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God Speed

“To me, there is no greater calling … If I can inspire young people to dedicate themselves to the good of mankind, I’ve accomplished something.”

— John Glenn, Marine aviator in World War II and Korea, United States Senator, and last of the Mercury astronauts. July 18, 1921 to December 8, 2016

A Year of Poetry – Day 229

How heavy the days are.
There’s not a fire that can warm me,
Not a sun to laugh with me,
Everything bare,
Everything cold and merciless,
And even the beloved, clear
Stars look desolately down,
Since I learned in my heart that
Love can die.

— Hermann Hesse, How Heavy the Days

Thought for the Day

DaddyBear's Den

Tomorrow is the anniversary of Pearl Harbor.  Remember that even after all these years, we still have young men and women far from home to defend us.  Please keep the casualties and survivors of December 7 in your prayers, and also please include those who serve now.

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A Year of Poetry – Day 228

When I was fair and young, then favor graced me.
Of many was I sought their mistress for to be.
But I did scorn them all and answered them therefore:
Go, go, go, seek some other where; importune me no more.
How many weeping eyes I made to pine in woe,
How many sighing hearts I have not skill to show,
But I the prouder grew and still this spake therefore:
Go, go, go, seek some other where, importune me no more.
Then spake fair Venus’ son, that proud victorious boy,
Saying: You dainty dame, for that you be so coy,
I will so pluck your plumes as you shall say no more:
Go, go, go, seek some other where, importune me no more.
As soon as he had said, such change grew in my breast
That neither night nor day I could take any rest.
Wherefore I did repent that I had said before:
Go, go, go, seek some other where, importune me no more.
— Queen Elizabeth I, When I Was Fair and Young

A Year of Poetry – Day 227

But where I found the children naughty,
In manners rude, in temper haughty,
Thankless to parents, liars, swearers,
Boxers, or cheats, or base tale-bearers,

I left a long, black, birchen rod,
Such as the dread command of God
Directs a Parent’s hand to use
When virtue’s path his sons refuse.

— Clement Clark Moore, Old Santeclaus

New Book in the Maxwell Saga

Peter Grant has come out with the next book in his Maxwell Saga, Stoke the Flames Higher.  I was lucky to be a beta reader for the book, and it’s definitely one that will keep you up as you try to find out what happens on the next page.

Here’s the blurb:

Two planets, torn apart by the same fanatics – and Lancastrian forces are caught in the middle!

Major Brooks Shelby must keep the peace, on a world where radical terrorists want submission or death. Lieutenant-Commander Steve Maxwell must trace the source of their fighters and funding, deal with diplomats, and fend off a nosy journalist.

The marines are up against smuggled explosives and suicidal martyrs, while a suborned bureaucracy stymies the investigation. Brooks and Steve must find a way to stop their enemies at all costs, before the fanatics unleash their own version of Armageddon!

Peter does an awesome job of knitting together several storylines that pit his characters against terrorists bent on spreading their ideology across the stars using murder as a vehicle.  He’s created a great universe, and doesn’t have to spend a lot of time explaining it to the reader, so he has plenty of page space to enrich the story and the characters.

One thing that I like about the Maxwell series, as well as its companion “Laredo” books, is that Peter takes space combat away from dog fights in vacuum and actually thinks about how capital ships would be used in future combat.  It forces him to build tension rather than action, and makes the reader consider how terrifying sudden surprises could be when distances are measured in hundreds of thousands of kilometers and speeds are measured in fractions of the speed of light.

If you’re looking for an excellent read for a cold evening in front of the fire, look no further.

A Year of Poetry – Day 226

Drink to me only with thine eyes,
         And I will pledge with mine;
Or leave a kiss but in the cup,
         And I’ll not look for wine.
The thirst that from the soul doth rise
         Doth ask a drink divine;
But might I of Jove’s nectar sup,
         I would not change for thine.
I sent thee late a rosy wreath,
         Not so much honouring thee
As giving it a hope, that there
         It could not withered be.
But thou thereon didst only breathe,
         And sent’st it back to me;
Since when it grows, and smells, I swear,
         Not of itself, but thee.
— Ben Jonson, Song: to Celia

A Year of Poetry – Day 225

All day she stands before her loom;
The flying shuttles come and go:
By grassy fields, and trees in bloom,
She sees the winding river flow:
And fancy’s shuttle flieth wide,
And faster than the waters glide.

Is she entangled in her dreams,
Like that fair-weaver of Shalott,
Who left her mystic mirror’s gleams,
To gaze on light Sir Lancelot?
Her heart, a mirror sadly true,
Brings gloomier visions into view.

“I weave, and weave, the livelong day:
The woof is strong, the warp is good:
I weave, to be my mother’s stay;
I weave, to win my daily food:
But ever as I weave,” saith she,
“The world of women haunteth me.

“The river glides along, one thread
In nature’s mesh, so beautiful!
The stars are woven in; the red
Of sunrise; and the rain-cloud dull.
Each seems a separate wonder wrought;
Each blends with some more wondrous thought.

“So, at the loom of life, we weave
Our separate shreds, that varying fall,
Some strained, some fair: and, passing, leave
To God the gathering up of all,
In that full pattern wherein man
Works blindly out the eternal plan.

“In his vast work, for good or ill,
The undone and the done he blends:
With whatsoever woof we fill,
To our weak hands His might He lends,
And gives the threads beneath His eye
The texture of eternity.

“Wind on, by willow and by pine,
Thou blue, untroubled Merrimack!
Afar, by sunnier streams than thine,
My sisters toil, with foreheads black;
And water with their blood this root,
Whereof we gather bounteous fruit.

“There be sad women, sick and poor:
And those who walk in garments soiled:
Their shame, their sorrow, I endure;
By their defect my hope is foiled:
The blot they bear is on my name;
Who sins, and I am not to blame?

“And how much of your wrong is mine,
Dark women slaving at the South?
Of your stolen grapes I quaff the wine;
The bread you starve for fills my mouth:
The beam unwinds, but every thread
With blood of strangled souls is red.

“If this be so, we win and wear
A Nessus-robe of poisoned cloth;
Or weave them shrouds they may not wear,—
Fathers and brothers falling both
On ghastly, death-sown fields, that lie
Beneath the tearless Southern sky.

“Alas! the weft has lost its white.
It grows a hideous tapestry,
That pictures war’s abhorrent sight:—
Unroll not, web of destiny!
Be the dark volume left unread,—
The tale untold,—the curse unsaid!”

So up and down before her loom
She paces on, and to and fro,
Till sunset fills the dusty room,
And makes the water redly glow,
As if the Merrimack’s calm flood
Were changed into a stream of blood.

Too soon fulfilled, and all too true
The words she murmured as she wrought:
But, weary weaver, not to you
Alone was war’s stern message brought:
“Woman!” it knelled from heart to heart,
“Thy sister’s keeper know thou art!”

— Lucy Larcom, WeavingWeaving

A Year of Poetry – Day 224

Brave comrade, answer! When you joined the war,
What left you? “Wife and children, wealth and friends,
A storied home whose ancient roof-tree bends
Above such thoughts as love tells o’er and o’er.”
Had you no pang or struggle? “Yes; I bore
Such pain on parting as at hell’s gate rends
The entering soul, when from its grasp ascends
The last faint virtue which on earth it wore.”
You loved your home, your kindred, children, wife;
You loathed yet plunged into war’s bloody whirl!—
What urged you? “Duty! Something more than life.
That which made Abraham bare the priestly knife,
And Isaac kneel, or that young Hebrew girl
Who sought her father coming from the strife.”

— George Henry Boker, [Sonnet]

EBook Cover and Snippet

Took some time tonight to do a first wash on the cover image for the next Minivandians ebook, entitled “Lost Children.  Your thoughts are welcome.

lost-children-ebook-cover-1

It’s a rough draft, but it’s probably pretty close to where I want it to be.

Just for kicks and grins, here’s a snippet from one of the short stories in the book:

 

Ruarin and Lytteren rode down the muddy track leading from the village back to their home. Their bulging saddlebags held items they had purchased at the early fall market. Ruarin had obtained spices and other things necessary for her work fending off a fever, which had struck several of their neighbors, while Lytteren had found and purchased cloth and leather to outfit herself for her journey south to visit the Aztlani. Both women were glad that the groom had thought to thoroughly oil both their saddles and bags that morning, as the weather had turned cold and wet. Both women wore heavy woolen cloaks, but were wet and shivering underneath them.

“I doubt you will miss days like this, daughter,” Ruarin said, trying to cheer the young maiden up. The realization that her studies would soon end and that she would be entering the world had struck the young lady a few days before, and her mood had become somber and withdrawn. Only her little brother’s antics and time spent playing with him seemed to bring her out of her melancholy.

“Does it never rain in the desert?” Lytteren answered, sweeping pooled water from a dip in her cloak.

“Oh, on occasion. Meztli tells me that you will arrive shortly before their rainy season, but it only rains for a few minutes each afternoon.”

“I only found enough cotton to make one dress,” Lytteren said sourly, peeking out from the hood of her cloak. “Should we try to order more from the merchants?”

“Don’t worry, child. You won’t need it for a few weeks after you leave our damp little valley,” Ruarin said soothingly, sensing the younger woman’s anxiety, “and one light riding gown will be enough to get you to the markets at Durango.”

“Father says that once I cross into Aztlan, I’ll be able to get whatever I need,” Lytteren grumped. “I just don’t like setting off without knowing I’ll have everything necessary.”

“Sometimes it’s fun to step off on faith alone,” Ruarin replied, smiling at a memory. “You won’t learn if you don’t take chances.”

The steady rain became a downpour as they rode down the muddy track, and they continued in silence rather than try to shout over the sound of raindrops striking their cloaks. Their horses, patient as ever, just kept putting one hoof in front of another, unmindful of the sticky mud their steps threw into the air.

The rain lessened after a while, and the clouds began breaking up, allowing strong sunlight to poke through. Lytteren pulled the hood of her cloak down and shook the wet from her clothes. Ruarin followed suit, and the two chatted about the news they had heard at the market as their horses’ hooves sounded on the boards of a bridge. Beneath them, they could hear the creek flowing swiftly through the pilings.

“So, Marcy and Pol will be married in a few weeks?” Ruarin asked. She had known Pol since she and the Minivandian had taken up residence in the manor and he was a small boy, and she had helped Marcy’s mother deliver her child a few winters later.

“Yes,” Lytteren replied. “Marcy wants me to stand up with her at the wedding, so they’re moving the date to before I leave.”

“You can wear the gown we made for your appearance before the empress in Texcoco,” her mother replied. Something caused her brow to knot, and she reined her horse to a halt at the edge of the bridge.  The Lady of Eyre cocked her head to listen, then turned this way, then that in her saddle

“Did you hear that?” she asked in a hoarse whisper.

Lytteren stopped her horse and listened as well. At first, she only heard the occasional drip of a raindrop making its way through the leaves of the sycamore trees lining the creek and the rush of the water beneath her. Then, she heard a faint whimper coming from under the bridge.

Lytteren turned her horse from the road, stopping it at the water’s edge. Dismounting, she stooped down and peered into the gloom beneath the bridge.  Something small moved in the shadows, causing her to take a step forward to see what it was.

“Mother,” she said after a moment, “I think there’s a puppy under there!”

“Is it all right?” Ruarin replied, climbing down from her horse. Cautiously, her hand on the hilt of her dagger, she joined her daughter.

“I can’t tell. It’s too dark under there,” Lytteren replied.

Ruarin bent down to look, whispering “Solas.” A small dot of light, sharp green in the gloom, illuminated the underside of the bridge. There, huddled against the first piling and covered from head to tail in yellow mud, was a small creature. It shakily raised its head, revealing soft brown eyes and a black nose. Its floppy ears hung next to its long, thin face, and it opened its mouth to let loose a whimper of fright at the sudden brightness.

“Have no fear, little one,” Ruarin said soothingly, reaching out an open palm.

The little dog stretched out its neck, sniffing the offered hand, then stood. It shivered, either from cold or weakness, or possibly both, and took a tentative step toward the two women. Lytteren sucked in her breath at the sight of it, especially the sharp shapes of ribs and hipbones jutting out beneath its filthy hide.

“Oh, the poor thing!” she said, taking another step forward, unmindful of the hem of her dress as it dragged in the mud.

“Careful, daughter,” Ruarin admonished her. “It may be sick, or at least unused to people.”

The dog proved the Lady of Eire to be mistaken, as it sniffed Lytteren’s hand a few times, then licked it with a long, pink and black tongue. Its tail wagged weakly a few times, then it took another unsteady step toward them.

Ruarin and Lytteren stepped out from under the bridge, followed by the dog. It moved slowly and unevenly, taking faltering steps in the mud. Lytteren went to her saddlebag and retrieved a length of string from one of the packages.

“Let’s take it home, mother,” she said, walking back. “Perhaps she’s just lost.”

“Well, we certainly can’t leave it here,” her mother answered. “The poor thing won’t make it through the night!”

Lytteren cooed soothingly to the dog as she walked to it, patting it gently on the head while she ran the string around its neck.

“There’s no collar,” she said.

Ruarin frowned at that. “If she’s a stray, then that will make it harder to find her master.” In her mind, she counted the number of hounds, cats, and other creatures their household already hosted. She wondered at how she would convince her husband to accept another, no matter how dire the need.

Lytteren tied a knot in the string, then ran her hand down the hound’s mud-covered flank. “It hasn’t eaten in days, I’ll wager. The poor thing is starving.”

Ruarin took a critical look at the creature, seeking signs of disease or injury.

“What’s that between her shoulders?” she said, reaching down to touch a hump of dirty fur which ran along the dog’s spine from its shoulders to halfway down its back.

The dog arched its body at her touch, and to their amazement, its mud-covered hair parted to allow something to extend from its back. The dog’s tail, on the other hand, wagged back and forth in happiness at the attention.

Lytteren brought her muddy hand to her mouth in shock.

“Mother,” she asked in wonder, “are those wings?”

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