Bears and birdfeeders

Southviewcabin1We have a family tradition, here at the cabin. of feeding the birds, in the wintertime and well into the spring. The main room downstairs, built into the hillside, houses the fireplace, kitchen, and all the comfortable chairs. From there we can gaze out through large windows at the birdfeeders, swaying gently on a pole, sheltered by the trees. You can see the red one in the picture, and we added another pole-hung feeder this year. Each pole holds the feeder about five feet from the ground.

The black bears also have a family tradition. Each year, in spring, while other food sources are still scarce and they haven’t been awake very long, they drop by looking for a good hit of sunflower seeds and flint corn. And if the humans are in residence, they generally find it.

My father-in-law lived in the cabin for about ten years. Each year he would report on the annual raid. If you think squirrels at the bird feeders are a nuisance, you should try black bear. Sometimes they would bend the pole down so they could get at the feeder more easily.

Bird feederSo, this morning we glance out of the window, and the hanging feeder is not only down, it’s demolished, disassembled into various parts. I laughed smugly at the news, secure in the knowledge that the other two feeders I put up this year (very like this picture), that were suspended from a beam extending out from the bottom of the second story porch in front of the cabin, were intact. Until I turned my head to check that assumption.

Those feeders were not only pulled down from their beam, and separated from their top components, they were missing altogether. Unless that bear had a buddy or a duffle bag, I don’t see how it could have carried them both off.

Meanwhile, my desk looks out of that same window on the second floor that you can see in the top picture. I am surrounded by indignant cardinals, sparrows, nuthatches, finches, woodpeckers (suet was included), junkos, jays, and noisy chickadees, all looking for their breakfast and demanding a better level of service.

How do they do it? Perhaps you’ll find this link illuminating…

I imagine it was something like this. The dogs slept through it all.

Sale today – To Carry the Horn

ToCarryTheHorn - Full Front Cover Widget

To Carry the Horn is on sale from March 18 thru March 20 at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Kobo worldwide. Normally $5.99, for these three days you can get a copy for just $0.99.

Click here for links to purchase.
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UPDATE (March 20) – Thanks for all your help!

Structures of Earth (excerpt) – Chapter 1

Structures of Earth - Full Front Cover - Widget


Were they following me or are they just guessing?

Rushalentar used his SIGHT to peek around the stone edge of the doorway he’d ducked into, without exposing himself. The two guild proctors lingered on the corner across the street, with an excellent view of the servants’ door in the next block that was his original destination.

If they catch me with it, there’s going to be trouble.

He weighed the thick book wrapped in his cloak, and considered his choices. Waiting in a doorway in broad daylight was not appealing. He could BEND light past him, but since he wasn’t very good at it that was only effective for night use. The best thing would be to go all the way around the city blocks to the far side of the one he wanted and work back up to the alley behind the stable, out of their sight.

Well, nothing else I can do. Interfering old busybodies.

He sloped out of the doorway behind the two men and walked noiselessly away from them, turning right at the first alley, and took an alternate route along the streets and cut-through lanes until he reached the far corner of the block that the proctors were watching. He strolled a third of the way along and paused at the entry of the alley that ran through to the next street to wait for the foot traffic to thin out. He looked up at the huge guild house that occupied most of the block, everything on the far side of the alley, and he shook his head.

Someday. I swear, someday the mother house will reopen. I just don’t know how.

His eyes passed over the shuttered windows, the barred gates, and the whole massive five-story stone pile, derelict now, abandoned. No one left to pay for repairs, to heat the place, to keep it running.

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Final Cover for Structures of Earth

I just wanted to show off the final version of the cover art that Jake Bullock completed today.Front Cover - Structures of Earth - 300x464

Here’s the blurb…


Young Rush has bent the rules and managed to become an apprentice in wizardry to his uncle, but neither of them is qualified to revive the Torch & Scroll Guild, and there is no one else left. Neglected for generations, the mother house is in ruins, soon to be sold off by the Star Watch, the wizards’ council, as the only guild to ever have expired for lack of heirs.

But this clever and deep-thinking young man may have puzzled out some of the fundamental principles underlying all magical practice, and this discovery will change everything, if only Rush can stay alive long enough for his plans to work.

What we’re looking at is the servants’ quarters behind the decayed guild house of Torch & Scroll. All that’s left of the guild is huddled there, in a disgraceful building for an institution that has long fallen out of power.
Background painting - 600x457
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Cover update for Structures of Earth

Draft before final painting

Draft before final painting

My cover artist, Jake Bullock, has been very busy running through draft versions of the cover for the first book in the new series, The Affinities of Magic. It’s been great fun working through this with him, and I thought you might enjoy an update on the process as he moves on to the final version. My requirements…

  • The back covers of the novels will be the front covers for short stories and story collections
  • Every story will include a discovery in the study of bio-magic, so every story or book will include a vignette of an animal, plant, whatever, that is the basis for the discovery
  • There will be an internal illustration of the critter, plant, whatsis inside each story
  • Every novel cover will include the mother house of the Torch & Scroll guild, now fallen on very hard times with its last master. The rise of fortune (or its setback) will be reflected in each new novel.

For Structures of Earth, the vignette shows a burrowing rodent-like critter, the study of which will lead to some amazing insights, rather like Gregor Mendel’s experiments with peas.

The cover illustrations in this post are intermediate drafts. The Author font will change to match all of my books, and many painted details will be added to both the background and the Title/Series text.

You can see more of Jake’s work here.
Full Cover-2

Bound into the Blood – Book 4 of The Hounds of Annwn has been released

Bound into the Blood - Full Front Cover - WidgetI’m delighted to announce that Bound into the Blood is now available at a variety of retailers in both paperback and ebook formats.

Much of the book takes place over the summer in the human world and reflects the changes that are the result of the discovery of the rock-wights and the new status of Gwyn ap Nudd, King of Annwn. For those of my fans who enjoy foxhunting, there’s a bit of a puppy show, too.

I’m starting a new series, The Affinities of Magic, which will feature a young man who founds an industrial revolution and builds an academy for magic. Structures of Earth, the first book in that series, will come out this summer, to be followed by more work in both series.

You can find out more about Bound into the Blood and where to buy it here. As always, if you like the book, I encourage you to write a review wherever you bought it, or to post one on Goodreads or Amazon. Reviews make a big difference to authors.


Bound into the Blood (excerpt) – Chapter 1

Bound into the Blood - Full Front Cover - Widget


It was time to move again, he decided. Soon. He searched his face in the mirror. Ten years in one place was enough. The first jokes about how young he still looked had started, and his unchanging appearance would only raise more questions if he lingered much longer.

He grimaced. It’s getting harder each time to set up a new identity, he thought, to stay off the grid. Maybe I should move to another country altogether, one with bigger problems than surveilling its citizens. I could last a long time in some country in Africa, if I could figure out a way to get there without a passport. And there are interesting beasts there to turn my hand to.

Or maybe I should just stop and put an end to it, the last of my line of the special breed, the pure blood.

He’d done what he had to do, twenty-odd years ago, and he remembered it still each morning when he woke. Nothing much had seemed real to him after that, after he fled and left it all, worlds behind. His death wouldn’t seem real either, when it came, he suspected, just the long-delayed natural conclusion. Well, at least he’d be done with it, then. He was tired of the fight. It would be a welcome relief, a silence and a forgetting.

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The Way of the Walnut

Our busy concert performer

Our busy concert performer

Many writers like to speak at length about the music playlist they use when they write, different tunes for different moods, and so forth. I thought I should tell you about mine.

As I’ve mentioned before, we live in a log cabin (with an addition) that was built in 1812 out of big heavy squared-off logs. The bottom floor is stone, built into a bank. This was our hunting cabin/vacation home, but now it’s fulltime.

There’s a big room upstairs with paneling on the inside instead of bare logs, and one stretch of that, where a doorway was cut through the logs to give access to the addition, has something that lives within the walls, between the paneling and the logs. Well, actually, lots of things live within the walls, if you count the black snakes that come in to check out the mouse population. We don’t bother them, and they don’t bother us.

Anyway, we think this particular pest is a red squirrel (though we’ve never seen it). It has a walnut — plenty of black walnut trees around the farm. walnut-sketch1-200It’s very fond of this walnut. It rolls the walnut all around this one stretch of wall, driving 3 cats, 2 dogs, and 2 humans absolutely nuts (so to speak). Then it gnaws on it. Loudly. At all hours. Where it’s nice and warm, out of the snow.

So instead of iTunes, think of me with this constant, subliminal, walnut-rolling-around-inside-wall noise whenever I write. This has been going on for way more than one rodent’s lifetime, so it must be passed from mother to daughter, down through the generations.

I just glanced outside and saw three separate black walnuts placed along the 2nd floor porch’s banister rails. This is clearly a cache that the squirrel has forgotten about. For now. If it collects a few more, it can release an album.

Sigil for Torch & Scroll

Torch and Scroll Sigil
My first series, The Hounds of Annwn, uses a sigil that represents Antler Sigilthe entire series: the red deer antlers of Cernunnos. You see it inside the books, on the title pages and at the end, as a sort of frame for the stories.

Now Jake Bullock, my cover artist, has come up with a sigil representing the dying wizard guild for my new series, The Affinities of Magic. Each guild has a specialty and an emblem.

The guild that specializes in overall research, sort of the R&D arm of the guilds, is in terrible shape and has almost died out. Its once-proud symbol, Torch & Scroll, bears the nickname Ashes & Dust. The guild hall itself has been shut down and the few folk left are huddled in the servants’ quarters.

But there are some who are determined to raise this guild from the dust and ashes and to revolutionize the understanding and practice of magic. Stay tuned for their stories…

You can see more of Jake’s work here.

Submitting stories to magazines

Second Sight - Full Front Cover - WidgetI recently finished a science fiction short story that I haven’t told you all about because, for the first time, I’m submitting it to magazines and online periodicals to see if someone would like to buy it. If I’m successful you’ll hear all about it. If no one has a place for it at this time, Perkunas Press will publish it. You can find out more about it here.

Either way, it will take several months. In general you can only submit to one venue at a time, so it can take many weeks or months before you reach a venue that wants it. Then they will not publish it right away, and when they do they will want exclusivity for it for a few months. If I am not successful with the submission, Perkunas Press will publish the story in the usual way and I’ll announce it here, otherwise I’ll let people know where they can buy it, and then Perkunas Press will publish it after the exclusivity period runs out.

I’ll be doing more of this over time, especially for short stories that are either not part of a series or that can stand alone. It’s a new experience for me. Short stories don’t sell in great quantity, but if a magazine buys one, that changes the financial result dramatically. It’s also just about the only way that an author-publisher can be part of the consideration for the genre and category awards that are such a major part of fantasy and science fiction. Finding out exactly what the magazine editors want will be a learning exercise all by itself.