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Even in a little thing

27th December, 2014. 3:23 pm.

With the quiet time, I'm catching up on things. I've just done five chapters' worth of indexing suggestions (very exciting stuff).

I have ten more things on my to-do list for today, some of which I could have done yesterday, if I had not been engaged in a mega LoTR marathon (extended version! with Dr Who and The Almighty Johnsons!). I made really bad puns the whole way through, as the day was in celebration of my father's birthday - I told the best jokes to Mum today and she agreed that Dad would have liked them and that she didn't, which was about right for puns. I'm still not up to Chanukah presents, for sending the last few emails will mean the holiday season is properly finished. Mind you, it's already properly finished (finished, in fact, several days ago) but I like the lingering taste. I've sorted out that everyone will get something: I just need to send them the somethings.

When I put the rubbish out I ran into my next-door neighbours. We sorted a longstanding confusion in the most delightful way.
"What did you do for Christmas?" she asked me.
"I worked - I'm Jewish, I don't get Christmas."

It turns out they not only had no idea I was Jewish, but no idea what Judaism is. We talked about it and also about Australian varieties of bigotry: they're much more relaxed about it than I am which I partly put down to growing up in a place where one is the dominant group. I think that kind of confidence is important.

Anyhow, it was rather fun establishing the relationship between the two religions with Christians who know not Judaism and have no prejudgements and to introduce them to their first mezuzah (which they'd seen for years and just not noticed). We established that I was an ancestor, in a half-joke.

A handy side effect is that I think I may be able to start giving the children presents for Purim and Chanukah. I stopped because the boys had no idea what I was doing and I thought I'd offended them - it turned out the boys had no idea what I was doing and forgot to tell their parents and their father just said yes and thank you and didn't pass on the explanations. No contexts, you see. No idea that I was not Christian.

I am, however, a creature of lists and I have until 7 pm to finish at least 6 more items. En avant!

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25th December, 2014. 11:53 am.

Because Chanukah edged very near to Christmas this year and because most Australians totally don't get that the two festivals are entirely unrelated, I've been wished a record number of Happy Chanukahs late last night and this morning. I dreamed of wishing all these people a Happy Advent, but in the end I just sighed and whinged a little. Chanukah begins on 25 Kislev every year, without fail. Any link between 25 Kislev and 25 December is entirely coincidental in Australia, where we don't even have the common ground of winter. One date belongs to a lunar calendar with solar adjustment and the other belongs to a solar calendar.

I have managed to damage my foot in a minor way (I fell down some steps last night, for it was dark, being night and all), so Chanukah presents are not quite distributed yet. That is to say, the physical ones have been given (all except three) and the electronic ones have not. When I've done a few more hours of work - for 25 December is an ordinary working day for me - I shall catch up and fill peoples' in boxes. I promise!

ETA: I had many lovely phonecalls today and haven't done everything I had planned. I didn't even get round to eating my pomegranate! This is typical of my 2014. I shall pull out the sparkly sorting hat during my LoTR marathon, at this rate, for today has gone the way of all good things.

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24th December, 2014. 10:59 am. Gillian's classic telling of the story of Chanukah

Chanukah is almost over, so it’s time for that classic tale “Even the footnotes of my footnotes have their own footnotes” Click to read this updated masterpiece.Collapse )

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23rd December, 2014. 12:39 am.

I think I've missed a night. This means that tomorrow you get the story of Chanukah.

Work is the main trouble, for it's being impossible. Also, I took two hours off today to be with friends, just because. I intend to do this throughout the next few weeks, even if it means pulling some late nights. Just because.

My present to you today, therefore, is a recommendation of a book that will make up for all the possible presents and historical tidbits I could have given you and didn't, due to lack of time. It's c1240 pages long, which is usually a good thing. It was written by Thomas Webster and Mrs Parkes and has the acutely modest and self-effacing title of "Encyclopaedia of Domestic Economy: comprising subjects connected with the interests of every individual; such as the construction of domestic edifices; furniture; carriages, and instruments of domestic use. Also, animal and vegetable substances used as food, and the methods of preserving them by cooking, receipts, etc. Materials employed in dress and the toilet; business of the laundry; preservation of health, domestic medicine &c., &c" What more does one need? Especially when you look at the very elegant and accurate use of the ampersand? Well, you might want to date (1855) or the fact that I found it free on the internet, so you can obtain your own copy after a mere several hours of downloading.

And now I have to catch up with more various other things. This week is that, plus a social life. Normally when I'm like this, I tend to skip the social life. If I could only fit a bit more sleep in, I'd be 100% happy.

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19th December, 2014. 11:46 am. Chanukah - second to fifth nights

The trouble with Chanukah so close to everyone else's silly seasons and with so many work deadlines is that I forget to blog. To make things easier for me, then, I'm going you your presents for the missing nights plus the nights right up to and including my Chanukah At Home. From Sunday 'til the end, you'll get the posts with snippets of interesting things and maybe the Chanukah story. Until then, it's actual presents. Still electronic this year, but actual presents.

Night Two: two copies of my Rethinking History article, on how fiction and history work together
Night Three: three copies of a short story (I shall draw one at random out of my sparkly sorting hat)
Night Four: four copies of another short story (because my sparkly purple sorting hat needs workout)
Night Five: five copies of the cookbook I made for friends way back in the 1990s The closest I've been to self-publishing, I suspect)

How will this operate?

You can put your name down for as many gifts as you like, but please give me your email address. I won't use your address for any purpose other than emailing these presents. I will need it even if you think I already have it (because too often I discover I don't have it and we all waste previous time). Then I'd like you to list the items you want in order.

You can email me, list things here, send me a message through LJ or through my website contact form (since obviously quite a few of you won't want to make your emails public). On my Sunday afternoon, I'll take all your names and wishes and allocate the gifts as fairly as I can.

You don't have to know me to receive a gift this Chanukah - but it would help your enjoyment if you liked my writing.

Happy Chanukah!

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16th December, 2014. 10:31 pm. Chanukah - first night

Happy Chanukah!

I had a present all planned, but fate intervened. Fate is named "Satalyte", and Satalyte is the publisher of my new novel. They've decided to give a hefty 30% off to anyone who buys direct from their website. No special codes. No secret handshakes. It includes e-books and paper books, but no discount on shipping. Just go here:

Not only is this special on til then end of the year (East Coast Australia time), but there are other books involved. Jack Dann's magisterial Jubilee is one of them.

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15th December, 2014. 2:38 pm.

Today is bizarre. Anyone watching the news will know why. I'm focussing on work and on finding out if my friends and family are OK.

Two moments I want to mention, just because. First, the kind of people who talk about the Jewish language ("Was Jewish your first language?") are now talking about an Islamic writing (it looks like Arabic to me) ie they're much more universally ignorant than I expected.

I guess I don't need to remind anyone reading this that the language I am writing this in is the most common language of Jews worldwide. I hereby announce, therefore, that English is Jewish (the language). I don't know what the actual numbers for languages in the Moslem world are, but I know for a fact that English is the language of Moslems in Australia. I'm all geared now to play with the mind of anyone stupid enough to make either mistake in my vicinity.

My other moment was a parcel for the Aurealis awards. Four more books to read. Except that they came from a few doors down from the siege and were delivered during the siege. Publishing folks, I hope you're all home now, watching things from TV.

ETA: A third moment., I forgot that they were turning the water off for the whole afternoon and was putting off getting dressed until I'd done enough words. I hope no-one actually wants to see me today...

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14th December, 2014. 7:19 pm. Questions

I know it's not quite Chanukah yet, but my first Chanukah gift to everyone is an open question time from now until the end of Chanukah. I know a bunch of people are working on novels with background I might be able to help with (or give hints towards useful resources) so I'm starting a little early so that those who take time off for this season can finish up before they go on holiday.

Usual guidelines apply:

I'm as happy answer questions about my life or my own writing as to help you with your work or satisfy your curiosity, but if there's a question that I don't want to answer I will apologise and not answer (has anyone actually asked such a question?). If it's something that requires hours of work at my end then it's not suitable for this thread. If you ask such a question, then I reserve the right to point you to places you can look for those answers (ie I'm not spending more than 5 minutes on any question). Joke-questions are entirely permitted, and questions by people who don't know me are entirely welcome. Do not ask how long a piece of string is or what size my feet are, for I have already answered those questions in early open question times.

For those who don't know me, you might want to check out my new website before launching into questions (it was embarrassing for someone, once, who didn't know I was a writer and historian, and I don't want anyone else to be in that position):

If you're encountering this post on my new website or at Goodreads, then you need to go to my LJ blog to actually ask the questions, for I'd rather keep it all together (pun entirely intended).

The question thread will close at midday on 24 December.

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14th December, 2014. 11:24 am.

This morning has been spent clearing things and sorting things and getting things under control. One big thing that is now under control is the reading of primary sources for my next novel. I now have only around 500 to read, which is a year's work, which is about how much time I want to spend on primary sources.

The wonderful thing about having a lot of sources is that one can assess them and work out which ones are most relevant and one can skim read the ones that only needed skim reading. In fact, I suspect that this is the wonderful thing about the historical training: I have enough background to assess which sources will do me what kind of good and when and thus work terrifyingly efficiently (and get to play with more books!). As I progress in my understanding of how my characters think and believe, I'll be able to diminish the primary sources significantly more. This is why 500 books is a year's worth (I could read them in a year, but only if I didn't have much other work to do): they probably add up to 200 full volumes of reading.

Now they're all sorted by the major topics in which I still lack enough understanding. Plus there's a whole file of dictionaries and the like, so that I can sort nuances and language.

This isn't everything, but it's very good progress.

For my next trick, I have an hour of solid writing on contemporary SF before lunch.

After lunch and into the evening (probably taking up the whole evening) is the Middle Ages again. Again and always, it feels like.

This is my work right now. Deal with what must be dealt with elsewhere, and then spend the rest of the time in the Middle Ages. One day, the Beast will end, and until then there are two of us who return to it and return to it and return to it.

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13th December, 2014. 12:12 pm.

Last market day for the year, and I bought loganberries (it's a long time since I've seen them at all, much less at reasonable price) and many, many fine dark cherries. I also got leafy greens (Chinese broccoli this time, for I shall be stir-frying during the week), most of the vegetables for chicken soup, some mushrooms and some zucchini (I plan to freeze some vegie dishes, because I've noticed that I will eat better when working if I'm defrosting rather than cooking from scratch) and a decent amount of salad vegies. I also have a vast number of free-range eggs for potential latke-making. (The potatoes and the chicken and anything else I need will happen this afternoon and Wednesday - it's all carefully planned.)

Now I have time to think about work, before the next shopping trip. That will make 2/3 of my replenishment of the pantry completed. After 3/3 I will be fine until after New Year. This means I'll be able to hunker down and work madly, for I will have fewer distractions, since most of my friends will be away and I'll have done the shopping (although Monday week is top-up time if I forget anything).

All this shopping is nothing to do with bad health. It's everything to do with Canberra being a bad place for a non-driver to do big shopping and with the Christmas period being a pain in the proverbial. It also means I have food to feed friends if they visit, which isn't always the case.

My Boxing Day plans for this year have been realised: I've borrowed the extended versions of Lord of the Rings. Anyone wanting to join me for them is entirely welcome! The viewing is in honour of my late father, and so will be accompanied by puns where possible (not where appropriate - puns are seldom appropriate).

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