Lent is finished. 103565 words as of now, sent it out to beta readers, waiting for response. Kind of done, yay!

Posted in Lent, My Books, Writing

I’m home

This has been a truly epic trip. I’m home to Emmet and my rice cooker and my Damascus steel kitchen knife and my bathrobe and drawers full of clothes I’d forgotten I owned, as I’ve been wearing the same nine shirts for the last three months. My packing light and only taking the little pack really worked. I’d do that again. I’d do the whole thing again, really.

Highlights of the trip — Ada winning the Campbell, writing in Florence (I got about 40,000 words written in about a month, clearly I didn’t make Thud posts), seeing twelve plays in the Edinburgh Fringe, and the Viking restaurant in Stockholm.

I wrote a bunch of poems which I didn’t individually post here, sorry, but which you can see on Patreon, and incidentally Patreon pretty much paid for this trip and especially all the theatre. Patreon is great and life enhancing.

My plan now I am home is to settle down and finish Lent, and then we’ll see.

Posted in Life as it blossoms out in a jar or a face

Petrarch and Laura

I see I have become a legend, my life, my love,

And her life and death, a legend.

In time it will all be remembered

In time it will all be forgotten

And remembered again, the wrack and refuse

Of all I did and meant and cared for

From fragments painfully regained

That is the nature of legends

And time and life and love.


So imagine my embarrassment

That what is known of me, that all I am remembered for

Out of everything I was and did,

Is my worldly love for an earthly girl

Not the symbol of Heaven’s love,

Nor the breeze dancing over the battlemenrs

To shake the laurel leaves,

The golden hills rolling away

From the waters of Bablyon where I sat down,

But the breath that moved in her real breast

And her small, individual, irreproducible smile.


Cardiff, 25th July 2017

Posted in Poetry

My Worldcon Schedule

Creating Rules of Enchantment

Wednesday 17:00 – 18:00, 207 (Messukeskus)

Magical worlds are wonderful places for readers to inhabit; however, they can be devilishly tricky places for writers to create. The magic must be powerful enough to be instrumental to the characters and storyline, and yet not so potent that the characters who wield it become indomitable and their stories therefore boring. Researching existing legends, mythology, and folklore can help an author frame effective magical systems.
Mark Tompkins, T.Thorn Coyle (M) , Jo Walton, Kari Sperring

Signing: Jo Walton

Thursday 11:00 – 12:00, Signing area (Messukeskus)

Jo Walton

Asexuality in SF

Thursday 13:00 – 14:00, 101c (Messukeskus)

Is romance always necessary? How have asexual characters been written in SF and who are they?

Todd Allis, Kat Kourbeti, Jo Walton

Reading: Eva Elasigue, Jo Walton

Thursday 19:00 – 20:00, 101d (Messukeskus)

Eva L. Elasigue, Jo Walton

Gender and “Realistic History”

Saturday 11:00 – 12:00, Hall 3 (Messukeskus)

The panelists discuss how people from the past (particularly women and LGBT+ folks) were much more prominent and awesome than most fantasy & alternate history would have us believe.

Cheryl Morgan (M), Thomas Årnfelt, Gillian Polack, Jo Walton, Scott Lynch

History as World-building

Sunday 15:00 – 16:00, 216 (Messukeskus)

Using knowledge and research of real-life history as world-building fantasy and science fiction.

Thomas Årnfelt, Jacey Bedford, Heather Rose Jones (M) , Jo Walton  Angus Watson

Note — I have no kaffeeklatch. 🙁


Posted in Uncategorized

In Florence, Thessaly proof, poison, and a rant about sources

I am in Florence. in my beautiful and carefully chosen apartment, where I will be until early July, sometimes on my own and more often with visiting friends. The plan is that I will immerse myself in Lent, which is going well, and do all the necessary physical research as well as getting on with writing it.

Naturally, this morning I received the PDF proofs of the one volume Thessaly trilogy which will be out in September, and which I therefore need to read and check for error. If anyone has noticed any typos, easily fixed errors, or anything similar, please let me know. Email me — bluejo@gmail.com — because I still don’t have comments working properly. My desire to re-upload these books into my head right now is zero. But oh well. There will doubtless be a Poor Relations copyedit at the worst possible moment too, because that’s how it works.

I’ve been so busy and also travelling that I haven’t really had time to miss LJ. But I do. I really missed it a few days ago when I wanted to ask people about arsenic poisoning. Pico and Poliziano were poisoned in 1494, Poliziano died a few days after, and Pico lived for six weeks. We know they were poisoned, and with arsenic, because their bodies were exhumed in 2006. We don’t actually know who did it or why, though suspicion mainly falls on Piero the Unfortunate. For the book, I have no problem with murderer or motivation, what I want is realistic symptoms of Poliziano dying fast and Pico dying more slowly.

The internet has clinical sites that are mostly about people being poisoned by small amounts in water over time, and Twitter has people telling me to read Sayers — honestly? I am kind of amazed how people would think I’d want information from something that’s not only a secondary source but so old. I’m positive Sayers did her research, but in 1930. We have learned some things since. And she went with what she wanted, which is a very different thing from what I need. But in any case, while there are lots of useful things to be learned from reading period fiction in terms of what people of the time read and said and how they behaved and what tech they had (who would have imagined Californians ever having hot water bottles if not for Kathleen Thompson Norris?) there are things which it’s a terrible idea to get from fiction. Sayers is a primary source for people saying “What we need is an ‘Itler” and for contemporary pro-Fascist attitudes. But taking plot details and technical details from fiction leads to the kind of sloppy unobserved warmed over “like that because that’s how people write it” third rate writing, where whatever was true is smudged like a multi generation photocopy. I don’t want the details of how people die from arsenic poisoning filtered through somebody else’s story-brain before they can get to mine.

Posted in Lent, Thessaly, Writing

In Nimes

…The so-called temple of Diana was an Augusteum, the niches in the cella also suggest some library use…

I’m in the South of France.
Far off, a flute is playing Vivaldi’s measured Summer
And all around unmeasured profligate summer
Is flinging itself in my face, fluting birdsong,
The heady scents of jasmine and honeysuckle,
A thousand greens and one impossible high blue.

I walk up the hill to the Roman watchtower
Where I eat my delicious picnic,
Roast chicken, rosemary potatoes,
A whole punnet of strawberries
Dipped in a scoop of Chantilly cream.
From three stalls in Nimes market.

Down through the trees to the so-called temple,
With the dome half-fallen.
Of course it was a library, of course,
You only have to look at the pediments
You can see where the scrolls —
Where the scrolls —

And suddenly I’m in a ruined library.
Nemausus, it was, Gallia Narbonensis,
And the voices in my head are wailing:
“Where are the books!”
“Where, oh where are the books, the books?”
“What have they done with the books?”

So, sitting on a slab, I pull out my kindle, Gaius.
I read Ovid and Cicero and Homer
Marcus Aurelius and Plato and Livy
Until the voices in my head are calm.
Then I mutter, just in case,
“Tell them to write on parchment.”

Fortunately there’s nobody in sight
Except for one Livy-loving lizard
Who had crept close while I was reading,
Startled at the sound of my voice,
Freezes for an instant, looking up wildly,
Then skitters off over my sandal.

(If ever there was a journal poem this is it. The symbol of Nimes is, and has been since Roman times, a crocodile, but the lizard was real, they are everywhere up in that park, which claims to be the first public garden to be laid out in France.)

Posted in Human culture, Life as it blossoms out in a jar or a face, Poetry


With your made-up eyes and your grown up gown
And the glitter on your cheek
When the pink balloons come tumbling down
You’ve been waiting for all week…
Dance little girl,  dance with delight
Let nobody tell you that it isn’t right.

To a Latin beat, when you twist and sway,
With your body wild and free
Where nobody cares who’s straight or gay
And you’re just where you want to be…
Dance little girl, for the world is good
Let nobody tell you you never should.

With your slicked back hair and your rose tattoo
To the heavy metal beat
And your friends are singing and dancing too
Who you came tonight to meet…
Dance little girl, dance for today
Let nobody tell you that it’s not the way.

So dance, for no one can stop the dance
They may try to make us fear
But for Manchester, for Orlando, France,
We will keep on dancing here…
Dance little girl, we’re all dancing still
It’s right to dance and it’s wrong to kill.

(In an interview in Paris yesterday somebody asked me if I was engagee. I didn’t know what it means. It means “an activist”. I don’t know that I’m an activist, but I’m alive in the world and I’m not a stone, I can’t not have a reaction when things happen, and if I can find a way to process that into art, well, I’m going to.)

Posted in Life as it blossoms out in a jar or a face, Poetry

So full of a number of things

1) Poor Relations has a cover. I have not in fact written an ineluctably masculine seventies SF novel, but it makes me happy to have a cover as if I had. Nothing represents anything specific in the book — there is Mars, and there are spaceships, but Mars is half-terraformed and the spaceships aren’t like that. But I don’t care, this is the right kind of representation, down to the black and white fonts. Why, it could be a Greg Bear cover or even a Ben Bova cover! The fact that it’s actually Mansfield Park on Mars just makes it better.

2) I’m off to France this evening, flying to Paris and going to Epinal for Imaginales next weekend, then signing in Dimension Fantastique in Paris next Tuesday. And that’s just the beginning of my summer travels!

3) Life is good. That is, my life is good. The world, maybe not so good. And I already wrote a book about that, so I can’t even think of it as a research experience. Gah.

Posted in Life as it blossoms out in a jar or a face, Poor Relations

A Burden Shared

I have a new short story up on Tor.com today, A Burden Shared. It’s about familial love and the future of disability. Well, actually, it’s about pain. I had the idea for this one in conversation with Doug Palmer at Boskone last year.

Posted in Writing

Thud: Lent

Words: 2070

Total words: 15817

Files: 2

Tea: Jin Die bio with hand added ginseng

Music: only power up music

New beginning.

So I have been doing a ton of research for Lent, and now I am ready to really write it. I decided it needed a new beginning to make it more like a fantasy alternate history novel — it’s still not much like a fantasy novel, but at least this way it will be apparent what I am doing.

I am now writing it in third present superclose, like Wolf Hall. I may change my mind about the present, but right now I like it. This is half a chapter, maybe more than half.

This is the first paragraph:

“There is a demon leering in the corner of his cell. It’s a small one, no more than a misshapen head with a pair of hands attached below the neck. Brother Girolamo scowls at it. It sticks out its tongue, which is forked, and longer than the rest of it. He throws a shoe at it, and it scuttles away crablike on its bent fingers. He walks over and retrieves the shoe, turning it over in his hands, smoothing the creases in the worn leather. The sole is starting to come loose again, but he will never again take it to the cobbler, nor wear out any more shoe leather.

There is a powerful comfort in knowing that nothing else you do in this world can matter.”

Huh, until I implement comments you can’t tell me if you like it. Oh well, if you really really like it I guess you can go to the trouble of emailing me.

Posted in Lent, My Books, Writing