Youmans (pronounced like 'yeoman' with an 's' added) is the best-kept secret
among contemporary American writers. --John Wilson, editor, Books and Culture Marly Youmans is a novelist and poet out of sync with the times
but in tune with the ages. --First Things

Sunday, February 19, 2017

The Rollipoke News, no. 1

Courtesy of Jenny W. of Honolulu,

For those of you who are waiting with the bated kind of breath: the first issue of The Rollipoke (a.k.a. The Rollipoke NewsThe Rollicking Rollipoke, etc.) will be launched into the interspace tomorrow. And I hope you enjoy the peculiar little newsletter that promises to give you the news about my books and doings before anybody else has it--news that either has not been posted online yet or, in some cases, will never be posted there.

Thank you, rollipokers!

Tuesday, February 14, 2017


Don't be a nozzle!
Tiny Equus africanus asinus
Creative Commons Wikipedia
Note: It seems to me that Roderick Robinson's comments are more interesting than the post. So maybe you should read them!

I've been researching such interesting topics as  total depravity, unconditional election, limited atonement, irresistible grace and so on, hanging with Calvin and the reformed tradition, hanging with Puritans and Separatists. All for the sake of my current novel.

Though in the past I've done lots of reading in seventeenth-century writings, this time I need to understand the theological underpinnings a bit better so I can understand worldview of characters. I'm finding my head a bit hard when it comes to Calvin, Bucer, Bullinger, etc. vs. modern-day "Calvinism."

And I've also found lots of curious nuggets along the way. Some of my favorites are words.

How about nazzle?
A "ludicrous diminutive of ass."

Or niffle-naffle?
To trifle and play with one's work.

I like the old word for marzipan. March-pane or marchpane. A still-popular confection of sugar or honey and almond meal. “To make Marchpane to Ice and Gild, and garnish it according to Art. Take Almonds, and blanch them out of seething water, and beat them till they come to a fine paste in a stone Mortar, then take fine searsed sugar, and so beat it altogether till it come to a prefect paste, putting in now and then a spoonful of Rose-water, to keep it from oyling; then cover your Marchpane with a sheet of paper as big as a Charger, then cut it round by that Charger, and set an edge about it as about a Tart, then bottom it with Wafers, then bake it in an Oven, or in a Baking-pan, and when it is hard and dry, take it out of the Oven, and ice it with Rose-water and Sugar, and the white of an Egg, being as thick as butter, and spread it over thin with two or three feathers; and then put it into the Oven again, and when you see it rise high and white, take it out again and garnish it with some pretty conceit, and stick some long Comfits upright in it, so gild it, then strow Biskets and Carrawayes on it. If your Marchpane be Oyly in beating, then put to it as much Rose-water as will make it almost as thin as to ice.”  (A Queens Delight also has a recipe to make marchpane “look like Collops of Bacon.”) From A QUEENS Delight; OR, The Art of Preserving, Conserving and Candying. As also A right Knowledge of making Perfumes, and Distilling the most Excellent Waters. Never before Published. London, Printed by E. Tyler, and R. Holt, for Nath. Brooke, at the Angel in Corn-Hill, near the Royal Exchange. 1671.

Or how about lollop? To lounge about, to saunter (but heavily!)

Tuesday, February 07, 2017

Elecampane and pippin-pap

Public domain, Wikipedia.
Doman Hering: Judgement of Paris, c. 1529,
Solnhofen limestone, 22 x 19.7 cm;
Paris (the knight) is a portrait of Otto Henry, Elector Palatine,
Hera a portrait of his wife Susanna. Bode-Museum Berlin.

Well, it's not the admirable and most famous Snail Water, but it might come in handy on these cold winter nights...
An approved Conserve for a Cough or Consumption of the Lungs.

Take a pound of Elecampane Roots, draw out the pith, and boil them in
two waters till they be soft, when it is cold put to it the like
quantity of the pap of roasted Pippins, and three times their weight of
brown sugar-candy beaten to powder, stamp these in a Mortar to a
Conserve, whereof take every morning fasting as much as a Walnut for a
week or fortnight together, and afterwards but three times a week.
I wonder if that is the size of a walnut meat, an unopened walnut in its shell, or a great big green unhulled walnut. Whatever it is, the receipt comes from the marvelous A Queens Delight: The Art of Preserving, Conserving and Candying. As also, A right Knowledge of making Perfumes, and Distilling the most Excellent Waters. 
London: Printed by E. Tyler and R. Holt, for Nath.
Brooke, at the Angel in Corn-Hill, near the
Royal Exchange. 1671.
Elecampane? Inula helenium. A.k.a. elfdock and helenio. Horse-heal. It's in the same family as sunflowers, Asteraceae. Helenium refers to that most famous Helen, Helen of Troy. I've seen a number of accounts of her relation to elecampane. Her tears turned to Elecampane, according to one version. Not surprising, I suppose, as desirable young men and women themselves seem to have had a fatal tendency to turn into flowers or trees in the ancient world. But elecampane is enormous. She must have been surrounded by a whole jungle of the stuff; surely she could have wept, lost herself in eight-foot stems, and slipped away, saving a world of trouble. I have also read that she simply carried elecampane with her when she was abducted from Sparta by Paris. Why? Because we women, when abducted, like to carry gigantic flowers? I find such a bouquet rather unlikely, though in the legends of the ancient world, women appear to be vulnerable to abduction when picking flowers. It is a wonder any young women were ever tempted into a field, however pleasantly diapered with flowers.

According to (possibly innumerable and sometimes witchy) herbal web sites, all copying one another, elecampane is beloved of the fey. Then I expect elecampane stalks are fairy skyscrapers. Perhaps the fey linkage is why it's claimed that Celtic peoples saw elecampane as a sacred flower? If you are a lovelorn, superstitious sort and have some spare vervain and mistletoe lying about and some time to waste, evidently you may grind them up and mix them with elecampane flowers for a love potion. And if you have a bad scrying habit, well, elecampane flowers are said to be useful by the sort of people who dabble in witchery--that is, by witches, who suggest that you throw a few on the grill to increase your mystic powers. All this business with love and bewitchment and foretelling the future takes us straight back to Paris and Helen, and to Aphrodite promising Paris that she will make sure he steals away with Helen, wife of Menelaus, if only he declares her the most beautiful. Never mind that she fails to mention the little fleabite of the Trojan War.

Friday, February 03, 2017


Sign up for The Rollipoke News. 
An occasional newsletter--
"news of upcoming books (fiction and poetry by Marly Youmans, both new and reprints), 
public events, strange happenings, lost words, etc."
And the occasional interesting freebie. 

Rollipoke: a coarse hempen cloth once considered 
"fit to be used as bags or wrappers for rolls or bales of finer goods"
(Robert Forby, The Vocabulary of East Anglia, 1830.)

Now I want you to pretend that the sign-up form is
on another page entirely because that's what savvy people do,
the ones who know what they are doing.
They hide the form, and for some strange psychological reason,
people prefer it to be hidden on a second page.
Therefore I bid you to pretend the form
is hidden beneath a rollipoke!

powered by TinyLetter
p. s.
Here's a new "Women in Horror Month" post at Weird Fiction Review
"Drunk Bay" popping up again...
Nice to be in company with Leena Krohn, Kelly Link,
Edith Wharton, and more.

Thursday, February 02, 2017

Stylish, heartfelt Stevenson

Stevenson's tomb on Mount Vaea, Western Samoa
Clip from a gorgeous letter by Robert Louis Stevenson: Lastly we come to those vocations which are at once decisive and precise; to the men who are born with the love of pigments, the passion of drawing, the gift of music, or the impulse to create with words, just as other and perhaps the same men are born with the love of hunting, or the sea, or horses, or the turning-lathe. These are predestined; if a man love the labour of any trade, apart from any question of success or fame, the gods have called him. He may have the general vocation too: he may have a taste for all the arts, and I think he often has; but the mark of his calling is this laborious partiality for one, this inextinguishable zest in its technical successes, and (perhaps above all) a certain candour of mind to take his very trifling enterprise with a gravity that would befit the cares of empire, and to think the smallest improvement worth accomplishing at any expense of time and industry. The book, the statue, the sonata, must be gone upon with the unreasoning good faith and the unflagging spirit of children at their play. IS IT WORTH DOING?—when it shall have occurred to any artist to ask himself that question, it is implicitly answered in the negative. It does not occur to the child as he plays at being a pirate on the dining-room sofa, nor to the hunter as he pursues his quarry; and the candour of the one and the ardour of the other should be united in the bosom of the artist. Read the rest HERE.

Wednesday, February 01, 2017

Light and language

Candlemas Eve: no doubt this year we are all looking for more candles in the dark. For me, more light goes with clearer language and less jargon and less political correctness (a kind of jargon of thinking  and language together that obscures sight.)

I have been rereading colonial materials that I haven't read since graduate school, and marveling again how literate and bright the godly (as they sometimes called themselves) were. The level of literacy among Puritans was astonishing, and since the great migration of 40,000 souls to the Massachusetts Bay Colony (and more elsewhere) tended to leave out the very poor and the very rich, they possessed a greater harmony and order and agreement than one might have expected of so large a gathering in and spreading out through a wilderness. Like us, they held some convictions that have lasted but also some that were mistaken and put a kind of darkness in their eyes and brought many to grief. And this led to their own decline in power and to change. It's a lesson.

I'm still considering what I want to accomplish in words this year. I want to finish the novel that I'm working on, despite lots of travels away from family that will break up my time. And I will write "13 Way of Looking at Form," which I have promised for the Buechner workshops. I have some poetry manuscripts that will be looking for home, and I ought to finish up or tidy up some prose manuscripts that have been lying about, waiting for me. I have taken the path less traveled in recent years, weary of a literary world ruled by marketing, and in some ways that has been good for me and in some ways bad for the visibility of my books. I need to bend my mind to what I can do there. And I must eventually get to the matter of right reversions for prior books and reprints; I hold rights to a number of books and have been asked about reprinting them. But I want to do this myself, so that I can do exactly what I like with them. So far, I have not found the time, and I know that a mother of three young adults may frequently not have time. But I'm hoping to do something about the reprints before the next winter begins.

And there I am. Still wishing for more time and more light....

Friday, January 27, 2017

Thorn from Thaliad

Book illumination by Clive Hicks-Jenkins for Thaliad

Clive at the Artlog: When my friend, the writer Marly Youmans asked me how I’d define myself in relation to my collaborations with her, I unhesitatingly wrote back, partly in fun, ‘illuminator’.

Help Jordan Murray pick a cover

Want to help Jordan Murray with her very first book cover decision? Jordan is the daughter of a friend of mine, and we recently met to talk over first novel (a fantasy) and her decision about whether to submit to publishers or to strike out into the exciting wilderness of self-publishing. Now she has decided to self-publish and just asked me what I thought of her choices of cover. So now you can throw in your own two cents as well. Keep in mind that it needs to appeal to readers of fantasy.

Step one. Go to 99 Designs and look at her four potential covers by four different artists and decide which you like (and why, if you know why!) You can leave a message there. (Or you can click on these images to enlarge. Also, click on the names to see more work by each cover artist.)

Step two. And, if you like, come back here and see what I thought about which cover would be more effective in drawing readers.

And then step three. Tell me why I'm wrong or right.

Please don't read my comments first, as they'll affect your own thinking. After all, I'm no expert, just a writer who has sometimes had a little say over the cover artist used--and sometimes not. I have sometimes gotten to pick a cover in just this way, and I've always enjoyed the process.

Update: Now I realize that changes are possible, I might just change my mind! I'd be inclined to tweak any one of these quite a bit.

And if you are a fantasy fan or know someone who is, share! Jordan is a bright, lively young woman, and I'm curious to see what tale she has told. The book will be out soon.

#76 by  Alfie

1. I wish the figure was more detectable--it almost looks like tree roots in the smaller image, and even in the large one it takes seconds to read the image. That's not good, though I think this one has a certain charm (human beings always like a spiraling path, I find--the golden ratio at work?), and it looks pleasantly like pastels. It's absolutely clear what the genre is from the lettering and the image. Somehow the castle reminds me of a certain type of spider, so that's interesting but probably just me. I'm dimly wondering if some people will feel that the wagon looks too much like a Conestoga, so that you have two genre-thoughts clashing. Not sure. (p.s. Decimal in the wrong spot.)

#77 by  iMAGIngarCh+

2.  I fear this one is too all-around dark--the image is not easily readable, even when you blow it up to large size. For selling online, it seems hard to grasp. It's more elegant, but it's subdued, and I'm not sure that's what a writer wants for this genre. The image reminds me a bit of Arthur Rackham, a thing I like. On the cheesy-to-elegant fantasy scale, it's firmly not-cheesy, which I like, but it still strikes me as maybe not the best for hauling in reader-fish. Maybe not enough light-and-dark contrast between title and background? Maybe too busy and fussy? When cut down to small size online or in a catalogue, it might be too hard to discern its intent and elements.

#75 by B-Ro

3.  I like the way the "magic" element crosses. the spine. And the human figure is appealing to readers. (My agent criticized FSG's hardcover jacket for Catherwood as not having a human element at all--just forest, no figure in a story about a woman lost in forest. He liked some of the other versions better.) I think it may be a bit of a mistake to have a title with the word horn cover his crotch! On the other hand, given the nature of readers, maybe it's not! Never mind! Okay, I'd think about that issue, especially if you could get the cover artist to swap main title and your name. But now it's bothering me less. I would say that this one is much more modern-looking, and by that I mean the title font and color, the angled body and our angled viewpoint in looking down slantwise on the figure, and the abstracted (but magicky) background. Everything has good visibility, and the image and title would be readable in small size or in black and white. I tend to think this one fulfills what a jacket or cover is meant to do, but it may be too young. It probably would set up for future covers--she would be doing a main figure on the trilogy fronts, as in the Dillons' jackets and covers for the Garth Nix Abhorsen trilogy. But is it too y.a.?

#78 by  Sergey Gudz

4. This one has human beings in transformation (genre clarity there, and the lure of the human--and the faces are quite individualized) and also a lot of clarity on the nature of the book, and those things are valuable elements to consider. But the coloration strikes me as too muddy and murky for the author's purposes. The shadowy effect may or may not suit the story, but it surely makes reading the image a little more difficult for potential readers when seeing the cover at a smaller scale. But it is lighter behind the title.... If I were the author, I would shrink the image down to an inch or 3/4" and see what I saw--for that matter, I would try shrinking them all down and considering them in that way. Might be a help.

Upshot: I'd change the coloration of #4, make it less murky, go for more light and dark contrast and a different dominant color, make the copy more readable on the back. Right now it's not that readable. #3, I definitely would consider whether it is too young, though it does a lot of the things desired--clarity, balance of light and dark, etc. But if it's too young, yes, out. It does look y.a., the more I look at it. And #2 would have to be less dark and less detailed. And #1: I'm still thinking about the dratted wagon. And the guy who looks like tree roots at small scale. But it has some charm.

Painter Yolanda Sharpe votes for #4... And I'm more in favor of that one now that I know some changes can be made. I still don't think it's clear enough at the small scale we often meet online. And that remains important.

Just call me indecisive, I guess....

Postscript: A certain well known cover critic weighed in for #4, with a vote for a slightly modified #4, which he thought "dramatic and eye-catching at thumbnail size." That's the challenge now, I suppose, to have a cover that will stand up to being enlarged or shrunk down to postage-stamp size.