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Posts by Margaret Ball

Plotting around what you know

I’ve reached a point in the current book (#7 in the Applied Topology series, for those who care) where I have to stop, take a deep breath, sit back and… read all day. Or maybe all week.

No, really. I have to. I’m not just making excuses to take off, I swear! (Oy… please, people, don’t let Thalia beat me up! She doesn’t like it when I ask her to quit talking for a few days.)

Thing is that A Child of Magic has a subplot which requires my characters to visit Philadelphia for a day and a half. Um, during the Constitutional Convention. Summer of 1787, that would be. The bits that got them into this fix have already been written, and I’ve already worked out how this assignment leads right into the final confrontation of the main plot. But now it’s time for them (and me) to take a deep breath and plunge into the noise, smells, and mud of the big city. Read more

Who puts the books in the book book book-a shop?

(With apologies to Barry Mann)

Sarah Hoyt’s recent post on  The Day the Bookstores Died (no, not the actual title; I seem to be in a pop music mode this morning) got me thinking about my own issues with bookstores; specifically, used bookstores. I think (can’t prove) that one of the factors diminishing my enjoyment of used bookstores is, ironically, something that’s probably good for their bottom line: the ease of Internet research. Read more

The Stories We Aren’t Telling

During a recent attempt at mindless escapism I recently downloaded some collections of popular novels from roughly 1900-1920. As a supply of reading material it’s worked out excellently (as long as I give myself permission to skip nine out of ten books). The escapism, though, failed with the very first book I read, by Mary Cholmondeley (Nope, never heard of her, and thought it had to be a pen name until I looked her up. Sic transit gloria mundi.) It featured people being very earnest about social issues in a very recognizably contemporary way.

Early in the book our heroine and designated Good Person muses on the injustice of life: “‘If anyone had told me,’ she said to herself, ‘when I was rich, that I lived on the flesh and blood of my fellow-creatures, that my virtue and ease and pleasure were bought by their degradation and toil and pain, I should not have believed it, and I should have been angry. Read more

Entwined Series

What do you do when two series decide to get friendly with each other?

One of the problems with spending January wrestling alligators instead of writing is that it left my muse free to plot in the shadows… and she has a nasty sense of humor. Read more

I got nothing

 

 

Been up to here in alligators since my last post two weeks ago, and brain function is decreasing rapidly. I can’t discuss the specifics because that would require spreading Other People’s Business all over the Internet. A couple of the largest alligators have been dispatched, but new ones just crawled out of the swamp.

Anybody who’s desperate for something to read while avoiding work is welcome to stop by my personal blog, where I’ve posted a chapter of A Revolution of Rubies, which went live some time during this whole kerfuffle. (And the structure of that “sentence” is all the evidence you need that you don’t really want to read anything I could write just now.) I hope to be back here, somewhat more coherent, and sporting alligator-hide shoes and handbag, in a couple of weeks.

The Doors of Perception

“If the doors of perception were cleansed every thing would appear to man as it is, Infinite. For man has closed himself up, till he sees all things thro’ narrow chinks of his cavern.”

– William Blake, The Marriage of Heaven and Hell

Payne’s gray, cold gray, pewter, silver, warm gray.

Bronze, brown ochre, burnt sienna, burnt umber, copper, gold ochre, orange ochre, modern brown, raw sienna, raw umber, stil de grain brown, transparent oxide brown, Vandyke brown, yellow ochre.

One of these lists is not like the other, right? Read more

Endings and Beginnings

This week, in between more amusing activities involving a five-year-old on a trampoline and a suddenly mobile baby trying to eat the Christmas tree decorations, I’ve been adding front and back matter to A Revolution of Rubies in preparation for formatting and publishing. Usually I put a teaser for the next book in series at the back, but this time there isn’t a next book in series. I could put the start of the Regency fantasy that’s up next, or the first chapter of the upcoming series that’s kind of a spin-off from this one… or I might do something completely different.

I’ve noticed that a lot of books now have a list of Book Group Questions at the end. I can see the benefit from the publisher’s point of view – getting a book picked up by a discussion group has to be great for sales – but most of the questions seem to be written by literary types who are all about symbolism and subtext and not at all interested in storytelling and having fun. So I had a crack at creating my own BGQ’s for A Revolution of Rubies. And concluded that I’m no good at this; most of these questions are only fun before you’ve read the book. Oh, well. I guess I’ll put a teaser for Salt Magic at the end of the book, after all. Meanwhile, enjoy:

1.    Thalia and the rest of the Center for Applied Topology have been sent to Europe to ingratiate themselves in diplomatic circles so that they can help bug the homes and offices of the diplomats. What could possibly go wrong with turning a bunch of topologists loose among diplomats? What couldn’t go wrong?

2.    Would you steal a woman’s borrowed rubies in order to get access to her niece’s paranormal abilities? Wouldn’t you even wonder about the wisdom of provoking someone who can become invisible and walk through walls?

3.    If a foreign agent and a woman with serious skills in card manipulation walk into Casino Barcelona, who’s going to have to borrow cab fare home?

4.    Lensky flatly forbids Thalia to try using her paranormal abilities in certain contexts. More than once. Whatever could have given him the illusion this would work? Will the handcuffs do it?

5.    A Revolution of Rubies takes place in Paris, Barcelona, and the imaginary Central Asian country of Taklanistan. Talk about these places from Thalia’s point of view, with particular attention to the various forms of chocolate-enhanced snacks available in each one.