Jul. 25th, 2017 01:00 pm

Dial-A-Wreck

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Posted by Jen

Remember how we all loved the game "Telephone" in kindergarten? Well, add in a cake, and the fun never stops!

This order was for a "black high heel":

(It's a hill, people. Get it?)

 

Specifying punctuation is always tricky:

Although I suppose if Aunt flashed Mom that would liven up the party, and it's certainly preferable to Aunt slashing Mom.

(Ok, this one is tricky, I know: the order was for Aunt/Mom - a slash, in other words.)

 

Here we have a beautifully done blue horse. Unfortunately, it was supposed to be a blue house.

 

If your message is "Philip...Woohoo!", and you actually have to say the words "dot dot dot", be prepared for just about anything.

 

And of course these never get old:

Although interestingly enough, I think that icing IS light pink. I guess the decorator was covering all her bases.

 

Thanks to Danielle M., Stefanie D., Rachel S., Michael T., and Chandra.

*****

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Posted by Beth Bernier

Favorite Bit iconAdam Christopher is joining us today with his novel Killing Is My Business. Here’s the publisher’s description:

Another golden morning in a seedy town, and a new memory tape and assignment for intrepid PI-turned-hitman―and last robot left in working order―Raymond Electromatic. But his skills may be rustier than he remembered in Killing Is My Business, the latest in Christopher’s robot noir oeuvre, hot on the heels of the acclaimed Made to Kill.

What’s Adam’s favorite bit?

Killing Is My Business cover image

ADAM CHRISTOPHER

Ray Electromatic, eponymous hero of the Ray Electromatic Mysteries – if hero is the right way to describe a robot who pretends to be a private detective when he’s really a paid assassin – has a problem.

Actually, that’s not strictly true – Ray Electromatic has lots of problems. A six-foot-something-else bronzed titanium titan, clad, like any half-decent private dick, in overcoat and hat, Ray’s biggest issue is his memory. He only has twenty-four hours of it, tucked away in a little reel-to-reel tape behind his chest panel. When the tape is up, he heads home to the office and the tape is switched to a new one under the supervision of his boss, a room-sized supercomputer called Ada.

Which means Ray doesn’t remember a damn thing about what he’s done – the perfect cover for a hit-robot, but quite often Ray wishes he had a clue or two about what he’s been up to in Hollywood, California, 1965. It doesn’t help that he doesn’t quite trust Ada, either, and then there’s the shady federal agents and the even shadier private contractors from thrice-shady International Automatics to watch out for.

So sure. Ray Electromatic has problems, but he is – or was – a detective, so once he starts leaving himself clues about what’s going on, he’s in his element. Because if the dirty little operation that he and Ada run is in danger of discovery, well, he needs to know what’s going on so he can protect them both.

But Ray’s other problem, the one that would keep him up at night if he didn’t have to switch off, is that he thinks he’s human.

Okay, that’s not strictly true either. Ray knows he is a robot. But in this glorious and far-distant sci-fi future of 1965, Ray’s creator, the perhaps-not-so-mysteriously-deceased Professor Thornton, realized that the secret to true artificial intelligence was to use a template based on a human mind as the spark of creation. So Ray Electromatic is, in a way, Professor Thornton – not a duplicate or a clone, but an AI that shares some of his creator’s personality and tastes and even (although this isn’t supposed to happen) memories. Ray is his own robot, and he knows all about the template, and he absolutely knows he is a robot and not a human being, but that doesn’t stop him… well, thinking about things.

My favorite bit of Killing is my Business, the second Ray Electromatic Mystery, is in chapter one. Here, Ray is staking out his next target – Vaughan Delaney, a planner for the city of Los Angeles. Ray doesn’t know why Delaney has to die and he doesn’t care – Ada gets the jobs, he carries them out – but in the three weeks he spends watching Delaney’s office, Ray has time to consider the lives of the human beings around him. He watches them go to work, he watches them go home. He even gets some very human urges:

It was a busy street and the office got a lot of foot traffic, some of which even stopped to admire the car that was the same color as a fire engine parked right outside the door. Back on my side of the street there was a drugstore down on the corner that got a lot of foot traffic too. I watched people come and go and some of those people were carrying brown paper bags. Some people went inside and stayed there, sitting on stools at the bench inside the front window as they drank coffee and ate sandwiches.

I watched them a while longer and then I thought I’d quite like a sandwich and a coffee to pass the time. I didn’t need to sit and watch the building. Vaughan Delaney’s schedule was as regular as the oscillators in my primary transformer. I had time to spare.

I got out of the car and stood on the sidewalk for a moment, one hand on the driver’s door, looking over at the office building. A sandwich and a coffee still felt like a great idea. It was the kind of thing you got when you spent a lot of time waiting and watching. It helped pass the time, like smoking and talking about baseball with the boys and making your own flies for fly-fishing.

Of course, I had no need for a coffee or a sandwich. If I walked down to the drugstore and went inside and bought one of each I wouldn’t have any use for them on account of the fact that I didn’t eat or drink.

I was a robot.

And still as I stood there in the street the faint memory of the taste of fresh hot coffee tickled the back of my circuits. An echo of another life, maybe. A life that didn’t belong to me but that belonged to my creator, Professor Thornton.

A coffee and a sandwich would be a real waste, but maybe the drugstore could sell me something else. Maybe I could get a magazine. A magazine or a paperback book. That sounded fun. I had two hours to kill before I followed the target on his weekly jaunt around the City of Angels.

That’s Ray’s problem. He’s a robot who sometimes feels like a human, but he can’t do a thing about it, and he’s not sure if this is a good thing or a bad thing, but what he does know is that even if he feels this way each and every day he won’t remember a blind thing about it, thanks to his limited memory tape.

I like Ray. He’s very good at what he does but he’s flawed and he’s uncertain about a lot of things. There’s an air of melancholy about him. He’s the last robot in the world, and he knows it, and sometimes he dreams of another life that wasn’t his.

And then he gets on with the job, because he’s a professional – another echo from Professor Thornton’s template.

LINKS

Adam on Twitter

Adam’s website

Amazon

Barnes & Noble

Indiebound

Powell’s

BIO

Adam Christopher’s debut novel Empire State was SciFiNow’s Book of the Year and a Financial Times Book of the Year. The author of Made To KillStandard Hollywood Depravity and Killing Is My Business, Adam’s other novels include Seven WondersThe Age Atomic and The Burning Dark. Adam has also written the official tie-in novels for the hit CBS television show Elementary, and the award-winning Dishonored video game franchise, and with Chuck Wendig, wrote The Shield for Dark Circle/Archie Comics. Adam is also a contributor to the Star Wars: From A Certain Point Of View 40th anniversary anthology.

Born in New Zealand, Adam has lived in Great Britain since 2006.

The post My Favorite Bit: Adam Christopher talks about KILLING IS MY BUSINESS appeared first on Mary Robinette Kowal.

Jul. 25th, 2017 11:07 am

Rush Limbaugh, the prophet

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Posted by Holly

Rush Limbaugh and the Bible coverRush Limbaugh and the Bible
Evearitt
1993

Submitter: An entire book that is a treatise on proving that Rush Limbaugh is a “prophet of political conservatism in America.” (page 15) Yet, there is this pesky quote of Rush’s, “The show is devoted exclusively to what I think. I do not attempt to find out what the people of the country are thinking.” This book is filled with with gems that bring people together such as The White Man’s Burden, homosexuals portraying themselves as victims and women not being fit to serve in the military.

The coup de grâce is this quote “So multiculturalism, which portrays American history and even all of Western civilization as nothing but misery and racist, sexist, capitalist oppression, is the tool of revenge of man who have failed to assimilate and fit into the mainstream American Life.”

Holly: Before everyone piles on, and I’m sure Submitter would agree, this book was probably not the worst choice for a public library serving a politically conservative, Christian community in the early 1990s. In fact, any public library building a truly viewpoint-balanced collection in the 90s, no matter what demographics they served, might have had this. That said, Submitter’s examples are definitely eyebrow-raising for many (myself included, although that is honestly beside the point). I’d weed it because it is old and no longer circulating, not because I disagree with its contents.

 

Rush Limbaugh and the Bible contents

The White Man's Burden

Women in Combat

Animal Rights

Rush Limbaugh and the Bible quote

The post Rush Limbaugh, the prophet appeared first on Awful Library Books.

Jul. 24th, 2017 01:00 pm

Pool Wars

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Posted by Jen

"If you only knew the POWER [squeak] of the Dark Side. JOIN ME [squeak] and we can [squeeeeak] RULE the... [squeaksqueaksqueakSPLASH!]

 

"I find your lack of balance...disturbing.

"Towel?"

 

Thanks to Angel K. for the splishin' and the splashin'.

*****

Thank you for using our Amazon links to shop! USA, UK, Canada.

Jul. 24th, 2017 11:26 am

Casserole Cuisine

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Posted by Mary Kelly

casserole recipes

Casseroles
Favorite Recipes of Home Economics Teachers
Favorite Recipes Press
1982

As a true Midwesterner, I embrace casserole cuisine. However, not all casseroles are created equal and this book proves it. Note the “surprise” casserole. (I think my mother had a similar recipe.) The other recipe worth noting is called “Ned’s Goop.” Looking at the ingredients, the word “goop” is fitting. The casserole staples always include a can of cream of mushroom soup, cheese of some kind and some kind of crunch factor, such as potato chips or bread crumbs. I won’t even comment on the calorie count or sodium consumed.

Enjoy!

Mary

recipes for casseroles with ground beef

casseroles with pork

The post Casserole Cuisine appeared first on Awful Library Books.

Jul. 23rd, 2017 01:00 pm

Superhero Sweets For SDCC

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Posted by Jen

This weekend many of My People, aka geeks, have converged on San Diego Comic-Con - and I'm not there. [sob]

BUT!

The rest of us can still look at awesome comic book cakes and dream, right?

(By Bella Cakes)

Look at this gorgeous Wonder Woman cake! LOOK AT IT.

***

Ok, you can stop now.

Because na na na na na na... BATMAN!

(By Nayrunia)

LOVE this design; so much impact for a (relatively) simple silhouette.

 

But maybe you prefer the Dark Knight a little less... dark?

(By Lindsay Colasurdo)

Pretty piles of punchy pink, Batman!

You know, this color combo is really starting to grow on me.

 

Here's a fun Hulk cake with some priceless reactions:

(By Cheri Ross Sarner for Icing Smiles)

I admire your restraint, Elijah; I'd be gnawing on Hulk's elbow by now.

 

Anyone else love Supergirl?

'Cuz you could totally use this cake for Supergirls OR Supermans (er... men):

(By &Sweets)

 

Oh! And did you know Groot has his own comic book now? It looks fantastic, just like this cake:

(By Aroma de Azucar)

And I love that Rocket!

 

If you're after more classic comic books, though, check this out:

(By 21 Cake Lane)

Awwwwesome. The colors, the ascending dot pattern, the perfect overlapping covers - it's ALL good.

 

And another classic: Wonder Woman!

(Baker unknown)

So wonderful.

(See what I did there?)

 

Not exactly a superhero, but you have to see this fun comic book/pop art cake, made entirely with buttercream!

(By fredbutt)

C'mon. How fun is this??

 

Yet another reason why geek weddings rock:

(By Exquisite Wedding Cakes)

Joker & Harley wedding cake.

 

And finally, a dreamy color combo for some of our fav superheroes:

(By Cake Me To Your Party)

...plus maybe a favorite villain? 'Cuz I like to think that's one of Harley Quinn's bombs on top. :)

Happy Sunday, guys! Hope those of you at SDCC are having fun!

 

*****

Thank you for using our Amazon links to shop! USA, UK, Canada.

Jul. 21st, 2017 04:35 pm

Short Story: Some Other Day

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Posted by Mary Robinette Kowal

I wrote this way back in 2005 and it was published in 2007 in All Possible Worlds. It was science-fiction. But today… NPR just published a story about scientists doing pretty much this exact thing.

 

Some Other Day
by Mary Robinette Kowal

Josie Langdon leaned back from her microscope and rolled her neck to ease the kinks. After days spent staring at slides, her eyes strained to refocus on the university lab around her.

“How’s it going?” Stan Kozelka leaned against the lab door; his grin peeked out from his full beard. Of the other grad students, Stan was the only one who never harassed her. She was not sure he knew who her father had been.

Josie shrugged. “Larvae are still dying. They won’t kick into pupae phase.”

“Ah.” He crossed his arms and tilted his head, straggly hair falling into his eyes. “And you?”

The corner of her mouth turned up wryly. “Also dying.”

Stan winced. “That’s no good.”

“My own fault. I could’ve picked another topic for my master’s, but noooooo…” She groaned as she pulled a slide out of the microscope tray. “I don’t want to think about mosquitoes ever again.”

“Have you talked to Professor Hadley?”

“Not yet. She’ll say, ‘I told you so.'” Josie spun on her seat, turning her back on him. “I was so sure that if I knew the original mechanism and I had the gene map, I could repair the damage my– the West Nile Intervention introduced.”

“At least you pinpointed the damage.”

“Yeah.” She sighed and looked at the floor. “I know, I just–I wanted…”

“What?”

“It doesn’t matter.” Josie tugged on her hair. “I can’t make girls. It’s still nothing but boys, boys, boys. It’s driving me crazy.”

“Is it…?” He stopped and Josie waited for the inevitable question about her father. The question about why she researched mosquitoes. The question Stan had never asked. He cleared his throat. “There’s a group of us going to the Alibi. Want to come?”

Josie let the tension out of her with a sigh. “Sure.” She turned the light off on the microscope, and put her slides away. “The Alibi is always fun.”

#

The summer the mosquitoes died began as the best one in Josie Langdon’s childhood. As she dived through the sprinkler in the front yard, the cold water sparkled as if someone had hung a beaded curtain upside down. She gasped with laughter, then turned and jumped through the curtain again.

“Hey, Jo-bug!” Her dad walked up the sidewalk, home early from work.

“Daddy!” She ran to meet him, dancing as the hot concrete steamed against her feet. He towered between her and the sun and made a small spot of shade for her to stand in.

Not minding that she dripped with water from the sprinkler, her dad picked her up and swung her around. She shrieked with laughter.

“Frank?” Josie’s mom came out on the porch. “What are you doing home?”

“We got the results from the release.” He grinned. “It’s unbelievable. The modified Toxorhynchites is going after males of the other genera, so—”

Josie’s mom laughed. “Frank, slow down I’m not getting all of that.”

He pulled her close and kissed her on the forehead. “Sorry, I’m so darn excited. MetroCorp sprayed to kill most of the mosquitoes, then we made an über-male from a type of mosquito that naturally attacks and kills other mosquitoes. So our modified one is not only breeding with the mosquitoes that carry the West Nile virus, it’s attacking and killing the other types of mosquitoes too.”

“Does that mean no more mosquitoes, Daddy?”

He swooped Josie up and swung her around again. He smelled nice, like her grandmother’s rum cake. “They won’t all go away, but it’ll mean a lot less bites for you, Jo-bug.”

The tinny sound of the ice cream truck echoed down the street, as the recorded electric music played the same eight measures of “This Old Man” over and over and over.

“Hey!” Her dad set her down. “Who wants an ice cream to celebrate?” He was already waving at the ice cream man and pulling his wallet out of his pocket.

Josie got an orange push-up. She remembered that.

#

The Alibi always reeked of smoke. Even though no one had lit up for years, the smell had soaked into the velvet paintings and the straw mats covering the walls. Tiki-kitsch grinned at Josie from every corner of the place.

The other biology students wandered over to the karaoke lounge and one of them wailed through a rendition of “Easy Money.”

Stan winced and twisted his gin and tonic in its circle of condensation. He had splurged on an actual lime and the smooth green rind sparkled among the ice. “The crazy thing is that on these camping trips, I have a hard time finding tadpoles because of all the fish that used to eat mosquito larvae.”

“That’s just it.” Josie laid her hand on the table and leaned forward. “I mean, as early as the mid-aughts, Glausewitz warned about the environmental imbalance. MetroCorp released them anyway.”

“Be fair. No one thought the über-male would be this effective.”

Josie sat back in her seat. Couldn’t there be one person who treated her normally? “You don’t have to protect me.”

“What?”

She stared at her amber beer. “You’ve never made a crack about my dad and his ‘Frankenskeeter’, but you don’t have to protect my feelings.”

“Josie.” His brows twisted upward. “I’m not interested in your father. I’m interested in you.”

Josie looked away, suddenly warm. “Oh.” She slid her fingers down the pint glass, wiping the beads of moisture away.

Stan was quiet for a long time. Josie took a sip of her beer and looked towards the karaoke stage. “Easy Money” wrapped up his song and another grad student bounded toward the mike.

Stan cleared his throat. “So, um… have you thought about looking for egg floats from before the West Nile Intervention?”

“Yeah.” Josie pressed the heels of her hands into her eyes. “Me, and every other entomologist.”

“Then, you wouldn’t be interested in looking for egg floats while I catch frogs I guess?” He picked up his gin and tonic and sipped it, looking over the rim of the glass at her.

“Marsh lands won’t help. I mean, yeah, Aedes vexans laid their eggs in flood regions, but the idea of trying to find a place where it hasn’t flooded for the past…” In her head, she counted the years since the West Nile Incident. “Seven years?”

“Going to the mountains.” Stan took another sip. “They’ve got flash-flood warnings, if you’re interested in that sort of thing…” His eyes hooded into a studied nonchalance, as if he did not care which way she answered. He set the gin and tonic down carefully in the condensation ring, and did not look at her, but twisted the glass on the table. “Want to come?”

Josie almost said there was no point; mosquito floats were the size of a grain of rice and every entomologist in the world had already looked for them. Then her heart tripped. Stan already knew that.

He was asking her out.

It was a crazy biologist’s kind of date, but after months of uncertain flirting, she would take any move at all. “Sure. The mountains would be great.”

Stan looked up and smiled. “Good.”

Josie felt a flood of warmth and hoped she had not blushed.

#

In her memory of the autumn, Josie stood in her bedroom while her dad sat on her bed looking through her notebook. Each spiral bound page had a chart carefully drawn on it with line after line of sightings. Purple Martins, Starlings, Sparrows, Blue Herons… one Bald Eagle–the date she saw them, where she saw them, how many she saw.

She tugged on her scout uniform and straightened the banner of badges across her chest.

“Nice work, Jo-bug.”

“Thanks, Dad.”

He flipped backwards through the book. “You’ve taken bird-watching a lot more seriously this year.”

She frowned. “No I haven’t.”

“Well.” He held up a page from the previous year. “You didn’t record nearly as many birds last year.”

“There weren’t as many.”

“Josie.” He tilted his chin down and looked out from under his eyebrows. He glanced at the book and then back at her. “They should have told me at the lab if there was a higher bird-count this year.” He flipped through the pages again. “Are you sure about these?”

Josie remembered nodding as she pointed out the window; three hummingbirds flirted with the feeder. The year before she had only seen one.

#

Stan slept in the passenger seat of his car while Josie took her turn at the wheel. As the road rolled past, Josie stared out the window at the fields covered with netting. Flocks of birds swarmed, dipping and wheeling over the nets as they looked for any opening to enter. Beneath the nets, protected swarms of bees pollinated each sheltered flower.

She counted the links of the broken chain in her mind. No larvae? Fish that ate mosquito larvae eat other water bugs and tadpoles, which meant fewer frogs; fewer frogs meant more moths, flies and wasps. No larvae? No adult mosquitoes to spread avian viruses. Birds multiply over the land consuming the plentiful crops. The famine, which should have helped keep the birds’ population from exploding, had never happened thanks to those crops, and the sheer amount of food people threw away.

A dark blur flew across the road. A crow. It smacked into her windshield and bounced over the car. Josie shrieked and then laughed.

Stan jumped in his seat. “What?”

“I’m sorry.” A cloud of feathers fluttered after them. “I hit a bird.”

“No worries.” Stan eased his seat forward. “You’ve got a nice laugh.”

She glanced at him, but he was staring out the window at the fields. His cheekbone made a crisp line under his eye, before disappearing into his beard. Josie wondered if his beard was soft.

Why was the silence suddenly awkward?

Stan pointed to a rest-area sign. “Want me to drive?”

Josie nodded. “That’d be great.”

She eased the car off the interstate, into the parking lot of the rest area. Pigeons, crows and sparrows perched on picnic tables eating leftovers from the truckers and families passing through.

When Josie got out of the car, she bent over to stretch her tight muscles. A layer of ashy droppings covered the ground under every tree and the branches seemed to blossom with wings.

Under a sign that read ‘Don’t Feed the Birds’, a little boy scattered breadcrumbs for ducks while his mother watched.

“Crazy…” Josie snorted, and shook her head.

“Something?”

“Oh.” She shrugged. “I just saw The Birds for the first time.”

“The remake?” Josie could tell Stan was watching her, but she kept stretching.

“No, the original. Hitchcock.”

“Whew.” Stan wiped his brow with mock relief. “Thought I was going to have to take you back to the university.” He shuddered. “Hitchcock remakes…”

She grinned and nodded to the boy feeding the ducks. “I was thinking the movie must have been scarier before.”

In the edge of her vision, Stan shook his head. “I was a kid when it happened.”

“Me too.” She thought of her father. “All those diseases people were afraid of catching, and they were the major thing keeping the bird population in check.”

“Wonder what Hitchcock would say?”

“I told you so, probably.”

Stan laughed, rich and deep, bouncing through an octave. The corners of his eyes wrinkled, and his teeth shone from his beard.

Josie held out the keys, grinning. Their hands touched as he took them; he had calluses on the tips of his fingers.

For a moment, he stood close and she could see herself reflected in his eyes.

Stan wet his lips. “We should get going.” He turned around and got in the car.

Josie closed her eyes and took a deep breath. She let it out carefully as she opened her eyes. “Right.” Her voice was too small. “Let’s go.”

#

The summer after the mosquitoes died, Josie’s family piled out of the car as the horizon ate the sun and last orange glow escaped the western sky. Other families hurried to the stadium for the fireworks display.

Josie bounced anxiously from one foot to the other while her mom dug for the mosquito repellant.

“We don’t need that.” Her dad came around the car and shook his head.

“With her allergy, it doesn’t hurt to be safe,” her mom said.

“She won’t get bitten.” He looked at Josie. “Mosquitoes giving you any trouble, Jo-bug?”

“Nope.” Josie held out her arms. Mosquitoes used to leave giant welts on her arms and legs, on her neck, on her back, on anything the mosquitoes could reach. And the welts had itched for weeks. So, she knew, one hundred percent certain, no mosquitoes had touched her. “Not one.”

“See.”

“You said they wouldn’t all die.” Her mom shook the can of spray.

“Numbers are lower than we thought.” He shrugged. “Think of it like a field test.”

“Josie is not a guinea pig!”

Josie stopped bouncing to stare at her parents. Her mom took Josie’s dad by the arm and pulled him to the side.

“Look! If you don’t trust me–” Josie’s dad held up his hands, as if he were pushing something away and walked off.

Josie stood very still as her mom came back with tension straining the lines of her face. “Well, Josie,” she chirped, “Let’s make sure you’re safe tonight.”

She shook the can of mosquito repellant and sprayed the white mist against Josie’s arms and legs. The fog chilled her despite the July heat.

She remembered shivering as she looked for her dad.

#

Stan had borrowed a friend’s mountain cabin, which sat on a hill close to the creek he wanted to check. The creek meandered down the mountain and then into a pond trapped between walls of earth and rock. Logs cut off its escape down the channel and gave refuge to a family of beavers.

Below the beaver’s pond, the sides of the mountain narrowed, forcing the water to trickle in a thin brook with tiny still pools nestling among the rocks. Stan had spent the last hour fishing in each pool with a small aquarium net as he looked for tadpoles.

Thunder rumbled overhead.

Josie looked up at the blue sky peeking through the canopy of leaves. “Should we head back?”

Stan glanced at his spattered and mud-stained clothes. He stood in one of the shallow pools below the beavers’ dam, wet to mid-thigh despite his rubber boots. “I don’t mind getting wet, if you don’t.”

Her shirt stuck to her back with perspiration. “I think it’s too late for me.” She looked back at the sky.

“Any worries about flash floods?”

Stan hesitated and tapped the aquarium net against his hand. “Let me get a few more tadpoles and we can go.”

The first drops fell on the pool, making gentle rings on its surface. Then the sky opened. Sheets of rain plastered Josie’s hair to her head in seconds.

“So much for that plan.” Stan had to shout over the sound of rain hitting the pond. He held his net out. “Think I can catch them falling out of the sky?”

She tilted her head back and laughed. Her shirt clung to her like a second skin. Josie raised her arms to the liquid sky, knowing it did nice things for her body; it lifted her breasts and made her waist look long and narrow. When she lowered her arms, Stan was watching her, the net forgotten in his hands.

Four beavers dove past them, scampering up the side of the hills that held the creek. She and Stan turned to watch the animals claw their way up the hill. Their flat tails left a line in the mud.

Stan understood before she did. “The dam.” He threw the net down and grabbed Josie’s hand.

She splashed after him. Under the driving percussion of the rain, she heard a low rumble. A wall of water rushed into the pond and the dam groaned. Stan pushed her up the side of the hill. She scrambled, her feet sliding in the mud. He clawed up next to her.

The dam broke.

The water splashed up the sides hungrily and grabbed for Josie. Stan held tight to her. She pressed her face against the earth, clinging to it as the water surged below her.

The water pushed the logs in front of it and roared away from them. They climbed higher, scrambling over the edge of the embankment. In minutes, the pond emptied, leaving only a channel of water cutting through the mud. Breathless, Josie lay facedown at the top of the hill. Stan sat beside her, his hand resting on her back.

She rolled over to let the rain wash the mud from her face. Stan studied her, his face open and exposed to the worry beneath. Josie sat up. She leaned close, put her hand on his thigh, and kissed him.

His beard was soft.

#

Josie sat in the back seat of her parents’ car at the end of the summer. She was hot. She wanted to go home. Her mom and dad stood outside, talking with a man in overalls. He shook his head and gestured to the field behind him where blueberry bushes squatted beneath the weight of birds. Other cars slowed at the U-Pick sign, and then drove past.

Her family had done that at three other fields.

Josie leaned her head back and looked at the ceiling of the car. If she let her eyes unfocus, the tiny holes in the ceiling liner moved and made the ceiling look farther away than it was.

She focused and unfocused her eyes. Far, near. Far.

Her dad yelled.

Josie jumped and craned her neck to see. She could hear the angry tone of his voice, but not the words. He thumped his chest and pointed at the field covered with birds. The farmer spat and walked away.
Josie’s breath skittered in her chest. Her dad stood next to the field, his shoulders bent. Then he picked up a rock and threw it at the birds. They swarmed up in a dark cloud and settled again on the bushes as if they had always been there.

He shook as though he were laughing.

Josie’s mom put her arm around him and rocked him, like she did when Josie skinned her knee. They stood for a long moment before turning to walk back to the car.

When they opened the doors, Josie leaned forward to ask what had happened. She stopped with her mouth still open.

Her dad’s cheeks were wet.

“Let’s go home.” Her mom touched his hand lightly.

Putting his hands on the wheel, he nodded. “Okay.” He looked over his shoulder and tried to smile at Josie. “Sorry, Jo-bug. No blueberries this year.” He looked forward at the writhing field. “You were right about the bird-count.”

She remembered that. He had said she was right.

#

Stan lay on the cabin’s bed with his head thrown back and one arm over his eyes. Josie ran her fingers through the hair on his chest. He wrinkled his nose and turned to smile at her.

Reaching up, Stan traced the line of her jaw with his finger. Ran it up her cheek and back down her nose, lightly. Her skin tingled with a trail of his touch.

“You’re a remarkable woman, Josie Langdon.”

She kissed his palm. “Why do you say that?”

He stroked her hair as he considered her. “Everything you went through as a kid and you’re still so… vital.”

“Vital?” Her mouth twisted, as she deliberately ignored the first part. “Interesting compliment.”

Stan laughed deep in his chest. “I’m not good at compliments.” He hesitated, and then smiled bashfully. “I have a confession to make.”

She held her breath.

“I–When you came to the university, when I met you I…”

“What?”

“I googled you.” He plucked at the sheets. “I feel weird about it now, but I wanted to know everything about you, and I figured people had pestered you enough. I didn’t want to be one more person who quizzed you.”

The stillness melted out of her and she rolled on top of him. Her hair shrouded their faces. “Stan. You can ask me anything you want.” She grinned. “Or do you know everything already?”

He pulled her down and kissed her. “What’s your favorite color?”

“Green.”

“Food?” He took her thumb in his mouth.

“Ahi tuna, lightly seared.”

“Movie, but answer carefully.” He brushed the inside of her wrist with his lips. “This could be a deal-breaker.”

“Cocteau’s Beauty and the Beast,” Josie gasped as he nibbled her elbow.

He ran his hand down her spine and traced tingling circles in the small of her back. “Interesting choice.”

“Safe questions.”

His hand stopped. A single vertical crease appeared between his eyebrows. “What’s the question you hate the most?”

Without hesitation she said, “How did I feel when my father killed himself?”

Stan wrapped his arms around her and pulled her tightly to him. She buried her face in his shoulder, letting him smooth her hair with his hands. The roughness of his voice surprised her. “Are people idiots?”

“Yes,” she said.

Stan’s sudden laugh vibrated through her breastbone, rumbling in her ear. She slid to the side, her sweat-damp skin clinging to him, and giggled as the tension broke inside her.

Stan rolled onto his elbow and kissed her again. “If I call the school and tell them the flood washed the road out, will you stay longer?”

“Yes.”

“Good.” He laid his hand on her leg and smiled at her. “Then the only other question is, ‘How do you want to spend the rest of the week?'”

Josie pulled him closer. “You already know the answer.”

#

Josie leaned against her bedroom door with her knees pulled tight to her chest. She could hear her parents fighting. She held her breath as she listened.

Her dad shouted. “No, I will not calm down!”

Murmuring incomprehensibly in the background, her mother answered him.

“I can’t find any! They’re all dead. Do you get that? They’re dead! I can’t undo the damage. I can make plenty of boys in the lab, but the girls die in larvae. Nothing but boys, boys, boys.”

His laughter cut through Josie’s door.

“Yes, siree. I built what they asked for. Look at that.” Her dad paused, and then shouted, his voice tearing from his throat. “Go on! Look at it!”

Silence. Josie closed her eyes and prayed for the quiet to continue.

“Langdon’s Frankenskeeter.” His voice sounded too jolly. “I’m on the front page of the newspaper! Why? Because I did what they fucking asked me to do!” He laughed and laughed and choked on sobs. The raw, angry cries hurled themselves at Josie. She plugged her ears and wept.

Josie remembered crying until her throat hurt.

#

The sunset slid through the trees and gilded Stan’s car. In their cages, the frogs chorused as if singing of pond and stream. Josie handed a cage to Stan and scratched her arm while he stowed it. Wrapping her arms around his waist, she stood on her toes to kiss the nape of his neck.

“Ah, Josie.” He sighed and leaned back against her.

She rested her head against his shoulder. “I don’t want to go back.”

In the evening sun, his body radiated heat and comfort. Josie squeezed him tightly. She could see his cheek wrinkling with a smile. He brushed his fingertips along her forearms and looked down.

“Wow.” He traced a circle on the back of her wrist with his finger. Her skin prickled where he touched.

“Where’d you get that?”

“What?” Josie released him and pulled her arms back. On her right wrist was an angry red welt. It itched. Josie sucked in the moist air. “Oh my god.” Her knees felt weak.

“Josie?” Stan took her hands and bent down to look in her eyes. “Are you okay?”

She looked up. “That’s a mosquito bite.”

Stan grabbed her shoulders, his eyes huge. “Are you serious?”

The itch drove through her memories. “I was allergic to them when I was a kid. Nothing else did this.”

“But they’re extinct.”

“Aedes vexans laid desiccation resistant eggs in places that were infrequently flooded. The eggs could be dormant for years. They pupate within four to five days of egg hatch.”

“The beavers’ dam?”

Josie scratched her arm and slowly grinned. Stan laughed and swooped her off the ground. He spun her round, the trees twirling dizzily past. Josie shrieked with laughter. He set her on the ground and kissed her.

“I want to see if I can catch her.” She kissed him back and bounced on her toes. “She might be the only one.”

“What’s the good of that?”

“I can make boys in the lab.”

“What if it’s not a her?”

Josie scratched the welt on her arm. “Boy mosquitoes are vegetarians.”

Stan threw his head back and hooted. He kissed her again and ran to the cabin, shouting over his shoulder. “I’ll grab a specimen jar!”

Josie could hear him throwing cabinet doors open as she turned in a circle with her eyes closed, listening for the whine of a mosquito. Josie whispered, “I found them, Daddy.”

Stan leapt out of the cabin and dumped a jar of tadpoles into a salad bowl. He dried the jar out with his shirt and held it out to her, beaming. “Aren’t you glad you came?”

Josie pushed the jar to the side and slid her arms around his waist. “I’ve been glad for a week.” She tilted her head up to kiss the tip of his nose. “Remember that.”

END

 

The post Short Story: Some Other Day appeared first on Mary Robinette Kowal.

Jul. 21st, 2017 02:12 pm

Friday Fiction: Australian Hospital

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Posted by Mary Kelly

Australian hospital romance cover

Australian Hospital
Dingwell
1980 (original copyright 1955)

I found this book digging through the donation pile and loved the cover art. I think the drama of the woman biting her finger is just awesome. Dingwell’s catalog of over 80 titles is impressive by any standard. I usually get a kick out of these vintage titles for the cover art alone. The women always look a bit unhinged, and this one is no exception.

We featured a few of her books: Sister Pussycat (who doesn’t love that title?) and Nurse Smith, Cook.  This title is similar to most romances of the period. The awful guy is the right guy and there is the requisite misunderstanding between our lovers. Don’t worry, things will all work out by the end of the book.

Mary

 back cover Australian Hospital book

Australian hospital synopsis

australian hospital interior text

The post Friday Fiction: Australian Hospital appeared first on Awful Library Books.

Jul. 21st, 2017 01:00 pm

CAKETASTROPHE!! (By Special Request)

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Posted by Jen

I was perusing the Cake Wrecks Facebook page the other day (where every follower gets a free invisible puppy!!) when I came across a rather unusual request:

Ahh, so you want to pop open the hood and take a gander inside the wrecks, is that it, Jennifer?

Well, I'm glad you asked.

BEHOLD!!

 

And BEHOLD!!

 

KEEP BE-HOLDING!

 

Hey, Jennifer, you ever wonder how cupcake cakes (ptooie!) keep their icing from falling through all those big gaps?

NOW YOU KNOW.

 

We just saw last week how a gender reveal cake failed to actually reveal anything - other than plain yellow cake - but here's the opposite problem:

The cake was blue inside with pink icing.

Oy.

 

Now I'm going to show you my absolute favorite cake cake wreck of all time, Jennifer, and which I've been hanging onto for just this moment.

First, though, let me explain what (we think) happened:

A bakery was unable to sell a Halloween cake in time, but they didn't want to throw it away or reduce the price. So instead, they simply flipped the entire cake over, icing side down, and re-decorated the other side to make it into a generic birthday design.

CW reader Shannon had no idea of the skullduggery at work until she cut the cake, and found this:

That's a whoooole lotta icing, right there.

(And think how fresh!!)

 

And finally, I know I posted the video of this over on FB a week or two back, but here's a quick .gif reminder of the importance of proper wedding cake support:

OUCH.

(Watch the original video here to see them both continue to laugh hysterically, which is just adorable. Cutest couple ever!)

 

Welp, I hope that satisfies some of your blood lust for caketastrophe, Jennifer!

And hey, for the rest of you, the request line... IS OPEN.

 

Thanks to Cherie O., Leann S., Jaunna, Fribby, Sarah, & Shannon G. for reminding me of those times bakeries accidentally left scissors, a paring knife, and other various cutlery in their cakes - because that was a HOOT. (And also because "TRAUMATIC BIEBER" *still* makes me snort-laugh.)

*****

Thank you for using our Amazon links to shop! USA, UK, Canada.

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Posted by Beth Bernier

Favorite Bit iconKay Kenyon is joining us today with her novel At the Table of Wolves. Here’s the publisher’s description:

Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy meets X-Men in a classic British espionage story. A young woman must go undercover and use her superpowers to discover a secret Nazi plot and stop an invasion of England.

In 1936, there are paranormal abilities that have slowly seeped into the world, brought to the surface by the suffering of the Great War. The research to weaponize these abilities in England has lagged behind Germany, but now it’s underway at an ultra-secret site called Monkton Hall.

Kim Tavistock, a woman with the talent of the spill—drawing out truths that people most wish to hide—is among the test subjects at the facility. When she wins the confidence of caseworker Owen Cherwell, she is recruited to a mission to expose the head of Monkton Hall—who is believed to be a German spy.

As she infiltrates the upper-crust circles of some of England’s fascist sympathizers, she encounters dangerous opponents, including the charismatic Nazi officer Erich von Ritter, and discovers a plan to invade England. No one believes an invasion of the island nation is possible, not Whitehall, not even England’s Secret Intelligence Service. Unfortunately, they are wrong, and only one woman, without connections or training, wielding her talent of the spill and her gift for espionage, can stop it.

What’s Kay’s favorite bit?

At the Table of Wolves cover image

KAY KENYON

Kim Tavistock is on an undercover mission to find a spy among the English gentry. She is a guest at a grand English home along with a handsome German, supposedly a businessman, Erich von Ritter.

In this scene, Kim Tavistock, an animal lover, has rushed out into a rain storm to retrieve two puppies who bolted from the house. The maid will be blamed, but their escape was really Kim’s fault. The puppies belong to Georgi, her unpleasant hostess for the weekend. Kim and von Ritter have looked for the puppies in a gazebo on a spit in the river near the house. Now they are stranded by the rising water.

One of the things they discuss is how the recent outbreak of paranormal abilities–called the bloom–will affect world affairs. During this scene, Kim hears from von Ritter a strange word: chorister, that becomes her first clue to an operation that threatens England.

I love this scene because it is the first time that Kim is alone with the man who will become her adversary, an elegant and charismatic German spy. The scene foreshadows their future relationship: fraught with tension and tinged with attraction despite their opposition and the stakes of the game.

“We can wade across,” Kim said.

Von Ritter shook his head. “No. The river is too fast. It is rising even as speak.” The spit was a torrent, a second arm of the river.

“I suggest we wait it out,” he said. “The river was to crest this morning. Give it an hour.” He reached into the pocket of his suit and retrieved a cigarette case. He snapped it open, and offered her one.

Using his lighter, he lit her cigarette, then his own. “I am afraid Georgi is forming up a firing squad. Your maid is done for.”

She inhaled the smoke with a rush of pleasure. “But the puppies will come home full of mud, having had an adventure.”

“All the worse, if they had fun,” he said, smiling.

“I suppose you’re right.” Clotted fog rolled down the river, enclosing them in whiteness. “It’s freezing out here.”

“Take my coat.” He unbelted his trench coat.

“You’ll be cold,” she protested but, cigarette dangling from her lips, she shrugged into the trench coat. As they sat on the bench, Von Ritter draped the slicker over both of them, and with his arm around her shoulders, warmth returned. She was acutely aware of their shoulders touching, the intimacy of the shared garment.

They smoked, listening to the river rushing by. Von Ritter seemed content to enjoy his cigarette. But silence was against her purpose.

“How do you happen to know Georgi?” Kim asked.

“We met in Bonn when she was on holiday and by chance we were both on the same train down the Rhone Gorge.” He turned to regard her. “Are you warm enough? Here, come closer, or we will never make it to luncheon.”

“I thought you said one hour,” she chided, but sidled in to him. Heat radiated beneath the rain coat, but whether it came from him or was a flush of her own, she could not tell.

He went on, “Georgi has the German viewpoint. Very forward-thinking, unlike some of your countrymen.”

“I can’t pretend to agree.”

“No, I should not like you to pretend.”

“Is the water rising?” she asked, trying to see the spit through the gazebo door.

“I cannot tell from here. I would have to get up from our snug nest to see,” he said good-naturedly.

From far in the distance, someone was calling for the dogs.

After a few minutes, Kim ventured, “There may be a war. Your country and mine.”

“It need not come to that.” He adjusted his arm around her shoulder. “Lean in to me. For warmth. It does no harm until we are enemies.”

It was only sharing a rain slicker in a storm, and even if he was a Nazi, he could hardly be motivated to throw her in the river.

“We do not need a war of arms. It is rather a war of ideas,” he said. “We are on the eve of a great change, Miss Tavistock. The bloom. It has changed everything. It is a new regime, hovering so close we do not think to look up to see it envelop us.”

The rain crackled on the gazebo roof, streaming down off the eaves. “We don’t know what it will really mean for any of us,” she said.

“It means that great men will rise.”

“Does it?”

“It means that great leaders will become prophets of change. We have such a man in Germany.” He glanced sideways at her. “Whatever you may think of us.” He flicked his cigarette into the river. “In this country you have no great men. Churchill is a nineteenth century throwback, still yearning for empire. The bloom has brought us to a new level. Men of high Talent who direct destinies. Choristers, if you will.”

“Choristers?”

He paused as a gust of wind brought a torrent of staccato pattering on the roof. “A figure of speech.”

“Such an interesting word.”

“Is it?”

“Yes, as though we’re all singing the same song.” She added, trying for an ironic tone, “Deutschland Uber Alles.”

“Perhaps. But a chorister will bring you down.”

She had not heard the word before, and thought that perhaps he had used the wrong English word. “Do you mean Hitler? He is a chorister?”

“No. One of your own,” he said.

“But who?”

He stared at the river. “I did not think you were so interested in politics, Miss Tavistock.”

“Well, I’m interested in most things.”

“Ah, the reporter. Saving animals. It is all very noble.” He separated from their embrace to turn to look her at her. “You would have made a good German.”

She met his dark gaze, wanting to appear friendly, but not in a way that would arouse suspicion. “I think not.”

LINKS:

Website

Amazon

Barnes & Noble

Signed copies (personalized optional)

Twitter

BIO:

Kay Kenyon is the author of thirteen science fiction and fantasy novels as well as numerous short stories. Her work has been shortlisted for the Philip K. Dick, Endeavour, the John W. Campbell Memorial Award, and twice for the American Library Association Reading List awards. Her latest work, from Saga Press, is At the Table of Wolves. Publishers Weekly called it “A superb adventure, worthy to launch a distinguished historical fantasy series.” Book 2 in the Dark Talents novels, Serpent in the Heather, will be published in April, 2018. The audio edition will be out on August 15. Kay is a founding member of the Write on the River conference in Wenatchee, WA where she lives with her husband Tom and her tabby cat, Winston.

 

 

The post My Favorite Bit: Kay Kenyon talks about AT THE TABLE OF WOLVES appeared first on Mary Robinette Kowal.

Jul. 20th, 2017 01:00 pm

Dirty-Minded Decorators

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Posted by Jen

Aw, look at the sweet cake for Sarah-Maude's second birthday:

[squinting]

 

Although, those balloons look a little odd, don't they? Let's take a closer look...

[eyes bulging] Great Scott! Hide the children!!

And I KNOW you see what I see, people, so don't even try to accuse me of having my mind in the gutter. It's the Fireman cake all over again.

Eric N., thank goodness this was for a safely oblivious 2-year-old. Still, given how obvious those balloons are, I'm pretty sure I'd steer clear of this bakery in the future. Unless it was for a bachelorette party, of course.

*****

Thank you for using our Amazon links to shop! USA, UK, Canada.

Jul. 20th, 2017 11:31 am

Prepare for the End

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Posted by Mary Kelly

Will Jesus Come this Year? CoverWill Jesus Come…
This Year
Positive Proof that the End is Near
Grant
~1950

I have to say I am kind of loving our good friend Rev. Grant and his somewhat hysterical doom and gloom pamphlets. Not too long ago we featured his special title, Work with Less Energy. This particular title is all about end times. Some of our best indicators are some of the more evil man made problems such as: heart disease, the atomic bomb, radio and television. Our dear Rev. Grant has got you covered with lots of scripture and advice so you can be fully prepared for the end. Not buying it? Don’t be too sad. They say it’s a dry heat in hell.

See you on the other side,

Mary

why the end times are near text

text about churches and message of Christianity

The post Prepare for the End appeared first on Awful Library Books.

Jul. 19th, 2017 12:55 pm

Retro Buffets

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Posted by Mary Kelly

best buffet recipes cover

Best Buffets Cook Book
Better Homes and Gardens
1974

If the Brady Bunch were hosting a party, they would use this book. Feast your eyes on some of these delightful treats, such as Potato Chicken Bake featuring slices of American cheese and tater tots. I can just see Alice pushing these delicious meals on the whole gang. The early 1970s decor and fashion give this wonderful cookbook some extra zing.

Dig in,

Mary

best bvuffets back cover

buffet recipes for entertaining

buffet recipes for a family

buffet recipes

The post Retro Buffets appeared first on Awful Library Books.

Jul. 19th, 2017 01:00 pm

Initial Discomfort

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Posted by Jen

Monograms can add that perfect crowning touch of elegance to your wedding cake.

 

Or, they can look like this:

Proof that sometimes it's better to quit before letting your five-year-old write on the cake.

 

Still, it could be worse.

The monogram could match the rest of the cake:

Hey, it's not easy to make tinfoil look this good.

 

If you do find a mistake in your cake's monogram, don't panic. There are plenty of seamless ways for your baker to fix the error.

This isn't one of them.

 

Now, I'm all for sharing new words, broadening folks' horizons, furthering education, etc, but if you have to explain to the baker of your wedding cake what a monogram is - a "T, J, and H" put together, for example - then maybe, just maybe, a few alarm bells should go off.

Or I suppose you could just take your chances.

After all, what could go wrong?

Heh.

Aheh.

Heh.

At least the quotes add a little something "extra."

 

Thanks to today's wedding wreckporters Anony M., Hilary R., Cyndi P., & Cyndee M., who think all bakers should be required to ask, "Can I quote you on that?"

*****

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