Category Archives: Love of words

Unpacking Old Friends.

Pile of Books

Old Friends

I have recently moved house. After being in storage for over six years, I am finally unpacking all my 40 book boxes, and I am finding a lot of old friends. While I have been unpacking, I have been putting books aside into a ‘to-be-reread’ pile, and a lot of the same authors kept popping up. Diana Wynne Jones. Charles De Lint. Terry Pratchett. Elizabeth Ann Scarborough. Neil Gaiman. R. A. MacAvoy.

Some of these authors have left us, but I decided to tell those still with the living how much I love their work. I don’t want to regret never saying anything when their work has meant so much to me and enrich my life. It might not be much, but a kind word is better than nothing at all.

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Filed under Books & reading, Love of words, Personal experience, Uncategorized

Word Families

Writer's Tears

Frenetic, frantic, frenzy…

Glimmer, gleam, glitter, glisten, glow…

I am currently in the middle of editing my Steampunk narrative. I have become obsessed with using the right word.

"I'm a writer. Therefore, I'm not sane." - Edgar Allan Poe:

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Filed under Editing, Love of words, writing, Writing Style

The Paradox of Black and White

English is not the easiest language to learn, because it isn’t very logical. I can remember how frustrated my youngest child was with her first grade spelling, trying to understand how ‘going’ and ‘doing’ were spelt as if they rhymed, when they did nothing of the sort. But it isn’t just our spelling and pronunciation that can be a bugbear; our idioms can also be a conundrum for both writers and speakers.

Look at how the words ‘black’ and ‘white’ can have a multitude of meaning. We can’t just assume black symbolises bad, and that white stands for good.

Black had traditionally been seen as unlucky, sinister, or downright evil. There is a large number of sayings, similes, and idioms that use black in this sense: to be listed in someone’s black books, the black sheep of the family, black hats (particularly in Westerns), to blackball a candidate, to be black-hearted, to be in a black mood, to give a black look, to be blacklisted, to have a black mark against your name, the black arts, unlucky to have a black cat cross your path, black magic (as opposed to white magic), to blacken someone’s name, blackmail…  I’ll stop now, because I am sure you have the idea. And yet, to be in the black has the positive connotation of having money in the bank and not being in debt.

White is generally use to represent innocence and purity: as pure/white as the driven snow, white as a lily, white as a swan (Australian swans are black), fair skin is aristocratic, as mild as milk, brides wearing white to their weddings, little white lies, wearing white to your baptism, the white glove test for cleanliness, and so on and so forth. However, white seems to have more negative connotations than black has positive ones. White lips are a sign of pain or sadness – such as pale with suffering, or of anger – think of a white-hot fury. White skin can be pasty. If you are frightened, you are lily-livered and may need to be handed a white feather to shame you for your cowardice. You surrender by waving a white flag.

shadow cat

So, as you can see, the use of black or white in a metaphor isn’t black and white, and has something of a chequered history. (Sorry, couldn’t resist.) If you are using black or white in your prose, you have to make sure that your audience knows exactly what your trying to say by using them. For example: “Her horse was as black and as gentle as the night, and as beautiful as the stars therein.”   From the deliberate use of the word ‘gentle’ you can surmise this steed isn’t a black charger snorting brimstone. But if ‘gentle’ had been left out, you might be uncertain of the nature of the black horse. A milk-white horse might not need the word ‘gentle’, because – as previously noted – as milk is generally associated with mildness. So if you have a wicked white steed, you need to make that clear from the start.

So, as you can see, English can be confusing for those who have grown up speaking it. I can’t imagine what it must be like for people trying to learn it as a second language.

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Filed under Analogy, Language, Love of words, Metaphors, Writing Style

Enjoying the Journey – Writing a Narrative

I think every writer knows this story, but I’m making a point, so hang in there. You hear about a lot of manuscripts that have been sent in the minute the author has written ‘The End’. And – most of the time – these first draft manuscripts are rejected. It is unlikely the writing will be marvellous. There will be awkward phrasing, week sentences and verbs, and major plot flaws that need smoothing over.

A first draft is all about enthusiasm and discovery, but it is also a walk in a dark forest with a torch. You are still finding your way. It is only the first part of the journey. The editing process is just as creative as the writing process, but it takes patience and concentration, so it has a bad reputation with people lacking in those virtues (I was one of them, once upon a time).

I’m only human – surprise, surprise! I used to prefer writing to editing. I sincerely believe this was due to my goal-orientated mindset; a mindset which does a serious writer no favours. Writing is a journey, not a race. And like every journey, you should enjoy the process just as much as reaching your goal. If you aren’t enthusiastic in the editing process, it will show up in your work as flaws and faults.

Just as very gem needs a polish, so does every story. I taught myself not to rush into sending off my work until I had actually spent some time rereading and editing it. Some things only need a few tweaks. At other times, I have a real ‘what was I thinking’ moment. And sometimes, I surprise myself with the gleaming words that resonate on several levels,

I’ve turned my own editing process into a treasure hunt, looking for the gold, because there is always some. Even the slash and burn of editing can give me a feeling of satisfaction, because I get a real buzz of cutting away the fat and weeds of a story, to reveal the true beauty lurking underneath. My first draft tends to be written with limitless freedom, and the editing process then refines and emphasizes the best parts of all that energy. And that be a lot of fun.

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Filed under Love of words, Personal experience, The Writing Life, Writing Career

A Lighthearted Assessment of this Blog

Bliss

My last few posts have been of a serious nature. I think it is time to take a breath, sit back, and assess how this blog is doing. I started this blog when I noticed I was writing a lot of notes on my personal Facebook site, and decided it was time to take things to the next level. As you might have guessed from the name, it was to be an outlet for my passion for both writing and for Steampunk. From that point of view, the blog has achieved everything I set out to do.

I use this blog as the warm up for my day’s writing. It is a place to share the research I am doing for my Steampunk novel …so that even if the research never appears in the novel, it isn’t ‘wasted’. It gives me a feeling of connection to the writing and the Steampunk communities. I really enjoy the comments from other people, and this has motivated me to comment more on other blogs. I was kind of a ‘lurker’ for a while. These were advantages I hadn’t counted on when I started this blog.

I know that a lot of writers use their blogs as marketing tools, but that was never my ambition for this blog. I want to entertain and educate. When I do start my website as an author, this blog has given me some strong opinions as to how it will look. It won’t be a full-on marketing tool. Rather, it will act as a fun site to broaden and deepen my audience’s connection to my books and stories. It will be an interactive site, allowing for comments and suggestions and the posting of fanfic and fanart. (Am I the only writer in the world who longs to have other people writing fanfiction and making art about my characters and worlds?) The marketing will be an option, not the main goal.

I find this blog is a greater resource for my own personal growth than I ever expected. And I want to take this opportunity to thank you all for coming along on my journey so far.

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Filed under Love of words, Personal experience, Steampunk, writing

The Punk in Steampunk

Gothic winklepicker from www.thevikingstore.co.uk  website

Punk: a style or movement characterized by the adoption of aggressively unconventional and often bizarre or shocking clothing, hairstyles, makeup, etc., and the defiance of social norms of behavior, usually associated with punk rock musicians and fans.(1970+);A petty hoodlum; meagre, minor tough or criminal. (1917+)

Cyberpunk:science fiction featuring extensive human interaction with supercomputers and a punk ambiance. (1985+)

Steampunk: a subgenre of science fiction and fantasy featuring advanced machines and other technology based on steam power of the 19th century and taking place in a recognizable historical period or a fantasy world. (1987+)

All definitions from Dictionary.com website

I was a teenager when the Punk rock emerged on the music scene. It had a real make-your-own sensibility that appealed to me and many others as a philosophy, while at the same time alienating me with its high levels of aggression. I loved the energy while reviling the violence. Many people still associate the word ‘punk’ with anarchy and rebellion. My own mother become concerned when I said I was into Steampunk, hearing the ‘punk’ and not the ‘steam’.

So, how does the word ‘punk’ become associated with the Science Fictions literary genre, leading to it becoming part of the label for many different types of literary genres, cosplay fashions and lifestyles?

Yesterday, I came across an interesting titbit : http://dictionary.reference.com/slideshows/older-than-you-think#punk  My attention was caught by the words handmade and do-it-yourself. Punk music and fashions were individualistic and were often the creative production of talented young musicians and designers and artists. When Cyberpunk emerged as the hot new writing trend in the Eighties, it was named because it tapped into this energy and creativity, as well as delving into the futuristic possibilities of the burgeoning cyber world of computers and virtual reality.

Steampunk was coined quite soon after Cyberpunk. As I’ve mentioned before, I am not the biggest fan of the term, because I think it isn’t accurate and it is open to so much interpretation. But we’re stuck with it. And really, if the ‘punk’ has an association with handmade and making your own gadgets and clothing, it really isn’t as bad as all that. Steampunk is all about recycling, upcycling, and getting creative. The Steampunk literary genre is full of energy and rebellion against the restrictive Victorian patriarchy.

I would like to thank Bruno Accioly, from Facebook, for inspiring this discussion. It was our discussion about my last blog post that turned my thoughts to this topic, as well as the Dictionary.com article. My Steampunk Facebook page is at https://www.facebook.com/SteampunkSunday?ref=hl

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Filed under Genre, Love of words, Steampunk

An Ode to Books

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If I ever want to make myself really miserable, all I have to do is imagine a life without books. What if I had been born into a part of the world where women aren’t taught to read? What if I had been born into a time when books didn’t exist? What if I had been born into a family where reading isn’t considered a virtue? What if I had been born into a family who didn’t keep any books? Ugh!

My father isn’t a big reader, but he loves and respects the written word, and he spent much of my early childhood reading to me. My mother is a voracious reader. I love that word ‘voracious’. It seems to be one of those words that is automatically hooked to ‘reader’, just like ‘hearty’ is linked to ‘meal’. It means exceedingly eager or avid, and that sums up my mother’s reading habits. She asks for books for her birthday and Christmas presents, she always has a book and a magazine (or two) beside her bed, and my parent’s toilet contains a full range of magazines – from frivolous in topic (for my mother) to serious (for my father).

My own reading habits were cultivated early. My father and mother took turns to read to us children every night. EVERY night. That is, every night until we learnt to read. I think I had a library card before I attended school. I can remember learning to write being any great struggle – except for the fact my handwriting was dreadful. I was in rush to learn to write.

The minute I could write down my own stories, I did.

I’ve passed this love of reading down to my own children, using the same methods as my parents. I read to my babies before they could sit up. We had/have plenty of reading matter in the house, catering for every level of reading, from ABC books to picture books to chapter books. Both my children were reading before they went to school, and learnt to write with no effort.

It was a surprise when we discovered that my eldest child suffered from a mild form of learning disability and was never supposed to have learnt to read or write without assistance. To my elder child, a ‘p’, ‘b’, and ‘d’ all look the same, and often a 3 or an ‘E’ would be ‘flipped’ to face to wrong way. And yet, she had a reading age well in advance of her actual age. The specialist put it down to the daily routine of reading within the family, and that she was never ‘pressured’ to learn to read. By-the-bye, the problem was something she grew out of by the time she was a teenager. As an adult, she loves to read.

Reading has helped me through some hard times, by giving me the chance to ‘step away’ from a stressing situation, even for a few moments. The one time in my life I was too ill to concentrate to read, was the longest three days of my life.

I love the advent of eBooks. But nothing is ever going to replace the satisfaction of a new book!

 

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Filed under Love of words, Personal experience