Monday, July 28, 2014

BAD Writer, No Scooby Snacks

One of those rare occasions when it's worthwhile to read the comments.  The community of commenters at Janet Reid's blog ... well, sometimes, they far outshine (apparently) the queriers she sees.  He's fortunate she didn't broadcast his name.  There's little we seem to like better in this world than a good, vicious public shaming.  Talk about a bullet dodged.

In Any Case

Seventeen or eighteen years ago, in a conscious bid to make my handwriting bearable for any attempt to read it, I took up the habit of writing in all caps when I took pen in hand.  It probably helped – but this actually happened just at the time when my work (where this was most relevant, and where I chose to make this change) was shifting away from hard copy, and certainly from anything handwritten.

Still, the habit stuck, and I have scarcely handwritten using lowercase (or cursive) for the better part of two decades now.  My signature in no way resembles the English alphabet, and cannot count toward any objective form of “handwriting” – and has been the only cursive I’ve written in at least as long.

Over the past few years, with lamentations about the loss of cursive in our schools, and possibly altogether, I’ve spent moments here and there practicing penmanship (though, it cannot be said, not much practicing neatness nor legibility).  In a funny little happenstance, my work now also calls for the occasional hand writing.  Given the nature of our business, though we do a great deal virtually, what arrives on my desk is still good old-fashioned hard copies, and in order to route things I make notes as to what belongs to whom.

The notes being primarily for my process, their legibility is not a functional issue of my job – however, I have used the opportunity to recondition myself to using, at least, lowercase.  My cursive being as halting and unnatural as it is (the physical habit of writing in print still allows for pauses, so you can hesitate before making mistakes), I’ve concentratd on my printing, but have tried a little of the trickier art here and there.

Re-establishing lowercase in my life didn’t take very long, though I do occasionally still mix an odd array of uppercase in if I’m in a hurry, not concentrating properly, or am only making one note rather than a number at a time.  Even with this, I’m happy with the progress.

In my life, I have lost the skill of speaking an entire language (German – we won’t count Spanish, as I never became fluent in the first place there), and it still upsets me.  I used to speak it all the time to Beloved Ex – who, not being a German-speaker, quite reasonably found that incredibly irritating – and so, I gave it up.  And, with noone to whom to speak a language, you stop using it, and you lose it.  I can recognize words here and there, and could if pressed perhaps discuss the lady who managt die Tankstelle or how much I enjoy brezeln und sammeln.  Sadly, for all functional purposes, my German is gone.  I can’t even understand it, spoken, anymore really.  It goes by too quickly – and, in the twenty-five years since I *was* able to converse exclusively auf deutsch, if not perfectly – and my accent was good, too), I’ve lost all sense of style and vocabulary.  Even if I regained what I once knew, it would be antiquated by now.

So to regain what I could has been a silly little pleasure.

I haven’t written anything in my creative output for twenty years probably.  As an author, I’ve essentially always been a word-processor, which makes me a very different creature than those who came, for millennia, before me.  Yet having one foot in the camp of ancient tradition – being ABLE to use the oldest methods of communication not by mouth – has become more appealing and more important to me with age.

As far as penmanship itself – the visual beauty of my writing has not improved with age, but I would say, too, it hasn’t gotten worse.  Jumbled, a little, when the capitals sneak in where they shouldn’t – but no uglier than it was when I remediated that problem by changing to uppercase.  The theory then (and it did work well *enough*) was that writing in all caps forced me to pause between letters – and the same theory has me back to lowercase with faster competency and recall than I would have hoped when I started this project.

The next project, of course, will be to revive and retain my ability to write in cursive.  I’ll never have the pretty hand my mom always has, which she wished I in particular, or either of her kids, cared about having – but at least I won’t lose another kind of language, another part of my self-expression.

I’m curious how many people have lost a language, as I did – or how our writing has changed with the advent of technology.  Please tell me … the comments are always open!

Author's Notes

As we near the end of the Author's Notes series, it's interesting to observe how the glossary sort of fell out in an order that lent itself to this format in terms of theme and content.  Today's subjects:  places, places, and more places!

One of the territories known to have been gained by Clovis, but not always firmly under his control, Thuringia was the font of allies and family for the king.  It was his close relation to the people of this region which both justified his claim upon it, and horrified because of the manner of his staking that claim.  Basina, Clovis’ mother, was a Thuringian queen before she scandalized the Franks by leaving her husband Bisinus (who had provided refuge for the exiled Frankish king) to marry Childeric.  Thuringian land occupied the eastern borders of those domains making up a part of Clovis’ story, situated north of Odovakar’s realm.

The Battle of Tolbiac, 496—site of Clovis’ conversion (most widely reported/accepted date).  Called Zulpich in many sources.  The “place-name problem” often prevalent for a British writer was a lesser issue for European/Roman geography in Late Antiquity.  For no reason better than accessibility for the unfamiliar reader, I’ve chosen Latinized forms of both personal and place names almost universally.

Tongeren is one of the oldest cities in Belgium, predating even the advent of Julius Caesar.  The city was a Roman administrative center, and housed one of the first Catholic dioceses in the area, but was likely sacked in 451 by the Huns.  Chararic’s placement at Tongeren is a fiction, but the area is a likely one for someone associated with Clovis as early as the victory at Soissons, and places him in proximity with the smaller world of Clovis’ Belgic origins, as well as in a believable kin-geography.

Clovis’ first capital, and the main of three cities held by Childeric in the province of belgica secunda, Tournai is also one of the oldest towns in Belgium.  Tournai lay east and slightly south of Bononia, with Arras between the two, farther to the south.  Tournai was and is situated on the Scheldt river, a conduit for trade and sustenance dating at least to the Roman period.

As always, Author's Notes excerpts are excerpted from the MS, which means they are written "in-universe."  These posts should not be taken as historical resources.

Sunday, July 27, 2014


For a pleasing Sunday interlude:  Mojourner has marmot fights!  There is a tale about marmots in The Ax and the Vase, but it is nowhere near so cool and cute.

Jeff Sypeck on Tolkien's Beowulf - "like no English ever before uttered or heard."

The British Museum shows us the Ur-Ur.

Finally, another amusing interlude (this time, vintage images with puns!) at The Passion of Former Days.

Author's Notes

Today, a look at princes and non-primogenitive inheritance.

Much has been made, over the centuries, of Salic Law, not least Title LIX, Concerning Private Property, which addressed the prohibition of feminine inheritance:  of Salic land no portion of the inheritance shall come to a woman: but the whole inheritance of the land shall come to the male sex.  Looming far larger at the time of the Merovingian dynasty, however, was the division of inheritance—a habit, at the royal level, which led to the perceived degeneration of Clovis’ descendants and their power.

Clovis’ decision to divide his kingdom in the manner of a patrimony, rather than to enact the now-familiar practice of primogeniture, has fascinated and frustrated historians and scholars for generations.  However, at the time, such an action was commonplace and unexceptional—and, of course, led to the notorious wars and factions so much a part of the dynastic history of the time.  The problem is another more applied by modern perspective than one which would have been recognized at the time.  As the sun comes up in the east, so the tradition was the tradition, and if it contained inconveniences, and even the seeds of strife, that was not the matter for a father (nor even a king) to presume to rectify.  Primogeniture was not merely foreign, it would have been inconceivable, in the sense of not occurring to those with estates.  If it obviously became conceivable to those inheriting, then the actions were as they were, and were as much accepted consequences as the tradition itself was accepted.

454-526; King of the Ostrogoths (488-526), ruler of Italy (493-526), and regent of the Visigoths (511-526).  The name means king of the people (theud), and may be tied to a form of rulership referred to in ancient Germanic nations as Thiudans, a spiritual level of authority in contrast with reiks, the military or blood ruler.  This name, of course, unites those aspects.
Theodoric made much of his (possibly fictional) descent from the venerated Amal line, and varied his approach to Clovis and others with their value or threat to his position.  His queen, Audofleda, was Clovis’ sister; though the alliance forged by this marriage was not made of stern stuff.  Theodoric and Clovis, though they never warred directly, remained wary and at times antagonistic regardless of the relation.

484-533/534(?); inherited Austrasia, Rheims, and Metz.  First son of Clovis, whose mother was unrecorded but seems likely to have been a concubine/friedelehe.  Little is recorded of him before his father’s death, and there is no indication whatever that he was in any way  unhealthy.  His “palsy” in this story serves both as story arc for his character and also as the physical manifestation of unspoken conflict between Clovis and himself.  Much of what I have created for Theuderic’s character is utter fiction.
Early in his own reign, Theuderic sent his son Theudebert to battle the Scandinavian King Chlochilaich (better known, from the poem Beowulf, as Hygelac) who had invaded his realm. Theudebert defeated and killed Chlochilaich.  See the note on Theodoric for etymology of the name.    (Variations:  Thierry, Deitrich)

As always, Author's Notes excerpts are excerpted from the MS, which means they are written "in-universe."  These posts should not be taken as historical resources.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Author's Notes

Today's edition will cover everything from Romanization to the archaic name Romans used to designate the Franks:

Though there are historians and students whose misgivings regarding the Franks’ Romanitas may validly put it in question, the overwhelming slant of early sources and commentary on Clovis and his world in general indicates a high level of Roman assimilation among the Franks generally, especially at the level of government and nobility.  Of all the barbarian peoples, the Franks appear to have been singular in both their approach to Rome itself, but in their assimilation of culture, belief, social structure—and the preservation of their own extremely-difficult-to-define, from a modern perspective, identity (*).  There is reason to wonder  why Clotilde is said to have converted Clovis from Roman gods, but source material displays a strong identification of the Frankish people with the Roman—and Greek—culture, even in the absence of overall conformist points of reference, law, and hierarchy.  This is to say, the Franks appear to have appropriated Roman history and culture, recognizing it as prestigious, but maintained at the same time a strong cohesion at the same time.  Thus, Clovis was a “long-haired king”, a Frank, an independent entity capable of destroying Rome in the person of Syagrius—and also fully capable of recognizing that power might be had in Roman forms, and that, for instance, Catholics represented a strong force with which it was worthwhile to align himself.  His inheritance of Roman administrative and cultural structures was no more antithetical to his identity than his adoption of the Christian faith was entirely a betrayal of it.  The Franks being a pragmatic people, and Clovis a pragmatic king, the nonconformity he and they displayed among peer tribes and kingdoms in the barbarian world of Late Antiquity was a matter of decision and practicality as much as it was the manifestation of faith, religious manifest destiny, or advantage-making.
(*This may also illuminate the question of Clovis’ conversion to Catholic, rather than Arian, Christianity; see notes on Catholicism and Arianism for further discussion.)

The Latin term for a servant bound to the land—to an estate, specifically—these were not slaves, but not fully free in the Frankish sense either.  Forerunner of the term serfs, which would become so familiar in later medieval times.  This term exists minimally in this work, as a hat-tip to medievalism and a necessary allusion to Romanization as well as societal stratification—but it is kept fairly unobtrusive as well, in light of the preconceptions attached to both the Roman and medieval associations.

Clovis is known to have had two siblings other than Audofleda – another like-named sister, Abdofled/Abofled, the youngest, and Lanthechild, who along with the other siblings is largely known for having converted from Arian to Catholic Christianity with Clovis.  There was, in a previous draft of this work, a storyline for Lanthechild.  However, in the interest of avoiding confusion, the character was entirely excised during the most extensive revision.  Abdofled does not appear in all sources, and was never included in any draft, for reasons which may be obvious.  I have wondered whether the vagaries of spelling simply created this sibling in duplication of the clearly-historical sister, Audofleda, but will confess to having put no research into this question.

This term appears most prominently in the legend of the baptism of Clovis, by some depicted as having occured concurrent with his conversion.  The name refers to the Romans’ poetic designation for the Franks.  It is derived from the name of the tribe Sicambri, a tribe first appearing in Roman histories just before the last half of the first century BCE.  The Sicambri were said to live at the mouth of the Rhine at that time, and Clovis’ Salian Franks would have been considered their descendants.  To use archaic names for tribes was a Latin poetic convention; thus Bishop Remigius’ reference to Clovis as “O Sicambrian” at the iconic moment of his baptism.  Other references to Franks as Sicambrians can be found in the panegyrics of the time.  Because it seems unlikely, outside such contexts as the rarefied rules of Roman literary usage, that the Franks would have referred to themselves by this name, I’ve maintained the famous line from Remigius, but eschewed this usage anywhere else.

As always, Author's Notes excerpts are excerpted from the MS, which means they are written "in-universe."  These posts should not be taken as historical resources.

Friday, July 25, 2014

A Thought ...

... sometimes, when you love someone enough to give your life for them:  it doesn't mean you die.

Author's Notes

Today will be brief and miscellaneous.  Stay tuned tomorrow, for a look at ROMANIZATION!

Not noted by sources as a king, Ricchar was brother to Ragnachar, and little discussed except as one of many minor rulers whose domains were usurped during Clovis’ career.  He is variously described as having been killed with Ragnachar at Cambrai, or with their other brother, Rigomer, at Vindinium, during Clovis’ unification of Frankish territories.

Like Ricchar, a brother of Ragnachar and not noted as a king; likewise little discussed by sources.  However, Rigomer is noted in relation to Vindinium, so it is possible that as a Frankish prince he had some governance over the city.  He was killed between 508-511 in Clovis’ Frankish unification campaigns.

The distinction often employed by historians to discuss Ripuarian (river-dwelling) and Salian (sea-dwelling) Franks was not employed during the period of Clovis’ rule, though the latter term can be found in ancient histories—outside the context generally understood today.  The designation “Frankish” appears to be a later development as well, though francia and francisca may have been in use, and have long been connected with the people of Clovis as, respectively, designations for their land and their totemic weapons, the battle-axes which figure so prominently in this tale.

As always, Author's Notes excerpts are excerpted from the MS, which means they are written "in-universe."  These posts should not be taken as historical resources.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Author's Notes

Today, Clovis' two comes come in at the top, followed by a look at the type of king he was (literally, literally), and I thought we should round off this post with the Saint who baptized the King.

FICTIONAL; originally called Merovech, I changed this character’s name the moment someone fist asked me about Dan Brown.  Pharamond’s name does belong to another semi-historical/legendary king of the Franks.

Ragnachar is a historical king, seated at Cambrai, and known to have fought beside his kinsman, Clovis.  Tales of him dating from Gregory of Tours’ day depict a dissolute, villain enough to make even Childeric’s early dissipations mild by comparison.  Though there is always room for the possibility of bias and propaganda in primary sources, rehabilitation/revisionism would do away with too many good stories in this case, and so we have the older, less-powerful cousin who both envies and ties himself—for a time, loyally—to the arc of Clovis’ much brighter star.  The tales of “my Farro” come largely as recorded in sources; and, of course, one can take the particular type of sexual slurs against Ragnachar with all the veracity that belongs to Clotilde’s bloodthirsty family and some of the more magical legends attached to Clovis himself.

“Long-haired kings”; Franks of the period attached symbolic importance to hair, and their kings wore long hair as a badge both of power and position.  Stories abound of those who were shorn or tonsured like monks in a metaphorical display of their loss of authority.  As is illustrated in Clotilde’s threats to the young son of Chararic and the aftermath, for a victim of being shorn thus to even speak of growing his hair back was a clear threat to any king who wanted to see him stripped of power.
Tangentially related to this is the reference to Basina’s scalping, after her adultery.  This was intended to echo as much the fate of Morgause at her son Gaheris’ hand, as to reflect the connection to the archetypal power of long hair for Frankish royalty.

Bishop Remigius of Rheims, born 437, lived to the year 533.  By the time of Clovis’ baptism (as calculated from 508, rather than 496), he had already attained seventy-one years, and he eventually far outlived Clovis himself, surviving to the impressive age of nearly ninety-six.  This alone would have lent him a literal venerability, and his character certainly lent Remi a fame at least as great, if not even greater, than Clovis’ own.

As always, Author's Notes excerpts are excerpted from the MS, which means they are written "in-universe."  These posts should not be taken as historical resources.

Gilver and Sold

(I toyed with a “nothing gold can stay, Ponyboy” title, but this one is short and sweet.)

Okay, it took me a minute, but I'm finally getting to the post I mentioned, about metallics.

Today at work, I wore one of my favored color combinations – navy and taupe have been appealing to me much lately, but today it was navy and grey.  I played sleek wardrobe against more bohemian jewelry, and feel like it worked well.

The jewelry in question is emblematic of the way life gets funny on you.  A few years ago, as my vintage jewelry obsession was kicking into high(er) gear, a concurrent enthusiasm was DIY jewelry – DIY is made of vintage, but may involve taking broken or mismatched components and making something new.  As with clothes, with jewelry – there is nothing new, truly, under the sun.  The DIY piece getting me thinking today is a filigree pendant which I would say was once part of one larger brooch, or may have been the decorative toppings of a duette, shoe clip, dress clip – or, perhaps, even another pendant.  Whatever it had been, it was clearly quite old, but no less lovely in its detail.

Unfortunately, the state of the computer (still running in Safe Mode) means I can’t upload a photo – it might be worth coming back later to edit one in, but I have low confidence in the likelihood of this …

The reconstitution job in this case was thoughtful and good quality (I’ve seen many levels of vintage jewelry DIY – and even indulged in it, but only to a small degree).  The piece now is is close to a cross; two pieces of filigree connected by jump rings well matched to the metal (they are almost certainly vintage themselves – it’s impossible to synthesize the wear and patina on metal, of true age).  Details like that are key to a great looking end result, and the chain the pendant came on, and the bale that it hangs from, are also clearly not new ones.  In the top of the pendant is a very small ruby or garnet, somewhat dark, bezel set deep within the filigree and open-backed.  It may be a very very early synthetic; it almost certainly is not glass.  It was sold as genuine, if I recall (not that I much care) and certainly the pearl drops at the bottom of the whole piece are both very lovely, barely-pink freshwater baroques.  Tinier drops at each arm of the “cross” are moonstones.

So you can imagine, though it’s not a large piece, it’s what I consider to be part of my frowsier line of costuming – bohemian, eccentric-author, what have you.

The metal may once have been gold plated, but almost certainly not vermeil - its color now is something shy of bronze.  It has little glint, but doesn’t have the cheap look of pot metal thinly plated, then worn away.  The color, actually, is one of those things which happens to be “hot” (this year):  I’d call it gilver.

I'm not the only one, of course - this is one of this year's "Things."  Metallic textiles which are neither strongly gold nor silver (nor copper, or even bronze for that matter), which have a more matte or pearl reflectivity than polished metal, have been popular for about the past three years.  Women like accessories in these finishes/colors because they ‘go’ with more.  You can wear gold or silver with them, and not clash.  They are seasonless.  They’re less bright than older, more chrome-shiny metallics.

The textiles have played into actual metal as well, and “gilver” jewelry has made the scene.  Faux-aged metal and glass are everywhere in housewares stores and departments, evoking not only this color, but this vintage look – which, of course, is hilariously faddish and will fade soon I am sure.

My DIY necklace, of course, is not faux-aged, and has the real patina so many of these shoes and giwgaws and baubles and scarves asspire to.  It’s gilver because it was made to be one thing, and has faded to another over decades.

There is another necklace, too, I usually wear with this one.  It is a very long chain with no beads, drops, nor pendant, she wore when I was tiny, doubled at the very least, if not even tripled.  It dates at least to 1970, and probably the late 60s at the earliest, but may go back further; by the time I was six, the thing was out of fashion, had lost some of its own gold tone, and found itself in the life of a toy – and not even for my dress-up games.  This chain was used most in creating impressions in my red Crayola modeling clay, as I recall it.  I might wrap it seventy or so times up my little-kid arm, but I’m sure I never wore it out of the house like it was “real” jewelry.  It was cast off.  It was the wrong color.  It was done.

And so, a year or so ago, when I was going through toyboxes and things which have become obsolete with the growing-up of my nieces and so on, finding this long, long chain cracked me up for a minute.  I remembered it instantly, and pulled it out.  A nice weight, actually.  Hmm, and that length is seriously popular right now.  I must have eight or more “flapper length” necklaces right now.  Hmm … and that color …

I put it next to the DIY pendant necklace, and the color is perfect.  Better, indeed, than the DIY piece.

So this long, long chain usually squires out together with the DIY pendant, hanging far longer, and knotted just below its new mate, the pair making a nicely frowsy and yet fashionable show together.  Nobody knows the super-hip chain I’m rocking with my schmanzy designer top and impeccably fluid, long skirt may be home to infinitessimal residue of 1970s-era strangely-red modeling clay.  Nobody knows, indeed, I didn’t just waste fifty bucks on it at some impossibly rarefied vintage shop.  They know it’s frowsy, they let me get away with that, and they say not a word – except, perhaps, the occasional compliment.

So there’s the “sold” part of the title for this post.  I‘ve sold the look.  And that, with style (with fashion) is what counts.

For “frowsy” in this post, read the middle-aged authoress version of “hippie chick” …
My kingdom for a good Ponyboy closing sentiment …

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Uncle Silas

Reasons I read 19th-century literature:

Truth is simply the most dangerous kind of defamation, and I really think I'm most cruelly persecuted.
--J. S. LeFanu, via the character Mr. Carysbroke

This Week

This week, someone I worked with in a past life has had to bid a farewell no parent should ever have to.  The fortitude and gratitude of love is breathtakingly beautiful.  And heartbreaking.

My career has put me in the path of people for whom I have the highest respect - not just professionally.  The fineness of truly good people is humbling, the most exquisite demonstration of our humanity.

Never miss out on the privilege of the best people you know.

Author's Notes

Laws and characters - today, supporting roles, fictional and non:

Salic Law, the sixth century codification of law first set down by Clovis I.  Alaric II of the Visigoths, much maligned in these pages, was known definitively to have compiled his own code of Roman laws, the Breviary of Alaric, or brevarium.  The sixty-five chapers of Clovis’ pactus legis salicae represent traditions and punishments far predating his own rule, but synthesized to bring Franks and Gallo Romans under one system (though not equally; they are not treated precisely alike).  There is little Christian influence or input in the codification, and it demonstrates the priorities of Frankish society—with family above all other concerns, and loss of freedom or financial stability being the worst possible punishments.  The clearest thrust of these statutes is to minimize feuding, outlining tariffs and penalties clearly reflecting the specific value of relationships, and each member of a community’s worth within it.

FICTIONAL.  Both a bridge to the generation mostly destroyed in my version of Clovis’ accession, and an example of the nature of Frankish society in Roman Gaul, Magneric allowed me to represent both the newness of Catholicism and the old-guard of those more insular nobles who came before Clovis’ rule.

Patrician of Rome whose ethnicity varies wildly across the sources, Odovakar deposed Romulus Augustulus and ruled during the ‘reign’ of Julius Nepos, the final Emperor in the West.  Already nearing fifty by the time Clovis came to his throne, he was nonetheless a staggering power in Italy and beyond.  His protracted standoff with Theodoric the Ostrogoth in northern Italy did end over a dining table, though some of the dramatic legends about this event are here omitted.  Variants:  Odoacer, Odovacer, Odoaker, possibly Adovacrius.

As always, Author's Notes excerpts are excerpted from the MS, which means they are written "in-universe."  These posts should not be taken as historical resources.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Author's Notes

Today we have two uncles and a sword.  Stay tuned tomorrow, when we'll go all lex salica up in here!

King of Burgundy 473-516, uncle of Clotilde.  Gregory of Tours condemns Gundobald for the murder and the usurpation of his three brothers’ inheritances in a bid for their father Gundioc’s kingdom.  Clotilde was said to have been exiled, but was able to escape into marriage with Clovis as Gundobald feared the Frankish ruler’s strength.  Gundobald maintained a state of war with his last brother, Godegesil, for years, and each of them prevailed upon Clovis not knowing that the other had, begging for assistance against one another.  In the end, having promised tribute to Clovis, Gundobald is said to have broken this promise, and besieged Godegesil at Vienne, finally defeating the latter with the help of a traitor within the city.  Late in his life, he converted to Catholicism, and was succeeded on the throne of Burgundy by his son Sigismund.

Uncle and guardian of Clotilde, Godegesil quartered his niece at his capital in Geneva, where she was educated in the Catholic church.  Godegesil engaged with his brother Gundobald in conflicts over their inheritance for many years.  Though relieved by the support of Clovis for some time, he was finally destroyed in 501 during Gundobald’s siege of Vienne, after Clovis’ withdrawal and the betrayal of an artisan who helped Gundobald past the defenses after Godegesil expelled commoners from the protection of the city.

Accurately or not, as a kid who grew up reading Arthurian stories, I confess to an affection for the idea of naming a king’s sword.  This name is made up of two authentic naming-elements:  hari/here, meaning army; and brand, meaning blade or sword.  Pattern-welded swords exist among the artifacts of the period, and represent an extremely prized symbol and treasure for any warrior or king.  In Clovis’ early career, Herebrand would have represented an almost unattainably precious treasure; even with his increased prosperity and power over the years, it would have been a symbol of great potency and value.

As always, Author's Notes excerpts are excerpted from the MS, which means they are written "in-universe."  These posts should not be taken as historical resources.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Go-Nowhere Stories

I'm a well established darling-killer ...

Kipling had his Just-So stories, I have my go-nowheres.  Every now and then I get an idea and start writing something, but there is no ending, and I never even have any intention of finishing.  Short stories tend to crop up in my brain, I write for a a short while – long enough to feel limbered up – and am satisfied, with no conclusion.

I have, over time, shared two of these with my writing group looking for some way to wind up, and found nothing – and have tried to donate the ideas, actually.  They like the beginnings, and want to see endings, and at *least* one of my group’s members, I think would be really well suited to do these errant plot bunnies justice in a way I clearly don’t care enough to do.  Of course, it’s like shoes – once someone else has walked in them, it’s either kinda-gross or just uncomfortable to take them for a walk secondhand.  So these stories die on the vine, and I don’t particularly care.

It’s good writing, I’ll say that.  One in particular has some description in it – short passages, but highly effective ones – I have that consistent experience with, when it comes to my own writing; that I don’t feel ownership over the words, that I know “I did that” but I don’t feel possesive nor even proud, so much as pleased in much the same way I am pleased by ANYBODY’s good writing.  Reading good words is enjoyable, and credit for them is beside the point.  I don’t own whatever talent I have – it is simply the result of experience, of education, of my unique sensibility.  So I feel free to like it, and that’s fun.

Oddly, most of this stillbirth writing is sci-fi of one type or another, fairly “hard” (not fantasy, just extrapolations from possible science and so on).  The oldest one came many iterations of real technology ago, involving a magical cassette tape which could counteract sound waves in real time, in any given space, from the loudest to the most infinitessimally slight, and create for a listener the sensation of *absolute* silence.  If I ever even wrote any part of this (I’m sure I did), it was twenty years ago, and the remnants are lost.  Still, the idea remains – indeed, it is perhaps more viable than ever, with advances in digital sound – and that is all it does.  The idea was going to be that actual, perfect silence would in fact drive someone insane, or kill them, or something dire of that sort.  Silence doesn’t really exist – even in a quiet room, we can hear our blood in our ears, we can hear our own breath.  There is always some vibration in the world, whether we’re aware of it or not.

Anyway, freshman-philosopher 101 stuff, but it *could* be done well by the right hand.  Probably has.  Maybe fifty times.  Clearly, I don’t read enough to know.

Several years ago, I started a police procedural, set in the near future, in which breath-contact could be measured.  If, as Sherlock Holmes gave us to expect, ANY contact produces some manner of transfer – fingerprints onto a surface, fibers onto a person or vehicle – what if the DNA or some such signature could be measured from the humidity of our breath?  What if we could measure how long a person had been in an apartment – and where – by their breath-contact?  What if this could be simulated by “bagging” – by secretly stealing the breath-contact signature of a person from space they routinely occupied, or by stealing it surreptitiously in their presence, and planting that in a space they never had been, or by increasing their signature in a space they had been to, but only seldom?

This is the one that my writing pals have asked me most enthusiastically to do something with, but … “that’s all I got,” as the man says.  That’s all there is.  A police detective named Raheema following up on a fishy chick with a shaved head, a delicate portable scaffolding for a crime scene which keeps anyone from so much as treading on the floor, some forensic techs measuring signature from the walls and surfaces in a flop apartment, and “bagging” breath signature.  That’s it.

Without a verb (or even two), the thing’s dead in the water, and I won’t force it and I don’t care enough to save My Darling from oblivion.  I write enough I expect *will* get seen; for me, go-nowheres are little more than intriguing exercises.  Which is frankly bizarre, as I seem to suffer from a completist neurosis in every other way in my life, especially reading.  It is all but impossible for me to not-finish even cruddy writing, no matter its venue, if I start.  I’ve gotten easier going about that with age, but it remains a “thing” in my brain, that an article, a story, a poem, a book, must be finished, if started.

Not with writing.

The final piece I actually might like the most, might most care about someday completing – and, oddly enough, it was born of an assignment The Sarcastic Broads gave ourselves, and never saw through.  (Yes, it is true – writers occasionally set goals we don’t bother to meet.  Shocking.)  I don’t know how we started, but we decided that each of us was going to write a ghost story, and we’d relaunch the SBC blog with new material.  New blood, even, perhaps – given our chosen topic.  Heh.

This story, for me, is actually more personal than infantile philosophizing or prospecting for The Future, it’s all meaningful and junk, and I think it would be good to look back at the piece while I’m querying again.  To work on the novel in progress is probably more than my brain can take while dealing with the shilling process, and it might be interesting to see if I can get the thing to tick.

More on Fashion and/or Style

Until I was about forty, I was a strict one-purse-er, refusing to indulge in an array of bags for many occasions.  I did keep a tiny purse on hand for Saturday night use (a cheap and ugly thing, but it was never the focus of my ensembles), but for every day, I had one shoulder bag and one only, period.  Of course, over the years, one bag might be replaced after a time – but I was definitely, explicitly, and perhaps even indignantly a serial monobagist.

This silliness/practicality was born of a childhood spent wondering where the coupons were.  Indeed, a life.  My mom, possessed of one of the most remarkable minds I ever knew – who could remember everything about a person she’d met once twenty years ago – who could raise me and my brother, and more than hold her own personally, professionally, and socially – was a purse-changer.

I never saw the point of multi-purse behavior.  What I saw was the inevitable consequence of change:  loss and unavailability.  I saw the shopping trips with the “wrong” credit cards, or the missing checkbook (I lived in the Age of Checks, little ones … it was a long, long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away …).  I saw receipts we “knew” we had, when going to return something, miraculously vanished.

I saw nightmares of which perhaps it is best I do not speak …

And so, I saw one single black purse as entirely sufficient unto any day.  In the 90s, this often consisted of those glorified wallets – bags with twenty little card and money slots, and a driver’s license clear-vinyl-windowed flappy-do in the flap closure, and a little space for lipstick, comb, and Blistex DCT.  With stuuuuuuuuuuuuuuupidly long straps, usually connected to the body by clamps to d-rings.  As they were.

By the 2000s, I shifted cards and cash and insurance and so on onto an actual wallet, ans so my purses changed in nature – but, in function, they still had to be workhorses.

It was shortly before I got my previous job that I found the I Santi.  It’s an Italian leather bag of the most magical proportions, look, and function.  Its strap drop (distance from the body of the purse to the top of the strap) is enough to make it a *shoulder* bag (I had a loathing, when giant hobo bags with tiny straps were coming to be the thing, of seeing women lose an arm to ridiculously large purses they could not carry exept crooked in the elbow).  Its body is structured, but not hard.  It’s slender, but long enough that it holds a great deal.

It’s a black Italian leather designer bag from a maker most of whose works sell for a MINIMUM of $300.  Of course, I paid no such thing (a case of an eBay seller with something they didn’t know the value of – perhaps a gift they didn’t like, nor care what they got for it) – and I got myself a quite nice little bag out of it.  Beautiful for everything from a job interview to a Sunday at the grocery.

And so, it is ironic that this is the bag that finally broke me.

This, and of coure, the burgeoning obsession with vintage accessories.

I came to feel that this bag was so good I wanted to be sure I did not knock it around as I had all those pleather confections of the eighties and nineties.  I wanted it to last – and I wanted to indulge in grown up purses.  I wanted something to go with *brown* shoes.  I wanted to dare that beast I’d submitted to all my life – the fear of pursine consequences.  I wanted to find out whether life was possible with multiple purses and without kerfuffle over credit cards and coupons.  I also saw a writer I knew at the JRW Conference with the most DARLING little red vintage bag, and from that day was lost to my one-purse fidelity.

And so, for fun, one day I was eBay browsing the granny purses … ahhh, and there the little devil was.  A sky blue patent barrel bag which looked like even grandma had only carried it one Sunday in the sixties – for Easter at church, or who knows what.  I nabbed it.

Since then, I have nabbed two navy purses, a matched pair of Lenox doctor bags (one cherry red, one brown), a vinyl-covered ivory jacquard, the tiny fuschia and the tiny black patent, a Japanese pearl-pink straw, an awesome bronze vinyl folio, a giant black doctor bag with lipstick-red leather lining, and two carpet bags I depend on at conferences (big enough for my Galaxy, hard-sided enough to use as desks).  Oh, and there are others.  There is the aqua velvet.  The little flowered dark-magenta I carried when I became a member of my church.  The tiny, adorable grey.

The beautiful brown lizard box purse my mom gave me, which had been hers back when she met my dad.

The little silver treasure chest, the century-old velvet drawstring with actual-metal thread embroidery.

The tiny patent box purse that holds the most amazing amount of stuff.

Today, with my sophisticated grey and blue ensemble, I have my amusingly cute and remarkably capacious little navy leather granny purse.

As a side note to all the little vintage babies I’ve taken on, about two years ago I bought a Basic Black Bag to take heat off the I Santi, because even with all this variety, there’s still the grocery store – and there is still the fact that I don’t change purses every single day.  (When I do, by the way – I have largely avoided my mom’s Dreaded Consequences by dint of always, always UPENDING MY BAG completely when I go to change from one to another, and individually handling each item which goes into the new bag, just to reassure myself all is accounted for).

The new basic black bag is a Beijo (begin your raspberries now, if you like all the Bs there), and I’ve been struck by one thing since having it – this purse, specifically intended and definitely used as an everyday knockabout, bought used, and never polished (it’s patent) nor treated with special solicitude, gets almost as many compliments as any one I own.  I use it more than the rest of course, so it gets seen the most – but, even in its ordinary condition (I have a higher-end Beijo of the same design I protect like the I Santi and the vintage cuties), a week does not go by that some woman doesn’t comment on what a great purse it is.  I think even men have complimented the thing.

It’s a good size, for one – similar to the I Santi, it is slender enough to fit under the shoulder, and the strap drop is long enough you can carry it there.  It’s also a noticeable shape.  The design is called “Over the Moon” (for my readers looking for a bag, it’s always to be found on eBay, new and used, at prices ranging from about ten bucks up to sixty – and in a pretty vast array of colors; mine happen to be black patent and a coppery-salmon pearl patent), and its upper curve does call to mind the crescent moon.  If you are looking for a purse, it's recommended - certainly it gets attention, and if you like that it's a go-er.

Author's Notes

Today - the people and their institutions.

The name of the Frankish empire, of France, of the French themselves, is thought to have come from the word francisca, most often translated as the name of the small throwing axe unique to the people who carried them, and who were themselves unique among the “barbarian” tribes of Late Antiquity.  These people valued their individual and their tribal independence to such a degree that freedom, itself, has at times been ascribed as the meaning of the term francisca, either in combination with, or actually instead of, its definition as an ax.

The term Frank was not clearly in use as early as in Clovis’ time, though some sources do appear to refer to francia as a place name.  I have used the name for the land (francia) and the name for the people sparingly if at all, due to some of these ambiguities, but also in keeping with the fact that nationalism of the sort recognized by a modern reader would have been outside the experience of the people represented here.

This concept of marriage (often called concubinage) may be the artifact of historical research, rather than an actual institution of the Franks and/or the period.  Most sources referring to it did so from the outside, and centuries after the fact.  However, the institution is enough accepted, particularly within the general audiences for historical fiction, that I preserved it as authentic and used it for the relationship with Evochilde.

Given Clovis’ apparent continence with women, and particularly given the prince’s status, it seemed appropriate to bestow on Theuderic’s mother a form of legitimacy and inheritance rights which is understandable to most readers.  For the record, the general definition is:

The term is thought to mean “love-marriage”, though this simplifies a more complex arrangement.  Its key defining quality is mutual consent – both man and woman voluntarily entered this relationship.  The friedelehe is thus defined as a concubine with acknowledged status—lacking the full rights of a wife, but holding a legally defined position both with the man to whom she voluntarily bound herself thus, and in his household.  Her children would have been legitimate, able to inherit, and would have been viable heirs.

Clovis is frequently alluded to, in much-later historical analysis, as having fathered Theuderic with a mistress or concubine, but sources fail to record specifics on the matter one way or another.  These presumptions may be easy simplifications.  See “Evochilde” note for particulars relating to this work.

As always, Author's Notes excerpts are excerpted from the MS, which means they are written "in-universe."  These posts should not be taken as historical resources.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

People are Strange. And It's Beautiful.

The provision for a stranger, of images of his daughter, without the tubes and equipment that marked her tiny life, is affecting.

I was reading recently about mourning portaiture, specifically the photographic preservation of a person after death – a type of death mask.  To some this seems gruesome, but I’ve always found it intuitively, emotionally sensible.  We are creatures of artifact, and this is no less so with those we love than with our Things and our Stuff.  I have a refrigerator magnet – a lovely portrait of a lady – which nobody has ever remarked upon.  It’s a miniature reproduction of the death portrait of Virginia Clem Poe, the mother of Edgar Allen.

Virginia Clemm Poe
Image:  Wikimedia

I keep this not only because Poe is a native son and I grew up on his writing, but because it’s beautiful – and, yes, the fact of her death is a part of that.  For me, this isn’t a morbid thing – death is a part of life, and though my culture has lost sight of that (indeed, pushed the sight away, for a century or so), I find its denial bewildering and unnecessary.

It’s not an arch matter of art or self-image, either.  I don’t think about death with particular emphasis, and my memory of those I have loved who have died – or who face death – is not mystical nor romantic.

Yet when I see the story of a man in mourning, who asked people to provide an image of his child, unencumbered by the medical paraphenalia which marked her all-too-brief life, I see the resulting mourning images of her as the most immensely human impulse we have.  To reach out to one another in good faith, to share and to support.  It would be despicable to look at the images strangers produced, and rank them for skill or merit – to dismiss them as gross – or as revisionism – to make the story of this infant in any way “about myself” by presuming my opinions onto anything about them.  They are the shared emblem of the most deeply personal grief.

It is when we share the deeply personal that humanity allows itself to transform intensely intimate fear and sadness into the most essential form of community available to us – the manifestation that what we suffer is more important than what we *make* each other suffer, or *desire* each other to suffer … or even to enjoy.  It is when we take what is our own, and show it – share it – that loss becomes healing, that desolation gains meaning, and we become again part of something beyond ourselves, our experiences.  In loss, we can forget we are not alone (many of us seek isolation in sorrow).  And that is when individual loss convinces us we’re not human like everybody else.  And that is when, more than merely losing one we loved, we degrade the love they gave us in return, by denying it with anybody else.

Memorializing human bonds by perverting them, denying them, destroying them … is no way to repay the blessing of having ever had a bond at all.

The First Mourning
Image:  Wikimedia

Friday, July 18, 2014

Author's Notes - Latin, Lover

Today we have a couple of the Latin terms used in The Ax and the Vase most frequently ... and a look at Clovis' friedelehe, lover, first wife - the fictional mother of his first son, Theuderic.

Companion, comrade (plural:  comites).  The Germanic concept of comitatus, described in Latin by Tacitus, describes a wider relationship with the special connotation that comrades in this relationship would never desert one another on the field of battle.  A king’s comites were the most trusted companions, but as seen here this is not a hereditary/noble title.

This sense of the title illuminates the extent of betrayal and cowardice in Chararic’s failure to support Clovis on the field; as well, perhaps, as the extent of punishment it was for Clovis to renounce his kinsman and comes, Ragnachar, for all to see.  The term evolved into the modern title, comte’, or Count.  It shares a root with the words committee and constable.

“My lord.”  I wanted to use a title clearly illustrating subjection, in the sense of a kings’ subject, without evoking too-medieval a tone.  Here again, as I adopted the theory (oft questioned) that the Franks of Late Antiquity, and Clovis himself, were heavily Romanized, I borrowed from Colleen McCullough’s Masters of Rome series, and adopted this address.  It is intended to both evoke a certain tone, but also stand apart from terms used in much fiction of this genre and period.  It has been perhaps the greatest asset in my attempt to avoid too much “antique-speak” in the tone of the manuscript, while still contributing to the world-building of this alien time and place.

FICTIONAL.  Though it is known that Theuderic I is not the son of Clovis’ queen, Clotilde, not a breath of evidence testifies to the nature of Clovis’ relationship with Theuderic’s mother, nor who she might have been.  The name Evochildis does appear fleetingly in some sources, but even this is unreliable.

After the cautionary example of his voluptuous father, Clovis’ sexual behavior is notably unremarked by sources.  It seemed correct to simplify the king’s amatory adventures in the form of strongly bonded relationships and, to some extent, silence.  Theuderic’s birth is recorded as having occurred in 484, well before the advent of Clotilde.  I saw no reason to complicate matters with towering romance, nor to dismiss the emotional importance of a first love either.  A friedelehe who dies in childbirth fits the timeline.  It also explains Theuderic’s clearly estimable position with his father, explains the absence of any other documented concubine or lover alongside the queen, aligns with the position Clotilde herself eventually seems to have held with the king, and finally, simply, reflects the realities of the time.  For a man to love a woman might easily have meant, in this age and for many thousands of years before and since, to kill her.  As, “to be the queen, she agreed to be the widow”, so both parties in sex, for centuries before our time, always knew:  to be a lover might be a bargain with mortality.

As always, Author's Notes excerpts are excerpted from the MS, which means they are written "in-universe."  These posts should not be taken as historical resources.


 It’s an over-used headline, sure – but that’s because it’s fun.

Today is July 18.  It’s an anniversary of something I’m familiar with, so I’ll remember this day.  And this day … is the day the querying begins once again.  And THIS day, THIS round:  will be the last.  This is the selling round.  This, as Max Quordlepleen is wont to say, is the proverbial IT.

I finished my last polish ... the word is back from beta-reading ... the last look has been taken ... and it is time (at last).

And so – with thanks to my wonderful writing friends, and a little encouragement from one pearl-grey, silken-coated and green-eyed boy – tonight, my friends.  Tonight, we RIDE!  Release the Kraken!  Let slip the dogs of literature!

You know - or cats.

And so on.

Gossamer the Editor Cat is up rarin’ to go to NYC and points beyond with the MS

Thursday, July 17, 2014


Does Janet Reid have the recipe for The Secret Sauce of Acceptance in publishing?  Tune in to find out!  (Side note:  "the glacial embrace of rejection" is the best phrase any of us can expect to read today.  She's a good writer herself, this agent.)

Pour La Victoire has another wonderfully detailed (with photos!) post about her latest preservation effort.  This time, a pair of very shiny silver evening shoes from the 1920s.  This will bring me shortly to my next fashion/style post, on metallics.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014


That last post was #2112 on this blog.  Suddenly, I feel the need to go listen to some Rush.

At a Funeral in September ...

“It was now the stormy equinoctial weather that sounds the wild dirge of autumn, and marches the winter in. I love, and always did, that grand undefinable music, threatening and bewailing, with its strange soul of liberty and desolation.”

I’ve been reading “Uncle Silas” online; it’s a gothic sensation novel by Sheridan LeFanu, who wrote “Carmilla” (often famed as the first lesbian vampire, and a precursor to Stoker).

This novel focuses rather bizarrely on Swedenborgians, peering at them as some sort of morbid deviants.  The heroine is, inevitably, a dainty little heiress to vast estates – who would be insufferable, if only we weren’t supposed to be invested in her, whose point of view orchestrates the action.  Her dislike of foreigners, and ugly and fat people, are all of course supposed to fill us with dread – but I keep playing alternate-fiction author and writing/seeing scenes from the perspective of everyone she describes, which is actually pretty fun.  She’s not a dumb bunny, this character – though ignorant, to be sure.  If it weren’t for her narration, we’d be treated without doubt to paens to her delicacy, her pale and trembling beauty, her immense and exquisite weakness in the face of every last breath of air (actually, we do get quite a bit of that last one, from the MC herself).

Even so, it’s intriguing reading – and, as Victorian Gothics sometimes can be, REALLY funny in some stretches, between all the portent and melodrama over minutiae.

The Swedenborgian angle brings to mind the Bostonian church where some people I knew got married many years ago.  And there is the fact that, in yesterday’s reading, I ran across “Great Woburn Street” (hee), clearly being used as an evocative name (the address follows the equally pointed name of a law firm – Gaunt, Hogg, and Hatchett, Solicitors).  Woburn rather begs the idea of woebegotten, all circumstances in the scene given, so it gave me a little grin - yet I have been to Woburn, the town outside (again) of Boston.  That place is pronounced "WOO-ben", not, as many American eyes might read it, as "WOE-burn."

The quote at the top of the post captures one of those things I love about this sort of literature, something I’ll never write (nor want to), but is kind of wonderful.  Its Englishness, its precision and syncopation – it’s kind fo wonderful stuff.  Particularly when read … with storms gamboling about!


This post at Two Nerdy History Girls shows us, with a bit of help from Colonial Williamsburg, that not all historical costume sewing and research involves swooning over embroidery and lace.  The early straitjacket, for instance.

The HB brings us a site saved by looting by being stumbled upon.  Nice work.

Author's Notes - MC Edition!

Yes, we are here at last - and, as luck would have it, the king and queen are right next to each other in The Ax and the Vase's Author's Note.  Enjoy!

475-544/545.  “Illustrious battle”, from hludo (fame, illustrious—the root also gives us the descendant “loud”) and tild (battle).  Much of the legend of St. Clotilde relates to the Burgundian wars, romanticized for centuries in songs of betrayal and blood.  A significant portion of these appear to be only that—legend—but the saint would have almost certainly have been a woman of some will, and records of Frankish royal womanhood are vivid; the tale of “choose your blade” is taken from real sources, though not attached to Clotilde.

Clotilde’s greatest accomplishment according to history was the conversion of her husband; certainly a significant event.  I felt the relationship here had to be contentious (the tale of the arguments surrounding baptism of the children, before Clovis’ own conversion, is taken from sources), but definitely loving.  I worked from the background of Clovis’ apparently profligate father to build the portrait of a marriage both befitting her sanctified repute and suitable to partner a monarch and a man as overwhelming as Clovis.  (Variants:  Clotilda, Clotildis, Clothilde, Chrodchild, Chrodegilde, Chlothilde von Burgund)

466-511.  The name derives from the roots hludo (fame, illustrious—the root also gives us the cognate descendant “loud”) and wig/viga (war, warrior, battle).  Clovis’ exploits may have rested on a greater legacy from his own father than is sometimes assumed, and many of his timelines, motivations, actions, and legends are disputed.  Regardless of his real history, he makes for an irresistible story, and quite a subject in himself.  I was blessed to bump into him via the etymology of my own middle name, and overjoyed to encounter him at a time when productivity as a writer had become more than something to put off for later.  His legend has remained either wonderfully (for me as a writer) or sadly (for the millions who’ve never heard of him) untrodden in English, and has been an exciting tale to relate.

The sarcophagus of Clovis, interred at his church of St. Peter and Paul—later rededicated to St. Geneviéve—is said to have remained intact until the French Revolution, when revolutionaries broke into the church and desecrated his remains.  An interesting end for the king who was a kind of French beginning.  (Variants:  Chlodovech, Chlodovechus, Chlodovacar, Chlovis, Chlodwig, Hludowig, Hlodowig.  Gave rise to Hludowicus, Hludovicus, Ludovicus, Louis, Ludwig, Lewis, and, of course … Louise.)

As always, Author's Notes excerpts are excerpted from the MS, which means they are written "in-universe."  These posts should not be taken as historical resources.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Author's Notes

Roman tradition counted the turning points of a man’s life at seven-year intervals, the climacteric years.  After a child’s seventh year, the survival of infancy might be celebrated.  At fourteen, passage to maturity was observed.  During a climacteric year, portents were strong, but danger was also at its greatest; a person was considered to be weakest during the marker years, and one’s health was most imperiled.  The sixty-third year would be the Grand Climacteric, when death and danger most imminent—and, of course, few people reached this particular marker.

Here again we have a rite observed by Romans, which may or may not have been part of Clovis’ real history.  However, given the Romanization of his people, and, fankly, the handiness of a sort of timekeeping device, I found this a good marker to use.  Certainly, rites of age remain with us today—though perhaps at altered points in time—in Bat and Bar Mitvahs, Quinceañera, legal ages for driving or other adult privileges, and even in observance of retirement ages and marital anniversaries.  Humans love a good anniversary; I just happened to choose a Roman convention for this work.

497-561; inherited Soissons.  Clotilde and Clovis’ youngest son; ambitious and unfilial, he murdered Clodomer’s children in 524 and took Tours and Poitiers.  Campaigned against his mother’s former country of Burgundy, and in 534, won Grenoble, Die and other territories.  Fought beside Theuderic’s son, Theudebert, and his own brother Childebert.  Much-married and bloodthirsty, by 558, he was the sole King of the Franks.  After one too many rebellious forays by his own son, Chram, he imprisoned Chram in a cottage in Brittany and burnt him, along with his wife and Clotaire’s own grandchildren, alive.  In apparent remorse, Clotaire is said to have made pilgrimage to St. Martin’s tomb in Tours to beg forgiveness, dying not long after.  (Variants:  Chlothachar, Chlotar, Clothar, Clotaire, Chlotochar, or Hlothar.)

As always, Author's Notes excerpts are excerpted from the MS, which means they are written "in-universe."  These posts should not be taken as historical resources.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Two years ... Versus Two Months

Emailing with Mr. X earlier, I was thinking about the past two months of my life, in comparison with the past two years.

"Great news usually bouys us up, but I’ve found EVERYTHING is just fundamentally changed since the news.  I continually realize I can’t get over it, and I’m so gleefully thankful it’s ridiculous.  And it DOESN’T let up, it doesn’t stop.  Whatever I’ve had to complain about since May, I can’t really feel any of it for long (see also – the email about root canals and dead laptops …).  I’m not exactly prancing around like Pollyanna (I save my Dorky Grocery Store Dancing for you …), but I just can’t get really down, it would be ungrateful.  And, as focused as I have been for so long on gratitude and thanksgiving … jeesh, if ever in my life I have had reason for HYMNS of both, now is that time, and calling a close to this feeling would just be no damned *fun*."


Contrast this with the one complaint I do have, which is a fairly serious problem being able to breathe.

When I get sick or have back problems or this comes up, I tend to greet a new iteration of weakness/what have you with skepticism.  My mom raised me under a system by which malingering was not happening, and so “staying home from school” was a pretty serious event, accompanied by the direst of undeniable symptoms.  And so, I measure myself by this standard every time my body tempts me to contemplate not going to work.  I tend to tell myself no level of malfunction is “really” enough - and so I often deny difficulties on some level, at the onset.

The thing is, I also tend to deny them afterward as well.  I've had a lot of bouts of back pain in my life, particularly during the past two years, but I always look at back pain "from the outside" as being a far stupider "excuse" to miss work or complain than it seem like from the inside.  Likewise the bronchitis I had last year, when I was BLESSING the 105-degree humidity killing everyone else, because it didn't hurt to breathe - or the cold I had not long ago - or the arthritis in my neck, or the migraines, or whatever.  While it's happening, I can have no doubt there is genuine trouble - but the moment it's over, I look back with a scoff.  I judge myself by mom's standards (as, indeed, mom still does, herself), and find my problems insufficient unto the drama or outages and so on.

My boss at the last job once started off a conversation with me, "You know I am a Catholic, went to Catholic school, have the maternal guilt, and all that" and went into a discussion of how he was touring colleges with one of his children, and that though he was taking work calls he had judged himself to be on Time Off, and so I was to mark the day down thus - because, Maternal Guilt.  It's got power like that, and he and I laughed about that.

You do not have to be Catholic (nor Jewish) to know this Maternal Guilt.  Forty-six years old, it's still this strong for me, and my boss (past fifty, and his mother may not even have still been living at that).

The good news is, this has developed in me a standard that feeds a work ethic I didn't really internalize until I was at least thirty (that seemed ... mature, at the time ...), but which I've nurtured like nobody's business.

I'm gratified to be a responsible grown up - and that's just so weird.

Collection (or Pair ...)

The HB brings us wonderfully vicious looking feline paws Julie Newmar would love to steal.

Also, Mojourner reminds me about the Medieval People of Color Tumblr, which has some great fashion-by-era images, with references too many people have not seen before.  (Mojourner's Tumblr itself is always highly worth a look - so now this post isn't strictly just a pair of links anymore.)

Author's Notes

Clotilde’s father, son of King Gundioc, thought to have lived 443-480.  Gundioc’s sons, Gundobald, Godegesil, Gundomar, and Chilperic, inherited a divided kingdom, and Gregory of Tours condemns Gundobald for murder and usurpation in a bid for Gundioc’s entire inheritance.  Chilperic’s daughter Chrona was said to have taken the veil and later founded the church of Saint-Victor, and Clotilde was exiled, eventually marrying Clovis (and supposedly setting her husband and even her sons against the traitorous Gundobald and his son Sigismund).

King of the river-dwelling Franks, killed by Clovis in 509.  Chloderic was the son of Sigibert, and called The Parricide, I saw in one source an undoubted typo referring to him as “the parasite”.  This was just appealing enough to use anyway, and informs what character he’s allowed to display in these pages (little enough, as it happens).  Clovis used Chloderic to achieve the murder of Sigibert, who had fought beside him in multiple battles—and then used Chloderic’s crime of betrayal to then remove him also from the picture.

495-524; inherited Orléans (Poitiers, Orléans—Aureliani, the city of Aurelius—Tours).  Eldest surviving son of Clovis and Clotilde, he is most closely involved in the legends of Clotilde’s (likely fictitious) lust for revenge against her own family in Burgundy.  He was killed at the Battle of Vézeronce in Burgundy, having assassinated Sigismund of Burgundy and both of Sigismund’s sons.  His widow was married, possibly without her consent, by Clotaire, who then murdered Chlodomer’s children, excepting the youngest, Clodoald, who escaped and gave up his long hair, emblem of his royalty.  Clodoald was canonized Saint Cloud.  (Clodomir, Clodomer)

FICTIONAL.  As with Pharamond, Cholwig is a piece of imagination.  He fills the role of sage elder for Clovis—indeed, he is almost the only member of the preceding generation who makes up Clovis’ court from the beginning.  He represents the sole tie to the old ways, to Clovis’ ancestors, and takes on the literary position of surrogate father to the king.  He is Merlin and Mr. Miyagi, Spock and Mickey Goldmill.  Completely imaginary, but for the way I found this novel developing, completely necessary.

Sole daughter of Clovis and Clotilde, born 506, between his conversion and eventual baptism.  The name Chrotilda is cognate with Clotilde; she was named for her mother.

In the years after Clovis’ death, given in marriage to Amalaric, she was “rescued” by her brothers after, according to legend, she sent a towel stained with her own blood to her brother Childebert, who brought an army to defeat the Visigoths and retrieved his sister, only for her to die on the journey homeward of unrecorded causes.

As always, Author's Notes excerpts are excerpted from the MS, which means they are written "in-universe."  These posts should not be taken as historical resources.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Author's Notes

One of the kinsmen Clovis is famously said to have disingenuously bemoaned no longer having, toward the end of his life—thanks to his supposed bloodthirst against his own relations.  I’ve given Chararic the seat of Tongeren, an ancient Belgic city it seems reasonable to consider a ruined one during the period of Clovis’ reign.  It was destitute, but not without potential; and, as with many of the gains I have written through Clovis’ career, he enjoyed battle, but also the prospect of territories the assets and advantages of which he felt could be more greatly exploited for power, wealth, and profit.

496-558; inherited Paris.  Second son of Clovis and Clotilde, later in life he led the liberating army for his sister against the Visigoths and her husband, the Arian Amalaric.  More religious than his brothers, Childebert was also more successfully expansionist, and involved himself in more foreign wars than Chlodomer, Theuderic, or Clotaire.  Founded the monastery of Saint Vincent to house relics of the saint he had won in battle at Zargoza.

437-481; King of the Salian Franks; foederatus, belgica secunda.  The heir, though not certainly known to be the son, of Merovus/Merovech, who was said to be son of a sea god, and who gave his name to the Merovingian line founded by Clovis.  Childeric ruled 457-481, possibly with a great deal more power and wealth than are indicated in many siources and certainly within this manuscript.  His adult life and reign are documented, but subject to debate.  He was said to be so dissolute his own people rejected him, but after his restoration his rule appeared to be uncontested and fairly strong.

Possibly the most valuable legacy of Childeric was discovered in 1653, when his tomb was uncovered in Tournai at the church of Saint-Brice.  The riches found therein are legendary, in spite—or because—of being plundered in 1831 and lost to us.  Byzantine coinage, a signet ring reading Childerici Regis, the famous crystal head of a bull, and riches of jewels and gold abounded, along with the possibility of equine sacrifice over a period of many memorial years, and on a fairly grand scale.  Most famous are three hundred golden bees, each one attached by embroidery upon a rich Roman robe of silk and worked in garnet cloisonne’ with the backs of the stones incised in an identifiably Merovingian style.

Childeric’s bees have been subject of fables and fantasies, their symbolism discussed in the most fascinating interpretations.  Napoleon had them embroidered onto his coronation robes.  The metaphoric possibilities are tantalizing, and include wonderful tales attaching to the fleur de lys, symbol of France, as well as spearheads and animal lore of varying significance.

Clovis’ succession after his father was not, in his time, the entrenched guarantee royal primogeniture eventually became (partially thanks to Clovis’ own Lex Salica).  His election informs the quotation used after my title page:  rex ex nobilitate, dux ex virtute - king through noble birth, commander through right of virtue.  Like many Germanic cultures, it was the raising on a shield by a people’s commanders which elevated a prince to a throne; the right of inheritance was neither presumed nor automatic.

As always, Author's Notes excerpts are excerpted from the MS, which means they are written "in-universe."  These posts should not be taken as historical resources.

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Author's Notes

Today's edition:  a mother, a mother, and Mother Church!

Wife of Childeric, mother of Clovis, she left another king, her husband, Bisinus (and, according to many sources, a son, Baderic), to become the wife of the Frankish king.  Certain legends depict her as asking for Childeric’s hand herself, saying, “I want to have the most powerful man in the world, even if I have to cross the ocean for him.”  She is credited with naming their son, Chlodwig/Hlodowig/Chlodowech/ Chlodovechus—not after an ancestor of the line, but in honor of her hopes for his legacy.

Basina’s fornication depicted in this work, after Clovis’ coronation, is complete fiction, serving the expedient of rendering our protagonist essentially orphaned (and unencumbered by women) and underscoring her shocking character.  This fiction also consciously echoes the Arthurian tale of Morgause, whose son Gaheris cuts off more than his mother’s hair when he finds her with a lover.

Mother of Clotilde, little is recorded of her but adventurous and significantly posthumous legends from Gregory of Tours, whose bloody chronicle of her drowning, and the murder of her husband Chilperic by Gundobald, Clotilde’s uncle, are late romantic inventions which appear to have little basis in fact or even good speculation.  It’s possible that Caretena was the Burgundian queen whose epitaph, discovered at Lyons, indicates she lived until 506; this would give the lie to Gregory’s exciting array of betrayals and murders, and allowed me the excuse to omit at least some of the myriad stories which cling to Clovis and his family in such profusion.  Even so, to include her in this extensive a cast of characters seemed unnecessary, so I have opted for omitting the lady herself, as well as her “blood-spattered” demise.

Clovis was first described by Gregory of Tours as converting to Catholicism under the influence of his wife, Clotilde, a Burgundian princess.  Those princes in Gaul and central Europe who had adopted Christianity at all, at the time of Clovis’ rule, had chosen to subscribe to Arianism; so his acceptance of the Catholic faith of his wife has been alternately seen as either a political move based on the growing wealth and power of that Church, or a genuine reflection of her influence upon him.  The depth of his spiritual conviction is impossible to gauge, but I have chosen to give it some real power.  Apart from making for a good story line, it seems likely that a man of that era (and a man of the unique power Clovis both inherited and forged) would not have altered his spiritual status without some true inspiration.  I have made his spiritual choices difficult and troublesome, politically, personally, and for his people, in the ways many scholars have posited, but kept “faith” as the final consideration—as it has been for so many men and women throughout time.

Clovis’ conversion remains a seminal event in history.  Not least because of his religious pioneering, he is considered the first King of France, and it is in homage to his trailblazing faith as much as his power that his name was kept on the throne for over one thousand years.  Clotilde’s canonization has this at its root.

It’s impossible not to wonder what the face of European and Christian history might have been had Clovis followed his peers’ acceptance of Arianism (he is believed to have flirted with the faith at least in his youth), or perhaps never converted from paganism at all.

As to that paganism itself, it is often described as having been Roman, and the question of why a Frank would subscribe to Mars or Mithras has received ink for generations.  It seems to me a culture which yields the Frankish epitaph, Francus ego cives, miles romanus in armis (“I am a Frank by nationality, but a Roman soldier under arms”—a statement rendered in Latin, and a real artifact found at a Frankish burial), could easily have fostered cross-cultural spirituality, just as Clovis’ position itself, on the point between foederatus ally to Rome, and rex in his own right, would have been transitional.  Here is a man who on the one hand ousted Rome, in the form of its last governor in Gaul, Syagrius; and also embraced it, in the form of his chosen Church.  Clovis’ career is undeniably one of radical growth and change, and his conversion—and consecration—are the backbone of his contradictions, his fascinations, and his life’s story.

As always, Author's Notes excerpts are excerpted from the MS, which means they are written "in-universe."  These posts should not be taken as historical resources.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Am I Blue?

So, the blue-screenery of life appeared only Sunday, and has ramped up with rather ostentatious ominousness, but Safe Mode is a wonderful thing (if not purty purty purty).  So posting will continue sporadically until I can bring myself to do something about that.

In the meantime, go read Janet Reid, because she is more awesome than I, and you got on here to read, didn't you?  Go.  Do.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Re: For Madness

On archaic terms, civil rights, and not forgetting what rights really are.  REALLY good points I have not seen brought up anywhere else.

Still, I do wanna go light up some Pink Floyd now.

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Into the Blue

... we interrupt this blog for a public service announcement:

Owing to recurrent and of course unpredictable Blue Screen of Death-ery around here, there may be outages in communication.  Please stand by.

Thank you!

Friday, July 4, 2014

The Fascinating Import of a Period

The History Blog brings us a look at the importance of punctuation I'd be tempted to describe as timely, if only it weren't relevant and important through *all* the times of our history here in the United States.

Happy Independence Day, Americans.  (Though all of them other than me are probably outside celebrating.  I don't so much, at least not in the mainstream ways.)  This is publishing late on the day thanks to four unhappy incidences of The Blue Screen of Death earlier.  Yeep.

Author's Notes

Sister of Clovis, queen of Theodoric the Great.  Her birth date is unrecorded, and little of her history is preserved, but her position as the sister and then wife of two of the most remembered kings in European history begs a memorable character.  She is somewhat minor in this work, but has indelible cameo appearances, and she is also the first of three matrilineal subjects of another manuscript currently in progress.

Today, the city of Boulogne-sur-Mer, in northern France.  Bononia in Latin meant “good city”.  The settlement and its port, serving as a trade connection to Britain, dates to at least the first century CE; it was called by this name by the fourth.  Bononia is closest to the coast of Chararic’s three cities, on the Channel southeast of London and Canterbury.

As always, Author's Notes excerpts are excerpted from the MS, which means they are written "in-universe."  These posts should not be taken as historical resources.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

The Celebratory Plan

So Kristi and I just settled on it.  I get agented and the book sells?  I get me a pair of American Duchess shoes.  Oohh, the Pompadours.  Yum.

It'll take the movie rights selling for six figures before I'll go for the Whoopi Shoes (all of which are fantastic, but the "Chicago" ones I would probably put at the top of my wish list ...) - but, when I do, I'll boogie with you.

Author's Notes - Three-fer

Today, we'll take the next thee entries in the Authorial Notary gloss.  As always, kids - please remember that these are written "in-universe" from the point of view of writing The Ax and the Vase, and so should not be used as sources nor complete explanations.

Arianism, an early Christian faith ruled heretical by the Catholic Church, was at one time a powerful Christian cult.  The central conflict between the Arian and Catholic faiths lay in the doctrine of the Trinity, which Arians did not accept.  By Arian doctrine, the Son was considered to be a creation of The Father, divine, but not co-eternal with God Himself.  The term was sometimes used as a blanket epithet for any nontrinitarian Christian belief.

Much has been made of Clovis’ adoption of Catholicism, as opposed to the Arianism adopted by those of his peers who accepted Christianity at all—many Catholic faithful accept the tale of Clotilde’s persuasion of her husband; some posit political advantages to his conversion to the Trinitarian faith.  Whatever the case, Clovis’ religious conversion made him the first Catholic king in Europe—and his power and influence, along with the dynastic continuation of his faith, makes this choice one of profound consequence for the millennium following his rule.

The Armorican Peninsula, or Brittany, was at the time of Clovis’ rule most likely experiencing an influx of Britons, which gave the region the latter name.  There is some speculation that the Catholicism adhered to by this population made Clovis a palatable leader, which could have contributed to his acquisition of this territory by treaty and only minor combat.  Like Thuringia and Tongeren, Armorica presents an example of Clovis’ willingness to forgo war—and, his pet strategy, deceit—for conquest, and to manage his increase of power administratively.

One of the three cities held during the reign of Clovis’ father, Childeric, Arras’ etymology is uncertain, but occupation at the site of the city dates to the Iron Age.  Arras lay southeast of Bononia, southwest of Tournai.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Restoration Excavation

Isabella de' Medici has come out from under a Victorian (over)paint job, and the process, the comparison, the history are intriguing.

Shark-Infested Waters ...

For the record:  Kristi Tuck Austin is the tahini, and Leila Gaskin is the sesame oil.

Author's Notes - the Glossary

Having finished the polishing but for comments my readers assure me are not terribly drastic, and gotten to the part where I'm really looking at the gloss I've included in the Author's Note for the first time in a while ... well, frankly, I'm enjoying the entries.  So here is the first in a new series, in which we'll take a look at some of my research and notes.

Please understand that these are not general-use definitions/explanations, they have been written specifically for and within the context of my work on a piece of historical fiction.  This also means that these entries will not be edited for the blog, but presented as they are within the MS itself.

If you want real information on the people, places, and concepts excerpted here, please look further and read real sources.  It would thrill me to *interest* readers in these subjects, but it would dismay me to be taken for a source.  I've said it before, and I'll say it again:  I am not an historian.  :)

And with that said, off we go!

First documented by Cassius Dio in the third century, the name is said to mean “all men” in Old High German.  At the time of Clovis, many Alemanni had settled in Alsace and upon the Swiss Plateau, but they seem to have been less geographically fixed than the Franks and other peoples who appear both in this novel and in Gaul during Late Antiquity.  Their origins are thought to have been as diverse as their settlement habits, which spanned many small homesteads and settlements but included few or no major centers, and shifted more easily than was typical for other communities.  This dynamism has many attractive qualities, but the Alemanni are cast in my Clovis’ eyes as undisciplined, and perform in our story as The Enemy.  Contemporary and personal prejudices would have shunned the lack of tradition and the mixed influences Alemanni culture had at play.  Like many of the “barbarian” nations, they were heavily Romanized, but in the interplay between those nations, I have chosen to try to play up alien feeling, a rejection of other-ness, in order to answer—and explain—Clovis’ dealings with them.

The “mad and directionless” tribe against whom Clovis’ first clash—and, later, one of his most important conquests—was fought is based upon on truth only insofar as truth rules a storyteller; in this particular, it mattered less, perhaps, than some may estimate it should have.  Clovis would have seen them as antagonist, faceless, unanchored by a heroic commander, and worthy of respect only so far as they were powerfully difficult to fight.  No more balanced or complete view of them as a people would make sense coming from this narrator.