“If Jesus Himself had appeared before them, they would not have turned from the stove to greet Him, not even Isaiah Rowan.”

THEIR OVERCOATS STEAMED in the red-hot glow of the tiny stove, the steam rising to form ice on the ceiling of the cramped canvas tent. After a day’s slogging up and down the pass, they were each man and woman among them soaked to the skin, but it was so cold no one was willing to remove so much as a single layer of clothing. Frosted lashes and brows began to thaw, forming rivulets on cheeks that could be mistaken for tears, but the truth was they were too exhausted to weep. They sat instead in a silent circle, nine of them shoulder to shoulder, and thrust their hands and faces forward into the heat radiating from the stove like repentant sinners reaching for the light from above. If Jesus Himself had appeared before them, they would not have turned from the stove to greet Him, not even Isaiah Rowan. Rowan sat with his elbows on his knees, hands dangling between, his head bent, his eyes closed. His coat, made of moosehide, had stood the day better than their thick woolen overcoats, but even it was dark with melted snow and sweat, and it smelled of urine and wood smoke.

But then they all smelled.

–Cheechako

The Collected Short Stories


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“Concubines had been a feature of life in Cambaluc, too.”

BTSOMS_0730

One
Talikan, Spring, 1323
Concubines had been a feature of life in Cambaluc, too. Johanna’s own grandmother had been concubine to the great Kublai Khan before being given in marriage to her grandfather, the honored Marco Polo. It was natural for men of power and wealth to accumulate women much as they did other possessions, as a way of measuring themselves against their peers and as a means of demonstrating their elevated status in society. More women also meant more heirs of the body, although Johanna, familiar with the stories of internecine warfare among the descendants of the Great Khan, wondered what any man needed with that many sons. Too many heirs only guaranteed long and extremely bloody fights over who would one day occupy the throne. Those fights inevitably spiraled out from court to city to countryside, and never ended well for the innocent bystander. Johanna’s own grandmother had died in prison after one such dynastic disturbance.
But in Cambaluc, concubines could walk the streets unveiled, could shop in the markets, could visit their friends and relatives, could attend the horse races and bet on the outcome. They traveled, with personal guards of course, the number according to their consequence, but one saw them everywhere, Chinese and Mongol alike. The Mongol concubines could even own and ride their own horses. Here in Talikan, under the absolute rule of Sheik Mohammed, the only time the concubines left the harem was when the sheik called for their presence in his rooms for the evening.
With one exception.

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    And for those of you who like their books in print…

    I’ll be signing the trade paperback edition of By the Shores of the Middle Sea, live! and in person! at the Poisoned Pen in Scottsdale on Saturday, November 29th, at 2pm.

    Click here to pre-order your copy of the trade paperback!
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    Everything Under the Heavens now on sale!

    Everything Under the Heavens

    Of course because I love you, but mostly because I’m determined to seduce all of you die-hard “I only read Kate books and when is the next one coming out” fans, upon publication of By the Shores of the Middle Sea the price of the first Silk and Song Book, Everything Under the Heavens, drops to $4.99.

    Download and rejoice!

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    A dossier on a 550-year European cold snap.

    The Little Ice Age: How Climate Made History 1300-1850The Little Ice Age: How Climate Made History 1300-1850 by Brian M. Fagan

    A dossier on a 550-year European cold snap compiled from tree rings, ice cores, and the accounts of country clergymen and gentlemen scientists. Do we make the weather, or does it make us?

    Because the Arctic ice pack receded during the Medieval Warm Period, Fagan writes, the Vikings invaded Europe from England to Tuscany and even Constantinople. Because the Arctic ice pack receded the Atlantic cod moved north and provided a food source for regular trips to Greenland, which the Vikings then colonized. When the Arctic ice pack returned with the beginnings of the Little Ice Age, the trips ceased and the colonizes died out or were absorbed by the Native population.

    Drought in the middle of the Little Ice Age caused Spanish settlers to move their colony from South Carolina to Florida, which as Fagan puts it “may help explain why most people in the southeastern United States speak English rather than Spanish.”

    We read this book on Book Talk Alaska in 2003 and got more calls than any other book before, with the exception of Eats, Shoots and Leaves. People always have an opinion on the weather and grammar. And where else are you going to be able to find the results of a study that reconstructs weather patterns from landscape paintings in museums all over Europe?



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