Thursday, February 26, 2009

Huh. How about that?

My article on painted cloth hangings in the Middle Ages, Whips and Angels, is cited twice in Wikipedia. Once for the article on Samite (where they misspell my SCA name) and once for the article on Joyous Entry (where they give my modern name).
Every now and then the article brings me an inquiry on either 'How can I paint my medieval costume to look as if it's embroidered?' or 'How can I tell whether this tatty piece of painted linen is medieval?'
That it should be used within the Society for Creative Anachronism, and perhaps re-enactment groups, for documentation or research, that I pretty much expect. That it should be treated as a 'real' resource always surprises me. Especially when Diane Wolfthal's book The Beginnings of Netherlandish Canvas Painting, 1400-1530, is available.
I suppose it's the immediacy of it being online and not requiring physical movement.

The title, in case anyone is wondering, is a reference to one of the many, many, many (and yeah, many) medieval and early modern painted cloths that have been lost to time and changing fashion and moths. That one was recorded in an inventory which mentioned that it was painted with 'whips and angels', probably for Lenten decoration. It's my little shriek of frustration that so little is known for sure.
Though it would also make a good title for something by krylyr, maybe?

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Gone to be a pinky-beige prune

There is hot water. I wonder how many books I can read before the bathwater gets too cold and deep to reheat?

An unexpected side-effect of the agent research is the adding-to of my TBR pile. I've just finished Black Ships, by Jo Graham, a retelling of the Aeneid, which I'd read an excerpt from on the Orbit Books site some time back (I'm subscribed to the Orbit newsletter, as well as to
Black Ships is very very good. The setting is strongly evoked, the characters are thoroughly imagined, and the story is gripping. Graham uses fairly modern language, which I didn't mind, and only a few times did I feel the language carried attitudes that didn't fit (to my mind) with the society of the time. (The use of 'You think?' on one occasion).
Midnight Never Come, by Marie Brennan, is next up, and The Cup of the World by John Dickinson (Peter Dickinson's son! okay, that was geeky of me, but still) if it arrives in time.

There is hot water. I've forgotten too much Latin to think of the equivalent of Facta est Lux for water (hot, for purposes of bathing). Facta est aqua?

Friday, February 13, 2009

hot water, who hath it?

He that died o' Wednesday. And not I.
A new water heater sits in the kitchen, and the old water heater--now interestingly dented about the top fifth--sits on the porch, draining at bloody last. Guy the Invaluable Neighbour suggested that I add a car up on blocks in the yard, and a couple of shotguns on the porch, and get that stereotype rolling. Especially if it allowed me to shoot squirrels. I'd so love to shoot some of those blow-dried rats, but I'd think a shotgun would be less than optimal (plus I've never held a shotgun).
The new heater arrived yesterday morning, and Guy and I spent most of yesterday evening wrestling and prying the old one out of its niche under the stairs, which required popping out the baseboards and shoe-shelf from the closet. I suppose the old one must have been installed when we re-did the hallway and took out the walls, (several years ago) because otherwise I don't know how it fit. Though it must have been lighter and more manoeuvreable when it wasn't BLOODY FULL OF WATER that refused to drain.
Guy shimmed the tank up while I levered it from side to side with a length of 2x4 (thus the dents, from my mighty thews & 2x4) and that got some of the water out and let him eventually tip it forward onto the dolly. He remarked, on his way out, how feather-light the new tank seemed in comparison, and gosh yes.
I swept out the understairs, and propped the drain-tray up to let the floor dry under it. With luck I'll be able to have that hot bath on Saturday. Mmm. Hot water on demand is one of the great triumphs of civilisation, up there with antibiotics and anaesthesia.

In other updates, it looks as if I'm getting away with a crown and not a root canal. Hurrah! (in a muted way, in case the tooth falls apart before the crown is permanently cemented in)
The Medieval Seminar went well, and we may be able to expand our display next year, along with a much more interesting topic: Medieval Beasts. Lots of display potential there, though I many not have time to write, illustrate and bind a small 14th c. bestiary.
Three more agent queries sent on Sunday, and my first form rejection from an agent--I'm not quite sure how to mark that milestone, perhaps with a hot bath.
Got my crit assignments for the Potlatch writers' workshop, only three stories. Rather a large number of students, it seems, so the sessions have been broken up into five, each with a single instructor (or so it looks on pixels). The three stories are quite different, so there should be some interesting perspectives.

Tomorrow I must get downtown and book tickets for Serena to visit this month, so we can hang out and talk writing. It's too bad I'm not linked up with any local writers' groups, for hanging-out purposes, but I'm not sure how much I'd want to be committed to any regular face-to-face group.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

things sent to try us

My original plan was to have a hot bath while reading Evil Editor's Why You Don't Get Published, then all warm and rosy, pop into bed. That was before I noticed that the bath was less than lukewarm. Before I heard trickling water under the stairs. Before I pried off the back of the closet and saw water on the floor around the water heater.
Well, the part that can be dealt with at 8:30pm is dealt with. I've turned off the tap at the top, I've clicked over what looks like the right switch in the fusebox, I've wrapped a towel around the bottom of the tank, and I'm having a small glass of port instead of a hot bath, while the Consumer Reports page on water heaters is open in another tab.
Fortunately I have tomorrow off, because I'll be spending it getting a new water heater installed.

Monday, February 2, 2009

general news & books

Mark left for Arizona this morning, to attend the Estrella War. The house is in various sorts of disarray, since he's been using most of the downstairs as a staging area for packing, and in the time just before he leaves I blinker myself and just think 'there is no point tidying, because much of it will be going away with him'. Thus, dust falls gently over the disarray.
Then the urge to tidy and dust and sweep will fall upon me randomly through the next several days, depending where in the house I am and what I happen to be looking at. These fits will increase in frequency and intensity, then taper off as the house reaches a level that I'm comfortable with.
Which is not to say that it would meet any particularly stringent white glove test, only that the horizontal surfaces will be accessible and the piles of stuff-in-progress will be neat orthogonal piles. They will also consist for the most part of my stuff-in-progress, Mark's being tucked away on shelves and exiled to the garage workshop while he's not there to protect them.

Virtuous things: I updated my website.
-finished "Gods'-Meat" and sent it off to the Potlatch workshop, realising with some shock just how long it had been since I'd finished a short story. Plotwise it may be an inchoate mess--a grammatical, correctly-spelled, nicely-paragraphed inchoate mess. I go with my strengths.
-sent three e-queries to agents. This I found oddly exhausting, traipsing back through blogs and LJs to discover their particular quirks and preferences, and tweaking the query to match. This one wants to know where you think your story fits in the market, that one thinks anyone who compares their work to an established writer is just showing off. This one hates Ms, that one hates being addressed by his first name. This one wants you to show your research in picking them, that one doesn't want to hear any of that fake personal stuff. I know it's because they're individuals, and I was prepared to do the research. I was just surprised how tired I felt at the end of a mere three queries.
I'm going to try to get 2 or 3 queries out each weekend, until I run out of e-queryable agents who handle fantasy, which shouldn't take long. Then start on the snail-mail queries. Oh yeah, and write another, better book.

Dubious things: A dental app't this Thursday to--if I'm lucky--put in a permanent crown, or--if I'm unlucky--root canal work. I'm very much hoping that the tooth isn't cracked. I've already got one cracked tooth that, when it decides to go, will require extensive repair work. I'd just as soon not have another.
The UVic Medieval Seminar on Saturday. I know I'll enjoy it once set-up is done, and there Will Be Less Set-up this year, because the new venue has much less display space, being a lobby entrance. I will dress warmly, in linen and wool, with woolen hose, I think. Also I will bring books. Books from my tbr pile, which needs to be dealt with.
Perhaps I'll dedicate this coming weekend to reading other people's published writing? And try to spend fewer evenings browsing the web, and more evenings tucked up with a hot drink and a paperback.
Then I could post reviews of what I've read. Oh, heck, why don't I do that anyways?

World Fantasy Freebies: People who regularly attend the big cons may take this for granted, but I was surprised and excited at the World Fantasy Convention 2008 to be given a very nice tote bag, with side pockets and net pockets and zipper pockets, and it was stuffed full of books! (My previous experience with a big con would be, umm, Worldcon in Brighton in 1979.)
Certain books were in every bag, the rest of the space was given to random books.
Mark and I went through and removed anything duplicated between us, or that we already owned, and cleverly there was a table where books could be left, swapped and picked up, beside the flyers and bookmarks table (which probably has a name). I browsed that table regularly throughout the con, and all I can say is that it was very clever of Mark the Wonder Husband to bring a mostly-empty suitcase.
So far I've only dented the freeby pile (I think it was described as 12 pounds of books, even though we're supposed to be metric.) Here's the first few:

Journey Between Worlds, by Sylvia Engdahl, originally published 1970, updated 2006. I quite liked the cover illustration, by Craig Phillips, which had a sort of Nausicaa/Moebius feel to it, very suitable. The book was an easy read, reminiscent of those 1960s career guides for girls that were disguised as novels. Only instead of becoming a tour guide at the UN or a fashion illustrator while finding love and possibly solving a mystery, Melinda emigrates to Mars. References are made between the American pioneers and the colonising of Mars, and the frontier spirit of ancestors and descendants. Mars has no aboriginal inhabitants, so that less comfortable parallel isn't much examined.

Destiny Kills, by Keri Arthur, Spectra 2008. Cover firmly in the urban fantasy mainstream, bare female back with tattoo; though this one is old-style, credited to Getty Images, the swirly vinery around the title brings it back to standard.
I enjoyed the first half of this. It starts pretty bang! with our amnesiac heroine sitting naked on a beach beside a dead guy, remembering only that she has to perform a final ceremony for him when the sun rises. But the amnesia only lasts long enough to allow info-dumps in the guise of awakening memories, not to be a real difficulty, and the chasing about and outwitting of pursuers became samey. I love chase stories--see my extensive collection of John Buchan and Geoffrey Household for proof--but when the romantic leads decided to trust each other and have sex, the tension dissipated. Then the two villains, one human and one nonhuman, just to be even-handed, are so sketchy that their defeat(s) were anticlimatic for me. The final confrontation, which should be intense, since the building is flooding, was pretty well meh. I think this was because there was no tactile detail. I mean, even if you're a sea dragon, doesn't water lapping around your feet feel like something? But it was all perfunctory visuals. The ending verged on bathos:


The wizened dragon-king in his cold stone castle, with water lapping up to the carven feet of his ornate throne, in exchange for the gold ring that holds his ancestral power ... gives them a cell phone and tells them to call an Econolodge in Nevada.


Scavenger, by David Morrell, 2007. Cover has author's name in huge, and book title as bas-relief on stone incorporated into the artwork, mostly a small scene of entering a cave on the page underneath, revealed by a die-cut 'broken' corner. I don't by preference buy books where the author's name is the largest feature on the cover. I want a picture!
The writing is smooth, the plot races along, characters are in jeopardy, things get worse for our heroes, and I failed to be engaged, even though there's a tough-but-vulnerable heroine and a wounded-but-determined hero. I had a recurring itchy feeling that we were hitting all the major stops on the Hero's Journey (underground ordeal with symbolic rebirth? check). Still, it would be dandy reading for the airport or Greyhound, except that the ending felt like a cheat. If I'd been really wrapped up in the book, the ending would have been a wallbanger, but since I was dipping into it non-sequentially, I only groaned.

Paraworld Zero, by Matthew Peterson, on cd. I admit, I hung onto this because I'd seen the ads on the back cover of F&SF, and I was curious about someone who would pay for that sort of promotion (I don't know what it costs, but it can't be pocket change) but not for a designer to make his cover less amateurish. It was published by Windstorm Creative (discussed here) so he was probably responsible for his own cover as well as his own promotion.
I didn't get very far with listening to this, because the narrator has the sort of earnest, slightly nasally voice that I find off-putting. Also, the intro/prologue is an emergency birth by a woman covered with pus and lesions, fully described (yeah, now I'm complaining when writers put details in, there's no pleasing me). When I skipped ahead to the first chapter, with our young orphaned hero daydreaming in class and dealing with bullies, it was considerably more engaging, and I could see why kids might enjoy it.

Huh, that sounds pretty negative so far. Maybe I'll be better pleased with the next few.