Stephanie Burgis
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Sweden, Easter, and puppy nests
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Nika’s cuddled up right now in front of the fire, lying curled up in an enormous nest she’s built out of a fat comforter on top of the couch, and making up for all the sleep she didn’t get last night because of her Elizabethan collar. She’s very clever at building nests, and she always works very hard on them, using her nose and paws to dig out a perfect circle, just the size of her body, with towering sides closing in all around her. Looking at her makes me want a nest of my own to nap inside...

Easter was lovely, as usual. The best thing about celebrating cross-cultural holidays is that we compromise by each getting everything we’re used to getting plus the other person’s traditions, too. So, since I grew up with Easter baskets filled with Easter grass, chocolate (including a chocolate bunny) and a small gift or two, and Patrick grew up with the English tradition of people exchanging large chocolate eggs (with no baskets or extra gifts), we now both get Easter baskets filled with small gifts, large chocolate eggs, and (in my case) a chocolate bunny too (replaced this year with a gorgeous white chocolate duck). Mmmmm.... I may pass out at some point with chocolate overload (I ate five truffles yesterday, besides half of my chocolate duck), but I’ll die happy. :)

I’ve been revising Music of the Stars as Patrick passes on critiqued chapters, which is a nice low-key way to go about it. I’m facing an unusual problem--usually, my novels are way too short on the first pass around (kind of the expanded-synopsis version of rough drafts), and I spend the first month or two of revision in expanding them as much as possible to fill in all the missing scenes and details. Music of the Stars, though, felt just a little bloated to me in the first round, so I’m working hard to tighten it in revision and pare down the wordcount to make the whole book as tight, fast-paced and sparky as possible.

I always used to think it was hard to research Vienna in English libraries. HA!!! Now I know how wrong I was. It was really, really easy to research Vienna here. I know this by contrast, because I’m now trying to research eighteenth-century Sweden. The Brotherton Graduate Library at Leeds has an enormous modern history section, which I love and could happily immerse myself in for years. Austrian history has one long wall of books, which always used to frustrate me in contrast to the six walls of German history, and the too-many-to-count walls for French and English history.

Guess how many walls Swedish history has? None. Instead, all the countries of Scandinavia are tossed together into one small column, making up less than 1/8th of a wall. Gaaahhhh....

I had been planning for my next adult novel to be set in Stockholm, in 1792 (the year of Gustaf III’s assassination in the Stockholm opera house). Now I’m thinking maybe that’ll be two or three novels from now, in terms of practicality, because it’s going to take forever to find out enough about the setting and even basic political history for the time period. I couldn’t find a single book of general Swedish eighteenth-century history. Sigh. We’re hoping to take a trip to Sweden this August, if money works out, so that Patrick can do research for his YA trilogy Days of Frost and Fire. I’d hoped to do most of my book research beforehand, and use the trip just to soak up atmosphere and geography, but now I’m hoping to do some historical research there as well. Our friend Justina went to Stockholm last year for an SF convention and said she saw to a huge bookstore of English-language science fiction there, so maybe there’s even an infinitesimal chance of finding English-language Swedish history books in Stockholm, too....heck, you never know...(It seems ever-so-slightly less improbable because it was actually pretty easy to find English-language Austrian history books in the tourist sections of Vienna, so I'm hoping and praying that Stockholm might be the same...)

But in the meantime, Patrick and I spent a lot of yesterday brainstorming ideas for another Vienna novel, set in 1790/1791 (at the height of the Turkish war, the last year of life for both Mozart and Emperor Joseph II, and, wonderfully enough, a time period and setting I’ve done huge amounts of research on already), and that one’s starting to sound enormously fun. And oh, I can never go to Vienna too often... :)

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