Sunday, April 26, 2015

Project Gutenberg Rocks, and Other Stories

Character is one of England's noblest and most deliberate products, but some Englishmen have it to excess.

My lunchtime reading of late has been H. G. Wells. We all know ABOUT his work – we all know about The Time Machine and Moreau and The Invisible Man, anyway – or we all know the movies – or know there *are* movies, but can’t remember whether we’ve seen them or not …

But how many of you have read H. G. Wells? Until this past couple of weeks or so, I can say, I had not.

I started with an anthology on Project Gutenberg – The Hidden Door and Other stories, and have come upon an unexpected gem in The Marriage. Hidden Door shows a wonderful range, and, unfortunately, not a tiny little tidbit of deeply hideous racism**, intentionally or not embedded in the most gruesome story of the bunch. Some of these pieces are on the pedestrian side, and some – from the vantage point of the twenty-first century – may feel been-there/done-that for some readers looking for adventure. The final one misses a truly intriguing opportunity, but is still interestingly conceived. The Star, I would say, is in many ways the star of the show – an asteroid-coming-at-Earth prototype, the journalistic remove of which ends up delivering rather a remarkable blow in the end.

The Marriage – which I haven’t finished reading yet, but is a GOOD enough read I feel the need to babble about it – is another example of the literature we now view as antique, which has a wonderful nimbleness of language and irresistible wit. It’s even funnier than the dog in Lady Audley’s Secret - and at greater length. Written in 1912, when the man and his career were seasoned and confident, the characterization of a twenty-year-old female character is remarkably good (less remarkable, perhaps, is how assured it is – but I’ve read male authors’ feminine voices before which, though clearly written with all the *assurance* in the world, were more difficult to believe), and the family dynamic is recognizeable and alive, not entirely the relic of a forgotten and dusty old fusty English age.

Wells at this point in his life was philosophical and experienced, and he brings that to bear in support of the humor and plot at work in Marriage. I am absorbed and cannot wait to see where Wells goes.

(S)he had over her large front teeth lips that closed quietly and with a slight effort after her speeches, as if the words she spoke tasted well and left a peaceful, secure sensation in the mouth.

**I also don’t want to give short shrift to the point above, about racism. It’s a trick of our culture, 100 or more years later, that a white woman with tons of privilege and a different point to make, can breeze by a point like that and get away with it – but even if I meant to make a different point, the world is still not one in which it’s reasonable to gloss over bigotry as if it were not there.

“The Cone” is the story in which That Word we all know too well is prominent. The description of a particular character of color, as well as the omniscient voice’s judgement of quite a number of races, detailed with highly squeamish results, is difficult to reconcile to the biographical facts of Wells’ stated outlook on prejudice and racial tyranny. Yet I can’t write this prose off, as a reader, with the old “It was the mindset” dismissal that lets me concentrate on something else in the face of virulent details. When people like me fail to observe things like this, we give ourselves the excuse not to see them in life, and … we don’t live in a world where that is a tenable position. There is no defense for dismissing the past, in a present in which the same problems exist; to answer #BlackLivesMatter with #AllLivesMatter as if that puts paid to the devaluation of an entire class within the “all” of our society.

The more I face the privilege I possess, even as the rarefied and perhaps irrelevant exercise in personal creativity that is writing a novel in which not everybody is white and well-fed and well-off and unthinkingly, unblinkingly secure … the more I understand that one facet of this blog – particularly if I gain any success – is to deal with the subtext and the offstage workings that I DON’T, perhaps, write about.

It is unfortunate that, in my recent attempts to deal with this issue, I’ve couched it entirely in the ME ME ME ME ME ME ME context of MY novel not selling, and hoping to do better with one that contains more diversity. I see the problems there. I see problems in myself I may never have the courage to write about publicly. But I also know that this blog is only one voice, and my voice in the world, the one I want to have heard, is that of an author. And so, knowingly – even if incorrectly – the content here is filtered that way. This may be detrimental. Maybe some day, I’ll have the courage to put down the mirror and stop making everything about my own reflection. In the meantime, I am learning.


We seem to be going through a period of nostalgia, and everyone seems to think yesterday was better than today. I don't think it was, and I would advise you not to wait ten years before admitting today was great. If you're hung up on nostalgia, pretend today is yesterday and just go out and have one hell of a time.
--Art Buchwald

It's the Bit About DNA Testing ...

... that really makes me curious about this story about Henry VII and Elizabeth of York's marriage bed ...

Being a product of my generation and my culture, this is going to give me nightmares about black lights and gross hotel rooms.


I went to an Administrative Professionals conference on Friday, and to a writing/geeking/gaming/entertaining family-friendly, costume-filled con on Saturday. Yesterday, I saw the BEST Darth Vader I've ever seen in my life - and an hour later, I saw him out of costume, standing and holding his tiny daughter on his shoulder, and she was wide-eyed and sweet and tired, and it was kind of OSUM.

Friday, I saw butterflies.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Peek Inside the Mind ... Authorial Choices and Offstage Action

In contemplating (and, essentially in practice, actually) giving up on actively supporting Ax, the WIP has all along been the compensation; yet I honestly had not counted on just how much it has occupied me emotionally (a good thing). Even depending upon it – “take me away from all this, make me forget!” – its yeoman response to my need to WORK has been surprising. Perhaps I’m unaccustomed to being able to depend on anything. Perhaps I was holding back on hope and enthusiasm, either unseemly as I mourn the loss of the first work (for now), or just because the disappointment is so present it hardly seems worth getting hopes up once again.

Ah, but there it is. Hope is hard, but in me it’s harder yet to kill. I’m a cussed thing in this way.

The WIP – let’s call her Wippy, just because I want to (any title is still probably months away; right now, I don’t even know whether the end is where it ends) – is getting wonderfully energetic. Ending or no, the order of things is falling into place, and I’m in discovery mode, learning what I’ll need to learn, to flesh out the hints and tempting bits already waiting.

Today I had to choose which of two possible Germanuses was the son of Matasuentha (for the novel – as always, I make zero pretense to being an historian, and this in particular is a specifically arbitrary authorial prerogative). One of these men, early in the seventh century, had a daughter who married Theodosius, son of the emperor Maurice. This Germanus rescued Theodosius in 602, during a food riot in Constantinople, but later may have been involved in a conspiracy to set himself or Theodosius on the throne; Maurice branded him a traitor, but Germanus survived until Phocas usurped the throne and Maurice, along with all his family, were executed late in 602.

The other candidate as Germanus, son of Germanus and Matasuentha, was husband of Charito, the daughter of Maurice’s predecessor Tiberius II Constantine. Tiberius was said to be so good a man the people did not so much as deserve his rule, and he died after three years as Caesar in the East, in 582. He disappears from the record after marriage to Charito, yet there exists the possibility he and the Germanus above are one and the same; this makes for some tantalizing story possibilities, but the seventh century is off my list and male characters have so far not been at the core of Wippy, and so these possibilities must wait for some other author to deal with them, I think.

Any “choice” I make at this stage in the writing—and given Germanus’ minority and the unlikelihood I will stretch Wippy across a century (or more)—is more theoretical than a practical part of the novel, mechanically or creatively, but I want to know the child I will write about, even if I don’t write about him as a man.

And so we choose the husband of Charito, and because I am a child of a certain decade, I will inevitably view her as a tiny hoochy-coochie girl with ponytails on top of her head (… or not …). A boy who grows up to be associated with a ruler beloved for his benevolence. A boy who marries … and then disapears.

Pet Post II - The Electric Gossamer Boogaloo

Between the resident fuzzly poobahs, Penelope has historically taken up much of the pixel space around this blog, since she and Gossamer the Editor Cat came along. He came first, but she made her splash, and got me barfing up words in excess from the beginning. Goss has his own fame and fans, of course, but let it not be said I have more attention for one kid over the other.

Still perhaps the nicest cat I ever expect to know in my life, Gossamer’s major claim to drama in his kittenhood was the stupid froth about his name – long since buried by SMART people who appreciate all the cultural resonance of his sobriquet, and who dig the reasons I could not call the boy Velvet, for Maud’s sake. Since then, self-training as cats tend to be, and limited as his trick-doing interests and abilities are by design, he’s more interesting in more low-key ways than Penelope.

But interesting he is; I find myself constantly engaged by the little grey guy. He’s still a forgiving puss; gets stepped on by his lummox/person once or twice every week, but never holds it against me (though his rubbing up against me is often the cause). His eyes, if anything, grow greener and greener as he matures; his own fake-birthday will be May Day, and he will be three too, as is Pen-Pen.

At three, and especially this season, as he sheds and slims down again to his non-winter coat, he’s still the smallest cat I have ever had. Still the nimblest, too – and cats as a genre are not exactly clumsy things (though that one cat of mine sometimes had to pull The Fonz “I meant to do that” after a slip). He’s the lightest thing on his toes I’ve ever seen, and his leaps still look as perfect and smooth as old slow-motion falls filmed then run in reverse.

And, of course, I am obsessed with his toes. His front paws are the cutest I have ever seen (and Smikey Cat had some formidably sweet mitts on him), and that back leg with the lightning bolt on it still has the funniest way of kicking out when he is going at a kitten-trot. He’s the most herd-able cat I’ve ever seen, too; it’s rare he won’t go where I need him to, but he does hate the rare occasions I need to close him behind a door to, say, move furniture or things like that.

The longer we live together, the more he curls up on me physically. With summer, this may change again, but as of now he still likes to climb onto my hip or my back and knead and hang out. This weekend, when my back was bugging me, he somehow knew how to be precisely the right heat, and right weight, and curled up on my tailbone, helping me out with the soreness. And there are times he seems to know JUST where to knead, which is the best thing ever.

It’s impossibly sweet, of course – an animal actually resting on you like that. He does it when Pen is allowed on her corner of the bed on a Saturday or Sunday sometimes, and all I can think is – if this is being a Pathetic Old Pet Lady, I am lucky in my pets. Pen has learned her territory, and Goss cedes his own roaming spots to settle down on mama herself. Or if I have a weekend nap, he tucks in behind my knees, like I’m his fort, hiding and warm and quiet as can be.

Last time I had friends over, he literally walked over them to get to me at one point; when he was a little ‘un he used to do that about as much as he’d be friendly to others, but it had been a while since he so pointedly preferred me in front of others. I didn’t pretend that wasn’t a bit gratifying; but am glad, too, he’s a nice little fellow to my friends and especially my mom and stepfather.

Like most of the cats I’ve had (he’s the fourth), he uses his voice seldom, but it’s a sweet sound when he does, and he still make sleepy-kitten noises if I pick him up from a nap or the like. His purr box is quiet, too, but he uses that frequently. And he drools when he’s getting really good pettin’s or kneading; some things do not change.

His editorial demands have become more sophisticated; as a three year old, of course Gossamer is no longer satisfied with simple ax-wielding, and demands diversity, as well as a wider point of view to buffer against unreliable narration. He’s a benevolent dictator in this, but a great little helper with the keyboard. Indeed, I have to cede the laptop to him from time to time (… if not cede the laptop to neglect, in favor of attention to him).

As Janet has observed, his tolerance for dog stories is constrained, but he doesn’t demand feline characters necessarily. Just a good story; and I try to oblige.

He’s encouraging regarding the work in progress.

But he does say it’s dumb I keep calling it Wippy. He has a thing about stupid names; go figure.

Time for a Penny Post

When Gossamer and Penelope first came into my life, there was a pretty regular stream of posts about their development and ours as a little community, with the occasional nod to making these points relevant to publish, but mostly just the indulgent and frustrated emotional responses of a pet owner and Virginian dealing with that ultimate trial: CHANGE.

“How many Virginians does it take to change a light bulb?”

Five. One to actually do the job. Two more to stand off to one side, tut-tutting about how much better the old light bulb was, and fretting with semi-religious fervor about the implications of a new bulb. And two more to write the history of the original bulb with maps and Civil War footnotes.

My dear old Sweet Siddy La was the absolute finest in mellow, sittin’-at-your-feet dogness. She knew my dad a little when she first came around, and he approved of her. He tole me when I got her, “Don’t you feed that dog from the table, don’t you let her get fat.” She got the occasional treat (she loved pizza crust), but I never forgot what he said, and she did eat pretty healthily. To her last months on earth, you could see the shape of the muscles in her legs. And she had beautiful legs.

Lolly was a wonderfully “well behaved” dog, as defined by a bit of fulsomeness in the greeting department and a tuggy deportment on walks, but never causing messes in the house and always calming down fairly readily.

Miss Penelope, by comparison, has always seemed like a handful. For one, she’s still only three; not even the age *yet* that Siddy was when I was blessed to take care of her. For another, she is just a very different dog. Massively energetic, terrifyingly intelligent, skittish where Sid was calm and oblivious to storms (the one area in which Sid would lose composure. aww.). Penelope was untrained when I got her, and fed off the faintest energy from me with exponential emotional results. If I was upset, Pen was beside herself; if I became excited, she was rendered utterly uncontrollable.

And yet, from the beginning, she submitted to me in ways Siddy never did (and never had to). Pen was still juvenile when we came together, with all the dependence and the lack of discipline that comes with. I’d sworn I would not adopt a puppy, knowing the limited time I have to commit to training and so forth – and there she was. My dog. My baby, scared, confused, lunatic dog. And I loved her.

I despaired of time ever passing and her ever Being Like Sid (I never would have admitted it then, least of all on those terms).

But I reveled in her incredible trainability, and especially the fact that she would take command not only from me, but from others who came around; my friends and family.

It wasn’t long before she behaved almost as if she had a button – the alacrity in her obedience is still so speedy and so emphatic it’s as endearing as it is comical. She binds me to her, and I am overjoyed that she and I can communicate. She still thinks, “Oh! Mom told me to sit, so I will do that, then I will lie DOWN, then I will give her BELLY, because that is even more than she asked for, and I want to give my ALL!” – and we’re working on “that’s not sit” in the gentlest way, still. But “back” she has down to a tee, which is unbelievably handy for us both, and “stay” she’s getting better at though still likes boundary testing.

But in non-command behavior is her magic.

Siddy, right out of the box as they say, had some of the subjective behaviors one most wants in a pet. She would no more touch my food even if I weren’t in the room than she would poop in the house. I never had to teach her – and, after perhaps one incident of “HEY THIS DOG IS DIFFERENT” with Penelope getting tentative at my supper, she really didn’t require teaching on the point of food heirarchy either. Siddy was far more aware of her food surroundings, indeed, than Penelope is – a single molecule of anything people-edible going astray was instantly claimed and cleaned up by that Hoover of a Good Girl, but Penelope misses a surprising amount. She’s getting better, but actually drops even her own kibble and forgets about it from time to time. I drop a piece of it and tap my toe to indicate she should pick it up, she’s so het up about feeding time she can miss after three tries. Into each life, a little kibble must fall.

Gossamer’s even worse. But I do get a warm mommy smile at my Pen, when she is oblivious to tiny morsels available for the pickin’.

Penny turned three-ish on her made-up birthday, April Fool’s day. And it’s been during the past month or two I’ve been watching more changes in her, more maturity. She’ll never settle down, quite, but her ability to greet visitors with less wee-ing and tungsten-clawing (all well-intentioned love and submissiveness, but no more appealing to most contemporary humans) has  markedly improved. Though perhaps markedly is the wrong word to use …

In her own space and on her own time, Pen has always been a pretty mellow kid; prone to bursts of energy, and occasionally instigating, or being insitgated into kerfuffles with, Gossamer. But generally a dog – lying around and not being a complete drama queen about every last instant of her existence.

But seeing her regulate herself a bit at social moments is – well, I won’t say exciting. It’s just nice.

One of the best parts is this: Penelope is in her own skin, and she’s comfortable there. Her home, her dogmommy, her semi-pal Gossamer. She’s got this thing, y’all, she doesn’t have to freak about it alla time.

She’s home. It’s a good place for us both.

Monday, April 20, 2015


Congratulations Colin Smith, on being PUBLISHED! By an agent! At this amusing post singing the praises of The Perfect Agent on the BookEnds Literary Agency blog.

Gary Corby points out the interesting and useful fact that The Silk Road was not the beginning of European silk trading. Super handy for him, writing about ancient Greece; and, in that vein, it's also an instructive look into the way historical fiction authors make decisions about what we use and don't from popular sources.

For more on silk, this time its strategic role in WWII, and a wider look at the ingenuity - and national *importance* - of fashion under restrictive conditions, please read Celia Rees' post at The History Girls. It's a great piece of perspective on how we got where we are - and who we once were, compared to who we are now. This is another of those examples of how fashion is more than frivolity and its depth of importance for us as human beings.

Jeff Sypeck has me DYING of Teh Internets, because the idea of someone reading a writer's work and creating music from it is more wonderful a form of interaction and inspiration than I even hope for. But now I'm totally hoping for something like this, some day.

Kim Rendfield posts about the complexities of slavery in a very different time from antebellum America - a world where someone might sell themselves into slavery and freedom had no Railroad. In Ax, I didn't examine slavery in any depth, though it is depicted throughout. In Wippy, I'll be taking a much, MUCH closer look at the institution as it was inherited from Rome, and practiced in Gaul and Constantinople. A slave is a major character. I'm leaving the environs Ax shared with Kim Rendfield's works, but she's not escaping my bookmarks!

The History Blog has its usual worthwhile analysis and excellent links about New York's marker for the Wall Street/Pearl Street slave market. Of the 38 markers in Lower Manhattan ... this will be the first acknowledging the role of slaves in building New York City. Interesting, too, are the comments, which reflect a general consensus that Northern states are absolved of guilt in America's slave history. Not so much - and look where it stood. Wall Street.

The History Blog is also revisiting automata - so if that creeps you out, do NOT click here. Yes, boys and girls, it is a creeping BABY automaton. And so much more. Racialized (that is to say, racist) automata - including a deeply disturbing mockup of a Sojourner Truth by no (other) name at all. And an electric cane which may or may not be good for you for some reason or other, though  “the effect of a gentle galvanic current on the human organization is not in the present state of electrical and physiological science fully explained.” Um.

Saturday, April 18, 2015

The Knee Bone's Connected to the Mop Bone

The laundry was too late.

Saturday is house cleaning day, and tonight I have a date with myself - it is high time I squired myself out in some impractical shoes, with age-inappropriate hair and too much makeup - and so today for the first time in a while, house cleaning is on a schedule. I need to be done by five so I can do something about my nails, then shower and primp and spend far, far too long pampering myself into a sense that I am cute and worth seeing, and get out of here.

The thing about cleaning is, one thing leads to another. It's not another thing leads to one thing. You have to do some things first, some things last (painting your face works the same way, come to think of it - you can't put on mascara THEN do foundational stuff; they call it that for a reason).

In the case of my home, I have to make the bed, then dust, then vacuum. Making the bed, you see, kind of raises dust and pet hair. Dusting itself may result in a bit of fallout to the floor. So there is an order.

And today, I started the laundry after 2:30. And I need SHEETS. In order to make my bed.

You see the problem. (If you have not run screaming from this boring post!)

And so I pause to say hello. "Hello!"

Wash cycle should be winding up - and then there must be drying.

The good news in all this is: one, I've gotten all the trash out of the house and the cat litter part is done. And, two - I can do the kitchen and bathroom scrubbing pretty much any tie I want. And if I get those things done - they're DONE! And yay for getting gross toilet cleaning OUT of the way.

Off I go again. Happy Saturday, everyone!

Thursday, April 16, 2015


First off today, welcome and thank you to JEN Garrett, my 34th follower! Yay!

Next - I'm a bit late with the link, but yay more, for a tribute to writer Leonard Nimoy's birthday.

Megan Sayer has a lovely post about hope. It's hard. But, I've found, sometimes it's even harder not to.

Agent Carly Watters has good advice/encouragement - for the pre-published debut author. Just when I cool it on querying, of course (but she doesn't do my genre, so it's all right by me).

And now, a three-fer from The History Blog:

Scratch any archaeologist (but not on the lower back, their legs will never stop kicking) and you'll hear a midden story. This one may be a little adult for some readers (I'd call it NSFW), but it's still interesting history! Hint: sex toy. Yeah, we didn't invent those in the 20th century either.

Out of the toilet and into ... oh, wait. The sewer. Italian family finds 2500 years of history while looking for a broken sewer line. Man, it's boring when my toilet backs up. You know, by comparison. aaaaaaannnnd I'm okay with that. (Also with my parents not lowering me into the, erm, bowels of our home when I was twelve.)

And last, but least gross (though possibly disconcerting! and that is a pun!), 18th century Swiss automata. I'll embed the punnish clip below ...

Friday, April 10, 2015

The Dull Ache ... and Something Else ...

Of my readers who are also writers, a question: has any one of you who is going or has gone the querying route to publication ever received a request for pages or a full more than a week after an initial query? I never have.

It’s been a few weeks since my last query – and so, regardless of all those agents’ timelines now commonly stretching to three months for theoretical viability (“will try to respond within” or “if you don’t hear within twelve weeks, no means no”) – I essentially view EVERY submission I’ve put out there as a done and dead deal.

Which is why this contemplation that Ax is not a viable product right now is my ever-growing expectation.

It’s a good novel, The Ax and the Vase. Of that I have no question. But a novel and a product are two different things; and the publishing industry is a business in need of PRODUCTS. To sell. I can polish a piece of gold till it shines (and it does) but if the kind of bauble it is is out of style, it’s out of style no matter how gleaming.

So I have this precious thing *I* still find beautiful, and which can be appreciated by many – but not a *market* … and so, increasingly, I find myself pushing it less, and focusing on another piece, not even close to ready to polish yet. Still in the making.

It’s difficult not to think of the years I have invested in Ax. We all know, I’m a Thoughtkiller, not shy nor squeamish about “killing my darlings” and open to professional feedback to make my work the best it can be.

Even so. Abandoning something I’ve worked on so long, putting it away as a “maybe once I sell the next one, this one may follow another year” – or, heart-crunchingly, putting it away with the possibility it will never sell at all …

That is painful.

I once married a man I knew was A Good Man. I knew those were thin on the ground, and I recognized (and still do) so much that is fine and good and worthy and fun and loveable. Beloved Ex was, and is, a marvelous property, and the fact he’s not with someone even still kind of kills me. He’s a catch, and there are so many women who deserve the heart that beats in that man.

And I loved him. And I married him.

And love is no reason to marry someone. I love him still: and yet, my life is full enough, and fulfilling – even without Beloved Ex participating daily.

You marry someone not because he’s a treasure, nor beautiful, nor fun or sexy or any of the rest of it – but because life, without them, would be *less*.

The point is: I know a good thing when I see it. And I inherited a tendency from my mother: I sometimes grip things because I know they’re precious.

I married a man I truly did love, but a very big part of the marriage was acquisitive. It was nothing on which to build a lifetime, and the mistakes we both made drew blood. We may be friends now. But there were many years we were nothing to each other, and there resides even in our old bond not only the memories, but the damages. I wasn’t the only wounding party. But I know my part was, *in* part: a matter of greed.

Ax is another treasure I know for what it is. I know how good it is, I love it, I MADE it – and that didn’t draw blood exactly, but it occupied years of my life. I can admit, I have been greedy to see it succeed. Greedy.

As life tips past what we call Middle Age (yeah, I look fine and am healthy; yes, people like to think Middle Age lasts into their sixties; but I’m pushing fifty, and frankly don’t expect 100 years – I am decidedly getting past “middle aged”), the prospect of losing *years* of such work as the intimate, intense, and exultant craft as writing …

It’s really kind of heartbreaking.

Losing all that. Wasting it … ? No. Not waste. But not being able to share it.

The loss is giddy enough to make me somewhat sick.

My life is FILLED with good friends, good music, good food, and the two best pets any person could hope to be blessed with. I have a nice home, a spiff car. My mom is near – and, as far as they are, my brother and nieces and their mom are not truly *distant*. There are so many ways now to be with those we are not near to. My paying job is constantly fulfilling, and I honestly love it, and its people. There is so much to be grateful for.


Writing Ax has, as I suspect any fool can see, has been a balm to me through the years Mr. X has lived half a world away. I’ve hated having no partner. But I’ve had this thing – this “second” job – this work I have poured my heart and mind int. This work which has returned the favor by expanding my life itself, by making even fuller a blessed existence which was more than I ever should have dared to ask in the first place, and by teaching me so much more than its business and process.

It’s also been, in some way – both a tribute to my grandma and my dad. Dad, because he missed my writing it. Because he never knew I would make such a thing as this great book. Because, honestly, I think he’d have really LIKED it. And my grandma because … I am her namesake.

If I’d not been The Louise of my generation – there would have been no Clovis. A reverse etymological progression.

The prospect of losing this almost-memorial effort, this thing I have done, which has sustained and enriched so much of my wee and paltry little life …

It’s really kind of heartbreaking.

And yet …

And yet.

There is the WIP.

The energy, and the transportive experience of writing – of experiencing creation first in the learning/exploration/discovery of research and then in experiencing *what it is* to CREATE something. To *make* something, and know it both for your own and for the inspiration that it is. To understand that it is possible to both bleed a thing, and still somehow see it as an object so nearly-miraculous that to claim it for your own is almost hubris.

To write.

The bouyant power of … making … of creativity – that elemental, ineffable thing that comes from within but is sparked with something so much more than we are in and  of ourselves.

It is … compensation.

There is no art without pain, they say.

But, Christ Lord. I have to believe: it’s worth it

Writing is an Act of Greed

… all we writers ever want is to know more, to hear more, to see more, of our characters. Our worlds.

That's It

… the word “artisanal” makes ANYTHING funny. (It’s the new curate)

Point of View

One of the things you learn in the sketching phase of writing a novel is what the novel is actually going to be. I’ve posted about the liberty I'm feeling, getting out of the first-person singular voice of The Ax and the Vase … and I’ve written much, recently, about #WeNeedDiverseBooks and the failure of Ax to live up to that as an ideal I personally support.

What I haven’t written about is the fact that two of my characters – one a main character, and one a main character at least for the duration of his stay in the pages – do happen to be People of Color.

This isn’t the case out of a desire to “write for the market” (that trap pre-published authors fall into, of picking a trend hoping to cash in on it) – but, frankly (har the franks), sheer boredom at the lack of diversity in Ax … much as I love it.

Perhaps as part of the process of figuring out whether it’s time to (*temporarily* …) shelve Ax in favor of the WIP … perhaps simply because of the first flush of energy in working on said WIP … very definitely owing to a lot of my social media and query-researching exposure to the awareness of the need for literary diversity and the obvious White Liberal Guilt attendant on a novel utterly lacking in anything but White Powerful Male voice (much as I love it …) …

It’s been very exciting to feel the POV of the WIP limbering up, and *opening* up.

I’m not trying to write about fascinating/objectified brown skin and exoticized eyes, but I’m getting to know my main character who is *not* the princess. With getting to know the world itself – the period perspective on everything from the sound and use of a human voice, to emotional relationships and protocol within a court unlike any milieu familiar to a modern mind – comes getting to know a woman living in this place, working in it, making sure she can hold her own and stay in it.

The character’s name is Plectrudis, and she is midwife to the queen in the very first scene (as of *now* … !), and becomes nurse to the child she brings forth, and eventually HER midwife as well. She has all the intimacy and remove of a servant in the most privileged of households, and even as I write about writing about her, I know some of my favorite sketches are already wrong, and I know I can’t see her completely just yet (so I am almost afraid to so much as tell you her name, because the WIP is at the point where EVERYTHING I’ve scribbled is liable to change, and probably should, both as I learn and as the story asserts itself).

But something of her character – and fleeting breaths in her voice – is formed, and these things will only grow.

More exciting still is the man.

I’m still in the precious, protective, deeply-skittish-woodland-creature phase of creation here, so I can say even less of him. But he tapped me on the shoulder this week, and … the resulting sketch was terribly exciting.

I think he may speak.

I think he may get to be more than the object of the feminine and royal gaze of our princess – who was only my original reason for writing the novel, but who can’t sustain being the only thing IN the novel, it seems – and who … perhaps … loved  him. At this point, we know only: they *liked*.

He is historical, and that too is kind of thrilling. One of those tantalizing creatures we know existed, but have no information about, but the barest of facts. Primary sources do give him a name, though – which, to me, is almost joyously intriguing. He has a name. We have his name. And he lived, and he breathed. And he is so much more than the mere footnote that moved the princess herself on to the shocking career that was her life.

He was her first shock.

And I think he may speak.

When I first tried to see his face, I didn’t know what color he was, nor any of the workings behind the skin. He did not speak. He was (there is a study in this, my being a female author) entirely the subject of the female gaze.

I saw through his eyes, this week. I have seen almost enough through Plectrudis’s gaze to learn to *look* at the world with hers.

Just cannot wait to hear his voice.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015


So this thing where Janet Reid took Holy Week off blogging to pray, and then on Thursday opened the floor to all her Reiders (not just the usual commenters, but yay for all the lurkers who came forth with a word!), has been days of unexpected reading fun. She's got us networking, and it's bumped up my STAGGERING number of followers (31 to 33 now - yes, hold your breath in awe!) and led to some comments I've been so tickled to see.

I must apologize for being slow to say hello back to Maggie Maxwell. *Waves enthusiastically some more* Thank you for the follow!

Off for a bit of WIPping ... See y'all soon.

Monday, April 6, 2015

*Waves Enthusiastically!*

My thanks to Colin, for being kind enough to add me to the list of bloggy folks at Janet Reid's community - and for my new Reidy follower, Donna Everheart - AND for my new visitors, Lilac Shoshani, Elizabeth Crisp, and Lilly Faye, my first poodle visitor, and a mighty fine canine authoress.

I'm still digging through the links from this past Thursday, but have had Elizabeth in my bookmarks for a while, and I think Lilac is in there too (have certainly hit up her profile before!). Adding Lilly Faye, because who can resist a puppy blog? Not. I!

Now Gossamer's going to ask me why he hasn't got a blog ...

Edited to add AJ Blythe's blog, which I think I've linked to (in any case, I meant to!) coz I loved this post when I first peeked over there ...

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Easter Grass

Church was short one Diane today; I've been spotty in attendance since we lost our priest, and I have a thing about being one of those people who only show up at the high holidays. So yesterday, I spent time with my family. Today, I am spending time alone.


Just came in from mowing the grass. It is a beautiful, breezy, and sunny day; and, for me, there is as much (and perhaps sometimes more) worship in the act of maintaining my greatest material blessing apart from my body - in doing something around my home that is for my neighbors too, which going to church is not. And in simply being outside, my happy Yella Dawg watching and berating the mower when it comes too near her, the wind in my hair and using that body which is my first and last material blessing; working it and sweating and waving at occasional passersby.

Coming inside, I visited Janet Reid's blog for the firs time since last Sunday (she was taking time for prayer and worship of her own this week), and saw that she'd opened a forum for the community of her Reiders to get to know each other by posting links to their blogs and sites - and the comments section is nearly 200 responses deep.

And so, now I shall observe the holiday by adding links to my bookmarks, by reading a few individual pieces to add to upcoming Collection posts, by learning a bit about the lurkers, by learning more about those who comment most.

I haven't put up my own link - per usual, a bit late to the party; and there is so much to swim through as it is I can't add to the ocean. Sometimes it is better reading.

And, indeed, it can be instructive. Like writing, the best way to learn how is to READ. So with blogging; curating and cre-ating the most worthwhile content takes understanding what works!

The only thing missing today is pancakes. But, come to think of it, I have the fixin's for daddy's biscuits, so that might work.

And so. Hello to my Reiders. And my readers, too. And blessed weekend to all - whether it was in learning why this night is not like other nights ... or whether it was in contemplating what exactly "fondant" really is, as defined by the good folks at Cadbury ...

Friday, April 3, 2015

For my Fellow Reiders

To my readers from Janet Reid's community: y'all, if I'd seen lima beans here, I'd have instantly passed out. As it is, just cackling laughter (see #2!).

Need a Little Color About the Place

So please enjoy this portrait of Isabella of Portugal. I love her face so much.

Image: Wikimedia
Article: Wikipedia.

Thursday, April 2, 2015


Mojourner left me a present, so he heads up today's festivities with the best pun I've seen in ages. Bonus points for English history nerdlery! OSUM.

Good laws, I typed 65WPM last time it was tested over a decade and a half ago, and it's taken me 60% of THAT time to get ONE novel done. Donna Everheart is seriously brave and ambitious and talented and stuff, y'all. Also: yoiks!

I've been meaning to link this for a while now - Jessica Faust (and another link from there, if you like) looks at *just* how much of our communication is spent complaining.

Open forum for grammar kvetching at Tom's blog! Go, have fun, comment - knock yourselves out. :)

Finally, The History Girls take a peek at the tattoos of sailors and princes. Neato-spedito - and I had no idea any English king ever had a piece! Click through to find out which one, and what famous lady of society had one of her own.

Jooshy Fwoot

When I was a “liddle-LIDDLE kid” as we used to say in these yere parts, I loved chewing gum and was positively obsessed with bubble gum. It was around this time such newfangled wonders as Bubble Yum, Bubblicious, and Hubba Bubba were coming onto the market, displacing the wax-paper-and-comic delights of a brick of Bazooka, and well outdoing the old pink tablet in both flavor and bubble-blowability. Already a fan of the powerful FLAVO (*) of green apple anything, these gums were providing joyous opportunities even surpassing the uber-sugar taste of “bubble gum” flavor, and going for grape, strawberry, and (meh) watermelon FLAVOs.

Grape Bubble Yum, y’all. I about died and went to heaven, aged eight and knowing all the pleasure in the world.

And then I turned ten. And the Saga of my Teeth began.

At ten, I was almost as in love with my bicycle as with anything sugar-inclusive. My folks had bought me a REAL bike – a grown-up sized bike, a forest green, brand NEW bike, to replace the secondhand little girls’ bike I’d had as a liddle-LIDDLE kid, and I ran that thing around the block and through the subdivision, learning how to take corners at an angle, loving the giddy sense of letting go of handlebars and just FALLING, somehow safely and unscathed, down a hill, then steering as long as I could still without my hands.

There were times this worked out less than perfectly.

Face down in a landlocked bar of wet sand, lip perforated by my teeth and some tarry-tasting road salad, I still remember sitting in my neighbor’s driveway and unfettered-SCREAMING for “help” after I went down.

I remember the dentist telling us our options for the mess left in my mouth, too, which included this totally brand-new and space-aged thing called bonding.

I prefer not to remember, but do have photographic testimony to, just how poorly sculpted my first set of replacement teeth were. Eesh.

I can still practically FEEL the astonishing sensitivity of exposed nerves, and the effect of this accident had on my eating and drinking habits for years. Suddenly, I wonder whether my inability to ever develop a coffee habit stems from the heat of the drink … but, knowing me, it’s probably just the essential laziness I have always had in the addiction (or behaving like an adult) department. I never could get the hang of coffee, or beer, or cigarettes, or even the evening news.

And then, four years later. Braces.

And I became this strange creature … who couldn’t abide ICE CREAM for like fifteen years, and to this day no longer chews gum. (Much as with coffee and alcoholism, I don’t have the attention span for it.)

So, today, when a goody basket full of treats came my way, it may be somewhat odd that I chose the gum, out of a plethora of cookies and candies and silly desk toys and, I think, a scented candle.

But the gum I chose was Juicy Fruit.

Juicy Fruit was my dad’s gum. It’s kind of an ur-gum – been around since the dinosaurs, has that certain scent that takes a lot of us back, comes in stick form, not giant-gob cushions. Still even wrapped in paper, of all things. And that perfume – for me, the scent of Juicy Fruit is like the scent of Jergens reminding me of my grammaw, or Old Spice slamming me right back to 1983 and the first boy I ever kissed.

Taking it for a little spin, the flavor seems to me somewhat different – a bit more “particular” than the straight up sugar FLAVO I remember it having. But it settles fairly quickly into something close to the old taste. Fascinatingly, I found that for some reason taking a sip of water placed the taste pretty firmly back into what I remembered.

The major changes appear to be font and color. The gum itself is no longer a buff-leaning greyish, undyed lump, but the very specific yellow usually reserved for banana FLAVO candy. Perhaps this influenced my taste buds, perhaps I’m just confabulating, perhaps this is all irrelevancy (just like the rest of this blog!).

I’m trying to imagine my dad chewing yellow gum, and it seems really funny to me. But then, he was not a bubble-blower, and in our house, growing up, “SMACKING” gum was verboten by mom (to whom the same rule neve has applied!), so it’s not like we would have seen. But he would have *known* …


Scent of a man, and a dad at that. Sometimes, English Leather, against the smoothest cheek in history of the world, freshly shaved and giving goodbye kisses. Sometimes, good honest sweat and motor oil or sawdust.

Sometimes, Juicy Fruit (which is pronounced as spelled in the title above, when rendered by liddle-LIDDLE kids endowed with mouths full of it).

(*FLAVO is that curious stuff peculiar to 20th century food innovation, consisting usually of industrially-produced colored salt powders or extruded sugar syrups intended to evoke every kind of unwholesome yumminess from fake-assed-cherry (the very nastiest of FLAVOs, though inexplicably popular) to nacho to strawberry or ranch or the aformentioned banana … which is not the *scent* of another man of the family, but is his favorite of the extruded options.)

Thoughts From a Week

Note to self: listening to Melissa Ethridge (and, lawd help us, singing) in the throes of PMS results in Noticeable Kitten Distress. Also: Gossamer the Editor Cat is closed to queries for works concerning women who do things like the way I do. Seeking Celine Dion, James Taylor, and Gregorian Chants at this time.

I know I buy things secondhand and therefore can’t expect the perfect, plastic, out-of-the-box Latest Thing – but … this CD player doesn’t have a volume knob? I missed MP3s, the 21st century, and One Direction, but … there’s some new way to turn up music now? We DON’T turn up the volume now? What’d I miss?

Robert Verdi at six o’clock in the morning. That is a whole lot of look to manage at that hour, y’all.

Pulling clothes off the clotheslines in my basement, watching the pet hair fly up off every item in the lurid light of a naked bulb: “Yep. Allergy season is here.” *Wiggles nose* *A lot*

Penelope is learning to show me her ham bone and her rope toy as distinct items. So far, the Kong remains unnamed. *Cue Zeppelin*

I grew up Southern Baptist and went Episcopalian. I’ve never given anything up for Lent in my life (I always forget it’s even a thing until too late, get distracted by shiny work and life and pets and homeownership), and since my beloved priest left my church, I’ve been only a few times. But Episcopalians are not the world’s most slavedriving dogmatics. Am I lapsed?

(Yeah, pretty much I am. I know.)

Inaugurated the new/old stereo for upstairs with “Yellow Submarine”, the CD my dad bought me when I first got a CD stereo (yeah, all of 17 years ago, that). I always forget what a LONG and what a great album that is.

Note to self: it is perhaps weird to bop to Nowhere Man.

Note to self: bopping to anything at all results in Noticeable Kitten Hilarity. I swear, he’d “Bless your heart” me if he could talk.

“Aw, so pretty” is the new “Bless your heart.” Write it down. Use it often.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015


I've decided. Today needs to be April Twit's Day.

Though ... come to think of it, "fool" doesn't entirely miss the bill.