Friday, June 23, 2017


That awkward - not to say cognition-stompingly surreal - moment when Donald J. Trump and Barack Obama are in the same place linguistically. *Blink*

Wednesday, June 21, 2017


Science Daily has a great piece on the reward mechanisms in our brain relating to making art. This article focuses on the study of visual arts in this, but I would expect any writer to pipe up and say, "me too!" on this phenomenon.

(Bonus question for the novelists: is this a new meaning for the term SCIENCE FICTION? Heh.)


Regular readers here know, I love me a good debunking of The Dirty, Stupid Past - and American Duchess is serving up an epic takedown of the old 18th-century-bugs-in-the-hair routine. Along with quite a lot of good info, and a little period experimentation. Their podcasts are not short, but SO cool. And the very depth is what I am digging.

I have family in the Pacific Northwest, and one of the first local uniquenesses I remember hearing about was the wooly dogs. The mention of separating the dogs connects to hearing about their island breeding; this was a precious animal (as indeed all dogs are). So these Salish dogs fascinate me in a similar way to Carolinas.

Unscented flatus and original sin. A very interesting piece indeed on Augustine at The New Yorker. I am intrigued by the many quotes here, most uncited - and the very contemporary-versa vulgata translation of his Confessions mentioned at the top.

200 legitimate voters may be impeded from voting for every double vote stopped.

Finally, from The Atlantic - an in-depth look at the extensively documented relationship between white supremacist organizations and the GOP's voter-fraud initiatives. To anyone who feels "just having to show a driver's license" is not a coded method of racist targeting, look again. Or just look once. And consider the emphasis on data which purges tens of thousands of legitimate voters in a single state. Alfred K. Brewer could tell you a story.

Thursday, June 15, 2017

"I don't live by the river"

Editing at the top to add this curious note. One of the people at this concert dropped into my brother's life briefly, pretty much at the moment I was inspired to write this post. I hadn't gotten around to posting it yet when he told me about the encounter, days later.

Curious thing, life.

Should've worn the Chris Crafts.

But, I mean, it was a concert. It was The Clash. The little Asian cotton Maryjanes were the thing. I wore The Thing. And my nerdy jeans and beige socks, yeah. But then the cool top, it was kind of new wave. Vivid turquoise stripes, cool puffed sleeves.

As cool as *I* got in 1982.

I was fifteen.

My brother asked me to go to a concert with him. It was weird, but with his girlfriend's little sister going, maybe he kind of had to. Or maybe he was just being cool with me. It was about this period in our lives that sort of thing began to happen here and there.

Whether he had to bring me, or wanted to ... Didn't matter. We were excited. I remember us spotting other cars as we got closer to Williamsburg, "Bet they're going." Seeking shared anticipation.

Fortunately, for a change: not seeking boys. This isn't because I was with my brother, though usually he terrified any boys I might find interesting, event he other punks. No, it was because Joe Strummer with a mohawk looked too much like my big brother.

So I enjoyed the whole show without dreary old sex interfering mentally, and actually experienced the concert.

That unique smell - of The Reagan Years ... of the ozone-crackled electricity that was the music itself (mountains of speakers and amps) ... of that much youth packed into a venue. The incredible, the ineffable scent and sensation and sight of youth, in the early 80s. Angry youth, but exultant too.

The crush was intense at the front. I was with the other kid sister, against the barricade; barely more than a child.  Some guy saw me (us?) and got concerned. Or maybe he just wanted my spot. But ... it was after ... Maybe he really was scared for me. He signaled the roadies, they pulled me out of my cherry position. My memory has failed, in 35 years, as to her being pulled up to, but probably so. Dragged up onto the stage, shooed off it, shepherded around - and ended up out of the crush. I was annoyed.

Where my brother and his girlfriend were, who knew - I didn't care, there was nothing to be afraid of. Not even death by general admission. Safe. Wherever the older sibs were, they were never farther than the walls of the venue. Nobody in the crowd was out to hurt us. There was a show to go on.

And so, I wormed my way BACK up to the front, once again causing annoyance, but this time to the guy who had ordered us "saved" from the crowd. Maybe the other kid sister and I did this together. I just remember I was there.

I latched onto the barricade like a tick.

The Clash. Front row. Sea of kids, strange adulation and imperative demand. It was sensational.

At some point, we pulled ourselves back out - noise-fatigue, or the desire to find the others, or maybe they found us. I have some recollection of standing on the seats, scream-singing, bopping.

I had lost one of my flimsy cotton shoes, either in the dragging moment of my salvation, or stomped off during the second round, surrounded by combat boots. Stuck the other shoe in my back pocket - heaven knows why. Maybe I thought I'd find the lost one after the show. Maybe I even did. History and memory have failed in this detail.

Standing on a seat, beer-sopped socks, the muck of spit and sweat and beer and cigarettes. Just a few hours of a life; a meeting of four people. Of thousands.

Then a drive home, on an autumnal night. Ears ringing.

"Rock the Casbah" was the big deal that year, and it was pretty great. But even today, I maintain that "London Calling" is one of the great tracks in recording history. It echoes in a way beyond the mere sonic definition.

The weekend before that concert, The Clash appeared on SNL. Little Opie Cunningham was the host (this was before he disappeared completely *behind* cameras). He drank a beer live on camera, protested his Little Opie Cunningham-ness, and got ribbed by Eddie Murphy.

The ineffable scent of the 80s. The sound of soaring, roaring, echoing, raw music. GOOD music, but raw in a way that's really only synthesized anymore.

I really did see all the good concerts.


Ever notice how hard it is to find a supermarket in a city's downtown? But easy to find a McDonald's or other fast food? It's not just a happy coincidence.

There's a fast-food restaurant within walking distance in many low-income neighborhoods, but nary a green leafy vegetable in sight.

Do you know who Maggie Walker was? Find out here and especially here - it's nice to see her getting some attention.

A brief history of children sent through the mail. Bees, bugs, and babies, y'all. Thanks, Smithsonian Magazine, I am well and truly squicked. (And how many of you are now wondering what the weight limit on modern drones is ... ? Yeah, I thought so. Same as a Europran swallow.)

Also from Smithsonian, here is a cool look at Wonder Woman's origins ...

American Duchess talks with Cheyney McKnight on a range of things, including a nuanced look at slaves' clothes in America. The post alone is interesting, but the hour-plus podcast is highly worth the listen. Never say what we wear - what YOU wear - sends no message.

Yet again, researchers have looked to the yucky/bizarre medicine of the ancient past, and found it was not so bizarre after all.

One of the problems with the modern concept of The Dirty, Stupid Past is that we no longer understand the most basic mechanisms of our world. We judge crazy old plant medicine without understanding plants in the slightest, nor allowing for the possibility that what we now call chemistry was for millennia the mere result of observation and implementation. The scientific method was only named in recent centuries; but the need for experimentation and innovation go back as far as humanity itself. Contemporary society considers itself very advanced, but hardly any of us understands the workings of anything we use, from our technology to our environment. Whereas, in times past when people were dependent upon their environment, and had no vast networks of text-bound research or even vast networks of other people's observations and experiences, communities (a) worked together and (b) knew their world intimately. Small as those worlds may seem to us today, the individuals living in them knew them better than we even know our own bodies anymore.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017


Rest in peace, Wallace.

This is frustrating. Labor is being paid first again. Shareholders get leftovers.

Revisiting the shareholder-first business model - courtesy of The New Yorker.

On the unexpectedly morbid history of ribbons as adornment. Naturally, this piece brings to mind the Beresford Ghost, and other stories.

To my knowledge, this lady hath much joy and pleasure in death.

I have to say, this makes more sense to me than fear, perhaps *especially* in the direst of circumstances - precisely because those people are facing deliverance from suffering.

The real point of this article - or, really, the research it discusses - is the guiding force in American healthcare: avoidance of death. I have known more than one person who would have been happier had they not been treated not-to-death, honestly. I do not intend to become the dying person constantly snatched back from the brink, either, and I don't wish to die in a hospital. This morning, I said to someone who said, "Getting old sucks!" "Yeah, but it beats the alternative." The fact is, sometimes death beats some of the medical alternatives, too. The trick is to know when to choose what. At some point, perhaps I will have the grace and blessing to choose not to incur obscene debt for life"saving" measures which prolong my agony and deplete my earthly resources. If I get there, I don't expect I'll face the end with horror or regret.

To people furious over the Kathy Griffin photo I ask, where were you when effigies of Obama were lynched and burned across the eight years of his administration...?

The Boston Globe has an EXCELLENT piece looking at the outrage surrounding the Trumpian Shakespeare in the Park production of Julius Caesar. And I say: um, yeah. Anyone who thinks this play is a celebration of assassination is ... well, let us use the term "uninformed" to be kind.

Throwback post - because it needs to be said. Again and again and again.

And again. Because we KNOW it's about power, not sex.

Sunday, June 4, 2017


Even apart from the fact that I am a writer, words have always meant a great deal to me. They are more than stories, more than communication, they are avatars for what me must express as human beings. Today, I learned a new word. It is meaningful to me. How about you?

How to keep cool in eighteenth-century summer clothes - American Duchess provides such interesting background (yes, silk IS the worst in summertime in Virginia!). Observations from experience, some of them unexpected. (And, inauthentic or not, an icepack in the bonnet does sound pretty good to me ...)

Aww ... I shall recuse myself from entering Janet's latest caption contest, but it's about my boy again! Also, I already won a book this week, so someone else deserves this win. I deserve just to enjoy the entries!

Notes to entrants: Kate Larkindale, Gossamer used to RUN under that door when I first adopted him! And kathy joyce, a draft sock didn't even stop him. I used to pull a DRAWER out of my chest of drawers and put it at the crack to keep him from careening in and out all night long. He was so wee. I love Melanie Sue Bowles's caption, and BJ Muntain's, and got such a laugh out of Mark Ellis's and Colin's and Donna's and Elissa M's and Craig F's. Note to Brian Schwarz - I have a pic of him on my cube wall at work - all giant eyeballs and curious whiskers. On it is pasted, in about 24 pt. bold font, the question, "Didja ever get the feelin' ... ... you was bein' WATCHED?"

My theory? He was remembering when he used to bolt under that door, and reminiscing about being so small he could do that ... and then fall asleep on my neck with my chin for a pillow. And how he used to knead on my head so I got such INTERESTING hairdos. (Because: Gossamer.)

Editing to add another link - Donna Everhart is going to start her first-sentence Fridays feature again, now for her new novel, The Road to Bittersweet. In celebration, a clip of great music and dacing - one of those things it is a joy to see digitized online, real people in a real place and a real time, in joy and creativity and community. What a wonderful document, and a fine way for Donna to celebrate.

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

TROUT Again!

Funny I should run into this today, after yesterday's musing about Brautigan et al. Could be one to hunt down.

Image: Wikipedia, of course

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

"... and ALWAYS for something completely different"

It was about 1983 when Mark and I became best friends. I use his real name because enough time separates us, and the name was common enough around here then, that it's as anonymous as calling him any other name.

Fifteen to his fourteen, I was in high school, but he was the cool one. I came over one time, he turned on the party light he'd built and calibrated to respond to his stereo, and he plunged my brain into something incomprehensible.

It was the original radio recordings of Hitchhiker's Guide.

I had no understanding of what was coming out of his speakers, there was no reference point by which I could make sense of the chorus of Cyrius Cybernetics voices buzzing out their little piece of the universe being built out of sound effects and voice acting. It all made no sense to me, and as is still to some degree my wont, that which was unfamiliar made me resistant, because I hated the confusion.

It probably took half an hour at least for me to even get that there was a story being told.

For me, back then, "writing" meant books - I was scarcely aware that the fare on our TV set (we used to call them "TV sets" - now ask me about hifi) involved composing scripts - and books came in few genres. Lots of nonfiction, for which I hadn't yet gotten the hang of caring. 19th century lit of various stripes, owned by us but belonging to nobody in particular. Mom's romantic novels. Dad's joke books; nothing else he might read could possibly have interested me.

So I "got" Bennet Cerf and even Art Buchwald, and novels by Poe and the like. But comedic science fiction? In radio format? I only understood radio drama as something that had gone the way of the dodo shortly after Baby Snooks cut her teeth.

Douglas Adams bent my brain.


Then I got to college and read Richard Brautigan. It is more than my eloquence can even attempt, explaining this lit, but Trout Fishing in America meant a lot to me once. Thirty years on, I'm not sure my geriatric behind could make head nor tail of it anymore.


Then I discovered Donald Harington. The Architecture of the Arkansas Ozarks, only one of the Stay Moronian novels he penned, layered in ways even by then I couldn't intellectually cope with. Historical fiction? Yes. Picaresque? Yes. Folk tales? Yes. Family epic? Yes. Fantasy? Yes. All of, and so much more than, the above.

And it was Harington who put it best: we must write neckties.

Write things that are impractical and colorful. Write neckties.


Recently, I have picked up my late and beloved Aunt L's copy of The Known World.  I was fortunate to meet Edward Jones at a conference years ago, and yet somehow in the vagaries of the TBR pile, this has never quite hit the top at a time when I ended up finishing it. This week is different.

The novel is a quilt; not merely featuring a wide cast, but it is in itself a wide cast of a large net. There is factual history to be found here, and some detail so vivid it feels like documentation, or memory, or The Sight. Scenes are discussed as if by a storyteller - BY a storyteller, of course - but the "there-ness" is complete, the characters breathe and move in life not because of our intimacy with their imagined thoughts, but because they are viewed with respect - both literal and in the perspective sense - to their humanity. Human action, nuance by nuance. And so the omniscient document becomes the novel, and draws us into the curious world of freed men who owned slaves, in American history.

Having not so long ago finished reading Gigi Amateau's Come August, Come Freedom, there is a resonance, though her style is more what my brain would have called "traditional" as I grappled with all of the experimental and unexpected and creative work mentioned.


My own work is "traditional" in the extreme, of course. I don't color outside the lines; it took me too long to learn how to stay *in* them. But the obvious truism to (neck)tie up this post is this: without listening to, reading, learning from those who don't need the lines at all, I would not be able to color at all.

Work (the Paid Kind)

The only use spam comments have is to remind me of the occasional old post I don't hate rediscovering. Today's special was this one. I remember that day, but my memory is unlike what is said in the post. Funny how brains work.

Yet again, though, it gets me thinking about my current gig. For a long time, I still thought of this as my "new" job - and yet, in a career blessed with so many reorgs and layoffs, it is by a huge margin the position I have held for the longest time in my history.

For decades, I never kept a single job for more than two years. By and large, this speaks to the nature of the economy since I began participating in it; and only a few of my job changes came at my own hands, as promotions of sorts. When I was with a certain large securities firm no longer as-such in existence, my tenure was over five years, but I held four jobs in that time: and every change was upwardly mobile, and every change was at my own instigation. But mostly, I am a product of the ever-"evolving" (growth-and-shareholder-obsessed) economic times I came of age in.

So realizing recently that I've been with my team, my "new" company, for three and a half years has been curious.

It doesn't feel like a long time, compared to the most important jobs I hold in my memory. It also REALLY doesn't feel like I've reached (or distantly passed) an endpoint, which I have felt even in jobs I have loved in the past. Two years and I become afraid. Two years, and I see change whether I want to or not. My last job, which I was proud to hold and did not want to leave, lasted two and a half, and I was giddy with fear just because of my own presumed expiration dating ... slightly before I realized that the changes around me gave me reason to be giddy with fear because I recognized what was going on. I left. And almost immediately, the cliff I'd been perched upon crumbled. I was safe, but it was heartbreaking.

And I am still safe.

The things I have accomplished in this position, with this company, pretty easily surpass anything I have been able to manage before.

When I began to look afield, after a couple internal interviews with said previous employer, I reached out to someone I knew from HR there, who had left. And ended up with the company she went to.

She had recommended me to my now-team, specifically my now-executive, knowing that I was a seasoned admin and he was unseasoned with having one, and that I would be able not only to step into required competencies, but also to form the work I'd do and essentially train my team to have an admin at all. The unwritten side of this was that she knew I'd be able to create my own work.

The way this has played out is that I have created my own terms.

My team don't have me doing PowerPoints to speak of, I rarely write memos that aren't my own idea, and apart from monitoring expenses for compliance and speaking to my direct boss's availability, I don't do a lot of the things most people THINK secretaries spend our lives on.

When I first started, one of the managers under my boss's care jumped in with both feet. He had me working on a lot of things, but one key one remains a core part of my work - albeit now in a very different way.

Both Feet left our company years ago, and in his absence, I picked up a great deal in his area. It took a long time to fill his position, so by the time we did so, I was uppity in the extreme in this department. So the new guy came into a situation with a secretary already managing up. And he seems to have been willing to leave me to it. With the result that that administrative tedium I picked up way back when is now an area in which I have streamlined, assertively managed, and brought into an entirely new proportion.

I've saved my company a crap-ton of money, on my own initiative, cemented best practices, insert-your-least-favorite-corporate-speak here. Because I cared, and because nobody else was doing this work, and because nobody told me not to.

I lived right up to what that HR person expected of me, and then some.


So re-reading that old post was interesting, in the context of my continued realization that I seem to be in a job well on its way to Methuselah status as far as my CV goes. I see in it a bit of the same sinking-my-teeth-in/getting-it-done-ery that has served me here, and even some of the amusement I felt at losing a job I so desperately hated (but which I took a long time to realize I did).

I still call that the worst April Fool's Day joke ever - not least as they jumped the gun by a day on the punchline.

Saturday, May 27, 2017


In the past month, comments here have dried up entirely. It doesn't seem to me the content has changed, so I muse about the possibility that summer has led to less traffic.

Unfortunately, it is hard to tell. My traffic stats have for the best part of a year now shown massive bot traffic, from the U.S. It used to be when my "viewership" was up, I'd see Russia all over my posts. Anymore, though, it's domestic traffic, curiously enough all Mac. I'd indulge vanity and think I had a geek stalker but the levels indicate bot, not human.

There are still days Russia dominates the fake traffic around here, and we've always got Asia. But the major point here is that my actual readership appears to be gone.

And just when things have been getting so exciting with the WIP, too.

The point of THIS wallowingly self-indulgent post is this: what content is worth commenting on? Right now, is it better just to leave the blog fallow, wait out vacation season, and not worry that nobody's around much anymore? Or are all of you lurking and yawning ... ?

I have an idea for a good post. But it's possible I may be wasting my time.

(And yes, I know I need to shill this place on Twitter for stats' sake; it does work. BUT it does not ever result in comments.)

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Nothing Old is New Again

Some readers (and Reiders) are aware, I put away my first novel about two years ago. Not easy, at the time - and I am still grateful for those of you who were SO very supportive and sensitive and generous - but it has been the right thing to do. The possibility of a final revision and self publishing still exists, but my focus is decidedly fixed on the WIP, and that feels healthy and very good indeed.

Not long ago, someone online who is aware of The Ax and the Vase expressed interest in reading it. I sent it their way with thanks for the attention, and turned back to the WIP. It's not the first time this has happened, and the very first reader I ever had was very kind indeed.

This time, my reader began to offer questions and some feedback. It presented for me a terrible temptation, and I turned to my old first pages and found myself a rather cruel reader. The thing is dross, there are some pretty words, but I began to feel "OF COURSE THIS DRECK NEVER GOT PUBLISHED" and felt the urge, a rather strong urge, to tear into it again.

Happy endings: the moment was lust, passing and intemperate. I was drunk with self-critique and old dreams. But only drunk. I did hate what I read, enough to wish I hadn't sent it out to the second reader ... but his feedback has hushed, and my interest has quashed. Fortunately, without a hangover. I didn't drink deeply enough. (I didn't read deeply enough; it was that bad, really.)

The WIP is my One True Love, and I will not stray. Indeed, I didn't actually edit anything while I was under the influence, strong as the influence seemed in the moment.

It's a funny thing, a book's corpse - or its ghost. Very much like a bitter ex: there may be some allure, but in the end, most often, you look at the face of once-beloved, and think ... "What did I see in them?" Or a lost love: you remember, but the feeling is distant, like novocaine. Not quite real.

The Ax and the Vase is no longer entirely real for me, and that is both bizarre and necessary. As a writer, there's only so much energy, only so much focus - and monogamy is important for the way many of us need to work. Even pantsers (still not my favorite term, but it does  have its utility) probably tend more often than not to concentrate on one project, even if not in one area.

It occurs to me how often I referred to the WIP, after I discovered the subject and knew it would be my second novel - but before I had finished with Ax - as the thing I had on the backburner.

Ax isn't even on the backburner now. I know, too, what I want my third novel to be; but I am not contemplating it, and the research will be entirely new and separate; no cross-pollination anymore. There is nothing going on in my writing world right now but the WIP. Two long-comatose shorts exist, and now and then I peer at them momentarily. But neither one pulls focus, and neither has really grown in the period I've been working on the WIP.

It is, in its quiet way, gratifying to know how cleanly I've let go of Ax. Not killed it, nor forgotten it. Only the expedient: put it away. Self-publish? Or even some new route? Maybe someday.

But the interest, the intent, and the intensity: are all on the WIP. Invigorating!


I'm going to lead y'all into the next post coming up this afternoon, with a look at writing across gender, a vintage essay from The Atlantic. Early in my going with The Ax and the Vase, I put a great deal of what Mr. X and I call "mindtime" into the fact that I was a woman writing first-person from the perspective of a male character. Never mind that I was also attempting to occupy a world gone now for fifteen centuries; the concern was always gender-based, not world-building. So this essay renews some curious questions for me, and I hope someone will comment here on their experience, mine, the points made at TA, or any other thoughts ...

We're totally living in a time of giants.

Fun with science-nerding - NPR has two really cool pieces this week! One, on the development of GIGANTISM in whales ("It's the baleen stupid!" Okay, and population/migration feeding patterns.). Next: on the development of the human spine. Neat.

More from the animal kingdom (and The Atlantic) - a kinda-gross/macabrely comical moment with a flamingo that teaches us about their ability to balance on one leg. One more intriguing point: "explaining how the birds stand on one leg doesn’t tell us why they do." Too true. (Bonus points for the wonderful photo graphic even I could have created. Hey, but it's clear and gets the point across. "THIS IS THE KNEE." Hee.)

I have not written a real fashion post in far too long, but here is a great look at the revolution of Business Casual and dress through the twentieth century. For twenty years now, I've all but had to apologize (to other women) for being a woman who still wears pantyhose; today, I wore heels and a knee-length skirt, a soft knit blouse, and vintage rhinestones to work. I also "go to the office" about 95% of the time.

Fair warning on the plethora of excellent links above - and beyond - this blog might be simultaneously maddening and addictive. Also worth the clickage. This may be just me ...

One of these days, I'll have to look at the flip side of the casual revolution, and post about the daytime-ization of what once were exclusively evening and/or formal items - satin and rhinestones or precious gems, hemlines once reserve for weddings or for bars ... codes of clothing old and new. And the increased manufacture of cheaper, ersatz reformulations of these things.

Most of us are aware of Marie Curie's research in radium, but I for one was surprised to learn how, in part, it was funded - the part of the story so few of us find romantic. The story of the American women who funded her acquisition of the rare, expensive, element. Makes me proud to be an American woman (who also supports science).

Bat talk! No, this is not a new American talk show.; though it would undoubtedly be an improvement on most. No, this is a look into the linguistic patterns of Egyptian bats. And it seems they have a lot of things to say about where each of them sleeps. "SHOVE OFF!" being chief among those things. I wonder whether American bats just despair of how Kardashian-obsessed the local humans are.

... and then there's the science I am more skeptical to read. Hmm.

The thing about any popular science - even Smithsonian magazine - is, when I see claims that revise "common knowledge" by orders of magnitude, I am instantly skeptical. Indeed, when I saw the "news" about human occupation in North America circa 130,000 years ago (originally in a MUCH less respected news outlet), I took the "it must be this" conclusions of the scientific team as quoted with a very great deal of salt, and moved on without linking it here. Seeing this in a venue for which I have more esteem doesn't entirely change that. There's nothing at SA that contradicts the statements I saw and originally dismissed as facile, and respect for the outlet doesn't redeem paucity of evidence. Indeed, at least SA shows more detail, and healthy questioning of the conclusions. Barring reliable dating or ANY hint of middens, fires, architecture - or *human remains* for that matter, even within a few thousand years of the extraordinary dates claimed here - it all feels like so much faith-based archaeology does: kind of interesting, maybe fodder for a story, but not hard science. And not persuasive. The fact SA indulged the provocative headline is actually kind of bothersome. (Special note: stay away from the comments, they are dispiritingly racist and foolish.)

What do you think? About any or all of these links?

Sunday, May 14, 2017


Casey Karp's blog is a new favorite, not just for his talents in wordlery, but also because he brings the learn-y stuff. This week, take a look at some of Amazon's REALLY chilling new problems. One, the new world in gig-economy logistics, and two, the Authors Guild article he links from that post, about how a new algorithm may cost the publishing industry - and authors. The final sentence here is pretty frightening.

I enjoy Jeff Sypeck's unique outlook; here is an interesting area of cultural context leading up to the American Civil War. Excellent quote from Mark Twain on this. Looking at what we consume as relating to what we enact.

"Rubber ducky, I love you - and the writing you help me do!" Maggie Maxwell has a great strategy, apparently used by IT programmers. I've never heard of talking to the duck, but it does make a kind of sense. (Though, personally? I tend to use actual coworkers or other writers or readers, depending on my issues ... Writing buddies really DO make great ducks. Heh.)

Friday, May 12, 2017

Another Five Years

Right at the moment I was thinking of one scale of time, I was missing out on multiple others. This year, I managed to forget not only TEO's birthday, but Gossamer's (May Day) and Penny's (my April Fool).

Last night, I saw something I have never seen before. Goss has closed his eyes in the *presence* of Penelope before, of course. But last night, as I got up from the laptop and TV to go upstairs and go to bed, I saw Gossamer closing his eyes AT Penelope.

For those non catters among us: a cat's closing its eyes "at" another living thing is a specific communication. It means "I trust you", and is a profound cue to its relationships. Cats aren't famous for handing out their trust lightly. So to see Goss gazing clearly and fixedly on Penny (who was on the couch and oblivious), and repeatedly almost-closing his eyes at her was a revelation to me. I wished it were possible for Pen to understand. But she didn't even see it. She was as unaware of Gossie in that moment as she was of current events in Southeast Asia.

Which is a shame. But I saw something wonderful.

Between the two of them, he tends to be the aggressor when they scuffle, and their scuffles - while not worrisome - don't feel like play. It's not because he doesn't mean to play, it's because Pen doesn't understand him as playing. The two of them speak completely different languages. Shoot, Pen and I speak completely different languages.

I have wished, since the two of them were kidlets, that they would ever become snuggle buddies. But I realized not long ago that Penny actually doesn't know how to snuggle. (Well ... not REALLY.) When she wants to be near me, she can't sit still. She demands pettin's, or just needs to wiggle. She's actually very physically awkward with affection, has been all her life. On the occasion she is allowed on the couch or on the bed, she can lie down, but rarely is she touching me. When I try to cozy up with her, she gets actively confused - and by actively, I mean that the physical contact, no matter how relaxed my demeanor, drives her to activity, even anxiety. She can't sit still and just snuggle. She cannot even seem to conceive of it. So approaches to snuggling confuse her and set her off.

Now, Gossamer: he is a nestler from way back. He likes body heat, and he likes stillness. Sure, he loves a good pettin', but he can settle in for a good sit without being attended to, and often prefers that over any form of movement. Petting itself tends to end in lying still and snoozing.

So obviously, the lack of snuggle-ation between these two has never been antipathetic, it's just that one party is incapable of it. They have their moments. And since I realized Pen doesn't know how to snuggle, I've tried to work her towards at least understanding snoozy physical contact. When she's been allowed on the bed of late, I put my feet against her back and just say the word, "Snuggle." Once or twice, I've been able to achieve non-petting contact when she's been on the couch, and said the word, "Snuggle."

Communicating. I'm slow, but I learn.

Happy fifth birthdays to my Poobahs, yellow and grey. They are my ongoing adventure, most of the laughs in my life, and constant blessings.

I still aspire to be good enough for either one of 'em.

Monday, May 8, 2017


Strangely, considering how much I lean on them for content around here, it's been a while since I did a Collection post. Let's make up for that, shall we?

This post from Casey Karp is a funny bit of truism - on procrastinators, writers, and the facts of documentation. He has a nimble way with a word, go read his blog for this, or many other things!

Who watched Feud, the recent "anthology series" (we used to call these miniseries, kids) about Bette Davis and Joan Crawford? One of the things that captivated me was its production design. From the brilliant cutout-animation of the credits to the airless, sky-less sets - even the outdoors feels indoors in this film - there is a set-bound feel, for such a sprawling piece, covering decades and many cities. The returns to a single home for each star (Crawford had many over the years, but writing historical fiction does involve elision and compilation), the visitation of one windowless and symmetrically-posed restaurant booth, the sets within the sets. It's all among the most amazing visual arts pieces I've ever seen done in a movie or show; there is a realism to the details, but an overwhelming, airless enclosure about the whole.

Many of my friends and family know, I've barely ever been able to tolerate Susan Sarandon at all, but of COURSE she was almost literally born to the role of Davis, and she probably edges out Jessica Lange as Joan Crawford here. Vocally, neither of them puts in a full-time job of sounding much like the original stars, but Sarandon does provide several moments looking and sounding like Davis which are spine-tinglingly eerie. Lange never even attempts the flinty twang of Crawford, which is a shame given that Crawford's voice is so much a part of her persona for those of us who've really spent any time watching her performances, but she doesn't fail as utterly as Faye Dunaway did with her voice. The smoker's modulation she does use is at least entirely appropriate to Crawford's aesthetic, and makes sense as a character choice.

Okay, enough of that. How about the history of the American grin - and the import/export problems with it? Very cool piece by The Atlantic; nicely detailed, but not a long read.

(D)ata showed that flight delays got worse as more people based purchases mostly on price. Airlines didn’t have to compete at being good—they had to compete only at being cheap.

Who doesn't love a good victim-blaming? I don't! In "the evolution of how we do things" news: aaaaahhhhh, airlines. Turns out it's all our own fault we're miserable with air travel. There is a complex web of implications here; not all of it bad, and some of the worst of it perfectly persuasive. Personally, I'm creeped out and concerned about The Uber-ization of Everything, but the wider implications could be interesting, should they actually play out. Hmmm. Lots of hmmm.

Ten high-quality products manufactured in the United States - I had no idea ANY shoes were manufactured domestically any more, and will keep New Balance in mind for my next pair of sneakers. Which may be sooner now, just because I know this.

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Murder, I Wrote

I used the tag GREAT writing on this post, because sometimes writing *feels* great ... and you can just about believe your own work might be so, when that happens. Last week's momentum reached a bit of an apex in The Murder Scene ... wherein one of the main characters finds herself about to be burned alive, without touching the fires slowly cooking her life away. And it's as harrowing as it sounds.

Most writers know, reading our work out loud is important, and as I am ruled by rhythms (and a former theater major), I like doing this. It's hard to stifle the desire to read to anyone who makes the mistake of speaking with me on the phone, or coming over, and sometimes I fail. Such as Friday night, when I read the murder scene to my brother.

We both came away kind of shaking our heads. I realized that one key descriptor calls up the very birth scene which opens the novel (and the life of the woman about to meet her end). I wrote that birth scene maybe a decade ago; it was one of those backburner moments during research and side work on this WIP, while I was writing The Ax and the Vase, and I've never wanted to change it (yeah, you're not supposed to edit before you've even finished writing - for me, that "rule" is like typing; I self-correct as I go, you can't ask me not to do that, it is my way of doing things). My brother even approved of that callout; and I trust him as a critic. He's never been shy to criticize me! Heh.

But, yeah. Right now, it is all I can do not to post this scene here, and on my cube wall, maybe a couple billboards, and everywhere in the world.

This is what writing can feel like. It's been a long time since I attained this sense of accomplishment, and the way it followed on (Heaven help me) a THEME showing up uninvited - a theme which will work to create tension ... I mean, wow.

Yes, exquisite phrasing, is it not? "I mean, wow." Me writer. Me college gradual. Look, this is a blog, I'm allowed to save some of my best for the work meant for sale, right?

Few of us are at our most eloquent when things get truly exciting, but the excitement is real.

Sunday, April 30, 2017

This Long Now

Being far from someone you love. It is hard.

Friday, April 28, 2017

Picking and Choosing

Scenes come to me when they will. The term "pantser" doesn't appeal to me, but I am not an outlining writer, and the idea of composing a novel in order confounds me. I follow the research first, and the inspiration second. Usually because the latter doesn't precede the former, and I have a harder time capturing it.

Not long ago, I was working on that quiet moment, knowing what has got to come after it. The scene stands alone (though I do still need to get rid of that research-y bit about natron), but really there's no novel if anything does that. And so I must proceed.


I don't want to write the pogrom. And that is what follows, there.

Writing one of the first riotous, violent religious purges in the storied history of Christendom all but makes me long for a battle scene. And I hate writing battle scenes.

But even to contemplate this is so much worse. The only redemption before me is that I will not write from within the perspective of the murderers, the looters, the rapists, the cruel. But it is little consolation; knowing one is only surrounded by looting, rape, and killing doesn't take away the looting, rape, and killing.

So, today, I got back to the murder scene.

It's strange how preferable this is to writing the pogrom. It is smaller in scale, of course, and so I have more control, more ability to move through the mechanics of each moment - realization, sensation, progression.

It also takes place with a character who has come to a philosophical place of relinquishment. She's lost enough to eschew the rest, and life appears all but pointless by this moment. Losing everyone else was hard; losing herself, even painfully, may be a relief.

I've watched this relinquishment, of course. I've been witness to plaintive, righteous begging for death. It's hard, but great Christ do I understand it.

And so the crux of this murder is that it becomes manumission; the killers will free this woman, and she will accept escape at last, if only when she sees there is no other choice.

Thematically, of course, this links to my post from yesterday. So I had to go to this scene. (That is my excuse, and I'm sticking with it.) I had to find the sensations of the ground under her toes, the air down her throat, the sweat of her skin.

It's got me thinking of another death scene too. A character I can scarcely bear to see die, but who eventually must. A person can only live so long, and in the sixth century CE, even less than we tend to expect now.

When I emailed the manuscript to myself last night, as I do periodically as a kind of backup - the chronicle of my "versioning" (and progress) - I put a subject line on the email: "What good is this life edition" ...

There is an ancient religious philosophy - not only in Western schools of faith, but certainly predominant in Europe for centuries - that this life is a vale of tears, and the only existence worth contemplating is the eternal destination of the soul.

Think of Heaven. For kings and peasants alike, this was the mindset encouraged by so many aspects of so many ways of life.

Even as kings needs must strategize every single day.

Even as peasants must tend and bring in the harvest, the flock, the catch. Must learn how best this is done. Must feed the body, for letting it die - no matter how useless this life may be - was still a sin.

All these contradictions.

I'd rather write death than massacre.

Writing. Like everything else, it comes down to choices.

So. How's YOUR writing going?

Thursday, April 27, 2017


Something happened with the WIP today. Well, I should say, something happened with me - with my philosophy, my spirit, my self. And I turned to the WIP, and put several plug-ins to prompt myself to the theme, in different places.

Something happened with my writing.

How was your Thursday?

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Like Ray-ye-yain On Your Admin Day!

"They" always say to be careful what you wish for. Let us add to that the codicil, perhaps, to be careful what you're thankful for.

Today was Administrative Professionals Day, or if you prefer, this week is AP week. I, of course, prefer "secretary", but that has been done to death on this blog. For now, anyway. Let it be said, the memories are still kind, regarding the one guy I ever worked with who found a Secretaries' Day card. That's thoughtfulness, right there.

And today I said to a couple people how much I like where I work now - how they don't fiddle away excessive funds on expensive dead flowers, but give us things we are likely to use/enjoy/appreciate. Last year, enormous live potted plant arrangements, in my case a big geranium mingled with the spiky fronds of a grass of some sort. It is still with me, just went outside this morning for the new spring. Year before that, it was Harry & David gift boxes - nice fruits and not all sorts of fattening things.

Given the past year and a half or so of working on that waistline and so forth, I particularly treasure the latter point, the absence of waist-busting shows of appreciation.

Naturally, putting too fine a point on that item was poor thinking on my part. This year's gift came from clients. Translation: a Taste of Chicago box, filled with such goodies as a cheesecake sampler (four kinds) and a true Chicago pizza from a famed place I actually have been to.

Thank heavens for family. I have a handy-dandy mom and stepfather close by, and keep them around for just such occasions. And it turned out almost too perfectly, in fact - our usual Friday family night looks bad, as my stepfather has a procedure Friday which will leave him either out of it and/or in pain. And mom had been planning pizza for supper, too.

And, you know, with his ongoing health issues and my mom's extended commitments as caregiver, it doesn't feel awful to show up now and then with a really good treat like that. It seems to break up the grind for her sometimes, and of course an enjoyable meal doesn't go amiss with him.

The title above refers to the amused chagrin you can feel, bragging that your employer - even while so massively involved with almost every variety of food on the continent - doesn't fatten you up ... and the happiness that when they ruin your brag, you can turn around and dent the caloric damage by celebrating family night a couple days early.

When your stepfather can enjoy eating, and your mom was planning for pizza.

Monday, April 24, 2017

Droppin' Science

On Saturday, I went to the March for Science in Washington, DC.

Though I am the kid of a physics professor, my own field of study was Theatre (sic/ugh) and Dance (also sic; it was that small a department), and I became a secretary. But dad's influence in my life endures, of course. And also I care that our country should not impose upon itself the very Dark Ages I'm always saying are a myth.

The day before the March, I drove up to Maryland to stay with my dearest and oldest friend, The Elfin One, and her family. She and I went on our own, but not before enjoying some pretty wonderful family adventures. Starring rather a lot of science!

TEO was always the smart one between us. No very great trick when it comes to ME, of course, but she is and always was natively brilliant, and is a teacher (not of science).

Almost within minutes of my arrival at their home, the heavens burst forth, and we had a ten-minute, torrential storm. After eight-ish traffic jams making a 100-mile trip drag on for upwards of four hours, I was glad I'd missed being IN it, by that much. Still, I do enjoy a good storm. And this one came with HAIL.

Younger son and mom and I went outside to investigate the hailstones when it subsided and gave way to more sunshine than I'd seen all day. I was the one who explained the rising/falling cycle of updrafts and accumulation creating the layers of a hailstone, almost like dendrochronological rings. I also pointed out to them how the steam was rising off the street, using the spiff sunglasses TEO had commented on. Because they are polarized glasses, they cut glare. I didn't explain the mechanics of light waves and the glasses' control of same via polarization, but they're still a gee-whiz exemplar of science.

For the evening, we had a wonderful meal prepared by TEO's husband (science has proven, men can cook), and then he read one of the kids' books out loud for a while as we made our signs. I got a bit of permanent marker on my nail. It is still present, three days on. Science!

The next morning, I wore a shirt of my dad's from CEBAF - the original name of Jefferson Labs (or "Jeffy Labs" as the geeks I personally knew liked to call it when they changed the name), the national Accelerator. The shirt is a double-bonus for me, as it dates to 1991, and is Star Trek themed. Well, Star Trek: The Next Generation (probably my least favorite of the series), but it was all we had at the time.

I also wore a necklace with a few charms on it, one of which is the companion to a pair of rutilated quartz charms I once gave to my nieces. TEO thought at first this little bauble might be a tiny bottle with something in it, perhaps something of my dad (she may have feared I had his ashes with me, come to think of it, but I would not have brought that into their home, they are Jewish and that would be unguestmanslike of me). So we showed this to the boys, and I explained inclusions and we talked about how rocks have veins, something like our bodies do.

So before we even got to the march, we were SEEING (and spontaneously - we did not have to force science into the visit; and kids do get into these odd and neato things) plentiful wonders courtesy of scientific understanding.

On the Metro, TEO and I immediately found companions with the same destination. We chatted and shared signs, and this went on all the way into the city.

Off the train, it was immediately mucky. So it goes. We headed along the wide walkways I haven't trod in probably thirty years, joyously surrounded by others going the same way. That the one guy who liked our signs and suggested we get our pictures taken with the sole religious protester we saw all day looked like Pretty Caucasian Jesus was a good laugh, and of course that's my type anyway, so we enjoyed a little irony and I got to enjoy a pretty face to boot.

As for religion ... well. My dad told me all my life, he was a scientist precisely BECAUSE what G-d had built was so exciting to him he felt it was worthy to study it. Take that, kids I went to grade school with, who used to tell me my dad couldn't believe in G-d because he was a scientist. Also: ugh.

In fact, I think there were many people of faith (read: not just Protestant Christians) there. More than anything else, there were people of integrity. Belief in something greater than themselves, whether that wears the face anyone recognizes as G-d or not. We were photographed many times, and we photographed others. We saw a Nichelle Nichols sign and a Carrie Fisher sign (interestingly, I saw no male Trek or Wars character/actor signs - but I do not call my study of these signs any indicator of conclusions to be drawn; the minuscule sample would not stand up to peer review). We saw only one Lorax, but it was a good Lorax, complete with his sign, "UNLESS" ...

TEO and I were there for hours, and in the cold and rain we heard the voice of a child from Flint, Michigan, the passion of Maya Lin, good music - many voices. Our signs wilted and drooped, but stayed intact for us bravely throughout the deluge and beyond. We finally "retired" them at The Castle at the Smithsonian. Our feet were profoundly wet, and pants up to the knees. Mine were wet down to the knees as well, and my jacket (unfortunately covering up that CEBAF tee) was all but pointless by the end of the day. TEO recalled ruefully the science of wet denim and rolled up her jeans, to minimal effect. My own pants grew from about a 31" inseam, weighted down by water and textile fatigue, to something on the order of a 34". My shoes were not even dry by the time I returned home late that night. My socks were sodden. But Penelope (and her inquiring scientific nose) was fascinated by the scents of Washington, of rain, of the thousands of people's footsteps we had shared, and the several dogs we saw as well, all collected in my clothes.

But we had a brave and a reaffirming few hours. We were inspired, and people said nice things to us about our signs, and just generally. People can be lovely things, sometimes.

And so, because there was no food inside the officially-barriered confines of The March itself, when we grew hungry, we reviewed our feelings about what we'd set out to accomplish, and agreed: "we've checked the boxes." It was time to leave, even though the actual marching part was about to begin. New troops were still arriving. We exited, to leave them space. We went back up the Metro a ways, and found a good, warm sandwich to eat. And then made our way home, to shuck wet things and have a lie-down.

This is the first event I have gone to, since the election. TEO had been to the Women's March, with that younger son of hers, and many of my friends and my beloved family have been to many. I shared this event with all of them, cities away, even a continent away (one Washington and another; nicely bookended?), and perhaps most importantly my oldest, OLDEST (hee) friend and I were able to embark on this together.

Thursday, April 20, 2017


Donna Everhart celebrates making it halfway through a WIP. I very, very literally have no idea what that is like - because I don't know when it is.

"(B)limey, what's that?" Simultaneously cool and creepy, BBC shows us one of the creative innovations in security, as the global definition and even concept of privacy leeches away. "The ability to choose when and how to divulge information about ourselves is one of the things that make us human, argues graphic designer Leon Baauw"

Also at BBC online, this piece of art and science history took my breath away, but do be warned, for the squeamish there exists the possibility this could take your lunch away. Have you ever heard of dissectable "Venus" waxworks? The art is incredible - but, for a historical novelist like me, the look into the psychology of another age, the attitudes, is INVALUABLE. These sculptures are eerie and undeniably lovely.

More RULES for writers! Y'all know how I love those. Still, analyses like these do yield some intriguing data. Such as: the average published author relies on about 1/4th as many exclamation points as the average amateur writer. (I am not published, but if I had ten exclamation points in both my novels combined, I'd be surprised.)

Ever since learning what vocal fry is, I have become fascinated by the science of speech. Here is a GREAT piece on hating women's voices:

"[By] propagating ideologically inspired amoral theories, business schools have actively freed their students from any sense of moral responsibility." Depressing, but certainly true. Take a look at Newsweek's in-depth piece about the ascendancy of the shareholder - a pretty good history of Wall Street and business education over the past generation.

Have you ever been to a marketplace where haggling is common? Many Americans have not, but I have smiling memories of "special for you!" pricing on a vacation or two. The Atlantic analyses some of the history - and the future - of the way we shop. Hmmmmm.

What IS "Knowing Better" Really?

Ahhhhhhhhhhh good intentions, fellla babies. They pave the road to hell, they lead us to think we're trekking toward heaven.

But then you try to choose the right way to file your taxes.

I had good intentions, not taking the bundle deal and paying the better part of $40 to my tax tool to file state taxes along with federal. $39 was a significant portion of this smaller refund, it seemed ridiculous when there are ways to file this return for free.

And then you spend two and a half hours on one of Virginia's sanctioned free filing sites, rebuilding ALL of what you did to file federal, and find in the end that the thing has hit a logical loop and cannot cope with even taking you to state returns, never mind actually filing them.

For non-US readers, the federal deadline was Tuesday, but we have a little bit longer to complete state filings. Even so, I wonder whether the tool I used today was not electro-fretting about the federal deadline (it wasn't aware that all I wanted to do was state returns). Whatever the issue was, the upshot is this: you can't create workarounds, and you can't explain to a software what you really want out of it.

The other upshot is, $39 represents less than the value of the time I have wasted on saving that amount, at this point. I'm taking the approach of not getting angry (this amount of money is not worth that amount of energy), but opting for the easy route. I took the day off to accomplish this filing, and it's stupid to dig a rabbit hole as far as the mantle of the Earth insisting upon the good intentions I had with the free-filing idea.

Because I also took the day off to get OTHER things done, and it is time to get to it.

*Hopping to it*


Tuesday, April 18, 2017

My Research is Showing - Excerpt

There are times you just have to write the scene that follows your research. It may not be an action scene; it may not quite be a character scene. And yet, it still propels things.

Re-reading a certain passage, I found myself wanting to share. Those who've read much of my curmudgeonliness know I'm not big on excerpt-ery, but I like this scene - precisely because of the research that (ahem) bore it.

Image: Wikipedia of course

It was a whole child, four-limbed, red, wrinkled, endearingly ugly. No deformities seemed present, and the mouth and ears and eyes were clear. Its cleft was clean and correct, its anus a perfect, pale pore. Zeniv placed the baby on a stone bench, and it protested lustily, screeching at the cold and indignity. She placed soft towels beneath the child and with two fingers pulled first at the child’s right arm, then its left, its right leg, then its left. The right side felt stronger; a good sign. Left-sidedness was suspect. When she held her finger before the face of the babe, its quaking arms gravitated inward toward it, but were unskilled yet to grab her fingertip. When she gently put the finger on its chin, its eyes widened a moment, and then closed. It was aware. It seemed to be healthy.

The placenta still hung off to one side, and Zeniv reached for the knife in a sinus of her apron, and cut the cord and placed the afterbirth in a bowl. She turned the babe onto her side and brought this near, squeezing the blood from her wound into the bowl as well. The child was a squalling protest, but so tiny she was easy to hold.

Twisting long fingers nimbly as she could while one hand held the infant safe, she looped a thread of wool around the stump, and tied as close as she could to the belly, pressing the protrusion back into what would become her navel.

Then to clean the child. Natron, the magic powder that preserved the dead in Egypt, was the same magic that brought the royal infant into the world. With this and the towel under the child, Zeniv softly chafed the body, the arms, the legs. In the crevices, she dipped a finger in olive oil and then in the powder, and cleaned where skin met skin. In its still-protesting mouth, she slipped the slightest bit of it across those all but translucent, toothless gums.

The baby gleamed. She was red—flesh and more flesh, from the inside of the mouth to the feet, still wrinkled and compressed from the long stay in the womb.

Last, and softest, clean, warm water. She held the infant to soak several moments, and with free fingers sloshed water over the shoulders, cradled its head and baptized the child with warm, soft water. All protesting abated; the water felt good to the child.

Still it was not complete. One last once-over, with close attention to cleaning out the openings, making sure breathing and elimination should be free. The infant princess wailed as if she were becoming tired, her arms finding direction as if to push Zeniv away. And yet they seemed also to begin to cling to her.

She put olive oil over the little swollen eyes, which closed readily enough and seemed almost ready to be peaceful, to rest. Her body moved only to emit its tiny, wheezing breaths as Zeniv completed the first ablutions with a wad of wool dipped in the olive oil, which she wrapped with a bandage around the belly to cover the baby’s navel.

Finally, the wheezing softening and the eyes closed and tight as beans, she swaddled the child and turned, at last to look to its mother.


I feel like it is a lot of detail, but also that it is a brief enough expositive scene it doesn't burden the flow overall. This is close to the top of a new chapter, and so is the pause before more action--action which becomes, essentially, the first pogrom in the history of Christendom. It needs to be this quiet, and it needs to be this brief before the heat, literally, builds outside the palace. (The main sentence that is probably too much scholarship is the one about Natron.)

Of course I would be extremely grateful if anyone has feedback or reactions.

Friday, April 14, 2017


It's weird. Being 49 doesn't wig me out, but my age in comparison to others is what gets me sometimes. Years ago, with Daniel Craig's first Bond outing: finding out I was several weeks older than James Bond gave me a turn. That one's still some cognitive dissonance for me.

Finding out today that Sarah Michelle Gellar is turning FORTY. Well. I pretty much can't deal with this at all.

Buffy indeed lives.
Image: Wikipedia, duh.

Thank heavens Tony Head is still older than I. It's the little things.

Monday, April 10, 2017


Paleoburrowing is perhaps the most winsome new word I have seen in a long time. It has a nice, soft syncopation to it, and lots of my favorite vowels. It is also connected to this neato story about gigantic prehistoric burrowing animals, and I want to see a myth or an allegory to go with the artist's renderings of what these creatures must have looked like! The tunnels they have left us are pretty impressive to see, and the implications make for ... well. Ancient, giant plot bunnies armadillos?

(I)f a 90-pound animal living today digs a 16-inch by 20-foot borrow, what would dig one five feet wide and 250 feet long?

Indeed! Writer pals, you tell me.

Still another story about the perils of The Internet of Things - care to get into potential litigation (or just become the public subject of this sort of discussion) just to open your garage door? I still don't.

Aww. My cat thinks I'm cool. But then, I didn't need Scientific American to tell me that. He's a big old kiss-up, and tells me all the time. (There is this philosophical question, though - given that I am the BRINGER of treats and food and toys, does he really like me better, or does he just cultivate me in order to keep them coming? I am also the bringer of body heat, and that's as good as a sunbeam, when the light is not available.)

Last night, I took "Salem" for a spin on Netflix, and was unimpressed both by the racism and sexism on display. Like, "how did this even get WRITTEN, much less made?" unimpressed. So I turned back to the lesser-explored corners of my queue, and tried different magic, with "Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell". Much more to my liking, this even provides a fantabulous setpiece fairly early in the going, set in York Minster and starring all my favorite statues. I may need to watch that alone several times just for the myriad overlapping dialogue from every direction.

Monday, April 3, 2017


What RuPaul says about identity here resonates with me. Take a look at my header sometimes - and playing with all the colors in the crayon box? Yes. That. Full audio of the interview here.

There is so much to unpack at this link. The main article is a fascinating view, but the fact is it took me to some personal places it frustrates me nobody ever seems to give a hang about. To wit: the juxtaposition of a woman professor being mistaken for a secretary (itself a fascinating word choice, ahem) and “There are any number of little indignities that do befall female professors” is, if not personally insulting, an interesting coincidence I frankly think is not one. It’s things like this that bring me to that “except the admin” place, and marginalize my not at all insignificant career and life choices. It’s things like this that lead me not to concern myself (“enough”?) about the gender pay gap, because admins get paid less than everyone else in any office, and we’re mostly women, and that’s the bed I seem to have made. I see no interest from anyone who’s NOT an admin in this, and so it’s hard for me to get on board complaints of other women getting paid less. My entire line of work gets paid less and nobody cares but me. Why am I supposed to freak out that other women get paid less for jobs men actually DO do more commonly? Oh, because those are real jobs.

Here's a great look at the way we look at stats and studies ... and the lenses that distort what gets seen after a study.

Heh - I do love a sarcastic take on The Wrongers. Take a lovely look at all the things you are probably messing UP! Repent! Or just smirk and shrug and laugh at those who ruin perfectly simple things for the rest of us. This one is the best, for (a) the absence of the supposed content (have to click another link - hey guys, you did it wrong!) and (b) the comments. Heh.


The WIP, currently being called Generations of Sunset, though this perhaps doesn't even qualify as a "working" title since it doesn't (*), is in fact still a thing.

I haven't had much to say about it of late, being distracted by such epochal life changes as a haircut, getting some cabinets for my kitchen, a sick puppy (who is fine now, she just gets an upset stomach now and then), a tiny travel plan or two, and the joy of watching someone I care about a lot falling for someone new. But I do still play around with WRITING.

For my writer pals who stop in here sometimes, I have a question. Have any of you ever given a character some trait that suits your purposes, more than necessarily follows reality?

I'm writing in a period when life expectancies were not what they are today. In The Ax and the Vase, the historical character Bishop Remigius of Rheims was extremely long-lived indeed, but this was true of the actual man, and indeed I used that longevity to speak to his charisma; that he was so venerable marked his holiness for the other characters. In GoS, though, I have a serving woman living a very long life.

It was perhaps easier for anyone, servitor or queen, to get in an extra decade or three, living at a royal court, as opposed to squalor or slavery outside of a palace.

Some people did of course live past thirty-five, even in the "Dark Ages" (well, or just before them). What I am doing, stretching this character across generations, isn't exactly fantasy. But the character's life is directly tied to my need of her presence in every place, at every birth, even through the deaths, through her time.

I don't ask other authors whether they've done this in order to get approval, but out of curiosity. Zeniv has to live a very long time because she is not merely important, but she views the coming of new generations, and is part of the setting, the changing world. She is one pair of eyes witnessing what may be a death (the dynasty of Theodoric the Great) or a birth (a new age, what we came to call the Dark Ages), or may just be the world as it is.

This doesn't quite rise - or sink - to the question of ethics in writerly choices, but I am curious about choices like this that other writers make.

Has any of you ever stretched the parameters of your setting, of history, or usual expectations to accommodate your needs for the story? How?

* As with so many things I think to be clever, the title is a bit of a pun. For many of us, sunset marks an ending - it is the end of the day. But we forget, that is only one way to look at things. Sunset is the beginning of the next day; your dreams are not a closing out of the day past, but the first thing in your mind before you wake to a new day.

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

I'm not sure whether this is amusing or not

I'm a writer, so let me tell you a few stories.

Somewhere around fifteen or sixteen years ago, I'd been rocking a longer-haired Bettie Page thing for a while. It amused me - all it takes to "get Bettie'd", as I used to call it, was having brown hair and cutting bangs. But after a while it bored me, so I decided to grow out my bangs.

In those days, I hung out at a blues bar a lot. Enough that I was apparently a fixture - perhaps more than I had realized. One of the resident drunks, a woman I was acquainted with, but not particularly friends with, commented on my hair one night, and I told her I was growing out the bangs. She *wigged out* on me. "But you're our Bettie!"

Needless to say, this rather cemented my resolve than made me trim the fringe.

The fact that I shortly thereafter met a guy online who literally wrote the (crappiest-reviewed-on-Amazon) book about Bettie didn't hurt, either. This was, by the way, pretty much a complete accident. We only dated for four months (four too long), but my divorce from Bettie-ness was complete.


Then there was the time I went as Clara Bow for Hallowe'en. I got a little wig, wore a drop-waist, hankie-hem satin dress, threw a couple strings of pearls down my back instead of down my front. I under-painted my lip line, over-painted my eyeshadow and liner, and tweezed my brows to nothing.

Some time later, when I had photos in costume, I happened to see one of my aunts. She peered at the pics, and SWORE that was not me.


One of the few moments from my middle and high school years that sticks with me was the time one of the more popular kids said to me that my hair looked different every single day. It's a throwaway thing to say, it doesn't have deep meaning, but it has always somehow informed my self-image. I liked being a human mood-ring, or whatever it is that meant to me - and maybe still means. Certainly, I don't want to be the same thing every day, even if that were a pretty thing - how drab, never changing.


For years now, my hair has been the same day in and day out, 95% of the time. Maybe for decades. This is "not a good look" as the kids really don't say these days.

Right now, I have a new hairstyle every five minutes. Short hair can be awful versatile, kids.

Amusingly, one of the first impressions I had of my new haircut, after the stylist made it sort of big and round, was that it resembled Clara Bow. I remembered my beloved late aunt and laughed a bit.

Then, after I'd emailed mom a few pics so she could have and share them, I heard  that another of my aunts, and my uncle along with her, were saying, "That is NOT Diane!"

(I wonder - if I put on a pair of glasses, would they call me Diana Prince, maybe? It *was* my dream, lo these forty years ago ...)

Let it be said, none of them, including mom, seems to have noticed I got a second piercing in my right ear, the short side of the asymmetry. Observational skills, y'all. (SCIENCE! WOO!)

I was a long-haired person most of my life. After the initial tug-of-war (usually literally, with a hairbrush) with my mom over hair length, it just became a battle of wills, and I internalized long hair. Mind you, I've always loved it. I loved having a living cape, I loved playing with it, I loved the way it felt. I like long-haired men quite a lot, too.

It's been many years since I found my long hair to be pretty.

And I wasn't playing with it so much, and never had it down anymore, to feel it.

Hmmm, sed I.

But you know how that post goes.


Now, I am no Dena Pawling, but when I saw this particular legal story, I had to share. Mind you, it's gross and involves a mouse and a food product, so click if you dare. Grossest defense strategy ever? It certainly outranks the Twinkie, and may even be more unhealthy too.

Sigh. Y'all. It is 2017, and even now there exist ... well, "people" who think this is okay:  "Legs-it". Ms. May, for most women in the world, who don't have your power, this really is not "a bit of fun."

Aaaaaahh, semantics and lawers and supply and demand! On the difference between flavoured (by actual vanilla) and flavour (or, as my brother and I spell it when we're discussing horrible fake fruit tastes: flav-o, which is often to be found in extruded "fud" products). Hey, at least nobody's citing the old tulip story again. Let us applaud The Conversation for such restraint (or, if you are okay with just the flavour).

REALLY interesting look at bigly data. How many "Likes" does it take to get to the center of a Tootsie Roll Tootie Pop? Well, three of course, as we all learned from that owl. But a mere seventy can buy you an actual human being's psychology. Creepy. Anyone who still thinks it's nifty-spiffy to hand over your entire life to data-collecting corporate concerns, please raise your hand.

A kind of placelessness

Another interesting tech article - on the way Facebookification turns extreme body modification into bland (dead) commodification. The Wal-Mart of teh intarwebs.

Blue lies: how to draw some people together, while driving others away (or marginalizing them completely - FUN!). Fascinating concept. One wonders whether Cambridge Analytica is using this dynamic. Also, sigh.

Edited 3/29 to add this one, because GOOD BLOODY LORD. Calling Maxine Waters' hair a James Brown wig? Again, we are living in 2017. The million layers here of racism, sexism, entitled horsepucky, and utter, complete disrespect for a longtime public servant are more than I can unpack, and far more than I can stomach. Click again for extra helpings.

Sunday, March 26, 2017


For my costume or textile loving readers, Luciakaku has a beautiful post about her collection of kimono - well worth a click if only for the luscious photos. The peacock one is my favorite! ("Of course," says everyone, with indulgent rolling of eyes.)

Believe me, they feel your indifference.

Food for a very great deal of thought here. In the past, I once said of a woman who married an unrepentant bastard that I knew (not an abuser - that I know of, but a greedy, narcissistic, cheating sociopath), "She signed up for it." This woman knew what he was, and she married the jerk. But this link ... Well. As my oldest friend and I used to say: "It is to sigh." It's never as easy as that. And it isn't as funny as this. So read this link, please read it - and take it to the final paragraph, which is incredibly important.

Have a while to get lost in a beautiful, detailed tree-style map of the history of world languages? Sure you do! So enjoy. It's gorgeous.