swan_tower: (Default)
I was offline for a bit (sort of) because my laptop had to go in for repair, leaving me mostly functioning off a tablet for the duration of its absence. Not conducive to blogging, nor to anything much resembling productivity. :-P

But! There are interesting things afoot, and I would like help from you all, dear readers, in prepping for them.

To whit, the [profile] kniedzw and I are going to England. (Mostly to London, though we'll be attending a friend's wedding in Oxfordshire, and I'll be winding up in Brighton at the end for World Fantasy. Also, we're probably going to pop over to Paris for a bit to see his old roommate.) We'll be there from October 11th through the end of the month . . .

. . . and I have no idea where we should stay.

"But [personal profile] swan_tower," you say, "haven't you stayed in London, like, a bazillion times?" Why yes, yes I have -- for values of "a bazillion" that equal half a dozen or so, that is. But the first of those, I stayed with a friend's sister, and the last four, I stayed in the cheapest hostel possible, neither of which are really what we're looking for in this case. (The remaining time -- or possibly two -- I have no memory at all of where I stayed.) I honestly don't even know what neighborhood we should aim for. We're there for sightseeing, not research, so I don't need to be smack dab in the middle of the City. In fact, I'd prefer not to be, since you can't get food there after 6 p.m. :-P

Where should we look at? Our price range is flexible; we're not looking for luxury, but we want better than a backpacker hostel. Convenience to a Tube station is key, though probably not hard to get. Moderately central location preferable, i.e. maybe we could save a bundle by staying somewhere out in Richmond but it isn't worth trekking back and forth.

Recommendations? And feel free to propose nifty things to see in London that I haven't already done.
swan_tower: (Default)
The last set from the question post. Thanks to everybody who participated!


***

[livejournal.com profile] stevie_carroll asked, Do you have an unlikely favourite place in London (out of your top whatever places in London as opposed to your very favourite place)?

I guess the question is, what makes a place unlikely? I love the steps of St. Paul's Cathedral -- not for any reason having to do with it being a big famous landmark, but because of the way the cathedral's position fits into the City in my head, and the way you can sit on its steps and watch the sun set over the West End and eat your yakisoba from Wasabi or pasta salad from Tesco's for dinner. It's my mental "home" in London. But that might class it as "very favorite," I guess.

I also love the fragment of the old London Wall I found on my first trip and revisited every subsequent time. It's tucked away from the busy roads, and has a lovely bit of garden around it.

I don't know if any of those count as "unlikely," though.

***

[livejournal.com profile] dmstraylight asked, If a PnP RPG based on the Onyx Court series was produced, what system would you want it to use and why? How about for Doppelganger? Driftwood?

The obvious answer for the Onyx Court is Changeling: The Dreaming, since that's where it came from. But you'd have to do a lot of system hacking at this point to make it work, since Banality doesn't figure into the Onyx Court, and it's kind of a central idea for Changeling; rip that out and the whole thing falls apart.

If not Changeling, then maybe Deliria, which I haven't actually played, but is in my head as a reasonably flexible system for doing faerie-related stuff.

The doppelganger books, I don't have a ready answer for. I have L5R on the brain at the moment, so that's the first thing that leaps to mind (especially with the Void and all), but from what I've seen of shugenja spells, they don't lend themselves to the mixed-Element approach of the witches in my novels. Come to think of it, I have a hard time thinking of any magic system that treats conjunctional effects of that sort as a common thing, rather than an occasional exception, though I'm sure such things exist. Any suggestions from the peanut gallery?

Driftwood, of course, is easy. 1) Grab every gaming core book off your shelf. 2) Drop them on the floor to make a map of Driftwood. 3) Have fun. ^_^

***

Aaaaaand that's it for this round of "ask me anything." Tune in at some indeterminate future point for more!
swan_tower: (With Fate Conspire)
The countdown continues. Today, I share with you my research photos from last year.

It is, as usual, only a tiny selection from the whole: 39 pictures, when I took somewhere between five hundred and a thousand. But a lot of those are blurry, terrible reference shots from inside dimly-lit museums, or placards reminding me what the next photo in the sequence is, or things that wouldn't mean much to anybody but me. I chose these to give you a sense of some of the things, places, and people that are important in the novel, with a few tossed in for sheer aesthetic pleasure, and a couple more for nostalgia.

Plus a whole wodge of shots from the Natural History Museum, because the decoration in there really has to be seen to be believed.

The rest of my photos, including those from previous Onyx Court research trips, are here.
swan_tower: (London)
When I was scheduling appointments for this trip, I deliberately left today open, because previous experience told me the preceding week would give me ideas for other things I needed to do -- things not already on the schedule. Unfortunately, the major item on that list just isn't feasible: I can't get to York, make productive use of the Railway Museum archives, and get back in time for my flight tomorrow morning. But I've got plenty of smaller odds and ends with which to fill my day, and those will just have to be enough.

About those odds and ends . . . )

I had more I wanted to say here, but didn't get a chance to write it down, and now it's gone. As of typing this bit, I'm back home, after two excessively long flights. So I'll close by saying I did two things this trip that I'd never quite achieved before: I killed both a pen and a notebook. Every Onyx Court book gets two little notebooks (Paperchase minis), one for the London trip, one for book-research; I've always used up the majority of the former, sometimes almost all of it, but this is the first time I've actually blown through the whole thing. And I ran out of ink in my pen, too. Which seems like an appropriate note to end on, don't you think?
swan_tower: (London)
All right, so what I did today wasn't nearly so exciting as a Sandbaggers episode, and for this I am duly grateful. But I spent my morning in an office that called to mind Willie and Denson's exchange when Diane walked into their hutch -- "Sorry, ladies' loo is down the hall;" "Somewhat larger and better appointed" -- sorting through folders of paper not unlike the ones stacked up on Burnside's desk, listening to guys with English accents discuss topics include the Home and Foreign Offices. Is it any wonder I make the comparison?

Those of you with no idea what I'm talking about may be more interested in (and jealous of) this: I got to page through Inspector Abberline's personal scrapbook. Yes, the Inspector Abberline who worked on the Whitechapel murders. Sadly, the scrapbook actually makes no mention of Jack the Ripper; in fact; it leapfrogs over that period, going from 1887 to 1891. Maybe he had another scrapbook for those years, kept somewhere more interesting than a bottom drawer in an obscure office in West Brompton. But it was full of carefully-glued newspaper clippings and notes in Abberline's own handwriting, which affected me as it always does: he immediately stopped being a Historical Figure and became a real person, which never stops being cool.

More sitting on my butt in libraries ensues. )

Leaving the LMA, a trick of building alignment presents me with the dome of St. Paul's, silhouetted dramatically against a cloudy sky. Dammit, Clerkenwell isn't that far from the City, and the Ankle Incident was days ago. I set off down Farringdon Road, and arrive at the cathedral without any difficulties whatsoever, which has the pleasant effect of making me feel like I'm back on track again. Only a little while before I leave, of course, but still. Better late than never.
swan_tower: (London)
I have a moment of doubt, when I set out this morning without so mch as glancing at a map -- but my direction sense holds, and I find my way to Covent Garden without a single misstep.

(The Covent Garden area is nigh-impossible to miss, what with all the theatre marquees; the actual square itself is rather more thoroughly buried.)

Don't click through if you don't want to hear museum designers criticized. )

That makes for a fairly late night, but I don't mind. I feel a bit more like myself today -- got a good night's sleep last night, the first since I arrived here, and had a full day that didn't involve being gimpy. So that's pleasing. Now bedtime, and tomorrow, the police!
swan_tower: (London)
It's hard to make myself take it easy. Despite my best efforts, I fail to sleep in; once I wake up, that's it, there's no going back. But my appointment isn't until 11:15, so I sit around the hotel being glad I have Steam's King's Quest package on my laptop, because that gives me something to do that isn't wandering around. If my respiratory system and ankle were in full working order, I'd probably saddle up and walk to Kensington again, but given the circumstances, that would be dumb. (If I could brain at that hour of the morning, I would write -- but I can't, so.)

What I Did With My Day, by Swan Tower, Age 29 )

Tomorrow, I work my brain instead of my feet. Sounds good to me.
swan_tower: (London)
So apparently, coming down with a cold isn't enough back luck for one trip. This morning, I did the one thing I must not do:

I twisted my ankle.

Yes, THAT ankle. On my way to the Tower Gateway for the DLR, I stepped on the edge of one of the shallow gutters along the footpath and overturned my foot, in exactly the direction it needs to not go. While it's probably fair to say I did more damage to my nerves than to my foot, that isn't to say it escaped completely unscathed; it is a bit twingy. Still, "a bit twingy" is much less than I feared, in that first instant of blind unreasoning horror. As soon as I could think, I dropped my bag and downed some Advil, and put my foot up on on the seat on the ride out to the West India Quay, and fortunately, the Museum in Docklands is abundantly supplied with portable folding stools. (Also, while I'm sure it's possible to walk out there -- heck, I'm not surprised to see Google tell me it's closer than Chelsea, less than four miles -- no way on God's paved earth was I going to do that, even before the ankle incident.)

So I'm largely okay, more rattled than hurt. But definitely rattled, I must admit.

Not that I let that stop me. )

Museum days are not terribly exciting to write about, I suppose; most of this post is Ankle Drama. Oh well. Maybe I'll be more exciting when I go to the Linley Sambourne house tomorrow.
swan_tower: (London)
Does it still count as stupidity if I have a good reason?

My 10:30 appointment is in Chelsea, approximately four and a half miles from where I'm staying. So I wake up, shoulder my backpack -- and start walking.

And why did I do that? )

Unfortunately, I think I'm coming down with something. I didn't feel so hot this morning, and then when I went to lunch my eye fell on the "beverages" part of the menu and suddenly my body was all like NO MORE WATER GIVE ME JUICE. So I ordered a glass of pineapple juice, and when it came the only reason I didn't chug the whole thing in one go was because that seemed kind of gauche. But the remainder went pretty fast, after which my body was still saying GIVE ME JUICE, so I ordered another glass and I don't remember but I think I may have gone ahead and downed this one in a single chug. Then, since I didn't want to fill up entirely on liquid, I made myself eat my lunch, and then my body muttered give me juice but at least it had stopped talking in all caps, so I ordered a third glass and drank this one in something like a civilized manner. I also had orange juice with my dinner. Ergo, I think I'm coming down with something. The good news is, my next couple of days are not so heavy-duty; tomorrow is all museums, one of which I know will have chairs for me to sit on while I take notes, and if I have to spend the second half of Sunday collapsed in bed, I can (though I'd like to spend it more productively).

BTW, thank you to everyone who's given input on my previous post. I don't know yet what I want to do with this hypothetical Engine; the examples were just that, examples, not actual plans. Several things in the comment thread have sparked thinky thoughts, and that's very much appreciated. Keep at it if you want to; I'll keep reading.

Tomorrow. Right now, I go take some medicine and crash.
swan_tower: (London)
I dawdle a little this morning because I have to wait for the Bank of England to open at 9:30, so I can go exchange some old pound notes I brought with me. On the way back from that, I detour on impulse to the Guildhall library, where I waste half an hour waiting for a book that turns out to have gone missing. But the visit itself is not a waste, as the helpful librarian (I've yet to meet a non-helpful librarian at the Guildhall, or indeed at most libraries) tells me the king of thing I'm looking for -- a survey map of London's Victorian sewers -- has been moved to the London Metropolitan Archives. Particularly alert readers will recognize that name from my Ashes-trip adventures in secretary hand. The archives, of course, are in Clerkenwell, and it turns out that on Thursdays they're open until 7:30. I may also be able to get the info I want at Abbey Mills, but it's worth trying this first, because it's closer, and I have a catalogue reference that looks promising. So much for the quiet evening I had planned, eh?

Actually, my whole plan for today is a bit borked. Which turns out to be a bit of a theme. )

My feet are feeling rather abused -- though not in any surgery-related fashion -- so I don't know if I will commit the stupidity I'm thinking of for tomorrow. We'll see in the morning, I guess.

By the way, stay tuned for a second non-trip post in a little bit. My hostel has vastly improved its pricing for wireless, so I'm much more able to handle side tasks this year; this is very fortunate, given the things I keep having to take care of. Anyway, I have a question I need answered semi-urgently, but I'll put it in a separate post.
swan_tower: (London)
The verdict so far: they're holding up pretty well.

But before I get to that -- happy 90 days (or so) to the publication of A Star Shall Fall! I'm going to semi-cheat and say your pre-pub goodie is the commencement of another round of trip-blogging (since this is something I know several of you enjoy), but since research notes about another book entirely don't quite qualify on their own, you can also have just a teensy bit more of excerpt. (Or start at the beginning, if you missed the prologue before.)

Anyway. London. Victorian period.

You know the opening drill. )

I hope I sleep better tonight. (I'm not sure it's possible for me to sleep worse -- certainly not as tired as I am.)
swan_tower: (London)
[livejournal.com profile] la_marquise_de made me realize I hadn't actually said anything about this publicly.

I'll be making my fourth research trip to London at the beginning of June, arriving late on the first and leaving on the tenth. I don't have my schedule for that planned out yet, but if you are London-local, drop me a line (either here or by e-mail), and I may try to arrange some kind of dinner one night. No promises -- it depends on what the schedule ends up looking like -- but I think it would be fun.
swan_tower: (victorian)
Forget Google Street View; what I need is Google Back Garden View.

I wonder if, when I come to London, I could persuade anyone along Queen's Gate Terrace in South Ken to let me into their back gardens for a look at the space? Satellite resolution just ain't cutting it.
swan_tower: (London)
My calculations, via Google Maps, suggest I walked about ten miles that day in Westminster. Which is hardly a world record, or even that impressive in the grand scheme of pedestrian activity -- but it goes some way toward explaining that whole blister thing.

I guess I should have toughened my feet up more before I headed to London.
swan_tower: (London)
Today's report will again be more limited, as it was mostly spent in a museum, and my notes are filled with riveting narrative material such as "Britannia standard, 1697, ^ prop of pure silver" and "no hard-paste until late 1760s."

I pity the future literary researcher who has to read that scrawl. )

Final thoughts? Coming here on the back end of a month of travel was not my brightest idea ever. I don't think I regret the choice -- there were good reasons for making it, and I stand by them -- but I've noticed a distinct difference in my ability to keep running all day long, and a fair bit of homesickness. (I want a real bed, dammit, and different shirts, and a [livejournal.com profile] kniedzw.) I can make it through New York, but then I will be very glad to go home.

Having said that -- man, I love coming here year after year, and I love the fact that for the first time, I have a fair certainty (barring something going very wrong) that I'll be back next year. My view of the city changes every time, expanding and growing deeper. This year, the big differences were the addition of Westminster, and a new eye for architecture: I never bothered to pay much attention to it before, since 99.95% of the city around me post-dated my period, but the abundance of Georgian buildings means that for the first time, I actually looked at them. There are so many bizarre juxtapositions of old and new I never truly considered before, like the chunk of office building squatting on top of the brick of the Steelyard, flanked by its towers on either side.

I'm going to have to think about what I do next year. The Victorian period is so huge and complex, I may need more than a week . . . but if so, I'm going to have to rethink the pace at which I do this work, and the logistics of how I structure it all. I can't do this kind of trip for two weeks; I'll fall apart.

No falling apart yet, though. Airport tomorrow, and New York, and then home. I'll see you all again when I'm not paying by the minute for my internet access.
swan_tower: (London)
I will be brief this time, because I didn't actually write notes for most of the day, and indeed had very little that needed note-taking. Because today, it was not so much with the hard work.

Which I probably needed.

Unless I can pretend being punted on the Cam is hard work . . . . )

Now it is late. I will send to people a few things that need to be sent, and then I will sleep the sleep of the not-terribly-virtuous.
swan_tower: (London)
Last night Irrith handed me the question I need to ask about her. She didn't hand me the answer, mind you, but that's okay. I'll pry that out of her soon enough.

On less of a cheerful note, last night featured a different set of idiot roommates, in this case ones who apparently don't grasp the concept that the last one to bed should turn off the lights. I woke up at 4 a.m. to find them all still blazing away, and me in the top bunk (of three), unwilling to risk my sleepy neck just to turn them off. So less than perfect sleep, and it's a chilly grey morning when I get up. I'm happy to enjoy the comforts of the cabin this time as I head downriver again.


This route is getting familiar. )

We'll see how the sleep thing goes, given that I attempted to buy a can of Cherry Coke from the hostel vending machine and got a bottle of Dr. Pepper instead. I should have known better than to reach for caffeine anyway. But whether I sleep or not, tomorrow morning is the Monument basement, and then a jaunt out of London . . . .
swan_tower: (London)
Today, in order to keep myself off my feet as much as possible and avoid the self-detrimental stupidity I might otherwise indulge in, I do something completely alien to me, as least where these research trips are concerned:

I sleep in.

Because I can only stay out of trouble by staying unconscious. )

I didn't have high hopes for today, when I went to sleep last night. But this has turned out far better than I feared, and there are some good things on the horizon for the back half of this trip.
swan_tower: (London)
Last night's bedtime wasn't quite as early as I intended, owing to the sudden brainstorm I had while getting ready for bed, regarding how I could fix some of the problems with Part One of the comet book. I should have known better than to think I was going to accomplish anything on that front before 10 p.m. . . .

But it was a good night's sleep nonetheless, and thus fortified, I follow the plan and head out to Westminster.

Where I do encounter certain difficulties. )

One of the places I'm visiting tomorrow is nearby; the other is most easily reachable via boat. The tough part will be convincing myself not to attempt to fill the odd gaps of time that lie between those plans, because I need to stay off my feet as much as possible. The Orbit folk were commenting on the breakneck pace of my research, but it's not just because of my limited time in London; it's because I don't know what to do with myself here other than research. The kind of procrastination I do at home just doesn't work.

Three days down, four to go. I can make it, right?
swan_tower: (London)
I'm not going to type up all of my St. Paul's notes, or any of my Geffrye notes; they're just not that interesting. But here's the narrative bits.

Nothing like religion to start the day off right . . . . )

And that's it for today, I think. It's been days since I got a good night's sleep, so packing it in early isn't a bad idea. By the time I type this up and post it, check e-mail, dump photos, and do a bit of writing-related work, it'll be something like a feasible bedtime, I hope.

Tomorrow, I go west. Unless my plans change. (Which they may.)

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