It Ain’t Necessarily So…

A lot of what I’ve been reading, particularly about medieval and Renaissance history, has been traditional accounts interspersed with “Oh duh, that makes perfect sense” moments of something new. Like corsets can’t have been that horrible or women wouldn’t have bought them by the tens of thousands once they became inexpensive to cheap. Other things are a little less obvious (I mean, look at photos of Victorian and Edwardian street scenes. Duh.) but are still intriguing. Continue reading


Jan ’18 State of the Author

So, the fantasy novel is done, at least is finished in draft form. It will need work on the revision side, but it has wrapped up.

Rather than launch into one of the novels waiting for me, I am working on a steampunk story set in Hamburg in 1892. “In the Fleets” is the title. A Vliet (pronounced “fleet”) is one of the small side channels that feed into the main rivers in Hamburg. The protagonist has a chip on his shoulder about the newly-declared German Empire. As it turns out, so do a lot of other people. Continue reading

Book Review: Leonardo Da Vinci

Isaacson, Walter. Leonardo Da Vinci. (New York: Simon and Schuster, 2017)

Everyone knows about Leonardo Da Vinci. He’s one of the artists referred to by one name, and the “Mona Lisa” is in all art books, or parodied, or used for a meme, and attracts all the attention of people visiting the Louvre Museum. For a while Da Vinci conspiracies were trendy, and engineers have attempted to see if his ideas for machines would work. Some do, some don’t. He is often considered the ultimate Renaissance man – artist, writer, engineer, scientist, costume designer, diplomat, scholar, builder of machines. Walter Isaacson puts Da Vinci’s story into a single, easy-to-read volume with excellent illustrations. Continue reading

Stick a Fork in it – Fantasy Novel Edition

The draft of the Chinese-inspired fantasy novel is done. I have a cover located. I need a title.

The plot: A dragon, Count Chang, finds a girl he thinks is the Chosen One, a human of the old blood who carries the magical power needed to heal a sick river and to convince the humans to stop making things worse. Leesan, being the youngest daughter of a foreign family, has absolutely no desire to take on any responsibility or to think for herself, let alone learn magic. The other dragons, including the Western King, need her to act, lest the Great Sky Emperor, king of the gods, lose his patience with them and sort things out himself, remaking the world and punishing the dragons in the process. Count Chang just wants the glory of having found the person who can fix the problem, not the responsibility for actually working to solve things.

No one gets what they want, as you can imagine.

Some title ideas include:

Lord Chang and the River

Healing the Great River

The Dragon and the Land

The Curse of the Yellow Hills

Pearl’s Daughter

Any of these sound better than others? Any suggestions for something else?

Drought Drags In

Ninety-eight days without measurable precipitation, with no rain or snow in the foreseeable future. Drought is creeping back into the High Plains, and everyone is wary, watching the dry grass, watching the sky, waiting for something and praying for rain or wet snow. The grasses are brown, the normal winter color. But the ground is starting to dry, and to blow.

Continue reading

Saturday Story:Reaping the Harvest: Part Thirteen

Empress of All NovRodi


Over the objections of everyone but the army men, Kiara went south just after the Feast of Godown’s Grace. “I need to see the land and I need the people to see me. I am Godown’s shield, empress only so I can protect them. They need to see that.”

“Imperial Majesty, you will be in the way! And you will inspire the Turklavi to fight even more fiercely,” Lord Korbin protested.

General Pushkin, in Muskava for a full imperial council meeting, shook his head.  “No she won’t, my lord. They’re already throwing everything they have at us. They have nothing more, not according to my out-watchers. Her majesty’s foresters are tearing them up, winter is ruining their fodder, and they don’t have the will they once did, or so it feels.” He made a complicated gesture with his left hand. “I’m not certain how to describe it, my lords, Imperial Majesty, but they feel different, as if the will is fading. They still fight hard, yes and that damn artillery of there is . . . we need to capture more of it and use it ourselves. But the heart is not what it once was, for lack of a better word. You can feel it,” he repeated with a shrug.

Issa Neelo, the Turklavi-reading clerk, raised one hand hesitating a bit as he did. He’d come to Muskava from New Rodi despite the difficulty the journey caused him. Kiara pointed. “Yes, Master Neelo?”

“Imperial Mistress, my lords, general, it may well be that General Pushkin is correct. Recall that Selkow dictates and orders all things, according to the Turklavi. If they think that she is withholding victory because they have done something wrong, or because the Rajtan has erred, they may well be easing away so they don’t die for a false cause.” He licked his lips. “I hesitate to put thoughts into their heads, and it could be something as simple as they are retreating in order to lure us into a trap, or because they don’t want to camp out in winter, or because the smell of our camp food is chasing them away.” Continue reading

Friday Fiction, Reprint Edition: Diversity – Or Why Commander Na Gael is Excused from Sensitivity Training

(I ran this in 2014, but I’m trying to get the WIP done and learn a new computer system for work, and my brain is getting kinda full.

The story takes place during A Cat at Bay.

Some people may find aspects of this story disturbing. If reading about rape survival and self defense upsets you, please do not read what follows.)

“You tell her, sir.”

“No, I value my life. You tell her.”

Commander “Rachel Na Gael” pretended not to hear the voices coming through the open door to the lab. Instead she glared at the image on the electron microscope’s display and adjusted the sample holder a fraction of a hair. The next scan revealed what she’d been looking for, and she smiled. So you are imported. And just who dropped you here and why, hmmm? Whatever the plant was, it had not taken root or bloomed before dying. At least, before it appeared to have died, which is what had attracted the attention of the botanist who’d sent the remains to the 58th Regiment. Rachel had made certain of its demise before trying to identify it. Only an idiot or rank amateur would try to hide an exotic plant in Kew Gardens.

She sat up, stretching her stiff back. “Commander?” Major Rahoul Khan called.

“Yes?” She twisted around so she could see both him and Capt. Kwame Ngobo standing by her desk. “What can I do for you, sir?”

“It seems that you need to go with some of the new personnel to a briefing on diversity and harassment in the forces,” the Ghanaian adjutant informed her.

Rahoul saw the glint in Rachel’s eye and waited. She didn’t disappoint. “Is this is a how-to session? If so, I can find several witnesses who will attest that I’m quite diverse in whom I harass.”

“No. And you need to at least act as if you agree with the facilitator,” Rahoul warned. “Orders from Horseguards.”

“The 58th Regiment is the most international, multi-whatever unit on the British Isles, there’ve been no complaints of harassment for over a year, and I still have to go be lectured about not whistling at men in kilts?” She rolled her eye and returned to work. “Very well, sir. Let me know when and where, and if I need to wear cosmetics, please.”

She heard departing footsteps and Ngobo observing, “That went better than I’d feared, sir.”

Rachel grinned in an evil way as she heard Rahoul reply, “That worries me, Ngobo. It worries me greatly.” Continue reading