Thursday, October 30, 2014


"You don't see what I see."

Today, talking with a woman I've worked with for a while now, but never had the privilege to meet face-to-face, she said this to me as we were talking about how we each aged, and our general sense of self.  It was by no means a Meep and Deaningful, but it was certainly an insightful conversation.  We were just discussing how we get along well with one another, and sometimes have a harder time with others.

It's easy for me to forget that my apparent personality (it's not a put-on, but it's by no means all there is to me, my general demeanor) gets in other people's way, and this is not what they see ...

See now, for ALL of us - we don't forget our Liddle Kid inside.  We scarcely remember we are anything else, some days:  but nobody else sees the Liddle Kid.  Most of us get taken at face value all day long, day in and day out, to the point where an objective view of how we seem to others is all but impossible - because WE know our own past, our insecurities, those things we don't share, or try not to, all the sausage-making of the daily process of being amongst others (yes, even if only online).

I often have to contend with the fact that people find me "intense" and a very strong personality.  From the inside, not only is there that little overexposed tot half hiding behind a shoulder and one knee, but there's also the simple fact that, being comfortable in my apparently-tough skin, the experience of wearing it is pretty chill overall.  Being  myself didn't come easily, but it's also the only option I've ever entertained, so it's not a hectic feeling, containing my exuberance, my volume, all the "intense" things-and-stuff that go into making Diane.  I may joke about faking it till you make it - and I make no bones about how carefully calibrated my visible behavior is - but there's no pretense in the calibration, and whatever manipulation is involved is generally, as I say in all seriousness, the passive-aggression I employ in order to get my job done.  When I say "if there is anything I may do or provide" to get X or Y done or delivered at my job, it's both a way of requesting clarity and trying to get balls in play that may not be in my court at some given moment.  It also is a highly effective phrase, assuming onus instead of throwing it around.  (You'd be amazed how frequently people go, "Oh, look!  Some onus!  I think I'm going to take that on myself!" - seriously, it's astounding.)

But for all the refined calibration and arch posing, the kid up there is LISTENING to the performance coming out of her own galdarned middle-aged mouth, and just marveling at how totally believable it all sounds.  And realizing - you know what, there's reason to believe.

All this is to say ... this week at my job has been pretty great.  Not 100% easy, and not without irritations.  But a series of events that all seem to underline how grateful I am to *have* said job, to work with those I do - and to have met a wide swath of my team at last.

At moments - that kid came gibbering dangerously toward the fore.  But nobody seems to have seen her.  Overall, I came off as I usually do - competent, perhaps a bit strong - and, crucially, *competent*.

So, after several days with huge chunks of OT, I'm looking forward to a bit of celebratory fun tomorrow, at my first job ever where apparently Hallowe'en is seriously celebrated.  And an afternoon off.  I'll take photos of my costume and share them here, if I get a good shot.

Even with half a work day still to go, I'm enjoying the weekend already.  Hope you will get to as well!

Not Being John Malkovich

Sandro Miller has teamed as a photographer with John Malkovich as model, to recreate some of the most disturbing, affecting, and enduring photographs in history.  I think the aim was true here, the images are an engrossing mix, and there's little that feels parodic (a feat, considering that Malkovich appears as Marilyn Monroe at least twice).

The Dorothea Lange is a standout in its own right and as homage.  The Einstein is almost indistinguishable from the original!

Not to go all rarefied-arty-talk or anything, but the dialogue between these images and the original portraits is definitely arresting.  Worth a look even if you DO find these parodic.  There's value in that as well.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014


Today was about an eleven hour day at work, and tomorrow should be about the same, but I could not resist sharing two links from my daily reading.

First, the HB interviews Brian Willson of Three Islands Press font design.  (Worth the side trip of a separate click:  Janet Stephens' historical hair designs, but I've posted her before, so back to the subject at hand.)  Willson creates historical handwriting fonts.  How enchanting!

Next, take a look at Elizabeth Chadwick's possibly-Elizabethan chair, which is art, furniture, artifact, and a tantalizing clue to an architectural aspect of English ecclesiastical history.  If I weren't about to go to bed, I'd be researching Victorian restorations right now to see if the "junk" heirloom might have come from one of these refurbishments.  But I am probably late to sign off and get ready for bed as it is, so will leave you all to it!

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

T-Minus Seven Minutes ...

... I've got the binoculars out tonight.  It'll be interesting to see how tonight's launch compares to last night's!

6 minutes after liftoff, no visual.  Supsect too much cloud cover, it's a hazy, hot summer night in these parts.  (Which:  ridiculous.)

Verdict:  last night's launch was better.

Still.  Watching a rocket take off on my laptop WHILE watching the skies for its trajectory - that's pretty space-age, and seeing the sight again after as many years as it's been since we used to gather and watch a rocket (or the Shuttle) take off brings back good memories.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Lunatic with the Vote?

And, following on the heels of the rather unsettling implications of the last post, it may be less than exciting for anyone to realize - I plan to vote next Tuesday.

But, see:  I found someone I really want to vote FOR ...

Wallop Rocket

I just stood in my back yard and watched a rocket take flight over Virginia.  Kind of exciting, for reasons beyond the tiny, bright light in the twilight sky - and I am kicking myself for not taking my binoculars outside.

Once I saw it, though - no question of going inside and missing a moment.  It was just neato-spedito, to use the term of excitement popularized by my bro closer to a certain moon landing I caught as an infant, but don't properly recall.

On the phone with my mom waiting for something to appear, she and I were frustrated by multiple airplanes - but, once I did see it, there was no mistaking the tiny, but unmistakably vastly distant, fiery light in the sky.  Smaller than a plane, but more vivid, and with the barest visible (for my eyes, not what they once were) trail of light.

As it arced from the south in what may have been a curved trajectory eastward and away from the Earth, the steady light appeared in the minutest way to flicker - from the puny vantage point of a woman in a backyard, it looked like it was turning away and perhaps the irregularity of its afterburners "face on" (or bum on, more like) allowed the intensity of the faraway fire to show its dim, distant flares from the different angle.

The speeding star of light started out farther south than I expected to see it, my catching it when I did was almost by chance.  Its distance was impossible to quantify in description, but this light was clearly not on a plane with the planes; something ineffable communicated that it was very far off - and its speed was clear, given that.

It stayed bright for a minute, but once it took its turn, fairly close to my own parallel, for the east, it diminished VERY quickly.  Even the flaring light that appeared at this point shrunk in my vision bewilderingly fast.

Dad would have enjoyed this.  We'd have come inside and maybe had popcorn - or made it and taken it out with us.  Or chocolate pudding.

Mom and her neighbors didn't really see it, it sounded like, but I'm happy I got to.


Here is the really amazing thing about the whole event, though.  I came inside, pulled up this post, wrote it, and even put the link in above ... before I finally went to the NASA Wallops Island site and decided to look at footage or images or the story.

And the launch was scrubbed for tonight.  Ten minutes before the 6:45 Eastern liftoff, the thing was canceled.

It didn't happen.


Very recently, I learned something in my life that is profoundly and deeply important, which I appear to have blocked out completely.

Tonight, I witnessed something that didn't happen.

The power of the human brain can be breathtaking and beautiful, but its power to do crap like this is seriously disturbing.  I wanted to tell my brother, my nieces all about this.  I did tell my mom.

And it never happened.

I'm not persuaded I'm losing my mind, but am open to the possibility I"m alone there.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Reasearch is Funny

It can be odd, the things you find yourself having to research as a historical fiction author (or the things you just want to research, whethery they have a place in a manuscript or not – research can be a labyrinth of rabbit holes teeming with plot bunnies).  Reading up on pattern welded steel swordmaking, brickmaking and architecture, and horse breeding/horseshoes is one thing, but then you find yourself needing to answer the question of whether and what type of scissors may have existed in your period, and confounded as to what exactly such tools might have looked like in use – not as artifacts, but as a part of regimens of toilette long lost to history, because they were *not* historical, and not recorded.

I know that Clovis was one of the reges criniti, the Long-Haired Kings, and I know from grave goods that Franks and so-called barbarians (get a load of the Swabian knot) took meticulous care of their hair and hygeine, even if without suds and “product”.  What I don’t know is what the *ritual* looked like.  I feel safe in assuming the king had body slaves, that this was not self-administered primping such as I indulge in the morning at my pretty little vanity table.  Though there once were scenes of Clovis’ mother, Queen Basina, tending to his hair almost as if it were his power and ambition itself, those are gone – and I cannot say I know that such “service” and personal interaction would align with the real picture of a Frankish queen and the familial interactions of the time.  I used the time spent thus to develop the difficult relationship of queen and prince, mother and son, and to draw in broad strokes the character of a woman Clovis wants nothing more than to shed, yet whose influence upon him was at least as powerful – if not moreso – than  his father, Childeric.

It is possible that the court of the time was sophisticated and rarefied enough the idea of this kind of tending and touching would have been unthinkable.  Yet this sort of maternal “indoctrination” feels authentic to me in a way that, as an author, I just beg off further research and write the story – because, sooner or later, *that* is the point, and (as we have noted before) I am NOT a(n) historian.  This is the limit of my responsibility, and my writing is always couched in service to the story above authenticity.

This is not to say I want to have Theodoric nattering away, say, while getting a haircut and receiving dignitaries; or to portray childbirth with willful inaccuracy – which is where those damned bunnies start hopping, and I find my prodigious ass lodged in a burrow too small for my ambitions, and get stuck.

As one of the more irresistibly charming agents I’ve met along my journey so far has insisted, I need to have food in the kitchen and furniture in the rooms.  I also need to know when to stop describing every stick of it, and when the recipes are not required.

One of the truisms of historical fiction and other authors working with much research must keep in mind is that research is like an iceberg.  Of the mass of what we learn along the way, really only the smallest tip should show itself; the rest is just what we need to gain authority in a period or world we’re building, unseen by any but us as we build it.  “Your research is showing” is a dreadful reminder that “show, don’t tell” has limitations.

It may be this that creates the sort of odd dissonance (resonance) between what we look into and what we end up writing.  In a way, the tension can be interesting.  Mostly, it makes you giddy as a writer – what to do, where to go?  You kind of turn into a rabbit yourself, or at least The March Hare, a bit frayed, a bit at loose ends, learning and then having to be your own arbiter:  “What, of what I have learned, should I share?”

I think most of us simultaneously love this part – and hate its implications.  There can be so much inspiration, yet not all of it is part of The Story … and we are, all of us, in service to The Story …


The History Girls take a long look at a mural and ask, "Who IS that crowned man?"  The answers are scholastically engaging, and the list of other answers tells us so much about the eyes of the beholders.

Gary Corby has an answer about another, more ancient piece of art - it was Persephone.

I found out this week someone I work with is a writer as well.  Who could resist "Nobody Craves Celery" (so to speak)?  I can't.  Bookmarked, perused, approved.

And, finally, please enjoy this charmingly odd, sweet clip inspired by The Rochester Bestiary.  Not your typical interneTV, this.

Friday, October 24, 2014


Just two mourning posts today.  I've got a post archived, but this just is not the time.

For anyone in reach, the Met has an exhibition of mourning gowns of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.  I would love to see this, but though I'm on the correct coast, "in reach" just now has a proportion that keeps this event off my social calendar.

Pour La Victoire, always meticulous and fascinating, with copious detail photos, also has a look at just one mourning gown, but a fascinating look it is.  In this case, too, the comments add to the post.  Take a look at a rare and endangered silk dress, circa 1867.


Another human tragedy today.  Someone at work said, "What is WRONG with the world?"

Same thing that's always been wrong with it.  We let everyone in.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014


Darwin's Barnacles and Dr. Livingston's beetles - the History Blog is on an interesting roll indeed!  All this and Tolkien references - who could ask for more?  Also, "Darwin's Barnacles" is a great title for ... well, pretty much anything at all. Get on that!

Nyki Blatchley on tribe-versus-nation - a worthwhile look at cultural attitudes toward:  other cultures.

Two Nerdy History Girls have a nice post about corsets in the 19th century - the good, the bad, and the mythical.  Be sure to check the comments for a point about the dress movement, which condemned corsets even at their peak.  The thing people often forget when shuddering in horror, or lusting to wear, corsets is this:  they were only very rarely tight-laced, and the sort of corsets people get frothy about in the 21st century were *not* sexy, nor even intended really to modify women's bodies sexually.  Just as today we wear fashions which have nothing to do with fornicating or procreating, FASHION, even in past centuries, had little to do with mating practices.

Finally ... Marcel the Shell with Shoes On.  Just 'accoz.

"Oh, G-d.  I can smell his face."  Hee.

Actually, Marcel represents an EXTREMELY good example of great writing - memorable, clear, and engaging voice.  (By which, though his portrayer does an extremely cute job, I mean writing voice, not actual actor's reading.)  Give it a shot, it's actually highly incisive writing; capturing the tone of a Liddel Kid, and the production includes a wealth of enjoyable peripheral detail.  Marcel is kinda OSUM, y'all.

Monday, October 20, 2014

French Origins

I've joked from time to time, when people who cannot wish to get bogged down in the answer have asked me, "What's your book about?" - and said, "It's about the guy who invented France."  Or, I've said, "If you go back far enough, the French are Germans."

That latter joke was once a theory one had to be careful with.  Nicolas Fréret, an eighteenth century scholar, who presumed to point out that the origin myth of France was false, was placed in the Bastille for his troubles.  Honesty has never been politically popular, after all.  Immortalized in the Liber Historiae Francorum, the tale goes that Trojan princes Priam and Antetor fled their homeland and built the foundations of France, in a city called Sicambria.

Sicambrian, indeed, was for centuries a term for the Franks, and made it even into Gregory of Tours' hagiography of Clovis and Clotilde, featuring in the scene of Clovis' baptism, where Bishop Remigius says to the king, "Bow thy head, o Sicambrian," exhorting him to love his new God.

Linguistically, unfortunately, the age and etymological derivation of "Sicambrian" is not a persuasive clue to Trojan origins.  And, as most of us are aware today, the Franks were clearly a society and tradition born of Germanic strains, the Greek memories being fables adopted to lay claim to classical prestige.

Claims of Trojan origin were common enough during the period, Britain having much the same sort of story to tell.  We sometimes place a kind of fetishistic worship of the classical period later in European history, but Late Antiquity bred these myths with noticeable regularity, and the early desire of a Gallo-Roman and Frankish society to present a noble lineage as they formed a cohesive identity may have been a healthy sign of formative unity - of a Church's growing influence - of the need of the educated noble elite to provide yet more nobility, dating beyond memory of pagan Germanic conquests and the cultural assimilations of a people in transition.

Nicolas Fréret spoke his piece about the history of France at a time when the Ancien Régime was in power, and - though the name came along later - ancien was clearly what they expected to be perceived as being; and far more ancient indeed than a pack of German barbarians.

Goes to show you how longstanding can be the prejudices of the winners in history - an ancient Greco-Roman slur making fun of the sound of northern languages influenced the inheritors of barbarian estates for so many centuries, here a millennium and a half beyond the "Fall of Rome" we're still sneering about the term and, obviously for at least twelve hundred years, outright denying the heritage of those northern peoples.  Nice work, Rome.

It is difficult for many modern westerners to conceive of being thrown in jail for scholarship.  Yet no intellectual discipline has ever been clinically scientific in method, and respected in its own right, not completely.  Many "know" the story of Galileo (itself subject to subversions and simplifications), but few think of history or language as subject to the same censorship and pressure.

Fortunately, those who have endured censure have made room for an atmosphere, today, where being thrown in the Bastille for saying, "You know - if you go back far enough, the French are Germans."  I'm grateful for this much.

Even if my jokes are still really lame.


Janet Reid's love affair with Gossamer has extended just a little bit further, and Penelope has now popped up at her blog.  If Gossamer is The Editor Cat, shall we say that Penelope is the Publisher Pup?  Suggestions welcome (alliteration not required).

(And NOW to find an agent who'll love me for my *manuscript* ...)

In a promising move toward more of a professional platform, the next week or so here should see a couple of blog turns where I get to show off the other historical fiction authors I've gotten to know.  Tom Williams has tapped me for the One Lovely Blog tour, and his blurb about me is blush-worthy (if only I were capable of blushing).  And Faith L. Justice invited me to join a writing process blog tour.

These last two items have inspired me to follow up with Elizabeth Chadwick on the interview questions I sent some months back.  Also, though I didn't get a new interview at the Conference this year, I may revisit Victoria Skurnick, who was one of the many charming and delicious people we get at JRW, and who was most open to the idea.  So stay tuned, kids!

In closing, a link both more and less typical of these collection posts.  Because there's archaeology ... and then there's digging up DeMille ...

Monday "Off-ish"

This weekend was the James River Writers conference, my favorite writing event of the year, and I do have intentions to blog about it, but yesterday before it quite concluded, I recused myself from the fun and came home upon several warning flares from my back.  It did wait to go into full muscle spasm pain until after I got home, but yesterday was painful and very little productive, and today may not improve much - because, though I have good intentions of sending out the full request, getting into that trick my WIP just *most-intriguingly* played on me, and digging yet again into query research:  I do have to get groceries, do some tidying up around here, devise a method to huck laundry up and down two flights of stairs without killing my back, and call my bank about an unidentifiable $300 charge.  Also, my mom called, and wants me to come over and help her sort seasonal clothes for getting-rid-of.  The invitation is not one to turn down lightly - not least because this is the sort of thing I *like* doing with my mom - but a lot of me wants to, unfortunately.

Also, that back problem.  Combined with a nestle-happy kitten, it goes a long way indeed to making me want to stay right here with the laptop producing the illusion of productivity in a couple of the aforementioned activities.

Yet it is a beautiful day, and mom's been sick and I know how that makes you crave company, and I'd LIKE to help with this activity.

And it's 1:00 almost already, and the day is burning away as I dither on my blog.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

We Do Get Fooled Again

Lately, shared delusions of different types have been crossing my mind, both on the paths of my own tangential thoughts, and in things I’ve come across to read here and there.  Humans share ineffable bonds, and some of them we’d quite like to eff after all, probably.  We cling together in fear, in arrogance, and – above all – in ignorance.

We also forget and forget and forget, and therefore come to believe the silliest horsefeathers.  Such as, people were dumb and dirty in the past, as I’ve often gone on about.  Such as, we have evolved or changed or become anything new at all under the sun.  We’re very attached to this idea, that what today holds is ever better than yesterday … even as we yearn for yesterday with the sort of jealousy that can pervert itself nastily and become cancerous and violent.

I once sat in a church and listened to a long and angry sermon against evolution, actually, which … ended with a discussion of how we get flu shots because viruses grow and change and we have to conquer them with ever better drugs.  I’m not joking – evolution is wrong, but evolution totally happens.

We do this sort of thing a lot, and it is in sermons and on pulpits, in reaching out to each other and in quoting, being quoted, in rabidly nodding our heads together, that we gain some sense of self – this is someone I agree with, and therefore what I think, what I feel, must be RIGHT in some important way.

“It’s not just me.”

We seek that in almost every level in our lives.  Those studies that show negative posts on social media “infect” related users and breed more of the same, complaint spawning complaint, because it is empirically true that misery loves company to death.  The way almost the whole world finds ways to make major events – especially catastrophes – “about ourselves”, finding ways not just to relate to the imponderable or epochal, but to own it.  9/11 was so powerful in this effect it gave us the story of Tania Head (not even her real name), one of the most famous survivors of the World Trade Center attacks, who happened to live in Spain at the time and was graduating a professional program at the time that brutality happened.  Before that, locally to my world, the Washington sniper drew half the east coast into a noose of fear that occasionally almost smelled like anticipation; living anywhere near those events conferred a sense of almost belonging to that threat, and of its belonging to us.  Anthrax scares in the mail had people psychosomatically ill all over the country, and gave the opportunity for morons or the mentally ill to frighten the wits out of crowds in strange places.

Yet, in this oh-so-enlightened world in which we are susceptible to shared delusions physical, emotional, and in many ways political:  we deeply enjoy looking backward at phenomena like the tarantism or the dancing mania of the middle ages, perhaps born out of plague and upheaval, and play a bit of down-the-nose-peering, to assure ourselves we are superior.  We, who deny – well, evolution, for one; or climate change; or the moon landing; or the HIV virus’ influence and connection to AIDS – love nothing so much as to look upon those who denied Galileo’s toppling of the heliocentric universe as the basest, risible ignorance.

It is intensely reassuring, for a species perpetually under the THREAT of the great unknowns of our lives, to hope, at least, we’ve risen out of some sort of darkness, surpassed ignorance, become *better* than we used to be.  There is a deep cultural, and *perhaps* pan-human need to believe in progress that leads us to look back, not in anger, but in the kind of bigotry that leads us to name entire swaths of time “The Dark Ages” and to peer morbidly at lost ideas of beauty or obsolete heirarchies of worthwhile attainments (or, very sadly, to look across the globe even in the present, presuming other cultures are stuck in the past) to prove to ourselves we are not “barbarians.”

The barbarians, of course, merely made the mistake of toppling a few things of their own, which for some reason we enjoy enshrining (from time to time) as pinnacles of human achievement.  Also, they didn’t write a very great deal, so we don’t have Viking Shakespeares to enshrine instead.  The barbarians get their vogue from time to time as well, but by and large “visigoth” didn’t become an insult in a perfectly balanced vaccuum, just for instance.  Or the word barbarian itself, which is an onomotopoeic word making fun of the way a foreign language sounded to a great lot of dead Greeks and Romans who had a few funky habits of their own we occasionally stumble upon in order to make fun of.

We really are not better than ever before.

The consolation to that is:  we actually are not WORSE than ever before, either.  Our power to actually destroy ourselves probably skews the old bargain, to be sure.  But human nature is as a whole is full of the same greedy lot who don’t care about others … and the same breathtakingly beautiful, and the same generally decent, and the same petty individuals we’ve always had amongst ourselves.  The greedy ones regularly wreck the lives of others, the good ones give us hope, and the ones we know best sustain and madden and surround each other.

Stripped of all politics and consequence, human nature is a remarkably unchanging thing, for a dynamic so resilient and innovative and endlessly mercurial.  We fear together, and that makes us either dance together or believe we are sick together.  We are arrogant together, and that is born of fear too.  We are immensely capable and ingenious – remember how we all ooh-ed and ahh-ed at the HUMAN miracle and spectacle of the Chinese olympic opening ceremonies?  Both impressed at the show, and half-afraid of a nation so huge with such control over its people … and so many people to control … ?

WE only constant is change, in a way.  It defines and horrifies us, especially when the changes we have wrought and witnessed don’t go the way we expected, or would like.  It makes such a difference, and it makes none.

Only when we get to the deepest level – the individual – does the inevitability of change seem less a frightening unknown than a limitless potential.

I am still the meat and bones and voice my parents made … and I am nothing I was even just ten years ago, or five, or yesterday.  It’s a hell of a responsibility, and it’s both a swelling and a dangerous pride.  I need reassurance.  But not by dancing through a plague.  Just in the ones I know best.  In sustaining and maddening and being close to them.  And in finding they do the same in return.

What is it like along your evolutionary development?  Did you go from crouching to standing tall, a deep breath filling your chest … ?  With whom do you dance … ?

It's Like Wearing the Corset ...

“Fake it till you make it!”

The little piece of wisdom above has become a facile mantra for a society increaingly occupied by the hectic schedule of life as we’ve constructed it, and particularly by professional frustration and ambition in an economy not well laid out for most of us to find the types and levels of comfort we’ve also set as a general expectation.

The fake-it mantra goes along with the “dress for the job you want, not the job you have” maxim (and there is a whole blog post in that one, considering how resolutely “casual” so many workplaces have become …), and various other positive-professional mottoes we try to post in our brains and daily behavior in order to attain – basically – whatever it is that passes for financial success, as compared to where we stand right now.

“Fake it till you make it”, though, has applications and effects apart from the financial, and the older I get the more surprised I am – and pleased – at how very well it works.

There are days at both the office job that provides me regular paychecks, and at the unpaid job I maintain as an unpublished (but persistently aspiring) author, when really it’s all just a game.  And that’s not a bad thing.  It can make The Game easier, actually, to make it *play*.  Life’s no fun if you never play – and, sometimes, play helps you do life a bit better.

If I’m not feeling satisfied or motivated or even competent at the paying gig, I’ll make a point of popping in the boss’s office with a drive-by handful of “I’ve done this and this and this for you” comments – or questions “do you need hard copies/lunch reservations/documentation for X-meeting” – and the effect is usually strongest on myself.  It’s like I won the role of Moneypenny in some play – and saying the lines and getting the responses makes me feel like I’m playing it well.

So I get to *feel*, “Okay, I am not a fraud.”

And I also basically remind myself, “Hey.  *I am not a fraud.*”

I’ve been doing administrative/secretarial work for close to thirty years now, pretty much to the exclusion of any other professional work.  It’s something I enjoy, and/but changing jobs as often as I have, it’s never something I feel I know completely – which is a good thing. 
One of the important parts of changing jobs is overtly playing the part of a competent professional.

Being able to do a job and demonstrating that I can do it, I have found, are vastly different things:  and the latter is the wiser course.

It’s a bit like feedback from a boss; if you hear “thank you” or “can we widget this, thus” now and then, fairly consistently, it makes all the difference in knowing where you stand.  Performance reviews don’t do that, never have, and never will – but the smallest acknowledgement of daily to-do’s coming along regularly provides good bearings.  And that works both ways (the corporate-speak phrase “managing up” comes to mind, though without the passive-aggressive intent).  Feedback of the “A, B, and C are done/need something to get X done/changed the way Y is done” variety keeps ‘em aware you’re there and functioning.

I know an author who spent something like a week wearing a corset and cooking medieval recipes out of turnips, in order to get a feel for her period.  We can hardly replicate “what it was really like” – but method writing like that makes sense.  It’s the same at a job.  When I wear the rold of Moneypenny, I realize that not only can I walk in those shoes, but I can project that to others, and that’s a useful reminder/demonstration/feedback on all sides.

It also encourages others to TREAT me like Moneypenny – or like an author.

I approach an awful lot of my life with some form of calibrated appearance in mind.  This isn’t affectation nor artificiality (it may be manipulation, though …).  It’s just an actor’s heightened way of going into any scene.  I dress for my job, or for time spent with my mom and stepfather, or for some specific group of friends (… or for the Conference, yes) – I behave in one venue in a way I would not in others.

“I contain multitudes” …

Many of us do this without really thinking about it all that much.  Many can’t release themselves from a single self-image (when I see women on TV who wear $600, 7-inch high heels for every conceivable occasion, heavy makeup at all times, and false eyelashes even in the middle of the day, I pity them the stultifying consistency of such “glamour”, since it cannot be special, maintained at all times; likewise men who cannot get beyond khakis and polo shirts no matter where they go bewilder me with self-imposed homogeneity).

So we all play roles.  I need multiple roles, in order for any one of them to seem worthwhile or fun – being a slovenly hausfrau all day on a Saturday makes the odd Saturday night out with friends so much more fun, as does the pampering self-transformation from slovenly comfort to arch impracticality.  I need time with family and time as an employee and time as a friend, and time ALONE, just laughing at my dog and cat.  I need the demanding and yet transformative rituals of my day – getting up and getting dressed, as much as coming home, and getting dressed *down*.

It took me a long time to really believe I was a “real” author – not a laughable fraud.  This is true of a terribly large percentage of writers, and the way the industry is configured, unfortunately, encourages this, at least in traditional publishing.  Yet this isn’t on purpose – the more agents and editors I’ve met, the more delightful I’m aware that they are.  These are people who get to make a living not only doing something they love – reading – but they also get to act as conduits to bring new things they love to a whole audience.

I almost can’t imagine what that’s like.

But it’s certainly true that many of the editors and agents and designers and all the newer facilitators in a publishing world no longer strictly fashioned as a paradigm of “gatekeepers” (agents) and “keymasters” (publishing houses) SAY that this is what they love about what they do.  There is an undercurrent of glee – “I found something wonderful! I must have it! I must share it!” – and a very emotional kind of satisfaction in most interviews I read when I research agents, but also when I find articles and blogs and so on by cover designers and book doctors and editors who work outside publishing houses, helping authors to craft not only good work, but marketable work.  There is a mutual drive for satisfaction I’ve never seen in other areas of my own admittedly limited life, but it’s pretty wonderful.  The blogs I follow avidly all share this with a depth and clarity that is infectious:  they keep ME going, by telling me and ten thousand others, “you should KEEP GOING.”

This really isn’t faking it till you make it, of course.

But we all still have to fake so much.  We have to put on our Editorial Boots and kick the hell out of our manuscripts and plays and poems.  We have to put on the Authorial Jacket (with or without the little suede elbow patches; as your preference or genre or predilections dictate) and brave the autumnal blasts of rejection and revision and education until we’re tempered.  We have to wear a Marketing Hat, too – and live a bit online, and reach out, and plan, and consider, and be ready to Be Told, when it comes to supporting our work.

THIS is undoubtedly faking it, for most of us.

•    Faking like we have time in the week,
•    Faking like we are not scared out of our minds,
•    Faking like we really feel like we know what we’re doing,
•    Faking like it’s not annoying to have to do all this stuff without pay,
•    Faking like the friends and family around us who
     (a) overestimate the likelihood we’re going to Become the Next Bestseller, or
     (b) bitterly, ignorantly UNDERestimate it
     … are not discouraging beyond toleration,
•    Faking like there is anything at all about writing, other than the doing of it – all alone, at a wonderful desk or curled up with a beloved furbaby – that we can stand at all.

Faking it and knowing the fakery isn’t so much a lie as a *reminder* either works better and better as I get a bit older, or I am just finally getting, at my advanced age, just how well it always would have worked.

What’s your costume, what is the swashbuckling role you play … ?

Friday, October 10, 2014

Dresses Undressed

Nabbed this when I saw it at Two NerdyHistory Girls.  Though the music is a hair sad, and the veins in the ghostly hands which appear here and there are ... weirdly animated and eerie ... the CLOTHES are beautiful, gorgeously constructed, and this look at all the layers of dress in this period is instructive and interesting.  The micro close up lace shot is as gorgeous as it looks like it would be from this preview still, by the way.


Thursday, October 9, 2014


I happen to follow some of the most amazing blogs and at least two Tumblrs, and of the latter you should go get your eyeballs nurtured, because Mojourner's Photos rock the extra bomb-diggety, y'all.

Speaking of sites that have wonderful vitamals and nutriments for the yumming of your eyes, do you follow the Caustic Cover Critic?  Because - seldom updated, but always worth a look.  Enjoy the Hallowe'en special:  hilarious, intriguingly conceived, and scary on multiple levels.  Boo!

Tuesday, October 7, 2014


Mojourner Truth lays out some (previously) Unwritten Rules of Archaeology.  (Pay close attention to the final rule.)  How much of this applies to your job?  Rather a lot does to mine - both my mortgage-paying gig, and writing too.

Law love the History Blog.  On cockerels and Christ.  Oh myyy! (But seriously:  the oldest image of Christ in Spain, on a glass plate, with background as to why the glass medium is important - and the cockerel comes from the grave goods of a child in Cirenchester.)

The Arrant Pedant visits Visual Thesaurus with a look at "less" versus "fewer".  The AP is awesome of the sauce-ular variety, as are the linguistic forensics.

And, in the continuing exchange program between every page Janet Reid maintains online and Gossamer the Editor cat, take a look at The Query Shark's advice on social media promotion.  "The only email that is appropriate to send to everyone in your address book is news of your death."  Priceless.

Soft kitty

Monday, October 6, 2014

In a Week ... Happy Anniversary!

Twelve years ago, I took my little niece with me on a beautiful Saturday morning to go looking for a new dog.  I honestly can’t recall whether she and I went to more than one place, but I can tell you the moment I saw this giant-eared, black-masked beastie looking out across the parking lot at the pet store, and I thought, “What a weird looking dog.”  She was one of a kind, yes, even down to her looks – and I remember looking at other animals, but could not tell you what we saw.  My niece and I both seemed to zero in on Sid – or maybe she zeroed in on us (certainly, I have been adopted by pets in my time, seemingly almost without will of my own).

Her peculiar, masked face was topped with one black ear (her only other black feature; and it did not go grey, as  her mask did, and disappear) and one white one with little dalmation spots.  She had a big square head like a Volvo:  it was boxy, but it was good.  And a deep furrow straight down the middle, from the top of her nose right back between those prodigious ears.

Siddy was four, and if “when they thought” her birthday was was right, we shared one.  And she was within about a week of being the same age as that niece of mine.

I remember the adoption process seeming so daunting, and even fearing I would not get to have her – I developed a fast crush on her, and the inimitable Zuba told me, when I was telling her about the other dog I was thinking about, “Diane, you are already calling her Siddy.  That is your dog.”

Zuba is no damned fool, and neither was Sweet La.  She got Zuba so well tied around her little claw even a sneeze straight in her face never dented her auntie’s love for that pup.

So Sid came home, still wearing a traffic cone from a kerfuffle with some other damned fool dog in foster care.  The guy I was seeing at the time evinced a bit of intimidation by her, so he had to go (I’d been looking for the right moment …).  And so she and I had nine years, nine months of I-was-the-luckiest- doggy-momma-evarrr, until that sad July 5.  And sigh.

That was just over two years ago, and it took me from July to October to be ready again … and that was when my MOM went with me to go find a pupadoodle.  Small niece was no longer available, though I kept her posted vicariously, and she ended up approving Penelope.

Penelope, whose little noodly yellow butt seemed so small to me, and whose round, light-bulb head was all full of wrinkledy loose skin and a set of ears the like of which even Siddy had never seen.  She hardly seemed built to hold them up.  Penelope, who seemed entirely unaware of the little things when I took her into the kitten section of that pet store.  Penelope, of the head full of white puppy teeth and insouciant underbite.  Penelope, wearing her little blue bandana around her neck, saying “ADOPT ME” – and I did.  (I had no choice:  I adopt ears.  And hers were prodigious.)

She grew into them – though they’re still quite the arresting feature.

Little did I know that 35-pound scrap of wiggles would turn into a 60-pound slab of … well, wiggles.  And tugs.  And would turn out to be the smartest dog I’ve ever known.  And *everything* about what it can be like to adopt a puppy instead of a more mature dog …

This month, it’s been two years since I recommitted my life to ever being good enough for my dog (and, now, Gossamer kitty as well), and the golden days are reminiscent of both pups’ early days.  Of course, Pen is significantly changed – not just physically – since she came home.  Twice the muscular body, to be sure, Penelope is also exponentially higher-energy, but almost heartbreakingly eager to please, and I am utterly her alpha.

It’s a different relationship than “doggy mommy” which was what I called my role with Siddy pretty much from the beginning.  Sid was a mellower animal, of course – and older – so our relationship was as much her choice as mine.  Penelope, being only about six months old when she came home with me, and of a history either unknown or undisclosed, was bursting with health and the sweetness of a baby girl, and cuter than I could even begin to contemplate resisting.  I had no idea what “almost there” meant with house training (and thank goodness, or I’d never have taken her home; she wee’d in the car on the way, before falling asleep in the back seat) … nor, honestly, what it’s like to live with a highly energetic dog of her size.

Ohhh, but my beautiful yellow baby girl.  She and Goss have never yet become cuddling partners, but they do play, and they have a good understanding.  The pair of them make me laugh so genuinely, so heartily.  Last night, Goss had been playing in the tub, as he is wont to do (how sad a day will it be, when I finally get a plumber to fix the leak …), and came out with a wet head bone.  Penelope was licking his head clean … or taking a drink off the cat, to be more accurate.

As adorable affection goes, I know folks go more for the gentle show of “AWW”-inducing love and friendship, but in our house, the dog slaking her thirst on the cat’s skull qualifies.

And, as much of a spazz-matazz as Penelope can be, the fact is, she’s really very like her predecessor, most of the time.  When she’s in the yard, she can blow off all the springbok-bouncing-across-the-savannah energy she can, and watching her physicality is incredible to me and always will be.  She is a Tigger, just a mass of power that hardly has to touch the ground when she’s really moving – and, like a proper Tigger, she’s fun-fun-fun-fun-fun.  But between bursts, she’s mellow and enjoys a good cat-nap just as much as any dog.  Heh.

She doesn’t tend to sit quite right at my feet, as Sid did, when I am on the couch, but does snuggle up by it if I am having a Sunday afternoon nap.  On those special mornings at home, too, when she is allowed on the bed, she is very good at staying in “her spot” until I indicate I’m ready to scratch her belly a little while, and much better than Sid, now that I think of it, at being still and not indulging extended scratching or washing time and jouncing the whole bed to bits.  She and Gossamer can pen me in (har) quite neatly, between them, and they’re both pretty good together when they’re allowed on the bed at once.  Though yesterday there *was* a near-cat-crushing experience, and Pen would not be told not to flop right against my tum, where the little guy already was.  Erm.

Like any dog, she has such power to melt me to a puddle.  She and Sidney MORE than have that in common, though I’m sure she depends on me in a much deeper way.  I love to just hold her whole head, wrapping my arms around her neck and patting her chest or around her legs.  Letting her have a treat – or a privilege in the house (getting on the bed, being allowed on the couch) is wonderful.  The way she physically *looks* to me for guidance is almost heart-wrenching.  Her ears are beautiful, warm, and the thickest velvet in the world.

And her head is still shaped a lot like a beet.  My dear little Beet Head Ned.

Sunday, October 5, 2014

JRW Conference

It's coming, y'all.  Who's with me!?

Imagine a World ...

... in which “My, how you’ve changed!” simply did not occur.  People did not change hairstyles with seasons or fashion, their wardrobes were not greatly variable – and, indeed, for poorer classes and perhaps those without the skill, time, or materials to sew, even alterations of what garments they did own might not be possible (leading us to those hilarious images of giant fat medieval men with tiny little coats).  A world in which most people saw the same smallish population throughout their lives, the only gaps in seeing someone perhaps arising with itinerant travelers or priests, whose physical appearance was largely irrelevant.  Imagine a world ... in which physical appearance was largely irrelevant in almost every context ...

... in which the measurement of time:  is not done.  Other than the sun and moon, timekeeping devices were extremely few and far between – ancient water clocks or sun dials being scarce and not always readily reliable in any case, there could be no expectation of meeting someone at two.  With travel being on foot (human or otherwise), traffic jams might be less an issue, however, the vagaries of stubborn beasts, broken axles, poor roads, or injury might turn a day’s journey to many, and even a “simple errand” into a more time-consuming affair.  Vagaries in a kitchen may also alter the timeline of any meal, and royal audiences were most likely to be cattle-call affairs, with little itinerary to events.  It would be typical for certain days to be reserved for certain business – at the civic level, criminal trials and hearings; the general annual schedule of an itinerant prieste, who could record for his communities the births and deaths for each year; market days and religious rites.

It was not a matter of time being measured at a different pace, but that pace itself was a concept without relevance, at least in the sense we contemplate time today.  It might well be important to get a thing done sooner than later, but “deadlines” were more along the lines of the best times to sow and reap, the most auspicious alignment of the stars for entering into a contract, the availability of priest or governor or hands to effect some change not just anyone might be able to take on.

Time was more spiritual, too, far more subjective, in a time where people did not have “nine-to-five’s.”  This may be the most difficult part of the different perspective of The Past for us to grasp.  We can stop and sit still, but not all of us have an easy grasp on – not only the spiritual, but on a spirituality, a subjective life and way of thinking, guided from the *outside*.

Free will has always existed, of course, and humand will employ it, scurrying little monsters that we are.  But the structure of a life lived not in a modern democracy, free will or no, maintains a different flavor in its very formation and expression.  We can’t be squelched, human beings. But we can be formed – and we can be disciplined (for good or ill) ...