Acceptance, Book One of the Acceptance Series

For more than two thousand years, a small community of humans has lived in harmony with vampires, giving their blood and obedience in exchange for protection. And for all that time, it’s been a peaceful occupation.

When Kalyn Reid comes of age and pledges herself to the vampires, she has no reason to worry. She’s paired with Anselm for her training, and she couldn’t ask for a kinder, more patient mentor. She also couldn’t ask for anyone better-looking.

But before she has a chance to learn her new responsibilities–or get a date–her idyllic life goes up in flames. Without warning, the humans and vampires in her group are murdered by a strange new type of vampire and the few survivors are forced to flee.

Anselm and his brother, Micah, vow to hunt down the murderer, and they take Kalyn with them–thinking they can keep her safe. But when the killer finds them first, it’s they who must rely on her if any of them are to survive.

It reminded me of Game of Thrones, except with less incest and more vampires. Author Michelle Proulx

You can purchase this book on:

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Hipster Typewriter?

hemingwriteI saw this on the internet the other day: an electronic typewriter. Apparently this has the potential to be a thing. Basically, it’s a digital typewriter (reminds me of the one I had in middle school, although it only had a 4 line display, it saved to a floppy disk, and you could actually type on paper with it). The idea is that you sit down to write without the distractions of the internet. It also doesn’t do copy and paste and you can only backspace; you can’t highlight a bunch of text and then delete it, so it helps quell the inner editor and induces a sort of stream of consciousness. It only goes between three documents, so it can help if you have a tendency to jump around between too many projects (me!).

Watch the demo video on Kickstarter.

So, would you use one?

I’m not sure about me. I’ve thought it would be nice to one day travel and write while I do it, but I hate laptop keyboards because I touch-type and that doesn’t work very well on a laptop; it makes me slow and makes my hands cramp after just a short period of time. The Hemingwrite has a full-sized keyboard and normal (as opposed to flat) keys. But, at the same time, I don’t write linearly, so the inability to jump around and write things out of order would be a big drawback.

Hair I Am

We’re coming into the summer season and that means lots of re-enactment events to attend. We did two in a row, plus went to a friend’s house the weekend before that to be her taste-testers for the dishes she was cooking for a feast. Now it’s time to hermit a little before the next round begins.

Me by Jennifer Morrow-BruckA couple of weekends ago, I went down Georgia to teach some classes. A lady at the event snapped a good picture of me in my May Day flowers.

girl-with-garland_large

A women weaving flowers into a wreath.

Jacquemart-de-Hesdin-1385-9-Isabeau-de-Baviere-Pierpont-Morgan-Library-M346fol2-298x300

Chaplets made from greenery.

1376-Valerius-maximus-Fais-et-dis-memorables-des-romains-BNF-MS-fr-9749-f76v-300x298

The woman in red appears to have a flower wreath. The others are probably wearing metal circlets, but the little circles may represent flowers (we know from effigies that they wore metal flowers on circlets).

Women, especially unmarried girls, usually wore flowers in their hair on May Day and certain other holidays during the middle ages. Weddings were also a favorite time to wear flowers.

Me with sewn braidsLast weekend, I sewed my braids with gold and pearls, but this is the only picture I have from the event.

It was a bit time-consuming to do, but not as difficult as you would think. I braided my hair at my temples, as I normally do, then folded it into thirds so that the end of my hair was sandwiched between the other two parts. Then I tied a knot into a heavy gold thread and sewed the two halves together following the pattern of my braid. When I was done, I ran the remainder of the thread down the backside of the braid, tucking it behind the other threads, and left it unknotted (so that I could undo it at the end of the day). Then I switched a beading thread and knotted that around the end of a pearl. I sewed the pearls to the braids everywhere the strands of the braid crossed. Then I ran the tail of the thread down the back of the braid, too. At the end of the day, I was able to pull it all out without cutting any of it, so it’s useable again.

And, actually, I did all of this the night before, then put on my husband’s coif and slept on it. I often get two wears out of my braids that way, but never when they’re put up like that; normally I take my braids down, pull them into a scrunchy behind my head, then put on a coif. That doesn’t bother me, because they’re really not in the way. I don’t recommend sleeping in this style, though–especially if you’re a side sleeper like me. It might not be so bad if you sleep on your back or stomach.

I want to put together a class on how to fix your hair in various 14th century hairstyles. I also want to play with creating fake braids and practice making faux braids on a friend with short hair so everyone can have the most iconic hair of the middle ages.

When I was looking back at some pictures of myself, I realized I can really channel Philippa of Hainault when I want to.

DSCN0171PhilippaofHainault

 

 

The Bloodsuckers, Episode 43: We Are Family… Sort Of

Michael and Ariel’s house looked rather plain when Scott and Josie pulled into the driveway—as plain as a million dollar house could look, that is. The floodlights were on outside and there was an electric menorah in the living room window with two bulbs burning, but there were no other lights or decoration. After seeing the house decked-out for Halloween, Scott expected more umpf: blue and white lights, silvery tinsel, a giant inflatable dreidel… something.

“Is… Hanukkah not a very big holiday?” Scott asked, as he looked up at the house.

“No. And don’t even think of calling it ‘Jewish Christmas,’” Josie added, pointing an accusing finger at him.

“It never entered my mind.”

“It’s very gauche to call it that,” she insisted.

“You know me: I’m the antithesis of gauche.”

She suddenly chuckled. “We sound like we swallowed a Word-A-Day calendar.”

“I got one last year for Jewish Christmas.”

She looked at him sternly, then broke into laughter. Scott took her hand and they walked to the front door. Scott hardly noticed the cold wind blowing across his bald head as he stood on the front step and rang the doorbell, but Josie shivered and huddled deeper into her wool coat.

A moment later, Michael opened the door. He smiled tightly. “Welcome to the lion’s den,” he whispered.

Josie grimaced. “Have they already started in?” she whispered in reply.

“You know how you used to call me ‘ramrod?’” he asked, as he took their coats.

“Yes.”

“I have nothing on our parents. Nothing. I was only ever an amateur compared to them. They’re sitting in there, waiting to do battle,” he said, gesturing to the French doors which led to the living room.

Josie sighed wearily, then took Scott’s hand. “Are you ready to face the judges, Counselor?”

“Ready as I ever am,” Scott said, trying to sound braver than he felt. Despite mentally preparing for this day for months, he still felt a little sick to his stomach. He tried to tell himself that there was no reason to feel that way; Josie had sworn to stay with him—and that was before she got pregnant. Now she had even more incentive not to cut him out of her life.

But even though he told himself that, he didn’t feel one bit better. Scott had never liked conflict. He could have an intellectual argument all day long in the courthouse—he found that stimulating—but throw personal junk into the argument and he wanted to flee.

They went into the living room and found Josie’s sister, Becca, along with Mr. and Mrs. Fein. Michael was right: they were sitting up primly on the edge of couch like they had ramrods up their asses. Even Becca—who had been rather disdainful of social convention at Halloween—looked uncomfortable.

Mr. and Mrs. Fein’s eyes narrowed in unison when they saw Josie and Scott.

“Happy Hanukkah,” Josie said in a falsely cheerful voice.

“We already lit the menorah,” Mrs. Fein replied, her voice dropping the temperature in the already-frosty room by about ten degrees. “It has to be lit before sundown on the Sabbath.”

“I know,” Josie said. “We got here as soon as we could.”

“Oh, yes, the vampire can’t be out in the sunlight,” she said, turning her dark, accusing eyes on Scott. They said that he was the reason why their family holiday get-together was ruined.

“The vampire,” Josie said, her voice dripping acid, “is Scott Cunningham. Scott, this is my mother, Debra Fein, and my father, Steve Fein.”

“It’s nice to meet you,” he said, trying to be pleasant and pretend nothing ugly had been said. Neither of them offered to stand or shake his hand, so he didn’t extend it.

“And you remember my sister,” Josie said, gesturing to Becca.

“Yes, of course. It’s nice to see you again,” he said with a more genuine smile.

Becca thrust out her hand. “I’ll shake hands with you, Scott. I’m not afraid.”

Scott was a little taken aback. He hadn’t been sure how to take Josie’s sister before. He found her to be, frankly, a little odd—almost abrasive. As Josie said, she had no tact and, furthermore, didn’t care that she didn’t have any; she said whatever was on her mind and to hell with the consequences.

It hadn’t occurred to Scott that trait could be used as a righteous weapon.

He shook Becca’s hand. “How have you been doing?” he asked her.

“Good.”

“That’s good.”

Ariel came through the kitchen door a moment later. “Oh, hey, Scott, Josie. I thought I heard ya’ll come in. You have perfect timing; I’m just taking dinner out of the oven.”

“Can we help you with anything?” Josie asked.

“No, Michael and I’ve got it. Why doesn’t everyone go ahead and take a seat in the dining room?”

Scott didn’t fail to notice that everyone was ignoring Mr. and Mrs. Fein, and he made it a point to do the same. If he could get through the rest of the night by ignoring them, then it wouldn’t be too awful an experience. Not pleasant, by any means, but not awful.

He followed Josie into the dining room and found the table elaborately set—like something out of a Southern Living magazine. The table was covered with a white linen table cloth embroidered around the edges in blue. In the center was an elaborate arrangement of blue and silver and gold… things; Scott really didn’t know what to call them. Some were round, like huge ornaments, and there were sprays like something out of the end of a firework, and spirally-twisty things that didn’t represent anything at all, as far as Scott could tell. It was pretty, if abstract.

At each seat were sparkly silver and blue woven placemats, real silver silverware, china dishes rimmed with gold and delicately ornamented with a blue filigree border and tiny gold stars of David, blue linen napkins, and crystal stemware.

One place setting was conspicuously absent, though. Instead of dishes, there was a placemat, napkin, and an opaque black champagne flute. Scott knew, without looking at the name on the place card, which seat was his. Josie was seated to his left and Becca sat beyond her, at the end of the table. Mr. and Mrs. Fein were directly across from him and Josie.

Scott wasn’t sure which option was worse: sitting across from them, or sitting next to one of them.

Michael and Ariel came in a moment after everyone sat down and began setting out platters of food. While Michael went back for another load, Ariel went around the table, filling everyone’s water glass.

She took Scott’s black champagne flute with her back into the kitchen, then brought it out again as Michael put the last of the food on the table. She sat the glass in front of Scott as if it was a perfectly everyday occurrence to serve someone a glass of blood at the dinner table. “What would everyone else like to drink?” she asked. “Wine?”

“I’ll just have water,” Josie said.

“No wine?” Ariel asked, looking a little surprised.

Josie shook her head.

“One of us has to be the designated driver,” Scott said with a smile, remembering their last holiday at Michael and Ariel’s house.

Then something struck him. He began counting days on a mental calendar in his mind. He didn’t even notice Mrs. Fein’s snarky, “Well, I hope you don’t need a designated driver too often.”

He checked his math twice, but came up with the same answer both times.

He was pretty sure he and Josie had conceived the baby on Halloween when they had secretly—and rather drunkenly—done the deed in her brother’s spare guest room.

Something about that made Scott grin—almost to the point of laughing—even as he felt a little embarrassed.

Josie looked at him curiously—as if she was trying to puzzle out why Scott was silently grinning while her mother was trying to imply that he was some sort of alcoholic.

Scott just shook his head a little; he’d have to tell her later. But in the meantime, he couldn’t seem to wipe the smile from his face, and Mr. and Mrs. Fein’s looks of outright loathing began to turn to confusion mixed with repulsion, as if they were looking at someone who wasn’t in his right mind and ought not be sitting at the dinner table with normal people.

Michael and Ariel quickly filled everyone’s drink glasses, then took their seats. Scott was surprised to find Michael sitting to his right and Ariel sitting at the end of the table, opposite Becca.

It seemed an odd seating arrangement for such a formal dinner. Scott would have expected Ariel and Michael to sit at either end, since it was their table, or maybe even to have put Mr. and Mrs. Fein at the ends as a sign of respect.

But when Scott glanced around the table, he noticed a very different kind of arrangement. He was in the middle, flanked by Josie on one side and Michael on the other. Becca and Ariel further added to the feeling that he was surrounded by his supporters. By contrast, Mr. and Mrs. Fein looked rather solitary on the other side of the table.

The battlefield had been drawn up in advance and Scott’s forces had arrayed themselves in a strong defensive front.

It made him start smiling all over again.

Michael said a short blessing, then he began passing plates of food. Scott would have expected this to be the beginning of lively conversation—as it would have been at his family’s house—but the icy silence continued, unabated except by the clink of serving utensils on china.

When the last platter was put back in its place on the table, everyone began to quietly eat. Scott cautiously sipped the liquid in his glass and found it to be non-alcoholic blood. It was the regular commercial stuff, which wasn’t nearly as good as what Scott got from Gus, but it was tolerable. The knowledge that Michael and Ariel had gone to the trouble to buy some just for him, heat it up, and serve it at the table like he was a normal person seemed to make it taste better, though.

“So,” Michael said, obviously trying to break the uncomfortable silence, “what’s everyone been up to lately? What’s happening?”

“Scott and I are going to have a baby,” Josie said baldly.

Scott spewed a mouthful of blood all over Ariel’s expensive thingamabob centerpiece.

“Oh, my God!” Mrs. Fein said, covering her mouth with her napkin, as if she might be sick. “That’s disgusting!” She turned to look at her husband. “I’ve never seen anything more disgusting in my life.”

“Drinking blood in a Jewish house on Hanukkah,” Mr. Fein grumbled. “My father is rolling in his grave.”

Scott didn’t pay any attention to them; he was busy trying to mop up the blood on his face and all over the white tablecloth and centerpiece.

“You need to warn me before you say things like that,” Scott told Josie under his breath.

“Sorry.”

“I don’t think I heard you correctly,” Becca said, interrupting both couples. “It sounded like you said you were going to have a baby.”

“That’s what I said.”

Scott discovered in that moment that silence, like wine, came in many flavors—some quite subtle. The silence in the house before had been cold, and it was quite different from the silent shock brought on by Josie’s announcement. Scott was pretty sure an unexpected announcement of pregnancy created a unique vintage of silence that was like no other.

“I… I don’t understand,” Ariel finally said, helplessly.

“What’s to understand?” Josie replied. “Scott and I are going to have a baby.”

“You mean… like adopt?” Becca said, grasping for something she could understand.

“No, I mean like have a baby,” Josie retorted, her voice growing more forceful. “As in: there is a small person growing inside my uterus at this very moment.”

“…Scott’s baby?” Michael said, looking—and sounding—highly skeptical.

“Yes, Scott’s baby,” Josie said, her face growing dark. “I wish people would quit thinking I’ve been sleeping around on him.”

Scott squirmed with embarrassment. But at the same time, he could hardly blame her family for being skeptical. He still felt that there must be some sort of mistake.

“Michael, tell me this isn’t true,” Mrs. Fein said desperately.

“I… have to say I’ve never heard of a vampire being able to have a child. Medically, they ought to be sterile. I mean, their body temperature is too low for live sperm.”

“Oh, God, she doesn’t have a tumor or something does she?” Mrs. Fein gasped. “My Aunt Sarah on my mother’s side died from breast cancer. Maybe we’ve got that gene.”

“Would you quit talking to him like I’m not here,” Josie said, her annoyance increasing. “I’ve been to the doctor, okay? He’s quite sure I’m pregnant. He was just as skeptical and he did extra tests and stuff to be sure. And I have all the symptoms of pregnancy—morning sickness and all that.”

“Boy, do I know some people at the hospital who would love to talk to you guys,” Michael said.

“I’m not one of Becca’s lab rats,” Josie snapped.

“No, but you’re not exactly a normal expectant mother, either. Did your doctor classify you as high risk?”

“Not that I’m aware of.”

“Hm,” Michael said with a disapproving frown.

“What does that mean?” Mrs. Fein asked anxiously. “Should he have? Does she need a better doctor? Michael, you better look at her.”

“I’m not an obstetrician, Mother.”

She looked at her husband, but he threw up his hands. “Unless she’s got something wrong with her heart, I’m as clueless as anyone else.”

“What good is having a bunch of doctors in the family when no one can save Josie?!” she demanded.

“Mother, you’re being hysterical,” Josie said.

“I am not hysterical!”

“There’s nothing wrong with me. I’m pregnant—just like millions of other women. It’s no big deal.”

“What if your baby is a vampire like him?” she said in horror. “What if it sucks the life out of you? What if it tries to eat its way out of you? I’ve seen it before!”

“Mother, this isn’t a Twilight movie; that wasn’t real.”

“It’s still a valid possibility!” she said, before turning to Michael, as if looking for him to back her up.

“I don’t think that Josie will be in any danger,” Michael said slowly. “I’m more concerned about the baby. I mean, Scott’s a vampire because of radiation exposure. And we still don’t understand how vampires can even exist; they defy all medical knowledge. So the likelihood he passes on some or all of his condition, or that the baby is in some other way deformed or abnormal, would seem to be pretty high.”

“So… she shouldn’t keep it?”

“I am not aborting my baby,” Josie said hotly. “Especially when we don’t even know that there’s anything wrong with it. It could turn out perfectly healthy.”

“That’s a possibility,” Michael allowed.

“And it might turn into some sort of monster that tries to kill you,” their mother argued.

“Or it might be your very first—and possibly only—grandchild,” Josie retorted. “You might want to rethink your position on this.”

That seemed to bring Mrs. Fein up short. Clearly the desire to protect her daughter warred with her desire to be a bubbe.

“There are some diseases that might mimic pregnancy,” Michael said hesitantly, as if still trying to wrap his doctor’s brain around something that should be medically impossible. “I wonder if your doctor checked for them?”

“I assume so. He ran a bunch of tests and said he was absolutely sure I was pregnant.”

“An ultrasound will prove it once and for all, won’t it?” Scott asked Michael.

“Yes. How far along are you?” he asked his sister.

“About five weeks.”

He nodded. “You should have one soon, then.”

“Michael, I wish you would do it,” his mother pleaded.

“Mother, I told you—”

“Get one of your doctor friends to do it, then—one that you trust.”

Michael sighed wearily, then looked at his sister in a “are you willing to humor her?” sort of way.

She perked a brow, as if to ask, “do I really have to?”

“I must admit,” he said, rather reluctantly, “I would feel better if you were seeing someone who deals with high-risk pregnancies—not so much for your sake,” he hurried to add, “but for the baby’s.”

“It’s not like anyone has any experience with this sort of thing, since everyone is sure a vampire can’t father a child,” Josie argued. “One doctor operating blind is as good as another.”

“A specialist might be better at detecting problems, though,” Michael argued.

“I don’t want to have to drive to Nashville constantly, though.”

“Well it might be that you see your regular doctor for frequent checkups and only see the specialist at certain milestones or if your doctor reports a problem. They may work in concert. I don’t know,” he said, spreading his hands. “I’m not entirely sure how obstetrics works. But I know with cancer patients who live out of town, they usually see their local GP for monitoring and only come see me at certain times, or if their GP finds something out of the ordinary.

“You won’t know until you talk to someone. And I think you should at least talk to some,” he added.

Josie looked questioningly at Scott. “It’s your call,” he said hastily. “You should do whatever you think is best for you. I’ll drive you up here every week myself, if that’s what you want or need.”

She sighed, sounding defeated. “Alright, I’ll talk to a specialist. But if I think he’s just as clueless as my regular doctor, then I won’t see him anymore. Clueless at home is cheaper and less time-consuming than clueless in Nashville.”

Michael nodded his approval. “I’ll ask around at work and get a name of someone for you.”

“And don’t you not go to the doctor because you don’t have money,” Mrs. Fein said fiercely. “We’ll pay for you to go.”

“I am capable of taking care of Josie myself,” Scott said frostily. “We’re not exactly impoverished.”

“Yes, we see how well you’ve taken care of her so far,” Mrs. Fein spit back. “Pregnant with some half-vampire monster out of wedlock. You’ve done a real fine job of taking care of her.”

Scott leapt to his feet, slamming his hand on the table, making all the china and crystal rattle. But when he opened his mouth to say something, nothing came out.

He couldn’t deny Josie was pregnant with his bastard child. And that shamed him. Furthermore, he couldn’t deny that he was worried about her, too, and he blamed himself for putting her in that situation.

Good God, could he possibly be siding with Josie’s parents against himself?

“Yes, he has taken care of me,” Josie responded instead. “He’s worried with me and nursed me through my morning sickness. He’s made it clear that whatever decision I make, he’ll support it. And I’ve seen him with his daughter; he’s a good father. And he’ll be a good father to this child, too.”

Scott sat back down. Under the tablecloth, he found Josie’s hand and gave it a squeeze. Despite the fact that they hadn’t been together very long, she had a way of summing up and expressing his emotions better than he did. She understood what he felt and wanted to say better than his ex-wife—who had been with him for more than a decade—ever did.

“You do realize this child will be Jewish when it’s born, don’t you?” Mrs. Fein said, switching her attack.

“Yes,” Scott replied.

“It needs to be raised Jewish,” she said, almost threateningly.

“I’ve already told Josie I don’t have a problem with that,” Scott said calmly.

Mrs. Fein looked confused and a bit put out—as if she had been spoiling for a fight, only to find her opponent had suddenly become a pacifist.

“Well… good,” she said rather awkwardly.

“I think,” Michael said, interrupting before his mother could regroup and launch another offensive, “that we need to take this thing one step at a time. Before we start worrying about how to raise the baby, it needs to be born first. And that could be a long, dangerous eight months down the road. Or it could be a quick, easy eight months,” he hurried to add, as if afraid of worrying Josie and Scott. “But, regardless, that’s eight months down the road. And easy or hard, a lot is still going to happen between now and then.”

“Agreed,” Becca said. “Right now the only thing that we should be concerned about is keeping Josie healthy and making sure the baby has the best chance possible to be born healthy and normal. And stressing Josie out by attacking Scott isn’t going to help in either regard. So I think we need to call a truce and focus on what’s important—which isn’t that Scott’s a vampire or a Gentile, but the fact that, God-willing, we’ll have a new baby in the family next year.”

“I agree with Becca wholeheartedly,” Ariel chimed in. “Fighting over things that don’t matter while ignoring the important issue is stupid. We ought to be above that as adults and as a family.”

Mr. and Mrs. Fein had the good taste to look at least a little abashed.

Michael looked at Josie. “I’ll see if I can’t get some information for you when I go back to work tomorrow.”

“Thank you.”

Slowly, everyone resumed their meal. It was silent again, but this time it was full of awkwardness, not hostility. Josie’s parents didn’t make so much as one snide remark throughout the remainder of dinner, and as soon as dessert was finished, they excused themselves for the evening, pleading that they had an early day tomorrow.

“I’m not sure if I would want to be a fly on the wall during that car ride back home or not,” Michael said once they were gone.

“I wonder if they’ll really mend their ways, or if they’re just momentarily stunned and will regroup?” Ariel said aloud.

Becca, Josie, and Michael all looked at one another. “They’ll regroup,” all three siblings said simultaneously.

“Well, then, I suppose we should enjoy the interlude while we can,” Scott said.

“Yes, you should,” Michael said. Then he laughed. “I just had a thought,” he said, looking at his wife: “this should keep Mom and Dad from hounding us to have kids—at least for a little while.”

“True,” she said, brightening.

Scott had to chuckle. “Glad we could help you out.”

Michael clapped him on the back. “We’re a family; we always help each other out.”

Read the entire series–The Bloodsuckers: Vampire Lawyers of Middle Tennessee

A-Viking We A-Went

I don’t think I ever put the results of my first Viking clothing experiment up. (One busy month faded into another, into three.)

Of course, it was finished at the last possible minute and my sewing machine (my really expensive one) died in the process. (That’ll be $100, minimum, to get adjusted.) But, even though it could still use a few tweaks, it looks great.

DSCN0406 These are the pants. Pleating the legs into the band was the hardest part (but, surprisingly, not that terrible).

I almost forgot to get pictures of the final product. I only thought about it when it got late and people started to leave. And, since we had forgotten our camera, we had a friend take a few pictures with his iPad.

Here’s Stuart, doing his best Viking impression: taking the Anglo-Saxon woman hostage.

John's Memorial 2John's MemorialHere we are, reconciled. (Or maybe I’m just pretending to be happy and really plan on killing him in his sleep. You never know.)

I made the colored bands to go across the chest of the coat, but he decided, at the last minute, that he didn’t want them (leaving them off saved time, so I really didn’t complain). Underneath the coat is a plain gold tunic (I didn’t have time to sew embroidery onto it because my machine broke). The collar on the coat came directly off the original fur coat. I cut it off in one piece, put it on the Viking coat, we agreed we liked it, so I just stitched it on. That was a lot faster and easier than cutting a collar out myself.

On the whole, I really like the way it looks. Early-period isn’t a time frame we’re terribly interested in playing in, but it’s nice to have something we can wear when there’s a themed event. Eventually, I’d like to have one outfit from every major clothing epoch, so I’m covered no matter what the theme.

And speaking of making clothes, I’m making myself a new dress. I went to Sir’s a couple of months ago and loaded up on some of their wool remnants ($7.99/yd, with 20% off!). I got enough for me two dresses and Stuart a cotehardie (plus some linen for Stuart another cotehardie). Coming back from Gulf Wars always makes me feel inspired and crafty, and we’re looking at doing some stuff with some other reenactors in the next year or two that’s a step up in historical authenticity. My ultimate goal is to get my clothing looking as authentic as what the reenactors in Europe are wearing. (My sources of inspiration: Katafalk, Medieval Silkwork, and Neulakko)

Gulf Wars 24

A couple of weeks ago, my husband and I went on our annual trip (annual when we can afford it, that is; we’ve missed the past two) to Gulf Wars, a week-long SCA event just south of Hattiesburg, MS.

I had every intention of taking lots of pictures and some video, but between taking classes, teaching classes, and getting a cold partway through the week, I took almost none. (We were not with it this War. It’s like, after missing two years in a row, we forgot what we were doing. We waited until the absolute last minute to pack and did a half-assed job with stuff we normally take more seriously.)

But, we did manage to get a few pictures (and I’ll add in some old ones, so you can see a little more).

HomeSo, to start with, here is our home away from home. We’re still in the process of setting up, so there’s no furniture in it yet, but when it’s fully set up, we have a full-size bed (with a real mattress), a clothes rack, pantry shelves, and a dressing table and stool. Oh, and we also use a propane heater when it’s cold (we only used it the first night to burn off the damp; the rest of the week it was plenty warm–even hot, during the day).

While setting up, Stuart managed to pull an entire water spigot out of the ground. Hitting water lines/sprinkler systems with tent stakes, backing over spigots, etc. is so common in the SCA, we jokingly refer to these incidents as finding a “miraculous spring.” Stuart might have a first for ripping up a spigot with his bare hands, though.

Holy Well

The Miraculous Well of the Blessed St. Stuart

 

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The Miraculous Well of St. Martin. Note the sacred pick-ax (painted gold) and the reliquary box (which contains broken pieces of PVC pipe).

Some folks down the road built a shrine to their miraculous spring (although it wasn’t out this year; I guess they couldn’t make it to War).

While almost everyone camps in tents, a few enterprising people have built themselves houses (this is next on mine and Stuart’s to-do list).

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(Not being the carpenter/constructor types, we plan on buying a pre-built storage building and altering it to appear medieval.)

Some encampments have fancy gates.

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There are even a couple of large, public buildings on site:

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The Viking longhouse. (It’s very neat on the inside. In the evenings, they build a fire in the central hearth and there are seat/bed platforms around the walls where you can hang out and chat with people.)

The Green Dragon. This is a semi-functioning pub (alcoholic beverages aren’t sold). They have different performances every evening–sometimes two per evening. (Inside is also very neat. They have a tiny musician’s loft above the bar. The doors have medieval counterweights to make them self-closing, and when it’s cold, they’ll light a fire in the big cauldron in the middle of the floor.)

We eventually want to put a gate up on our land, but our house will probably end up happening first. (Again, no carpentry skills–not to mention, it’s an 8+ hour drive for everyone in our camp, which means we can’t just run down there for a work weekend and throw up a gate.)

But, that being said, we did have one work weekend year-before-last, when we built ourselves a fire pit.

Child Labor

Hmm… maybe this is why we can’t get anything built in a timely fashion. …We need more child labor!

 

Pit

The finished fire pit.

So, now that you’ve seen how we live, let me show you what we do.

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But, it’s not all fighting. There are massive amounts of classes, Arts & Sciences displays and workshops, dancing, parties, fencing, hound coursing, and equestrian (to name a few things).

There is also archery and thrown weapons. Stuart bought a new longbow at War and went to the archery range to try it out.

ArcheryWe also spent some time at the falconry tent

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I had assumed that people hunted with birds for food–that the birds would get you a rabbit for your dinner. But, in reality, you end up feeding them pretty much everything they catch, and then some (they don’t hunt with them at certain times of the year). The owners actually raise pigeons to feed the birds when they’re not hunting with them (pigeons and doves were commonly raised in the middle ages, too, and no doubt some of them went to the birds). If they catch anything big, like a rabbit, then that gets put into the freezer to be fed to them a piece at a time.

The purpose of hawking in the middle ages, then, wasn’t to use birds to catch yourself dinner, but just to watch them hunt and kill something. Part of the reason why only nobles could have birds (besides sumptuary laws, which strictly relegated who could own what kind of bird) was that they were expensive to maintain. Not only did you have to feed it when it couldn’t feed itself, but you pretty well had to have a full-time falconer to take care of your birds.

And these birds are not really tame–not like your cat or dog or even a domesticated bird. One of the falconers explained that they kept bells on the birds’ feet so that they could hear them if they flew away. She said that at a previous War, one man let his loose and the bird never came back. And she said she had one to get away from her when she was hunting with it. It got a squirrel and then decided that it needed to hide and eat, so he flew off into the brush. She was only able to track him down by listening to his bells when he moved his feet.

The only reason why any of them stay with their human handlers is because they know they can always get a free and easy meal. I seem to recall, from a conversation I had with one of the falconers several years ago, that they were only allowed to keep some of the endangered ones for a few years, while they were juveniles (because juveniles have a high rate of mortality in the wild). After that, they had to release them. And, in fact, barring age or injury, any of these birds could go back to the wild at any time–unlike truly domesticated animals.

I asked the falconer one year how they managed to gentle the birds, and he said that after wild-catching one, he would sit in a recliner in his basement, take the bird out of its box, and hold it until it quit beating its wings (while watching TV–because it could take a while). When it had tired itself out and calmed down, then he would feed it. After that, he would feed it and handle it regularly and it would quickly come to associate people with food, so it wouldn’t fight when it was taken out of its box. When it was pretty well-behaved, they could leave it out on a perch in the house, where it would spend additional time around other people and around the other birds. (The smaller birds are naturally afraid of the larger ones, but after a while, when they figure out that the large ones can’t get to them, they calm down around them.)

Unfortunately, after we got home from War, we found out that the people who owned all the birds, save the male hawk, had a car fire on their way back home. They managed to get out of the car in time, but all of their birds died. A couple of different groups of people are working on raising money to help them replace their birds. (They are licensed to wild-catch some species, but some of the ones pictured are not native to their part of the U.S. and have to be bought or traded for.)

The Bloodsuckers, Episode 42: Road to the Lion’s Den

Scott idly watched the western sky while Josie drove them to Nashville for her family’s Hanukkah gathering. The sky was dark, save for a deep pinky-purple on the horizon. He had always thought sunsets were more beautiful in the winter—maybe because the sun was at a lower angle relative to the earth, making its rays diffuse through the atmosphere instead of coming directly at the viewer.

He wasn’t sure if that was factual or not, but it sounded impressive—probable, even.

What was it that Mark’s book on lying had said?—if a person believes something strongly enough, it won’t register as a lie on a lie-detector test. Repeat a lie enough times, and the brain will simply reconstruct the memory to accommodate the lie and it will become truth.

It was one of the reasons why witnesses could be unreliable—especially if something happened suddenly or was shockingly violent. The older the memory, the more likely it was to end up altered—not because the witnesses intentionally altered it, but because they internalized other people’s narratives, news reports—hell, even dreams of the incident could introduce things that weren’t there in reality, and those things would get stuck in the actual memory.

That didn’t mean that a person was incapable of remembering something correctly—and some people admittedly had better memories than others—but it did mean that you should be cautious. Two witnesses saying the same thing were better than one—especially if they weren’t in contact. If they were close—family members, friends, or neighbors—then, as they talked about the incident and shared their version of it, their narratives would start to meld until they were more or less telling the same story—even if they had originally remembered two different things. That’s why interviewing witnesses separately and quickly was crucial; the mind did funny things with memories; it corrupted them even as it attempted to save them.

It gradually dawned on Scott that his thoughts had been wandering randomly for nearly a half hour—namely because neither he nor Josie were talking.

He didn’t like the silence; it was foreboding. It could just be because they were heading into the lion’s den, but Scott feared it was because of Josie’s pregnancy. He worried—perhaps justly, perhaps only out of paranoia—that a rift was growing between them. Did Josie blame him? After all, he was the one who was supposed to be sterile. He had put her in this situation.

The appropriate thing to do would be voice his concerns. He ought to ask her, point-blank, if she harbored any resentment towards him and if she was contemplating leaving him.

Instead, he broke the very pregnant silence—no pun intended—with: “Clarice’s birthday is right the corner and I don’t have anything picked out for her. What do you think I should get?”

“She’s going to be ten, right?”

“Yeah.” Just thinking about that made him depressed. He kept telling himself that it didn’t matter to him, since he wasn’t actually getting any older, but it still seemed sad that his daughter’s childhood was flying past. Before he knew it, she’d be grown and probably moved away.

Josie pressed her lips together, looking thoughtful. “She might like makeup.”

Scott shuddered. “She’s too young for that.”

“She’s too young to wear it out, but that doesn’t mean she can’t play with it. Most girls like playing with makeup—like dressing up.”

“I don’t think her mother would appreciate me getting her makeup.”

“Does Maggie not wear any?”

“Not much.” Saying so surprised Scott. He hadn’t ever thought about it before, but Maggie had worn very little makeup. Josie, on the other hand, was always nicely made up. It wasn’t that he felt makeup was a necessity—Josie was still pretty, even when she wasn’t wearing it—but it just further reinforced the difference between her and his ex.

“Is that because she doesn’t want to, or doesn’t believe in it?” Josie asked.

“I’m not sure. That’s why I don’t really want to test it.”

“Of course, Clarice could keep it at your house and Maggie need never know,” she offered.

Scott waved his hands. “I don’t want to get her any,” he said. “It’s a short jump from wearing makeup to being interested in boys.”

Josie laughed.

“What?” Scott demanded.

“I think you’ve got that backwards.”

“What… boys come first, then the makeup?”

“Yep.”

“Are… you just speaking in general, or do you know something I don’t?”

“Both.”

Scott felt a little sick to his stomach. “Who is he?”

“Some boy named Jeremy. He’s a grade older.” Josie said this with great emphasis, as if it was very significant.

“I don’t like the sound of that.”

Josie laughed. “Don’t worry; apparently he doesn’t know she exists. That’s why she was asking me what she could do to get his attention.”

“Definitely no make-up. I don’t want her to have his attention.”

“Scott, little girls get crushes on little boys; it’s normal.”

“At ten years old?” he asked incredulously.

She laughed at him again. “Hell, Scott, my first great love was in kindergarten. Actually, come to think of it,” she said thoughtfully, “I think I had two. I had a crush on David—a boy in my synagogue class—and Ian, a boy at school.”

“Both at once?”

“Yeah. That way, I never had to go too long without seeing one or the other.” She grinned. “David was my first kiss. Somehow, we ended up in the synagogue library together—it was dark because the lights were out—and I told him he should kiss me, and he did. Then I ran out, because I was suddenly bashful.”

“Your first kiss was in kindergarten?” he said, appalled. But Josie’s tone was more blissful; for her, it was a sweet memory.

“Yeah. I seem to recall I told him our parents had arranged our marriage when we were born, so we might as well start acting like a married couple.” She laughed at her own boldness. “I have no idea where I came up with that. I think I might have just lied to get him to kiss me.”

“So, what you’re saying is you lied to seduce a boy in synagogue? And here I was worried about what the boy might do. You’re obviously ten times worse.”

She just laughed unapologetically.

He shook his head. “I can’t imagine what my Sunday School teacher would have said if I had done that. Condemned me to hell, I’m sure.”

“Welcome to the differences between Jew and Gentile.”

Scott looked out over the dark road, the white line reflectors flashing in the headlights. “I have a feeling I’m going to get schooled in those differences a lot tonight.”

Read the entire series–The Bloodsuckers: Vampire Lawyers of Middle Tennessee