Sunday, December 29, 2013

Bowie Songs

The Bowie song on my mind right now is "Five Years" ("what a surprise!").  I got a nasty surprise five years ago tonight, but observed more than once in the months that followed that 2009 ended up being a better year than it had a right to be.  Why it seemed so is lost to me now, but I do recall the gratitude well enough.

2013 was stressful, but not exceptionally painful, and it certainly seems to be ending on a number of bright, clear high notes indeed.  I'm finally allowing myself the Shiny New Job excitement I've held off on through the process, through a certain trepidation about being too easily exciteable, through a period of not wanting to look too happy to leave the old gig.  But leave it I did.  And this week and next should really get me in amongst my new team, which is a good prospect right now.

I'm also excited about The Ax and the Vase, and its prospects for 2014.  I feel educated enough, now, about the unpublished authorial process to believe this revision has been the final one.  Next step is agenting, and after that the hope and process of selling it.

And writing the next novel.

For now, the house is tidy, the Christmas decorations are down (tonight seemed the night to distract myself from five-year anniversary thoughts, and to get ahead of the plan to spend New Year's Eve just on regular cleaning, to start the year off right), and I am comfortably ensconsed on a nice couch with a nice dog next to me.  It's a cozy place.  A cheering one, as X once described it.

May you all have good cheer to start the next new year.  I'll ring it in with friends, and am excited about that too.  Cheers to you all - and some auld lang syne to go with the hope and anticipation of a whole new year ...

The History Girl's Mystery

... can anyone shed any light for her?  The Mystery of the Mayan Shell ...


Saturday, December 28, 2013


It's been over a month since I updated the word count tracking.  I didn't spend nearly enough of my time off between jobs, or the holiday, finishing up the final polish.  Pouring on some more coal this week ...

131, 611.  Without the author's note:  123, 878.


There's this guy I know, a genuine actual archaeologist, whom I've linked here before.  Not as often as I share with y'all about shiny (and, indeed, very very deteriorated indeed) swords, and art, and cavemen, and - endlessly - British royals.  But he makes up a part of the archaeological posts around here from time to time.

He made a point, recently, that artifacts don't actually comprise the entire focus of the discipline - and it's a good point to share.  As often as I chase sexy little stories about THINGS and STUFF, it's a mistake to get wrapped up in them and, well, miss the forest for the trees.  So here's an interesting post looking at dirt and depositional history.  We often fail to think about how the ground beneath our feet is affected by human habitation, but it tells detailed and important stories.  Stories of Olympians of yore ...

Long after we are extinct, the stratigraphic sciences will find the evidence we left behind.

I do love a good story.  (I also like learning new words, like gleyed, which is perfectly delicious.)

Mmmm, now I should see whether I can find a good story to link, about dendrochronological analysis.  I love dendrochronological analysis; it also tells stories layer by layer.  Layers are OSUM.

Friday, December 27, 2013

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Unexpected Movies

Last night, for Christmas Eve, as I stayed up far too late and got far too little done far too slowly, I had The Color Purple on through the evening.  Thanks to the wonders of luddite technology, I haven't seen this movie in at least twenty years, and I have aged to suit it nicely.  When I was younger, my experience of this movie was moored in the inexperience of pain and a great deal of white liberal privilege, and it seemed a very painful story.  Now that I'm older, and can recognize the perspective from which I experience the story, it's so much easier to feel and to love the humor in the film.  Oh, it got me gooey, and I relished that.  I also relished Shug Avery, and the repetitive quirks of Whoopi Goldberg's performance.

When CP came out, she was considered a phenomenon, and the movie got a lot of people talking in hushed voices - then she did a lot of comedies that didn't make people lower their voices, and signed on for a talk show, and we forgot that she'd once been Oscar material.  In its odd way, this serves the film, because it lives alone and on its own terms, not just one in a crop of hushed-voice bravura offerings which blur over time.  The Color Purple, to be sure, is faded and filtered, but it's not washed out and it's not blurry.

Tonight, more spottily, I've been giving Forrest Gump its first honest chance in twenty years - or, really, the first honest chance I've ever given it.  Sometimes, I choose to be willingly emotionally manipulated, and there are parts of this one I just didn't feel like resisting, after a nice day with my mom and stepfather, after a  good holiday and on the night before I go back for two more days of work.

Gump was a film I HATED when it came out.  It got so much hype (not in hushed voices, but overly-fast-talking-breathy ones) my natural resistance pushed back and I resisted it like I do Susan Sarandon.  More to my personal taste, it was too sprawling, too episodic, too inclusive, and everything felt shallow.

Again, with experience and age, I find forgiveness a lot easier.  For one things, I've  lost some of my ability to rail against trivialities, and for another, I've come to recognize how collecting the right mass of trivialities along a timeline necessarily appeals to a generation of watchers.  This doesn't make the movie feel any "deeper" when I watch it, but it does allow me to cherry-pick those signposts I recognize and care about along Forrest's long route, and to let them do their job, which is to take me to familiar places we all gather, as it were.  "Ahh, yes - the smiley face advertising guy ..." "Ahh, yes - the soundtracks to the seventies and eighties ..."

The music, of course, is a particularly fiendish route into people's attention and even affection, and that is why this film, hitting so many "I REMEMBER THAT, TOTALLY" buttons, grips its fans by the throat and won't let go.  Music is a commanding emotional manipulator, and it's one of the reasons I'm sometimes willing to forgive, as it were, entertainments I don't necessarily admire as a whole, nor perhaps find necessary.

Christmas, of course, is hardly the time for indulging in necessities; emotionally and spiritually, a certain indulgence marks the season (whether, religiously speaking, this is your bag or not is a different post of a different time).

Unexpected Gift

2013 has been a rewarding year, but it didn't lack for frustration and stress.  I can't say anything about my life is difficult, but I stress myself out and let things get to me.

Of course, the ultimate outcome of that, this year, has been a fairly storytelling-tidy ending, with the year's worth of concern and fear at my job bringing me to a new one.  Even as much of a drama queen as I am, I hesitate to take writing credit - still, the way my brother described it, I'll take.  I was proactive this year.  Even with my skepticism about the means by which I actually managed it, I did in the end manage to change my situation.  The echoes of poison I've heard since leaving do little to contribute to regretting this, so 2014 will have to start with a healthy consideration of gratitude.

The months spent worrying were also months spent lying to my mom - not because I'm a juvenile incapable of being honest with my mommy, but because she had plentiful concrete worries without my whinging to her about unformed and mercurial ones.  She's since thanked me multiple times, told my brother, my aunts and uncle, and apparently her Sunday school class, how glad she was I never said anything about the situation before I resolved it - and I had a new job to tell her about.

The unlooked-for side effect of a long time lying, and of stress deflected and deferred in a lot of contexts, is that now that it's "over" (hee ... yeah, I know life's not actually as episodic as this tidy little storytellers-delight of an arc has run) the anticlimax has me both numb and massively emotional.  For a week or so now, I've noticed myself overcome at things which, while meaningful, probably aren't of such a proportion they should get me weepy.

It's not a bad thing.  It's letting go after holding on for a long time.  It's a liberty to feel after constraint.  It's the luxury of my gender and my hormones.  It's relief, and it's fear too.  The "what have I done?" factor is fairly small, highly manageable, but it's only reasonable to check yourself even in what looks a bit like success.

One of the completely new things for me in the new job is its culture.  I've been in the financial and IT/tech worlds for so long, to work in operations for a company that sells an actual, concrete product is completely different.  The wardrobe will be both accommodating to my professional style and more liberal in some ways, too, which is an interesting opportunity.  The personalities aren't tech nor Project Management nor securities nor even anything I would label as (typically) "corporate".  It's a corporation, to be sure, but it's not an insurance nor financial concern, and its' unlike any corporate culture I've known, so that's exciting.

Another new thing is being in not just mainstream corporate America, but the commercial sector.  This means that the infrastructure of my job, if you will, is entirely unfamiliar to me in some ways - I have an iPhone, for goodness' sake.  Haven't figured the thing out, nor even finished activating it yet (the infrastructure of firewalls from sites like iTunes hasn't changed ... heh), but it will perforce become necessary to be a smartphone carrier.

In keeping with my luddite-ery and contrarianism, I'll content myself with the fact that this is my "work phone" and not a toy I succumbed to personally.  And, of course, the damnably smug nonconformist's knowledge that (a) millions of people would consider such a stance both inexplicable and idiotic, and (b) it'd piss off just the right people, at that.  Heh.

Having been so sick I missed the marking of the new year coming into 2013, I look forward to finding my way into 2014 on steadier legs.  I look forward to not having the cognitive dissonance both of missing that subjective transition and the sort of inchoate fear of this year.

I hope all of you will find your way - steady legs, fine good fortune, and all.  Let me know how it goes ...

Monday, December 23, 2013

Happy Birthday

The job I have so recently left was difficult to leave behind, in very large part, because I was a public servant.  It is a great source of pride to have been a part of the Federal Reserve System.  I was part of an aspect of the System which was not quite "part" of any one Reserve Bank, and yet was in all twelve of them.  It was fascinating, rewarding, and is still painful to leave behind.

I still celebrate those who stay and serve.  A toast, with Ghirardelli hot chocolate, to you all (I know you're reading)!

Me, now ... I'll serve food instead.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

LeVar Burton reads 'The Night Before Christmas'

Reading Rainbow is the best thing he's ever given us.  Enjoy!

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Workin' (for) It

Ahh, Miss Manners.  Would that everyone working in this difficult economy had bosses like this - and bonuses like Letter Writer #2's.


The Language of Death

It’s a funny byproduct, but a real one, that changing jobs is both like a breakup and a death.  As with a death, there is a tendency to talk in present tense about your last employer or team, if it hasn’t been long since the transition out.  As with a breakup, it’s the same thing as talking too much about an ex, because the frame of reference of your most recent situation informs so much.

You can hear yourself doing this, maybe you try to remember to adjust to past tense, maybe it’s a little embarrassing (“am I talking about THEM too much?”), but it’s a small thing to those around you.

In my case, oddly enough the dominant “ex” on my resume’ isn’t the most recent.  Right now, to be sure, they’re the ones closest to me – but my years with the last mainstream financial services firm I worked with have long been the largest-looming ones for me professionally.  I’m still in touch with the most people from there, still personal friends with some, and still admire and respect everyone, including the executives, I worked with then.  It’s quite the trick, a pack of Securities professionals coming in at the top of a mental hierarchy of People I Think Highly Of – but I worked with those good people whose counsel was “perhaps it is unwise to hand out credit to everybody, their dogs, and their pet rocks” at a time when the industry as a whole was going the way of madness in terms of credit.  Seems to me there was SOME sort of kerfuffle in the economy when that madness failed to work out precisely perfectly …  Hmm.

As much as anything, it’s my team I will miss.  I have good FRIENDS from my most recent gig, and there can be no question that I was leaving my people.  They’re my kids, and I loved taking care of them, and hope they’ll be well served now that I’m gone.  The level of inevitable “you’ll miss me when I’m gone!” schadenfreude is not high.  Heh.

But the new team does have a good shine, and there’s always excitement learning who’s who in a new place.  I’m finding the funny people, and seeing how to relate to my managers already.  The atmosphere here lacks a certain inescapable pall of stress and fear of falling short.  It’s early days, of course, so I’m sure I’ll find plenty to concern myself about as I bump my way along the learning curve.  But, so far, everyone seems to be willing to put up with me …

Wednesday, December 18, 2013


Once again, Kim Rendfield has a nice look into Frankish society (Carolingian, of course - not Merovingian).  Meet:  The Insulted Princess.  It's exciting to me how fascinating a character can be, whose name we don't even know for sure.

Some wonderful images of women - insulted and otherwise.  Gallery taken from The Women's Library - which also includes documentary history of bracing variety.  Membership is free, and they are able to assist with specific research needs.

Stonehenge's visitor center has opened, complete with the curiously smooth-complected reconstruction of a Neolithic man's face.  He reminds me of a cross between Val Kilmer and a cousin of mine - except for the seriously state of the art dermabrasion and a moisturizing regimen that must've put the other Neolithic gents to shame.  I know it's very turn-of-the-millennium, but he looks positively Metrolithic.

When I was a kid, we still used to use the phrase, "Excuse my French."  How many of you know where that came from?  I do ...  Take a trip to the Hundred Years War, and get some context on why English was, essentially, a whole lot of dirty words.  For three and a half centuries.  Courtesy English History Authors.

"It means many different things to different people."  My own experience of the use of the term Celt crosses continents and a huge swath of centuries.  What comes to your mind when you see the term Celtic?  English History Authors has a look at whether the label even has any meaning ...  (I can think of a person or two who'd wig out at the idea the term actually means 'barbarian' - but then, I have my issues with that term, myself.)


Woof, woof woof - woof.  Woof!

Monday, December 16, 2013

More Collecting

Elflandia brings us two posts on the absolutely gorgeous illuminations from the Visconti Hours.  I'm brought to mind of the time my older niece said medieval art is "lame" ...  If we go by these images, lame must mean exquisite, and so detailed as to draw us almost into falling into each letter, each piece ...

The new addiction to Arrant Pedantry proves its worth again - irregardless of the fact that I still don't like the word.

A Doll's House.  And a small fortune.  Actually - not all that small, really.

Richard III in threes.  First, a painting of the Battle of Bosworth.  Second, the first story on the judicial tangles of his burial.  Finally, "but wait, there's no more" on that judicial review.  The fun never ends for the long-dead.

3D technology, Framlingham, and Henry Fitzroy's tomb (Fitzroy was the illegitimate son of Henry VIII, whose early death, like those of his uncle Arthur and later younger half-brother Edward, had not only an effect on Henry VIII's mania for getting a male heir, but of course on the history of England itself.)  At least this burial needn't suffer the indignities of that Plantagenet monarch displaced by his own grandfather.

Time Team brings us still another case of "but wait! there's more!" in the ever popular discussion/debate on the site of the Battle of Hastings.  I'd watch the special if only for Tony Robinson.  BALDRIC!!

Have you ever heard of Santa's problematic sidekick, Black Pete ... ?  And there we have a kettle of fish.

The dictionary 100 years in the making.  Wow!

Yayyyy!  Vintage snowmen!

Missed Collection!

While I took vacation between jobs (started the new one today! yayy!), I took a vacation from reading those many other sites and blogs from which I cull the Collection posts which have become a feature here.  Those blogs and sites, however, have not taken a break - and, predictably, I missed out on some excellent pieces.  Hoping it's not too late, I hereby now share some of the backlog with you all ...

The History Blog, which originates several of our links today, shares the eye-popping digital color restoration of a 2800-year-old Japanese statue.  The photos here are truly worth the click!  HB's commentary, as always, is worth the read.

HB specializes, too, in historic forensics - and here we have the digitization of medieval bones.  I'll need to follow this project on Twitter, this is the sort of thing that makes Twitter so compelling for me.  I've already seen Tweets which look pretty fascinating ...

For those who find history's mysteries endlessly fascinating, take a look at the new light shone on the long-lost Roanoke Colony, also at the HB.

Take a look at a baby bottle shaped like a pig and tell me whether you wish you'd had one of these when your tots were small ...  I'll make you click through, to find out what kind of toy the bottles also served as, once baby drank enough to drain their use in feeding ...  (As to the theory of the absence of a baby in the burial, I hope the preserve the soil in case it is or may become possible to test whether an infant once lay in situ but is no longer corporeal.)

Stay tuned for a link on repatriation - but here is an expatriation of sorts.  The Dying Gaul visits Washington, DC.  Another innocent abroad ... ?  Sounds like perhaps not.

And the final History Blog link to share today - another repatriation from Britain, this time to Cambodia.  The statue is truly striking.  The blow against the crime of looting is striking in another way.


Okay, and now to Janet Reid, always an excellent resource for those of us aspiring to publication - and always a good (and even encouraging) read!

Here, she discusses the hard, even difficult, numbers on the road from self-pubbing to traditional success.

Making me feel better and better that my book is not as short as "everyone" says a first novel "needs" to be.  Ahh, thank you Janet - we histfic authors do need room for the furniture and the art.

On the question of whether you have even ordered, paid for, and received the stove before you start trying to turn it on ...  "Cart, Meet Horse."  Yup.

And, at last - did I query before revising TWO more times?  Yes.  Yes, I did.  And, to me, two seemed to be the obvious answer.  Why would you NOT???  *Finishing final polishes before requerying one, and initial querying two, agents met at the 2013 Conference*

Sunday, December 15, 2013


Decorating the tree.  Watching Xena, DS9, and "Viking Apocalypse" because my niece and I enjoyed that on Netflix this past spring ...

Every year, decorating alone, I don't get to exclaim to my family or even friends, "Oh, this is the one I got in such-and-such a way" ...  Decorating a tree alone, I get to do it just as I like - but it does lack for a little bit of fun.  Sure, Pen is here gassing up the room (not sure what's up with that, she didn't get any unusual treats today!) and Goss is periodically providing gentle threats by way of a little more fascination with the pretty dangling ornaments than is 100% comfortable.  But I'd have to call my mom or brother to do the usual holiday reminiscing over this or that piece of decoration.

It's interesting how many of my ornaments came to me though previous jobs.  The thing from that one woman who got such a bad case of bitch-face when SHE laid ME off (and then, I was told, cried to what remained of our team after she'd fired several of us - boo hoo, lady - and I'm so sorry I apparently pissed you off so badly by being fired by you).  The pewter bell from the job with that manager I still remember as one of my best ever.  The little things she herself gave, over a couple of years there.  The beautiful white ball with glitter poinsettas.  The green and turquoise ones I bought with my friend B. last year and couldn't hang on a tree imperiled by juvenile pets.  The snow globe one of my friends at the most recent job gave me just last year.  Aww.

Family and friends hang all over the place, of course.  The beautiful pic of healthy, young Sweet Siddy La, her silhouette in the living room.  The photos of my nieces.  There's one somewhere, I haven't found it yet, of me and Beloved Ex; I did still keep hanging that one on the tree (near the back, but known to me) for many years.  It's still around somewhere, I know.  The red heart Zuba gave me, with blessings in little metal "stones" inside.  The "J..O..Y" ornaments.  The Twelve Days of Christmas ornaments dad gave mom over a period of several years, a pair at a time.  Silver and gold.  Icicles, and that one marabou ball my grandmother once held against her cheek with a happy grin.  The wooden ornaments my mom painted with us when we were kids.

Last year, I  had a tree but it had hardly any ornaments and ended up half-lit for most of the season.  It was a fairly depressing decoration.

Last year, I missed New Year's Eve because I was sick - and the absence of that finish line threw me off in strange ways for a surprising proportion of 2013.  It's an odd cognitive dissonance, to miss a marker like that.

This year, I intend to know what year it is.

Last Day

Last Monday was the final day on my previous employment, and tomorrow will be the first with the new.  In many ways, it feels less than "quite real" - but, for me, since changing jobs every three years or less is sadly a habit, perhaps it's just not as big a deal for me as it might be for many.  I don't get scared about new gigs, but it's also harder to get the excitement really deep in my bones either.  I'm *happy*, make no mistake, and anticipating the new relationships and setting down whatever it is that passes for professional roots for me, but there is perhaps a lack of butterflies going strong in my belly.

All to the good, really - it means I can get a good night's sleep before embarking once again.

Last time I started a new job, I'd been out of work for about three months, and considered that a terrible imposition.  I was lucky - and knew it - but selfishness never quite answers to what we know, and I considered myself entitled to a good job.  In the week before I started it, I decided it was time to paint my kitchen.  (Idiot.)

This time, I treated six days of joblessness as a vacation (I haven't had a "real" one of those in two and a half years), and have enjoyed myself very much.  There hasn't been as much progress as perhaps I'd like/there should have been on the revisions, but I finished Christmas shopping and got the house decorated.  Tonight after I vacuum, the house will be all nice and ready for a fresh new week.  Gossamer and Penelope have gotten lots of yummy attention, and I've spent time with friends and my mom and stepfather.

This inter-jobness may not see a beautiful new kitchen, but the vacation has been restorative (of everything but my back, which is another post altogether) and some good accomplishments have been taken care of.

As to my back, well, we'll see what an NSAID or two and perhaps the heating pad can accomplish there ... and hope that my new desk chair has a stiff back and lumbar support ...

Saturday, December 14, 2013


Housecleaning has always been a rite, a worship, for me.  A thanksgiving, stewardship of what I have been given, what I always hope to earn, to deserve.

Here is a post about the people who were the vehicle by which I was given everything I have, everything I am.  About an artifact I hope my nieces will love someday, too.

Today is the fiftieth anniversary of my parents' marriage, and though dad's not on this plane to share it with us, mom and I had a brief celebration of sorts, doing a crossword together on the phone this morning.  We used to do them as a family, spanning the kitchen and family room, calling out clues and answers out loud; crosswords were a shared thing for us.  Yesterday was the 100th anniversary of the first "word cross" puzzle, too.

I seem to like anniversary markers, though through most of my life I'd probably have said that sort of thing didn't really have meaning in itself.  But as I've grown a little older, time - and its observance (and marking) - means more to me, or perhaps I just recognize what it's always meant to me.  Mr. X being so far away probably throws this tendency into higher relief, but that's okay.

Today is also the eleventh anniversary of our first date.  I can still recall so vividly getting dressed for that date, our walking together to the restaurant - the very silly place we went - and his engaging telling of The Greatest Bike Wreck Ever Told, a story about X as a kid having what could have been a nasty wipeout and rising from it triumphantly unscathed.  To this day, that memory just makes me grin at what an adorable kid he still can be from time to time.  Not  a lot of people other than his kids get to see that side of X.  It's a nice side.

Mama gave me the wedding album when she remarried, and its images feel so close, for me - even though they all predate me by years.  Padded ivory vinyl and little brass fleur-de-lys.  "Wedding memories" in gold leaf.  Stiff, brass-cornered pages, black and white eight-by-tens, parchment leaves in between every image, every page.  Five little brass feet on the back cover of the book.  A somewhat tattered box.

The photo of my parents' hands on their guestbook, mama's pretty little fingers slim and unbent by arthritis, the ring slender and unadorned - no sapphires flanking the bright diamond , commemorating two children yet unborn and un-imagined.  The picture of my mom and grandma, the pastel hat grandma wore, which I have now, hanging in my dining room.  The picture of mom with my aunts, her sisters, putting on her garter, her appealingly turned ankle, her beautiful little sculpted heel - the wedding crystal and the Fostoria parfaits behind her on my grandparents' mantel, in front of the mirror mama bought for them, which now lives in my own bedroom.  What that mirror has seen.  I remember it, hanging always over grandma's living room, angled downward so we could always see so much, hanging so high.

One of the most striking images in the album is the one of granddaddy walking her into the church.  They're all black and white, and the wedding was in the evening in December.  A puff of wind took up mama's veil and the composition is full of movement, excitement, joy.  Granddaddy looks stoical, but mama is so young, so fresh, so pretty.  The veil rises up toward a deepening winter twilight, framing the dimmer image of my aunt in the background.  Mama, in white, is luminous, a shock of brightness.

My older cousins, little girls, white pinafores, white socks, and black patent maryjanes.  Adorable chubby knees.  Aunts and uncles.  My young grandparents, all of them, together.  These are the only photos I have of all of them together, and I so love these pictures.  I cry a little bit, that mom gave this to me.  This time capsule, this treasure.

This observation of time.  Of a date, so important.

If my mom was beautiful, my daddy was so handsome.  He was a furry fellow, and so dapper.  His hands were warm and manly.  His hair was amusingly thick, here - and yet, as he grew older, as his crowning glory grew thinner, he never looked any different to any of us.  He was a good looking man, they were a beautiful couple.  I had no idea of that, for so long, but once I realized it I have never been able to look back at pictures of them without seeing that anew.

Lace tablecloth, lace long sleeves, gleaming satin, a little linoleum-floored church hall.  Aunt V. putting her hands over dad's eyes as he slipped the garter off of mama's pretty leg, laughter, the sweet comedy of propriety meeting promise, and a couple I know were deeply attracted to each other.  Dad found mom utterly beautiful until the day he died; she always dressed and made herself up for him - until the day he died.

The bouquet, midair, the small group of smiling women - I don't know who caught it.  The photo captures the penultimate moment, the instant of promise the superstition carries, of potential and possibility ... whoever catches it, marries next ...

Mama in her pretty traveling suit and hat, little black shoes on her tiny feet now, her and dad's heads bowed as the rice flies around them, coming down the evening steps.  Out beside the car, the last streaks of light in the clouds above their heads - an image easily as striking, as gorgeous, as mom's entrance with my grandfather.  Her open, nervous, exciting smile.  Mom's smile always so wide.  Mom's smile always a defining feature of her - mom's laugh is so much a part of her self.  Like her, I know people identify me by my laugh.  Mom's youth, mom's face in love.

And the final picture.

Daddy, in the driver's seat, arm around mama, her smile rising above an almost ridiculously large pouf of corsage, the checks of her suit the only pattern in eight by ten inches of black and white and silver.

Daddy's smile.  His eyes all on her.  His peaked eyebrows, his cute nose.

His everlasting, abiding love.  My dad ... was beautiful.

Happy anniversary, mom and dad.

Thursday, December 12, 2013


The Caustic Cover Critic continues to deepen my interest in cover and book design, with a wonderful seasonal array of ... horror novels!  Of course.


Tuesday, December 10, 2013


Yesterday was my final day at the job I've spent three years loving and learning, and I am taking a few days off.  The new job will begin on Monday.

Though I've taken bits and bobs here and there, and my friend Zuba came to visit for Thanksgiving, I haven't had a "real vacation" (as we Americans like to put it) for something like two and a half years.  Though I'm not traveling to see my family on the West coast, nor taking a small fantasy respite in Savannah or the like, this will be the closest thing I'll get for some time.

My lunch date fell through today, and I'm fine with staying home to do laundry and work on revisions.  It's a nasty day out again (we've had a few, and though it's not cold, every driver in this city turns moron at the merest hint of rain, so not getting out amongst them has its charm), and I'm running perilously low on spare towels.  It's one of those days I'd sit in the office thinking how nice it'd be if I could be home, perhaps reading or getting things done.

I feel an almost guilty bliss:  I get to do that today.  *Off for the first load of clothes!*

Monday, December 2, 2013

Vintage Photo

How much do I love that we finally have a president who was young in the 70s?  NO previous President has had such hip threads.

His mother is so beautiful, that smile is wonderful.  He's lucky he got a little of that.

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Salt and Story

Dianne Hofmeyr spins tales of salt at The History Girls, and takes us to a number of different, fascinating times.  Anyone in need of a plot bunny is advised to click through.  So are any of you who just like language that takes you away.

Thursday, November 28, 2013


There have been several coy and a few pretty direct references at this blog lately, about the fact that I’ve been looking for a new job.  This is something I’ve had to do at least (at most?) every three years in my life, and at three years, four months in my current job, perhaps it’s been overdue.  Even working at the institution I do, there is always change, and this past summer I became concerned.  I applied for a number of things internally, had that interview for a job I didn’t want, and reached out to past colleagues on LinkedIn.

Being stodgy and middle-aged, I tend to view social media with, let us call it, a certain skepticism (if not outright snobbery).  But LinkedIn is handy for reaching out to people you’re not much in touch with, who can speak to your professional abilities.  I did a lot of reaching out during late summer, when my “concern” was at its peak, but left it at a light routine for the most part.

(Perhaps to some extent I considered the power of social media to be a contradictory phrase, and so the whole thing was - in perhaps the same way it's "safe" still to be unpublished - a safe bet.  Nothing could come of a note on LinkedIn, right?)

But ... HUH.  One of the first people I reached out to, an HR professional I respect – and, indeed, like – a great deal, told me about a posting set to go up the very next day, and I applied for it.  Got the phone screen, got the interview, but did not get the job.  I forgot about it.  Until, two months later, another recruiter from that firm reached out to me by email.  “So and so told me to reach out to you.”  I reached back that day, we had a phone screen that day, we set the interview for a convenient time ...

... and, while I was chatting with said professional in their lobby after two hours of interviews, they were leaving voice mails on my cell and at home, stating they were ready to make an offer.  Seriously – I don’t believe I had left their building.

As one might guess:  that offer has come to a profound change in my life, even though my initial concerns of this past summer have MONTHS-since resolved into a more generalized unsureness about what direction my career might take, leavened with vague hopes but little power and momentum leading to something specific.  Let it be said:  my management, from that internal interview (and before) have been supportive of me.  They even provided opportunities to work on a Communications team for an executive I heartily adore.  I have so much to be grateful for.

I truly thought this interview would turn out to be much like the internal one – “I’ll see the process through” – and I’d stay where I am.  I’ve been at the current gig three and one third years, and (as with most every employer I’ve come to in the past thirteen years) had hopes of retiring from there.  It’s taking a compelling situation to take me away, but taking me away it is.  This opportunity involves a job I’ll get to create for myself, and at a level I haven’t occupied in a long time now.

I realize, typing this:  I have missed the executive level.  I work for executives now, of course – and I have the pride of being a public servant, as well.  But the new opportunity puts me bang on top of Operations for a firm which:  well, this HR professional whom I so appreciate and respect found worthwhile.  If this person felt the place was worth their time, I have to think there is something *there*.

It is unreasonable, the extent to which I am blessed, and my gratitude I am incapable of truly conveying.  There’s also a very great deal of fear – “WHAT HAVE I DONE!??” – and excitement.  Let’s face it:  the process by which this has come about has NOT been insulting.  Someone I respect thinks highly of me.  I was a little wooed.  And, when it came time to make a decision, I realized something precious:  there could be no really *bad* outcome for me.  If I stayed where I am, I might have found a new path.

At the end of the day, though – that path wasn’t clear, and this one is.  There are enough uncertainties and worries in my life, taking control of the means by which I live it – that thing we *call* a “living” itself – means a great deal to me.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Needle Work

This hardly needs comment from me.

Martha Edlin's casket from Victoria and Albert Museum on Vimeo.

Star Words

If you are a tee-shirt nerd, some of these may be for you ...

Grape Pay

The question becomes:  whose monkey do you want to be ... and ... do you want to carry the rocks for the guys who PAY in grapes?

It's an important question.  Even when so many of us monkeys are told to make do with the grape stems.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Cover Design

Chip Kidd shared a delightful and engaging presentation on design at the Conference this year, and through the vagaries of Twitter, I've discovered Derek Murphy, whose blog promises to add to my list of regular hits.  His focus is on indie authors, but the principles are sound, and I'm becoming intrigued by design.

With words, I have great facility, but graphics have never been my strong suit.  As willing as I am to unlearn, I am also very much interested in learning.  Enjoy the post above, and a look at a nice selection of strengths and weaknesses in composition, imagery, and overall design.

Also:  I happen to know an author whose debut cover is simply fantastic.  Now I have some ideas why!

That Which Does Not Kill Us ...

... does make us stronger.

I used to have a "that/which" problem.  I'm willing and able to unlearn.  I took positive glee in unlearning the dangling preposition "rule" (import), and now dangling prepositions are something up with which I will happily put.  Because:  ugh!

From Arrant Pedant, which is about to become my latest blog addiction, by way of Janet Reid.

What's Old is New Again ... and What's In Again Has Been In Longer Than You Knew ...

I was making a point at Absolute Write yesterday, that scandalous clothes, language (and even technology) weren’t all invented within the past hundred years, and this and a few other items have brought forth this post, on things I have been thinking about recently.

Two Nerdy History Girls has a nice piece on leopard print fashions of the 18th century, it’s a fun look at one of those periods in fashion which a certain quarter has *always* enjoyed deriding (even at the time – “macaroni” really wasn’t always intended to mean “my dears” ...).  Yes, Virginia – leopard didn’t start with synthetics in the 1950s.  And I have to say, in a currently-recurring theme I hope as dearly as any of you may will die a merciful death very soon, that “Nosegay Macaroni” would make a hilarious name for a band ...


As you might guess from the images of modern clothing above, I’m ruminating on new trends which reach back centuries – indeed, half a millennium now, and more.

The first photo above shows an edgy new blouse design.  But slashing (or the paned sleeve) was particularly popular during the Tudor period in England, the fashion being to pull the linen of the tunic through the richer over-fabric.


The second image, the grey top, reminds me of dagging.  Dagging, an even earlier innovation, became so popular it came with its own backlash, much like the macaroni above.  Perhaps the most famous image of this fashion comes in the Arnolfini Portrait, the finely illustrative detail of which is shown here:

Image:  Wikipedia

Dagging was another type of slashing; in which extravagant masses of fabric were artfully snipped to interesting flinders.  This was often at the sleeves, which were for long ages were a focal point for fashion statement and expense (as, we can see from the first modern images, they still often are).  Sleeves, though we forget it today, were one of the true innovations of human history.  They seem obvious to us now, but for millennia, we were creatures of draping and few seams:  think about how long humanity got on without any form of modern trousers!  Same with the inset sleeve – though we did form arm-tubes for centuries, by cutting front-and-back pieces of cloth shaped to encase arms, the contemporary sleeve did not take the world by storm until just a few hundred years ago.  Being such a singular item, naturally it provided opportunity to show off sophistication and wealth, as well as the body itself.

Another trend I have been seeing lately, which seems new and fresh if you don't know the silly things I do, goes back even farther than the sleeve.

Painted jewelry - currently most popular as embellishment on pointedly common items such as tees and thermal henleys, jeans, and even shoes – has become a meta-statement on lavish style (and yet, as noted below, these designs can be fairly pricey for what the garments actually are).  Used on textiles and pieces not meant to herald outstanding occasions nor the physical value of gold, or even cloth-of-gold, and gemstones, the attitude is one of glamour by way of grunge.  It seems to me, culturally, both to reflect the longing many of us have *for* exquisite show, and the rebellion too against what extreme wealth represents to most people.  The layers within what we say in wearing knockoff-Chanel chain prints, or flocked or glass-beaded tees emblazoned with cartoon festoons of jewelry and even hardware are almost endless, given the complex relationships and attitudes we have to our economy, our taste for self-decoration, the level of awareness of what “fashion” means beyond the most current trends, and what simply flatters or appeals to us ... these layers are more fascinating than the simple choice of a tee to wear on a Saturday.

The contrast of exuberant design with ordinary material is taken even further with the neverending fad of "sublimation" - what my dad used to call "expensively flawed" (an item created to feature its own imperfections - and sublimation prints intentionally include voids in their design, caused by creases in fabric laid down for a flat-stamp print).  I have hated sublimation prints since the beginning, and dearly hope that this "trend" (long since no longer a trend, actually) will die an unmerciful death very soon now.

Anyway.  Printed jewelry - to wit:

It may be of interest that (well, it is to me, and this is my blog) ... in fact, these pieces were once worn in secret layers.  There is a passage in The Ax and the Vase in which Queen Clotilde, in penance, fasts and eschews wearing jewels.  She has undergarments painted with faux necklaces of crosses, the only form of adornment she will wear.  The point of these un-displayed decorations was to adorn a statement of faith:  these are not for show, and are worn next to the heart.

The very strong resurgence of this style for outerwear has interesting echoes, as the ancient and antique forms of faux jewels were rendered with purposes much like (my character – not the historical Saint) Clotilde’s.  Hidden decoration worn next to the skin, covered by outer garments and unseen, was not uncommon for holy women in particular, even before the period of Catholicism and the Christianity we would recognize today.  These garments have been found amongst grave goods, and, if I recall, were attested to in the record as well.  This inspired this piece of my story, so rooted both in the formation of Catholicism, but also the volatile and passionate relationship of the particular king and queen who helped to guide this very formation.

A curious side note:  many of these designs explicitly echo modern tattoo design.  Ed Hardy became one of the most popular brands for the uber-hip during the 2000s, but his start was as a tattoo artist.  Tattoos sometimes being for display - sometimes not - and more often than not, representing something deeply personal/important/intimate/spiritual/emotional for a wearer, this is a fascinating evolution of expression.

The sinuous lines of Hardy's more vintage-inspired designs hark back to the sort of trompe l’oiel garments I’m mentioning here, but also to actual jewels and textile embellishments – gold, embroidery, beading, swagging, and the voluptuous expressions of conspicuous consumption we alternately embrace and then revile, and always have through the history of human fashion (... and politics ...).  The look evokes richness – and, indeed, Hardy’s prices are hardly discount – even as the designs are rendered on decidedly egalitarian pieces.  More layers:  and what has the message become, when the flouting of signifiers of wealth curves back and is expressed in ... designer wear, which (though it is nothing of the kinds) is intended to convey exclusivity and fashion snobbery ... ???

Tuesday, November 19, 2013


History, hirsute-ory, and The Beards of Gravitas (which, Dave Barry style, would totally make a great name for a band).  A highly entertaining and informative post about beards, from A. L. Berridge.

Leila and the Dream Smashers (also a great band name) - a post about all those wonderful and supportive people who "help" others by deconstructing any hope of success ... not just for writers, but certainly a phenomenon most of us have probably run into.  Ahh, the useful negativity of ignorance.

Beloved Ex (a.k.a. The Nordic G-d) and I were emailing this week, and I hope he takes a look at this blog and finds this link.  A marvelous variety, and absolute beauty - vintage images of Norway.  Courtesy, once again, The Passion of Former Days.

Given my penchant for sword nerdlery, I had to love Anthony Riches' latest swordid post.  Yay!

It's likely that anyone reading much around here has seen Thomas Rowlandson's work at some point - though, perhaps, I don't have enough U. K. readers to know many of them will see this exhibit of Rowlandson's work; oddly, first collected by one of his most visible targets, the Prince Regent (George IV).  Still worth a good look - for those interested in the humor, in the politics, in the technique and the art ...  History Extra has collected a good many images for the post linked above, clickable for a look at the detail.

Greed.  War.  Looting.  And the right of conquest.  *Shudder*  I don't want to comment on this piece, except to note that it is an intriguing contemporary story reaching back to WWII and into many pockets, personal and cultural.  As always, The History Blog is written very well.  Also:  sigh.

Finally, HB also has a good piece on the opening of that sarcophagus at Lincoln, which dates to the century pre-Conquest.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

In Praise of the Book

This is a video about so much more than book binding ... but it is a wonderful look at book binding, indeed.

Courtesy of Janet Reid's blog, which is filled with excellent advice for authors, and delicious things like this.

... and here, we have a piece on something a little more than book lending, too.  Have you ever heard of the Little Free Library?  I hadn't either, but am so tickled that a friend of mine at work shared this.  This is one of those neat little internet things I would seriously love to bring into my real world.  I lean toward the Amish ones, but the Little Cedar houses are BEAUTIFUL ...
(Thanks to Justin S. on Twitter, for this little addition to the LFL info!)

Tuesday, November 12, 2013


Word count, end of today:  134,021 (126,288 without Author's Note)

Food Chain Coming Home

The late, great Smike the Destroyer, one of the nicer cats who ever stalked this Earth ... and stalked his share of prey, has made me think from time to time about the pernicious toll the species has taken in various ecosystems.  Here is the story of a hawk ... and a starling ... oh, and yes.  A cat.

(Cats on Teh Intarwebs.  But not in the usual way!)

Collection - Primary Sources

Quad City Pat, another friend of mine on Twitter, a man who dedicates his life to fighting the exploitation of children – and to fathering his own – shared a pair of letters from his grandfather, for Veterans Day.  The voice here is funny, vivid, and loving – and, as sources go for not only research, but for instruction in the tone of a character, and voice, these two short missives are an amazing resource for anyone working in the WWII period.

At The History Girls, H. M. Castor juxtaposes three stories.  First, she takes a personal look at one piece of a book, an original of which is up for auction in London.  Do you know what a “crawler” was ... ?  A harrowing definition, and a remarkable image, from Victorian England.  (We think of weakening eyesight as an irritation or a joke.  Imagine what life must have been like for someone to whom it meant the loss of livelihood.)  And don’t imagine this kind of desperation is a thing of the past ...

Second, Castor reminds us of this:  most of the soldiers of WWI (and, for that matter, most soldiers throughout history and the world) lived lives without privilege or prestige.  The rank and file do not go to war for glory.  They go to make a living.  And, so often, they serve us with their lives.  How many of us bargain with our bodies, our wellbeing, in order just to make a living?

And, finally, a contemporary thought on “easy meat”:  “park your conscience at the door.”  Castor’s post is an excellent look at the juxtaposition of three periods in British history, in our history – in the economy ... and the world.

For a lighter (or, at least, easier – it’s certainly bold visually) look at the past, even before the explosion of aniline dyes in 1856, even in the 1830s we can see a brilliance which belies the pastel watercolor images we seem to cherish of “The Past”.  Take a look at two fuschia dresses, one in satin, from the early Victorian period; the other in pineapple fiber cloth (!!) from Manila, and sporting the latest of those mid-century innovative chemical dyes.  It gets me thinking all over again about the resource toll humanity takes on the Earth, merely to cover ourselves.

Monday, November 11, 2013


Word count yesterday - 135k+

Word count at the start of today - 134,500+ (down about 1k)

Word count at close of today - 134,075

(All counts include Author's Note - 7,734 words ... so, really - 126,341)


Nobody could be less relevant to the reasons we observe Veterans' Day (or Remembrance Day) than I, and so this post is not about to go on about The Importance of This Day.  Mine is not the voice to speak on that, though I am grateful to those who choose to serve.  And, today, I have observed and remembered those who have sacrificed.

Thank you.

Sunday, November 10, 2013


A "glorious seventeen-minute Thompson Twins dance remix of a house" at Jeff Sypeck's blog.  Hee.

The Passion of Former Days features The Photographer's Cat and Autochromes of Nature (lots of them - a remarkable variety, as Passion often offers).

And now, a look at the modern work week and how much longer it is than the toilsome days of a medieval peasant.  Le Sigh.

Junkyard Blogging

My Twitter friend Mark continues to be spiritually articulate and wonderful.  "It took cancer for me to believe" and "These are my problems. I like them."

Because he wants to know, I'll say this here and finally, having not wanted to do so before.  This post was hard to read.  It made me feel bad.  It made me think, "My BODY is not your bet with G-d."  It bothered me a little bit, but for a surprisingly long time - like, a couple of weeks, before I put it away and decided to say nothing.  My body is G-d's chief gift to me.  It's not a joke, and it's not a metaphor.  It is mine.  And it is far more than the sum of two of its softer parts.  Those parts come with so much that is not soft.

And Mark, I respect you to pieces for the way you work through your questions, and like you more the longer I "know" you - your honesty is pretty amazing.

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Long Weekend

Last night, a friend and I got together and went to a community event to open the holiday season, in which many of the wonderful shops and our farmer's market opened for the evening.  I found a few little things for my family, and spent my money LOCALLY, which was really fun.  It was a happy accident, too, so a bonus enjoyable evening with someone I really like.

Sunday, we'll get together again, with another friend (and, perhaps, her daughter, who is delightful) and have movie and junk food night.  Yay!!!

Tonight, I think there's a chance I'll motivate and go out dancing.

In between these things, the major plan for the weekend is to work on the revisions and to get the INTERVIEW done, too, to send to the agent I met at the Conference, who was so delightful herself.  But the bulk has to be:  The Ax and the Vase.  So here I go, off to clean the house, which is step one to clearing the decks for tomorrow and Monday to be devoted to the writing.


The recent interview and a good deal of thought about twenty-seven years as a secretary have been part of an evolution I never asked for but have tried to give honest and serious consideration.  One of the things I said to my bosses when I told them about taking an interview with another group, and posting for other jobs, was that as much pride as I take in my work, even our own conversations have illustrated a possible truth, which is that ... I don't know whether an admin career honestly has legs.  I look around me at the women who have been doing what I do for even longer, and I don't know - I don't trust - that I will have the option to keep doing this, to follow the same road for another twenty (or thirty) years, to retire as an admin.

We'll see what happens with the interview, of course (it was for an admin position), but my instinct is that I would not be a personality fit for one of the key parties - and that is no-harm/no-foul as far as I am concerned.  It is to be hoped I have other options.

For instance ... I've long said that what I do is relationship management, is project management, is communications.  Two communications positions have come open, and I have applied for both now.  One of my longstanding professional references is a senior VP of Communications from a previous company.  Presently, I have a friend and colleague, a longtime communications professional, who is very much behind me (indeed, at the behest of my current management, she has me working with her as a sideline to my regular duties).  I'm a writer, for pete's sake.  And for eighteen years, a large part of my work has been communications:  newsletters, informative and even marketing materials of all kinds, community outreach and special projects, and writing for audiences of varied types and sizes.  I've been doing this for a paycheck, and for most of the people I know, for as long as I can remember.

I'm aware, of course, that as job security goes exchanging one field The Higher Ups sometimes consider extraneous overhead, for a runner-up in the same category (admins go first, then marketing, and communications too) may seem stupid - but the extent to which I've thought about this still makes the option seem worthwhile.  It's not helpful to get *too* far ahead of reality when speculating about job INsecurity.

If need be, I can always edit.


One of the people I care about is a woman who lost her livelihood for nearly two years, and finally had to put her home on the market and take a temporary job in another city.  She has been in my prayers all this time, and is a woman of much grace, strength - and, I have just learned, profound gratitude.  She was telling about someone else she knows, who has it even harder than she does, and she said these words:  "I have so much."

Laughter is fine stuff.

But gratitude is the best medicine.  I am in awe of her, she is one of the finest people I know - and STILL very much in my prayers.  And she still feels blessed.

Friday, November 8, 2013

The Thing About Search Strings

Okay, so the troll incident(s) today have for good or ill set in stone one of the few posts here (there are two) I have actually ever considered removing from the blog.

This post is one of the top hits on several engines, for people looking for slimy groupie tales about Peter Steele.  Given a good read, it should be obvious I didn't share the story to go on about myself, but to memorialize a musician I've enjoyed, and with whom I had a personal experience which has intrigued me for years ... for all that it was - and, far more, for all that it could not be because of the unfortunate dynamics.

This blog is intended as my public, authorial presence.  It being attached to my real name, the story is one I had questions about before ever posting it, and have had since sometimes.  That post having ALWAYS been one of the most-read posts on this blog, and it being  beside the point of what this site is intended to convey - history, archaeology, costume, writing, and publishing - it has always felt somewhat inappropriate to the rest of the content here.

Meeting Peter Steele has not been the central point of pride in my life, but among the actually-personal posts here, it explores thoughts I have found interesting enough to leave intact, even with those questions.  And, indeed, 100% of the traffic to it previously has either (a) remained silent, or (b) provided nothing but thanks for the MEMORIAL aspect of the post.  Feedback has included grown men brought to tears by that post - not something I set out for, but a reaction I have honored and been humbled to have created.  You can see that the comments span years, but apart from the occasional wry thought I have to myself, of how disappointing it must be for someone looking for salacious tales of the rockstar womanizer, it seems largely to have hit its mark.  People get it, and many appreciate it, as well as the very in-depth link it also leads to, an incredibly personal piece about Pete's death, from those who lived it.  Pete mattered to people.  People have written about that since long before he died.

Today's trolling, of course, only confirms that the post is here to stay.  The whole thing may have been no brag in its making, but it's now become an issue of another kind.

To dismantle a memorial because some twerp came and took a tinkle next to it:  well, that isn't going to happen.

Bullies - even exceptionally weak and wildly misguided ones - don't earn MY being ashamed, for their troubles.  And so.  No matter what Parental Advisory does to anyone's image of me, the foolishness in the comments now means its homage to the image of an artist I admire and miss is - well - set in Steele.  Pattern-welded, for the sword geeks among us.

That's the Internet For Ya

Oh wow.  My first troll and it's a fail - didn't even comment on the right post.

Edited:  she (?) finally found the right post to complain on.  Well bravo.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Music or Noise

Clattering a cup full of ice this morning, as the drink machine began its cruel, whining refill, I was thinking what a loud place the world has become.

There’s been a brick-repointing project of some sort going on (interminably) at the office.  For over a week now, not only the beeping of the crane, but the grinding of drills stripping out the old concrete to make way for the new between our bricks.  Yesterday, the work made its creeping way toward our area, and today the roar and groan and beep and grind has taken an increase in pitch, and become a far more screeching affair.  Hideous.

Our wildlife, unsurprisingly, has taken a powder – and, even if it were here, taking a moment or two by the windows to look out on the blue heron or to spy an eagle or deer wouldn’t be worth it, when right next to the window there is a crane basket occupied by guys who just want to do their job and not get stared at.  It’s a small thing, not having that minute in the day to just step away from the desk, but all this time into this extended project, it’s telling at least on my nerves, and I no nobody else in the building is any more enamored of the process than I.

One small side effect of this issue is the resultant en masse response of resorting to ear buds.  Even I own some now – luddite that I am – but I’ve never been a fan of wearing my music on (or in) my head.  Back in the days of earphones, the headbands gave me headaches, and the earphones themselves generally pressed on the whorls of cartilage in my ears, and that hurt.  Now that it’s buds, they irritate me too, and as amazing as the sound quality can be, having foreign objects in my ears seems to be something I’m far from habituating myself to.

Foo Fighters, though, and Judas Priest are *almost* well suited enough to manage the awful noise, though.  And so, in order to overcome noise I can’t tolerate I jam noise I’ve chosen right into my cranium, and try to tolerate the delivery system instead.

So far, I don’t think I’ve managed to wear the buds longer than an hour, and at this point it’s a question of which NSAIDs will stay ahead of which particular noise and vibration headache I will allow.

Let it be said that, for my money, Fatboy Slim’s “Weapon of Choice” may not be everybody’s cuppa, but I still like it better than power tools.  Even if some wouldn’t even be able to tell the difference.

Highly effective:  “Hell Bent for Leather”.  Ice Cube’s “We Be Clubbin’”.  Run DMC’s “My Adidas”.  New Order’s “Shellshock” (you know, it never IS enough until your heart stops beating).  Fatboy Slim (and not even THAT mix, y’all!).

Less so:  TiĆ«sto.  Shakira.  Anything by Lacuna Coil, The Gathering, Amy Winehouse.

This wildly useful expertise is yours to use, all for free.  Implement such knowledge with care, fella babies.

Kickstart Poe

It is not too late to save The Raven images.  I finally pledged ($45 - I'm intrigued by the book!).

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Why Query?

In the world, in JRW, and in our own little group, the Sarcastic Broads, there are writers of different stripes and taking different roads.  Leila and Kristy are most interested in self-pubbing (see Leila’s work here), but I’m lazily/stubbornly/traditionalistically on the old-fashioned query-agent-hopefully-sell-to-a-traditional-publisher path.  At the Conference this year, I let myself ask why I don’t consider the e-route, why I don’t learn from Leila and get Ax out there.

I won’t pretend the tinge of fear has nothing to do with my methods.  There is a certain liberty in being unpublished.  Everything is potential, even when you’re fielding rejections – because there’s still that magical agent out there, somewhere, just waiting (who’ll get the Big Sale too).  But I want Ax to make it into the world.  It deserves it.  Clovis deserves that.

I do.  I have worked my ass off on that book.

The choice of method probably owes a good deal to my own sense of inadequacy in the face of innovation.  Tech doesn’t scare me outright, but I’m not a forefront surfer, and what Leila has done impresses me to death, and though she’s done it with as much on her plate as I have on mine, the added vertigo of being on the hunt for a job on top of everything means I’m weak in the face of committing to more learning.  There’s going to be a lot of adapting and learning to do if I make a change at work; that’ll be enough, thank you.

The real crux of it, though, is that I’m a traditionalist.  The red clay of Virginia is in my blood and bones, and we’re a people who don’t love change.

How many Virginians does it take to change a light bulb?
Five:  One to do the actual job.  Two more to stand off to one side discussing how much better the old light bulb was.  And two more to write the history of the original bulb, with maps and civil war citations.

Perhaps no point of pride, to admit as an author that I’m this kind of a wuss.  But, ask any Virginian, and they’ll swear there’s an integrity to being a reactionary.  I’m not up to snuff in that area in any number of my social ideas, but at the bottom of my being I resist the world’s obsession with eternal growth, with planned obsolescence, with new ways to do old things.  Anyone who’s read more than a post or two here knows – one of my great fascinations is with the depth into the past that human ingenuity really reaches.  The ancient methods and structures which remain with us through centuries, even millennia.  Just yesterday I was reading about the Indus Valley civilization, and how in some areas the basic architectural plans of home building remain the same.

As much innovation and gee-whiz as there is in the world, some things we do, and have done for a long time – we’re not doing WRONG.  It’s no more wrong to go the old-fashioned querying route than it is to self-publish (though I know people who STILL act apologetic and shamefaced about that option, which is long since an obsolete attitude in itself).  And ...

I like a gatekeeper.

I like the sense of breaking through something, getting by someone, to gain admittance.  It’s not about an Old Boys’ Club, and it’s not about exclusivity, but about the INclusive end, the fraternity of old school publishing.  It appeals to me, and – this post notwithstanding – it really doesn’t matter why.  Leila has the strength and the motivation to put Hot Flashes out into the world ON HER OWN and I find that breathtaking.  But I’ll find it perfectly gleeful (even though the process has been, admittedly, a pretty slow one) when I’m agented ... and sold.

One of the more remarkable agents I’ve had the privilege of communicating with commented to me once that the guys like Conn Iggulden and so on are dinosaurs (and he is in traditional publishing himself).  I’ve got about three years on that particular dinosaur ... and, as with being a secretary, I stopped apologizing for not being a wunderkind author quite a long time ago.  The book is the point – the books to come.  And, so far, I’ve got good stuff to get in the world.

The final polish is still going well, though as always not as fast as I would like.  Reading it does always remind me how much I love the work – it’s good, and only getting better fine point by fine point.

Just you wait ...

I sure do ...

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Alsatian Life and Death

Cemetery archaeology was a key part of my research for The Ax and the Vase, and even long since completing that phase of the writing, such finds are still of interest.  This one is intriguing for the sheer period of its artifactory – literally spanning millennia, from the Neolithic and up to (a favorite) the Merovingian period.  The evidence points not only to death, but to life – this site was inhabited, at least at times during the astonishing span through which it was also a gravesite.

Our fearless blogger is in fine tone for this post, and I always enjoy reading The History Blog, but on the colorful comment that “It’s the Merovingian (5th-8th century A.D.) finds that take my cake,” I would, inevitably, agree.  The detail at that level of the finds is arresting and deeply informative about the life and the diversity of the people.  We find an Alan denizen amongst this period of the graves, a woman showing a practiced deformation of the skull (if you’re not squicked out by that idea, the link showing an image of what she would have looked like is not the slightest bit ick-inducing – lifelike and instructive in what “beauty” once meant to the Huns).  The maimings human beings have always inflicted upon our bodies in the name of perfection have always fascinated me (cranial modification, foot binding, neck rings, tattoos, plastic surgery, piercings, you name it) – though to make it a screed is the topic for a different post.

Watch for a small link at the very bottom of the post, which takes you to a gallery of images of the burials and the treasures.  While the captioning is en francais, it’s simply beautiful photography.  One of the shots, of bones and a skull in a plastic basket, set inside a very deep perspective shot of a church under excavation, is eerily perfect composition.  It brings the science, the site, and the spirituality together perfectly.

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Ancient Greek Music

I blogged about the reconstruction of ancient Greek music coming.  It is here!

With a tip of the hat to the History Blog, as always, for providing the link.  At this last link, you can hear it sung as well, in a different reconstruction by a different professor.  Quite lovely, both pieces - and the differences/similarities are very intriguing.

Sometimes ...

... there are stories that make you feel GOOD.  Here is one not only about repatriation, but a little bit of animal magic.

Conservation Collection

The process of restoration and conservation of all sorts of artifacts has always interested me.  The way we preserve our cultural past and present in art, textile, and artifacts varies with the physical material involved, but this craft is enticing whatever its (literal) object.

Gabriela Salvador's wonderfully photo-rich series at Pour la Victoire, detailing the costume conservation she has done at a local display at a museum has been a revelation in how to take care of textile.  She also provides a detailed look at the beautiful way clothes dating as far back as 100 or so years were constructed and, in some cases, altered at different times.  A wonderful record!

Recently I've linked to two beautiful collections of images from Two Nerdy History Girls, which touch on the conservation of these pieces of our past.  They have now linked to a great PDF article which actually includes a great set of instructions on how to care for all manner of items, potentially a very useful resource - not only for real conservationists, but for all of us who own pieces of our own family history.  Great grandma's quilt, dad's lamp, the figurine you fell in love with at that antique shop, the wood or upholstered furniture you love - it's all here, as well as BOOKS beautiful books, and a huge variety beyond.  I'll be bookmarking this.

Friday, November 1, 2013

Friday Commute

Dire Straits in the rain is just about right.  An afternoon of puttering and filling boxes to give to charity works, too.


Two Nerdy History Girls have another look at the textile treasures of Colonial Williamsburg - some vividly colorful embroidery, beautiful.

Becoming addicted to Tom Williams' blog, here is another excellent post about the question of genre and just what "historical fiction" really means.  It's not just for bodice-rippers, y'all.

Nyki Blatchley is another author whose blog is very good.  Yesterday, he looked at what "Celtic" really means (it's not just overpriced silver rings with knotwork sold in shops that play tootling Irish CDs).  It's a post I think is worthwhile well beyond the discussion about Hallowe'en traditions.

Shawna has some nice thoughts on being a writer, telling stories.  Tell me a story ...

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Sweet Lou

I still remember when my brother gave me New York.  Lou was raw, and he waspretty great.

Aww.  Best title I've seen.

I share a name with this guy.  And he shares one with Clovis.  Ultimately, Hludo-vechus gave all us Louises and Louis and Ludwigs a little of his noise and fame.  What a guy.

Same for Lou.

Not the Mommy ... Not the Work-Wife Either

On the one hand, I suppose by today’s standards and expectations, “it’s attention” – and any attention, all attention, is supposed to be good.  On the hand I want to tweak people's noses with, though, this little pat on the head is pretty backhanded.  It actually includes the phrase ‘behind every leader’ ... because, as everyone “knows”, a secretary is not a leader (and, apparently, the WSJ mug who got stuck with this article does not understand that in fact admins stand well in front of the leaders for whom we work, because that's the only sensible place for a gatekeeper to be).

My job these days doesn't involve anniversaries and pets – because I am a professional, and my bosses are not celebrities lacking boundaries.  I am anything BUT a stage mommy, as the article sneers, nor the nose-wiping housekeeper for my team.  Indeed, this article’s position that an executive admin’s job takes a huge toll on their personal life demonstrates exactly the sort of extracurricular expectations that twenty-seven years as an admin have removed from my plate.  I’m an admin precisely because when I leave, I get to *leave* my job.

Of course there are those admins who hold their bosses hands as discussed in this piece – but those are not the rule, they are the people who work for those rare and special snowflakes who consider that they have a relevant need for a 24-hour secretary on call.  I plan my bosses’ travel and events such that they don’t need me at seven p.m. nor at four a.m.  They’re grownups too – and I don’t just mean the current ones, I mean all the executives I have worked for over the past fifteen years since I got out of the clerical trenches and upped the professional game for myself.  The one boss I've ever had who called me off-hours was the guy who once asked me one day for a tortuously detailed daily call log, and who, when I delivered it the next day, looked at me like I'd lost my mind and asked me what that was and why I'd wasted time on such a thing.  Sigh.

I’ve described before the wobbling sine wave of my resume, which has been almost a case study in the 20th/21st-century administrative career.  I have worked at very high levels, but the past five years and some change have not been the most vertigo-inducing of those.  I’m secure, grateful, and very fortunate, but as sensitive as my employment still is, it’s not one with the kind of access I had when I worked in Risk Management at one of the largest securities firms in the country.  I worked with the people who suggested that perhaps offering credit to every toddler, puppy, and inanimate object in the country was perhaps a poor idea ... just before The Whole Thing Crashed, and the discovery was made that credit for toddlers, puppies, and pet rocks was a poor idea.  Sigh.

Some giddy heights, it's easier to live without, truthfully.  But access is always an issue for the admin.  I was a little astonished, in one position, when  people asked me pointblank what my boss might be interviewing for when there was a period of executive flux.  It may be part of my job to know such things, but I never even discussed that with the executive, and it is the most important part of my job not to do so with anyone else.  Good gracious.

As it happens ...  Most recently, the “knowing” in our office finally had to go the other way.  This week, I came out of the closet to management that I am, as the classic phrase goes, “considering my options.”  There was a moment of fear and concern some months ago - and, as the HR wheels turn slowly, now have unexpectedly scored an interview out of an application I submitted more out of a need for control than what I felt was realistic expectation.  Huh.

Obviously, it was no insult to get the call – and I have management who are explicitly supportive, even though they did say don’t want to lose me.  If this particular interview were the direction my career goes (and I hold no breath where this is concerned), the access would return me to a position of exposure to the most sensitive information.  It can be exhausting, but exciting too.

Fortunately, the entity I ultimately work for isn’t populated by execs of the sort who’ll devolve me to hoodie-wearing nor feeding their cats – but then, it isn’t a place from which I would expect to retire at 44 and spend a few months deciding what I feel like doing next either.  As they say at my office, you don’t get rich working for our employer.

The good news is – really, you don’t get poor either.


Lots of homemade costumes tonight, some REALLY good ones.  Bloody prom queen, pirate girl - best so far is the young lady who rigged up just a killer Edward Scissorhands, not just the costume but spot-on hair and makeup too.  Loving it!

Last time I recall a 70-degree Hallowe'en, X and I were in NYC.  Good times.

And a little bit of the Bronx for y'all, above.  Hee.

Saturday, October 26, 2013


With the exception of last weekend, which was the JRW Conference, for the past several weeks my weekends seem to have been spent on redecorations.  In my case, this does not include designers or contractors, but a singlehanded puzzle game of furniture shoving and redeploying of my existing assets.

One weekend, it was Time to Bring Up the Big Rug.  I have a huge living room rug, something like a hundred pounds of wool, which spends the warmer months lying on the basement steps not needing vacuuming.  When the rug comes upstairs, the furniture circles closer in the living room, creating a cozy living space around the soft, thick rug where Penelope can lie down and enjoy softness and warmth instead of the hardwood floor.

Then it was time to fiddle around in the bedroom.  I was sick of the order of things, and did some shifting up there.

This weekend, it's the guest room.  My mom and I have been toying for some weeks with the idea of taking out the twin bed (there have been both a twin and a double in there for years, and while it's plenty large enough, the room had just become a parking lot for too many things) and putting my grandmother's bedroom suite up there to make it look a little more coherent.  So today I dismantled the twin, put its frame in a corner, brought the mattress and box spring downstairs (mom will probably come get them for her own use soon), moved the bed, dresser, and chest of drawers around into a new configuration, and vacuumed and dusted.  I also pulled out two el-cheapo little white cabinets which started their lives as a linen closet in a bathroom which had none, and which since being in this home have stood in as toyboxes of sorts both for my nieces, and for the theoretical possible visits of Mr. X's kids, back when we thought that could happen.  Three out of four of these kids are in double digits now, and the youngest has no need of Barbies at my house, so those things will probably go to Goodwill in the near future.  The cabinets, I found, fit one on top of the other in a corner of my closet; and now they are a great overflow for my bulky sweaters and for a lot of knit and sweater dresses which have been in a trickier corner of the closet.

All these projects, as gratifying as they are, do mean my usual Saturday housecleaning time is significantly invaded by other activity.  Today, having accomplished everything I have already, I still have not *begun* the routine dusting, scrubbing, and vacuuming - and I want to do those things too.

This may call for takeout.  And a longer evening than expected.

Friday, October 25, 2013


Tom Williams and Anthony Riches on writing, Tom following up on word count and then Anthony - talking about his word count!

American Duchess has a collection of lovely early 19th-century dresses with CRAZY GIGOT SLEEVES ... Two Nerdy History Girls get a rare peek at the truly exquisite archive at Colonial Williamsburg - oh the embroidery!  And here we have silly hats and a whimsical blogger at Historical Fiction Research.  Men really do seem drab today in comparison with some of these ...

A Brief History of Baking (brief because it begins in the Middle Ages and stays in Britain, perhaps thanks to a tie-in to a cooking competition show ...).  With recipes here - including icy cream!

Ancient Peruvian mummies, found in a remarkable state of preservation, to be studied for their lifestyle, health, and DNA.

Qing Dynasty art destroyed by "conservation" contractors.  Sadly, firing the officials in charge doesn't redeem the cultural losses.

Where there is no destruction at all, a nice wide stage for blog-lery purist outrage at the  "experiment" of rewriting Jane Austen.  Because nobody has ever riffed off an existing story in a newer piece of writing, ever.  Especially not a work by Austen.  I'm sure there will be howls (I never snark like that, of course...).  It's unlikely I'll make the time to post them ...

Jeff Sypeck on Becoming Charlemagne and that elegiac time before the bookstores died ...

Leila is giving the gifts for her birthday!  Free copies of Hot Flashes, today through the 28th!

Kristy tells us what caught her senses at the James River Writers conference (she's a smarticle particle herself).

Nancy Bilyeau captures the paranoia of Tudor England.  Read The Chalice - and watch your back!

Kim Rendfield discusses the way the Franks in her period used religion and magic to grapple with their world ... and the role of hostages in hedging your bets.  Or not.  Hostage-taking has in many periods of history (I know stories from Europe, but would be very interested to hear similar tales of negotiation in other cultures) turned into something far from the terrorist image the word brings to mind today.  Caratacus enjoyed rather a famous sojourn in Rome after his capture.  Theodoric the Great lived for years as a hostage in Constantinople, where he was "treated with favor" by emperors Leo I and Zeno.  Cour de Lion famously became a songwriter in his prison.  There was something of a code of peculiar guest status in the practice.

Finally, I want to get a taste of ancient Greek music when it comes out.  The way people research and recreate ancient tongues and music and art is endlessly interesting for me.