Saturday, December 26, 2015


"Trying to get that music out on the page is just absolute hell, so you fail." A great writing clip from Unleaded - Fuel For Writers, with Ta-nehisi Coates.

For my Asian art loving nerd readers ... The British Museum blog has three interviews with manga artists - Nakamura Hikaru, Hoshino Yukinobu, and Chiba Tetsuya.

Unleaded also has a GREAT pie chart - How Shakespeare Killed off his characters. Some of the more obscure methods are kind of hilarious, taken out of the usual obligatory sober literary context. "Baked Into Pie" ... eep! Hee.

The history girls has a phrase I love for what I usually rant about under the "popular misconceptions" and "oh the dirty stupid past" tags - recency illusions. I love this way of putting it, and hey - I love 40s platform shoes, too.

And ... because I *was* historically inaccurate ... when a picture speaks a thousand words. (The much later artistic rendering of) the coronation of Pharamond - a Frankish king very close to my period, and indeed a name I chose to use in The Ax and the Vase. From People of Color in European Art History.

Also from the POC in European art blog, an image of St. Maurice - one of my favorite saints, actually.

Dena Pawling has a look at the treatment of women attorneys. It's not pretty ... so to speak. Sigh.

From the Portuguese machete, to its little-known political symbolism, to Tiny Tim: the ukulele has a rather remarkable history. Its *present* includes some virtuoso work by one of my nieces, but its past is interesting too. Thanks to If It Happened Yesterday, It's History.

Courtesy of, Seven Myths of the Crusades - a nice look at historical scholarship, though sadly it's not as nice a look at Terry Jones as a lot of Python fans might hope to see. I own his The Crusades series - and, like a lot of tele-history, it suffers ... some weaknesses. This is a good start to looking at the much more complex realities of this series of religious wars and battles.

For a lighter-hearted Python allusion, you could wander by to learn about cocunuts in medieval England. "(M)edieval England was lousy with coconuts" - OSUM.

Playboy’s hackneyed idea of what a nude is, and who it’s for, seems increasingly narrow in the selfie age. When Kim Kardashian is celebrating her own body in superabundant selfies and many less famous people are doing the same, the nude is neither oppressive nor commodified – it’s a part of how human beings communicate with one another.

The last point here is what arrests my attention ... The Guardian has an extremely curious take on the abolition of nudity from Playboy's pages ... I'm not sure I'm persuaded by its argument that this is in fact a culturally dismal move; given the wider picture of our culture, it's not as if the objectification and sexualization of women is (a) on the decline, or (b) something I can accept as wholesome and positive. But the point about shame is one to pause upon, even if Kardashian selfies make a challenging argument for cultural elevation. It's worth a ponder, at least, to contemplate the wider ideas on display in this article. The reference to Indian and Shunga art helps, for me, to take it out of my personal moral context and look at art (erm) objectively.

"I just realized that I don't feel bad."

"Learning how to human."

"Living with depression instead of living life *through* depression."

"Leave every day a little bit kinder than it started."

Wil Wheaton has gained a lot of cachet since his stint as Roddenberry's Gary Sue Jr. He's funny, and a celebrity force in the whole bearded-guy cool thing.

He also suffers mental illness, and has never shot up a crowd of people nor donned a tinfoil hat and been a living piece of comic relief. He's a real guy. With a real disease.

Friday, December 25, 2015

Because: Aww

My dog and my cat get along with each other, but have done so more with play fights and the occasional bop on the head (Gossamer one popped Penny one hard enough with his velvet paw on her velvet-coated-tungsten head I swear I heard the reverb) than with the sort of adorable affection one sometimes finds online.

But, as Penelope has crossed the Rubicon into "she was GOOD" territory with, lo, that toughest critic of all - my mother - so, too, has the furkids' relationship changed recently.

Less than a week ago, I noticed that Pum was curled up by my feet on the couch, with no molestation from above, when Goss was curled up on the back of the couch, maybe a foot and a half from The Dog One.

As close to snuggling as they've ever come, unless you're the sort to count when they nuzzle each other preliminary to rasslin'.

I don't.

And so, it was an extra nice treat to see The Poobahs this morning, parallel napping under the Christmas tree.


For those in the know: a close-up, for detail ...

Heare's the thing about this image. It shows (or, rather, doesn't) Gossamer's eyes.

Shut tight as can be.

Context for the non-cat-owner: this is an expression of supreme trust. This emblematic greeting of one cat to another, or to its human, is the statement, "I know you, and you and I are safe together." It's the "We cool, man" of the feline world.

It is nice to close your eyes back at them (or to greet them thus first) to acknowledge, "We are companions" and to avoid feli-social complications.

Gossamer's silent repose is far more than a cute and even warm holiday moment. In this house - for me, and I hope for all three of us - it is a new piece of a relationship that has always been *smooth*, but never lazy and affectionate before.

Goss's squeezed-shut eyes have never meant more to me than his pointing them at that sixty-plus-pound mass of dervish-y dog.

It is a Christmas furry-cle.

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Muggy Rain, Go Away

The Eastern Seaboard has been unusually warm during a period when other parts of the country are being pummeled by snow. It's pointless to know I "should" not complain - most of us feel we have been too hot for too long

A couple of days of rain make it look more wintry, but last night at ten or eleven, on Penny's final rest stop before bedtime, it felt like about eighty degrees outside. Yay, and humid too!

Christmas Adam and Christmas eve have been dark days; immense amounts of rain have pummeled us, the ground is a stew. But it is still hot.

While my niece runs into great, clumping snow in one sock and no shoes, I did at least find that my American Duchess Tango boots were wonderfully well suited to the weather. (A perfect "pairing", as it were, given that yesterday was my Christmas lunch date with Cute Shoes!) Yet the weather might be suited to running barefoot right now, too - shame I stopped cultivating the tough little Hobbit tootsies I had at her age.

It's too warm for nestling - and yet, who can resist a seasonally snuggly kitty?

Merry Christmas Eve, if that's your poison - and just have a fine day, if it is not. 'Round these parts, there seems to be a change afoot, from Extremely Grim to merely Gloomy (it's not as terribly dark, and the rain is less pelting). Huzzah!

Wednesday, December 23, 2015


There are two great usages of the concept of "to fall" in English, to which modern ears are no longer very well attuned, and which twine around one another.

A fallen woman, in antique parlance, was a woman - married or not - who has lost her virtue. Virtue is another of those concepts whose meaning has changed (at the very least), but it is not the topic today.

These days, as sneeringly as a woman may be treated for this or that infraction against other people's morality, it is little likely to be the death of her - at least, outside of contexts I don't propose to write about just now. My mother thinks Miley Cyrus is SCUM (her word) - largely because Miley, less a person than a child raised to be a product, has played into one of the major product marketing techniques of American popular culture, sex. Women who marry rich are as likely to be congratulated as written off for golddigging bimbos, but few observing one appreciate the finer points of her humanity. Britney Spears was the very paragon for a certain set of younger cousins of mine, as long as she touted her purported virginity, but she lost steam with many through a series of ill-timed underpantsless photos and that one time she shaved her daft little head.


But Miley has not been shamed out of society, and certainly the pariah has become staple to a leering community of celebrity  consumers - who literally DO *consume* people famous for five minutes, fifteen, or even almost an hour. Reality TV is built most often on the need to feel superior, even as we aspire to this or that thing such-and-such celebrity owns/product places in their "life".

There was a time it would have taken only the hint of impropriety to destroy a woman. One named Theresa Longworth spent a great deal of her life fighting the destruction of her reputation; and, to this day, the very sexual details of her existence perhaps outlive any sense of how profoundly distressing it must have been for her to have those things so much as imagined. Novels we still read today turn on the virtue of women whose wellbeing depended upon its never being questioned, never being destroyed.

To fall, for a woman, has through history been as fundamental a peril as the fall of Lucifer himself. To be thrown from society has been for MOST women - or anyone at all - through history, the most violent punishment conceivable (another aspect of a quote brought up this week in my comments).

Outcast. To many modern, especially American, ears, the term equates to the kid who gets bullied, or the million invisible mentally ill or imprisoned or otherwise "marginalized" people we rarely see, or try not to.

But in its practical, fundamental sense, it is those whom a community have put into the outer darkness.

This is no small thing, to be alone. Life today may be built to accommodate it, but the life lived solitary is still considered abnormal, and we punish people for living thus, whether they have chosen it or not. I've had my rants and fears about my social marginality.

But I have never been put aside, forsaken, nor shunned.

I have never fallen. Society has not shut me out, I have chosen and found my own place, but never been excluded.

The profundity of shunning is difficult to convey anymore, I think.

An awful lot of us have experienced it to one degree or another, but the ancient practice of social punishment has found a new face, and works in ways just as impenetrable to understand as The Past is for us to comprehend.

I know those who have fallen away ...

But I know nobody who has had to be a forsaken woman ... who has been denied fire and shelter ... who has fallen ...

Monday, December 21, 2015

"As soon as we have achieved normality - whatever that is."

Nerdly brownie points to the first reader who nails the reference in today's title.

Normality has been much in the forefront of my conversations and reading for a few months now. An old friend of mine resurfaced after decades, and has had me looking at the state of mental illness in our culture and communities, but also: I'm a writer, and there are a lot of writers who consider being offbeat to be an important part of the identity.

My response to this is a certain bewilderment. Where did these people get the idea there is such a thing as normal?

My old friend - let's call him MOFF, because Star Wars is much at the forefront of our culture, too, right now, and y'all know I have this thing for acronyms - suffers anxiety and depression to the tune of actually being on disability. Many Americans are aware just how difficult it is to get disability in our country, so consider the context here. This is someone who has to take a Xanax, just to be on the safe side, in order to complete the task of sending out Christmas cards.

Now, as for me, I deal with that particular piece of stress by simply failing to send cards at all, for something like the last eighteen years. I hate drugs.

But MOFF and I have discussed normality at length, both as a subject of curiosity, and as a problematic goal/desire. It is a great desire of his, to be able to live a "normal" life ...

Interestingly, in he earlier iteration of our friendship, which was a bit more romantic and would make a great story I do not intend to tell y'all, he was often concerned with the same thing. What he considered to be his deviations from the norm were different matters, but the desire was the same; indeed, even the anxiety was there, all the way back then.

And, even then, I'd laugh him off and dismiss him, "Even my MOM knows there's no such thing as normal."

Which is true. My mom, who is as conventional as conventional gets in some ways, has always maintained - and taught me and my brother - that, really, "normal" is not really out there. It's a convenient construct, makes for a good context to tell a story which inevitably deviates, and gives us a sense of stability and reassurance. But, at bottom, "normal" is a sham. Nobody who seems it or claims it can withstand an honest investigation into their utter ordinariness.

So I've never been able to believe in "normal" and I can actually *feel* myself getting insufferable, sometimes, reassuring MOFF that "everyone feels what you do" TO SOME EXTENT or SOMETIMES or whatever palliative I wield at him in any given conversation. But even in those, I know that that is the very problem. What he experiences is multi-track, is unending, and is not something to be "got over" the way most of us have to in order to get on with a day. It's not merely brain chemicals, it's an emotional paralysis which - universal as it may be in moments or situations - is singular in its implacability.

I feel the way he does, sure. For a day, or for that one minute during PMS when I actually enjoy submitting to the weepies - or even for a few months, off and on, when I have to look for a job or am missing Mr. X, or whatever pain I may have to endure.

I've never experienced pain like this - the fear and hope conglomerated, influencing my entire life to the extent of in fact *becoming* the life I have left to lead.

I may not believe in "normal" - but I don't have to live so decidedly outside its apparent existence. I may not believe in "normal" - but I am not denied it, either.

So when writers start talking about how all writers are weird, or how all our work is offbeat - I actually recoil, emotionally.

I am not normal, no. But that's only because normal is a stupid idea to start with.

And my writing ... if it is offbeat at all, it's only in the fact that I wrote about a Frankish king most Americans haven't heard of, or much about at any rate. It's not because my form is innovative, nor my genre exceptional. If anything, the novels I've worked on are "traditional" in the extreme ....

... and here we go down the rabbit hole of whether "traditional" exists either: which I say it does not.

The need to categorize and quantify is so strong in our brains. We need to believe ourselves to be some thing or another, we need to believe others are, we need to think the world has order - in order that we may participate in it, or to rebel against it. We need a PICTURE - to view the landscape, or the people in it, or the acts played out upon it, in some coherent way.

We *need* "normal" - "traditional" ...

I depend on it. So do you. What form you depend upon is the question (and I hope someone will comment upon their framework, their "normal" and "traditional" - especially now, at a time so many experience their presence and absence with such acuteness).

And every one of us knows, there is no such thing.

Just ask my mom.

Sunday, December 20, 2015


Mojourner introduced me to this story first, but The HB did get to it as well. The 6th century warrior's bones, and his remarkable prosthetic.

Far more interesting on The History Blog's part, for my money (or dorky interest) is their piece on the urgent work Virginia Commonwealth University is doing in the field of investigating an analyzing hundred-year-old hams and peanuts. Now that is some seriously cured porcine flesh.

In my usual late-to-the-party way (well, it has been the holidays and I've had some things going on), last week I made the header on Janet Reid's blog at the end of a truly EPIC Week in Review post, with the following gem of wisdom:  And now we know: the etymology for "query" comes from the Latin for "burned at the stakes."

Merry Christmas, Mojourner

Saturday, December 19, 2015

From A Review of "The Danish Girl"

"(L)ove does involve a small dark space."
--Richard Bernstein

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Truth and Weeping

When you are sorrowful, look again in your heart, and you shall see that in truth you are weeping for that which has been your delight.
--Kahlil Gibran

This ends with delight, but it begins in sorrow.

This is where my family is right now.

How do you remind the sorrowful that their fear is born of delight?

I guess you try to bring to mind the memory of the delight.

Sunday, December 13, 2015


As a single person, sometimes the whole thing where Chinese food delivery comes with two fortune cookies can go amusingly haywire.

Today, one cookie was stuffed with three fortunes - all alike.

You are original and creative.
You are original and creative.
You are original and creative.

The other fortune was actually even sillier.

You will have no problems in your home.

Because: nowhere in the history of the world, ever. Heh.

Saturday, December 12, 2015


The Caustic Cover Critic has happened upon a truly stunning trove of wonderfully bewildering cover designs. Some are hilarious, some titillating in the most inappropriate way, many are just head-scratchers ...

The Atlantic has an intriguing look (listen?) at the way we talk on YouTube. Linguistics aren't just for the written word, kids!

Terrorism and radicalization – not just for the “other” anymore. One of the problems with dismissing a terrorist as being mentally ill is the burden of stigma loaded upon those who suffer mental illness and never harm a soul (the majority, by the way).

“Are we worshipping the same Jesus?”

A close reading of the Bible finds that one of its most common refrains sung by angels, humans and Christ alike is ‘Do not be afraid.’

THIS is the “joy” of Biblical spirituality. It has been a powerful message through the ages – “nothing to fear but fear itself” – “fear not” – “fear is the garden of sin” – “the enemy is fear” – “G-d gave us a spirit not of fear, but of power and love” – “Fear is stupid. So are regrets.”


The History Girls has a sad post here. "Our united voices counted for nothing against the commercial imperatives of a shop that employs no local people, sells nothing that we would want to buy (which would count as 'sustainable development') and sources most of its merchandise in far countries."

The Atlantic has another video illustrating a wonderfully diverse sample of the known history of hair styling. This one isn't all about white folks in Europe; a nice look, and some cool music too. They did get the date of the sidecut wrong, though - I was far from the first, and I had that going in 1985.

Festive Heat

Today is both fun and a working-hard kind of day. It's not just the usual Saturday housecleaning, but also the day I am taking my old desk out to my car so it can go to a young writer. He is fourteen and the son of a Wounded Warrior, and already published. The Christmas gift he most wants this year is a desk.

For a writer, a desk can be a very big deal. It's a tool, it's a sacred space, it's a visual, physical reminder of work we love. I know how important a desk is.

So I am excited to be able to give the desk where I have written so much; this may be the gift I am happiest to give this year. I hope he will like it.

Gossamer TEC inspecting the desk before cleaning and packing

Today is also the day I have brought the tree out and set it up. It needs shaping and lights, and decoration, but it is up and the furniture reconfigured around it.

With unseasonable heat, I am *sweating* getting up to all this, even wearing a t-shirt instead of winter clothes. Finally - and for the second time this week - I have resorted to turning on the air conditioning.


I don't live in Hawai'i or Florida, folks. Sustained weather in the seventies at this time of year is not only not normal, it's actually a little difficult to deal with, because the daily logistics of wardrobe alone get confusing. But, more than anything, it mucks with my head. At a time of year the phenomenon is not natural to the climate, "high pressure" takes on its most unpleasant connotations. Sigh.

But I love today.

Decking the tree was always the ritual of my parents' anniversary (not 12/12, but close, and I hew close to this because having a tree up for five or six weeks ends up oppressing and depressing me; it's not natural to me). I love the lights, I love the color and closeness of all those cheering things in my living room.

This year, for the first time since I have lived here, I'm putting up the white plastic candle lights in the windows. These, too, are home memories for me - and, again, I like the light. With some work done around here recently, this one more touch adds a little more cheer.

These touches and rituals and gifts are FUN. This is elemental to those things we do to observe the season, and to share it. Yesterday, I shopped for the Wounded Warrior himself for a few hours. I've finished most of my personal gift list as well, and know what to do for one more person, and the team celebration I planned was lovely and went well, with two of our top executives joining us and relaxing.

Christmas is on; I am grateful and enjoying December. Even the strange heat and headaches, I can manage.

How is your holiday season going?

Smells all right; the angle seems off, though, for this knee-hole

Seems to be missing a drawer, ma

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Old New Shoes

Sometimes, memories are not things you actually recall.

The theory crossed my path this year, that there is no such thing as forgetting. This has intrigued me since I encountered it, and it's a bit of a wonderful thing to have floating around in the brain, especially for a writer.

This week, the idea was brought home to me in a physical way; I experienced a memory that hasn't been in my recall for at least thirty years, perhaps longer. Unsurprisingly, the stimulus to this recollection was a smell.

Thanks to the generosity of Cute Shoes and a little bump to two gift certificates, I received my first pair of American Duchess boots. When I opened the box, the scent was of leather and shoe polish; an authentic smell - not the odor of synthetics and dye, but the smell I remember from Thom McAnn boxes of my childoood. Shoes made out of leather - all leather - real leather - and that touch of shoe polish that speaks to a pair of shoes meant to be taken care of and built to grow dull, but then to be freshened up again.

Shoes for the past couple of decades at least have not been designed to be taken care of. You can wear them until the seams go or the finish dies - and then it is time to buy new. Few shoes, apart from exceptional boots, have been made, for a long time now, with an eye to maintaining them; to keeping them.

These shoes are constructed of strong stuff, and are already polished.

And they will be polished again.

One of the things I received after my dad died - hardly what you might call an "inheritance" in the vein of the portrait of Einstein I love, or the gold watch my brother does - was dad's shoe polishing kit. The old wooden box with the small, shoe-shaped stand on it. The once-stiff, now curved-with-much-use wooden-handled brush. A rag or two, with dabs of polish (the applicator, essentially). And even the polish. I never could quite throw away dad's old polish, though I actually did have some of my own.

Shoe polish has the smell about it of special occasions. Church, when we needed to spiff up the maryjanes and dad put a shine on his own big, smooth shoes. Taking mama out for a night, while my brother and I had sauteed hummingbird tongues for supper (some may imagine this was actually boxed macaroni ... some may have less flair for description than my dad did).

It was a funny thing, rediscovering New Shoe Smell after so many years, and never having thought about it in the interim. It is a smell of the 70s, a smell of family, a smell of quality - and Christmas - and the excitement of new clothes, for a family whose budget for them was constrained, which made them special.

Trying the boots on, I remembered how the salesman would scootch up in front of you at the shoe store, put your foot on the weird metal sizing tool with the black field and little lines. I remembered how they'd put on the shoes for you, pulling them out of the box and unbuckling or lacing them, and taking your ankle and shimmying first one and then the other foot into the new shoes. I remembered the ritual standing in front of mama, salesman bent down to feel the toe box while my feet were standing in the new shoes.

When's the last time you had an actual fitting in a shoe store ... ? Have you ever? It used to be a "thing" - those metal fitting slide-rules ubiquitous, once upon a time.

And once upon a time I got new boots, in a century-old style, of half-century old quality I had thought must be long gone.

I may need to buy new shoe polish.

Friday, December 4, 2015

Metal, Man

Most of my life I've never 'been' anything - I don't make much of an effort on those things that earn cred-points to 'make you' this or that or the other label-thing.

I'm a huge fan of Trek, but still consider myself somewhat outside Trekdom because I'm not dedicated and have never been to a Con and so on. I'm something of a nerd, but have never played video games (do we even call them that anymore, or is the word "games" itself now the entire description of what once we had to refer to as electronic games and so on?) or achieved academically or committed sufficiently to this, that, or the other geek-cred.

As with my association with subcultures throughout my life, I get in there from time to time, but I'm never a member.

I'm not even an 80s metal head.

When I was in high school, I thought I was a hippie but wasn't ... and thought I liked New Wave but wasn't all the way there ... and had friends into hair bands, but was shy of its brashness ... and, again: I wasn't anything.

The blurb under my bio? "I contain multitudes" ... ? In a way, it's both a brag and a lament. My personality is multifarious, nonconforming - but then, it's also a bit jack-of-all-trades-master-of-none.

It's fun to brag that my first two concerts were The Clash's Combat Rock tour and Bowie (I often don't point out that was Serious Moonlight - but still - I saw all the cool concerts). But I wasn't fully in with either of those crowds either.

When I met Beloved Ex late in 1987, and began a seven-ish year stint With the Band, I actually, finally, gained a bit of cred in the one place I've ever had it. And even that - by proxy, of course.

I spent those years gigging right along with BEx and the band. I even ran lights for them a time or two (not my first time; I did major in theater - and that comment that I was part of the Rhythm Nation refers to one of the best shows I ever did run lights for - a dance concert, set to the album). I helped set up and break down, I sold what swag they had from time to time, I absolutely acted a bit as an ambassador. It never hurt those guys to have a fox dancing and "WOO!"ing up front, getting others to actually form a crowd around the stage.

When BEx worked with a radio station on an in-house band called The Wham Bam Thank You Band - I was (by the radio guys we palled around with) called The Ma'am. My chagrin at the time was entirely faked.

So that post label, the one marked 80s Bimbastic Glory? It's the one label-claim I actually feel I can make. Yeah, it's a joke (I wasn't a bimbo, I just played one for the band). BEx and I were both actually pretty conservative, well-bred, nice kids. He was a bashful and mannerly corn-fed boy who opened doors for me and treated me right.

On stage, of course, he was a whole 'nuther story.

And so, I got my cred.

I have a soft spot for metal, and all those things we're supposed to find risible - or, worse, sanctify as part of My Youth - because it's been That Many Years since they were happening (both in the temporal and the hip senses of the term). Not all metal was born in the 80s and not all its musicians had the bad hair. (I had bad hair myself, but not because it was big.)

Metallica, Megadeth, Iron Maiden, AC/DC - I love some of the greats, and some we are supposed to consider not-so-great. Hell, years ago I saw Sebastian Bach - specifically to gawk at whoever would go see him past his sell-by date, and possibly to throw some Silly String around the venue - and hell if he didn't smack my attitude down by sounding good. Still an asshat, of course. But the guy can sing, and that's his job. My hat was off. G'wan, Sebastian Bach.

More recently, the same friend and her husband and I went to go see The Cult. And Ian Astbury was great, they were tight, and it was a wonderful show, we had a great time. I could have lived without seeing that one guy from my past, but the music? My jam. That was an excellent show.

I still love this stuff. I don't OWN enough of it, of course, but then I don't own enough Janet Jackson nor *any* Loretta Lynn, nor much else of a lot of the music I love either.

Judas Priest. Jeebers, and by Priest, I mean only where Rob Halford is involved. Because - Halford! It's a rock shout unto itself, his name. Woo!

Dio. Aww. Ronnie James Dio. Tell me any fan who doesn't go all AWW when they remember him. He was the best manner of spectacle - and he seems also to have been a great guy, a nice one. Aww, Ronnie James Dio. Rest in Peace - or in mayhem, if that is more fun for a rock god, man.

And Zeppelin.

I have a hard time with Zeppelin, because - I mean, Jimmy Page once basically attemped to own a little girl for a year or two. Pretty much did. And how HIDEOUSLY horrifying. How sick, and way beyond rock-and-roll demented. It's all the worse, given he's all but internationally deified, and grey hair has conferred upon him forgiveness for all sins, if not English sainthood ...

But damn me if I can or will cut Led Zep's music out of my life. "Thank You" alone has some deep roots in my memories, and I can't excise those, nor do I care to.

And of course "Whole Lotta Love" - the performance of which is a major factor in my saying BEx on stage was a whole 'nuther guy above. I saw people who'd known him as my dorky boyfriend witness him on stage and just about die of shock.

On stage, Beloved Ex was one hell of a rock star.

He was a GREAT front man, a talented singer, guitarist, bass player, AND writer.

His spelling was the pits, but that was dealt with in the divorce.

I feel the need to get out in my car with the fantastic JVC sound system (once it gets past factory standard, it's a "sound system" not a stereo) and listen to something really loud.

I'd do it in the house. But Gossamer tends to jump.

Aww. Gossamer. Even more loveable than Ronnie James Dio. And that is saying something.

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Lookin' Good

Writing has been slow of late. As writers' complaints go, this one is unsurprising in the extreme, but yesterday was a palliative. Yesterday was the first day I took a wide-angle look at the manuscript, a real LOOK - not reading, not stopping in any particular place, but simply running my eyeballs across it not for comprehension but to see where it is blue.

There are authors who outline and authors who have expectations and a set process ... and then there are authors who have nothing but a timeline, and whose expectations change as they undergo the process themselves, the novel working on them rather than the other way around. Some call themselves "pantsers" (seat of the pants writers); I don't gravitate to the term, but when asked I pretty much fall in this category.

This doesn't mean I have no structure. But the scaffold of my WIP is not one many others would feel safe climbing onto.

Research on this novel dates back to the very earliest days of working on The Ax and the Vase; the idea for this work was born of that reading, though it is in no way a sequel (and thank goodness, considering that Ax is languishing inventory). So I found bits and bobs along *that* way that I dropped into a Word doc which someday I would bring off a back burner, and which now has become the WIP.

Research is blue.

While I still acknowledge that at this point, anything "written" (self-generated and not in blue - in short, scenes, sketches, and snippets dealt with and contributory in some way or another to the novel) remains at this point strictly draft work: it is at least written, and folded into the work in some degree.

It's the blue text that hasn't been dealt with, that doesn't contribute yet.

Yesterday: I was pretty gratified with the level of blue, as I scrolled through 234 pages of pants-tastic not-yet-a-manuscript.

And surprised.

For all these years, the WIP being a backburner item, the Word doc nothing but a bin into which I'd toss occasional research and ideas, to be cleaned up "someday" - I have not had the courage to LOOK at it.

Turns out, it's not a bad view.

And now, to dive back into the trees. The forest is not on fire, and I feel safe exploring.

Sunday, November 29, 2015


My brother has found some curious artifacts in his house; I have found none, but am leaving a few here and there, with an amused eye to the archaeologist who might dig up the place centuries down the road ... but nobody I know ever found two hundred grand worth of anything in their home that wasn't the home itself. Another of those Antiques Roadshow stories that gets people gnashing their teeth asking, "Why doesn't this happen to me!?" (Note to the HB that will never be seen: I love pre-Code movies too!)

On a vase that never met an ax - the crystal vessel most famously associated with Eleanor of Aquitaine, but with a history extending centuries before her ... and after.

Squirrels. In "Up", they are the subject of comedy without ever actually even appearing. In the Pacific Northwest, I know a certain girl who befriends and shares peanuts with them. On the other coast, though, there are an awful lot of people with no love for squirrels. And then there are those who might love them, but can't, due to lack of sleep! I hope you'll get some good rest soon, Donna.

And, of course, more from the History Blog, because it is OSUM. First, not only do we have a new word for the day (codicologist), but a look into the mystery of the "unborn sheet" - writers who read here, if you aren't intrigued by these two things, you should be! The Learny Stuff of History, brought to you by the Staedtler eraser company - neato spedito. And second, for the bauble-lovers among us, the oldest known gold jewelry, found in Bulgaria and dating to over six-thousand years old. Y'all know I'm a sucker for vintage jewelry! I'm also tittering at the comment by Celia, because her suspicion about "ritual object" is EXACTLY correct. Hee.

And, in closing, a note about the weather and migraines. I've been putting this post together for at least a full day now, maybe even two, I'm honestly unsure. It's been unseasonably hot, but with days here and there of normal cold, and so my sinuses have been in a bit of a riotous state. This has been a consistent issue with my sporadic blogging over the past couple of months, and the failure to provide Tom Williams with a guest post. Pointing this out is NOT a plea for sympathy - headaches are old hat for me, and no cause for pity; only a programming note, and maybe a cheap opportunity to kvetch about said weather.

But even a too-warm Thanksgiving is still a Thanksgiving, and I have been grateful for so much this four-day weekend. I am grateful for my job, two years old now - my beloved friends and family - my beautiful Penelope pup, and my sweetest Gossamer the Editor Cat.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

I Am A Part of the Rhythm Nation

... I really NEED to get a copy of "Rhythm Nation" on CD.

I actually like 2Legit, but if you prefer to watch only the OUTSTANDING tribute to Miss Jackson if you're Nasty, it comes at exactly the 2:00 mark.

And if you prefer the lady herself (though, seriously, the lip synch is worth it if only for LL Cool J's reaction shots), here is the original. I loved this album from the moment it came out, it's been too long since I gave it a listen.

Saturday, November 21, 2015


Ahhh, sweet memories of the rockin' 80s (and OH YES, I know precisely how cheesy that sounds; it's intentional, y'all). Turns out heavy metal attracts sharks. No surprises there!

One of the problems with my being slow to blog, and particularly with my lack of online presence recently, is that among other things I have been unforgiveably slow to congratulate Donna Everhart on her upcoming release! No excuses ... but felicitations, Donna!

After the fires in the state of Washington: growth. Mojourner Truth brings you BLOODY LUPINES. And don't miss the hauntingly beautiful juniper, too.

(C)alling Frenkel’s hypothesis “a highly controversial theory among other academics” is like saying that alchemy is a highly controversial theory among chemists...

What's this quote about, you ask? Only the beautifully bigoted idiocy certain media are only too happy to propogate carelessly ... or ... how Australians' accent is indeed NOT the product of national drunkenness. What people will buy into distressingly boggles the mind, but this is a glorious takedown and deconstruction. The Arrant Pedant is one of my favorite writers.

Now, you didn't think I was going to make it through a Collection post without linking to The History Blog, did you? Of course not. In closing, I give you: The HB's piece on NPRs Great Thanksgiving Listen.

Friday, November 20, 2015

Oh My Darlin'

I never bought them for years, but not so long ago my mom and I shared a clementine orange, and I realized what a great little snack these are. Mom eats the whole thing, peel and all; sometimes I do, sometimes I don't; but either way, this is a very MOM thing in my mind.

She used to always put one in the toe of our Christmas stockings. The present-frenzy of Christmas mornings always ended with a few in-the-shell nuts and a clementine, and so now when I begin to peel one, the scent takes me not to sunny summer thoughts, but to the holidays. The tradition began when *she* was a child, and getting an orange was a special holiday treat. Of course, when I was a kid, I half rolled my eyes but more just didn't care at all, about the old tales of family dorkiness born out of the backwash of The Depression.

This morning, The Friendly Neighborhood Coworker came by and offered me one. I had three on my desk and had just offered one to another teammate, who's been having a hard week. And she already had one (possibly courtesy of Friendly). Friendly and I agreed: that is Christmas.

They're also just yummy, a perfect serving size (with or without peel), pretty to have around, and the smell when you peel a clementine is wonderful.

This season, I've been feeling the holiday thing a bit - not necessarily possible every year, and not always a stress-free emotional state. Two years ago on the Friday before Thanskgiving, I was interviewing for my now-job. I remember sitting in the lobby beside the fire (we have a big 360-degree fireplace in our lobby), sweating because it was not cold yet, in my interview suit, talking with the HR executive I had known in a previous life. While I was sitting there, the coordinator who'd been working with my executives was calling my home to make the offer. I had not even left the building after my interviews.
I had two business days to make the decision, and had to beg for that much. They'd wanted to hear by Monday. The speed of the process concerned me; I was used to employers taking weeks, even a month or more, to get to decisions, never mind actual onboarding.

I announced to my friend Zuba, and my mom and stepfather, that I was leaving my old job AT Thanksgiving dinner.

Our family is not given to that kind of dramatics, but the timing was all to perfect. And I wanted it to be a reason *for* Thanksgiving.

Was it ever.

I hated to leave my last job. There are still things going on with my friends from that employer that break my heart, precisely because they have proven I did the right thing for myself. I was proud, working there, being a public servant, and I loved my team. I still do.

But I have been blessed again, and the work I do here is the best suited to me I have ever had, I think. Or maybe I am best suited to my job, after all these years. It helps that to some degree I have been able to create this job hand in glove with my executives; they had not had an admin before, so I have been able to "train" them, and use my career maturity to all our advantages.

There have been some pieces of good news and bad news from that world, of late. The woman I turned to for advice when I got this offer: is about to be a grandmother for the first time. Someone I loved working with is coming away from a long period of poor health. Someone else has had bad news. And in my world right now, there are those suffering because loved ones are in distress.

Like the holidays themselves, the days right now are light and darkness.

Last night, I stood in my boss's office, before the sun had entirely set, looking roughly eastward so the sun was not in sight ... but its light was, for the first time in days. The sky, thickly overcast all day long, had begun to clear just over my head, and out in front of me rose a thick, white cumulonimbus, painted golden by light I could not otherwise discern. Below the mound of cloud, it was still wet and grey, and to see the edge of blue sky above I had to lean over and look up.

Today, it is wet and clear and golden and bright. Cooling, at last (yesterday's rain was 70 degrees, dankly misty, and muggy and too-warm). It is Friday, and pay day, and next week I'll work three days. And there will be time for work and time for rest.

And, hopefully - reason for thanksgiving.

Friday, November 13, 2015

"I Was Raised Literalist."

 Last week, Janet Reid gave her readers a quiz. She acknowledged that all offered answer choices were incorrect - but the idea was to choose the least-wrong answer, and to state why.

This turns out to be a surprisingly difficult proposition for many. For me, it was impossible:

(Edited for clarity)

In kindergarten, they gave us an aptitude test in which one of the questions was, "If a white cow gives regular milk, and a brown cow gives chocolate milk, does a pink cow give strawberry milk?" I toddled to the front of the room and explained to the teacher that I COULD NOT COMPLETE the question, persistent in my attempt to impart to her the knowledge, "There are no pink cows!" She kept trying to insist I answer the question on its own terms. I could not come to such terms, I was raised literalist.

This quiz has me sitting, paralyzed, in my little orange plastic chair, peering in squinting turns at the purple mimeograph ink before me, and at Mizz Reid, unable to explain to her the quiz is impossible to deal with, and dreaming wistfully of pink cows.

Image: Janet did it!!

Janet seems to have enjoyed this story (though, again, it needed editing!), and quoted it in her Week in Review post on Sunday. Aww!

Amusingly (to me, anyway), this post got some attention this week. It is much the same story, in a way (and as much in need of editing), but ends with a good point and question.

I may not be able to cope with the concept of an imaginary bovine, but I seem to have a smidge of imagination anyway.

Friday, November 6, 2015

New Hair?

My fifth grade teacher used to comment excitedly, when one of the kids came in after a haircut, "New hair! New hair!" It was one of her mildly unexpected turns of phrase that came off as comedic because it was nonconformist.

Miss A. never married, because she was a career woman, and her concentration on her job and her kids was such that there was not room for other such encompassing commitments. Miss A. wore polyester skirt and pants suits in purple, neon lime green, pink, and red. Miss A. had the blackest of black hair, and Snow White pale skin. Miss A. is, very likey, no small part of my own sense of style, even if I don't express it in Visa of Dacron double-knit polyester.  Miss A. had a post-retirement career in the movies, working as an extra in quite an array of Hollywood and independent productions; I shared the background with her once, in the 90s, and it was fun to see her after twenty years or so.

I can see her rocking this kind of thing (rocking its bobby sox off):

Thursday, November 5, 2015


We are all captives of the picture in our head — our belief that the world we have experienced is the world that really exists.
Walter Lippmann

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Happy Late Anniversary, Henry

I am too often late to observe anniversaries on the blog, but it's worth the blush and apology to share a 600-year-old hymn in tribute to Henry V's victory at Agincourt. Fascinating for many reasons, not least of which is just the sound of these rather wonderful human voices in song.

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Personal Collection

It just started with a search string. Someone on AOL ended up on my blog with a set of words that intrigued me, so I looked where their search had led. It took me to some three year old posts.

And then I remembered The Sweet La's last month.

And I remembered remembering summer.

I found myself writing about Mr. X. In less than a month, I'll have known him thirteen years.

It took me to some feelossy-fizin. "Rejecting an ism, even knowing its actual face, because others find it ugly condones the perception of ugliness.  "Yes, that is ugly - whoo - that's not me!""

And a nice thing Cute Shoes once did. Cute Shoes is a lovely and thoughtful friend.


Dare ya not to click on this: the stunningly weird Freudian DaVinci Code. This even steals the cake away from the one I saw today where Jar Jar Binks is actually the evil mastermind behind all the scary stuff in Star Wars.

A life of reaction is a life of slavery, intellectually and spiritually. One must fight for a life of action, not reaction.
--Rita Mae Brown

With thanks to Cute Shoes and a sock in my quibbles about the old poison makeup saw - take a look at 5000 years of makeup! Well, financially comfortable white women's makeup, anyway.

And, as to this:

Is there ever any particular spot where one can put one's finger and say, “It all began that day, at such a time and such a place, with such an incident?”
--Agatha Christie



It's no surprise that, in the general sense, "Westerners" (I'll refrain from defining THAT, if I may) find the concept of a wet nurse ooky, if not outright immoral. I have been a little surprised, though, at some of the specific folks who've recoiled a bit when I've brought up research for the WIP.

Personally, the idea of milk-kinship in particular intrigues me, particularly in the context of American slavery and the biological use of women. Reading historicals, as I almost always have, wet nursing wasn't clear to me early on, but once I understood it, it's possible I've known about the practice for more of my life than most, and so have never much questioned it.

One of the most important characters (in a multi-generational novel, and as the story grows, I am more and more hesitant to describe anyone as a "main" character) in my WIP starts out as a midwife and becomes a wet nurse. I am fairly confident in the whys and wherefores of this latter situation; setting up not only her physical ability to lactate, as well as its cultivation, but also the job itself and her position in the household. Less confident is my providing her the transition from midwife to wet nurse, and research on this sort of job shift in Late Antiquity Ostrogothic Italy is not easy to find (suggestions welcome!), but I hope it can be believed, because her being both is important as the novel is developing so far.

Almost impossible to find is any resource discussing what a worship service in the Arian Christian church looked like - but that is another post for another day. (Suggestions welcome!)

Perhaps the most modern literary reference to wet nursing is Rosasharn, in The Grapes of Wrath, whose gift of her milk is not presented as creepy or gross in any way. Less modern, but much more recently written, is Mirabilis by Susann Cokal, in which the main character nurses an entire population, in a historical set in France. I can't think of any movie depicting wet nursing, except perhaps in the most passing way, and Juliet's Nurse is less identifiable to most high-schoolers flogging their way through Shakespeare by her biological function than by her indecipherability, where she is supposed to be the comic relief and few really get that, any more than the rest of the language.

Wet nursing isn't much addressed in memoir, science fiction, fantasy, nor by category of audience. We have issues with the breast as a source of nutrition. The idea of sharing bodily fluids wigs people out for one reason or another - fear of disease, fear of being replaced as a mother or as a spouse, fear of intimacies unfamiliar to the nuclear family model, religious morality, name the parameters. I can still recall a scene from The Last Emperor, in which an eight-year-old Pu Yi nurses from his extraordinarily beautiful (and exotic; coz, yeah exoticization) wet nurse, and the way people responded with shock and titillation. I can recall The Big News story of its minute when an American woman nurses her child after it's old enough to be walking, talking, and training in the essential sexuality of the breast, which even still we are not comfortable seeing as the source of nutrition and bonding.


If my blog were more widely read, here we would have the onset of commentary on the fact that I have never procreated nor lactated myself. Let's consider my ignorance as read and remember I don't know what it's like to be an ancient Frankish warrior either, nor have I ever experienced life in Ravenna nor Paris, never mind 1500 years ago. I am an author, and "write what you know" is, frankly, horsefeathers.

Beyond milk-kinship and the fascination of a world not my own, the transactional nature of wet nursing is a deep draw for me in this writing (as the similar nature of sex has been). This character has traded on her body in a different way than many modern people might think of a woman "using her body" to get ahead or to support herself. The moral and the practical considerations, for this time, are vastly unfamiliar to our mindset, if not entirely inconceivable. Putting aside the objections my society, indeed even my friends and my family, might have to the idea of wet nursing, and exploring it not just as an institution but also at the individual level, where my characters meet, is exciting to me, an opportunity once again to leave my skin and leave the air I breathe and sounds I live with, and to imagine living another way, in another place.

This, for me, is what writing is *for* - because "the story", whatever else it is, is always a projection out of the familiar, out of the present. To me, "the story" is sacred space, takes place in sacred time. It's outside my workday and yours, outside what we know, outside, perhaps, even what we ACCEPT. Whether it is acceptable in its own terms, acceptable at all - these are the tricky fascinations of telling a story, the rabbit holes we bolt down, following its plot. Do I accept a world of dragons and palaces, where everybody's white and royal? Do I accept dystopian tales, where young people are imperiled? Do I accept these images of faith, of life, of relationships and of distances between my characters?

I'm a writer; I get to decide what to describe and where to go. You get to decide whether you'll come along, down the rabbit hole ...

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Quiet Time

The blog has been a little slower than usual of late, partly because I have been researching and writing, but also because life has been busier than usual of late.

Since July, there have been Big Doin's at the office in particular, but at home it's been hopping too - or, if not my actual house, at least in my personal life. Though, yes, the house has had its share of attention. This week, it'll see a wall guy, a plumber, an electrician.

The two huge meetings I have had a hand in managing are over, the smaller one comes on Tuesday and I am sanguine it will go well. The greatest initiatives of the past two years are in hand. Financial year end is in the summer time.

I wonder whether calendar year end will settle down; it might be nice, but I hold no breath.

It is Sunday, and we got an extra hour this weekend; I have nothing much to show for it. Things are hard sometimes. Things are hard for someone I love once again. For more than one person I love.

It is hard to watch the fight against death, as hard as it is to watch death, sometimes.

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Take the Con, or: "Is My Sociopath Authentic?"

It is the quiet hour. The JRW conference is not over yet, but I left early; grocery shopping for the week, a bit of silence, the need to post this, and a nap were calling me. Just now, nervous folks are standing up before the bulk of attendees, pitching live and in person in front of everybody for Pitchapalooza. I've done this (twice), and I felt it was more important to leave than to stay, on balance, and let my Conference be over for this year.


That nap I mentioned has intervened, as did the balance of an eleven-day "work" week (well, I didn't get a weekend, with the Conference!) and even some research on the writing. It's now six days since the Conference ended, and ... hey, things got interesting too!

This year, #WeNeedDiverseBooks/#WNDB was a focus, and I asked Ellen Oh and the panel, "Is there a parallel movement amongst READERS, a #WeReadDiverseBooks hashtag?" They paused, laughed, pointed at me and said, "You are starting that!"

I was excited, but as it happens, #WeReadDiverseBooks is in fact already out there, created by Janet Ursel. Not surprising!

There was some fun with new friends and old, the above-linked exciting mystery of the first page whose author never stepped forward - I never got myself together this year to submit a first page of my own, DARNIT - and ideas, ideas, ideas. Ahh, inspiration.

And so I've been reading about wet nurses and trying to find a way to research what a Late Antiquity worship service might have been like in an Arian christian church. Man, that is not easy.

And so I have been finding writers and others on Twitter and blogs, and finding new followers in return.

And today? For the firs time in too long: I finally get to do a bit of housecleaning!

Happy Saturday to all, and to all a good day.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Coming Soon!

The JRW Conference will be this weekend, and as usual I have signed up for an agent one-on-one, but this year I think I will use the time not to pitch, but to discuss the retirement of AX and perhaps look toward a synopsis or query for the WIP. It is almost distressingly early to be thinking about querying the WIP, of course, but the agent I plan to meet with is far too good to resist; and, perhaps more than the forward-looking, as little good as it does to look backward, I'd like a professional opinion regarding my instincts about AX and letting it lie. If the chemistry isn't good for that conversation, maybe I can just smile and tell the agent she has seven minutes to herself, and let her go get some coffee.

The old saw applies now, as it does for everyone, as it does all the time, "I haven't been working on writing/research like I should." Ohh the Great Should; who doesn't have Should-shaped bite marks on their behind?

The good news, of course, is that JRW gets me excited about writing - always in ways I don't even see coming - every blessit year.

And I get excited about JRW, too. I study for it, I anticipate seeing my friends and making new ones, little literary lullabies croon inside my head, singing songs of inspiration. I brace my bank account for the BOOKS ... and getting them signed! Squee!

I look at the weather and plan my outfits (hooray, it will be cool this year - a first!) and re-read interviews with whatever agent I plan to meet with, as well as researching all of them, in case we chat through the course of the weekend. I see myself in that chair upstairs, a couple years back, where I rewrote my pitch and was so excited (and block out memories of READING said pitch at Pitchapalooza, which is exciting, but which I have done twice now and am done with).

Perhaps it all sounds like a bit of a do, too much fretting and folderol, but it's an enjoyable indulgence, for someone like me. Getting out to a conference can be stressful and scary for some woodland creatures writers, but JRW is *mine*, and I love it and am grateful for it.

And so I contemplate what hairstyle *won't* be fussy, what sweater will look nice and be comfortable. What jewelry to wear, because my friends and I - a bunch of magpies - always gravitate to each other's sparklies. One doesn't want to be "too much" ... but you do want to garner the notice of pals attuned to your vintage yummy parure, or the boho seventies long, dangling pendant with just the right earrings. Pashminas are never so appreciated as they are by crowds of authorial Frowsy Women, and costume is never so much fun as when you are judging everyone else's of course!

So tonight I think, quietly, about how to ask what questions, and the smiles of those whose writing I love - and writing itself - and mine - and find: I am ready for bed.

Sunday, October 4, 2015


The Pee Dee river runs through the small South Carolina town where my grammaw lived. It's not one of the most famous American rivers, but it is one of the most fun names, and spoken with a good southern accent, it's charming into the bargain. Three cannon have been raised fro this river, and the story of the gunboat Pee Dee is an interesting one for American history buffs. Scuttled at one month of service, the craft's short life was nonetheless a part of Civil War history.

An interesting look at landscapes. Blackfoot art depicting encroachment upon Native American mineral rights at the British Museum. The British Museum blog is focusing on cultural dialogues; this one is especially striking.

The History Girls' Eleanor Updale has a particularly personal post about the Foundling Museum, London. Taking not only society's but artistic perspective on the state of  a woman of damaged virtue, here is a contemplation of the Victorian attitude - and the real history of a foundling's family.

The historical sewing and costume blogs I follow focus, almost necessarily, on the fine and the exceptional in textile history - because it is most often the fine and the exceptional that survive. Mojourner Truth has found a cache' of half century-old clothes we are both hoping he can find someone to preserve. His job has always been cooler than mine.

Back at The History Blog again, we have the unexpected evidence that mummification was more common on ancient Britain than might seem quite obvious. Mummification outside of desert climes: not just for peat bogs anymore! Beware, this does include phrases such as "putrefactive erosion", which I think would make a splendid name for a terrible band.

Local honey is good for allergies. Poison honey is good for exterminating your foes! "This actually works." Eep.

Sunday, September 27, 2015


My next page view will be the 175,000th.

Thank you all!

Late Night Collection

This blog hasn't been getting its usual effort of late, but I've been watching others', and I'm behind on sharing them. So here we are, let's get to the links!

Arrant Pedantry has - you guessed it - a bit more deconstructing pedantry, this time a look at the usage of the word anxious.

I haven't shared a Gary Corby link in far too long. Here, he explains the origin of the term - and the original rite - of catharsis.

Mojourner Truth has done a series of wonderful photos recently, on archaeological work and features in Hawai'i. The sled run here is one of my favorite of these posts!

Also, Mojourner is really funny. Sir Mo's A Lot - heh.

American Duchess shows us a little something about the history of 1940s shoe fashion - and beyond!

AD also has Scandalous Tango Boots! (And, some time in December, so will I!)

Jessica Faust has a good story at Bookends' blog's new home, about how she got a certain client in Days of Yore - lo, fifteen years ago, when he space-age material "paper" was involved in querying.

And last, but without a doubt not least, Tom Williams looks at nomenclature and rather a lot more. "Freedom Struggle"? "War of Independence"? ... or "Mutiny"?

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

My Stepfather Pronounces it Linka-DIN (*)

LinkedIn is like that friend with a pickup truck. You don't call them much, but when you have to move, suddenly you remember their number.

Worse ... maybe you kind of wish they wouldn't call YOU, either.

When I was worried about my job two years ago, I quietly updated my LinkedIn profile, reached out to a couple connections; managed to get an interview from one of them. That interview didn't pan out, but they called me back a couple months later - and here I am. (I met the woman who did get that first job, and she is made of solid OSUM gold, and no way should I have gotten that gig. I like mine best in any case.)

Every now and then, recruiters get frisky on LinkedIn, but that seems reasonable.

Over the last month or so, a salesman got silly and tried (a) to connect with me there and then (b) kept messaging me about "who is the right person to talk with about such-and-such" at my company. And (c) got himself DISconnected, because - ugh. No.

More recently, a restaurant reached out to me and at least two of the other Executive Admins at my employer, offering us free lunch. This sounds lovely - and I have it on excellent authority the purveyor sending these notes with connection invites makes great food - however, I work at a food distributor. And they are not clients.

How it looks to some folks when we bring in non-client food to our corporate HQ: not super.

So no free lunch for me, sad to say.

Every now and then I see the old "guess who's looking at your profile!" previews, and sigh quietly. Yes, Virginia, there ARE people I spent years losing touch with, and it was not easy.

Nobody really uses LinkedIn as a social network. It's a nicely distant quasi-tool to occasionally keep up with former coworkers, really. You can get their real contact info off 'em if need be, maybe send the odd bland "congrats" or holiday message or whatever.

Or you can let them know ... you might need that pickup truck. And maybe a spare pair of arms to carry a few boxes. And couches.

(*And I don't make fun of his way of reading the name. First time I ran across the website Plenty of Fish, I read it as Plenty Offish ... which strikes me as a hilarious name for a dating site.)

Well, SOMEBODY Wants It ...

My thanks to Tom Williams for pointing me to the one person in the world eagerly seeking a novel about Clovis I, King of the Franks.

Only tens of thousands more to go, and The Ax and the Vase is a product I can sell.

In the meantime: WIP. And sighing.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Pride and Prejudice and Privilege

Of all the literary scandals I've read in my day, holy heck is this a fascinating ethical exploration.

This cropped up in Janet's blog today, and for once the result was a comments section I did *not* find comfortable to read, so I am not linking it. It is only where I learned of this anyway, so go to the link above if you are curious about the deeper details. Skip over a LENGTHY intro all about rules, and most of a long series of paragraphs beginning with "I" and get to the one that begins with "I chose a strange and funny and rueful poem" and read from there.

The crux of the issue is a white male poet who submitted under an Asian (or Asian-sounding; I am not the one to verify other cultures' nomenclature) name, and whose poem was chosen for the Best American Poetry 2015 ... admittedly and partially because of this.

The examination of the man who made this choice, and both his culpability and the reasons for it, is devastatingly and honorably honest in the rarest way.

(T)here was no doubt that I would pull that fucking poem because of that deceitful pseudonym. But I realized that I would primarily be jettisoning the poem because of my own sense of embarrassment. I would have pulled it because I didn't want to hear people say, "Oh, look at the big Indian writer conned by the white guy." I would have dumped the poem because of my vanity. ...  I had to keep that pseudonymous poem in the anthology because it would have been dishonest to do otherwise.

That last sentence had to be an incredibly difficult conclusion to reach, and the conclusion of the post itself, Sherman Alexie's examination of his own identity, is a great example of integrity, whatever else the controversy may have borne for him.

It hasn't occurred to me to blog about this, but somehow it seems relevant in a sidelong way now.

At a very different point on an identity spectrum that spans not a line, but an entire plane and perhaps three dimensions, lies one Caitlyn Jenner. I've found myself watching a good deal of "I Am Cait", the reality show she launched along with the revolution in her own identity. It's the sort of thing I wanted to resist; frankly, it was unformed but in my mind to ignore the whole show attendant upon her transition, thereby proving my lack of prejudice (and maintaining a mile-wide perimeter against anything even Kardashian-adjacent). But, thanks to its ubiquity across many channels and many weeks, I caught the Diane Sawyer interview, and ended up reluctantly intrigued.

The theme of the reality show that has struck me far more than the splashy headline of "ooh, trans person" has by far and away been its examination of privilege.

Note that I do not say HER examination of privilege; because she went into the show with expectations that she would be exploring the process of gender transition, dealing with her family and her identity and the pain and the liberty she now has in her own skin, which has finally come to resemble the sense of self she's always harbored and hidden and lived with all her life.

But the fact is, Caitlyn's role - which she seems eager to adopt and live up to - has become that of an avatar for an entire "community" of transgender people ... and yet, "community" is a foolish term, because inherently the deepest problems with transgender individuals is that of isolation and even self-denial ... and yet, Caitlyn's experience is like NOTHING any other has ever experienced, or probably ever will.

For one, Caitlyn is transitioning at a time in her life which is not, perhaps (I am no judge here) typical of the experience.

She is also essentially chairing a public discourse and her own personal experience from a position of wealth and power pretty much nobody else in her position has ever possessed.

And the show is illustrating, in pretty clear detail, just how powerful Caitlyn's privilege is. The new trans friends with whom she is surrounding herself are keeping her pretty honest at every turn ("Why do you keep saying THEY when you talk about trans people? You are a trans person!" ... "You keep saying how normal we are. This is because you are aware of the freak factor." ... "YES, many trans women turn to sex work; not a lot of us have the privilege you do, and being trans can make it harder to keep a job, or lose you one if you have it." and so on). They are begging her to look at the power she wields, having been Bruce Jenner for as long as she felt she must or could hide - and to use it.

In a year when I've spent so much time examining my own privilege, to watch someone with this much of it trying to do the same, and doing so earnestly, if sometimes imperfectly, has been an unexpected lens through which to examine someone's transition into a physical body that aligns with their sense of self better than the one issued at birth.

Caitlyn has made a hell of an avatar. Statuesque and showing pride as well as vulnerability, gorgeously attired and constantly attended, the chrysalis has opened and someone unexpected and in some ways both spectacular and delicate seems to be emerging.

I don't essentially admire Jenner as a woman, any more than I did before we knew she was, particularly; but I respect her stepping up, acknowledging her power in a position which for most is the opposite of powerful, and trying to do good. Even for her, it cannot be easy; just as admitting his bias has hardly been easy for Alexie, in a situation he could have avoided if he chose to.

Caitlyn Jenner could have avoided this ... and yet, could not. Not while living with the fullest integrity.

Sherman Alexie could have avoided the controversy, too ... and yet, could not. He clearly placed honesty higher than comfort, and that is never simple, never easy.

Saturday, September 5, 2015


I'm beginning to wonder whether I ought to change the title of my links posts from "collection" - being an occasionally churchgoing girl, sometimes it has the sound of an offering plate ...

One of the strange things that comes from global warming, after heat waves and insane, snow-stormy winters, and flooding and drought, is the archaeology uncovered in the latter of these disasters. The changing course of water, and of late especially drought, has literally exposed our past; and this is not the first time I've heard of it. Here, a not-exacly-a-"dig" at Vistula in Poland (as so often, via The History Blog). Resident archaeology experts encouraged to comment, ahem.

The History Girls has a lovely collection of portraits of women reading; the Japanese one is a nice addition to note. I am aware my blog skews heavily Euro-centric, even more so than American, so please take a look at the Kuniyoshi print; I actually have a great love of Japanese art. Perhaps I need to showcase this (or African or Mongol or Polynesian ... suggestions always welcome!).

Not quite in that vein exactly, we can take a look at a repurposing of foreign-distribution a particular cover for Penguin Classics. As he always does, the Caustic Cover Critic treats us not just to fascinating cover art, but his own worthwhile commentary.

Speaking of archaeologists - if you've ever wondered "What comes with an archaeology action figure?" the answer is here. (Product update: photogenic archaeologist has a couple more years on 'im now.) OSUM.

Okay, and now I must away. I have already rebuilt my bed an flopped the mattress (many people like to flip theirs occasionally, but when it's queen size and you do it singlehanded, it's definitely flopping), it is time to begin laundry, clean the cat box, and dust a bit. Related note: vintage Melissa Ethridge makes absolutely excellent housecleaning music.

Happy 78th birthday, dad. I'm celebrating by getting a few things DONE. Miss you.

Friday, September 4, 2015

This Never Happens to Me ... Genre Question!

Being an author of historical fiction, I often breathe a sigh of relief when other authors must decide on the genre of a given piece.

For my non(professional)-writer readers, you would be absolutely astounded at how difficult this can be. For one, category and genre are often confused - "YA" (young adult) is not a genre, but it often manages to pass for one, right or not. For two, where does one draw the line between historical and time travel, when sci-fi is not the point nor even much featured in a story? Or between dystopian and science fiction? Literary and coming-of-age, women's fiction or commercial ... the difficulties are confounding, and I am frequently relieved my own work sits pretty clearly in its place.

Today, though ... I have issues! But it's kind of fun.

In contemplating submitting a first page for my upcoming conference, I'm looking pretty hard at a certain ghost story I've been toying with for a couple of years almost.

Is "ghost story" an acceptable genre choice? Should it be sci-fi (though there is no science whatever, only fiction)? It has a sensual strain running through it, but it is NOT erotica by a long shot. There is romantic tension, but no way is this thing a romance - to me, it actually is, but in marketing terms, what I've written would not be understandably shelved with what publishing calls "romance".

I'm looking at one of my Reider pals in particular and a certain deliciously intemperate friend of mine, who have read the thing themselves, but would love feedback from anyone.

Where should I "shelve" an eerie and slow-building ghost story in the vein of Chinese fox legends?

What genre would you suggest?

Wednesday, September 2, 2015


There have been some emotionally exhausting aspects to this week, and work was trying today (it is amazing to me how fatiguing it can be to be *unable* to get things done - and I was without my laptop all day long, for stressful tech reasons). So my link-tease comments aren't especially clever. But a few things I want to share ...

A Mojourner picture is worth a good 688 words, at least. This entry: fighting fire with - welp, firefighters. Trained ones & everything.

And here, Mojourner shares a really good tribal map.

Lauren at American Duchess sometimes makes me with I had a wee bit more costuming gumption. Today's special, reblocking old wool hats. I love the white recut; visually interesting and very chic!

Ann Turnbull at The History Girls shows us a hidden villa, then walks away on a summer day, to leave it perhaps for others to find again.

Tom Williams has a piece on writing book reviews; I am particularly poor about doing this. Do you remember to recognize and review?

And finally, Janet Reid in Klingonee (or something very like it - and for THAT rather in little inside joke, I want a little credit). Like she wasn't awesome enough.

Monday, August 31, 2015

Random Thoughts From Monday

"My friend Cute Shoes is having a big day today, so I wore cute shoes and am thinking of her. Got three compliments in the space of a minute and a half; never underestimate the power of cute shoes!"

"'Vapin' is possibly the lamest word in the current vernacular. It is also very likely the lamest activity."

"Seriously, please. stop. using. 2-spaces and full sentences in PowerPoint. Please. I wasn't kidding when I said I'd pay y'all a nickel. A nickel! Come on!"

"Oh, all the regional execs will be here today ... Things it would have been useful to know."

"I wonder how many hours of my life I could save on strap-yanking if I finally sat down and put little bra-strap holders in my sleeveless tops?"

One single brackish cloud, away from the white and fluffy ones; small, shrinking. Like a tumor in the sky.

"Help! Help! I am being stalked by a pair of giant green eyes lurking around on four little butter-toed nimble-paws."

"Sisko is finally Captain. Let's get this series on the road."

Friday, August 28, 2015


"Every resident, every visitor, every passing tourist sees a different Buenos Aires" ... Tom Williams' really lovely look at the city nobody ever truly leaves ...

Kate Lord Brown at The History Girls on sating her appetite for a particular rare book (to see the dreadful pun I just made there, click away!). Have you ever had the experience of finding a hard-to-find book? For me and my family, it was the full set of the Durants' histories of western civilization, via Bibliofind, which my college creative writing professor told me about at some point in our highly sporadic post-college correspondence.

A great many people think they are thinking when they are merely rearranging their prejudices.
--William James

I remember the post at Isis' Wardrobe about an upcoming Plastic Fantastic party, which sounded delightful to me. For pictures of the effusively ahistorical event, and some eye-poppingly creative costume ideas, enjoy her post about the festivities!

Three hundred years and a few days ago, The Sun set in France. A brief remembrance of Louis XIV - ever popular autocrat, astoundingly long-lived ruler, possessor of some truly spectacular wigs and satins.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Be a 'Vert - We Need More 'Verts!

Talking with Cute Shoes recently, she was dreading some upcoming events and saying "I am such an introvert."

Knowing what a charming and successful woman CS is, and having been friends with her now for a few years, I was drawn up short at the assertion she is an introvert; I know few people who can better handle others, and I know too how confident she is in managing them when it is called for. But, thinking about it, I understood what she meant.

It's a bit like me and math. I was good at it as a student (current status - unknown), but good lordy did I hate it.

Social situations can be the same.

And, as much as some people who know me - and don't - will smirk at the idea, I am a default introvert myself.

Put me in a situation with people, I do well; I trained at the knee of my mother, a woman with the most remarkable *memory* for other people's lives I have ever seen, but also open and eager and extremely interested in making connections with others. And yet - at bottom, my mom is not actually confident. She is at times not unlike the nervous little girl I remember being; standing before the door of a friend's house, wanting them to come out and play, yet finding the doorbell suddenly overwhelming.

But take away other people, give me no daily schedule of discipline - office, errands, and so forth - and I'd scarcely ever leave my house.

My default operational status is "Sit. Stay." I quite love people. I even enjoy being sociable.

But, given no specific motivation to be among them? I will not be. I'll be home with Penelope and Gossamer.

Being "on" with others can be strangely physically exhausting. I come home from the Conference most years with a migraine, and a major area of stress for me with The Big Meeting recently was the need to be in the front of the room so much, even if I wasn't a speaker. To work with the hotel, to field questions and issues, to confer with executives on issues and practicalities.

Extroversion is exciting, it's rewarding. It can be fun, it can be surprising.

It's invariably exhausting, for some of us.

I'm not sure whether I can identify where on the spectrum of INTROVERT <---------------------> EXTROVERT I actually lie. Perhaps it varies; a sine wave of energy versus hermit-ly resting.

Are you more one than the other? Are you both, depending upon circumstances? Or are you both, but sometimes circumstances don't quite match your level of social energy as you wish it would ... ?