Fall’s Arrival

Friday, September 26, fall arrived in the Texas Panhandle, at least as far as I’m concerned. The days have been growing shorter, and the days cooler, after a last gasp of 100+ weather during the first week of September. The mornings dipped down into the 50s and the afternoon highs remained in the low 80s, unless a storm line plunged things back into the 60s, as happened this past Wednesday. But the air still felt like summer. Continue reading


Animals and Environments 4: Sources and Further Reading

Here are the most readily accessible books and articles about the Great Plains, High Plains, bison, and beaver.

Sherow, James E. The Grasslands of the United States This edited volume from ABC Cleo is a collection of overviews, essays, shorter articles, and case-studies about different aspects of the North American grasslands.

McHugh, Tom. Time of the Buffalo A great natural history about bison, readable and well illustrated.

Flores, Dan, “Bison Ecology and Bison Diplomacy” in the collection The Natural West.

Isenberg, Andrew The Destruction of the Bison Despite its title, this is a well-balanced account of bison and their predators.

Müller-Schwarze, Dietland, and Lixing Sun, The Beaver: Natural History of a Wetlands Engineer. More than you ever wanted to know about beavers, well written with nice illustrations.

McCarty, John D. Maverick Town: The Story of Old Tascosa is not an animal book per se, but he explains a great deal about the Canadian River Valley and how it looked prior to 1890.

Rathjen, Frederic, Texas Panhandle Frontier describes the region as it was before Anglo settlement began.

Of the books listed above, McCarty and Sherow may be a little difficult to find, but should be available through inter-library loan.

An Excess of History?

I wish I could take credit for the line that “It’s rough to live in a place where a lot of history happens.” I don’t recall if it was Charlie Martin, the Writer in Black, Sarah Hoyt, Kim du Toit, or someone else who wrote it as a blog comment, but it wasn’t me, alas. It is true, however.  The Carpathian Basin has been afflicted by a great deal of history, making it a fascinating place to study but difficult to survive, depending on when you happened to live there. It makes Bohemia and Moravia look tranquil by comparison. Continue reading

Book Updates

Elizabeth and Empire is back from the editor and the cover design process is underway. It should be available in November [knocks firmly on wood]

Carpathian Campaign, the first of the Power of Pannonia duology, is starting to jell in terms of characters and broad plot arc. I’m still researching details, but things are beginning to make sense, at least in the author’s mind. What happens when words hit the page remains to be seen. The second book is also taking form, although it will require more research as well.

The next Cat book is simmering because of two looming non-fiction projects.

Animals and Environments 3: Beaver of the Breaks

Ah, beaver, the cute rodent property owners love to hate. Beaver are, as one author described them, “nature’s wetland engineers,” re-working the local hydrology to suit their own needs. In the process they can have some very long-term effects on the environment around and down stream of their chosen location. The Canadian River valley, although at the margins of beavers’ usual domain, showed the effects of their activities in several different ways. Continue reading

The Creatures of ColPlat XI

When Colonial Plantation Ltd. terraformed and restocked Solana (as their brochures called it), they included the basic human compatible mix of plants and animals and soil bacteria, with a few odd additions such as wild boar. They also left several native species, something the surviving descendants of the original colonists would probably want to strangle the bureaucrats for, if they knew why they had to deal with dar dogs, and the great digging “cat” of the eastern plains.  Continue reading

Vienna 1: “Old Stones”

Paris is the city of light, the city of romance, the heart of all culture and art. And it sprawls, has too much traffic, and do not get me started on the crowds in the Southern European side of the Louvre. Or how “wonderful” and “romantic” it is to walk from the Louvre to your hotel on a 100 degree F afternoon in June when you can’t find a cab. I’ve seen what I wanted to see: the Musee de Cluny and the Northern European art at the Louvre. Send me back to Vienna, please.

Ah, Vienna. It’s a little too trite to talk about “faded splendors” and “an air of nostalgia, wistful yearning for past glories, like a faded beauty,” and all those other things people say about the city. Once you take off the Empress Elizabeth-tinted glasses, there’a  great deal more to Vienna, which may explain why I enjoy spending time there.  I am aware of the dark side, Karl Luger and the anti-Semitism of the 1900s-1940s. I’ve seen the soldiers patrolling Judengaße and Salztorgaße, protecting the synagogue and Simon Wiesenthal’s offices. The century or so between 1848 and 1955 were not happy years in south central Europe for a number of reasons. But Vienna’s history goes back much farther than the unhappy postcard painter and the sad story of Empress Elizabeth.

Here’s a little piece I wrote some eighteen years ago, after my first visit. At the time I had no idea I would end up making what will soon (knock-on-wood) be six trips to the city. Continue reading

Indie and Trad Publishing—One Author’s Experience

I’ve been indie published since late 2012. I have worked with academic publishers, both of periodicals and of books, since 2005. The experiences have some similarities, and some vast differences. This is my account. I have never worked with an agent, never had a book shopped to an imprint of one of the Big 5 publishers, nor have I considered it (with one brief exception I’ll talk about below.) Continue reading

Animals and Environments 2: The Land and the Bison

Imagine standing on a broad tableland, knee-high grass extending as far as you can see in all directions. The sun has just risen, well on its way north with the shift from spring into summer, and already the southwest wind ruffles the grass and hisses its hot way past. The day will be a warm one. You begin walking north. As you do, you start to see variations in the billiard table surface. Rainwater lakes, the famous playas, form broad, shallow depressions surrounded by taller grasses. Some of the largest playas have sedges, amaranth, arrow leaf, and western wheat grass in their shallows and on the shores. And you discover a faint blue line in the distance, almost like hills, or very, very far away mountains. Continue reading