Sunday, October 30, 2011

Steampunk Sunday: Accessories

I believe I've mentioned before how much I love the Steampunk aesthetic. 

Have I? Oh, good. 

Now, while you can get away with Steampunk cosplay at conventions and other events, there are times in your life when it's just not appropriate. 

That's where the accessories come in. For example, look at some of these necklaces: 

The tiny gears and writing just make this necklace. I can see wearing it as a statement piece with an otherwise professional looking outfit, or a pendant with a casual one. 

A clockwork dragonfly! Another beautiful pendant to wear with almost anything. 

I love the gems in this piece. The whole thing is so delicate and lovely, I would love to see somebody wear this with a cocktail dress. 

Need something to wear with a jacket? This delicate little brooch will do just the trick.

But remember, Steampunk isn't just for the ladies! There is some beautiful work out there for the gentlemen, as well. 
Like these Steampunk cufflinks. Just the thing to add a little bit of awesome to an otherwise boring suit. 

And for those gentlemen who wear long ties, a Steampunk Tie Clip. 

These are just a few of the ways to add a little bit of steam to your life. 

Done something with Steampunk? Have pictures to share? Let me know about it!

Coming soon: Hats! Technology! Goggles! Books!

Quick Update

I have not forgotten about you, my faithful readers!

No, indeed, I have not.

I've spent the last week packing and moving and cleaning (and we're not done yet!) and dealing with flat tires. The time not spent on the moving (what there was) was spent on preparing for NaNoWriMo.

It was a great workout and my muscles are so sore, I can barely move.

I'll be blogging about NaNoWriMo during the month of November and keeping an update of words/pages completed. I've never done this before so let's see how it goes!

With all the moving expenses and the flat tire, I'm looking at adding ads to the blog. If you know of any good ones that aren't Google AdSense, send me a link! If you can spare a couple of bucks, drop it into my fabric fund.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Steampunk Sunday: Footwear

I'll be honest, I love shoes. There's something about wearing a great pair of shoes, even if the rest of the outfit is a little dull, that can just give me a whole new attitude. And boots? Ah, I love a good pair of boos even more. 

Steampunk boots? If heaven is where it's always happy hour on somebody else's tab, Steampunk boots are what you wear to that happy hour. 

How beautiful are those boots? Elegant and simple but with those gears running all the way up, they're perfect for that lady in the age of steam. 

I love these shoes. The base is a modern style but it's the added gear details that make these a great addition to a modern ensemble that you want to give just that classic edge. 

I'm not sure I'd wear these ones but I think the design is interesting. They bring to mind the scientists lovely female assistant dressing up outside of the lab. 

I love shoes that tell a story. Who would wear those shoes? Why would they purchase them? The more interesting the story, the more I love them. 

Friday, October 21, 2011

This weekend

This weekend is going to be crazy!!!

Today, I'm meeting with a client. Not telling about what, but there will be pictures next week.
Today is also the start of Milehicon! I look forward to this all year and will be in writer and costumer heaven for the next 3 days.

Monday is all about sewing and packing and the rest of the week is more packing.

Also, when the techs came to fix our cable, they messed up our internet. Supposedly, they'll be here to fix it Sunday morning. (I'm borrowing a friends laptop to write this)

So, if I don't see you until Monday, have a great weekend!

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

The Search Goes On

So, apparently, I have fans. Fans who check the blog everyday. Fans who call me when I haven't updated.

Yesterday was incredibly productive but not in the ways I was hoping in would be.

I did hit my word count goal yesterday and I will hit it again today so progress continues but not the leaps I accomplished over the weekend.

We're moving at the end of the month. Again.

I'm really tired of moving but I'm actually getting pretty good at it. Today's mission is to hunt down and capture more boxes.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Classic Essay: A Week Without Meat

Author's Note: I wrote this for a "social experiment" project for an advanced comp class. I have since gone back to my meat eating ways. 

I’ll start with the fact that I don’t like bacon. I mean, I really, really don’t like bacon. Just the smell of bacon makes me nauseous. On the first day of my proposed week as a vegetarian, I went out to dinner with my family. I’d gone to the restaurant thinking I would have pancakes or a salad. The first words that came into my head, and out of my mouth, as I looked at the menu were “hmm, bacon.” My husband laughed and I ordered the French toast.

My reaction to the bacon on the menu triggered a period of introspection, something I really hate to indulge in, but I got over it pretty quickly. Oh, sure, most people would have used that time to consider how many of their actions and thoughts are influenced by things they have unconsciously absorbed from their daily interactions with people, the media and advertising. But, hey, why ruin dinner? That was the last real craving I had that week but it wouldn’t be the last time my meat free week would cause emotion among my family.

An explanation is required to fully understand the scope of what I had gone into this week to accomplish. My husband, son and I live with my husband’s grandparents. My husband’s entire family is members of the Seventh Day Adventist church. This is important to the experiment only in that they are supposed to observe certain dietary restrictions. The Seventh Day Adventist religion follows the Jewish dietary laws in addition to a few of their own, including a ban on the drinking of alcohol. It is recommended, though not required, that their members become vegetarians. The first time I met my husband’s parents, I was eighteen years old and they offered me a ham sandwich and a beer.

My husband’s grandmother dislikes messes, particularly in the kitchen. To this end, everybody is discouraged from cooking anything. How does anybody eat? When they’re not eating out, they buy twenty Wendy’s or McDonald’s hamburgers at a time and refrigerate them. Occasionally, they will heat a Stauffer’s Family Size Lasagna with Meat Sauce in the oven and refrigerate it immediately. The only time I am grudginly allowed to use the kitchen is when the pastor of their church calls and asks me to make my famous Chicken Alfredo Lasagna for potluck. For the record, I don’t belong to their church and I’ve never actually attended a service or Sabbath school when I’ve gone to the building with my husband.

Knowing the resistance I was likely to meet when I tried to eat at the house, I armed myself with several recipes that I thought the other people in the house would like if I were to cook them. I would get glared at but I would survive and maybe expand my list of things I could make to take to potluck; after a couple years, I was getting tired of making that damned lasagna. In case of emergency, however, I stocked up on Four Cheese Pizza Lean Pockets. Those tasty little toasty pockets came in handy during that week.
My plan was to get up and have breakfast in the morning, make something simple for lunch then start making the family dinner in the middle of the afternoon, when there was less of a chance of everybody being home. This proved to be a bit ambitious for me and didn’t work out exactly as I planned. The first snag came when Monday morning became Monday almost noon before I managed to get out of bed. After taking my daily meds, breakfast ended up happening around lunch time. I wasn’t surprised but I was disappointed. The main reason I didn’t get out of bed until 11:30 is because I felt really hung-over. I spend most mornings feeling really hung-over, actually, even though I don’t really drink. That morning, I hadn’t had a drink of alcohol for close to a month. I managed to eat a SlimFast bar before finishing off a bottle of water and a handful of painkillers. I was mobile by one that afternoon and made an inventory of the ingredients in the kitchen.

We were missing several key ingredients which meant a trip to the grocery store was necessary. My husband’s grandmother offered to pay for dinner and we went shopping afterwards. I figured I was going to go a week without meat so there was no reason to deprive myself of good food in other areas. Whole wheat pasta found its way into my grocery cart, along with gourmet pasta sauce, ready to shred cheese, organic vegetables and fresh spices. Visions of a truly decadent breakfast sent me over to the red grapefruit. Though they would prove to be the least expensive things I would buy, it took me ten minutes to convince myself that I deserved to have something I enjoyed to eat for breakfast. When I was first reaching for the grapefruit, a voice in the back of my head said “you don’t deserve those, go get some pop tarts.”

The next morning found me bright, awake and hangover-free at seven in the morning. I couldn’t remember the last time I felt good first thing in the morning, much less that early in the morning. I ate half a grapefruit and a yogurt for breakfast. My son and I walked to the park and I wasn’t tired by the time we got there. We played until he was tired, instead of until I was tired. He actually lay down and took a nap when we got home, something he hasn’t done in over a year, and I got started catching up on some homework I’d been behind on. My husband’s aunt was keeping the kiddo for the night and ended taking him home with her when he woke up from his nap around two in the afternoon. A little later, I walked to the coffee shop up the street to meet one of my classmates and work on a group project.
My energy level was still high that afternoon and something must have showed. In the ten minutes it took me to walk to the coffeeshop, two people pulled over and asked for my phone number. I wasn’t worried about my safety but I was very perplexed about their reactions. Believe it or not, this had been a fairly common experience for me in high school, nine years and one hundred fifty pounds earlier. There was something different about me.

After that second day, I was no longer tempted by bacon. I made my pastas and sandwiches with an equanimity that would have been unthinkable a week earlier. On Thursday, my husband’s grandmother actually threw a hamburger at me and yelled at me when I told her “Thanks, Mim, but I’m making myself some spaghetti for lunch. Would you like some? It’s really good.” The contest of wills between Mim and me turned into a source of amusement for the rest of the family for the rest of the week. When I made manicotti, she declared it off limits for everybody else and bought Chinese take out from the restaurant down the street. While the orange flavored chicken smelled really good, I was surprisingly content with my cheese, mushroom and spinach filled pasta.

During that week, I went out to lunch and shopping with my mom. We talked about how much better I felt and speculated about the reasons behind my improved health. The only thing I had changed was my diet. When she got home, my mom sent me half a dozen vegetarian recipes to try. I still haven’t gotten through half of them.

At the end of the week I had set aside for my experiment, I was reluctant to go back to eating meat. The memory of waking up hung-over without the fun that should necessarily precede the feeling was still fresh in my mind, along with the contrast to the way I’d begun feeling. I mentioned my reluctance to my parents on Sunday, the last day of the experiment, and they asked me a question that I hadn’t really considered. Why couldn’t I just keep eating like a vegetarian?

My husband and father, the two men in my life who normally have nothing to say to each other, discussed ways to help me meet my nutritional requirements without eating things I really dislike, such as tofu. It finally came down to a thought that had been simmering in the back of my mind; I can’t be a vegetarian because I’m not a hippy. The minute I expressed the one thing that had really been holding me back, I felt like a complete idiot.

Very slowly, and very carefully, my dad said, “Kortnee, you don’t have to be a hippy to be a vegetarian.”

I know.

“And even if you were, your mom shops at the hippy store now. I’m sure she can pick up any hippy food you’d need so you can come visit.”

My husband snickered, my mom punched my dad in the arm and I felt much better. We all sat down and worked out a menu for the family birthday party we were having for my mom and I the next weekend. When we went over on Saturday, my mom had me help set out all the food and said “eat what you want, don’t eat what you don’t, and don’t worry.” While the boys enjoyed the steak and my mom her chicken, I enjoyed the macaroni salad, fresh fruit, corn on the cob and a wonderful day with my family.

I’ve been meat-free for two weeks now, a week longer than I’d planned, and I have no designs to return to my old eating habits any time soon. I’ve lost five pounds and have more energy than I ever remember having. I’ve even started jogging around the neighborhood, much to the consternation of my husband’s grandmother, who thinks I’m making a spectacle of myself. The pastor of the church tried the vegetarian alternative to my Chicken Alfredo Lasagna I devised and has asked me to make two batches for potluck; one vegetarian and one chicken. I guess the classics will never die but, hopefully, the vegetarian lasagna will be as big a hit as the chicken.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Steampunk Sunday: Corsets

I think one of the reasons I like Steampunk is it supports my corset fetish.

Yep, I'm sure that's at least a part of it. And, seriously? Take a look at that leather work!

And the women always look feminine and bad ass. Talk about taking control of your image.

And, seriously? That's just cool.

Have anything Steampunk you want me to include in these Sunday posts? Just leave a suggestion in the comments and I'll see what I can do!

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Week in review

So, this week, how did it go?

I was absolutely floored at the number of hits my blog got. The slowest day was double my normal hits. Yes, duh, it had occurred to me that producing content would get my blog more hits. I was very amused at some of the search terms that sent people here. Somebody was searching for "cute hillary clinton pics". I'm not sure why, but good for them. I hope they found some.

At the end of the first week of my 500 word challenge, I've written 2 short stories, several novel chapters and I've averaged about 2000 words per day. That I've kept.

I've been asked if I'm going to participate in NaNoWriMo this year. The answer is . . . I don't know. If I can finish the novel I'm working on before then, yes, I will start on the sequel for NaNoWriMo. If not, well, I'll cheer on anybody who tells me they're doing it.

So, that's it for me. Come back on Sunday for pretty pictures!

Friday, October 14, 2011

Practice practice practice

I'm reading through Dean Wesley Smith's book Killing the Sacred Cows of Publishing and I keep finding myself saying "I knew it!" or "Thank God! I thought I was crazy!"

The latest chapter to do that to me was the one about practice. Apparently, writers don't practice, they edit. I'd always thought that statement was asinine, though I've heard it from multiple people.

Everybody practices.


Well, unless you don't plan on being any good. I know most beginning writers think every thing they've written is gold and rejections come from people who just don't understand their genius.


There are some stories that will just not get any better, no matter how much you polish it. Some times  you're just taking a turd and trying to make it shinier.

I wrote my first novel in fifth grade. It was awesome! I even had an adult critique group look at it and they liked it. I read it in sixth grade and was embarrassed. How could I have thought this was great? The basic idea was ok but, really, it needed a complete re-write.

Yeah, I wish I read the chapter on re-writing back then but that's all for the best. I started from scratch and, really, it was a bit better but, well, it still sucked.

I wrote another novel in high school. Really, it's not even worth talking about except that it was long. I don't remember a word count but I do remember hitting page 500 and thinking nothing of it.

All told, I've thrown out over 1,000 pages of writing with no regrets.

So, what was all that writing? And the essays and short stories I've written for classes and fun?

It was practice.

When I played softball, I spent much more time practicing than I did playing. Same thing for playing the flute and the tuba. I've been asked to help with brass performances at my sons school and the thought that keeps going through my head is "I really need to get more practice time in."

I'm a decent tuba player but I'd be better with more practice. I'm also a pretty good writer, but I'm not about to stop practicing.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Ice cubes!

Anybody who's rented an apartment or a house knows that the odds of getting a freezer with an ice maker are slim. Even if the freezers are capable of using an ice maker, it's probably not hooked up to a water source. So, what are we left with?


White, plastic ice cube trays.

I hate these things with a passion. You can find them for about $2.50 to $5 at any grocery store in America and it's a good thing, too. I bought at least 2 a month, sometimes more, because the darn things would get so brittle in the freezer, they'd crack when I would try to get the ice out. And you couldn't always get the ice out, either.

Well, I found a solution that I love. I think it's probably one of the few things in my kitchen I would never give up. I'd give up my dishwasher before I gave up these and I have a real fondness for that dishwasher.

Ta dah!

Perfect Cube Green Ice Cube Tray

Silicone Ice Cube Trays. I've had them for almost 2 years now and they are so perfect! You can squish them, squeeze them and get the ice out of them and they don't break! How awesome is that! They're also stackable if you need the space and make more ice than those nasty white ice cube trays. 

No, I'm not getting paid to write this, I just had to share my favorite piece of cooking equipment. Share yours in the comments!

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Musing About Publishing and a Challenge Update

I hope every body has been enjoying the “classic” essays I've put up. I've got a few more coming and I'm enjoying reading through them again.

How's the 500 words a day going, you ask?

Well, that's a fantastic question and, as I have an answer, one I'm more than willing to entertain.

I'm 2 more chapters in to my book and I've finished a short-story. Um, who buys short stories, anyway? I think I may need to make a trip to my local library because I have no idea.

I'm considering going the indie publishing route but I'm not sure how well that will take with short stories. I'm fairly certain I can do it with the book without too many problems, that is, if none of the small press publishers I know are willing to take it. I wouldn't blame them, either. I'm not sure how well it would fit with their chosen markets.

Ah, well, no need to make that decision yet; just something that's been banging around in my brain for a couple of weeks.  

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Fairies Don’t Live in Flowers and Elves Don’t Bake Cookies

Authors note: This is an essay I did for a class. I'm adding illustrations but leaving the formatting the same, complete with a works cited page. I've posted the poem I wrote this about as well. Comments are welcome but remember, this is old and already submitted (I got an A). I enjoyed writing it and it started my academic career for having 'interesting' takes on traditional literature and arguments. Should anybody come across this while doing research for a paper, please make sure to cite it correctly and check out the books I've listed, they were a lot of help. 

Fairies Don’t Live in Flowers and Elves Don’t Bake Cookies
Symbol and Allusion in Tennyson’s “Lady of Shalott”
The Lady of Shalott was a fairy. She was not the winged, pre-pubescent girl who lives in flowers type of fairy. No, in the grand style of Celtic folk-lore, she was more than human. The Lady of Shalott’s place among the other folk is important. Not only does it give this poem the magic necessary to be included into the category of Arthurian Romance, it gives an added weight to many of the symbols Tennyson included.

The first thing necessary to understand the symbols surrounding the Lady of Shalott is her place in the world and the poem. The Lady of Shalott is a lady. While that may be self-evident it is important to point out that she isn’t a queen but she is still part of the upper-echelons of the other world. It also means that she has complete dominion of the island of Shalott and influence on the surrounding land. The fact that part of the surrounding land is Camelot is what makes this an Arthurian Romance and not just a fairy tale. However, most ladies in romances are paired with a knight, generally as the person for whom the knight does all of his heroic deeds. The absence of a knight to balance the Lady of Shalott shows an imbalance that will lead to the destruction of Camelot.

Waterhouse's Lady of Shalott
The second, and possibly more important, thing to understand is the Lady’s profession. The Lady of Shalott is a weaver. Of all the creative arts, none is so distinctly female as weaving. Penelope did it as she waited for Odysseus to return, the spider was created when a mortal woman, Arachne, lost a weaving contest with Athena. The Fates are also women; Clotho who spins the thread of life, Atropos who cuts it and Lachesis who measures and is sometimes said to weave the thread of life. For centuries, women wove cloth to cover their families and to sell; the textile trade made The Wife of Bath in Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales very wealthy. Nothing could illustrate the Lady of Shalott’s power and independence more than her act of weaving. The Lady of Shalott is weaving a cloth to influence the land surrounding her island but she’s cursed. The cloth she is weaving is very special and the story of the Lady of Shalott weaving her cloth gives a beautiful synopsis of the rise of Camelot and a premonition of it’s fall.

Many people see The Lady of Shalott as a symbol herself. Not all of them are particularly flattering to the poem, Tenneyson or the society which would romanticize The Lady of Shalott. Indeed, in her book Women/Image/Text, Lynne Pearce says:
[T]he lady is, as I first indicated, a bountiful symbol of material oppression; she is the imprisoned woman, the condemned woman, the murdered woman of many centuries. And she is also, more specifically, the middle-class, genteel and educated woman of too many Victorian novels and too many social statistics. Propertyless and hence powerless, she is the domestic angel condemned forever to a drawing room existence. (74 Pearce)

William Hollman Hunt I'm Half Sick of Shadow's
This simplistic projection of The Lady of Shalott onto every oppressed woman in history denies the fact that she was not created in a vacuum. Tennyson put very little description into the physical nature of The Lady of Shalott, though she was painted often by the pre-Raphaelites. The charge that she had no property is easily done away with by remembering that as The Lady of Shalott, she holds dominion over her entire island. As for being powerless, the mirror shows differently. The Lady of Shalott is a better symbol for the secluded intellectual writer who creates pale reflections of a world they never experience. Indeed, as Kathleen Sullivan Kruger notes in her book Weaving the Word that, “[b]ecause we habitually link female involvement to textile history, the recuperation of this history recovers a record of women’s participation in the creation of culture and its texts, thereby reclaiming a female authorship.” (23)
What kind of reflections does the mirror cast? Though usually a symbol for vanity, the mirror that The Lady of Shalott is looking at does not reflect her. At first glance, it would seem that the mirror is reflecting the world outside a window. However, a little knowledge of the kind of loom Tennyson would have been familiar with and the line “To wave the mirror’s magic sights” (line 65) shows that the mirror is reflecting the cloth that she is weaving. The Lady of Shalott is weaving a magic cloth, one with scenes of the road above Camelot. Far from being powerless, the magic cloth showcases The Lady of Shalott’s power.

The Lady of Shalott can see what she is creating in her mirror but she can’t see it actually happening. This is the nature of her curse. She cannot stop weaving the magic cloth because, as soon as she does, she stops creating the scenes on the road to Camelot. To stop and look at the real world instead of the shadows would be an end to the very creative process that is creating those scenes in the real world. When she first started, The Lady of Shalott had no other care in the world but to continue her weaving until she begins to become dissatisfied, envious of the people in her weaving. Tennyson show’s the beginning of her end with the lines “She hath no loyal knight and true / The Lady of Shalott” (line 62-63) and “ ‘I am half sick of shadows,’ said / The Lady of Shalott.”
Waterhouse Looking at Lancelot

Though it is often Guinevere and her affair with Lancelot that is blamed for the beginning of the fall of Camelot, Tennyson indicates otherwise. Lancelot, it seems, carries the destruction of women with him. It is Lancelot’s arrival that prompts a dissatisfied Lady of Shalott to leave her loom to look at him. However, the scene on Lancelot’s shield give an indication that he was not meant to be the downfall of Camelot. The scene on his shield is that of the Red Cross Knight and the Faerie Queen from Edmund Spenser’s epic poem The Faerie Queene. Spenser intended his poem to be the ultimate English epic. The Red Cross Knight was representative of St. George, the patron saint of England. In his marriage to the Faerie Queen, The Red Cross Knight weds the physical world to the spiritual world in the ideal union. Lancelot bearing the scene of the Red Cross Knight on his shield is a reminder to his readers that Camelot was not the perfect kingdom that it is often supposed to be but it could have been.
In her mirror she can see the shining beauty that is Lancelot. If he’s that beautiful in the mirror, what would he look like in real life? The Lady of Shalott never gets to see Lancelot before the mirror breaks.
She left the web, she left the loom,
She made three paces through the room,
She saw the water lily bloom,
She saw the helmet and the plume,
She looked down to Camelot.
Out flew the web and floated wide
The mirror cracked from side to side
“The curse is come upon me,” cried
The Lady of Shalott. (109-115)

Walter Crane Lady of Shalott
Two things break as the curse comes upon The Lady of Shalott; the mirror and the web. The web is what The Lady of Shalott was weaving. She was very likely weaving bits of herself into it and when it fully unravels, she dies. The glass reflects what she is weaving. When it breaks, not only does it disconnect the influence of the web on the outside world but it also curses the scene it had been looking upon. With the coming of Lancelot, The Lady of Shalott was effected by her curse and things began to fall apart in Camelot.

Had The Lady of Shalott stayed on her island, nobody would have known that anything had happened to anybody that day. The reapers would have noticed the absence of her singing but even that would have been forgotten eventually. All authors wish to be remembered and grasp at the immortality that creation can offer them. The Lady of Shalott knows she’s dying and, with her creation unraveling behind her, she grasps at the only way she’ll be remembered. The Lady of Shalott goes to Camelot.

There are two physical descriptions given of The Lady of Shalott in her poem. The first describes her robes as she lays down in the boat that will take her body to Camelot. “Lying, robed in snowy white” (line 136) is a great deal different from the “magic web with colors gay” (line 38) that she was weaving. The absence of color in her garments leads the indication that all of her colors, all of her life, was woven into the tapestry that is now a mess. She’d woven her own fate in with that of Camelot.

When the body of The Lady of Shalott floats into Camelot, the knights and lady’s cross themselves in fear, probably with a sense of foreboding at seeing the dead lady in a boat on the river. Whether the knights and ladies were aware of the Lady of Shalott as the reapers were, it is impossible to know although one could assume that everybody who had been there awhile would have heard some story of the singing of The Lady of Shalott. The only knight who hadn’t been there long enough to know about The Lady of Shalott is the one who caused her destruction and that of Camelot; Lancelot. “He said, ‘She has a lovely face, / God in his mercy lend her grace, / The Lady of Shalott’” (lines 169-171). He doesn’t know who she is or that he is the cause of her death and the doom of Camelot.

Dante Gabrielle Rossetti Lady of Shalott
The Pre-Raphaelites loved The Lady of Shalott. In fact, she was one of “the most favored of all Tennysonian subjects among Pre-Raphaelite and late-Victorian artists” (71 Speare). Two of the best known paintings done of The Lady of Shalott are by Dante Rosetti and John William Waterhouse. Both show The Lady of Shalott at the end of her story. The one by Rosetti shows Lancelot examining her face and the one by Waterhouse shows her alone in her boat as it’s beginning to float off down the river. Something about the way these artists have captured The Lady of Shalott at her most vulnerable, with no island, no loom, not even any life, illustrates a poignancy captured by the fate of The Lady of Shalott.

Could The Lady of Shalott avoided this fate and her death? No. People will argue that if she had just stayed with her task she wouldn’t have died and Camelot would have become the perfect kingdom it was meant to be. However, The Lady of Shalott was losing the joy she had originally found in her task. Initially, she must have wanted to sit down at her loom and begin weaving the story of Camelot. She doesn’t care if she’s cursed, she simply continues to weave. No matter how much somebody enjoys what they’re doing, everybody needs a break. Sitting so long at a task she once enjoyed turned her weaving into a burden. She was burnt out and longing for the things she was weaving into her story of Camelot. With the coming of Lancelot it becomes obvious that she wishes her own Red Cross Knight, if only for companionship, but she is not a fairy queen.

When The Lady of Shalott rebels and steps away from her loom to look out at Camelot in the hopes of seeing Lancelot there is a sense of doom but also one of liberation. The Lady of Shalott is no longer a slave to her creation and her creation is no longer being dictated by her. She had been weaving the events around Camelot for a very long time. It would now be up to the people in and around Camelot to create their own fates. The Lady of Shalott dies and comes to rest in her beloved Camelot at the feet of Lancelot. She doesn’t get to see him but he sees her and thinks her beautiful. Would he have thought her beautiful had he known who she really was and what she’d been laboring at for years? It is unlikely that they would have thanked her for stepping away from her loom and thus it is only in her death and the destruction of her creation is she given any praise. This is an early rendition of the old cliché that an artists work is worth more after he dies than it was ever worth while he was alive.

Works Cited
Kerenyi, C. The Gods of the Greeks. New York: Grove Press, Inc, 1960.
Kruger, Kathryn Sullivan. Weaving the Word: The Metaphorics of Weaving and Female Textual Production. London: Associated University Presses, 2001.
Lord Tennyson, Alfred. "The Lady of Shalott." The Norton Anthology of English Literature. Ed. Julia Reidhead et al. eighth edition. Vol. 2. New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 2006. 1114-18. 2 vols.
Pearce, Lynne. Woman/Image/Text. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1991.

The Lady of Shalott

John William Waterhouse's Lady of Shalott

The Lady of Shalott
by Alfred Lord Tenneyson

On either side the river lie
Long fields of barley and of rye,
That clothe the wold and meet the sky;
And thro' the field the road runs by
To many-tower'd Camelot;
And up and down the people go,
Gazing where the lilies blow
Round an island there below,
The island of Shalott.

Willows whiten, aspens quiver,
Little breezes dusk and shiver
Through the wave that runs for ever
By the island in the river
Flowing down to Camelot.
Four grey walls, and four grey towers,
Overlook a space of flowers,
And the silent isle imbowers
The Lady of Shalott.

By the margin, willow veil'd,
Slide the heavy barges trail'd
By slow horses; and unhail'd
The shallop flitteth silken-sail'd
Skimming down to Camelot:
But who hath seen her wave her hand?
Or at the casement seen her stand?
Or is she known in all the land,
The Lady of Shalott?

Only reapers, reaping early,
In among the bearded barley
Hear a song that echoes cheerly
From the river winding clearly;
Down to tower'd Camelot;
And by the moon the reaper weary,
Piling sheaves in uplands airy,
Listening, whispers, " 'Tis the fairy
Lady of Shalott."

There she weaves by night and day
A magic web with colours gay.
She has heard a whisper say,
A curse is on her if she stay
To look down to Camelot.
She knows not what the curse may be,
And so she weaveth steadily,
And little other care hath she,
The Lady of Shalott.

And moving through a mirror clear
That hangs before her all the year,
Shadows of the world appear.
There she sees the highway near
Winding down to Camelot;
There the river eddy whirls,
And there the surly village churls,
And the red cloaks of market girls
Pass onward from Shalott.

Sometimes a troop of damsels glad,
An abbot on an ambling pad,
Sometimes a curly shepherd lad,
Or long-hair'd page in crimson clad
Goes by to tower'd Camelot;
And sometimes through the mirror blue
The knights come riding two and two.
She hath no loyal Knight and true,
The Lady of Shalott.

But in her web she still delights
To weave the mirror's magic sights,
For often through the silent nights
A funeral, with plumes and lights
And music, went to Camelot;
Or when the Moon was overhead,
Came two young lovers lately wed.
"I am half sick of shadows," said
The Lady of Shalott.

A bow-shot from her bower-eaves,
He rode between the barley sheaves,
The sun came dazzling thro' the leaves,
And flamed upon the brazen greaves
Of bold Sir Lancelot.
A red-cross knight for ever kneel'd
To a lady in his shield,
That sparkled on the yellow field,
Beside remote Shalott.

The gemmy bridle glitter'd free,
Like to some branch of stars we see
Hung in the golden Galaxy.
The bridle bells rang merrily
As he rode down to Camelot:
And from his blazon'd baldric slung
A mighty silver bugle hung,
And as he rode his armor rung
Beside remote Shalott.

All in the blue unclouded weather
Thick-jewell'd shone the saddle-leather,
The helmet and the helmet-feather
Burn'd like one burning flame together,
As he rode down to Camelot.
As often thro' the purple night,
Below the starry clusters bright,
Some bearded meteor, burning bright,
Moves over still Shalott.

His broad clear brow in sunlight glow'd;
On burnish'd hooves his war-horse trode;
From underneath his helmet flow'd
His coal-black curls as on he rode,
As he rode down to Camelot.
From the bank and from the river
He flashed into the crystal mirror,
"Tirra lirra," by the river
Sang Sir Lancelot.

She left the web, she left the loom,
She made three paces through the room,
She saw the water-lily bloom,
She saw the helmet and the plume,
She look'd down to Camelot.
Out flew the web and floated wide;
The mirror crack'd from side to side;
"The curse is come upon me," cried
The Lady of Shalott.

In the stormy east-wind straining,
The pale yellow woods were waning,
The broad stream in his banks complaining.
Heavily the low sky raining
Over tower'd Camelot;
Down she came and found a boat
Beneath a willow left afloat,
And around about the prow she wrote
The Lady of Shalott.

And down the river's dim expanse
Like some bold seer in a trance,
Seeing all his own mischance --
With a glassy countenance
Did she look to Camelot.
And at the closing of the day
She loosed the chain, and down she lay;
The broad stream bore her far away,
The Lady of Shalott.

Lying, robed in snowy white
That loosely flew to left and right --
The leaves upon her falling light --
Thro' the noises of the night,
She floated down to Camelot:
And as the boat-head wound along
The willowy hills and fields among,
They heard her singing her last song,
The Lady of Shalott.

Heard a carol, mournful, holy,
Chanted loudly, chanted lowly,
Till her blood was frozen slowly,
And her eyes were darkened wholly,
Turn'd to tower'd Camelot.
For ere she reach'd upon the tide
The first house by the water-side,
Singing in her song she died,
The Lady of Shalott.

Under tower and balcony,
By garden-wall and gallery,
A gleaming shape she floated by,
Dead-pale between the houses high,
Silent into Camelot.
Out upon the wharfs they came,
Knight and Burgher, Lord and Dame,
And around the prow they read her name,
The Lady of Shalott.

Who is this? And what is here?
And in the lighted palace near
Died the sound of royal cheer;
And they crossed themselves for fear,
All the Knights at Camelot;
But Lancelot mused a little space
He said, "She has a lovely face;
God in his mercy lend her grace,
The Lady of Shalott."

Monday, October 10, 2011

Enlightenment Through Children's Programming

A Flash Essay I wrote a few years ago.

I remember watching my son fall over giggling when the rabbit puppet stole the Blue Wiggle’s bananas. With simple plots, simple music and lots of action, The Wiggles were perfect for my three-year-old son. The fact that they were all slightly attractive men who encouraged a three-year-old to shake, wiggle and be silly enough to get all of his energy out in time for his nap made me welcome them into my home with open arms.

As I’ve watched my son transition to the more complex plots and music of Little Einsteins and Star Wars, I can’t help but notice a few things. Not only does he like the classical music, which I am very happy about, but he is also more able to accept more complex ideas. With greater complexity comes a greater chance of corruption. As he begins to understand more complex ideas, I can see the teenager he will become in a few short years and I pray for the adult I hope he will be.

We do this to our kids. Slowly but surely we introduce them to the world around them, a world that will not always be kind but seems oddly forgiving while they’re young. We bring them into a world of disappointment and pain and hope we’ve given them the things they need to survive it without too many bruises. We protect their wild optimism for as long as we can and hope, when the first cracks start to appear in the shield we’ve created, that the first blows won’t be too deep.

I’m glad my son likes more sophisticated music and shows. While they don’t include the adult stimulation I crave, they do introduce my son to many things he would be resistant to learning from me. I do miss The Wiggles, though. Especially the blue one.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Steampunk Sunday

I love Steampunk. Something about the aesthetic just floors me and I find myself wanting to both sit and admire the designs people create and to design something of my own.

Today, I'm sharing some of my favorite Steampunk things.

We'll start with a painting.

A steampunk version of The Lady of Shalott. I came across this researching illustrations for a future post and just had to share it.

Combining the beautiful with the functional. Making technology beautiful seems to be a Steampunk must. Or maybe it's just that there are so many artists attracted to Steampunk.

Steampunk music. There is so much to love about Abney Park, this video shows a lot of it.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Reading about Writing

 Over the last couple of days, I've been reading through Dean Wesley Smith's essays from his book Killing the Sacred Cows of Publishing. They've inspired me to find all the stories I've written over the last few years and reread them. Not only have I found quite a few of them, I've found the critique letters and rejection letters that go along with them. My favorite is from a professor who says “I really dug this piece.” I've saved that letter for years and considered having it framed. I don't know why I never submitted the story it went with for publication.

Digging up some of these stories, I came to the realization that I stopped writing. I mean, for years, I stopped writing. I loved writing, it was the only thing I ever wanted to do (except for about 3 weeks when I was 4 and wanted to be a ballerina) and I did it constantly. I was good at it, too. What made me stop?

I'm coming more and more to the realization that I started writing with my critical voice. I've put off writing 2books that I've wanted to write for years because I was afraid of what people would think about them. Not just people, but family. Did I really want to write a book with a sex scene in it that my mother might read? The idea squicked me out and is, ultimately, what's kept me from sitting down and finishing it. In fact, in the original manuscript, I have in big red letters SEX SCENE and then the next chapter.

This is something I have to get over. So, I've set myself a challenge.

I'm writing at least 500 words every day for the next year. And I'm submitting my short stories for publication. And, Mom, you're not allowed to read them. You won't like them anyway.  

Friday, October 7, 2011

Older Essays

The Author as a young child.
I have been encouraged by some of the people close to me to share some essays I've written in the past. Mostly, they were written as creative non-fiction pieces so they start to resemble blog posts. Watch this space for upcoming writing.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Book Review: Death and the Lit Chick

I'll be honest, I've had a thing out for Chick Lit since I was in middle school. I walked into the school library excited at all the new opportunities. I'd effectively read almost all of the books in the elementary school library and had to get special permission to check out some of the “adult” books kept for the teachers. The good books wouldn't be separated out for the grown ups, because I was almost a grown up, at least, close enough to read the good stuff. I felt like a kid in a candy store or, well, a geek in a library. I asked the librarian what she recommended because I didn't know where to start. She handed me 3 books that, I realize now, were basically standard YA books. I was bored, disgusted and absolutely offended. Thus began my loathing for the YA category of books. I went and did my own research and started reading Alexandre Dumas. In the 6 years I attended that school, I was the only person who checked out the only copy of The Count of Monte Cristo. Fast forward to several years later and I'm handed a Chick Lit book by a well meaning classmate because I mentioned liking a movie I'd seen over the weekend. I read the book and was sent back to 7th grade; bored, disgusted and offended. It wasn't obscene, unless you consider it shopping porn, but it was frivolous. If I'm going to rot my brain, I'm not about to do it on what is essentially cotton candy.

Death and the Lit Chick
 by G.M. Malliet
All of this is to explain why, when I saw the cover for Death and the Lit Chick by G. M. Malliet, I was excited. Reading the blurb on the back made me nearly cackle with glee. I will admit to a certain . . . unhealthy anticipation of the murder of a writer of a genre that I really can't stand. What I did not expect was to enjoy the book simply because I enjoyed it. The whole thing was written with a sense of humor that's difficult to find done well in fiction these days.

Set at a writers conference in Scotland, Death and the Lit Chick is fast paced and clever. The dialogue didn't try to be witty in a forced Sex and the City way but remained believable and easy to follow. The writing was fresh and easy to follow. The characters began as caricatures of different types of authors but grew into multi-dimensional people with histories and motives beyond their 'type'; and trust me, if you know more than one author, you'll recognize the 'types'.

Death and the Lit Chick
by G. M. Malliet
Though the book has all the hallmarks of an English Country House murder mystery, including a storm the night the victim is murdered, it operates in the twenty-first century. The detective is part of, and acknowledges, a larger police force. He is not the only good man fighting against the monsters, though he may have the longest name; Detective Chief Inspector Arthur St. Just. D.C.I St. Just works with the system; he doesn't go rogue, he's not a lone wolf out to prove the system is wrong, he's a well adjusted member of the police force who's worked his way up, is good at his job and allows that other members of the police force are good at theirs. This may be a strictly American take on this book but it was very refreshing for the police to be, not only the good guys, but smart and competent.

Now, to the things that bother me; very little, actually. As a product of far too many writing classes and workshops, I noticed some things that made me want to smack the author upside the head, though not in a mean way. She uses the mirror trick to give a physical description of a character; this I consider cheating. Anybody familiar with crime statistics will be able to pick out the murderer, though how s/he does it remains a mystery until very near the end of the book, when a key piece of information is revealed.

All in all, this was a delightful read and I would recommend it to anybody who's ever been to a writers conference or knows much about the publishing industry.  

**Yes, there are two covers. While I prefer the first, the second fits a bit better with some of the things in the book. I consider both well done examples of a good cover.