What To Post Today…

Life has been hectic this last week and will be for a few days. So there’s nothing too in depth for today’s post. How about a few photos from Saturday’s trip to DC, including a temporary exhibit at the Smithsonian’s American Indian Museum and then a wrap up with another tidbit from the rebuild of Death Out of Time? The exhibit is Ceramica de los Ancestros: Central America’s Past Revealed. This was a trip down memory lane to my graduate student days.

There’s always something happening on the Mall.

This was a Chinese event of some kind. We were in a bit of a hurry and didn’t pop around to the front of the stage to see exactly what it was.

So we made our way to the American Indian Museum and the ceramic exhibit. There were some beautiful examples of pre-Columbian art.

Kat Donnelly of Summer at the Crossroads would recognize this Classic Maya vessel from Honduras, even though she works in Guatemala. Classic refers to a time period dating from around AD 300 to AD 900 (give or take some years depending on where in Mexico or Central America you’re working).

From the ritualistic scene above, we move to a more naturalistic vessel below, a spectacled owl effigy from Costa Rica.

The rather intimidating fellow below is the Classic Maya rain god, Chaac. This large vessel is an incense burner that stands about two-feet tall.

Continuing with the Classic Maya theme (okay, yes, I spent a lot of time on this in graduate school), we have another piece that Kat Donnelly would recognize. This is a whistle in the form of a woman from Guatemala. The piece is larger than you might think. It’s close to one foot in height.

And how about leaving the Mall with one of my favorite pieces from the Sculpture Garden. This one’s for all you writers who remember the real thing.

Eraser on the MallThis is “Typewriter Eraser, Scale X” by Claes Oldenburg and Coosje van Bruggen.

Then, it was off to dinner at Ambar, which was really, really good. We had a mezze plate with meats, bacon-wrapped prunes, aged cheeses and cornbread with red pepper spread; cheese pie (gibanica); stuffed baby peppers (raisins, jasmin rice, roasted walnut, onion, carrot); and baked beans and sausage (prebanac). No, this isn’t how my mother or aunts prepared Serbian food, but the modern twist is fun and delicious.

And now, as promised (or threatened, depending on your point of view), I leave you with a few more tidbits from the rebuild of Death Out of Time.

Tidbit #1:

Madeleine returned to Avery and peered over his shoulder through the lamp, struggling for a normal conversation subject in her losing battle to steady her thoughts. “Remember when you ‘disassembled’ Dad’s good watch to see how it worked?”

“Yeah. I thought it was great. But for some reason, he didn’t agree.”

“I’m thinking the repair bill had something to do with that.”

“That’s what he gets for encouraging our curiosity. And—wait a minute, what’s this?”

“What? Where?”

Tidbit #2:

“Yes, we know,” Adams interjected. “We all took history in school. And we’ll be careful … when we either find out what happened to Hopkins or hit a dead end. It’s not like Landry’s a threatening personality.”

Landry wasn’t sure if that was a compliment, coming as it did from a former intelligence executive.

I admit, those are small tidbits indeed. But I haven’t had as much time as I’d like to work on the story. And much of what I have written would reveal information that should be saved for the time when you can read the entire book. I hope to have more time later this week to get back into the swing of things.

I hope your week will be saner and easier on you than mine. If not, remember to take some time to breathe!

46 thoughts on “What To Post Today…

  1. I love how you talk about how your characters would view particular objects or sights. It’s a great way to bring your stories to life.

    Have you ever considered adding in real-life photos of some of the artifacts in your book, or some sort of a glossary or map? You do a great job detailing all of your information, so it’s not that your readers would need the extra information. I think I simply like how you’re able to draw such neat connections between your experiences and knowledge with your characters. So much of what you use in your book(s) is real, and some readers might be surprised to know that.

    My week was hectic, too. This time of year usually is anyway, and I’m already behind. I keep wishing for just a full day with no interruptions so I can catch up!


    • I’m glad these “character insights” are working. I wanted to do something different on the blog, and this seemed like a good way to talk about the stories and characters without giving away too many specifics.

      I like the idea of including photos of real places and artifacts, which I could do if I go the independent route. Some presses might be open to that, but I know photos can be a really expensive addition to a traditionally printed book. If I can’t do it in the books, it could become “extra content” here on the blog….

      I’m hoping for some normality by the end of the week, but sometimes Life doesn’t like to cooperate that way, does it? I hope your Halloween party is coming together!


  2. Sounds as if you had a great day. I am always so amazed at the artwork, sculptures, etc. from thousands of years ago, so much of which is reflected in art today. I used to manage a gallery that bought/sold Shona sculpture and always found it so fascinating what an artist could create from a simple stone.

    Anyway, loved your tidbits, JM. They definitely make me want to know more and that’s a sure sign of good writing! Have yourself a lovely week.


    • It was a great day, Brigitte, and a really interesting exhibit. It did take me back a few years, too. It’s funny how something like this can trigger memories we haven’t thought about in ages. My grad school experiences were amazing, but I don’t regret the decision to switch to North American archaeology. Logistically, it’s so much easier and doesn’t require months away from family and friends. But I have to admit, the artifacts up here aren’t usually as striking as those from Mexico, Central America, and South America.

      Now, if I can just get in some good writing time to make more progress on this rebuild!


  3. Good thing you got to that Smithsonian museum before today. Something tells me it might not be open during this shutdown. Arrgghh!

    I haven’t been to the American Indian Museum. I’ll have to check it out the next time we go there. I have a real interest in that culture, probably stemming from growing up near a reservation.


    • Unfortunately, all the Smithsonian museums are, indeed closed today until _____. What a lovely way for politicians to show appreciation for constituents who might have already had vacation plans out here and the men and women who work in the tourism industry.

      One of the great things about the newer Smithsonian museums like AIM and the under-construction African American Museum is that they’ve been designed (both buildings and exhibits) in partnership with the related communities. At least we’ve made progress in some areas.

      Also, AIM has the best food of any of the museum restaurants. It features indigenous foods from across the New World — and the unadventurous can also get more familiar dishes, too. I’d definitely do lunch there when you find yourself in DC again. Beats the pants off McDs at the Air and Space Museum next door!


  4. Great photos – I love the one-foot whistle! That first tidbit reminds me of my brother. He once took my bike apart to figure out how it worked and then of course he never put it back together. 🙂


    • Thanks, Sheila! That whistle is “one foot” in more ways than one. 😉 I don’t know if my older brothers ever did anything like that, but it just seemed natural to write about Madeleine’s that way. So far, I’m still enjoying writing the scenes where they interact. I’m taking that as a good sign. 🙂


    • It is nice to have a subject like archaeology to fall back on for blog posts. 😉 Serbia has been at the crossroads of empires forever, and the food really reflects that fact. You have some dishes influenced by the Middle East (from those centuries under Ottoman rule), the Mediterranean (from the historic ties to the Byzantine Empire), and Austria (from the times under Austro-Hungarian rule). I think everyone could find something they enjoy.


  5. Any idea what that thing is that looks like a little hand and arm emerging from the base of the whistle? Could it be a reference to child-birth?

    Beautiful pix. Each of those artifacts felt somehow special because you called our attention to them.

    Ooh, but I demand bigger tidbits next time!


    • When I make more progress, the tidbits may get longer. Of course, I can’t include anything that would reveal more than I’m ready to do!

      I didn’t study iconography and symbolism, so I don’t know much about the meaning behind most of the symbols and representations. But most female effigies showing childbirth that I’ve seen show the more anatomically correct head emerging first. I wondered about this, too, and thought it might be one of the woman’s feet. But it does look more like a baby’s hand. So, possibly yes in reply to your question.

      I’m glad we were able to visit museums this weekend because they are now closed during this reprehensible shutdown.


  6. What I really dig about these tidbits is seeing the different level of nuance you put into a longer work that’s had time to sit, JM. I loved reading Meghan’s adventures every week, but I could also see a greater level of immediacy to them (somewhat similar to a NaNo writing). Here, I get more of a sense of thoughtful plotting and structure. You do both well, so I don’t know which I prefer, though I thought it would be interesting to bring up.

    Thanks for the photos! I spent my entire weekend in a hospital, so it’s great to see someone else do something so colorful! 🙂


    • That’s an interesting point you raise about the immediacy of Meghan’s short stories and the deeper level of this novel. And I wonder if part of that might also be the difference between using the present and past tenses. A number of bloggers have said they enjoy present tense because they do feel as if they’re part of the action as it unfolds. I also noticed, though, when writing Meghan’s shorts, that they felt different from the longer WIPs even beyond the present/past distinction. So maybe part of it is also the different “voices” of these characters coming through in different writing styles. That might help to keep them distinct with readers.

      I’m sorry to hear you had to spend the weekend in a hospital. I hope everything’s okay for you and your family. As we get older, that’s a place we unfortunately begin to see more of—whether for ourselves, family members, or friends. Take care of yourself!


  7. I laughed at the “Chinese event of some kind” – you’re usually so precise with information, it’s nice to hear you kick back a little there 😉

    I saw another commenter asked about that thing that appears to be a little arm coming out of the whistle, it’s a bit disturbing actually!

    The food looks fab! I love having lots of little bits like that rather than just one big main. I’ve never been to Serbia, but when we were in Greece in August, we took a day trip to Albania, which I guess is probably culturally similar, it was fascinating anyway!


    • I’d go crazy if I had to be precise all of the time. 😉 And we really wanted to go directly to the museum. Then I felt too rushed to look up events on the Mall to see what it was. I couldn’t be that vague in a professional report, but I think it’s okay on the blog now and again. 😉

      I mentioned to Carol above that I’m not quite sure about that effigy whistle. Most childbirth figurines I’ve seen show the head popping out, just as you’d hope. But it does look more like a baby’s hand than a woman’s foot, so I’m not so sure…. Certainly fertility was an important theme, but the exhibit catalog didn’t mention it for this example. That doesn’t mean I can rule it out, though!

      There are some cultural similarities between Serbs and Albanians, but also some major religious and ethnic differences. And those came to the forefront in Kosovo, I’m afraid. The Balkans are a terribly complicated and tragically misunderstood part of the world.


  8. Love that giant eraser sculpture. 🙂 What a wonderful weekend on the Mall. That food looks so good! And I love the character revealing dialogue in tidbit #1–great job there doing so much in so few lines. 🙂


    • It was great to get that trip in before the irresponsible, reprehensible, and — fill in your preferred adjective here — shutdown. It’s interesting that the relationship between Madeleine and Avery is so clear to me, even at this early stage. I’m taking that as a good sign that I’m on the right track. And I’m hoping their exchanges will bring a few smiles to readers’ lips. 😉


      • I had something similar with Kai and Caleb. Their relationship was so clear to me from the get go. You are definitely on the right track–keep up the great dialogue!


  9. A regular treasure box of stuff here. (Those erasers! Haven’t seen a real one for years – used to lover to “drive” it around the table like a unicycle being ridden by a clown with crazy hair….only when mom wasn’t watching)
    Last month was Asian heritage month here. This weekend you have a choice of Greek festival, Tejano music festival, or the Asia Society’s film festival…or Octoberfest…party time in what ever language you choose?
    It is fun to see objects characters might relate to. The owl is so wonderful – then the hawk eye Chaac. We have a little terracotta type whistle in the shape of a bird that my grandmother picked up in Mexico when she was a teenager…that era people collected curios to display from their travels.
    Little tidbits of other places can lead the imagination to many places.
    Thanks for all the tidbits to view


    • I learned to type on my mother’s old manual typewriter, and I remember using one of these on onion skin paper. That eraser was so hard that it would tear through the paper if you weren’t careful! I’d bet if I looked, I could find it somewhere in the house….

      When I worked in Mexico, one of the undergrads came back from visiting Teotihuacan with a figurine he bought from a vendor. It was so “ugly” to him, he figured it had to be fake. But the archaeologists told him it might not have been. Laws are stricter these days about selling antiquities, but there’s always a market that prefers the “real deal” to reproductions. For the pieces I bought, I stuck to modern interpretations of pre-Columbian wares.

      I just wish everyone had the opportunity to travel and experience other cultures. It’s the best way to develop a sense of tolerance and respect for others.


  10. Such a rich post. I don’t know what to comment on first. The Guatemalan whistle woman and the Costa Rican owl speak to me. There’s something visceral and psychologically powerful about all the artifacts. These civilizations knew something about the human psyche and the artisans were skillful and talented.
    The food–mmm, made my mouth water.
    …and hey, you’re such a tease with those little bits–I want more. 🙂


    • For me, archaeology shows how little we’ve changed in many ways from our ancestors. Our technology has “advanced” over the millennia, but biologically, psychologically, and behaviorally, we haven’t changed that much. And some studies are suggesting that with our current fixation on instant gratification/knowledge and shallower thought, we’re actually moving closer to our thought patterns before the advent of writing as a means of communicating complex information over time and distance.

      Sometimes I wonder what my older Serbian relatives would think of the modern twists at Ambar. I love them. But maybe they wouldn’t agree…. 😉

      Today, the immensity of the rewrite hit hard. I can’t keep as much as I thought from the original version. But so far, I’m still up for giving it a go!


    • Thanks, Christy! My mother had one for her old manual typewriter, and I tore more than a few sheets of paper with it. 😉 They weren’t the most effective invention ever created!


    • That whistle’s got a few of us scratching our heads! All the vessels depicting childbirth that I can remember show a head emerging, which is anatomically correct. But that sure looks more like a hand than a foot…. I double-checked the exhibit catalog, but there’s no mention of what it is. It could make an interesting story prompt, though.


  11. The food looks yummy. I love the giant typewriter eraser. I remember those things–barely. I am among the last generation of people who was taught to type on a typewriter, but only used them for a year or two before word processing killed them.


    • It was a delicious meal, even if it’s not quite what I grew up with. I’m willing to bet I could find my mom’s old eraser somewhere in her house. I think she still has her old manual typewriter, too. Learning to touch type on one of those has served me well—even in this digital age.


  12. I love when you share scenes of your “real” life, especially when they’re D.C. related! Your dinner out looks very gourmet!

    The Smithsonians are amazing..I spent soooooo much time strolling the museums when I only had one child. He LOVED going out in the stroller, and could sit for hours mesmerized by the colors and sounds while I appreciated the exhibits. Great times those were!


    • I love the Smithsonians and National Gallery. And it’s terrible that no one can enjoy them at this time. There’s so much to experience there. And while some parents bring “age inappropriate” children to some of them (think bored 5-year-olds and hushed Art Museums), it’s fun to see them having the time of their lives at places like Air and Space. In reality, the city has so much to offer everyone, no matter their interests or politics.


  13. Great pictures. Thanks for sharing.

    I’d love to go to the Smithsonian. I would be gutted to have had a trip planned and then have shutdown ruin your plans.

    Timing is everything. 🙂


    • They are fantastic museums to visit. And since they’re ultimately tax-funded, there’s no admission fee for any of them. We owe their existence to one James Smithson, an Englishman, who left his inheritance to the young United States to found a center of scientific inquiry. I think he’d be happy with the results, despite this most recent political p**sing contest. I’d say the time is now to vote them all out of office when their current terms are up!


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