History, Reverberate

I didn’t feel fully awake until about 3km into this morning’s run. Now I’m not entirely awake, but close enough. I could do with a spot more tea, but that will have to wait until after I’m done writing this.

The last Haggard Feathers post goes up tomorrow. I’m sad to bring the experiment to an end, but on the other hand, it will be a relief to stop the time drain so I have some internal resources to deal with the ongoing flood of bad news.

It’s Memorial Day. I spent yesterday afternoon reading Osinga on John Boyd, and once I finished that I moved to Orlando Figes on the Crimean War. I haven’t read about the latter except in fiction; the first time I can remember hearing that particular conflict referred to was a short story featuring Florence Nightingale, which I read when I was about twelve, I think? Or maybe a little younger.

The more I study history, the more I think humans don’t ever really learn. Things just… reverberate. One can trace a certain strain of European conflict from the Roman Empire to the Crimean to World War I to World War II and up to the present day; it’s sobering to sit with the fact that people are killing each other over thousand-year-old grudges. Genocide and war don’t ever really stop, they just mutate, particularly virulent species going quasi-dormant and waiting for the next instance of fortuitous conditions.

It makes me wonder if we’d get further treating violence as a virus.

Anyway, I am not particularly cheerful this morning, though I suspect a cuppa will fix that. I have far too much work to let myself sit in the doldrums for long, thankfully. And a touch more caffeine might make my fingers stop stuttering on the keyboard. It’s taken a ridiculous amount of time just to type these few paragraphs, having to stop for typos and errors every few words. Some days are just like that.

At least it’s raining, the dogs have been walks, and I have some lovely piano music on tap. I’m definitely not in the mood for lyrics today. I woke up with Satie’s Je te veux in my head this morning, which I used to play along with ACDC to get Graves from Strange Angels to start talking.

He was an interesting fellow. And now it’s time for me to make that cuppa.

Over and out.

Carousel of Spiritual Bends

Woke up in a “burn it all down” mood, and so far coffee isn’t helping as much as I thought it would. Still, I’m vertical and have my cuppa, and I’ve trimmed some energy expenditures from my calendar. It’s going to have to be enough.

Despite really wanting to do a few more organizational purges around the house, it’s probably best for me to stay in a holding pattern for a wee bit. The Princess remarked the other day that getting rid of junk or clutter isn’t just getting rid of things but also feelings and memories. (She’s been watching some Marie Kondo lately.) The decompression in normal times is a day’s worth of discomfort, but in these trying times it’s a bloody carousel of the spiritual bends.

At least I’m back on my reading schedule. Last night I finished the US Army Guerrilla Warfare Handbook, which is an interesting quasi-historical document. The Cold War was a helluva trip, and I was forcibly reminded several times of how much technology’s changed just in the course of my adult lifetime. Some of the implicit assumptions under the dry terminology were pretty startling–not surprising, more confirmation of things I already suspected.

To take the taste out of my mouth, I’ve started on Robert Chambers’s The Tracer of Lost Persons. Chambers also wrote The King in Yellow, which opened up some interesting doors inside my head. There’s a sort of creeping dread in the latter that reminds me of Lovecraft.

One of the more effective things Lovecraft and Chambers do (despite the rampant racism running through their works) is show just enough of the monster for the reader to effectively scare herself. Stephen King remarks near the end of IT that fully seeing the monster decreases the terror; we fear the unknown more than we fear tentacles, giant space-spiders, aliens, or kings in yellow or crimson. The trick and the balance is to show just enough and let the reader’s personalized, active imagination fill in the gaps.

A reader will scare themselves far more effectively than a writer could ever hope for. You just have to give them enough rope. So to speak.

I’ve been consuming said coffee and poking at social media feeds while writing this, and the caffeine-juice has soothed my ire considerably. Today is for walking the dogs, getting a run in, poking at three separate projects preparatory to getting back to serious work next week, and getting out to the store for milk and other necessaries. I wish I didn’t have to do that last bit. People are thinking the worst is over; they won’t find out they’re wrong for another couple weeks.

At least my writing partner made us all cloth masks with insert pockets. Masks, even the expensive ones, are pretty much just snot-catchers. They mean you won’t infect other people as much, and every little bit helps. I don’t know if I could live with myself if I knew I was asymptomatic and infected someone who died of it. I wish we had an actual adult in the White House instead of a criminal cabal centered around a demented malignant narcissist.

But we’ve got what we’ve got, I suppose, and it’s incumbent upon us to take care of each other. Heaven knows the criminals in power won’t. I’ll be picking up supplies at the store for more than one neighbor; if things get bad it’ll be those neighborhood links that save us.

And now my stomach has settled enough for a bit of brekkie, and to start the day. I’m fractionally less stabbity than when I started this post, thank goodness.

But only fractionally. The rest requires food, and working off the stress hormones with sweat and effort.

See you around.

Be Gentle, Chickadees

I woke up this morning with my heart pounding so hard I thought it would explode, my throat a pinhole, my lungs seemingly paralyzed.

It was a panic attack, and it felt familiar. I used to have half a dozen or more a day before and during my second divorce; they were part of what drove me into therapy and medication.

I will never forget the pride I felt when I told Frau Doktor “I’m only having one or two a day!” And the amazement when she replied, “We can get that to zero. It’s very possible.”

I was in such crisis, functioning through so much crippling anxiety, that a day free of panic attacks seemed a distant fantasy, much like a lifetime supply of donuts or any financial stability.

But Frau Doktor was right. I have had years without panic attacks. They have been glorious. For part of this morning I’ve been spinning, fearing a return to the bad old days. But, as my support network has reminded me, it is absolutely reasonable, natural, and normal to be wigged-out right now. This is an Extraordinary Situation (made a thousand percent worse by the lack of functioning adults in the White House, let it be known) and anxious trepidation is a rational response.

That being said, panic attacks are not pleasant. Having one’s amygdala screaming in fearful pain isn’t pleasant either. Your poor body doesn’t understand there’s nothing to be done but endure right now; it thinks that enough adrenaline, enough fight or flight, will solve the problem.

Be gentle with yourself, with your body, and with your brain. We’re all dealing with A Lot right now.


I’ve been reading true crime a lot lately, probably because the narrative of bad people being caught and investigative machinery actually working gives me some sense of control over the universe at large and my fate in specific. I know it’s a false sense, but it helps, and I’ll take it.

Just last night I finished the 2012 revised and expanded version of The Only Living Witness. It was chilling to read, especially in bed with the dogs snuggled warm and safe. Michaud’s many jabs at Ann Rule detracted from the book, I must say–I felt like saying dude, I can see you don’t like a woman writing true crime was successful, envy is a bad look on you, cut it out. It’s strange and deadly that the misogyny of killers finds its match in the misogyny of the mostly male law enforcement system, but I guess hating women is so endemic in our society nobody can escape.

I think that was my last true crime read for a while. I’ve been meaning to get my Franz Bardon on; his Initiation into Hermetics looks juicy. It’s nice to have reading to look forward to.


I suppose that’s all the news that’s fit for print today. I had planned to take this week off of subscription drops, but the world is afire and stories are what I have to offer. Consequently, all subscribers, on Patreon or Gumroad, will get a little goodie in their inboxes around 2pm PST today. And Haggard Feathers subscribers get an open thread, too–lucky seven open thread, as a matter of fact!

As Mr Rogers said, look for the helpers. I’m doing my best to be one of them.

Flamethrower and Swan

I’m in a Mood today. It might be leftover from last week, which was full of non-optimal stuff; it might be the weather, it might just be generalized anxiety. I’ll decide after coffee and a run.

At least I got all my Sunday housecleaning chores sorted, and I have a list of things to get done today. The attack of the don’t-wannas is deep and toothy, but if I nibble around the edges I might get to evening without feeling like a giant useless lump of pudding. Which is devoutly to be desired.

The Little Prince is reading The Great Gatsby in English class, which means I should probably take a spin through it once I finish the Francis Young I’m working through. So far the Young is really great, except for an assertion that accusations of witchcraft leveled at the marginalized means said accusations are “depoliticized.” Which is a bunch of bullshit, but then again, I don’t think the author is a witch and definitely doesn’t identify as female.

I told the Prince that everyone in Gatsby is awful, and so far he agrees. I don’t think there’s a single reasonable person in the entire novel. The Prince thinks Fitzgerald would really have liked to be Gatsby but sensed on some level how that would go terribly wrong, so he invented the narrator to keep some distance. Not a bad analysis at all; I’m so proud of my young reader I could just about burst.

So there are good things–chief among them the coffee soaking into my tissues and making me much, much less murder-y. I’m not quite sucking on the chewy stuff at the bottom, but it’s close. I should get the dogs out for walkies; Boxnoggin needs a short run to get his fidgets worked out.

Who am I kidding? I need a short run to get my fidgets out, too. Today will be full of proofing, always a fun time, but I have enough else to do that I can switch to other tasks when fatigue hits and go back to the text when I’m renewed. Once the proofing’s done there’ll be incorporating changes in the text, then I can upload, schedule, and call it dusted.

None of that will happen if I don’t bid you a civil adieu, though, my friends, so off I go. Bad mornings can turn into bad days, but this one I think I have a chance to fight off.

It is a Monday, after all. Grab the flamethrowers, get on the swan, and let’s go.

Giveaway, and Other Monday

Good morning, chickadees! It was a long weekend, and one I’m not quite sure I made it through intact. But I did get to settle on the couch with a book on contesting orthodoxy in the medieval and early modern era, so there’s that.

And we have a new giveaway! This month it’s for two signed, personalized Strange Angels/Betrayals bind-ups, copies of which I have signed I can count on one hand. It’s also out of print, which makes it even more rare. There will be two winners, and of course, newsletter subscribers got first crack at it. But now you, too, can enter–and multiple times to up your chances, too. It is worldwide, but media mail–I can’t afford quicker postage, so it will take a wee bit for your book to get to you.

It’s been warmer than usual for the past couple days, which the dogs have liked. At least, Boxnoggin, being a slick-coated fellow, has liked it; Miss B doesn’t mind since she’s got her lovely undercoat to keep her warm or cool as the situation demands.

It’s a holiday, so I’m moving rather slowly. Said dogs need their walkies, and I should probably stretch out a bit and get ready for a week that will be full of yet more revision madness. I’m prepping Season Two of HOOD for eventual publication, and I have a couple new tools to do it with. This time around I’m going to try proofing in PDF instead of on paper, which I’m sure will be a barrel of fun for all involved. I have the iPad, the pencil, and the app for doing it; I’m hoping it will be enough like paper that I can actually see the errors.

Proofing on something in my lap, with a pencil clutched firmly in hand, is vastly different than proofing on my desktop screen. Each way I see different errors; I’m pretty sure it engages vastly different parts of the brain. If this particular strategy works, trad publishers will be overjoyed at not having to send me paper proofs; if it doesn’t, well, at least I tried.

I suspect I’m going to say “at least I tried” a lot this year. There are worse fates.

And now it’s time for said walkies with said canines. They’ve been very patient, but Miss B has her nose on my knee, so I suspect her remaining patience is of short duration.

I suspect that will be a theme for this year as well. Looking forward to it. Happy Monday, my friends!

Weary or Wicked

Finishing a complex, hard-fought revision leaves me feeling like I’ve been punched in the head–dazed, pained, and wondering where all the red stuff is coming from. Recovery always takes twice as long as I think it will, but I don’t have time to really let the dust settle. HOOD needs Season Three started and Season Two compiled chapter by chapter for serial subscribers, not to mention revising, editing, proofing, and formatting for release probably in March.

It’s gotten to the point where I’m listening to Wagner again. I just loaded up my Spotify queue with the Ring cycle; that’s a few days of lugubrious listening. The motifs, heavy and somewhat graceless as they are, are familiar enough that I don’t have to spend any time thinking about or untangling them.

It’s strange, I’ve never had the urge to see a Wagner opera, though I’ve listened to the Ring cycle more than I’d care to admit. Not as much as I’ve listened to Mahler’s Fourth or Debussy’s La mer, both old friends from back in my insomnia days. Then I found the Goldberg variations, which worked about 50% of the time–way more than anything else, so I used them until Calm Therapist talked me into going on meds.

Anyway, it’s calming to have Siegfried bellowing in the background. I should, one of these days, watch the operas, but there’s so much else to get through before then.

I did take yesterday off and read Giordano Bruno and the Embassy Affair, which was quite pleasing. I’m willing to be convinced of Bossy’s theory, and while some of the reviews took exception with his writing (too recondite, too learned, too complex in the sentence) I really didn’t have a problem with that. As a matter of fact, I found the book lucid-clear, and it was a relief to have an author talk to me as if he respected both my intelligence and my historical knowledge. (However small either may be, indeed.)

I’ve moved on to some Peter Grey; his Apocalyptic Witchcraft bored me to tears but so far, Lucifer: Princeps is extremely interesting. I did fall asleep in it face-first last night, always a good sign. If the book hits me on the nose (being dropped while I’m reading on my back) or I wake up on my stomach with said nasal promontory mashed in it, it’s more a function of the interestingness of the text than my level of exhaustion.

Though there was that one time a dictator’s biography kept hitting me in the face; I think I was passing out from sheer distaste. Anyway.

The dogs need walking and there’s a Tuesday writing post to put the finishing touches on. The monthly newsletter needs to go out soon, too, so that means I’ll be looking at my finances and seeing if I can afford to run a giveaway this month.

Rest? Who needs that? Supposedly, I’ll sleep after I’ve expired. (Or once I’ve achieved my final fighting form, if anime is any indication.) No rest for the weary or the wicked, and I intend to be both all the way down to the ground.

From Bede to Leduc

So, I recently read Bede’s Ecclesiastical History of the English People. I’m fascinated by the transition between paganism and Christianity for many reasons, personal and scholarly; I tend to follow Gibbons in thinking the faith both profited from and contributed enormously to the fall of the Roman Empire1. The older I get, the weirder Christianity and its assumptions seem to me.

Of course, the older I get, the weirder any religion other than a sort of salad-bar paganism seems. There’s a great deal of “live and let live” when your gods welcome foreigners into the pantheon as a matter of course. If one must be religious at all, a diverse group of gods who are required to show ID if they want you to do anything at all for them and are understood sometimes as representations of deep psychological processes one is harnessing for one’s own therapy and use in becoming a decent person is hardly the worst way to go.

But I digress. (As usual.)

History is full of “holy what the fuck” moments, and I had one about three-quarters of the way through the Ecclesiastical History, in Chapter XVI. Bede was talking about Caedwalla’s2 military takeover of the Isle of Wight.

Here I think it ought not to be omitted that, as the first fruits of those of that island who believed and were saved, two royal boys, brothers to Arwald, king of the island, were crowned with the special grace of God. For when the enemy approached, they made their escape out of the island, and crossed over into the neighbouring province of the Jutes. Coming to the place called At the Stone, they thought to be concealed from the victorious king, but they were betrayed and ordered to be killed. This being made known to a certain abbot and priest, whose name was Cynibert, who had a monastery not far from there, at a place called Hreutford,  that is, the Ford of Reeds, he came to the king, who then lay in concealment in those parts to be cured of the wounds which he had received whilst he was fighting in the Isle of Wight, and begged of him, that if the boys must needs be killed, he might be allowed first to instruct them in the mysteries of the Christian faith. The king consented, and the bishop having taught them the Word of truth, and cleansed them in the font of salvation, assured to them their entrance into the kingdom of Heaven. Then the executioner came, and they joyfully underwent the temporal death, through which they did not doubt they were to pass to the life of the soul, which is everlasting. Thus, after this manner, when all the provinces of Britain had received the faith of Christ, the Isle of Wight also received the same; yet because it was suffering under the affliction of foreign subjection, no man there received the office or see of a bishop, before Daniel, who is now bishop of the West Saxons.

–Bede’s Ecclesiastical History of the English People, Project Gutenberg.

I quote the entire (short) chapter because I had to set the book down and stare into the distance, just working this around in my head. I think I even mouthed “what the fuck” at Miss B, who was snoring heavily next to me, blissfully unaware.

Dogs, man. Anyway.

The murder of royal children is nothing new in history; the very concept of monarchy makes it somewhat inevitable. Dictators pursue the families of those who oppose them on kind of the same principle, with extra terrorization thrown in.

But what brought me up cold was imagining those kids. Just think about it–you’re a child, your family is murdered, you’re hidden and betrayed, then you’re going to be executed and you know it, and along comes this guy to browbeat you into swearing allegiance to his particular sky fairy and he won’t leave you alone until you do.

Imagine being Bede and thinking this story is not horrifying but actually laudatory and exculpatory of murder, and worthy of being held up as a moral victory for your “pacifist” faith.3

Christianity is wild, yo. And people say history is boring.

Other things–like Bede’s constant harping on the “correct” way of calculating Easter, and the reasons why–were interesting and in some cases eye-rolling, but this one particular nugget filled me with cold sleepless horror. I had to take some Violette Leduc right after, to get the taste out of my mouth.

Of course, I also had to read Carlo Jansiti’s afterword about how Leduc’s publisher bowdlerized Ravages and wouldn’t bring out Therese and Isabelle until Leduc stood to make money from it from another (less shitty) publisher, at which point the shitty publisher said “Oh, no, we never said we wouldn’t publish it!”4 Which filled me with incandescent rage. I suppose as an anodyne to Bede it was healthy enough, but hardly less wearing on the nerves.

I was going to head right into The Book of Margery Kempe, but I think I need to pace myself and am instead diving into Witchcraft and Demonology in Hungary and Transylvania, which I scored in the recent Palgrave sale. There’s only so much unfiltered medieval Christianity I can take at one go. Besides, the latter book is a collection of scholarly articles, so I can go hunting through the footnotes at leisure in a way the Kempe-dictated and priest-filtered book5 won’t allow.

I just… I’ve been thinking about that short chapter in Bede a lot lately. It hit me right in the feels, and I’ve never been so glad for modernity, imperfect as it is. Bede’s world was horrifying in several ways. Of course, life is still horrifying around the globe; I’m in an immensely privileged position (for many reasons) and grateful for it.

I want everyone in the world to be just as privileged as I am. More, even.

We can’t hope to understand or mitigate the horror without a knowledge of, and critical reckoning with, history. I think a lot about hearing Harry Turtledove talk about how on balance things are much better than they ever were, and he was absolutely right, but still, it’s awful enough and we can always do better.

Always.