Friday, May 25, 2018


I have long felt this way about the (w)racking of the nerves. Oddly enough, though, I don't mind seeing either spelling. Free rein, however, reigns for me.

Okay, THIS THIS THIS THIS SO VERY THIS, when it comes to complaining that Al Franken is out but the GOP tolerates worse abusive and demeaning behavior than his. "There is a difference between the actions of Harvey Weinstein (accused of rape) and Franken (accused of forced kissing and groping women). But that doesn’t mean women should have to choose between the two. The ideal is none of the above." (Emphasis added.)

And here we are with one of those sites I always depend upon ("Too much?") for Collections posts, with a great pairing:

You may have heard of the partially mummified baby, but The History Blog, as they always do, has excellent background of its own along with their usual collection - ahem - of links. Make with the clicky for the clicks beyond on this story! Also: yay, science!

THB link #2 *may* not be for the squeamish - note, the words "gnaw" and "bones" occur togehter in an analysis of burial practices. But, for my gravedigging money (there's no research like grave goods!), funerary finds are the richest finds of all. So make with the clicky here, if you can stand the phrase "four pelvises on a stick" in service of a REALLY interesting look at Celtic warfare and military burial.

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Catastrophe! Hee.

Holy CATS, it is fascinating when science can tell a novelist their historical fiction may have been fiction in the historical documents themselves. I was happily reading along, this Atlantic piece about Greenland ice core sampling and how it correlates to the Roman economy and conquests ... when it casually BLEW MY WEE AND PALTRY MIND with an aside about the Plague of Justinian. Which just happens to be awfully important to my WIP's action, themes, even those aspects of my work which I literally don't even believe in.

The mention, in the article, of absence of evidence of Justinian's Plague in the ice record does not equate to evidence of absence. (Evidence of exaggeration? Always possible. Discoveries can indicate many things.) I am content to accept Procopius, amongst others. Lucky thing: I am neither scientist nor historian, and as a novelist of historical fiction, I need not dash down the twin rabbit holes of history *nor* science to justify my theories as to how the "Dark Ages" (I don't even believe in) began. Ahh, liberty!

Do you know, I do believe some authorial bits of my brain may be awakening? Well, my my my ...

Monday, May 14, 2018


Since my last post, there has been some indication of life in the WIP. I have the comments to thank, in part, but also mindfulness that baby steps really are the most important, sometimes.

After a week at work that was extremely difficult - not because the work was hard, but thanks to office politics which demand emotional and professional bandwidth I don't have these days - I've returned for a new week with my head down and my feet steady. You have to keep your ambitions small when things are overwhelming, and a week that ends with the advice to document difficulties is overwhelming.

So the WIP may be viewed as a saving grace - something for my brain and soul to resort to, which is "under my control" (cue the laugh track of every author I know enjoying the idea they "control" their writing). Well, perhaps it is just a refuge - a puzzle to work under stress, a world outside the one I have to occupy day-to-day. A promise to be winkled out.

A week ago, it was scary facing the dragon, but right now it is oddly satisfying to contemplate going at something so big. With work being just as daunting, the strange truth is that the butter knife is turning out to be an unexpectedly efficacious tool.

The thing is to see it as a TOOL, rather than a weapon.

I don't want to kill a dragon. I want to write a book. It does seem rather fighting-a-beast terrifying, given that I have been out of the world I want to build for so long, but thanks to perspective and a certain assist from Jeff Sypeck, I realize that not only is this not a fight ... the fact is, it's an enterprise I can take or leave, and that somehow makes me want to claim it, to get the best of it, to create something remarkable.

Or just create something.

Whatever the words, the point is *motivation* - something I have not had for six months, really.

As with the WIP, so goes the job. I'm off my game - even just cognitively, my mom and I both are up against forgetting things, being blankly unable to identify how to deal with things, the recurring embarrassment of displaying our sieve-brains. It's pretty giddy, but I have trust that it is temporary. You have to.

And you have to work for a living. And, if you're a writer, you have to write. You don't have to publish, but you have to *write*.

And so. I entered my credentials for the expense system at work. All I'll need to do to start that item on my to-do list is hit "enter" when that bubbles up to the top of said list.

I sorted piles. I knew which pile is the easily-dispatched stuff, and I knew which pile I had to defer for today. It left me with a nice proportion of stuff I knew could be managed. I managed it. Printed nameplates. Scanned uploads. Scanned several small things to email to specific people. Deferred the items I'll have to scan and share around looking for who should see it. Laid out two FedExes. I'll enter credentials for that in the morning.

It sounds, perhaps, unbearably elementary, but it's just conscious inrementals I usually implement every day without the consciousness part:

What is routine is now something I have to think about, but that doesn't mean it's not advancing.

Inevitably, this is where I get all writerly and point out that it's the same for the WIP. Ooh, meta.

But it's true. Opening the doc can be a step, but of late it's not enough. One window amongst others can be ignored, so - having realized that research is my entry point - I squared off with the manuscript and found a piece of research I could manage. It is so vanishingly small it may seem silly: but, it was an image, already followed by the character description it inspired. I deleted the image.

That is work on a manuscript. Tiny work? Undoubtedly. But it is "in there", and "in" is where I wanted to be. Right?

This led me on to a more substantial idea, which might get very exciting indeed. The WIP having been born out of research for The Ax and the Vase, there are relics of that novel in this one. I put them in place in the years when WIP was related to Ax, even if it never was a "sequel" in my mind. And ... the stunningly obvious fact has at last pierced my callused brain, which is: that work is not relevant to this work.

My next step may be some deletions. If I ever feel the need to refer back to anything in Ax, I always have that manuscript available. But that may be absurd conjecture.

In the meantime: deletion is work. It is "in." I want to be in. So some extensive surgery could feel really good.

Leila: remember the time you got me to cut 60 pages out of Ax? I will think of you with a bloodthirsty smile as I get to slicing again.

The butterknife is a tool. Which can do a great deal, in the right hands (and when you know where to apply it).

It's pretty exciting.

I'm coming back to life. Not from death. Just from a long detour.

Thanks to Jeff and Leila, especially, for helping me find the path - and maybe lighting fires under my posterior.

Tuesday, May 8, 2018


One of the things about going through a dry spell as an author of historical fiction is that getting back to writing involves more than simply ass-in-chair hours. When you leave behind a work involving masses of research, world-building, and characters who possess entirely different mindsets than the modern American cube-farmer, you become desaturated.

Writing fantasy or histfic or sci fi (just a few examples, I know) means world building. And when you stop building - researching, occupying, *knowing* a place and its denizens - you become desaturated. It's extremely difficult to be in that world again on a dime, when you have neglected it for a long time.

To the exclusion of much social life, and to no complaint of any kind (I would have been nowhere else), I have focused on my family for a good six months now. With my stepfather's decline stretching across eight years, my immersion has been NOTHING next to my mom's. (To say nothing of the man himself, which seems cruelly self-involved.) But, as family circulates through all our lives, so has his failty.

And, yeah, I saw that typo. But it fits. Let's make it a word: failty. (Perfectly cromulent.)

A loved one's failty is the job and the beloved duty of those who care for him - caring, in the emotional sense, inevitably comes with caring in the custodial sense, if we live long enough. And writers often are alive, and love other people (often - not always!), and so we get distracted.

Hell, writers get distracted easier'n magpies, we all know that. How else would writing blogs ever survive?

Coming out of distraction ... there are levels, for a world-building author. You can still write about the peculiarity of someone's gaze (har), or some contained scene that exists within the greater context, but doesn't require reference to the context, with all the researched or invented knowledge of the world within easy recall.

Still, sitting down to the manuscript as a whole is terrifying. "I don't remember the context for the earliest anti-semitic riots in Christendom" or "Oh geez, how OLD was this character at this point?" I'll be frank: I can even forget who was alive when, and continuity in historicals can get so detailed you can screw up some other part of the book even noodling with what you think of as a contained scene. Containers leak, and sooner or later you've piddled your continuity all over. And cleanup can be death-defying.

(Literally - see also, that bit about forgetting who's even alive when.)

It's been a LONG time since I was doing the "W" part of the WIP.

It's always been the case with me, that I can read something I wrote and, if enough time has gone by, it won't even feel like reading my own work. Even being able to recall constructing a scene, the product of the work put in still seems fresh to me, unfamiliar. There is much brain science here, underlying the way authors say "I am a conduit" - but basically, the stream of consciousness we navigate doesn't always seem like it runs through our brains as it does a greater dynamic in which our souls are mere passengers.

(Yeah, and WOW on that piece of work. I *told* you I haven't been writing! Be forgiving, please. I'm making up lame pun-words at this point; you knew the risks, reading this.)

This unfamiliarity can be freshness, but it's also symptomatic of losing the headspace. The fixtures of research and writing are important as you keep going, but are all too easily rewired incorrectly, or even lost.

As long as it's been since I was writing the WIP: it's even longer since I was researching it.

And there it is, perhaps ...

Perhaps my "in" is with research, rather than writing.

Sometimes the ass-in-the-chair isn't scripting out a scene ... sometimes, it's mapping what happens where. What to use, and what doesn't serve. Who needs to be where, rather than the dialogue they provide once they're in situ.

Maybe I need to get myself in place - remember the place - before I try saying what happens in it.

A thought. I'll think about that, then.


Holy. Hell. How have I never discovered Frock Flicks before? Well, I have found it now, and wanted to share with y'all the terrible secret of our times: the great hairpin shortage through which we are suffering. (Calling to mind my own loathing of beachy waves and bitchin' velvet ...) The bit about interns ... hee! Beautiful comedic writing blended with splendid costume blogging. Count me IN.

When thirteen is GOOD luck - just a short, sweet article about some hero truck drivers. Also here. Click for a little uplift!

Okay, this draft post is ageing, so even though it's on the brief side, let's hit "publish" rather than waiting for inspiration, which seems to be even more minimal ...

Friday, May 4, 2018

Nope, still not posting ...

... still not writing either. Sigh.

But tonight, I pulled up Over the Edge to watch, and this woke up one of the happier memory parts of my brain.

Cheap Trick is OSUM, man.

But (... for now ...) that is all.

See you some time soon though, fella babies. I can't stay shut up for but so long.