My fiction in Finnish

I’m taking a break in my regular proceedings to announce that I’m looking very happily (possibly even gloatingly) at Eero Sarkkinen’s Finnish translation of “Someone’s Daughter” (my story from the Next anthology, ed by Simon Petrie and Rob Porteous). Thank you Eero and thank you also to the people who produce Alienisti in the city of Jyväskylä!

And now I return to my regular plan of overwork. I managed to postpone the first meeting of the day, though, which makes everything possible.

order of writing/order of publication

I was talking to a friend and realised that my novels aren’t just appearing out of writing order, they’re sometimes appearing over ten years out of writing order.

For my own amusement, therefore, the writing order of those first four (including the to-be-released-very-soon one) is:

Illuminations
The Art of Effective Dreaming
Ms Cellophane/Life through Cellophane
Langue[dot]doc 1305

The other five signed by Satalyte were written in between Ms Cellophane and Langue[dot]doc 1305. Partly this is because I do like to hang onto my work and revise it properly (I totally hate letting it go!!). Partly this is because several publishers hung onto various works for between three and eight years, and instead of waiting for them to make their decisions, I wrote new novels. The writing is inside me and insists on coming out, no matter the vagaries of the industry.

The publication order of the same four books is:

Illuminations
Ms Cellophane/Life through Cellophane
Langue[dot]doc 1305
The Art of Effective Dreaming

The big shift for Effective Dreaming was, of course, the result of the curse.

For the perennial question of how many novels I trunked as unpublishable, the answer is just one, which I wrote when I was around 19. I took a close look at the world building a few years ago and discovered some rather exciting elements. I’ve extended those elements into a complete world.

In fact, they comprise the initial world building and one plot strand for After Empire, which is my later-this-year novel. I take an evil look at post-colonialism and what really happens when empires suddenly withdraw. One day I want to take this post-Empire stuff a step further, because the post-colonial experience of Singapore and Malaysia are heavily influenced by what happened during WWII, and I think that’d make a wonderful (albeit difficult) novel in the same universe as After Empire. Not quite yet, though, for the seventeenth century is still dominating my fictional life. The seventeenth century and a particular fantastical Australia.

Seventeenth century recipes – testing zone

Finally, your recipes for this month. We’re starting a bit earlier than my novel’s setting, with recipes from The Compleat Cook and A Queen’s Delight (two of three books generally known as The Queens Closet Opened), published in 1655. I’m working from the Prospect edition, 1984. There will be a few more recipes from this source next month, then I shall move on.

Make the ones that interest you. Comment on them on the mirrored post at http://gillpolack.livejournal.com/1358176.html . If you run into any problems, use the comments – between us we’ll probably find you a solution (why I love group testing of historical recipes!).

I have modernised nothing. I have changed nothing except where my typing has lapsed, due to my ever-changing eyesight this week. I have, however, numbered the recipes to make them easier to discuss.

If any of you come up with modern recipes based on this (with changes or without) and would be happy to share, I’ll do a second post in four weeks, giving both old and new.

Happy cooking!!

1. To Fricase Champigneons

Make ready your Champigneons as you do for stewing, and when you have poured away the black liquor that comes from them, put your Champigneons into a Frying pan with a piece of Sweet Butter, a little Parsley, Tyme, Sweet Marjoram, a piece of Onyon shred very smal, a little salt and fine beaten Pepper,, so fry them till they be enough so have ready the lear abovesaid, & put it into the Champigneons whilest they are in the Pan, toss them two or three times, put them forth and serve them.

2. To make Buttered Loaves

Take the yolks of twelve eggs, and six whites, and a quarter of a pint of yeast, when you have beaten the Eggs well, strain them with the yeast into a dish, then put to it a little salt, and two rases of Ginger beaten very small, then put flour to it till it come to high paste that will not cleave, then you must roul it upon you hands, and afterwards put it into a warm cloth, and let it lye there a quarter of an hour. then make it up in little Loaves, bake it against it is baked, prepare a pound and a half of Butter, a quarter of a pint of white Win, and half a pound of Sugar; this being melted and beaten together with it, set them into the Oven a quarter of an hour.

3. To make a Devonshire White pot.

Take a point of Cream and strain four Eggs into it, and put a little salt and a little sliced Nutmeg, and season it with sugar somewhat sweet, then take almost a penny Loaf of fine bread sliced very thin, and put it in a Dish that will hold it, the Cream and the Eggs being put to it, then take a handfull of Raisins of the Sun being boiled, and a little sweet Butter, so bake it.

4. To make Cheese Cakes

Take three Eggs and beat them very well, & as you beat them, put to them as much fine flower as will make thick, then put to them three or four Eggs more, and beat them altogether; then take one quart of Cream, and put into it a quarter of a pound of sweet Butter, and set them over the fire, and when it begins to boyl, put to it your Eggs and flower, stir it very well, and let it boyl till it be thick, then season it with salt, Cinnamon, Sugar and Currans and bake it.

5. To make a green Pudding

Take a penny loaf of stale Bread, grate it, put to half a pound of sugar, grated Nutmeg, as much salt as will season it, three quarters of a pound of Beet-suet shred very small: then take sweet Herbs, the most of them Marygolds, eight Spinages: shred the Herbs very small, mix all well together then take two Eggs and work them together with your hand, and make them into round Balls, and when the water boiles put them in, serve them with Rose-water, sugar and Butter for sauce.

Foodishness

My course on food in history starts on 5 February ( there are still places, if anyone Canberra is interested ) so I thought I’d start the 17th century food cookalong-at-home next weekend, to bring all my foodie stuff into alignment. Every month I’ll put recipes up in the last weekend of the month for cooking whenever suits you. When you’ve cooked something, just report on it on my LJ blog!

Summer reading and the joy of mid-afternoon

I have two posts of interest for you that are elsewhere on the interwebz:

http://www.alanbaxteronline.com/guest-post-gillian-polack-medieval-military/

and

http://the-history-girls.blogspot.com.au/2015/01/william-of-orange-by-gillian-polack.html

This will make up for my day being about careful thinking (which will no doubt erupt into writing at some point) and much feeling under the weather. It didn’t even reach 35 degrees today, but it was/is one of those days that feels very warm.

In an hour it will start to cool down and in two hours I will feel entirely up to dealing with things. In two hours, therefore, my day’s work will begin. Or rather, the second and third parts of my day’s work. I did some things this morning, before the heat struck. Not nearly enough of them, but some.

Speaking of work, I’m taking an afternoon break tomorrow because it may also be hot (not as hot as today, so I can walk up the street and do messages – I refuse to carry heavy things when it’s too hot and I have to walk) so if anyone would like to meet for a cold drink, ring me before midday. If I don’t hear from anyone and if the heat isn’t as soporific as today’s then I may just work through the afternoon and do my messages on Monday. On Monday the heat will matter much less, for on Monday there will be buses (one an hour! Oh, miracle!).

Handling Writer’s Block: the needs hierarchy

A few weeks ago I taught my students how to avoid writer’s block. The fun part of the class was playing with the techniques so many people I know use to defeat the mongrel: writing prompts, everyday mechanisms for overcoming temporary silences. I spent most of the class, however, teaching my students two much larger things: how to determine where their writing was on a needs hierarchy (adapted from Maslow) and how to identify causes of writer’s block within that. I realised halfway through the class that I’ve never blogged about this and that it’s about time.

First, the needs hierarchy. Think of a Maslow triangle: http://www.learning-theories.com/maslows-hierarchy-of-needs.html Now apply it to writing. It’s simple.

The basic need is the physiological and that’s the same in my diagram as Maslow’s. It’s possible to write through illness and hurt (obviously, for I do it all the time), so it’s not a simple “I need to be healthy and out of pain before I write.” Healthy and out of pain helps: it’s much easier to write without hurting.

What this means, however, is that one has physical needs is insufficient. There is a hierarchy of needs within needs.

The big thing is that the bottom of the writer’s block triangle, at the heart of our writing lives, is the body we have at our disposal. One day I’ll upgrade to a fully-functioning top class model, but right now my body is a rather battered vehicle that needs a lot of servicing and care. If I want to write, I can’t avoid acknowledging this. And I want to write. Always. Well, almost always. This means I need body-awareness always. Well, almost always.

The next level up in the writer’s needs hierarchy is emotional. Maybe I’ll talk about this later in this post, maybe I’ll leave it until another time. It’s complicated. Suffice it to say that writers are not machines. As not-machines, our emotions can get in the way of our working, or we can work past them or around them or they can be turned to use and put firmly into our fiction. However we handle them, we have to handle them. If we don’t, they can give us writer’s block. The good news is that if we were machines, our readers wouldn’t like our writing as much.

The top level has several levels of its own, but they all come down to writing problems. Some of them are to do with a plot bunny that has gone into hiding down an invisible rabbit hole or something else that’s nagging one’s writerly subconscious and that prevents things continuing until it’s resolved. Others might be as simple as “Which spelling did I use for that character’s name? Am I being consistent?”

In my experience, once the bottom levels of the hierarchy have been worked through and once one has faced the horrors of an unresolved deep dilemma, anything else is easy enough to work through. Not always, but mostly. Mostly, the hardest thing is identifying where the block is occurring on the triangle. Once I’ve got a clear identification I can deal with the actual problem. This is why I so seldom say “Ack! I can’t write!”

So let’s say that I have identified writer’s block inside myself.

I start at the physical level. If I’m dying, I take myself to hospital (or ring an ambulance). I do not try to work past the block, for if I do well, I will die. That’s a permanent writer’s block, as far as I know. And this is the first step of the triaging one does after one has located which level of the diagram the block is probably in: handle what needs to be handled before you panic about not being able to write. Do not put life threatening (or even rather serious) illnesses off to be solved later. Solve them now, or medicate them now (if they’re regular guests) and then wait and see what happens with your writing.

If your writing returns all by itself when your head is no longer splitting, you know you’ve solved the block. If it doesn’t, then and only then do you look for other factors.

The physiological side of the writers’ needs diagram is to know what to watch for, to prevent where possible, to handle early. Not to work past danger zones. And not to die. Not to push stupid-far. So many of my students find pushing past their physical limits a source of pride, then are surprised when their writing pays the price. Most of us will do it – life is like that – and some people will let it manifest in their brain as writer’s block (“I can’t write.”) rather than physical hurt. There’s a sexiness in writer’s block, after all – it’s a cast iron excuse.

Not all illness and imperfect health and bodies that don’t act the way they ought are equal in terms of writing. RSI and other problems that get in the way of typing is a big thing and it’s preventable (mostly), so it’s one of the things I check for regularly. I have it, after all, and it once debilitated me so entirely I couldn’t even brush my teeth. Now it just gets in the way from time to time, so I watch my physiological needs and I make sure my desk is set-up reasonably well and that I stretch and that I do exercise. Even on the days with impossible deadlines, I take care of my body, because the next step after that is being unable to work.

Step one in dealing with writer’s block, then, is to check your physical situation very carefully. And this is turning into a long post, so I’ll talk about the rest another day.

 

This was first posted on: http://gillpolack.livejournal.com/1342858.html on 23/11/2014

Gillian’s classic telling of the story of Chanukah

Chanukah is almost over, so it’s time for that traditional tale “Even the footnotes of my footnotes have their own footnotes”

Once upon a time there was war in the Middle East (a). This is a rare and unusual occurrence. As a result of that rare and unusual occurrence, Israel (1) was overrun by rather pagan invaders. This led to some interesting history being written, down the track. It also led to the establishment of a festival which can be technically classified under “They tried to kill us, we survived, let’s eat.” Unlike other festivals in this category (2), the story is not about death. Also, the invasion was more about freedom of religion than about mass murder and eliminating Jews from the face of the earth. This qualifies Chanukah as a cheerful festival.

Permeating the Jewish tradition about the reign of Antiochus in Judea are many exciting tales. They include histories of patience in adversity and of blood and gore (b). There are stories of alcoholism, preceded by patience in adversity and followed by blood and gore, and of weaving cloaks from those odd bits of wool that get caught on brambles when sheep walk too close (3).

Of all these stories, the most famous one is how the Maccabees (4) won back the Temple. They won back a lot more than the Temple, but the Temple was the important bit. The straw that broke the camel’s back were the pigs, apparently. Pigs in the Temple. And straw. And camels.

No, only pigs. Sorry. (c)

Still, the problem with the Temple was that it was being used for worship of a rather interesting Hellenistic pantheon. The pigs were the symptom, not the problem.

The Maccabees were a strong Jewish family. They could have been role models for Che Guevara, because their preferred type of politics was charismatic, and their preferred form of warfare, guerrilla. They had not, however, read Karl Marx. They also didn’t speak Spanish. (d) They did, however, practise all those heinous acts forbidden under Antiochus’ enlightened pagan rule, namely Torah study, keeping Sabbath holy, keeping a kosher kitchen, circumcision… They didn’t like the obligatory nature of Antiochus’ intriguing variety of paganism. Other rebellious souls who kept kosher suffered martyrdom for their efforts (e). But then, those other rebellious souls weren’t charismatic guerrilla leaders.

After long and bloody trials and much hiding in the wilderness (5), the Maccabee family and their followers won back Judea and most importantly the Temple (6).

Let me remind you that Antiochus had insisted that all Jews worship his own, not-at-all-Jewish, deities (7). This worship was enforced everywhere, including at that holiest of holies, the Temple. It was used for worship that looked decidedly unsavoury to the pure-minded revolutionaries. (Revolutionaries are always pure-minded.) When the Temple was won back, they wept because it was defiled (putative pigs! (f)).

The solution for the defiled Temple was simple. Firstly came a big spring clean. After that, re-sanctification.

Re-sanctification was somewhat of a problem. Not that re-sanctification in itself was a difficult procedure, but there was no holy oil. The Temple had, after all, been defiled, and that went for most of its contents, too. After much searching, extra virgin olive oil (8) was found, but only a small amount. In fact, there was only enough holy oil for one day, instead of the required eight. But one little lamp of oil lasted eight days, and the ancient Judeans declared that “A Great Miracle Happened Here (8a)” and threw a party to celebrate. Jews ever since then have spent 8 days of the year enjoying the miracle.

The Hebrew acronym describing the event became the basis of gambling using a spinning top, probably around the eighteenth century. It is pure co-incidence that the annual Jewish gambling and gift-giving stint is between Melbourne Cup Day and Christmas.

(a) Australia existed. It was appearing on some maps, maybe. We know it existed, though, because the people living here actually lived here (i), but no-one asked them. Those-who-write-these-things-elsewhere had developed a nice theory of its existence (derived mathematically, which is how it came to possibly appear on maps) and would soon define it officially as the Anti-Podes. There were no sheep in the Anti-Podes. Nor were there sheep jokes.
(i) Really. And they’d been living here a long time. And still no-one thought to ask them. Life is strange that way.

(1) Or Judea, or whatever that stretch of territory was called around 165 BCE

(2) Other key categories for Jewish festivals include “Let’s be miserable together” and “Something important happened on this day, but it was thousands of years ago and we will spend the whole day trying to remember, and half the night too” and “Three thousand years ago or so we probably planted/harvested/rioted around now” and “We haven’t overeaten for a few days, time for a festival” and “Let’s do no housework.”(ii) All Jewish festivals fit together under a general heading of “Let’s read.” The genre of the reading ranges from religious to the historical to the speculative, even when the book read is precisely the same. In an ideal day, some time is always spent arguing genre and literature and interpretation of the world. Given this, why aren’t Star Wars t-shirts compulsory Jewish attire? (This is one of the Ten Tangled Questions of Judaism.)
(ii) “Let’s do no housework” is canonically Jewish – if it’s possible that anything’s canonically Jewish, given that the Canon refers to Christianity. It just looks made up.

(b) No zombies. No zombie sheep. They belong to other people’s stories. No vampires, either, not even sparkly ones. Our stories lack these things. Deal with it.

(3) To visualise this, think of scraggy sheep (iii). Dismiss all merinos from your minds. A modern merino would be caught up by a tangle of brambles and might die of thirst or be turned into lamb chops. Ancient Jewish stories do not encourage trapping sheep in tangles of brambles. With ancient scraggy sheep, the wool comes off in tatters anyway. It really can be collected from bushes in the wilderness. If you live in the Canberra region and want to meet the descendent of such a sheep, visit Mountain Creek Farm. They also had a Wessex saddleback pig called Beyonce, but they ate her.
(iii) Horror writer friends, I need scraggy zombie sheep in a story, forthwith. Not a Jewish story though, for it would clash profoundly with my sense of kashruth.

(4) You are advised to turn your spellcheck off at this point. The MacAfees were not major players in ancient Jewish history.

(c) I’m only apologising so that I can put another footnote in. I shall not mention sheep in this one.
(iv) not even zombie sheep.

(d) Is Karl Marx’s history any less troublesome in Spanish translation? Inquiring minds need to know. Maybe only one inquiring mind. And maybe the need is more a vague and passing curiosity.

(e) These days I suspect that keeping strict kosher is its own variety of martyrdom, but that’s because I’ve developed bad habits. If this were truly a spec fic story, I would have developed bad hobbits, rather than refusing to check cheese labels for the type of rennet. Bad hobbits are a lot more interesting than cheese labels. JRRT’s missing tales.
(v) And suddenly this is topical. I shall watch to make sure that there is at least one bad hobbit in the forthcoming film. If there isn’t, I shall sic zombie sheep onto the makers thereof. They’ll go nicely with those strange rabbits in the first Jackson Hobbit film.

(5) Scraggy sheep!

(6) The hiding in the wilderness is where the cloaks came in. Public nakedness is seldom encouraged in Judaism. No, this footnote is not in the right place. The scraggy sheep got in the way.
(vi) But not the zombie sheep, for their wool is of a different quality entirely.

(7) I know, I told you a few lines ago. This system of footnotes makes a few lines seem like a long time. Someone should study it to see if footnotes really slow time down or if they just confuse people.

(f) I haven’t met anyone who has evidence of pigs, just of defilement, so it might have been hobbits. Bad hobbits and their bad habits. There’s an academic paper in that.

(8) For Christians, extra virgin olive oil was probably the standard in the early days. This means that Mary cooked with…no, I’m not going there.

(8a)* These days most of us say “A great miracle happened there.” If you live in Israel you get to celebrate locally, though, and use the words of the ancients. That reminds me, one day I must try making the alcohol of the ancients. My family liqueurs went down very well last year and that was only the alcohol-of-the-near-moderns. Imagine how good it can get with older drinks!

*This footnote is 8a because otherwise it would be 9 and Chanukah only has 8 nights. My other option was to create 36 footnotes or 64 footnotes, or… let’s stick with 8a.
(vi) and my footnotes and the footnotes of my footnotes have officially run out of footnotes.

 

 

 

 

 
Of course, Chanukah is a mainstream Australian festival. Writers have an obligation to churn out popular pieces, usually following the most widespread narrative (the one you just read, which is a tad antiquated now and which belongs to the borderline period when Chanukah could be celebrated openly but before it became – to quote the advertisers – everyone’s favourite Australian holiday). Not all of the writers enjoy those never-ending assignments on a festival that belongs to a religion other than their own. For example, this just crossed my desk:

 

 

Re: Insights into Everyone’s Favourite Festival

I know you thought this assignment would be a delightful one, but I’m afraid I have to refuse it.

I know it’s too late for you to assign it to anyone else, but you must know that no-one’s going to read it anyway. Christmas ought to be the season (and most people get through December and January without even knowing it exists – damned philistines), not this trumped up Jewish thing which I experience mainly through my neighbour’s experiments in frying. I’m not Jewish, and you ought not make me suffer so.

My neighour should lay off, too. I can take canned versions of Dreidl, Dreidl (I heard the chipmunk version four times when I popped out to buy milk – I have come to dread dreidls) and I can replace Ma’ot tsur with my own Rock of Ages (singing in my mind, because it wouldn’t do to offend the masses) but I’m not sure I can take any more of my neighbour’s cooking.

She fried a turducken last week and still pops around every day with parcels. Eventually she thankfully ran out of deep-fried turducken and so she fried chocolate yesterday, with eleven different herbs and spices and a breadcrumb coating (Kentucky fried chocolate, she named it, but I can guarantee you that no-one fries chocolate in Kentucky) and yesterday she pulled eight (apparently random) items from her pantry and refrigerator and has just given me a basket of what she claims to be her ‘Special Milchig Chanukah Selection.’ The basket is stained with grease and so is the list that tells me what’s what. I would tell her what’s what if I dared, but instead I’m waiting for rubbish collection to take away the dregs of her pantry. She has fried me olives, cream cheese, pickled cucumbers, chickpeas, acidophilus capsules, Graham crackers, avocado dip (which she kindly notes is past its use-by date) and pistachio nuts in their shell.

Excuse me, but there’s someone at the door.

It’s my neighbour again. She explained that I needed a non-dairy basket, since it’s the last day. It’s apparently traditional. Now I have chicken drumsticks, duck, roast turkey (that turkducken in disguise), egg, chicken salami, beef strips, kangaroo meatballs and emu pastrami, all of which will grace my rubbish bin just as soon as I can waddle out the door. Fried emu pastrami is a culinary abomination.

I wish Australia were one of those countries where Jews were in such a minority that she didn’t dare to be neighbourly in this way. Or to fry emu pastrami.

None of this is why I can’t write you that article. The truth is that I’ve developed a phobia of sheep.

I’ve applied for a job in Antarctica (where the only sheep are for eating or wearing) but until that comes through, I need to avoid sheep in all their manifestations for the sake of my mental health. I especially need to avoid zombie sheep which, I understand, are a special element of the bush Chanukah. I could move to the US, where they never developed the celebration to the extent of smearing blood over the mouth of fake sheep; they’re more interested in presents than baskets of fried foods, too. I know all this because I did my research before starting this email to you.

I did my research and the zombie sheep gave me nightmares and I promptly applied for that job in Antarctica. I didn’t apply for the US job, for they have sheep in the US (just not zombie sheep). I found an excellent article proving that Jews spoke Spanish before they spoke Hebrew and that modern Jewish footnotes came from Medieval systems of glossing.

It would have been a very impressive article. I would have delved into how one maintains the virginity of olive oil in a corrupt society and the history of the move of the Melbourne Cup until it reached its current date of the first Tuesday in Chanukah. I was researching the Ten Tangled Questions of Judaism when I discovered that three of them have sheep lurking behind their innocent faces and the sheep and the fried food overwhelmed me and it’s all too much and you can just manage without “Insights into Everyone’s Favourite Festival” this year.

To appease you, I attach the final of my story into the bad habits of hobbits. I found some eye-opening behaviour in the hobbit community, I can tell you. I have another version I can send, if you want, but it will only do if we have a sealed section this month and if our legal advisor thinks the hobbits won’t sue. It’s accurate, but the little ones cultivate such a prissy public image that I’m not certain how they’ll react to certain elements of their private lives being revealed. One of the elements I left out of even the racy version was their Chanukah habits. Let me just say (without going into detail) that hobbits fry more than mushrooms for the festival. They are genuinely terrifying.

There are no hobbits in Antarctica, are there? I need to move there permanently.

 

Chanukah – second to fifth nights

The trouble with Chanukah so close to everyone else’s silly seasons and with so many work deadlines is that I forget to blog. To make things easier for me, then, I’m going you your presents for the missing nights plus the nights right up to and including my Chanukah At Home. From Sunday ’til the end, you’ll get the posts with snippets of interesting things and maybe the Chanukah story. Until then, it’s actual presents. Still electronic this year, but actual presents.

Night Two: two copies of my Rethinking History article, on how fiction and history work together
Night Three: three copies of a short story (I shall draw one at random out of my sparkly sorting hat)
Night Four: four copies of another short story (because my sparkly purple sorting hat needs workout)
Night Five: five copies of the cookbook I made for friends way back in the 1990s The closest I’ve been to self-publishing, I suspect)

How will this operate?

You can put your name down for as many gifts as you like, but please give me your email address. I won’t use your address for any purpose other than emailing these presents. I will need it even if you think I already have it (because too often I discover I don’t have it and we all waste previous time). Then I’d like you to list the items you want in order.

You can email me, list things here, send me a message through LJ or through my website contact form (since obviously quite a few of you won’t want to make your emails public). On my Sunday afternoon, I’ll take all your names and wishes and allocate the gifts as fairly as I can.

You don’t have to know me to receive a gift this Chanukah – but it would help your enjoyment if you liked my writing.

Happy Chanukah!

Chanukah – first night

Happy Chanukah!

I had a present all planned, but fate intervened. Fate is named “Satalyte”, and Satalyte is the publisher of my new novel. They’ve decided to give a hefty 30% off to anyone who buys direct from their website. No special codes. No secret handshakes. It includes e-books and paper books, but no discount on shipping. Just go here: http://satalyte.com.au/product/langue-dot-doc-1305-gillian-polack/

Not only is this special on til then end of the year (East Coast Australia time), but there are other books involved. Jack Dann’s magisterial Jubilee is one of them.

Questions

I know it’s not quite Chanukah yet, but my first Chanukah gift to everyone is an open question time from now until the end of Chanukah. I know a bunch of people are working on novels with background I might be able to help with (or give hints towards useful resources) so I’m starting a little early so that those who take time off for this season can finish up before they go on holiday.

Usual guidelines apply:

I’m as happy answer questions about my life or my own writing as to help you with your work or satisfy your curiosity, but if there’s a question that I don’t want to answer I will apologise and not answer (has anyone actually asked such a question?). If it’s something that requires hours of work at my end then it’s not suitable for this thread. If you ask such a question, then I reserve the right to point you to places you can look for those answers (ie I’m not spending more than 5 minutes on any question). Joke-questions are entirely permitted, and questions by people who don’t know me are entirely welcome. Do not ask how long a piece of string is or what size my feet are, for I have already answered those questions in early open question times.

For those who don’t know me, you might want to check out this website before launching into questions (it was embarrassing for someone, once, who didn’t know I was a writer and historian, and I don’t want anyone else to be in that position).

If you’re encountering this post on my new website or at Goodreads, then you need to go to my LJ blog to actually ask the questions, for I’d rather keep it all together (pun entirely intended).

The question thread will close at midday on 24 December.