Night Winds Blow

High wind during the day annoys but does not scare me. Blowing dust or snow can be a pain in the patoot, and grounds for staying indoors and giving thanks that I’m not out in it, but unless there’s a tornado included, or an ice storm has just wrapped up (BTDT and yes, I did buy a tee-shirt), I don’t mind it much. Let the wind cry in the night, however, and it stirs every old, perhaps ancient, fear. Continue reading


Book Review: Sparrowind and The Tale of Ugly Knight

Modena, R. K. Sparrowind: The Dragon who Lived as a Knight Kindle Edition

Lightfoot, Elizabeth A. The Ugly Knight (The Tales of Tel Book One) Kindle Edition

These two books work well together. Although not aimed at children, Sparrowind would be good for reading to younger children, or for new chapter-book readers. The Ugly Knight is for older readers (age 10+) but adults will enjoy both of them.

Sparrowind the dragon wants to be a knight. He has a book about what one needs to be a knight. Alas, he also has tradition, fear, and language difficulties to overcome. And the increasingly frequent knights sent to pester him. And then danger threatens the kingdom . . .

Korton, the ugly knight, is not the likeliest of heroes. But he is kind to those who mean him well. He goes forth to do knightly things and in the process kills a dragon. But the dragon is not what it seems, although just what it is no one is certain. A mysterious farm girl, a wise servant, and the guidance of the elves help Korton as he works to solve the mystery of the dragon and to defeat the evil that threatens the land.

Both books share a certain sweetness. The bad guys are bad but not sadistic or vicious. The good guys are not perfect, but they are kind and try very hard. Both stories have little twists that readers will enjoy, and room for sequels.

Younger fantasy readers will really enjoy these two books/ novellas. If anything, I wish The Ugly Knight had been a little longer, with more description of scenery and setting. There is enough that the reader knows where things are, but more would have been nice. I look forward to reading more from Modena and Lightfoot.

NOTE: I purchased both books for my own use. I received no remuneration in cash, goods, or services for this review.

Friday Fiction: Inclusion and its Discontents

Some things are best un-inclusive. And some True-dragons should not be threatened . . .

“You are species-ist!”

Rada Ni Drako blinked and Zabet’s whiskers snapped forward, then back as her ears tipped to half-staff. <<Really?>>

“Yes. Your insistence on discriminating against those unreceptive to True-dragon telepathy is rank species-ism,” the humanoid female informed Zabet. “I am offended by your insensitivity to others’ needs.”

Rada gritted her teeth. The dealer could not have found a better way to piss off Rada’s Boss if she’d asked first. Don’t do it, Boss, Rada pled behind her shields. If you eviscerate her, it will spatter the display on the other side and we’ll have to pay for the clean up. That and explaining to the management why the cute little True-dragon had apparently murdered a fellow merchant during the market truce. <<We’re under peace bond, Boss.>> Continue reading

North American Mis-Named Wildlife

Europeans and Brits who come to North America must wonder what the explorers and zoologists were drinking. The robin bears at best a faint resemblance to the English robin. Prairie dogs are not dogs, prairie chicken are not coop chickens, pronghorn antelope are not antelope, moose and elk are backwards, and the miner’s cat is not a feline. What happened? Continue reading

Do You Kipple?

If you have clicked on the link in the sidebar, you know who my favorite poet is. I’m fond of Browning as well, and ‘Banjo’ Patterson, Goethe, T.S. Eliot in small doses, and some of G. K. Chesterton’s poems when I can find them. “Ballad of the White Horse” is probably going to be the last epic in the English tradition, I suspect/fear. But the poet I go back to, well, author, since I read his short stories and novels every so often, is Rudyard Kipling. George Orwell called him a “good-bad” poet, and Chesterton admired his skill and his gift for praising the ordinary but disapproved of Kipling’s apparent fondness for the regimentation and cosmopolitan nature. Other critics disliked hi jingoism, his over-fondness for meter, and his lack of sophistication. And supposedly he also wrote bawdy or scurrilous verses about the royal family. For my part, I grew up on Kipling and return to him more than to any other non-religious writer. Continue reading

Book Review: The Face in the Frost

Bellairs, John The Face in the Frost. Kindle Edition

Raise your hand if you remember watching the dramatization of John Bellair’s great YA novel, The House with a Clock in its Walls. Keep your hand up if you then tracked down and read his other novel series, all what would now be called “urban fantasy” but then were just great stories with a dose of magic, Christian-based or otherwise. The covers of the library editions and interiors often featured Edward Gorey illustrations, adding to the sense of off-beat creepiness. I loved them and devoured every one I could get my hands on.

I was not aware that he’d written grown-up novels until The Face in the Frost appeared in my Recommendations list. It sounded different, and I added it to my TBR pile. Well, thanks to the wonders of modern air travel and the paucity of decent TV shows, I finally had time to read it. And I devoured it. Face in the Frost has the same quirky, multi-level, spooky, satisfying tale spinning of Bellairs’ books for younger readers, with more nods to things adults might catch and appreciate.

Prospero, a magician and not the one you are thinking of, senses something odd going on, in the form of a creepy grey cape that appears at his house. His friend Roger Bacon drops by and mentions a similar feeling, as well as a troubling book that he has been hunting for. After sharing perhaps one drink too many, the gentlemen wake up the next morning to find themselves under siege in Prospero’s home. They find a way to escape, and the chase is on. The book is more than it seems, and a figure from Prospero’s past pulls the magicians deeper and deeper into danger, threatening the world in the process.

Prospero and Bacon are fascinating characters, practical and fallible. They get in and out of scrapes in the process of trying to solve the mystery of the book and of the faces in the frost. Bellairs blends horror and humor with a deft hand, so that although the book is tense and scary, it is never terrifying. Readers uncomfortable with horror will still enjoy the tale. I’d call it a “read under the covers with a flashlight” book for adults.

In short, I really enjoyed the book. It’s not terribly long but is quite gripping. Great fun, shivery in good ways, and humorous just where it needs to be.


Book News and Mailing List Question

Barring unforeseen difficulties, Circuits and Crises will be available on Amazon on Saturday. It will be in Select. I apologize to my readers who prefer e-pub formats or shopping with other distributors, but I’m just not seeing enough sales to balance what I gain with Select.

It is said on ColPlatXI that when dar-dogs and mountain cats fight, all others hide; when brothers fight, all creatures flee.

As Emperor Andrew Babenburg labors to uncover the secrets of the Landers, his brothers fret that interest has warped into obsession. To the south, obsession and argument have become schism, breaking apart Tivolia, Morloke and Scheel at a moment when danger threatens. Or does it? Captain Mike Kidder, commander of the fortress of Sigurney smells trouble brewing east of the mountains, but his paymasters look north, not east. And when Edmund “Ironhand” von Sarmas throws a wildcard into the mix, anything can happen (and probably will).

Old victories and older dreams can’t save the Empire when the Rajtan awakes . . . or can they?

(This book takes place roughly a century before the opening of Elizabeth of Starland.)

Peaks of Grace is now priced at $3.99 US.


I am setting up a mailing list for readers. If you would like news about upcoming books, release dates, and publishing schedules, and perhaps info if I ever manage to make a Con appearance, please e-mail me at AlmaTCBoykin at Gmail dot com. Scout’s Honor, I won’t spam you, because I like that about as I like tax audits and walking face-first into spider webs.

Book Review: Riding the Red Horse

Day, Vox and Tom Kratman, eds. Riding the Red Horse. Castalia House Press, 2014.

“And there went out another horse that was red: and power was given to him that sat thereon to take peace from the earth, and that they should kill one another: and there was given unto him a great sword.” Revelation or The Apocalypse of John 6:3-4 NKJV

What does the future of war hold? That question has been asked for a while now, often focusing on developments in military technology, and more recently in computer and communications tech (often one and the same). But the authors collected in this volume are looking at people and governments as much as technology. And what they see is, in many ways, a return to the past.

I discussed this book a little in a previous blog post, pointing to the concept of the generations of war and how 4th Generation Warfare is perhaps a touch familiar to those of us who study war as fought before the Peace of Westphalia and/or in places where that treaty never held sway.

Riding the Red Horse is a collection of military sci-fi and essays that address warfighting in worlds and futures where the old limits and techniques of post WWI military thinking no longer hold sway. Some of the essays focus on technology, others on defining 4th Generation Warfare, on gaming and war-planning (which overlap far more than most non-gamers, self included, might realize) and the role of technologies in 4th Generation War. The stories cover space battles, naval engagements, small-unit operations and spooks, and scenarios that may read in very familiar ways despite being set on distant worlds.

The quality of the stories and essays is uniformly high. Some I disagree with, some I found myself nodding yes to, and others left me with much to chew on. Authors include well-known writers such as Dr. Jerry Pournelle, Col. Tom Kratman, Christopher Nuttall, and Eric S. Raymond, as well as others who are known in their fields or to specialist readers but who are new to me.

The book aims at two groups of readers: those interested in military fiction and general information, and policy makers. One suspects (hopes?) that there is some overlap in the groups. Fans of military science fiction and military fiction in general will enjoy the stories and perhaps gain some thinking material from the essays. Those interested in policy and military development will find illustrations of the essay ideas in the stories. The fiction does not tie directly to each essay, but it is not hard to see the connections between the problems in the tales and the ideas and conundrums discussed in the non-fiction.

I recommend the book with a slight reservation. It is excellent and I enjoyed reading most of it, even the bits I disagreed with (one essay in particular, and that one I suspect I will check the sources he lists, because his argument is so far off the usual beaten historical track that I’m familiar with.) The reservation is that it’s not a “fun” book, despite the excellent stories. It is meant to teach and to spark discussion as well as to entertain. I’m familiar with many of the topics discussed because of personal interest and hanging out, so-to-speak, at the edge of the hard-core military sci-fi crowd. A reader looking for a good time might skip the essays. And some of the stories are current enough to elicit a wince.

Overall, I liked the book, I will be revisiting some of the essays and reading more of the various authors’ works. And kudos to Castalia House for including the list (in some cases partial) of the various authors’ works, and footnotes where appropriate. The e-book is well formatted, easy to navigate, and I appreciate the active footnotes.

Empires and Memory

Long history post today. You have been warned. 🙂 Edit: N.B. This was written before V. Putin appeared today (3/16) but the premise still holds, given the assorted rumors about Russia.

History and current events recently seem to be haunted by the ghosts of empires. Some have vanished, likely forever, such as Rome, the Habsburgs, the Incas, and Aztecs. Others appear to be on the edge of returning, perhaps in a different form, like the Russian/Soviet/Russian and Chinese Empires. ISIS/Daesh and the Iranians seek to recreate the Suni caliphate and the Persian Empire in their own images. Empire and Imperial border on being pejorative terms, probably in part because of Star Wars and partly because of 60 years of Communists/Progressives/isolationists complaining about the American Empire (which has yet to exist and quite likely never will. Americans are about as imperial as a herd of Jack Russell terriers). But Russia and China are a different story, one that bears and will bear watching over the next ten years or so, pun intended. Pride and memory are powerful, powerful things, both in individuals and in states and nations. Continue reading