Thursday, March 31, 2016

A Short Story

She never used to do that.

Every day lately, Cheryl walked by my corner cube and hit her ring on the metal corner trim. Every day at least once.

She had been trying so hard to lose weight, to eat healthfully, to get some walking in every day, at least four times. Trying so hard. I felt for her, was so impressed with her. She meant it. And it was so hard.

It'd only been during the past month or so, this loss of balance, this tiniest change - a scuffing of her heels; the *ting!* of her ring, going by that corner.

Cheryl is not Hannah. Cheryl doesn't need to sink down, years gone, body overwhelmed by multiple sclerosis.

It's only microscopic chips on the rhinestone of a ring. It's only a different pair of shoes.

Hannah is not Hannah.

But somebody was, once.

And Cheryl is still Cheryl. Trying so hard, and failing a little. I feel for her. I'm so impressed with her.

Wednesday, March 30, 2016


Jessica Faust at Bookends Literary Agency takes a look at the downside of #MSWL, or the Manuscript Wish List many pre-published love to pore over, hoping to find someone who'll represent our work.

The Arrant Pedant has a great post for those Americans coping with taxes this season: on the task of taxes and axing about the history of etymology. Also, I learned a new word today - palatalization. Not sure when I'll get to use it, but I like it anyway. Syncopated.

Speaking of great words: I'm always a sucker for palimpsest. Not least because, as artifacts, the things are wells of curious information and questions. The History Blog looks at a palimpsest in which the Battle of Thermopylae gets an "all killer no filler" description. Never let it be said the History Blogger is not a History Nerd.

The on-demand economy – or old-fashioned temping? I gave up temping myself twenty years ago, because being pimped is no way to make a living. Gee, and it turns out there are others who don't want to work that way either. Duh.

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Old Voices and the Divorce of Love

Listening to Blackstar yesterday reminded me of Johnny Cash's devastating rendition (even Trent Reznor can't call it a "cover" - the song is Johnny's now) of Hurt, Loretta Lynn's Van Lear Rose, Warren Zevon's The Wind. Like Bowie, Warren knew he was dying. Cash's elegiac rumble is imbued with his redemption and his sorrow, and so unbearably intimate we experience his loss beside him, now even thirteen years since his death. Loretta is still with us, but now literally generations into her career, her voice is mellowed and frayed with age, and all the more wonderful to hear for it. She's never been shallow, but VLR is an album with a timbre she never had before, and Jack Whyte can't take credit for that.

Bowie's voice on Blackstar has that weakness; not merely the presence of death. All art has that, perhaps. But the sense almost of greeting it. Not resignation, but grace.

In these days, as I watch that grace before me - know a voice which begs for the end every night in the dark, and wish there could be relief and peace - these voices draw me, over and over again. Not because I wish to wallow in mourning before its time, but because I have a sense these voices speak a unique understanding.

Loretta, in particular, is gentle. Her faith has always been strong; there are things about her that have always reminded me of aspects of my maternal family. She seems, on the spiritual level, to be a *sweet* woman - not in the "nice as pie" sense, but in that she appears to have grace. Acceptance, even when she remonstrates to G-d himself - and strength to understand that bearing is not agreeing, even as we can't always fight.

In the video for Blackstar, Bowie carries a book and wears black and has some appearance of a traveling preacher, perhaps a prophet.

Zevon was always weird - never a novelty act, yet his "Werewolves of London" and the bouncy joke that was the unbelievably disturbing "Exciteable Boy" were so often treated as such. He terrified me as a kid, listening to that album in my living room, staring at what I thought was a pervert's face on his album cover, and his songs seeming so pop but *being* so savagely, brilliantly something-else. "The Wind" doesn't have the sepulchral resonance of "Hurt" or even some of VLR's plangent nostalgia, but it is no joke and could not be treated so. It's the honed, spare sound of an artist long experienced with his own talent and his voice. He still sounds like Zevon. He still sounds like, performed live, these songs would INSIST you bounce with them. Even recorded, there is a liveliness still there, and the occasional calculated rough edge in the guitars, in his canny voice that invites you to forget he's not on stage before you.

But when he sings "all bets are off ... I'll live with the losses" you don't forget the context, either. He knocks on Heaven's door, but it's still a song, still not All About Warren.

One of the odd things about listening to all this music that seems to resonate with this grace, this death I find before me is that not one note of it would mean anything to the person whose disposition in the face of pain has me thinking all these thoughts. It is All About My reactions, my feelings about this situation - rather like this blog.

We forget, so often, that sometimes the profoundest feelings in our relationships actually have nothing much to do with the person we share that relationship with. I've told Mr. X, my love for him isn't born of anything he does, and indeed doesn't answer to him. It has become its own entity over nearly fourteen years.

One of the ways it has been possible for me to cope, in the most-of-those-fourteen-years X has lived far, far, far away and we see each other seldom, has been the growing understanding that what I get out of loving him is not his responsibility and not his job to cultivate. It began with "I love this" or "I love that" about him. But over time, what that has borne in me is something entirely else. My admiration of him stands; and all around it, sprouting up like wildflowers, are these unexpected dots of color in my life, rooted in that admiration or desire or respect, but beautiful things unto themselves.

He's made me grow, spiritually, and not because he taught or led. Just because he is, and the ineffable alchemy of who we are - together ... and so far apart - has synthesized these blessings, dotted all around the ground where he stands in my life my mind and my heart.

This is what I hear in the old voices, drawing me. The grace of letting go of understanding - or of coming to it, as sorrowful as it can be. The grace of letting go of control. The grace of accepting wonder in what cannot make sense nor be expressed, except in deepest intimacy.

The intimacy of artists who find a way to make us hear that ineffability they have seen and can't explain any more than the rest of us.

I am reminded of the death of Marvin the Paranoid Android. "I think ... I feel good about it."

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Ithaca. Rachel. Sheba. Godot.

There are some things you have to wait for. You have to wait to be a grownup. You have to wait to find your home. You have to wait to find someone to love (if you are lucky enough to ...). We all wait for death.

Some waiting is by choice.

I waited for Blackstar.

When David Bowie died, it was such a big deal, as much as I wanted to observe it and remember all he's meant to me, I retreated from the massive outpouring. When people make a Big Story all about themselves, it seems distasteful, and so I kept my response less fulsome than I have a tendency to be.

I also could not bear the fine point - the poignard - of listening to his last music.

Today at work, the radio was just too wretched to bear. It stinks every day; some borrowed morning show from another city in the morning, and what passes for rock these days is just sad. (Ahh, the privilege of chronological/cultural superiority!) So I put on my ear buds, fired up YouTube, and bumped around a bit.

And let myself search for Blackstar.

And the sound of David's dying voice.

After that, I needed this.

David Bowie's skill with anthemic, literally hair-raising crescendo, his ability to rise and rise and carry a crowd of tens of thousands - of millions, around the world, in the song above - never, ever ceases to astound me. I choose the word astound because it resonates with profound, which is an interesting thing, because honestly he is a shameless dramatic. He uses devices we all see coming - and they work anyway.

Five Years is one of those songs. It builds and builds until you respond whether you want to or not. Diamond Dogs as an album, by each individual track, and certainly the title song, are all waves; you see a distant swell that looks so gentle, and then it looms upon you, and it breaks.

Bowie was shameless.

Freddie Mercury was the same.

I adore shameless, dramatic music. I *want* to succumb to it. I want it to have its way with me. I want to feel the tingling I do every time the Brandenberg Concerto does that one thing that reminds me so completely, so cruelly and so sublimely, of my dad. I want Symphony X to get me to Ithaca, because I know Odysseus personally, and I want him home. I want to be made to cry.

I don't want to go where David Bowie went, when he made Blackstar.

But holy hell, I am grateful he was willing to. That he let us hear his weak, his old voice. That he LIFTED it. That he never stopped doing that. Ever. And spoke to us his final artistic statement.

People talk about rock gods - idols - and he has been said to have all but invented the concept (as have others).

But what he did was an offering to us.

Now I need to go listen to Freddie sing. Because now I want to succumb to smiling. Nobody makes me joyous quite like Freddie Mercury and Queen (Though the inconceivably dorky tambourine guy in the clip embedded above is good for a grin).

Friday, March 18, 2016


My regular reading seemed to want to concentrate on covers today ...

First, a new post from the Caustic Cover Critic - yay! On returning classics, or "stock photo cover design" - an interesting look at the different ways designers use images to create unique looks.

Then Janet Reid had a word on when to worry about your cover. "While it's not an asshat indicator, it's troubling." Hee!

Interpolating from a post put up after this Collection, but fitting in too well not to put here - Jessica Faust also has some thoughts on covers, and a fascinating angle. How being unable to "picture it" so to speak led to a rejection. Oh dear!

The History Blog takes a look at Dina and Uyan, a pair of preserved cave lion cubs which are likely more than ten thousand years old. And the author of *this* blog scoops up Gossamer the Editor Cat for a soft, warm snoodle.

The HB also tells us about the Diamond Sutra, the oldest printed book known to be preserved. A fifteen foot block-printed scroll found in the Mogao cave temples, which in themselves must make a glorious study, the book dates to May 11, 868. Hooray for the precise date in the colophon!

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Flash Nonfiction

No safe landings in a mosh pit. But we didn’t even call them that back then.
Girls and guys, cigarettes, blue nighttime city light. The air oddly soft; this city is not a big one, and it is summer. Honey and Andy sharing salty snacks. Other Andy trying to flirt. We didn’t know he didn’t like girls.
Sitting on the wall. Flowered skirt, jean jacket, CIA t-shirt tied in a knot. Aching for someone to fall into. Sea of boys and wanting to dive.
No safe landings.

For the second time, I entered Janet Reid's flash fiction contest. Her response this time:

DLM's entry (11:50am) isn't quite a story, but I love it very much. It's got atmosphere to die for.

In fact, I felt the same way myself. And the truth is: it is NOT a story. It is the cousin of things that actually happened. It is my memory of nights spent at a dive called Hard Times, for some reason allowed to tag along with my brother. The names are the ones these kids went by.

Driving home after one of these nights, my brother meowed at a police dog in a cruiser beside us. I was in the driver's seat, the ink on my driver's license scarcely dry (I was so young), and the station wagon was filled to capacity, probably nine punks and at least one bicycle poking out the back window - "$150 dollars worth of fine-able offenses" I remember the officer telling us, annoyed, after he'd pulled me over and explained he wasn't much in the mood, on his way back from a homicide as he was.

The flowered skirt was a white eyelet prairie skirt, tiered, with tiny, vividly-blue flowers. The jacket, actually a Members Only knockoff by L'Autre Mode, was my brother's. The CIA t-shirt was real; it was pink, given to me by A Certain Uncle of mine who is a mine of stories all his own, but he likes to fancy himself a raconteur, and has not been my uncle in 22 years, so I will leave those to him to tell (and not to) for classified reasons.

The shirt was pink, by the way. This extra-cracked me up as a wannabe political liberal teen. Muzzy, vaguely nonsensical, uninformed "pinko!" jokes abounded.

We saw Ten Thousand Maniacs at Hard Times, which still seems so odd. But, more often, it was Minor Threat, White Cross, assorted local bands and would-be bands.

Honey is the one girl of whom I have much memory; blonde. Sad. She was perhaps the most abused person I had ever met - or, at least, the person whose abuse was most apparent to me. I may have been younger than she (I may not have been). She made me feel so impotently protective. She still does.

The girls used to paw my face lovingly - "How do you get your skin so pale?" We had moved from my old neighborhood a year, maybe two before. I hadn't been to the pool since. I haven't been in the sun since 1983.

The bar was used as a location in Finnegan Begin Again. Mary Tyler Moore and Robert Preston danced where my brother did, where we grubby teens used to bum cigs off each other and call out gleefully to passing traffic, because: summer nights. I am surprised to learn, Sylvia Sidney was in FBA. Huh. She was married to Bennet Cerf, whose joke books in hardcover were a major part of my early reading.

Nowadays - still standing - the place was a coffee shop, last I checked. The streets run the same ways, but seem ... much more businesslike. They pass by the ghosts of the eighties - or before. Thirty-plus years ago, they were one of the places I lived.

And the atmosphere - yes. It kind of was to die for, Janet. But I never quite finished any story there.

Happy St. Patrick's Day!

It's good to know that, as a non beer-lover, I can feel righteous in not celebrating this day by drinking Guiness.

It's a funny thing, the way symbols are derived at all - and how they evolve.

Pink, that emblematic color of nipples now so ubiquitously associated with corporate breast cancer marketing campaigns, vapid "femininity", and razors I am allowed to use as a woman, was actually once most popular for MALE children.

The frog, sometimes considered emblematic of the French (are kids still aware of that old one anymore, though?), who sometimes are caricatured as profligate and promiscuous lovers, is deeply associated with the idea of fidelity.

Indeed, the dog - widely loved most for its faithfulness and loyalty - is repurposed linguistically to refer to profligate and promiscuous lovers, generally male ones.

So it is an interesting history - Guiness, so PR-ready in its shorthand Irishness - is actually a centuries-deep English product, and generations of its proprietors were anti-union and anti-everything (Americans?) expect in a broad-strokes portrait of "What Is Irish" ... For eighty-four years, indeed, the company has been based in London, apparently.

Side note: intoxivation, spotted in a link at the bottom of this article, is a delicious coinage.

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

The Most Incredible Pen I Ever Met

Life's too short not to use the good pen.

Being a writer, every now and then someone gives me A Nice Pen.

I have a whopper of a colorful mother-of-pearl pen that was my first "because you are a writer" pen, given by a friend several jobs ago when I had to leave that much-beloved employer. It weighs something on the order of a pound or so, and its diameter is enormous, but it's a great-writing instrument. I love it most because of its provenance, but it's a lovely thing just to look at and great for a flourishing signature.

My current job brought a boxed set my way, a pen and pencil set in graphite casing, just beautiful.

Another friend gave me a pen hand-lathed by her own son; a slender, curvaceous number I favor frequently because it is beautifully weighted. This pen goes with me everywhere, in whatever purse I happen to be carrying.

The James River Writers conference has been a source of good pens as well.

One of the best pens they've had in the swag bag for a couple or three years happens to come from a sponsor semi descended from, or step-related to, the employer I had to leave so regretfully at the time I received the MOP pen mentioned above. It gives me a wry smile, because those who've stayed on through this generation of that employer have not universally been thrilled with the evolution, but they are people I still respect immensely, and miss.

JRW is also a great source for some of the best cheap pens I've ever had. Another sponsor provides snappy little lightweights that also have a great curve appeal, and they often come in nice colors you can find in the drawer. Some of these have lasted as long as the ten-plus years for which I've been attending JRW events.

Easily the most astonishing pen, if we may call it such, is the highlighter with which I do my hard-copy research.

This is a highlighter.

It was bought in a set of four colors.

In 1982.

To steal a phrase from the most intense aunt in my family: I kid you not.

This highlighter was born in the age of pin-dot printing, when static was something we concerned ourselves with, or, at least, the marketing dudes of the day did. When this FONT was cool-oh and futuristic looking. It came with blue, green, and yellow companions - the yellow long since used up, the blue still gasping 35 years on, and the green perhaps lost in time.

The pink highlighter works. It's fresh as a daisy, and has that satisfyingly firm tip that feeds its ink with a waxy smoothness that is gratifyingly dependable.

I didn't save this beast for special occasions. For decades, it lived with my mom. She cleaned out a desk, decades *ago* now, and I inherited it, and its mates. There was little reason to use it, but no pressing reason to toss it, and the thing has aged quietly for all this time.

It's probably more than twice the age of my eighteen-year-old niece. It has outlasted countless personal computers, fashions, even automobiles. Five of those, in fact. Individually, it may have cost a quarter or so - perhaps more, if we splurged on a princely tool for modern computer highlighting work! - but investment-wise, is has outperformed any conceivable commodity in any market in any corner of, perhaps, the entire universe itself.

And it shows no sign of giving up. It doesn't even show its age, though the design is perhaps amusingly quaint.

Pink has, since my earliest research on The Ax and the Vase, been the color for highlighting research for the WIP. I found the subject of the WIP early on in working on Ax, and so I used pink to differentiate it from the drab old yellow I was using to work on reading for Ax.

I used this highlighter. There have been one or two other pink ones, in a pinch, but those (!!!) died. Quickly.

This workhorse, though, lives on. And on.

I have a silly and affectionate idea it may see me through work on the WIP, and finally give up its hardy ghost, fulfilled at long last, the methuselah pen, the ancient markiner, the oldest highlighter known to man.

If not, I plan to leave it to the younger niece - also a writer.

In the meantime, it is working for me. And I am, quietly, but consistently, amazed by the little thing. It has such ... life.

What is your best or most beloved or oddest pen?

Monday, March 14, 2016

Laughter Is the Worst Medicine?

Disclaimer - though this post riffs on the litany of illnesses I've been enjoying this past month, it's not actually about them, so we open with sort of a non-kvetch alert ...

The cough that's running like wildfire through our cube farm these days is a bit like The Office Hugger. It's everywhere, welcome nowhere, and prone to cling. If it chances to make you chuckle in the slightest, it will take you in a death grip and not let go.

I sound like a six-pack-a-day emphysematic, is what I am saying. The tiniest mirth takes me down, choking, and Snagglepuss himself would wonder how I make that hideous, wheezing sound.

Last week, at the height of a fuller roster of head-cold symptoms, I was taking meds.

I. Hate. Cough medicine.

It strips your brain away and makes you stupid.

I haven't written since the mini retreat with my beloved and talented friends. Nor edited. Nor researched.

Nor has Miss Penelope been blessed with a good walk for too long now.

It was pretty easy to forgive myself for that in the full throes of migraine and flu. Even last week, she was so sweet with her Wheezin' Mama, I was feeling the guilt less strongly than seems fair. Plus, having lost thirteen pounds in a day and a half with the flu, I've still held off eight to ten of that, so "exercise" has been demoted (ahh, the poison of "success" ...).

Today, though the cough is still irritatingly eager, the guilts are asserting themselves - about the lovely young lady who depends upon me for kibble and walkies - and about the work, which I'm missing. Though I have said for some days now I'd pay a good $10 for someone to pummel me on the back and loosen up my chest, I actually haven't felt "sick" since last week. And I take the guilt/missing my writing as good signs too, really.

Best of all, the loss of time thanks to Daylight Savings Time has not cut me down.

Sadly, one reason for this is that I had a bit of a freak-out at work today, thanks to cognitive issues from last week causing a misunderstanding; but (a) I blame the cough meds, and (b) as dismaying as it was, it was not an actual "problem", in that no damage has been done. My sense, a bit over two years into this job, is that this upsets me more than anyone else. So it will be necessary for me to perform like a rockstar on something else soon, and this too shall pass.

In the shorter term: tonight, we walk with Penelope in nature.

I just hope she won't make me laugh.

Saturday, March 12, 2016


 This interview gets seriously squidgy at about 10:00, but the piece as a whole is as fascinating as James Burke always is … and the opening 1:21 is stunning. And his closing quote is one of those moments where you feel “Oh, well, that’s all right then.” Take a trip with him from the medieval world to 2050 or so. He is always a great traveling companion.

Beautiful tuffaceous sandstone. I learned what tufa was reading the Masters of Rome series by Colleen McCullough. But Mojourner is a far better writer - and photographer.

World building resources from People of Color in European History - aid in creating languages, calculating your characters' travels, calendaring, maps ... some great assists for authors of fantasy OR historical.

Dena Pawling's posts about the law are so fascinating. Being a "recluse" ain't what it used to be - fortunately, I still seem to have a hell of a knack for it.

It's pretty exciting watching the road to publication with Donna Everheart. Go Donna!

Hey, if incompetence weren't hilarious, the state of American comedy would be pretty grim indeed.
--John Ramos

Tuesday, March 8, 2016


Tiny "hands" in ancient cave art are not babies' hands, nor even human. They are lizards' paws! (Parallels to the short-fingered vulgarian? Create your own joke.)

We haven't taken a trip to J. V. Cullen's A Few Random Thoughts for a while; how about today? March 8: the day Thomas Paine (?) discussed American slavery, the day Queen Anne ascended to her throne, and the day The Hitchhikers Guide guided us to where our towels were.

Lauren at American Duchess shares her fascinating experience as an extra on a documentary production about the Donner Party. Cool photos, as always, boots in the desert, and heat ... and I can't wait for part 2!

Monday, March 7, 2016

Mistakes? Life.

One of the philosophies I took from my family is that life would not be worthwhile if it were not for the differences among us. It would be boring for everyone to hold the same beliefs, no matter how “right” we may think our own are. We might never learn, if we never had to open our minds.

Likewise, joy is only enhanced by sorrow. If we have not known want, or sadness, then having, and happiness are not fully defined.

When Loretta sings, “why is that old drunk still livin’, when a daddy like mine is dyin’?” – I KNOW that question. I have asked it, in anger and in sadness. And I know her answer. It is as much a part of my family as the red clay or steep hills where my mama was born and grew up, or the white house on the hill where my daddy did.

The elegiac beauty of her song does not make it easier. It does not make the answer more acceptable. And yet. It states the simple facts.

In my family, that fact was summed up thus: life is not fair.

Taking succor, even rapture, from the relativity of joy and sorrow, of cold and warm, of frustration and fulfillment … is one thing.

Taking that on, and looking at the little baby she sings of – twisted – or the child who is blind … remains incomprehensible.

We learn from the difficulties in our own lives, and we even learn from those around us who suffer.

Yet it can feel so dirty. So awfully wrong. To watch someone face death, with more grace than you have ever seen, and to understand that death teases, plays, and delays. That it will not COME, even long after the point where this person has begun to beg for it.

I can accept that my dad only got sixty-five years, when people who seem to me not even to care about their lives – or who are just selfish – get to live on and on and on.

It is harder to accept the cruelty that is hardship suffered with no relief, or suffered by one who cannot comprehend their agony.

My elder niece, when she was only three or four, once said, “I think it would be better if everyone could be a LITTLE sick, instead of one person being VERY sick.” She said this when my dad was dying.

She’s no damned fool, my elder niece. Never was. Not even at three or four.

And the heartbreak is this: life can’t be had on egalitarian terms.

Life is not fair.

And, as beautiful as that can be, as bittersweet and gorgeous as some of our moments of pain can be …

… it hurts. It sucks.

And it STILL beats the alternative. As bad and as poorly designed and even as stupid as it is. It’s still the best thing going.

Not My Three Weeks, Apparently

It's a common observation that complaining is often an open door go G-d to give you something to really complain about.

If the lady who's worked at the drugstore near me, whom I've known fifteen years now, is right - "It comes in threes" - I should be good to go for a while. Because, after the days-long migraine and the flu, now I have a cold.

I shall not complain. For one, it is responsive enough to acetaminophen, and though it is robbing me of sleep, which is one of my favorite things NOT to be robbed of. For two, in the midst of it, I finally took that leap and entered one of Janet Reid's flash fiction contests for my very first time, and I got short-listed. !!

Of course I'm a sucker for all thing Odyssey and I do love the alternate view point here: Penelope waiting at home. But mostly this is just beautiful writing and I love it.  --Le Sharque 

Amusingly (or not?), the entry actually consists, essentially, of a complaint. I wrote three stories; two inspired by family crises which, right now, I really wasn't sure I wanted to put online - and this third one. Harkening to classic literature, it was shameless Oscar-baiting, as it were. And it dovetails with my obsessions. There is some clunkiness - I am HATING the use of "aught" at the top. Being a historical fiction novelist, the archaic usage feels to me a bit like gadzookery, and in any case that sentence requires three reads even for *me* to get it straight.

My favorite feedback:

Joseph Snoe said...
I'm for him
or her
dear sir

Flash poetry! Woo!

The real winner, for me, is Maggie Maxwell's, because it actually has something to say. It's a great story, and entirely more.

For those who managed humor, I stand in awe, really. My story's just kvetching, which takes no work. But to manage effective comedy in 100 words or less is an accomplishment.

Sunday, March 6, 2016


Lennon Faris has a look at the brain tsunami - and the stigma - of mental illness.

No diatribe today. But I am ashamed of the marketing gimmick that is the Trump candidacy.

THIS is how ingrained it is in our culture, to tell a woman she must smile. To MAKE her do it. This is how obnoxious it is.

And how about a little comic relief?


Some of my Reider community friends will have recognized the reason I posted the somewhat random thoughts on Pelelope  on Friday. For my first time, I've entered one of Janet Reid's flash fiction contests. The prompt words were:


As a rule, these contests overwhelm me and I shut down and can't even contemplate entering. This time, I decided to take the plunge. Here is the result (a third try; I am tempted to share the first two I wrote and scrapped) ...


When had it shifted – from being impossible to see aught but the end of waiting, to being impossible to believe there was an end?

When she’d been robbed. When she’d gained weight and stopped holding in her stomach, when her skin had begun to crepe. When her mouth had become pinched, her brows ever harder to lift out of hatchet-faced gloom.

When the nick of the needle, as she sewed the never-ending shroud, had been pain not worth itself. When she found she wanted to be taken as easily as a pickpocket might filch a stranger’s gold.

Damn Odysseus.

Friday, March 4, 2016

Penelope, Abigail Adams, and the False Maid

I swear, it is an accident that my dog's name is Penelope. When I first saw her,  the association with her name, as given to her by her foster organization, was by far stronger with my grandmother's dog, whom we called "Penny-Dawg", than with Odysseus' wife.

It amuses me, of course, that the image used on the article I linked above, happens to be of Artemis: or Diana.

But "that" Penelope does have her plangent resonance in my life.

Still, I would hardly name a dog for the ongoing facts of my life, least of all the fact that for double-digit years now, the man who's ruined me for all the other boys happens to be someone who lives thousands of miles away.

Penelope was what she was called before I ever met her, and when they asked me what I was going to name her, I was genuinely bewildered. "She's clearly a Penelope."

It's a bouncy name, and she has always been a bouncy girl. Honestly, I feel like it has a happy sound to it. It has her energy, perfectly.

And she'd make a rotten Abigail, though Mrs. Adams is yet another famed example of a separated, devoted wife.

People find a separated relationship immensely peculiar - not to say, a stoning offense - in the modern world. Because we are short on wild frontiers, and it has become uncommon for people to strike out on their own to make their fortunes to support spouses and/or children, there is, in the contemporary mindset, no reason to hold out for anyone who is far away.

"Geographically undesirable" is a thing - a big thing - I have learned, in the years Mr. X has lived so far away.

And standardized definitions of what comprises acceptable relationships are a huge thing indeed.

"THAT'S not a boyfriend!" someone who barely knew me said upon hearing a bit about Mr. X. Yes, well, I was past forty even then, and the term "boyfriend" is embarrassing in any case. Whatever my relationship is or is not, I don't *want* a "boyfriend" because I am not in school anymore.

But thereby we fall into a linguistic vortex many of us have been swirling around ever since the concept of romantic relationships not firmly on a short course to marriage was invented, and this lies well beside the point of this post.

I quit engaging debates about the validity of my relationships years ago, and leave it with "Find me the man who's better, locally" when it ever comes up at all.

It comes up less, with advancing age. People look at a woman of forty-eight, and if she's single, she fits into a certain tidy box, and pestering her to get a man seems less a priority for strangers than it is when she is thirty-something.

I'm working on some short stories, turning on Penelope and perhaps Melantho, her false maid.

Stay tuned with me ... I'll share if it works out.

Thursday, March 3, 2016


As discussions at Janet's community tend to go, today's post brought on a rangy, tugging, distractable, and bracing chat as much like a cute and strong and happy puppy on a leash as usual. I need to quote Janet Rundquist in full on one of her comments today, with thanks for her permission to use this ...

ProfeJMarie (Janet Rundquist) said...
"It doesn't help me to understand the Mexican experience, or what it's like to be Latino/Latina if I'm constantly drawn out of the story because sections of important dialog are in a language I don't understand,"

This statement is where my point is. This assumes a lot about our readers. And while it can obviously apply to many populations, I'm going to go out on pretty solid limb and say that your statement above assumes that "most" readers are white, European, English-only speakers. It also assumes that when I put Spanish phrases into my novel, you are assuming that my purpose is teach about Latino culture. It's not. My native language is English, but I speak Spanish. I am not pulled out of a story due to Spanish phrases. Maybe I am if there's lots of Amharic, but I go with it because A) I am not the only one reading that book and B) that's the nature of the story and those characters.

Malinda Lo has a fantastic series about how this kind of thing impacts diverse voices from becoming part of the mainstream. It's our ("our"=we white people in the publishing biz) unintentional bias that gets in the way. It seems like a little thing, but it actually has more impact on the systemic issue than even I realized until recent years.

Perceptions of Diversity in Book Reviews

ie: as white readers and writers, we often make the mistake of making "white" and "English" the default. For the writer who had full paragraphs of Spanish followed by English... while I agree that his approach is misguided, his motivation behind it seems legit.

And now I've veered further away from the topic of this post, prune it all to Carkoon.

I snip this out of the fuller conversation because it stands so beautifully on its own, even if you never click to see the whole thread today. Little in-jokes about prunes and Carkoon aside, this is a delightfully stated point. The Malinda Lo link (Perceptions of Diversity link) is also, as Janet sometimes describes good things, a sox-knocker too, unpacking the theory that diversity in novels is "contrived" or implausible. To which I say: sigh. However, to the shout-out to Meg Medina, an author I know personally, am honored to consider a friend, and admire both as a writer and as a woman, I say: huzzah!

Diversity is not “praiseworthy”: It is reality. 
--Malinda Lo

I have to be honest. Almost a year on ... I actually feel better and better about putting The Ax and the Vase down for a nap. I *still* think the thing is a damned good novel. But it is ever more clearly, to me, an obvious result of my own blindness and privilege, curvatus en se, a learning tool.

Wednesday, March 2, 2016


Let's start off today's Collection post with several members of Janet Reid's community ...

Paul Lamb takes a look at one particular anachronism (interpolated spectacles) in a piece of art, and I am brought to mind of the way people like to go all guitarist and whinge about modern anachronisms in drama, art, or writing, like it's some sort of newfangled SIN. Which: sigh. No, we've always brought ancient tales into our own worlds. (I'm also of the opinion that Interpolated Spectacles would make a great name for a band.)

Julie Weathers, possibly the Head Reider at Janet Reid’s blog/community, has a nicely in-depth post on the mid nineteenth-century riding habit (and her work!). With a variety of images, for my fellow costume nerds!

I want to thank E. M. Goldsmith for this link … Chuck Wendig, Huffpo, cake-eating, and monetizing Stockholm Syndrome. On the ethics and economy of a billion-dollar enterprise and unpaid writers. (Worth a click beyond for The Tale of the Depends Duping.)

CarolynnWithTwoNs, or 2Ns as we call her at Janet’s world, has an insightful post about those who provide service every day. I’ve never been a restaurant server nor worked in retail, but as a secretary, and especially in my job now, customer service is my bread and my work was for years something I apologized for, so: yeah. Before preppies, yuppies, and the Reagan years, it was a point of PRIDE to be a union member, a factory worker, a person who actually produced something or served people.

To go along with Julie's historical costume research, The History Blog has a post on an 11,000-year-old engraved  shale pendant, found in Yorkshire. I always love the theoretical decoding attempts of prehistoric artifacts.

Speaking of decoding, in my ongoing fascination with Ötzi the Iceman, the recent mapping of his sixty-one tattoos has struck me with the significance of the tattoo as talisman/healing magic. His ink marked the spots, where he suffered various painful ailments and injuries. The simple lines - incisions pigmented with charcoal - were not drawn as art, but represent the work of prehistoric medicinal practice. The mention of correlation with acupuncture points is an excruciatingly intriguing entre' to the eventual discovery we'll make, that ancient tattoo practices do present modern scientific value.

DIY, repurpose, upcycle - it's the new "Reuse, Recycle, Reduce" - and the old, old reason a fifteenth-century panel survived the Reformation, Also the reason I love palimpsests.

... and back to the Reiders. One of the things about her community is that, if you click on the commenters' profiles, you find the most devastating array of great blogs and pages. And so I share two posts from J. J. Litke: on primate skulls, and traffic, sorta. PLEASE do yourself the favor of clicking both of these: she's a great read, and a better writer. Be it on your own head if you miss the gift shop link in there somewhere.

Finally today, a blog I've been meaning to share for the movie lovers, and love-to-hate-rs (ish), Dreams are What le Cinema is For. I ran into this when looking for an image to use on a recent post where I mentioned the literal grace of Grace Kelly and got a bit schmoopy about memories of my dad. (Or I may not have posted that one; sometimes posts do shrivel and waste away.) Anyway, I quickly became addicted to the archives, and bookmarked it, because: camp! movies! a little cattiness! SHEER FUN! Woo!