Book Review: Sabrina Chase – Bureau of Substandards Annual Report

What do you do when a baby kraken follows you home? Do you really want to deal with the paperwork? What if an inter dimensional portal opens up because you used the wrong pop machine? Well, to start with, you will have a lot of paperwork to fill out, all for the Bureau of Substandards. Sabrina Chase’s short story collection spins a loose outline of the follies, foibles, and fun of bureaucrats (and combat janitors), and inter-departmental dating.

I picked up the collection not long after it came out, because I’d enjoyed the first novel of the Sequoyah series.  I wasn’t so sure about the first story in this collection, but I soon got hooked. Remember the story “Alamagoosa?” Yup, they have that sort of feeling, with more bizarre bureaucratic humor, a bit like Dilbert meets chtulu, but without the existential madness and sense of doom.

Depending on how much you have worked with bureaucracies and large companies, you may find yourself laughing in the wrong places, and thinking “So that explains what happened to Gary in Accounting!” You may also never look at a stuck file cabinet in quite the same way.

I enjoyed the collection and recommend it, both as an introduction to the author, and as lighter fare for those who liked the Mage Guardian and Sequoia books.


Book Sale in Progress: Partial list here, all fiction genres (almost), lasts through Monday!


Comments Update: Temporary Closure of Comments

Hi, just to let everyone know that I have closed comments for the next few weeks. I will have at best limited internet access, and I do not want anyone languishing in moderation, wondering what went wrong. There are posts ready, but comments will be closed until I have trustworthy internet again.

Thank you for your patience.

Morning Dance

“I Danced in the Morning”


High in the rain-washed air, above spring greened wheat and grass, the dance begins. The nose of the small crimson and white biplane eases slightly below the horizon, and the rest of the plane rotates around it, stopping wheels high to check seatbelts and oil pressure. The wings swing crisply upright once again, quickly turning towards a box drawn in the air that only the mind’s eye can see. The silvery nose of the checker-winged Pitts swings left and right, searching for other airplanes. None appear to seeking eyes, and the plane banks towards the unseen box, dipping a wing three times in salute. Continue reading

Habitat Readjustment

Humans are the only creatures to cause major modifications to the environment, right? OK, beavers make ponds by building dams, but those are small. And elephants will push trees over, but that’s different. And bison graze selectively and influence the botanical . . . Arrrrrghhhhh!

Actually, non-human animals have caused very large alterations to their physical and botanical environments. It’s just that we don’t see them, because of the time scale involved, or because we entered the habitat after the other animals had modified it. Continue reading

Elizabeth’s Wardrobe: Clothing and Textiles on Colplat XI

If she lived in our world, Elizabeth von Sarmas would be that woman who has simple tastes: she simply wants the best. She’d be the one in the $1500 cashmere-merino blend blazer that she’s had for a decade but still looks perfect. She’d own closets full of carefully chosen classic pieces, would never be on the fashion pages, but always in style. Except she doesn’t live here. Continue reading

Colplatschki Update 8/20

Marie’s Tale is available from Amazon.

I apologize to those readers who prefer to use Barnes & Noble. I am having trouble finding cover art small enough for B&N to accept. I hope to solve the problem soon, and have it available for you next week. It does contain spoilers for Elizabeth of Vindobona, so be warned.

Wednesday Wee-bit

The opening pages of A Carpathian Campaign, the alt-history/ secret history WWI Novel.

Chapter One: A Shot in the Afternoon


“Crack!” The rifle shot echoed through the deep woods. István worked the bolt, keeping the muzzle on the boar. The huge beast squalled, then fell over, eyes glazing. The man suddenly remembered that he needed to breath and inhaled the scent of crushed plants, blood, and his own fear. By St. Hubert’s horn, that was close!

He lowered the rifle and walked across the small glade to look at the black boar. Its yellowed, curving tusks had to be at least twenty centimeters long, and István shook his head, impressed. He thought he saw a lingering hint of piggy hate in the dead eyes, and he saluted the old woods king. “Your reign’s over, old man,” he told the animal’s spirit, if it had one. “Well done.” It had almost killed him, and deserved the respect due a worthy foe.

He felt his father’s touch against his shields. <<I’m here, Pater. Unharmed,>> and he sent a mental image of the boar.

<<Blessed St. Anthony! I’ll send Hans to help you clean the beast.>>


István lit a cigarette and noticed that his hands had begun shaking a little. He smiled at the tremor and took a deep, welcome drag on his smoke. He’d finished for the day, after all, and had earned a little treat.

Well, burning tobacco would not get the boar cleaned. István finished his smoke, ground the last bit of ash out against some damp soil, confirmed the safety on the rifle and set it against a tree along with his shell bag, and checked that he’d loaded his service revolver. “Never, ever, be unarmed in the woods with wild pigs and wolves loose,” he heard in his memory. After seeing what pigs had done to one of the peasant children, Stephan took the warning to heart. He drew his hunting knife and began work. Continue reading

8/19 Progress Report

The draft of Peaks of Grace is finished. It comes in at 66,000 words, although I suspect it will grow once I go through it. It is the eighth Colplatschki Chronicle, and explains where Edmund Ironhand of Sarmas, Matthew Malatesta, and Elizabeth von Sarmas got their stubborn streak.

Walked a mile and a half under a beautiful layered sunrise. The high clouds turned rose while you could still see Venus and Jupiter in the east, then the lower clumps changed from grey to fire and gold-rimmed blue, then white. It reminded me of a Tiepolo ceiling.

Elizabeth and Empire went to the copy editor on Friday, and I anticipate a late November release date.


Big Moons Rising

So another “super moon” has come and gone. I managed to catch moon set on Sunday AM, and it was quite something. The enormous, golden moon hovered in the western sky, sliding behind thin stripes of blue cloud until it vanished behind cloud-mountains. Otherwise it hid behind overcast skies, until it appeared just in time to wash out the Persiads. Thpoil-thport.

Growing up, the big low moon went by the name “twenty-dollar gold piece moon.” The color, pale to medium gold, and the enormous size when it hung close to the horizon, gave it the name. I have seen a $20 gold piece, and there is a definite resemblance.

Just before Christmas in 2000, I drove from the Mid-midwest back to Texas. I’d intended to fly, but a combination of influenza and stress put an end to that. (It was one of those years when rural school districts closed because a third of the staff and half the students were out sick. Great fun, I lost 10 pounds in a week, and would just as soon not go through that again, thanks.) So I drove through snow-covered farm land and a few cities, dodged rush-hour in Kansas City, and took the Kansas Turnpike where it angles through an area called the Flint Hills down to Wichita, where I intended to spend the night.

The Turnpike cuts northeast-southwest. The Flint Hills, so named because of the rocks that poke out of the shallow soil and form low but rugged terrain, are ranch country. Farming is possible in a few flatter bottomlands with thicker soil, but most of that swath of Kansas and into Oklahoma is ranching, with a few tall-grass prairie nature preserves. The towns are more scattered than one would expect, and you can drive miles without seeing a house or coming to a town. Or even seeing trees, for that matter, because ranchers still burn the grass on regular occasions to keep down the brush and trees.

So, it is the night of the winter solstice, and a full moon. A super-moon, in fact, according to the voices on the radio. The snowpack had thinned a little, but I could still see snow in places through the tan fur of the dormant grass. As the sun set, the sky became pale and cold looking, but I couldn’t see any stars yet. Traffic remained light, with most of he big trucks staying on I-70 and I-35 that night.

And then the moon rose, an enormous white and silver moon that eased out of the hills behind me, wider than the Turnpike and cold. The sky seemed to turn just a little pastel around it, like the little flecks of color to the west where a few lingering bits of cloud clustered low on the horizon. I kept one eye on the rear-view mirror, watching the show, and one on the road ahead. The moon shrank as it rose, shifting from silver-grey-white to pure white, white as the snow, in a sky as blue as the night shadows on the snow.

I’ve seen other moonrises since then, from the ground and from the air, in the US and Europe. But that one lingers in my memory: the snow and grass, the roll of the hills, the empty roads, and the moon, beautiful, cold, shining, rising over the Flint Hills on the longest night of the year.

Care and Rotation of Cats

One of the underrated skills for authors is proper cat rotation. Be they graduate students, fiction or non-fiction authors, indie or traditional, all writers have their own ways of cat rotation. Woe be to the author who discovers he took in a self-rotating cat, for he shall have to find a new way to spend time while battling the dreaded blank sheet of paper/screen.

Why rotate cats? So they stay even on both sides, of course. You do not want your cat flat on one side, with overly-worn fur. (Unless you have a Martian flat-cat, natch.) Continue reading