Wednesday, March 25, 2015

If I Had My Druthers

Please accept my apologies for a late post from Monday ...

Monday mornings that start off rolling are the best beginning for a work week. I had a mental note or two coming in, only a minor glitch or two firing up, and a good, solid four hours of steady work to keep me going in the a.m. There were also two fresh new rejections (both of them expected, so the sting was minor); one on a query sent only yesterday, and one only a couple or three weeks old.


I honestly wonder, as I consider shelving (as distinct from “drawering”, which would imply entirely giving up hope) Ax____, whether it is right or wrong to do so. It’s hard to be open to the possibility of putting away a work I know is GOOD, even if I have begun to consider that it may not be the work that can launch my second career, but I am trying to allow the idea to be … okay. At the same time, yes, querying is a numbers game and this could just be my origin myth, the tale of the super-author in the making, the cred that makes my own arc as worthwhile as (insert respected/much-rejected author’s name here) – and as Clovis’ own.

That latter is tempting, and honestly I would hardly stop to think about “quitting” (for NOW) on Ax, except that … I feel like I’ve run out of lists to plunder, research resources to take advantage of. Options. I feel like I’ve queried every agent who even mentions histfic without dotting their eyes with little Regency romance hearts or … yeah, mentioning that it’d be nice to see something other than some white European king for a change.

Hilary Mantel did spectacularly well with Wolf Hall and Bringing up the Bodies, but … Hilary Mantel also wasn’t a debut novelist in the first place, and was writing and publishing on a different continent from my own in the second place. She had twenty years’ catalog of performance behind her. She also found a way to write about the perennially-blockbuster Tudors without quite treading old ground. And now she also has TWO Man-Booker prizes to her credit.

Not a platform I can claim to stand on. Though I’ve got a story that not only doesn’t tread old ground, but illuminates a huge swath of the history of the West *and* even some of the very reasons #WeNeedDiverseBooks today, it isn’t. Diverse. And nobody’s heard of Clovis I on this side of The Pond (a *selling* point that gets in its own way, Catch-22 style [an appropriate problem for an author named Major?]). It’s not MG, YA, or NA; there isn’t a single dragon, pneumatic beauty, or magically-engendered neurosis in it. Game of Thrones readers might dig it, but I’m not comping that and don’t have compelling plans to garner that audience nor proof I could.

And but.

And but.

And but.

Ten years I’ve spent with this novel, now. Learning from it and LOVING it, though that may not shine through given my dry and pragmatic statements about killing darlings and it being a product and oh-so-professional detachment. I LOVE Ax and the Vase, it has been both one hell of a good story to be part of, and iet means the world to me. It is a manifestation of something my dad talked about all his life (“somebody should write a book” was a stock phrase in my house growing up), and he died before I ever began to write. I have no doubt he’s rooting for it, and there is a minor, sentimental strain in wishing I could publish a book I know he’d probably have enjoyed immensely on its own merits … and been inexperessibly proud to know I wrote. (Heck, at that, half the dead folks in my family would probably like this book; those who have gone before me gave me the very voice in which it’s expressed, after all.)

I am to this day entranced by the story, to the point that actually feeling it’s ready, it’s finished, is still exciting – just to know I have done this thing, that I made it, I have something to do with something this great.

I’m proud of my work.

Even if I let it go for now, there’s no doubt I’d try to get it out there as a follow up. (It is a prequel of sorts to the WIP; they are as unalike as they are inextricably linked.)

Lord, just thinking and writing about it, I gnash and resist with a fury the idea there’s no agent out there who could (… who would …) do anything with this book. It’s a bloody good read, it’s a ripping yarn.

If only I could find some hidden stash, somewhere else to turn.

In the meantime, I must turn to the WIP. If I have missed some dozens of agents who would do my work proud, somehow or other I’ll find ‘em – and beware, agents.

This isn’t quitting. I’m just turning slightly to one side … for the moment …

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Indignant Otter

Now I need a Quizzical Puppy Face and an Affronted Puddy Face to complete my set!

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Today *Would* Be the Day ...

... to find a bunch of agent interviews, blogs, and agency site exhortations saying "DON'T GIVE UP!"


Highly-Critical Mass

Okay, ironic beard boys. When Kevin Spacey is making fun of you in an E-Trade commercial featuring a nice looking woman walking with her bearded boyfriend, suddenly finding herself eyeing the clean-shaven fella stepping out of a doorway?

Your little ironic beards are done. Leave 'em to the men who wear their faces that way for reasons that have nothing to do with proving their coolness, or being fashionable. Please.


It's been some time since I linked any updates on Richard III's exhumation and reburial and so on, so here's The History Blog's latest on this week's upcoming (Thursday, 3/26) ceremonies for those who've also been somewhat sporadic in keeping up. As always, good links included, and nice details.

Medieval People of Color looks at (please pardon the pun) a different kind of diversity in this post, with well-known paintings recreated for the blind . This is the sort of idea that begs the question, "How come we never did this before? Have we done this before ... ?" And it's true - sometimes the fascination and beauty in art are in the small details. An interesting exhibit not only for the visually-challenged; looking at classics in a new way.

The British Museum (and its blog) examines nudes in ancient Greek art "as an expression of social, moral, and political values." Today, it's covering nudity that perhaps most reflects my country's and culture's social, moral, and political values ...

Kim Rendfield hosts Marina Julia Neary, who tells us about life behind the rusting curtain, and whose title alone, "Saved by the Bang" (for a novel touching on Chernobyl) has me itching to see just how much I can balance on the TBR pile ... Oh dear! Side note, the discussion of spelling of her given name is a neat look into

Passion of Former Days has French kisses (vintage (not scandalous!) French postcards). With original notes, as sent at the time. Ooh la la!

Keep an eye peeled in 100 days for Tom Williams' next outing, Burke at Waterloo!


There may be five stages of grief - but many of us linger on one stage or another. Denial is popular, Anger is overwhelming, Bargaining is a cruel temptation ... Depression may be more powerful, even, than anger. Acceptance is the elusive one.

I'm considering it right now.

The Ax and the Vase is a great novel.

It's been my teacher and my child, something that ushered me into the world of an author, as opposed to a writer. I'm proud of it, and it's a hell of a read.

But. It doesn't seem to be a a viable product.

It's been a couple of months now since any agent even requested a read, and - good as it is - frankly, I just believe it's got an uphill battle in store in publishing, and ... if my plan is to be published, I have to provide the best possible material.

Ax is ITS best possible self, but it is not a market mover right now.

I haven't entirely decided to retire it; the fact that there are more agents to query is either a problem or a tempation.

But work on the WIP has become compelling, and though my faith in what Ax IS is unshakeable, if I'm not realistic about the industry, I'm not its best steward. And that's what I want to be. So I'm thinking it may be best to concentrate elsewhere. I'm opening myself to that possibility.

Anyone who's read me much knows I'm not very precious about my darling, special work, but they also know how much it means to me to have this consideration on my mind. My commitment to Ax is not minimal, nor is my confidence. But the odds are speaking to me, and I can't pretend not to hear. That would not serve Ax and would also hobble the WIP and the rest of my works.

This way of thinking has come on me a little suddenly - but, thank heavens, it's also coming at a time when my excitement about the WIP is building. I can't say there's no intentional connection there, either. If I have the WIP to sustain my hope, letting go of Ax would be ... not less difficult. But possible.

And so - I am considering possibilities. Feedback welcome, but most of my readers here at the blog have not been beta readers of the novel itself, so I understand if the comments stay quiet or theoretical. :)


Wednesday, March 18, 2015


In an abbreviated collection of one, this link is for all my Star Wars fans out there - and most especially for Cute Shoes. Again courtesy of Jed, and so funny my dog was hilariously transfixed, watching me watch the clip. OSUM.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015


Even on a good day, her strength is enough my back is strained holding on. But today - today, she's been good. And the light has leached out of the sky silently, soft and easy, colorless moment left behind. Twilight is truly over, but either night is paused delicately or I can't believe it's here, and the trees still reach up, and out, and are the only shapes that matter.

Other than the yellow girl, the smudge of muscle and light just ahead. Tugging, but gently.

Tonight wasn't a night I talked with her a lot. Just taking in our neighborhood, our route, our walk, our evening exercise.

The tap of her toenails on the pavement. It really isn't honestly dark out; headlights and black silhouettes notwithstanding. Muzzy, garish red light of the signal up ahead; too much, but beacon of home.

Early in our circuit, on the way down the hill, the breezes were dying as we descended below them a little, and the sun had left enough behind I saw the message on the asphalt THE END IS NEAR. Not a trashy grafito, and amusingly accurate as to its own longevity; some kid had sprayed it right on the road. Funnier than threatening, I arc my body to read it as we go. And then we just go.

Signal growing closer, and the house is rising, dark against the light of busier places to the north, and there is my maple. It reaches up - maples never shrug, never sag and reach down or bow to the ground. They twist a bit, in my neighborhood; a local peculiarity, the slightest screw-turn in their trunks. Why they grow that way around here - never have understood. I may be the only person left in this state who even knows it, and therefore makes a point of seeing it.

My big branches - this beauty, and the kitchen, they sold this house. Fifteen years in a few months. Hard to believe. And more than half the mortgage, thanks to the magic of refi. The maple really is mine now, in some file cabinet - or file drive - somewhere those things matter.

The new neighbors have put out candy-colored playthings for the kids in the yard. It's beautiful. That holly is gone, away from the front porch, now naked and open. The St. Patrick's flag in the nighttime breeze.

And home. Tugging home.

Monday, March 16, 2015

Today in American (Not Necessarily United States) History

Many American readers will have heard of the Native American called “Squanto” (Tisquantum – or the rage of manitou: an encompassing spiritual rage, something like “divine wrath”), but may not be able to tell any of his story. Fewer will know the name Samoset – and, possibly, fewer still may be familiar with Massaoit. Yet these three men make up a seminal part of the history of Native and European relations in our country, and the history is not always what we think.

On March 16, 1621, a lone man came unarmed into the village of the Europeans, and greeted them in their English language …

This piece is LONG, but it may be the most excellent *storytelling* link I have put up in ages. This is what makes history exciting, frustrating, beautiful and awful, and endlessly intriguing. Give it the time. It is worth the read, if only to learn what invasive species can do even beyond fell intent.

Side note … Even Smithsonian Magazine still can’t seem to bring ourselves to describe Native history in its own terms or on them (watch for anachronistic terms like “suburban” and, of course, New England, in the discussion of ancient settlement in the region), but the history is still tantalizing and should be considered, even if we’re still at it by faulty methods. (It does, for a while, call the region Dawnland, a translation for its natives’ name for their land, and includes good information about local lifestyle and politics, though still necessarily from European sources.) Side side note … there’s a bit about handkerchiefs I know my brother will appreciate. Heh.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Be Where Tides of March

A few random thoughts is my favorite new online crack addiction. Today's special? A whole slew of puns and in-jokes about some guy named Gaius. In a word - OSUM.