Saturday, June 30, 2012

Joe Williams - Not of Politico

Last fall at the JRW Conference, I had the pleasure to meet Joe Williams.  He was one of the most open and intelligent people there, clearly engaged, very professional, still not over-confident in himself, and funny to boot.  We talked about the Pitchapalooza - I went first, and he was incredibly generous about how hard that must have been and how I actually did.

Since I assume this will be deleted, here is the screenshot of Joe's page from

Not a raving lunatic racist, this gentleman.  I'm sickened to see what is happening to him today.

Nichelle Nichols Is So Nice

Columbo: "Death Lends A Hand"

This week I took a taste of a show I haven't seen in years, but one of those I grew up with.  "Columbo" was around for such a long time it may have earned a place in the national DNA, that continuum of shared, familiar reference points a majority of us, particularly of a certain age, have in common.

Peter Falk never played anyone but himself, really, but he did that with more talent than most, and his charisma made it work for decades, for the space of a generation.  We loved him - the tenaciousness of his character and persona, the low-key way he always managed.  His turn in "The Princess Bride" was perfect mainly because Grandpa was *him* - because Peter Falk is and was what he was, radiating out of that film.

He also had one of the great heads of hair in Hollywood.

Honestly, the guy was attractive.  Sure, I cut my teeth on Randy Mantooth (har), and actually have dated his avatar serially (X is by far the taller - but the mobile eyebrows, the downturned sides of the mouth, and the coloring are definitely there; and there is that one dear ex boyfriend we actually *called* The "Emergency!" Guy).  But Peter's insinuating way works for him.  Yeah, and that coloring and the head of hair.  Heh.


"Death Lends a Hand" opens with a few scenes of remarkable cinematic quality for a 1968 teleplay.  Robert Culp, of all people, takes us through some tense and pretty believable moments - playing his *own* usual character - even including a group-talk/hallway-walk scene (Aaron Sorkin did NOT invent those!), and of course culminating in his murdering a particularly attractive specimen of the Sexy Seventies Spouse.  Here begynneth our story.

The realism of the opener settles down significantly of course, but not to abandon a decorator's dream series of mid-century locations.  These include The Bachelor's Mod Pad with astoundingly deep-pile olive green rug, the hip Red Carpeting and Mahogany Study in a mansion, and a few deco-porn shots of a super-mod office building and outdoor landscaping with pea-green cradle telephone.  Ooh, the technology!

Nothing in the murder itself nor Falk's progression is surprising, but the ride is always enjoyable.  There is a freshness in this very early show (the first in the series available on Netfix streaming), and a certain amount of fun in "knowing what you know" and looking back at the first days.  The script and production seem confident - and Falk, in his wonderful pose of affable self-effacement, seems as robustly realized from the start as they were throughout the many years we knew the character.

I'm looking forward to further outings, though these initial appearances at least seem to be clocking in at near feature-length runtimes (1:15).  Definitely a recommended addition to the streaming queue.

I Miss Him

It frustrates me they call it "a lump in the throat" because that is not what it feels like.  A single deep curve.  A brass-colored, metallic flat tongue, weaving an ugly tang down through the depth of the esophagus.  Yellow, fetid and bitter.  The very essense of resistance, a physical response, almost a movement - it isn't a lump.  It's the body's expression:  frustration.

This isn't something I express to my family, who cannot like him, nor my friends, who have heard it now for years.  It isn't new, it is the result of my choice, it simply is - what it is.

I miss him.

Mr. X is the one man who's ever known everything one person could know about another, and still wanted to know more.  He's the one person with whom complete openness is possible - and with whom that could not exhaust our interest.  There has always been, between us, something new to talk about, some new question either to share or ask one another.

Whatever it is in X that has brought me to where I am, challenges me - it isn't his doing nor volition.  There are times the responsibility he feels toward me is outright damaging between us.  Four thousand miles don't make a relationship easy.

Still, they cannot seem to kill it.  I look.  I do.  I'm open, to varying degrees, to the idea of finding someone else.

Nobody else has ever made me look twice.


Tonight, I wanted to go out.  I thought about what to wear, I painted my nails.

Going out - getting dressed up for a Saturday night - these are things so indelibly associated, now, with X, that sometimes it happens I try to start, and in the middle of a bath or when I sit down to my beautiful antique vanity to primp, something flags, I go limp, and just can't finish and do it.  I have a closet full of clothes I know he would, or does, like - some bought and literally un-worn.

I've never admitted that before.

The idea of going out still appeals to me.  But the absence of the man I have the most fun with compromises it.

I get frustrated.

That metallic quirk, that physical resistance, that curving thing that is a powerful spring, a recoil - not a lump, not anything so inert nor still - sits in the back of my throat, and I all but weep.

Though not alone in the sense of having no love, I am alone in a way profound enough the prospect of anyone else I know enduring this state makes me physically ill.

I can do alone.  I've done it about half my life now - after living at home, before I got married, and after.  Even just counting that last, it's nineteen years now I have been the Strong, Smart Woman making it on my own.

Strong is easy.  I've gone over that before.

The things that compromise you, though, go right by strength.  The moment you are alone with a sprained back, or ankle, and ... *anything* needs to be done.  The instant's shift, when you are excited to go out and see friends, be surrounded by loud music, laughter, and dancing - and then, suddenly, can desire nothing so much as sitting alone on the couch, clean and baby-powder scented in ugly pants and clean socks.  When a storm goes by, and once again you have to love it, and watch it, by yourself.

When you realize you never watch comedy, because laughter is a team sport.

When the storm comes, and you bless it as an *excuse* to give up.  Again.

I miss him.  If he were here, we would go play.  If he were here, Siddy's would not be the only other heartbeat in this house.  If he were here - life would have twists and turns, be unpredictable.  It would be so much harder.

It would be so much more interesting.


141,518.  No massive dip in the count, but a good chunk of ground covered today.  That at least is encouraging - and maybe my readers can see cutting I don't.  At least progress is going well.


Fifteen pages of revision so far today, and hoping for twenty.  If I hit that or a good stopping point close to it, I'll put aside the MSS for today and post word count (not expecting any great change, but it is a habit which keeps me honest), then focus on getting a couple small housekeeping things done.  Tonight I plan to get out a bit, then tomorrow may be more serious maintenance of my domicile.  Might even finally get to those little mending/DIY-ing projects I've been on about for far too long now!

Local Global Warming

Siddy hasn't been allowed to sit outside alone for days, and even walking I have denied her - to her annoyance.  As well as she and her hip have been this past week, she pants even when she stays inside; heat has never been her favorite thing, anyway.

Outside, the air feels like heated metal on your skin.  The storms are insanely violent, and last night's wasn't brief, as the tornado earlier this week was.  We only had a toppled giant-trashcan (close to empty, fortunately) and a shed door off its hinges (reparable, I think).  Even so, the world seems dry.

This is NOT summer as I knew it, growing up.  This is NOT standard climate, indigenous to my home ground.  We had days, sure, over 100.  But stretches over 105?  No.  We had storms, but I never heard of a tornado around here before I was 22 or so.  And violence like this could happen, but not multiple times a week, regularly; it used to be exceptional.

My mom's lost power twice this week; once for a day, and again last night (not sure at this writing whether it's back on).  I've been fortunate to have had only one lapse of six hours.

105-degree summers, and droughts years in the dragging.

Deniers, what will it take?  Seriously.

Saturday Editing

Making decent progress today in ground covered, but not a lot of reduction so far.  Still, it does feel good to dedicate a day to revision.  I see a little Roomba-ing in the cards for tomorrow, with no housekeeping going on today.

Oldest: Question

Why is it so many of these "oldest" articles lately feature quote-age from someone "who was not involved" in the research etc. ... ?

Oldest Crater

Courtesy of Artemis Sere we have more oldest things to share.  Come, join us in Greenland for a peek at the oldest meteorite crater extant:

This little item significantly predates that fashionable purse from the other day ...

It *is* interesting to me that the forces noted as having obliterated most of Earth's craters tend to be natural.  Erosion comes in for a lot of notice.  MAN'S behavior, oddly enough, isn't really listed as a factor - and is, I would have thought, the most powerful altering force of all.


Finally, twenty followers!  It's still practically no followers, I know - but thank you Artemis Sere for joining ...

Friday, June 29, 2012

Oldest Pottery

Yes, ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls - it's a regular archaeology festival 'round these parts these days.  Today's special:  the oldest pottery in the world!

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Making An Ancient Purse out of Dog's Teeth


"(I)t looks a lot like a modern handbag flap."

You know - except for the dog tooth decoration.  Which is, frankly, significantly more refined and beautiful than most of the daftly expensive bags on the designer market today.  (Reasons I buy nothing but vintage granny purses now!)

Ancient Horns

The design is amazing.  The variety of sounds is stunning.  It's an ancient Carnyx, the horn to strike fear in your enemies.

Also, it appears in "Brave"  which I haven't seen yet, but have heard is at least better than a poke in the eye with a devastatingly bad pop song.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Archaeology Link

It's been a while since I took the time to make the rounds of the blogs I follow and like to share around here, but today on Twitter I did run across this.  Worth a share even if only for the pic of a kid in Oshkosh and a bonnet.  Enjoy talking dirt with a professional ... archaeologist.

Secretly (or not), they're pretty much just kids with dirt-pokin' sticks and curiosity.  I'll find some more good pics, articles, posts, and maybe even forum threads to link soon.  In the meantime, this looks like the start of some good "Stay tuned for more."

Good night!

Monday, June 25, 2012


Someone was MOST pitiful when I came home today, after a short, violent tornadic storm.

Fortunately, going outside to see her neighbors and friends gave her a nice, manic case of The Happy.  She was bright as a liberated little button.  Our friend whose beloved Dalmation (Siddy's first boyfriend in the neighborhood, and always a boy dear to our hearts) has recently passed just fawned on her and cooed over her cuteness.

Right now, she's plumped on the floor by my feet, possibly reassured by the return of power (with the windows open, there were perhaps one too many sirens going by for her mental comfort), and probably ready for bed.

We're going soon.  But I figured, for those who heard about the weather in these parts, I'd check in.

And coo over the cuteness of my dog.  (Photo is old - but sentiment eternal.)

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Oldest Art

Articles, shows, and feature segments about the oldest fish traps in the world, the oldest humans, the oldest middens and oldest art fascinate us.  Enjoy this bit of Outback goodness!

Beautiful, aren't they?

Friday, June 22, 2012

10 Worst?

I've seen some lulus in my day, but these bad book covers ARE pretty ... special.

So special I won't even put up a pic to go with this post.  Because, really - there isn't a one of these which wouldn't offend *somebody*.


Driving around in the heat of the day running errands, I heard this pop song I've heard bits of before, but never the whole thing.  It starts off with a bit of talk-sing-y drama, a monologue of a guy going to the bathroom in a bar, his girl sitting at the table, someone comes up to her, starts chatting her up, asking her about a scar "I know I gave you that a few months ago but I'm trying to make it up to you"




Pop song lyrics about a man who beats his girlfriend so severely she SCARS are now a thing we can just drop in and blow by like nothing has been said are okay now?  This is a thing?  This is not any cause for concern?

Holy crap.

Look, I know I am an apologist for someone pretty rightly famed for his (fear and) obsession with women, and even I don't pretend he wasn't a misogynist.  The songs he wrote which caused the most outrage were the most clearly fantastical.

This tune today?  Nothing fantastical there.  Quite pointedly prosaic and personal, this is a song about the curvatus en se personal foolishness of youth, and the bit about SCARRING A WOMAN just goes by without the slightest notice, even by the writer/singer.  "I'm trying to make it up" basically is all we hear, which ... is not enough.

It's bad enough people are obsessed with a now years-old saga of two of the wealthiest and most famous music starlets of their time on-again/off-again dating each other ages after HE BATTERED HER VIOLENTLY.  It's bad enough there remain huge swaths of "entertainment" dependent upon the rape and terrifying abuse of women and little girls in our culture (see also "news" cycles breathlessly relating to the latest Pretty White Girl abduction or murder - see also G-d damned LAW AND BLOODY ORDER SPECIAL VICTIMS UNIT, which of course is at its most painstakingly special when someone has been specially, sickeningly violated and we get to explore THAT in loving detail).

No, now we get to SING, popular little teenaged songs, glorifying the inchoate angst of little boys who HIT GIRLS - meanwhile that girl is herself an invisible figure in this song, left either as the inspiration for the poor boy's cruelly debilitating self-interest or perhaps someone he'll need to be discarding soon, as she is the cause of unhappiness for him.  Meanwhile the ABUSE he has inflicted upon her isn't even a FOOTNOTE in terms of the meaning of the song.

This is seriously just peachy.  Boy howdy, I hope the idiot-hole who wrote that happy tune sure will make kabillions of kilobucks off it.

Please say something, please comment, please be horrified or explain to me I mis-heard this, or something - someone ... !

Editing to add:  nope.  The lyrics are, if anything, WORSE in b/w.

Heavy Rain

The wind is high outside, but the rain isn't having any of it.  It's coming down STRAIGHT.  Heavy.  It's coming down in CHUNKS, hunks, wads, masses.  It's so big it looks like hail in the air - but there is no hail on the ground.

I only hope it lasts more than a couple of minutes (*).  We need the dousing.  Plus, this is cooling us down, so that's a benefit I won't mind.  It'll bump the humidity - let it do the rest effectively.

(*Blah.  It didn't.)

Thursday, June 21, 2012

It's That Time of Year ...

... I haven't been able to breathe, waking or asleep, in at least a week now.  And, yep, it's getting worse.  It always does.  This is that magical time when I wake up at night and in the morning, gasping because my body just STOPS breathing.  When I can't get a breath, and just give up, and go without it.

Oh,well, at least the honey helps the allergies a bit, and I like lightnin' bugs.

Editor Tips

Adrien Luc Sanders' daily editor tips are always smart and useful advice, especially for actively querying authors.  Yesterday's are a particularly juicy batch.  *Grin*

Wednesday, June 20, 2012


The word count is now down to 149,708.

The thing is, I've always counted the Author's Note in the word count; which is a significant overestimation (the Author's Note is juicy with a bibliography of characters, terms, and points of reference).

Without the AN, the count goes down to 141,967 (456 pages instead of 472, with those last 16 heavy on single-spacing).  The AN word count is 7741 (it is edited, I think, though of course it will see a final polish).

From now on, I think I'm going to disregard that nearly 8k extra-curricular material in the Tracking word count posts.  Even if only to make myself feel better than I should about the progress of the novel.

So.  Word count today is 141,967.  Woot.

Catherine de Medici's Hairpin

Much is being made (at ... HuffPo ... ? hey, fine) of the "mystery" of Catherine de Medici's hairpin.  The tricky bit is why the royal coif-pin might have been found in a communal convenience.

Sunday, June 17, 2012


150,162.  Not even 200 words down - you'd never know how much manuscriptive ground I've actually covered since the last Tracking update.  Ugh.

The Death Scene.

Today, I reworked the scene in which Clovis gains his first heir, and loses his first love.  This is one I worked on recently, but somehow it brought me back once more.  So my word count isn't greatly down today, but the finer-tuning, fingers crossed, was a good choice.

This scene takes place pretty early in the going.  Theuderic, first prince of Clovis I, is older than those I refer to as "the Clotine princes" (sons of Queen Saint Clotilde), born extremely early in Clovis' reign, and many years before his marriage to the Queen.

Theuderic I, 19th C depiction

Without basis in history - perhaps only because of a White Liberal Guilt brand of need to confer on my characters some level of imperfection, I give to Theuderic a youthful palsy.  As he fights to overcome what would have been seen as a weakness or even a defect, Clovis himself fights the fear, for those early years, that he has not sired a healthy heir.

The death scene echoes with this - but, more than anything, it is the moment when a very young man indeed comes to understand his own love, in losing it.  I don't spend much time in philosophizing all this - part of what I need to do, after all, is to *shorten* this novel - but I hope the writing conveys a sense of the place mourning truly originates.  Because the other thing I am doing, at the same time, is plumbing the emotional depths of the character.

Right now, this scene has sort of exhausted me.  I've never lost a concubine to childbirth, but certainly on Father's Day, of all days, a sense of loss is never far away.  And I have lost love - at that age (Clovis would hardly have been seventeen), it is practically the order of the day to lose love, even if not in quite this context.

Clovis' own death scene (SPOILER!  He's dead now!) has made me cry.  This scene did not have this effect, but, as long as it's been since I dealt with Clovis' scene, this one probably means more to me.

Still, the thing is hard to deal with.  Writing, as much as I try to divorce myself from some of the more "passionate" cliche's about authors and poets, is an immensely personal emotional exercise.

And here it is 11:30 at night, and I am still not moving through the MSS like lightning, and wasting time on Blogger.  Of *course*.


On its way to my house very shortly will be a puttanesca pizza pie - I haven't tried this particular specialty pizza before, but as it involves bacon, calamata olives, basil, and cheese, I am prepared to expect Very Good Things.

There once was a wee child ... who went mad with glee, when you said to her, with the right (Ren) voice, "Penne Pasta Puttanesca!"

Wishing her peace, and all of you too.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Worse Than a Nightmare

Dad walked into a dream this morning, to be with us at a bad time. My body seized up, stopped breathing, and I awoke. G-d damn it.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Paleolithic Flicks

Human ingenuity is so vast - and so old - I wonder why so many of us waste it on foolish dismissals such as believing in "The Dark Ages" or ancient aliens bestowing upon us civilizations.

Cavemen were just as brightly curious and innovative as we were.  They had pretty amazing brains - and minds - too.

Why I Love James Burke - and Why Shouldn't You?

I've talked before about teledons, but James Burke stands out for me, above all the others.  Oh, golly yes - even Carl Sagan.

Dad took me to an interdisciplinary class once.  It must have been a summer session, or maybe it was an introductory session during fall semester, early enough I wasn't back in school myself.  I was about fourteen perhaps - young enough to care, old enough to actually get something out of the day.  The bulk of the class consisted of watching an episode of Connections - and my little mind was efficiently blown.  "All that ... because we used touchstones?"


Dad bought the Connections companion book (I still have it, and not so archaeologically long ago my big brother was stealing moments between gardening, trimming his beard, and mapping, to peruse it), and I think we must have watched the series, too.  Not as religiously as that year mom had her weekly date with "Lillie", but that was just the sort of programming our family did watch.  (Kids:  this was back in the day when a single-television household was typical; any other tube was an "extra" and fairly rarely actually on - and our evenings were spent watching the three broadcast channels or PBS as a unit!  In black and white!)

The year I got married, B. Ex and I had cable, and at some point Bravo or History or some network no longer recognizeable today (kids:  Bravo was once a channel dedicated to snooty art programming, old BBC, and Max Headroom.  Erm.) began airing "The Day the Universe Changed".  Less, or perhaps simply not, familiar with this series, I really enjoyed it.  The weekend they ran a marathon of it, I taped it avidly (hitting pause at every commercial break; I was ... a little manic) and caught something like 8 hours worth.  I still have the VHS of these shows, and they were great.

Burke, of course, has the obligatory avuncular British educational presence - but he also contains a streak of mischief and obvious excitement which lifts him a bit above the Starkeys and, yes, even Sagans of this world.  Burke, basically:  reminds me a little bit of dad.  The looks aren't unnervingly alike, but not starkly dissimilar either (dad didn't have a halo of curls even in 1978, but their glasses might have been the same model - heh).  A physicality born of enthusiasm was something of a shared trait - the unthreatening push-forward of the face, slightly nodding, in eagerness over a point of data which excites them - a kind of gestural inclusionism, inviting, always inviting an audience to join, to partake, to participate, to share.  Good teachers often have this, I think my sister-in-law does too.  My family are a long - and wide - line of teachers; and, while the Majors might not necessarily be the kissy-est relations on record, I can remember this bobbing language of mannerisms in many different incarnations.  I can see my dad, my grandfather, inviting me up on their knees, to read to me, to *talk* with me.  To listen, and to share some story, some word, even some admonition - lovingly, so gently.  I've seen it in my elder niece with my younger, I've seen it in the younger, when she reads to *us* - in each of them, with their wonderful dog.  The gentleness, the inclusion, the invitation to an infectious brain in need of a good spilling.

Burke has this, and he has also the mischief which belies the lull of gentleness, and reminds:  this is not a fool, this is not a pushover.  This is a mind, reaching out.  Take.

Take, eat, this is my mind - or something of the kind.

"Connections" and "Universe" aren't available on my little Roku box.  Even if they were, I'm not sure that would wipe the DVD box sets off my wish list at Amazon.  They're voraciously watchable, and not just one single time.  Burke's expositions keep on giving, and "reruns" repay - you get something new every time you watch.  And this, with shows produced in 1978, and 1988.  THAT is timeless programming.

Sure, there's some cute age on the neato-whizbang montage ending with ... a LASER COMPACT DISC ... but the underlying history can't be repackaged better nor more relevantly (see also:  Connections 2 and 3 - redux isn't always delux; though those were fine, they were not on the level of the original series, and may be considered superfluous even by *this* neurotic completist).  The history doesn't change, and though some of what he's said has been frankly borne out already, the relevancy doesn't.  How many historians and philosophers age so well through thirty-plus years of altered context?

I finished the maddening, literally addictive hurtling progress of Battlestar's reboot not so long ago, and have been hanging a little, tele-entertainment-wise (reading, these days, is very good indeed!) since.  Ahh, what James Burke could do to more than make up for it.  That guy makes "addictive TV" like BSG, or Lost, or Heroes, or any one of those parade of heroin-like series pale by comparison.

Sunday, June 10, 2012


150,330.  Not a lot done this weekend.

Lolly Lies Down

Siddy is *definitely* moving better today, and even through the day, than she was this week.  This is wonderful.


Naming More Names

This is the second post today I've read about "naming names" - but this one refers to a very different kind of research.  How do we find names for our characters ... ?


Ben Kane and Passages to the Past are both giving out prizes very soon ...

I'm going to assume everyone knows Ben is not the one concerned with earrings ...

Paste - Not Just for Schoolrooms

"Paste" jewelry was one of those things I used to read about - O Henry's The Necklace was probably a formative read for me in terms of fashion as much as its actual point (yes, I am sad and shallow).  Here is a very nice, short look at paste ...

Primary Sources

The correspondence and documentation an author runs across in research can be *fascinating*, and primary sources have an exceptional excitement.  My periods so far offer little in this way, but some people have far more interesting luck!  The letter recently making the news, from Crum in regards to Henry VIII's marriage alliance with Cleves, is one I'm sure will get historical fictional mileage, and soon.


Two of this morning's hymns are the sort that make me remember my young'n churching.  I like this one.  I *love* this one - and have the strong memories, now, of our family standing together at my grandma's funeral, singing it.  I pray all be well with the souls of all those I love so much.

Heat is Where the Home Is

Friday, leaving the office it was so quiet I could listen to the breeze in the leaves all around me.  Hot.  It’s that time of year, here, where everything is lushly green, where the grass is just getting ready to turn brown and dry.  This time of year, too, my sense of connection to that place, that land so close to the swamps, the suburb, where I grew up, is at its height.  The heat of June, the scent of mimosa; asphalt; chlorinated pool water.  Incredible dry pain when you step on a holly leaf left over from winter.  Soft, tender green leaves still coming in, too.  You can hear the shouts, from the neighborhood pool, up the street.

You feel, in summertime, how close this place is both to the tidewater, and to the piedmont.  The hills suddenly apparent.  Because, in summertime--we were *outside*.  Summer was the time I, at least, was really at all aware of the land, the country, the *air* all around us.  I was barefoot every day - toes actually part of the dust and earth and clay.  In soft, cool grass which over the season slowly became dusty, prickly.

The evenings become what my dad always called "soft nights" - dusk is cat-footed, gentle, slow, glowing.  Lightning bugs.  Scent of gardenia, now, wafting off my neighbor's incredible bank of green and glossy leaves.  Beautiful.

I sit outside and look to my right - on a stoop of concrete, with broken brick stairs - and a yard almost uninterrupted, by curves, by trees, by flower beds, by features.  I put my eyes on a certain spot, I look at the back of the house, and I build it again.  MY dream porch.

We grew up with porches - at first, a gravel patio, when we were very young.  Dad had a concrete patio poured one year.  Big, white spot.  We'd eat outside.  There's  a picture of me with our dog - another one, of my feet, sticking out of a big appliance box.  I was inside, in the shadow - reading, I like to suspect.  Reading B.C. comics, or MAD magazine.  But reading.

Then, the best of all - dad built a porch on top of the large patio.  Low brick walls.  I remember how that looked.  I think he turned forty before the roof was up - have this memory of neighbors and his party, sitting on those comfortable-heighted walls.  Wide, summer light.

Years - that porch was really just more house.  We were outside for dinner far more than in.  Dad built these big cabinets (... pine? with this heavy polymer plastic vinyl on them) for either side of the bricks of the chimney.  We had a furniture set and a dinner table - lawn furniture as living room.  I remember spending the night outside.  I remember even sometimes having the portable TV out there - oh yes, he had it electrified.  Ceiling fan, too.  Shades.  Lights.  But more than anything, just us, just sitting.  The first hummingbirds I ever saw, sitting in that porch.

"Letting the storm go by" - we'd sit outside there, closer in to the house, and the porch was so big, we didn't even get wet.  Beautiful, exciting, and intimate - sharing a storm with your family, outside but protected.  And together.

In winter time, the place was still more than just a hallway to the driveway.  We kept things out there in lieu of refrigeration.  The Christmas fudge would set outside - and live outside.  Bourbon balls, to this day, seem like the really should be cold.  Cakes, cookies, went outside to cool, to stay in tins where they would be safe.  Where us kids weren't *supposed* to steal them.  Where at least I always did.  Sugar scamp.

Dad's initials in that corner.  The "back" door close to the house, over by the hose, and the "front" door to the porch - toward the driveway.

The slate walkway up from the porch, to the shed dad also built.  The lean-to for our bikes, and the pussy willow behind it.  The blackberry bush.

I tilt my eyes across my empty yard, with no good place to sit outside on a soft night, and fantasize the porch of my dreams.  Three steps up from the yard, maybe two steps down from the living room.  A half circle, set on bricks.  Screened in - a door to this side, and one toward my neighbor's house too.  Can't have that side closed off.  A shingled roof leaning up toward the acute pitch of the house's slate roof.  In my dream, I can afford the porch to have a slate floor.  And afford a slate walk, too.  Walk from the back door to the driveway, and perhaps another walk to the porch.  Not sure how that would look.  But dreaming - everything's wonderful.

Sitting on my porch, enjoying a soft night.  The back window of my living room now a door - and that one window in the kitchen, now looking into the porch.  I imagine being in the kitchen, someone at the house and asking for something outside.

My house is beautiful, and I love it.

But I did miss out - not getting a porch.

Saturday, June 9, 2012


I just bought my dream toy - a Roomba robotic vacuum (and I got the extra 3-year warranty too).

Soon, I shall SHOW THEM ALL ... how fur-free my floors can be ... !!  Mwa-ha-ha-ha-ha-haaaaaaaaaa!!!!

Friday, June 8, 2012


Roger Ebert again, and again what I said yesterday.

It is an irony that the actual victims of the process are often those most in support of it.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Also, I Write

In between rants and whinges and far too much drama of a personal kind:  I've been eking away every evening at the revisions.  Progress is always slow, but the incremental concentration, the cumulative effect, are better than they've been since October.

It's a pathetic ratio - but I think at least one TENTH of the MSS, I won't have to revisit again.

At least, until the agent who takes me on decides I need to tweak it.  *Smiling eye roll*


The Lolly has been having a hard time lately.  It was either Sunday or Monday of the holiday weekend, a week and a half ago, she went to plop down on the carpet in the living room, and stopped in mid-motion because she appeared to be unable to move.  She looked confused and distressed - but not like she was in pain.  She looked like she could not move her legs.

I took her to the vet Friday, after an almost instantaneous recovery, and she was perky and fine the day we went.  New vet flirted with her and kept saying how healthy she was - "you're not REALLY fourteen?!" - and gave her a once over.  We did not do x-rays (pet health insurance are coming at my office; I told her I'd like to put that in force, then we would come back for more maybe), we left with a mild painkiller "just in case", some advice as to supplements which might be a good idea, and one perky dog enjoying a ride home.

Two days ago, I was working from home.  It was the day of the stupefying family news, and there's an extent to which I want to tell myself that I am going fretful-spinster-mad over my dog, in reaction to great sadness and worry.  But I have known my dog almost all of ten years now.  I know her expressions of pain, and I know her expressions of confusion.  I have some familiarity with her thresholds and tolerances.  I'm also deeply grateful for her big beating heard and beautiful sad eyes.  And I know.

Something is wrong with my girl.

Tuesday, I watched her have an apparent seizure.  She got up a little rickety, normalized, and seemed fine - if, perhaps only to my mind, the slightest bit "ginger" afterward.

Tuesday, she had a gallumphing accident while hurtling up the stairs (Siddy is like me; she doesn't really know how to do certain things slowly, deliberately, delicately.)  She stood stock still for a full minute - I ran to make sure she was okay, and just to be next to her if she decided to keep going up - and admitted defeat, turned slowly around, and went back downstairs.

She's been in pain ever since.  Yesterday morning, getting out of her bed was slow - even for her - and clearly very difficult for her.  Going for our morning walk, she was so slow and so clearly hurting, we did not even get past our own yard.  I turned her around gently, she toddled oh so carefully along behind me, and when we got to the stoop it almost defeated her.  She took those few little steps up to the house ... slowly, deliberately, delicately.  It was just heartbreaking.

I gave her the painkiller prescribed on Friday, and left her, enormously tempted to simply pull out my laptop (I'd worked from home the day before ... could have done it again ...) and not leave her.

I left her.

That has itself been getting HARDER over the past couple of months.  Siddy has always been a "Bye mom!" kind of dog - loving, and attentive, but always willing to have her alone time.  She used to always come in from the walk, take a drink perhaps, and gallumph up the stairs before I'd even said goodbye to her.  For years, "bye-bye Lolly" has been called to her from the kitchen as I go.

Not the case anymore.  She is slow to come up to the house at the end of our short morning walks, and now it makes me wonder if she's been sore and I didn't even know it.  Or just reluctant, even herself not knowing quite why.

Goodbye, for the past month or two, has been a matter of Sad Eyes in the kitchen, standing silently and watching me go.  She's my Best Monkey Ever, and I hate to leave her.  Leaving has been getting so much harder lately.

Another recent change is one so subtle only I could ever perceive it.  She's become physically sensitive in a way new and unfamiliar for such a boisterous thing - she flinches whenever I touch her on her back, and I don't touch her roughly.  I started noticing some weeks ago that when I went to hook her harness, she would jump just ever so slightly.

I've always maintained the habit, when I pet her, of showing her my hands first.  There are minor signs she was somewhat abused in the years before I adopted her, so I've always given her a visual cue when I am going to touch her, even just to pet her.  The harness, though, requires no more cue than that she approaches and sticks her nose through the opening, so she's never needed that.  Now ... I'm making sure to touch her head, pet her slowly and gently along her neck, and meet my right hand to my left in a smooth motion so she can feel me all the way and my left hand doesn't just come into contact to her surprise.

It may sound like rather a palaver, but physically of course it's just one of those tiny adjustments we sometimes make in the way we do ordinary things.  I pet her neck whenever I put the harness on anyway, and usually give her a tickle once it's fastened, so it's just a meeting of two gestures.

But all these small things.  One small sensitivity.  One small injury.  One small seizure-looking case of the shakes.  One small hesitation in the mornings, on our walks.

Two big, glossy, limpid, beautiful, sad eyeballs - staring up at me.

I am worried 'bout my girl, the Stinky Tuscadero, the Cutest of Borg, the Sidney Von Bidney Biddle Barrows, the Best Monkey Ever, my Sweet Siddy-La.  She is such a good, warm, dear thing.  She has been so HEALTHY.  Such a blessing.

Today, I carried her downstairs.  The way she got up - so stiff - I could not bring myself to even think about expecting her to walk those stairs.

Our walk was short again, and when we got home, she stopped at the stoop.  I carried her up that short little set of steps - and again, over the step at the threshold.

I tried to hold her so gently - she's not as heavy as she once was, so it was not bad - but she is so unfamiliar with being carried.  She's not a little dog.  It had to be disconcerting, even apart from her bodily pain.  But she didn't protest one bit.  Whether she understood I was trying to take care of her or not - Siddy never has fought me, really.  She hates pills, but lets me administer them.  She behaves for the vet every time.  She is docile when it comes to handling, brave and good when it comes even to unpleasant physical transactions.  She's a moderate kid, given to enjoying herself, but not hyper nor unmanageable.

She's a good old heart, and I've lived my life for a long time now in hopes I could be worthy of my dog.

I want to keep living like this - but I want her healthy, happy, *well*.

Fingers crossed I'm projecting on her - being an overly fretful spinster doggy-mommy, in reaction to other worries.  Not so sure that's a hope to bet on.  But hoping - and even praying, yes - anyway.


Roger Ebert, a Pulitzer prize winner and one of my favorite writers, even though I frequently disagree with him philosophically and cinematically, has said,

Racism and all the other 'isms' grow from primitive tribalism, the instinctive hostility against those of another tribe, race, religion, nationality, class or whatever.

I recently had a conversation in which someone else I respect immensely said they reject 'isms' too.

As for me, I think I reject this "all these things" generalization.  Oddly enough, it resembles, itself, the reasoning for rejecting  this ism or that:  that the ism reduces all members of some (possibly imaginary) category to a limited (possibly imaginary) definition, and is therefore invalid.

I'm a feminist.  It tires me out to endlessly encounter, in this day and age, the prejudice and pejorative assumptions people have about those who are feminists, and the meaning of the term itself.  "Post feminism" and Buffy Studies and Girl Power and all the women's studies terminology and finer points of observation mean perhaps less to me than those who practice them might like, and far less than those those who hate them may assume.  Feminism isn't some limited club, for which specific requirements are expected before admission may be ratified.

It's also not a predictable stereotype.

Even in the 2010s, there are those who still imagine feminism defines a woman (men, these people would presume, cannot be feminists at all) as a man-hater.  Even in the 2010s, there are those who are frightened by the perceived implication of anger the word "feminism" still carries thanks to generations of propagandistic, proselytizing foolishness precisely designed to cause this fear.  Even in the 2010s, the understanding of women fighting simply for human rights remains terrifyingly unsophisticated, and relentlessly negative.

I say the words "I am a feminist" and I can tell you, people screw up their little faces just as much as they do when I use the charged term "I am a secretary" or admit my dastardly habit of kitten-torturing.  Oh, wait ...

"I am a feminist" causes cognitive dissonance.  "But you are nice," I can almost HEAR people thinking.  And it's not just men.  Women have bought into the calumny wholesale - have been trained as part of the good and patriotic populace (of many cultures; not just my own) that they don't want to be different.  They don't want to be unattractive (what is less attractive than an uppity man-hating selfish person spoiling for a fight, after all?).  They don't want to rock the boat.  For that matter:  nobody wants to have to WORK.

Feminism is work.

I'm not as much a witness for my hideous, humanist religion of women's rights as the legion of those who have sold the world an image of feminism-as-*unwomanliness*.  But I do hold my beliefs, I do speak of them, I do try, even passively, to embody an understanding of something far deeper, far more important than the cartoon stereotype of a bra-burning, man-wannabe-ing, aggressive and ugly pugilist.  I am dismayed at women who push the label "feminist" away like it was a tattoo advertising "I am undesirable!"  I am dismayed at men who believe in the simple human rights we all should have, who won't adopt the label (I don't mean you, you whom I've discussed this with most recently; there's someone else this is directed toward) because, even knowing better, the illusion of the archetypal feminist still repels them.

Rejecting an ism, even knowing its actual face, because others find it ugly condones the perception of ugliness.  "Yes, that is ugly - whoo - that's not me!"

Rejecting an ism just because it's an ism, even though that is a principle of valor, still gives the "ugly" crowd a win.

Wisconsin has rejected its own wellbeing because enough money went into a short-notice election that, even with astounding mobilization and a viable option, a false perception was screamed loud enough at the populace they voted to agree with the perception even against their interests.  They were bombarded, inundated, with beautiful beautiful money which told them "you think this" and the message ... well, prevailed.

The inundation of cultures and societies throughout the world, with repeated mantras, "ALL (THIS) ARE (THIS)" has bought and paid for power enough to pass for persuasion since language began.  It's crippled our culture, certainly, in recent decades, giving rise to the primacy of Wall Street and those Have's who are satisfied to continue draining to the dregs the massive majority of Have Not's - who have been so entirely saturated with misdirected messaging (staunch "morality" successfully masking a movement more dedicated to finance than any tenet of decency) they eagerly and angrily support the powers who will happily destroy them utterly.

Feminism's just a *part* of the array of principled movements smeared, tarred, rabidly detested by those who have (let's face it, usually monetary) "reason" to fear it.

Of course, in order to defeat principled movements, fear must be employed.  And so reason must be stifled, if at all possible.

And stifled it is.  Money is able to create deafening volume, in any society, these days.  Just ask Tom Barrett.

Just ask a feminist.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Short, Sweet, and Oh So Many Good Points Here

Working authors:  read this.

On querying, and Twitter as a medium for conducting business.  Yes and yes and yes some more.  Read it twice if you have to.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

The Emotional Relief of Modern Technology

Today started off with a pretty serious shocker, and I turned around from it, went in to my office, picked up my laptop (after calling the facilities guy to unlock my drawer, for which I had left the key in my other bag ... yes, I have become my mother ...), went back home, and worked from here.  One of my friends there, knowing only that "I just can't be there right now" did the most amazing thing.

She sent me flowers.

The delivery guy was so nice - I was clearly bewildered, and he said, so encouragingly:  "Someone wants you to be happy."  What a job that must be, some days.

It is not lost on me, to be sure, how amazing a job I have - and what great coworkers - that a day I feel I can't face them, they still want to show me they're with me in such a remarkably sweet way.

I stuck an old reliable in the DVD this morning - a bit of Hestonian "Commandments" as a background there need be no danger of my actually watching while sifting emails and making some calls - and slumped away the day.  Having put together an outfit which even before the morning's reversal had me dithering over possible different tops (I *never* do this - I set out clothes the night before a workday, and even if I"m dissatisfied the next day I usually just grin and bear a miscalculation), I worked in my work clothes for a good while before shifting into dog-walking pants.

Having topped off the workday meeting mom for dinner, and wandered around "shopping" (very much not buying) for a bit, I've come home and spent $78 on needful things to put in the Delicates drawer, another $33.97 on dog walking pants, and have finally decided that Poirot is the right entertainment for me for this evening.  A light dab of tidy little murder, just the thing for a confused mind.

And David Suchet's intricately, impossibly tidy little waxed mustache.  Impeccable and no invitation to emotional involvement.  Perfect stuff.

And so I must watch.  Bon nuit.

Sunday, June 3, 2012


Last night, in between having a little fun, a headache started, and tugged at my sleeve a little bit, but decided to bide its time.  Its time, as it turned out, was apparently 3:00 a.m.  Terribly painful.  By four, five ibuprofen into a losing battle, and lying in bed unconscious - but mummified, and unmoving, rather than experiencing actual sleep or rest - I knew my hopes of an SBC meeting might be dashed.

Last month, seeing Mr. X, I'd canceled actually hosting the SBC.  These women are forgiving, but I felt bad about that - even with an obviously compelling reason.  I was excited to see them today - and ended up not doing so.

I got the least sleep last night I've had in a good while, and for a worse reason than in years.  Night headaches aren't unusual for me, but an hour or three of sleep is the usual solution.  This kind of pain is a different matter.

Unable to just roll over this morning, I gave up and got up.  Pretty much went right out the door, to get done what was necessary - gas, dog food, groceries for me, a prescription - and came right home to recuperate.  I was hoping for sleep, but have only gotten an hour.  Have done some revision, but word count isn't down much right now.  Just waiting until I can go to bed.  I expect that will happen early ...

Saturday, June 2, 2012


I feel like I'm not moving very fast - BUT the word count continues in the right direction:  downward.

Only about 130 words less so far today.  But there may be a few more scenes I can ditch, too ...

Friday, June 1, 2012

More TBR ... ?

Reading other people's blogs is a devastatingly excellent way to collect far too many titles for a to-be-read wishlist.  For example, I'd love this bit.

My piles and virtual wishlists for books I'd love to find time (!???) to read are enough to make my over-200-item queues on Netflix look paltry.  Aieee!

Actually Was

Articles and shows about characters who actually were always fascinate me.  Sometimes, there's a bit of stretching to be done to link a story to an historical personage, but sometimes that just doesn't matter.  Humans as a species search for and create and oddly adore *relationships* - correlations we can make between two things which catch our interest.  This is why conspiracies capture our imaginations - even if we don't believe in them.

Here are a pair of very interesting posts about characters who actually were.  One, about Snow White (timely, indeed, with Snow White and the Huntsman coming out right now!).  The other, about the son of that favorite, perhaps, of all the actually was-ers:  Vlad Tepes.  Enjoy these - I did!

What Would Coworkers Think?

Day Al-Mohamed asks, what do your colleagues think of your writing fiction?

In my case, there are a lot of answers, and it occurs to me they're sort of interesting.  I can admit, I've found myself censoring my impulses to talk about the work many times - sometimes, just so as not to bore people on topics which overexcite me personally.  Often, though, it's a similar dynamic to what Day discusses - the way people suddenly get ideas about the person you are, perhaps based on your subjects, or just because you're a frowzy artsy type in a perhaps staid environment.

I happen to work in an area and amongst people who only appreciate me the more once they discover my nerdleries.  Even so, it's still atypical for the secretary to have raging Barbarians trotting around in our brains.

When I first began work on Ax, I was still in the mainstream financial services industry.  I worked with the guys who suggested perhaps it wasn't such a handy idea to give credit out to everyone, their dog, and that one cool arrangement of decorative grasses on the corner - but it was very much the executive atmosphere you might expect.  I loved the guys who ran the place, and still respect them all - but they were the suited types, conservative, career-driven, largely (not all!) the well-off and corporate white men we all know run in such circles.

One of them (one of those not-all I allude to) once accused my writing of being "elegant".  Considering he's someone I still chat with on odd occasion, and he's been a Communications executive for many years now - and he's hilarious, creative, and personally delightful - this is on the order of a Very High Compliment.  And the piece he was reading wasn't work:  it was MY work - my first page, which I was submitting that year for JRW's First Pages Critique.

Another one, and this is a guy I will never forget, was nothing more (nor LESS) than genuinely encouraging.  He was a big, brash, funny and friendly guy.  He used to call me Angelina Jolie, and we all called him George Clooney.  When he learned I was starting a novel, he asked me about it.  And he never stopped doing that.  He would buzz down the hallway where the Executive Admins all sat in a row, say hello to everybody - and, for me, he *always* had the question, "How's that novel coming, Jolie?"

It seems such a small thing, but it was a memorably fundamental part of the work, back then.  I am grateful for his enthusiasm and his pushing, and he may never know just how important he was back in those early stages, when I was researching and trying to teach myself what it was to be a writer.  He's part of the reason I have become an author, and enthusiasm like his is what bouys people enough to become published ones, at that.

Nowadays, I have a team replete with nerds such as myself, and they don't think a great deal about my writing, though they know about it.  They may be a little surprised when it sells, but will be wonderful about it. One of my coworkers is also a very dear friend, and she is unfailingly supportive and generous.  A new one is also a writer, I found out yesterday.

My executives like the value-add my creativity brings to the job.  They seem to like TALKING with me, which doesn't hurt.  One - himself formidably well educated and formidably intelligent - I think rather likes the idea of having an author on the team.  I was told once that helped put me over the top when he interviewed two candidates of relatively similar experience.  Whether that is true or not, I do know we discussed the way querying and the work of a writer was helping me to maintain discipline at the time of my (blessedly brief) unemployment.  He is interested in history, and may even be a reader someday.

The other officer I support is an especially interesting balance of nice guy and extremely good manager.  He's the one I am training to have an admin (and spoiling remorselessly - he's going to be ruined for all other secretaries!), and has a friendly interest.  His wife once found my blog, though - and, through it, the Sarcastic Broads, and I understand loved these wonderful friends of mine.  And why not?  Heh.

I know a few of my coworkers have found my own blog, and a couple I am close enough to, I've even directed them to my excerpts, posted here.  Having a thick enough skin to make myself public as an author is part of what I hope will be the endgame in any case, and sometimes it's helpful to share with those you feel safe opening up to.  It is just possible, in fact, that one of my followers happens to be someone I work with, but I have never asked and don't intend to.

So - no, I don't play my writing close to the vest anymore, by any stretch.  When I was unemployed, I fully expected to be Googled.  When I was querying, I hoped for it.  I may be still in a backwater of the internet - but the plan is that someday THIS will be a part of my public platform, and there's little sense left in being precious about my work, particularly when I hope I am getting closer to ITS being public as well.

It does make me wonder, though - what would *your* coworkers do?