“As much as one third of Ptolemaic Egypt may have been in female hands.”

They inherited equally and held property independently. Married women did not submit to their husbands’ control. They enjoyed the right to divorce and to be supported after a divorce. Until the time an ex-wife’s dowry was returned, she was entitled to be lodged in the house of her choice. Her property remained hers, it was not to be squandered by a wastrel husband. The law sided with the wife and children if a husband acted against their interests…They loaned money and operated barges. They served as priests in the native temples. The initiated lawsuits and hired flute players. As wives, widows, or divorcees, they owned vineyards, wineries, papyrus marshes, ships, perfume businesses, milling equipment, slaves, homes, camels. As much as one third of Ptolemaic Egypt may have been in female hands.

–excerpt from Cleopatra, a life by Stacy Schiff
[my review here]

And that paragraph is exactly and precisely where I became interested in writing a crime fiction series about a queen’s fixer set in Cleopatra’s Alexandria.

Tetisheri, Eye of Isis

 

Worth reading, if you have the stomach for it.

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In the early twenties the Osage Nation becomes rich on the oil buried beneath their land in Osage County, Oklahoma, and then white men begin marrying Osages and killing them and all their family members so they could run off with the cash. The Osage call it the Reign of Terror, those years between 1920 to 1926, although evidence shows that it probably started at least three years before and continued for some time afterward.

The subsequent investigation by a nascent FBI revealed that everyone was in on it, the coroners, the undertakers, the police, it was a conspiracy of silence all the way up to Congress, who in their ineffable insufferableness collude with these greedy, racist, murderous assholes by deeming the Osage unfit to manage their own money and naming some of the actual murderers as the Osages’ guardians. It takes Osage Mollie Burkhart until 1941 to get that decision overturned. How many Osage died during the Reign of Terror will never be known because so few deaths were investigated as murders at the time, but Grann estimates that there may have been more than 600 victims.

Just an awful story, a piece of one of the darkest parts of our history. But worth reading, if you have the stomach for it.

“…since their education at the moment seems to consist mostly of marching around Salzburg singing scales.”

From McSweeney’s, of course.


I Regret to Inform You That My Wedding to Captain Von Trapp Has Been Canceled

by

Dear friends, family, and Austrian nobility,

Captain Von Trapp and I are very sorry to inform you that we no longer plan to wed. We offer our deepest apologies to those of you who have already made plans to travel to Salzburg this summer.

Those of you on the Captain’s side of the guest list are probably aware of the reason for the change of plans. I’m sure by now you have received that charming “Save the date!” card in the shape of a mountain goat from the Captain and his new fiancée, Maria.

I must confess to being rather blindsided by the end of our relationship. It seems Captain Von Trapp and I misunderstood each other. I assumed he was looking for a wife of taste and sophistication, who was a dead ringer for Tippi Hedren; instead he wanted to marry a curtain-wearing religious fanatic who shouts every word she says.

But I don’t want you to be angry at him. We are all adults here. “But Baroness,” so many of my friends have said, “you must be devastated. You yourself are fabulously wealthy, so you cannot have wanted the Captain for his money—you must have truly loved him.” It’s true. But so, I am sure, does his new fiancée, his children’s nanny. Her wardrobe is made of curtains. She’s definitely not a gold digger or anything.

I’m sorry. That was crude of me. She seems like a lovely person, and she and the children have a great deal in common.

A great, great, great deal.

Since I will no longer be a part of their lives, I do hope you will all keep an eye on the Captain’s children. I am not terribly maternal but I was very fond of them in my own way and I must admit I am worried what will become of them now that I have gone. I had planned to send them to boarding school, since their education at the moment seems to consist mostly of marching around Salzburg singing scales. I think it would have been particularly helpful for the eldest daughter, who seems intent on losing her virginity to the mailman.

Please, friends, don’t worry about me. While I was a bit startled to be thrown aside for someone who flunked out of nun school, I assure you that I will be fine, and my main pursuits in life shall continue to be martinis, bon mots, and looking fabulous. You’ll also be glad to know I have retained custody of the Captain’s hard-drinking gay friend, Max. Anyone who gets tired of sing-a-longs should feel free to look us up.

Again, my deepest apologies for this disruption to your plans. I am currently sorting through the wedding gifts we’ve already received and I will send them back as soon as possible. The Captain would help, but he is busy learning to play a song about cuckoo clocks on his guitar.

Sincerely,
Baroness Elsa Schraeder

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…little girl falls through a hole and lands on a gigantic hand…

 

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I hate elevator pitches, I don’t care how easy they are to sell, but lo how the mighty have fallen–
I read both books in Neuvel’s Themis Files series back to back in two days and the premise is somewhere between Harry Bates’ short story “Farewell to the Master” (better known as the movie The Day the Earth Stood Still) and H.G. Wells’ novel War of the Worlds, with a pinch of Star Wars thrown in for flavoring.

Earth, present day, little girl falls through a hole and lands on a gigantic hand not made of this earth. Years later as a scientist she is put in charge of finding the rest of the pieces of the big robot, putting it together and figuring out how to make it run. Ten years later another robot appears to vaporize half of London, and the year after that more appear in the most populated cities on Earth and start killing people 99.95 percent of the population at a time. What do they want? How to stop them? A lot of people die before they figure anything out, some of whom you will greatly mourn.

The books are epistolary, sort of, told in transcripts of recorded conversations, emails and personal journals. The style can get a little tedious but there are some voices that will really make you perk up, like badass helo pilot Kara Resnik, crazy ass geneticist Alyssa Papantoniou, and (ultimately) kick ass linguist Vincent Couture. Neuvel has taken the lesson of Saturday serials to heart because both books end on excellent cliff hangers. Fun read.

 


And, spoiler alert***

 

 

1. Just one time I wanted to hear Vincent holler “Gort! Klaatu barada nikto!” Never know, mighta worked.

and

2. For those of you who have not read the short story, they dumbed down the ending in the movie (and for heaven’s sake, watch the Michael Rennie/Patricia Neal original, not the ghastly Keanu Reeves remake, gah). In Bates’ story as originally written? The robots were the boss, not man. It made for a helluva punchline. Pretty sure Neuvel is familiar with both, and that these books are his sort of sequel to the story. I mean, come on, look at the titles.

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