The Writer in Black

The Writer in Black

Monday, January 25, 2016

Feeding the Active Writer

To Maim for Pasta Sauce

Most commercial pasta sauces are full of sugars.  Not good if you're on a low-carb diet.  I found one available locally but it's ridiculously expensive--something close to three times the cost of typical national brands.

So I've come up with this one.  It's a meat sauce but if you prefer you can leave out the ground beef and it's a pretty good marinara.  As it is, I won't say it's quite good enough to kill for, but maybe good enough to maim for. ;)

Ingredients:

1 28 Oz can diced tomatoes (no sugar added) undrained  divided
1/2 cup chopped onion
1/2 tsp black pepper
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
1 tbsp garlic powder
1 tsp dried basil
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp dried parsley flakes
2 tsp salt (or to taste)
1 lb ground beef
1/4 cup red wine
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil.

Preparation

Combine half the can of tomatoes and the next eight ingredients in a blender and puree.
Mix in the remainder of the tomatoes but do not blend (I like to keep it a little "chunky".
In a saucepan brown and crumble the ground beef.
Add the wine and olive oil to the saucepan.
Heat, stirring frequently, until the wine begins to simmer.
Add the tomato mixture to the pan and bring to a boil.
Reduce heat, simmering for about 15 minutes to combine the flavors.

Works well with spaghetti squash.

Enjoy.

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

They Who Fell, a review

I'm not big on reviews.  To be honest I don't think I do it well.  Still, from time to time I make an effort.

They Who Fell is a rarity:  a book I purchased based on a paid advertisement.

There has been another revolt in heaven.  A new crop of fallen angels has been cast down to Earth.  Generally of the traditional winged human form, the fallen angels are of surpassing beauty except where scars from their fall mar their features.  Not just their bodies are marred, but also their hearts.  A fallen angel can appear gentle and kind one moment, and fly into a rage the next.  Other's are driven by cruelty or paranoia.

The fallen angel--strong, fast, many with powers, many armed with swords of flame--have become the overlords of the Earth.  Cities are largely deserted wastelands.  If I was reading the population figures correctly, more than ninety percent of humanity was slaughtered.  Some of the remaining people serve the fallen, hoping to avoid their wrath.  Others still eke out an existence in the countryside, always fearful that the fallen might come across them and use them for "sport".

Jana is one of the servants of the fallen in their primary "Tower" in New York.  Her first task is serving table at a dinner party of the fallen, terrified that any slight misstep, even the noise of a plate tapping another, might draw the fallen's ire.  Hoping for withdrawn anonymity she instead draws the attention of two of the fallen and is called up to be the personal servant for one of them, but it is the other who seems to have her interest.

Holt leads a cell of partisans, an assassination team.  Angels are extremely hard to kill.  A Stinger, anti-aircraft missile merely stuns one.  Yet a sufficiently strong electric shock can kill one.

As Jana faces dangers and intrigues within the tower, Holt leads his cell in a quest for the means to effectively fight the fallen angels.  These two threads of story remain mostly separate until the very end of the book.  Along the way we get hints of the reason for the angels' rebellion; a promise broken by "The Maker".  In the end, when that is explained, well, it was one of the fallen who related the story and the story might have been more self-justification than truth but it does give motive to their actions more than just a lust for power.

To be honest, the beginning of the book read a little slow and there were several times I considered dropping it.  However, it did pick up and I was glad I stayed with it.  The book had a good, solid ending, completing the current story while leaving hooks for the continuing series.

In the end, I used the "Buy the next book" option at the end to get the next book of the series so I did consider it worth continuing.

Friday, January 1, 2016

Star Wars: The Force Awakens

Saw this on a Christmas showing.  Theater was packed.  When I walked in, there were three empty seats.  I held three tickets:  Me, my daughter, and my wife (who wasn't with us--she wasn't feeling well and stayed home).

I'm not going to give a plot summary here.  I'm not going to discuss the characters, whether Rey is a "Mary Sue" or not.  And I'm certainly not going to give any spoilers.  Instead, I'm going to talk about the emotional effect of the movie.

Let me start by saying that in the days since then, I've seen a lot of criticism of "The Force Awakens." Some valid and some off base. But even the valid stuff? Well...

Back in 1977 I was "that kid". I took every opportunity to see Star Wars. I had the novelization and read it until it fell apart and was held together by rubber bands. I bought all the toys I could (which wasn't much--poor. Really really poor.) I got the Marvel comic.

I got together with friends and made "blindfolded kendo" a thing (a wonder we didn't maim each other). I tried to invent the lightsaber (not laser, I knew that you couldn't make a laser go out a particular distance and stop, and I also knew that the beam of a laser wasn't visible unless there was smoke or something to scatter the light to your eye, but I thought maybe an electron beam, "tuned" so that it would reach about a yard before the anode in the handle pulled it back. And two negatively charged "blades" would repel each other so one could block another. Okay, none of the numbers work on that in the real world, but that was still pretty good for a high school freshman).

I was that kid who tried to "anticipate" traffic lights and the other things in an effort to figure out "the Force".  After all, I figured that short term precognition is probably the "secret" behind being able to block blaster bolts.

Well, when I went to watch The Force Awakens, all the movie's flaws aside, for two hours I was that kid again.

And I don't think you can get higher praise than that,.

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Indie Ebook Christmas Sale

The Spaewife

by David L. Burkhead

$0.99 December 19th through the 26th.

A young mother hears the Norns. They tell her of terrible things to come. When Ulfarr wants her gift of prophesy to serve him, he takes her, murders her husband, and steals away her children. Can the young mother escape from Ulfarr's clutches and save her children from him? Only the Norns know.

 Dragon Noir

By Cedar Sanderson


On sale for the first time from Dec 17-23rd
The pixie with the gun has come home to see his princess crowned a queen and live in peace. But nothing is ever easy for Lom. A gruesome discovery on his doorstep interrupts their plans and sends Lom off on a mission to save not one, but two worlds. It's personal this time and the stakes are higher than ever before. With friends falling and the enemy gathering, Bella and Lom must conquer the worst fears and monsters Underhill can conjure. Failure is not on the agenda.

Young Warriors

 by Pam Uphoff


Free for five days!
It's traditional for young lords in the Kingdom of Ash to spend two years in the army. Xen Wolfson is a young wizard, and Garit Negue a young prince. And the world is filled with adventures and danger . . . and learning experiences.

Their world has been in sporadic contact with two different cross-dimensional worlds--generally as a target for conquest. When the Empire of the One returns, the young warriors are standing foursquare in their path.

http://www.amazon.com/Young-Warriors-Wine-Gods-Book-ebook/dp/B00EOCHXZK/
www.amazon.com/gp/product/B0155C687Q


Nocturnal Challege

By Amanda Green


Brand new release

The one thing Lt. Mackenzie Santos had always been able to count on was the law. But that was before she started turning furry. Now she finds herself in the middle of a conspiracy to keep the truth from the public-at-large. She knows they aren't ready to learn that monsters are real and they might be living next door.

If that isn't enough, trouble is brewing among the shapeshifters. The power struggle has already resulted in the kidnapping and near fatal injury of several of Mac's closest friends. She is now in the middle of what could quickly turn into a civil war, one that would be disastrous for all of them.

What she wouldn't give to have a simple murder case to investigate and a life that didn't include people who wanted nothing more than to add her death to the many they were already responsible for.

Hilda's Inn for Retired Mercenaries

By Cyn Bagley


In Delhaven, there is an Inn run by a retired mercenary. If you are a down-on-your-luck mercenary or men-at-arms, come to the public rooms and Hilda Brant, the owner, will give you a bowl of stew. If you want ale, hand over the coins. Hilda may give you floor space, but she expects you to pay in favors or coins.
Hilda isn't prepared for the damage and chaos caused by a dragon, black mage, and elementals. And a very angry Lord Barton.


The High T Shebang

By Mark Alger


Dolly was reborn into a new body just last week. Right out of the birthing chamber, she was tumbled into a conflict that goes back to the stone age. Her creator, the Greek Goddess, Aphrodite, has disappeared, and the God in charge of her institution -- the Babylonian Marduk -- has called for her death. Her lover and Geppetto, Mitchell Drummond, is threading his way through political minefields to keep Dolly safe.

New in love, they soon find they can't keep their hands off each other. Their sexual fever comes to worry them. They suspect there's more to the situation than mere new love. Meanwhile, they have a job to do. Keeping up the pretense that all's well and nothing's going on is wearing thin. But in Upothesa, you're not allowed to talk about secrets. Dolly is a secret. Trying to keep it together, Dolly and Drummond go on a mission to New Zealand to protect the Dolly's secret and the life of a major TV drama star.

Collisions of the Damned

By James Young


My God, we are losing this war.—Lt. Nicholas Cobb, USN

March 1943. The Usurper’s War has resumed, with disastrous results for the Allies. In Hawaii, the U.S. Pacific Fleet lies shattered after the Battle of Hawaii. Across the Pacific the Imperial Japanese Navy, flush with their recent victory, turns its gimlet eye towards the south and the ultimate prize for their Emperor: The Dutch East Indies.

For Commander Jacob Morton and the other members of the Asiatic Fleet, the oncoming Japanese storm means that the U.S.S. Houston and her Allied companions must learn to fight against overwhelming odds against an enemy who claims the night as their own. In the skies above Houston and the other old, tired vessels of the ACDA Fleet , Flight Lieutenant Russell Wolford and his men attempt to employ the Allies’ newest technology to even the odds. With full might of the Japanese Empire falling on them, the ACDA’s soldiers, sailors, and marines must fight to hold the line long enough for reinforcements to come.

Blackbird

By Alma Boykin

 
$.99 Dec 21-24, 1.99 Dec 25-28

One man becomes all that the Turkowi fear - and respect. Matthew Charles Malatesta, second son and rumored bastard of a mercenary, grandson of Duke Edmund "Ironhand" von Sarmas.  One man, who will fight to the last breath to carve a place for himself, who will create a court of learning and civilization, who stands alone between the might of the Turkowi Empire and all of Godown's people.
8.    One in Infinity
By Amie Gibbons
http://www.amazon.com/One-In-Infinity-Crossing-Novelette-ebook/dp/B017OWAQGE/ 
On sale for $0.99 from 12/19 to Christmas
Turns out coincidences do happen, and it sucks when it leads killers from an alternate reality to your door...

Rose plans on partying her last weekend of freedom before her residency starts, but fate has different plans. When men straight out of a fantasy novel attack, she gets pulled into a blood feud between magical beings thanks to a random stroke of luck. Now she has to adjust to her new world view and help one of the men to save herself from a fate worse than death.

Tick of the Clock

By Travis Clemons and Michael Z Williamson


A man awakens in a 21st century Illinois hospital, holding very distinct memories of being shot in Switzerland decades earlier. The nurse calls him Detective Crabtree and says the DuPage County Sheriff will be by to check on him shortly. Yet he remembers his name being Sherlock Holmes.

When Sabrina Worthington is killed during a home invasion, her billionaire husband has an ironclad alibi. But Adam Worthington does not appear to be the grieving widower people would expect to see. Meanwhile, their former girlfriend keeps tugging on every possible string to convince the authorities to indict the man for murder.

By the tick of the clock, it would seem impossible for a man to be shot in the 19th century and wake up more than one hundred years later. It would also seem impossible for a man to shoot his wife while she's at home and he's at a theater thirty miles away. But when the seemingly impossible is properly analyzed, will Holmes determine the improbable truth behind her death and his life?

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Pre-Christmas Sale. Now through the 15th

Now through December 15th, all $0.99!

Books make great Christmas Presents.

Survival Test


War!

A series of diplomatic crises precipitate a limited nuclear war on Earth. Missile defenses block access to space. Nothing goes up and nothing comes down.

The people of the various space stations, the moon base, and a space colony whose construction had just begun must find a way to survive until the war is over.

The ultimate survival test.

Live to Tell


When the star traveling Hospital Ship Mercy is captured by an Eres task force, Staff Sergeant Mike Yamada must overcome Post Traumatic Stress and face his worst nightmares returned. Alone among the complement of the Mercy, he has been an Eres prisoner before and only he knows the true horror that awaits if they do not somehow escape.

The Kinmar


Kreg and Kaila, knights of Aerioch, interrupt their mission to chase down the raiders that destroyed a village. Much to their surprise, the raiders turn out to be Kinmar, the half-man/half-animal remnants of the magical Changeling War. Outnumbered and surrounded, wounded, with only the strange magic of the Knightbond on their side, can they survive, much less ensure that no one ravages the people of Aerioch with impunity?

Treva's Children


Baroness Talisa leads the last few surviving members of her household through the mountains in the dead of winter, fleeing the changeling hordes that have destroyed the kingdom. In that world of white and gray she stumbles on an oasis of green, a garden, sacred to Treva, goddess of the wild things of the world. There, Talisa encounters the enigmatic guardian of the place who possesses great and mysterious magical power and who claims Talisa's life as forfeit for trespassing in Treva's Garden.

Plague Station


Doctor Susan O'Bannon on Space Colony 42 attempts to find a cure for a new disease that's putting people into comas. But when people wake from the comas driven by rage and hunger, can she survive the onslaught, let alone find a cure?

Friday, December 4, 2015

An Individual Right

With recent events, some folk have been trotting out the argument that the 2nd Amendment is a "collective right" or one that exists only so that the States can arm State government troops ("Militia" as these folk would have it).  They argue that the Heller and McDonald decisions (the first confirming RKBA as an individual right, the second incorporating it on the individual States) is wrong.

This fails on several grounds.

First, there's the grammatical:

A Well-regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a Free State, the right of the people, to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed.

"Look," says the person advocating limitations on RKBA, "it says "Well-regulated militia."

Let's consider a different sentence, exact same structure but using different nouns:

Sweetened-condensed milk, being necessary for a good Key Lime Pie, the right of the farmers, to keep and raise cows, shall not be infringed.

Anyone want to argue that this statement means that the right to keep and raise cows is being confirmed on sweetened condensed milk?  No?  Then no more does the Second limit the right only to the Militia.

Next we have the problem of definitions.  Much is made of the term "well-regulated Militia" and consider that only the National Guard qualifies.  However, as I demonstrate elsewhere, to the people who wrote and ratified the 2nd Amendment, the Militia was the whole of the people capable of bearing arms.  Back then it would have been all white males between the ages of 17 and 45.  Today, we'd drop the limitations on race and sex (particularly as the Secretary of Defense has just directed that women be permitted in all combat fields in the military.  So the Militia is the people and the people are the militia.

The Militia Acts of 1792 underscore that.  The requirement that every household--every household--be required to keep arms and a certain amount of ammo and other supplies on hand simply emphasized that the militia meant the whole of the people, all of the people, not just those drawing government paychecks.

Then there's the historical argument.  The idea that the 2nd is only limited to government militias being a "new" interpretation is preposterous. Consider the Dred Scott decision. On giving the reasons why they did not extend full citizenship to "The Negro Race": If they did it would, among other things, grant to them the right "and to keep and carry arms wherever they went."  You can think that Dred Scott was a bad decision.  I do.  But it is utterly clear that at the time of the decision the court considered RKBA to be an individual right, not one limited to government troops.  That's 1857. Hardly something recent.

It's the idea that the 2nd only limits RKBA to government bodies that's the new one. It first springs up in the Miller decision where the weapon in question--a short barreled (i.e. "sawed off") shotgun was considered regulatable because the court did not have "legal notice" that said weapon had a militia utility.  Note that this wasn't a question of Miller (who was not present, having died before the case came before the Supreme Court, and only the government's side was represented) being in a government militia, but whether the weapon was militarily useful (it was--such weapons had been in use in World War 1 as "trench brooms", but with only the government side presented there was nobody to present such evidence to the court, thus no "legal notice").  Repeating the lie, yes lie, otherwise over and over again doesn't make the lie true.

Then there's the logical argument.  Article One of the Constitution includes among other things:

To provide for calling forth the Militia to execute the Laws of the Union, suppress Insurrections and repel Invasions;

To provide for organizing, arming, and disciplining, the Militia, and for governing such Part of them as may be employed in the Service of the United States, reserving to the States respectively, the Appointment of the Officers, and the Authority of training the Militia according to the discipline prescribed by Congress;

 The Constitution already gave the government power to arm its own troops, including the militia.  The idea that we'd need an item in the Bill of Rights to give them the same power they already have is simply preposterous.  Nobody with any intelligence and knowledge of the actual Constitution would think it were necessary.  And the folk who wrote the Bill of Rights were certainly people of intelligence and very much did know the Constitution.

Today, the only question is, are the people who make such claims stupid enough to believe it, or are they lying and think we're stupid enough to believe them?

Without question, and from its inception, the Second Amendment confirms an individual right to keep and bear arms.

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

In the Spirit of the Season

An annual tradition:

If you're an Atheist or Agnostic who doesn't like "Merry Christmas."
If you're a Christian who doesn't like "Happy Holidays."
If you're a Jew who doesn't like "Blessed be."
If you're a Wiccan who doesn't like "God Be with you."
If you're a Muslim who doesn't like "May Thor hold his hammer between you and harm."

I have one thing to say to you: Grow. Up. Take these things in the spirit they are offered, one of well wishing, and leave it at that. And on that note, may I wish you a very merry Christmas and may Thor hold his hammer between you and harm.

Gud Yule, everyone.