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Picturing a World

Jawbone

My husband found this jawbone back in the woods and took me to see it. So many possibilities! A prompt for a naturalist's lecture (it's a deer's jawbone). A witch's comb. A treasure for a boy's collection of feathers and bones. Ditto for a girl (with a magical twist and broken eggshells to boot). A patteran. Or that pattern of jawbone, pinecone, straw and twig—a spell laid, an artist's composition, a talisman with runes. What's your fancy?

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Dowsers

For my fantasy-novella-in-progress, I have a character visit a silver-mining town. It's not a long section, but to write about it well I needed to be able to visualize the setting so I gathered some images including the one shown here. This one of men in tunnels that are little more than holes in the ground isn't pertinent to my story, but I was fascinated when I spotted the two dowsers on the left. Dowsing for water I'm familiar with, but in mining? To avoid water, which is always a danger in mines? No! It turns out that people believed metals could also be located with a dowsing stick. A bit of trivia that goes straight into a notebook for future inspiration!

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Community effort

This weekend I ordered two books that have one thing in common: they are anthologies of stories by authors who are in some way contributing to a team effort. The new one is Fourteen Days, which is set in a New York apartment building where the tenants gather on the rooftop to tell stories during the  COVID-19 lockdown. NPR said in its review: "Fourteen Days is an ambitious project, and its proceeds benefit the Authors Guild Foundation, two-thirds of whose members suffered an income decline during the pandemic." Contributors include Margaret Atwood, Emma Donoghue, Diana Gabaldon, Celeste Ng, R. L. Stine, and Ishmael Reed. Good authors, good project, sold!

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Ballads!

A Valentine's Day time sink: The 100 Ballads project and website! "Broadside ballads were single-sheet songs that sold for a penny a piece. This website concentrates on over 100 resoundingly successful examples that you can investigate through recordings, images and a wealth of other materials." For example, A Courtly new ballad of the Princely wooing of the/ fair Maid of London by King Edward shown here.

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Fidelia Bridges

Blog post alert: The female artist, Fidelia Bridges, was brought to my attention by a blog post, A Method for Painting Botanical Subjects on Location. In a thirteen-minute video, James Gurney demonstrates his method of painting a blurry landscape, blowing it up to place at a distance from his easel, and then working on the actual canvas to paint a detailed botanical image of a milkweed plant in the foreground. I found it fascinating to watch, and it's interesting that he learned the method of combining two ways of seeing in one canvas from a 19th C woman.

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Horse armor

Website alert: For a story I'm writing, I wanted know how much armor a Renaissance knight's horse might have to carry. An Inside Look at Medieval Armor provided just what I needed. The terms on this diagram are too specialized for the glancing reference I need right now, but I'm tucking them away. If nothing else, couldn't two of them make good names for pets, giants, or other characters? For more, see also Arms and Armor.

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Theater curtains

Website alert: Christine Hadsel's prizewinning book, Suspended Worlds: Historic Theater Scenery in Northern New England, has just introduced me to a whole category of Americana: the big theater curtains that could be rolled down in town halls, granges, and opera houses for live performances in the period just before the movies. This could be invaluable for a story set in small town in, say—1908! You can see lots of examples and learn about them at Hadsel's website Curtains without Borders.

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Time and Lifelode

Having just finished The Order of Time by Carlo Rovelli, I've gone back to reread the book to try to understand it point by point—that is, to work through my own confusions and queries. One way, of course, is to go slow and ponder. Another is to call in speculative fiction—to read stories that flesh out concepts that are quantified by physics and mathematics. Exhibit 1: Lifelode by Jo Walton.

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Story of a Farm

I came across Looking down to Horsleyhope Mill a while back. It seemed to me you could convert it to a hobbit village or imaginary farm in an earlier era as the setting for a story. I never got around to trying to sketch what I had in mind, but, by golly, John S. Goodall did a wildly better version in The Story of a Farm, one of his wordless books with cunning foldovers that show transformations. Luckily, our public library system has a copy. I borrowed it, loved it, and have just ordered a clean used copy at Biblio.com.

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Chocolate biscuit cake

NBC Today Show, Qeen Elizabeth II and tea spread (2017)

How often have I said, "You haven't read a book 'til you've read it twice"? Well, it's true. Having read Murder Most Royal by S. J. Bennett over Christmas, I went back and reread Windsor Knot, the first in this murder mystery series with Queen Elizabeth II as the detective. I liked it better the second time around and, incidentally, admire the way Bennett set herself up for a lifelong series if she wants it. (NB: Her upcoming A Death in Diamonds is set in 1957).What does this have to do with the chocolate biscuit cake?

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