Saturday, July 1, 2017

Why Do I Deserve Your Help?

To give some idea why I think I deserve to travel to the UK to do research, consider that I'm probably the most thorough biographer of William Longsword to date.

The extant biographies of him are very short and many are out of date or contain inaccurate information. Even firsthand sources on him are incredibly scant.

 Even though he was probably equal in importance to William Marshal, nobody bothered to write a biography of him back in the Middle Ages like they did with Marshal. And yet, he's a common figure in pop culture.

During my research I discovered that he is a very popular recurring figure in historical romances, from Shakespeare's "King John" to recent historical fiction novels like Chadwick's "To Defy A King." The gap between his importance in history and culture and the amount of material about him is something I plan to remedy.

I've literally doubled the length of the Britannica article simply by gleaning disparate sources but there is still a lot I don't know. Some of the firsthand sources may exist and be cataloged, but may be in Latin. I need to photograph these and attempt to translate them with the scant Latin I know. I also need to speak to archivists and historians about what they know and where to find more leads.  I also need to get photographs of places he frequented so that I don't have to pay for stock photos, which could save me tons of money.

 More than that, though, I want to get a feel for his world. Going to the places where history happened always makes it easier to write about. You can read clues in buildings and landscapes that can shed light on historical narratives.

 I'm fast on my way to writing a masterwork of biography on a medieval figure who had a significant impact on history and popular culture. But I need help to complete my work.

Friday, June 30, 2017

The Bad Things (short story)

This short story was inspired by cats' tendency to pounce at things that weren't there, and by ancient beliefs that cats are able to protect people from evil spirits.  I imagined my kitten Venus chasing demons away when she pounced at shadows, and this story was the result.

Thursday, June 29, 2017

Help Me Get To The UK For Research!

I want to go to the UK to visit several sites including Hereford, Shrewsbury, Wells, Salisbury and Bath as part of a research effort for several projects.

Back in 2003-2005, I lived in the UK for a short period of time, so I also intend to catch up with a few of my friends I haven't seen in years.  But the main point of this trip is research.

I am a published writer with several books out from a small print publisher.  One of my planned projects, "Wake of the White Ship," takes place in the West Country during the 12th century anarchy.  It's a spinoff of my novel "The Vimana Incident."  Another project, a biography of William Longsword, Third Earl of Salisbury, will require visiting archives and speaking with historians.

My biographical work on William Longsword has already been featured in Encyclopedia Britannica.  I rewrote their article with a great deal more material gleaned from my research, but I feel I can gather more information still. 

I would like to spend at least 3 weeks in the UK if at all possible.  I will need some money for ground transport and lodging as well.  If possible I would like to bring my husband with me since he has never been to the UK.

My novel "The Vimana Incident" can be purchased here:

My article about William Longsword can be read here:

Donate to my GoFundMe page here:

Sunday, June 25, 2017

"The Linen Butterfly" Update

The stylistic rewrite of "The Linen Butterfly" is up to chapter 3 now. The book is now down to 114,001 words. It may end up longer or shorter depending on what I decide to do with some passages toward the end that still need extensive revisions.

After this stylistic rewrite I'm going to set it aside for a week, then read through it again and see if it needs anything.

The current editing pass is ironing out awkward prose and dialogue, and fixing some issues I identified in the continuity check. The next pass will be reading it with fresh eyes to see if I need to make some tweaks to the pacing and plot, or if I missed any mistakes.

I should have my manuscript ready to review fairly quick, actually. I'll need Beta readers soon, depending on how the next few phases of work go. I remember from my continuity check that in the passages written back in 2013, some of the prose was pretty clumsy.

Still, this manuscript is less of a sow's ear than I'd thought. I'll make something of it.

Saturday, June 3, 2017

A Revolution of Values

The basic idea of a meritocracy- that people of merit should lead- is not inherently bad. The problem is what we count as merit.

Our republic has transitioned over time from being a meritocracy of values to a meritocracy of achievement.  It's become perfectly acceptable to be a bigoted hypocrite in American politics, as long as you can create the illusion of a self-made man.  No morals? No standards? No convictions beyond your warped sense of self interest? Sure, we'll hand you the keys to our nuclear weapons!

Moreover, we've normalized the idea that politicians are crooked, rather than perpetually holding them to a higher standard than they hold themselves.  By doing so we've taken the reins off a rampaging elephant.  The threat of public censure was all that was holding them back all these years. Then they managed to gaslight us out of censuring them.  They fed us what will go down in history as the greatest lie ever sold: the argumentum ad crumenam- "I am rich therefore I am right."

A competent resistance must include a revolution of values and integrity.  Otherwise it has no legs to stand on.  Censure misconduct in your own ranks harshly.  Demand accountability for all corruption. Don't suffer bigots.  Raise up the most blameless among yourselves as leaders. If you do this, you'll stand a much greater chance of convincing the uncertain that your cause is the right one.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Terrorism and the Power of Fear

Every time there's a terror attack, I fear yet another loss of civil liberties will soon follow. Bombs are not the real weapon here; ideas are. And what idea drives conflict more fluidly than framing the struggle as a clash of cultures somehow destined to come to conflict? What idea can make beasts of us faster than the idea that conflict is the engine of progress and supremacy? What can skew our emotions beyond acting rationally faster than media spiced with fear porn of dead children? And while the people cheer the arrests and killings that come in retaliation, they blithely ignore that the noose of tyranny grows ever tighter around their own throats in the name of safety and security.

Saturday, May 20, 2017

"The Linen Butterfly"- DRAFT DONE!

I finished the draft tonight. I just couldn't keep my hands off it. Word count stands at 114k words which is within my target. However I don't know what the final word count is going to be.

The next phase will probably have to start Sunday night since that'll be the tedious part, making sure this story 14 years in the making can still be made into something presentable.

Thursday, May 11, 2017

"The Linen Butterfly" Progress!

I hit a crucial benchmark with "The Linen Butterfly" tonight. I finished the first half of the story arc- rewritten from scratch from the original "Goldenlea"- and pasted in the second half.

The second half needs to be reworked for length, style, and content and then the whole book needs a good once over, but the current word count is 126k words so my goal of 110k words is absolutely on target once all of the redundant, obsolete, and unnecessary material is removed from the second half.

This includes several passages that I copied and pasted from the second half and moved into the first half to make the story flow better. Those will be removed from the second half and new material will only be added if it makes the narrative flow better.

My goal is still to have a draft ready for proofreading in one month, and to have a draft ready to submit by the end of the summer. Knock on wood, I'll have "The Linen Butterfly" out by January.

Saturday, April 29, 2017

Linen Butterfly Update!

Current goal: finish "The Linen Butterfly" by late August. Three years late from my original goal but I promise it'll be the be worth it!

I'll have the first draft done by my mid-June at this rate, and revisions will be relatively fast. The biggest operation will be merging the two halves which were written with slightly different continuities.

I expect to shed about 10-20% of the total volume of the text because there are some redundant passages and some scenes that no longer work. I'm also going to trim the ending a bit, it runs long. My total word count should still be about 110k.

It will be the longest and most involved story I've ever written in part because it takes place in two different worlds. I hope you all will enjoy a medieval swashbuckler with a hefty dose of cyberpunk!

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Worldbuilding: Medieval Currencies

One of the fun things about worldbuilding is figuring out sundry things like how basic exchanges are reckoned!

I thought I had it figured out in "The Goldenlea," but I think I'm revising the old system I had in those books in favor of one that has a bit more basis in history for "The Linen butterfly."

Previously in "The Goldenlea," I had a three-tiered system of coinage.  This was based on the Anglo-French model of the Livre, Sou, and Denier, and on the thought that it was mostly the same as pre-decimal UK coinage.  But that was a mistake.  In fact the Livre (Pound) was not a standard coin in its own right until much later.

In fact the Kings of France tried to standardize a Livre coin in the 13th and 14th centuries and failed because it was over- or undervalued.  The Livre, for most of the medieval period, was a unit of account for large sums but not an actual coin of the realm.  Most transactions were rendered in silver Deniers or the gold Sou, or Solidus.

I revised my Gold Sol/Silver Luna/ Copper Terra system. Instead transactions are rendered mainly in silver Terras and Gold Sola, and an additional unit of account, called a Handweight, has been added.  Of course, larger sums can be rendered in marks for accounting purposes.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Starting Meds

Starting meds tomorrow.  Pretty much the same stuff I was in high school.

My goal is to get my depression/lack of focus under control enough that I can make that final push to get my writing out there.  I feel like lack of productivity is the only thing holding me back at this point in my life.  I've had several years to convalesce and I feel like I've used that time wisely toward my long-term goals.

There's an old anecdote (not sure if it's true or not) that when Abraham Lincoln was once asked how he would spend his time if given three hours to cut down a mighty tree, he replied that he'd spend the first two hours sharpening the saw.

That's kind of how it works when you're a writer.  You have to spend a great deal of time honing your craft, developing a unique style, spinning prose that doesn't bore people to death.  You have to learn how to make the difficult decisions, how to tell a story efficiently without being so ruthlessly efficient that you lose your style, how to follow the rules, and how to break the rules in such a way that people can tell you know what you're doing.

Another important thing I've been doing all these years is trying to figure out what I'm good at.  I think historical fiction is an area where I can distinguish myself because, as a number of people have pointed out, I can write it without being dry.  I discovered that I can write high-caliber mind-bending SF and I want to try other things.  That doesn't mean I won't return to that but I'm not limiting myself either.

So basically, "The Linen Butterfly" will be my last SF novel for the foreseeable future.  That's high in my queue.  Then I'll follow that up with "Wake of the White Ship."

Very few writers make it before 35. I'm 32 and some change.  I can do this.  I just need to overcome that inertia and the lingering effects of a nasty breakdown.

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Book Has Arrived!!!

My copy of the Gesta Stephani (the deeds of King Stephen) arrived in good order today. This is a rare English translation published by Oxford Medieval Texts that I will be using to write my first straight historical fiction novel, Wake of the White Ship.

Incidentally, when reading the introductory notes on the text, it noted that it for a long time the only text scholars had access to was a 1619 printing called Historiae Normannorum Scriptores Antiqui. However:
Such being the state of affairs, Duchesne's Scriptores was the inevitable basis for this new edition, and a text made from his had already been long in type, when Providence relented, and produced a manuscript.
MS. 792 in the Municipal Library of Valenciennes, from the nearby Premonstratensian abbey of Vicoigne, a noted centre of learning and a daughter-house of St. Martin of Laon, contains a collection of works relating to English history...
 (emphasis added).

I got chills when I read that because St. Martin of Laon was the abbey I had Godric at in The Vimana Incident. If I didn't know any better, I'd say this is a sign I was meant to write Wake of the White Ship. It's not quite as dramatic as being sucked into one of my own books but it's enough of a coincidence to get my attention.

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Personal Update

I haven't really made a long post about how I'm doing in a while so I thought I'd check in.

I'm recovering from years of tough breaks, but I still have a long way to go.

I still intend to try Wellbutrin again and try to get my life into some semblance of order, if life will let me. Right now I'm terrified that I won't be able to afford meds for some reason or another (insurance might not cover it because OHP's mental health coverage is SHIT).

The more I read, the more I think the "flat" feeling I had when I was on meds in high school was from the seroquel and, more importantly, the Prozac. I do poorly on SSRIs; it was only when an NRI was added that I really stabilized and began to reach something like my full potential.

And thinking objectively about how well I was doing in high school, I'm capable of much more than I'm doing now and I know it. Going off meds was the first time I felt "real," emotionally speaking, and I did well for a while, but I burned out around age 23 and I've never been quite right since.

There has to be some way I can regain my footing without losing the depth and complexity of emotion that I've come to enjoy in my years off medication, though I'm afraid there won't be.

I think being able to use seroquel as needed wasn't the best course, but it's still good at stopping the feedback loop in its tracks and resetting things. Right now I need someone new to manage that medication because the clinic I've been getting my prescriptions from (the one that manages my HRT, albeit badly) fucked up the prior authorization with insurance, then turned around and said it was the pharmacy's fault.

When I see the medication specialist (not a real psychiatrist because insurance won't pay for that, but an NP licensed to dispense prescriptions), I'll tell them I want them to manage all my psych meds and I'll take Wellbutrin daily with a seroquel if I really need it.

If and when I can get on meds, I'll go through voc rehab and see if I can't get matched to something. Granted, my last stint with them saw me waiting a year and a half without progressing to the job placement phase, which is SUPPOSED to take about 6 months. I'll try to search for jobs on my own, too.

Another thing I realized is that I have an issue that I need to revisit: my sense of impermanence and how it keeps me from living in the moment.

It's been a hellish problem for me for so long. I think I first noticed it around age 6 or 7, at that age when children really start hearing relatives talk about how fast they're growing and how good-looking they'll be when they grow up.

But I liked being a child. I liked not having to worry about bills and groceries and having a nice, safe home and people to take care of me. I liked my room full of toys, with my Fisher Price globe on my desk, and my nice set of Children's Encyclopedia Britannica that took pride of place on top of it. I had it all; toys to play and a space to work, writing, drawing, and reading, a big back yard to explore, friends to play with, so much spare time, and someone to drive me everywhere I needed to go. Why would I be happy about growing up?

And so the knowledge that my childhood wouldn't last forever loomed over me, and honestly sucked a lot of the enjoyment I had out of childhood. The knowledge that one day I would also die just added brief but intense dissociative "shudders" of existential terror to the mix (I still have them in my more anxious moments).

This sense of impermanence crept into subtle things, too. I hated getting balloons; it wasn't any personal dislike of balloons but instead, it was the fact that I liked them too much. When they rose into the air never to be seen again, or rotted away in the corner of my room above the toy box, or popped because i was enjoying them too much, it only reminded me how impermanent they were and I could no longer enjoy them because I knew it would only end in tears.

I saw this dynamic again as Munchie got older. He wasn't properly terminal until some time last year, but by then I had already cried so much for him because I knew my friend was getting old. I guess in the end I dealt with it more maturely, by turning my last years caring for him into something bittersweet, but if I'd been able to live in the moment we could have saved the bittersweet stuff for later. Much later.

I really need to work on living in the moment. Not being able to do that is really letting me down. It's something I haven't had in my life since I was old enough to really conceptualize the future on a basic existential level.

I know there's got to be a better life than this. I have skills, I have talents, I know so many things, I have a degree, I have an amazing, unique perspective. I have so much to give and I've been held back so badly by my own limitations. I just want to make good in this world. I just want to catch enough of a break that I can properly help myself.

I still have a GoFundMe for my mental health, by the way.  I may still need money because I don't know how far I'll get with the scant coverage I'm getting.  Please, if you can, help out or at least share this link.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Silver linings

This has been a very difficult time for me as my 19-year-old cat is now clearly and obviously dying.  He's been terminal for some time with end-stage renal disease, but he lasted months longer than the vet had told us to expect.

But while digging for my husband's birth certificate so that he could change the name on his IDs, I've come across a set of vintage color slides from the 1950s that I bought at an antique store in Las Vegas for something like $10 or $20 in 2007.

I'd assumed that the slides had been stolen or thrown away accidentally while clearing out junk papers, since I literally hadn't seen them in about five years. It turned out they were at the bottom of a drawer of Kobi's sketches, the one place I didn't think to look.

Now that I've found them again, what I have in my possession is a treasure trove of fine vintage photos. It was actually the content of these slides that prompted me to shell out more than $5 for someone's old slides.

These slides came in pressed aluminum magazines for an old Argus projector. They were from the mid 1950s, but there was not a single black and white image among them; they were all gorgeous, rich color images. They include views of Las Vegas, circa 1956. Color views of Disneyland in the same era. A local parade somewhere in California. A number of interesting cars, including hot rods, a Thunderbird parked in front of a sign advertising Frank Sinatra, and a newish-looking '53-55 Corvette, and some vacation shots of Alaska by train.

I know that first, I have to be sure this isn't going to be a copyright issue, but I'm not sure how to do that. I would assume that someone would relinquish the rights to an image if they sold the item through an antique dealer? One of the subjects in the photos is named. He's wearing novelty glasses. Another subject, on the Teacup ride at Disneyland, is identified as “sister” (the caption, charmingly, reads “Sister got sick”). The likelihood of tracking down the owners of these images is slim to none.

If I can establish a reasonable certainty that I can legally do this, I may try to license these images, either as stock photos or possibly in an art book. I'm still trying to figure out more about how to make the most of these images (both for public enjoyment and for my miniscule investment in these slides to pay the most dividends) so if you find anything before I do or know somebody that does this sort of thing, I'd love to know!

I'm excited to finally find this item that's been missing through the very worst of my lost years. I hope it's a sign of better things to come.

Saturday, February 11, 2017

Short Story- Sheriff Laredo's Bees

This story is a year and a half old and I had nearly forgotten all about it!

My original description as posted on another site:

This story was inspired by events that I fear may come to pass sooner than most people think.
Consider the following elements:

1. The threat of the extinction of the common honeybee from overuse of pesticides.
2. The droughts in California, which are forcing lawmakers to choose between water for the people and water for lucrative cash crops.
3. A general attitude that pervades the culture of the United States that poverty represents a moral failure.

I see this as a perfect storm for a new breed of slavery in which those too poor to afford the spiraling cost of food and water will be pressed into involuntary service doing jobs that had previously been done by insects.

I decline to comment on whether or not Sheriff Laredo is inspired by a real figure active in law enforcement in the US today -whose name may or may not rhyme with "Ohio"- who attracts millions of admirers with his brand of so-called justice and likes to sue people for exercising their constitutional right to criticize him, but let those who are savvy see the truth for what it is.

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Big Announcement!

It's been a little while since I updated, hasn't it?

I have something I'd like to share: I am now married!

Artist, illustrator, and musician Kobi LaCroix (no relation) of Dementia Radio fame is now my husband.  We've been seeing each other for about 12 years and we figured it was about time we got married.

This is probably one of the most positive developments in my life of late, and the most noteworthy.  Our wedding on New Year's Day really got 2017 off to a good start and we have high hopes for a wonderful life together.