Peter Grant’s New Western

I have not had time to read the entire book yet, but the excerpt Peter posted on his blog was great. Think a bit of Louis L’Amour, some Elmer Kelton, and a lot of accuracy. We sometimes forget that a lot of the story of the Anglo-American west begins in Tennessee and Kentucky, and that trouble follows when you move.

Brings the Lightning

Brings The Lightning - blog size cover 350x559 pixels


Disclaimer: I received an advance file copy but did not get any promotional consideration, remuneration, or other benefits from the author or publisher.

Talented Amateurs

I ventured to suggest something to an older lady during a social function a few weeks ago. She looked at me over the top of her glasses and said, “I taught at [out-of-state community college] for thirty years. I know where to find information.” Sensing that I’d lost the battle at least twenty years ago, I bowed my head, acknowledging my ignorance, and returned to eating my helping of corn casserole. I cannot know anything about Topic X because that is not my field and because I am at least 30 years too young. So be it.

I mentioned this some time later to Dad Red, who has crossed paths with the lady himself. He nodded. “We seem to have lost respect for the talented amateur. People like the men who went to India and found an entire civilization and language, even though they were not professional linguists.” I think he’s got a point. Continue reading

The Longest Day

at least for the students.

What do you mean I can't leave until the last bell? From:

What do you mean I can’t leave until the last bell even though my last class is a study hall? I am not pleased. From:

As a random aside, this is almost exactly what Gato Del Diablo looks like, except GdD has more red in his(?) fur and looks both scruffier and meaner.

Come on! I can see the minivan. Let me outlet me outletmeout.

Come on! I can see the minivan. Let me out let me outletmeout.

As the dean lurks in the atrium, backed up by several other large male teachers:

Ah, no, the Dean does not really look like that, unless it is 0815 and the coffee maker’s timer has had a failure.

And the teachers? We’re grinning:

Now you know how we feel when you want to stay "just a few minutes" to finish that quiz!

Now you know how we feel when you want to stay “just a few minutes” to finish that quiz!

But grades are still due Monday. And finals start Monday.

Your grades are not entered until I see them entered!

Your grades are not logged until I see them logged!

Happy Friday.

Songs into Stories

Several times, the right music has turned into a story or scene in a book. This can be good or bad depending on when I encounter that piece of music again.  Case in point was a few weeks ago, when a chorus I sing with began looking at music for Memorial Day.  One of the selections is “Hymn to the Fallen” by John Williams, from the film Saving Private Ryan.  The lyrics and melody are not difficult.  The problem is: I wrote a key scene in A Cat at Bay to that piece the first time I sang it several years ago.

From that point on when I hear the opening notes, I see Rada Ni Drako trying to die.  Not the greatest thing when you are laboring to memorize something that has no words to help you pin it to the notes. Continue reading

Things in Trees

Where do you look when you walk? You are supposed to look ahead of you, head up, shoulders back, with good posture. I tend to look down more than I should, because my astigmatism plus bifocals means I can’t trust flat to be flat, or for curbs to stay where they are supposed to. Looking down means I end to find change more than most people do (although never a $20 bill like Sib did once.) Recently, though, I’ve seen some amusing things in trees. Continue reading

Black Powder Blues

Making black powder doesn’t require too many ingredients. But the history of gunpowder, and of making powder that could be used in artillery, is rather complex and fascinating. I had to do a fair amount of research into the subject for the Colplatschki books, in part because I had no idea exactly when the shift from match-lock to flint-lock took place, and when cannons first became important. As usually happens to me, it just grew from there. Because you can’t have firearms without chemical propellant. Torsion weapons, yes, but not guns. And it turns out that black powder has a fascinating history and was the cause of a lot of headaches for would-be gunners. It was also part of why firearms and crossbows and other “out-of-date” weapons existed side-by-side for so long.

Sulfur is easy to find. Charcoal is very easy to make. Saltpeter is . . . more difficult. Continue reading

Books and Authors

Have you ever read a book, usually non-fiction, that started pretty well and then an authorial editorial or a certain slant in the writing appears? At best you pause, blink, and think, “Huh. OK, that’s a bit odd” and keep going. At worst you come to a screeching halt, maybe skim ahead a little to see if things improve, and never finish the book.

I encountered the mild version with a book about gunpowder I’ve been reading for the Colplatschki series. It has a lot of interesting stuff (which I will inflict on my readers tomorrow) but the author is anti-war and seems anti-military to an extent. His rhetorical question about why did the enlisted men of the Royal navy during the Napoleonic wars not mutiny, or at least practice civil disobedience by refusing to fight, struck me as very odd and out-of-place. He wrote well and I finished the book because it had material I needed and that fit with other, more specialized volumes I’d read. But I wondered why he’d decided to write about a topic that he apparently dislikes intently. Continue reading

Burning Down the House

. . . and the forest, and the grassland, and the scrub.

I’ve been following the Canadian news about the Alberta forest fires, in part because fire history is a small part of my non-fiction research. As best we can tell, humans discovered very early in our development that fire was a useful tool. And I suspect that a very few days/hours later, Ogg swatted one of the Oggetts for lighting the grassland on fire and forcing the band/tribe to flee. Fire is a critical tool in humans’ bag of tricks, and has been part of the larger environment since the Earth’s atmosphere first had enough oxygen to permit burning. Continue reading