Saturday, April 16, 2016


Janet Reid quoted me at some length in this week’s epic edition of her Sunday Week in Review …

DLM had some very wise words to our questioner:
(I)t's in no way my place to tell another author their vision must be blinkered, but I can at least speak to the necessity (sometimes) of putting away a novel. And it does not come lightly.

OP, I spent ten years learning how to write a novel, and writing it. Some of those latter years, I queried. I learned I had more work to do, I did it, I queried again. What came out of that was a VERY good novel; a good read, a fascinating look at a little-regarded piece of world history. And a book I cannot sell.

It's been a year since I first allowed myself to even conceive of the idea of putting this work away. But I quickly realized it was necessary. Years of my life. A story I still love. All those dreams. And the universe's answer was "no."

Believe me when I say, I know how hard it is. I know how heartbreaking.

But I also know this: to put that firstborn book away, to let it rest, to stop asking more of it than the market can realistically yield ... is LIBERATING.

I’ll be honest, it’s hard not to think (though she has never said as much to me) she agrees with the reasoning by which I came to retire The Ax and the Vase.

Speaking of which:

Something I said to someone today, about The Ax and the Vase … “It's a GREAT novel. But right now, the he market is not dying of need for novels about The Ultimate White Dude in Power. … I hated losing those years of my life. I hated putting that novel away. And I know it's been the right thing to do, and I'm even glad. Clovis' voice isn't the voice we need to hear, not right now. It hurt like hell, but I learned and grew and what I've gained from the experience I would never give up.”

Tom Williams and I were talking recently about the new image header on his blog, and he said it helped to inspire his most recent work. I can remember falling into cover images when I was a kid, coming into the world of the book – or, perhaps more often, a world of my own making, and finding universes filled with tales. It seems a good time to write from an image. Unrelatedly (?), I’ve also read a little, of late, about Tantalus and Sisyphus. And the Caustic Cover Critic led me, a moment ago, to this. Stay tuned for a short piece, born of these things. I’m thinking world-building of my own …
Unless the short stories I've been posting are throwing off the blog content? Opinions welcome.

The History Blog has given me a few chances lately to get out of the usual Western European and/or American groove.

In a once-inaccessible cliff tomb in Nepal, we find the tantalizing possibility that The Silk Road circa 500 AD had a much more southerly route than has historically been believed.

An excavation at a museum which once was a priory turns up a tiny Arabic chess piece. There is a speculative piece of background about Cardinal Wolsey’s guests at Wallingford Priory that provides some lovely opportunities for stories about someone losing a piece of a game with which they traveled, five centuries ago, but I perhaps will not be the one to write that story. For me, the truly interesting part is what a bishop’s mitre has in common with a war elephant.

Another evocative find is the jewelry treasure which may have been hidden to save it in a period of upheaval: “The National Museum of History experts believe the cache of silver jewels was a family fortune buried in the turbulent days of the Chiprovtsi Uprising in the fall of 1688. Since almost everyone in the area was killed in battle, executed, enslaved or fled, there was nobody left to dig up the treasure.” Difficult not to imagine the desperation in this poignant hidden silver.

Back in my English groove, the photos of this  13th century mosaic floor at Somerset is a gorgeous look at a period when decoration was marvelously bright and bold. When I first became familiar with 13th-15th century European and English architecture and furnishings, I was astonished by the exuberant and high-contrast graphics and bright colors. Modern preconceptions tend to color everything in The Past (and especially the so-called medieval period) a bit of a faded sepia tone, but five minutes’ perusal of any variety of heraldic design should put paid to this notion, and heraldic design is dominant in this rare sample of a noble’s expensive tiled floor. Glorious!

For an idea of the vividness of a medieval interior, take a look here.

If you were interested in the Silk Road story, or my own obsession with historical costume and conservation/preservation of textiles, this seventeenth-century find is a STUNNING rare piece, colors still tantalizingly present and the cloth in excellent condition. From a *shipwreck* no less!


Me said...

Well, I love short stories, so I'll be waiting for them!

Lilac Shoshani said...

You are indeed wise… It must have been very difficult to put away that novel, Diane...But I can see how it could also be LIBERATING…
And that's so cool that you helped to inspire Tom Williams most recent work… :-)

DLM said...

Hi, Me! I've started a sketch inspired by that image, but it's not a story yet, only a bit of philosophical description. So that's stewing.

Lilac, don't look to me for anything like *wisdom*! I'd hate for you to go astray.

I should have explained better about the image and inspiration - Tom told me the IMAGE inspired him. Not I! (He is wise.) He's all his own, I can take no credit.