Friday, May 27, 2016

Scent of Bread and Onions

... today's headline comes from the moment I stepped through the door from my side of the office building, and emerged into our atrium, where the fragrances of lunch open your nose.

The phrase kind of takes you places, doesn't it? I like the shape and feel of it. It might need a The. It might not. I can imagine places it might take us.

Wouldn't it make a great title?

Wouldn't it make ... a great prompt for flash fiction?

I'd love it if you agreed - and decided to take us places, in the comments.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016


"(W)hen anonymous harassers come along — saying they would like to rape us, or cut off our heads, or scrutinize our bodies in public, or shame us for our sexual habits — they serve to remind us in ways both big and small that we can’t be at ease online. It is precisely the banality of Internet harassment, University of Miami law professor Mary Anne Franks has argued, that makes it 'both so effective and so harmful, especially as a form of discrimination.'

Have you ever heard that thing, men are afraid that women will laugh at them and women are afraid that men will kill them?

… Is there hope? Hard to say. Rachel Dolezal has all but disappeared from the media, but her life’s not looking easy, given a prurient catch-up peek. But then, there is this ...  “(T)he smartest way to survive is to be bland.” Hmm.

Okay, let's lighten up.

Thanks in part to Kiehl's and the National Museum of American History's Division of Medicine and Science, as well as a number of other famous skin and health care names, a massive collection of beauty and hygiene products' images have been digitized in a photo archive of stunning usefulness for 19th and 20th century vintage fans, historical authors, and just beauty nerds such as myself. This makes a good conservation move as well, as some of the artifacts in the collection are deteriorating and cannot be made to last forever. Cultural/research notes: Cuticura's emphasis on the beauty of white hands hints at the "ideals" of beauty in this period. There are resources on the needfuls of menstrual care, and health tonics galore. I can see getting quite lost-slash-carried away down this rabbit hole!

In other artifactoral news, Gary Corby has a very cool post about the earliest keys - goodly, and of goodly size as well. So cool.

Monday, May 23, 2016

... Telling Me Something?

Sometimes, it's hard not to think Janet Reid, with her familiarity with her own community of writers (not clients), is trying to tell us something personal ... Such is both the ego and the insecurity of a fretful writer Woodland Creature.

In this week's week-in-review post, she quoted me ...

DLM said
But there seems really to be no "middle class" in traditional publishing now. You can't be *dependable*: you have to be a breakout, and - never mind the pressure, it's just a matter of numbers, and the numbers dictate, we simply cannot all be The Next Big Thing.

JANET said
We call it mid-list but you're right. It's like the Army; you can't spend five years in the same rank or your career is pretty much over. Get promoted or get out. Like baseball: you can play on the farm teams for a while, but either move up, or hang up your glove.

Publishing is not the only place this up or out pattern applies.  But it only applies to COMMERCIAL publishing.  You can publish and sell your own work forever. That's one of the many great things about the electronic marketplace: it's easy to access and it actually works. I'm not saying it's easy to self-publish (well, it is, but let's assume I mean self-publishing well here) but that the barriers to buyers are much diminished from where they were 20 years ago.

I think she's seen enough of my comments at her own blog contemplating commercial (what I've been calling traditional, which she rightly calls commercial - augh, and now to fix my tags ...) publishing versus self-pub, and certainly she knows my writing, for my interpretation that she's Telling Me Something - or, at least, agreeing with my self-evaluation - not to be completely out of hand.

And even if it is, at the end of the day, she's neither my agent nor my ultimate guide; just a kind reader - and a professional - along the way I am taking.

So whether she meant "anything" or not ... the upshot is the same. I don't know that I want to hold out for the big leagues. I sure know I don't want to be in the military ...

And, really, right now, what I OUGHT to be worrying about is the WIP.

Sunday, May 22, 2016


This will be a long and cluttered post; some things I've had in my pocket and not blogged for a good while. So, my apologies in advance for a lack of organization (and, as usual, timeliness).

Let's start off by revisiting another story that hasn't been front and center lately. Following up on headlines that fall away after their seven-minute news cycles are over - who remembers Rachel Dolezal? Here's what happened - first - and next ... "I would never make a mockery of the things I take most seriously."

The #WhenIwas hashtag makes difficult reading, but it is important, especially for those who want to believe that these things are ‘one off’ incidents. While many men have tweeted their shock at the stories being shared, many women remarked that they could identify with almost every single one.

(H)e refused to jail her, saying: “It would be a disgrace to send a survivor … to prison."

"OFF WITH THEIR HEADS!" Parts of women in movie marketing ... For the record, it’s not just movies. Looked at a book cover lately?

The ways and means of contemporary - well, let's *call* it journalism: “On some level, I thought that if what Charter was telling me was that big a deal, it would already have been reported” ... "The problem is that despite the struggle and innovation that has been taking place in the news media since the internet disrupted its business model, no one has come up with a profitable way to provide information about government to average Americans in ways they care about." ... "That vacuum provides an opening for outlets that peddle in the kind of bias, treachery, and quackery that we have always been afraid of … misleading or conspiratorial ideas about government activities can spread more easily when the public lacks credible information to counter it."

If there’s anything I love in this world, it’s the intellectually considerate takedown of rudeness (see also: Miss Manners, who could do this like nobody else). Here we have a stellar example in the “Don’t be THAT -ist” manner, but with a much deeper and wider message. “(D)enunciations of other people’s 'stupidity' are a particular temptation of our age”

Slow hope … the punishment for a pedophile …

This detailed piece on mental health and society blew me away. On being a psychopath and knowing the right thing to do…

(E)ven the most hardcore, cold intellectual wants the romantic notion. It kind of makes life worth living. But with these kinds of things, you really start thinking about what a machine it means we are—what it means that some of us don't need those feelings, while some of us need them so much. It destroys the romantic fabric of society in a way.

A few pieces on the curious phenomenon of victim worship - and exploitation for entertainment - in today's pop culture and society.

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Waxing Moon

Watery, drab spring, vertigo, and the necessity to make a living keep me inside doors so much. Tonight, a walk, under the moon.

Distinctive scents of home; whiff of honeysuckle and in a small business district. Moving away from lights and toward houses - strong spirea, clover, fresh cut grass, exhaust and asphalt.

The sounds; the way live music sounds warm, muffled, emanating from the local bar and grill. Not looking in, just glad people are out, are together. The two horns, vying against one another up the road, their engines as angry as their drivers.

Full moon cool, distant, and remote. Sheen of its light on a peaked slate roof.

It is so damned lonesome here. When the walk is already over.

My Letter to you, Damien Echols

It's hard for me to say for how many years I've followed the story of the West Memphis Three, but fifteen years may be about fair, for paying specific attention and actually seeking reading (and the documentaries) about the tragedy.

For those unfamiliar with the story, I won't link Wikipedia, only provide the simple story. The West Memphis Three were Jessie Misskelly, Damien Echols, and Jason Baldwin. In 1993, amid Satanist panic and public furor, these teenaged boys were convicted of the murder of three young boys in West Memphis Arkansas, in one of the more famous miscarriages of justice in the twentieth century. The details abound, so I will not recount them here, but it is a cruelly fascinating episode, and shameful beyond description.

The most famous, and oldest, of the convicted Three, is Damien Echols. He has become well known both for his past and also for his recovery (I will not use the term rehabilitation), but it is always his writing that clings to me when I look again toward this story. It feels cruel to call it a story, though. Perhaps I should say, look again toward these people.

I wish I had a handful of dust
--Damien Echols

One of the things that always strikes me in the heart about these kids - about this one - is that he reminds me indelibly of two of the three great loves of my life. His melancholy and his coloring are powerfully like Mr. X. And his expression of what a disadvantaged - what a battered - life is like echo sometimes in the communications with my first love, who reappeared almost a year ago, and who still breaks my heart at times (not in the way we once felt, of course).

And, seven years younger than I am, I know he's not a child, but his experience sparks in me something like a maternal outrage. The wish it had been possible to protect him. He was just a boy, barely older than the murder victims themselves really, and so the offense at his wrongful conviction and confinement - on death ROW, no less - is compounded by whatever vestige of protectiveness washing around in my guts.

Humanity is filled with so many who respond so much worse to wounds so much less - or illusory - his is an example of grace.

In recent months, face to face with another kind of grace, reading the link above today was inspirational. And, I will admit it, entertaining. In the sense that art entertains, that great writing does - even as it may elevate, or relieve, or release, or evaporate with no ghost but pleasure had - to understand the experience of solitary, of death row, of imprisonment is ... how to choose a word carefully here ... "stimulating" is accurate, but larded with inaccurate implications ... "educational" is right too, but almost so spare of deeper meaning as to fall short rather than overshoot ...

Enlightening. It lightens the soul to know another soul is not burdened by the worst we can do to one another - or has been set free. And it lightens the world to illuminate corners of it most of us will never see, G-d be praised for it.

Image: Wikipedia

His writing is extraordinary, evocative. The piece linked above reads like engrossing fiction; and the fact that it is not is an outrage. Something beyond poignant, something so much more important.

Certain shade of agony have their own beauty
--Damien Echols

Read his writing at the link. It is life itself.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016


Today in "this motivates me to learn more about self-pub" - sigh, it's actually Janet Reid. On the ass-kicking that is the publishing industry.

JJ Litke's blog is stealing into my brain. First it was how being in the traffic jam means: you are the traffic, and now DRAGON CAKE! The post is great, but click through even if only to look at the pictures of the coolest birthday cake I've ever seen. Worth exploring well beyond these two links, I promise.

JK Rowling, whose name has for so many pre-published authors, simply become a synonym for blockbuster success, turns out to have a nimble mind and a way of expressing herself I have to admire. “If my offended feelings can justify a travel ban on Donald Trump, I have no moral grounds on which to argue that those offended by feminism, or the fight for transgender rights, or universal suffrage, should not oppress campaigners for those causes.”

Because, sigh.

On the provenance and price of Thomas Jefferson's hair. ("And now, INTRODUCING the new band: The Fourteen Hairs!!!") The History Blog knows how to have fun, y'all.

See also: the fascinating bit about preservation of WWI graffiti by conscientious objectors at Richmond Castle. Huh.

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Dime a Dozen, or: What's the BIG Idea?

One of the more difficult things to explain to anyone who is not (already) a writer is that ideas are all but beside the point. People are always having ideas. Ideas are easy - they are as multiplicitous as bunnies, and as quick to scamper, hence the term plot bunnies.

The task of a writer consists of being able to make something out of an idea.
--Thomas Mann

"Somebody should write a book" was an ongoing conversation in my house, growing up. I have little doubt the conversation began a generation previous to my advent - if not more.

We used to talk about practical ideas for a book. Humor came up perhaps most frequently. History. We were always having ideas - or sometimes floating one, to which the inevitable refrain might be offered in return.

Ideas are wonderful, but they are just ingredients. Anyone can have high quality vanilla in their kitchen, but how many of us can put it toward a truly superior buttercream icing?

I'm no cook - but I am an author - and my work in that regard is where "somebody should write a book" became I *did* write one (and am working on another; and have strong feelings about what the third one will be).