lot easier if you did,” the woman sniped back with a mirthless laugh.

From the heavy build-up of resentment in their voices – and the name beside their doorbell – I know that they’re married.

The Telegraph’s Celia Warden leaps from this to explanations of why she finds herself fascinated by what is objectively none of her business:

Modern life has made things still more titillating. With gender roles having changed so dramatically over the past few decades, there’s no longer a single set of rules for husbands and wives to abide by – whatever the guy in the dog-collar gets you to repeat after him on your wedding day.

I know couples who get off on arguments (of the non-physical variety, I should add); men who relish being handbagged to within an inch of their pathetic little lives; and women I had pitied for marrying serial adulterers who turned out to have known all along and were simply relieved that their husbands had a distraction.

We’re a complicated bunch. We buy into the whimsical, Hollywoodian portrayal of romance while remaining chillingly pragmatic about its interpretation. In fact, today’s marriages (and relationships) are more like company mergers than Richard Curtis movies. When they do dissolve, it’s more likely to be because of a dire performance report produced on Excel PowerPoint by both or either party than any abstract, emotional reason.

Having grown up in a village and read Shakespeare, I’d like to inform the over-thinking Ms. Warden that all this is “same as it ever was,” both the infinite variety of human relationships and the intense curiosity of their neighbors.  It is my experience this type of article is usually an attempt to cover up behavior everyone knows is wrong by saying “things are so complicated now.”  And on the heels of it comes the desire to look into other people’s lives for their own good.

I’d like everyone to take a deep breath.  Humans have been forming relationships and families for a long time.  Every form of happiness is well known, and every form of unhappiness too.  And no mater how curious you are about other people’s private lives, they remain none of your business.  Doing so will be best for everyone’s relationships, including yours with your neighbors.

****

Image courtesy shutterstock.com ©conrado

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Michelle Obama Wants You to Drink Enough

Saturday, September 14th, 2013 - by Sarah Hoyt
Water or vodka?  You decide.  Michelle Obama will NEVER know!

Water or vodka? You decide. Michelle Obama will NEVER know!

With her husband stymied on the world stage and pivoting (yet again) to the economy, the first lady is once again passionately concerned with what you eat and drink.

First healthy eating, now healthy drinking. First lady Michelle Obama has teamed up with Hollywood star — and potato-chip promoter — Eva Longoria to push Americans to drink more water.

The pair is set to kick off the water-drinking push at a high school in the aptly named Watertown, Wisc., community on Thursday, The Hill reported. It’s the next step in Mrs. Obama’s “Let’s Move!” campaign to fight obesity rates around the nation and especially among America’s youth.

Fear not, dear ladies.  Given that even the best Scotch has some percentage of water, and given that reading the news these days is best done anesthetized, and given Michelle Obama’s indefatigable hectoring, I predict that by the end of the Obama presidency, I’ll be up to Stephen Green‘s levels of alcohol  er… water consumption.
Image courtesy shutterstock.com, © Aivolie

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Winding Down And Knowing When You’re Sick

Saturday, September 14th, 2013 - by Sarah Hoyt
Haven't I been here before?  Didn't I hate it every time?

Haven’t I been here before? Didn’t I hate it every time?

Organizing Your Creative Life In 13 weeks, week 11

Prolific science fiction novelist Sarah Hoyt follows up her “Your Novel in 13 Weeks” PJ Lifestyle series with a new weekly experiment each Saturday to figure out the best way for all creative types working from home to better organize their efforts.

Week Zero, Introduction: Organizing Your Creative Life In 13 Weeks

Week 1/2, Preparation: The Case For Making Lots of Lists

Week One: How to Make Your Mind Like Water

Week Two: What Are the Best Apps For Artists and Writers Desperate To Get Work Done? 

Week Three: The Lone Writer Against The Time Masters

Week Four: How to Tame Your Subconscious

Week Five: How Separating When and Where You Do Tasks Improves Both Productivity and Quality of Work!

Week Six: Organizing your Life is Like Learning to Juggle Eggs and Chainsaws

Week Seven: 4 Tips So You Don’t Organize Yourself to Death

Week Eight: Organizing your Writing Life When Words Fail You

Week Nine: After an Upset in Your Routine Catching Up Is Hard to Do 

Week Ten: If You’re Trying to Do Two Things at Once, Pick One

****

Sometimes I think I suffer from very specialized kinds of memory issues that relate only to symptoms and to how my body works.

At least I hope they’re very specialized memory issues, because if this starts affecting all my memory I’m in serious trouble.

As I’m working on organizing my creative life, which in my case is also my professional life by using Getting Things Done, a penguin timer and a bunch of note cards, I hit a mid-size snag.  It’s a snag I’ve hit before, when working on other projects, and yet somehow it took me a few days to figure out what it was.

The week started very well on Monday, with me feeling energized and full of concentration.  I figured out what I’d been doing wrong with Through Fire and edited the first chapter. Then I got some stuff edited to go up and listed to the lecture on publicity by Dean Wesley Smith.

It looked like the week was going to go very well.

Maybe.

And then I woke up on Tuesday feeling exhausted.  One of those mornings when you go “can I sleep another day or ten?”

I attributed it to the approach of nine eleven and our truly bizarrely tangled national politics.  I tried to slug through the day, but all I got done was the piece for PJ Media.

Wednesday was bad, but again I thought “oh, this is just the result of its being 9/11.  I’m allowed some grief and depression.”

But on Thursday it felt pretty much the same, only with a curious new symptom.  I had the ideas in my head, I knew exactly what I should be doing, but I couldn’t somehow muster enough strength to take the words in my head and put them on paper.  I was also having trouble concentrating on such demanding tasks as emptying the dishwasher or folding clothes.

At which point from the dim depths of my memory I got the feeling “I’ve been in this place before.”

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When the Nation Won’t Cry

Wednesday, September 11th, 2013 - by Sarah Hoyt

shutterstock_119381593

I’ve been trying to write all day, and not managing anything.  So I went shopping to my local grocery store, in a mini-mall with a jewelry store, a liquor store, that kind of thing – and I found myself looking at it and tearing up as though I were looking at an album of ancient and treasured photographs or thinking of the good old days.

I should add, perhaps, that this little mini-mall stays festooned with American flags and red, white, and blue ribbons until the time comes for holiday decorations.

It’s an overcast day with a sense of impending thunder.  There’s a sickly sweet golden light on the landscape that made this suburban neighborhood look as though dipped in sepia.

But none of that justifies my sense of looking at a lost world, of wanting to get back there again.

Nor does it explain what I now realize has been a sense of spinning, passive depression making it hard for me to write in the last week.

I’m not naturally pessimistic about the future of America. If I were, I wouldn’t be here, I wouldn’t have signed on to become an American.

Even now, I don’t feel we’re down for the count, or circling the drain, or in decline. But I feel we have really bad leadership and we might be in for tough times ahead.

Still, it is not like me to be this teary eyed, this pre-nostalgic for everyday living.

And then I realized what the problem is.  When we are writing, we have a saying about high-emotion scenes: if your character doesn’t cry when horrible things happen, then the reader has to.

I think this is what I’m going through just now, as 9/11 is upon us.

The first 9/11/2001 was bad enough.

First came the fear.  My husband wasn’t home, and I feared he wouldn’t make it home safely.  Remember how we were all afraid that there were more and bigger attacks to follow?

Then came grief, as there were no survivors, as the notes of people looking for the missing went unanswered, as the stories of the people on the planes trickled out.

Then came anger — seething anger, as it seemed to me we went cap-in-hand to the UN and got treated as though we had it coming.

But all through it, at least, even when I wanted to put something through the screen when our president made what seemed to me inadequate noises about our enemy, the nation was grieving.  They were right there, along with me, knowing what we’d lost.

Then came the disappearance of the pictures of 9/11 from all public venues, for fear they would make us angry.  I don’t understand this, and it feels like a wound I can’t heal.  We should be angry.  We should also remember those we lost, and how innocent they were, how undeserving of the hell visited upon them.

Then came 9/11/11, and our president saying we should be “over” it and asking why should we keep celebrating it. I remembered a sign on the hills of Pennsylvania when I visited as an exchange student in the early eighties, bearing the date of Pearl Harbor and Never Forget.

When is it too much to remember an injury that killed three thousand citizens?  Shouldn’t we wait at least until the same enemy no longer threatens us?

And then came 9/11/2012, the attack on our embassy in Benghazi, the death in the dark of four brave men, the lies of the administration about it.

In a way it was worse than 9/11/2001.  Fewer people died, but our own country seemed to side with the enemy to minimize their deaths, to forget them, to pretend we’d never been hit.  To pretend it was nothing.

It reminded me of when I was in Portugal and Operation Eagle Claw – Jimmy Carter’s attempt to rescue the hostages in the Iranian embassy – failed and the brave men who attempted it died.  Somehow, even then feeling like a dislocated American I felt the grief and the horror, and couldn’t bear it that all around me were people laughing at the “Americans being taught a lesson.”

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When The Hero Dog Cocked His Leg to A Nazi Bomb in WWII

Monday, September 9th, 2013 - by Sarah Hoyt
shutterstock_137068166

Modern Great Danes stand ready to protect their people, just as Juliana protected hers.

They also serve who only stand and whizz.

The Telegraph reports the story of Juliana a Great Dane who saved her owner and family from Nazi bombs in London, not once but twice during WWII.

Juliana, a Great Dane, leapt into action after the device fell through the roof of her owner’s house in 1941.

It is thought that she put out the flames by standing over the bomb, lifting her leg and emptying her bladder.

Three years later the courageous pet alerted customers to a fire that was ripping through her owner’s shoe shop, earning her another Blue Cross Medal for courage.

Juliana’s story was only revealed when auctioneers carrying out a house clearance at a property in Bristol discovered the second medal plus a portrait of the pet.

A plaque attached to the picture reads: “Juliana – awarded a medal for extinguishing an incendiary bomb April 1941. Awarded another for alerting the occupants of her master’s burning shop November 1944.”

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On the Death of Frederic Pohl, Science Fiction Grandmaster

Sunday, September 8th, 2013 - by Sarah Hoyt

POHL-1-obit-articleLarge-v2

Frederic Pohl died this week.  He was the last of the authors I grew up reading.  I won’t lie and say he was my favorite, but I have one poignant memory of him.

It was 2000 and I’d just sold my first series, the Magical Shakespeare trilogy.  I wasn’t incredibly young, at thirty eight, but I was relatively young for a published author.  (As Charlie mentions in Book Plug Friday, it used to be a long slog to even break in to publishing.)

There was a large “newly published” class who had just broken in. We were ebullient; we thought we were headed to success, and we hung out in a large, noisy group, hitting all the parties together.

At one of the parties, we were all making jokes and laughing, and I looked over and realized that Frederic Pohl was sitting alone in a corner looking at picture someone had tacked up on the wall of all the greats together: Heinlein, Asimov, Pol Anderson and, yes, Frederic Pohl. I went over and he gestured to the picture and told me “they’re all gone.  All of them.”

It was moment of reminder of the cycles of science fiction: the young authors who come in, should they live long enough, will be the last ones standing from their generation.

Thirteen years later, most of my friends who broke in with me are sidelined, and can no longer get published, or gave up writing altogether.  And Frederic Pohl has gone forth hopefully to where his old friends gave him an uproarious welcome.

The Telegraph eulogized him as a man who shattered utopias:

Mr. Pohl was involved in publishing since he was a teenager, when he served as a literary agent for his science fiction-writing young friends. He went on to edit magazines and books before finding renown as a writer, often with collaborators.

Perhaps the most famous of his anti-utopian novels was “The Space Merchants,” a prescient satire that Mr. Pohl wrote in the early 1950s with Cyril M. Kornbluth. More than a decade before the surgeon general’s report on smoking and health, the authors imagined a future dominated by advertising executives who compete to hook consumers on interlocking chains of addictive products. One such chain is started by a few mouthfuls of Crunchies.

While I didn’t see eye to eye with Frederic Pohl on politics, later on at a dinner, in that 2000 World Con, he told me that Robert A. Heinlein’s The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress, arguably my favorite novel was “the best novel ever written.” For which clear sighted vision he’ll always have my admiration.

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If You’re Trying to Do Two Things at Once, Pick One

Saturday, September 7th, 2013 - by Sarah Hoyt
It makes for a very exciting way to start a book, but I could use a little less excitement in real life.

It makes for a very exciting way to start a book, but I could use a little less excitement in real life.

Organizing your Creative Life in Thirteen Weeks, Week 10

Prolific science fiction novelist Sarah Hoyt follows up her “Your Novel in 13 Weeks” PJ Lifestyle series with a new weekly experiment each Saturday to figure out the best way for all creative types working from home to better organize their efforts.

Week Zero, Introduction: Organizing Your Creative Life In 13 Weeks

Week 1/2, Preparation: The Case For Making Lots of Lists

Week One: How to Make Your Mind Like Water

Week Two: What Are the Best Apps For Artists and Writers Desperate To Get Work Done? 

Week Three: The Lone Writer Against The Time Masters

Week Four: How to Tame Your Subconscious

Week Five: How Separating When and Where You Do Tasks Improves Both Productivity and Quality of Work!

Week Six: Organizing your Life is Like Learning to Juggle Eggs and Chainsaws

Week Seven: 4 Tips So You Don’t Organize Yourself to Death

Week Eight: Organizing your Writing Life When Words Fail You

Week Nine: After an Upset in Your Routine Catching Up Is Hard to Do 

********

Run!

Patricia Wentworth has a novel by that title.  Exclamation mark and all.  I don’t remember if this was her first book that I bought – I do remember that that book grabbed me right from the title, and since that was also the very first word on the book, it caught me and made me read it right to the end.

Putting your character in a situation where they must do or die right off the bat will grab the reader and not let go.  At least if you have the ability to keep the pace going the rest of the book.  (Okay, Wentworth slacks off a little.  She’s more romantic suspense than suspense.)

So, does this mean that I’ve given up on organizing my creative life and taken to dispensing writing advice again?

Not exactly.  I’m here to tell you that finding myself in the position of that character in that book is a lot less fun than it is reading about it.

No, I wasn’t lost in fog outside a creepy old house.  I didn’t hear steps behind me, and someone didn’t pass me, running, while yelling “run.”  Well, not literally.  In a metaphorical sense, it came pretty close.

The good news is that I’ve finally finished revising Witchfinder and sending it off to editors, including the real one (though it will come out from a small indie press, Goldport – mostly because even though I love Baen books, I want to keep a foot on the indie thing.  It’s a new avenue, and I like exploring.)

The bad news is that I’ve still not finished Through Fire, mostly through having tried to back up and do it from a different perspective.  Don’t go there.  Just don’t.

Part of the issue with the two books was something that I’ve heard of other writers running into: you’re working on a piece, which blocks the other piece you’d like to work on.  This happens.

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Sushmita Banerjee Told the Truth about Radical Islam and Got Shot

Friday, September 6th, 2013 - by Sarah Hoyt

Sushmita-Banerjee_2662814b

All the western feminists who keep talking about how they speak truth to power but who never talk about the real abuses against women that take place far, far away from their safe upscale enclaves and their safe upscale universities could take lessons in courage from Sushmita Banerjee.

The Indian woman wrote about escaping from the Taliban and her story was made into a Bollywood movie.  It is impossible that she didn’t know the potential for paying with her life for telling the truth. Now, the Telegraph reports:

Sushmita Banerjee, who only recently moved back to the country to be with her husband, was killed by Taliban gunmen outside her home, according to police in Paktika province.

Her body was riddled with more than 20 bullets and some of her hair had been ripped from her head, they said.

It is the latest in a string of attacks on prominent woman. The Taliban and other militant groups have kidnapped high-profile politicians, murdered female police officers and killed campaigners as they try to enforce their brutal form of Islam.

Western feminists need to speak up for women like Sushmita Banerjee instead of idolizing the barbarians who killed her, trying to rewrite the English language so the masculine form is banned, and engaging in ever-more-pointless attacks on males and masculinity.

If you want a future of equality for women, then the future must not belong to barbarians who kill women for telling the truth about militant Islam.

Photo: SEBASTIAN D’SOUZA/AFP

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After an Upset in Your Routine Catching Up Is Hard to Do

Saturday, August 31st, 2013 - by Sarah Hoyt

Organizing your Creative Life in 13 Weeks: Week 9

Like an upended turtle, it's not easy to get your creative life right side up after being upended.  But it can be done.

Like an upended turtle, it’s not easy to get your creative life right side up after being upended. But it can be done.

Prolific science fiction novelist Sarah Hoyt follows up her “Your Novel in 13 Weeks” PJ Lifestyle series with a new weekly experiment each Saturday to figure out the best way for all creative types working from home to better organize their efforts.

Week Zero, Introduction: Organizing Your Creative Life In 13 Weeks

Week 1/2, Preparation: The Case For Making Lots of Lists

Week One: How to Make Your Mind Like Water

Week Two: What Are the Best Apps For Artists and Writers Desperate To Get Work Done? 

Week Three: The Lone Writer Against The Time Masters

Week Four: How to Tame Your Subconscious

Week Five: How Separating When and Where You Do Tasks Improves Both Productivity and Quality of Work!

Week Six: Organizing your Life is Like Learning to Juggle Eggs and Chainsaws

Week Seven: 4 Tips So You Don’t Organize Yourself to Death

Week Eight: Organizing your Writing Life When Words Fail You

****

After the chaos that was last week, due to illness in what can only be called extended family – our friend is doing better, thank you – all I can say is that catching up is hard to do.

Yes, I had the techniques from combining Getting Things Done and The Pomodoro Technique.

The problem is as follows: I faced both a boatload of things not done, and the chaos of the week in which my sons returned to college, (with attendant difficulties in finding a given book, issues with parking permits, etc.) combined with this weird lassitude and inability to concentrate which I think is the aftermath of an emotional shock.

The combination made me forget to do the page proofs for a short story and the back-of-book text for the Omnibus of the first two of my shifter books Draw One In the Dark and Gentleman Takes a Chance.

Part of the reason these didn’t get done is that – because of the turmoil of the previous week – I never wrote them down on the index cards.  Mind you, I have the short story sitting right here on my desk, but I forgot to look at it.

Of course, this is because I violated one of the rules of Getting Things Done, which is that when you get an email you should either do it immediately (which would have been possible with either) or enter it in your system and note the priority on the calendar.  This was, of course, because I was what is technically known as “knocked for an emotional loop.”

Of course this is not new for either creative people nor frankly for mothers.  The world goes on, no matter what private shocks you suffer.  To the extent your private world – and both writing and motherhood can be extremely private in process if not in result – interact with other people’s commercial or personal activities, you’re going to have to learn to function when everything around you is falling apart.

It used to shock me that my mother could turn from, say, a problem with her parents’ health, to dealing with a client, and use her best business voice, and sound perfectly composed.

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German WWI Aces Kicked it Up

Friday, August 30th, 2013 - by Sarah Hoyt
WWI German Aces drinking champagne.

WWI German Aces drinking champagne.

Yes, I know, right now you’re wondering what is so surprising about that.  Apparently there has been a myth that German Aces of the Air were disciplined and dignified and only the British side kicked it up.

I am not sure how this myth can subsist, since — having studied the biography of the Red Baron for an eventual book — it is mentioned that Freiherr von Richthofen was unusually disciplined by refusing to unbutton his uniform or behave unseemly while in the officer’s mess.

So, this article from The Telegraph and the pictures (there are more pictures with the original article) did not surprise me at all when it said:

The black and white snaps depict the men in uniform having a roaring and raucous time in their mess, far removed from the hell and misery of the trenches on the Western Front.

The officers of the Imperial German Flying Corps are seen smoking cigars and cigarettes and having a good old knees up.

It did however raise some thoughts.  The Telegraph also says:

It is thought the album was seized as a souvenir by a British serviceman after the Germans surrendered in 1918 and was kept in his family.

It is being sold by Essex auctioneers Reeman Dansie and has a pre-sale estimate of £1,500.

James Grinter, of Reeman Dansie, said: “I have never seen anything like this photo album before.

“If it was a Royal Flying Corps album, then it would be rare but to have a German one from the same period is unheard of.

“The survival rate of these flyers was terrible and it looks like these men lived life to the full while they had the chance.

I beg to differ from James Grinter of Reeman Dansie.  These men were not living life to the full.  They were enjoying themselves as much as they could because they knew most of them would not get to live life to the full.  They’d never get to have spouses or children, or experience the joy of growing old and respected.  The fleeting happiness of champagne and songs were what they could have instead.

Equating revelry with “living life to the full” is what leads to songs about the joys of dying young and with the — sixties — notion of living fast and leaving a beautiful corpse. (All corpses are the same. Dead.)

What is important to remember is that whatever consolations these men — and their British counterparts — sought, they were volunteering to give their lives in service of an ideal each believed bigger than themselves.

And knowing that, I’m glad they got to enjoy a bit of champagne and song along the way.

This image, also from the album shows the grave of a German airman marked with a propeller.

This image, also from the album shows the grave of a German airman marked with a propeller.

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Daughter Trying to Free Dad She Once Accused of Rape

Wednesday, August 28th, 2013 - by Sarah Hoyt

shutterstock_131773748

If you follow the link to the New York Post, prepare to have your heart broken. There are no winners in this story. None.

At nine, Chaneya Kelly accused her dad of raping her. He was sentenced to forty years in jail. Now an adult, married, and a mother, she says her mother threatened her into making that accusation, her dad is innocent, and she’d like to see him set free.

In her 2002 letter, Chaneya said she should be the one behind bars.

“I feel guilty when I talk about it. I feel that I should be in prison instead of you,” she wrote.

In another letter, dated Oct. 2, 2006, Chaneya said she wished she “could change the past,” and noted the irony “that mommy would have been locked up for perjury charges” if Chaneya had only told the truth. That letter is signed “Daddy’s Big Girl, Neya.”

The insanity of assuming that any child making that accusation is telling the truth; the insanity of the idea that any accusation of abuse must have truth at its core is a sort of madness many — aware of the creation of false memories — are willing to shake off.  But there is something else at work here: that it doesn’t seem to have occurred to anyone that a mother (or any other adult with control of the child) could use the child as a weapon in a marital dispute or a divorce.

That is a form of blindness that must be unique to our times.  You could call it “mothers are always saintly.”  Future generations might laugh at us for this, but for this woman there is nothing funny.

At least, to quote from the Post, one of the actors in this tragedy is acting in a sane and responsible way:

But Chaneya yesterday told The Post that her dad doesn’t blame her, saying that when she first visited him in jail, “the first thing he did was hug me and tell me that he loved me and that none of this is my fault.”

*****
Photo illustration courtesy Shutterstock.com ©Naypong

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When Your Back Hurts, Is It Just Your Back?

Tuesday, August 27th, 2013 - by Sarah Hoyt
That pain on your back might be the physical manifestation of your stress!

That pain on your back might be the physical manifestation of your stress!

The magnificent Theodore Dalrymple, writing in The Telegraph about David Cameron’s back pain (and yes, you should read the whole thing), starts by empathizing,

As an occasional sufferer from lower back pain, I sympathise deeply with David Cameron, whose lumbago currently prevents him from pursuing deer on Jura. A bad back is an utter misery: there is no position that one can adopt for long that remains comfortable. It is like a nagging spouse: it demands attention and cannot be ignored.

But soon transcends that, going into an area often, justly, feared by modern medicine:

Regarding myself as psychologically robust rather than fragile, I was once rather humiliated to discover that my bouts of back pain had a considerable, not to say overwhelming, psychological component. I was in India, and due to return home in a few days, when I was stricken by severe pain that made it almost impossible to walk. There was concurrently a problem with my ticket, but I did not connect the two. The ticket had disappeared into the maw of the airline office (no internet then).

As someone who suffers from both eczema and asthma, I’m often reminded that very real ills of the physical body can come from stress or other emotional states.  So why do I say that area is justly feared?

Because there is a great temptation to consider ills as psychological if the symptoms are baffling. A doctor once attempted to diagnose an infection I was suffering from as depression because of certain baffling symptoms.  So this type of illness needs to be approached with care.

But does it happen? That is undeniable. Doctor Dalrymple mentions that many world leaders have become addicted to pain pills and other substances while trying to treat vaguely defined “somatized” complaints. Men under great stress show it in their bodies.Nothing to be surprised at. As Dalrymple says

In a giant textbook from 1917 entitled Malingering, dedicated (ironically?) to the author of the National Insurance Act, Lloyd George, we read: “Our views as to the nature of [backache] sadly lack precision, and up to now the condition has not been correlated with any anatomical lesion… It is easy to complain of ‘pain in the back’, difficult to establish the truth of the assertion – a fact of which the fraudulent-minded are well aware.” To this day private detectives are probably better at discerning the truth than radiographers.

Between anatomical lesion and fraud, however, there is a large no-man’s land, probably inhabited by Mr Cameron – and by me. Perhaps also he suffers from that well-known phenomenon, illness that comes on when busy people relax. They have had no time to be ill before.

I know that I, personally, get end-of-novel flu, something that is well known in the writing community. When I let go I get ill. Now think of the myriad situations in which this could affect world leaders, and you’ll see the need for better understanding emotional conditions that manifest on your body.

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Would You Pay Extra for Civet Poo-ed Coffee?

Monday, August 26th, 2013 - by Sarah Hoyt
How much for a certified not-digested-by-a-palm-civet cup of coffee?

How much for a certified not-digested-by-a-palm-civet cup of coffee?

According to the Telegraph until now there has been no way to tell whether that coffee in your cup came from beans that had been processed by the digestive system of a weasel-like creature, known as a palm civet.

Kopi Luwak, which is Indonesian for civet coffee, can cost up to £51 a cup and is often substituted for cheaper beans.

It is created by feeding the coffee cherries to the Asian carnivore, which is also known as a toddy cat. They digest the soft fruit and then excrete the hard bean inside.

Workers then retrieve the coffee beans, clean, ferment and roast them.

For all those who really, really, really want to be sure that their coffee went through the innards of a civet, there is hope:

They have identified a unique chemical fingerprint that exists in coffee that has been excreted by a palm civet.

Their findings may also go some way towards explaining why the taste of the civet coffee is so refined compared to standard coffee beans – passing through the animal’s gut changes its chemical make up.

Eiichiro Fukusaki, who led the research, said: “Despite being known as the world’s most expensive coffee, there is no reliable, standardised method for determining its authenticity.

“This is the first report to address the selection and successful validation of discriminant markers for the authentication of Kopi Luwak.”

I suppose this works in reverse too.  Not that anyone is likely to substitute my Kopi Luwak for my Donut Shop Coffee (Though I don’t use K-cups). All the same I’d sleep better at night if coffee-bean packaging I got said “Absolutely certified not digested by a palm civet — or anything else.”

******

Photo courtesy morguefile.com  Photo © frenchbyte

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Organizing your Writing Life When Words Fail You

Saturday, August 24th, 2013 - by Sarah Hoyt

Organizing Your Creative Life in 13 Weeks:

Week 8

Sometimes, even Penguins get shocked!

Sometimes, even Penguins get shocked!

Prolific science fiction novelist Sarah Hoyt follows up her “Your Novel in 13 Weeks” PJ Lifestyle series with a new weekly experiment each Saturday to figure out the best way for all creative types working from home to better organize their efforts.

Week Zero, Introduction: Organizing Your Creative Life In 13 Weeks

Week 1/2, Preparation: The Case For Making Lots of Lists

Week One: How to Make Your Mind Like Water

Week Two: What Are the Best Apps For Artists and Writers Desperate To Get Work Done? 

Week Three: The Lone Writer Against The Time Masters

Week Four: How to Tame Your Subconscious

Week Five: How Separating When and Where You Do Tasks Improves Both Productivity and Quality of Work!

Week Six: Organizing your Life is Like Learning to Juggle Eggs and Chainsaws

Week Seven: 4 Tips So You Don’t Organize Yourself to Death

***********

The advantage of a good organization method is that it can keep you going and meeting deadlines even when everything goes awry.  When the excrement, metaphorically speaking, hits the rotating object, you have something to fall back on.  You wind up your penguin timer, you take a big breath, and you dive down and keep ticking, just like the penguin, following the Pomodoro technique through thick and thin.

Or you would, if you were a robot.

I confess the disaster that was the end of last week and beginning of this one had an effect that took me by surprise: Words failed me.  For the second time in my life – the first time was when I gave myself concussion by passing out in the bathroom and hitting my head so hard my glass prescription went up a diopter in the left eye and two in the right – I had to think to get to the words.

I can’t begin to describe how weird this is for me. I have a dim – very dim – memory of thinking without words, but I’m fairly sure it’s a false memory since according to my mom I was gabbing away around one and a half years of age.

Everything was going along fine, and I’d blocked off Saturday morning to do my homework for the current course –I’m taking a class on publicity for indie publishers from Dean Wesley Smith, and three weeks in (haven’t listened to this week’s lecture, yet) I can heartily recommend it – except in the morning I walked to the post office to mail back some contracts. I took younger son for company and we had a grand old time discussing everything and nothing, as we usually do.  As we came back in the door, I found my husband ready to go out.  He told me not to put my purse down.  We were going to the hospital right away.  One of our closest friends was in ICU.

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Face Recognition Software Advances: Big Brother Could Soon be Watching Everything You Do

Friday, August 23rd, 2013 - by Sarah Hoyt
He knows when you're asleep, he knows when you're awake.

He knows when you’re asleep, he knows when you’re awake.

The New York Times assures us that facial scanning is improving by leaps and bounds:

WASHINGTON — The federal government is making progress on developing a surveillance system that would pair computers with video cameras to scan crowds and automatically identify people by their faces, according to newly disclosed documents and interviews with researchers working on the project.

The Department of Homeland Security tested a crowd-scanning project called the Biometric Optical Surveillance System — or BOSS — last fall after two years of government-financed development. Although the system is not ready for use, researchers say they are making significant advances. That alarms privacy advocates, who say that now is the time for the government to establish oversight rules and limits on how it will someday be used.

There have been stabs for over a decade at building a system that would help match faces in a crowd with names on a watch list — whether in searching for terrorism suspects at high-profile events like a presidential inaugural parade, looking for criminal fugitives in places like Times Square or identifying card cheats in crowded casinos.

My thought on reading this was first that no technology is ever infallible, and that being the twin brother of someone seen leaving a bomb — say — particularly if you were both adopted out at birth and don’t know of each other would be an uncomfortable situation.

Add to this that the technology is not even at that level and being the second-cousin of a crime suspect, with certain common family features would be enough to get you police attention. You can see how this would violate your fourth amendment rights, right? Not to mention your rights to life and liberty, to say nothing of the pursuit of happiness.

To be fair, the New York Times reports that people in charge of this technology development are also aware that it needs to be a lot more developed before it’s used, even if its creators think “difficulties will just fall away.”

On the other hand, my second thought was that yes, this technology could be very useful for fighting terrorism and other such public safety hazards. But when has technology in the hands of government been used only for the logical or most beneficial process?

Like social security numbers becoming de-facto IDs, this will change into attempts at preventing crimes — perhaps laudable in themselves, but leading to a future where Big Brother is ALWAYS watching you. And let’s not forget the information that can be leaked just before elections, by the same entity whose IRS leaked confidential forms of political opponents of the current administration.

To be fair the New York Times recognizes that too:

“This technology is always billed as antiterrorism, but then it drifts into other applications,” Ms. McCall said. “We need a real conversation about whether and how we want this technology to be used, and now is the time for that debate.”

In particular, she said, there should be limits on whose faces are loaded into them when they are ready for deployment. Ms. McCall said it would be acceptable to use it for terrorism watch lists, but she feared any effort to systematically track everyone’s public movements by using a comprehensive database of driver’s license photographs.

Now whether they’ll remember this is a danger while progressives are in power is something else.

During the cold war, anti-nuke activists often said giving a nation nuclear weapons was like handing a loaded gun to an idiot. The same can be said of facial recognition systems and the government. And I hope we keep the gun away. As useful as it could be in certain, specialized cases, it would be unmitigated disaster in most others.

*******

Photo courtesy of Shutterstock.com © Kletr

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Is It Still ‘Objectifying’ When the Sex Object is Male?

Thursday, August 22nd, 2013 - by Sarah Hoyt

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Some days I wake up and I think I fell headlong into one of the dreams — or was that nightmares? — of my teachers back in the good bad seventies. They claimed that women were so super-competent, so special that all they had to do was compete “on an equal footing” with men to supersede them and relegate men to the roles that had been historically feminine.

Of course, the last forty years have shown that equality needs a continuous and pushy boost from government, to make sure that some animals are more equal than others.

However, it appears to be true that if you keep men from having superiority — or even equality — in their traditional fields of endeavor, they turn to feminine tricks to attract mates.

The fact that both men and women report being unhappier — and children are often cast adrift — in this brave new world of reverse discrimination is just one of those things, I guess.

The New York Post (who doesn’t want me to sleep at night) informs us that Guys just wanna have fun — by stripping down and posing for sexy “dudeoir” pec-torials.

It’s a recent Sunday afternoon in Midtown, and Lionel Zanar is standing in nothing but a snug pair of boxer-briefs, while his girlfriend, Meiko, looks on.

The super-fit contractor and self-defense trainer from Brooklyn is sitting for a saucy photo shoot — known in the photography business as “dudeoir,” a tongue-in-cheek play on the “boudoir” trend, in which women pose for pictures in their lingerie.

“I love the photos,” laughs Zanar, 33, who in one particularly racy shot stands stark naked while Meiko crouches behind, covering his manhood with her hands. “Meiko will be getting a really big version of it, framed.”

The gesture is perhaps the least Zanar can do for his sweetheart, who paid about $500 for the sultry 90-minute shoot. The divorced dad does, however, point out that she “pretty much bought the session as a gift to herself.”

I believe that when men pay for the equivalent for a girlfriend, feminists scream “objectification.” Does it still hold when the shoe is on the other pretty-pretty foot?

*****

Photo courtesy Shutterstock © Vladimir Wrangel

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Sixty-Four Percent of Men Think Women Should Pay Half on Dates

Wednesday, August 21st, 2013 - by Sarah Hoyt
Equality has consequences.

Equality has consequences.

We earn as much as they do — in fact, thanks to affirmative action and the government funding more “caring” professions than projects for brawny men, many of us earn more — and we compete in the same marketplace.

We tell them over and over that we are equals or better. We’re women, hear us roar!

Are we going to be shocked that they want to treat us as equals? Or do we want to choose where we’re equals and where we’re to be treated like fragile little flowers?

According to the New York Post, two-thirds of men say women should pay their share on dates.

After nearly 50 years of feminism, men want to go Dutch.

Nearly two-thirds of them — 64 percent — believe women should pay for their share of dates, a survey has found.

And 44 percent of men said they would drop a woman who never chips in, according to the findings reported at the American Sociological Association’s annual meeting in Manhattan.

Fortunately, if that’s too much equality for you… ladies, men are still hobbled by the tradition of chivalry.

But the traditions of courtship are too hard to break: 84 percent of men said they pick up the tab on dates.

And even after six months of courtship, 28 percent of them still do the paying, according to the survey of more than 17,000 people.

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Yawning is How Dogs Show Their Love

Tuesday, August 20th, 2013 - by Sarah Hoyt
Aw!  You love him THAT much?

Aw! You love him THAT much?

According to an article in Jewish World Review Yawning is how dogs show they love you:

Scientists think dogs might be feeling empathy for their owners when they do what humans often do with one another: contagious yawning.

Dogs yawn more frequently when the human yawner is their owner than when it’s a stranger, researchers said in a study published Wednesday in the journal PLOS One.

“Our study suggests that contagious yawning in dogs is emotionally connected in a way similar to humans,” Teresa Romero, who conducted the study with colleagues from the University of Tokyo, said in a statement.

So, go ahead and yawn. If he yawns back, he loves you.  If he doesn’t, perhaps you DO bore him.

This is better than my cats who show their affection in other ways — which is why the book I Could Pee On This is “poems by cats” not “poems by dogs.”

*****

photo courtesy Shutterstock.com © WilleeCole

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