Category Archives: Resources

Beta-reading Services

So, let’s say you’ve given your manuscript to all your alpha-readers already.  They pointed out trouble-areas and you fixed those then gave your manuscript to your beta-readers.  They pointed out more major structural changes and you put your nose to the grindstone and made more changes.   Unfortunately, now you’ve run through all your regular readers and you want a fresh set of eyes.

Or let’s say that for one reason or another, you don’t think your regular alpha/beta-readers will appreciate your new manuscript.  It’s not to their preferred taste and you’re looking for someone outside your normal sphere of feedback for this one-off project.

Or maybe you’ve just had no luck at all getting feedback and need a reader who will take your work seriously, who will actually get back to you when they say they will, or who will speak bluntly about their reading experience.

In all of these cases and more, I offer my services as a beta-reader.  This is not to be confused with the job of an editor or copy-editor.  I will be reading your work using these principles.  Preferably, I will not be the first set of eyes to look at your manuscript, but if that’s what you need, then I am willing to be an alpha-reader, as well.

Normally, yes, you don’t pay your alpha/beta-readers but swap services with them instead.  “I’ll read your manuscript if you read mine,” and so on.  However, good feedback is sometimes hard to find, especially a fresh set of eyes when you’re in a pinch.  I’ve had to do a lot of scaling back on alpha/beta-reading these past several years.  I don’t like saying no, but my time and energy are limited.  So this is the solution I’ve hit on, to fill a specific need.  Finances are also rocky at the moment, I still have health challenges, I need some additional income, et voilà. Necessity is the mother of invention. 🙂

Portfolio.

  • I’ve read for Mary Robinette Kowal (Glamourist Histories, books 3-5), C.N. Holmberg (The Paper Magician Series), translator Lara Harmon (Alone, On the Wind), Niki Smith (Some Did Rest webcomic), translator Allison Charette (Words without Borders, December 2015 issue), and others.
  • See Mary Robinette Kowal’s post on my alpha-reading or her referral on Writing Excuses podcast.
  • See Charlie N. Holmberg’s plug on Twitter
  • Lara Harmon’s public thanks.

Services.

  • Unless you’re seeking feedback on a translation, I will convert your novel (40k+ wordcount) into a form I can read on my Kindle, read it using beta-reading principles, and provide feedback to you in an e-mail summary. Don’t worry, my notes won’t be short. 😉
  • I will cover such topics as characters, plot, worldbuilding, anything I found confusing or incomplete, parts I particularly liked, and so on. 
  • I will act as a built-in sensitivity reader for topics such as religion/spirituality, disability, chronic illness, and the aromantic/asexual spectra.  (You may be surprised by this addition, but there have been very few projects I’ve read where I wasn’t a sensitivity reader in some way.)
  • I will only read fiction projects.  I prefer some combination of fantasy, science fiction, historical fiction, or mystery in MG, YA, NA, or Adult varieties.
  • No rape, rape-overtones, or post-rape PTSD with flashbacks.  No erotica.  No gratuitous violence or sex.  No horror or grimdark.  If you include any of these, I have the right to stop reading if it becomes too much for me to handle.  Your feedback will end there, wherever it happens in the manuscript.  (If I stop reading, you won’t be charged for the unread portion.  I apologize if this happens, but there’s as much risk involved for me as for you when taking on a stranger’s work.  Let’s just hope it won’t happen!)
  • I estimate turn-around to be 1 month.  This allows me time to factor in bad-health days, to read your novel (2-5 days) and to digest what I’ve read and provide feedback to you via e-mail (1 day).

Payment.

  • $250 flat fee, split into two payments.  $100 will be billed upfront when we make the agreement for me to read for you.  This ensures that you really will deliver your manuscript at the agreed time and I really will read.  The remaining $150 will be billed when I deliver my feedback.  If for some reason I was not able to finish reading then you will not be charged the remainder.
  • Payments will be made using Paypal. 
  • Why $250?  Cheaper than hiring a freelance editor who, granted, would be offering you even more detailed feedback, it’s still a reasonable price to pay for my time and experience.  Included in that price is payment for my services as a sensitivity reader, and $250 per project is an acknowledged minimum rate for that.

 Instructions:

  1. Query me at laura -at- littletranslator.com.  Describe your novel briefly, though you don’t have to be as formal as you would be when querying an agent.  I’ll get back to you with if I can take the project and my timetable on when I’d be able to get to it.
  2. If we agree on the arrangement, I’ll bill you the first payment via Paypal.

 

 Update: Now taking clients for projects read in January 2017 and later.

Keywords: find an alpha-reader, find a beta-reader, beta-reading services, critique partner, reader, manuscript reading services, sensitivity reader

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Obscure French Folklore in Out-of-Print Collections (Review)

Well, this post is going to be a bit different, since I’ll essentially be presenting and reviewing two out-of-print French books, but stick with me.

Two Christmases ago I received several collections of Alsatian/Lorraine and Breton/Gallo folklore to feed my obsession.  Among them were Alsatian-centric Dragons, fantômes, et trésors cachés : légendes, traditions et contes d’Alsace,  with text by Guy Trendel and illustrations by Thierry Christmann (1988) and Contes populaires et légendes d’Alsace.  Translating to: Dragons, ghosts, and hidden treasures: legends, traditions, and folktales of Alsace, and Folktales and legends of Alsace.

 

I’d gone into the request for more books of folklore hoping that, since folktales belong to the people, that the folklorists would be presenting their tales as-told-by the people, maybe with some light editing for readability.  I know of collections that are essentially dictations of oral recordings, with names and ages stated of the individuals telling the tales.  Adolphe Orain, for example, is a 19th century Breton-Gallo folklorist who did just that.

However, while researching a few of the tales in Contes populaires, I looked into the resources quoted in the bibliography, tracked down and compared the present telling to the original recording and discovered that it had been significantly pared down and adapted.  I was then presented with the conundrum–does the folktale still count as belonging to the people in the past, does it still count as being “public domain” and open to translation, if the tale has been adapted and altered so much? If the folklorist has added so much of their own touch?  What is the nature of folklore, as it’s being passed down?

If you’ve been following my folktale and fairy tale translations on little translator, you know I’ve been sticking to–or trying my best to stick to–tales that are freely available.  But I didn’t realize when I started how many grey areas there would be to try and avoid.

Last year I translated the tale “Le chasseur vert” or “The Green Hunter” from the collection Contes populaires and offered it to my Patreon supporters while I was in the midst of trying to figure all this out.  Since I’ve come to the conclusion that it would be better to stick to only translating folklore from their original publications in the 19th century and earlier and, unfortunately, avoid any modern folklore collections, I’m going to make a change.

There is something I can do with these more modern-day folktale collections, however, and that is to show you how awesome they are, present you with their bibliographies in case any of you encountering this post also wish to read original French folklore or do similar research as me, aaaaand give you a token translation as part of this review.  I won’t make a habit of it, but I do still want to do all this cultural heritage justice.  It’s really hard to do research across borders, and I want to make it easier.

So, without further ado, “The Green Hunter” from page 182.

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“The Green Hunter”

The Green Hunter hunts men.

A poor woman from Saint-Amarin valley went on pilgrimage to Thierenbach. Once arrived at the foot of the Freundstein castle ruins, she considered for a moment the vulture nests perched atop the rocks and, at the thought of every lord past, present, and future, she began to murmur inwardly against God who would not give her even enough to buy a new pair of shoes.

All at once, she saw a small pile of écu blanc coins shining at her feet. As she bent to collect the treasure she cast a furtive glance around her; consequently, she perceived at some distance away a hunter clothed in green who was watching her beneath furrowed brows. Seized with fright, she left the coins behind and continued on her way through the forest, quickening her pace and regretting the loss of such a great fortune. On the other side of the castle ruins, she met a man walking alone, though he had a certain air of charm and grace and a smile on his lips. This affable gentleman condescended to address her and inquired after the reason for her sadness, sympathized with her, approved her complaints, took part in her grousing, and even encouraged her: together they broke the valley’s silence with their ranting.

Suddenly, the stranger’s eyes gleamed darkly. A terrible smile split open his mouth, revealing pointed teeth. It was the Green Hunter.

He took a cord from his pocket, strangled the old woman, and hung her from a branch.

One of the great things about taking a survey of folklore collections’ table of contents is that you can start to see a pattern.

For example, there are many familiar themes:  Catholic saints and miracles are as important as tales of ghosts in the cities and faeries in the woods.  “Une nuit dans les bois” features a man who gets lost in the woods and what he discovers.  “La chasse maudite” is yet another tale of a sort of Wild Hunt.  “Le guerrier dormant” is about a mysterious sleeping warrior–a historical figure who  might awake when needed to save them?

But there are also repeating, specific tales: “Le pont des fées” or “The Faeries’ Bridge” has been told in so many different versions for this region that I included it in my growing collection of translations.  “La légende de l’horloge” or “The Legend of the Clock” also is a local favorite.  Likewise, “The Silver Rose” which features in “Petit légendaire alsacien,” and “The Legend of Hans-Trapp,” a sort of bogeyman to scare children into being good.  Not to mention, a whole slew of legends about the Strasbourg cathedral.

The repeating themes and tales are what I look for when trying to find something representative to translate.

Another use for surveying tables of content is you can see a pattern of everyone’s favorite go-to folklorists for the region, which you can then use in your own research.  Names such as Auguste Stoeber (who wrote in German), Prosper Baur, and Abbé Charles Braun figure repeatedly.

As for the book’s collection itself, I think it’s really well curated.  Especially in the “Petit légendaire alsacien” chapter which has a whole slew of bite-sized tales that paint a fantastic magical realism picture, from the countryside to the city streets.  I think it has something for everyone and something for everywhere.

So, here is the table of contents and the bibliography. Go ahead and skip over them if you don’t speak French or German. 😉

Table of Contents.

  • Une nuit dans les bois, conte-préface de Erckmann-Chatrian. (“A Night in the Woods,” a folktale preface from author-duo Erckmann-Chatrian.)
  • La légende de Saint Materne qui a évangélisé l’Alsace, Auguste Stoeber.
  • Sainte Attala, Auguste Stoeber
  • Sainte Richarde qui a ressuscité un petit ours, Auguste Stoeber
  • Comment le château de Scharrachbergheim est tombé en ruine, Jean Variot
  • La chasse maudite, Charles Grad
  • Le guerrier dormant, Abbé Charles Braun
  • La légende du Vergiss-Mein-Nicht, Prosper Baur
  • Thibaut le jongleur, Charles Grandmougin
  • Traditions sur la fondation et la construction de la Cathédrale de Strasbourg (récits rapportés par Auguste Stoeber), Louis Schneegans 1850
  • La légende de l’horloge, Prosper Baur
  • L’invention de l’imprimerie, Livret de colportage, 1838
  • La comète, Erckmann-Chatrian
  • Le miracle des flagellants, Auguste Stoeber
  • Petit légendaire alsacien, Auguste Stoeber
  • Le garçon meunier changé en âne, Jean Variot
  • Le pont des fées, Marie Strahl
  • Les elfs, Abbé Charles Braun
  • Les nains de la gorge-aux-loups, Auguste Stoeber
  • Les spectres, Abbé Charles Braun
  • Le schaefferthal et Saint-Gangolf, Abbé Charles Braun
  • Les tziganes, Auguste Stoeber
  • Le tisserand de la Steinbach, Erckmann-Chatrian
  • La légende du bailli, Prosper Baur
  • La légende de Hans-Trapp, Prosper Baur
  • La légende de Till, Prosper Baur
  • La légende de la noble dame de Zornberg, Prosper Baur
  • Sorcellerie d’autrefois, Claude Seignonlle
  • Un beau chapelet de malédictions, Auguste Stoeber

Bibliography

  • Prosper Baur : Légendes et Souvenirs d’Alsace, Paris, Dentu. 1881.
  • Abbé Charles Braun : Légendes du Florival ou la Mythologie allemande dans une vallée d’Alsace, Guebwiller, J. B. Yung 1866.
  • Erckmann-Chatrian : Contes des bords du Rhin.
  • Abbé Hunckler : Histoire des Saints d’Alsace, Strasbourg, Levrault, 1832.
  • Auguste Stoeber : Die Sagen des Elsasses nach Volksuberlieferung, gedruckten und handschriftlichen Quellen gesammelt und erlautert, mit einer Sagenkarte. Saint Gallen, 1852.
  • Jean Variot: Légendes et Traditions orales de l’Alsace, Paris, Georges Crès, éditeur, 1920.
  • Claude Seignolle: Les Evangiles du Diable. Maisonneuve, Paris, 1963.
  • Revue Alsacienne (1877-1890).
  • Revue d’Alsace (Colmar), 1ere année : 1830 ; 2e année : 1851.
  • Revue des Traditions populaires (Paris), 1902.

 

The second book I’m discussing today has pictures!  Some in color, some in ink.  I really like it because the folklorist not only tells the tale, provides illustrations, but as you can see on the right next to the key icon, there’s even commentary on the tale’s themes, cultural trends, etc.

“The Haunted Coach of Rosheim”:

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This is one of the folktales that inspired my retelling short story “What She Saw by Lantern Light.”  In the original tale, it’s a young, newly-married woman who makes the overnight trek from Rosheim to Strasbourg to be there for the early morning market and encounters the flying diligence coach, as you can see in the illustration.

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In my retelling “What She Saw by Lantern Light,” I changed the protagonist to be a younger girl trying to support her family and I also added a few other inspirations into the mix to make it my own, which I’ve discussed previously.

The retelling appeared in Kate Wolford’s Frozen Fairy Tales, and I suppose it’s been out long enough I can spoil it, haha.

“What She Saw by Lantern Light”is available at various retailers.

 

In any case, I mentioned earlier that I look for repeating themes when I translate.  Location is another.  Certain locations in Alsace tend to collect stories.  One of these is Nideck–the Nideck castle, Nideck waterfall.  There are many tales of the giants who lived at Nideck, and about the nymph who lives at the falls.  Wangenbourg castle, which isn’t far from Nideck, is another with several tales to its name.  Hohenstein castle is another.

To demonstrate, I translated “La dame blanche du Hohenstein” from this collection.  Not only does it take place at a folktale hot-spot, but it also features a White Lady, a common creature in French folklore.  In the tales I’ve encountered, she often bears a key, and…well, you’ll see.  This is from page 35.

“The White Lady of Hohenstein”
Numerous people out walking at the approach of evening have seen a lady, dressed all in white, haunting the Hohenstein castle ruins.  She sits at the top of a boulder, so close to the sheer drop that she seems to want to cast herself from its height.  She extends her hands beseechingly to every passerby and utters little moans and cries of despair.

One day, a very long time ago, a reckless–albeit dependable–man who lived in the area was passing nearby when he saw the white lady.  Believing it was only a tourist who had lost her way and could not manage to climb down from her difficult position, he scaled the rock to help her.  He was just about to take hold of her when the lady handed him a key, begging him to find in the ruins of the old fortress a strongbox:

“You will see a monster crouched atop the coffer, but do not be afraid; it will flee as soon as you insert the key into the lock.  You will open the coffer and find a treasure.  Take as many gold pieces as you can carry, for they will be yours; but above all, do not forget to return to me the key I have just given you.”

Somewhat surprised, our exuberant fellow set out on his search for the coffer which he did indeed discover.  On the lid sat a horrible monster, just as she had said. But, courageous, the traveler inserted the key and the beast vanished into thin air as soon as the lid opened, revealing marvels, gold, and precious stones within.  Eager, he stuffed as much as he could into his pockets, even clutching so much in his hands that he could no longer retrieve the key for fear of dropping a single coin.  Carrying his treasure, he returned to the white lady who, at his approach, uttered a cry of despair.  The key, her salvation, was missing!  In an instant the riches taken from the coffer transformed into a fistful of dust that the wind swept from his hands.  Desire had once again triumphed over vows.

And so, the white lady still awaits a being of exceptional quality who will not forget their promise or sell it for a little gold!

I really enjoyed this collection.  There are shape-shifting rabbits, men with wolfish eyes and wolves with human eyes, scarab beetles that might be gold, a wicked black stallion who keeps a lady captive, a man on fire, a pet dragon, cow-ammunition à la Monty Python, and last but not least, two white cat mages:

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Hold onto these two.  You might see them again later 😉

Table of Contents. (Note, not all accents included, for speed of my typing).

  • Un voyage à travers un pays mystérieux
  • La diligence hantée de Rosheim
  • Le <<Kindelbronne>> de Rosheim
  • La Vierge miraculeuse de Rosenwiller
  • La nuit du jugement au Guirbaden
  • La trahison du seigneur de Hohenstein
  • Le blé et la vache
  • Le diable et saint Valentin
  • Le roi des nains
  • La tombe du géant d’Altorf
  • Le pont des fées
  • Comment se protéger des mauvais sorts
  • Sorcières et esprits frappeurs à Oberhaslach
  • Le premier miracle de saint Florent
  • Les scarabées d’or de la ruine du Hohenstein
  • Clauss, le chercheur de trésors
  • La fille du géant au château du Nideck
  • La naissance de la cascade du Nideck
  • L’ondine de la cascade
  • Le crime du chevalier Rodolphe
  • La dame blanche du <<Urstein>>
  • Comment reconnaitre une sorcière ?
  • Deux sources miraculeuses : Soultz et Avolsheim
  • Le Christ et saint Pierre à Wolxheim
  • Le dragon terrassé par saint Denis
  • L’origine du nom d’Irmstett
  • Les couvents engloutis
  • Le fantome de Dangolsheim
  • L’homme de feu de Balbronn
  • Le fantôme du Ochsenlaeger
  • Le squelette de Charles le Téméraire
  • Les animaux fabuleux de la Mossig
  • Le monstre puni
  • Le dragon du << Scharrach >>
  • La horde sauvage
  • Le puits de sainte Anne
  • Les chasseurs de lune à Wangen
  • Les souris et les chats blancs de Wangen
  • Noel et quelques coutumes oubliées
  • Le voleur de la Vierge du << Marlenberg >>
  • Le loup du << Kronthal >>
  • Le spectre de Wasselonne
  • Le fantôme du  << Schneeberg >>
  • Le << Goldbrunnen >>
  • La fileuse Berchta
  • Le fantôme du << Brotsch >>

Bibliography.

  • Anderhalt Joseph : << Die Nixe vom Nidecker-Wasserfall >>, in Neuer Elsasser Kalender, 1938, p. 52.
  • Bergmann : << Elsasser Sagen >>, in Jahrbuch fur Geschichte, Sprache und Litteratur in Elsass-Lothringen (Vogesen-Club), 1980.
  • Dorny André : << Légendes d’Alsace >>.
  • Enderlin Hans : <<Burg Nideck und die Sage >>, in Neuer Elsasser Kalender, 1921, p. 51.
  • Fuchs Albert : << War Wotan ein obergermanischer Gott und im Elsass bekannt ?>>, in Elsassische Monatsschrift fur Geschichte und Volkskunde, 1921, p. 423 et 547. Du même : << Die Nidecksage >> (das Riesenspielzeug), dans même titre que précédemment, année 1912, p. 34 à 48.
  • Klingelé Otto Heinrich : << S’Wuedis-Herr >>, Die Sage vom Wilden Heer, 1985.
  • Lefftz Joseph : <<Die wilden Leute im Elsass  >> dans la même publication, année 1935, p. 7 à 12.
  • Menges Heinrich : << 100 Sagen und Geschichten aus Elsass-Lothringen >>, 1911.
  • Mentz F. : << War Wotan im Elsass bekannt ? >>, in Elsassische Monatsschrift fur Geschichte und Volkskunde, 1911, p. 546.
  • Muhl Gustav : << … ein Hinblick auf die Scharrachbergheimer Johanneskirche >>, in Alsatia 1852, p. 180.
  • Muntzer Désiré : << Elsassisches >>, Le même pour << Die Geisterkutsche >>, même titre, année 1854/55, Sagenbuch, 1910, p. 213.
  • Otte Friedrich : << Elsassisches Samtagblatt >>, 1856-1858.
  • Schaeffer F. A.: <<Der Feengarten auf dem Langenberg >>, in Elsassland, 1923, p. 83-85. Du même : <<Die Riesensagen im Elsass >>, même titre, année 1924, p. 92-93.
  • Specklin R. : << Une carte des légendes d’Alsace >>, in Revue d’Alsace 1954, p. 141.
  • Stintzi Paul : <<Die Sagen des Elsasses >>, Colmar 1930, 3 volumes.
  • Stoeber Auguste: << Die Sagen des Elsasses >>, Sankt-Gallen, 1852. Du même, dans la revue Alsatia, Jahrbuch fur elsassische Geschichte, Sage, Altertumskunde, Sitte, Sprache und Kunst, 1851-1876. Egalement : << Die Hexenprozesse im Elsass >>, 1857 et << Zur Geschichte des Volkes Aberglaubens im Anfange des 16. Jahrhunderts am Geiler von Kayserberg Emeis >>, 1856.
  • Tuefferd E. et Ganier H. : << Récits et légendes d’Alsace >>, 1884.
  • Variot Jean : << Légendes et traditions orales d’Alsace >>, Paris, 1919.

Just skimming through that, even for the non-initiate it should be farely obvious that this region–situated right on the border of France and Germany and contested between the two throughout all of time–has resources in both French and German.  It would be really cool to pair up with a German literary translator sometime and do a collection of folklore and fairy tales from this region.

Maybe someday….


Call and Response poem

I’m going to be collecting a few things I’ve done elsewhere, here, to make up for the lack of interesting things lately on the blog while I work on writing and translating.  The first is a poem-response sent to a folklore aficionado acquaintance.  Check out his tumblr for lots of cool faerie-lore.


Queen Cover

So, I’ve wanted a cover for my novella ever since I started putting it up to read on Wattpad last September, but finances are super tight and I wasn’t sure that would be possible.  Ideally, I wanted an illustration for my cover rather than stock art, but illustrated covers are by far the most expensive and my max budget for a cover at this point is $100.  So when I saw that Natasha Alterici had posted on Twitter that her freelance gigs had fallen through and she needed quick cash for her rent, I leaped at the chance to make one of my dreams come true.  And boy, am I ever glad I did.  Behold the awesome:

I have also been intrigued by Amanda C. Davis’ recent forays into designing covers for DIY practice.  She’s been tackling all kinds of covers, and I previously let her know that I was interested in her giving my novella a shot.  Am so glad I did that, too, because my laptop has been giving me all kinds of troubles, and there’d be no way I could do the cover design myself right now.  As soon as Natasha got back to me on the final cover, I sent it Amanda’s way.  Amanda posted her design/learning process here.

And here it is in all its gorgeousness:

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Art by Natasha Alterici.

Design by Amanda C. Davis.


Website Update

I just finished “updating” my translation website to reflect the current state of affairs.   Knowing me, I will probably only get a full website working when I have something to show for it, aka when Persinette is ready to sell.  But never fear, I am making good progress there.  I’m on task to finish my second translation pass by the end of the month, which makes me very happy.

The “little translator” image was made for me by Myriam Bloom.  The cover art for Andromeda was designed by Niki Smith.


A Funny Thing Happened

…on the way to the forum?

So, I keep a wishlist of about 200 books on it.  The great thing about keeping books on the Amazon wishlist is that it marks when books go down in price and how much.  It feels rather like playing the stock market.  I watch for books to go swooping/gliding down in price before I snatch them up.

Well, yesterday, I noticed two books in particular.

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The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman dropped from $12.99 to $8

and Theft of Swords by Michael J. Sullivan has been at $7.99 but it’s on promotion to $2.99 until the end of the month.

So, feeling helpful, I tweeted about them, using my Amazon Associates link so I could get a small commission in case anyone else decided to pick them up along with me.

Then Neil Gaiman retweeted my tweet to all his then 1,887,922 followers. (Yes, that is almost 2 million.)

Then it got retweeted another 30 times.

I said “Holy smokes” a lot.  (I wasn’t aware this was in my vocabulary.)

So this morning I anxiously checked my account to see how much I made?  I had to laugh.

Out of those people, 750 clicked the link to check out the page.

Out of those, 12 people made purchases.

So I made $6.

Yes, I find this hilarious.

So, for the price of one tweet, I got an almost-free book?


Real Life Research: Living in Space

I thought I’d just link you all to two videos, they’re both really short and interesting!

And here are 5 interesting factoids learned elsewhere about living in space:

  1. Water clings to you in space, not just itself. For some reason I didn’t realize just how much. See: crying in space & wringing out a washcloth.
  2. Writing a space western? Might want to learn how to play a guitar in zero G.  Gravity affects more than we realize!
  3. Along with that, the space station is both bigger and smaller than I realized. See for yourself.
  4. Sauces/water are wonderful in space. They make your food stick to your utensils!  Also, bread crumbles so use tortillas as a substitute.
  5. If you want to keep something with you, like a notepad–strap it to your leg!  Velcro is your friend.

Real Life Research: Private Detective

So, I think I’m going to start using this blog to show off cool research.  A big part of writing fiction is doing research and learning about things, it’s not just about making stuff up. (Yeah, even though I’m not in school, I still do a lot of research, I just don’t write nonfiction papers anymore, it all goes into fiction.)  We learn about people, about events, about how things work.  Then all of our research becomes story fodder.

Often times, seasoned professionals get upset with writers who misrepresent them and their work.  And it’s true that sometimes we don’t know what we’re writing wrong because we’re just writing what someone before us has written.  It can be anything–getting science wrong or history wrong, or someone’s culture wrong.  We take a lot for granted.

I would love to invite guest posts on these and any subjects.  Have you done research and learned something new lately?  What was it and what are 5 things you found new, interesting, or surprising?

– – –

I have a character who used to be a private detective, so I went looking to see what there was to learn about being a private detective, and I found this distance-learning school at Detective Training Institute.  They teach you all the book-work learning in 3-6 months in preparation for being an apprentice PI at an agency.  Really cool! They also offer their first lesson free, so I read that.  Here are five new things I learned from their introductory lesson:

  1. Apprentices can be as young as 17, and they usually do mostly surveillance work since they are easily overlooked.
  2. Private Investigators are no longer allowed to carry a badge.  There has been too much confusion between PIs and Police Force detectives, and impersonating a police officer is illegal.
  3. Most PIs do not carry guns.  In fact, gun-carrying is discouraged because it gives you a sense of superiority and omnipotence.
  4. But on the other hand, PIs can be bodyguards and bounty hunters, something I hadn’t really connected the dots to before.
  5. PIs don’t just work in the legal field for criminal investigations or the private sector (to locate missing persons or check up on cheating spouses, etc.), but also with insurance companies to protect them from insurance fraud and with corporate entities to protect their products and investigate potential employees’ backgrounds.

I learned a lot more than this, but 5 seems like a good number.  Expect to see more posts like this one!


The Famous Flower of Serving-men; or, The Lady Turned Serving-man

Here’s a ballad from The Oxford Book of Ballads for National Poetry Month:

One of my favorites, entitled: The Famous Flower of Serving-men; or, The Lady Turned Serving-man

Note: I changed the spelling of two words to make them more easily understandable to modern audiences, otherwise I left it untouched.

– – –

Her lover being slain, her Father dead,
Her bower rob’d, her Servants fled,
She drest her self in Mans attire,
She trim’d her locks, she cut her hair,
And thereupon she chang’d her name
From Fair Elise to Sweet William.

You Beautious Ladies, great and small,
I write unto you one and all,
Whereby that you may understand
What I have suffered in this land.

I was by birth a Lady fair,
My father’s chief and onely heir,
But when my good old father dy’d
Then was I made a young Knights bride.

And then my love built me a bower
Bedeckt with many a fragrant flower;
A braver bower you never did see
Than my true love did build for me

But there came thieves late in the night,
They rob’d my bower, and slew my Knight;
And after that my Knight was slain
I could no longer there remain.

My Servants all from me did flye
In the midst of my extremity,
And left me by my self alone
With a heart more cold than any stone.

Yet though my heart was full of care
Heaven would not suffer me to despair;
Wherefore in hast I chang’d my name
From Fair Elise to Sweet William.

And therewithal I cut my hair
And drest my self in mans attire,
My Doublet, Hose, and Bever-hat,
And a golden band about my neck.

With a silver Rapier by my side
So like a gallant I did ride;
The thing that I delighted on
Was for to be a Serving-man.

Thus in my sumptuous mans array
I bravely rode along the way,
And at the last it chanced so
That I unto the Kings Court did go.

Then to the King I bowed full low,
My love and duty for to show,
And so much favour I did crave
That I a Serving-mans place might have.

Stand up, brave youth the King reply’d,
Thy service shall not be deny’d;
But tell me first what thou canst do;
Thou shall be fitted thereunto.

Wilt thou be Usher of my Hall
To wait upon my Nobles all?
Or wilt thou be taster of my Wine
To wait on me when I shall dine?

Or wilt thou be my Chamberlain
To make my bed both soft and fine?
Or wilt thou be one of my guard?
And I will give thee they reward.

Sweet William, with a smiling face,
Said to the King, If’t please your grace
To show such favour unto me,
Your Chamberlain I fain would be.

The King then did the Nobles call
To ask the counsel of them all,
Who gave consent Sweet WIlliam he
The King’s own Chamberlain should be.

Now mark what strange things came to pass:
As the King one day a hunting was
With all his Lords and noble train,
Sweet William did at home remain.

Sweet William had no company then
With him at home but an old man,
And when he saw the Coast was clear
He took a Lute which he had there.

Upon the Lute Sweet William plaid,
And to the same he sung and said
With a pleasant and most noble voice
Which made the old man to rejoyce:

My father was as brave a Lord
As ever Europe did afford;
My Mother was a Lady bright,
My Husband was a valiant Knight.

And I my self a Lady gay
Bedeckt with gorgeous rich array;
The bravest Lady in the land
Had not more pleasures to command.

I had my musick every day,
Harmonious Lessons for to play;
I had my Virgins fair and free
Continually to wait on me.

But now, alas, my Husband’s dead
And all my friends are from me fled;
My former joys are past and gone
For now I am a Serving-man.

At last the King from hunting came,
And presently upon the same
He called for the good old man
And thus to speak the King began:

What news, what news, old man? quoth he,
What news hast thou to tell to me?
Brave news, the old man he did say,
Sweet William is a Lady gay.

If this be true thou tellest me
I’ll make thee a Lord of high degree,
But if thy words do prove a Lye
Though shalt be hanged up presently.

But when the King the truth had found
His joys did more and more abound;
According as the old man did say,
Sweet William was a Lady gay.

Therefore the King without delay
Put on her glorious rich array,
And upon her head a crown of gold
Which was most famous to behold.

And then, for fear of further strife,
He took Sweet William for his wife;
The like before was never seen,
A Serving-man to be a Queen.


Finished part 4!

So, for 2013 I’m doing an experiment with how I keep track of my writing.  In 2011-12, my writing process was to simply open TimeStamp and clock an hour’s time and then to mark my monthly calendar each day I wrote with a letter corresponding to the project I was working on–so “Q” for Queen of the Eight Banners, and so on.  I’d also jot down monthly word count and hours of writing achieved, (but I’ll admit on the monthly level, those always looked so pathetic).

But this year I’m taking inspiration from Holly Black’s writing accountability process and Mary Robinette Kowal’s use of spreadsheets and seeing what happens if I do something similar.

I still open TimeStamp and use it as my tool to both “get in the writing zone” and keep myself focused without any interruptions.  But this year, due to the amount of various projects on my plate that I want to clear (oops, how did I get so many?), I’m only writing for a half hour each day.  And now I’m also jotting down word counts.  It’s quite fun, actually! I didn’t expect something so clerk-y to feel so rewarding.

My mindset is simply to record what happens.   The only thing I feel responsibility towards is achieving that half hour.  Everything and anything else is happy happenstance, and I like how Holly Black’s system records life circumstances and takes those into account. So…want a peek?

Guess what? I FINISHED PART 4.  I MADE MY GOAL. IT FEELS SO GOOD. WHO CARES IF THOSE LAST 300 WORDS AREN’T THE GREATEST. I DID IT ANYWAY. HAH!

Finished part 4!


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