Research is the Sh*t

I don’t know about other writers, but one of my most favorite parts of the job is getting to constantly research into new topics.

For my first novel, a work of near-future scifi starring a pair of women scientists (married), I learned a ton about childbirth, pregnancy, reproductive history, trends in reproductive practices and technology (I even got hold of a placenta cookbook!), as well as about everything from Tibetan goddesses to classic Mexican ghost stories to various ways someone might survive a lightning strike.

For my current novel-in-progress, another near-future scifi work that focuses on a pair of women scientists (this time a pair of sisters), I’m getting to delve into the wild worlds of microbiology (I always knew those years of microscopy camp would come in handy!), astrobiology, entomology, astronomy, astrology, witchcraft — needless to say, I’m just picking up breadcrumbs as I go along this trail, I’m not actually expecting to be able to bake a full scientist cake one day myself. However, I might gather enough crumbs to feed a few hungry storybook hounds. Or maybe to patch up a witch’s lakeside cabin.

Here are just a few of my favorite resources that I’ve come across already:

ask an entomologist

Your resource for any weird (or normal, if you’re into that sort of thing) questions you might have about our six-legged insect friends: Ask an Entomologist. (It’s also worth checking out simply on grounds of Sheer Awesomeness :-))
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Got a random question about America’s natural wonders? Chances are, the U.S. National Park Service has a site, video, book, or expert who has the answer.

 

 

 

grimoires cover

 

For information on grimoires and magical books, definitely check out Owen Davies’ Grimoires: A History of Magic Books.

 

 

 

 

 

ursula king book

 

For a solid look at the role of women in a variety of religions from around the globe, look no further than Ursula King’s Women in the World’s Religions.

 

 

 

 

 

A tremendous book on modern witchcraft is Alex Mar’s recent Witches of America. I’ll be honest, I’m completely obsessed with this book right now. It’s fascinating A, and B, Mar is a wonderful, wonderful writer. Definitely check this one out!

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toomey

 

Another book that’s proved immensely useful as well as a plain terrific read is David Toomey’s Weird Life: The Search for Life that is Very, Very Different from Our Own. Grab it, (pay for it), read it, pass it on 🙂

 

 

 

 

 

As always, Happy Writing (and Happy Researching)!

 

 

Advice from Women Writers

 

Don’t romanticize your ‘vocation’. You can either write good sentences or you can’t. There is no ‘writer’s lifestyle’. All that matters is what you leave on the page.

—Zadie Smith


This manuscript of yours that has just come back from another editor is a precious package. Don’t consider it rejected. Consider that you’ve addressed it ‘to the editor who can appreciate my work’ and it has simply come back stamped ‘Not at this address’. Just keep looking for the right address.

—Barbara Kingsolver


First forget inspiration. Habit is more dependable. Habit will sustain you whether you’re inspired or not. Habit will help you finish and polish your stories. Inspiration won’t. Habit is persistence in practice.

—Octavia Butler


Nobody is making you do this: you chose it, so don’t whine.

—Margaret Atwood


Becoming a writer is about becoming conscious. When you’re conscious and writing from a place of insight and simplicity and real caring about the truth, you have the ability to throw the lights on for your reader. He or she will recognize his or her life and truth in what you say, in the pictures you have painted, and this decreases the terrible sense of isolation that we have all had too much of.

—Anne Lamott


It’s a great lesson about not being too precious about your writing. You have to try your hardest to be at the top of your game and improve every joke you can until the last possible second, and then you have to let it go. You can’t be that kid standing at the top of the waterslide, overthinking it…You have to let people see what you wrote.

—Tina Fey


You can only become truly accomplished at something you love. Don’t make money your goal. Instead pursue the things you love doing and then do them so well that people can’t take their eyes off of you.

—Maya Angelou

Tetons & Yellowstone 2014 316

 

Happy Birthday, Charles Perrault!

In case you didn’t already know, today is the 388th birthday of French writer Charles Perrault, Father of the Fairy Tale. (Now commemorated with a Google Doodle!)

A few facts on the fantastical Monsieur Perrault…

  • He was born and died in Paris, France, January 12, 1628 – May 16, 1703.
  • “While the Brothers Grimm are widely credited with creating the fairy tale as we know it, Perrault actually wrote Le Petit Chaperon rouge, La Belle au bois dormant, and Cendrillon a full 200 years before.” —Rhiannon Williams, The Telegraph
  • “In 1671 he was elected to the Académie Française, which soon was sharply divided by the dispute between the Ancients and the Moderns. Perrault supported the Moderns, who believed that, as civilization progresses, literature evolves with it and that therefore ancient literature is inevitably more coarse and barbarous than modern literature.” —Encyclopedia Britannica 
  • His most famous literary work, Stories or Tales from Times Past, with Morals: Tales of Mother Goose, contained only eight stories. Of course, they are eight that have influenced Western literature for centuries now: Sleeping Beauty, Little Red Riding Hood, Puss in Boots, Blue Beard, The Fairies, Cinderella, Ricky with the Tuft, and Little Tom Thumb.
  • “He borrowed several elements from stories that were already widely narrated, but provided what were then modern twists to the narrative. Moreover, the act of presenting them in written form was itself an unprecedented move at the time, and made him a true pioneer of storytelling.”
  • “…in a symbolically significant gesture, [Perrault] did not publish [Tales of Mother Goose] under his own name but rather under the name of his son, Pierre.” —D. L. Ashliman, University of Pittsburgh 
ChPerrault
Portrait by Philippe Lallemand

It’s Here! It’s Here!

The winter issue of Menacing Hedge is out at last, and it features one of my latest short stories, “New Skin.” Check it out now 🙂

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Flower Still Life
Flower Still Life; Ambrosius Bosschaert the Elder, Dutch, 1573 – 1621; 1614; Oil on copper; Unframed: 30.5 x 38.9 cm (12 x 15 5/16 in.), Framed: 47 x 55.2 x 4.4 cm (18 1/2 x 21 3/4 x 1 3/4 in.); 83.PC.386

Here are just a few of my personal favorites from this issue:

  • Jen Stein’s prose poem “Hiraeth” (look up the definition of the title if you don’t already know what it means; it’s absolutely perfect!)

Creeps in the Library

Disclaimer: Be sure to check out the most recent update to this article at the bottom. Very heartening!

We’ve all heard the occasional strange story about libraries and all the things people do in them besides read, whether it’s college kids getting down in some dusty, never-visited section or it’s Aimee Bender’s short story “Quiet, Please“—a heartrending tale of sex and grief in a local library. But none of the ones I’ve ever heard or read quite come to the level of creepy.

Of course, if you’re anything like me, you’re always on the prowl for the movie, novel, or short story that ends up on the creepier end of the scale. I only wish I hadn’t found just such a story in a recent news article.

Yesterday afternoon, Vox writer Dylan Matthews came out with an article about the Dag Hammarskjöld Library at the United Nations, discussing the implications of which book from their stacks saw the most reader-traffic in 2015.

“To be clear,” Matthews writes, “The UN is full of delegates representing awful dictatorships, and the book that got checked out the most from the UN library was …”

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“…about how to be immune from war crimes prosecution. That does not seem like a good thing!”

That’s right, the book that got checked out most from the UN library in 2015 was about how world leaders can score a Get Out of Jail Free card.

What do you think? Got any creepy (hopefully fictional) library stories to beat this wildness?

RELIEVING UPDATE TO THIS ARTICLE

Vox just updated their article to include some heartening new information:

Reuters’ UN correspondent, Michelle Nichols, reports that the UN has responded to all the press this announcement has gotten. According to Nichols’ information, Pedretti’s book is the most popular “new” book in the library, and it wasn’t read all that often. [borrowed twice and checked out for browsing four times]

Check out the full Vox article here:  Matthews, Dylan, “The UN library announced its most-checked-out book of 2015. It’s kind of disturbing.