Friday, April 26, 2013

Women Entombed

One of my most useful sources when researching The Ax and the Vase were archaeological findings from Frankish tombs (the artifactual information from these was invaluable), individual graves, and cemetery sites. Today, let's take a look at the recent U.K. discovery of a Beaker burial - the grave of a woman of status dating to four and a half millennia ago.  Her status is evident, and extremely illuminating.  The BBC's article is here, and a good blog post with even more images is here.

Interesting points to consider:  CEMEX Corporation's actions and role in this excavation ...

Another site, this time revisiting France (see a previous post on the Gaulish find of women buried with warriors here).  This piece is somewhat more in-depth and discusses both burial practices and combat in Celtic culture of the time.  I like the part where "The Barbarian image ... has been dispelled by historical research."  Heh.

(Pedantic notes - I'm fairly sure that the woman's HIP was not decorated with a comb-like stamp - and that she was 35 years old, not 35-years-old, which construction is usually used in saying "a five-year-old" etc.  Surprisingly slipshod editing, BBC!)

Thursday, April 25, 2013

The Devil's ... Question

Should we be concerned that that last post was #1666 ... ?


Star Trek fans have for decades now enjoyed pointing out how the technologies portrayed on the show have come through into the real world - the shapes of computer interfaces, and other such gee-whiz dream tech not only from the original series but on into later generations.  Smithsonian online has shown us, now, perhaps the beginnings of something like replication.  It's exciting, but there is a factor in this development with a certain amount of squick-inducing concern, too.  A "fully functioning" 4-millimeter liver begs ... an awful lot more questions than the instant materialization of synthesized "Tea, Earl Grey, hot."


What to think of this prospect?  What do you think?

Monday, April 22, 2013

Bathing Beauties

Given the occasional focus at this blog on cleanliness and the history of beauty, hygeine, and bathing and soap themselves, it is long overdue to include a selection of art on the subject.  Courtesy of Madame Isis, we can now peek at some bathing beauties - and their methods of ablution (from immersion to bidet to foot washing to what may have been, as we sometimes phrase it, the "whore's bath") from the 17th century.  Some of these are beautiful!

Beautiful Cover

The Caustic Cover Critic brings us the lushly beautiful Russian peacock.

That Which We Call A Weed ...

... had other names - and uses - in times when plants meant more to us.  The History Girls have some very interesting info about weeds, weeders, and tools, in beds and in large crops.  Also some musing on how cultivating plants can be like writing, and a parting shot on culture itself.

Archaeological sites unearthing soil previously covered to some depth have suddenly bloomed with ancient varieties of plant that have lain dormant for as much as 2000 years – truly the living past.

(And we have a word on THAT - definitely *not* a weed, but a Judean date palm - here.)

Pitty Penny - the Carolina Dog

Having fallen quite winsomely in love with her yard now that it's fenced in, Penny has begun exhibiting another apparently defining Carolina Dog behavior, the digging of small, shallow holes.  Her features are a giveaway, especially that crook or whiplash tail - but her behavior is telling on her too.  And I think more and more about the implications of her amazing breed.  In fact - she's something more elemental than the mere human-conceived idea of "breed" - she is a dog, unadorned.  She is both beyond my reach in those arbitrary traits humans came to feel it necessary to manipulate - and yet so utterly in synch with me as another species, it's all the more amazing she *wasn't* custom-made to adhere to artificial/practical preferences.

(Perhaps obviously) I'm not one of those people who get wrapped up in breeding.  The particulars of her features aren't deal-breakers for me, and I didn't pick her based on anything she might have "been" in that context.  Finding out was, indeed, a complete accident.

I am, however, the sort of person quite fascinated by the anthropology and genealogy of the relationship between humans and canines - and, very interestingly indeed, Penelope is part of a breed the study of which may be shedding light on the depth into history our relationship goes.  It's possible the dog was domesticated as far back as 100,000 years.  We have thought as little as one *tenth* that time frame might encompass the human-canine bond; the idea it's such an astonishingly long relationship is exciting.  (Plus, the scientist who put forth evidence of this theory, Robert Wayne of UCLA, has a name I happen to like.)  It looks like we have worked with dogs longer than we've worked the earth itself, in the sense of recognizable agriculture.  An intriguing, startling idea.  This is the one factor which could someday contribute to my having Pen genetically tested; though her ancestral provenance seems pretty darn clear indeed.  (Note:  Carolina dogs were not part of Wayne's research; their fascination lies in their history on this continent, and the relationships to dogs on the other side of the land bridge, such as Korea's chindo-kae and the Australian dingo, which got Dr. Brisbin thinking about the American "yaller dog" in the first place.)

Even the breeding patterns of the Carolina are unlike most modern domesticated dogs, and may reflect high frequency and quantity breeding in the wild, and even may reflect the availability of prey in the wild.  The digging of the little pits (supposed to take place only in autumn - which Penelope had to wait for, not having a yard until this spring - and largely characteristic of the female Carolina) has as yet no explanation - but shoot.  Dogs dig.  They can hear and see a thousand things you and I can't; so for us who don't speak puppy so well to figure out their whys and wherefores will take some time.  The Carolina's hunting patterns are unique as well, and I can almost see in Pen's simple mannerisms some of what is described (killing a snake by whip-like movements - she is nothing if not whippy).

Also exciting are the facts of these dogs' survival, so unadulterated, and the geography that has preserved their position at the base of the genetic tree of canine development.  Though their discovery has been somewhat south of my own neck of the woods, there is at least a glancing sense that I came from the same earth she did.  Even if she has been native to it for many millenia longer than my line.  If I serve her well, maybe I can serve my piece of the earth with some responsibility (all the while letting her dig snout-holes in her piece of my piece ...).

All dogs are, of course, part of an age-old line linking us as species - but to think that my little girl is family with the oldest breeds in America is just neat to me.  She's a beauty and a dear, and needs no terms but her own to earn my most sickeningly sincere devotion - but she may also be a part of an eight thousand year American lineage is too much for this history/anthropology/archaeology/DOG nerd to bear without a little more peeking.

One of the things that captures my imagination, about the possibilities (likelihoods) of Pen's breeding, is that her behavior seems to be so typical of what is described in certain aspects (her shyness, her snout-holes, even her barking patterns and ability to bond while still being somehow wild) is that her more general demeanor begins to beg questions in my mind.  Perhaps the most distinctive aspect of her personality is that the fulcrum of all her behavior is based on me.  Her need to please the alpha - and her fundamental recognition of me as such - tempers every action.  She's excitable, to be sure; but, even at her most wriggly and easily distractable, she quite literally, physically looks to me.  She's not always easy to guide, but the speed with which she's come from complete insecurity to a pretty sophisticated role within our little motley pack is dizzying.  The day she first came home, she could have submitted to the cat as easily as to me as her alpha - but today she responds to me physically, verbally, and indeed emotionally.  Her dependence upon me is firm, and she expects my protection and my guidance.  She responds now to signs alone for commands - it has become amazingly easy to get her to sit, down, and even to stay (this last one is the command most easily broken by distractions, but as she grows older I have no doubt she'll get better) and now she is learning the key command of "back."  She obeys in varying contexts, and with either hand I use.

The speculation I go to, off this, is how intense the communication can be.  If we have communicated with animals like her for eight thousand years, and she is a modern manifestation of a breed not much altered by human interference - how old is this communication, this obedience, which is so key to the specie-al relationship between human beings and these amazing companions?  If they have been domesticated since before her own ancient line ever began, how innate is this dynamic?  With her, it seems to be deeply hard-wired.  I've never seen a dog so palpably driven by this guidance.  Penny is brilliantly smart, but there is something beyond intelligence in the imperative between us, it is a balance of such symbiosis as I have literally never encountered before.  I've loved every animal I was ever blessed to live with; everyone here who's read any entry older than this past year knows how deeply I wanted to be *good enough* for Sweet Sid, and how much my cats have all meant to me, in their beautiful and different ways.  Even among bonds such as these, the literal *working* relationship I have with Penelope is something special.  She awes me in a way I haven't experienced - simply because I never worked so hard *myself* to communicate with any other animal.  Not in ways which accomplished such practical outcomes.  My Pen is remarkable even among my remarkable puppy (and kitty) loves.

Fact sheet on Carolina dogs.

Smithsonian Magazine with a brief word on Carolinas.

Nat Geo on the Carolina.

Friday, April 19, 2013

Roman Cosmetic - Foundation Cream

Finally tonight (I really need to stop posting, even I know today has been pretty prolific - not to say excessive), a look at an older find (in terms of news - this dates to 2004), though similar in era.  Take a look at the cosmetic cream Roman women once used to whiten their faces.  Interesting!


(Don't forget to look at the questionable lethality of lead in makeup, too.)

Don't Read This If You're Squeamish (especially about eyes ...)

But if you're interested in medical history and the ways we coped with health issues - in this case, in the Roman imperial period, specifically in Britain, this is a good read.  (They can *not* have enough fun with archaeology these days, those Brits.)  Also interesting is the link within this article, about ancient medicinal tablets - fascinating!

In a way, it makes a nice companion piece to Kim Rendfield's post about the oldest cookbook ever found.  It's actually a collection of recipes geared toward their healthful and curative benefits.

Teh Funnay on Teh Intarwebs

The Onion does seem to have some enthusiasm for the medieval period - check out "If I could Live in Any Decade, It Would Definitely Be the 960s."  Edgar the Peacable.  It was a simpler time.

And check out, too, the meme that would not conform, man.

(Note - the Onion article does misplace certain fashions by quite the whack of centuries, and perpuetuates the old "everyone was dirty" dirge, but as with my feminism my history-geek-dom allows for a certain amount of WSD for humor.)

Unpublished Author "A Bona Fide Discovery" ...

... and a prize winner, to boot.

I have tons in common with this author - in that I'm unpublished and I wrote a book.

Ah, well.  I had a lot in common with him!

Award Winning Novels and Popular Centuries

Day Al Mohamed has posted a striking infographic and some thoughts about what it takes to win the literary day these days.

... and Sarah Johnson at HNS (Hisorical Novel Society, y'all) tells us the most popular centuries in histfic right now.  This is very interesting to me - though my period doesn't seem to be burning it up these days.

The Ax and the Vase will change all that, of course.

Images of Life in Springtime

More photos, this time beauties in the Blue Ridge, at Mojourner Truth.  I thought the magnolia was lovely - but the hawthorn is something even more.

The Medieval Survivors of Hurricane Sandy

Jeff Sypek has some great, very interesting images - not of the destruction, but of the Vikings, the castles, the gargoyles, and beautiful architecture still standing.  Great post, take a look, it's a nice variety.

"You Wrote a Book?"

My family recently had the pleasure of some together-time, courtesy of a few airline tickets and a few beautiful spring days.  I got to spend an afternoon with my brother, had the older niece over for a night, did a lot of family things, and they were busy the whole time they were visiting.  It was really lovely, and a lot of friends and family got to see them, which was fun.

Younger niece, let's call her "Snaps" (she is a Ginger, and she poses for the "occasional" imaginary photograph), has been a writer since before she was functionally literate.  She and I were talking one day, and I said something about my novel.  Though my work is part of the family furniture, its not having been published, a few thousand miles between us, and my having a job - and two eminently adorable PETS - means that my being a writer is not the prominent identity nor face of Aunt Diane among us.  It's that table in the foyer, not the couch we all sit on every day.

So when Snaps learned that someone old had done her thing before she got to it, I got a certain suspicious face.  "You wrote a book?" she asked, her face doing this ... thing.  It wasn't emotionally deep, but to an experienced broad such as myself the implications of her expression were amazingly clear.  Writing is hers.  I'd taken something, I was stepping on her lines.  And I am too much a given to go around surprising her like that.

Of course, Aunt Diane writes about incredibly boring old stuff Snaps need never read in her life if she doesn't want to.  I can't imagine much of anyone related to me getting excited about "The Ax and the Vase" though I did indeed share the MSS with my brother, Snaps' dad.  He is himself a writer who sometimes makes me ache with envy, but makes me no less happy with my own work, if that's possible.

Still, I felt a little bad, invading something so unique to Snaps.  I think I told her I wrote about the first king of France - enough to indicate to her I wasn't really an interloper; maybe that this is something in our ancestral soup.  She forgot about it pretty much instantly, anyway.

I didn't, though.  That's the way a writer's head works.  That's another shred in the giant garbage dump of my mind from which I scavenge components to build characters.  I wonder what flotsam in her family has begun her own little store of detritus, which may become her own maginficent dump over the years ...

Blowin' In the Wind

Do you know the way, if it is very cold and dry, at the beginning of a snowfall, the snow swirls and blows across roads or flat spaces, low on the ground but yet free of it?  The way sand sometimes does that, skittering dry across harder packed beach, on a windy day, curling around your feet?

Saw pollen do that today.  I'm not sure I've ever seen that before.  It's a wonder I'm not miserable with headaches, but I am incredibly grateful.

Pet Post

It's been a while since I went on a bit about the pets; probably a sign that we've grown accustomed to one another and the frustration, confusion, and happy wonder of new pets is giving way.  I am still fascinated by Gossamer and Penelope both, but far less confounded than was the case in our first few months together (particularly, it must be said, with Pen).

Gossy Mossy Poss-Foss is still quite the loverboy, still a soft and innately human-friendly kit, and I think he may have reached something like his full size now.  It's possible he's a good sized cat, but he is FAR smaller than my previous boys, and I like his (relative?) littleness.  I still call him Scoopy; he's certainly small enough to pick up any time, and Pen has LONG since left that possibility behind.  She was barely pick-up-able when I adopted her, and that was at least ten pounds ago; 45 pounds at her last weighing, and a stunningly muscular girl, she's too much dog for scooping (at least for me).

She shows other physical signs of maturation, too.  Her once bubblegum-pink tum has turned almost black.  This may be a canine indicator of sexual viability, I don't know, but it looks "older" to me in some ineffable way.  With her gains in strength, the tuck at her belly is less pronounced, but I will never have an overweight dog.  My dad said to me before he died, I should not let Siddy get fat, not feed her too much.  She stayed healthy for almost fourteen years, so I think I lived up to his exhortation.  Pen, I hope, stands to get as good a run.

RIP Bebe'

Sidney had a great ruff of a neck, thick with soft, loose skin and the deepest fur anywhere on her body.  Her chest was deep, too, and one of my favorite places to pet her.  This was where she was white, the four-quarter whorl where all her coat came together from four directions.  She was warm on her chest, very thick.

As thick as Pen-Pen is getting with her growth, she'll never have Siddy's barrel chest - nor that deep, powerful bark.  Her voice is more piercing, though I will say she's not prone to shouting with it a great deal more than Sid.  In this part of her body, she's positively skinny - and even her fur stays short at her neck, so she's not the great, soft thing to wrap your arms around Siddy was.  She's a funny combination of rather loose skin (I love taking the wrinkles on the top of her head in my hand) but relatively trim construction, in that her skin, though loose, doesn't feel "thick" in that way Siddy had.  Among other things, she's earned the description Pen-cil neck, because she looks so skinny to eyes accustomed to the Sweet La's big chest and neck.

I've talked before of her great intelligence, and she's borne out expectations since our early and difficult days together.  She will now "sit" and "down" for a hand gesture alone (at least if she is not too wildly distracted; yet she has improved, in that she'll do it now with *some* other things going on).  She can "down" without sitting now, too, and we practice both in lots of circumstances - in the house, in the yard, with others around, on our walks.  Her ability to respond consistently is kind of exciting for me; I'm not the world's great dog trainer, but she is one of the world's great pups, and I know how lucky I am in that.

"I will EAT YOU, Sunshine!"
The BEST photo of Penelope yet

It is still hard on my back keeping her to heel.  Being a puppy, and incredibly enthusiastic - and extremely strong (she is already more powerful proportionately than Siddy, whose top weight was 60 pounds) - there are times she is a pretty intense strain on my back.  With age, I think she'll calm down (just as Siddy did), though I don't think it's possible to ever communicate to her the physical effects on me of her behavior.  After the worst of the back injuries of last year, I think Sid developed some instinct of gentleness - but only to an extent (and I have to say I hope I don't endure an injury like that again, so obvious even a hare-brained puppy can sense it!).  She was also ageing so much last year, she got awfully gentle just with her own body, sometimes so much so it tore my heart to shreds to watch her move.

Penny's first pretend birthday (we don't know for sure, and she may actually be one or a few weeks older than I know) was April Fool's Day.  Happy birthday, baby girl.  May Day will be Goss's day.  Pen was allowed on the couch, and got treats.  Goss, I don't know.  Certainly treats, at least!

Gossamer, for his quiet and entirely adorable part, once he got big enough and coordinated enough to be most typically cat-like, of course takes up a lot less philosophical ink.  Let it be said, he takes up no less of my goopy old heart, nor of my mental real estate.  His ability, though, to just hew to the most ideal possible of feline behavior is incredible.  He's friendly with people (though large numbers of them do keep him *slightly* standoffish - nowhere near the level most people ascribe to cats, though), he's a hell of a cuddle-bug, and he's still every iota as cute and hilarious as he's ever been.  He, Penny, and I have an awfully nice groove going, and I love the bits out of both of them, incessantly.  I find myself on Twitter, having to restrain from constantly posting about the cuteness I must endure, and it's pathetically difficult sometimes.

Pen and I have our "things" - she gets to go outside, training, she and I go for walks, she gets her share of one on one attention - and Goss and I have little silly games we play without her (making the bed every day - he gets to be on furniture and sleep on the bed with me if he wants to) - but Penelope is definitely the jealous one.  Her confidence level in our home is high enough it doesn't seem to actually get to her, but - yeah - she's the LOVE ME baby of the two.

Napping at my feet right now, cool on the hardwood floor on a strangely sultry day for it being so windy (the storm *still* hasn't come, though for three hours it's looked like it wanted/needed to), I watch her feet twitch in a dream.  Her breath is satin-smooth and silent.  Goss was on the Queen's Chair a little while ago, but I would bet is laid out on the dining room table now.

Yes, the cat gets on the counters and on the dining room table.  So-eth it go-eth, mom and anybody else who might look that askance.  This is our house, and I clean it.  If it's cool enough for him, and high enough he can see out the window, he is allowed on the dining table.  :)  It's not like I could stop him anyway.  Some cats you can train.  I've been busy with the dog (and I know better than to leave the butter out for him to play with) ...

Handsome Little Man

Yeah, he's blurry, but I like this pic anyway.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Kim Rendfield - "Did They Have (???) Then?"

Wonderful post from Kim on historical recipes and their ingredients.  Food research is always interesting, and this particular collection of recipes is focused on their curative benefits.  Happy reading - and happy eating, too, for those with a penchant for applied science in their research!

YouTube Nerd Fun

A couple treats for my geeks ...

... and one for that one archaeologist I know ...

Tuesday, April 16, 2013


In the continuing series of posts on drafting a short story, today I haven't gotten beyond the intro still - but have begun to at least blearily take some of the advice from previous comments.  To wit:

She ran from the king's house, weeping.  Cholwig stood in the stockade yard, watching the small building from the deep shadow within the wall.  He waited only a couple of minutes, then went and knocked at the door.
Childeric lay on his back, peering into darkness unbroken by the upset of his partner's departure.  The room still smelled of sex, but the king lay inert - not relaxed.
Cholwig wondered when last Childeric had slept.  He drank sometimes, and sometimes not.  He took women to his bed almost without fail - some dutiful, some hateful, as this night's companion apparently had been - some even eager.  None of it exhausted him, none of it gave him any rest.
He lit the little rush lamp on a tiny table, the only object of furniture in the cramped royal closet other than the bed.  "Dominus, they are angry with you."
Childeric's eyes crept across the wood of the ceiling, pushing toward Cholwig with little purpose and less speed.  "One too many wives?" he drawled, "Or one too many daughters?"

Fire away with feedback - but keep in mind this still doesn't progress beyond the intro piece, and my wee paltry little brain is a bit compromised today.  Oh, and also - this is still a draft, y'all.  Drafts don't get purty in a hurry ...

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Fully Clothed - and Wearing Nichelle Nichols' Shoes ...

... and, I have to report, dead sexy to boot.  Zoe Saldana takes Uhura to the marketing posters with style.

I.  Cannot.  WAIT.

Gaulish Burials - Warriors and Women

Great story on the excavation of a 2300-year-old burial site - enjoy!

Catherine of Aragon's Other Claim to Fame

As the first (and longest-married) wife of King Henry VIII, Catharine of Aragon is widely famed for having fought that monarch to her literal death, for her right to be called Queen of England.  Though her being put aside had epochal ramifications for England, and for her matrimonially-obsessed ex/widower takes its fame for highly understandable reasons, it's a shame that she is often remembered for little *else* - and her accomplishments, even without her husband, were substantial.

Catherine as a young widow, Wikimedia

Take Flodden field.  Henry himself was in France, and Catherine, empowered as regent in the monarch's absence, authorized the response.  The Battle of Flodden Field was a great success for her, and for her beloved adopted homeland.  No less than Thomas Howard restored his family's honor on the field - and this opened the way for favor in the kings eyes which itself had ramifications in history.

For the 500th anniversary, the busy pace of archaeology in the United Kingdom continues apace, with this investigation.  It'll be an interesting story.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Draft Work

The comments at the post about short story drafts have become encouragingly busy, and there is much to work on and think about now.  I'll continue this project and post new excerpts, and the whole piece, as it develops.  Thank you and danke schöen to all who have contributed!

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Archaeological Vandalism

And in America, oh so classily, we have the defacement of a Native American site.  Because white America can never look *quite* enough like a gang of mouth-breathing thugs and idiots.  The article points out that this outrage may be offensive to the living members of these ancestors' tribes.  The fact is, this outrage is offensive on its own terms - to everyone.

Busy British Digging

Archaeology in the U.K. has been hopping for the past six months or a year.  Here we have a Saxon find at Northampton castle.  Also a very good aerial shot from a helicopter.

In Huntingdon, the tiny bones of a stillborn infant, which may date as far back as the 13th century.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Ten Thousand Artifacts

The Beautifully Preserved Pompeii of London, where the earliest foundations date to 47 CE.  Ten thousand artifacts and a lost river.  So many stories in that summary ...  But read the link for the right one.

Is it wrong that the dendochronology analytics have me all atwitter ... ?

"Clothing of the Future - YESTERDAY!"

Blobbing out a bunch of words all over this would be just pointless.


Monday, April 8, 2013

Stumbled on Ashes

I'd forgotten, somehow - just where I had put my dad's dragon box.  This isn't without intent, but it isn't quite with it either.  Dwelling on his ashes wouldn't exactly be dad's idea of a memorial, and he lives throughout this home in other ways.  In me, not the least.

So accidentally discovering where the ashes were today was unexpected.  He was in that cabinet?  I can't even remember when the box went in there.  Huh.

I miss you, dad.  Had a good time with your son and your granddaughters this week.  We love you.  So much.  Thank you again - for being my daddy.

The Legend of the Deadly Cosmetic

... not a great new murder mystery, but a VERY interesting piece on one of the most oft-quoted "facts" (... ?) of popular history.  Did people really die of poisoned makeup?  Did the people we "know" died of it even die of it ... ?  Fantastic work by Madame Isis - WITH a list of excellent sources (linked) too.

Lead is NOT absorbed through the skin ... and there is more.  Take a look and think about the *mercury* - not the lead.  Bravo, Madame!

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Drafting - An Exercise

Yesterday at RavenCon, I joined the writing workshop.  Unable to join the second session today, I still followed through with my homework.

The assignment was to write an intro to a short story, 100 words or fewer ("not 'LESS' - and if you don't know the difference, you should not be here" ... fantastic), providing the reader with a character, a setting, some kind of action, and a hook to lead in to more reading.

Here are my two drafts:

She ran from him at last, weeping.  Childeric rolled onto his back, peering into the darkness, seeing more from memory than with light the long grain of the wooden roof.  His bed was redolent of her.  Of him.  Of all the remembered women, girls.  Those who had wept, and those who cried out with pleasure.
Still he could not sleep.  Even with drink, even slaked with the release before the girl’s desertion.
And the night wore on.
When his eyes were creeping across the wood in morning light, Cholwig came to push the king back to the work of the day.
“Dominus, the men are angry with you.”
“One too many wives? Or one too many daughters?” Childeric drawled.


She ran from the king’s house, weeping.  Cholwig stood in the stockade yard, watching the small building from the deep shadow within the wall.  He waited only a couple of minutes, then went and knocked at the door.
“Your men are angry,” he said without emotion, but an unmistakable warning.
Childreric lay across the bed from which he’d just released the reluctant girl.  “One too many wives?” he drawled, “Or one too many daughters?”
Cholwig fought his frustration with his king, with his lifelong companion.  “It’s all the same.  And they are weary enough to betray you.”
Childeric was curiously sluggish to the alarm.  Yet he would have to leave, if he were to survive.  The question was whether he cared to.

The feedback I received went along these lines:

  • That (of course) introducing a rapist as the central character is a bit of a trick (as you who've been here before will know, that was born of this bit of musing).
  • Tighten or focus the POV - my solution to this, oddly enough, was to remove the omniscient somewhat from Childeric, though he will remain the MC.  When the MC is offputting, distance seemed a wise solution.  This being only draft #2 - and this being only the first 100 words - this too may change.
  • Provide a reason to care for Childeric ... I may not have done this, but I provided a conduit to him in Cholwig's eyes.

The work is nothing anyone would ordinarily ever see.  It's draft, in no way fit for public consumption (even an appealing MC is still not presentable at this stage) - and a lesson in the profundity of editing.  In a simple 100-word snipped the entire piece changed radically, even though the same story is being told.  The action did not change whatsoever, though the timing was altered a little in version 2.

I'd be interested in any kind of comments these snippets might produce.  Content, process, effectiveness, tangents - all are welcome in the comments.  Please don't be shy!

Getting Naked - Costume Research

Thanks to the Two Nerdy History Girls (their brief commentary on the clip is worth reading), take a look at this 1897 film of a woman undressing.


Though it was intended as titillation (the dark powder poured on the model, to stand in for water, is an interesting approach to special effects), the short is a very clear view of the authentic silhouette of the period, and its components.  Recreations of late Victorian style are generally unrecognizeable in film and television productions; the real layers are almost clunky and awkward (as in the garters running over a bunched-up petticoat).  Certainly not the candlelit silk jacquards and sumptuous skirts under perfect nipped waists and absolutely shaved ... everything ... we often see presented as "historic" costuming today.

As a disclaimer, there is brief footage of the woman entirely nude (no frontal, if that arbitrary distinction is particularly offensive to anyone).  By contemporary standards, it was highly shocking stuff, but the clip today is passable as academic and in no way pornographic.

Saturday, April 6, 2013

"Diane L. Major, You Get In This Story Right Now!"

Some years ago, I read a friend's MSS, in which every chapter opened from the point of view of another character, and each one was introduced by their full names.  One chapter, quite fatally, involved that scene that always boils my nerves - the woman spinning off a musing mental exposition of her own character - while looking at herself in the mirror.  And describing her prettiness.


The MSS, I know, got that note more than once, and the author revised - and I hope he's seeing success.  The work was a fascinating slice of WWII history.

Today, in the writing workshop at RavenCon, we were introduced to at least four characters by their full names.  As a writer who refuses to indulge in much description (and who is blessed with characters little burdened by middle or given names - it's not like Clovis was called Clovis Lee Meroviginus), the full-name thing drives me bazoo.

There are ways to provide full names without their showing up in stock dialogue.  Mothers or friends stipulating every formal syllable of a character's full given name, even if she doesn't go by "Henrietta" but only "Henny" - soldiers saluting with full titles - clunking chunks of woodblock exposition, not cooling the drink, just taking up space in the cocktail of one's writing.  Give me ice, or serve it neat.

How do you provide your characters' full names - or do you ?