Friday, February 27, 2015


“I remember when I had my first beer”, “I remember when I invented feminism”, “My diet is morally superior to your diet” and other stories of baffling enragement. The “standing desk” link is a great impression of the psychotic/proseletyzing vim and fervor people insist upon applying to their own choices. The diet link doesn’t say anything I haven’t pointed out before, but is very, VERY well written. Like, I have a little bit of a crush on the author well-written. Also he’s smurt. So go kill a mammoth, have a snack, and enjoy the read. But do it standing up.

Louisa Young takes us on an absolutely wonderful journey into the joys of research at The History Girls, starting with the charming portrait of a little girl and her cat ... and ending with a couple more very like her, and some winsome surprises along the way.

Lauren at American Duchess once again wows us with shoe designs of the early 20th century - the first pair are stunning. The third pair I crave.

Jeff Sypeck asks, “Dante? I’ve never grasped what Americans hope to do with him—maybe because the answer turns out to be 'everything.'”

The Arrant Pedant (ahh, how I love a new post at The AP) discusses Fifty Shades of Bad Grammar Advice. Awesomely. And, in case you're leery of (a) reading anything whatever to do with the Fifty Shades novels or (b) sick of reading snark *about* the novels, this post really doesn't touch (hee) those to speak of, but takes the discussion beyond. As, apparently, Grammerly did in dispensing poor advice about writers from Shakespeare to Hemingway whom they have deemed to employ substandard grammar.

Finally, in a self-referential link, someone finally commented on my post about a particular peculiar behavior of my dear little ur-doggy; it looks like it may be that this *is* a Carolina Dog thing.

LLAP, Y'all.

He sure did.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

More Snowy Animals

A hawk and a crow came to the great maple in my front yard today, and had what appears to have been a most interesting harangue - on the part of the crow, at least.

My family are unabashedly hawk obsessed; one of the key recurring memories of any road trip from my childhood was mom excitedly pointing them out as we rode along. My experiences with birds since living in this home have been of the more negatively superstitious type, mostly (it's supposed to be bad luck for a bird to get inside; in reality, it's mostly just a mild frustration and a surprising variety of little white poo spots), but more than one hawk has said hello here on the estate. Usually, it's smaller ones, but this magnificent specimen posed JUST long enough to get me squee-ing.

If Looks Could Cuddle

Goss and Pen haven't actually become the adorable snuggling pals you see in aww-inducing internet photos ...

But they fake it pretty good, don't they?

The secret is, the space heater was right at the end of the couch where they were situated. Radiating heat and a good nap beat out a bonk on the brainpan any day.


When the office is closed, it's nice to have a laptop and still be able to accomplish something in between shoveling and such.

It's nice, also, to have a change of personnel.

Friday, February 20, 2015

Thank You, G-d, For My Friends

Just spent a nice twenty or thirty minutes on the phone with one of my best friends. She it was who, when we used to go out together, used the fake name "Penelope" (I was "Sabrina"), an alias I can't give her here for obvious reasons. She is V.

V and I have known each other almost as long as TEO and I. Middle school, high school, and beyond. She and her parents came to the church after dad died, and I treasure their coming. She has been there for me and I have tried to be for her, through times neither of us could ever imagine. V has been assailed, over the past ten years, with hideous health problems. I bless the day she met her husband, who is my friend too.

She and I just laughed and laughed, discussing all the (non) attractions of the fact that our high school class are planning a thirtieth reunion.

I love laughing with V. She has a beautiful laugh, and I love *her*. Tonight we were celebratory, for the first time in what seems like a very long time. Her father turned 88 today, her husband cooked a splendid meal for them, there will be cake when they can take another bite again. It is good to hear her relaxed, well, and *happy*.

Thank you, G-d, for my friends. Let me be a blessing to them.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Hostile Environment?

Many readers will know the joy and adventure of the break room at work. There is the inevitable miasma of burned (or, what the heck, not burned, but simply foot-scented) popcorn. The scary refrigerator. The crowded configuration of sink/microwave/fridge/ice maker and so on – but trash cans are always well across the room. The stolen food, the leftover food, the occasional present of crumbcake, the odd notices posted, the joy and sheer cameraderie of shared corporate hunger.

The day someone brings fish.

The day someone else brings barbecue, and it smells so good your little wan sandwich makes you get resentful.

Today was a new day. Today was the day … someone brought in a gourmet dish of mustard and creosote for lunch.

It was enough to make the world long for stinky-foot popcorn. Burnt.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015


Anyone who read my earlier post from today would be forgiven for thinking I am in a less than peppy state of mind. The truth is, I'm not feeling as morbid as it might seem; the headline says, "I contain multitudes" and that's no lie.

Yet there seems to be a confluence of sorrow; perhaps the predictable result of the ruthless weather so many across America are enduring. And so, here we go - click on any of these links if you're PMS'ing pretty good and need a cry. Or just if you are curious, 'what made Diane misty today?'

Donna Everhart actually beat me to it by some days, with a useful discussion of writing as a way to channel fear and loss. Her blog is, by the way, an example of the increasing pleasure I take in following people and sites where "don't read the comments" happens to be BAD advice for a change.

Leila Gaskin takes the same topic as mine above and treats it with far more brevity - and poetry. We share the date in this, we two. Sigh.

Finally, Susan Bonifant reminds us - with a truly vivid story - "We were all five-year-olds" ...


I emailed a voice mail message to myself at home today.

"Let's think the unthinkable, let's do the undoable. ... Let us prepare to grapple with the ineffable itself, and see if we may not eff it after all.”
--Douglas Adams

One week before my dad died, we got cell phones. I recall him, mom, and me in their room, programming the little sneaker-shaped things, laughing at how amazing they were, playing with ring tones and so on, commenting about their appearance.

Dad was in bed that day, and we got the phones because his disease was terminal. Mom wanted to be able to reach out instantly in case of emergency.

We had no idea we had so little time left.

Long after he died, I read somewhere about the Columbia shuttle disaster, and was shocked and perplexed; I had no recollection of this event, and this is not the sort of event one easily misses. It had happened the day I was over at the house, playing with the phones. It’s entirely possible – even quite likely – that we were watching news of it that day. If I claimed to remember, I’d be convincing myself though.

An event I cannot erase, unfortunately, was the epochal broadcast of the Michael Jackson interview with Martin Bashir. This aired the night before he died – and after we did know.

Dad went to the hospital on a Friday afternoon, or perhaps it was morning. I went upstairs to my boss’s boss’s office, a still and stately area of our building, and interrupted a meeting between them. Anything my own boss said was blotted out by her boss, a man I still respect, admire, and am immensely grateful to to this day. He all but insisted upon getting me a car to the hospital. But I drove. I needed that time in the empty space of the cab of my beloved, first car. I needed to have it and the freedom of movement it brought with it, and I had the strangest fear of leaving it, like my purse, at my office – and then what, and then what, was all I could think, though I recognized how kind the offer was even as I refused. I needed the drive.

I needed somewhat less the turquoise Honda or Toyota with the Icthys and “GOT CHRIST” sticker on the back that cut me off on a steeply curved part of the freeway, where I spun out and ended at a standstill, facing east in the westbound lanes, and wondering (to this day, yes) whether that Christian ever knew what they’d done to me. Even just on the practical level.

The rest of the drive was safe, and the hospital was what hospitals are. Dad was in a grey cul-de-sac of the ER, it seems cluttered in my memory, but we were alone at least. Mom left us after a little while – ostensibly to eat or go get someone or talk to people or use that cell phone … but, I think, to leave us alone. Mom doesn’t always work that way, but that day, she did.

And that day, we still didn’t know.

Before she left, the three of us were talking about my boyfriend. We’d only been seeing each other a few weeks – our first date was on my parents’ anniversary, in fact – and he was coming to visit the next day. I was thirty-four, they could see I was smitten, everything was heightened with dad being in the hospital, and this was his first visit. Mr. X.

Mom wanted him to come to the hospital (we’d learned by that point they were admitting dad, they were just waiting for a room). Dad was flat against that. Not the right place. Not the right time. “Another time, Helen.” And he would not be brooked. I was to enjoy our first visit, and a little celebration which had nothing to do with hospitals.

I wasn’t anxious for any brooking myself, not least because – good gravy, what pressure to put on a new guy. I agreed to dad’s proclamation that I would follow through with celebration, and he and Mr. X would meet some other time.

The backstory here is that dad wasn’t a big one with the I Will Not Be Brooked thing. He tended to appreciate my mom’s motivations, and if he didn’t he indulged them. She wasn’t a bad planner, it worked out most of the time. But in a hospital gown and in a poor state of health – not the way he planned to meet the new boy. No. Period. Done. No anger, and no flexing of power. Just a blank absolute, baldly laid down, no more drama than that.

Then he had an attack.

When dad had an attack, he called it the dragon. Dad hated that goddamned dragon. Hated it – and, like the brooking thing: dad was not given to hatred.

He told mom to give him an Oxycodone, and she remonstrated, and he cursed that he didn’t care about prescription guidelines, he needed it and he was going to take the pill.

He took it. Mom left. And he and I sat alone, talking about Cicero and Rome and Sulla and Marius.

And then the room was ready. I seem to have left, perhaps to go home and change clothes, because I then recall coming back to the hospital, suddenly filled with family – and we knew. We knew. We knew.

I hate that goddamned dragon.

No memory of the Challenger, but memory of Martin Bashir and spitting, icy, snowy weather. Bitter stuff. Pretty only on the skylights outside dad’s window. Memory of that long-ago neighbor, of my cousin V, of getting dad into the bed. And a morphine shot.

That was the end, then – the prosaic fussings of a man transferring into a real hospital bed out of an ER one. His abject little cotton gown, socked feet. Orderly, nurse, someone giving him the morphine once he was settled. And gone. No more chance, ever again. No return. No more conversation. Breathing, still, as hideously awful as that process had become. But gone. Irretrievable.

His flesh purple and his muscles thin.

Gold wedding band *glowing* in that twilight.

And me and mom and Mojourner. Only us.

Phone calls on that silvery sneaker, at all hours, in the hallway. I must have called Mr. X, told him. He was still going to come. He was still going to come.

We talked about the plans. Nobody else was with us, it must have been so late. No television by then. Only snow, blackness and glaring hospital parking lot lights. And us. We knew – and could not imagine.

Great Xs of snow on those domed skylights. Falling, then slipping away, occluding the light in soft-edged X shapes.

Dad’s skin so soft.

Mom made us both leave. Get some sleep, she enjoined us. I think I did go to bed, because I have this memory that through much of the next day I was wearing the pants I wore to bed. Fortunately, not obviously pajamas. But yes. That exhaustion, that emotional fume, social oblivion. Living, that day, in the sacred space-time of mourning.


Talking with my best friend TEO at some bitter hour of the morning, knees up, pressed against the hallway wall, sitting on the gleaming floor.

Mom spooned him all night. He died where his heart lived; wrapped up in her.

She called us at 4:30 and we came back. It was like, and unlike, the time we spent alone with him sleeping. But he was there still.



I held his hand, and some residual electricity spasm’d, pulsed. It didn’t feel like magic. It didn’t mean anything. Even still warm. I knew this was a body. With a wedding band glowing on it.

I did not see him after that. Some did, but I held to his wish he not be … viewed. I treasure those who needed that. Some saw him after his eyes had been harvested, head bandaged, Teiresias destined for an oven, mute, and no longer my daddy. I know why they held his hand then.

I’d held his hand already. That was finished.

And then a blur, a rush, the longest day in the world. I cannot talk to you about that day. Must not, it feels like. Too many things.


Some time later, my mom handed me a Valentine’s Day card without telling me. It was from dad. Opening that almost killed me.

But there was one treasure.

Dad had left a voice mail, that day – that dark Columbia day – that day we’d all been at the family house, the day he’d been in his own bed, the day we were smiling over those nifty phones. He’d left me his voice.  “Hello (phone number)” that gruff, joyous voice of his.

He hadn’t known.

I lost that recording, long long ago.

I don’t need it. Any more than I needed to hold or see his body after it became the domain of orderlies and donations and morgues.

But I miss it.


So, today, when my mom left me a recording my email dutifully saved to a file. I sent it home.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Snow Day

My neck of the woods has been south of the many storms buffeting the northeastern coast of the US since the new year, but yesterday we caught in the middle and today I am working from home, which comprises somewhat more than just my job. Between following up on data analysis for possible negotiation of vendor services for a contract, and communications across our business lines to update several owners and executives on collaborative tools, I've been doing a little hand laundering, put away some clean items, and have pulled out a few mending projects that need to be taken care of. That cranberry turtleneck would be a good sweater to have right now ... !

The snow needs to be shoveled, but the sun is out, and I am all too aware the snow will still need shoveling later on. So I haven't done it yet. It's not even eleven, it'll keep.

On a day like this (or like this), the WFH option is good, because I can still be productive - and I can enjoy this office, so conducive to productivity - and still shake out the cobwebs by working in a completely different environment. The commute is a dream, of course - and I won't complain about being able to sleep in past SEVEN (oh, the decadence!) and wear comfy clothes/no makeup. As a day-to-day thing, it's far and away the best to be able to work at my office, but it's a mighty fine thing for safety and efficiency that laptops have come to replace desktops, and people don't HAVE to be there to get things done.

Even if, parallel to the things I'm paid for, a couple of things include laundry.

And snow-shoveling ...

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Balentime's Day and Stale Stuff

Today is Valentine's Day, that special, epoch-turning day of the year when ... Diane rearranges the furniture for spring.

I'm not one of those who get actually bitter about this day, and I don't hate men or wish I had a boyfriend (I'm forty-seven for pete's sake, "boyfriend" is just one of those words that embarrasses me, frankly - even if there were a prospect, I'd have to call him my Love Unit or anything but that (and thank you to Beloved Ex for that term - it's what he used to say we were for each other ... heh)). But when the only man in over twelve years now who's been able to pique my interest lives four thousand miles away and I don't see any replacements on the horizon, it's nothin' doin' for me and pink hearts and roses.

Come to that, it was always pretty much nothin' doin' for me and that stuff; I don't go in for paying ridiculous amounts of money to kill a bunch of flowers.

Valentine's is, for me, just a convenient marker, anymore.

Last week and the week before, I included some of the deeper cleaning flourishes I don't indulge in the weekly housekeeping - scrubbing the tile walls throughout the bath, cleaning the cabinets and walls in the kitchen. This week, I get to poke furniture about.

In winter, the living room closes in, furniture placed closer, cosily. Heat conserved, everything coiled like a cat or dog keeping warm while it sleeps, light subdued, more frequent candlelight, holiday decorations, more rugs - and easy access to a lovely collection of afghans near the couch.

It is on Valentine's day (or, more usually, the nearest Saturday to hand) when this large and long room uncurls again. Furniture shifts wider, nearer the walls, opening up the wide room to light and - soon - to the air. The windows will be able to provide cross-ventilation, the house will look fresh and new when I come home from work.

As it happens, today I've also opened up the guest room - which has increasingly, of late, become my personal answer to a Cape Cod's efficiency of space (that's smallness, my friends) as more and more a bit of a "California Closet".  With two closets - presumably built in 1950 for the purpose of a family with two kids sharing a room, perhaps - and a great deal of space ("efficiency" means there isn't excess storage, but also means there are fewer rooms, and all of them larger - my NYC readers need never ask to see pictures, because I don't wish to be murdered!), the "guest" room only rarely used as such is mine all mine, really. It is here non-seasonal clothes go, in one of the closets and a dresser and chest of drawers. It is here my going-out clothes go, fancier dresses and heels I'd never wear to work. It is here I have a new shelving unit, a great little mid-century metal bookshelf enameled to look like woodgrain, filled with all those vintage purses I've collected in the past eight years or so.

Today, I rearranged that room so the open area is straight in front of the door; bed a little off to the side on the far wall, dresser and chest of drawers on the right against the wall. It's a big room, so there's even room for a pair of short side tables in front of the window. A shoe rack. And the purse shelf.

I've dusted the floor to death, and ... turns out, having shifted the couch and TV downstairs, NOW it is time to clean the whole rest of the house. I need to get the bedroom in hand, finish upstairs swiffing, then bring the swiffer and vaccuum down so I can clean floors as I finalize the rest of the furniture. Because I want to clean underneath before moving things into place, there's a whole *process* involved in this redecoration.

And, for a little while, a few weeks - and with the season waning - I'll be able to just enjoy how nice the house is. How everything is where it needs to be, how I have the decks clear and the place is somehow nicer than it was before.

I get stale in an environment that stays static too long. As many people need a new 'do or new chair or new music, I need a new deployment in my house every now and then. (I need to trim my hair, too, come to think of it.) As my treasured TEO looks at her tidily organized linen closet sometimes for a sense of satisfaction and "oh, well that's all right then" ... I need to know this house, frayed as the edges are ... empty as it is, of the man that I love ... or any love that isn't fur-bearing ...

I need to have a new configuration to look at, find comfortable. And to know the dust, literally, has been shaken out. And to look out at the future and see things a different way.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015


One of the more striking features of human culture is the consistency with which we enshrine scoundrels as heroes. Without fail, literature across the world describes as holy or laudable men whose only acts of which we know are violent, promiscuous, greedy, deceitful, and even almost stupid. What we know of some is only as much as that they supposedly ascribe to a certain faith, or are monarchs, or born of divine forbears. Virtue as many of us prefer to view it is rarely in blazing evidence, but we are always assured, this man is the elect of G-d, the sacred head of his people, the savior hero to venerate.

This isn’t over, of course – see also: Captain Kirk, and the fact that even as a decades-long and sincere fan, my pointing out he was all but a sociopath would draw ire (if not blood) from those who worship him as The Best Captain. We can’t forgive a pretty and demonstrably media-whore-ish newscaster for saying he was in a combat situation on a helicopter once, but venture to point out that Shatner played an overcompensating neurotic and you’re in for trouble.

Of all the things I’ve been concerned about in writing The Ax and the Vase – lack of diverse characters, bigotry in profound disagreement with my own philosophy, writing about the royal guy rather than “real people” – portraying a king with expansionist tendencies on the grandest of scale and someone liable to dropping axes into skullbones as a heroic main character is the least of my qualms.

I hate battle scenes, always have, but have taken that with a wry kind of backward-gratitude as the ultimate demonstration that we as authors do not choose our subjects; they come to us. Meeting the challenges of this work may have been the perfect learning material for me as a novelist, and I’ve never made life too easy on myself.

But Clovis’ extreme ambition and the potential ugliness of his character, viewed *outside* the first-person? These issues don’t get me losing sleep.

Maybe that is the challenge for my readers. Maybe it’s the way I justify focusing on the rich king – he hardly gets to sit on a pedestal, though the POV throughout presents him absolutely straight-faced. The guy is all about glory and his own power, with attention to his faith and his family always filtered through expediency. His love and his conviction may be perfectly genuine, but they always SERVE something beyond the spiritual or emotional.

Clovis is little different from any modern politician or head of state who got there by any means possible, and who gains ever more using every tool available. Other men, negotiation, and the sword – these are all office supplies, and their utilitarian ends are not intrinsically praiseworthy. Nation-building and origin stories are not in themselves honorable, myths not necessarily hagiography.

Was Rome’s ouster from Gaul a moral, a necessary – a GOOD – act? We understand it to be; the story of Clovis’ first great battle, and the execution of the Roman Syagrius, is one of triumph for the Frankish people. But was the triumph of one king, was his consolidation of what became the modern nation of France, a fine thing? We receive a tale of destiny and incredible success – but this is the success of one man, one royal court, one burgeoning country; it does not preclude the possibility any other fate might have been better for Gaul in that generation … or in the many, many generations since.

We receive the tale of the Decline of Rome – sometimes viewed as a wistful inevitability, Barbarians at the Gate and all – sometimes viewed as the triumph of native peoples reclaiming self-hood from an empire. The truth is, one conflict or another, one hero or another, Gaul might have become one under some other king’s banner … or some other faith. Would another outcome have been as magnificent?

Almost surely, if the authors of some alternate history had voices to sing their own praises. And they would have been just as Clovis himself was; expedient, sometimes violent, sometimes lovingly human, always serving some ambition.


Jeff Sypeck at Quid plura has several very good shots (and some thoughts and stories about them) taken with the fascinating limitations of a Polaroid Land Camera. The images comprise a really interesting variety, and are beautiful - well worth the click - so enjoy!

Woe is not to me, the Arrant Pedant has a great new post explaining cases, datives, and this wonderful phrase. Read and learn.

Personally? I think American Duchess is wrong, that their new flats aren't quite the modern thing. More options to consider.

Madame Isis once again provides excellent information about authentic eighteenth-century hair styling - and she has some truly lovely candlelit photos of herself modeling some very pretty curls. (She also gives away a secret I've known for many years - long hair does not need to be washed every single day ... even for us modern constant-washers!)

Tom Williams on researching a novel after the fact. I need to do some of that!

And, finally, just because this pic is so good my dear Cute Shoes said it looked professional:

Sunday, February 8, 2015


Elizabeth Chadwick responds to a piece by Catherine Armstrong regarding the identities of the Marshall effigies in the Temple Church, London. Chadwick readers and English history buffs/students don't need to be told who the Marshalls were, but if you don't know, take a click (and read Chadwick's series). The fascinating discussion that is history as analytical science, and it shows in a concrete way the relevance and importance of the study of art for costume and equipage.

Also fascinating, if not dismaying, is a very different exchange exposing the politics of archaeology and artifacts. The History Blog explicates the American Institute for Archaeology's call for the St. Louis Society's board's resignation, after they sold documented artifacts. But wait: there's more. Click for the full merry-go-round, with links to direct sources.

The HB also brings us the story of the remains now up for study at Winchester Cathedral, where the pre-Conquest Saxon kings were left to rest in peace, but have not been privileged to do. Now, if only somebody would tell me how to pronounce some of the earliest names, and Ceawlin's too.

Warm Day

I don't usually start seeing canine carcass out in the backyard like this before spring time, but today it's in the sixties, and Penelope is out there soaking up rays on her tum. Goss the EC and I are inside with research for the WIP.

There will be a grocery run for my breakfast protein goodness and some sort of supper for the week, but that will be a relatively short task, followed by a very short stop at the drugstore. I'm fighting the temptation to go look at paint for my kitchen and bath (the happy yellow cabinets, originally painted to match my Harvest Gold range, now dead and gone, are in for a change, as is the violet blue trim in the badezimmer). I might try to blame Janet Reid and her blog's community for a burgeoning obsession with painting - but the fact is, I seem to be in a season of creative nesting; this house has seen fussing and cleaning the like of which it rarely enjoys - every cobweb is vanquished, the tile has been scrubbed ALL around the bath, even the walls and cabinets of the kitchen have been washed. I've also got ideas about area rugs which are best left unexplored for now.

For now ... the house is quiet but for my loud typing, and a nice weekend has been shared by friends and family so far. Goss's bright pink tongue is glossing up his beautiful white paws in a sunbeam borrowed away from Pen's back yard. There is a big, heavy wrought iron fleur de lys my mom gave me in the window, overlooking affairs, and I am contemplating the best hour for a Sunday afternoon nap. There may be a certain pearl grey helper in on that with me.

For now ... I type, and finish the grocery list, and revel in the fact that I don't "have" to go, but can any time I like. I've got on comfortable shoes and it's bright outside. Punxsutawney Phil may have us in for six more weeks of winter. But today, it is spring, and peaceful, and blessed.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015


Oh dear, American Duchess has a new custom design ... a beautiful shoe, and certainly exclusive. I'll have to contemplate my options now, with my little gift certificate! It'd be fun to save it for when I'm agented, but I'll need to HEAR from some more agents soon. Ahem.

Several years after a brutal razing, a native mound in Ohio finally gets an archaeological survey. I look forward to learning more, hope there will be continued intelligence here. There IS some further news on the Hopewell Earthworks for which I posted links to a fundraiser almost a year ago.

Goss continues to make friends, now with Colin D. Smith and his pal Sam the Cat. A beautiful feline, Sam is also a urinical artist. Or, at least, a highly talented mapmaker. Hee!

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Round Robot

One of the many evolving wonders of modern technology is JUST how many people you can get holding for each other at one time. Travel is an especially good matrix to get a truly spectacular Round Robot going; one person planning travel for another may be on the line with them while simultaneously on the line with an agent, the agent may be on hold with two entirely different air carriers looking for options … a single call can take well over an hour, easily.

If you’re truly lucky, you may be on hold with Orbitz, who have the most unbelievably suicidal-kitten hold music ever conceived; a short piece, but played on repeat, it begins with all the pathos of a sad, big-eyed cartoon pet in the rain, and ends on plaintive piano notes fading into nothingness, the only emotional response to which is bleak despair. As appropriate as that can be, if you make any part of your living working on travel for others, it feels almost aggressive.

Yesterday I indulged in the foolishness of reporting to work at 8:00 a.m., the actual time I am expected to be in. Usually, I’m a 7:30-er, but, lacking for sleep and unable to cope with it at oh-dark-thirty, I allowed myself that half an hour, with the result that the moment I walked in I was running at top sprint.

Today, I came in at my usal too-early, and had just gotten everything fired up and running when I decided to check an airline website for the status of my boss’s flights, when he emailed me himself to point out the ugh-worthy: first leg delayed an hour and forty six minutes.

This led to an hour and thirty-six minute Round Robot – if you don’t count the follow up discussions, and a second call to get him checked in on the latest edition ticket.

Starting off a day with this sort of thing means the day doesn’t get the chance to drag – at least, early on – which is nice, as when things move along you’re not hating the clock. Still, getting in at 7:30 works better for me in a long run. I don’t like being caught up short right at the start, and an early start often means I’m ahead of obstacles.

It’s also what I’ve become mentally and physically used to, over the past few jobs with flex schedules.

The discipline of early-ness was hard won and now seems to be difficult for me to shake. There was a time (it seems not so long ago, but it’s about a dozen years now) when going in to work at 7:30 was exceptional; the occasion of some special meeting or corporate event. Now, I can hardly see how it’s possible to show up at report-in time and really be effective. It can take half an hour just to get booted up, everything opened and organized, and to put on the day’s work shoes.

Today I got off my desk a series of invoices, processed expenses already spent, shifted risk items and fleet notices and provided titles to Finance. I secured several things that need to be shredded, and sorted a stack of outstanding items and one recall notice. Not bad, and constantly going (even if, sadly, not moving enough!).

I wouldn’t make a half-bad robot myself, some days. Only better.

Gossamer Love on FB

Some of my Janet Reid loving pals will notice that Gossamer has none of his mommy’s tech-nerd qualms about FaceBook, and visits his friend Jet le Shark there when he can. Today he took a little excursion, and some of the comments have me grinning. The QOTKU herself likes the bright true-red trim in my kitchen, which is gratifying as I can tell you putting vivid trim like that up against surgical white is a JOB and I’ll never forget doing it all by myself, watching DS9 and wearing the same clothes for a week, as my “vacation” before I started my previous job (wow, now approaching five years ago!).

James Ticknor, not only a pal via Janet’s community, but an author I’ve met at James River Writers events, likes the orange lilies behind Goss’s perch. I’m not positive they’re meant to be stargazers specifically, but I do know they’re fake as can be, but darn if they don’t last like crazy, and they won’t poison our little grey pearl-headed boy. Those do grow pretty rampant in our neck of the woods, though, James – late summer and into Indian Summer, keep your eyes peeled and you’ll see ‘em!

Donna Everheart kindly noticed the soft brown of my living room. I did THAT job (also all by myself! Wah!) a bit less than three years ago, when Goss had lived with me less than a month. He was an almost inconceivably good boy while mommy wrought chaos in his new house, and got only the weensy-est dot of paint on one single toe, his right passenger side foot if I remember. The one without the lightning bolt. And he knocked nothing over! While I was painting anyway (some of the things he has destroyed still make me woozy, but we’re talking about his being GOOD so we’ll leave those tales untold).

Janet’s affection for him tickles me to pieces, because her sharing him means I get to share him with a lot of people who’d never have known him without her. I’ve had four cats now, and he is a special little guy, and his little corner of the internet where people know him as Gossamer the Editor Cat is my happy place. If he makes anyone else happy, especially the QOTKU, I’m grateful. I’ll never deserve his unstinting OSUMness – nor Penelope the Publishing Pup’s either. But, as with Sweet Siddy La – I’ll spend our whole lives together trying to.

And now it is time for a walk with the PPP. You know, so she can PP. Hee.

Monday, February 2, 2015

Then There Was the Merovingian *Controversy*

I got into an argument one time with one of my early readers, when we were with our writing group and discussing my query or pitch or synopsis. In the document at hand, the name of the dynasty Clovis founded, the Merovingian, was prominent; and somehow it came out that I never use the word once in the manuscript itself (this was a draft and a half ago, and the word never has appeared in any version), and this reader was irritated. “Well, I’d be annoyed if you told me a book was about the Merovingian dynasty and you never used the word Merovingian even once in the novel! I’d feel you lied to me in the description – I would be looking for it!”

Putting the name of a dynasty still taking its position on the starting blocks – not an assured future, at the time Clovis recounts his tale in first-person – seems a difficult proposition, to me. For one, people in any given period are not prone to saying such things as “hey, we live in the Tudor Dynasty!” or “the Dark Ages” or “the Medieval period, which is going to be defined for us in just a few centuries”  and so on. I once lived in The Reagan Era, but I didn’t really discuss it in those terms at the time. Jesus never knew the word Christian.

So many of the ways we define ourselves, and especially our times, are labels applied by those outside the moment. Most of history is described in terms that didn’t exist contemporary to any given period, of course; but, as above, we just don’t live our lives by these contexts most of the time. I’ll cop to living in the twenty-first century, and having been born in The Sixties, but whatever the general-use term is going to be for the periods and places my life happens to coincide with, coined perhaps fifty or perhaps three hundred years from now, I am not privy to and can’t concern myself with.

Clovis, to be sure, was highly concerned with dynasty – and THAT word appears clearly enough in the novel. He sired four surviving princes, and spends not a little of the first act concerning himself with one son who appears sickly, and enthusiastically ensuring brothers when he marries Clotilde. In this theme, I did include much which is apocryphal.

But to put in Clovis’ mouth, “I am the Founder of the Merovingian Dynasty” is just not tenable.

Am I a liar?

Well … I’m a novelist, the whole *point* is fabrication. But another point is authenticity, and that both demands some story where facts are scarce – and forbids foolishness where character is clear. I can’t shoehorn words into a mouth ill-suited to say them, and that is important.

Too, the novel is told first person. This creates a forced perspective it isn’t possible to open up; indeed, I’d tell anyone who ever read it, The Ax and the Vase is told by an unreliable narrator. Perhaps this gives me the excuse for my own fiction; I didn’t think about it when I began writing (indeed, I tried to resist first-person for a long time), but the use of things I as author know are not history has made a good story. It both freed and limited me – I couldn’t very well sit an ancient Frankish king in front of a mirror to gaze upon and lovingly describe his handsome (or not) features, and I had no rose-colored glasses to dote long on the pretty romance with his wife … but I was also free to skip over judgment, negativity, and expectations outside the king’s perspective.

This forced me into the homophobia that kills off a major character by inches, over years.

It also freed me from the fetters of historical perspective. It gave me the unapologetic authority of the king himself, to do as we know he did, and to believe it all correct. It gave me one of the great jokes of the book, in fact. Where history provides Clovis, in his final years, a lament: “Woe am I, that I have no kinsmen” – I have a king chiding his eldest son in sarcasm, following up the plaint with “does victory tickle your scruples, boy?”

It may be I’m the sort of author who’ll tick off some readers, turning things on their heads and playing with history. Certainly (despite repeated attempts by a certain archaeologist to persuade me otherwise) I’m no historian. (This frees me from those niggling rules of the discipline.) I just want to tell a good story, even if that means including legends just because I like them. I do want to tell it correctly, but a thinly-sourced period does have its advantages – especially as I don’t read French, and therefore can say that much scholarship on my subject was unavailable to me.

I may be a cavalier, prevaricating American … but I’m also a pretty good novelist, at that.