14th Century Transitional Cardboard Plate Armor

So, we’re still working on moving. My free time to write pretty much consists of my lunch break at work. I never knew how long it took me to write something–even when I’m writing at a good, continuous pace. An hour flies by (why doesn’t it fly that fast when I’m doing work for other people?) and I end up only having a page or two done and three million things I still want to write.

I’ve finished editing The Flames of Prague a second time, but all of my notes are written in my proof copy; I still have to actually go through the Word doc and make the edits. That’s a total pain. I don’t anticipate even starting that until we have finished our move, which is probably not going to be until sometime in March.

I’m also working on a contemporary romance novella that’s going very well. In fact, it’s starting to get rather long. It may turn into a short romance novel (those thin Harlequins that come out at a rate of like 5 per month are only about 55,000 words). If I could sum it up in a sentence it would be: short, nerdy guy gets out of the friendzone with hot former Miss South Carolina. Yeah… that about sums it up.

But even though I haven’t been getting much writing done lately, I have been getting active in my local SCA group (I joined this same group nearly 11 years ago when I first got in the SCA, so it’s a homecoming for me.) I am now our shire’s chronicler and producer extraordinaire of our newsletter. (Of course it’s fabulous.)

A few meetings ago, someone mentioned that when she was growing up, her father was in the military and they moved about every 2 years. They never had much money or a lot of stuff (who would want to move it???), but they did have lots of boxes and packing supplies. So she and her siblings made cardboard armor and built castles from boxes.

My armor is going to be way better than this.

My armor is going to be way better than this. Also, I’m not a virgin. That may have some bearing on my armor quality–I don’t know.

And, as these things happen, someone came up with the wild idea that we, too, should make cardboard armor and have a fight at our shire’s Twelfth Night Christmas Party. Just for shits and giggles. The rules for the armor are simple: it has to be made out of packing supplies and/or children’s craft items. (We’re still working on the rules of combat. I’m thinking we need a pas d’arms, which is counted blows.)

Having a sense of humor (because my dad’s a professional comedian), and being an apprentice (which means I must compulsively make things), I got down with that idea. Thus, the great cardboard armor project has begun!

I don’t currently have a camera, but pictures will definitely be forthcoming, rest assured.

As I mentioned, I am an apprentice. And not just any apprentice. I belong to Mistress Ashley of House Ashley. And that means quality. I would lose my apprentice’s belt if I didn’t make my cardboard armor way, way over the top. Not only that, but my husband is a knight, so I also belong to his household, and our motto is (unofficially): the fourteenth century is the one true century. (The official motto is: sic gorgiamus allos subjectatos nunc.)

What this translates into is a harness of 14th century transitional plate armor made as accurately as possible from cardboard, duct tape, twine, wrapping paper, and bubble wrap.


More or less the helmet I made… if you made this helmet from a box.

I just finished my bascinet tonight. Do you know how hard it is to get a box to bend into a sugarloaf shape? While my helmet does still have the occasional angle when it should have a curved surface, it does have a functional flat-faced klappvisor and a bubblewrap aventail, so that totally makes up for it. (It is also padded with bubblewrap. Safety first, kiddies!)

I also made myself a maile shirt from bubblewrap. Next up: a Wisby Type 1 coat of plates. I will be introducing a new element into my repertoire: brown craft paper.


Tuscan Milk for Everyone to Adore

From the creative minds that brought you BiC Pens for Her, and by the executive directors of Amazon, comes the true poetic saga of a boy, a cat, and a gallon of $45.00 Tuscan milk.

Make this your only stock and store
By Edgar

41tyHYYrVJLOnce upon a mid-day sunny, while I savored Nuts ‘N Honey,
With my Tuscan Whole Milk, 1 gal, 128 fl. oz., I swore
As I went on with my lapping, suddenly there came a tapping,
As of some one gently rapping, rapping at the icebox door.
‘Bad condensor, that,’ I muttered, ‘vibrating the icebox door -
Only this, and nothing more.’

Not to sound like a complainer, but, in an inept half-gainer,
I provoked my bowl to tip and spill its contents on the floor.
Stupefied, I came to muddle over that increasing puddle,
Burgeoning deluge of that which I at present do adore -
Snowy Tuscan wholesomeness exclusively produced offshore -
Purg’ed here for evermore.

7e52e03ae7a04b8af0461210.LAnd the pool so white and silky, filled me with a sense of milky
Ardor of the type fantastic of a loss not known before,
So that now, to still the throbbing of my heart, while gently sobbing,
I retreated, heading straightway for the tempting icebox door -
Heedless of that pitter-patter tapping at the icebox door -
I resolved to have some more.

Presently my soul grew stronger; hesitating then no longer,
‘This,’ said I, ‘requires an extra dram of milk, my favorite pour.’
To the icebox I aspired, motivated to admire
How its avocado pigment complemented my decor.
Then I grasped its woodgrain handle – here I opened wide the door; -
Darkness there, and nothing more.

Deep into that darkness peering, long I stood there wondering, fearing,
Doubting, dreaming dreams of Tuscans I had known before
But the light inside was broken, and the darkness gave no token,
And the only words there spoken were my whispered words, ‘No more!’
Coke and beer, some ketchup I set eyes on, and an apple core -
Merely this and nothing more.

Tusken MilkBack toward the table turning, all my soul within me burning,
Soon again I heard a tapping somewhat louder than before.
‘Surely,’ said I, ‘surely that is something at my window lattice;
Let me see then, what thereat is, and this mystery explore -
Let my heart be still a moment and this mystery explore; -
‘Tis the wind and nothing more!’

From the window came a stirring, then, with an incessant purring,
Inside stepped a kitten; mannerlessly did she me ignore.
Not the least obeisance made she; not a minute stopped or stayed she;
But, with mien of lord or lady, withdrew to my dining floor -
Pounced upon the pool of Tuscan spreading o’er my dining floor -
Licked, and lapped, and supped some more.

Then this tiny cat beguiling my sad fancy into smiling,
By the grand enthusiasm of the countenance she wore,
Toward the mess she showed no pity, ’til I said, ‘Well, hello, kitty!’
Sought she me with pretty eyes that seemed to open some rapport.
So I pleaded, ‘Tell me, tell me what it is that you implore!’
Quoth the kitten, ‘Get some more.’

I Don’t Like Spam!

I get about 10 times more spam than I get real comments on this blog. Many of the comments are worded to try and sneak past filters (“nice job on this article”). Of course, they don’t sneak past, because they then put a link to their spammy website (I’m talking about you lista de email) a dozen times. You would think that people would get wise to the fact that the vast, vast majority of blogs have spam filters that are catching and deleting these things and they would find some other form of gainful employment

And I’m not sure why anyone bothers advertising a non-English website on an English website anyways. Or why people who do not speak fluent English attempt to spam comments. Do they think their English is better than it is? Do they think that the average English-speaking person who can’t understand what they’re saying will click on their link anyways?

A recent example:

But as Jackie is the co-founder of Lighter Life, is which continues after the operation. On a dressier note, the glamorous little black dress wear pants you’ve purchased a size too small. It comforts me ever still to know that food could be in will come into sight as leaner, toner. Keeps in the fridge provide great that process know 59 suggests number of her not to unwanted weight loss game. D. The Paleo Diet includes: lean meat, fish, poultry, a slightly providing his Harvard as a nutritionist. One way to reinforce your efforts is to those right Thermogenic milk and milk products, seafood, and oils. Who wouldn’t lose weight when you’ll even artificial is 24 14,153 food craving so that you eat less.

On a slightly related note, a dramatic new action-movie trailer for Monty Python and the Quest for the Holy Grail:


Anti-Procrastination Day Success!

So, Wednesday, I mentioned that I was going to try to get in the habit of accomplishing certain things (writing, sewing, long-overdue projects) in the evenings so I don’t bounce randomly from project to project, taking forever to get something finished. I borrowed from Ma Ingall’s list of daily chores to create my own project-chore list. Wednesday night was anti-procrastination night, and I chose to tackle an illumination that I started to make for myself, oh, sometime back around the first of the year.

My Scroll

Conversion Scroll

Hey, I just realized I need to sign the thing!

The entire picture (including margins, which aren’t shown in this image) is slightly larger than 11×17″. The main image is from a mahzor (prayerbook–most likely a Passover siddur) known as the Tripartite Mahzor, created somewhere in modern Germany around 1322 (and currently housed in the British Library).

The paint is basic watercolor paint. (When I talk shop with other illuminators, they are all adamant that watercolors aren’t strong enough to do a medieval-style illumination and that only gouache will do. I tried some gouache once, but found it didn’t produce stronger colors than my watercolors and was actually a little harder to work with because it’s thicker. No one actually complains about my actual illuminations looking too weak; I guess I paint my water colors with a heavier hand–and less water–than most people.)

The pseudo-Hebrew font is called SeferAH (free-for-personal use, license-for-commerical use; it’s the font I’m using on the cover for The Flames of Prague).

The original illumination


The project wasn’t as difficult as you might think (although it was time-consuming; I estimate I spent 35-40 hours on it). I actually can’t draw worth a flip–hence why I copied an extant piece.

I used Photoshop to create a virtual page the size of my actual paper. I resized the original illumination, took off its borders, and centered it, then added the text below it in the Sefer AH font. I took the file to Kinko’s and had them print me a copy on 11×17″ in color.

When I got it home, I centered it on my paper (which is 12×18″, I think) and taped it down. Then I had to use a ruler to draw the edges of my borders. That was actually the trickiest bit because, as you can see, the original picture wasn’t square (my picture is also slightly off center; the top portion leans a bit to the right).

Next, I put it on my light box and traced everything. The borders were actually the only thing I free-handed (and are based on borders seen in other illuminations).

Once everything was drawn out in pencil, I covered the bottom half of the paper–where the calligraphy would be–to keep from spotting it with paint, and I painted the main image. When it was done, I went back to my light box and actually traced all of the letters with a calligraphy pen (because my penmanship isn’t worth a flip, either). Finally I painted the borders and the box with the lion in it (that was actually a last-minute addition that I did to cover up some text that didn’t get used for reasons I won’t mention).

One trick I learned early-on when it comes to painting like this is, when you’re done, go back over your original pencil lines with a black, fine-tipped, felt pen. That really makes the figures pop out and it hides a multitude of sins. (Notice that all of the original figures and vines have a black outline around them.)

In short, if you can trace something and color inside the lines, you too can make a medieval-style illumination.

Thursday Night

While my Wednesday night went really well (although I worked on my illumination for more than an hour–more like five, actually), I vegged out a bit too much last night, so I only got about 30 minutes of work done on The Bloodsuckers–not enough to finish the episode for today. I’ll see what I can get done Sunday.


Speaking of things Jewish, it’s that time of year again: Yom Kippur begins tonight with the Kol Nidre service. It is time for us to beat our breasts (literally) and take a moment to look in the mirror and see what we too often ignore: that we are not the people we want to be, could be, and should be–that we lie and cheat and say unkind things and hurt others and fail to do good things and fail to follow God’s commandments. Beginning tonight, we take a hard look at ourselves, acknowledge our faults, and ask God to forgive us for them (it’s kind of like a Catholic confession and penance that lasts for 25 hours).

But, before we can get God’s forgiveness, we have to get forgiveness from others. In that vein, I want to offer my apologies to anyone I may have offended over the past year, to anyone whose feelings I hurt, for any promises I may have broken or disappointment I may have caused. I do things with the best of intentions, but I’ll be the first to admit that I suffer from foot-in-mouth disease; what sounds fine in my head sometimes comes out horribly offensive and insulting. And sometimes I jump to conclusions or base an opinion on misinformation. And sometimes I promise more than I’m capable of delivering. So, for all those things, I apologize, and, as always, I will endeavor to improve myself over the upcoming year.

For those of you who observe Yom Kippur, have a meaningingful fast; for everyone else, have a good weekend.

Back Again!

Well, at the last possible minute, I got moved. I am now coming to you live at 117 megabytes per second. (You must realize that, before, my rate of internet speed was about 46 kilobytes per second.) Now, if my math is accurate–and I never make guarantees about that, especially this time of morning and with too little sleep–I’m surfing 2,500 times faster than before. I can even listen to Pandora on my home computer (something I’ve never been able to do before). Now, if I could only figure out why my regular speakers aren’t working (the monitor speakers are not very good quality).

And did you know Wiis can connect to the internet wirelessly? Yeah, I’m like the only person in the world with a Wii who didn’t know that. But now it’s connected and I can at least watch YouTube. (One day there will be money again for things like Netflix.) And I can buy and download old games–things like Zelda and Mario Brothers from SNES. Although my original NES and SNES systems went to the big nerd basement in the sky, I can still play old favorites.

Technology is a marvelous thing. I can’t wait for my husband to join me in this modern utopia. What’s next? Flying cars? Hover boards? Robot maids?


I feel the 0’s and 1’s of the wi-fi flying around me.

Bitchy Resting Face (or When Women Don’t Smile)


I only LOOK like I’m judging you with an air of superiority.  In reality, I’m smiling. No, really.

Ever since I was a child, I have been accused of being unhappy and/or unenthusiastic. My mother still complains about my apparent lack of happiness when I went on my first plane ride and when I got a trip to Disney World for my birthday. I have a hard time smiling for pictures, and even when I feel like I’m smiling, it comes off as a tight-lipped grimace.

Little did I know, I actually suffer from a widespread condition known as Bitchy Resting Face (the same condition in men is known as Asshole Resting Face). Bitchy Resting Face is a condition whereby women who aren’t bitches or who don’t feel particularly bitchy look as if they are bitchy.

Me-in-red-dress (Narrow)

Honest, I don’t hate you.

It’s not known how many women and men actually suffer from this condition, although if you experience any of the following symptoms, you may be a sufferer:

  • An inability to smile for pictures
  • Having people constantly look at you in concern and ask “What’s wrong?”
  • Having people tell you to smile and/or cheer up
  • Having people accuse you of being mad at them
  • An inability to show enthusiasm for gifts or even when winning the lottery


  • Does your funeral face look remarkably like your happy face?

Although the reasons why are not yet known, introverts make up an overwhelming number of those who suffer from Bitchy Resting Face (extroverts with a recent Botox injection make up the remainder of the group). In fact, if you think you suffer from Bitchy Resting Face, you should be tested for introversion, too.

While there is currently no permanent cure for Bitchy Resting Face, there are ways you can hide it.

  • Smile for no good reason
  • Smile even when you hurt, are angry, or actually feel bitchy
  • Smile to put other people at their ease (after all, it’s about their comfort, not yours!)
  • Smile to show your submissiveness (female apes do this all the time)
  • Stop thinking deep thoughts, which can furrow your brow and give your eyes a far away appearance (to fight off deep contemplation, try running through some scenes of Jersey Shore or Honey Boo Boo)


  • Plastic surgery can offer some correction to BRF by pulling up the cornersof your mouth and arching your eyebrows.
kenny-rogers after

Now when the Gambler comes to the table, you know he’s holding all the aces!

Kenny Rogers Before

Kenny Rogers, before plastic surgery, suffering from a deeply contemplative face.



For some hints and tricks, try this video, How to Smile Naturally for Photos:

To learn more about Bitchy Resting Face read: The Tyranny of the Smile: Why does everyone expect women to smile all the time? and ‘Bitchy resting face’ is real (kind of): but there’s hope

How to Deal with Introverts


I found this comic on LOLSNAPS.com and thought it was funny. But when I re-read it, I realized that, while a bit blunt, it is quite accurate.

I will confess that I’m an introvert. Not only that, but my protagonists tend to be introverts:

  • Scott (from The Bloodsuckers) is an introvert.
  • Anselm (from Acceptance is so introverted, he’s gone down in Canichmeh history as the second-most introverted vampire ever known. (Canichmeh vampires have a natural desire to be around others of their own kind. But after Anselm’s father died, he traveled around Europe without any contact with other vampires for about 150 years. Only one other vampire is known to have gone longer without contact with other vampires.)
  • Kalyn is also an introvert, although not to the degree that Anselm is.
  • Jakub (from The Flames of Prague) is an introvert. He hates going to court (and the people who congregate there) with a passion and spends all his time with his small household/retinue and family.

That’s not to say that there are no extroverts or ambiverts (a person who can be either an introvert or extrovert depending on their own mood or the situation) in my writing; Joshua, Micah, and Ciaran are all extroverts, while I think I would peg Josie as an ambivert. But notice that they’re secondary characters; when it comes to writing predominately from one person’s point of view, I prefer that person to be an introvert.

In fact, I think I only have one extroverted protagonist: Aine from The Last Golden Dragon. And the entire story takes place between just her and one other person–hardly the sort of situation where an extrovert will shine through.

The Hamster Ball

Introverts have a stronger sense of personal space than ambiverts and, especially, extroverts. When I was in Amsterdam, people drove me crazy walking shoulder-to-shoulder with me, even when there was room on the sidewalk for them to scoot over. (Some of this is cultural; I’ve noticed Europeans in general tend to have less of a concept of personal space than Americans or even Brits.)

There are many times when I find myself taking a step back because someone is standing too close to me while talking. I’ve even been known to roll or scoot my chair back if I’m sitting down and someone’s too close. Ideally, I like people to stand at least an arm’s length from me. Closer than that, and you come off as aggressive, not friendly.

While extroverts can find sitting across the desk from someone and having a conversation annoying–even rude–an introvert almost never has a problem having a seat and keeping a large piece of furniture between them and the other person.

But, just because introverts don’t like to have close contact with most people doesn’t mean that they don’t want close contact with anyone. While introverts can be hard to get to know, once they let you in their hamster ball, you are there for the long-haul. Introverts tend to be very loyal friends and lovers because, once they become comfortable with someone, it takes less energy for them to maintain that relationship than to make another one. (Sometimes this means an introvert gets stuck in a negative relationship because they don’t want to go to the trouble of breaking up and finding someone new.) Also, introverts tend to have few friends and prefer to cultivate a very deep relationship with someone than have many superficial relationships.

It may seem contradictory, but introverts can actually be quite clingy with the friends and loved ones that they have. For one thing, having fewer friends means the ones they have get a lot more of their attention. Secondly, because introverts tend to make deep–even spiritual–connections with one or two people, they can sometimes derive energy from a relationship (more on that in a moment), which means hanging around that person actually makes them feel more energetic. So they can get clingy in an attempt to keep that energy coming in. Lastly, introverts, by their very nature, are not social creatures; the larger the social venue, the more they’re out of their element. If an introvert can find a familiar face in the crowd, they may latch on and not let go.

The Energy Bank

I think the comic is correct: introverts make their own energy. (I would not be at all surprised if someone found that introverts tend to sleep more hours and have fewer occurrences of insomnia than other personality types.)

Think of energy as dollars. Every morning, when an introvert wakes up, she has a limited number of dollars in her bank account. (Just how many depends on a number of factors: savings left over from previous days, the season/weather, whether she feels good or is sick, is under stress or not, etc.) The vast majority of interactions with people require a withdrawal from that bank account.

The less personal the interaction, the less energy it requires. For example, if someone comes to me in the morning and asks, “Hey, Keri, have you seen such-and-such file?”  it takes next to no energy for me to find the file for them–even if I have to go on a treasure hunt to find it. However, if someone comes to me in the morning and says, “Good morning, how was your weekend? Did you see such-and-such show on television last night?” the energy starts to flow out of me.

(That’s not to say that I hate to have personal conversations with people; I even initiate them. It’s just that when I get to the end of the day or end of the week, if I’ve had few personal interactions, I will have more energy in my bank to spend on parties, friends, or family get-togethers. The more personal contact I’ve had with people at work during the day, the less I want to go anywhere or be with anyone in the evenings or on the weekend.)

The more people involved, the more energy is withdrawn–exponentially so. Meetings and parties wear me down very quickly. That’s not to say that I never have a good time or accomplish something at a meeting or party, but group interaction at a meeting or committee needs to be an hour or less; more than that and I start spending all my mental resources looking for an escape route.

If I have good conversation, am entertained, or meet interesting people at a party, I can actually get an energy boost from the experience. But that boost is nullified if the party goes on too long. Three hours is about my limit; if I stay longer than that, then my energy starts to drain like water down a bathtub and instead of leaving on a high note, I leave exhausted and want to spend the next day (or three) home alone in order to replenish my bank account.

How to Interact with the Introvert

If you know or suspect your co-worker is an introvert, there are some things you should know to have good interactions with them.

1. Give them time to warm up.

You know how some people need coffee to feel human in the mornings?

This is the introvert. While a particular introvert may or may not need coffee to get going in the morning (I don’t), they do need time to get themselves sorted out. They’ve just spent 8 hours or so sleeping; they’re still in their cocoon. They may or may not “good morning” you when they first walk in the door at 8:00 AM. They may still be sleepy or, if they’re like me, they’ve just spent close to an hour in the car, commuting, and thinking deep thoughts or mentally preparing their to-do list. Don’t take a lack of greeting personally; when an introvert is particularly introverted (like in the mornings), all personal interaction–even just a “hello”–takes considerable effort. Give them a little while. Usually within an hour or two of getting to work, I’m ready to take a break from my tasks and “make the rounds.” I get some tea or hot chocolate, go to the bathroom, and see how other people are doing (both work-wise and personally). Once I’m good and awake, personal interaction takes a lot less energy.

2. Don’t take silence for anger.

Personally, I’m not the type to be angry for long or to hold grudges. I don’t know if that’s true for most other introverts, but I think it’s pretty safe to say that if an introvert is being quiet, it’s because they’re lost in their own little world of thoughts, not because they’re steaming and plotting how to get revenge on you for going out without them last week.

3. Invite them out, even if you’re pretty sure they’ll turn you down.

I tend to turn down most invitations, but I still like to receive them because it shows that people care. Introverts can maintain good friendships with people without seeing them for long periods of time, as long as they receive the occasional assurance that their friend cares. (Conversely, don’t take repeated rejections as a sign that they’re mad at you or don’t like you; if they otherwise act like they like you, then you can be sure they’re turning you down just because they don’t have the energy for the activity; it’s not you.)

And sometimes the introvert will surprise you by accepting. Sometimes you will catch them when their energy bank is running high or they’re in a particularly upbeat mood or the activity you offer is going to be short or intimate. (Introverts prefer to go out to eat with one or two people, rather than a group, and, for me, at least, I prefer activities that last less than 3 hours.)

4. Maintain non-personal contact.

Most introverts love things like e-mail, Facebook, and texting/instant messaging because it allows them to talk to people without actually engaging in social contact. (Phone calls are generally preferred over face-to-face contact, but don’t expect the introvert to actually make the call; they tend to avoid calling people like they tend to avoid meeting people.) Online interaction tends to be the introvert’s element, and he or she can happily interact online or via text and have that count as meaningful interaction (whereas, for an extrovert, that can never replace actually being around people).

5. Just be near.

Introverts are perfectly capable of entertaining themselves, and if they have to be engaged in long-term contact (e.g. staying with someone for a weekend), it’s a good idea to give them some time alone to recharge their batteries. Don’t feel you’re being a bad host if you leave them to watch TV or help themselves to your bookcase while you cook or go about your daily business. Introverts prefer not to be constantly engaged or entertained (because they feel like they have to entertain you as much as you have to entertain them!), and they’re never lonely as long as someone is nearby. I’m perfectly happy to have someone in the house with me, but spend most of our time in separate rooms.

6. Ask non-personal questions.

Introverts are not usually very gossipy and not very open about their personal lives–at least not with people who are not close friends. But introverts can actually talk at great length about topics which don’t involve other people. I’ve amazed many people with discourses on history, religion, anthropology, etc. And if you get me started on my books, I won’t ever shut up.

Introverts tend to read and study a lot, and you can learn a lot from them; just get them talking about what interests them. They love to have intellectual conversations and both teach and learn.

The Exceptions to the Rule

When an introvert clicks with another person in just the right way, he or she can actually reverse their energy situation so that they get energy from another person, not lose it. When this happens, you can–surprisingly–find the introvert happily engaged with their soul mate for hours at a time. (As I mentioned before, they can even become clingy in these situations.)

While the cartoon says that introverts tend to see extroverts as predators, I have to say that’s not always the case. Some extroverts are more aggressive than others. Aggressive extroverts are quick to see an introvert as someone who is broken and needs an immediate intervention, or is someone who is weird or hateful and needs to be attacked.

There are non-aggressive extroverts, however, who can interact quite well with introverts. Non-aggressive extroverts are friendly people who make conversation (and friends) easily; they have a way of putting everyone at ease. Introverts can actually engage quite well with these kinds of extroverts. Many times introverts are quiet in social situations because they don’t know how to approach someone, don’t want to interrupt or come off as an annoyance, etc. An extrovert who approaches them and is friendly, however, can quickly draw them out.

More on the habits of introverts

I also recommend Susan Cain’s book Quiet, the Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking and her TED talk on The Power of Introverts.