Tuesday, May 31, 2011


I hate it when the only traffic here is 'bots. And nobody's commenting anymore - was it something I said (hah) or something I smelled like ... ?

Alone, to, Long

It's a funny thing, the way we read things or hear them, sometimes. For a very long time, back in the 90s, I thought that really popular song by Live went, "I long to love you" etc. etc. - and then I discovered that its title was "I Alone" ...

Oh, I thought to myself. So it's I alone to love you. I liked the change, but found both iterations poetic in their way. I don't think I ever really looked at it again ... until for no good reason, other than my Slacker radio played the song earlier, I decided I would look up the words.

As it turns out, the "to" isn't in there. Like "wu wei" or "wei wu wei", the mere matter of one very small word can really change things.

I alone love you
I alone tempt you
I alone love you
fear is not the end of this!

Put this way, it's a far more spare and profound statement than "I long to love you" or "I alone to love you" ... and, as these rediscoveries sometimes to in my brain, it's a bracing sort of revisitation of meaning.

And I always love that last line, too. Fear ... is usually only the beginning!

We Got Trouble, Right Here in River City

The other day I had trouble responding to comments on my own blog, but I really didn't think about it and moved right along. Today - though logged in - I can't comment on other blogs, which reminds me of the trouble I had the other day, and the way Blogger has been Very Very Irritating of late, leaving me out of my own Compose window for a couple months at least (unless I prefer just to have entirely unformatted posts; which seems an odd thing for a "compose" window to IMpose so arbitrarily - and pointlessly). Heedless Blogger. Stupid Blogger.

It's also been refusing me the popup in my own editing (HTML - blah) window to post links. Which - mildly irksome, but irksome even so.

What the heck is wrong with The Internets? Blah.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Libris ... and Lost

I'm cross-posting this at my own blog and the SBC, from an idea for a thread I had at Historical Fiction Online ...

My brother read a book when he was in college (probably around 1986), "The Architecture of the Arkansas Ozarks" by Donald Harington. A work of historical fiction, it was also a picaresqe, an episodic series of fables and tall tales, a history of a family, and a history of a wonderful, fictional town in (oddly enough) Arkansas, the town of Stay More. He liked it so muc he wanted to give a copy to me ... but, try as he might, in the late 1980s we didn't have Bibliofind or Teh Intarwebs, and he never could find another. So he wrote the most beautiful note - about that - in it ... and gave me his own copy. Probably the single most meaningful gift book I ever received. And I did hugely enjoy the story; I just loved it.

I read it, and re-read it, I recommended it up down and sideways, I got goopy over it, and always ALWAYS attached to it its significance as a talisman of the love of my brother.

In the fullness of time, the internet DID come to exist, and one day ten years or so after he'd given me the book, I came to be friends with a woman in Arkansas, who actually KNEW Donald Harington, not well, but worked at the same institution he did. The rest can be guessed - she was a sweet soul, and generous, and offered to take my beloved book and have him sign it.

I've never seen it again, a dozen or so years later. *Le Sigh*

The story doesn't quite end there exactly. Nine-ish years ago, I dated a guy for a little while - also a writer, though I can't say a great one - who was from the first instant a bit more "enthusiastic" about our relationship than I ever got to be. Apparently, on our first date, I mentioned TAOTAO (see the title re: the acronym) ... and on our *second* date, this guy had eBayed up a FIRST EDITION copy of the novel. Eep.

It would have been an amazing gift, if it had come from someone I (a) had a relationship with, or (b) at least *eventually* came to really love. As things stood, though, it was just sort of too-much/too-desperate, and after all these years, following the moments I sort of leafed through it in the instant he gave me the gift ... I have never opened it one time. I still have it, but the emotional energy of that book is ambivalence - whereas the emotional power of the one my brother had given me, just a paperback, with bent covers, and filled with both his own note and my own marginalia, was intimately affectionate.

The importance we imbue objects with, it seems to me becomes even more special with books. I once had a terrible scene with someone who'd broken up with me, and from whom I asked for a book back, because it represented to me the essence of that part of myself he was rejecting - and he wanted to keep it, which was almost more insulting than the end itself. Books of my father's still can make me weep - and the bookshelf I built with him is one of my proudest possessions.

Even apart from the loss of our most beloved books, I am fascinated at the ways a bound sheaf of pages ... can become something so much more important ...

Just a few years ago, I actually emailed Donald Harington, after visiting his website. He was working on a new book at that time. It was lovely, and kind of exciting, to speak with the man who created this chain with so many links in my own life - and he was so kind about the story, too.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

(Off) Work

Long weekend, and I seem to have spent much of it working without pay. Today has gone to a lot of writing work, but there's also a bit here and there around the house. I have sorted some email archives, and updated my query sheet (still thinking about taking that out of Excel, into Access ... but, oh, don't I fantasize about not having to keep that doc much longer!), and reorganized my Favorites with query dates on bookmark names, deleting the one I got a rejection from, and reading/deleting other items just to get them covered.

This job really IS ideal for a secretary. Those aspects of it not strictly creative lend well to the skills I need for my work. This doesn't give me an advantage as a writer, but it does render that side of author-dom painless - and I know many others HATE it. I count myself fortunate.

Still, though. I can't wait for the part where I'm coordinating with my local writing community, setting up little events for the new BOOK, networking, communicating. This querying thing is getting a bit wearing.

Second Pitch

I have completed the pitch, with one to follow which adheres to the rules of a contest it will go in for. This one differs slightly from the new page I posted, there in the sidebar ... >>>


Born to a petty Frankish dynasty, Clovis is a prince in Gaul—where Rome still governs, though the empire has begun to crumble. Heir to little more than a chieftain’s hall, even this throne isn’t guaranteed to him. Yet the blood of gods runs in his veins … and he craves more than his inheritance. Clovis will do more than merely succeed as king; he’ll create a magnificent legacy.

Executing the last Roman governor in Gaul launches a career of which such a spectacular act is the merest beginning. Formidably brave, ambitious, and canny; spiritually inspired—and calculated—Clovis will give birth to a nation. Beside his cousins Ragnachar and Pharamond, beside his wife, the Queen, Clotilde, and with his four sons, he will expand, acquire, and conquer a dazzling territory, letting nothing—not even his own kin—get in his way. Starting from a territory of three small cities, he’ll carve out a patrimony for the ages. Induced by Clotilde, he’ll become a Catholic, forging a political and spiritual precedent to shape Christendom itself. His rule will give birth to the fractious Merovingian dynasty, he’ll bestow centuries of law upon his people, and his faith will set the standard of European monarchy for over a thousand years.

He was the founder, the first king, of France.


Okay, I have had about enough of sounding like a movie trailer in my own head for one night! Must be time to go sit outside in the twilight and see if any more lightning bugs show up (night before last, one did! I love the first lightning bugs of the season ... and, if I'm honest, all of 'em up to the last ones at the end). Maybe call my brother or niece. Maybe just enjoy the quiet.

Dumbstupididiot Tech's Too Smart for Me

Told I could upload sound files to YouTube, from which I'd be able to do sound posts here, I recorded a great copy of my pitch for everyone's consideration - and YT just refuses to do it. Blah. So we're still text only in this little corner of Teh Intarwebs.

Kind of irritating, but so it goes.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Franciscan Ware

When I was about eleven, my grandmother gave me a prodigious set of Desert Rose china from Franciscan Ware.

That is not what this post is about.

The Franks, and France itself, derived their name from the francisca, a personal throwing ax characteristic of their people. It's theorized the word is related to their word for freedom, as well - but the thing itself was called a francisca, and it is from this word the others were born.

I find the "freedom" association appealing, am essentially undecided as to actually believing it, and omitted it entirely for the purposes of The Ax and the Vase. It was unnecessary (if not outright inappropriate) for me thematically, and if I am honest, I've had about enough Braveheart-style historical fiction which overlays "history" with extremely overt modern sensibilities. (Feel the same about feminist anachronism as well, but that has already been another post I'm pretty sure, and goes WAY beside the point.) Hated Braveheart for a hundred other reasons anyway. Very much enjoy "Kingdom of Heaven" in spite of this same tendency (... and the declamatory dialogue). Grew up on Cecil B. DeMille's good intentions applying a certain mild attempt at civil rights thinking in biblical epics. I wouldn't be able to execute social or political statements at all smoothly myself, and I really feel a lot of this stuff had nothing to do with the task I had before myself.

Clovis is surrounded by much legend, some of it irrisistible even if patently imaginary - but the francisca is one of those few known quantities, an (arti)fact with the most wonderful solidity. There weren't many primary sources, so as I have pointed out, archaeology - particularly archaeology of tombs and grave goods - was perhaps the sole source I had to build a real world around a character perhaps even more elusive than his physical surroundings. Burial evidence is an interesting way to learn about a society, perhaps offering as much misleading information as indicators of practical use. But its detritus *can* give the lie to certain presumptions about filthy barbarians; and it's simply interesting in its own right, what has been preserved. And this is the happy occasion when being fascinated by research doesn't distract from writing and work, which can be an easy problem to fall into.

Research on Clovis was hard, but it was exciting, and the work on the novel in progress is already dizzyingly different. Where in the same period, one story was difficult to find, demanding use of legend to fill in facts and acts unavailable - the second work (yet untitled; though it will come) happens to include much more written history. Sure, some of it is Procopian sensation-mongering - but, even with yellow journalism, the simple availability of sources is almost unbelievably different.

This, along with the differences in structure and theme - this novel will follow three main characters; all women, and following in successive generations - will make this work a very different one. I look forward to seeing it build and deepen, and already see some methods available to me I would never have used, writing Clovis' world of men and battle. The two will share in my writing voice, so can't be but so unalike; but the opportunity here is pleasurable ... to have another focus, to escape a first-prson point of view, to explore another setting.

I was exhilerated, working on Clovis, but overjoyed when I completed the manuscript. I still look forward to making "Ax" as marketable as it can be; am open to editing and polishing. But working on the new piece, it is gratifying to feel the fire lit once again.

And so I go now - to poke around my house, as I do on Saturday, and to savor, too, some breaks in which I will be able to research the new work.

From axes now to secret histories ... and a bit of dusting and Swiffing.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Clovis Brownie Points and A Heckuva Game of Croquet

My incidental reading today appears to be archaeology themed - and I like it. Long before I ever knew a jenya-wine archaeologist personally (or, at least, before he *became* one professionally), my folks brought us up PBS archeaology shows and National Geographic, right along with Scientific American (so cool) and all the REST of the PBS we slurped up, nerds that my family so blessedly, wonderfully are. I still remember an article in NG, showing the bone of an ancient man, and explaining how it taught us how he had lived, how old he was when he died, how tall he stood, and what diseases he might have had.

Now we have "millet wasn't typical of the local diet, so we got an invader here, son" - which I just think is so incredibly cool. Little creepy - I can admit to slight neuroses going a little beyond the old-fashioned injunction to wear clean underwear in case of an accident (and don't eat anything you'd be ashamed of having found in your gullet after you're DEAD!) - but overall, just kind of cool.

Was this bashed-in collection of skulls an indiction of an ancient battle? Well, we have the non-indigenous diet indicators, no signs of healing on some pretty impressive wounds, and no signs of ritualized burial.

I'm going to say, "Battle, Alex; for two-thousand."

Oh. And I'm also going to say: Clovis points ARE cool. But ... I'll give it to the crescents, yeah.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Prayers Answered Kindly

She is doing well.

She really is the wind beneath my wings.

Thank (quite literally) G-d.


Well, unexpectedly, the laptop appears to be functioning reasonably well. Even the touch pad is back. So in guarded optimism, this is a good sign.

Let's have some real good news, now. There's none in my Inbox, and I'm not calling TEO right at this moment.

*Bated breath is uncomfortable ...*


Canny readers will notice by the time stamp here that I am posting from work, an infraction I would not usually indulge.

One reason for this is to ask for prayers for my beloved TEO - and those who need to know why, do.

The other is to note that last night, I spilled 7-Up on my laptop, and though the OS appears to be okay, the mouse pad is gone - and without paddable mousey-ness, I (a) can't use the computer, and (b) can't determine anything deeper which might have been affected/damaged. I have no way to know how long it will be before I am computing again on my personal time, so wanted to encourage anyone who needs me to use other means to contact me. Especially those agents needing to desperately beg for a full manuscript - my contact information should be at your fingertips ...

The extremely sobering aspect of my losing personal compute-ability at this time is that TEO's usual way to contact people with big news is electronically. This leaves me in limbo for a while, in terms of finding out how things are working out with this please-pray-for-her bidniss, which is probably a bit more frantic-making than it "ought" to me - but I am my mother's daughter, and a woman, and sometimes fretting is just an inevitability. I'd like to assume I'll come out the other side of the worry having been very silly for worrying - will let the blog-world know, when I can.

Two more days to a long weekend ... to be spent lawn-mowing, home-projecting, and probably laptop-doctoring.

And, one hopes, thanking G-d for blessing my friend.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Re: De-sign

A common signifier of historical fiction is a website themed on parchment, browns and beiges, maybe some nice portraiture or at least a nice calligraphy border or something. Something sepia-toned; something to make you forget you're holding a laptop, and evoke an actual (leather-bound ... gilt- or deckle-edged) book.

And here you sit ... in a blue page with arbitrary little funky graphics - drab at best, utilitarian - and antithetical to the subject matter of the author, at worst ... Hmm. Why'd she pick this incredibly boring template?

Eh, it was way easier on the eyes than the solid black one, less garish than the self-consciously girlie ones, and not *quite* as dead-boring as the white one. I was too lazy, and probably too contrary, to search, learn how to design, or pay for a good skin - and I wanted My Writing to be the important thing too.

Granted, Blogger's got a decent looking parchment template with a sedate (if not actually stately) brown background. Eh, I guess I thought it was a bit literal.

More to the point, as some of my regular readers will have noticed recently: for a long, LONG time I really didn't post about history, nor even allow myself to discuss my subject in much detail. In part, this owed to the usual first time (unpublished) author coyness about giving away my trade secrets - heh. If I'm honest, though, it was informed most by a total lack of confidence in this as a marketing medium. When I started this thing, I hadn't really started that part of the work, and the idea that agents would be Googling me or showing up here seemed almost embarrassingly hopeful.

Too, there was the fact that I was still working on the book, and then once I finished it I almost unwittingly rebelled against it. I wanted to discuss it with people, but how to do so here was a little unclear to me, and felt very weird. I wanted to talk in real life about my research, about what I knew, what I had chosen, what the sources were like, all of that. But talking about it here ... ? Just seemed so alien an idea. I liked all those pieces of advice saying a writer's blog should be regularly updated, and not necessarily exclusively with self-conscious discussions of history, histfic, obsessive reflexive subject matter. "Prove you can write ANYthing, not just one thing" - and so I did.

There are times, seeing some of my most deeply and painfully personal posts getting the most hits on this site is pretty uncomfortable, actually - gratifying as it can be for an ego like mine.

Then there are the times I see people bumping into Trekthys and I kind of giggle about how interesting Teh Intarwebs can be (and the way I go on about Trek also informs the design question, I guess - making the whole Anteek-Theme thing all the more inauthentic).

The recent change to talk about Clovis I without quite so much protecting and posturing has been conscious and intentional, and the discussion of history, we'll see together, will probably also increase - perhaps even to include some of the research I'm actually doing for Novel #2, still a work in progress. It does seem logical to me, and in some ways I kick myself for being a bit too shy of my own world, as I have been for too long.

I'll try not to bore everyone with what I learned about the history of lace (a dead end for the work, as I expected it to be, actually), or even brick making in Late Antiquity Gaul. But don't be shocked if there's mention of two of my loves - my own research on pattern welding steel, and the perfectly wonderful Nova special about the making of Japanese katana blades, which got me quite wriggly a couple years back. Feel free to play Guitarist at the Back of the Bar regarding my opinions - nay, dare I even call it scholarship (because it was) - about history, source, and legend. Shoot, laugh when you notice that Guitarist at the Back of the Bar thing getting to be a real theme here - a likelihood inextricable to the nature of allowing myself excursions into Author's Note territory in posting. But come along ... I think it could be interesting.

For now, however: time for beddy-bye. Good night, all. See you soon.

Hi, France!

20 pageviews from France today. Wouldn't it be nice if Google Analytics actually WORKED, and I could be sure that's not bot-tastic? I *love* getting visits from France - makes me feel all "Hey, did you know I wrote a novel about Clovis I? It's really good - sorry I won't have it available for you guys this year, the 1500th anniversary of his death!"

Yeah, I know I am a goob. Like this is something I didn't know. Heh.

Selling Pointless

Two of the smaller data points by which I sold my managers on approving my shift to a flex schedule were a reduction in my overtime and also an opportunity to reduce PTO use for out of office appointments, etc. Before week one was even over, I learned that my dentist isn't opened on Fridays (the now half day - of *course*), and today I worked half an hour of overtime. Heh. Ah well.

I realize, the thing about being gone by 4:30 on my previous schedule is that "The Emergencies" always do seem to crop up around 4:45; it's not at 4:15 the fire drills really show up. This may not be a rule, but I've worked a flex schedule before - and, even in this job, when I was not being particularly precious about quitting time, I did find I worked a fair amount of OT.

Given that I don't have demands from soccer teams and all the other practicalities of offspring, I tend usually not to be too fussy about leaving "on time" per se. Most of the time, demands placed on me by others aren't done thoughtlessly, and frequenly the demands that crop up late in a day aren't placed on me by others at all - a security issue comes up late in the day, I'm the security contact, I stick around; that sort of thing. Sometimes, yes, it's a project, or maybe so-and-so has a deliverable which can't be turned around instantly for whatever reason. You stay; you work.

I don't DO it for the OT. They pay me comfortably enough it's not necessary to game the system. I do it because I want to be part of the team; I value very much the sense that I don't prioritize technicalities over goals and results; it's ridiculously worthwhile to me, contributing to a job I appreciate this much. It's important to me to be a substantial contributor, too; what I do is often not perceived as "important" - but I challenge anybody in any office anywhere to go a day without their admin. It's got to go beyond getting things done, and to reach the extent of really Adding Value, to co-opt corporate speak. I went two years in a job where what I had to offer seemed to be of no interest; it's not my intention, if I can help it, to ever do so little again. It is frustrating for an employer to have nothing to do with anyone; it's just as frustrating to occupy professional wasted space.

This is actually part of the reason I took on a schedule beginning at 7:30 a.m. It wasn't to get out at 4:30, it was because if I am in and up and running before 8:00 a.m., that part of my responsibilities (not time consuming, but substantial in priority - and timing) dedicated to security isn't interrupting a morning routine, nor interrupted BY one, while I am booting up or what have you. It's also part of the reason I extended my hours 4 days a week, yielding that happy half-day every Friday: being in for nine hours increases my availability to the team during the peak days of our activity. It adds flexibility to my exposure to our work in other time zones. It allows those late day fire drills, the attention to things that crop up *before* the next morning. It's a smart change. I like the flex time, but I spent ten months considering before making the request, and by the time I did, I knew it was not just nice-for-me.

Even with the ironic facts of my dentist's schedule, and working late today, it's still a better setup from both sides. So I laugh, but I'm not having second thoughts.


One of the nice things about flex time - apart from improving my sleep schedule 20% of the time, and the time off - is the availability of opportunity off the weekends. I can hit the hardware store NOT on a busy Saturday or Sunday morning, when everybody else will be there - and finally implement that simple, long-delayed home improvement project I had in mind the day I sprained my ankle (ugh - and tackle a slowly-exacerbating plumbing issue or two to boot - bleah). I can go antiquing and visit my dad's memorial. I can take a trip to go see TEO and her family, I can make myself available for non-work things, I can decompress the weekend, I can do a lot with weekday time off. I can query, I can research, I can WRITE ...

And my focus *has* shifted again, from query-query-query time to "hey, I'm a writer - gonna do THAT for a little while" and enjoying the gratification.

Another benefit to the shift, definitely.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

The Merovingian Dynasty

Dan Brown had it all wrong.

The Merovingian heresy - wherever and whenever it was born (I've never had enough respect for this silly idea even to bother looking into it... and I am an inveterate researcher) - has zero to do with history, nor even really with the dynasty as it existed. It couldn't have: though the founder of the thing was indeed the first Catholic king in Europe, his association with Christianity was not the one put forth by the ... "theory" ...

*Insert presumed stifled guffaw here*

Clovis became king before he was even sixteen years old, and he had grown up a barbarian pagan. "Barbarian", of course, didn't mean quite what we dearly want it to; but Clovis WAS an ambitious and none-too-dainty fellow, happy to shed blood (even of his kinsmen) when it came to acquisition of land and wealth and power ... and a historic posterity important even today, though it may be said not *everybody* remembers his name.

The thing about his association with the Church, though, is this. Clovis' heresy (and it's me applying such a descriptor to him; in his life, from what SCANT source material we have - and even little of that is primary - "heresy" isn't something applied to his name) would not have been claims of descent from Christ's bloodline.

It would have been his claim of descent from a pagan god.

There is a fair amount of ink fifteen centuries have yielded, regarding exactly the "kind" of pagan C was. The oldest stories about him mention he gave up his Roman paganism, and a lot of historians, particularly in the most recent century or so, have expended energy on discussing how unlikely it should be for a provincial paga to have been worshpping Mars or Mithras.

Why this should bother anyone I can't imagine. If they could worship Claudius in Colchester (hee), and we know Roman cults were promulgated across the Roman world - of which Clovis' realm, both in its inherited state AND what he'd amassed by the time he died, were definitely a part - I see no protest that, no, he couldn't have worshipped the Roman pantheon, as really making compelling sense. Clovis lived in a world where his comrades in arms were buried under epitaphs saying, "I am a Frank by nationality; a Roman soldier under arms." His kingdom, under his father, was Roman federate. For all he himself executed the last Roman governor in Gaul: Clovis lived in the ROMAN world. He ended up choosing the newer Rome, indeed - he converted to Roman Christianity, to Catholicism, not Arianism, when he chose to follow that religion.

Mithras was a wildly popular god, with charisma such that even TODAY he maintains that power base that is: attention. He continues to inspire, even if only scholarly papers. So why it should be presumed he would be of no interest to a Romanized federate makes no sense to me. More to the point, why there must be a line we (fifteen centuries removed, not for nothing) define, declaring that this ancient king must have lived on one side or the other of a boundary of theoretical making, is arbitrary itself.

What kills me about all the pearl-clutching, that Clovis' conversion must have been from native paganism, is that ... we all know pretty well how Romanized the world was in Late Antiquity. Yes, even by the "fall" of the Western Empire. By that point in time, it might have looked more entrenched than ever - the culture of that far-off city; the laws; the religion. Roman-ness was a presumption of life throughout the empire, and no matter the extent of survival of other cultures within the Roman world ... the very existence of the concept of "the Roman world" says a lot about the extent it bequeathed a widespread assimilation. Yet assimilated doesn't mean eliminated - and that is the point on which I protest the "Roman versus native paganism" question - who the heck decided, and when, that an ancient man had to pick a clear-cut side, as seen from a millenium and a half away - when, in practice, his world probably included lots of things in it?

My house was built in 1950, but contains generations-old antiques ... and wireless internet. It isn't defined by the fact that I live in 2011 - but by the presence of my ancestry, the world as it is "today" - the fluidity of the definition of that term - and by what I choose to put in it, much of which makes no sense to anybody else. Would an archaeologist or scholar, a thousand years from now, be right in presuming away anything nineteenth-century, simply because it would not "fit" in the textbook-defined milieu of What A Typical Divorced Woman of 2011 Would Have Owned ... ?

No. Likewise, a guy who can claim Greek lineage for its prestige, and simultaneously call a sea monster grandpa, is perfectly likely - in the contect of a Roman world, the formal aspects of which are most literally governed by Rome - to contain that most formalized of all human behavior, ritual and WORSHIP ... informed by that source as well.


Clovis' family legend, far from being "we're descended from Jesus", went more along the lines of "Great grandfather was a sea god." There is some vagueness about how many generations back the divine swimmer hit the bloodline, but if it went farther back than great-granddad, it wasn't much. The divinity present in Clovis' posterity wasn't dusty, it was pretty immediate, in generational terms. The legend, back the, that went back farther, reached to the Classical world - not toward Jesus - in attempting to tie the Franks to the ancient Greeks. The story told back then was one of escape from Troy, and the evolution of classical mythical heroes into ... "US" ... Clovis' contemporaries wanted to claim a different kind of prestige than was applied to them so much later by the Merovingian heresy. The dynasty wasn't founded on the presumption of THAT level of "Christian" aspiration. That story would never have occurred to them, then.

Clovis' greatest concession to Christianity, after his convesion, was to rescind his claim of divine descent; and to exchange it for the tenet of divine right. I posit this, for a monarch so aggressive, so successful, and so world-dominatingly arrogant as Clovis, as being a supremely difficult sacrifice to make. His change of faith was by turns both deeply felt and deeply sincere, but it was also one of political significance he fully understood: and exploited. And so to take such a personally demeaning step as to say, "I really wasn't born with the blood of gods" was more than merely a debasing admission - it was an epochal choice to make, and became part of the centuries-deep impact his choices in worship had across the whole of Europe.

In the end, he just couldn't have held on to the sea god story. Like the Trojan myth of the origin of his people, (again I posit) he probably didn't even believe it in the way the deepest fervor holds a heart in worship, either. The demands of the choices he had made - choices rooted both in the spiritual power of victory, and in the undeniable returns the yieled him - could not allow the "blood of gods" thing to continue.

And so, as he did with everything else, Clovis put another stone in the foundation of his dynasty, built the Merovingian line, on a DENIAL of a fundamental heresy.

And, ironically, a denial of divine descent, no less.

So it's an interesting thing, that such a claim got pasted on the bloodline later - particularly the exchange in nature of the imaginary lineage.

Dan Brown had it totally wrong ...

... and what's sad about the tabloid, stupid "theory" is that: the real roots of history are *so* much more interesting than the fantasy made up by the conspiracists.

It's a pity stupid headlines get so popular.

Friday, May 20, 2011

The Things You Learn From Your Writers' Group ...

... such as: The CDC has (or at least publicly permits!) a sense of humor ...

Seek to Understand ...

... so many wise people have said. Seek to understand - not to be understood.

I have sought to do what I thought was right.

It isn't the same thing. At all.

We Visited Dad Today.

Mom and I got together to celebrate my first half-day of work today. Went to the antique store and the thrift store. Had lunch at the place I once found myself surprised to run into TEO and her luminescent, amazing family (SUCH good gyros). Went to see dad.

She took me where I had not ventured in many, many years; to the newly redesigned steampunk-style building where he worked for so many years. We visited him, and she obessively read every new stone, marked since she had last been there. In dad's memorial garden, he was one of the first residents. I held my mom and wept before his plaque. My tears fell on her hand, and she wiped them away, half-smiling.

We saw a little lizard, a bronzed creature looking burnished against the memorial stones. She was gorgeous, perfect; asymmetrical - clinging to the wall horizontally, her right legs reaching up, holding on; her left legs close to the body, bracing her hold ...

We sat and looked at all the windows in the chapel. It is such a spare, beautiful chapel; and the light was literally dazzling. Marvelous.

"We didn't know each other at all; but it was so right."

She recited a dirty limerick he had told her. "I don't think I've ever told you that before." Nope. She hadn't.

Even dad's style of dirty humor was kind of literary. G-d love him. There was a man from Boston ...

"We met in August, and by the second and third date we were talking about marriage."

I'd always known this. (Mom had a dragon, after all ...) But today I thought to ask, "What did y'all say? Were you talking *about* marriage - as a concept? - or was it, 'boy I think I kind of dig you' - YOU talking about marrying EACH OTHER ... ?"

"Oh, it was US. It was 'I think we're done', it was 'this is *it*' ..."

Gawd. And I bet it was, too. Dad was IN LOVE with my mother. Slam, total, absolute IN LOVE with her, irrevocable, always, and to the day he died. He found her vivacious, engaging, incredibly beautiful. They were constantly necking when my brother and I were kids. Shoot, it never stopped. He would kiss her all the time. He never stopped; and she never stopped trying to attract him, either. She was dressing up for him literally until the day he died. Which he did, lying in a hospital bed, spooned against her.

He *wanted* her, singularly, uniquely - indelibly. Few people ever enjoy that kind of love from anyone. And dad was utterly open to my mom. They had hard times, they were human. But he never, ever, ever would have let her go.

I think this is why so many people are so judgemental about the man I chose to love. *Le sigh*

My mom and dad met in August. They were married in December.

My mom doesn't wait two years for anyone ... so she didn't wait. And he finished grad school a married man.

We drove his car. We felt the wind.

She's probably going to sell that car. She's been saying so for years ...

We visited dad today.

It was an absolutely beautiful day.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Now I Know What to Do With Those Books ...

... left over from when my nieces were smaller, and more frequently available ...

My Period (No, Not THAT One)

Clovis ruled from 486 to 511, which places him not-so-firmly in a couple of possible places. There are those who bring the Early Medieval descriptor across these years (I don't, by the way, disagree with this), and of course the proximity to the deposition of Augustulus and the end of the Western Roman Empire allows me to call the period Late Antiquity, which is a hugely popular time ... but does tend to evoke Rome, which is far less present in my novel than Late Antiquity fans might prefer. Another option is to call it the Dark Ages - but (a) I never liked that descriptor, for its pejorative (and therefore incorrect) connotations, and (b) it can be said the DA began in 535 - which puts it too late to include my story. Finally, we could place it in the Migration Period - and very accurately - but who really talks about the Migration Period? It's not what you could call a marketing buzzword. Even Late Antiquity might demand too much, by some lights, for some PR and/or readership purposes.

Most often, in pitching, I personally place the work in Late Antiquity. It might not be as widely understood a term as the Dark Ages, but its meaning is fairly obvious, and it has that nicely Roman feel, which I sort of think evokes adventure and political intrigue. In my mind, though, I'm a little unsure whether I think of it as belonging to any specific famous era. This can make querying tricky, when you market around the vagaries of naming your setting in time. So I set it in LA (hee), but note the appeal to readers in other areas - including Arthurian lovers.

Probably, this is a bad move. But I've vetted my query, and gotten good love out of it regularly enough I have hope it's not a disaster, and it's been very much polished and honesd over the period (*there's* that word) since I have been sending it out.

I'm interested in what readers of histfic like to see. I know I myself can be turned on or off by an era-descriptor, so am wondering how much this choice does for or against whatever I hope to accomplish. Throw me a comment! And thank you all in advance ...


It's less than a week now to the next surgery on someone I love. And this is the biggest one. And it's someone I love very, very, very deeply.


Wednesday, May 18, 2011


There are times I read my writing, and the intimacy is so intense it gets this running through my head. More often, though ... even when I can remember quite distinctly how I created a scene, how I came to it, even maybe how I left it - I can't remember the scene as I *created* it, and am able to read as if I have never seen the words before.

I'm one of those insufferable "I am just a conduit" writers - at least, in the sense that I don't entirely give myself credit for being able to do what I sometimes find I have done.

Because I LOVE my writing. I'm not uncritical of it. I edit - and I seek others' critiques. When I have found my agent, when we've gotten me a publisher and an editor, I will not be at all precious about making my work *better* ... But I love my writing. I'm as excited by the stories and characters in reading them, created, as I am in coming to the prospect of telling them - creator. I want to know what happens - and even though I "made" my writing, I am always there in it, always there *for* it, as a reader, and endlessly ready to follow it. That is WHY I will be happy with an editor: I trust other guides; I like the way a trip goes with a companion.

Another rejection today.

I'm excited - I can't wait for the one who loves my writing too.


Google Analytics refuses to work for me. Boo.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Breathless Bones

No time of year seems to be good anymore for me to catch a breath, but there are circumstances from time to time which make it extraordinarily frightening. The times I just can't do it at all.

This is one of those times.

I have a deep appreciation, right now, for the full intent and nuance of the phrase "having a hell of a time" ...

I am having a hell of a time being able to get a breath.

At the best of times, it's thoroughy embarrassing, how easily my body becomes winded. I hate speaking with people; there is no hiding it, there is no mastering it.

But at the worst of times, I would beg for embarrassment. Because when I'm winded, I'm breathing at least. When I can't ... I'm terrified.

Monday, May 16, 2011

First Day of the Flex of My (Work) Life

Ahh, day one back on the horse, doing nine-hour days for the sake of shorter Fridays. Late spring is probably the time for this change, with the days not being at their shortest. I'll ease back into nine-hour days in winter time!

I look forward to reuniting with a sleep pattern that gave me another hour of rest 20% of my working days; pathetic as it may sound, my 7:30 report time (my own idea, but a necessary one, with my security duties) is so muc harder five days a week than four was. I thought about the change for a long time, but finally went for it, and it seems to be falling into place.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Milkwhite Malevolence

There is a literary tradition - and, of course, an actual history - of a kind of purity perverted. A purity of festered piety, a purity of bigoted and/or self-righteous entitlement, a purity of lily-white and trembling vessels, not of the milk of human kindness, but of the venom of terrified xenophobia. I talked with someone like this recently; it was, itself, a kind of terrifying moment.

The literary characters often seem to have wide, clear eyes, clear, pallid skin, and a hermetic life experience which renders them inflexible either to the point of brittleness, or disastrous cruelty. The reality might be many things, but it seems, unscientifically, as if these days, it manifests oftenest in self-righteousness.

How the conversation turned to teenage mothers, I don't know, but I stumbled upon this purity of hatred when I said that no thirteen-year-old girl can be held responsible for this. The wide, pale eyes alit, and I was told, "You would be surprised" and flatly contradicted. Apparently, this person had been acquainted at some point with a real slut of a thirteen year old girl; and she was not to be told that that does not occur naturally.

No, there are thirteen year old girls, it seems, who must be held to task for THEIR behavior.

The point that, perhaps, the girl this person had known might not have had the advantages her passionate (and creepy) judge had had was not one to make with much hope. The resentment and rigidity could not be released.

I don't know if this person was cheated on with a thirteen year old girl, or if their experience was so fundamentalist growing up that the legal and moral attitudes of generations long gone by survived intact somehow. There was no clarity on how this purity of anger had become what I saw before me. Opaque ... as milk.

I was a coward, and didn't push for a conversion. It seemed to me useless to mention that legally no child is held so bitterly responsible as this person had presumed to impose culpability. Sometimes, running into a wall, I suppose I shatter - a brittleness of my own, thrown against the implacability of ignorant superiority. I don't even know what to do with it, thinking of it.

Only this - as a writer, I will fight against anger of this kind. With those I can hope to speak with, I will. In myself, I'll set what example I can ...

Milk or venom ... I can hope for nourishment, not poison. I can spill one, and serve the other.

People are so fascinating.

It's a pity that's so often so sad.

Vacations Remembered

Two years ago right now, I drove away from work, home, and family, and saw X for the first time after a long time. The day I drove ended with a migraine so massive I was able only to stop at the hotel vending machine for a blood sugar bump from Knotts Berry Farm strawberry jam cookies, and remember only landing on the pillow, perhaps not even stopping to pray that the headache would vacate before the morning, when we would finally see each other. I remember traffic, I remember the day, and yet, somehow, I can't accurately say I remember that drive much. I remember perfume the next morning, and the relief of a bath as I realized the headache was gone. I remember the weather was somewhat dreary.

I remember the shock of attraction when I finally saw X. The astonishment of being in the room with the warmth and immaculate scent of him, the way his fingers felt against mine.

Scraps of the day, passing an ad in a mall I passed again some days later, some hundreds of miles away - finding something to eat - going to see "Star Trek" - taking a break, while I took a nap because I had not really slept. Dinner, and the dark.

The sight of his eyes, and the blur of my own misted gaze. The sight of his own sorrow. The moment we had to say goodbye again.

Getting up in the morning, packing, leaving. Knowing nothing. Knowing everything I need. Grey and dreary. The drive easier. My head clear to the point of arid emptiness. Memory again. Already a memory again ...

Saturday, May 14, 2011

David Starkey's Mother's ... Um ...

In the U.S., the term don is oftenest associated with la cosa nostra. In the U.K., though, a don is a professor. I have an appreciation for the humor there, but this is just an instructive intro.

The phenomenon of the teledon is not unique to Britain, of course - though we don't really have such a nice name for them, we've got Neal deGrasse Tyson, and it could even be said Carl Sagan pioneered the type for everybody. I seem to just love all of them - James Burke is probably my favorite of all time - but it's not an entirely uncritical liking. Which brings us to David Starkey.

Starkey, for those unfamiliar with him, was once famous as the rudest man in Britain, but that in itself is not a problem for me. By the time I started to run across him much, I was either choosing the wrong venues for his vitriol, or he had mellowed. My issue with Starkey is his grammar-school level historical wisdom. This is a guy, the impression is, who'd teach about Washington's cherry tree as if it were assured knowledge. To be sure, his take on the men of history (Starkey has zero use for women; and his defense against the charge of sexism consists of saying he's written books about women - never mind that lots of people write about the things they don't especially admire nor give credit to - and he doesn't) seems almost Whig-historian-ish in its selective-awareness.

Even so, I consume Starkey TV if only because his historical documentaries do at least hit subject I am interested in - and he isn't 100% "wrong" nor even dismissable.

When I watch him, I'm often struck by the singularness of his mannerism. The emphatic inflection, the bobbing of his head. It makes me think of Sagan, actually, and *that* is what makes a teledon. TeeVee goes for personalities, and a certain type of professorial presence does make its way to the screen.

I like that certain kind of enthusiasm in instructiveness. I recognize it from my dad; a teacher not merely by profession, but deep in his blood. Coming from a family of teachers (and not all of them paid to be so), the fire a real teacher's interest and excitement stokes bears a warmth I feel like few other things. I love a good teacher, I remember them all, I make myself susceptible to the contagion of their infectiousness. It's a wonderful thing, to be imbued with this. It's this energy, actually, I found animating the attractiveness of the doctor I found so attractive last week; good looking to be sure, he only became truly appealing when he began to speak, and his interest informed his testimony.

So it wasn't with a dismissive sort of pooh-pooh-ery I read this interview with Starkey. It's funny, to be sure, and interesting (to a history nerd like me). And, if you're not that great a nerdball, it is also not too long. Enjoy!

Monday, May 9, 2011


Oh, to be a numerology nerd when the stats page starts to look like this:


It's been hard to say much since jury duty completed last Thursday, but I am hoping the discipline of a return to routine will help shake it off. I made it through the process undaunted, without even pausing for a great deal of concern ... yet, when it was over, the impact of having to take away the hope of a whole family was deeply depressing. Even into yesterday, I found little motivation to move - only Mother's Day really got me up and running this weekend. Other than that, I sat at home, accomplished one single query, read nothing, did nothing, never even mowed the grass nor cleaned the house. I felt unpleasant, because impotence is not a suitable state of mind for me.

As it isn't for most people, to be sure.

Still, I am a pouty little girl, and hate unfairness even at my age, and even on top of the hateful feeling of "having" to basically just be mean to someone ... I protest at the thought I've had quite enough impotence to deal with in my life, thank you.

It's probably no more than anyone has to endure. Where we love, we are impotent sometimes. Where we hate, usually more so. Where we care about anything at all, there's bound to be disappointment and frustration - and what else is impotence made of?

I still feel terribly tired, but am peeking up at the sunshine. And sunshine there is. The days have been dazzlingly lovely - even during the trial, but certainly since then. Right now, the green of the world is rich with golden light, gleaming, lush. Dinner is on (I am up to that much - I'm making actual, decent food), and there are strawberries in the kitchen. Soon, there will be peaches and nectarines; probably my favorite fruits. I know myself blessed.

But even that is a source of guilt, and I hover and hedge and turn away from my thoughts.


This week, I joined a histfic website, and got a hit here from an author there. (Squee!)

I got a query out. I got another one rejected. The pitch I still need to work on, though.

Life is moving on. At least that I can't blame myself for. That is no guilt.

Times like this, I miss my dad. Dad was good at pep talks and philosophizing. And I miss X. He was good at being next to me just running end-of-day errands, or walking The La. It was always good to take his head in my lap and give him a head rub - or for him to do so for me. Just bein' (not even a need for the final G).

I can Just Be with Sweet Small Sid. But she sure sucks at giving a head rub. No thumbs, and her breath is no picnic.

Friday, May 6, 2011


To know what is right and not to do it is the worst cowardice.

Right now, there is so much I can't even begin to post about. But this quote resonates with more than one layer of them right now.

It doesn't help, except that it is true.


In the This Never Happens Department ...

... I found a man attractive yesterday.

Scratch that, I found him very, *very* hot.

This would be a whole big twice in the past decade I have encountered someone I was attracted to.

I was Googling him in my mind. Seriously. Hot.

That was actually fun.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Give One, Get One

The big query just got its rejection notice.

It somehow actually seems fair.

I just completed service as part of a jury which meted out a terrible rejection of sorts today. It doesn't feel good, but unfortunately ... it was the "right" thing to do.

If only right and good could always neatly coexist.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011


The phrasing in my work is as much a matter of the musical concept of "phrasing" as it is the words of which it is comprised. Mom and dad gave me a good vocabulary, and words can be a matter of magic for me. But I will climb over three words for the right syllabication, syncopation, rhythm-ation; get me there by punctuation.

Yes, very silly - I know that. But the point is that I will change an entire sentence to hit the inflection I need, the momentum, and the bump-and-grind a concept I'm putting down requires of its words. Sometimes, I'll move a substantial word so it falls off the tongue at the right moment (and - yes - I read my writing out loud), or simply change the lesser words, even adding or subtracting, to arrive at the right phrasing and rhythm. Finally, when the need arises, I'll just change a substantial word outright, for another, if the shifts don't get a sentence or its paragraph into satisfactory shape.

It's not typical for me to hear these beats in advance of getting to the point of writing (though my stupid brain does go into writing-rhythm OVERDRIVE when I am in bed but unable to sleep). I don't hear them even in the sentence preceding the one which suddenly clunks unpleasantly. I just know, most often while I am actually writing, but always when I re-read, when the number of syllables doesn't work. If the emphasis doesn't balance with the rest.

I'm no Mozart, where the writing is within me, and I know it before I get it out; I know little more than my main subject, and the immediate goal of the scene I'm working on. Still, it's instantly apparent when it is *wrong*. Even when I don't read something out loud, the way my mind processes reading is a mental audio.

The blog gets a lot less of this attention from me than my work for publication. Even so, I imagine regular readers here get a sense of the movement and pauses of my voice - which, even as filtered through different characters maintains an essential nature I couldn't and wouldn't wish to change. This voice is borrowed - or echoed ... recorded. I took it from both my parents, but with very conspicuous characteristics from The Major Side.

I talk like my father. I talk like my aunt and uncle. I talk like my cousins and my brother. I'm not as good at it as most of them, but it fuels whatever skill I have as a writer. My work is my father's, my uncle's - certainly my brother's (who first took me to JRW's conference, which educated me into enough confidence to finally, seriously do the work). My work is derivative, in the most positive possible sense.

Rhythm is the music of my father's gravelly voice. It's the emphasis of my uncle, the pause of my grandfather, the precision of my grandmother, the loud laughter of my aunt.

It's also the shock of humor and the joy of my maternal grandma. It's my mom's decisiveness and sometimes her emotion and hesitancy. It's the memory of her daddy; the arcing, Southern "aw" or the incandescent urgency of her sisters; the lilting impenetrability of her brother, accustomed to sermons.

It's the blood of the body of my work, and blood doesn't work without its *pulse* ...


Rhythm keeps my work alive. It's not the only invigorating force. But it is inexchangeably vital. So important I'll come up with nonsense like "inexchangeability" just because I like the way it flows, like the way it feels against my mind's tongue.

Some people have a mind's eye.

I realize, in my mental senses - my mind's ear, my mind's tongue, dominate.

Monday, May 2, 2011


I am working on my synopsis as I work on a pitch for a contest online. The great mistake I've made is to fail to highlight the humor in the novel. It's all good stuff, but in focusing on the drama I've pigeonholed the work into the world of Ponderous, Slavish Historical Fiction. Which some of the action does feed into, to be sure. All the religion, death, and ruling-of-stuff - it's natural Ponderous Fiction fodder. I know it.

But Clovis is a sharp character, and not only in his ability to strategize. Throughout the novel, humor cuts, humor alienates, humor leavens, it even binds. The relationship with his queen is characterized, at times, by the way they duel with one another's words, and by the way they use the to manipulate themselves closer.

This post is a piece of what I am working on for the pitch, I won't pretend and you're all smart enough you know that.

Humor. I need to remember it - and honor it. It's one of the aspects of the work I find most alive and engaging, actually.

Ahh, There's the Rough Spot

Yep. One of my incisors just broke off.

What the HELL was I saying about this being a "good" day ... ??


Suspiciously Smooth

Today was a Monday back in the office after a Friday out, with the boss coming in tomorrow, and me possibly out for three days for the joy of jury duty. And I think I got EVERYTHING done ... which, as sure as I am of myself, always gives me pause. I never quite like feeling 100% efficient on a day so strategically placed, with time so truncated.

And yet ... I'm pretty sure I did the whole job today, and exceedingly well. I was on top of everything from the plug-ins for my boss's upcoming expense reporting, to a pot luck I won't be able to go to, to diplomacy, to tech requests, to research and sleuthing, to a full slate of preparatory documentation and housekeeping, with backing-up, for the possiblility of my absence.

Sometimes you have to suck it up and admit success. Hmm.

And now I sit outside, in the beauty of the day, my signal not overpowering - but it's there - and enjoying a breeze. Sure, the dog's crying and won't sit down and relax. But even as I type it, she finally reclines: Sir Sidney, on guard at the keep gates. My late beloved neighbor next door said she used to call my dog Sir Sidney, because she thought "he" looked like a knight. So alert, so handsome, so erect in her guardian position.

To be sure, Siddy does take care of me. And I have never been precious about mistaken pet gender assignments. Sid is generally assumed to be male. She has a strength about her, so I take it as the compliment it is - and certainly, if someone's making friends, "Hey boy" has never yet caused her to complain. (Ask me about the male cat I once had, named Gert ...)


So here I sit behind the perimeter set by my beautiful, vigilant Sir Siddy. Warm, yet not hot, in the brightness of afternoon's deeply angled sun. The world green about me, the dogwood - and other trees - bending softly with the active, but not restless, air. The rows traced by the lawnmower still clear in the even turf, the once-tiny Japanese maple as thick as a healthy bush.

And this is mine, and Sid's - and we had a good day at work, she and I. And I am home now, as is proper, to be with her.

Traffic is thinning. And I can admit. I've had worse-failure days than this one seems to want to be.