Fantastic History #8: Researching Recent History by Dan Stout

Researching Recent History

I should begin with a confession: As a writer, I don’t have much in common with any self-assured, elbow-patched master of the craft. Instead, I chase after topics like a puppy chases lightning bugs, leaping at every new flash, spinning mad circles in the summer twilight before collapsing exhausted onto a soft carpet of a freshly-mowed lawn.

In other words, I suffer from a short attention span and an inclination to naps.

These traits helped shape the creation of my debut novel. TITANSHADE is a murder mystery set in an alternate world with 1970s technology. This setting immediately appealed to my inner puppy because A) it blends the familiar with the unknown in fun and flashing-light ways, and B) I thought it would make my life easier, leaving more time for naps.

So I dove into the novel headfirst, chasing the flashing lights and assuming I’d have to do minimal research. After all, there’s no shortage of information about the 70s, and hey– I’ve even got first-hand knowledge! How hard could it be, right?

I think you see where this is going.

Halfway through the first draft, I realized my catastrophic miscalculation. Yes, I’d experienced the 70s… as a kindergartener. My expertise was limited to juice boxes and show-and-tell, not the inner workings of a homicide investigation. Even worse, when I finally started my research, I found that very few sources addressed the day-in, day-out drudgery suitable for noir fiction. In order to make any headway, I knew I had to find a different approach.

Death at the Disco

Let’s take a simple example: a patron has been found dead at a popular nightclub. Our goal in this scene is to create a vivid sense of setting and to convey the forensic science of the investigation.

Just like today, nightclubs in the 70s ranged from high-end to grungy. (The cocaine-fueled decadence of Studio 54 was worlds away from the intentional squalor of CBGB, for example.) Because we’re writing fantasy, we also need to reveal the rules and norms of the world in a way that seems natural. We need to find small details, short asides that feel like background flavor to the reader, but actually do the heavy lifting of world-building. And when it comes to recent history, these are the kind of details it can be surprisingly hard to turn up.

There’s no shortage of articles about the discos and dance halls of the 70s, but almost all of them were written decades after the fact. Retrospective articles are fine for some things – want to know when Studio 54 opened its doors? Easy! – but it can be a mistake to rely on them for a true feel of what life was like at that place, in that time.

We run into the same issue portraying the forensic team investigating the crime. Hop online and you’ll find a wealth of resources about forensics. But almost all of them showcase current technology and theories. It seems the 1970s fall into that narrow range of post-computer, but pre-Internet, a period of time for which surprisingly few archives are available online.

From the Horse’s Mouth

The most direct method to learn about recent history is to talk to the people who lived it. Reach out to family members or friends of friends to see who might be willing to share their story with you. These people are treasures, rich sources of history and experience. But they can sometimes put a spin on their experiences or find that their recollections have become clouded over time. Memories are great, but even better are contemporary accounts.

Contemporary accounts are less tainted by nostalgia and tend to be focused on the level of comfort and short-term concerns. Conveniently, that’s what most fictional characters are interested in, as well.

One of the most effective methods I’ve found is to track down the technical manuals and travel guides from the era. Travel guides are covered in more detail in Fantastic History #3, and are great resources often filled with the small details that can bring a setting to life, such as the real cost of daily items, or tips on how not to get pick-pocketed.

In our example of a murder that takes place in a disco, we’re better off looking beyond the mainstream, and finding sources that were targeted to a niche market. Fanzines and gossip columns described the activity in the clubs with more relish than would ever appear in a traditional newspaper column. Often viewed as ephemera, these sources were only rarely saved. Finding them requires scouring second-hand bookstores and haunting university library book sales.

For topics like forensic procedures, the best source is often contemporary technical instruction. Especially valuable are texts geared to the general public or introductory texts intended for trainees in the field. Some of these manuals are available in digital form, but the vast majority are not. Back to the second-hand stores! (I wish I could make that sound like work, but it’s way too much fun.)

A much easier resource to locate is contemporary photos. These images give a glimpse into the sights (and implied sounds and smells) we might encounter in any given setting. Ranging from snapshots to artistic explorations, photos have been preserved more frequently than paper items. Collections are readily available online, covering everything from Chicago nightclubs to life on the NYPD.

Putting it Together

Getting the period-specific details right is only part of the equation. A fantasy setting gives us some leeway; as long as things “feel” like the late 70s, the readers will be along for the ride. A bigger issue is the possible ramifications that magic and other technologies might have on the historical setting. These need to be thought through as much as possible, their “what if?” blending with our research to create an immersive experience.

It’s not always easy to focus your inner writerly puppy, but the hard work pays off. Discovering first-hand accounts and sliding into the mindset of an era allows us to highlight the wonder and strangeness of the times, while also giving readers enough essential information to follow the narrative. So if you’ve got a story set in a recent historical era, go ahead and do the work. Talk to people who lived it, dig up original sources, and plunge into the images and stories that informed life in that place and time. There’ll be plenty of time to chase lightning bugs when you’re done.

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Dan Stout lives in Columbus, Ohio, where he writes about fever dreams and half-glimpsed shapes in the shadows. His fiction draws on travels throughout Europe, Asia, and the Pacific Rim as well as an employment history spanning everything from subpoena server to assistant well driller. Dan’s stories have appeared in publications such as The Saturday Evening Post, Nature, and Mad Scientist Journal. His debut novel Titanshade releases in March 2019 from DAW Books. To say hello, visit him at DanStout.com.

June 2018 Update

Hey guys! June was pretty good. I had a lovely month of vacation, which started promptly at the beginning of the month, and I buckled down to some serious book writing. I am happy to report that The Pawn of Isis is now in the hands of Curiosity Quills, awaiting its final fate. Hopefully I will have news on that front soon.

This month was great for local book appearances. M&M Book Stores in Cedar Rapids has begun sponsoring local authors, so Beth Hudson and I hung out there on June 9th. A whole bunch of authors from the Shohola Press Abandoned Places Anthology–Chris Bauer, Doug Engstrom, Ransom Noble, Shannon Ryan and myself–spent June 30th at Beaverdale Books, where we read from the anthology, met a lot of people, and had a generally great time. On the whole, a pretty good month.

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In case you hadn’t noticed in the navigation line, I’ve started a new part of this blog called Fantastic History, where awesome guests come in to write articles about writing history and fantasy at the same time. If you are a fan of this genre, as I am, you may well recognize some of the names. Definitely read some of their work.

I should also mention the podcast I’m part of–The Unreliable Narrators–just posted its 150th show. Congrats and a shout out to my friends Chris Cornell, Chia Evers, and George Galuschak. We are a great team. Also a shout out to all our wonderful guests for 150 shows.

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What’s coming up in July? A lot of stuff. First of all, I will be at Convergence from July 5th until July 8th. If you’re in Minneapolis that weekend, I will be there too! Then, after I take a quick duck into the hospital for some outpatient surgery, Bryon and I are off to Washington D.C. to take in the Hatsune Miku North American Expo. Not only is it fun, but it is also research for a future writing project. Finally, I’ll be back in Marion, Ia for the I.O.W.A. (Imagine Other Worlds with Authors) event. Looks like a busy, traveling July.

Writing-wise, I still plan to have my first draft of Abigail Rath Versus Mad Science ready to go for beta readers before I head back to Kirkwood in August. I’ve also started playing with ideas for a serial entitled Samuel and Amanda for the moment, and have begun laying the groundwork for The Wisdom of Thoth, (Klaereon Scroll Series #3). AND I plan to put out a self-published collection of shorts. Those of you who have been keen for some of the stories I’ve been reading in public over the years should have some soon.

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Have a great July, and I’ll see you again in August.

Fantastic History #7: The Creative Spark in Ancient Worlds by Rachel Marks

Every story has been written. Every tale has been told. As you look at history you begin to see how true this idea is. At this point, as artists, we’re all basically re-creators. There is nothing new under the sun. What one man leaves behind another picks up and reshapes, and this is especially true in the sci-fi/fantasy genre. From Harry Potter, to Star Wars, to Bram Stoker’s Dracula, most well-know speculative creations have been inspired by, or seem to echo ancient mythology, a historic culture or a historical event. According to George R.R. Martian, Game of Thrones was inspired by his fascination with the War of the Roses. Tolkien was inspired by his love of ancient language and Norse and Celtic mythology. And the much maligned/loved Twilight could easily be seen as a retelling of Beauty and the Beast.

After I finished work on my debut series (The Dark Cycle), I found myself in a slump with a very real case of writer’s block. I had several projects in the baby stages but nothing that had enough meat on its bones to allow for me to really dive in as my next big challenge. I went back and forth between projects for several months and just couldn’t make any of them work. I decided to take a break in writing and focus on research. Just research. Because that’s my sandbox. I would soak in information based on ancient culture, historic wars, colonization and change, and I would go into my sponge time with no preconceived notions. I’d just take it all in and see what my subconscious did.

I’ve always been fascinated by ancient Irish-Celtic mythology/culture, and Norse as well (having a grandma who sprouted from each of them), with a solid knowledge base on both of them, and so I naturally gravitated towards those. I knew that I wanted to write something with an ancient feeling, but told in a modern setting. I planned on laying out a few paths I could possibly walk down as I started taking notes.

Within the first two weeks of soaking, I had a new main character waving at me, a mythology structure rising to the surface, and a very real mood I wanted to create; all the bones I needed to build the new world of Fire and Bone. A world woven through with ancient Irish Folklore, wrapped in the mood of a dark European faerie tale, with a twist of sassy modern wit.

I was surprised how quickly my writer’s block was broken by simple historical research, my mind opening to new ideas from old stories and ancient imaginings. And while I may not have had all the details laid out perfectly, I had a baseline to jump off of. I was finally weaving a story again. A new story sparked because I couldn’t get the vision of what I’d read out of my head; I felt the plight of the old gods clashing with the new as the East met the West through Rome, I saw the image of a god transforming into a raven, I marveled at stories of children abandoned in the woods by parents who feared the illusive fae. Because they had faith that not setting out fresh cream for the pixies brought fate’s mischief, that a sickly child was a changeling. Superstition was the order of the day. And the gods walked among us.

The inevitable story questions rose: what would that look like in modern day? And how would the ancient gods of Erin, of Albion and Prydain play with us now, if they could? The answers to this author’s inspiration came from the past.

Maybe yours will as well.

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Rachel A. Marks is an author and artist, a cancer survivor and the mom of four awesome humans. She’s the author of the bestselling Urban Fantasy series, The Dark Cycle. And her new book Fire and Bone was one of SyFy.com’s most anticipated books of 2018. You can read more about her on her website: www.RachelAnneMarks.com

Fantastic History #6: A Time Traveler’s Guide to Avoiding Anachronisms by Wendy Nikel

We’ve all read them: modern words, phrases, inventions, or brand names that somehow sneak their way into settings that are supposed to predate them. Language is constantly changing, as are the ways that we use words, so if you want your period piece or time travel story to sound authentic, it’s important to take note of which words your characters use. A manor in the year 1400, for instance, isn’t going to have any doorknobs (invented in 1878); a child in the 1860s isn’t going to carry around a teddy bear (invented in 1902); and sadly, no one in the 19th century is going to be snacking on chocolate chip cookies (invented in 1933).

Though anachronisms can be used to infuse humor into a piece of fiction (i.e. The Emperor’s New Groove, A Knight’s Tale, the Monty Python movies, or any Mel Brooks film), when a story is shooting for historical accuracy, these elements can throw the reader out of a story faster than a ’52 Corvette (first produced in 1953).

While editing THE GRANDMOTHER PARADOX, the second novella in my Place in Time series, which is set to be released on July 10, my editor found a word that didn’t seem quite right for the 1893 setting, which sent me on a search down a research rabbit hole into the word’s etymology and usage in history. The word in question: stalker.

My initial thoughts circled around famous serial killers. After all, Jack the Ripper dated back to 1888, and I knew I’d seen him referred to as a stalker, as was H.H. Holmes, who stalked his victims during the very World’s Fair which I was writing about. But just because we nowadays refer to them as stalkers doesn’t mean that’s the term that was used in their day. So, I turned to one of my favorite resources to seek out an answer: Etymonline.com

This online etymology dictionary is a quick way to search those words which seem a bit suspect. For instance, when I searched “stalker” it came up with this definition:

So while the word technically was in existence during the 1890s, the definition wasn’t the one I’d intended and could cause confusion for my characters. The modern-day character who was using it would think that he was referring to someone who obsessively harassed a person, while my character from the 19th century would think it was simply someone prowling around to try to steal something.

This sort of changing language isn’t at all uncommon. The word “awful,” for instance, used to mean “worthy of respect or fear, striking with awe.” World War I wasn’t referred to as such until World War II was underway. This is one reason why it’s a good idea, when researching for a novel, for historical fiction writers to read primary sources: newspapers, articles, journals, and books that were written during that era – not just for the details of the setting itself, but for how language is used, in order to make your dialogue and narrative sound more authentic.

Listed below are some bonus resources which may be useful when trying to write accurate historical fiction:

Historical Currency Conversions
Google Books Ngram Viewer
Word Spy
The Phrase Finder

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Wendy Nikel is a speculative fiction author with a degree in elementary education, a fondness for road trips, and a terrible habit of forgetting where she’s left her cup of tea. Her short fiction has been published by Fantastic Stories of the Imagination, Daily Science Fiction, Nature: Futures, and various e-zines and anthologies. Her time travel novella, The Continuum, was published by World Weaver Press in January 2018, with a sequel following in July. For more info, visit wendynikel.com

May 2018 Update

Starting off with another image from Catrina Horsfield, this is the logo for Team Lucy. I have had tattoos and bookmarks printed for both sisters now. If I see you at a convention, just ask. I also still have some of the The Vessel of Ra bookmark/bracelets left, and some cover cards and bookplates. Yup, I am officially swag-a-licious.

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When last we talked, I had a date with Demicon in Des Moines on May 5th. The con was book-ended by a fantastic visit to Iowa State to see an old friend retire, and give my husband Bryon a chance to once again perform Kermit the Frog for the Rainbow Connection Experiment, and the celebration of my mother-in-law Phyllis’ 92nd birthday.

The con itself was great. There was an author meet and greet a well-attended reading, a chance to kibbitz with some local and indie authors, and this fantastic karaoke party. It was a great weekend, so thanks a bunch, Demicon.

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Wiscon was my other exciting trip of the month. Every year I take the pilgrimage with my good friends Dan and Lisa, and if it’s a very fortunate year, my friend Yolanda also joins us. This was a fortunate year. I was involved with some great writers at Wiscon at a reading, participated in a comic book panel, and attended the signout. I love Wiscon, and I’ll see you all back there next year.

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An unexpected series of events last month caused me to shift my focus, and I am now finishing The Pawn of Isis. Abigail Rath Versus Blood-Sucking Fiends is making the agent rounds again, and I hope to come out of my two-month vacation with The Pawn of Isis in the hands of my publisher, and Abigail Rath Versus Mad Science ready for whatever the future holds for it. Tomorrow I go on vacation, and I will be a full-time writer for a couple of months. Living the dream!

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Next month, right out of the shoot, I have a signing with Beth Hudson at M&M Books in Cedar Rapids. M&M is a new bookstore on Edgewood in town, and they are proving to be super friendly to writers. That will be from 11 am – 1 pm on Saturday, June 9th. If you’re around, come visit. And if you can’t come to our signing, consider attending their grand opening on June 2nd.

On June 30th, five writers from the Abandoned Places Anthology will be reading at Beaverdale Books in Des Moines from 2 pm – 4 pm. There will be a chance to pick up the anthology, which has my story “Mark Twain’s Daughter” in it. This will be a chance to meet Chris Bauer, Doug Engstrom, Ransom Noble, and Shannon Ryan, all amazing writers. Oh yeah. I’ll be there too.

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And next month will bring the lowdown on living with a retired chemistry teacher (Bryon retires after 33 years in education), news from the world of Chinese drama (yes, I’ve been sucked into Ice Fantasy, and now I’m diligently seeking out a similar buzz), and the lowdown on my big summer party, aka my fake family reunion. Stay frosty, my friends.

Fantastic History #5: Don’t History Yourself into a Corner by Chia Evers

As J. Kathleen Cheney said in Fantastic History #4, “If you set a book in NYC, in London, in Paris…a gazillion readers will point out every little thing you get wrong. If you set a story during WW1 or WW2, during the American Civil War, during the Napoleonic Wars…enough readers will know that era to spot any glitch.”

Unfortunately for me, I’m writing a book set in London. During World War II.

Well, shit.

In the years (more than I care to consider) since I started this project, I’ve studied everything from medieval magic to Hitler’s “vengeance weapons” to the black market in WWII London to the history of the Metropolitan police. But nothing broke the narrative loose for me like reading John Gardner’s Suzie Mountford mysteries and figuring out that my protagonist, Josephine “Feeney” Marston Grove, didn’t have to be a civilian consultant bound by what I thought were the rules of female protagonists in World War II narratives—she could be an active participant in the investigation.

Let me back up a step. My book revolves around a series of supernatural murders in London in World War II. I originally thought it would take place during the Blitz (September 1940—May 1941), but shifted the time frame when I realized that the Yanks didn’t arrive until 1942, and there were few air raids between then and 1944, when the Germans launched the Little Blitz and the V-weapons. And I originally had a hard-drinking detective, estranged from his wife and children, investigating the murders with the assistance of a young woman whose only real qualification was being the granddaughter of a (male) specialist in occult history.

Only he bored me. And she didn’t.

So, I thrashed around for awhile, trying to figure out how my detective—now known as Detective Chief Inspector Arthur Whelan, and happily married with two daughters who love him—fit with the snarky Ms. Grove, whose damp depression rapidly evaporated when she was given a role of her own. Enter Suzie Mountford—a young woman in charge of her own destiny, who takes a lover and pursues the most depraved criminals in wartime London.

I already knew that women had served in the Metropolitan Police since the 19th century, in civilian and volunteer roles, and as constables since World War I. But I’d historied myself into a corner by focusing on what they were officially allowed to do in the Met—represent and protect the interests of women and children, with a particular focus on vice (prostitution) and underage and female prisoners. Suzie helped me read my sources with fresh eyes—see what British women were already doing in the criminal justice arena, and how they might have contributed even more in the chaos of war. And that led me, eventually, to Keith Simpson’s 40 Years of Murder—the memoir of a Home Office Pathologist, who notes that a Woman Police Constable arrested a murderer just a few years after World War II—and Murder on the Home Front—written by the woman who served as his assistant throughout the War. Those books, along with specialized histories of the Metropolitan Police, and particularly of women in the Met, helped me build a bridge across my preconceptions and get myself out of my history corner.

All of which is to say that my fear of those gazillion readers who might call me on my bullshit also helped me convince myself that the protagonist of my heart couldn’t be the protagonist of my book. I wouldn’t trade a moment of the research I’ve done, but I’ve learned a valuable lesson or three about not allowing what I think I know to blindfold me against the possibilities.

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Chia Evers is one fourth of Unreliable Feed, a graduate of Viable Paradise XIII, and a writer of novels and short stories. She is also an attorney and a communications associate at the MIT Media Lab.

Fantastic History #4: Researching in a Foreign Language by J. Kathleen Cheney

When your research drags you into foreign places…

When I chose the setting for my Golden City series (way back in 2009), I did so without a great deal of consideration. For the most part, that was because I was writing a single novelette. I was supposed to do 15,000 words and get out. Instead, I was still there, almost a decade later, regularly researching stuff on the Iberian Peninsula, Brazil, and Cape Verde.

One thing I didn’t realize at the time, though, was that Portugal, despite being England’s oldest military ally, does not end up with much of its literature/writings translated into English. I don’t know why.

Now, when I was working on a single novelette, that was acceptable. I could use Google Translate to work around some of the sections of various webpages and use my workmanlike Spanish to hack my way through other bits, but when I started working on novel-length fiction set there…I knew I was in trouble.

Big trouble.

Why Do It, Then?

I get asked this question regularly: Why did you choose to set this in Portugal? Above I noted that I did so without a lot of consideration. I saw that Portugal had tons of coastline, and that was what I needed.

But along the way, I also learned there are some advantages to working in a culture people haven’t often seen before.
1) It’s fresh for readers.
2) It leaves lots of room for mistakes.

WHAT? Number 2 was an unplanned benefit. What I’ve learned from my decade of writing for American readers about Portugal is that they know very little about Portugal.

Basically, the more commonly used a setting is, the more ‘experts’ there are on that topic. If you set a book in NYC, in London, in Paris…a gazillion readers will point out every little thing you get wrong. If you set a story during WW1 of WW2, during the American Civil War, during the Napoleonic Wars…enough readers will know that era to spot any glitch.

1901 in Porto? An unintended benefit of this was that I had very few readers who knew enough about that setting to argue with me about…anything.

But also, I simply came to love the setting. I dove into researching the history (although I changed a lot of it) and found a rich culture, a fascinating past, and centuries of relationships with other cultures, often very fraught (and often deservedly so.) And I think that all the effort I’ve had to put in has been worth it.

So how do I tackle researching in a foreign language?
In the course of the first three novels, I did a ton of research online, often using sites that were in Portuguese. Or Spanish. Or Catalan. In fact, I used sites with two difference dialects of Catalan. Am I an expert in any of those languages? No. I started with mild familiarity with Spanish and worked from there.

Here are some of the steps I took:

1) Use machine translation: A good example of this is Google Translate, where you can simply paste a paragraph into a box and it will give you a -passable- translation. There are major flaws in this, but if you’re looking at something simple, that’s the fastest way to read it. Also, some browsers (I use Chrome) have a popup or toggle that offers to translate entire pages for you into your regular browsing language. This has proven incredibly helpful, especially when I don’t know whether I want to try to read the whole page. HOWEVER, machine translation is not entirely reliable, so I strongly suggest having other sources…

2) Get a language buddy: When I hit a real snag with something I absolutely had to get correct, I turned to some of my friends. Christopher Kastensmidt (author of The Elephant and Macaw Banner series) lives in Brazil and is a fluent Portuguese speaker, so when I had a complex question, I went to him for help and he got me the answers I needed. I hit up Sue Burke (author of Semiosis), who lived in Madrid at the time, for questions in Spanish. I even had someone I could contact for Galician, although I ended up not using them. So use your writer buddies to your advantage. Ask around and find out who can help you.

3) Ask your writers group: I’m a member of a large online group, and when I needed something specific, I could always post the question there, and someone would know the answer. (This is a subset of #2).

4) Learn the language: Now, some of you will be saying, “This should have been point #1”, but I disagree. I know we would all love to be diligent researchers, but that takes time–time we won’t spend writing. We need to research efficiently. Therefore, this step came along later in my process, when I realized I was doing far more than just one story. I got a set of Portuguese learning CDs (I used Pimsleur), popped them in my car, and listened to them everywhere I went. To this day, I am NOT fluent in the language, although I managed to get around in Portugal well enough. What the lessons provided instead was an understanding of the framework of the language. That helped me to grasp all the things that the machine translations were doing wrong, so that I could use the machine translation better.*

5) Use Wikipedia as a portal: I’ve done this a gazillion times now. I go into the English Wikipedia to look at something about a city in Portugal, discover that the English version has almost no data, and switch over to Portuguese Wikipedia, which not-surprisingly seems to care more about Portugal than the English version does. I’ve written about this a lot online, so I’ll just insert a link to that information here Once you’ve got a handle on machine translation and its foibles, this can be incredibly valuable.

6) Use social media: Take this one with a grain of salt. If your desperate for a quick translation or have a simple question about the language, ask on social media. I’ve used Facebook this way and have had some great results. Just be warned that you will get a lot of dross along with that bit of gold. Don’t assume the first answer is the correct one.

Admittedly, some languages are more different than others. I’ve recently started work in Finnish, and it’s absolutely unlike any language I’ve studied before (but in my first Finnish lesson, I quickly learned why speakers of that language often sound ‘depressed’ to outsiders.) I have studied Russian, which helped with my work set in Russia, but I have never tackled any other Asian language. I admit, I’m a bit lazy for that. As much as we enjoy researching, we’re writers instead of anthropologists for a reason. Most of us want to concentrate on the writing.

But if you find yourself lost in a different culture, don’t back away. There are a lot of things that you can try to help you wade through the unfamiliar. It’s worth trying.

*Machine translation often struggles with things that a language does differently than English. For example, Portuguese and Spanish are null-subject languages, which means that their sentences do not have to have a subject. She is an astronaut simply becomes Is an astronaut. Because the machine translation wants to put in a subject, it sticks in HE most of the time—He is an astronaut–creating confusion when you’re researching a woman. In addition, formal names are often baffling to the machines and end up being translated into nouns. (The name of the city, Porto, was constantly being changed to the port.) Learning a bit of the language helped me know which issues to watch out for in the translation process, and I could glance back at the original language sentence to see what should have happened instead of the gobbledygook that came out the other end!

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J. Kathleen Cheney taught mathematics ranging from 7th grade to Calculus, but gave it all up for a chance to write stories. Her novella “Iron Shoes” was a 2010 Nebula Award Finalist. Her novel, The Golden City was a Finalist for the 2014 Locus Awards (Best First Novel). Dreaming Death (Feb 2016) is the first in a new world, with the books of The Horn coming out in 2017, and the books of The King’s Daughter and sequels to Dreaming Death in 2018/2019

Social Media Links:
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Facebook
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Website: www.jkathleencheney.com
Twitter: @jkcheney

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For two years, Oriana Paredes has been a spy among the social elite of the Golden City, reporting back to her people, the sereia, sea folk banned from the city’s shores….

When her employer and only confidante decides to elope, Oriana agrees to accompany her to Paris. But before they can depart, the two women are abducted and left to drown. Trapped beneath the waves, Oriana survives because of her heritage, but she is forced to watch her only friend die.

Vowing vengeance, Oriana crosses paths with Duilio Ferreira—a police consultant who has been investigating the disappearance of a string of servants from the city’s wealthiest homes. Duilio also has a secret: He is a seer and his gifts have led him to Oriana.

Bound by their secrets, not trusting each other completely yet having no choice but to work together, Oriana and Duilio must expose a twisted plot of magic so dark that it could cause the very fabric of history to come undone….

April 2018 Update

I hope you are all enjoying the weather. At least in my part of the world, spring is finally here. We’ve been waiting a while.

April has been a quieter month overall, which was needful after March. I’ve been writing Abigail Rath Versus Mad Science, and in a surprise twist, I’m getting Abigail Rath Versus Blood-Sucking Fiends ready to send out and about. The Ankeny Book Fair went well, I did my stint with the flu, and we’re ready to move into May.

Thanks to Catrina Horsfield, an artist friend from my Sugar Quill days, we’ve designed a logo for those of you who might consider yourselves Team Octavia. Team Lucy is in development. I’ve already got a t-shirt, and I suspect this will ultimately be on bookmarks and stickers as well. Maybe, taking a page out of Jim Hine’s book, tattoos?

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May has a couple of events:

Demicon in Des Moines, Ia, where I’ll be reading, signing, and on panels for Saturday, May 5th.

Wiscon in Madison, Wi, my annual trip with my good friends Dan, Lisa, and Yolanda. I will be attending the whole convention from May 25-May 28, and I’ll be signing, reading, and on panels.

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As soon as I get a viable draft of Mad Science out to my readers, those of you who have been waiting for The Pawn of Isis, well, I’ll be back at it. Stay tuned.