Desert Botanical Garden

Phoenix, AZ — visited March 2017

The Desert Botanical Garden offers a lovely array of flowers, cacti, and other plants — plus a butterfly garden and some historical information (not a lot, but some). The weather where I’m currently living has featured cold winds, which I’ll admit has me thinking back to my visit nearly two years ago. I have no desire to visit Phoenix in summer (I like some heat, but not that much)–but when spring hasn’t arrived in the northern climes, Arizona is flowering. Here are a few photos from my visit . . .

Russian Folk Belief, by Linda J. Ivanits

This is a fascinating exploration of Russian ideas about the supernatural and the intersection with Christianity. First published in 1989, it’s been reissued in the mid 2010s. I picked up a copy when I realized I was writing a story set in eastern Russia in the 1830s (aka western Poland)–and the pov character would encounter a rusalka. There are a lot of different ideas about what rusalka are, and the Dvorak opera was not at all suited to the story the character in my head wanted told. The book offered alternatives — many of them. Indeed, I learned of several other kinds of female water spirits, both kind and unkind. I shared the story with a Russian-born co-worker. She told me later that I’d included types of Russian spirits she hadn’t heard of! (She also said my story was quite Russian, except for the ending.)

So if you’re interested in different types of spirits, consider picking up this book and learning about not only rusalki, domovoi, and leshii, but also vodianoi and vodianikha, or the beregini.

Historical Chicago

City encyclopedias are wonderful resources for research — particularly with the searchability of the internet. I found the Encyclopedia of Chicago while looking for information on life in that city in the 1840s-1850s. Many of the entries were quite helpful–as well as illustrative! I actually found it even more useful the second time round on research. Several of the other sites I used flitted away as unsupported internet sites do–but the Encyclopedia is still around and has lovely, lengthy articles documenting the types of information I originally located on more ephemeral sites. So here’s to the Chicago History Museum, Newberry Library, and Northwestern University for keeping it going!

For those who might be interested, here are some of the topics on which I consulted articles in the Encyclopedia (or verified, when the other sites vanished) or otherwise explored for a story set in an alternate Chicago circa the early 1850s:

  • sidewalks circa 1850 (the city was raising some of them)
  • the railway station (layout, location, building materials)
  • “public” transportation within the city
  • libraries, particularly any accessible to women
  • natural history societies & lyceums
  • hotels, particularly the Tremont
  • cholera epidemics

Which do you want?

Instead of “Cheap, fast, and good–which do you want” how about “History, fantasy, reality”?

This new blog will explore all–1, 2, and occasionally 3 at a time. I’m a history buff (seriously–I put in the time to get a Ph.D. in US History) — and a lover of fantasy (let’s not go into just how many books I keep lugging around with me, and that’s just the physical ones quite apart from the numbers stored in either of my e-readers) — and I live in reality (a reality, possibly yours or then again maybe not).

Tuesdays will highlight historical sites (real life and/or websites) and Fridays books or music — with top 10 links on the 1st and 15th.

Now to retreat to my non-bat cave and plot and plan.

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