Dec 20

Craft of Writing: Ah, Research!

Posted: under Background, the writing life.
Tags: , ,  December 20th, 2014

Fantasy requires as much research as science fiction, but slanted somewhat differently.  Or so it feels in my head, because the SF stories and the fantasy stories are situated in different places, not just fictionally, but psychologically.  As it happens, I like both kinds of research (and I also like flying without wings, sometimes, as in the CHICKS stories–no research there, nuh-uh.)   At any rate, I knew the new Vatta book would demand considerable research, despite being set in the same universe, because it’s set largely on planet.   The nail-biting moments (well, most of them) will be down in the gravity well.   And–just because it had to be, the story demanded it–much of it is in environments I have never personally experienced.   (Of course, the space-based stories are in environments I’ve never experienced, but not even our current astronauts have either, so…there’s more wiggle room.  Still research, but not likely to find someone who says “I served in an interstellar empire’s space navy and you’re completely wrong about the tactics of space warfare and not only that your conception of ship design is ridiculous.”

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Dec 16

So Why That One?

Posted: under Background, E-books, Life beyond writing, Marketing, the writing life.
Tags: , ,  December 16th, 2014

Somebody’s going to ask “So why that story and not that other one you mentioned you were writing/had written?”   Some decisions were easy.  One of the Paksworld stories I was working on came to a halt, hooves stuck in the ground, back up in a hump, neck stretched out, ears flat and would. not. budge.   It’s not a failure to thrive: it’s a story telling me I made a mistake, that’s not how it goes, and it’s not going to cooperate until I take it where it wants to go.  But it won’t tell me.  Eventually, left alone out there in the pasture, it will come wandering up to my mental cabin, climb up the step to the porch, and stomp on the porch.  But it didn’t choose to do that before the time I had to have stories turned in, so…maybe next time.

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Aug 26

A Short Post About Waste

Posted: under Background.
Tags:  August 26th, 2014

With thanks to Jonathan, actually.     When I was a kid, in mid 20th c. South Texas,  buying, preparing,  and consuming food provided  much less waste than it does today.   Vegetables in the grocery store were not encased in plastic bags.    Milk and cream  weredelivered in glass bottles which the milk company picked up at the time of the next delivery.   Depending on the grocery, bread might be in a wrapper, or might be “nekkid.”    Meat was wrapped in butcher paper, true, for its travel homeward, but there was no little plastic try and clingfilm wrap over it.   Grocery sacks were heavy brown paper, widely used (by us as well) as containers to line trash containers in the house–containers that almost never overflowed the modest size they were back then.   They were also used as drawing paper for kids, as costume elements,  as mulch in the garden,  as something to put on a patch of mud in the yard to keep it off shoes,  as an extra bedside trash container for used tissues when someone had a juicy cold, and so on.   Flour  in small amounts came in a paper bag, as did sugar, but flour in 20 pound and more amounts came in cloth bags, and the cloth was brightly printed cotton–easy to turn into clothing, curtains, quilts, whatever.   (My mother made my clothes, but refused to make me a “flour sack” dress, claiming we never needed that much flour at a time and the flour beetles would get into it.)   Paper wrappings were biodegradable–if buried, they decayed readily.   The few foods in jars and tin cans resulted in useful containers for later use, as did the aluminum foil frozen food “dishes.”   As for the food itself,  we ate it at one meal after another (if there was enough for leftovers)  and when it was down to the end, we had dogs, cats, and a parakeet.  Scraps went to animals. Read the rest of this entry »

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Aug 10

Farin Cook’s Kitchen

Posted: under Background, the writing life.
Tags:  August 10th, 2014

The kitchen at Verrakai’s country house resembles a number of large “great house” kitchens that have been shown on various British TV series…and a couple I saw when taken to see some of the similarly sized stately homes & castles.   It’s large enough to supply food for the family and house servants, and to give working room to the cooking staff.   Its storage capacity for food is substantially larger than anything a modern family needs; it has two large pantries inside the main kitchen area, plus the dairy,  off one side of which is the meat safe.   Unlike many great-house kitchens, it is not built underground or half-underground, but is on the main living level of the house.   That’s because the underground portion of the old keep tower extended under where the house was later built, and the Verrakaien of that day chose not to connect the house to that underground space.   Part of the house, toward the west (back) end does have a cellar level, accessed only through a secret door.   Like many old houses, the design has changed from time to time over the years, with additions, subtractions, and combinations enough to baffle anyone dwelling there now.  Why, for instance, are the stairs so inconvenient  for someone whose rooms are upstairs near the front of the house?

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Jul 18

Body Art in Paksworld

Posted: under Background, Craft, the writing life.
Tags: , , ,  July 18th, 2014

Many people in various cultures have used permanent markings on the body as means of identification–individual, familial, tribal, broadly cultural.    Any of these can be ornamental, and thus fall into the “art” category, but they are often more than ornamental–they have specific meanings.  Temporary markings applied to the skin with colors, mud, ash are even commoner, but ephemeral; the point of this post is the permanent ones in use in Paksworld, and their meanings to the Paksworld cultures that use them (or who abhor them.)    Tattoos, scarification, and piercings all occur in Paksworld, with very specific meanings both inside and outside the groups that use them.

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May 26

Cats in Paksworld (and Elsewhere)

Posted: under Background, Life beyond writing.
Tags: ,  May 26th, 2014

Some of you have noticed that both cats and dogs are not prominent in Paksworld…and yet, they’re there, they just haven’t been emphasized.   Crown has a cat who moves plot a little, in one area.  And there’s a hound someone recognizes.   But that’s pretty much it.   Cats in Paksworld serve the same purposes as they do here, in those farms, ranches, and towns where vermin cause damage and spread disease.

 

Cleo-and-rat066

Cleopatra, our current cat, with a hispid cotton rat she killed.

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May 08

Re-reading and Thinking and Writing

Posted: under Background, Life beyond writing.
Tags: , ,  May 8th, 2014

I picked up one of my older books last night and read it a bit before going to sleep.  Gross Ego Inflation,  you may be thinking, though the internal editor pointed out every single place where–years later–maybe another word would have been better?  Huh?  Are you listening?    It’s not one of the really-old ones–it was written post Hurricane Katrina*, for instance.    But it ties in with something that affects all writers in all eras, even if they’re trying not to be tied to a particular time and place.  Read the rest of this entry »

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Feb 28

Paksworld Politics

Posted: under Background, Contents.
Tags: , ,  February 28th, 2014

Many forms of government have existed, and now exist, in our world…many forms of government can be depicted in fiction (including ones we haven’t yet seen in reality, like, um, a completely fair one.)   Epic fantasy is frequently criticized for having monarchies and aristocracies  (and the writers thereof accused of romanticism about the Middle Ages.)    So a reasonable question is “Why are the political systems in Paksworld what they are?”

And the answer is, “I studied history at Rice under F.S. Lear and K.F. Drew and C. Garside.  That explains everything.”   And I see a row of stubbornly frowning faces in front of me, with thought balloons over their heads saying “That explains NOTHING.”  And I’ll bet the stubborn faces would still have those thought balloons if I added, “OK, there was also prehistory and cultural anthropology…” Read the rest of this entry »

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Feb 26

Paksworld Plumbing, Part II

Posted: under Background, Contents, Life beyond writing.
Tags: , , ,  February 26th, 2014

The historians and archaeologists among you know that plumbing–its existence, variations, quality, and effect on human health (both good and bad)–is highly variable throughout history.    Elaborate systems for providing fresh drinking water, for instance, existed in time (and within a short distance) alongside the simplest, least effective ways of getting water to drink and a place to put your waste.   This allows fantasy and science fiction writers to play with the co-existence of different kinds of plumbing, and different attitudes towards what we now call public health issues.

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Feb 01

Would Paks Wear These?

Posted: under Background, Life beyond writing.
Tags: ,  February 1st, 2014

In Paksworld, as here,  clothing quality and style is determined not just by personal taste, but by wealth.  Wealthy people can “slum down” in cheap clothes, or rough clothes, if they want to, but they can also afford fine clothes in a variety of fabrics, up and including “bespoke” clothes made especially for them.   Poor people now wear cheap mass-made garments, but in the past, though they were limited in both the amount of clothes and the materials available, they could make clothes sturdy and hard-wearing–and fitting the individual, if “fitted” was considered desirable.  Durable definitely mattered–the kind of farm family Paks came from did not have a closet full of garments for anyone.   Garments that wore out in one place would be cut down for someone else; knitted garments might be unraveled, the sound yarn salvaged to knit something else.  Socks were darned, of course, and so were small holes in other garments. Read the rest of this entry »

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