Fur in History: A Quick Overview

So there I was, trotting along under the January stars, pleased that I had found my fur-lined winter hat, and my fur neck-piece, and my fur muff, and thinking about fur, who wore fur, fur in art, and realized that I have not yet seen a book about the history of fur. The North American fur trade, yes, lots and lots of books, because my early childhood was spent at a place where two major rivers and multiple trading trails crossed, trade routes that predated Europeans by quite a while. So I grew up reading about fur trappers and beaver and that sort of thing. But what about fur in world history? Fur is a no-no for some people today, although that seems to be changing a little, and no one seems to shed tears over lining a hat with rabbit, or using rabbit fur to make felt hats. Back in the day, before central heat, fur meant survival and was one of the most important trade items around. Fur carried status, even squirrel and other “low-class” furs. Continue reading


Friday Fiction: Buying Time

From something that no longer fits in the Cat Among Dragons sequence…

“Rachel, I hate to impose,” Panpit Khan’s voice said from Rada’s “cell phone.” “But is there any possible way you could mind Sita and Robin Wednesday week? I’ve been asked to give an interview to Threads and Trends magazine, and I can’t be in London and here at the same time.”

Rachel grinned up at the dark ceiling in her quarters. “I believe that I can, Panpit, unless someone decides to invade or your dear spouse finds something for me to do.”

“I’ll make sure that he doesn’t! Thank you, and I’ll ring back with the details,” Panpit said. She sounded relieved. Rachel understood: Rahoul had filled her ears with laments about trying to find sitters for the two energetic, creative, and intelligent nine-year-olds.

“How do you keep up with them?” he’d asked one morning at breakfast.

“I redirect them before they can get ahead of me, sir,” she’d explained. The trick was to distract them before anything exciting began. Continue reading

It Ain’t Necessarily So…

A lot of what I’ve been reading, particularly about medieval and Renaissance history, has been traditional accounts interspersed with “Oh duh, that makes perfect sense” moments of something new. Like corsets can’t have been that horrible or women wouldn’t have bought them by the tens of thousands once they became inexpensive to cheap. Other things are a little less obvious (I mean, look at photos of Victorian and Edwardian street scenes. Duh.) but are still intriguing. Continue reading

Jan ’18 State of the Author

So, the fantasy novel is done, at least is finished in draft form. It will need work on the revision side, but it has wrapped up.

Rather than launch into one of the novels waiting for me, I am working on a steampunk story set in Hamburg in 1892. “In the Fleets” is the title. A Vliet (pronounced “fleet”) is one of the small side channels that feed into the main rivers in Hamburg. The protagonist has a chip on his shoulder about the newly-declared German Empire. As it turns out, so do a lot of other people. Continue reading

Book Review: Leonardo Da Vinci

Isaacson, Walter. Leonardo Da Vinci. (New York: Simon and Schuster, 2017)

Everyone knows about Leonardo Da Vinci. He’s one of the artists referred to by one name, and the “Mona Lisa” is in all art books, or parodied, or used for a meme, and attracts all the attention of people visiting the Louvre Museum. For a while Da Vinci conspiracies were trendy, and engineers have attempted to see if his ideas for machines would work. Some do, some don’t. He is often considered the ultimate Renaissance man – artist, writer, engineer, scientist, costume designer, diplomat, scholar, builder of machines. Walter Isaacson puts Da Vinci’s story into a single, easy-to-read volume with excellent illustrations. Continue reading

Stick a Fork in it – Fantasy Novel Edition

The draft of the Chinese-inspired fantasy novel is done. I have a cover located. I need a title.

The plot: A dragon, Count Chang, finds a girl he thinks is the Chosen One, a human of the old blood who carries the magical power needed to heal a sick river and to convince the humans to stop making things worse. Leesan, being the youngest daughter of a foreign family, has absolutely no desire to take on any responsibility or to think for herself, let alone learn magic. The other dragons, including the Western King, need her to act, lest the Great Sky Emperor, king of the gods, lose his patience with them and sort things out himself, remaking the world and punishing the dragons in the process. Count Chang just wants the glory of having found the person who can fix the problem, not the responsibility for actually working to solve things.

No one gets what they want, as you can imagine.

Some title ideas include:

Lord Chang and the River

Healing the Great River

The Dragon and the Land

The Curse of the Yellow Hills

Pearl’s Daughter

Any of these sound better than others? Any suggestions for something else?

Drought Drags In

Ninety-eight days without measurable precipitation, with no rain or snow in the foreseeable future. Drought is creeping back into the High Plains, and everyone is wary, watching the dry grass, watching the sky, waiting for something and praying for rain or wet snow. The grasses are brown, the normal winter color. But the ground is starting to dry, and to blow.

Continue reading