New Release and State of the Author

This was going to be an insightful and well written discussion of labor in history and fiction.

Sorry. Brain dead after Wednesday’s marathon finish of the 10th (!) Colplatschki book.

Coming Soon - probably tomorrow.

Coming Soon – probably tomorrow Wednesday the 22nd.

As you will note, the title has changed. Because “claws” feature in the Powers alt-history series, and “When Shadows Fall” seems to be the second or third most popular book title on the ‘Zon, this one became Shadows and Anguish. Even Rada Ni Drako has a break point. She’s about to find it.

Also changed is a publication order thing. Instead of starting the Powers trilogy, I’ve decided to go with the next Colplatschki book, Forcing the Spring. A Carpathian Campaign needs some rewrites and edits because I was too close to the source material. What was clearly obvious to me – people saying “Oh, it won’t be a war. Or if it is, it will be short and fun, just what we need!” in May 1914 are about to get the hammer dropped on them – wasn’t so apparent to my alpha and beta readers. And there’s some cultural things that need a little more clarification (Magyar is not always a friendly nick-name).

So I’m sketching out an Alexi novel (yes, Ivan is back, with Smart Phone. The world may never recover), gathering the Alexi stories +1 for an omnibus later this summer (which will also be available in print), and about to start the I-hope-it-is-the-last-but-I-don’t-dare-say-that-out-loud Colplatschki book. And the one based on the Raj that’s been bugging me. And the next Cat book.

For those who don’t like kissing – the next Cat book has kissing. Sorry.

Occupy: Toilet Mat Resumes

So there I was, minding my business at 0-Dark-Awful, having answered the call of Nature. And I felt fur brushing my shins, followed by a bit of cold nose, and then warmth and fur on my ankles and feet. Oh dear.

Oh yes. Occupy: Toilet Mat had resumed. I shifted out from under Athena T. Cat with much protest (from her) about being disturbed and how dare I make her shift, and who did I think I was anyway? And since I was there, how about feeding her? It was only four hours until breakfast, after all. Continue reading

Why Didn’t They . . .

How often in the past few years have people heard about an event, natural disaster, terror attack, terrible accident, what have you, and thought or said, “Why didn’t they . . .? Why didn’t someone . . .?” I tend to be one of those people, always from the safety of my chair. I’m not there so I have plenty of time to think about how someone else could have reacted. But I’m also the kind of very strange person who plans in advance what if. What if someone attacks my place of employment? What if I’m in a store and someone goes nuts? What if I’m at home and a tornado strikes? What if I’m in a place of worship and someone tries to shoot up the place (and which deacons/ushers/elders are carrying today, besides That Gal. But she’s been carrying for decades and everyone knows it so she doesn’t count.) I’m coming to understand that this is not normal mental behavior. Continue reading

Dinosaurs! (For grown ups)

Way back when, I was a paleo-critter junkie. I had dinosaur books, rubber dinosaurs (that I fed marbles), went to the state paleontology museum, and was always disappointed that it had no dinosaurs, just lots and lots and lots of mammals. The titanothere* in the corner always worried me just a little. Paleomammals just didn’t have the same cool factor, although Mom has a weak spot for saber-toothed cats and dire wolves. And she kinda likes the Glyptodon, because it is a really big armadillo. Amebelodons (“shovel-tuskers”) also stick in my memory because of the story in my big book of paleomammals about one that got trapped in muck and died and turned into a fossil. If you are from Nebraska, you may have read Loren Eisley’s poem “The Innocent Assassins” about two saber-tooth cats that were found locked together in a mutual kill ( . But they are not, most emphatically not, dinosaurs. Continue reading

European Mornings?

The last few mornings have felt like I’m back in east-central Europe. I’m not sure if it is because for the past several years, I’ve been in that part of the world about this time of the year, so the light is making me feel displaced, or because I’m immersed in a quasi-Russian mental world at the moment as well as reading lots of Russian history, or because I’m starting to do route planning for a Europe trip for this time next year (maybe. Possibly. I’ve got dates set and am looking at airline and hotel options but I’m not making reservations or anything like that until after the summer. Because [long list of things to watch]). Continue reading

Book Review: Mary Catelli _Curses and Wonders_

Catelli, Mary Curses and Wonders  (2016) Kindle Edition

Once again, Mary Catelli’s short stories take her readers into realms of dragons and shadows, of curses and queens, of great quests and caring fathers of unusual children. Although the world of fantasy is familiar, her twists and shadings make these stories quiet gems, pulled together into a delightful anthology.

The collection begins and ends with two thoughtful twists on familiar patterns. “The Dragon Slayer” centers on a knight in search of an evil fire-breathing dragon. But first he must get there, and for once, the trail is not signposted. The land is as much of a danger as is the dragon. The final story, “Fever and Snow” is about a curse that a brave, kind man accidentally turns into a blessing.

One of the things I really enjoy about Catelli’s writings is that her women and womanly and her men are manly. All are strong, all must find ways to overcome trials and to do their duties or achieve their goals and dreams, but I have yet to collide with (as one submitter to Sword and Sorceress phrased it) “Beowulf wearing a wig.” her female characters are strong in their own ways without trying to be guys in a guys’ world. Their husbands, brothers, fathers, and helpers compliment them, both halves making stronger wholes. There are several stories where women act on their own, but they do so using their own strengths – mother, wife, sorceress, daughter. Especially after some of the what I call black-leather-jacket urban fantasy I’ve nibbled recently, it’s refreshing to read a take on women and magic that doesn’t seem locked into the “I can do anything you can do – better” approach to female characters.

Catelli is deft at using a few brush-strokes to color her worlds and to describe characters. The stories are not connected but flow well and all illustrate her title, many of them focusing on undoing (or coping with) curses, and others focused on wonder-tales. They are short, and I finished the collection in two hours of steady reading, or perhaps devouring was a better phrase. But as with her longer works, the stories repay the reader who nibbles and savors them, enjoying the details and twists. You can spot the fairy-tales under several of the accounts, but others are original in idea.

This collection is not marketed for YA, but is suitable for readers over age 12 or so. I suspect teenage boys might not be as excited about some of the stories, but each story is also available on its own, so you could buy a few as gifts in a “sampler pack” so-to-speak. Girls who like fantasy but get turned off by over-the-top violence will find these entertaining.

Mary’s cover art is lovely and fits the mood of the collection well.

Highly recommend this collection, especially if you want relaxing fantasy with great stories.

FTC Notice: I purchased this collection and received no remuneration for the review.

Friday Filler: Bit of New Book

From the new Cat among Dragons book: Shadows and Anguish. Release Date June 16 or so. Possible earlier.

Chapter 1: Aftermath (November 2009)

Brigadier General James McKendrick pushed open the door to the 58th Regiment of Foot’s underground shooting range, looked around, and whistled in astonishment. There were ten shooting positions, an armory, and two offices, plus storage areas. Although the range only went up to fifty meters, it was much better than he’d anticipated. The redheaded Scotsman continued in, noting that there were two people currently working, an instructor and a student, at the position farthest from the door. A corporal came up to meet him.

“Good morning Corporal Lavoisier,” McKendrick nodded.

“Can I help you, sir?” the noncom asked, glancing at the case in the general’s hand.

“Yes. Fifty rounds of 9mm and a ten-meter target please, Corporal.”

Lavoisier checked his clipboard. “Position three is set for ten meters, sir, and I’ll bring your ammunition. Do you have your own protective equipment?”

“Affirmative. Position three. Thank you, Lavoisier.” McKendrick was trying hard to learn the names and faces of most of his new command, but there were still some people he didn’t recognize by sight. Like the instructor and student at position one.

McKendrick finished checking his pistol and getting everything adjusted to his satisfaction, then accepted the brick of ammunition from the corporal. He set to work, shooting five rounds, checking his target, then shooting again. Officially the Army only required general officers to meet the annual basic proficiency level, but McKendrick suspected that, in his new position, the minimum would no longer pass muster. After half an hour or so he took a break and noticed that the instructor and student had changed places.

McKendrick went back to his practice, then stopped when a flash of light caught his eye. As he watched, another three silent flashes lit the corner, then stopped. A male voice with a German accent said, “How can you use these sights, ma’am? They’re dancing all over the target.”

“Sorry Sergeant, I forgot to reset them,” a female voice replied. “Here. Turn this, then push this in. Now try.”

Three more flashes, and the first voice announced, “Much better, ma’am.”

Curious, General McKendrick started to walk over to the first shooting position. Lavoisier appeared at his elbow. “Use these please, sir. You don’t want to startle Commander Na Gael and Sergeant Weber right now,” the Frenchman cautioned quietly, handing the general a small pair of field glasses. Continue reading

Random Redquarters Report

Spring arrived moist after a mild winter. This encouraged the plants to go wild once it began to warm up. Parts of the yard at RedQuarters were impassable because of rose bushes. You know those plants in the plant catalogues described as “rambler?” They really will roam, if given enough water and not frozen to death over winter. They also have lots of thorns. Thanks be for rose gauntlets.


Like these. You'll still get scratched, though.

Like these. You’ll still get scratched, though.

Continue reading

Knowing what I Don’t Know

One of the wonderful things about teaching survey courses is learning where your holes are. I’m not being sarcastic, either. I know there are geographic areas about which I know very little, and areas where I know a great deal, even if I don’t remember it all at once. Since I’m one of those people who likes to fill in holes, or at least lay a few planks over them so my ignorance is a bit less obvious to passers-by, teaching is one way of forcing myself to look at times and places I generally avoid. I’m comfortable with US and European history, and know the academic landscape pretty well. Parts of Asia and Latin America? Terra Incognita. Continue reading

Yelling at the Screen: Self Censorship

Caution: rant follows.


OK, not yelling. More staring at the computer screen in growing frustration, rereading to make certain that I was reading what I thought I’d read, and having a great desire to type something in return along the lines of (edited for more delicate readers) “Are you kidding me? That’s exactly why the problem exists that you are alluding to!!!” I didn’t. Instead I took a deep breath, sorted out some other things, went back to the manuscript and excised the entire scene, leaving a small summary in order to foreshadow something at the very end of the book. Then I moved on. But the comment and caution gnawed on me again the next day. It is very rare for one of my editors to recommend something that makes me react that strongly, but this certainly did.

You see, the problem bounces against free speech and laws outside the US, as well as marketing.

Continue reading