Leo Lionni’s Frederick

There are a few illustrated children’s books I grew up with that left a very deep mark on me. Tomi di Paola’s books, Ashanti to Zulu about the peoples of Africa, dinosaur and paleontology books, Three Trees of the Samurai, Holling C. Holling’s books, and one called Catundra about an overweight cat and how she slims down.

Leo Lionni’s story Frederick was one of these. The book is fifty years old this year, and is a wonderful story about the importance of Odds in societies. The author was Dutch, and did many children’s books, a lot of them about mice, including Frederick. I discovered it as a audio-tape and read-along book Mom and Dad got at the library. Continue reading


Friday Fiction: Of Merchant and Magic part 14

In Which Tycho Observes the Importance of Oaths Kept and Oaths Broken…

Chapter Fourteen: Donwah’s Son


Tycho found a slop bucket in one corner, but no cot or other furnishing. Time passed and he napped, prayed, and grew thirsty and hungry. His tongue felt fuzzy and dry. His stomach grumbled. The ache in his shoulder and arm made him flinch when he moved the arm too much. He could bend and move it, but extending it straight out in front of him brought tears to his eyes. How was he going to show the hides if he couldn’t reach forward?

Had the duke claimed his hides? Tycho froze, cold sweat breaking out all over, heart pounding again. Was it all a false accusation to claim his wares? The counts of Sinmartin had done that, two generations ago, falsely accusing traders of blasphemy and then claiming their goods. No. The duke did not seem like that kind of man. But looks deceived. Tycho closed his eyes, not that it made any difference in the darkness of the cell, and recounted his meeting with the duke and his sale. Nothing in the memory hinted that Duke Malnaan was that kind of man. But what if he’d been pledged to the Scavenger despite his high station of birth? Could that even happen? Why not? The gods claimed who they claimed, and Tycho had been born for Maarsdam but marked by Donwah, so who was he to say?

Tycho had no idea how much time passed before the door opened. He was light-headed with thirst and hunger when he heard footsteps, the door bar scraping, and keys. He got onto all fours, and managed to stagger to his feet, leaning on the wall for balance. He did not care to have the guards rip his shoulder out of its socket pulling him off the floor. The door opened and someone stormed in, carrying a torch. Two other soldiers followed, grabbed him, shackled his hands behind his back and half-dragged him out the door, never saying a word. They hauled Tycho back to the main room, then forced him to his knees in front of a veiled woman, Master Sabo, and a black-masked priest. Continue reading

Common Knowledge?

What is common knowledge? What touchstones, or objects, can a speaker or lyricist refer to that a large majority of her listeners will understand and possibly relate to? I am starting to wonder, because a few weeks ago the senior minister at the church where I sing picked a Charles Wesley* hymn. OK, the tune was familiar (Richmond) and the lyrics were typical late 1700s Christian terms. But the minister had to explain the meaning of “It varies with the wind” referred to the spring in a clock, and that winding the mechanism more tightly affected how fast or slowly the clock ran. The text specifically is about what we’d call a grandfather clock, because it also mentions the chain that holds the weights. I thought everyone knew how clocks worked. Oops. Continue reading

Friday Fiction: Of Merchant and Magic Part 13

Our hero lands in a wee bit of difficulty.

 Mage or Merchant?


Tycho felt a small pang as he pressed his seal into the weigh-seal on the first bundle of hides. The others saw the shimmer as the set-spell worked, confirming that he was Tycho Rhonarida and a true son of Rhonari, but there was no weigh-mage to affirm that the scales had not been tampered with. No notary-mage waited around the corner to test documents or to draw them up. No preservation-mage could spell-seal Tycho’s goods for their buyer if they were taken on the road. How were the mages’ families faring? Probably not well.

Strong men heaved the bundle off the scale and the next bundle onto it. Tycho had looked at the list of booths and had found his, not far from the weigh-house. However, it was only three down from where the food sellers began, and he foresaw trouble for his self-control if the wind came from that direction. He would allow himself one fried thing per six days. And those required coin payment. The meals at his inn had already been paid for, he reminded himself. Continue reading

Shikhari Update and Teaser

Shikhari will release  on Tuesday, September 12. The book is suitable for younger readers (age 12 and up) although I’m not going to market it as YA.

Do you like tales of adventure, daring-do, and dogs? Do you want to return to the thrilling days of adventure novels, wild animals, and mysterious lost cities? Do you like to root for plucky, brave heroes and hiss at dastardly villains? In stories where the bad-guys get their just deserts?

Then come to Shikhari, the remote colony world where all is not as it seems…


Something Old, Something New


Looking back, Rigi and Tomás tried to decide if they’d have done anything differently. “Maybe we shouldn’t have told any adults, not even Uncle Eb,” she sighed, listening to the heated argument going on in the next room. She could hear the royal governor’s voice through the thick, closed door as he tried to drown out Uncle Eb and Mr. Petrason.

Tomás, two years older and wiser to the ways of adults, ran a hand through his short-trimmed brown hair and sighed as well. “I don’t think so. We did everything we were supposed to, everything the school taught us, and Uncle Eb and his associates followed procedures. The Staré have not protested, not even first and second Stamm elders. I think Mr. Petrason and his friends are jealous. Benin certainly is.”

Rigi had an unladylike thought about where Benin could go, starting with the northern icecap. Now that she’d seen his father having a temper fit, Rigi understood where Benin’s attitude came from.

“I’ve just never heard grownups acting like eighth-years.”

Tomás shrugged. “Neither have I. I can see why Uncle Eb likes being around us more than being around them.”

Rigi nodded so hard that her black curls bounced. “I agree entirely, Master Tomás,” she said, mimicking Uncle Eb. Continue reading

Friday Fiction: Of Merchant and Magic Part 12

In Which our Hero Learns More About Coins and the Locals. And makes an enemy.

 Troubled Markets


Tycho stopped in the market to get something to eat and to watch and see how things were arranged. The next large market, not quite a fair, would begin in four days, and he wanted a feel of the place before he set to work. He bought toasted cheese on bread and stood in the shade of the weigh building to eat, then strolled between the tables, looking at the fruit and breads and some local weavings and wood-carvings. Nothing caught his eye, at least, not until the man he’d heard at the inn raised his voice.

“What do you mean four liamb to the frein? That’s good silver coin, not the debased garbage from the north.” Tycho was not the only man who drifted closer to the sound of an argument.

“His grace sets the rates in consultation with the smiths, sir, and it is four liamb to the frein.” The man, a fine cobbler by the looks of his wares, stuck his lower jaw out. “This quality leather is at least ten frein per hide if I can find one good enough, so the shoes cost in proportion.”

“Leather is leather, and shoes cost ten liamb when I buy them.”

Tycho got a better look at the man’s boots and decided that either he was lying or hides fell from the skies in Liambruu. He wagered on lying.

So did the cobbler. “Then show a payment page and speak to the priest of Yoorst and the market master if you believe these are too high. I charge cost plus a living, like any honest man.”

“How dare you claim honesty? May Maarsdam strike you for lying.”

The cobbler stood up, looked past the obnoxious noble, and pointed to Tycho. “You! Merchant! You are of Maarsdam, are you not?”

Tycho lifted his staff. “I am a merchant and follower of Maarsdam of Rhonari, yes.”

“What say Maarsdam’s priests about just price?” Continue reading

Labor Day Sale

A Carpathian Campaign is on sale this weekend for $1.99  The sequel will be out in November.

In a Habsburg Empire that might have been, the Houses—humans, Half-dragons, and True-Dragons—quietly rule the land. István Eszterházy, Heir to his House, anticipates nothing more than the usual summer military exercises, and his upcoming marriage.

An assassin’s bullet in Sarajevo, Bosnia-Herzegovina, changes everything.

Now István must find a way to do his duty to the Empire and to his House and family as the world he knew vanishes amid the artillery blasts and churned-up sand of Galicia.


This alternate history of WWI’s Eastern Front is set in the universe of the Cat Among Dragons series, but is not part of that series.


For a few more really good reads, at sale prices: https://madgeniusclub.com/2017/09/02/the-fourth-annual-indie-author-labor-day-sale/

Fantasy, sci-fi, humor, there’s a little something for everyone.