Monday, May 30, 2016

Glottal Start

A curious consequence of some recent binge watching - starting with BSG, and just finishing up Netflix's offering of Agents of Shield - has been noticing a single peculiarity of bad acting. It probably has a name in linguistics, but I am calling it a glotttal start.

If you've ever known a Manhattanite, you know one iconic American example of the glottal *stop*: when the name of the island is pronounced, the two Ts are a stop. "Manha'en."

The glottal is when the throat closes, and when this occurs at the opening of a word beginning with a vowel, it emphasizes the sound. Instead of riding a speaker's breath, it is pushed out. A harder sound.

For *every* (notice the emphasis here - you can read it as a glottal start) vowel-opening word to be *emphasized* *is* *unnatural* sounding. And, of course, now I'm hearing it everywhere. Indeed, an actor allowing a vowel opening to be - well, *open* - is almost exceptional.

Yet, even in fairly dramatic moments in reality, we don't use the glottal start that comprehensively. And so, in performance, a soft reading can be stronger than physical emphasis.

I'm beginning to class the glottal start with the inexperienced actor's bend-at-the-waist/wring-the-hands school of conveying drama.

Friday, May 27, 2016

Scent of Bread and Onions

... today's headline comes from the moment I stepped through the door from my side of the office building, and emerged into our atrium, where the fragrances of lunch open your nose.

The phrase kind of takes you places, doesn't it? I like the shape and feel of it. It might need a The. It might not. I can imagine places it might take us.

Wouldn't it make a great title?

Wouldn't it make ... a great prompt for flash fiction?

I'd love it if you agreed - and decided to take us places, in the comments.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016


"(W)hen anonymous harassers come along — saying they would like to rape us, or cut off our heads, or scrutinize our bodies in public, or shame us for our sexual habits — they serve to remind us in ways both big and small that we can’t be at ease online. It is precisely the banality of Internet harassment, University of Miami law professor Mary Anne Franks has argued, that makes it 'both so effective and so harmful, especially as a form of discrimination.'

Have you ever heard that thing, men are afraid that women will laugh at them and women are afraid that men will kill them?

… Is there hope? Hard to say. Rachel Dolezal has all but disappeared from the media, but her life’s not looking easy, given a prurient catch-up peek. But then, there is this ...  “(T)he smartest way to survive is to be bland.” Hmm.

Okay, let's lighten up.

Thanks in part to Kiehl's and the National Museum of American History's Division of Medicine and Science, as well as a number of other famous skin and health care names, a massive collection of beauty and hygiene products' images have been digitized in a photo archive of stunning usefulness for 19th and 20th century vintage fans, historical authors, and just beauty nerds such as myself. This makes a good conservation move as well, as some of the artifacts in the collection are deteriorating and cannot be made to last forever. Cultural/research notes: Cuticura's emphasis on the beauty of white hands hints at the "ideals" of beauty in this period. There are resources on the needfuls of menstrual care, and health tonics galore. I can see getting quite lost-slash-carried away down this rabbit hole!

In other artifactoral news, Gary Corby has a very cool post about the earliest keys - goodly, and of goodly size as well. So cool.

Monday, May 23, 2016

... Telling Me Something?

Sometimes, it's hard not to think Janet Reid, with her familiarity with her own community of writers (not clients), is trying to tell us something personal ... Such is both the ego and the insecurity of a fretful writer Woodland Creature.

In this week's week-in-review post, she quoted me ...

DLM said
But there seems really to be no "middle class" in traditional publishing now. You can't be *dependable*: you have to be a breakout, and - never mind the pressure, it's just a matter of numbers, and the numbers dictate, we simply cannot all be The Next Big Thing.

JANET said
We call it mid-list but you're right. It's like the Army; you can't spend five years in the same rank or your career is pretty much over. Get promoted or get out. Like baseball: you can play on the farm teams for a while, but either move up, or hang up your glove.

Publishing is not the only place this up or out pattern applies.  But it only applies to COMMERCIAL publishing.  You can publish and sell your own work forever. That's one of the many great things about the electronic marketplace: it's easy to access and it actually works. I'm not saying it's easy to self-publish (well, it is, but let's assume I mean self-publishing well here) but that the barriers to buyers are much diminished from where they were 20 years ago.

I think she's seen enough of my comments at her own blog contemplating commercial (what I've been calling traditional, which she rightly calls commercial - augh, and now to fix my tags ...) publishing versus self-pub, and certainly she knows my writing, for my interpretation that she's Telling Me Something - or, at least, agreeing with my self-evaluation - not to be completely out of hand.

And even if it is, at the end of the day, she's neither my agent nor my ultimate guide; just a kind reader - and a professional - along the way I am taking.

So whether she meant "anything" or not ... the upshot is the same. I don't know that I want to hold out for the big leagues. I sure know I don't want to be in the military ...

And, really, right now, what I OUGHT to be worrying about is the WIP.

Sunday, May 22, 2016


This will be a long and cluttered post; some things I've had in my pocket and not blogged for a good while. So, my apologies in advance for a lack of organization (and, as usual, timeliness).

Let's start off by revisiting another story that hasn't been front and center lately. Following up on headlines that fall away after their seven-minute news cycles are over - who remembers Rachel Dolezal? Here's what happened - first - and next ... "I would never make a mockery of the things I take most seriously."

The #WhenIwas hashtag makes difficult reading, but it is important, especially for those who want to believe that these things are ‘one off’ incidents. While many men have tweeted their shock at the stories being shared, many women remarked that they could identify with almost every single one.

(H)e refused to jail her, saying: “It would be a disgrace to send a survivor … to prison."

"OFF WITH THEIR HEADS!" Parts of women in movie marketing ... For the record, it’s not just movies. Looked at a book cover lately?

The ways and means of contemporary - well, let's *call* it journalism: “On some level, I thought that if what Charter was telling me was that big a deal, it would already have been reported” ... "The problem is that despite the struggle and innovation that has been taking place in the news media since the internet disrupted its business model, no one has come up with a profitable way to provide information about government to average Americans in ways they care about." ... "That vacuum provides an opening for outlets that peddle in the kind of bias, treachery, and quackery that we have always been afraid of … misleading or conspiratorial ideas about government activities can spread more easily when the public lacks credible information to counter it."

If there’s anything I love in this world, it’s the intellectually considerate takedown of rudeness (see also: Miss Manners, who could do this like nobody else). Here we have a stellar example in the “Don’t be THAT -ist” manner, but with a much deeper and wider message. “(D)enunciations of other people’s 'stupidity' are a particular temptation of our age”

Slow hope … the punishment for a pedophile …

This detailed piece on mental health and society blew me away. On being a psychopath and knowing the right thing to do…

(E)ven the most hardcore, cold intellectual wants the romantic notion. It kind of makes life worth living. But with these kinds of things, you really start thinking about what a machine it means we are—what it means that some of us don't need those feelings, while some of us need them so much. It destroys the romantic fabric of society in a way.

A few pieces on the curious phenomenon of victim worship - and exploitation for entertainment - in today's pop culture and society.

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Waxing Moon

Watery, drab spring, and vertigo, and the necessity to make a living keep me inside doors so much. Tonight: a walk, under the moon.

Distinctive scents of home; whiff of honeysuckle along the 4-laner amid storefronts and garages. Moving away from mercury lights, toward the houses - strong spirea, clover, fresh cut grass, exhaust and asphalt.

The sounds; the way live music sounds warm, muffled, emanating from the bar and grill. Not looking in, just glad people are out, are together. Two horns, vying against one another up the road, their engines as angry as their drivers.

Full moon cool, distant, and remote. Sheen of its light on a peaked slate roof.

It is so damned lonesome here. When the walk is already over.

My Letter to you, Damien Echols

It's hard for me to say for how many years I've followed the story of the West Memphis Three, but fifteen years may be about fair, for paying specific attention and actually seeking reading (and the documentaries) about the tragedy.

For those unfamiliar with the story, I won't link Wikipedia, only provide the simple story. The West Memphis Three were Jessie Misskelly, Damien Echols, and Jason Baldwin. In 1993, amid Satanist panic and public furor, these teenaged boys were convicted of the murder of three young boys in West Memphis Arkansas, in one of the more famous miscarriages of justice in the twentieth century. The details abound, so I will not recount them here, but it is a cruelly fascinating episode, and shameful beyond description.

The most famous, and oldest, of the convicted Three, is Damien Echols. He has become well known both for his past and also for his recovery (I will not use the term rehabilitation), but it is always his writing that clings to me when I look again toward this story. It feels cruel to call it a story, though. Perhaps I should say, look again toward these people.

I wish I had a handful of dust
--Damien Echols

One of the things that always strikes me in the heart about these kids - about this one - is that he reminds me indelibly of two of the three great loves of my life. His melancholy and his coloring are powerfully like Mr. X. And his expression of what a disadvantaged - what a battered - life is like echo sometimes in the communications with my first love, who reappeared almost a year ago, and who still breaks my heart at times (not in the way we once felt, of course).

And, seven years younger than I am, I know he's not a child, but his experience sparks in me something like a maternal outrage. The wish it had been possible to protect him. He was just a boy, barely older than the murder victims themselves really, and so the offense at his wrongful conviction and confinement - on death ROW, no less - is compounded by whatever vestige of protectiveness washing around in my guts.

Humanity is filled with so many who respond so much worse to wounds so much less - or illusory - his is an example of grace.

In recent months, face to face with another kind of grace, reading the link above today was inspirational. And, I will admit it, entertaining. In the sense that art entertains, that great writing does - even as it may elevate, or relieve, or release, or evaporate with no ghost but pleasure had - to understand the experience of solitary, of death row, of imprisonment is ... how to choose a word carefully here ... "stimulating" is accurate, but larded with inaccurate implications ... "educational" is right too, but almost so spare of deeper meaning as to fall short rather than overshoot ...

Enlightening. It lightens the soul to know another soul is not burdened by the worst we can do to one another - or has been set free. And it lightens the world to illuminate corners of it most of us will never see, G-d be praised for it.

Image: Wikipedia

His writing is extraordinary, evocative. The piece linked above reads like engrossing fiction; and the fact that it is not is an outrage. Something beyond poignant, something so much more important.

Certain shade of agony have their own beauty
--Damien Echols

Read his writing at the link. It is life itself.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016


Today in "this motivates me to learn more about self-pub" - sigh, it's actually Janet Reid. On the ass-kicking that is the publishing industry.

JJ Litke's blog is stealing into my brain. First it was how being in the traffic jam means: you are the traffic, and now DRAGON CAKE! The post is great, but click through even if only to look at the pictures of the coolest birthday cake I've ever seen. Worth exploring well beyond these two links, I promise.

JK Rowling, whose name has for so many pre-published authors, simply become a synonym for blockbuster success, turns out to have a nimble mind and a way of expressing herself I have to admire. “If my offended feelings can justify a travel ban on Donald Trump, I have no moral grounds on which to argue that those offended by feminism, or the fight for transgender rights, or universal suffrage, should not oppress campaigners for those causes.”

Because, sigh.

On the provenance and price of Thomas Jefferson's hair. ("And now, INTRODUCING the new band: The Fourteen Hairs!!!") The History Blog knows how to have fun, y'all.

See also: the fascinating bit about preservation of WWI graffiti by conscientious objectors at Richmond Castle. Huh.

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Dime a Dozen, or: What's the BIG Idea?

One of the more difficult things to explain to anyone who is not (already) a writer is that ideas are all but beside the point. People are always having ideas. Ideas are easy - they are as multiplicitous as bunnies, and as quick to scamper, hence the term plot bunnies.

The task of a writer consists of being able to make something out of an idea.
--Thomas Mann

"Somebody should write a book" was an ongoing conversation in my house, growing up. I have little doubt the conversation began a generation previous to my advent - if not more.

We used to talk about practical ideas for a book. Humor came up perhaps most frequently. History. We were always having ideas - or sometimes floating one, to which the inevitable refrain might be offered in return.

Ideas are wonderful, but they are just ingredients. Anyone can have high quality vanilla in their kitchen, but how many of us can put it toward a truly superior buttercream icing?

I'm no cook - but I am an author - and my work in that regard is where "somebody should write a book" became I *did* write one (and am working on another; and have strong feelings about what the third one will be).

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Thought for the Day

I came up with this yesterday at Janet's community/blog:

A WIP shouldn't be IP forever.

Image: Wikimedia

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

I Am Not Hilary Mantel

I have dreams of midlist glory!
--Me, as recently as six or so years ago 

People say all the time, "I'm no J. K. Rowling" - but the disclaimer has almost no meaning, really. Even in a climate where you *have* to sell, and sell well - in a climate where authors *probably* can't hope for second chances - where providing a moneymaking brand and the product to keep it going is the only hope for an author to gain "publishing success".

I'm not even Hilary Mantel.

Bestsellers, I rarely read. Some of the greatest authors I've ever found were ones who WOULD not emerge, or survive, today - at least in American publishing - at least not the way they did when they came up the Traditional path. Donald Harington. America's Chaucer, I've seen him called. Parke Godwin, who wrote perhaps the best work in my own genre, to whose standard I will always aspire - and who also was able to get away with comedic sci-fi/fantasy farce too. Not happening, that genre-jumping, not such a long jump.

There is no place anymore for the adequate author, for great writing but un-thrilling sales, for second novels from workhorse producers, for first novels from the rarefied genius.

... or is there ... ?

I don't know.
Among the great factors on my mind, as I have begun to contemplate becoming a self-pub/indie author has been the desolation of the middle class, in traditional publishing.

The situation looks, on the one hand, very much like a symptom of an industry upper-class avariciously destroying a wide, bread-and-butter segment of its own livelihood. I don't pretend to know that's the case. Whether it's the corporate imperative of growth above all, infecting a business ... which never has been entirely comprised of uber-moral artistes in any case ... or the creaking imminence of the death of an outdated system: my education is not wide enough to judge.

Even if I knew enough to judge, probably best to make few pronouncements, in this life.

I tend to be skeptical of harbingers of death. In my less than half a century on this planet, so many concepts have died, I no longer take stock. Rock and roll has died - multiple times, I believe - yet seems curiously animate to those of us in ignorance. Disco has died too - or was murdered, indeed by friends of mine - but retains some vitality, no matter how often we tell it it's over. Civility is a perennial hospice patient; it's been dying for centuries now, off and on.

And so I wonder whether the extraordinary shrinkage of the middle-class in publishing ... and I watch the increasing cross-pollination of self-pub and trad-pub - authors increasingly working both ways, at multiple levels of success and experience - and I am forced to wonder:

Are the evil gatekeepers in the traditional infrastructure the virus - or  another patient?

Or are they - is the industry - are we all - metamorphosing?

Transformation is painful, pretty much every time. We've watched for years as newspapers have died (another one for the list), going digital and either suffocating for life's breath without subscription money, or becoming less available ("you have read your limit of free articles this month PLEASE SUBSCRIBE" and you're splatted on a paywall), or even losing relevance just because the vastness of availability means ABC/NBC/CBS aren't the masters of the media universe.

Nobody cried for typewriters.
We kept them on at most companies, without pay, as long as carbon paper took to eke its way out of existence. Sometimes, we used them to cobble together documents already barfed out of a printer but in need of corrections or additions. We used pens, too.

We began to think typewriters were cute.

We forgot they existed.

We began harvesting the truly quaint ones for keys to turn into DIY jewelry.

The typewriter lives on, but primarily in steampunk design now. Rarely used for writing anymore. Even spiral notebooks find more use there. Though those dwindle too, and we recycle more.

And so ...
I both reserve my weeds where death is heralded, and I believe in it at the same time.

And I grew up in Beautiful Downtown White Flight.

I know, sometimes, things just: move.

And again my education is poor.
Did the middle class move to self-pub when it got squeezed out of the ever-decreasing real estate available for non-bestsellers in traditional? Or give up and just ... keep the day jobs, losing the dreams.

The sheer volume of dreams clearly available seems in this world to me to discount the latter, to an appreciable degree.

Have dreams changed?

I wonder about that too. Because, before I ever even began my education as an *author* as opposed to a writer - my education, with the real and quantifiable goal of becoming published ...

I dreamed of not having to deal with those "gatekeepers."

And, no matter how many of you love Janet, and know you're going to do it, and *have* done it, don't you tell me for a second you never thought about that. "I'll just copy the thing and sell it myself." Even before the days when self-pub had gained the traction it has, the legitimacy it has. Even before people DID that, and it was a real Thing.

Before even I dreamed of midlist glory, before I ever encountered James River Writers, when I was a mere stripling of thirty, or in my twenties, or unable to concentrate but somehow aware I was a not-bad-stringer-of-word-thingies ... in fear and before the blank wall of "how the hell do people become authors anyway" and never knew I would, or could - I thought, "why not copy my writing and sell it myself?"

Easier than learning.

("Oh. Wait ...")

And, yeah. It turns out - something to learn, all itself.

I come from the generation that brought the 'zine to its apex. I come from a wordy dang family. I come from all the fear every Woodland Creature (reg US Pat Off, Janet Reid's Phrase and Wordventions Incorporated) ever experienced, not to say wallowed in. I come from curiosity and confidence and ...


I live, in myself, in that moment where the inchoate dreams of a non-author who was nonetheless still a writer has come face to face with the first dream I ever had, and found that a "real" author can do it too. It's not just the throwaway resort of a 'nartist.

It would be sad if it's the *only* way for a non-bestseller to be published, but ... again, I'm decreasingly of the opinion anymore that self-pub/trad-pub is an either/or proposition.

And I have a resolution in my mind, to always learn, to commit to the preservation of my wee and paltry brain by feeding it with knowledge, and challenges.

And ... self-pub was, in its way, the first dream I had, as a writer. Granted, out of fear. But the way I saw it was an instrument of control. The way I saw it was as an escape from rejection, yeah. The way I saw it came from a time before it ever really existed.

And now it does. Because my dream is widespread.

Programming note for those who've been kind enough to inquire after me lately - the illness I've had is called labyrinthitis, it's something I've dealt with periodically since I was twenty. It STINKS but is nothing dangerous, and I've been so grateful for everyone's well wishes. It's still not quite cleared off, but I am safe to drive and very happy back at the office, and Penny will be especially pleased when I'm sure enough on my feet for her to get her regular walkies once again. (She's a tugger; you have to be *really* sure on your feet to walk her!)

Thursday, May 5, 2016


Pour La Victoire has a lovely post this week on the poupee de mode. Today's fashion puppets tend to be taller, and to have reality shows, but the idea remains the same - get the images out to the public, on trends and fashions ... in the cheapest way possible. Ahem.

Many people have heard of the hypocaust, the ancient system of whole-building heating perfected and made most famous in the West by the Romans. I expect fewer of us have run across ancient air-conditioning: so enjoy a quick virtual trip to Kuwait, where a centuries-old evaporative cooling system has been unearthed at the island of Failaka.

Elsewhere on The History Blog, our author says "An old, damaged tin can may not seem like much of an archaeological discovery" - clearly, this guy hasn't met my pal Mojourner, an archaeologist himself and a tin-can enthusiast since way back. Still, the link above makes for an interesting look at high-end tins of the 19th century, a curious bit about onanism, and a whole lot of info about turtle soup. Ya know, in case you were curious whether there'd ever been such a thing!

Okay, and I really have to pause, because - nineteenth century dietetic magical obsessions with "aching sensibility" (a term I find hilarical) are sort of fascinating in a way. Don't even ask what Dr. Graham would have served out of a tin. (Hint: not turtle soup, he was vegetarian.)

But how many are there in Blackburn Lancashire ... ?

... It's been a long while since I linked to Isis' Wardrobe, but a recent post has a GLORIOUS array of images ... of holes! Centuries of simple to sumptuous design and function: the holes in our clothes.

The name Leaphart is plangently evocative.

Sunday, May 1, 2016

May Day

It is Gossamer TEC's fouth birhtday and I am, I think, very sick indeed. Because  it's been like a whole moth, so I need to be sick again.

So, with apologies, I don't feel up to providing photos of the boy rightnow  - but happy birthday, Gossie.