Friday, January 30, 2015

January 30

Today is the 85th birthday of Gene Hackman, an actor I’ve always enjoyed. Years ago, a friend told me my dad reminded them of him very strongly – and, though there is no physical resemblance in their looks, I’ve always remembered that. Hackman has a gruff voice yet warmth that does indeed have some similarity my dad’s presence.

Today is also someone else’s birthday, someone else who loved my dad.

And in less than two weeks, it’ll be the anniversary of the day he died. It will be twelve years now, and I won’t be obvious about how it all feels. Only this: when we were bereft of him, I came to understand ancestor-veneration, something so many cultures across the world have shared, but which is considered almost unseemly in our own. Only this: I am incapable of not measuring the lives of others against the span My Father was given. Wilt Chamberlain died younger. Gene Hackman is several years older, and still with us.

It’s not a contest. But it’s impossible not to measure, when someone is cut short. Impossible not to think about what the real dad would have been like at seventy-seven. Impossible not to want, still, to talk with him. To think, “I bet if he were alive, I’d have pushed harder on my book; it’d be published by now.”

Gene Hackman is a historical novelist, did you know?


Today is also Friday, it’s pay day, and tomorrow I have a date for Girls’ Night Out. I’m looking forward to a good weekend; even if, right now, I am indulging a very Lush Case of hormones indeed.

Happy Gene Hackman’s birthday (or Charles I’s death day – or Balthild’s day – or whatever you prefer)!

Movie and Chinese?

There is a great freedom in being the sort of twit who just cannot care about some of the Great Big Events of American pop culture. The awards shows, American Idol, whatever the latest blockbuster movie is – even The Latest Technology – I may get to these things sooner or later, but I never will worry about being an early-adopter. Even Trek, though I make a point of seeing on the big screen, I’ve never made any real point about opening days.

The thing about going later in a film’s run is that it’s less of a zoo. And I never leave my home socially nor speak to people like a normal human being, so I don’t tend to get spoilered. So why would I want to get all fashed and roar out with everybody else and their yowling youngsters to Be FIRST?

The thing about not watching the Oscars or the Super Bowl or American Idol’s audition shows is, I’m not up till all hours to see the end, and as often as not (perhaps more?) I don’t even care nor find out Big Surprises the next day either. Sure, I’ll know if the Seahawks win – I have family in the Pacific Northwest, and a certain star on the team comes from my neck of the woods. I will hardly make a point of *avoiding* the news.

But I make little enough of a point of keeping up that the only reason I know the Super Bowl is this weekend (I assume it’s Sunday, but feel free not to update me in the Comments) is that a friend at work shared a recipe for Buffalo chicken dip with me today. I clued in that this might be an indicator. Heh.

Living outside these Major Events is a bit like being Jewish at Christmas – you can go for Chinese food and drive with easy traffic to go take in a flick (though, of course, the Gentile crowd’s going in for the latter more and more). You can watch ANYTHING you want, and know nobody’s going to call and interrupt as you read subtitles or paint your nails or query, for that matter.

(I hope agents don’t consider it un-American to find queries date- and time-stamped during the Super Bowl …)

You can research the state of life at night during the so-called “Dark Ages”, or read about death’s place in life, or even pick up Procopius for some not-so-secret history.

Hey, you can blog! I could do that. I just might, stay tuned.

Monday, January 26, 2015

Buttonwheezeur

The happy little community at Janet Reid’s blog was using, as we do, her beloved friend Felix Buttonweezer in a discussion recently, when the spelling of his name came up. When the dastardly culprit responsbile for adding “Buttonweazer” to the mix published a smiling mea culpa this weekend, I got to thinking (again) about the way many people look at spelling.

An awful lot of us like the idea that spelling is a fixed system, subject to rules, reassuringly constant; yet event he briefest consideration blows this idea to smithereens. Or smithereans, if you like.

History provides copious exemplars of how the Very Silly People of the past used to spell things different ways; Henry VIII’s wives alone give us an almost dizzying array of spelling what was an almost remarkably limited variety of names (see also: Katheryn, Katherine, Catherine, and so on). Many of the most famous names in history, some spellings of which were pasted on without recourse to primary sources generations and even centuries removed from those they are applied to – and, of course, the translation of names from one language to another give us very famous names indeed the original user would never have recognized. Da Vinci is one of the best-known non-names, but take a look at the "à" in "Thomas à Becket" for a real roller coaster ride of interpolation.

Clovis, of course, was called no such thing by his un-sainted mother, and we have Romanization to thank for a charming variety of sobriquets presumed to be easier on the tongue than what may or may not accurately be called the genuine articles.

But this mutability in spelling is decidedly NOT an antique phenomenon, and that I think is where people get caught up short. In my own lifetime, Peking and the Hapsburgs have seen distinctive changes in the West, and I’ve seen names and ages of world figures reinterpreted very commonly by the most supposedly-rigorous journalistic outlets and so on. It’s all to facile to lean on Reliable Sources for correct information, but even then we’re often dealing with translations – and, frankly, a standard of fact-checking that seems to have mutated itself over the past generation or so.


Personally, I have a big tic about getting the spelling and pronunciation of people’s names correct, but I don’t have time to fret much about the many folks who like to spell my Diane with two Ns or insist on tagging that extraneous Bionic S onto the end of my surname. Or call me Debbie or Donna. It’s a matter of respect from my side, especially given the diversity of teams I have worked with over the years (I used to go pretty bazoo when people mispronounced some of our Indian, Pakistani, or French Algerian teammates lazily), but on the receiving end I’ve learned to take whatever name people want to call me, as long as it’s not insulting. (*)

From a youthful sense of grammatical and spelling superiority, I’ve come to a great fascination with the limberness of the English language. Its linguistic variety and beauty don’t stop, for me, when I hear the word I think of as “ask” pronounced “ax” and I only wish I could see the day when minority usage in particular gained the respect it deserves, as a reflection of history and culture and an experience other than my own. (All this said, I still can’t take “noo-cue-lur” and “jool-urry” though.)



(*Nearly a decade ago, I worked with a guy we’ll call George. George was an irascible, incredibly self-assured, talky guy much taken with his own sense of humor and very much an acquired taste, whom I happened to love to bits, irascibility and all. He used to call me “Lady Di” and I let it get to me to the point where I finally told him he had to stop it. His initial response, “BUT I LIKE IT!” was so wonderfully typical of him I grin to this day. And he stopped calling me Lady Di, cold. And I got so I really, really missed it. And still do.

This story is in no way a license for anyone else, ever, to call me Lady Di – any more than it is for anyone other than Mr. X or my mama to call me Di, or anyone but that one Green Beret I used to be friends with to call me Didee, or for anyone but that filmmaker friend to call me Darcey, or my Beloved Ex to call me a Wonderful Bag of Things. All rights to nicknames are non-transferable.)

Blood Runs Cold Again

At my job, I take a special pride in some of the more difficult parts. I don’t take great RELISH in them, but when we get a call from someone who’s mad at something that happened with an employee, I have a fair record of satisfying the disgruntled. I take a very real stake in our reputation, and being part of the operations of our business means I am, as they say, “customer-facing” in a unique way from time to time – when people have a problem with us.

Most of those who call with a complaint, it must be said, aren’t calling in a highly emotional state, and even those who are unhappy tend not to begin by taking things out on me. We’re all in the transaction together, and I do everything I can to explain what I’ll do next, to answer for my company’s reputation, and to take people seriously. And they know they’re not calling the person who upset them, really, so more often than not once I’ve gone through a complaint with someone, they are happier once they hang up than when they called.

Only a very few times has someone called me actually angry. Once it was someone in a contracting position of sorts, mad he couldn’t find our location, and when I (nowhere even near the state in which he was lost) was unable to help him (this was in the very beginning of my tenure, and I was not issued street directions to sixty-three offices when I started here) my vice president told me, “Give him to me. Nobody yells at you.”

Once it was a woman so wildly abusive that once she’d cursed at me violently several times in a row, I actually did hang up. There was exactly nothing I could have done to satisfy her, and as much as I care about our reputation, there was no remediating that (nor, frankly, was that really the problem – just a raving maniac). And I don’t get paid to take instruction on the gruesomely biological suggestions being made.

Today, it was someone who may well have had a very real reason for her upset. But I honestly don’t know. Something in a communication from somewhere in our company offended her, and I am sick about that if we said something that caused hurt or anger. But it was impossible for me to triangulate either the nature of the offense, or its source. I attempted a few reasonable questions, was called a disgrace, and requested to twist a fastener of the non-nail variety off before she hung up.

This was upsetting for me, but as problematic as anything in the exchange was that I could not complete the transaction. I couldn’t help – indeed, was outright prevented, by the petitioner herself.

Far more upsetting, though, was that this woman also abused our receptionist. Not only because our receptionist is very good at her job, AND a nice person for whom I feel loyalty and now some protectiveness, but because I’ve had that job before, and I know all too well what it can be like.

I’m no fan of a holler-er, but I can take that and go home and snoodle my beautiful furbabies and marinate in the magical potion of moral superiority (and I can vent at my brother and/or friends). But holler at someone with whom I share a vested concern for my employer, and someone I LIKE? Bite it, caller, I’m not on your side when you scream like a coward at someone you KNOW cannot respond.

As it was, no matter how much I said, “I want to help you” the woman was the rage-version-of-gleeful in accusing me of being angry with her too.

Um. No. You’re not important enough for me to get upset about lady – until you’ve hung up on me and then I find out you’ve abused my coworker.



The night is rain-into-snow, and I brought home my laptop, though our neck of the woods is not in for the brunt of the big snowstorm on its way to a spectacular pummeling of the Eastern Seaboard. It’s not beyond me to think happy thoughts of sleeping in and enjoying a commute only as long as the distance to my home office, wearing warm, comfortable boots. I’m home and I’m safe now, warm and well-fed with the animules (spelling intentional, yes; a dad-ism, and those are warm too).

That execrable human being can’t get me.

But man did she make my BLOOD RUN COLD for a minute there.

Hoping your Monday was a wonderfully dull day. But, if not, please throw in your own “vent” in the comments!

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Live Long and Puppy

As if Cute Shoes hasn't got me spending enough time on the retail Dark Side, she just turned me on to geek pet art. For those in the know: my birthday's coming!  Hah. (Y'all see why I dig her the mostest?)

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Collection

The History Blog on the scandal of Tut's beard, with special opprobrium for CNN (well earned).

Isis' Wardrobe tells us that Stockholm will be host to a plastic-fantastic bad period costuming extravaganza on August 22. Oh how I wish I could go!

Mojourner shows us the coolest scraper tool I personally have seen in a long time - and it's purple (which is itself an interesting indicator!).

Raise your hand if you had a Kodak! (Or just reminisce in the comments - I had a flip-flash, myself, which for some reason is impossible to find in a Google image search, huh!) Passion of Former Days is such a great vintage-image blog.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Antique Style

His sister Rebecca—tall, erect, with grand lace, in a splendid stiff brocade, and with a fine fan—was certainly five-and-fifty, but still wonderfully fresh, and sometimes had quite a pretty little pink colour—perfectly genuine—in her cheeks; command sat in her eye and energy on her lip—but though it was imperious and restless, there was something provokingly likeable and even pleasant in her face.

How OSUM are the phrases “command sat in her eye and energy on her lip” and “provokingly likeable” … ? This description is as appealing and meaningful 152 years on as it was the moment he wrote it; that is the immediacy, the “there-ness” of wonderful writing, and it ignites neurons no matter how old.

This is why I love nineteenth and even late-eighteenth century novels. Far from prim musings on tea and crumpets, or the pinings of silent, tragic heroines, its finer observations of character and place have gathered no dust (I can never forget the DOG in Lady Audley’s Secret – so funny I still laugh, and I can’t even remember the words). I don’t “love it for itself” or “love it for what it is”, but entirely because so much of the preserved literature (not necessarily “the classics”) is such good writing.

There is a precision of language that gets lost in the presumptions we thrust upon a wide swath of century-old works, and a terrifying, trembling depth of feeling. “Sensation” novels especially, perhaps now the artifacts of our tut-tutting supposed evolution, can be wonderfully harrowing; the tension is incredible not only in Edgar Allen Poe (whom I do love, and who was reared in the same swamp and clay as I), but in Mary Elizabeth Braddon, Sheridan Le Fanu, Matthew Gregory Lewis, and Louisa May Alcott herself, mother of some hair-raising tales.

Metaphors of the repressed retro-image of the 19th century in particular, crinoline and drapery were not the smothering death of human feeling, as some people presume (and then decide to don corsets themselves and tell their own versions of retconned history, since they feel nobody did it right the first time). Perhaps, instead, those forces “repressing” our recent forbears presented a dramatic choke point we have lost.

I don’t mourn for the loss of centuries past, and am hardly the dreamer wishing I could fly back in time, but I *do* defend the humanity of those who came before us, and refuse to accept that the past itself represents any compromise of our ingenuity and talent. Creativity is stimulated by the restrictions we have faced and still do; certainly I won’t say that with twenty-first century license we are freed from all psychological constraint, and my stance that The Dirty, Stupid Past is indeed not more wretched nor intellectually dim than we are today does not equal bemoaning “what we have come to” nor any of the “why in my day” traps so many at my age begin to indulge.

Let us not forget: you and I live in tomorrow’s pathetic and ignorant history, slogging through with too much technology – or not enough – perpetuating, as humans ALWAYS have, our own worst miseries, and no more knowing what comes next than any of the billions we sneer upon for not having known before we came along. You and I are denizens of the past, and don’t know it. We can’t live like that.

Neither could anyone before. They were all the latest-and-greatest, and their talents are not lessened because they failed to know you and I would be inspecting their fruits once their bones were become dust.


A mind cultivated with no eye on history, on the arts and words and works of our past, is an intellect missing out. Not merely on instruction, but incredible entertainment.

And knowing past literature looks good at a party. So consider just a few recommendations …

  • Lady Audley’s Secret … Mary Elizabeth Brandon
    A seminal detective story in the guise of a sensation novel, here is a funny and gripping set of twists modern readers will know from the start, but which still holds you to your seat – and even introduces a sort of proto-Columbo, in a character who actually grows a bit over the course of the novel.
  • The Monk – A Romance … Matthew Gregory Lewis
    This utterly deranged romp through the exact same perversions and criminal insanity that still obsess us today. Written for the same rebellious reasons any young adult produces shocking statements, Lewis spent pretty much the rest of his life disavowing the work (published 1796), but it’s actually a fascinating read – and not the worst story I ever read, to boot. Grand Guignol storytelling!
  • Carmilla … Sheridan Le Fanu
    This novel is THE goth kids’ must-read, the earliest lesbian vampire novel (and YES, Virginia, that is totally A Thing) and a precursor to Bram Stoker. For darkling cred, knowing Le Fanu widely, and this novel particularly, should be de rigeur****. I was lucky and read this for the first time during a power outage, with a flashlight; it’s easy reading, and fun in the dark.

I don’t mean to reduce recommendations to sensation or horror novels – just happened that I was sipping on some Le Fanu when this came up (see above!). I would *love* to see other people’s personal recommendations in the comments (as if my TBR pile is not extreme enough, here I’m inviting more … !).

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Collection

Congratulations to the History Blog on a truly bionic milestone!

Carolynn With Two Ns provides authors with a nice glossary of terms. The "author" entry is worth a click!

"In a world where everyone gets a trophy ..." BookEnds Literary, Mike Rowe, and a few commenters on "follow your passion" and other facile advice.

Passive VOICE

For those who think in these terms at all, “passive aggressive” is one of those ways of dismissing someone for whining, but the truth is, “aggressive” is truly a key point in the term. Passive aggression is far more than the martyred reverse psychology of a sitcom, it’s a strong social weapon so effective it can even be devastating.

I sat in a meeting one time with someone who used to bug the bejeezus out of me; not someone in my group, not someone I really had to deal with to speak of, but someone whose very name set my teeth on edge. The prospect of talking to them would enact anxieties that had nothing to do with anything, except that they upset me (and, I am convinced by the experiences of others) *meant to*.

As a woman, I have used passive aggression to head off difficult situations at times – when passing someone, looking down (which is not always a submissive posture, by a long shot*) – ostentatiously demonstrating deafness to certain approaches – gazing in blank, expressionless incomprehension at other approaches. Passive aggression can absolutely wither someone who thinks that any social entre’ will necessarily get some response, any response. *And refusing to see someone trying to catch your eye is as strong a rejection as overt ostracision. That person I once worked with would open a floor to response, but continue talking without pause, looking pointedly away from any eye contact, and thereby shut down all but the most intrepid colleagues … or actually make others appear rude, when they had to interrupt to contribute.

It can be a devastating strategy. It can get people so jumpy about another person that interpersonal undercurrents become rivers, and carry others away emotionally when they “KNOW” there is no reason to get so uptight. It can keep a strong woman safe if she feels alone and doesn’t want to feel *weak* - and it can alienate completely.

The Silent Treatment is an especially bitter weapon humans are able to use against one another, and one of the threats that can lead to conformity, direct aggression, submission, and unexpected rage or destruction. To shut a person out, as a group or just one individual to another, is perhaps the ultimate expression of power and control. “You have fallen short” becomes an insupportable exile, denied fire and water for eight hundred miles.

I’ve shut people out of my life; indeed, one of the more bewildering things about FaceBook, for me – apart from extreme security issues that give me the IT nerd willies – is its potential (nay, likelihood) to make it possible for any of the less useful friends from my foolish youth to crop up at any time. It takes work, this kind of passive aggression – ask any man who ever ignored calls from the date or conquest he had no further use for, or any homeowner importuned by a homeless abandoned cat. Emotionally, as effective as ostracision can be, for the non-sadistic, it’s not particularly a pleasure. But sometimes, relationships must end – and they don’t always end easily.

Sometimes, of course, the aggressor is just swinging their privates, to prove how big they are, and people who serially just cut people out of their lives, one by one, may just be avoiding what’s actually wrong with their lives rather than curing anything. And they end up ostracized, themselves, because their concern for control has crowded out life itself – which, though messy, is undeniably a more worthwhile business than solitary confinement in the ever-narrower concerns of a life, in the end, really left un-lived.


When I was younger and prettier, I took great pride in the ability to be an Ice Queen; in the fact that I didn’t get bothered much by strangers, and was able to prevent uncomfortable situations from becoming outright dangerous, with the strategies mentioned above.

Usually.

I came through young-and-pretty largely unscathed, but hit that link for a look at what “unscathed” means in the culture we live in, which I’m persuaded is not getting easier. Insofar as passive aggression is the “feminine” weapon so often pejoratively portrayed in poor writing, I used it as well as could be expected.

The older I get, though, the less I want to render those around me invisible by these methods. It is fortunate that there is nobody like this wandering around my lifescape these days, and that I can speak and act in other ways than silent cutting.

And the older I get, the more bewildering it becomes when I encounter those who do still employ/enjoy/indulge such plausibly-deniable cruelty and control. Those who cut deep, yet who would leap up – shocked, SHOCKED I TELL YOU – at the idea they ever intended to wound.



If you have a sound voice, you don’t need to remove others’ ability to speak.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Blood Ran Cold

“Her/His blood ran cold.”

It’s one of those phrases you see just before the character senses danger or hears bad news. It’s one of those things you probably don’t quantify in your head as you read, or “feel” in that way we feel so much of what we read, what we watch. It’s harder to identify with than a short, sharp shock; a little elusive.

Yet, when it happens in your life, it has such power. The roof of your mouth chills, the backs of your arms prickle – freezing, no matter where you are, no matter the weather, no matter the clothes or even the immediate protection of your surroundings. Your body shivers with a cold at odds with reality, with any stimuli available but your indomitable BRAIN, which has created its own physical circumstances from within.

With so many of the people I love most in the world half its diameter away from me, it happens, often, in the silent comfort of my own house, my own couch. I can be sitting, nestled with the warmest Editor Cat in existence, or eating hot foot, or wrapped in my thick house-sweater that isn’t even fit for public use anymore … and some stray email changes the climate for me, inverts the relativity of Diane-the-Living-Space-Heater and suddenly I’m a lump of metal, endothermic properties abolished, icy as a Zhivago winter, every molecule stilled – and yet fingers still shaking, the whole of myself brittle and waiting only to be toppled, to crumble into the dust of frost, like that scraped off a January windshield.

The symptom that always fixates my attention is the roof of my mouth going cold, which is why “blood runs cold” seems such a weak description of the moment. It’s the bones going cold; the head, felt more immediately than the heart – tongue numb with it – eyes, even, suddenly refrigerated – the wary pucker of a certain nether muscle, suddenly aching with pressure. That other alarm reaction, where the body seems to want to expel all its contents, too urgently.

When even the saliva in your mouth feels freezing, “blood runs cold” loses its accuracy …

More even than heartbeat-thumping, or “seeing red” (one of those descriptions I have never been able to make sense of; it describes no physical response I can even approximate to emotional experience), or the sudden mental detachment of danger or rage, “blood runs cold” seems the bone-deep emotional action, the sub-mental expression of what makes humans animal.

***

Not long ago, some news outlet or other spread the news that human beings experience cold-sympathy: when we see images or read/hear descriptions of people in frigid conditions, we feel it ourselves – to the extent that, Some Study Shows, our actual body temperatures drop.

Interestingly, this is not replicated with warm temperatures. Perhaps “sympathy” in any of its senses is just not raise-able for those on pretty beaches. But, if we see another person in an icy blast, we experience it ourselves, with them.

Growing up, we used to get a smile at my mom when she said she got cold watching the very movie I invoked above, Dr. Zhivago.

Image: Getty


Yet we also did understand what she meant. I know I’ve felt that way, that physical participation in something I’m not supposed to be part of. Other Some Studies have Shown that we experience entertainment in a pretty holistically “identified” way, at one with a main character.

(One worries, momentarily, about what that might mean for the *author* of a work about an ax-wielding barbarian. Then stops.)

***

For my writer pals I’ve coaxed into commenting here sometimes (and for ANYONE with a word to say!) what sympathetic states of being have you worked on recreating … or speculating about … in a work of yours (Donnaeverheart, I expect you’ve got some thoughts!)?

Or what writerly descriptions leave you, ahem, cold in terms of what they actually say to you as a reader? (I’ve always had a hard time with “She looked at him through her lashes” myself).

Or, for some real fun: what makes your blood run cold?

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Collection

Man, it's a shame JJ Litke's blog is bad and she should feel bad, because - actually, it's pretty good. I envy her ability to title things amusingly.

I also couldn't agree more with her about the irritating tendency of alt-historical (and also historical) screenwriters/authors who jam celebrity cameos into their works. Either write about the celeb her- or himself, or skip 'em.

A good pairing of links:

The History Girls on whitewashing history.

Leila Gaskin on diversity in books.

Friday, January 16, 2015

Researching Agents

Old as I am, I’m not exceptionally naïve, and yet … every now and then, I find myself a wee stupefied when I inadvertently stumble upon laundry that’s not merely dirty, but borderline offal, and of course being flapped about in public (Teh Intarwebs) by those professing themselves laundresses. Such is the peril of researching agents.

When it comes to actual querying, I’ve become jaded enough that research is not as maximal as it once was. I verify they rep my genre, decide whether or not their website is intolerable, pay attention to submission guidelines, and read any interviews readily available. (The sad, but not to-the-point fact on these latter is that they tend to date to 2011 and earlier in the vast majority of cases; I truly need to ask some agents to let me interview them here.) If they’re not a gross mismatch, and especially if they appear to have some sense of humor, I personalize and query. The entire process can take less than fifteen minutes; but then, at the query stage, I suspect their side of the transaction often occurs far more speedily, though the time it takes for them to read my blood, sweat, and tearjerking introduction can be weeks and even months.

It’s when I get a request I’m going to re-read and more deeply research an agent, and my can that be edifying.

Not about the agent.

But about the kinds of special snowflakes who query them, and the extreme umbrage taken when Mr. or Ms. Agent shirks the obvious moral duty to fall into transports of wonder at the offering before them. It happens at the query stage and beyond, once requests have been too-long ignored, or follow-ups not responded to, and so on. And, yeah, maybe it actually is useful for me as another querier, to learn that someone with whom I may consider a business relationship might be a poor responder or the like.

But when an entire website is built around broadcasting theoretically-polite complaints about rejections which are not (right or wrong) actually outrageous, or when indeed SIX entire websites appear to have been generated to literally campaign against the usefulnes of another site often used as a queriers’ bible (and which is, in fact, littered with twits and bullies, but does contain bits of useful info) … It just gets weird. And distasteful.

I researched Janet Reid once, because I read her site (uh-DUH), and because I was curious the experience people have with her. This led me to one of the six shrill sites screaming about that parenthetical site alluded to above, and some extremely specific and veeeeeerrrrry angry particulars about her relationship there.

If I were researching her as a querying author with no previous experience of her (and, remember, Gossamer is her dollbaby and has become one of the known “mascots” on her blog/FaceBook etc. – he got his “the Editor Cat” sobriquet from her!), this coming as high as it does in the search results might put me off quering her in a trice. If I didn’t read enough to see the sparks flying off the ax being abused on the polishing stone.

As hard as it can be to face 5 rejections in 3 days (and, in case my regular readers have not guessed – finally got a full request today … so nine more to go!): damn. I don’t get the luxury of watching my entire reputation slagged on a regular basis by angry writers who may not have followed the rules, who have an inflated sense of the Sooper Sooper Specialness of their work, who really had their heart a bit too set on Mr. or Ms. Agent, or who are, frankly, batsplat crazy. I sincerely hope never to see six websites built by one angry rejectee, vigorously seeking recruits to the inexplicable cause of b*tching and moaning.

As difficult as it is to face editing and revision with no beta readers, and to allow myself to become paralyzed for a YEAR while facing the dragon with a butterknife: (so far) I’m not being publicly slagged for the temerity of Doing my Job.


The fact is, it’s a necessary truth that there are some slacker agents out there. Just as there are slackers everywhere else. However, I’ll learn more about them during the querying/full-requesting/prospective stage from ARTICLES they have written, interviews, their Publishers Marketplace and Agent Query and so on profiles, and fulsome blogs by clients discussing working with them than I ever can learn about them from whinging, no matter how pretend-politely it is couched.

Or how batsplat crazily it is spewed. Ahem.

From the complaints, all I *really* learn about is the complainers. It’s possible to get some ideas about the way an agent works, and form some questions, but until I have the privilege or trial of working with someone myself, even if only on a first-read (or second-read) basis, it’s not only premature to get het up about that one person they once kept waiting in 2008, but pointblank pointLESS.

It is, too, extremely quick to go “off” and become distasteful. It doesn’t feel helpful and informative, as would “this agent charges reading fees” or expects exclusive consideration before even requesting a full (I’ve seen agents – just within the past week – who “required” exclusive QUERIES, which is … sputter-inducingly ridiculous), or has left agenting, or has never made a sale despite claiming 10 years’ experience …

Reading the complaints of others, about an agent, especially where there is a group dynamic, or at least the clear desire/campaign to create one, gets me all QPF(*) in a big hurry, these days. It feels like research in the wrong order, like I’ve accidentally stumbled into that ever popular millennial quagmire: Doing It Wrong. It kind of feels mean, too – as mean as any given agent must seem to the many, many authors of such complaints, for giving them the HIDEOUSLY PAINFUL AND UNJUST cause to complain.

Erm.

Cart, horse, submit.


(*QPF: quizzical puppy face)

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Savoring Christmas Treats

My brother and I have swapped a certain indulgence, over the years, with each other for being late with Christmas gifts or the like. As each of us has a birthday not many months out from “The Holidays”, we grew up on “this is Christmas … AND your birthday” with our gifts, and so (a) birthdays never were quite the Busby Berkeley production around our house, and (b) sometimes were a bit of an extension of the by-late-winter extinct holiday in December.

All this is to say: I suck, and I send his and my nieces’ presents late pretty much every year. At this point, I’ve missed not only Christmas, but one of the nieces’ birthdays, and will miss the older one’s soon if I don’t get crackin’. As for big bro, there is still time, and he and I don’t worry a lot about on-timeliness, because – extended Christmas! (Or birthday!) Fun!

So prolonging the fun of a gift is always a giggle for me. And, not being a Liddle Kid anymore, Christmas revolves a lot less around presents and so on, and thus the ones that do come are often a genuine surprise.



This year, Cute Shoes and another friend of ours went in together on a joint present for me – which is, ironically, pretty much going to become a new pair of shoes.

Not just any shoes, mind you. American Duchess shoes.

They gave me a substantial start with a gift certificate, and ever since we three got together for our own belated Hannukah/Christmas Ladies who Lunch Date, I’ve been SAVORING the catalog at AD.

If I went with the Claremonts, I’d wear them to work and enjoy them immensely. They’re just the sort of 30s-chic I like very much, and they’d be a great addition to a collection of less authentic similar styles I already have …

… but then: I already have shoes for work.

… and, really, my work doesn’t even require the professional wardrobe I already have.

So … ahh, wouldn’t it be fun to pick something more entirely special?

The dove-grey Seabury pumps - or even the black ones?

The oh-so-eighteenth-century Antoinette mules?

Ahh, but I am not confident in my ability to DYE such a fine shoe.

Perhaps the black Savoys? I could embellish those (or even not!), with somewhat less fear.



It’s fun having options – and, of course, if I give it a minute, their next exclusive design might sweep me away.

If I give it a minute or two, it might be a fun way to celebrate finally agenting The Ax and the Vase.

What it’s given me – obviously – is a great deal of fun, and that most wonderful blessing in life: antici ……



……. Pation.

Up a Crick

Today is one of those fun days I'm off work because the tiniest place in my neck is uppity enough that I can't drive safely, and therefore it's a sick day for me. Been paying bills and trying to be productive, though I don't have my work laptop at home with me. (I don't carry it home every day because - how often would I use the thing? not very - and because of the bad back and arthritic neck, of course.)

And so I am enjoying my great big desk, and contemplating doing some filing since tax season is upon us ... though filing does actually involve a bit of lifting and bending, so we'll see how that goes.

Just yet, I'm not in the mood for more query research, but with the Amazon gift card one of my managers gave me for Christmas, I *do* have three of the text I wanted for research on the WIP, from sellers I chose who had good used copies of each one. That might not involve so much lifting and so on!

There will definitely be a bit of grinning and petting, as I have for my caretakers two charming little fuzzy pals. They don't do massages, but somehow they take care of me nonetheless.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Query Count Count

Okay, after a couple days' worth of rejections, I wanted to reassure myself, and there are still eleven queries live out there. Researching more tonight, and I have a NICE fat list to keep submitting to.

So we've got that going for us ...

Bloody LILcat

Gossamer the Editor Cat is in his Big, Burly Cat phase of the year right now.





He’s still the smallest cat I’ve ever had, and at two and a half years of age I don’t expect to see his frame growing any more, but he has a seasonal shift in apparent bulk I’m getting to know now that he’s not a baby anymore. Like many animals, his coat changes with the seasons, and this winter it is as thick as I have ever seen it.

Goss’s fur is already the most luxurious I’ve ever known (in addition to being magical, and even obtaining analgesic properties; snuggling with him is literally good for what ails ya, I tell you), but with winter thickening he’s impossibly lustrous to touch. He has the appearance of jowls, his face is so full, and when he keeps warm, as cats do, by retracting all appendages just a bit closer to his trunk, it gives him a wonderful, Churchhillian kind of presence. When he’s settled on his tum, tail curled round and all legs and paws pulled in under his body, head haughtily back on his shoulders, he’s the perfect little loaf of puddy, and it’s all I can do sometimes not to scoop him and pet him and love him and squeeze him (though I fall short of naming him George).



In summer, though, his fur’s fineness is more trim and closer to his skin, and his posture elongates generally as his body stops conservng warmth, and Goss has a more athletic appearance.





The body itself, though – underneath all this rich, chinchilla, sweet-smelling coat – doesn’t change to speak of. Whatever his apparent size, his actual build isn’t any heavier nor thicker right now than it was in June. It’s all just design features I find cute and fascinating.


With his little bloody toe the other day, I’ve actually been thinking about animals’ fur a bit. It is, in my experience, pretty rare to see an animal bleed. Now, me – being the graceful swan I decidedly am not – I cut myself or get hangnails or whatever pretty regularly, and bleeding is not unusual in my life. When you are the sort of nit who uses hands for hammers and feet for battering rams, and you’re frankly uncoordinated to boot, these things will happen.

I also happen to lack fur to protect my skin.

Apart from the whiteness of his sneaker-feet, this is what struck me so about Goss’s having a little bloody toe the other day. He and Pen NEVER bleed. I’m sure I’ve never seen him bleed, ever, and cannot recall any injury with Penelope that ever violated the integrity of her skin.

And Penelope, brain as scary-fast and smart as hers is, is the mirror of her momma, for sheer, exuberant clumsiness sometimes. (Oh, sure, in unfettered motion, running and leaping, she’s truly magnificent, a veritable springbok in my own backyard – but, in the confines of a house with slippy floors, and plagued by her highly physical response to the slightest impulse of urgency, my girl is a menace to herself and others.)

They’re both protected by the miracle of their wonderful, pettable fur.

Pen’s coat has always arrested my attention; she is perhaps the smoothest animal I’ve ever seen – her color is so beautifully blended and her short coat so extremely thick, I literally have no idea what color her skin is except on her face (when it gets wet, her fur becomes translucent, and I can see the black face underneath) and the relatively exposed area of her tum. Where her black skin gives way is her mystery, and I”ll never shave her bare just to find out. :)

The fur on the top of Pen’s head has the most perfect nap I’ve ever seen; you can look down into the thickness of it, every hair parallel and apparently straight as velvet pile, into the shadows down to that warm skin.

Goss’s coat, especially on his well-groomed head, is like a pearl. I’ve said before, he’s almost so soft you can’t even feel his fur, but his color and his health add the visual lustre. Pen has a head like a beet, like a light bulb – but Gossamer has a head like a pearl. Their recent habit, of Pen licking the water off his head when he’s been playing in the drip from the tub, kills me with cuteness. And, when she’s outside and he pops up with his little diamond-wet headbone dappled with droplets, the fur is as smooth as a duck’s back, and the droplets sit up, intact, like he’s been Simonized.


I’m glad the little ones don’t seem to indulge the dis-imperviousness I demonstrate all too regularly, and that even a weensy drop of blood on Goss’s ped is unexpected. I’m even glad they don’t get bed-head like their mom (seriously, this recent haircut I indulged – still unfortunate, left unmanaged!). As adorable and ca-yoot and all that as they are, I still honestly admire the remarkable animals they are, and am grateful they’ve consented to let me take care of ‘em both.

And that Goss’s magical fur works for me sometimes better than aspirin. And that he lets me snuggle and snoodle him and call him adorable and ca-yoot, even though he is a Big, Burly Winter Cat.

Life ain’t half bad, with other heartbeats in the house.

There's Writing, Then There's ... Babel Fish, Maybe?

Reading an article earlier online, I ran across this little punisher of a sentence:

While Capitolinus had kingly dreams even, he attacked Camillus actually with precisely such kinglike accusation.

Sometimes, I understand why there are people who hate adverbs.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Collection (of Sorts)

Quick update, Gossamer continues to be nimble on his toes, and no blood today. His little white-sneakered foot is clean as can be.

Ahh, perspective - there's nothing like learning of others' struggles (and, perhaps, extrapolating on even worse ones) to put three rejections at once in a wider context.

The History Girls have Tanya Landman and a great post on one of my own failings - the whitewashing of history. I need to research diversity for the WIP.

Also - geez, in the space of five minutes I got a huge spike in its, and see no signs of bots in the stats. So hello, and welcome, whoever just popped in!

The Thing About Volume Querying ...

... is that you get a great feeling of accomplishment, BUT you also get three rejections in a day from some of the speedy responders. And one from an agent, maybe, whom you really wanted to impress and thought you could.

Le sigh.

I can keep in mind all the other queries still out on submission with no response yet (including that *other* agent or three I think are pretty neat). And I can stick with my philosophy that every R is the next step to being snapped up.

But still. Yeah. Sigh.

At least the one-space-after-a-period thing seems to be going fine.

Monday, January 12, 2015

"I'm Not Talking"

Gossie turned up with a teeny weeny dot of blood on his back passenger side toe about an hour ago. Pen is just getting around to having a wee sniff at the ped, and the boy is giving his strictest Editor Cat face.

He was lying with his foot over the edge of the chair, perhaps to keep it from touching anything. He let me check to see if the blood was wet, but was not anxious for further investigation. My poor puddy. He's INCREDIBLY forgiving and patient with gentle touches and even a little looking, but it does seem like he's a little bit hurty.

There was no wound when I came home, and there's no broken glass in the house, but he will not tell me what happened to his tootsie. Since the blood is on the top of his foot, and he's hopping furniture with perfect nimbleness, I'll skip the vet for now - but, in honor of a family tradition inaugurated by my stepfather, I may see whether he'll take a squirt of Bactine.


Aww. The sweet thing; he did just let me look between his peds. I can't find a wound, so whatever it is, it's pretty wee. And it only takes a drop of blood to show up on otherwise white sneakers.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Years - and Years

Flipping channels tonight, I ran across The Brady Bunch Movie, and thanks to the wonder of modern teevee, I could see its release date at the touch of the Info button on my remote. 1995.

So that film actually falls exactly halfway back in time, to the early 70s era it had a little fun with remembering. It's been as long since that movie came out, as it had been then since the show itself was on.

For no reason worth blogging, this just kind of blows my mind. I was an adult (of sorts) when the movie came out - I made fun, in memory, of the show, as it did, and hit all its marks right there with it. When the series was on, I was a little kid. It seems like there should be a wider chasm between the series and the movie, not just as large a chasm between the movie and *now*.

And yet, the older I get, the more things like this seem to happen. In its way, the cognitive dissonance is still amusing.

But once we get to the 20s, and I realize it's been sixty years since the decade when I was born - and twenty since today - I might have to pass out a little bit.

Monday, January 5, 2015

Fashion Quote

Fashion is gentility running away from vulgarity, and afraid of being overtaken by it. It is a sign the two things are not very far apart.
--William Hazlitt











... he may or may not be using the term gentility loosely here ...

Nude Ricks

Once again, the old lady is trying to teach herself new tricks – or, at least, new habits. This one has been a long time coming; I put it off for years because I felt My Habit is Valid, then for the past year or so just because I Have Enough on my Plate.

But new year, new ways to do things, and new horizons. So it is time, at last, to tackle the retraining of one of the oldest, most ingrained typing habits those of us of a certain age cling to: the two-spaces-after-a-period stop.

It’s long past time where I can counter-complain to those who despise the “river of white” that “oh yeah, well the unbroken block of text is ugly too” – and the fact that the river is poor-looking mostly in two-column justified text, which emphasizes space in a way even non-columned justified (never mind unjustified) does not produce, just doesn’t matter anymore. Single-spacing is standard, and if I wish to be in the business of writing, I need to provide standardized product that can be used and *will not annoy* professional readers. The "river of white"-ers have won (because GBOTs are so pretty). So it is time for me to stop doing the search-and-replace remediation, and shift my baseline.

After the fact changes leave room for accidents to creep in, because in writing, AFTER-after-the-fact (editing/revision) is ALWAYS a factor.

Too: there’s a simple benefit in learning a different way to do things (I won’t be dumb and call this “new” – just because it’s new for me doesn’t make the standard a fresh little baby). Learning how to print in lowercase again, after years of writing in all-caps … relearning cursive, after using it in no script but my signature … dealing with my geriatric typing habits, learned on the original selectrics in typing class thirty years ago … I may be a Virginian (*), but change is good and I can appreciate that. It’s also wise to keep the brain limber and learning, and not depend upon opinions formed a generation ago to inform the entire way I live my life.

And so: the two spaces must go. So far, that’s been a change involving lots of delete-backspacing, and even retyping at the terminus of every single sentence in a post, comment, or paragraph. But I’m getting better. This post has gone well, anyway. And, if it’s like re-learning how to hand write, it won’t take too long.

Are you ready to dam (and/or damn!) your rivers? If you’ve done this, let me know how it went – and what worked for you!



(*How many Virginians does it take to change a light bulb? Five. One to do the actual changing of the bulb. Two more to stand off to one side, TSK-TSK-ing about how much better the old bulb was, and how the new bulb probably won’t keep us warm in winter, may cause migraines, won’t light as well, and will change our lives for the worse. And two more, to write the history of the original bulb, with maps and Civil War citations.)

Saturday, January 3, 2015

Collection

Mojourner Truth has a couple of posts, at Tumblr and on Blogger, looking at the ebb and flow of human presence in the wild; the photos are lovely, but the thoughts are even better. We don't always think about where we've been - until the occasional footprint gives us away.  It's not always true that wilderness is "where no man has gone before" ... (indeed, it rarely is!).

Okay, got that Trek reference out of my system.  Onward and forward!

Madame Isis once again takes us to the seventeenth century for a demo of two styles of period makeup. I'm with her, the enameled look is a bit too much!

Gary Corby's Sacred Games is available on Kindle for $1.99. I got my digital copy already; won't you join me?

The History Blog shares a look at a 1500-year-old amulet with a palindrome that shows us just how long polytheism survived the advent of Christianity - and just how confused older traditions became, as they slipped away.

Hilarity Ensues

Included in today's stats: a search as follows ...


Hah!  I've *told* y'all archaeology is about the process of elimination ...