trapping the plot bunny

A plot bunny bit me last week.

medieval illustration of rabbit blowing a trumpet
From the 13th century Ashridge Petrus Comestor, Royal 3 D VI in the British Library’s illuminated manuscripts catalogue.

Not the kind of plot bunny I can just scratch a couple of lines and save in my “to write” file either. It’s a really great weird historical/intrusive entity/questionable reality type bunny.

It’s so good I’m loath to share it with anyone for fear of getting scooped (which is silly, but that’s another post). So good, in fact, that I’m tempted to drop the novel-in-progress to plummet down this new research rabbit hole.

But I reined myself in.

Look, I’ve been struggling with rewrites. My schedule is cluttered of late and distractions of every sort compete for my limited time. Research is comparatively easy because I don’t have to invent anything or kludge all the cool stuff into a coherent narrative: all the things I beat my head against with the WIP.

But part of this novel-writing thing is finishing the damn book. That means keeping at it even when it’s not fun or easy.

So I’ve (carefully, lovingly) trapped the plot bunny with a list of sources and ideas and filed it away with the others. Pro: I’ll never run out of ideas. Con: I can only do them one at a time.

 

biweekly links 4-5-2017

Gore blimey! New exhibition looks at Tudor medicine: in case you find yourself in Stratford-Upon-Avon between now and December. More about “Method in the Madness: Understanding Ourselves Then and Now”;  the exhibit will include replica surgical instruments and other interactive elements.

Parchment drawing of a wheel with flasks around the edges, each flask filled with a different color.
Fifteenth century drawing of a urine diagnosis wheel from Johannes de Ketham’s Fasciculus medicinae. This and other fabulous public domain medical illustrations are available in the National Library of Medicine’s digital collections.

Henry VIII clauses and how 1539 compares to 2017: Brexit, sport, and public humiliation – the more things change, the more they stay the same, or do they? What do you think?

Does Bela Lugosi’s Ghost Still Haunt This $3M ‘Hollywoodland’ Tudor? Former residents Jon Cryer and Kathy Bates aren’t saying. Frankly, it doesn’t look all that Tudor-y to me, but the beamed ceiling is nice.

your brain is lying to you

Or my brain is lying to me, at least.

Lying!
Because never skip an opportunity to use Saga’s Lying Cat. Via Comicvine.com.

I’m not talking about the subjectivity of reality or how much subjective experiences do/do not matter, but something far more mundane: generalized anxiety. I wasn’t diagnosed until my twenties but it’s been a problem all my life. All these stupid things everything does from time to time are my system defaults.  Short version: I can’t trust my intuition because it’s a paranoid idiot.

Not that it’s not fixable. With treatment I no longer jump at every damn thing but risk assessment isn’t a gut thing so I have to consciously overwrite my bad mental habits.

This is on my mind because I’m on several learning curves and the constant forebrain check of the stuff my lizard brain can’t handle has been exhausting. Doesn’t stop me fervently overthinking everything though, and the writing is falling into a spiral perfectionism paralysis. I’m digging out, but it’s taking time so I just listen to my internal Lying Cat hissing lying, lying, lying.

How does your mind lie to you?

biweekly links 3-22-2017

Hazy Cosmic Jive: Bowie and the Starmen, Part One, Part Two, Part Three: Intriguing series about the influences of UFOs and Captain Marvel on the creation of Ziggy Stardust and other Bowie personas. I knew Bowie was into UFOs, but didn’t know about the comic book angle. Huh. Well timed as I found this just after finishing Simon Reynolds’ Shock and Awe: Glam Rock and its Legacy.

David Bowie made up like an alien with bald head and yellow cat eyes
David Bowie in “The Man Who Fell To Earth”, courtesy Zimbio. I maintain: Bowie didn’t die, he just went back to his home planet of svelte androgynous people.

Henry VIII’s ‘small country’ Tudor palace for sale: so if you’ve got £3 million lying around you’ll want to jump right on that. Seriously though, some nice interior/exterior photos at the link if Tudor architecture is your thing.

The Tudor guide to colonising the world: in case “Bluff King Hal”‘s old digs aren’t big enough for you, read about Richard Hakluyt’s sixteenth century travel guides of the New World. Mind, he never actually left Europe, so take with a grain of salt.

The Game Developers Who Are Also Witches: not a gamer myself but games are a powerful storytelling medium and it sounds like these games to celebrate and empower traditionally maligned populations.

lemonade out of lemons

A sudden illness laid me low so I don’t have a ton of scintillating prose for you this week. I’ve made good use of the downtime though:

Vintage postcard/image: When I was sick and lay abed, I had two pillows at my head, And all my toys beside me lay, To keep me happy through the day.
From the New York Public Library’s public domain image collection.

Just like the fun stuff, I journal the rough stuff. Given how writers need to torment their characters I chronicle every twinge and ache. I’m currently smacking Edward around in rewrites and a reference file saves time.

I find this works for anger too. Hell, I find arguments easy to write in general, but it clears the mind enough to write it well.

And, of course, reading still feeds the muse even when I don’t have the brain power to create anything.

Illness and other downtime is inevitable. How do you make it work for you?

biweekly links 3-8-2017

A handful of UFO-related links as I mine my blog feeds:

Dee, Kelley, and the Gulf Breeze Six

Lest you think that soliciting and obeying dubious supernatural advice is a purely pre-Enlightenment thing, I give you the Gulf Breeze Six.

Google Map of Gulf Breeze, on the Florida panhandle near Pensacola. Beautiful beaches but beware springtime jellyfish.

The abbreviated version: in July 1990 six American soldiers working in intelligence in West Germany went AWOL on the orders an entity called “Safire” they contacted through a Ouija board. The authorities apprehended them in Gulf Breeze, Florida, interrupting their attempt to 1) inform the President about aliens, 2) kill the antichrist, and/or 3) await the Rapture (accounts vary). Incredibly they evaded punishment: after three weeks held incommunicado the military discharged them with full honors.

Of course there’s more to it than that–isn’t there always? Government experiments, UFOs, and prophecies all get tossed into the blender of weird. The blog post at the link provides a sober, comprehensive history. Check out the accompanying PDF for contemporary news clippings.

The story caught my eye because the story is so similar that of Dee and Kelley:

  • Both groups sought and followed supernatural advice, even when it put them in conflict with the authorities
  • Neither group were cults as such, being small (six soldiers plus a handful more; Dee, Kelley, and their wives) disorganized, short-lived, and lacking charismatic leaders
  • Despite wild detours from orthodoxy both groups’ beliefs were rooted solidly in Christian theology

What intrigues me most is how many modern beliefs the Gulf Breeze Six must have had to jettison to make their assumptions. Dee and Kelley obeying their “celestial teachers” makes sense in their historic context; in twentieth century America not so much*. The GB6 must have taken some serious intellectual leaps (IMHO) to obey “Safire”‘s instructions to desert.

Letting go of my modern assumptions has been one of the hardest parts of getting into my characters’ heads. Characters may question Kelley’s intentions or sanity but it wouldn’t occur to them to question the existence of supernatural entities.

Mind, I’m a hard-headed, secular-soaked atheistic sort. Believer’s mileage may vary.

What’s your take?

*I’m well aware that belief in God/gods, angels, demons, etc. persists but those beliefs compete with modern scientific method in a way they didn’t in the sixteenth century. Turns out some of the GB6 were fundamentalist Christians. Which raises the question: how did they come to play with a Ouija board? I thought those were a big no-no in those circles.

biweekly links 2-22-2017

Photo of gunmetal gray statue of an empty hooded cloak
Anna Chromý’s “Il Commendatore” sculpture, Prague. Legend has it that if you toss a coin in the empty hood your enemies can never find you. Author’s own.

Icelandic Magic, Witchcraft, and Sorcery and the Tragic Case of Jón Rögnvaldsson: For some reason the Icelandic Museum of Sorcery and Witchcraft is all over my Google alerts this week. This article addresses the unusually masculine world of Icelandic sorcery, with references at the end.

Want to Unlock the Secrets of the Occult? Art History Holds Answer regards the newly published The Occult, Witchcraft and Magic: An Illustrated History, though the book’s Amazon UK entry has more illustrations than the article.

The duties of an Elizabethan Lady-in-Waiting: useful to me as Jane Dee served Elizabeth I’s lady-in-waiting Lady Howard of Effingham (yes, servants had servants, and so on down the line) before she married John Dee.

Will This App Turn More Readers On to Serialized Fiction?: yes, there’s an app for this too! Radish‘s most popular author writes historical romance. Will be very curious to see how this develops.

keeping sane in a world turned upside down

This is not a political post.

Princess Leia with David Bowie lightning strike makeup, Rebel Rebel written below
Via Geektyrant.

Well it is, sorta. As an American I can’t help but be aware of the current political situation. As a liberal/progressive I can’t help but be horrified. I’m not going to go into details or debate – if you agree with me you probably share my concerns and if you don’t I’m not going to convince you of anything.

Far better writers than I have discussed the value of writing in fractious times and how to persist. Incredibly I’ve managed to keep my creative momentum and am still on track to finish my second draft by June. So this isn’t a “writing while stressed” post either.

No, this is about how not to let the current situation eat you.

Or eat me, at least. I have a great talent for getting so caught in worry that I freeze. True to form I spent the first few weeks after the inauguration beating myself up for not doing enough and chasing my tail trying to find something–anything–I could do so I wouldn’t feel so useless. I didn’t go to the women’s march (cold weather + my lungs = sinus infection until spring).  I missed out on bystander training. I hate cold calling with a passion I reserve for lima beans and sauerkraut.

But.

I now cold call my representatives once a day on issues that matter most to me. I’m looking for future training and warm-weather protests. I try to remember that I should do what’s effective, not what makes me feel better. As it happens I’m more effective at a constant crawl than a sudden sprint (kind of like writing. Or fencing. But I digress).

And I try to laugh, whenever possible.

So if I’m inappropriately silly from time to time, it’s just me sane-making.

What about you?

 

Biweekly links 2-8-2017

Here’s what Google Alerts netted for me over the past fortnight:

Queer occult vs. “alt-right” occult: a very different take on the current political turmoil in the U.S. Disclaimer: I am not a practitioner but I find the idea that memes are a kind of magic provocative, to say the least. Thoughts?

Magick as strategy in World War Two: that the Nazis embraced their own twisted form of occultism isn’t news, but the possibility of the English fighting fire with fire in the form of Aleister Crowley is a new one on me. Fantasy, of course, but the facts it’s based on are arguably weirder.

16th-century English Tudor rose pendant unearthed near Moscow Kremlin: before we go all “how did it get there?!” keep in mind that England had a presence in Russia from the time of Ivan the Terrible (a prospective employer of John Dee – but that’s another story). Interestingly I first learned of Englishmen in Ivan’s Russia through Ann Swinfen’s historical fiction as she set one of her Christoval Alvarez books in Muscovy.

Photos: Secret ‘Hole’ to Hide Priests Revealed in Tudor Mansion: Archaeology, hidden passages, and spycraft, my favorites! Researchers used a 3D laser scanner to plot the priest hole’s location in Coughton Court, a “false hole” concealing the real one. Historians believe Nicholas Owens, English Catholic spy and escape artist, created it. Later several of the Gunpowder Plot conspirators used Coughton Court as a hideout.

rectangular alcove in a stone wall
Another priest hole, at Oxborough Hall, UK. By Alasdair Massie on Flickr, some rights reserved.