Madame Death

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Death Keeps No Calendar

As the bad news just keeps grinding on, to save my sanity, I find solace in the silence of my studio. It is the only place right now that feels normal, what it felt like during the BeforeTimes. I can’t even remember what normal even feels like anymore.

Right now I am sorting through a pile of ephemera and going through a few books to double check dates and information. 19th century is notorious for publishing the same information but different dates, or the same dates but slightly different information. It makes me think about history and how many different variations there are, and what is the real version?

I am not sure when the footnote mania began, but I seem to remember that there were quite a few really good books that were published pre-1990, and I don’t remember being so inundated with so many footnotes. All I remember was a basic index, and a bibliography - and that was...

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Down the hill goes merrily.

I have a poison boudoir where I keep all my poisons, garments, hats, shoes, makeup, but I keep the really poisonous stuff right here in my studio, mostly because I like keeping an eye on it. There is something exhilarating about looking at 19th century poison bottles, boxes, packets and bindles.

There is a mesh netting barrier that keeps the front covered in case of an earthquake, it would be sort of hopefully contained.

I am back on my night schedule again and it feels much better. We live in an 1870s house, there is an upstairs and downstairs. I’m mostly upstairs and husband is downstairs. Ever since we moved here 21 years ago, we pretty much stay inside all the time, we both work from home so not much has really changed for our day to day routine, except the masks & gloves.

I’ve been having recurring dreams from when we arrived in NY in August during a heat wave, and we ended...

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When Cobwebs are Plenty

Today was spent going over book notes, updating the bibliography, and then sorting through the poison stuff and then I realized I was out of archival boxes and archival tissue. A 19th c piece of clothing arrived today and as soon as something arrives, I like to get it wrapped up and put away until I need to take a photo of it. It was nice to finally feel the type of fabric that was used, and to see exactly how it was assembled. It was early machine made, the stitches looked primitive compared to hand stitching.

I am working my way slowly through a bunch of 19th century books all in French, which I can get the basic gist of, but then I discovered this handy app that translates a photograph of French text into English text.

One of my favorite books is called A Distant Mirror by Barbara W. Tuchman, it took her nearly ten years to write it. And then I’ve been picking my way through...

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The Itinerary

After I’d done a lot of the research and finally made the outline for this book in 2013, I felt like I needed help fact-checking my research and hired three New York genealogists to help me track things down, and after I received their final report, it made sense for me to travel to the places where parts of the book took place. If I saw the lay of the land, or if any of the original buildings were still standing, it would help me tell the story.

The first trip was to New York City, from August 18 to the 23, 2015 - five years ago. I had not been to New York since the 1980s, before Giuliani destroyed it. Back then I saw old seedy, gritty, glorious 42nd street, the Guardian Angles walking double file down 42nd street wearing their red berets, I got to see the inside of CBGB’s infamous bathroom. And the Bowery before it was decimated by gentrification. I got yelled at in the East Village...

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Afraid of Far Enough

(Of That Which is Never Likely to Happen)

Today I got up at 2 a.m. - I work best in the middle of the night - and after eating my breakfast of watermelon slices, then some tangerine segments, in a small white bowl come mozzarella cheese mixed with sliced cherry tomatoes, a bite of a croissant (I took a bite and changed my mind), and my favorite, sliced cucumbers mixed with Sweet pickled cauliflower and then I after I wash it all down with a glass of Bolthouse “green drink” (veggies drink) I head upstairs to my studio to write.

As as I get older, I find my tendency to stay within a familiar rigid routine works best for my autism, if I change my routine even the slightest, it screws up the rest of my day and I don’t as much work done. When I head to the grocery store, it really takes an emotional toll because its like shopping with death himself.

My breakfast and coffee ritual has...

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Mudlarking Through the Centuries

Last night I finished section two of book one. This is the first time I felt like I finally have a handle on where this thing is going, It feels like it is tamed somehow, it isn’t as unwieldy as it was three years ago.

The first book will have three major sections and takes place over one hundred years. And it will be in chronological order, from start to finish.

The second section was a total bear, it required such intense research, double and triple checking sources I thought my brain would cleave in half, especially when numerous sources would cancel each other out. Who is right and who is wrong? Who is telling the truth and who is making up lies out of whole cloth? I ended up having to fly cross country 6 times because I had to double and triple check sources from 19th century news articles. That is the history I am mucking around in, and occasionally I find a buried treasure.


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Counting Stars

As soon as I sit down to write, I turn on the laptop, open the working iPad and turn on on the three lights. The backlight behind the computer, the nightlight underneath the computer so I can see my keyboards and a desk lamp next to me that points up at the ceiling. Behind me I have Christmas lights on, they always make me feel happy.

My eyes are not that good so I tend to need a bit more light when I am writing. Once I have everything ready to go, I turn on a white noise machine, put on my headphones and listen to the same playlist of music from 2010. It is mostly instrumental with no vocals or foreign language music I can listen to without thinking about it. I also like an app called myNoise, the cafe noise, and the AIRPORT noise is great for working. This coming from someone who never ever not once sat in coffee shops to write. Sitting in coffee shops to write seems so performative...

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When You Enter This Ball, You Gotta Dance.

My writing set up is an HP laptop sitting at eye-level on the edge of a piece of wood that is propped inside a bookshelf and is held firmly in place by gravity. That way it is close enough to my face but then I have all this room underneath for say, two keyboards.

It sits firmly on s tilted cooling base, I never use the actual keyboard, I use a Jelly Comb keyboard via Bluetooth.

Next to my laptop is a book stand that holds an iPad. It has also has it’s own Apple Bluetooth keyboard, which sits next to the Jelly Combo keyboard. I have a long blue wrist thingy covered in a nice fabric that I just bought, so far I like it.

I have a nice chair with two pillows, it makes me sit straight up instead of slouching and my knees are higher up where they should be.

To my left, I have a little holder table for my iPhone. When I am writing, I use my iPhone pretty much for listening to music and...

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The Before Times

I never thought that I would live to see the day when I would simultaneously experience the Spanish Flu, the Great Depression, the rise of the Third Reich, 1960s Civil Rights protests all while having Andrew Jackson as President.

I am working through all this and writing like a fiend, now I have three books instead of one. The first book is on its second draft, the second book, same and the third book all the pieces are done, I just have to photograph everything and put it all together. The first book is a historical 19th century American biography, the second is historical nonfiction and the third is a book about all the poison items in my collection. They will be published in that order.

Another reason I started this blog was because I hate social media and especially Facebook, Instagram, Snap-Chat, YouTube, and Twitter, in that order. I have an Instagram account and barely even...

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