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.

my favorite anachronisms

I’m thrilled when a work of historical fiction in any media gets it just right.  The “Wolf Hall”‘ miniseries’ period-correct under- and headwear, “The VVitch”‘s  word-for-word dialogue from seventeenth century primary sources, Sarah Waters’ carefully researched nineteenth century lesbian lives. My overkill bibliography and trip to Prague are my effort to do the same for the Dee/Kelley book. One of the main reasons I want to finish the second draft by June is so I can seek sixteenth century-savvy beta readers at this year’s HNS conference. I need someone to catch my mistakes!

Having said this, I first came to historical fiction disguised as something else and thus my influences were inherently non-factual. Not just books either-my earliest influences were visual rather than textual. So I kinda love anachronisms if they’re done consciously and well.

Take Adam Ant, my first exposure to historical fashion remixing and probable first crush (yes, I am old).  I saw his (excellent!) “Kings of the Wild Frontier” show back in January. Full of jangly spaghetti western guitars, whooping shouts and four-on-the-floor drums, the music is eclectic, but his aesthetic even more so. Take the video for “Dog Eat Dog”, a cross of New Romantic eyeliner, nineteenth century militaria, and Native American trappings:

The feathers and war paint have an uncomfortable whiff of cultural appropriation (never said my faves weren’t problematic). To his credit, when criticized by Native American leaders back in the day Adam invited them to his show and addressed their concerns, volunteering to axe his iconic look if they found anything offensive.

These days he’s ditched the white stripe in favor of a more eighteenth century “dandy highwayman” mix, including the swashbucklingest bicorn in rock.

Through Adam Ant fandom I discovered Vivienne Westwood, former punk turned fashion designer. Her 1981 Pirates collection is my favorite for obvious reasons, but I’m also tickled by her further variations on historic costume, like the mini crini and unisex corsetry. Here’s Westwood talking about her research process at the Wallace Collection:

Love it or hate it (and I’ve met folks of both stripes) “The Knight’s Tale” goes full on creative anachronism to portray medieval jousts as the Superbowls of their time. Contemporary music and tropes dance through the medieval(ish) background.  It’s hard to beat an opening scene where the tiltyard crowds stomp out “We Will Rock You”:

Finally, one I can participate in: renaissance faires. I go to my local faire at least once a year to dress up, drink beer, and listen to bagpipes. Though my garb tends towards accurate-ish, everyone from stitch-for-stitch reenactors through deliberately out-of-place Trekkies finds a home at the pub sing. I could get snarky but it’s more fun to take renn faire as it is: six weeks of Halloween for grown ups! Here’s a video of some of last year’s acts showing the spectrum of aesthetic and anachronism, including more “medieval” Queen:

Would I ever write historical fantasy? Maybe, though I suspect my rigid mind and love of research would drown out any fantastical elements. Still, I have medieval aliens and an graphic novel about an executioner in my plotbunny file, so we’ll see.

What are your favorite mashups?

biweekly links 1-25-2016

This Altar Cloth Might Have Been Elizabeth I’s Skirt: this has been all over my news feeds for the past couple of weeks, but this link has the most images.

A Same-Sex Marriage Ceremony In… Renaissance Rome?: same-sex marriage isn’t a new phenomenon, though the context was different and the risks substantially greater. Traditional marriage has always been challenged and what constitutes “traditional” is constantly in flux.

Witchcraft Before Wicca: Three Important Magickal Books: a lengthy and detailed article about the origin and content of  Scot’s “Discoverie Of Witches”, “The Key of Solomon” and Leyland’s “Aradia, Or the Gospel of the Witches”. Contains footnotes for those inclined to inquire further.

Round, dirty gray wax plate with faint pentacle shape inscribed on the surface
One of Dee and Kelley’s surviving wax seals. The Sigillum Dei Aemeth carved into it strongly resembles the seal from The Key of Solomon’s. Coincidence? Likely not. From Wikipedia.

blogs of note

A few of my recurring online reads:

We Are The Mutants: cold war pop culture with an occult bent. Articles of note: 1970s EVP equipment (warms the cockles of my In Search Of-loving heart), French New Wave cinema’s influence on Hollywood sci-fi, Dungeons and Dragons as occult gateway drug – in a good way. Quality writing on subjects that only seem unrelated.

David Halperin: religious studies prof and former UFO investigator, Halperin balances critical thinking and compassion. His series on the 1966 UFO incident in Westhall, Australia illustrates the unreliability of eyewitness accounts without ridiculing the witnesses, and his two-parter on “The Supernatural” presents a spin on Whitley Strieber’s famous “abduction” experiences that’s neither credulous nor dismissive.

Startling photo-realistic painting of grey alien with huge, slanted, ink black eyes and a Mona Lisa smile
The famous “Communion” cover, from the book’s Goodreads page. Included because 30 years on it still startles the crap out of me and I wanted to share the joy.

Halperin’s post on “The Supernatural” led me to Strieber’s co-author Jeffrey J. Kripal, another scholar of philosophy and religion. He emphasizes “robust and even conversation between the sciences and the humanities”, which I am ALL about. His book Kali’s Child: The Mystical and the Erotic in the Life and Teachings of Ramakrishna seems to have enraged and enlightened in equal measure, so surely he’s doing something right. $DEITY knows when I’ll have time to read his books, but this two-part interview on the Where Did The Road Go?  podcast serves as a useful primer on Kripal’s work and perspective.

my apologies

If I’ve spammed anyone’s feed in the past few days, I want to apologize.

I’ve been updating tags on my posts to make them easier to search. All my research suggested I could do this without re-deploying old posts to my RSS.

However, fresh comments this morning suggest that this is not the case. For what it’s worth I’ve finished updates, I’m back to my weekly Wednesday schedule.

Again: deeply sorry, and I’ll do my homework better next time!