Friday, September 4, 2015

This Never Happens to Me ... Genre Question!

Being an author of historical fiction, I often breathe a sigh of relief when other authors must decide on the genre of a given piece.

For my non(professional)-writer readers, you would be absolutely astounded at how difficult this can be. For one, category and genre are often confused - "YA" (young adult) is not a genre, but it often manages to pass for one, right or not. For two, where does one draw the line between historical and time travel, when sci-fi is not the point nor even much featured in a story? Or between dystopian and science fiction? Literary and coming-of-age, women's fiction or commercial ... the difficulties are confounding, and I am frequently relieved my own work sits pretty clearly in its place.

Today, though ... I have issues! But it's kind of fun.

In contemplating submitting a first page for my upcoming conference, I'm looking pretty hard at a certain ghost story I've been toying with for a couple of years almost.

Is "ghost story" an acceptable genre choice? Should it be sci-fi (though there is no science whatever, only fiction)? It has a sensual strain running through it, but it is NOT erotica by a long shot. There is romantic tension, but no way is this thing a romance - to me, it actually is, but in marketing terms, what I've written would not be understandably shelved with what publishing calls "romance".

I'm looking at one of my Reider pals in particular and a certain deliciously intemperate friend of mine, who have read the thing themselves, but would love feedback from anyone.

Where should I "shelve" an eerie and slow-building ghost story in the vein of Chinese fox legends?

What genre would you suggest?

Wednesday, September 2, 2015


There have been some emotionally exhausting aspects to this week, and work was trying today (it is amazing to me how fatiguing it can be to be *unable* to get things done - and I was without my laptop all day long, for stressful tech reasons). So my link-tease comments aren't especially clever. But a few things I want to share ...

A Mojourner picture is worth a good 688 words, at least. This entry: fighting fire with - welp, firefighters. Trained ones & everything.

And here, Mojourner shares a really good tribal map.

Lauren at American Duchess sometimes makes me with I had a wee bit more costuming gumption. Today's special, reblocking old wool hats. I love the white recut; visually interesting and very chic!

Ann Turnbull at The History Girls shows us a hidden villa, then walks away on a summer day, to leave it perhaps for others to find again.

Tom Williams has a piece on writing book reviews; I am particularly poor about doing this. Do you remember to recognize and review?

And finally, Janet Reid in Klingonee (or something very like it - and for THAT rather in little inside joke, I want a little credit). Like she wasn't awesome enough.

Monday, August 31, 2015

Random Thoughts From Monday

"My friend Cute Shoes is having a big day today, so I wore cute shoes and am thinking of her. Got three compliments in the space of a minute and a half; never underestimate the power of cute shoes!"

"'Vapin' is possibly the lamest word in the current vernacular. It is also very likely the lamest activity."

"Seriously, please. stop. using. 2-spaces and full sentences in PowerPoint. Please. I wasn't kidding when I said I'd pay y'all a nickel. A nickel! Come on!"

"Oh, all the regional execs will be here today ... Things it would have been useful to know."

"I wonder how many hours of my life I could save on strap-yanking if I finally sat down and put little bra-strap holders in my sleeveless tops?"

One single brackish cloud, away from the white and fluffy ones; small, shrinking. Like a tumor in the sky.

"Help! Help! I am being stalked by a pair of giant green eyes lurking around on four little butter-toed nimble-paws."

"Sisko is finally Captain. Let's get this series on the road."

Friday, August 28, 2015


"Every resident, every visitor, every passing tourist sees a different Buenos Aires" ... Tom Williams' really lovely look at the city nobody ever truly leaves ...

Kate Lord Brown at The History Girls on sating her appetite for a particular rare book (to see the dreadful pun I just made there, click away!). Have you ever had the experience of finding a hard-to-find book? For me and my family, it was the full set of the Durants' histories of western civilization, via Bibliofind, which my college creative writing professor told me about at some point in our highly sporadic post-college correspondence.

A great many people think they are thinking when they are merely rearranging their prejudices.
--William James

I remember the post at Isis' Wardrobe about an upcoming Plastic Fantastic party, which sounded delightful to me. For pictures of the effusively ahistorical event, and some eye-poppingly creative costume ideas, enjoy her post about the festivities!

Three hundred years and a few days ago, The Sun set in France. A brief remembrance of Louis XIV - ever popular autocrat, astoundingly long-lived ruler, possessor of some truly spectacular wigs and satins.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Be a 'Vert - We Need More 'Verts!

Talking with Cute Shoes recently, she was dreading some upcoming events and saying "I am such an introvert."

Knowing what a charming and successful woman CS is, and having been friends with her now for a few years, I was drawn up short at the assertion she is an introvert; I know few people who can better handle others, and I know too how confident she is in managing them when it is called for. But, thinking about it, I understood what she meant.

It's a bit like me and math. I was good at it as a student (current status - unknown), but good lordy did I hate it.

Social situations can be the same.

And, as much as some people who know me - and don't - will smirk at the idea, I am a default introvert myself.

Put me in a situation with people, I do well; I trained at the knee of my mother, a woman with the most remarkable *memory* for other people's lives I have ever seen, but also open and eager and extremely interested in making connections with others. And yet - at bottom, my mom is not actually confident. She is at times not unlike the nervous little girl I remember being; standing before the door of a friend's house, wanting them to come out and play, yet finding the doorbell suddenly overwhelming.

But take away other people, give me no daily schedule of discipline - office, errands, and so forth - and I'd scarcely ever leave my house.

My default operational status is "Sit. Stay." I quite love people. I even enjoy being sociable.

But, given no specific motivation to be among them? I will not be. I'll be home with Penelope and Gossamer.

Being "on" with others can be strangely physically exhausting. I come home from the Conference most years with a migraine, and a major area of stress for me with The Big Meeting recently was the need to be in the front of the room so much, even if I wasn't a speaker. To work with the hotel, to field questions and issues, to confer with executives on issues and practicalities.

Extroversion is exciting, it's rewarding. It can be fun, it can be surprising.

It's invariably exhausting, for some of us.

I'm not sure whether I can identify where on the spectrum of INTROVERT <---------------------> EXTROVERT I actually lie. Perhaps it varies; a sine wave of energy versus hermit-ly resting.

Are you more one than the other? Are you both, depending upon circumstances? Or are you both, but sometimes circumstances don't quite match your level of social energy as you wish it would ... ?

Saturday, August 22, 2015


Patrick Stewart brings Teh Funnay

The grey poobah is visiting Janet Reid again; and, in answer to her question of the day: it is wonderful how much he does to unplug me. Having a #GossamerTheEditorCat and the inimitable Penelope Pup in the house keeps me *human*. And happy. And grateful. And hugely, hugely entertained.

Ahhh, the promised land. When language columnists presume to the role of prophet. Sort of. "In layman's terms it's called being an ass." I love the Arrant Pedant, and it'd been too long since the last update! The AP's closing advice is EXCELLENT for any reader, writer, speaker, or person living in the world. Be curious ...

Family secrets and lies, enduring shame, and the reunion of a daughter with her mother after seventy years ... #1 of 3 History Blog posts ...

Of the pieces I've read on Khaled al-Asaad's murder at the hands of the so-called Islamic State, The History Blog's is, inevitably, the best (and does include good links, as always).

Janet Reid asks, "YA or adult?" and a whole community full of commenters contributes as well. As we do. "Damn the tomatoes!"

Friday, August 21, 2015

A Twit Who Writes

Over the past six months or so, I've seen the (wildly unreliable and self-contradictory, I know) stats on this blog bloat stupendously in the 'bot department, and I lulled for a long time in promoting it (mostly on Twitter). So it became a regular pattern to see 500 hits a day from Russia and like 38 from the United States. France became highly occupied with me during this period--enough that I could not consider it genuine traffic, and asked myself the occasional "So, France--new spam capitol of the world? Huh" and got so I hated seeing my daily traffic.

I also was looking at the hard times in my family, dealing with big events at work, traveling on my own, and even occasionally trying to WRITE (theoretically what I do and the core reason this blog exists). So Twitter looked like too much of a time suck, and I wasn't in a shilling mood.

Lately, logging on more regularly again, and talking with my Twitter pals, not only has my following there seen a little increase, the stats here have begun looking less discouraging. Interestingly, bots are DOWN; which, with more activity, seems to my wee and paltry brain counter-intuitive, but it's certainly gratifying. They're still around in abundance, but more and more my legitimate travel gives them a run for their money, and even wins not-rarely.

Given there was a time I never got any real hits here at all other than randomly, or the roughly three people who put up with my poorly organized word-dumps, it's comforting to see sustained actual readership, even if the particulars are still murky given Blogger's curious algorithms.

As with Blogger, so with the actual work of writing. The WIP is still early going, but it's not an inviable embryo anymore, and its development is really exciting. I may be embarking on that hushed-taboo I've never indulged: writing a frankly and in detail about sex, in a work I intend for publication.

Mom won't read the work anyway, but it's still always been my standard not to humiliate her nor anyone I loved with work much too far to the outre' side.

I know we're not supposed to write for an audience; but with Ax it was pretty easy not to peel back the sheets on a couple comprised of a Catholic saint and the guy who wielded a pretty lethal ax and so on in order to gain his domains. (One could divert, here, into a discussion of the relative moral horror of gruesome battles and executions versus the objectionability of loving sex, but that is another post, and indeed one I probably don't need to even write at all).

But I want to contemplate sex and its role in a world so very different from "our own" (as if today's world is all one nice and convenient, homogenized experience ...). I want to give full life and beating hearts to characters of more variety and differing stations than Ax required me to consider. Maybe I want to work out issues of my own; storytelling is important, but let's not pretend my heart doesn't beat, and that has no influence. Maybe I just want to be a wayward little scamp and scandalize my family; it wouldn't be my first time. My instinct is, though, this story just calls for an entirely different look at relationships (and transactions) than Ax had the room for. The shift into multiple POV and third person creates (demands?) more perspective than the first-person narrative of a single, biased voice.

And sex is an un-ignorable part of human experience. Our expectations surrounding it certainly change, our attitudes toward it are formed by amazingly powerful and multifarious influences. It's strong stuff, with or without the framework of morality; and usually with ... though morality is slippery stuff.

Growing up, it wasn't so at my house. But growing up, there never was any pretense sex didn't EXIST. My mom and dad were very much into each other; my brother and I dutifully made fun of them for it. Its very undeniability underscored its dominating importance, and both mom and dad had their own clear ideas on the sanctity of Correct sexual behavior.

In a novel populated by women who facilitate birth, give birth, trade (and are traded) on marital alliances, and at one point even endure that sexy little malady, "hysteria" (go ahead, ask me what the curative was!): you cannot get the story done without a bit of sex  here and there.

For those readers I know don't get into sex scenes; maybe I'll have to put one up here, just for a test ride. I don't write erotica, though I think it's not true that what I write has no appeal. For one character, there is tragedy inextricably attached. For another ... the motives are less clear, though is many ways the connection itself is unadorned and straightforward. When it comes to marriages, sex must be had, and heirs underlie any "lying" (with) that gets done.

Fecundity is always present, too. Sex did not exist only unto itself, and this is a dynamic many today have never honestly grappled with. I knew people long ago whose "accidental" pregnancies were intentional "traps" in actuality (the success rate there was not necessarily encouraging). I knew people, too, for whom it was always recreational.

This latter dynamic? Not as easily achievable - not for women - in Late Antiquity.

Yet even that needs attention.


It is perhaps in order to apologize to my readership, that sex has so dominated my posts of late. But I find it hard to feel repentance.

Not because I'm a slut, but because: this is where the writing happens to be right now. And this blog exists because of my writing.

If it's better I lay off, don't hesitate to ask me to stifle it.

Or if you have questions about the politics and mechanics of ancient sexual practice - comment away with that. It's not merely interesting to research and consider, it's been a stimulating (har) subject, creatively. I'm both challenged and energized, and it's got me thinking - which usually gets me blogging away.

If I need to shut up, say so. Because after this, we get into all the other research (archaeology and Procopius - how I love you!). It could get less sexy, but it won't be diminished for self-indulgence as I geek out on studying.