Monday, December 28, 2015

Less Proud and More Persuasive Giveaway

Entries are now closed for the giveaway. Watch this space for another giveaway when A Change of Legacies is published, though!

Those of you who also follow Just Jane 1813 likely noticed the special surprise on the giveaway -- everyone who commented on the post got a copy of Less Proud and More Persuasive!

I could hardly do such a giveaway there without also offering the same to my lovely readers here, so for a limited time, comment here to get a copy of LPMP. I'll update this post when the entries are closed.

If you've already purchased it, thank you so much! So you also have an opportunity to win something, I'll also do a drawing to win a copy of A Change of Legacies, once it's published, so please indicate whether you'd prefer a copy of LPMP, or to enter the Legacies drawing. LPMP was only published to Kindle, but I can give you an unofficial Nook-formatted version, or a PDF. Legacies will be out in paperback, Kindle, and Nook, just as A Constant Love was, and winners can choose their preferred format.

* Edited to add that if you are unable to comment below, you can also @ tweet me, email me at sophieturner1805 AT gmail DOT com, or message me on GoodReads.

Sunday, December 27, 2015

Philadelphia Museum of Art

I periodically take a day trip up to Philadelphia, which is about 2 hours away from me by train. This last time, I'd planned on seeing the remainder of the historic homes in Fairmount Park, but that ended up taking less time than I'd expected, so I decided to make a long-overdue visit to the Philadelphia Museum of Art.

I didn't have a huge amount of expectations, although I had recalled seeing somewhere that they had the interior of an English country house. As it turns out, the museum has the interiors of a number of country houses, including one Robert Adam interior. Photos of those below, but first things first -- I also found Elizabeth Darcy:

This is "Portrait of Harriott West (Later Mrs. William Woodgate)" c. 1824-25, by Sir Thomas Lawrence. Because it's from the 1820s, the clothes are a little off of what we'd commonly expect (although they are what Elizabeth will be wearing in her 30s), and she is not wearing yellow, but I think in all the rest of her particulars, she is very much Elizabeth. A little asymmetrical, hair a little mussed from walking out of doors, a face Miss Bingley could have found too thin, and of course, a pair of fine eyes, rendering her face uncommonly intelligent. I believe the future Mrs. Woodgate AND Jennifer Ehle will now have to be my models for Elizabeth.

Now, returning to the interiors. I loved that there was a mixture of paintings, furnishings and other decorative arts, and what the museum has done is bring in these old interiors as the gallery display space, so that you can see all of this artwork within the context of a historic interior. I loved it. Here are some of the most striking items and spaces:

Some magnificent Tudor-era carving. It would have been considered outmoded by the Regency, but I think some houses like Longbourn and certainly Stradbroke Castle would have had some Tudor relics.

Embroidery detail on a woman's dress from 1805. You can get a bit of a sense of just how transparent the muslin fabric was. Layers were a must!

When I've written about the mistress' bedroom at Pemberley featuring heavy, overdone furnishings, I imagine it as a sort of ridiculous Rococo display, featuring furnishings like this (why that is will eventually be explained in one of the future books in the Constant Love series). They're displayed in an interior from Wrightington Hall, Lancashire, c. 1748. One thing that intrigued me about these items is that I think you can see the influence of some of these Rococo items on the Art Nouveau movement. If they had put those wall sconces up in an art nouveau gallery, I totally would have bought that they were of that era.

Similarly, if it hadn't been in the gallery with other furniture of the era, I would have assumed this to be a mid-century modern piece, but it's actually from 1816! I wonder if Eliabeth might go for something like this when she finally gets around to redecorating the mistress' bedroom at Pemberley. 

What was known as Georgian style furnishing and decor in England was "Federalist" in America, and these furnishings very much epitomize it. I think these are the sorts of items Elizabeth would go for -- neat, modern, simple style. They're displayed within an interior from Ezekiel Hersey Derby House, from Salem, Massachusetts.

This is an interior, possibly from Sutton Scarsdale Hall in Derbyshire, from somewhere between the 1720s and 1740s. The detailing around the fireplace is amazing.

Portrait of Sophie Richards, 1841. They had a fine collection of miniatures, but I was particularly struck by this one. She looks so melancholy! It makes me wonder what her story was.

Somewhat creepy eye miniatures. They were very much popular at the time. I wonder if Mr. Darcy might have had one done of one of Elizabeth's fine eyes?

Last but not least, the Robert Adam interior, from the drawing room from Lansdowne House, London, c. 1766-75. A video look at the interior is below:

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Corelli's Christmas concerto

On my drive back to my family's home, there's a particular wooded area that, for reasons unknown, always makes me think of London townhouses, probably in the Regency era, all lit up with candles for the evening. It's some sort of weird trigger, I guess. At this time of year, I'll certainly be imagining the house festooned with greenery, with sugared fruits and other confections set out. And perhaps the family will be eating dinner, before they go to attend a concert that would include Corelli's Christmas concerto.

Happy holidays to you all!

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Un amour constant

I'm not sure how many French readers I have, or those who are bilingual, but for those of you who speak French, I have some amazing news. One of my readers has translated A Constant Love!

This will not be published to Amazon or B&N, but will instead sit alongside the original on and Archive of Our Own.

Readers who follow me at AHA may have noticed that the original version of A Constant Love was recently posted for removal from that site. I hope didn't seem like I'd gone back on my plan to have the original version of that still available online; the removal from that site was specific to some of its policies, and I do intend to continue to maintain it on and AoOO, now alongside its French sibling.

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Less Proud and More Persuasive

It's here! Less Proud and More Persuasive: A Pride and Prejudice Variation Novella is now available in the Kindle store. This is a story that considers how things might have gone if Mr. Darcy had made a proposal more like the one in Persuasion, generally resulting in everyone having a bit more measured reaction to things than what occurred in the original. Those who are considering purchasing it should be aware that it's available at a promotional price, right now. The price will increase going into the new year, when it will be enrolled in Kindle Unlimited, so let that help you decide whether to buy now, or borrow later.

Although it is short, this story is special for me, because it's written in something much closer to my natural voice as a writer. I don't think most readers know that I actually put a lot of work into modifying my own voice for the Constant Love series, to produce something that follows better after Austen's work. I'll never precisely match Austen's prose, but I wanted the continuations to follow without feeling too jarring. So I spent a lot of time in the beginning studying various aspects of how Austen wrote, and basically re-training myself to write in past tense, which I hadn't written comfortably in for a very long time. This story, though, was another of the ones that ate my brain, and once I had the initial idea, it flowed so freely that I decided to let it flow in present tense. Well, up until I hit quite a bout of writer's block with it, but fortunately, we are well past that.

So as an additional way to celebrate the release of this story, I thought I'd post an excerpt from an entirely different story. This is from the last novel I completed before I started in the Austenesque genre, and it is as-yet unpublished. It still needs a lot of editing work and I've just been enjoying writing Austenesque too much to return my attention to it, but perhaps some day I will. It's science fiction (hey, I am a lady of many interests), although that doesn't matter so much for the excerpt, but it is key to know that it's set very far in the future. It may come as a shock to those who read my work that I wrote this, but I assure you, I did!

Beep. Beep. Beep.

The alarm clock blaring and he is shoving her shoulder. "Wake up already." Up through the thick muddled layers of sleep, the fluorescent ET dreams. Eyes open, heart thud thud thud in her chest.

She's got to get some counteractive in her. Reaching over to the nightstand, smacking the alarm clock off, measuring out the counteractive for two ETs with shaky hands, the strips dissolving on her tongue, repeating with enough stimulant for three hours of sleep.

She sinks back into the pillows, waits until her soul feels less jittery. Rises and pulls a lycocell robe from one of the hooks near the bed over her bare, sticky skin. He is asleep again already, or feigning effectively.

Their studio apartment is a long, narrow galley of the type epidemic to Dupont Circle when the skyscraper ban was first lifted. Uniform units with high ceilings and exposed pipes, faux-historic. Only a few paces from the bed to the small area they've cordoned off as an office with a thick hemp curtain, three minutes until class starts.

She sits on one of the bamboo stools, pulls on gloves and glasses, swipes her arm across the office cpu to access Four. Ties the robe a little tighter around herself, although her students will not see it. The university had her go through face and body modeling when she began teaching, so the students will see a fairly accurate avatar, dressed in a Vogue pattern hologram suit. Sometimes she wishes she could travel to class and watch herself teach, see herself as her students see her, one person in two places at the same time.

Touching the tiny button on the frame of the glasses, she activates them, and examines this quarter's class. Lining the walls of the lecture hall are holograms of other students, logged in remotely, like her. They're cheap, low-res holograms, though, not like hers — any student with money or the backing of a decent corporation lives on campus. Despite the fact that more than half of the students at BIT will never set foot on campus, the qual scores of the resident students are still comparably high enough to merit the extra expenditure.

In the back of the actual, physical seating area in the hall are the blatant tracts. Dreadlocks, ratty t-shirts, and at least $2,000 worth of plastic bracelets on each of them. Gratuitous waste of plastic, a street trend of the last few months.

In the middle of the room, the ones with money, easy to pick out because she was one of them, 10 years ago. It had been as easy to find them, back then, the ones who spent their allowances on clothes, raves, and drugs. Here against their parents' wishes, in a public university that has one of the strongest tech programs in the country, despite its parent-concerning proximity to the Boston ERS. Here to rebel, straight out of private school, born into the technological elite and attempting to stay there with minimal studying and maximum partying. Most will succeed, will make quals and land jobs with an income similar to their parents', but some will not, and they will return home to mom and dad, sheepish, to be entered into a strict private university or faced with the indignity of telecommuting.

She gives them a few extra minutes to file in, the latecomers reluctantly slipping into the open seats at the front of the class, then rises, makes a fist with her gloved hand and pumps it up and down three times, simulating pounding on a table. The sound the students hear in class is an audio recording of exactly that. The buzz of conversation wanes to a few scattered whispers.

"Welcome to Evolutionary Robotics 200001. I'm Clare Adams." A friendly but firm voice. She wants her students to like her. "Before we begin, I want to note that everyone should have taken Human Biology, Human Genetics, and the Computer Science core. If you've somehow hacked your way into this class without taking those, you can stay, but odds are you'll be quite lost."

She waits to see if any of them get up to leave. None do, but a few will not return for the next class.

Turning in the small space between the two stools and slender table of the office space, she points at the wall behind her in the lecture hall. Pictures of every generation of EvoTech robot, all the way back to the clunky first gen.

"I love this field because it's the scientific version of throwing things against the wall to see what sticks."

Scattered laughter. She has been honing this opening since her first class.

"I work as a neural network specialist for EvoTech in the ROS — Robotic Operating Systems — pod. I've been at EvoTech for about six years. BIT grad." Someone whoops, middle of the room. She smiles. She's not wearing an avatar mask; the students won't see. "I work exclusively on the neural network, the 'brains' of our robots, but we'll also cover evolutionary locomotion as part of this course."

Turning to point at the lecture hall screen behind her again. This time the screen floods with pictures of the animals of the Galapagos Islands, extinct in some cases, endangered in others. Iguanas, beetles, birds, tortoises.

"For those of you who thought you were done with Darwin, I have bad news for you. We'll be spending a lot of time on Darwin as a part of this course, because the foundations of evolutionary robotics are fairly simple, and they rely on the same concepts as classic evolution.

"Natural selection. Survival of the fittest. The birds, or tortoises, or people, or robots with the most favorable traits survive to pass on those traits to the next generation. In the case of birds and tortoises and people, this happens naturally. If you lack the favorable traits, you freeze to death, get eaten by a tiger, or fail your quals. In the case of robots, we do it manually, removing the robots with less favorable traits from the recombination process, something we call elitism."

Pointing to refresh the screen. Highlights of the evolution of the animal kingdom. Amoebas, fish, salamanders, dinosaurs, apes, man.

"It's a simple concept. And yet it's the means by which, over billions of years, complex organisms like human beings evolved from the single-celled organisms of the early seas." She pauses, throat dry, wishes she had poured a cup of water before class. How long until coffee?

"Early in this century, a few universities and companies like EvoTech started looking at ways to use evolution as a technique to build more intelligent machines. If you can start with a single-celled amoeba and evolve it to a human, surely you can start with something more complicated and evolve it into a superior AI. EvoTech actually started out with search engines, but they transferred their techniques to robotics, which is where we've really flourished.

"So how do you make a robot out of nothing?" Looking out over the sea of faces, just a little too grainy to make out real interest or understanding. "We'll spend a lot of time during this semester on that question, on what we call the 'bootstrap problem'. Unless you want to start with a single-celled robot and take millions if not billions of years to evolve it, you make some guesses. In EvoTech's case, we started with some acceptable parameters for things like vision and recognition, locomotion, and, of course, intelligence."

In the periphery around her glasses, David's hand slips around the curtain, deposits a mug of coffee on the table, waves goodbye. She doesn't wave back, or respond in any way. The first quarter she'd started teaching, she'd waved, unthinking, with the gloves still on, every morning of class, until one day she'd noticed the rest of the class waving as well, and one of the tracts had called out, "Bye, honey!"

Giggles rippling across the room. No more waving. Students are assholes.

She picks up the mug — the gloves should recognize her hand clasping the handle, render a coffee mug as part of her hologram as well. Grateful sip. What was she talking about? Bootstrap problem, somewhere in that.

"Rather than having the locomotion or the intelligence for each variation of the robot possess the same level of fitness, you have to make some guesses, and then randomize those guesses into an initial set of variations. You determine what can serve as your electronic genes, your robot DNA. You modify that DNA in your next generation using the same variations found in nature — reproduction, crossover, the occasional mutation. This mixes the robot genes and creates the variations that will cause some robots to be more fit than others, improving your robot with every generation."

Another sip of coffee, deep and rich. They splurge regularly on the good stuff, brought up by train from Costa Rica.

"We're going to focus a lot on the nuts and bolts of evolution during this semester, but there's another piece of producing an evolutionary robot, and that's instruction. In our case — humans' case — human culture is as responsible for human intelligence as is the human genome. This makes sense, when you think about it. We're not that much more intelligent, genetically, than cavemen. But what has changed is that our race, as a whole, has evolved to higher levels of civilization, and we as individuals are able to learn from this and build on it. Gutenberg's printing press is as important to our development as a human race as anything that has happened within our genome.

Pointing behind her again. Video, this time. EvoTech robots at work in the Sandstrom Nuclear Power plant, plugging in for their upgrades, an excerpt from an EvoTech documentary produced last year.

"For the robot, instruction means being able to collect the past learnings of other robots, and 'teach' — really, upload — them both to the newest robots, and those already out in the field. These are some of the EvoTech robots at work. They receive a weekly update that provides them with the average learnings of all robots in the field over the past week, and they are able to begin using that information immediately after their update and recharge is complete."

She scans the class. Even in her glasses' resolution, she can see them starting to get restless. Nobody expects to stay long the first day, and most students interested in this field have already seen the documentary in its entirety.

"We're going to cover more of this, both evolution and instruction, in Friday's class. We'll be touring EvoTech so that you can get an idea of what an evolutionary robotics operation actually looks like. For those of you who live in the Washington DC metro area, or want to take the train down, I highly recommend attending in person. If not, you're welcome to follow remotely or download the session on your own time. I expect all of you to have experienced the class in some form before the next session on Monday. You should also read the selected excerpts from The Origin of Species available on the course site.

"Any questions?" Scattered students already rising to leave. No questions. "Thank you, then. Have a good rest of your morning."

The rest of the class rising, the holograms along the back wall blipping out with tiny bursts of light.

She touches her glasses to turn her own avatar into a blip, peels off the gloves. They are lightweight, but her hands are still sweaty.
So yes, that's how I wrote, before I wrote A Constant Love. I've started to settle into that more Austenesque writing style, finally, but depending on the subject matter, sometimes I still will drift back to something closer to this. Mr. Darcy, especially, wants to be in present tense whenever I am writing his POV, and he and I basically fought through the whole writing of Temporary Mistress as to what tense it should have been written in. Perhaps someday there will be some sort of more modern-ish (although still set during the Regency) Darcy POV story. But for now, it's back to work on Legacies.

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Cover reveal: Less Proud and More Persuasive

When I wrote my writing and publishing update, I noted that I had been considering coming out with Less Proud and More Persuasive, my variation novella, before A Change of Legacies if I didn't think I was going to be able to make my self-imposed deadline of having Legacies out before the end of the year. Legacies still needs A LOT of work simply because it's a LOT of story, and the little novella only needed minor editing.

So...I switched gears to focused on getting LPMP out, and it will be published shortly,  after another round or four of final readthroughs. Here is the cover:

Since the story is told in such a modern voice, although still set in the Regency era, I wanted to go for something more modern-looking on the cover, and so did some dangerous (for me) playing around with font sizes. But I think it worked out.

The cover photo I shot in St. Austell, in Cornwall. I had been at the wonderful little port of Charlestown, which will probably provide a cover photo or two before it's all said and done. I went there specifically to take pictures during "golden hour" (the hour after/before sunrise/sunset; sunset in my case) and as I was walking back to the St. Austell train station, I happened to look over in the woods beside me and there was this spectacular light. I was trying to make a specific train time, so I only stopped to take one photo. I'm glad I did stop, though, because of the many, many photos of groves of trees and woods I've shot, knowing that I would need to source a cover for this story, this has been my favorite. 

I'll make an announcement here when the story is actually published. This will only be published to Kindle unless I see a lot of demand for paperback -- I just don't know that a lot of people would want something of that length in paperback, and publishing to paperback takes a ton of formatting work.

That’s Right, it’s a Post About Privies

Yep, I decided to go there. My latest for Austen Authors is a post about where people went when they, well, had to go , during the Regency...