Thursday, February 15, 2018

Promise I'll stop now!

I know I'm spending too much time reading about the Blitz relative to the amount of space it's going to occupy in A Tapestry of Fire, but all the first-person narratives I've found are fascinating, as are the historical overviews that put them in context. How do I know I've been reading too much about the Blitz? Not only do I now have a very black sense of humor, but the other day I was reading a novel set in London in 1940 and as the date of December 29 approached I started talking to the characters, telling them, "For God's sake, stay away from St. Paul's and the financial district tonight!"

Okay, time to pull back and get to work on the sagging middle of the outline again. But first I do want to gloat a bit about the wonderful book I've acquired. It's big, it's heavy, you need a good light and a magnifying glass to make out anything... and it's well worth the trouble. It's a reprint of pre-war large-scale Ordnance Survey maps that were hand-colored to show bomb damage on a scale from Minor Blast Damage (yellow) to Total Destruction (black), and it shows the damage to individual buildings. If I set up at a table with good lighting and a magnifier, I can read an account of the bombing and fires in the Elephant and Castle area on the night of May 10-11 and, as particular landmarks or streets are mentioned, find them on this map with an estimate of the degree of damage.

I like maps.

Monday, February 12, 2018

Business as usual, Mr. Hitler

But first, an announcement: I've been invited to join the bloggers at Mad Genius Club, a blog for writers and especially for indie writers. I'll be posting every other Thursday afternoon. So in future you'll be spared posts about writing techniques; this blog will be reserved for frivolity (and, of course, book announcements) My most recent post is Context and Misdirection, and it's about the song "The Great Silkie of Sule Skerry." If you're wondering what the heck that has to do with writing technique, click over and take a look.

Now, about London and Blitz spirit:

Yes, I'm still reading about the Blitz, even though I've really got all the information I need for A Tapestry of Fire. It's a gripping subject. Also, I like first-hand accounts, and there are tons of memoirs available.

I've also come across more distanced views of that period. There are several "debunking" books that claim Londoners weren't as perky as media and contemporary accounts imply. To read some of these books, you'd think that Londoners were about to experience a nervous breakdown en masse during the Blitz.

Poppycock.

In the first place, nobody ever claimed that every single resident of London greeted the bombing with a stiff upper lip and British cheer. Of course there were people who were terrified, miserable, couldn't function due to sleep deprivation, and if you go looking for examples you will find them.

In the second place, the people who lived through the Blitz were somewhat self-selected for iron nerves; those who couldn't take it, and had the option of going somewhere else, skedaddled.

And finally, the most impressive thing about the Blitz is that London still functioned. People sheltered in subway stations or in backyard Anderson shelters or under the stairs, and in the morning they rubbed their eyes and went to work. Plumbers and electricians and carpenters were there for life's little emergencies as well as repairing Blitz damage. Grocers and butchers and dairymen kept people fed. Journalists and secretaries and business owners and shopgirls went to work. Even politicians went to work, which may or may not be a good thing.

And many shopowners whose premises had suffered bomb damage put up cheeky signs and... went to work.

You have to admire the people who adorned their semi-wrecked shops with signs like these:

PLEASE ENTER THROUGH THE DOOR
HITLER CAME THROUGH THE WINDOWS

BUSINESS AS USUAL, MR. HITLER

TRY OUR HIGH EXPLOSIVE HAIRCUTS
THEY’RE A KNOCKOUT

MORE OPEN THAN USUAL

BLACKED OUT EVENINGS? TAKE HOME SOME BOOKS

NO WINDOWS BUT PLENTY OF SPIRIT

SORRY WE’VE GOT NO FRONT DOOR
DON’T KNOCK JUST COME STRAIGHT IN

BOMBED? YES!
BUT YOU SHOULD SEE WHAT THE RAF HAS DONE TO OUR BRANCH IN BERLIN

OUR WINDOW HAS GONE
BUT WE NEVER DID LIKE WINDOW-DRESSING ANYWAY

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

My sense of humor is changing

After immersing myself in narratives of the London Blitz I seem to be developing the kind of black humor common to cops and emergency room doctors. Last night I totally cracked up over this story and read it aloud to the First Reader:

"Air raid wardens had no authority to make people take shelter. One night, we were passing a block of flats [apartments] and this man was standing outside. 'You should get into a shelter!' we said, and he told us what to do in no uncertain terms. So we left him standing there and walked on. When we came back, he was still outside the block of flats. His head was about four steps further along."

The First Reader suggested gently that maybe I should take a break from Blitz research, go back to reading Orkney folk tales and the rules for Regency dances.

Saturday, January 20, 2018

I thought it was fantasy

I've been waiting to edit An Annoyance of Grackles until the end of the month, because I got slightly ahead of the calendar while writing; it's set in January 2018, and as you may have noticed, January isn't over yet. I keep thinking, "What if something actually happens this month which my characters would have to take notice of?"

That was before this week.

In the book, I needed Austin to be shut down by snow and ice for one day. In the book, that was a Tuesday.

So... guess what happened last Tuesday? It wasn't as pretty as my description - we didn't get nice fat snowflakes falling out of the sky, just ice on the streets - but yep, it pretty much shut down the city.

It's rather exhilarating to have paranormal powers. I'm debating what to write next.

"The author of An Annoyance of Grackles made the NYT best-seller list" is... possibly a bit of a stretch for my new powers.

So is "The author of An Annoyance of Grackles lost twenty pounds after she finished the book."

I have a feeling I should start small and use my powers for good. Any suggestions?

Sunday, January 14, 2018

Double stacking

One stack of books includes Portrait of Orkney, Georgette Heyer's Regency World, Orkney Folklore,A Dance with Jane Austen,Orkney Tapestry, and I'm waiting for The Victorian Domestic Servant.

The second stack consists of diaries and memoirs of the London Blitz, and those are going to be relevant in the fourth Stars book when I get around to writing it.

Right now I'm taking a break from the Stars series to work on my Regency fantasy The Finwife's Tail.

There are people who write two or more books at the same time - Cedar Sanderson has three going, as well as a day job and her art work - but I don't think I can. I feel schizophrenic enough already, reading about people being bombed out during the Blitz while writing about the Finfolk of Orkney; if I don't watch it I'll have my finwife observe the bombing of Scapa Flow!

By the way, the Finwives are not exactly like traditional mermaids. They have two legs and all the other equipment of human women; it's just that they also have a long flowing tail sprouting from the lower back. When swimming the tail is unfurled and when on land they wrap it round them like a skirt. I'm going to have fun getting a cover artist to illustrate that!

Thursday, December 21, 2017

Finished!

The third book in the STARS fantasy series, An Annoyance of Grackles, is done! Well... except for reading it five or six times for typos and infelicitous wordings, because I never catch all of them on one reading. But I won't start that until after Christmas, and if possible I won't start plotting a new book until after New Year's. Oh, heck, let's be wild and reckless and not get back to work until Epiphany.

This book is a little shorter than the first two. But in the spirit of Lincoln's "A man's legs should be long enough to reach the ground," I'm going to declare, "A book should be long enough to tell the story."

Now, apart from wrapping presents, I plan to kick back and do nothing writing-related beyond saturating my brain with Orkney folk-lore and Regency manners, for the historical fantasy in the back of my head.

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

First it flows, then it floods

The period of heaping stones ended without warning, and for a few days I've been typing like a maniac to get An Annoyance of Grackles finished. The words are there now, and saved in multiple places, and I'll proofread it after Christmas. Right now I need to wrap Christmas presents and.... What do you mean, you have a spiffy idea for a fourth book in this series?

Telling the Muse "go away" or even "hold that thought" is dangerous. So okay, I'm going to wrap presents AND make some notes about this hypothetical fourth book. If the whole plot chooses to flood into my head the Christmas gifts may have to go without bows and glitter.....

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