Redheaded Neanderlady

Redheaded Neanderlady
This is a photoshopped version of something I found in National Geographic about the time I started researching

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Digging for early humans in Kent's Cavern

According to an article you can read here:

there is going to be a dig at Kent's Cavern, UK, in March, and a "follow-up{ dig in September.  The reason?  There is an ambiguous fossil of a jaw there.  If I remember correctly, the tools found previously at Kent's Cavern, seemed to indicate the presence of "modern" humans some 38,000 years ago, which would have made them the oldest "modern" remains in the UK.  Well and good.  Except that analysis of the jaw seems to suggest that its owner might have been a Neandertal!  Well, that wouldn't be so bad, either, if it weren't for the fact that the diggers seem to be trying to show that "modern" humans somehow "caused" Neandertal extinction.  In a way, they did, I suppose, but the news story -- which probably has garbled the intent of the archaeologists involved -- suggests that Neandertals  couldn't "cope".  Some people believe this is true, and try to show this in their work, if they are doing prehistoric archaeology or related field.  Is it? I don't know.  I have a feeling, though, that just like the "ambiguous" jaw, the results won't point to anything definite, in the way of the appearance of "modern" humans and the disappearance of Neandertals.

Anne G

Wednesday, January 28, 2009


The John Hawks weblog  has a link to a site where you can "devolve" yourself, if you want to see what you might like if you were, say, a Homo heidelbergensis.  Looks like it's kind of fun.  Heck, what did a Homo heidelbergensis look like, anyway?


Here is the link:

The photo is interesting, too.

Anne G

For those interested in the medieval, the Irish, and our new president(among other things)

First, let me warn you, gentle blog reader:  this is not going to be anything political!  I said I wasn’t going to put any political stuff on this blog, except under the most momentous circumstances, and I’m sticking to that.  However. . . .I got an interesting tidbit from this site .  It claims both President Obama and ex-President Bush are descended from that great Irish hero Niall of the Nine Hostages!  I read last week that the town the Obama ancestor came from, had a huge celebration on Inauguration day, and they even made something called “brack”(guess why, hint, hint), which is apparently an Irish version of fruitcake, for the occasion.  I didn’t remember seeing anything about the Niall of the Nine Hostages connection, but that’s all right.  Heck, Obama is also related to the unlamented Vice President Cheney, too.  But since half of Ireland seems to be in some manner related or descended or connected with Niall of the Nine Hostages, one way or another, I’m probably related in some way to Obama too.  I’m of Irish descent, you see, although I don’t make a lot of this connection.  I can’t say I’m related to anybody Kenyan, though, unless you want to go back all the way to whoever the ancestor of all “modern” humans was.  But then, even some of the descendants of that ancestral “Eve” wandered themselves out of Africa around 100,000 years ago and proceeded to end up everywhere, and probably mixed themselves up with whatever “nonmoderns” they encountered along the way, from time to time, and place to place(yeah, that means Neandertals, too, sorry about that, even if the genes don’t obviously show up in “modern” humans).  So if you go far enough back, I’m related to an awful lot of people.  That’s nice.  I don’t mind.  Their stories are all interesting, and I’m writing some of them.

Anne G

Sunday, January 25, 2009


I know someone who has self-published a book, which was kind of a pet project of the author’s.  It’s not a bad book, but it’s rather odd in some ways, and it’s easy for me to see why the author couldn’t find a publisher.  And lots of people in the book business don’t think much of self-publishing.  Robert Sawyer(unfortunately, I can’t seem to find the link in my blog) thinks it’s a terrible idea, and told one aspiring writer that in so many words. My recollection is, that he essentially told the would- be author to “trash” that book and write a lot of short stories.  Personally, I thought this was a bit harsh, but  there is still an attitude in the book business, that self-published books are badly written “vanity” pieces


On the other hand, I was at a wedding a couple of years ago, and one of the relatives – the groom’s family – I don’t know how this guy was related – got me in a conversation about my writing.  He kept trying to “sell” me on self-publishing.  I was leery at the time, and still am, somewhat, but at that stage, I was not about to try to peddle a “half-baked” Great Medieval Science Fiction Masterpiece With Neandertals, in any  form!  Besides which, if you self-publish, everything falls on you!  This includes marketing and distributing the thing, which many writers simply do not have a talent for.  So I held firm and essentially, after I got back from the wedding, which was out of town, I went back to writing. 


On the other hand, there is an interesting article about self-publishing in the current Time Magazine, which told several stories about authors who “did everything right”:  they wrote the proper queries, carefully submitted their works to as many agents as they could, in the genres they were writing, and still remained unpublished.  One of them simply got frustrated, plunked down $450 or some similar amount, and got her book published.  She then peddled it around herself, and a few people, including some agent, picked it up.  The end result was, the agent liked what he or she saw, picked it up, and it was published by a respectable publishing house.


I don’t know exactly what to make of this, since most authors don’t sell that many books anyway, published or not.  Some get their start, for instance, by writing books that sell only to libraries.  I’ve read some of these, and the writing is decent, but they are awfully short and sweet.  But on the other hand, perhaps that’s all a lot of library patrons want.  And the author can then say, somewhere down the line, “Yes, I’ve published (insert title) and  so-and-so liked it”.  Which can add to the person’s writing credibility.  Unfortunately, unless the agent is fairly open, if it’s self-published, the old attitudes may persist. 


I think the Time Magazine article is right about one thing, though.  And that is, that the nature of reading, and publishing, is changing considerably.  The reason for this is partly economic – though not the reasons the author of the article has listed, I think.  The author of the article accuses publishing houses of being kind of uneconomical and old-fashioned about the way they do business with writers, but in fact, one problem writers have, is that book publishing, while always interested in making money by selling books, used to be fairly “writer-friendly”.  If you had any degree of writing talent at all, they would nurture you, and you would stay “midlist” for a while, but if you were lucky, gain a following through word of mouth and the like.  But in the last twenty years or so(if not longer), publishing houses have become increasingly “bottom line” oriented; they are looking for the next blockbuster of a book – a Da Vinci Code or Harry Potter to  carry them to the next profit margin.  But in these tight economic times, people may be less likely to actually buy a book that costs nearly $30.00, especially when they may be able to get it out of the local library system(which I actually encourage, for many books, because I’m a huge supporter of libraries), or trade it with some friend, or get it second-hand.  And that’s hard on authors, too.  This is something the author actually pointed out, in the article.  Furthermore, once you pay the fee for Kindle, which is becoming increasingly popular, and again, I can see why, because I’m acquainted with a lady who actually owns one, it is far cheaper to download some book onto a Kindle and read it that way.  So people may actually end up being less reliant on bookstore chains like Barnes & Noble or Borders(which is rumored to be in considerable financial trouble anyway), and more so on Kindle-like devices.  And, in turn, this may allow a lot of authors to simply put a book on file and have it carried by and sold to anyone who is interested, without intermediaries.  There would probably be some fee or percentage of sales going to whoever carries these electronic books, but it is likely that an author would get a larger share of any profits.  Which, of course is nice for writers, sine few of them make a whole lot of money. 


In the end, I think the article may well be right, that this is the future of book publishing.  But at the present, it seems to me that everything is still in a state of flux, and it will take some time before things in the book publishing business to settle into any new pattern.  So should an author self publish?  I have mixed feelings.  I would say, “It depends”. . . .

Anne G

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Now back to prehistoric things – some of them really, really prehistoric

Maybe this item won’t seem to relate to my writing, but. . . family and friends were having dinner tonight, and people were discussing body types.  One lady said her doctor told her at one point, she had a “Rubensesque” figure.  I guess she does, in the sense that the painter Rubens liked to paint what would now be called “full-figured” women, which were then fashionable, but now are less so(though you don’t have to go back to the 17th century to find an era when “full figures” were fashionable).  In any case, at that point, I just couldn’t resist. . . .I told everyone, back in the time when my hair wasn’t gray, that I had a “Venus of Willendorf” figure. 

willendorfvenusiIMG_1469bigbestsm This is the “Venus of Willendorf”, so named because the figurine was found in or near Willendorf, Austria, in the early 1900’s. Don’t worry.  Even when I was pregnant with my daughter, I never, ever, looked like that.  Though she was supposedly a fertility figure, the reference was a joke. 


Then, oddly enough, I remembered an even older figurine, one of the oldest ones on recorded – it came from a place called Berekhat Ram, in the Golan Heights. 

BEREKHAT The “Venus of Willendorf” is about 15,000 years old, mad by “modern” humans.  But the interesting thing about Berekhat Ram is, it’s about 230,000 years old!  And was probably not made by “modern” humans.  Possibly it was made by Neandertals.  Whoever made it, it was made from volcanic rock. It’s cruder in some ways, because it wasn’t carved in anything like the detail that the Venus of Willendorf was.  But nevertheless, it’s exciting, because if it’s not the earliest attempt at  deliberate modification of something for “artistic” purposes, it is one of the earliest(there are one or two others, somewhat earlier, I believe.  The piece of rock evidently suggested a woman’s profile, to the person who modified the rock, and, while this picture is not particularly good, on some photos, you can see the suggestions of arms.  There is a sort of neck, which was apparently deliberately carved in.  And because Berekhat Ram was not apparently, created by a “modern” human, it is of great interest, since this leads to the inevitable conclusion that the “esthetic sense”, for lack of a better description, very early became part of the repertoire of behaviors, along the line that eventually led to “modern” humans.


Perhaps, then, I should have said that I had a”Berekhat Ram” figure.  But neither I, nor anybody else at the time, knew Berekhat Ram existed. . . .

Anne G

I never thought I’d see this day

I interrupt my usual writing oriented blog for something I consider extremely significant in the history of the United States.  Today, Barack Hussein Obama was inaugurated 44th President of the United States. I took the trouble to watch the inauguration ceremony earlier today, because this moment is historic. I never thought I’d see a day, in my lifetime,when someone of African(or any other nonwhite) descent, would be elected President of the United States. But I have seen it.  And because of this, I am very proud of the people of this country on this day.  After eight dark years, perhaps, I’m hoping, there is a dawn breaking for this country. I know.  I realize that our new President will have to face a pile of problems as high as Mount Everest, perhaps even higher. But his inaugural speech suggests that he is going to roll up his sleeves and offer to tackle them, and he is inviting all of us to tackle them along with him. I will find  a way to pitch in, sooner or later. I feel this is my duty as a citizen. But that is for the future – though not a distant future. For now, I feel nothing but joy and pride at what has been accomplished so far. 


Yes we can, yes we did, yes we will,

Anne G

Monday, January 19, 2009

More medieval bits’n’pieces

The Elizabeth Chadwick blog  has a new post about medieval seals and how they were made. I found it quite fascinating. I didn’t know, for example,that the higher up you were on the medieval food chain, the bigger your seal was, nor did I know that women had oval-shaped seals of their own(as did ecclesiastics), and the reason for this. Elizabeth Chadwick’s blog often has lots of useful material,and I learn something there each time she puts something up.  But this is a “something” I might be able to weave into my book, in some way.

Anne G

Thursday, January 15, 2009

And on a more hopeful note. . . .

Anita Davison’s blog Disorganised Author  has a blog on the things agents like.  One thing that leaped out at me was, one agent liked a story that “grabs” you, and that you want to completely lose yourself in.  That’s great.  It’s really good advice.  Now how do we poor authors go about doing this?  Still, it’s more hopeful than what authors don’t like!

Anne G

An amusing medieval-themed blog post

This particular blog is kind of fun.  It’s from Got Medieval, and it’s called What would Edward the Confessor DoIt’s kind of fun, really, and is an interesting take on some quite modern attitudes toward faith and worship.  Is it a good thing Western society has changed a lot in the last 1000 years?  I don’t know, but the short blog piece tends to make you think a bit.

Anne G

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Medieval bits ‘n pieces

Nan Hawthorne,  who has also written  An Involuntary King, a novel I’m preparing to review  on this blog in the not too distant future, has posted a piece on some of her characters in a mystery series set in 10th century Winchester.  It looks quite interesting, and I look forward to her series.  The characters all sound quite colorful, to say the least.

Anne G

I found it!

I thought I’d lost the original picture, from which I photoshopped the Redheaded Neanderlady.  It turns out I haven’t!  Yay!  Anyway,this is her “own” picture, as she appeared in National Geographic some years back.  Both the “family” picture from the previous blog, and this one, suggest the way a lot of people have “pictured” Neandertals – at least until very recently.



As you can see, she appears vaguely “Middle Eastern”(or something).  And while Neandertals occupied Israel, Iraq, Jordan and  Syria from time to time, whether their skins and hair were anything like those of the inhabitants of these regions today, is anybody’s guess.

Anne G

The original picture. . . .

The first thing Gentle Readers and the curious who have dropped by to read my blog, notice, is that the “title” picture shows a Redheaded Neanderlady.  This is a kind of tribute to my redheaded heroine, Illg(yeah, Neandertals appear to have had a version of the MC1R “skin color” gene, which gave at least some of them red hair, light skin and eyes, and maybe freckles).  But the “original” from which I photoshopped this version, looks quite different


She originally looked like the woman in this picture, though there was a picture, just of her, originally.  Which, as usual, has disappeared, though I think it’s still hiding on my old computer.  Anyway, you get the idea.  Until people found out that Neandertals possessed this now-infamous MC1R gene, besides living in cool, cloudy Paleolithic Eurasia for thousands of years, they thought Neandertals were all dark haired.  Oh well. . . .

Anne G


Monday, January 12, 2009

Obsessive veracity v. storytelling in historical-themed fiction


An interesting discussion has been going on among subscribers to the Historical Novel Society e-mail list .  Its about historical veracity.  I’ve written about this here, here, and here.  I’m not going to repeat what I’ve said in these posts; those who wish to read and link to the above-mentioned posts,will find my feelings quite clear.  What I find interesting to observe is, that there seem to be two camps among readers of historical fiction, and very few, like me,stand with a foot in both of them.  One camp, as one reader/writer put it, though not in exactly these words, likes a good story, with decent historical accuracy, but in which the story and its characters are the most important element, not the “history”.  If they want “history”, these folks will just get a history out of the library or buy one at  The other camp is larger, or at least more vocal:  these readers/writers insist that all detail be completely accurate, that the plotline follows the “history” exactly, and, in some cases, there should be no “afterward” explaining how the author “bent” the history for the sake of the story. 


I’m not going to make a judgment here.  To each his or her own.  At the extremes of each camp, there are writers who do things that essentially totally turn me off.  I’ve read all too many romance “writers”, who just set their novels in some historical period, yet had their heroines acting like “modern” woman.  Even allowing for the fact that, in every historical period, there are as many “takes” on whatever society you’re living in, as the people living in it, the writer has to understand that there are always certain limitations.  Suppose, 100 years from now, somebody decides to write a novel set in 1950’s suburbia.  And let us further suppose that this writer has people watching digital color TV, listening to the radio in stereo, and sending e-mail on computers. Anybody living 100 years from now, who read such stuff(probably on some future version of Kindle or the like), who knows about that time, will see the egregious mistakes and, if they’re smart, end up throwing said book at the wall(or at least deleting it from their files and cursing the money they spent getting it in the first place).  More subtle mistakes would be having the wife just up and leaving her stupid husband(if he is stupid, that is), and ending up as the top executive of some multinational company.  Heck, even today, there’s a “glass ceiling”, despite the fact that Hillary Clinton ran for President of the United States, and similar “ceilings” exist, to greater or lesser degrees, elsewhere.  It is easy to see why, therefore, some readers and writers get turned off by this kind of thing. I certainly did. That’s one reason I don’t read many romances any more.


But there is an opposite side of the coin.  My sense of the “veracity” issue is, that a lot of people who read historical fiction, really want “history” in a fairly easily digested form.  This is fine, if that’s what they want.  The trouble is, I haven’t seen it – yet – done in a manner that completely engages me – sweeps me away, turning page after page, wholly invested in the characters, with perhaps one or two exceptions, which I’ll discuss in another blog.  The writers at this “obsessively accurate” end of the spectrum often have many fans, and some of them write what is essentially fictionalized biography, which I have also discussed elsewhere.  But I don’t want to read fictional biography!  If I want that, I’ll just go to the library and check out a book on that historical figure.  On the other hand, a lot of people obviously do, otherwise, there wouldn’t be a plethora of “Tudor themed” books out on the market and in library shelves. Nor do I want to read some book that is as obsessively detailed as the writings of Dorothy Dunnett(I will discuss her more in another blog entry).  I have, in fact, read some of the writings of this author, and have found a lot of this detail just exhaustively offputting, at least to me.  She has legions of fans, however.  My feeling is, this amount of “veracity” and “detail” is simply just too much.


However, I think I see something going on here.  Historical novels are just as much a genre as, say, mysteries or science fiction, and all genres have basic rules and formulas. Historical fiction seems to have such rules, too, but they haven’t, in my opinion,  at least, until recently, been overtly articulated.  I believe that the “obsessive veracity” crowd is actually trying to articulate such “rules”, just as people who read and write the romance genre have begun to do, and they’re pretty clear for romance fans.  Violate some of them(e.g. have a “downer” ending to a romance novel), and you are likely to alienate a good portion of the readership of any particular gen, re.  Obviously, as the genre matures, more flexibility comes into play, but the modern historical novel, at least the more recent ones, have only just begun to articulate the “rules”, let alone allow for flexibility within them.  So the “veracity freaks”, again in my opinion, are actually doing this genre a favor; they are attempting, for better or worse, to lay out what the “rules” for writing such novels actually are.  That there is debate about how “rigid” these rules ought to be is, in fact, a good sign, because it suggests there is a wider variety of readership out there for good writing and well-crafter, well-researched work.  This can allow for the tastes of those for whom “story” comes first, while accommodating those who prefer their fiction about the past, to be as accurate as the writer can make it.


I will be writing more on this, and other related subjects somewhat later,

Anne G

Thursday, January 8, 2009

An addition to the “anthropological” side of my novelistic research

I’ve just gotten through adding to my list of “anthropology and prehistory” links.  For those interested in that side of my ongoing researches, it’s quite comprehensive.  If you’re really interested, you can even download some pdfs – for free!  That doesn’t happen every day with these kinds of research papers.  I should know.  I have a lot of them, but no direct access.  Anyway, it’s there for anyone to enjoy, or use.

Anne G

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Yet another very good piece of advice for writers

This particular essay is aimed at romance writers and readers, and is about what the author calls “unusual historicals”, by which she means historical romances not set in Regency England or the Highlands of Scotland.  Yeah, I’ve seen a gazillion of those.  But as the author points out, so have gazillions of romance readers.  And a lot of them want something else.  Now the gentle reader, or would be writer, may think, “well, I don’t read romances, nor do I intend to write them”.  Which is fine, because this advice appeals to any writer, who is furiously writing away.  Basically, the advice is, never mind the tight market(we all know the writer’s market is a very hard sell, and has always been; writers must be prepared for lots of rejections before they sell anything at all).  Write what you love to write about, no matter what the subject or the era you’re writing about, or the genre you’re writing in.  Eventually, if you are persistent enough, you will find a market.  And you will find readers who are willing to read it.  I know, I know.  I have to keep telling myself this, too.  And a gentle reminder every now and then, never hurts, so I’m taking this lady’s advice(and my own, as well).

Anne G

Saturday, January 3, 2009


Over at The Disorganised Author Anita Davison, a writer of historical fiction(who, BTW, has been published) mentioned the idea of resolutions related to writing.  She wants to make lots of contact with publishers.  Well, she’s already published, so she had an advantage!   But this gave me an idea:  I should set goals, too. Not resolutions, exactly – they’re too easy to break or forget about.  No, I’m talking about goals.  And I’m setting two goals for 2009:  Goal One is to finish the final book in my Invaders trilogy.  Goal two is to rewrite and revise the first book and, I hope, have it in shape to start querying agents, etc.  And I will be working furiously to accomplish both these goals. Wish me luck, all ye who enter this blog, and read these words!

Anne G

Friday, January 2, 2009

My first blog post of 2009, and it’s not medieval or Neandertal

I connect to some writing sites from time to time, the blog site Cute Writing being one of the more useful.  In this case, the current blog has some very useful tips for writers, which you can find here


I especially like the part about thinking you’re better, or worse, than your “mentor”.  I used to do this a lot, and think my writing would never be the “equal” of, say, Terry Brooks.  I mention Terry Brooks, because my very first attempt at writing, was something more or less modeled after his Sword of Shannara books.  And I realized, in the middle of the second draft of this work of art, that this approach wasn’t working at all, because I wasn’t controlling my writing(among other things).  It was at this point that, happily enough, I got the idea for my Invaders trilogy(which wasn’t a trilogy at that point).  I also liked the part about not “writing flamboyantly”.  I’m still working at that, but nobody who has critiqued my stuff so far, seems to think what I’m doing is overdoing it, so I guess I’m “doing” something right.


I read, and write, a lot(though I guess some people don’t.  All writers give this advice, and I can see why.  The more you read, the more you’re exposed to what works and what doesn’t.  And there’s a lot of “what doesn’t work actually out there on the shelves, for you to read or buy.  I know, ‘cause I’ve seen it.  It also helps me see more of what I’m doing in my own writing.  I hope this will make me a better writer. 


Finally, I haven’t made any New Years’ resolutions yet.  Maybe I should, and start by resolving to avoid these mistakes writers often make.  Who knows?  Maybe at the end of the year, I can send out a manuscript, and it will actually be publishable.

Anne G