Friday Fiction: Buying Time

From something that no longer fits in the Cat Among Dragons sequence…

“Rachel, I hate to impose,” Panpit Khan’s voice said from Rada’s “cell phone.” “But is there any possible way you could mind Sita and Robin Wednesday week? I’ve been asked to give an interview to Threads and Trends magazine, and I can’t be in London and here at the same time.”

Rachel grinned up at the dark ceiling in her quarters. “I believe that I can, Panpit, unless someone decides to invade or your dear spouse finds something for me to do.”

“I’ll make sure that he doesn’t! Thank you, and I’ll ring back with the details,” Panpit said. She sounded relieved. Rachel understood: Rahoul had filled her ears with laments about trying to find sitters for the two energetic, creative, and intelligent nine-year-olds.

“How do you keep up with them?” he’d asked one morning at breakfast.

“I redirect them before they can get ahead of me, sir,” she’d explained. The trick was to distract them before anything exciting began. 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

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?

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

What the Blogger is Reading: Jan ’18 Edition

Feng, Li. Early China: A Social and Cultural History This is a general overview drawing from Chinese and Western scholarship. It focuses on the Bronze Age cultures through the end of the Han (220 AD or so). It is filling in some gaps, and kicking off ideas I need to finish the Work In Progress.

Marx, Karl The Portable Karl Marx Because I need to review some of his ideas, but I am not in the mood (and don’t have the dedicated quiet time and space) to read through The German Ideology and Theses on Feuerbach and Kapital in German. Reading Marx reminds me 1) how much background in German philosophy you need to follow many of his ideas and 2) why he’s almost as impenetrable as Hegel. You’d think the writer of some of the worst books (in terms of effects on humanity) in recent history would have been a little clearer, but that’s a feature, not a bug, according to his later followers.

Shendge, Malati J. The Civilized Demons: The Harappans in the RigVeda The book is rather odd. The author considers the Rig Veda to be a mythologization of historical accounts of the invasion of the Indus watershed by the Indo-Aryans, and looks at how the archaeological and linguistic and textual evidence conflict and coincide. The book went very slowly at first, and you have to be either 1) really interested in the topic, or 2) really familiar with the material either archaeological or the Vedas, or 3) determined to plow through, because she knows her stuff and is not afraid to heap reference onto dig report onto quotation. I’m not entirely certain if I’m convinced, but she sparked a new fantasy novel, so I’m going to read through to the end.

Isaacson, Walter Leonardo Da Vinci. Great book! My parents gave me this for Christmas, and I’m slowly working my way through it, in part slowly to savor the writing and illustrations, in part slowly because it is a fat book and I can’t read it around Athena T. Cat once she claims my lap in the evenings. Highly, highly recommend for anyone interested in the artist, in his world, and in how his works are analyzed.

Dollinger, Philippe. Die Hanse This is an updated and lightly revised edition of the book about the Hanseatic League. It is in German, and I am reading it to refresh that part of my mind for the sequel to Of Merchant and Magic. I need to know more about the kontors and how they functioned, plus more economic hard data than my other references have.

Also in German I’m reading a guide to the medieval imperial cities of Eastern Germany (yes, the book is pre 1990) such as Goslar, Magdeburg, Quedlinburg, and others. And a tourist guide to Quedlinburg, in case the former Stazi* lady is still the guide in the church. No, I am not kidding. She was memorable in all the wrong ways, and DadRed kept trying to angle around to see if she had knife blades under the toes of her boots.**

For those keeping score, yes, I finally finished Peter Wilson’s Heart of Europe about the Holy Roman Empire. There is so much in that book to consider and chew on… It and Judson’s volume on the later Habsburg Empire, like Andrew Wheatcroft’s look at the Habsburg – Ottoman wars, have changed how I teach that area.

There are a few other things I’m nibbling on, but these are the main ones, plus some work-related reading. Over the Christmas Break I read both of Vox Day’s SJW books. I disagree with some of his ideas, but the first book in particular was useful to get the exact chronology of some of the recent cultural tempests hammered out (like GamerGate). The minutes of the Supreme Dark Lord’s meeting with his henchmen is hysterically funny, especially since I’ve met some of the individuals involved. (“John, I just want the revised manuscript.” “Oh, sorry, sir. Here it is.”)

*WordPress, Stazi is not a misspelling of SETI.

**Watch From Russia With Love. My hand to Bog, that was the tour guide’s twin sister.

Saturday Story: Reaping the Harvest: Part Twelve

Chapter 12: The Plains Burn


“Thank you for this news. I will deal with it shortly,” Kiara heard her mouth saying. “You are dismissed.”

The messenger bowed and departed. Kiara’s hand lifted the glass to her lips and she drank mint-water, then ate a filled roll and some greens. She disliked the bitter taste but needed the health in the dark leafy food. As her brain gibbered and seemed to run in circles, Kiara’s body continued eating. Wasting food was a sin, doubly so this time of year. A bit of sensible thought suggested that opening the granaries and selling a little of the reserve on the market at mercy-price would be a good idea. The rest of her mind seemed to prefer running around in circles with its hands in the air making chittering sounds. Continue reading