Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Gimme Gimme

Year before last, my step father bought me the Asus on which I am working right now.  Last year, mom (hilariously for so many reasons) got me an HP printer.

What is it I want for Christmas?  A kitchen timer.  A copy of "Up".  Maybe a baby gate or even two.  Maybe.  Earrings.  I want to see Siddy enjoy something as much as she loves her doggie blanket, the gift of the YEAR that mom got her last year.  I die of the blanketed, cuddly, cozy cuteness constantly, thanks to that like $8 gift.  Everything my nieces have ever made me is awesome in its own right, PLUS because it was made for me.  One of those giant peppermint sticks like I used to buy for my daddy, and which he dutifully consumed every dadgum year.  Something X drew.  Something his kids drew, with the art supplies I gave them some years back.  Scented candles.  Books for my research, from the Amazon Wish List.  Books NOT for my research - same list.

Extravagant gifts are amazing.  This laptop has changed my life, literally.  It was the tool I used to get my job.  It's where I finished the novel.  It keeps me in touch with those I love.

But extravagance is unfamiliar to me.  Two years running, I have been humbled by it.  This year - I don't think anything like that is in the offing.  And that makes me so happy.

The kitchen timer, though.  I seriously want that.  (Bro, don't forget to remind mom ...)

Ahh - The Article Referring to Those Photos

And an excellent comment from the readership:

LindsayDianne November 30, 2011 at 5:52 pm

Somewhere in between the obesity epidemic and photoshopping, lies the truth.

The Magic of Touch-Ups

And the cruelty of expectations.  Bro, please look at these with the girls.  X, you guys too.

Speaking as someone who LOVES the artificiality of makeup, and who recognizes just how CGI'd most images have become - perhaps even more in photography we don't even think about being altered than in special effects we acknowledge every day - the pervasiveness and effects of this imagery are saddening, sickening, deeply disturbing.  Many of the pics used are obviously exemplars - just ways to demonstrate the power of image manipulation.

But too many of them are the faces of those put before us every day as expectations - as ideals - to aspire to.

And the one of the child is just too much to even manage, emotionally.  A *child* isn't deemed beautiful enough to print.  *Sigh*

Tuesday, November 29, 2011


He is so far away saying "I miss him" isn't even the shadow on the floor.  The thing between me and the light is impossible to catch with words.

How can he be so close when he is thousands of miles out of my reach?  Never mind:  I know.  I am a writer.

It's beyond me to focus - but impossible to forget - I'd rather be without him, than be with anyone else.  ...  Apparently.

Good night.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Happy 1500th Anniversary of your Death, My King!

This article marks the first time I have seen the theory that the Franks' name is in any way etymologically to be linked to the term ferocious - my immediate gut-think is that it would be the other way around.  The commonest etymology I ran across in my reasearch years (there were three and some change) is that the name derives from the francisca, the distinctive ax they carried.  The second-commonest theory was that both the ax's name and the people's rooted in a word meaning freedom, liberty.

For the overall nutshell picture, though, it's a pretty good article.


I always feel like I'm reading children's books when I go in for nutshells on Clovis.  Nothing against children's books at all, of course.  But I did get a bit beyond 'em some time back - as with research on the Man Himself.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Truly Good Gifts

A friend of mine, two years ago, gave me one of those ceramic Christmas tree decorations with the little plastic "lights" under which you put a chandelier bulb to illuminate it.  She painted it herself.

Both my grandmothers had trees like this, and this little gift makes me *so* happy, every year.  It's a pretty decoration, but it reaches back to memories of Christmases with family, and does a little something more than simply sitting and shining.  Plus, a truly beloved friend made this just for me; it is the sort of gift that rather literally keeps on giving.

I just put this tree out (the "real" tree waits for the anniversary of my parents' wedding, which is also the anniversary of my first ever date with X - and was always the evening, growing up, my family decorated for Christmas), and am just sitting and looking at its bright little plastic points, and grinning and enjoying the first small surge of that silly thing we call "holiday spirit".

I hadn't planned on bringing any decorations out, but have sort of made a few bits and bobs part of the house cleaning today.  Very pleasant.

X looks at pictures of this place, a place he thinks of at "home" in a way unlike his hated domicile, the city of his residence, and both warmly and wistfully describes it as "cheering".  I've never especially thought of myself as a person of "cheer" as such - and yet, when he says that, I see it as he does.  This home is cozy, and comfortable, and warm in more than one way.  I hope it is welcoming.

This tree is cheering.  It is the talisman of a friendship I like very much, and symbol of a holiday which, spiritually, means more to me every year.

What a great gift.  I will thank her - again - soon.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Some Things, Even Guilt Can't Overcome

Not long ago, my boss and I had a call in which he started off by telling me, "So you might not know this about me, but I grew up in Catholic schools ..."

It may be said with a grin, this is hardly surprising news - but his raconteourish point was that he is a guy who knows from guilt.  And a day he was planning to try to work remote, he had decided he must count as a day off, because he was going to spend a couple hours of it on personal/family business.  It might sound pretty funny for someone to feel enough Catholic Guilt to turn a day on which he would be taking at least four calls, and (I know him) staying online and responsive into personal time off - but I actually know that sense of duty, that self-expectation EXTREMELY well.

However.  We all do have our limits.  Right?

I flat out left work early today, and though ordinarily this would be a cause, for me, of seriously well-crafted invisible maternal guilt trippery (my mom constructed my appreciation for Consequences with unparalleled excellence, it must be said) ... not so this time.

There were more people in the office today even than yesterday or Monday, so the discomfort I have been having - most acutely, yesterday - dissipated enough for me to be distracted from it most of the day.

Ahh, but people do have a way of leaving earlier than I do.  My hours schedule me on Thursdays to 5:30 p.m.  And I am conscientious - I stay until 5:35, unless I stay longer.  There's usually little advantage in leaving early (unless you leave *significantly* ahead, it's simply not worth it traffic-wise), so I really just don't.

But today, I found I was alone with him.  Beyond my visceral loathing for this guy - I do feel justified in managing my outrageous discomfort with any situation in which I am alone in a silent and empty building with him (it was in such circumstances he misbehaved last year).

So my butt left EARLY today.  I was gone by 4:30, not a "happy Thanksgiving" so much as mumbled over the cube wall.

I wonder whether his contract will *ever* end.

At least I know our whole project someday will.

I left work early today, and not a *scintilla* of guilt about that.  It was more important to do the right thing as a woman, today, than to observe the nicety of sitting at a desk, for an hour, when nobody else (but him) was at theirs.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Thanks, Given

Dad did the pecan pies.  He did mincemeat.  He made the hard sauce - his big, softly fuzzy, strong hand could whip like nobody else I've ever seen, actually.  He could whip stiff cookie dough; I never have been able (or willing) to do that.  He liked his desserts, and he LOVED the way everyone else loved them.  It won't be long before I'm thinking of dad's fudge, dad's bourbon balls.  The year he and I made mint sticks like his mother used to make, and came up with a substitute that was great, for her icing, the recipe for which we didn't find that year.  That time he and I walked up to grandma's apartment in the snow - mom and Bro being away somehow, for some reason.  Walking in the snow with dad, to grandma's little place over the hill and (I kid you not) at least BY some woods.  Where she had sweet rolls baking.  How can life ever be better - than hot sweet rolls in the snow, stolen with your dad?

At the holidays, he did dessert.  Mom always took birthday cakes (and I never even understood the idea of choosing my OWN cake - it was white cake dyed pink, iced with pink seven-minute frosting, and topped with little heart red-hots spelling out my name, or my age, or a heart) baked in heart shaped PANS I now have in my own kitchen - or no cake at all for me, young lady.  Fortunately for me:  cake was cake.  That I missed out on choosing my own mattered little, when mom made it all so "me" with the Valentine-y theme.  (No, my birthday is not on Valentine's day.  No, it will not be disclosed; for the reason that my father died on it, it's a sacred and highly secured date for me; un-share-able.)

I can HEAR dad's spoon in one of those teacups now also in my own kitchen.  Bingbingbingbingbingbingbing.  Hard sauce.  The idea was insane to me as a kid - liquor and sugar, maybe a tiny bit of butter - all creamed up and poured on mincemeat pie.  I didn't even like pecan, then.  Gimme the pumpkin, and only the pumpkin.  (Mom usually made the pumpkin.  And we never can have a slice without "that time Aunt V. made it without the sugar.")

I can hear his voice, too.  A voice Mr. X never did hear.  And it breaks my heart - still - that there are those in this world who never met my dad.  Never, ever will.

Making bourbon balls with him at *my* house.  Having Thanksgiving with him and mom, the year before that, at my bright, high, wide, beautiful de-lux apartment in the sky.

Being up with him on Christmas morning, wondering where the heck the grandchild was.  We had to WAKE her.  Weird little kid; what kid isn't up at the crack of oh-dark-thirty on Christmas morning?  The joy of all of us, sitting on the floor - the camera my brother and siser-in-law gave me (I'm still cowed) - the toys for wee-un - the BOOKS for dad.  Noise, and biscuits, and fudge, and OJ and sparkling cider and US.  All of us.  Stollen in the kitchen, Christmas music on the radio when mom started cooking in real earnest.  The sound of his snoring, maybe.  But never for very long.  My sister-in-law exclaiming something funny, from the kitchen.  My niece, walking on my back.  Her leash, everpresent.  She was a dog that year.  Drove dad a little bonkers.  Oh, but holding her on his lap.  I never saw anything warmer.  Even the fire; we always had a fire.

To the day he died, my dad still clasped my own fist inside his palm like it was a tiny little thing.  I'm no elf, but dad's warmth was the biggest thing in the world.  Beautiful.

Pecan pie.  It was  SO sweet.  A sliver of that, a sliver of mincemeat.  But give me as much pumpkin as I can get away with.  And seconds on that, too.

The big bag with wrappings, off to one side.  S-i-l separated the ribbons.  Recycle the rest, or burn it.  I can't remember Siddy being there.  Must have left her at home, out of the chaos.  Or maybe - just dad, my niece, my family were so much more important.

Thanksgiving the year after dad died - it was just me, mom, and X.  I have a photograph - or did have, once - of each of them napping on a couch in the family room.  An afghan apiece.  It was such a quiet year.  Mom decorated for Christmas with so much blue.  She'd never used blue - but needed a change.  Those ornaments - that year - still carry more in their color than their color.  They're talismanic.  Blue.

Christmas after mom remarried.  Still joyous.  Never the same.  But Sid does come.  Last year she fell in love with the concept of, and the object of, her new, soft doggy blanket.  LOVES being under a blanket.  I should get two more of them; keep them in rotation, like the rest of her bedding.  Old monkey.  Dad loved her.  She was and is such a good sitting-at-your feet dog.  She was perfect for him; he could read, and she was there.

She half killed him, of course; fur and dander.  Lung disease.  But he liked her anyway.  He made me promise never to let her get all fat.

Nine years later, she's still as beautiful, and blessedly healthy.  Good old girl.


It was in November we ensconced his ashes.  Back then - November was cold.  Mom and my brother and me.  Again.  Alone there.


I still really don't go for the pecan pie.  Nor the mincemeat.  And nobody makes hard sauce anymore.  No bingbingbingbing.  There is no dad.  Hard sauce was a Dad thing.  I don't think anyone even whips the cream at home anymore.  But it's okay.  It's always family.

I miss him rotten.  He was much to be grateful for, and he was MY daddy.  Great Christ, how blessed, to be his child.  I hope I recognize even half how fortunate I have been.  And am grateful even half enough for that.

Monday, November 21, 2011

More from Charles Major

I've been immensely enjoying "When Knighthood Was in Flower", having gotten into it now.  Here are some reasons (all are quotations from the novel, please consider this my citation) ...


He had no vanity—which is but an inordinate desire for those qualities that bring self-respect, and often the result of conscious demerit—but he knew himself, and knew that he was entitled to his own good opinion.

(T)he surest way to any woman's heart is to convince her that you make her better, and arouse in her breast purer impulses and higher aspirations.

(M)an's caution avails but little when set against woman's daring.

(H)e had learned to swear in Flanders.

I like a woman who can be as savage as the very devil when it pleases her; she usually has in store an assortment of possibilities for the other extreme.

I was a jealous little devil.

Jane sat there looking so demure you would have thought mischief could not live within a league of her, but those very demure girls are nearly always dangerous.

>> Probably MY personal favorite quote!
Prudery is no more a sign of virtue than a wig is of hair.

>>This reminds me of the way I use words and humor ... 
(S)he answered with glances, smiles, nods and monosyllables—a very good vocabulary in its way, and a very good way, too, for that matter.

I would rather fight a pack of howling, starving wolves than the Scotch; they fight like very devils, which, of course, is well; but you have nothing after you have beaten them, not even a good whole wolf skin.

(S)he looked for a laugh, but found a sigh.

>>Regarding a new dance at court: 
The king [Henry VIII]asked Brandon to teach him the steps, which he soon learned to perform with a grace perhaps equaled by no living creature other than a fat brown bear.

(A)s bright and beautiful a June day as ever gladdened the heart of a rose

It is wonderful what a fund of useless information some persons accumulate and cling to with a persistent determination worthy of a better cause.


Charles Major is not, to my knowledge, any relation.  But, reading his work, I would hardly blush to be told we were family of some kind.

MIND the Bollocks

Because it's important.

more historically significant than the discovery of early Beatles recordings.



Sunday, November 20, 2011


Remember six weeks ago when we thought there'd been umpteen Republican primary debates ... ?

Saturday, November 19, 2011

What Was It Again - Mithrae Invictus?

I'm too lazy to look up the correct phrase, so please don't make fun of me.  The point is this in any case.

Proportionate Pages

Yesterday, I ploughed through 25 pages of the MSS in my revisions.  It sounds all very well - but this isn't *writing*, it's editing.  So perhaps I could be moving faster.  It's not that there's any sort of RDA minimum on revision.  At the rate of 25 pages in a day, if I actually put that much energy in every day (which - with ten hour days and an actual life to be maintained - unfortunately isn't going to happen) I'd have the whole manuscript edited inside of a month.  No, the fear I have is that I am going deeper than revision and more into rewrite.

Which, given the work I need to do - maybe not a bad thing.  I don't know.

Being Miss Pragmatism 2011, though, I want to approach this work carefully, and somehow that seems to indicate not getting too deep in it all over again.  This instinct may be dead wrong.  I may also be full of horsefeathers, on the point of my self-vaunted objectivity.  Getting my hands a little dirty, getting into the guts, may be what the doctor ordered.  (I do, after all, keep calling this work "surgery" ...)

We shall see.

Whatever the case, the work itself overall feels *good*.

And so I shall shut up here, and get back to it.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Pyx Ampoule

There is a legend sometimes attached to Clovis, always attached to Remigius of Rheims, that at his baptism, the miraculous oil was brought from the heavens by a sacred dove.  The Sainte Ampoule was one of those tales I saw no way to incorporate in the novel, and felt no urge to, and so did not - yet it is a fun legend, and I was strongly reminded of it again here.

New to Episcopalianism, I didn't grow up with burses and pyxes, nor even consecrated Hosts, so (what is to me) High Church accoutrements are still novel to my eyes.  I didn't know the pyx ever came in the shape of a dove

but it *is* a fascinating point - even if the migration of the form seems to have been inherited from the East - that this was an early Church style used in France.

Peace be with you, from St. Remigius and me.

Quote of a Non-cester?

The author Charles Major (no relation I am aware of) puts together a perfectly delicious Victorian romance.  This also happens to observe a habit of poor writing (and, meta-2000s style - doesn't suffer poor writing in itself!) ... watch out for too MUCH investment of yourself in your work, kids!

I have started out to tell you the history of two other persons—if I can ever come to it—but find a continual tendency on the part of my own story to intrude, for every man is a very important personage to himself. 

Page Pattern

The human eye tends to hit a new page of text and move in a curve similar to these (perhaps a little less tight on that initial curlicue) - hitting somewhat left of the middle, sliding down and then up and around, really to the point where, in our particular culture, pages "begin".  I don't know, come to think of it, whether this insta-scan pattern holds in cultures for which pagination is reversed from the standard I am talking about, or for peoples who read text vertically rather than horizontally - but I *think* that this is brain-science, so would imagine it holds true.  I am fairly certain it is true for "pages" both hard copy and electronic.

Periodicals and print material of all kinds have taught layout based on this somewhat reverse-G eye-wander for a long time indeed; I must have learned it in about eighth grade or so, working on newspaper or some other such lost miscellanea of my life.

I still lay out newsletters, and, though this particular tidbit of the flotsam of my mind isn't necessarily a leading gambit in construction, it is 'there' enough in my intelligence that it certainly informs me on some level.

The way our eyes work is a kind of momentum, and the way my mind works in writing follows a curve too.  I slip on a banana peel and - WHOOP - am off.  Perhaps in a direction I intended (usually so), but often to effect I don't necessarily know is available until it's typed out.  I find the lilt and rhythm seem to follow patterns, like the inertia of an eye's passage across a page, and get me to the right point, as the curve gets you to the beginning of the page, once your eye has scanned its shape even before properly focusing.  Once I've had my creative loop-de-loop, I can look at the way things fell out of my brain, and even with things which will need editing (they all do), at least follow an internal momentum - even those things I will need to kill at some point.

Recently, I had a different kind of loop-de-loop.

Six years ago, "The Ax and the Vase" began, for me, with a single sentence - and I was doomed.  It was a sentence in first-person.

My "choice" of POV (ugh) is another post altogether, but it's been an almost obscenely intimate part of the book since the beginning.  It's seemed all wrong - not from the point of view of the mechanics of my creativity, but from the simple standpoint of a person like me so *personally* taking on a character like Clovis.  I suspect there'll be men (and women too; there's always a guitarist at the back of the bar, doesn't matter their chromosomes) who read the work looking for me to feminize it or make mistakes ("a man would NEVER think that!") - but, more to the point, I suspect myself at that.  I didn't want to write first-person.  I have problems with certain types of historical fiction written in this POV - epistolary can work, but often times the journal concept ends up seeming *entirely* too modern, and tends to annoy me.

"Ax"'s early formation, in first-person, annoyed me.  It didn't seem to fall prey to confessional preciousness really, but I resisted.  For as long as I could - maybe as long as the first *year* of the writing and research - I held out the caveat, for the work, that it could still change its clothes.

Clovis, to be sure, did NOT behave with me as some characters to, to writers, importuning a form upon me, existing in some insistently first-person way.  We were never so intimate, he and I (and, in fact, the immediacy of intimacy with the character's experience is one of those things I am working on now) - and, frankly (har - see what i did there ... ?) I would never presume upon the King.  I'm not that interpersonal with my characters anyway - they are characters, not relationships I conduct in life itself - and have a healthy respect for them as existing outside me-me-me-me-me.  They have to be more than I.  To be sure, an ancient King of the Franks must be significantly more.

Anyway, so the first person thing - born of this accidental sentence which happened to be first-person, and which was edited out literally YEARS ago - was something I tried to give enough leeway to, for some time, to allow the novel to escape such close clutches.  By the time I got beyond the thick of research and more into the thick of real writing, the commitment felt right, and I came to love it.  (Another post:  the dynamic and freedom of close third-person POV, and how that feels good too.)

So it's a funny thing that, thanks to Leila, and thanks to the changed position of my opening and intro ...

That old sentence might actually return.

I've given it the chance to sit at the top of the novel again, see how it fits, see how it likes it there - see if it *works* there.

I'm back up to the top of that page, the scan and the curve of this momentum being so very long now.  I've just turned over the leaf.  Some invisible, infinitesimal scan has echoed the one going on for years now, and my eye has come to rest at the top.  And here is that sentence again.

"I became King of Toxandria in my sixteenth year, after the death of my father, Childeric the foederatus."

Silly Strings

Okay, this was just about the funniest combo of search strings for my blog I have ever seen.  Not showing, though I can see from the URLs it was in there too?  "What do Klingons dream about?", for which  query I have become a major (hah) hitter.  But here's the rest:

Y'all thought I was kidding when I said I contain multitudes ...

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Nine Years - What a Surprise

Open Letter to Mr. X ...

You remember that night?

Tonight, down here, it was not cold - and drenchingly wet.  THAT night, it was arid-dry, but it was so cold.

Nine years.  You must really be something!

Giving New Meaning to "Migration Period"

With thanks to my brother, here's a good one - it actually gibes with a lot of fiction I have read about these very generals, too, and it touches, too, on some of the later republican generals' innovative approaches to fielding (and - later - rewarding) massive forces.

Dad! Was That You?

I mean Clovis' dad, of course.  Childeric was rather a randy one.  Can't picture him as slim or young as this guy, but that's my own mindpic to manage or ignore.

If you stay tuned, a few mini-documentaries about Merovech (a generation back) and Clovis (you-know-who) follow, in a fairly strained non-order.  The overall quality isn't overwhelming, but if you ever need a teeny tiny bite of popularly accepted history these'll fill up the pause while America's Next Top Model is taking an ad break.

It's Like Laundry

Year end preparation is one of those jobs like carrying a particularly large load of dirty laundry to the basement.  Even if you use a big sheet and gather it all up inside, socks and underwear fall out the side, and you end up running back up the stairs to retrieve this lost item or that - and even still, at the end of the whites, you're guaranteed to find one bit left somewhere.  It will come clean in the jeans load, or the towel load, but you get a bit disgusted if something strays so far you don't find it till it's time to wash the towels you use on the dog's bed, or the throw rugs from the bathroom and hallway.  Real clothes just don't go in that cycle.  And you don't want to leave anyone's socks behind.

Over the years, I've learned that what works for me is to do a job at the macro level and then return to go over details, go over details, go over details and finally, only then, hit "go" on whatever it is.  What this does for me is to turn me into an expert.  Enough repetition over a structure, and I come to know it really well.  This is similar to the way I wrote the novel - with the exception that, really, by the time I had completed the manuscript, I still could never hope to know it so fully.

Timekeeping is an easy job.  Umpteen people and my share of stray socks - but it is so concrete it's not hard to familiarize myself with its mechanism.  I have it down to a science by the time I am done, the best method for me is running smoothly; even better, I can find detail and answer questions anyone might have pretty efficiently.

Writing a novel, though ... as much as I love it in the moment of creativity, the substance is so completely different.  In its way, a novel ISN'T substance, at all.  Sure, timekeeping is just bytes behind the scenes and pixels on my monitor - but chapters, scenes, individual phrases are even more slippery stuff.  They come, someday, to occupy fonts and pixels of their own; they may even (even in the judgment of an *author* - though this may be rare!) be "finished", that rarest of states, perhaps not even the goal of anyone pouring them out.

I can remember writing scenes - and yet, reading them is a revelation to me.  I do not recognize the words, their shape and rhythm and beauties - even when I know my greatest need in putting them down is to heed their rhythms, to form their shapes.  To hope for beauty, yes.  The reason I am so able to love my own work is that it is that, in a lot of ways - I don't know it.  It is fresh for me, and not strictly because I am just THAT energized by it and in love with the story I want to tell.  It's because, for me, even as intimate as I am with the point of creation, I am somehow remote as well.  This remoteness allows me to move into the POV of a character with whom I have nothing in common, on whom I could never legitimately lay claim to real familiarity.  It allows me to kill the darlings without horror nor anguish.  I love editing, I like the reduction and brush-clearing of revision.  Last night, late as I started and little as I did, I know that what I did do was minutely, fundamentally important.  I clipped the research without regret, because as much as I like the story it had to tell:  it was not a part of the story at HAND.  I found passivity and turned it active; I noticed a couple sentences that could be made more immediate.  It's small stuff - and it's mostly cutting - but it serves something I agreed to stewardship of a long time ago.

Apparently, I really meant it.  I know how to commit.

I'm actually no less committed to the laundry - or to my job, even admitting that sometimes I too am capable of leaving a loose end.  My days are spent making sure OTHER people's days can be spent on other things.  I take great pride in how good I have become at this, and frankly enjoy the hell out of my work.  It doesn't bore me.  It's not beneath me.  I'm wildly necessary, and fully appreciated.  Who could ask for more?


It occurs to me regularly that the work of an author - querying, editing, maintaining some kind of visibility online, networking, even the shilling, to a degree - is remarkably well suited to the skills I've honed in my job.  I wonder sometimes what the proportion of working novelists is who have worked administratively at some point - heh.  For me, the marriage is almost inconceivably blissful.  And yet - who thinks of fancy novelists and boring old admins in the same breath ... ?

Ah but that is me.  I love my contradictions.  I contain MULTITUDES.  Right down to the hideous platitudes.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Wayward Brainmeats

Sometimes even *I* am annoyed by the obstinately whimsical way my brain works.  Because it got to the bit about Ross Perot and just stayed there and got all gobbed and smacked - and this story is *far* more interesting than the lost mean uncle of the Purdue chicken family.


Twitter does allow you to indulge in a bit of controlled market support (Chanello's, Roma Ristorante) with the luxury of MINIMALISM in messaging.  I do *not* intend to focus on shilling, but this actually isn't a bad little way to keep up with local businesses I like to see thriving.  (Hey, Mediterranean Bakery and Arianna's - your turn!)

Also I've found several wonderful old friends I do not get to see, and can reach out to them without all the security risks of FaceBook.  So that's good.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Testy and Testing

Kicking and Screaming

I come to the twentieth century with peaceful intent, but not "in peace" - per my luddite and contrarian ways, I am dragging myself to all this stuff.  Twitter is done, and I do think the Google alerts in my name and the novel's title are good ideas with little security risk for me.  The video, apparently, will have to wait (YouTube has so far taken something like 45 minutes to download about two thirds of a clip I think is less than one minute long; ridiculous, and not my network's problem - everything else is working dandy, and without this kind of slowness).  But at least the attempts are made.

So here I sit, spending the last of my weekend?  Working.  And tomorrow - work that gets paid.  Rock on.

Almost Depressingly Easy

I can remember the days when starting anything new on Teh Intarwebs took some time (and commitment) - starting a blog, even FaceBook take a few minutes.  Twitter takes scarcely any effort at all.  So here we go.  Let's see how this turns out ...

Friday, November 11, 2011

Isn't It Ironic - Don'tcha Think?

Okay, so I will NOT link the song referenced in this post's title, out of sensitivity both for my readers - and, yeah, the English language.  Heh.

Still, it did leap nimbly to mind just now, when - as part of my attempt to be open minded, and a good steward of my work, I finally got around to deciding to research Twitter a little bit.

...we came across the word 'twitter', and it was just perfect. The definition was 'a short burst of inconsequential information,' and 'chirps from birds'. And that's exactly what the product was.
– Jack Dorsey

First sentence I see on Wikipedia.  I am not making this up.

I will keep trying to understand the point of the ultimate in content-less content, and just how many risks are attached to this form of social networking (I still FLATLY refuse to whore out my personal life, no matter their flimsy "assurances" - and unending *apologies* for errors - regarding security, to FaceBook).  But, I am sorry - this just made me laugh.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Anybody Who Can Make Me Laugh Today Wins the Prize

I can see my idea to become addicted is going to turn out well.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Love Never Dies

I stole my headline (minus the "true" - I'm making an Apoptygma Berzerk reference) from HFO, where I found this link, but honestly, this seems less romantic to me than just sort of fascinating.  I am intrigued by the story, and the unknowable - but not actually goopy about how nifty it is to die with a lover.  I just want to be holding hands when I'm an old lady.  My corpse I'll probably have 'em burn or something.  (As mom says, after all - I'm single and childless, and there's nobody who'll ever want to come to see me after I'm dead.  Thanks again, mom.  Heh.)

I Make'd It Myself


Fast becoming one of my favorite blogs, Jeff's got some quite wonderful pics and observations here.  (Big Bro?  I am looking at you - go to the link!)  Plus - humor, sci-fi, and medievalism.  How's it going to get better than that?

Monday, November 7, 2011

Pattern Patination

One of the things I enjoyed in researching was learning about those things I will never - can never even hope to - have.  Among these things is the beauty and fascinating craftsmanship of swords.  I can't really qualify as a full on medieval geek with Ren Faire cred, but I'm enough of a history nerd, and enough of an admirer of genuine technical mastery of the making of ... almost anything ... that pattern welding stays with me as a standard of beauty.  And, yeah, I remember that line in "Highlander" where Brenda goes breathless about "the steel in the blade folded two hundred times!"  Heh.

X had to endure my gushing about a PBS special about two years ago, exhorting him to watch the show about pattern welded steel in Japanese katanas.  The katana is of course a modern treasure, almost mystical in its appeal to Japanophiles, but it is also a living example of an art which has lost none of its power in a millennium and a half.

Even ancient and physically degraded pattern welding asserts both its artistry and the sweat and pride of its makers in a way few artifacts can demonstrate.  It is astoundingly beautiful:

Moreover, it is one of those pieces of human handiwork in which the work is minutely, manifestly visible.

The passion it takes to bend steel to your vision is nothing trivial in 2011 - but thinking back a thousand years, fifteen hundred - the mastery asserts itself almost as much *because* of any erosion caused by time as because of the will and the skill which wrought this blade ...

And, oddly enough, a part of the joy of this magnificence is its absolute unattainability.  Yes, steel is still manipulated in this manner.  But the magic of Clovis' blade, the glow of the material, the weeks, the months, the years that go into something this beautiful are something I can never possess, and I find that wondrous.  I can't hold time in my hands any more than I can really say I captured a king in my words, but the joy is in admiring the work almost because it is impossible for me to grasp.  I can't grasp the work itself, I have earned to right to grasp a hilt.  But I adore the artifacts.


Pattern welding steel is a process beginning in the depths of the Earth itself, where those who understand it best know how to find the purest metals for their work.  It takes a long time to purify and prepare the steel, and before a blade can even be begun, the work has been going on for ages.

The fold is made ... the steel is tempered - with sensitivity to cooling differentials, with an intense eye to where the work will end, what the watery waves, the undulating sinuous lines of solidity will become.  Evoking both the hardest, keenest weapon -and yet looking like fluid, smoke, rippling oil, a pattern welded sword is a thing of ultimate human accomplishment.  I will never in my life produce anything so marvelous.  Lord, I love admiring the work of those who can ... DO.  Something so profound.  Concrete - yet never so simple as "basic".  Elemental, but inspired.

The finished thing is an emblem of beauty, even power - but the power lies in those who can make something like this.

Hands which bring food out of the ground.

Hands which can carve the image of life out of wood.

Hands which paint pictures or bring from imagination unimagined visions of beauty or truth.

I am endlessly intrigued, and awed, by genuine creation like this.  I can write, and am proud of that - there are those, I know, who find wonder in literature.  But nothing I can ever do is so amazing as actually making something.  Choosing a font, turning a phrase - inconsequential next to the Lathe of Heaven.  Heh.  Or the lathe of human hand-making.

I studied everything from ancient breeds of horses, to brick making, to textiles and all manner of design, to rebuild the world of Clovis.  Goldsmithing, pottery, decoration - stone, wood, personal adornment, spiritual artifacts.  Childeric's bees ...

Still, pattern welded steel glows, in my mind, as something almost inconceivably special.  So find "the" special if you can.  Immerse yourself in something unattainable.

Sunday, November 6, 2011


Word count reduction in the space of a single cut (thank you, Leila!):  from 168.9K to 155.5K.

Now to get her down another forty or so thousand words or so.

Learning New Things Every Day ...

For all the research I did for Ax, I am embarrassed to note I don't think I ever realized St. Clotilde is the patron saint of adopted children.  A *number* of people I love very dearly indeed are adopted, so this is particularly interesting to me.  Huh.

Video Game Aesthetics

Some who know me well are aware that one of the people I am closest to in the world happens to be a big old video game nerd, with a regular legit gig reviewing 'em, and a major interest in playing them.  He can discuss merits far more sophisticated than 'thangs git blowed up rill good' - and knows enough about the history of technology, art, music, and video gaming equipment and platforms not only to build his own custom, but to speak intelligently about the phenomenon.

Me, I never so much as played an actual arcade version of PacMan.  I think we borrowed a neighbor's Atari briefly in about 1979, so I probably have half an hour's worth of Pong under my belt.  But I am in no way a reasonable critic.

I am, however, a competent writer, and a smart enough consumer of entertainment to feel my opinions have at least some weight. And so I will venture to make this post.

With all my recent observations of histfic in theaters, what I haven't explicated is what these films are all starting to look like.  Which is:  video games.

I may not play them, but it would be the rare bird indeed, in our cultural environment, who couldn't identify some of the signifiers of the current aesthetic of games, and recognize that the division between filmic design and game design has been merging for a fairly long time now.  It's hardly new, and I'm not pretending to post news here, but the extent to which games have come to influence the look of films - and the content - has become almost startling.

It's not a loss, as such.  MGM's old historical epics are hardly the stuff of art, as much as I do love them.

But I did grow up on a certain sort of sepia-toned expectation, a mindset I don't feel much need to change, wherein historical fiction = tea-washed images of a certain brand of ponderousness we read as either romance  or majesty, depending on the plotline.  Even CGI didn't take that away ... for a while.

Historical Drama, we have been taught, looks like this ...


Historical fiction - one of the reasons I have always loved it - has a seductive promise about it.  Even a story centered on evil looks inviting.  This comely, stylized persuasion away from my every day is, for me, the very archetype of storytelling.  "Once upon a time."

In the context of female leads in particular, though, historical fiction is looking more and more every month like video game box covers.

This isn't a bad thing per se.  But CGI is making things look so much busier - nothing seems left, in these worlds, not production designed ... nor computer designed ... to within an inch of WSD.  The color saturation of the 50s pictures has given way to an anime look right down to the way everything appears limned with cartoon black lines, to the way everything in a frame, in every image, seems to exist emphatically on its own, making the picture seem too full.  CG's capacity for detail can lead to a visual clutter, and you get in cinematography the same thing fashion has come to in the past 15 years or so.  It's all too much.  "Too many notes, Herr Mozart."

The trend isn't one I can fairly lay value judgments on, but the trends in storytelling, going along with these aesthetics, seem to me discouraging.  The arc for female leads, particularly, has gone off the rails - nothing may be realistic; not a figure, not a piece of wardrobe, and least of all a character's basis in reality.  Women have, in film as in gaming and in fanfic, become automatons.

There will be legions who would shout me down (if only I had the readership) but Ass Kicking Female Leads do not strike me as an excellent development.  It's still required that these images onscreen must be pneumatic or unrealistically willowy - the bodies of perfect movie star(let)s, not the flesh of actual womanhood.  Cup sizes may somewhat have diminished, since this brand of AKFL emerged from the venues attended by fanboys alone, and fantasy literature has allowed female authors success, but their entry into the realm of other genres and other media has made even the painful Mary-Sue-dom of proto-feminist characters cast in historical settings (and, all too often, extremely attractively corseted) seem dead-on in terms of verisimilitude.

The new breed of histfic in theaters has the appearance of focusing on sound and fury, and signifying nothing.  Now, I have not seen certain of these productions, to be honest.

But part of the reason for this is that the ideas seem so stripped down.  The urge to make histfic sellable redefines "EXCITING", unfortunately, as "loud, busy sensory overload" ... and story seems to be a thing to be avoided.

This is why I never got into video games.

I know story has become much more important over the years.  But, at the end of the day, when even a gamer wants to be told a story, a BOOK (or a movie) comes closer to the idea of the concept; a game - even with great actors voicing it, great art directors making it look "painterly", and people who do not, I believe, find as wide a literary readership for their scripts as do, still, actual novelists - isn't the object we turn to for story, for plot, for literature.  Art - yes.  But this particular type of it - is not the first point of contact for storytelling.  There can't be time to absorb a story - a well-drawn *character* - when it is necessary to fight, to kill, to MOVE your own way from screen to screen.

And movies are starting to move like that.  To feel the same way.

The *reason* I haven't seen Downey's Holmes, nor will see the new Musketeers, nor Anonymous (yes, apart from the heresy it entails - heh) is that they look to me like video games.  And I don't play video games.  I find it impossible to be drawn into video games, because what they expect of me is alien to my mind's understanding of the concept of entertainment.  I want to see characters and motivations, and the action films in particular taking their cue from VG aesthetics appear to reduce the the latter to "GIT 'em all" and the former to cardboard cutouts of the most depressing non-charisma.  I say "appear" because, obviously, I know I am not without bias.  But the marketing of these films is designed to demonstrate their content - and nothing I have seen in the marketing as yet has indicated any premium placed on writing at all; on character, development, or motivation.  These are movies which don't want me as a viewer - so I feel little guilt not signing on to be one, nor even in judging them based on what I have had put before me to judge.

It's hard for me to say I am deeply dismayed by the development.  I know that movies now are not less realistic than they were in the Brynner days above.  I know they're not even less *artistic*, as such.  It's just that the art, now, is not of a type I find appealing.


Like any other would be debut author, I have indulged in casturbation.  Of course I have.  I don't *believe* in Hollywood coming a-calling.  But I believe in my work - and I know it is entertaining.  I do find it possible to imagine its being optioned for another medium.  It may almost be necessary for an aspirant to have dreams like this - their being realistic being beside the point in a way.  Yeah, it gets in the way for some (see also:  that link), but we all have to have some goals and hopes, and for me this one doesn't distort the work at hand nor what I hope/expect to get out of it.  So what I have to say above carries the imaginary and extraneous fear of "what if this could ever be my work?" ... certainly something centering on battles, power, featuring a strong female lead, and featuring all the lovely lovely action of a barbarian monarch's forging of a(n) (in)famous dynasty could lend itself to a whole buncha medieval-geek gaming style cinematic excess.  Even I don't claim my work is burdened with artistic depth.  It's good story telling.

But that is the point.

It is a story.  It's a ripping yarn.  But without its characters ... it would be *less*, to me.

60 Pages of Ugly Fat

I am so HUGELY grateful to Leila right now - she showed me where Ax REALLY begins.  It's a beautiful thing having writing partnerships you can trust, and it's an even better one when a fairly profound piece of critique means you can slice off SIXTY PAGES of a manuscript without extreme issues with continuity.  At this moment, The Ax and the Vase opens in 481 AD, at the point where Clovis' father, Childeric, is fighting beside Odovakar  at Angers - a setpiece where Clovis draws (and loses) his first blood.

Leila, though, tells me in reading the manuscript, where her excitement truly came into play.  And it makes sense: the story of a king doesn't start with his first battle.  It starts - obviously - at his crowning.  This is the point at which Clovis becomes CLOVIS - becomes Clovis I.  The point at which he becomes king.  This novel is about the king - not the prince.

This novel begins, not with the setpiece of a battle - a battle which, it must be pointed out, is in fact a minor one even in the career of a then-obscure Frankish scion of minor royalty not even yet proved - but with the point at which this character gains his power.  And begins to exert it.

Thank you again, Leila.  And, yep - I am excited to start carving!