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social media to be a contradictory phrase, and so the whole thing was - in perhaps the same way it's "safe" still to be unpublished - a safe bet.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 ...