Release Dates, Author Updates, and An Apology

First, the apology: I said I’d have the next Familiars two-book set available in print this fall. I put it off and put it off, and I apologize. I will try to do better after the new year. I need to go through and fix errors and typos, then send the files off to my cover and formatting person.

If all goes well, I will release the next Familiar Generations book around December 15th. The title is The Hunter in Shadows.

I finished the rough draft of “Lord Adrescu’s Sword” and will release it in late January – early February.

I hope to have some light fairy-tale fantasy stories done by late February, and then the short stories and novella (perhaps) for the next Familiar Generations book. After that it will be the Scottish-inspired novel, Familiar Generations, and perhaps the nomads vs. city-dwellers novel. “Blue Roses” will probably release as a stand alone short story, since it’s not really light and fluffy.

I will be away from the internet next week, so there will be fewer posts, and I might close the comments, just so that people don’t get held in moderation for a long period of time.


A European Sort of Morning

A summer morning dawned with the usual slanted light as the sun moved north. Crisp, chilly air with a hint of flowers/urban scent/hardness eased in through the part-open window. The hour was early. At least two hours would pass, perhaps more, before it was time for breakfast. For a moment I thought I was in Central Europe.

Nope, still in the High Plains. It was a strong reminder of just how much the little details set the scene, in this case the light and the “feel” of the morning air.

I’ve spent so many Junes on the road to various places that I’ve become attuned to the differences in light. Out in the desert southwest, sunrise is at least an hour earlier than back home, wherever home happened to be at the time. So I’m up and about well before the Hour of Food, trying to sneak around so I don’t wake up those who are sleeping the sleep of the just. It’s a good time to go stretch one’s legs, take photos before the light gets too direct and harsh, and have a moment of quiet time with the birds. The wildlife, however, does require due care and consideration. The light is clear, with edges, often chilly and always dry.

Central Europe . . . In the cities, the hint of diesel exhaust is one of my markers, because trucks are only allowed to do deliveries early in the mornings. Cool soft air, full of moisture unless a cold front has passed, covers everything. The light is soft, filtered by clouds or humidity, and begins very early. By 0500 I can read without turning on the lights in the room (most of the time. Not always.) By 0530 I need a hat and long-sleeves when I venture out. Often the place is still and calm, with birds and perhaps the distant rumble of early traffic the only sounds. No, I take that back. A soft, steady Shhhh, shhhh, shhhh of a broom on cement and stone reaches my ears as an older woman in the faded floral-print uniform of matrons all over that part of Europe sweeps in front of her house or family business. We ignore each other as I pass, as one does. If she acknowledges me, I smile back. The city or town or hotel grounds are mind to meander as I please. No babble of voices comes from the market square, save on market days. The river or town stream murmurs in liquid tones as it dances through the little channels in the streets, or along its bed where the wall once stood.

Sometimes, that same light, the same cold late-spring air washes over the Texas panhandle, and for a moment I’m in a different place.

StephansDom on the Feast of Stephen

Everyone else went to an art museum, a private collection that was being opened for a short while to the public. Me? I went to mass. Because how often do you get to visit a cathedral on the feast of the patron saint, during the Twelve Days of Christmas, when the mass-setting is Josef Hayden’s “Lord Nelson Mass”? Not often. Plus I’d not gotten what I wanted out of Christmas Day mass, for various reasons.

December 26th is Boxing Day in Britain and the Commonwealth. It is “hit the sales day” in the US [alas]. It is also the feast of St. Stephen, the first martyr. If many people in the US even think about the day, it might be in connection with the song/carol “Good King Wenceslas” who went out “on the feast of Stephen.” Wenceslas, or Vaclav, or Wetzel, was one of the early Christian princes (kings) of Bohemia, and he was murdered by his half-brother for politics as much as for faith. Not that it stopped his being named a saint. Just for confusion there’s also St. Stephen king of Hungary, who really was a king . . . But my digression is digressing.

So, it was colder than a well-digger’s hip-pocket in Vienna that year. As in single digit Fahrenheit cold, which caused problems for public transportation because the power was diverted to heating houses. Things started thawing a little on Christmas Eve, but not much. I went to mass at St. Michael Archangel, the parish church in the Hofburg palace, and it was wonderful – small, devout, and worshipful. At midnight, all the bells in Vienna rang, led by Pummerin. On Christmas I went to mass, learned how panic-crushes happen, and then visited a Cistercian abbey out in the middle of nowhere (the Wienerwald). Come St. Stephan’s Day, I wanted something different. So I went to mass at the cathedral once more.

Stephansdom after a rain. Author Photo, June, 2019.

I got there early, genuflected, and opted to sit. I found myself in with some elderly folks and a group of Benedictine nuns and novices. I settled in for a long sit-stand-bow-kneel-bow-sit. The church didn’t completely fill, but it was close. I didn’t see many obvious tourists, and I was dressed to blend in. The wait gave time for meditation and prayer, and thinking about how long people have been worshiping on this site. At least two thousand years, because below the crypt, Roman ruins have been found. And those are on what seems to have been a pagan, probably Celtic, worship site. St. Stephan’s itself has very old bones, going back to 1137. An older, mortuary church existed before then, predating St. Rupert’s*, but there are no records thus far that name that chapel. The large open area around the church shows where the cemetery was, and the Roman cemetery before that. In 1258, a fire did in the older church, and the Gothic version we see today was started. (Fire is/was the bane of medieval churches.)

Note the rainbow at the base of the tower. Author photo, June, 2019.

Mass began with bells, and a procession led by the Cardinal Archbishop of Vienna, in crimson and white, with lace trim and a very elaborate pattern on his miter. Just behind him followed the relics of St. Stephan the Martyr, including part of his arm. The music, as I said above, was what most of us call the “Lord Nelson Mass,” a festival mass. It was the end of the Hayden Year, and a fitting end it was too. I’d never heard a mass “at work,” so to speak. The language of the mass was German, with some Latin and Greek (the Kyrie) and I followed it easily. I freely confess that I was glad to have a wooden kneeler instead of kneeling on the stone floor like the novices and younger nuns were doing. The homily was about the persecuted church, a topic that raised my eyebrows a little, given the attitude of the EU at the time. Looking back, I wonder of the Archbishop was poking someone (December 2009). Either way, it fit the day. It was a very uplifting, worshipful service.

Having learned my lesson the day before, I eased out the door of the transept, staying well away from the main doors.

I met the group that afternoon and spent the day packing and then enjoying a very nice supper. We had to be at the airport at five AM the next day.

*Rupert’s Church, on Salzgasse, is the oldest church in Vienna. St. Rupert of Salzburg is the patron of salt makers and salt traders. More about that church tomorrow.

The North Sea

I was skimming over one of the stories in Distinctly Familiar, looking for any major holes. It brought back my memories of visiting the edge of the North Sea, near Husum, Germany.

Into the teeth of a rising storm on the North Sea, standing on a sea dike near Husum, Germany.

It felt darker than the photo looks, because a storm was coming in. Continue reading

Once You Know Where To Look . . .

We were trying to find six castles. In Poland. On a scenic castle route road. We saw one from a distance, found the last one, but spent frustrating hours hunting for all the others. That night, I discovered that I had a German-language guide book with GPS coordinates and village names. We found two the next day, in ten minutes.

SIGH. It’s easy to find castles once you know exactly where to look. Continue reading

Much Needed Road Trip

This weekend, Mom, Dad, and I drove up to one of the gems of the Panhandle, the Citadelle Museum in Canadian, TX. They had a traveling exhibit of hats and headdresses from around the world, and it was a good excuse to get out of town for half a day. It had been two years since we went up to see the Rembrandt sketches, and as I said, it was an excuse to get out of town.

It is dry. Of all the playa lakes along the route, all of which should have a little water in their basins, only one has any water at all, and that was a tiny fraction of what’s usually there. That explains the lack of waterfowl this year. As we drove farther east and north, we started seeing scores of sandhill cranes, some geese, and a few other migratory waterfowl, all racing south. High clouds covered a lot of the sky, dimming the sun a little. Canadian was only supposed to get into the upper 60s, while Amarillo aimed for 80 or so. Milo fields and cotton stood ready for harvest, attracting waterfowl and some pronghorn (25-30 or so).

Traffic was fairly light on the road, but heavy on the railroad tracks. Two coal trains headed southeast, while hundreds of container-freight cars trudged uphill toward Amarillo and points west. I only counted ten Amazon containers, unlike in June. Lots of Maersk, Seeland, HamburgSud, B.J. Hunt and others.

As we turned due north into Roberts and Hemphill counties, we dropped into the Canadian River Breaks. Cottonwoods shimmered in the late morning sun, fluttering gold and almost-gold. Canadian has a big fall foliage fest every year, although this year’s was muted compared to the past. The grasses looked brown, all shades of brown, even though this area had gotten more rain than most of the rest of the region. What cattle that I saw grazed or runinated. Lots of Angus, no Herefords, at least near the road.

The museum, in a former church, then house, was ours. We were the only guests, although they would be hosting an outdoor wedding later that afternoon. The docent let us into the traveling exhibit, and we spent at least ninety minutes looking at hats, headdresses, caps, and scarves. They came from all over the world, and ranged from simple black or white (Shinto priest’s hat, Catholic bishop’s miter) to amazing silver crowns and embroidered and beaded wonders. A number came from peoples of the D.P. R. Congo, and China (ethnic minorities). That was a little sad, because of what’s happening to those peoples in China today, but the artwork and care in the hats and skullcaps remains vibrant and lovely.

One, a shaman’s hat from Indonesia, reminded me of the Sumarian headdress with all the little fluttering plaques and leaves. This sported a tree in silver wire and foil coming out of the top, and the leaves shimmered, fluttering when the wearer moved or a breeze stirred. Another masterpiece depicted riders on horseback, Asian dragons, a forest, then possibly mountains or just a geometric pattern, all in silver and silver-colored metal, on an embroidered base. That was not worn for extended periods, because of the weight, but the craftsmanship!

The only European hats were a Protestant woman’s hat from Alsaice, a Bavarian men’s hat, a cap from Serbia, and two embroidered felt hats from the Sammi of far northern Norway. A Plains Indian “warbonnet” (probably dance regalia, given the age and the turkey feathers) and a Tewa hat were the only contributions from the US. 

It was a lovely display, with lots of information about the hats, what head coverings symbolize, why people cover their heads, and so on.

We chatted with the docent for a while before departing. We stopped at the coffee shop on the way out of town, then drove home. For five hours I didn’t think of Day Job, or anything but observing the land and wildlife, and thinking about the Canadian River and sundry. I needed that. It was a great day to be out and about.

Canadian, TX is off the beaten track, but well worth visiting. The Citadelle’s permanent collection is amazing, and the founder keeps finding “Oh my gosh” stuff that his family didn’t remember that they had. Like a silk carpet from Lebanon, probably from the 1920s, that seems to show Ataturk. It came from a storage area, and the owners forgot that they’d gotten it. (They were originally Orthodox Christians who came from what is now Lebanon, working in the grocery and dry goods trade, then became doctors, ranchers, and so on.) The history museum is also quite good, and there are hiking trails and other things to do in the area.

A Well-Traveled People

One of the ranchers from the Panhandle died on the Titanic. A rancher in eastern New Mexico sent his children to the Austrian Alps during the late 1920s and early 1930s to spend time with their relatives, who were among the old Habsburg nobility. Others traveled to England, Ireland, and Scotland on a regular basis, as well as to Houston, Chicago, New York City, and the like.

One of the surprises of doing research about this region’s early settlement and growth is just how mobile the population was. Continue reading