Novel Excerpt: New Year’s Peace?

A chapter from the forthcoming Cat Among Dragons novel, tentatively entitled While Shadows Fall . .

First Sergeant Tony Lee twitched. Crowds made him uncomfortable. Even here, on the edge of the press of people streaming toward the Thames River bridges to be in place for the New Year’s fireworks, the mass of passing bodies seemed to trap him despite having an open road at his back. Still, he had to grin just a little when a disgruntled voice at his elbow growled, “At least you can see something other than backs and bums, Boer Two.” He tended to forget Commander Na Gael’s lack of physical stature until, well, he glanced down at the top of her head. It stopped level with the bottom of the unit insignia on his anorak sleeve. “Any sign of our sort of trouble?”

“Not yet, Ma’am.” He’d spotted a few cheerful drunks, two teen agers with surly expressions, and several people who might well walk into the river as they talked on their cell-phones, but nothing “exotic.” He did not want to encounter anything exotic. “I do hope this is one of our false alarms.”

“So do I, although,” she sounded thoughtful. “If we do encounter an exotic, the Mad Scotsman will have something to vent his frustration on.”

In fact, Commander Rachel Na Gael growled to herself, I could do with a little bit of hand-to-hand right now myself. There was a reason General McKendrick had caught her sneaking out and running the obstacle course in her personal field kit. He’d fussed, a little, more because she’d interrupted his own run and he was trying to improve his personal best enough so he could beat RSM Smith the next time the seniors had to run the course. Well, that and that she’d been using unorthodox techniques, as usual. Rachel snorted to herself as she looked around, part of her tracking the crowd and part of her a light year or so away. Of course I was. I hate getting wet, even indoors in the warm. Ugh, wet makes me grumpy and things tend to chafe which makes me grumpier and puts those nasty little knots in my fur in rude places and what in the name of hairballs is that? Continue reading

Ow, my Ears!

I have partial hearing loss in both ears. Not from listening to loud music, which has become the usual cause for people my age (between 15-50). No, I was working on an airplane, actually inside an airplane. We were bucking rivets, which requires one person on the outside with the pneumatic gun, sort of a very precise air-powered hammer, and one inside with the heavy metal bar. The punch in the gun hits the end of the rivet. The bar holds the rivet in place, and the rivet spreads out, filling the hole and pulling two (or three) pieces of metal together, a bit like brads on your jeans pockets. Yours truly, being (back then) small, limber, and foolish, happily squirmed her way inside the antique Navy airplane and bucked rivets for half an hour or so. Without any form of hearing protection. I knew I might have problems when I got out of the plane for dinner and the boss was moving his mouth but making no sound. Took an hour for my ears to return to normal. Now, I’m very sensitive to high pitches and any background noise washes out conversation. And I always use ear protection. Continue reading

Progress Report: Coming Releases

So, I’ve started Forcing the Spring, the 9th Colplatschki novel. It is set on a different continent but at the same time as the Elizabeth books, between the 3rd and 4th volumes. Like Blackbird it has a male protagonist. I anticipate releasing it in the summer of next year.

Renaissance, the sequel to Hubris, is at the editor’s right now. Barring major life surprises *taps wood* Renaissance will come out in late February, a set of four dragon stories in March, and the first of the WWI books shortly thereafter. The next Cat Among Dragons novel is slated for the summer, with the second WWI novel after that.

Lambing Season!

I may start bringing my own water to work rather than drinking from the well. It seems that a goodly number of the other teachers or staff are 1) in a family way, 2) were very recently in a family way and are now on leave, 3) have a wife who is due any day/hour, or 4) have a new grandchild. Which is great, and I’m very happy for them!

Buuuutttt, it means we are stretched a wee bit thin. I am covering for another teacher and catching other classes as needed. In addition to mine.

Please pardon light posting for the next few weeks.

Many thanks for your understanding and patience.

Adult Brain vs. Kid Brain

So, I’m looking at the e-mail from Ye Insurance Company detailing what the remains of the Old Truck were worth, and how much I will get. The internal dialogue went a bit like this:

Kid Brain: “Wheeeee!!! Yeee haaawww! Books! Books, books, books, that green fleece coat, and a trachten dress, and books, and that black metal music and epic music, and books, and really fancy chocolate and books and a big juicy steak dinner and boooookkkkksssss!”

Adult Brain: “Ahem.”

KB: “Wheeee! Books books, booksbooksbooks! And that necklace and ring.”

AB: “AhHEM.”

KB: [irritated] “Whut.” Continue reading

Low Tech, Low Trust

Some years ago, Dad Red picked up a little book of maxims, cautions, and humor all centered on Murphy’s Law and it’s corollaries, commentaries, postulates, and refinements. Even before I started working with power tools, machinery, aircraft, or computers, I knew that anything that could go wrong would. Because it did. Sib calls me a Luddite because of my refusal to be the beta tester for anything electronic, including software. Or rather, Sib did, until a friend persuaded Sib to upload a bootleg (1), beta version (2) of an OS prototype (3) and toasted the motherboard on the computer in the process. Sib toned down the criticism and I did not say “I told you so” or “thpppppth.” To this day, I have a rather jaundiced view of people who gush about the latest electronic gizmo and how fantastic it is to have everything networked and how great it will be when the Singularity comes! To which I say, “Ah, have you seen the Terminator movies, or heard of a Cyberman?” That applies to the internet of things. Continue reading

Short Story: Faith of her Fathers

Emily at AtH asked about Commander Ni Drako’s conversion to Christianity, and I offered to post this story. I wrote it some time ago, but opted not to work it into the Cat books. It takes place during her early days with the 58th Regiment of Foot.

Brigadier General Joschka Graf von Hohen-Drachenburg sorted through his mail one morning and found a note from England. He set it aside for the moment. When he remembered to open it that afternoon, he found a brief message from his associate Brigadier Jonathon Eastman of the British Branch. “Joschka, Rachel’s gone native. Joined the Church of England on September 29. Am waiting for the rabbi to serve bacon-wrapped lobster at break-fast on Yom Kippur or for Liverpool to win the European Cup. Johnny.”

Joschka stared at the note. “I don’t believe it,” he whispered. Except he did. But how, and why, would she abandon whatever faith she had in favor of Christianity? Adopting the Azdhag religion made more sense. Then he remembered: she’d told him once that the Azdhagi practiced ancestor worship. His mouth twitched as he imagined Rachel invoking “father, whoever you were.” But that still left the question of what on Earth or in Heaven had caused her to pick the Church of England. He could hardly wait to ask Johnny in person.

He got his chance a few months later. Eastman played with his empty wine glass and shook his head. “It surprised me, Joschka, it truly did.” Continue reading

Labyrinth II: The Beauty of Evil

I was looking at the comments on some music videos taken from the movie Labyrinth. Several times I had a little double-take because of the commenters, probably women although with the character of Jareth the Goblin King you never know, talking about how foolish the heroine was to grab her little brother and escape from Jareth’s kingdom. Jareth was sooooo dreamy! So cool! They’d have stayed with him if they were here. I read those and thought, “Kid, you really missed the point of the film.” Or has pop culture changed so much that these folks do not recognize evil when it is beautiful? Continue reading

When the Clouds Come Marching In

The open spaces of the Great and High Plains terrified some of the early travellers who ventured out past the edge of trees. Women in particular suffered from the big empty reach, where nothing poked up to allow the eye a place to rest. A few went back, and some went mad. Some people say that people of the plains get an outsized opinion of themselves since no trees or mountains loom up to remind people of their true place in the great scheme of things. Anyone who has endured storm season on the plains will likely disagree, be it the gigantic black towers of a thunderstorm or the bone-cutting wind of winter. The skies keep us humble. The winter skies, though, seem soft, even when they sting. Continue reading