Feb 23

Sheep, Wool, Paksworld

Posted: under Background.
Tags: ,  February 23rd, 2016

http://www.hakaimagazine.com/article-long/no-wool-no-vikings

This article, found today on Twitter via a friend’s tweet, is a terrific resource for anyone interested in how wool was used–and the kind of sheep that could be raised in a subarctic environment.  The method of collecting the wool from these sheep is the same used worldwide for collecting an animal fiber from animals that shed annually (it’s used for quiviut, the underfur of musk oxen, and a century or so ago for the undercoat of sheep on the western most Hebrides island, St. Kilda.

I know the Vikings were supposed to have used wool sails, but it kept sounding improbable until I read this article, which describes how the sails were sealed, and how someone has, in this century, replicated the process and produced useful sails.  But wow, the Vikings would not have had any time to watch TV or surf the internet.

I imagined the Seafolk in Paksworld as similar to the Vikings (what I knew of them then)  so the Pargunese would also have had a lot of sheep.

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May 09

Travel & Time & Books

Posted: under Life beyond writing, the writing life.
Tags: , ,  May 9th, 2015

Tuesday morning I head off for the first convention of the season, Keycon in Winnipeg.  My convention seasons have shortened, due to age and LifeStuff, so I’m especially happy this year to be able to make an international trip after having to cancel plans for LonCon.

I won’t be back until the following Wednesday.  I am going computer-free this time, due to other LifeStuff involving electronics and lack of time to deal with complications.  An old-fashioned notebook will go with me–it often sparks my writing anyway–and so will yarn and knitting needles.   Read the rest of this entry »

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Apr 30

Over the Hump…And a Snippet

Posted: under snippet, the writing life.
Tags: , ,  April 30th, 2015

NewBook is now over the hump in rough draft, having crossed the 60,000 word midpoint for this book.   Its first 40,000 words or so have been reworked to improve characterization (which will lead to smoother progress later on. )   It’s unusual for me to have the mid-book slow-down due to characterization problems, but so it was this time.  I expect another slow-down period transitioning over the 2/3 to 3/4 finished problem area, but–if I fixed the characterization problems–that one will be plot related and usually means a mistake made between now and then.

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Jan 26

On Fantasy/Historic Archery: Guest Post by David Watson

Posted: under Background, Life beyond writing.
Tags: , , ,  January 26th, 2015

David Watson, known in the SCA as Master Iolo, is a crossbow maker and experienced archer who has studied archery in warfare a long time, including visits to museums in the US and Europe.   Here’s his take on the recently very popular YouTube videos of superfast shooting, including by people who insist that they’ve discovered historical truths unknown to mere sport shooters.   Read the rest of this entry »

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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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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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Jan 30

Paksworld Plumbing

Posted: under Background, Life beyond writing.
Tags: , ,  January 30th, 2014

There’s nothing like real life to give a writer an idea for a story or blog post.    Like many people we sometimes have trouble with drains.    Sometimes a lot of trouble with drains.

kitchen-drain-house-to-yard092 Read the rest of this entry »

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Jan 22

Writer Toolkit: Research Done Right

Posted: under Craft.
Tags: ,  January 22nd, 2014

Every writer needs to do research at one time or another, but it doesn’t have to be (should not be!) just hours in a library or staring at the computer.   In both fiction and nonfiction, vivid writing that brings the reader the next best thing to “being there” requires research done right…from the best available sources, in the most hands-on way possible.   But most of us (nearly all) don’t have unlimited time and funds to spend on research.   How can we use the resources we can afford in the best way?   How should a writer tackle the research mountain when all he or she has is sneakers and day-pack?

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Jan 13

Knitting With Herdwick Yarn: More on Paks Crafts

Posted: under Background, Life beyond writing, the writing life.
Tags: , , ,  January 13th, 2014

The Herdwick yarn I bought is exactly what I hoped for–a yarn that belongs in a fantasy novel, in that its feel (like the breed itself) is old, traditional, and suits a rugged pre-industrial setting.    Here’s a small swatch knitted on US #5, (3.75mm) needles, from the Aran-weight, light-colored yarn.   I’m getting five stitches per inch.

   Herdwick-swatch-Aran198

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