The Curious Evolution of Jennifer K. Oliver
A stroll through the mindfields
entries 
jenniferkoliver: (Wolves | Girl with Wolf Hat)
I'm writing about a trip I took to India over a decade ago because some of the locations will feature in my novel. I went to southern India for three months back in the year 2000 as part of a conservation programme. Honestly, I wanted to see a wild tiger, but I also wanted to do something completely different and it marked my first ever trip outside the UK.

I mostly lived in a small city called Puliangudi with a family who were volunteers on the programme. They made me and the other British girls feel like part of the family, and when I had photos taken towards the end of my stay, mummy lent me her wedding jewellery to wear. She also asked some of the girls from the local school to dress me in a lilac crepe sari and weave fresh jasmine flowers into my hair (because I would have made a complete hash of it if left to my own devices).

Alas, I didn't get to see my wild tiger, though I did see a couple in captivity, as well as crocodiles, countless monkeys and birds, elephants and boars. Oh, and during a weekend excursion, a small island inhabited by lions whose roars drifted eerily across the lake to my hotel balcony at sunset.

One of the coolest things about staying in Puliangudi, apart from the amazing hospitality, was that I was close to the Ghat Mountains which run along the western edge of the Deccan Plateau—a 62,000 square mile deciduous rainforest. My most memorable place in the Ghats is Periyar National Park, where I could have happily stayed forever. I vividly remember taking the boat ride across Periyar Lake, barely blinking in case I missed the flick of an orange and black striped tail. Here is a video highlighting some of the area's wildlife and flora.

Anyway, what I'm basically saying is that this is my favourite type of research because it takes me right back to that time. Sometimes I can almost smell the towns in the air, a mix of dust and cooking spices and heat and open sewers; there are so many great memories attached. I love that I can take my characters there and relive it (somewhat; they're there over a hundred years before me, of course, which I have to take into consideration).

OK, for the song, I'm picking the main theme to a Tamil political thriller movie I went to see while in Chennai (Madras). The movie was Mudhalvan and it was epic.

Kurukku Chiruththavale, composed by A.R. Rahman.
jenniferkoliver: (Steampunk Woman)
How to Report Sexual Harassment, by Elise Matthesen, via Jim C. Hines. A lot of people will have seen this, but for those who haven't, it's worth a read.

Making career-changing, life-changing decisions can be scary, but they can also give you a clearer focus, a more obvious and solid goal to push towards. That clarity helps your work grow stronger. Having a direction gives you more confidence.

Last week was the Chalke Valley History Festival, which ran all week and was jam-packed with historical goodness (low in calories, high in fibre). Me and some friends went on the Saturday to a History Writing seminar. This was backdropped by the sound of distant cannons and gunshots, but don't worry, it was just part of the WWII reenactment taking place across the field. I really liked the panelists—author Charles Cumming, publishing director Eleo Gordon, literary agent Mark Lucas, and publishing director Bill Scott-Kerr. The floor was opened to audience questions, and at one point Fifty Shades of Grey was brought up (obviously).

But something I've been finding with the writing events I attend is the advice is almost always beginner-focused. Most of it I already know. It's great to be encouraged by professionals—that never gets old—but the tips themselves are generally generic, and sometimes audience questions feel a bit like a waste of precious time. I think I'm going to take a step back from lit festival seminars and workshops for a while. They're great for beginners, but they make me wish there were more seminars aimed at mid-to-pro level writers. Plus, sometimes they're not cheap.

Other than that, the festival was fab. There was a lot of reenactment, some cool aerial displays, steam engines, and stalls selling all kinds of nifty things. I got a couple of pics of historical dudes being historical )

Miracle, by Blackmill. Been listening to this beautiful, melodic dubstep while doing edits on the novel. I love Blackmill right now!
jenniferkoliver: (Watchmen | Rorschach)
While doing a spot of research for my novel, me and a friend discovered some lists of unusual patron saints. Some of them are silly or funny, but some are just plain mind-boggling. (This is in relation to the naming of a building in my story, btw. None of these will actually feature as characters, which is probably a good thing.)

Saint Monica, Patron of Alcoholics.
St Fiacre, Patron of Sexually Transmitted Diseases.
St Magnus of Fussen, Patron of Caterpillars (I totally want to be this saint).
St Vitus, Patron of Oversleeping.
Saint Barbara, Patron of Fireworks.
St Clotilde, Patron of Disappointing Children.
Saint Drogo, Patron of Unattractive People.
Saint Jesus Malverde, Patron of Drug Dealers.

And these two vie for my favourite:

St Isidore of Seville, Patron Saint of the Internet.
St Hubert of Liege, Patron of Mad Dogs (Protection from Werewolves).

Find the full lists here, here and here.

(Novel research aside, there are a number of opportunities for fictional hilarity on these lists.)

The Kids Aren't Alright, by The Offspring.
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