Well, I'll swallow my trepidation and begin my blog. So – what to do – how to start. I check the blogs of others. Some do nothing but advertise their work. Some ruminate on their opinions and passions. Some preach. Some entertain. Some bore.
I think I'll start with quotes. I love quotes. Quotes are the digest of the wisdom of the giants whose shoulders I stand upon as I live and create my life day by day.
My quote today:
'God made man because he loves stories.'
I love stories. I sit in rapture as I listen to those of my friends that are great storytellers. I read stories – constantly. It's to the point of being a vice. I watch story on TV. Hell, I even write stories or try to.
Scheherazade tells stories to Shahryar in One Thousand and One Nights. I once read that Shahryar was a wounded soul and Scheherazade was in great jeopardy at his court so her stories were to heal him from his hurt and then save her life.
The old Celtic bard tells stories to exalt the name of his lord and remind the people of their law and heritage. He was the source of literacy in a world without the written word.
Dante and Twain and Jon Stewart tell stories to skewer their opponents. And, good they are at it.
Some Buddhists claim that the omnipotent, omnipresent gods are bored to death of their all-pervasive knowledge. So, periodically they put themselves to sleep and dream the creation and the universe and let it blossom spontaneously – unpredictably. And so to have newness beyond their all-knowing wisdom.
If this is so, the gods or God, with the greatest generosity, gave man this gift of dreaming. This 'Story'. That we may entertain and be entertained bringing light into the darkness of parts of our lives.
It was a gift to me. I don't know if you have it. My stories, sparked from the ether it seems, take on a life of their own. They grow on their own. I lay back, half close my eyes and watch as they create themselves on their own uncontrived and unsteered. Better than TV most times. Some are good. Some are boring. Some end up self-published as ebooks. So, like the elder Mormons, for a moment, in the night, I can rule a planet of spontaneous creation and not be bored.
Watching television can sometimes be unsettling. Our great general's recent fall from grace. Our recent presidential election and the perpetual whine of the pundits from both sides (many with their own history of foilables). Include also the preacher, guru, and priest scandals from the last years across nearly all our religions. These are our leaders and too often claim leadership by example. Truth will out.
My quote for today:
It is easier to fight for one's principles than to live up to them.
- Alfred Adler
Historical Fiction 11/21/12
"True, I have raped history, but it has produced some beautiful offspring."
- Alexandre Dumas
I ponder the nature of 'historical fiction'. It is what I write. There is always the question of how much can I stray from the facts for the sake of the story.
It's the story that is most important.
To bring the dead to life / Is no great magic. / Few are wholly dead: / Blow on a dead man's embers / And a live flame will start."
- Robert Graves
I start the flames of past lives but then, of their own, they take on a life of their own. And sometimes they start to stray from the history to insert themselves in the story (itself breathing and alive and apparently on its own). I guess that is why those characters, no matter their place in the history, get their names changed. It's sort of what Bernard Cornwell says, 'hero's must have something to do.
But a writer must not stray far, if at all, from what actually happened. It then becomes 'alternate history'. That's not what I write or want to write. As much as I admire Abe Lincoln, I don't want him walking out of the theatre. As much as I enjoy reading about World War 2, Hitler must die his over-late and deserved death. The Sioux must win Little Big Horn. My Confederate ancestors must go home in defeat. King George must lose his colonies.
Anachronisms are anathema. Custer cannot wield a Thompson. Hornblower cannot captain a motor boat.
However, I want my characters to live, love, and grow within their historical setting. I want my readers to share that with my characters – to place themselves truly into that history. To feel it. To breathe it. To live it.
Writer's Block Pt. 1 11/25/12
An empty page stares up at me. The worse thing a writer can find before him or her. It's been there for a while looking back at me. It will do that for another little while.
My muse is sleeping in today. She has had a hard holiday week and I think I let her drink too much by the way my notes look. Maybe I should wake her up. She is a feisty, naughty maiden. She is a powerful, hardworking wife/mistress. She is a healing, witchy crone. She will get me working.
However, there is that pile of unwashed laundry. There are those unfed cats. I see that quiet unused vacuum. I see that unmade bed, that unraked yard, that dirty dish. All those things stare at me too.
Ahh, the game is on...
Nope. I need a push – a direction – a wakeful muse. I say that prayer that I think all the lazy and unmotivated need to know.
'Merciful Father.... I have squandered my days with plans of many things.
This was not among them.
But at this moment, I beg only, to live the next few minutes well.
For all we ought to have thought and have not thought... All we ought to have said and have not said. All we ought to have done and have not done. I pray thee, God for forgiveness.'
-Ahmed Ibn Fahdllan (Antonio Banderas) In the movie: The 13th Warrior and in The Eaters of the Dead by Michael Crichton
Happy Birthday, Sun! 12/27/12
Let me wish you all a happy holiday. Merry Christmas. Happy Hanukkah.
Happy Kwanza. Happy Shabe Yaldā to all you Mithraists. Happy Yule to all
the Vikings. Happy Midwinter to thepagans I know. And, I know a few.
The sun is born anew and the year waxes again. We have a newstart in our lives. I know I could use one. Can you?
Seize it. Wrestle it. Embrace it. Nurture it. Make it your
best yet. We all have only the one and it won't come again.
By all the gods, how do you fathom it? All the children in
I can't watch the news without tears welling. Those poor
parents. How can you deal with something like this? How can they? What can we,
the unaffected, offer to them?
Certainly not what is being offered on the news. At least
not most of it. To me this is not the time to launch all the band wagons, all
the personal crusades.
So, I'm going to launch mine. Sorry.
The majority scream and whine on both sides of the gun
ownership issue. Both sides are moot. Both sides are lying. We have the 'right
to bear arms' not to preserve hunting, not to let bad men have access to arms.
We have it so that we can defend ourselves from our own government when it
becomes an oppressive one. Even 'assault weapons' – the rifled musket was a
state-of-the-art weapon that helped us win free from our rightful and
Some, at least, try to be heard about the deplorable state
of our healthcare system. Especially on how we tend, or refuse to tend, those
of us with mental health problems. When our insurance companies began to win
their corporate battle against the customer who wanted protection from the
medical and pharmaceutical industries who in turn were winning their battle
against their customers.
I was a psychiatric technician. I was charged with
caring for the mentally unhealthy. Costs, even then, were horrendous. To get
care for your loved ones required insurance for the wealthy. It required
government assistance for the poor. Something happened in America back then.
Mental health, or mental illness, was not like cancer, or heart disease, or
even plastic surgery. No one wanted to foot that bill. No one wanted to share
I don't work as a psychiatric technician anymore. The
private psychiatric hospitals are fossils now. Public hospital psychiatric
rooms are minimal. The jails, the police, the swat teams, now are our mental
health care workers. Getting help from the schools or the government is a
continual battle for inadequate and minimal services. The mentally ill not in
jail live under bridges. Except for those that simmer in their illnesses at
home with desperate relatives untrained and apparently alone.
And then we all sit tearful while we watch tragedy on the TV.
The Ancients are Different? 12/7/12
Once a friend of mine heard me wonder aloud about the ancients. Were they like us? At the time, I did not think so. I was a kid taking an archeology class. She was a salt of the earth, walking, talking Mother Nature.
She said to me as she glanced over to her 'gamer' child: 'Do you think that Pharaoh's lowliest slave didn't snatch up her dirty kid, lick her thumb, and smear the mud from his face. Listen, you can bet that some cave mother came in the cave, looked at her worthless kids, and shouted for them to stop spending all day staring at the fire and to go the heck outside to play.'
When fictitious Romans in fictitious books want to draw differences between themselves and the Britons they either fight against or defend their authors often draw pictures of dirty, unsophisticated, savages. Well, I am one of those Britons. And, offended, I looked that up.
Uhhh, it's not so. They were clean, well dressed, and literate. I have three examples: soap, linen, and the 'Frank's Casket.
I suspect that tanners noticed that those workers that used lye, lime, or potash to melt fat from hides went home smelling a little less like road kill than did their coworkers. It would be a small leap to try rubbing some of the slurry over themselves and having a quick rinse made everyone smell better. They called it 'saipo'. They had three types depending on the amount of lye compared to animal fat or tallow; a bar soap, a greasy compound, and a head soap.
Researchers put that the Celts used this 'saipo' when they bathed and they did so more regularly than did the Romans. Celts had a great interest in cleanliness and hygiene. Law stated that foster parents must bathe their fosterlings every other day and comb their hair after every bath. What good Briton or Saxon wife would allow her man to come home smelling like he had been three days in the grave if he did not have to.
The Britons dressed well and fashionably. It is believed that the Belgae a century before the Romans came brought linen manufacture to Britain. This added to good cloth making from hemp and wool. Very soon, British clothing brightly dyed and intricately woven, tapestries, rugs and even sheets were widely regarded and widely traded. . It appears from the Notitia Imperii that there was an Imperial college or manufactory of woolen and Linen cloth for the use of the Roman army in Britain established at Venta Belgarum.
The monks say they were prideful and vain. However, their millinery was widely traded and actively sought after for its bright colors and its quality. And, the Celts slept on carpets not piles of fur. They slept under sheets of linen or hemp. They went to sleep enjoying beautiful tapestries that hung on the walls.
Like all people, the Celts and the neighboring Saxons loved story. They loved the tales of their hero and ancestor. Their culture honored and supported bardic storytellers. And, a dime will get you a dollar, when the bard wasn't in town, tall tales told by the best talkers in the clan echoed from the roundhouse walls. Mothers and servants told stories to the children to keep them from mischief or the dark of the night. Story is the literacy of unlettered cultures. It is the history and the law of the people. Story is carved onto the icons of the Stations of the Cross or the talismans of the warrior.
I will slip in to the world of the Saxons for a moment here and use the 'Franks Casket'.
It best models the kind of literacy found in an unlettered society even though there are runic, Latin alphabet texts of Old English and Latin carved into it. Its unlettered literacy is found in the relief carvings of the whalebone panels. Here is found depictions of the pagan Germanic past, Christian messages, Roman history/fable, and battle at the walls of Jerusalem. Scenes of Weland the Smith, the Adoration of the Magi, Romulus and Remus founding Rome, Titus capturing Jerusalem, Hos sitting on the 'sorrow mound', AEgili defending a fortification all showing an interest in and knowledge of many cultures, histories, and religion.
I think I can extrapolate something similar found on the tapestries of the Celtic roundhouses safely enough. They were thought to be somewhat more sophisticated then the Saxons of Northumberia at this time.
My ancestors in the 'Land of the Giants' during the Dark Ages were not the primitives depicted in so many books and movies.