netpositive: (Default)
Exhilaration is that feeling you get just
after a great idea hits you and just before
you realize what's wrong with it.

-Anonymous
    Recently I asked for any recommendations of good works
    in two specific genres: U.S. Civil War fiction and
    alternate histories. (That's the short form of it.)

    Lest you think I am not open-minded or omnivorous
    even when I'm immersed in my own ongoing insanity,
    here's what comes home with me when I have .5 hours
    in the local library.

    _Voices of the Civil War: The Peninsula_ - Time-Life Books.
    _Daily Life in Civil War America_ - Volo and Volo.

    Think you see a theme there? Guess again!

    _Murder at Manassas_ - Kilian

    Not only historical USCW fiction, but a mystery!

    _Modesty Blaise: the Night of Morningstar_ - O'Donnell

    Wait, where did that come from [a "people are reading"
    display. Have earlier books in series and love them.]

    _This Business of Urban Music_ - Walker

    Left field? One of my favorite books last year was a
    terrific handbook on concert touring and promotion.

    _Green Inc.: an environment insider reveals how a
    good cause has gone bad_ - Macdonald

    More inside information on an industry I'm curious
    out. I'm more fanatical than many of my friends but
    not as rabid as some. Willing to listen but keeping
    an open mind (and still believing that doing things
    to save the world may help oneself before all else).

    _The Animal Dialogues: uncommon encounters in the
    wild_ - Childs

    Right off the new books shelf. Don't listen to public
    radio so have never heard of this nature essayist, but
    anything that mentions "the North American cheetah"
    on the back of the book has a good chance with me. ;)

    _The Hollow Chocolate Bunnies of the Apocalypse_ -
    Rankin

    Paperback so I can read while standing up on subway.
    Great title. A serial killer in a toy town? Try it.

    _Adventure Guide to the Virgin Islands_

    Under negotiation. Warmth in Jan. or Feb.? Maybe...

    _Night Child_ - Jes Bartis

    Occult forensics in Vancouver. [Technically, this
    isn't from *this* library, but 2/3rds in has become
    unexpectedly good writing so deserves a mention.]
I have no desire to prove anything by dancing.
I have never used it as an outlet or a means of
expressing myself. I just dance. I just put my feet
in the air and move them around.

-Fred Astaire
netpositive: (bloodylane)
It takes a great deal of history to produce
a little literature.

-Henry James
    Seanan McGuire has an interesting essay on
    Know Your Territory: that one needs to be
    somewhat familiar with the genre one is writing in.

    Sadly, this applies hard to me: I am creatively stranded
    in unfamiliar territory. I read a wide variety of stuff --
    not just "speculative fiction" -- BUT I am not familiar
    at all with the subgenre of alternative history. My soul
    is firmly rooted in heroic fantasy, dammit! Nonetheless,
    somehow I got this idea that wouldn't go away....

    I agree with her in principle and I am trying to do this,
    but it has some problems. The most irritating thing about
    working on this alternate history idea has been not doing
    the historical research (or even doing the writing itself,
    though it's early yet) -- it's been doing just this kind
    of "market research" on other books "in the genre".

    It's been like adding 50% again on top of all the other
    work one is doing to unearth and ground one's writing
    PLUS having to suffer through stuff that isn't good, or
    isn't right, or simply isn't "what I want to do with it".

    [Or rarely, it's so good one despairs, at least for a few
    minutes. Then one grits and grinds and gnashes one's
    competitive teeth together and gets on with it again.]

    Specifically in my situation, where does one draw the line?
    What is "alternative history"? _Guns of the South_, sure,
    but how about _Gone With The Wind_? Gingrich-Forstchen's
    _Gettysburg_ series looks to be popular, but it's almost a
    polar opposite of the kind of fiction I want to write. If
    that's what people really want, maybe I'm doomed. [Or is it
    just a matter of getting a vaguely-related celebrity name
    on the book cover? *rolls eyes* If it was a choice of "by
    Sarah Palin and..." or not being published, WWTDCD? :P ]

    So I agree with her -- and yet.... :) Maybe I need help.

    I turn to you, dear reader, for you are reading this and
    I blithely assume you may read other things as well.

    Have you ever read anything that you consider either:

    (a) a *good* work about the Civil War era? Emphasis here
    is on fictional works, but if you have a favorite auto/bio
    or nonfiction item, go ahead and rave about it. I may read
    those too -- someday. Major bonus points for anything that
    conveyed the flavor of the time without being ponderous, and
    the characters didn't seem too anachronistic (or saintly!).

    (b) a well-done alternative history piece? Doesn't have to be
    U.S. Civil War, but it would help if its backing history is not
    *too* obscure. 14th century Ojibwa culture may be Fascinating
    enough for Mr. Spock, but I lack time to immerse myself in it.

    I am aware of David Weber and Eric Flint, and Patrick O'Brien.
    Go ahead and explain what appeals to you in them! Bonus points
    if you can convince me to read them.

    Thanks in advance just for reading this. Also if you respond.
If you want writing time in your day, you have to
take it—no one will give it to you. Often, you can
only take it from your own alternate activities;
writers' lives tend to get rather stripped-down
for that reason.

-Lois McMaster Bujold
netpositive: (bloodylane)
In preparing for battle, I have always found
that plans are useless but planning is indispensable.

-D.D. Eisenhower [attributed to]
    Took today off from work to get the fabled "four-day
    weekend". To-do list included: take someone to the airport,
    drop due books at library, grab my favorite lunch special,
    and spend a chunk of time collecting research from online for
    my insane multi-volume alternate history Civil War project
    (oh, let's call it _Attack!_, because that is what it is)...

    One of my more difficult characters is going to be a doctor.
    He's not a major continuing character, but he has an important
    role to play within a small, but very, key time period. However,
    his autobio has been way long out of print, and he's had zero
    voice either within the storyline or in my background thinking.

    No more.

    Ok, I don't take back everything that annoys me about Google, but
    damn, is this helpful and timely! Sometimes, pieces do fall into
    place because you've been putting the puzzle together around it...

Organizing is what you do before you do something,
so that when you do it, it is not all mixed up.

-A.A. Milne
netpositive: (bloodylane)
A good plan violently executed now is better than a perfect plan next week.
what GSP would have said to GBM
    Via the library, I found a reference work that is
    likely to help both my novel-length writing projects:

    _Everyday Life During the Civil War: a guide for writers,
    students and historians_, by Michael J. Varhola.

    Unfortunately, once again, someone has used a black pen to
    correct certain facts in the book.

    Sadly, some of the Amazon reviews bear out that this may be
    necessary -- and necessary for more than one section.

    The kicker?

    This was a book put out by *Writer's Digest*.

    I expected better from a group which presents itself as
    professional and authoritative. Color me blue and gray
    with disappointment.

    Nonetheless, it holds enough "intrinsic value" for what
    I want to do that I am getting a copy. It's out of print,
    but I lucked out on eBay.

    I just hope I can hang onto the library copy long enough
    to verify and transfer any already-determined corrections.

    (No, please, don't get me started on Wikipedia -- either ranting or revising.)

    I have a revised Preface and half of Chapter 0.
    My main Mac books are getting highlighted
    to high heaven, and as "light research reading" I have
    crossed the Cross Timbers with one Randolph Marcy and
    returned to "civilization" -- circa 1850.

    (Sometimes, civilization is overrated. But not when it
    involves pizza, a working laptop, and a hot shower.)

Never interrupt your enemy when he is making a mistake.
what Napoleon B didn't have to say to Robert E
netpositive: (bloodylane)
Hopefully the first of a series of notes on writing and research...

There is some person who keeps writing comments/corrections
in the margins of Regency romances I borrow from the library.

Normally it's more irritating than either amusing or educational,
but at the moment I know EXACTLY how s/he feels. Grr. I caught 3
in the first 75 pages. Who knows how many more there may be that
I didn't catch due to relative unfamiliarity with this time period,
or because I was just doing a preliminary skim/read for how useful
it might be for what I'm doing.

They aren't simply spell-checking "typos", dammit. These are
errors in the copy that somebody ought to have caught.

Sadly, it's not a library book I can just take back
(with or without corrections...). Currently, I own it.

But I can't trust it without checking. Which is maddening.

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