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25th July 2016

11:51am: The news
When news comes pounding in from far and wide
Bombarding us with rapid tragedy
So violence and death is all we see
And hammered home to us from every side

Some thrive on indignation, even rage
Though nothing's changed by anger, tears, or sighs,
Or clenching up, besieged, and closing eyes
Or claiming now's the worst of any age.

But other things are real and happen too
There's still more good than bad, more love than greed,
Much less reported, but remaining true.

Please don't despair, look round, and help with need,
There's science, art, and good work still to do,
Act where you can, reach out, and plant a seed.

20th July 2016

5:09pm: Thud: Poor Relations
Words: 1870 (before it got too hot to work)
Total words: 71458
Files: 6
Tea: Pu Erh and ginseng, again, iced, again
Music: No music
Reason for stopping: got too hot to work

Even if it's only a little bit, it's progress, and I crossed the 70k mark, so worth recording I guess.

Twitter seems to think there isn't a consensus term for the cloth squares people do embroidery on. Is "embroidery squares" a recognisable term? I want to have somebody talk about the stuff she uses for this hobby "My silks, my needles, my embroidery squares..." does that work to convey a sense of what I'm talking about?

(I spent a while trying to figure out if the fabric comes from Earth (the silk does) or if they're manufacturing it on Mars. It depends totally on the percentage of upper class girls who choose this hobby. I think probably it comes from Earth, but it totally doesn't matter.)

Also in this chapter, we finally see the Weintraubs' famous citron tree, which I've been thinking about for months now.

If I could have even four nice cool days like yesterday I could finish this book before I go away again. The weather does not seem like it's likely to cooperate. I am considering the possibility of working in the library, but my keyboard is loud, I'd have to sit quietly and not talk to myself, the chairs wouldn't be good for my back, and I'd have to disconnect and reconnect everything multiple times. But it might be worth it anyway.

I think this chapter's pretty much done, which means only two more chapters and three more alien bits to the end!

19th July 2016

5:17pm: Thud: Poor Relations
Words: 4107
Total words: 69588
Files: 5
Tea: Pu Erh with ginseng (iced again, though it's not too hot to think today like yesterday)
Music: No music
Reason for stopping: hungry, and need to think about the next bit

I'm almost at seventy thousand words, I could smell my way to the end of the book from here!

So these people live on Mars and call themselves Martians. And they've read War of the Worlds, of course they have, they have an ironic statue of a tripod by their shuttleport. And... now there's an alien invasion, and suddenly they wish they hadn't read War of the Worlds because it's making them really uncomfortable. I find this probably funnier than I should, but never mind. Also they have science fiction. They have really great AI, but it's not conscious, and they have science fiction about it becoming conscious and rebelling.

I can't think of another story about an alien invasion of Mars, though I expect there are some. Anyone?

It's a strange kind of book but -- do I always say that about my books? I do. But am I always correct? I believe I am.

Gosh I love writing.

18th July 2016

9:15am: Thessaly Audiobooks
All three Thessaly books are now available as audiobooks from Audible, narrated by Noah Michael Levine:

The Just City: Thessaly, Book 1

The Philosopher Kings: Thessaly, Book 2

Necessity: Thessaly, Book 3

And I have some free download codes for them -- comment if you'd like one, and say which book you want. Once they're gone they're gone, and when they're gone I'll say so here so you will know!

August 29th The Just City is all gone, but I still have a couple each for the other two.

17th July 2016

3:00pm: Thud: Poor Relations
Words: 2006
Total words: 65355
Files: 6
Tea: Pu Erh (with ice, it's really hot here)
Music: Power up music and then nothing
Reason for stopping: Not really stopping

Finished chapter 9, at at 65 kwords that means I'm about two-thirds of the way through this book. So I stopped and worked out everything that has to happen in the last third, kind of in order, so I can write it. I was sort of a bit stuck on which of two fun options to go with next, and I decided that since this is in omni I can embrace the power of and. That's what multiple POVs are for. And then I wrote a tiny bit out of order (which I'm not counting) and now I will write chapter 10, all shall be well and all manner of things shall be well.

Yesterday I read back through and revised the middle section. I like the alien POV so much.

It's so odd having Necessity come out and being in the middle of this, because it's such a different book it feels weird. I read the beginning of this at Readercon and everyone loved it.

16th July 2016

1:13pm: The Ice Remembers
The ice remembers tearing down the hills
and being clouds and seas and becks and rills
remembers grey cool dawns, and branching out,
and avalanches falling on a shout,
in ages when cold water turned to time
and ground the world and conquered every clime
and made the sea fall back and mountains shrink.
The cubes of ice that tinkle in your drink,
remember moments rising up as steam
and crystalising, and as ice may dream
holds tight the memory on each cold day
of six cold winters that it needs to stay.

(This is another poem inspired by an Elise necklace, which you can see at the link. Sponsored by my awesome patrons at Patreon.)

15th July 2016

12:18pm: Home from New York on the Adirondack Haikus
North by the Hudson
Eagle, heron, cormorant:
Nature by Amtrak.

Last time I came South
A mist of tiny new leaves.
Now, layered lush greens.

It's summer! Well, it's --
No, it's July. It's summer.
Time keeps on moving.

Under the chestnuts
A red deer crosses the stream
Reflections ripple.

Grey rocks flash past fast
Then we stop in a cutting
And see each flake clear.

Over the water
Slow flap, glide, by the reed bed
So many herons!

Waterlily choked
Or silver under the sky
Lake Champlain is long.

Wherever I go
The sky is always with me
The same, but changing.

4th July 2016

9:47am: My Readercon Schedule, and post-Readercon events
Thursday July 07

8:00 PM 6 SF in Classical Tradition. John Crowley, Haris Durrani, Ada Palmer, Catherynne M. Valente, Jo Walton (leader). Whatever your definition of science fiction, there's no disputing that there were centuries of proto-science fiction published before the modern stuff began appearing. More than 1600 years before Mary Shelley wrote Frankenstein, Lucian of Samosata wrote The True History, featuring perhaps the first fictional trip to the moon, the first fictional trip into outer space, and the first fictional space opera. Cicero, in 51 B.C.E. published "The Dream of Scipio," in which the narrator and his grandfather, Scipio Africanus, take an astral journey through the solar system. Greek mythology, plays, and tragedies have science fictional elements in them as well. Our panelists will discuss the fantastical and science fictional in the classical (Greek and Roman) tradition.

Friday July 08

3:00 PM 5 Robots as Proxies in Science Fiction . Ted Chiang, Josh Jasper (leader), Jim Kelly, Terence Taylor, Jo Walton. In much of science fiction, robots are thinking beings designed and programmed to be servitors. The tension in that relationship has an unavoidable parallel to slavery, so when we talk about robot uprisings, we're talking about slave revolts. From the throw-away line about the Butlerrian Jihad in the original Dune books to Asimov's laws of robotics and the story of the Centennial Man, to the Terminator, we have views of slaves who decide not to be slaves. What are some of the narratives we create for these slave analogs, and what does it mean for us to be reading them both critically and uncritically?

8:00 PM AT Autographs. Sarah Pinsker, Jo Walton.

Saturday July 09

11:30 AM B Reading: Jo Walton. Jo Walton. Jo Walton reads from a work-in-progress science fiction novel, Poor Relations.

3:00 PM CL Kaffeeklatsch. Nicholas Kaufmann, Jo Walton.

Sunday July 10

12:00 PM C Yesterday: Time Travel in The Anubis Gates. Jim Freund, Robert Killheffer (leader), John Langan, Sarah Pinsker, Jo Walton. Time travel is a fascinating but slippery and difficult narrative device. When characters can move back and forth through time, causality can become confusing, irrelevant, or malleable. Pacing becomes troublesome and readers can find it difficult to follow. Many writers skirt this issue, but Powers engages directly with it head on in The Anubis Gates. What does he do and how, technically, does he achieve it? What problems are encountered? Is it satisfying or does it result in the same difficulties in a different way?

2:00 PM 6 Ace, Aro, and Age . F. Brett Cox, Greer Gilman, Keffy Kehrli, Sonya Taaffe, Jo Walton. Readers looking for asexual and aromantic characters in speculative fiction have to look hard. The only human characters who aren't likely to wind up married off are either children or the elderly, thanks to mistaken cultural notions about youthful innocents and withered crones. How can we expand speculative fiction to include explicitly asexual and aromantic identities, and how does that inclusion force us to also address our ideas about sexual and romantic orientations and age?

Monday 11th July Reading and Signing, with Ada Palmer, in River Run Books, Portsmouth, New Hampshire.

Tuesday 12th July Reading and Signing, with Ada Palmer in Harvard Bookshore, Cambridge Mass.

Wednesday 13th July Reading and Signing with Ada Palmer, in The Word, Brooklyn New York.

Necessity officially comes out on the 12th, but I am assured there will be copies at River Run on the 11th! Don't know if there will be copies at Readercon, we'll see.

24th June 2016

5:47am: "Pax in forma columba..."
Come, peace, descend to us now
in the form
of an urban pigeon.

Underfoot everywhere, disregarded,
fed by children on sugar biscuits,
and by old people on hoarded crumbs.

Flocking all over, rising up at a sudden alarm
to settle back in a flutter of wings,
unafraid, beautiful, ubiquitous,.

Grey, barred, or brown,
with a preen of glorious pink,
bright-eyed, head cocked, bold.

Descend into the interstices of our lives,
peck round our park benches, strut past our summits,
nest on our ledges, circle our rooftops.

Billing and cooing, pouting and searching,
come down to the hearts of our cities
and be everywhere taken for granted.

Again, sponsored by my excellent and much appreciated Patreon sponsors.

23rd June 2016

2:21pm: Sketching the Cloister of Santa Croce
White painted clerestory arches loop,
Pillars stand grey, and swallows swoop.
Serene, the tolling of a bell,
Cool terracotta tiles, a well.
A square of green, enclosed below,
And almost all is shadow, though
The sun casts arches on the red
The wind blows gently, and the dead,
The hallowed dead, who lie above,
Whose names are honoured in calm love,
Are here recalled. The swallows call,
And roses blow, and from it all
The burning heat of afternoon
Lies on the cloister. Then too soon
Come human voices. We don't drown
But peace that built is broken down.

Santa Croce is an old Franciscan monastery, full of great art, where a lot of Florence's famous people are buried. Machiavelli is there, Dante, Fermi, Galileo, Michelangelo, Marconi... The cloister is down a flight of stairs and outside, and there are two courtyards of it, the first has a chapel by Brunelleschi, and a museum, the second is just a cloistered monastery courtyard as described in the poem -- a walkway around the outside, a square of green grass with rosebushes and a well in the middle. I was there on my own this afternoon. There was somebody sitting in the first courtyard sketching, and I thought what a nice normal thing that is, sketching, making art, recording a scene, and maybe they're good and maybe they're not, but they sure are walking in the steps of lots of great people. But there isn't really a word equivalent, and I wanted there to be. So I sat down on the wall in the second cloister and just wrote this down, recording my sensations in an equivalent way, to see whether it would work. This is probably about as close to just writing down the inside of my head as it gets. The human voices were a tour group, and the allusion is, obviously, to Eliot.

Sponsored by my awesome patrons on Patreon who pay me for doing what I would be doing anyway, because they like it and they're wonderful.

18th June 2016

7:15am: Thessaly audiobooks
The audiobooks of the whole Thessaly trilogy are available for pre-order now, and will all go on sale together on July 12th, which is also the day that Necessity is released as a hardcover and an e-book.

The Just City: Thessaly, Book 1

The Philosopher Kings: Thessaly, Book 2

Necessity: Thessaly, Book 3

They are read by a very cool guy called Noah, who emailed me with queries and struck me as intelligent and nifty, so I trust that what he's done will be good. Here's his bio:

"For over 30 years, Noah Michael Levine has had the pleasure of entertaining people in a variety of forms and fashions. He has done many things - but creating and entertaining is not only what he does best... it’s what he loves most. Art, in all its forms, transcends language and culture - bringing meaning and value to the human experience. He’s grateful to be a small part of that evolution. As a character voice-actor, he’s had the chance to portray well over 500 different voices - and that’s just in The Myth Adventures (humorous fantasy) series of audiobooks. He’s also done many “straight read” audiobooks on topics ranging from History and Science to Law and Philosophy. Additionally, he’s done lots of National and Regional commercial spots and short documentaries."

So if you like audiobooks, you will be able to have them in a few short weeks.
6:31am: Thud: Poor Relations
Total words: 63349
Files: 5
Tea: Pu Erh
Music: Power up music and then nothing
Reason for stopping: little bit done and now going to have fun

That's about a thousand words now, and the rest the other day. This chapter is getting done, and the book is progressing, even though most of what I am doing on Florence is having fun and researching for Lent.

12th June 2016

5:05am: Michelangelo, 1475-1564
Once, he could make a faun
As easily as laughing,
As believing that skill and stone would bear him up.

When the stone would sing for him
Like waking up on a spring morning
Each chip of his chisel promising wonder.

When patronage was simply
A man who loved art, and life,
A shrewd eye, and a heavy purse.

When every day, each angle of the sun
Brought new shapes rising up from marble
Carved from his heart.

But time and change and pride and obligation
Bore down hard on him
Like sweating uphill with a pack full of rocks.

Until at last, eroded by years like a flawed stone,
Sculpting became hard as porphyry,
Unforgiving as a pope.

Until even his past masterpieces
Became part of his burden
until paint and paper became pain.

Until he was sculpting his sepulchre by candlelight
Each clip of his claw
Coming one step closer to death.

(This is in the new Museo dell'Opera Duomo in Florence, and I wrote this sitting in front of it yesterday. Thanks to Max Gladstone for knowing what the claw is called.)

24th May 2016

8:11am: Car Parks and Kings
Your car parks also bear the bones of kings
We may not know their names or where they lie
Their tragedies, or how they came to die,
But there they are, beneath our daily things.

All Earth holds history, and it lies near,
Though jumbled, partly known, and part forgot
To time and chance and memory and rot.
But layered lives lie close, who lived right here.

Kings, poets, fools, boatbuilders, leaders, led...
We need no pilgrimage, they're never far.
Lost stories dot the landscapes where we tread.

Conquests, new language, centuries, no bar...
We live surrounded by the fabled dead
Remember them, next time you park your car.

(The context for this is of course the discovery of the bones of Richard III in a car park in Leicester, but specifically the tone in which a young American student mentioned this at a showing of Richard III yesterday.)

Sponsored by my backers at Patreon, or the "get Jo a bed on a train for a song" fund, thank you so much if you are one of them, and do consider kicking in a dollar if you enjoy reading my poetry.

23rd May 2016

2:55pm: Thud: Poor Relations
Words: 2095
Total words: 58568
Files: 3
Music: No music
Tea: Blue People
Reason for stopping: end of bit and nearly lunchtime

I've been revising the previous chapter for a while, and now I've started on the new chapter and this is the first chunk of it. Feels good to be writing new words. Getting there.

Of course, there is no alien invasion in the original Mansfield Park. But it's a problematic book for a number of reasons, and I think that's one of the problems with it.

I'm in Chicago, by the way. saw a brilliant combined Edward III, Henry V and Henry VI yesterday. The transitions were incredible.

15th May 2016

1:25pm: Sunday Morning, Saint Malo, Two sonnets
1. Joy

It's early Sunday, down here on the sand
There's no horizon, only shades of blue
Dotted with islands, and the inland view
Two castles, one cathedral, and the strand.

The sea-washed sand-grains glitter like panned gold
And sailing out, a single white-sailed yacht
And its reflection -- and how have I got
So lucky, to have this to see and hold.

How did my life lead here, so I could be
Here in this town, this life, this world, these friends,
This early morning walk beside the sea?

So lucky, lucky that my life now lends
This joy of being here, and being free
To see and love so much, before all ends.

2. Sorrow.

I met a woman walking in the waves
"Bonjour," "Bonjour," "Vous etes Anglais?"
"Oui, suis," and then a tale burst out a weird way
I couldn't understand, that featured graves.

She asked was I a writer, I "I am,"
And then she told me that her son had died.
To illness. He was ten. And then she cried.
And I said "Ah! Je n'ai pas mots, Madame."

No words in French or English actually
In face of such a grief, nothing that may
Reach out across the gulf from her to me.

"J'ai perdu ma soeur, a onze. Je sais.
Nous oublies jamais." I said. The sea
Kept making waves. And she said "Oui. Jamais."

All totally true, including my utterly crap French, which I have deliberately left as it is. Actually our conversation was slightly longer -- she recognised the festival ribbon and asked if I was here for Etonnants Voyageurs before she asked whether I was a writer.

I sat down on the steps and wrote these in my notebook on the beach, and got the seat of my pants slightly wet, but it was worth it.

Sponsored by the wonderful Patrons of my Patreon.

13th May 2016

7:48am: Visiting France
I know I won't remember every tree
Nobody could, this new-tipped bushy fir,
This flowering chestnut, all of them will blur,
Into a fuzz of green, unfolding free.

Maybe I'll keep the rivers, Sorgue, Loire, Seine,
Rippling along, which was that bridge at night,
Reflecting in the water silken light?
So history blends Caesar, Charlemagne.

These people walking fast to work or play,
So chic, they smile, disputing what they're told,
As Voltaire walked here with du Chatelet.

A country is too big a thing to hold
And yesterday gets tangled with today
And memories and time turn all leaves gold.

This poem sponsored by my awesome Patreon patrons, and written today on the train between Orleans and Paris.

12th May 2016

3:59pm: Thud: Poor Relations
Words: 1665
Total words: 55304
Files: 5
Music: No music, no writing music on the computer, should get some
Tea: Elderflower and Lemon
Reason for stopping: bedtime

Revised the chapter I wrote Saturday, and wrote a new alien bit. And I know what happens next. Well, reasonably -- at the right degree I need to know to start writing it.

I am in Orleans. If I am going to travel more, I need to get better at writing while I am travelling, so.

Back to Paris tomorrow and then Saint Malo for Etonnants Voyageurs Saturday.

10th May 2016

3:08am: May in Paris, Farthing audiobook on sale, Too Like the Lightning
I am in France. Signing and interview tonight at Dimension Fantastique in Paris, 6.30pm in case any of you happen to be in Paris and want to come, then Etonnants Voyageurs at the weekend in Saint Malo.

The Farthing audiobook is today's Audible Deal of the Day, only $3.95. (I can't look at that link myself, because as I said, I'm in France, and it takes me to Audible.fr which naturally doesn't have it. Irritating, and I hope this works.)

And finally finally, after a long long wait, Ada Palmer's brilliant Too Like the Lightning is released today. You want to read it. No, really you want to read it.

7th May 2016

4:40pm: Thud: Poor Relations
Words: 5118 (and that is all today)
Total words: 53251
Files: 5
Music: No music
Tea: White Orchard
Reason for stopping: time to make dinner, and then go to France

So that would be another chapter done. Still not quite up to the alien invasion, but very very close now, they'll be there any minute.

Might get the chance to work on it a bit when I'm in France too.

Coming along.

6th May 2016

9:34pm: Thud: Poor Relations
Words: 5979 (again, that's not all today)
Total words: 47930
Files: 5
Music: No music
Tea: Elderflower and lemon, and earlier Pu Erh with ginseng
Reason for stopping: bed time

All this week I've been going through the whole thing making it consistent so it would be fit to show people and making sure the alien stuff fitted in, because it's out of order in the text and also I wrote it out of order. Pretty sure it works. That 6000 words is about 2000 words of actual new bits, and all the rest is where the thing expanded as I was doing rolling revision.

I believe I am just over half way through, and also that I know what happens next.

Of course, I'm going to France tomorrow, so I may not have time to work on it for a bit. But it's coming along.

2nd May 2016

5:03pm: My Goodreads Review of Petrarch's Letters of Old Age Volume 2
Five hundred and ninety years before I was born, Petrarch died in the middle of writing me a letter.

What do you mean it wasn't to me? It totally was. It was addressed to "Posterity", and if I'm not his posterity then I don't know who is.

Petrarch was warm and friendly and playful and he cared about people and he loved books and the ancient world, and he wanted to live in any age but his own, and to make his own age better and different. And he succeeded in fascinating ways that he couldn't see in making it better and different. He fell in love with Laura and wrote a bunch of very clever poems to her, but his real relationships were his passionate (but neither sexual nor romantic) friendships with other scholars.

In this volume there are adorable letters to Boccaccio, and there are sad letters about being old and ill (and how awful doctors were, and it was 1370, so actually he wasn't wrong) and lovely letters in response to fan letters from young admirers, and charming letters to patrons, and grumpy letters to the pope (he wasn't about to go to Avignon again at his age!) and you don't want to start here. Start with book 1 of his Familiar Letters and read them all slowly, and when you get here you'll cry too, because he's been dead since 1374, and it's not that you didn't know that before you started reading, it's just that by then you'll be his posterity too. I could do with some company here, actually, mourning Petrarch. Appreciating Petrarch. (I've written a ton of poetry about him. It's on my webpage.)

I began to read these letters because Steven Greenblatt mentioned (in The Swerve), in an offhand and slightly patronizing way, as if it was weird and charming but also childish and eccentric, that Petrarch had written letters to Cicero, in response to reading Cicero's letters. And my immediate response was a deep feeling of kinship with Petrarch because as a teenager I had done the same thing. In Latin. Of course in Latin. And yes, I knew Cicero was dead, and so did Petrarch, but Petrarch and I know something about time and death and art that Greenblatt doesn't, quite. I did not triage the Petrarch letters and find the Cicero one, I started at the beginning and read all of them over the course of two years, and I am so glad I did.

Thank you Aldo S Bernardo for translating them, thank you Italica Press for putting them out in relatively affordable e-book editions, thank you Steven Greenblatt for getting me interested in the first place, and thank you Petrarch for starting the Renaissance and saving the world.

Posterity remembers, cares, is deeply grateful, and loves you ridiculously much. I don't know what you'd think of me as a woman with a classics degree and a poet, because that was too much out of your imagination of the world. But neither of us is what Cicero was expecting either. You have to take what posterity you get.
2:09pm: To Shakespeare on his four hundredth anniversary
We saw you on your birthday, you were great!
You always are, you're old, but damn you're good.
Hotspur and Hal, the cast were all first rate
They did you proud, as you might hope they would.

There's four plays out of fifty I've not seen.
I have to say there's really quite a range
From high of Hamlet, low of Cymbeline
Most awesome, others really kind of strange.

Chicago this year's doing every play
Even the doubtful ones. I saw Twelfth Night,
Othello, Lear, Twelfth Night again next day.
Laughed fit to bust. Malvolio! Just right.

The graveyard claims you're dead. It's just not true.
You live and breathe on stage; there we see you.

I've been writing so many Petarchian sonnets recently it was odd to do a Shakespearian one! I've been trying to write this since I was in New York last weekend to see the RSC do Henry IV parts 1 and 2, and Henry V. This poem sponsored by my awesome patrons on Patreon.

27th April 2016

8:08pm: Thud: Poor Relations
Words: 3418
Total words: 41951
Files: 5
Music: No music
Tea: Jin Die with added ginseng
Reason for stopping: Stop...?

I've gone back and put alien POV all through. Because when you write in omni you can do that, bwa ha ha!

Actually, I've put just a little bit of alien POV before each chapter, so it amounts to a whole chapter, but spread out throughout the whole rest of the book so far.

I think I should have posted a thud when I wrote some last week and didn't.

Anyway, it's coming along.

16th April 2016

4:49pm: Thud: Poor Relations
Words: 6444
Total words: 37831
Files: 5
Tea: White Orchard
Music: No music, not writing to music much right now
Reason for stopping: time to make dinner, will work more after

So this is not all today, some was yesterday.

I'm having trouble with the SF stuff I always have trouble with, but I am also having some people-stuff trouble and I'm not sure why. I keep writing stuff and then realising it needs to be slowed down and opened out and characterised, and that 500 words needs to be actually a couple of chapters, and then the thousand words that comes after can't be the beginning of the next bit because then the pacing goes weird. The alien invasion is ever-receding in front of me as I write chapters about people going for walks on the Mars-beach and having conversations about changing gender for an amateur production of The Importance of Being Ernest.

Eh well, onwards and upwards.
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