26 September 2011

A book in the making

Last week we got a glimpse into the future - but what about in the past. How are were books made? Ever wanted to know - the answer might be right here :)

Before Gutenberg, making a book meant writing it by hand. Then came the printing press. First this was a super-manual process of loading each individual letter into the plate, (not the nice typing the guy in the video gets) which explains some of the creative spelling - what if you ran out of the right letter. Things clearly got a little bit easier as technology improved, but craft was still important. Here's a 1947 video on the process of book making.

You've got to wonder with the increase in eBook if in a few years this technology will be nothing but a curiosity. And even without eBooks things have changed ... now you can print the book you want in the store. If, like me, you don't have one of these near you? Check this out.

In some ways it's amazing how similar these process are - what struck me as the biggest difference was the number of people involved.
 So, there you have it, the past and the present side by side. And the future... we're all waiting to see.

19 September 2011

bathtime books

Book Gossip: Who hasn't been late for work because they just couldn't put that book down? Who hasn't wished for a reading stand and a waterproof book so they could wash and read at the same time?

Well, the waterproof book is here (although the selection of titles is somewhat limited. I guess the reading in the shower crowd is limited). Currently waterproof books are used mainly by divers and foul-weather hikers, but things may be about to change. Soon, if the title you're after is on offer there'll no reason not to sink neck deep in bubbles in the tub and enjoy a good read. Or maybe it'll a chance to read to your kids during bath time and not worry about splashes.

The new wetable books are made from plastic resins and inorganic fibers, not wood-based paper.
Melcher Media, a New York-based publisher, is promoting books that are manufactured using a technology it calls "Durabooks." Other technology uses a clear wax sealant to prevent ink running and to stop pages getting soggy and tearing. The tough polymer coating is also tear-resistant.

Rumors say waterproof books will hit the shelves next year. With eBooks taking a greater & greater share of the book market there needs to be a good reason for people to buy the hard-copy - maybe this is it. Of course, now all they need is a waterproof eReader and I'm set :)

12 September 2011

Sword-fighting for women

After last week's look a sword-fighting, I thought, why not a little bit more. We all know men throughout history were forever sticking deadly weapons into each other, but what about women? It's a favourite trope in historical romances to have the heroine know sword-fighting, or to have the hero teach her how to wield the blade, but did women actually ever pick up the sword? This picture would suggest they did...

More on the why and wherefores of topless female duelers here. And more here on women of action. And here.

A snippet from the WOA link:
     "Dubbed “petticoat duels,” affairs of honor between women appear to have originated in France during the mid-1600s. Historical evidence ... suggests that women crossed steel mostly in anger. ... The most intriguing duel fought between women, and the sole one that featured exposed breasts, took place in August 1892 in Verduz, the capitol of Liechtenstein, between Princess Pauline Metternich and the Countess Kielmannsegg.
     It has gone down in history as the first “emancipated duel” because all parties involved, including the principals and their seconds were female. Also, the confrontation was organized and presided over by the Baroness Lubinska, who had a degree in medicine (a rarity for a woman in those days) and was prepared to minister to any wounds incurred. Before the proceedings began, the baroness pointed out that many insignificant injuries in duels often became septic due to strips of clothing being driven into the wound by the point of a sword. To counter this danger she prudently suggested that both parties should fight stripped of any garments above the waist."

So next time you read about a woman duelist, it's more likely than you may have first thought :)

05 September 2011

Fuel for characters

Characters... where do they come from, how can a writer create a realistic person on paper? For me I like to think of characters as a fire. To build a good fire, that will burn strong and true, you need the right fuel, and you need to lay it out right.

My characters are always a mishmash, part out my head, and part from the real world. I've never used people I know in my stories, but things they've done add elements or shadings to my characters. Mostly though, it's little bits and pieces I pick up around me as I go about my day-to-day that help me build characters.

Here's an example. At the recent wonderful RWNZ conference, on of the workshops was Nic Harrison’s “Live by the sword” sword-fighting techniques. It was hosted by four gentlemen, dressed for a fight, with real swords in hand. Not only was it informative, but seeing real fighting in action was great. Not only that however, those men and their enthusiasm etc... were fuel. A little twig here, a larger log there, all fuel for future characters.

You looking for a little fuel of your own, or just want to watch two guys whack each other with swords?  Here's Nic Harrison & Shay doing a demo (they kept things pretty slow so we could see what they were doing).

Here's Robbo, Shay & Silver with knife fighting. The blood on Robbo's (guy in red) hand afterwards was an indication that even in "play" this is not to be taken lightly.

Thanks to Maree for these putting up on her website, and to Nic & the guys for giving us a great workshop. Maree has more videos on her site, it was so hard to only pick two to put up here.