Deirdre Saoirse Moen

Sounds Like Weird

Conserving My Time and Energy

11 May 2014

I’m in the middle of one big project. I also have a medium project that may cause slippage past acceptable dates of my big project.
I have no extra time to spend. I blow time on Twitter when I’m between project bursts. That’s my outlet. I occasionally check in on facebook, though not every day, and I don’t see everything.

How I Work

I need large, uninterrupted swaths of time. Those are far rarer than you’d think.
I turn off notifications when I’m working. Therefore, I may not see whatever until I’m not working. I’m working almost all of my waking hours, seven days a week. That’s what I need to do.
What I need are asynchronous forms of communication right now: email, IRC, Twitter. That way I can deal with them when I can.
NOT Facebook chat. No phone calls. No text messages. And, especially, no voice mail. Most of the time, I delete voice mail without listening to it unless it’s from household members. This is especially true if the voice mail comes from an unknown number. Voice mail is a pain in the ass.
I sort my email into mailboxes. I read everything that’s left in my inbox every day. I will not necessarily respond to everything unless it actually requires a response. If you accidentally wind up in my (rather aggressive) spam queue, it may take 3-4 days before I check all my unread spam, fish out any false positives, and mark the rest read.
Please spell carefully. A friend said an email he’d sent recently went unanswered, but I hadn’t received one. You have to spell my first name twice in order to reach me. Correctly. (I’m also amazed at the number of people who do that, but then misspell my first name in the body of the email.)
Also, I am not your e-mail monkey.

I Have a Lot of Projects

I have these projects—books that you probably already know about. And this new site to focus on one project type. You probably didn’t know about this project. Though you’ve heard about these. (and some of you rolled your eyes, no doubt) And I mentioned this once, but forgot to mention the second thing I put up.
See what I mean? Taken together, it’s a lot of stuff.
Which I totally need to get back to. Later!

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The Frustrations of Being Celiac

10 May 2014

The first day I was at Apple (a bit over six years ago), I went to Caffé Macs.
And promptly burst into tears when I saw the menu.
Not, for once, out of sadness or frustration, but out of joy: they had four soups that day, and all four were gluten free.
I hadn’t had soup in a restaurant for twelve years.
Being celiac means you have to constantly have the conversation, both with others and with yourself: what’s in this? Do I trust that this person understands what gluten is? Are there any possible gotcha ingredients? Am I going to get sick? Am I in a situation where I can risk getting sick?
It’s. Fucking. Exhausting.
Some of you may minimize the illness. Here are some reactions of celiacs/gluten sensitive people I know.

  1. Guy winds up in the ICU with extreme anemia. He’s lost a ton of weight. His identical twin has not, so they don’t immediately think of anything with a genetic component. He’s apparently dying, but from no obvious cause. They give him two units of blood for the anemia. Eventually, they figure out he’s celiac. They are both now on gluten-free diets.
  2. Woman who is so sensitive to gluten that she has seizures from cross contamination. Like any seizure, they can be permanently disabling due to brain damage.
  3. Friend I know says that his daughter has been losing weight. She’s actually seen a gastroenterologist, more than once, but has continued to lose weight and throws up almost everything she eats. Her doctors have written her off as secretly bulemic. She’s not, though. I correctly call it: gluten reaction. No one had put her on an elimination diet.

Different celiacs have different reaction times. Some actually have part of their reaction in their stomachs. They will throw up their meals. I’m not that lucky. If it goes in, it stays in, meaning it’ll do more damage and I’ll be sick longer. Typical onset is 24-72 hours after a meal. (How many of you remember what you ate that long ago? Now you know why, when I eat out at a new place, I take pictures of my food. Timestamps are wonderful.)
My first reaction is usually a slightly elevated temperature, generally 0.3-0.5 degrees F. Then gastrointestinal cramping. In extreme cases, bleeding.
Not fun.

Celiac Disease Really Is More Common Than it Used to Be

Dr. Joseph Murray of the Mayo Clinic explains. (emphasis added)

Dr. Murray’s team tested the 50-year-old blood for gluten antibodies, assuming that 1 percent would be positive—the same as today’s rate of celiac disease. But the number of positive results was far smaller, indicating that celiac disease was extremely rare among those young airmen. Surprised, the researchers compared those results with two recently collected sets from Olmsted County, Minn. One blood-sample set matched the birth years of the airmen. Those elderly men were four times likelier to have celiac disease than their contemporaries tested 50 years earlier. The second set matched the ages of the airmen at the time their blood was drawn. Today’s young men were 4.5 times likelier to have celiac disease than the 1950s recruits.

Why? We don’t know yet.

But What About the Non-Celiacs? The Ones Kimmel Was Roasting?

I’d love to see a similar segment roasting Meat Free Mondays. Or any other diet fad where the choice is primarily political.
It’d never happen.
Being gluten-free is an extremely hard choice to make and to continue to make. It’s expensive. It lets out whole swaths of comfort foods. Most gluten-free breads suck.
Some days, I’d kill for a real croissant.
Our biochemistry is incredibly complex, and some foods will make us feel better and others will not. If that extremely hard choice makes you feel better, then do it. If not, well, don’t feel bad for having tried it.

How I Feel About the Gluten-Free Fad

My feelings on it are complex, but largely positive. Consider:

  1. These days, I can walk into a restaurant, ask if they have gluten-free soups, and probably get the correct answer. That was not true 6 years ago. It definitely wasn’t true 18 years ago.
  2. I no longer have to drive 30 miles to buy gluten-free flour like I did 18 years ago.
  3. I can walk into a random restaurant and occasionally get a gluten-free menu. My mom and I went to the Union Street Grill in Courtenay, B.C.not a big city by any means—and they had a gluten-free menu. Because of that (oh, and they’re good, too), we went back two more times. Then we went across the street (practically) to the Atlas Cafe, and they have a gluten-free menu too.
  4. I can find dedicated gluten-free restaurants near me. Do you have any idea what it’s like to walk into a restaurant and be able to order anything on the menu after 18 years of not being able to? (Last night, we had dinner at Asian Box in Palo Alto, one of our favorites.)
  5. I can visit entire countries with as good or better availability of gluten-free food than we have here in the United States. It might surprise you to know that Italy is one of the better places for gluten-free options. (Also note that that post was written almost 7 years ago, well before the current fad.) Argentina’s working on it. Brazil has pão de queijo as a street food. Yum! But my all-time favorite place for gluten-free food is New Zealand.

So, want to eat gluten free but don’t have a medical necessity to? Knock yourself out. Thank you for increasing my options. I really, truly, sincerely am thankful every single day.

That One Thing I Haven’t Yet Found

Gluten-free regular old meat lasagne in a restaurant with gobs of cheese in and through it. Please, no vegetables masquerading as noodles need apply here. That’s my grail food.

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D. S. Moen vs. Deirdre Saoirse Moen

09 May 2014

Lis Mitchell asks:

Have any of my SF writing sisters ever considered writing with a neutral or masculine pseudonym? (Just curious what reasons, if so.)

Well, I do, but not to hide the fact that I’m female, though that is a side effect.
My reasons:

  1. When I was at Clarion, Patrick Nielsen Hayden sat down across from me one night and said, “You have three names, all of them difficult to spell.” My response? “You’re one to talk.” He had a point. Thus, my future submissions had the byline of D. S. Moen.
  2. Because, like the Nielsen Haydens, my last name is non-obviously compound, I realized that it would be easier to consistently ensure my readers could find my work on a shelf if my work were consistently shelvable. Then again, I did work at a bookstore that had a hangtag in the Ms that pointed out that Gabriel Garcia Marquez was shelved under “Garcia Marquez,” so I’m perhaps more aware of that issue than most.
  3. I realize that my name is not only difficult to spell, but difficult to pronounce, thus I felt it was easier. While I’m constantly bemused by people’s attempts to pronounce Saoirse (hint: “Sounds Like Weird” is a hint for pronouncing both Deirdre and Saoirse), I’m not cruel about it.

I love the ethnicity of my name.
I love the fact that Deirdre anagrams as: dire red.
I love that Saoirse anagrams as: a rose is.
I love that Moen anagrams as: omen.
All together: red rose is a dire omen.
Which is just awesome. I didn’t plan it, it just happened that way.

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Don't Sell Your Books Through Blurb

09 May 2014

If you’re doing any indie projects, don’t sell your books through Blurb.
Passive Guy, who is a contract lawyer, says:

PG says that any licensing provision that is one immensely long sentence raises suspicions in his ever-suspicious mind that counsel is trying to put readers to sleep so they don’t pay attention to the sentence.
He will suggest, however, that the presence of words like “worldwide, perpetual, irrevocable right and license to use, reproduce, perform, display, distribute, adapt, modify, re-format, create derivative works of, and otherwise commercially or non-commercially exploit in any manner” should raise concerns in any author’s mind.
PG hasn’t read the rest of this document and it is possible it includes other provisions that ameliorate the rights grab in this paragraph. However, PG doesn’t believe this is good drafting practice either. PG has tried a number of cases involving complex contracts and has seen judges completely screw up interpretation of complex contract provisions.

See also Meryl Yourish’s post here:
She highlights a point and says: “Here’s a clause that no writer, ever, should agree to.”

Going on the TOS alone, I would recommend that no indie ever publish with Blurb. These are terrible terms of service, and a horrible rights grab designed to screw the author.

That’s my take on it as well.
Blurb responded to me via Twitter with a link, saying, “We totally understand your concerns. We put together an FAQ that we hope clears things up.” Here’s the link.
No. A FAQ does not change the terms of the contract. It clears up nothing. It changes nothing. It expresses the current stated intent of the company, but it is not binding.
Blurb is demanding irrevocable rights.
Back to PG. He adds the following:

The combined length of Blurb’s various TOS documents is far, far longer than the longest New York publishing agreement PG has ever reviewed. (And PG is not holding New York publishing agreements up as any sort of paradigm of clarity.)


One of the things PG would do is call the CEO of the company to the witness stand and ask him/her to explain the meaning of various parts of the TOS. That would be a lovely show.

Can’t wait.
Just don’t want it to be over your book.

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Car Crusher Grunge

08 May 2014

This is a photo from a visit we took to the Military Vehicle History Foundation. It’s the battering surface of an M60A1 tank that’s privately owned. Every once in a while, they’d throw a party, invite people over, bring a couple of car wrecks up, and run over them with this tank.
This is what you call hard-earned real grunge texture.

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I'm a Rebel (and What That Means)

07 May 2014

Some time ago, I realized I’d missed the two opening rounds of tickets for this year’s World Domination Summit and added myself to the notification list for the third round. And promptly forgot about it.
Over the weekend, I’d gotten an email reminding me that more tickets would be available soon, so I went over to the website and read up on the speakers.
I watched this completely amazing (to me) talk by Gretchen Rubin from last year’s conference.

Gretchen Rubin from Chris Guillebeau on Vimeo.
The segment about the Rubin Tendencies (begins around 19 minutes in), four different ways of approaching internal and external motivation was revelatory for me.
If you don’t want to watch the video, here’s a link to descriptions, from which I’ve excerpted the following short quote:

Upholders respond readily to outer and inner expectations (I’m an Upholder, 100%)
Questioners question all expectations; they’ll meet an expectation if they think it makes sense (my husband is a Questioner)
Rebels resist all expectations, outer and inner alike
Obligers meet outer expectations, but struggle to meet expectations they impose on themselves

(I also think there’s an inverse to the Obliger, which I’ve labeled Self-Obliger for the moment.)
It’s like someone explained my life to me in a way I suddenly understand.
Now, some of us pretend to be one of those that we’re not. And we can have tendencies in other directions. I’m a Rebel with Questioner tendencies, and I’ve gotten through life by masquerading a Questioner.
But I’m not, and the façade is exhausting.
It leads to long stretches of anxious busy instead of katamari busy.

So How Do You Motivate Yourself?

I’m a very in-the-moment person, and I suspect many Rebels are. We make choices without necessarily considering long-term implications. Yet, many Rebels wind up in either the clergy or military/police, which are very structured.
My preference is for well-defined loose structure: several large constraints but without a lot of rules, but where the structure is consistent. I prefer large swaths of nothing on my calendar. A day feels “busy” if it has one timed item on it, no matter how short that time slot is. This week, I have timed items on my calendar three days in a row, and that feels impossible.
Thus, I’ve tended to work best on long projects where I don’t have a lot of daily (or weekly) milestones that are externally imposed, but can proceed making progress at my own pace.
The catch is what motivates me: whatever it is I’m doing has to be the most interesting thing to do in the world at that moment.
And I’m a person who’s fascinated by a lot of things.
You see the inherent problem here.
There are a couple of other things that motivate me.
The thing I want to do can be the thing I most want to do in that moment. I can work on talking my way into that being something I really want to do. “Wouldn’t you enjoy eating something better for you than this bad thing? If you cooked it, you could have that.”
Like most rebels, I’m motivated by a realistic challenge.
A funny story of my teen rebel years. I wanted to take college classes while I was in high school, but the high school counselor said I couldn’t because it was against the law. Went to the library, photocopied the law (which, btw, said the exact opposite), came back and pointed out it said nothing of the kind. He still wouldn’t let me go to college, so I actually switched schools to the alternative school. My senior high school year, I had English, Physics, Horticulture, and (I can’t make this one up) Independent Study Table Tennis. In college, I took French, Calculus, and some other stuff.
Not many people would have done that at age 16.
On the flip side, I genuinely have never given a fuck about my GPA except where it has mattered for some goal I was trying to achieve. Instead, I’m that asshole who took notes during class, dutifully copying down all the professor’s jokes, never looked at my notes, never studied, often never bought the textbook—and aced the test. Obviously, I hated project classes unless the project was The Best Thing Ever.
Yet I wound up not only with a BA but also an MS (Computer Science) and an MA (Writing Popular Fiction). However, when I went back for the “F” (my MA program turned into an MFA program), my brain balked. I wound up dropping out because I realized that, for me, the money/energy/time was better spent on world travel.
That short stint in the MFA program led directly to the book I’m now working on, though, so it wasn’t a waste of time.

How This Affects My Writing Process

Given what I’ve told you already, do you think I’m a planner or a pantser? (Pantser refers to someone who writes “by the seat of their pants,” meaning without an outline or plan.)
Yep, pantser.
My attempts to outline ahead of time essentially wind up like this:

Outline says: “Jake wants rents a boat and discovers a long-rumored sea monster.”
What I actually write: Jake gets mugged while hiking in the mountains.
Me, arguing with mss/outline, “But…!”
Brain: Denied.

At the point where they diverge, I can’t even think.
Or, if I’m trying to interview characters ahead of time:

Me: “So what do you really want out of life?”
Character: “If you followed me around, you’d know this shit.”
Me: “…?”
Character: Turns back to me, and, like a cat, thumps her tail loudly on the wooden floor.

Fuck that shit.
I just can’t do an outline before I do the work. If it doesn’t lead to an outright block, what it does is drain the “new” energy out of the piece. That “new” energy is exactly why I like writing. I feed on it.
Some day, when I dig through this pile of stuff, I’ll upload the “outline” I did for grad school when I had to turn one in. Basically, I reasoned that I had X deadlines throughout the program, and each of those deadlines would be a chapter, and therefore I had X chapters to write. I was in a restaurant that had paper placemats, so I moved my plate aside and wrote down a short phrase (2-5 words) for each chapter.
That got me through the first draft, and it stuck.
I can only do that once I’m to a certain point in writing a piece, though. I generally have to start blind, write down a few ideas, and then Just Start Writing. I usually start at the beginning. In a short piece, I usually need to write the ending (so I know where I’m going) before I write the middle, but even that’s not consistent.
I often write longer books out of order, which I’m doing with the current book.
I keep a list of things I want to accomplish in the piece at the top of my document, and I’ll just delete those items as I use them. It’s not an outline, it includes all kinds of things like places, characters to introduce, a scene I want to write but don’t know where it goes, etc. Most of the items are plot pieces, though. (This was easy when I was writing in Byword, but not so easy in Scrivener, and I need to figure out a way that works for me in Scrivener. In Byword, I just peeled off a chapter as I finished it and kept writing in the same working document.)
When I know the order of those items, I’ll move them into order at the top before any of the unordered items.
At some point, usually 1/4 to 1/3 of the way in, I hit a wall. I know I’ve hit the wall when my productivity slumps and every time I write I feel like I have more questions than answers. Often those questions include, “Does this really go here?”
That’s when I need to start organizing a loose outline. It’s not what I’m keeping at the top of the document, but something more like a short synopsis.
The important thing here, though, is that it’s when the number of raised questions exceeds my comfort level. That’s something that happens organically during writing.

I’m Not Uncomfortable with Open Questions

I’ve discovered that I’m happier with more open questions than the average person.
As a real example of that, last year my boss told me a week before I was headed out on a long trip that I needed to cut it in half. I made a bunch of changes to my itinerary, but one of the questions that was left open was how I was going to get home from South Africa. I had a tentative plan in place, but it didn’t meet the constraint he’d set. Close, though.
I don’t know how many people would set off on a trip with such an important detail hanging. But I did.
Did it bother me? Only insofar as I wanted to meet my boss’s constraints.
I trusted that I had the ability to return from South Africa. After all, as an experienced traveler, I know how to work the system, and I know that there is a system. Plus, there’s always the “pay more cash for what you really want” option, even though that’s not the way I preferred to do it. So I waited for something to open up, and returned via London, catching a show I’d wanted to see.

Part of My Process is Trust

Trust that I can make it work, trust that I will make it work. When it’s something I haven’t done before, I worry, but then I remind myself that I’ve done similarly complex things before.
I trust in my ability to be resourceful and adapt to new information.
One of the things I know I’ll need to do for an upcoming project is to make a small font. I have no fucking clue how to make a font. Worse, I’m going to have to learn Illustrator for some of the mockups I’m working on, and I’ve been resisting learning that for about 25 years.
I know I can do it, though. I just haven’t had a real need to before now. I’m excited about it because I know it’ll be interesting and different. Yay.
That’s the single hardest piece of the stuff I’m doing. I am working on other things (to go with the font), and it’s all new and fun.

World Domination Summit

Getting back to the start of this post, why yes, I am going to the World Domination Summit. July in Portland, Oregon. Fun times.
I’ve also updated my events page with other places I’m going to be this year.

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Fuck Cancer: New Art, New Shirts & Prints

06 May 2014

Recently, I deleted my Flickr account, which meant I deleted the only public repository of my oft-used “Fuck Cancer” graphic. The original is still as free to use as ever and is at the bottom of this post.
Over the weekend, I decided to re-make the graphic to be high enough resolutions for t-shirts and prints.
Fuck Cancer New Art
It’s on RedBubble in several formats:

  • T-shirts and hoodies
  • Stickers
  • Prints
  • Small posters

I’ve made this image so it prints well on both light and dark t-shirts (as it has a background)

Older, Free Image

The above images isn’t one I want circulating on its own, but if you’d like me to adapt it to some other need you have, (e.g., a poster or event), contact me.
You can always use the image below for free. Sorry, this is as large as it ever came:

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Manuscript Wish List & Ten Queries

05 May 2014

Some of you know about the Twitter hashtags #mswl (manuscript wish list) and #tenqueries.
A friend of mine has started a site that tracks recent entries of these and a couple of other things. Stuff can roll off Twitter faster than you can sneeze.
The first is #mswl, which is editors and agents requesting manuscripts. Each has the original tweet link.
The second is #tenqueries, which is agents responding to ten queries they’ve received.
Other tabs have query tips and publishing tips.
The site is

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An Apology to Cheerleaders

05 May 2014

[![© István Hájas -](/images/2014/05/Fotolia_44428177_S_crop.jpg)](/images/2014/05/Fotolia_44428177_S_crop.jpg)[© István Hájas –](

As someone who was a band geek, I have to say that I was one of those who looked down on cheerleaders—and vice-versa. I was envious of how pretty they were, envious of the attention they got, and I thought my own skills on musical instruments were More Important. You know, petty how teenagers are petty.
I was wrong, of course, and I’ve learned to really respect the very real skills that cheerleaders (and people doing physical things rather than cerebral skills) have.
All the impure thoughts I’ve had about cheerleaders or cheerleading over the years? I’m sorry. I was reacting in my teens based on my own hatred about society’s messages about cultural expectations about women, and not considering that maybe some women really enjoyed cheerleading. It should be fun and joyous.
And paid well.
The working conditions for NFL cheerleaders are horrific, especially when compared with the opportunities for men in the field. > But even as collective bargaining has caused players’ salaries to skyrocket, cheerleaders are still treated with the expendability of borrowed college students. Of the 26 teams that employ cheerleaders, only Seattle publicly advertises that it pays its squad an hourly minimum wage.

No one should have to endure such conditions.
What conditions?

“far weirder indignities (including elaborate rules about how to wash their vaginas..)”

The world is stranger—and far more horrible—than I give it credit for sometimes.

What I’d Have Expected Cheerleaders to Be Paid

I know a lot of people who watch games specifically for the halftime segments, who love the cheerleaders, and they’re paid how much?
If you’d asked me how much I expected them to be paid, I’d probably have guessed the median full-time salary for women, which translates to $36,380 a year (using the lowest woman median from last year). I’d have considered that a bare minimum, especially given the amount of money teams rake in, and how cheerleaders are used to boost a team’s image.
And before you tell me that they only work part of the year, they work just as long (and just as hard) as the star athletes.
We simply don’t value their skills as much, mostly because it’s a glamour job done by women.
And that is truly unfortunate.

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Scalzi "Tool of the Matriarchy" T-Shirts and Stuff

04 May 2014

So, dark shirts outsold light ones by about 20:1, so I’m going to make only ones intended for a dark background this time—unless you ask for light shirts.
John Scalzi gives the background in this post, but the short version is that his wife Krissy was harassed by a man in a bar, and she backed the guy against the wall. This got conflated by a redditor with a photo of Krissy holding a baseball bat…but that wasn’t actually part of the self-defense story.
As John Scalzi said in a tweet: HOW DARE I approve of my wife defending herself. I AM A TOOL OF THE MATRIARCHY.
Believe in women’s rights to defend themselves against their harassers (while mocking those who do not)? This may be the thing for you.

Places to buy:

T-shirt and garments

Redbubble uses American Apparel, sizes to 3x. Zazzle has other shirt manufacturers and more styles, but is more expensive. Sizes to 5x plus pocket tees.

Prints and Stickers

Available on Redbubble.

Design Stuff

No matter what I wanted to do with this meme, the baseball bat kept wanting to be front and center. So it is.
The font (as well as the border and the lines and curves used to compose the baseball bat) are the work of Kimmy Kirkwood aka Kimmy Design. I bought it as a part of Design Cuts’s Monster Creative Font Bundle that’s still going on. She’s very talented. I also love her watercolor textures pack.
On the t-shirt, the only element not from there is the crown, which is from the Altus font by Jay Hilgert of Albatross, purchased in the prior Design Cuts font special. Because it’s not a matriarchy without a crown.
As usual, the print/sticker version is more complicated. 15 layers in total vs. the t-shirt’s 4.
My thought was neat graffiti behind the king’s throne, where the script was so neat and tidy one couldn’t help but have a few curlicues.
I used a transparent layer style to make all the elements look like they were squeezed out of a tube. It’s this text effect from mysitemyway, which has oodles of great free stuff. If you look hard enough, you’ll find the background image to my website in there somewhere.
Oh, and that layer style is truly transparent, as you can see with the crown. In order to get it to apply to the other layers, I had to duplicate them: one layer in color, one layer with the effect.
I used a grunged-up layer that I did over a solid color. Then I used a damask screen from Anissa Craig of le paper cafe, purchased from a Design Cuts vintage bundle. But, you say, it doesn’t look like any of those. Right. I used it in screen mode. (Or maybe inverted and used screen; it was an early choice and I’m very tired now.)
It still needed something something.
So I pulled out a scaleable vector texture from Offset, again purchased as a part of a Design Cuts vintage bundle. (I told you I had a lot of stuff to use! I haven’t even scratched the surface.) I made that a beige, which looks a bit green against the pink, so it just looks like veining that makes the wall surface feel more lived in.
And, you know, it’s got to be an actual wall surface that actual humans spent time painting. Because royalty.
Full size:

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