Sunday, July 29, 2012

It's Good to Be the King ...

Anyone who thinks the agent has the enviable job hasn't really thought out everything an agent has to do.  Nobody's job is easy every day - even mine has its politics and pitfalls - but for those who work in the subjective world of creative marketing the ugly parts have got to be a lot uglier than mine, I think.

Hit the link and enjoy a very thoughtful post from Janet Reid.

Enjoy, too, the fact that it is a glimmer of the historic in a genre some still brand "non-commercial" ...  A very interesting progression/evoloution of thought and ideas.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Season of the Coin

The past month or two seems to be an immensely rich (pardon the pun) time for coin finds.  This one, for variety, did not take place in Britain or the Channel islands!

Friday, July 27, 2012

Olympic Rainbow

Just as the tape-delayed opening ceremonies began broadcast locally, we had this:


I'm a smart person, in control of myself, and very clear on how emotional manipulation is engineered, how it's constructed, how it works.

And spectacle gets to me in a big, big way.  I don't even care about the sports, the scores, the stats.  But ceremonies like this make me weep when that's what they want to make me do.

I'm the world's greatest subject for entertainment, sometimes, and the willing suspension of disbelief.


Editing to add:  Isn't it lucky for London steampunk is so popular right now, and feeds so perfectly into the themes they're illustrating.  It's the steampunkalympics.  Will this be better than the Laff A Lympics ... ?

Ancient Olympic Horns!

"Brave" featured a brief, but very prominent shot of the carynx, and now horn is getting a turn as an emblem of Britain's Celtic past.  For those unfamiliar with it, I really do recommend enjoying the video at the first link above; it shows the remarkable variety of sound and tone the horn is capable of producing.

This head is an ORIGINAL Celtic artifact

Also:  yay!  Olympic opening ceremonies tonight.  I'll share a bit with my beautiful and loving friend V and her husband W.  Friends are a joyous blessing.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Trek Women Revisited

Got a very interesting comment today on one of my better Trek posts.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012


A short observation about a trend of which the Stupid Naming Business is only one representative symptom:

The older I get, the more I find people essentially telling me "You're doing it wrong" about, basically, life itself.  It appears to be related to my never having remarried, had kids, done the thing we're all "supposed" to do, so there gets to be more and more instruction for me the farther down the road I get.  What's interesting is that this isn't coming from my family (nor from X), but from friends and mere acquaintances.  There's been a sharp, clear, and precipitous drop in people's estimation of my competency since I (successfully, not for nothing) passed forty.  (Subtext here:  "alone" - because that's means something is broken somehow, and I guess I must be presumed to have done the damage.)

One or two of these happen to be the sort who find opinionated people (and being opinionated) invigorating or bracing.

The older I get, the less "invigorating" opinions are to me.  I prefer courage, conviction, and energy spent on being interested and interesting.  By a stunningly wide margin.


There is a LOT about me that seems to set people on edge.  Women who use the term secretary non-ironically freak people out.  Middle aged women living on their own bug people.  I never liked the idea I was getting to people simply by existing, but the longer I do it the more palpable other people's discomfort over my perceived failures (non-conformity, thank you) becomes.

Oddly enough, I'm a bit like Douglas Adams' money:  "On the whole, it wasn't the small green pieces of paper that were unhappy."

But my movements increasingly concern people who have no say (and no stake) in my lifestyle.  And sometimes, THEY get to ME.  What a lot of wasted, and yet far too eagerly generated, negative energy.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Reasons We Call Him BELOVED Ex

Easily the best response of all to the haters - my ex husband:

people dissing on that name makes me so mad I could  pinch somebody!   :)    Don't let them harsh all over your day, lady.   
PS - the cool thing about calling that cat Gossamer is that, if so inclined, you could get all street-wise and give him the nickname, "G."  For example, "Yo G!  Are you spittin' some off the hook ryhmes?"   You what I'm lay'n down....

Yep.  I knew he was one'a the good ones.  (Here's a guy whose masculinity was impugned not one whit by having a cat with me - a boy - named Gert.  Yo, G indeed.)

Also, he's the kind of cat who makes ME look hip in comparison.  My ex husband is possibly the definitive nerd from my collection.  Aww.

Monday, July 23, 2012

More on Moldy Undies

This article on the ancient underpants previously noted includes primary sources discussing specifics of what, inevitably (being a fourteen year old boy, mentally), I can only refer to by making jokes about fun bags.  A very good piece - perhaps better than my original link - so worth sharing.

Baby Kit

The little grey boy has a name.

Before I get to it, allow me to say that it's been unkindly astounding to me to note how freely people feel it has been necessary to share their sneering opinions about - of all consequential and clearly asking-for-it topics - the naming of a little kitten.  I got "That's different" in one snide remark and "It's not very butch" in another, and would like to go on record that anyone who feels the need to be JUDGMENTAL as regards the topic of my cat's name is hereby invited to stuff it pretty deep.  How anyone imagines there can be any need to get opinionated, particularly in the negative, about the non-earth-shattering topic of my cat's damned name, I cannot understand - and do not care to.  So stifle it, Edith, if you feel a cat needs to be studly, or if you don't get the pop-cultural joy, or for that matter any sort of new problem anyone may choose to have with it.

Because the moment it cropped up ... Gossamer's name tickled me quite to death.

For one, he's an INteresting monster.  For two, Gossamer!

For three, he is silky, velvety soft:  gossamer.

For four:  he has little white sneakers on.  Gossamer!

And for five:  he's likely to be called Mermer a lot.  And with a meow as quiet as his, that will fit him adorably well.  *Grin*

I love it.

He has said nothing whatever about how damned "effeminate" it is (Mer is a boy fully at home in his tiny neutered masculinity, and needs no snide defenders thank you).  Gossamer it is.  My little silky boy.

"Well Cut Through the Body"

My post the other day about ancient underwear was flip and meant to be funny, a failure to represent the level of understanding I do have of the history of human costuming.  Today I'll link a piece probably less accessible to a general audience, but to me significantly more fascinating because of its depth.

A silhouette arose during the post-Conquest period, in Europe, favoring length and slenderness.  Breasts were, ideally, very small and firm - "hard as an apple" - as a description, used even many centuries later, extolled.  The ideal sustained for a very long time, in an age when marriage often involved brides who were very young indeed - though of course it waxed and waned even in those centuries of "get them young, get them virginal."

As interesting to me as anything is the science, in fashion, of *exposure*.  Some may recall my posting about the vogue for nipples in 18th century muslin; here, in another lengthy article we have discussion of side lacing - and the nakedness of skin underneath ancient lacings.


Just yesterday I was in church and saw a kid with a bright turquoise curly mohawk.  Being a middle aged old thing in church, it may be it looked like I was ogling the weird youngster.

In reality, I was remembering a bet, thirty years ago.  My brother had a mohawk then, and a classmate who also went to our church bet him (was it twenty dollars, Mojourner? I always remember it as being a pretty good sum) he wouldn't show up there looking so crazy.

She bet against our mom, who wasn't letting anyone out of church for shaving any PART of their heads (replayed a few years later, when I only nipped one side off).  And he won the wager, easy.

What I was thinking, in fact, was that it's sort of funny something which wasn't even completely new 30 years ago is still considered shocking.  Aww.  It's sort of cute.

We didn't invent ... any means of covering, uncovering, nor even actually modifying our bodies any time recently.  None of it.
Cut out sides exposing underwear and naked skin are at least 900 years old.  Exposed nipples probably go back more than the 200+ noted in that link above.  Bras aren't 19th century, and string bikinis have enough sensibility of design we may have been echoing the design even half a millennium ago as well.  Cinching in the midriff, manipulating the breasts, men in long hair, women shaving their skulls (for that matter bodily depilation of both sexes, and not just the head) ... we've done many of the same things through history.  We also use similar techniques to do different things, or come up with new ones to do same-old things ...

Mohawks were wild when this middle-aged woman was a little kid.  They're still shocking The Normals, and tight-laced men and women were a subculture countless generations ago.  Funny how some things don't change:

(Pretty sure this model is a certain acquaintance of mine ...)

Sunday, July 22, 2012



I've been off the game for a while, but baby kit is not blocking my inspiration.  Settling in for the night.

Holy Crap!

No, I mean kind of literally ...

I wonder if Mitt Romney has fitty bucks to throw away on a schmanzy TP dispenser?

(Also:  where do you get cool-ass fleur de lys toilet paper?  Because I seriously need some of that.)

Saturday, July 21, 2012


Calling new kit "Solly" is too close, I think, to "Lolly" - so yesterday, once we were alone, it began to seem to me the little fellow deserves a name just for him, not one of a series ("This week - Biblical names").

Of course, at dinner, someone said I should call him Zach, and I was struck by the song "Zaccheus was a wee little man" ...

This guy won't be this little forever - even in the week he's been here, I can see he has grown.  And I don't want to call him Zach.  (Nor even 'Cheus.)

He's an incredibly soft little lad.  Velvet is a bit twee, but something evoking his silky coat might be nice.  He's got smoky, soft coloring, but I don't care for Smoky at all.

Hah - well, maybe something will come up in church tomorrow.  Tonight, I think it'll be time to go to bed soon.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Solo With the Man

'Lijah went back to his friends at the SPCA today, and while we waited for his surrender, I sat with him for almost an hour, just holding him and cuddling and watching people and pets go by.  He was very mellow, but interested, and several employees commented they would not have him long, and how sweet he is.  And he is.  He's just not mine.

I learned eighteen years ago, you don't hold on to a guy because he is sweet.  *Sigh*

So Soloman and I are alone now.  We've had a little nap, and tonight there will be soup-making, and tomorrow we'll have a few guests I think.

His golden brown eyes have changed colors today.  Greenish the last time I looked at them, and sometimes seeming grey as well.  Mood kitty.

For the first time, I am thinking of giving him a new name.  Not rushing, but it's possible.  "Solly" is too close to Lolly, maybe.  And, though in terms of other kittens, he is "Solo Man" right now - at some point, he'll have a dog in the house to be friends with.  So, now that we are alone together, he can show me who he is, what he should be called.

For now ... a bit of vegetable peeling ...

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Still More UK Coinage

What's going on with all the finds across the Pond these days, Britain?

It certainly looks like fun.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

I'm Coming Out

Since having to say goodbye to the calm, beautiful, dear, and fun Siddy-La on July 5, there seems to be a constant stream of anxiety and difficulty, enough to be actively embarrassing.  A period of high productivity both at work and on the novel has crashed into a period of uncharacteristic (I hope, anyway) middle-aged middle-class chick fretfulness and melodrama, lost sleep, rash decisions, and second-guessing (that one is definitely atypical for me).

It's always tricky getting back to oneself when emotions run high, particularly negative emotions, and remorse - being a smartass - is a remorseless one.  When awful things happen, even without intent, women like me run the risk (or the likelihood, in the case of the MANY of us trained to embrace martyrdom and worse) of being consumed with misplaced (or appropriate, sometimes) guilt, selfish fear, the whole self-flagellating nine yards.  Even KNOWING we're "doing it" - even knowing, perhaps, intellectually, that there may be no reason to beat ourselves up, the inexorability of emotion is inescapable.  You have to go through it, and - if you are fortunate - you do get to come out the other side.

After some days now of one of these periods, I'm coming out.


Not least of the bouyants in my life are my friends; particularly, these days, my work friends.  There are two women there who are generous and delightful, supportive and deserving of return in kind, and just neat.  One spontaneously sent me flowers after some sad family news some time back.  Another gave me pickles and relish when she canned her own recently.  It doesn't get better than that - and yet, really, it does.  These examples are the least of the kindness they have shared, and I'm incredibly grateful.

It's always good to have kvetch-partners in an office, and sadly right now, having recently incurred some body work on my car and enjoying a new bout of stiff-back, I seem to be the one of us having the best week of all three.  Never a good sign.

Nothing quite like perspective, to drag your head out of your own ... navel ... and remind you your blessings (a trip to the ER can have the same effect, at that).  I pray blessings for these blessings of friends - and surprises, too, of the fun kind.

And for their arrival, too, on the other side.  Everybody - come out:  the grass is greener, here on the other side.

Pud Pics

The pics so far don't seem, to me, to convey just how tiny Solly in particular is (Elijah isn't much bigger!) so I tried to get some scale.  You can decide how successful these are.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Ancient Knickers

Sometimes, the surprised tone of media reportage regarding in-depth subjects without in-depth background (and the breathy, insinuating inventiveness often displayed by those with less of that background) is mildly amusing.

For instance, it turns out we didn't invent breast nor posterior coverings only 100 years ago.  Also, the human body has not radically altered in design for some millennia, so the stuff we as a species may be likely to protect hasn't migrated or anything.


Continued surprises may be found in ancient Roman depictions of underwear.


Sunday, July 15, 2012

Plantagenet History Now

The city of Angers, which spawned a significant portion of the Plantagenet dynastic line, has demanded England's crown jewels in recompense for the death of England's Edward IV.

No.  Really.

When history comes alive in the present - it can be simultaneously hilarious and bewildering.

(The article states that Shakespeare made the Plantagenet name famous.  Because Geoffrey and his sprig in the hat - and a centuries-long line of monarchs - still left them in obscurity.  Apparently.  Erm.  I guess if they can definitively declare who killed the princes (erm again ...), they can assert that too.)

More Ways to Break Down Women

Have you ever heard of stereotype threat?

Even in the sciences within higher education, the knuckle-dragging assumptions live on - and alienate women from their own careers.

Shatner-osity: "Bohemian Rhapsody"


The animation actually reminds me of the Nagilum.  Extra creepy with cheese!

More Plutonian News

Planet or no, the little cold guy is busy these days ...

Eyes Too Big

There are five comments this morning, and I know they're pretty much about the kits, so I can't even read them before I come to this.

After losing sleep last night, thinking my eyes had been too big for my stomach yesterday, I’ve decided this is a one-cat household after all.  My thoughts had been to get one girl kitty.  When I walked into the SPCA, even being tempted by the boy kits, I still meant only to adopt one

Oh, but at the shelter they do look so small, and the two of the are undeniably cute together.

That, though, is not a good reason to affect two kitties’ lives and futures so profoundly.  I was undisciplined, and that was a bad thing to succumb to, but as mean as I feel taking one back, it would hardly be kindness to keep them both out of guilt.  It would hardly make me a better pet-parent.

So Elijah will find a new home soon.

Soloman’s name says it all:  Solo Man.  I feel really bad about it.  But Elijah deserves better than to have a pity-home.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Herzliya Find

Crusades coins found in Israel at Herzliya.  I used to know some folks there!  Also:  archaeological geekery.  Yum.

The condition of these coins is astounding, isn't it?  (Photo via Reuters.)

Vocal Kitty, Kes Ke Se

I knew Elija was the mew-er of these two.

What I didn't know was that Solly is the one with the broken mew ... like my late, beloved Smikey-Bites.

Okay, eek.  And it's time for these two, who are so good about being handled, to get their first nail clippings.  Oiks.

Solomon and Elijah

At 2:00 I had no heartbeats in the house with me (unless I missed a couple cave crickets, which aren't so companionable anyway).

Meet my boys:  Solly and Li-Li (the Is are long, in this case) ...

Solly had some things to communicate to me from the moment I met him, and I knew he would probably be the sort to appreciate a companion during the daytime while I am off paying the mortgage.  So I was told about Elija, apparently quite the love bug, where Solly was a playing thing.

Put these guys together (similar as they look, they aren't brothers - not by blood, anyway), and suddenly snuggly Li-Li is a little viper, playing and energetic with a new pal.  And Solly, disinterested in being held, when we were alone, suddenly became a loverboy.

Solly is ever so slightly the smaller, is a hair lighter, and has white paws.  Li-Li has pretty grey eyes, and is solid stripey.  Both of them are grey, not brown, and they are getting along famously.

Home for an hour now, they've done a lot of exploring, and are currently remembering the humanoid life form, and are adorably exploring me at the moment.  I am dying of how wonderful that is.

Solly has already stopped briefly to watch Star Trek from the beautiful throne chair my sister-in-law upholstered, which I inherited when they moved out west.

Li-Li has had to have water sent his way a couple times now, to stop him from clawing grandma's rocker and ottoman.  Looks like Mister Quiet has a bit more feist to him than Shea, our adoption counselor, knew!  He seems to have the motorbox so far, quick to purr, but Solly did some quiet purring while we were still in the poopy-smelling room at the SPCA.

We caught a fragment of "Fun, Fun, Fun" on the rental car's satellite 70s station (#7 - not that this has been a Biblically inspired day or anything!), then "Jackie Blue" played on our way home.

It doesn't seem as if I'm going to be changing the guys' names - I'd nicknamed them in less than half an hour, after all - but per usual, I expect they'll get called a lot more than just Elijah and Solomon over time.

A new adventure begins.

And I went looking for one single female cat.  Best laid plans and all that rot, I guess!

Siddy Croton

Last Friday, after working from home for a second sad day, I went with my mom and stepfather to the florist where once my brother worked as a Young Punk (hee), and rustled up a Siddy-dear memorial plant.  I knew I wanted "one of those yellow and green and red and black" ones, but didn't know what it was called.  Google tells me this is a croton plant, and I really like them.

There's something Sid-ish, too, about their beauty.  Funky, bold, very different.  Strong.  It is the perfect thing to sit where her bed once sat.

Last night, the beautiful Sammy came to visit.

Because of my wonderful oldest niece - Siddy found a home, with me.

Because Siddy was so wonderful - my friend K. was smitten, and crumbled with love, and gave this gorgeous boy a home:

Historical Fiction Daily

Okay, for my history and histfic friends - I'm thinking this is a resource worth following.  Expect to see links here from time to time!

Revisiting, Reminiscing

It used to be typical for me to look back at my old writing and journals, but I realize the more of a self-superior middle-aged broad I become, the less patience I have for the youngster I once was.  Still, it's interesting and probably instructive to do so, and definitely so to read about someone else doing so, particularly given a somewhat different artistic history.

In many ways, the idea of really taking much of a look at the writings of my younger days tempts me to simply burn it all.  Never have gotten around to that, but sometimes there is a touch of dread - what if this utter junk were discovered after I die?  Heh.

Do you keep your old work?  Do you look at it ... ?

Does it help?  *Grin*

Friday, July 13, 2012

It's Not Lunacy (... Yet It's On My Blog?)

It's a couple of days late, but I have been occupied and lazy, but since space stories geek me out as gleefully as history and archaeology do, here is a tale about the much beloved Pluto - planet and icon for its fans - un-planet, but still interesting (and moon rich!) to all.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Treasure Trove in the Channel

I have a growing, but not new, interest in the Channel Isles, and there will be reason for me to indulge my fascination and affection when I get to some research down the road.  It's a pity, then, that I haven't gotten around to posting about the significant find in Jersey recently.  I was a bit occupied last week, of course, but Ben reminded me with his blog.  So here is his link, with a couple more.

And here are some links I took the trouble to find myself.  Ain't I sweet?  Always working for you guys.

Photos from and the Daily Mail.

Ben Kane - Research

Okay, perhaps not ALL my posts tonight will be about covers.  Here is a juicy post about research, coming from Ben Kane no less.

In my own work, museums are much less an option, what with The Pond between me and everything I prefer to write about.  One of these days, I do hope to take a run at Istanbul and Ravenna (at *least*!) and write the trip off.  For now, sadly, I have to depend on text in one form or another.

Another plan for the future:  developing a network of professorial and perhaps librarian contacts.  That sounds almost dangerously interesting to me, when other authors discuss those they have met ...

Cover Trends

Today, apparently all my links are going to be about book covers.  This is an interesting set of observations about genre and design.  (I'll leave it to you guys to decide how depressing cartoon covers for "women's fiction" are.)  My thanks to Rowan Lindsay for the post.

Democratic Cover Design

This is pretty interesting - and nicely done, too!  Way to go, Kim Rendfeld - and The Cross and the Dragon.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012


Five pages of editing tonight.  It feels as good as anything can right now.

138,800.  A nice, even number - and still down, even if not impressively so.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

No Eyes

I'm sitting here eating fast food, and there is NOT a pair of extraordinarily beautiful big glossy brown eyeballs gazing at me as if to prove their loveliness deserving of yummy delicious roast beef.

A Boy Named Shel

Holy smokes.  Did you know that Shel Silverstein wrote "A Boy Named Sue" ... ?

And PERFORMED a little bit of it, with The Man in Black?

You have to see this - even though it won't embed.

I Don't Describe ...

I don't seem to spend a great deal of time describing my characters with exacting particulars.  It's something X and I have talked about before.

In an essay about "the visual life of a book" - talking about book trailers, not the actual text - Nina Metz pinpoints the baseline assumptions I go by in my own writing, when it comes to explaining/describing in deep detail:

To read is to engage in an act of imaginative personalization — of the narrative, the images, the setting. Which means any kind of literal video representation is going to run into problems, said Mendelsund. "It's really not fun to be told what something looks like in a work of fiction. So the question is, how much do you show?
"In a way, that's the key to jacketing books: You have to respond to what the key themes of the book are, what the author's project is, but you cannot give too much away. You have to respect the fact that people's imaginations are deeply private."


Also - the link to the article about book trailers.  How many of you knew there was such a thing?  (I have for some time, but would agree fully with the assessment that they're a bit in the margins yet as marketing devices.)

By the way - a link within this article features a YouTube with Thomas Pynchon's voice.  I know some of you will be interested in that!

(Unexpectedly) In Defense of Mary

I've posted about Mary Sue before, and feminist anachronism in historical fiction, but this morning I was cruising one of my fora and ran into a thread about what tropes would you throw in the bin, as a histfic reader?  Apart from the "Dark Ages = Land of the Stupids" dirty Barbarian foolishness, a clear winner in this discussion was the presence, in so much historical fiction, of the modern, BEAUTIFUL, feminist heroine main character.  Ugh/sigh.

One poster said,

But . . . it seems like every young woman in every historical novel doesn't want to get married and just wants to be "free" (to do [I]what [/I]for the rest of her life?). I would like to see a real examination of the other young women who made the best of things.

I responded:
In my first novel, there are two significant marriages, and two scenes involving the prospective brides' acceptance of their arrangements.  In the first case, I wrote the character as seeing her marriage as a sort of dynastic opportunity - a role to which she not only had been raised, but had aspired personally.  She is eager to fulfill a certain type of feminine glory, queen to a great husband, and she sees a clear potential to become mother of a dynasty.  The second case is a more prominent character, who comes to her marriage out of faith, a sense of fate, and a certain amount of attraction to both the role and the husband.  The relationship is developed pretty deeply, and is loving, difficult, committed in a way modern people don't always understand, and fruitful (also in a way modern people don't always understand).

In the WIP, the main character is a princess who is ... physically uncompelling.  She cultivates her intellect and personality, and she also uses her position to make up for the idea that those around her find her ugly.  She marries very young and against all the rules, and watches her husband pay for this sin.  She seeks power through the channels available to her, and eventually herself pays for her heterodoxy, pride, and ambition.  (Her story, by the way, is not fictional.)


In one of those moments which can be a bit too on-the-nose "meta" to tolerate (but which I hope I handled well), I wrote this:

Cholwig gave me back a smile as we slowed near the threshold of the hall.  “I think a woman submits to her lord, and power is in the eye of the beholder.  It is possible marrying a king is more servitude than success.  Do you remember the old way a tribe might attack the Empire, when Rome was strong?  A small king would say, ‘we’ll attack Rome, and surrender, to be absorbed into its protection and wealth, and that way, the people will prosper’.”  He regarded me for a moment.  “A woman can do the same.  Make a sally at a formidable man, a king.  And, in surrender, wage peace of a comfortable nature.”

The military strategy is a historically documented one - and, in fact, not exclusive to the Empire in Rome.  Just recently, I ran across a film from I believe the 1960s or thereabouts, in which a fictional, tiny European nation was going to pick a war to lose, either with the US or perhaps the British Empire, for precisely the same reason.

It seems to me extremely likely the strategy, with women, was a real one as well - shoot, though we hate to admit it, there are *today* still plenty of women and girls raised on the idea of men-as-providers, who look to relationships this way.  Not necessarily gold-digging, but certainly a tendency to mercenary gender relations is not a thing of the past completely.  I know plenty of women who have never lived on their own financial terms, and have never intended to.  My autonomy may not be the anomaly it once was, but it's still not standard for women either.

The thing about Mary Sue is this:  once upon a time and not so long ago (cue Bon Jovi, for those who are hating me right now), she was an innovation.  I have to forgive the temptation to write her.  Women authors may use her as an avatar to be glamorous, rich, and sexy to everyone on feet - but it hasn't been long since Mary actually had something to say.  When you think about how many centuries literature endured under the yoke of systematized oppressions for us ALL (not just women), it's hardly surprising that writers in the 20th century began breaking out magical characteristics - and, given the 20th century in much of Western, and particularly American, culture, it's less surprising still all the main characters had to be supernaturally endowed with superior characteristics, and not least of these was sex appeal.

It's tiresome now, but when you look at the reasons Mary Sues sprang up, the bumper crop she became is easy to understand.

It's also easy to understand why people are so judgmental now.  It's been JUST long enough in literary time, and perhaps eons worth of time in millenial insta-news-cycle/short attention span terms, the backlash is just as obvious as the initial popularity was.  When "Mists of Avalon" came out, the character of Morgaine was groundbreaking.  She spawned copies, and a more general trend, and looking backward maybe she looks like a Mary Sue too - modern humanist/liberal morality, femininity, beauty, the whole package.  But like many early iterations of what become larger phenomena, Morgaine had more depth than perhaps later, more watered-down examples would carry.  And Morgaine was a teaching tool.

Cry about Mary Sue as we will, she apparently has taught a lot of readers ... *something* ...

So my resistance isn't to the forces and the motivations that gave us Mary Sue in the first place.  It's to the weak tool she has become - it's to the subversion of a feminist point-making into a plethora of pneumatic, gorgeous, goddesses (though I'll never stop blessing Michelle Brower for coming up with the genuinely insightful analysis of urban fantasy heroines' changing roles, in her comment, "the boobs are getting smaller").  It's to the easy-way-out insertion of modern feminism and attitudes onto characters who, in all fairness, could never have even developed some of "our" ways of thinking - never mind enacted them.  It's to the injustice, of ignoring the real obstacles and opportunities ANYone (again, not just women - but, yeah, particularly women) had, the real context of history, whatever a given period.

Sure, we're all fascinated by those who fought against a given system - there are reasons books about feisty medieval women do sell, and we can hardly pretend Aliaenor of Aquitaine (kids, that's Eleanor to your modern spellin'-style) was a dainty little thing.  It's perhaps unjust to pretend all women were shrinking violets, in a similar way it's dangerous to pretend none of them were.

But that is just what chafes me as an author.  Characters don't exist outside their time - but they also don't exist in the prejudicially-defined prisons modern judgment presumes "the past" had to offer, depending on era.  The Middle Ages (ugh, what a nicely imprecise term - you should see the wildly erratic definitions people have for it) wasn't all about wimples and tiny rosebud mouths, any more than the 19th century was all about consumptive milquetoasts nor hookers-with-hearts-of-gold, any more than the Dark Ages were summed up in Boudicca, nor Rome by Valeria Messalina ... OR Cornelia the Mother of the Gracchi.

Characters need to be about more than just their context, whether we choose to manipulate the context or not.  Write to them - not to a didactic point, nor to a stifling set of assumptions or required set of actions.  If they're honest, they should fit.  Wherever we end up putting them.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

It Goes On

Yesterday I remembered there's a novel to be revised - and was a little in wonder, recalling how well things were going so soon before Siddy succumbed to illness.  I covered only three pages, and I'm honestly unsure whether the word count went down, or possibly even up, and I am too lazy to pull out the external drive and even open the lousy thing to be sure.  But I worked on it.

I also found a beautiful plant, from the nursery where my brother worked way back during The Reagan Years.  It is brightly yellow, deeply green, copiously thick, and has leaves at its base of the most shocking, beautiful black and red.  It is strikingly beautiful as she always was.  It is alive, and it lives where her bed sat.

Last night, my friend B came over with her daughter, and we enjoyed comfort food, "Blackadder" (the Third - the daughter's first experience of Hugh Laurie outside of "House"), and a bit of Eddie Izzard.  We were together until two a.m., and they were so generous and such wonderful company.

Today ... I clean house.  It's stupid and self-indulgent, but I hate to clean up all her fur.  But I do need the act of worship which is the maintenance of my hearth and home, the chief blessing I have had which is not Siddy. I need the peace of this place, clean, beautiful, and ... quiet.  Too quiet.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

What is Joss Whedon's Deal ...

... with mentally damaged/disconnected women and girls?

Scent Memory

It's funny my friend talks about Siddy's smell in her tribute below.  Siddy had a strong doggy musk, which I never found objectionable, and often found frankly pleasant.  She could be pretty funky, sure, but the general essence of Sid-scent seemed to me warm and sometimes sweet.

The secret was her puppy head.

Some years ago, when my aunt (who ADORED Siddy, come to think of it, and is perhaps right now greeting her joyously along with my dad) was in the hospital, we had family all over town, and one of my cousins came to stay with me, with her daughter and her boyfriend, M.  M and I had bonded over his own dog before, and he is a dog lover.  He was hanging with Sid in the kitchen one day, and asked me if I was aware my dog's head smelled like a puppy.

It totally did.  Calling her pup-head wasn't just to be cute, it was in grateful remembrance of someone who pointed out this magical thing about her, which I had never quite quantified myself.

Siddy's puppy scent is something between baby-sweet and doggy-warm, and I have only half secretly drunk in her puppy-headed smell for all these years.  Somewhere between baby powder and animal-corn-chip smell.  Something clean, but not soapy, something very animal, but not dirty.  The soft, muscular sweep from her eyes to her ears - where once she had a black mask, the husky markings of her youth.  That meaty, warm, smooth spot was such a great place to just put your head next to Sid's, to love up on her, to kiss her maybe, to bonk heads maybe.  I also loved the meaty white quadrangle where her fur came together in four corners, at her chest, that soft and deep-chested spot, the bottom of the loose, luxuriant ruff of loose skin and fur at her neck, the top of her beautiful front legs.  Her chest was so white.  Thick, nice.  Reassuring.

I once had a cat - great *couch* of a creature, a big orange tom - who always smelled like baby powder.  Like, seriously, that sweet.  Considering the general state of his breath, and the habit he had of self-cleaning with the tongue he kept in that mouth, I never could fathom the mystery of his sweet smell, but he was wonderful for just scooping up and sniffling.

I wonder if my pets get into my beauty products, or something, when I am not looking.  Or do I just have the Weirding Way, and manage to always pick the sweet-scented beasties?  Hmmm.

RIP, pup-head.  I miss you already, girl.


I’m smart enough to be grateful.  I’m selfish enough to be sad.


From one of her best friends ...

"So sorry to hear about our sweet Lolly.  She had good smell, no matter what. I’ve never encountered a dog that smelled good like she did.  It was unique.  She always greeted me with a kiss, which I found out later was a little rare. She was the best it gets as dogs go.  She had nine beautiful years with you, I’m certain she felt the very same about you as you did about her, the mutual admiration you shared.

From my first meeting with her, to the last, she was always such a sweet, loving girl. Once when you were out of town, we sat out on the back stoop, enjoying a beautiful early Sunday morning listening to the church bells. She wanted so bad to chase a dog walking down the street, but just couldn’t bring herself to misbehave.  She simply let out a small howl, and let bygones be bygones.  We continued to enjoy each other’s company and the beautiful weather loving every minute of it.

If there is a doggie heaven, and I believe there is, she is surely there right now, carefully guarding us all.  We love you Lolly!! May you rest in peace knowing how much you were loved."

From the wonderful Leila:

"I'm so sorry.  She was the best and you were (and are) the best mom.  She loved you as much as you loved her.  Our furry children are never far away from us, they hang around in spirit to keep us out of trouble. She's healthy and happy in her new place. And as you said, she's with your dad."

From Kristi, whose tribute, I hope, is snuggling with her right now:

"I love you and am sending huge hugs your way. Siddy was a gem. Those eyes made room in my heart for Sammy to walk in. Our family will forever love her."


She was my Bes' of T'ings.  Gooderest girl.

I've lived for a long time, hoping to ever be close to good enough for my dog.

Still will.  Coz I'm not sure I ever will be.

Rest In Peace, Bebe'

Bye bye, Lolly.  Take care of daddy; he'll take care of you.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Sweet Liddle La

Last week, The Lolly was doing well and had a gleam back in her eyes.

Today, she is in a fourth day of just not eating, and she is weak and I am heartsick for my old girl.

Just a month ago, this was the healthiest fourteen year old pup-head in town.

Am I a weirdo ... to be half tempted to drive to my office tonight, pick up my laptop, and work from home tomorrow and Friday ... ?  I want so badly just to be here for her, even though I can't seem to do anything to actually help her.

Elizabeth Chadwick

Thanks to The Wonders of The Internets, I've had the privilege to become acquainted with several histfic authors, particularly in the fora at Historical Fiction Online.  Elizabeth Chadwick and I have swapped chitchat about pets, homes, hairstyles, and even a bit of history here and there, along with sharing threads dedicated to writing, working, and the job of creating stories set in other times.  She's a gracious person, but also a very highly regarded author.  So you should read her interview here.



Tuesday, July 3, 2012


Twenty pages covered Saturday, twenty more on Sunday (always keeping in mind, that's the number to which I reduce the ground covered; in fact, we're starting off with more meat, and trimming).  Five yesterday.  Ten more today.

The word count is down to 139,922.  That's almost twenty thousand down since I began tracking.

Not fast progress.  But definitely accelerating, of late - and staying in the right direction.

Monday, July 2, 2012

No-Commitment Theories

Sometimes, the way we approach science and history provide interesting opportunities for speculation, which even with skepticism I tend to applaud.  Today's special?  The red crucifix of the Anglo Saxon Chronicle.

Disbelieve it, find it intriguing, write a novel about it - the way we create and consider connections, with our human brains, is fascinating, fun, and keeps them limber.


140,258 and five more pages tonight, not too bad for a weeknight.

Sunday, July 1, 2012


140,599.  Forty pages covered this weekend, and a fairly satisfactory reduction.  I still hope to cut it down to 120-130K, but the dialogue work is really going well.

It's HEDY!

Hedy Lamarr was a pretty remarkable beauty - and let it be understood that the "beauty" part is not what I mean.  Her smile is one of the most outstanding Hollywood ever saw, and her features were certainly worthy of all the legends attached to her - and the true stories.  But what is most interesting about Hedy is that her looks, her stardom, and her glamour were sidelines for this genius.

Hedy Lamarr was a mathematical prodigy.  She was a dangerous woman in the sense not pigeonholing her as a femme fatale, but literally, brilliantly, dangerous.  To Hitler.  Hedy helped to formulate frequency-hopping patents which could have aided the Allies in WWII, in protecting torpedoes from the enemy.  The United States never adopted the patent until the 1960s.  Even so, the technology has gone on to form part of the basis of modern communications systems across the world, and as recently as 1998 (Lamarr did not die until 2000), she was awarded compensation from Wi-LAN for her contributions, though the patent had long since expired.

All this, and she could wear her hair parted down the center.  You wonder what she might have accomplished if, during the war, they hadn't decided she was more valuable being pretty and selling war bonds.

It's a shame, I have to note, that in Googling images of Hedy, finding one of her wide, absolutely luminous smile is very difficult.  Shots of her default to smoky glamour - which I can hardly deny she rendered beautifully well - but her smile had no less sex appeal than her pout.  Perhaps more, for those of us who can appreciate what there was of her a camera simply never captured.  (For a beautiful image with some rights reserved, take a trip here to see her laughing.)  Here is an image from "Algiers" (if you ever wanted to know about Pepe and The Casbah, take a look at this flick on Netflix streaming) which has immensely more alluring power in the film:

And here is one I think is good bloody great photography:

If I'd Kept Going ...

... with yesterday's revisions, I'd have seen that the page where I stopped was the start of a nice little cut I could have made.  Maybe today will bring more!