Interesting Women in History – The Ones Skipped in Academic Histories

One of my favorite women of history is Liselotte von der Pfalz.

Liselotte was properly styled Princess Palatine Elizabeth Charlotte, or, in German, Pfalzprinzessin Elisabeth Charlotte. She was born in Heidelberg, 27 May 1652, and died at Saint-Cloud, 8 December 1722. She was a German princess brought to France to marry the Duke of Orleans, younger brother of the Sun King Louis XIV. As such they were known as Monsieur and Madame. At the end of her life, her son served as the regent for Louis XV until he came of age.

It’s her letters, a vast, delightfully trenchant collection written in a distinctive, honest voice, that has caused her to gain a steadily growing group of fans. Those letters, so much more interesting than Saint-Simon’s fretful obsessing over courtly minutiae, provide a fascinating glimpse into the personalities and activities at the court of Versailles for fifty years.

Liselotte herself was plain and fat, and also totally uninterested in sex. Here she is commenting on what she sees in the mirror:

Not one of my portraits resembles me very much; my fat is in all the wrong places, which is bound to be unbecoming; I have a horrendous—begging your leave—behind, big belly and hips, and very broad shoulders; my neck and breasts are quite flat, so that, if truth be known, I am hideously ugly, but fortunately for me I do not care one whit.

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CAFE READS: GUARDIAN OF THE VISION, by Irene Radford

If you love big historical fantasies, Radford’s Pendragon novels should be on your radar.  Radford has created a style that has echoes of the way her period characters would have thought and written, without interfering with the understanding of a modern audience.

One thing you can count on in this book is character change and growth.

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Lounging in France 11: Water Supply

Consider your kitchen or bathroom. Does it have a tap? We take running hot and cold water for granted. I have always had it, although I have lived in places where the water that came out of that tap wasn’t safe to drink, and had to be boiled and filtered.

But there are still plenty of places where you can see the infrastructure for water-carrying. In France there were villages like this well into the 1960s! This is a picture of a public water tap. It stands on a street in Pouzols-Minervois, a very small village. I am certain the village has running water and sewer. But this thing is still here. You can still set your bucket at the base and fill her up, although according to the sign the water’s not potable. Continue reading

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Of Tomatoes and Bald Faced Hornets

Pattern on wooden fence made by bald faced hornets

On the latter creature in the title I didn’t intend to spend a lot of time, but I did. In my observations of hornets in general, baldfaced hornets are f**king big. They build “paper” nests, using pulp scrapings they take from wooden fences and decks. (See photo to the right). Several years ago I was tidying up a small orchard of quince we had planted and became aware of a very large blackish hornet flying a zig zag pattern about 12 inches from my face and I swear she was looking straight at me. At some point as I backed away, I saw a brown orb, the size of a basket ball, installed among the quince tree branches. It looked like it was made of paper mache, where the paper strips were fashioned from grocery sacks.

After I decided that the orchard was fine the way it was, I went inside and looked the beasts up. Yes. Hornets. Big and bad. I was lucky to escape unstung. Telling all my friends about it, one, a seasoned gardener, told me about a guy who will come out and vacuum the hornets up for use in antiserum. However he told me on the phone that there was no call for this now—labs were stocked up. Then he went on to flatter me by exclaiming about what fabulous gardeners we were to have a back yard where there is enough fodder for these guys to support a huge nest. They are beneficials, of course, and thus, praying that one of them wouldn’t sting my neighbor—the nest was pretty close to his fence—I let it go, avoiding that part of the orchard for the rest of the summer.

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The Rambling Writer Visits Thailand, part 6: Farewell to Bangkok

Join Thor and me for a last ramble around Bangkok — the snake farm and Wat Pho.

NOTE: “And now for something completely different.” Thor and I made our first trip to Asia — the beautiful country of Thailand.  We were lucky to squeak through the pandemic flight closures in January/February of 2020 as we returned from our three-week trip. Since more travel has now become a distant prospect, we hope you’ll take a virtual vacation with us in the following weeks. (This blog series started on June 13.)

Before the trip, we’d been advised to get an inoculation for Japanese encephalitis once we got to Bangkok, as U.S. clinics aren’t equipped with the vaccine. So we visited the clinic near our hotel, which happened to be connected to the Snake Farm, where venomous serpents were raised and “milked” to create antidotes to snakebite. The staff were putting on a show, so we got to see quite a variety of these creatures up close and personal, some very deadly and some not venomous, just large. Continue reading

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New Worlds: Sleepytime

(This post is part of my Patreon-supported New Worlds series.)

Much like childbearing, sleeping is a fundamentally biological process with a lot of culture built around it.

Even the biological part can be treated as fair game for worldbuilding, of course. In the Forgotten Realms shared setting, elves don’t actually sleep; instead they go into a meditative state called “reverie.” From the perspective of a Dungeons & Dragons game taking place in that setting, it’s functionally the same thing — it serves the same purposes in terms of preventing the fatigued state and helping spellcasters regain their abilities — but it’s a different state, and elves need only half as much time spent in reverie as humans and other races do in sleep.

Relatively little of the interplanetary science fiction I’ve read pays much attention to this topic, but it ought to be a common one. Not just as a matter of alien biology: although our sleep cycles are definitely influenced by light, that doesn’t mean you can just rely on a different day-night cycle to shift people onto, say, a 30-hour rhythm and have that work out. Non-24-hour sleep-wake disorder is a condition (much more common among the totally blind, but also sometimes found in the sighted population) wherein a person’s circadian rhythms don’t conform to our planet’s rotation; treating that requires medication and/or light therapy, and even then, it isn’t always successful. Much like populations living at high latitudes, where the variation in daylight between summer and winter is extreme, humans on other planets would likely need to take active steps to function within a different cycle.

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Blogging the Magna Carta #20

by Phyllis Irene Radford

During the five or more years leading up to the Magna Carta, England was entrenched in a civil war; the barons against their king.  During war in medieval times the taking of hostages was an honorable tactic, especially if a man was captured, took oaths of peace and fealty to his captor, and then requested release to defend his own lands and make them prosper.  In order to force him into compliance, he was expected to offer up hostages for his good behavior, usually a second son or a daughter nearing marriageable age.

This was not always a bad idea. Continue reading

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Artist In Residence Quarantine Diaries Episode 10: The story of a story – and how you can help…

So.

Let me take you back a little while. Back in 2002, I attended the World Fantasy convention in Minneapolis – I did the usual things one does on such occasions, even met at least one author whom I fangirled with abandon (and I don’t regret a moment of it…), and in between all the Being At Major Con moments  I attended a bunch of panels – one of which happened to be on YA.

Now, this was not really the park I played in, at least I hadn’t until that day – but the panel had on it several people whose work I liked and admired, and so I thought I’d come and hear what they had to say. One of the panelists was unilateral literal treasure that is Jane Yolen.

She was being everything I expected of her – erudite and funny and wise – until someone in the back of the room lifted a hand and asked some question or other about Harry Potter. And Jane Yolen heaved a deep sigh and said, “I wonder how long it would be before that particular elephant walked into the room…”

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Confessions of a Ghost Writer: The Big Scary
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I recently read a column in CodeLikeaGirl (on Medium) in which Kira Leigh eloquently expressed the sheer scariness of pursuing a career as a freelancer. I was compelled to respond because while Kira is fairly new at freelancing, I’ve been doing it for a while now and I wanted to share my story.

It seemed somehow fitting that I post it here, too, as part of my Confessions.

I’ve been freelancing as a ghostwriter, editor, book doctor and cover designer for about twelve years now. The good news is that it becomes mostly less scary. The bad news is that you may still have bouts with poser syndrome. My particular variety has to do with the quality of my writing—which has won me a “New York Time Bestseller” banner that I can put on my own books—and my qualifications to be attending professional writing or genre conferences. I suffer Poser Heebee-jeebies before every convention I attend.

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Australian Charity Anthology

 

Last January, our member from down under, Gillian Pollack, enlightened us with just how devastating the fires in Australia were, not only to the landscape, the animals, and the people, but how hard hit Australian authors were hit because no one bought books while fighting for their lives.

Founding BVC member Phyllis Irene Radford works with B-Cubed Press as an editor.

And so the anthology “Oz is Burning” was born.

Fire, fire burning bright, warm my toes, light my room. Burn my fingers or waft my prayer to heaven.Summer in the southern hemisphere is Fire time. Managed fire can be a blessing, clearing out choking undergrowth and removing pestilent rodents. Out of control fire is a different entity altogether. In the summer of 2019/2020 nearly the entire continent of Australia burned. Half a billion animals lost their lives. Hundreds of thousands of acres of habitat and agricultural land was scoured. Some of the fires were human caused. Others were the result of climate change—humanity’s greedy exploitation of resources—and decades of drought.Even after the fires are out, the land still suffers.From Suzanne Newnham’s strange look at how a person who hears fire perceives the conflagration, to Jack Dann’s and Ann Poore’s evocative poems to tales of wonder and outrage, and Sivlia Brown’s and Narrelle M. Harris’s poignant hopes for a better future, this anthology demonstrates the agony of a continent, but it also shows bits of dark humor and hope among the devastation. B-Cubed Press always donates a portion of each sale to charity. For this book that highlights Australian authors and authors with strong ties to the Antipodes, we will donate to WIRES, NSW Wildlife Information, Rescue and Education Service Inc. https://www.wires.org.au/donate/emergency-fund

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