Five Years in Print: Looking Back, Looking Ahead

A Cat Among Dragons hit the electronic stands in the fall of 2012. Since then I’ve released three* other series, four if you count the Alexi stories as a series, and several stand-alone works, plus series-related short stories. I’ve not been as successful as I’d like, but that’s mostly my fault.

So, what have I learned and what has changed? A great deal. Continue reading


Saturday Story: Reaping the Harvest: Part Eleven

Chapter 11: Rebellion and Invasion


The yellow cleared from the sky, leaving brilliant scarlet and crimson sunrises and sunsets, and an odd, slightly eggy scent in the air the day before the feast. Kiara partook in the liturgy with a calm heart and clean conscience, savored the rich bounty that followed, and enjoyed breaking her other fast as well. The conversation that followed that congress was almost as pleasant as the act. “Ah, my lady, it is such a pity that you are my empress and not my wife.”

She smiled back at him and chuckled. It was an old joke. “Ah, my lord, but do you want such a wife? My tastes are rather fine and it is said that I am perhaps a touch too strong willed for comfort.”

“And I fear your dowry is rather too poor for my household.” He had three sons and two daughters still living, and had not remarried after his wife’s death seven years before, Kiara knew. “I do have a reputation for excess to maintain.”

“If you are planning to challenge young Karlinov, I fear you will fail; your taste is too good.”

“No, I was thinking more of that trader from New Dalfa, Gerald DeRoyter.” He must have heard her puzzlement, so he added, “Yellow waistcoat, green coat, green trousers, blue neck-cloth, lace cuffs.”

“Oh St. Gimple yes. Now I remember. My eyes did not recover from the strain for a week. That green. I cannot think of anything in Godown’s creation with that color in it.” Continue reading

Specialize or Generalize? Heinlein vs. Smith (Maybe)

A lively discussion erupted at The Passive Voice about the validity of Heinlein’s famous passage from “The Notebooks of Lazarus Long” about generalization:

A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly. Specialization is for insects.

Robert A. Heinlein

Which led to an intriguing rebuttal in the comments, pointing to Adam Smith’s emphasis on specialization in The Wealth of Nations and its importance to a healthy economy and efficient production. The discussion got a touch warm in the comments section. Continue reading

Book Review: Insurgents

Ball, Margaret. Insurgents (2017) Kindle Edition

Margaret Ball sent me an announcement of the release of Insurgents and asked for reviews. At the time I agreed, bought a copy, started it, and put it down. I abandoned the book because the female protagonist hit all my contemporary fiction “run away” buttons: self-centered, immature, manipulative, and (probably) unwilling to change. However, over time, guilt pushed me into reading the rest of the book. I’m very glad I did.

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O Nata Lux!

“Holy Radiant Light” by Alexandre Gretchaninoff. Alas, the recording of the piece sung by a Russian choir with Russian basses has been taken down.

Holy, Radiant Light Alexandre Gretchaninov (1864–1956) ed. Noble Cain
G. Schirmer, Inc., 8081
Holy, radiant Light,
thou holy radiance of the Father,
glorious and mighty,
thou only begotten Son of God eternal, holy Jesu.
Come we, now, to the hour of setting sun;
the lights of evening ’round us shine;
Holy, o holy ones, Holy trinity eternal,
we sing thy praise, evermore we sing thy praise,
Holy trinity. o holy!
With undefiled lips evermore
thy glory to be praised,
Worthy art thou to be praised evermore.
Holy Son of God, source of ev’ry life,
now all the world doth praise thee,
evermore praise thee, thou Son of God
Holy, radiant Light, praise
thee now and evermore.

Continue reading

G. K. Chesterton and Orson Welles

On a December 1941 Christmas broadcast of his popular radio program, Orson Welles presented part of the Gospel of Luke, the short story “The Happy Prince” by Oscar Wilde, a few other Christmas things, and closed with a most unusual Christmas poem.

It was by G. K. Chesterton, and Welles’s reading came as the US was still reeling mentally from Pearl Harbor.

Fast-forward to 23:00. The text is below.

The Truce of Christmas

Passionate peace is in the sky—
And in the snow in silver sealed
The beasts are perfect in the field,
And men seem men so suddenly—
(But take ten swords and ten times ten
And blow the bugle in praising men;
For we are for all men under the sun;
And they are against us every one;
And misers haggle and madmen clutch,
And there is peril in praising much,
And we have the terrible tongues uncurled
That praise the world to the sons of the world.)

The idle humble hill and wood
Are bowed upon the sacred birth,
And for one little hour the earth
Is lazy with the love of good—
(But ready are you, and ready am I,
If the battle blow and the guns go by;
For we are for all men under the sun,
And they are against us every one;
And the men that hate herd all together,
To pride and gold, and the great white feather,
And the thing is graven in star and stone
That the men who love are all alone.)

Hunger is hard and time is tough,
But bless the beggars and kiss the kings;
For hope has broken the heart of things,
And nothing was ever praised enough.
(But hold the shield for a sudden swing
And point the sword when you praise a thing,
For we are for all men under the sun,
And they are against us every one;
And mime and merchant, thane and thrall
Hate us because we love them all;
Only till Christmastide go by
Passionate peace is in the sky.)

Saturday Story: Reaping the Harvest Part Ten

Chapter 10: On Shaking Ground


Kiara leaned forward as much as her stays and bodice and dignity allowed, hands clenching the arms of the throne so tightly that she felt her rings digging into the soft gilding. “So that I am clear on this creature’s claims. He is a former service-slave, served a contract, lived on his own in the south, took a second contract in order to buy property for his family, and claims that Tabor-Kirov used that as an excuse to contract his mother and siblings, then refused to release them when challenged. And so he followed Tabor-Kirov here, obtained a costume and pistols and killed him so that as per law and custom all contracts would be cancelled and the family released.” She sat back and took a deep breath. “Is there any record that he attempted to seek help from one of the imperial agents when they visited the Tabor-Kirov lands?”

Pushkin shook his head. “No, Imperial Majesty.”

“Has his petition for justice from the crown been located?”

Major Grigorii Donn shook his head. “No, Imperial Mistress, no such petition has been found in any of the possible locations. That may be because he admits that he never tried to file one.”

“Why not?”

Donn seemed to gulp and looked at the floor, running his hands up and down the rolled-up papers that he held. “Because he claims that Your Imperial Majesty is not a legitimate ruler and that only when the true Emperor Pawl returns from hiding will it be worth petitioning the crown for aid.” Continue reading

Languages and Stories

No, not how fancy or plain, active voice or passive. Alien languages and non-English in my fiction, and why I do it.

I seem to have a knack for learning foreign languages. I catch inflections and accents easily, to the extent that I speak German with a Bavarian-Austrian accent rather than American. Having the ability to recognize patterns helps immensely, and my long span of musical adventures also helps, because I pick out phrases and sounds very quickly. This overflows into my writing, as long-time readers know. Continue reading

Solstice Story: Of Night and Power

A little tidbit that I never found a place for…

Once again, Rada stood knee-deep in snow beside a megalith and wondered if the power was worth the price. She looked into the snow-silent darkness and felt the energies underlying the Isle of the Mighty as they flowed through age-old channels in the land. Behind her, the British Branch headquarters complex squatted in the now, the gardens nothing more than lumps under a blanket of white. A slight rise of land hid the lights from Rada’s sight, leaving her alone in the cold. Or perhaps not as alone as she thought, Rada realized as she heard someone shuffling towards the standing stone. A mean little smile appeared on Rada’s face and she eased towards the stone, her dark coat blending into the dark gray rock.

Sergeant John Andrews, or Lone Tree as he preferred to think of himself, almost missed the sacred stone in the darkness. Rada heard him catch himself and turn. Then she smelled burning grass and realized that he’d brought some kind of incense to the rock. Not smart, she growled silently. Logres agreed, and Rada felt the Power stir briefly as it commanded her to drive off the interloper. Logres gained nothing from the human’s misguided attempt at worship and power access. Rada’s smile grew into a toothy snarl as she opened her shields, drawing on all the energy available to her on this longest night of the year. Continue reading

Raffle Update

From Farmmom, via OldNFO:

I have struggled for a couple of months now on how to say thank you to all the folks that have helped my family.  Every time I sit down to try to write, I end up not being able to see the page.  Darn Colorado dust.  This morning I sat down and made myself soldier through, and I hope I can express the unending gratitude I feel without ending up blubbering like an idiot.
In this day and age it’s surprising to find a few people that will go out of their way to help someone else… To say the least I’m astounded for this many people to help someone that most of them don’t even know.  It reminds me that there are still good people out there, and that have an amazing amount of compassion for their fellow man.  You folks are the best of the best.  I’m humbled to know some of you and would welcome meeting the rest, because folks like you make life better just for knowing you.

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