Sunday, February 19th, 2017 09:18 pm

Posted by Heather Rose Jones

Tuesday, February 21, 2017 - 07:00

No more Mother of Souls teasers! So while I'm plugging away at Floodtide I'll have to come up with some new writing-related things to talk about.

I received a lovely bit of fan e-mail from a reader last week, and she had some questions that she has graciously allowed me to use as a jumping off point for a blog. The first question was whether I put my Alpennian research and development notes somewhere (presumably, somewhere that an interested reader could look at them!) and the second was whether I had a map of Alpennia.

To tackle the first: hoo boy do I have research notes! Do I have them in a form that would make sense to a casual reader? Not so much. I think I've previously mentioned that I have a database for characters, locations, and key vocabulary. The character records include a reference image (if I have one) and any key bits of description that I need to keep consistent. It might include notes on where the person lives, what their background is, relevant events in their history, and other characters they have important relationships to. Here's an example of my quick-reference page for Maistir Chatovil, the tutor to Aukustin Atilliet.

Chautovil bio entry

But that's more for keeping track of story elements, rather than background research. For the latter, I keep things in three types of places. One is a folder of webarchive files, downloads, and images that I've collected either for immediate use or future reference. Some topics are organized in folders (alchemy, clothing, European flooding, food and dining, gemstones, universities), others are individual items that I haven't classified (pdf of "A handbook for travellers in Switzerland", notes on early 19th century Heidelberg, list of Jewish salonnieres in Berlin in the 19th century, article "revolutions and nostalgia", article: The first Muslims in England").

I also have a massive list of web bookmarks (though I'm more likely to save off pages if it's something I really think I'll use). Along with the more usual topics, I have bookmark folders named things like "historic calendars", "music and opera", and "money wages and finance".

Once I started using Scrivener for writing, I've also made use of its scrapbooking function. So I have pages of links, clips of images, extracts of texts, and so forth. I tend to use that method for details that are relevant only to a specific story because I have a different Scrivener file for each book. (One reason I don't use the Scrivener character sheets is because I don't want to deal with copying over continuing characters for each new file. Also, I need the flexibility of a database format.) An example of how I use those pages is a detailed timeline of European political events in the 1820s and 1830s, with notes about what's going on in the novels and how the two interact. Another example is a page of notes on the structure and genres of early 19th century opera, and then an outline of the two versions of Tanfrit with notes about the named songs that get mentioned in the story.

All this, of course, is in addition to the actual physical books I use for research. I love an excuse to buy history books! But the diffuse nature of my research notes means that there isn't a good way to let readers "look over my shoulder".

Now... maps. Maps are a harder question. Alpennia is like one of those hypothetical geometric shapes that can't be represented in three dimensions. From the outside, I can point to a real-world map and say, "Here's the area where the borders of Alpennia touch the real world." And from the inside, I can say, "Here's what Alpennia looks like when you're traveling in it." But it's impossible to do both at once. I can't show a map of Europe that shows Alpennia as an actual country occupying space within it. So let's split it up into the two separate questions. Here is a political map (courtesy of wikimedia) of Europe after the Congress of Vienna in 1815 (which is going to be approximately correct for the start of the novels) with a red circle identifying the approximate place that Alpennia intersects it.

Europe in 1815 with Alpennia

So what about an internal map of Alpennia? I confess that I've sketched up initial stabs at it several times, but have never sat down and worked out exactly what the distances are. And I'm definitely at a point where I need to do that. I have a fairly solid notion of the layout of the city of Rotenek. And I know the general compass direction and general spatial relationships of key locations. For example, here's my database entry for the town of Iser:

"Town on the Rotein, about 4 hours by coach from Rotenek, but more by river as it's around a long bend. It's a key staging place for river commerce as some barges unload there and cut across land; also the stretch above it is tricky and extra hands are needed to navigate it. It's on the road back from Fallorek and is where Chustin falls ill in Mystic Marriage."

Or similarly, I know that Margerit's home town of Chalanz is at a distance to the east of Rotenek that could be traveled in a single day in high summer by a hard rider who could afford to change horses regularly, but ordinarily is more like three day's travel by coach. The enormously varied travel times based on method and resources can cover up a lot of plotting needs! Need more travel time? Make the road bad.

One reason I'm hesitant about creating a public map of Alpennia is that one never knows when one need to put a town or river somwhere. Right now, significant parts of the territory are hidden by mist. In Daughter of Mystery I knew that Jeanne's family came originally from the region of Helviz, but it wasn't until Mother of Souls that I placed it in the northeastern part of the country, just on the border and crossed by the road Jeanne and Antuniet are traveling as they return from their summer trip to Prague. There are a lot of other places that haven't been pinned down sufficiently that I'd want to write their names on a map yet. Sometimes it's good to have the details shrouded in mist. But perhaps sometime in the near future I'll draw up some vague, sketchy, incomplete representations that I can share.

Tuesday, February 21st, 2017 04:18 pm

Posted by Tim Worstall

Tuesday, February 21st, 2017 08:18 am
Cripes, how has it been nearly twenty years since Clinton Calls For National Week Off To Get National Shit Together: "'I am certain,' Clinton told the American people during the radio address, 'that you, too, have a great deal of shit piling up. Now more than ever, we, as a nation and a people, need this time off to finally deal with all the shit we've let slide.'"

Because we could use one of those right now, i tel yu whut.
Monday, February 20th, 2017 10:49 am
When we arrived in Fayetteville, we beelined straight to lunch at Hammontree's Grilled Cheese. K. had briefly mentioned the restaurant to me, and I couldn't think of anything I'd like more than a restaurant with every combination of grilled cheese known to man. It was a beautiful day so we sat on the porch and shared a beer. I'd been momentarily horrified when I asked for sweet tea, and they told me they didn't serve it. Look, I get that northerners don't understand our southern dedication to tea with so much sugar it could double as hummingbird feed, but it's table wine here. I literally recoiled when the waiter told me they didn't serve sweet tea. "You're in Arkansas, man," I countered. It wasn't five minutes before I overheard another table have a similar conversation. I wonder how many times a day those poor waiters have to listen to that. It'd probably be easier to just suck it up and serve the sugar coma inducing syrup and get over it. I definitely deducted stars from their review on that, but then, the sandwiches were amazing. I had the Brie's Company which was grilled apple, Brie, Gouda, caramelized onions, and fig jam on sourdough. I love cheese, but I could probably be just as happy with caramelized onions and fig jam in all honesty.

Next, we held hands and walked through the alley to my favorite bookstore in the world,
Dickson St. Bookshop. The store is so cram packed that you have to let one person walk down an aisle at a time. It took me forever the first time I visited to find the fiction/literature section. It's just has books to the ceiling and random things taped to the walls, and it's heavenly. I'm so heartbroken that the pictures I took inside somehow were accidentally deleted because it's gorgeous if you're a bibliophile. Also, they specialize in rare and out of print books. One of my favorite authors is Colette, and she's hard to find in regular bookshops. The first time I went there, I had a religious experience when I found about six of her books I didn't own. This time, I actually put back a book of movie reviews and two screenplays by her! That's how good the other loot I found was. If you're interested, I bought Attilio Bertolucci's Selected Poems (Yes, Bernardo Bertolucci's Dad). I usually hate poetry, but I adore his stuff. Bernardo Bertolucci is an incredible writer too if you ever find any of his poetry. I also purchased: Vicki Baum's Grand Hotel, Djuana Barnes' Interviews, Elizabeth Bowen's Last September , Disraeli in Love by Maurice Edelman, La Bâtarde by Violette Leduc, Jean Cocteau's Round the World Again in 80 Days, The George Sand-Gustave Flaubert Letters, The Bean Trees by Barbara Kingsolver, and The Yonahlossee Riding Camp for Girls by Anton DiSclafani. I've read The Yonahlossee book before, and I liked it enough to add to my collection. I think I've read The Bean Trees too, but I couldn't remember. I know that I've loved several of Kingsolver's books that I read when I was in high school. I presented myself with books stacked in my arms right up to under my chin to K., and he was still sitting sifting through shelves and shelves of books on Arkansas history. By now, I think he could teach a class himself, and he must own all of them. It amused me when he told me that he most enjoys seeing books he owns on the shelves. He rarely buys anything there, but he likes to browse through them. I think that's fortunate for our wallets because I'll spend a ton of our money in there. I spent 56 bucks that time, but I got all of those books plus a postcard I found interesting. It's a great thing they're so reasonably priced. You couldn't even get half of those on Amazon for that price. Plus, it's supporting a magical bookstore. I miss bookstores. Stupid effing Kindle. I admonished K. to hurry up, but he continued singing Lucinda Williams, which was playing softly, and patted me on the cheek. I'm an impatient sort, but fortunately, he ignores me most of the time. He promised to never leave as long as they played Lucinda.

Next, we were off to hunt through a
410 Vintage, a great local vintage shop in Fayetteville. Some of my photos from here disappeared, too. I guess I just deleted most from that day for some reason. I can't find them in my recently deleted file either so that's a bummer. I managed to only walk away with three French postcards which I will post a photo of later because A. I don't know what they say in French because I took Spanish, and B. I just think they're gorgeous and kinda funny, too.


I found this photo I took inside 410 Vintage

This monkey caught my eye, but then I was completely head over heels for the shell collection/diorama below him! See blown up photo of the shell shelf

Next, we were off to Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art. We are so fortunate to have this museum in Arkansas. It's free, and they've got an incredible collection. Kelly and I have been before, and we didn't have a ton of time so we just wanted to hit up some of their new pieces. First, on the list was their recently acquired Frank Lloyd Wright house--the Bachman-Wilson House. It's also free to tour, but you have to get tickets to go through. I really enjoyed it. They have a little self guided tour, and you can't go to the 2nd floor but you can view photos of it online. It's not sturdy enough to have people tromping up and down on the stairs all day.

Behind the Bachman-Wilson House. I would've taken a photo of the front, but the way the sun was hitting, you couldn't see shit.

Crystal Bridges itself is beautiful. The architect was Moshe Safdie. I should've taken more photos of the outside of the museum, but Google it. It's stunning.

As you can see in the photo above, the museum also acquired the Louise Bourgeois sculpture Maman. I was so excited to see . I always found her her spider sculptures to be so beautiful and just truly marveled at their construction. I became even more enamored when I read about how she associated spiders with her mother--clever, helpful (eating mosquitoes), and protective. Plus, the artist was 88 when she created the sculpture. I adored it. I loved hiding beneath her and taking photos from different angels. I even liked capturing Maman in a reflection with a "twin" spider.


Twin Mamans

On the way to the museum coffee shop, one of the docents stopped me and whispered in a beautifully accented voice, "Did you know your glasses make you an artist?" K. and I both remembered chatting with him the last time we visited the museum, and it was nice to meet up with him again. He likes to chat with guests about pieces throughout the museum, and he's warm and funny. He strives to make art accessible to the hundreds that walk through Crystal Bridges every day.

Karen LaMonte's Dress Impression with Wrinkled Cowl as the sun goes down

Kelly is always teaching me something, and for once, I relished getting to tell him about Keith Haring and the Eames chair while I sipped a Lavender Limeade, and we waited for it to get dark to view Leo Villareal's Buckyball. Buckyball has these comfortable wooden seats for two that are in the shape of a reclining body and allow you to look up comfortably. While we settled in and watched the lights begin to change as the sun went down, people jogged by and talked about the light sculpture and other people joined us in gazing up in chairs. You can see it from the road as you drive by, but it's much more special to take the time to gaze up and watch it cycle through several different colors while tucked in next to someone you love.


Kelly in front of Buckyball

K. heading back to our car in the fading light 
Tuesday, February 21st, 2017 10:08 am
Foreign minister does not want to deal with uncivilized country that supplies terrorists. I don’t think this is the Sweden thing that frightened Dolt45, but you never know.
Tuesday, February 21st, 2017 09:54 am

So as someone with a few published novels under his belt, I get asked all the time: “How do I become a professional writer?” As in, “How do I make writing my full-time job?”

The most surprising component to that is this:

Make sure Obamacare doesn’t get repealed.

Seriously.  Being a full-time writer, at least on the lower levels, is being eternally on the hustle: working your Patreon, mixing up self-publishing and traditional publishing to see which earns you more income, waiting those dry months between paychecks because publishers pay you when they damn well feel like it and acceptances can take forever.

It’s a tenuous existence at best for most writers.  For every Neil Gaiman millionaire, there’s a hundred “pro” writers scraping by on a $400-a-month Patreon and sporadic book advances.  The life of a creator is hard.

And if they go to the hospital even once without insurance, well, that’s usually enough to tip them out of this writing career business.  They literally can’t afford to write, because even trivial health issues cost them thousands of bucks they don’t have.

So they get day jobs for the steadier income.  Or they get day jobs because the insurance they can afford on their individual writer’s income is way too expensive.

Obamacare, for all its manifest flaws, let artists flourish.  America’s supposed to value the small businessman, and allowing an artist to go out and start their own jewelry company, or their publishing company, or their recording business is the height of the values Republicans usually claim to espouse.

Every artist who goes full time is an entrepreneur taking a risk.

And without affordable health care, without the BS of being barred for preexisting conditions, or being asked to pay out of some nebulous savings account that won’t cover your first major surgery?

Your chances of being a full-time author are only as good as your health.  And your health is always a crapshoot.  You can work out all day and still get hit by a car.

Maybe you can make it if you’ve got a partner who’s willing to cover for you.  Yet even that risks putting you into an abusive relationship where some jerk of a lover can mistreat you because they know you need the health care.  (That’s not theoretical, by the way.  I’ve seen that happen.  Multiple times.)

So if you want to be a full-time writer, the usual caveats apply: write a lot, because you need to learn your craft and you can’t do that by writing once a month when you’re inspired.  Get good feedback from honest people who like the kind of stuff you’re trying to write.  Submit everywhere, and dance that tricky flamenco of “changing your work in response to good criticism” without “selling out the things you love about yourself.”

But honestly?  If your dream is to be a full-time writer, call your Congressmen and tell them you want a health care program that protects all preexisting conditions, that isn’t a savings account, that doesn’t have lifetime payout limits.  I’ve written up how to do that here, and it takes about ten minutes out of your day.

And if you don’t want to be a full-time writer, but you enjoy all that great writing and indie music and Etsy art, contemplate also making the call.  A lot more artists than you’d think depend on Obamacare to keep producing that work you love, and if that gets repealed they’re going to have to quit this to get a day job.

Obamacare protects a lot more small business people than anyone wants to admit.  We just don’t talk about that because we don’t think of artists as business people – but they are.  They’re hustlers.  They’re working to survive.

Help ’em out by making a call or two.



Cross-posted from Ferrett's Real Blog.

Tuesday, February 21st, 2017 02:46 pm
Verizon cuts the price it will pay for Yahoo's core internet business following two huge cyber attacks.
Tuesday, February 21st, 2017 09:21 am
I’m going back to bed very soon now. Due to various factors, I only got six hours of sleep last night, and my body is letting me know in no uncertain terms that doing that two nights in a row is utterly unacceptable. I’ve just got a couple of things, including this post, that I want to get done before I crash, so it will be at least another half hour before I lie down.

Scott discovered last night that some of the bolts holding Cordelia’s loft bed together had been working themselves loose. He tightened them, but I worry about the ones that we can’t see without moving the bed. We can only get at the thing from two sides (and one of those requires standing in the closet).

We played Flash Point with Cordelia last night, at her request. I think she enjoyed it more than she expected to. We just barely won— We had one black cube left to place when we rescued our seventh person. We got lucky because the fire kept landing in one half of the house while the people to be rescued always landed in the other part.

There was no school yesterday, so it was me and Cordelia at home together all day. I got her to watch two episodes of Princess Tutu with me, but I’m not sure she was really interested. I suppose I’ll find out when I suggest watching it again.

My left Achille’s tendon is giving me more trouble, even just in terms of walking around the house and doing the things I have to do.

I think I’m not going to sign up for [community profile] fandom5k. Looking at the specific requests so far, there aren’t many that I could actually write well, and half of those are in fandoms I wasn’t going to offer because of the canon being too big. Two of the remaining ones are for the same person. There were also several requests in fandoms I had intended to offer that were things I’d have a hard time writing.
Tuesday, February 21st, 2017 01:45 pm

Posted by Phil Plait


Some time between 2012 and 2016 a one-meter wide asteroid slammed into the surface of Mars, creating one the planet's youngest impact craters.

Tuesday, February 21st, 2017 09:00 am

Mirrored from the latest entry in Daron's Guitar Chronicles.

I waltzed into soundcheck feeling pretty good from Vitamin F kicking in. “Who’s doing the very last lounge act of the tour?” I asked.

No one moved a muscle. I gave it another couple beats before I said, “Am I going to have to do it myself?”

Read the rest of this entry » )
Tuesday, February 21st, 2017 03:15 pm
A mother seeks to make Facebook block an account that posted images falsely claiming her son had cancer.
Tuesday, February 21st, 2017 12:41 pm
A method that can identify individual lemurs could improve the way the endangered species is tracked.
Tuesday, February 21st, 2017 12:36 pm

Posted by Tim Worstall

My word:

As readers of this blog are well aware, who gets what from economic globalisation is as much a function of the machinations of finance as any relative productive capacity in the strictest physical sense.

The distribution of rewards from economic globalisation appears to be going absolutely as anyone would have predicted.

The highly paid low skill labour has been, at worst, not gaining very much while the lowly paid low skill labour has been making out like gangbusters. The owners of the now more scarce capital have been doing well for themselves.

Given that we don’t think we will ever be adding another couple of billion low paid low skilled workers to the global economy that’s that done with. And given demography we expect the global labour force to be shrinking from here on in. At which point we also expect returns to capital to be lowering, returns to labour to be rising.

Really just absolutely standard stuff and fuck all to do with the machinations of finance.

Tuesday, February 21st, 2017 01:37 pm
I got a job! Today was a follow-up to an interview I had in December, and half an hour afterwards a friend of mine who works at that company called to let me know. It's not the most exciting job (mostly software testing) and it's only for half a year, but the pay is okay, it's nearby, I already know the people are nice, and it's a good start. Mostly I'm relieved the search is over. I start in two weeks :) I'm curious how it'll be – I haven't had a full-time job in a long time and never for longer than a month – but I'm optimistic. I'll have less time for anything else, which will definitely be an adjustment.

Also today, the dice I finally ordered last week arrived. For over a year I always borrowed some, but now I have my own and they are very pretty. I even have a perfect small leather bag I can put them in (one I made myself in a museum when I was a kid.) I can't wait to play with them! Last D&D session we mostly spent researching, but next time I might get to animate skeletons for the first time. My cat, who btw is now four times MC's size, will be very happy.
Tuesday, February 21st, 2017 11:36 am
Three news organisations have asked a judge to force the FBI to reveal how much it paid to unlock an iPhone.