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

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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

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

Saturday Story: Reaping the Harvest Part Nine

Chapter 9: Five Years of Rule

 

“ . . . but I do not know how much to take seriously, my lady,” Lord Andre Boris Pushkin admitted.

Kiara, now called Empress Klara Alsice, fanned herself and considered the reports. “No less than a quarter, I would suspect. Your observers found no signs of actual Harrier or Turklavi warriors in the area?”

He wagged one hand, the emerald on his ring flashing in the bit of sun that penetrated the vines growing over the little pavilion in the garden. “General Pushkin says none, but General Maldovo’s scouts reported a few signs, all of them old. If the Harriers had been in the southern area near Sweet City, they seem to have left before the spring rains began.”

We’re probably hearing old stories. Yes, people saw someone, but a long while ago and kept quiet, or had no one to tell the news to. So there is no need for change in the military presence. However, that other bit of rumor . . .

“Go back. That bit about the service-slaves demanding release from their contracts. How serious is that? How many cases, and where?” Continue reading

Saturday Story: Reaping the Harvest Part Eight

Chapter 8: A Wifely Overthrow

 

By the time true spring returned and the court made the long trip north to New Rodi, Kiara grew worried. Pawl made no secret of preferring his mistress to his wife, to the point of having Antonia sit at his side at banquets while relegating Kiara to a lower-ranked table. He also talked openly about changing the army and had begun demanding that the supply masters plan of campaigns all year long, and make barracks to house the men in winter as well as spring and summer. The Frankonian ambassador spent hours with Pawl, discussing things neither would talk about later. Kiara did see the draft of a new trade treaty that left her wide eyed. She almost looked for a way to attend that council meeting, because when the lords saw how much Pawl wanted to give Frankonia and all the rights he was removing from the Sea Republics and others, well, the fur would fly.

“The Sea Republics produce nothing of quality or that NovRodi needs,” he announced when someone asked him at dinner about changes in trade. “Frankonia does, and it makes sense to encourage trade with them. There are other potential trade treaties, new ones, that a better agreement with Frankonia will make easier. And in addition to furs and tree gems, the king wants timber and tar, and grain, and fruit brandies, all things NovRodi has an excess of.”

“Imperial majesty, how will we meet the requests of the Sea Republics and the cities of the Thumb as well as of Frankonia? Logs for ship timbers are not easy to move.” Lord Korbin gestured with his empty glass.  “Especially this year, with the rivers so unpredictable and rough. My timber men have lost almost half of what they’d cut to a single ice-jam and surge flood.” Continue reading

Saturday Story: Reaping the Harvest: Part Seven

Chapter 7: Storm Brewing

 

Perhaps, Kiara mused later, perhaps Godown’s displeasure with both her and Pawl contributed to the unhappiness of the next year and a half. Or perhaps not. She had felt little guilt about breaking her vows to Pawl, given that she’d seduced Gerald because the empire needed at least one more heir. Breaking her vows was wrong—she freely conceded that and she tried to minimize her other failings and errors, as well as being more serious about fasts and attending liturgy—but the greater need had forced her to do it. Pawl, well, he had no such justification for taking a mistress. And insulting the army and sending panic through court, even if he had been joking? And perhaps Godown simply let us suffer the results of our own behavior. Although I had nothing to do with the earthshake in the western mountains, that I know.

Empress Molly Olga tightened her control on court and policy, scolding Kiara several times for daring to push Pawl to venture an opinion on a government matter. That Kiara had stopped even trying to discuss “men’s matters” with her husband made no difference. Pawl smirked as Kiara groveled in front of the throne, then informed his court of exactly what he would do were he emperor. Kiara bit her tongue, hard, because some of his ideas sounded as if he had been eating black mushrooms, at least based on what Kiara heard and read. Continue reading

Saturday State of the Author – October ’17

Stuffy. I got a double gift of a head cold and allergies attacking nearly simultaneously. I don’t recommend the combination. However, the generic fluticazone I can recommend. I like being able to tie my shoes without having to lean against the wall and lift shoe and foot to waist height before tying. I’m allergic to mold, some grasses, possibly ragweed, and paperwork. To my knowledge there is no effective treatment for paperwork allergies. Continue reading