Sunday, April 24, 2016

Writing From an Image

I never did find the story in this picture; perhaps because I have been focusing more on the WIP than on coming up with the verb that was necessary for this be one. Instead, here is what did come out.




Skinless; there is no mask.

His face looks young; in his twenties, nothing more. But Sisyphus has worked his eternity already, and every lifetime ever known.

And yet ... his face. His face. Reflecting, even without the sheen of human skin - but not without the grace of features - peace. This is his job not merely because it is his punishment, but because it is *his*. Each life, like this: none other can have it. None other can live it as we can.

He has moved beyond the work, into the role, his role. If appearing creates being, the favor is abundantly returned. Naked as he is of all pretense - of even the modest mask of his own skin - he is beautiful.

Sisyphus fills his lot not in submission, but in accession to life; that this is his life, and to his life he owes himself. There is no other life to hope for - to pray for the death of this one, of what has come.


Only Sisyphus is free.

Saturday, April 23, 2016

The Palisade

Things being what they have been for the past several weeks, I have found myself, on the all-too-brief weekends, less than eagerly motivated to cook and clean and do the personal life thing.

Depressive Hate-Dishes

Today, though, I motivated. Indeed, I began last night. I washed a good half of the massive palisade of dishes I have let pile up, almost in a dare to myself, while family life has been so difficult. Today, I finished the pile. And have tidied up the guest room, where off-season clothes go for storage, and pretty much fully switched out winter and put it away now. Bed is stripped and remade, and the dusting is begun.

Here at 6:03, there is plenty more to do (oy, two storeys of stairs and multiple loads of laundry!), but today already I have motivated more than in ... honestly, in recent memory. Gotta admit that.

The day is bright, the season is fresh, the house is going well, and I have a quiet evening enjoying it (and doing laundry!) to look forward to. This house, when it's nice and clean, is a pretty lovely place to be. Not least because it has Gossamer TEC and Penelope in it.

So. How's your St. George's Day going? Conquer any dragons? Mine was made of dirty dishes, tell me about yours ...


Happy St. George's Day! Please join J.V. Cullen for a few minutes' fun with facts on April 23. He's always witty, easy reading - plus, Star Wars references and the phrase "Bring out the kittens." *Snort!*

Leila Gaskin has a GREAT post on women (or men) who read books. And I'll be needing the WWRB t-shirt she's designing.

THIS JUST IN: Lilac Shoshani has an interview with Donna Everhart, author of The Education of Dixie Dupree. Neato-spedito!

In the very last link here, we took a look at the stunning preservation of a seventeenth-century silk gown. Now we have an idea as to whose gown that was. I'm completely taken away when we can find owers and stories and histories of artifacts which are interesting enough in their own right, but can be deepened with this kind of provenance.

Gary Corby on The Beatles and stadium gigs even older than Shea. Who wouldn't want to hear an ancient Grecian trumpet-blowing contest?

Proving that The History Blog has more to offer than fascinating silk dresses - how about the intriguing finds at an archaeological dig at Malcolm X's house? From the eighteenth century to 1959 records (you can listen to at a link provided), get a load of where Mr.X (not mine) grew up.

Here is magnificent writing, including a grabber of a first sentence. Whipchick, on the times she's been on fire ... "Burn wards are full of children." *Shudder*

Friday, April 22, 2016

Beginnings ... (?)

It looks like my last post was the 2500th on this blog. Interesting; it was about neverending dying. It was unplanned.

Like so much of life. Unplanned.

One year ago, I allowed myself to contemplate putting The Ax and the Vase away. At the time, I could not face that as a death, but a persistent coma eventually becomes a death for those who are still in the waking life. It hasn't been long since I memorialized that death, not for the first time, but pretty much in that context. I even said, there is a freedom in letting go. I have been seeing the "release" aspect of death a great deal of late.

And so, it is hard. It is hard to contemplate hope instead.

Stripping off the preciousness and poetry: it's hard, and terrifying, to find myself considering self-publishing.

There is an aspect to the idea that feels like death, itself. The dream of traditional publishing, for me, has been a long one - as long as the writing of Ax itself was, and that was ten years or more. In the beginning, there was a powerful challenge and a business to learn, and that appealed to me. In the midst of that education, the idea of learning another way was overwhelming.

I've seen the commitment it takes to be an indie. I've long, too, seen the liberty inherent in being pre-published. For all these years, the technical side of the self-pub path has been aplenty to stymie me and allow me to maintain an almost studied ignorance, focusing on the traditional pub path.

Damn my brain. I find with age, it is more open, not less, to new ideas and new ways of doing things. I'm a Virginian! This is not natural.

But, even my wee and paltry brain is capable of perception. It has not escaped me that the infrastructure and the process of self-pub has been refined and cultivated over the same years indie's reputation has grown, along with its popularity. And my wee and paltry brain occasionally gets the idea it might just be big enough to learn something new.

And my heart and my talent and my uppity-osity kind of think Ax is a good novel. That it should not die.

I'm still very well aware of its disadvantages as a product. But vanity wonders ... could it work in a market unlike traditional publishing? In this, my wee and paltry brain may admittedly be prone to arrogance.

I am by no stretch committed. Too much to learn even to begin. And this time has been a hard time; it is possibly the worst time in the world to take on such an enterprise. But this is perhaps part of the reason I contemplate it.

As for the rest: I blame my wee and paltry brain. And reading. Reading. Reading. Reading. And a friend who is willing to give me the benefit of her experience and expertise, at least as a starting point. I am grateful for Leila Gaskin. As who wouldn't be?


The comments are open. I would love to see others' thoughts.

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Never knew how much I would love him.

Never anticipated how much I would admire him.

Monday, April 18, 2016


Today at work, I was thinking about the stress my family has been under , and half-thought to myself, "As human beings, we are not made to watch another person die." Instantly, I realized that this was incorrect.

As human beings, we are supposed to be with others - those we know, love, share community with - in illness and death, birth and joy.

It's the cube farm we're not made to do this in. Isolated from those we share the most with and under flourescent lights, breathing canned air, muffled by white noise.

Tears and blood and messy moments aren't the unnatural. Being compartmentalized and pressed away from these things is.

Saturday, April 16, 2016


Janet Reid quoted me at some length in this week’s epic edition of her Sunday Week in Review …

DLM had some very wise words to our questioner:
(I)t's in no way my place to tell another author their vision must be blinkered, but I can at least speak to the necessity (sometimes) of putting away a novel. And it does not come lightly.

OP, I spent ten years learning how to write a novel, and writing it. Some of those latter years, I queried. I learned I had more work to do, I did it, I queried again. What came out of that was a VERY good novel; a good read, a fascinating look at a little-regarded piece of world history. And a book I cannot sell.

It's been a year since I first allowed myself to even conceive of the idea of putting this work away. But I quickly realized it was necessary. Years of my life. A story I still love. All those dreams. And the universe's answer was "no."

Believe me when I say, I know how hard it is. I know how heartbreaking.

But I also know this: to put that firstborn book away, to let it rest, to stop asking more of it than the market can realistically yield ... is LIBERATING.

I’ll be honest, it’s hard not to think (though she has never said as much to me) she agrees with the reasoning by which I came to retire The Ax and the Vase.

Speaking of which:

Something I said to someone today, about The Ax and the Vase … “It's a GREAT novel. But right now, the he market is not dying of need for novels about The Ultimate White Dude in Power. … I hated losing those years of my life. I hated putting that novel away. And I know it's been the right thing to do, and I'm even glad. Clovis' voice isn't the voice we need to hear, not right now. It hurt like hell, but I learned and grew and what I've gained from the experience I would never give up.”

Tom Williams and I were talking recently about the new image header on his blog, and he said it helped to inspire his most recent work. I can remember falling into cover images when I was a kid, coming into the world of the book – or, perhaps more often, a world of my own making, and finding universes filled with tales. It seems a good time to write from an image. Unrelatedly (?), I’ve also read a little, of late, about Tantalus and Sisyphus. And the Caustic Cover Critic led me, a moment ago, to this. Stay tuned for a short piece, born of these things. I’m thinking world-building of my own …
Unless the short stories I've been posting are throwing off the blog content? Opinions welcome.

The History Blog has given me a few chances lately to get out of the usual Western European and/or American groove.

In a once-inaccessible cliff tomb in Nepal, we find the tantalizing possibility that The Silk Road circa 500 AD had a much more southerly route than has historically been believed.

An excavation at a museum which once was a priory turns up a tiny Arabic chess piece. There is a speculative piece of background about Cardinal Wolsey’s guests at Wallingford Priory that provides some lovely opportunities for stories about someone losing a piece of a game with which they traveled, five centuries ago, but I perhaps will not be the one to write that story. For me, the truly interesting part is what a bishop’s mitre has in common with a war elephant.

Another evocative find is the jewelry treasure which may have been hidden to save it in a period of upheaval: “The National Museum of History experts believe the cache of silver jewels was a family fortune buried in the turbulent days of the Chiprovtsi Uprising in the fall of 1688. Since almost everyone in the area was killed in battle, executed, enslaved or fled, there was nobody left to dig up the treasure.” Difficult not to imagine the desperation in this poignant hidden silver.

Back in my English groove, the photos of this  13th century mosaic floor at Somerset is a gorgeous look at a period when decoration was marvelously bright and bold. When I first became familiar with 13th-15th century European and English architecture and furnishings, I was astonished by the exuberant and high-contrast graphics and bright colors. Modern preconceptions tend to color everything in The Past (and especially the so-called medieval period) a bit of a faded sepia tone, but five minutes’ perusal of any variety of heraldic design should put paid to this notion, and heraldic design is dominant in this rare sample of a noble’s expensive tiled floor. Glorious!

For an idea of the vividness of a medieval interior, take a look here.

If you were interested in the Silk Road story, or my own obsession with historical costume and conservation/preservation of textiles, this seventeenth-century find is a STUNNING rare piece, colors still tantalizingly present and the cloth in excellent condition. From a *shipwreck* no less!

Friday, April 15, 2016

A Short Story

It causes incredible trauma to knock a person unconscious.

In movies, clocking someone on the head and knocking them out cold is a handy switch to flip, to take characters out of a scene. There's no drama attached to it, certainly no medical reality. Knocking someone out in a movie is just a "beat" - just a throway "yeah cool" before something gets blown up and maybe - maybe - The Wrong Person dies, so the hero/ine can finally reach their finish line.

There are no finish lines. Jerks and restarts, crashes and troubleshooting. No real endings or beginnings. No real episodes. Life doesn't proceed in story arcs. It's why writing is never good enough.

Reading that scene, where she half-hilariously knocked out the bad guy with a flowerpot in a greenhouse. The greenhouse setting only used so that, inevitably, someone could crash through a glass wall.

Eleventy-hundred scripts a day swirl through the restaurants of Hollywood in hopes of making it before That One Producer. Telegenic wait staff carry ten thousand poorly formatted scripts on eight thousand two-year-old smart phones. The telegenic girls bend low while they serve, the telegenic boys caress square or slumping shoulders with their hips--never hard enough to spill anything. They're all writers. They're all directors. They'e all fodder; all they really want is to be in front of a camera, even a camera for a cable network.

They can't wait to get knocked out. They will die for you on cue. On camera. Put me in a scene just to turn me off! I'll be that plot device! Just take me!

Just love me.

And I realized: the flowerpot is more important.

And I was finally knocked out.

Image: Wikimedia