Jilly: Dialect, Slang and Cant

Daft Apeth. Does the slogan on one of my favorite mugs (see picture, left) mean anything to you?

The internet (yourdictionary.com) defines it thus:
apeth. Noun. (plural apeths) A halfpennyworth. (Northern England, informal) An affectionate term for a silly or foolish person.

My mug was made by a company called Dialectable. I saw it in a shop window in rural Derbyshire and knew I had to buy it, because daft apeth was one of my dad’s go-to descriptions. It’s definitely English, unmistakably Northern, and while you might occasionally hear it today, it’s dated. The half-penny in question is pre-decimal, a coin that was de-monetized almost fifty years ago.

Told you that to tell you this: if I read the phrase daft apeth in a novel, I’d be immediately transported to 1960’s Derbyshire. For me, those two small words would be more effective than a page of description. For you? I’m guessing not so much. Continue reading

Michaeline: Back to School

School really was a lot of fun, and work can be too! (Image via Wikimedia Commons)

Hurrah! I went back to school for my dayjob Friday – for us in Japan, it’s the new start of second semester after a three-week long period of no classes. But the excitement in the air is very similar to the back-to-school period of my youth in America. It’s fun to have a few new clothes, some new stories to tell friends and of course, get back into a routine.

Routines are tricky things for me. I need them desperately, but if I’m too scheduled, I get tired and cranky. This August period gives me a chance to shake up my routine and figure out new strategies before we settle into the rhythms of autumn in September.

I fell away from an exercise routine this summer. My feet and ankles have been very bad, so I’ve been trying a variety of new exercises and rest periods. During summer vacation itself, I was busy walking around new cities, and then trying to chill my feet to recuperate. My feet still hurt, but overall, I’ve come out stronger because of the random exercises. I think I’m ready to take up a more regular routine of stationary biking and trips to the swimming pool.

Fourth paragraph in, and there’s no direct link to writing! Well, more and more I’m beginning to think that physical exercise is the key to dispelling brain fog. A good dose of exercise (not too much, not too little) helps me get a good night’s sleep, and I’m sure the increased blood flow is reaching my brain. If I can get rid of brain fog, story ideas should come more easily and be expressed on the page or in the computer more efficiently. Right? Right?

Or maybe I’m just waving a magic exercise wand and hoping for the best.

There are other routines I want to shake up this August. Things like re-reading and editing in the afternoon, and waking up a little earlier to get a 20-minute writing session in each morning. I’ll have a little more than ten days to assess whether the new routines are working, or if I need to shake things up in time for an October start.

And an October start is better than no start at all, but right now, I have personal history on my side. August is the time for a fresh start, full of books and learning and new school supplies, and I’d be wise to take advantage of the season.

Let’s shake it up a little these last 12 days!

Elizabeth: Friday Writing Sprints – Now with Bodyguards

This has been a very long week and not just because of all that has been going on in the world.  At the day job, after almost of year of planning, we’ve just wrapped up four days of big, high-visibility events, which included a reception and dinner attended by CEOs and executives from dozens of billion-dollar companies.

It was a big deal.

I know that because a number of the attendees came with security details in tow, both hidden and in plain sight.  There were sweeps-of-the-room done before the events and pleasant but don’t-mess-with-me individuals posted around the room, making sure no one got anywhere they weren’t supposed to be.  Not quite the level of events my work week typically contains.  On the bright side, I got to rub shoulders with some very interesting people, on the negative side it meant a week of early mornings, late nights, drama, and problem-solving.

Now that the events are over and done with, it’s time to relax, regroup, and get back to normal (or at least what currently passes for normal).  Spending some time on my work-in-progress sounds like just the thing; I think I’ll jumpstart that with a Random Word Improv warm-up session.

Care to join me? Continue reading

Elizabeth: What Have You Been Reading?

My TBR pile is currently a teetering towering work of art.  I’ve been doing my best to reduce it to manageable proportions, but it seems for every book I read from it, I manage to add 2 more.  At this point, I’m either going to need to move or add on a room sometime in the near future.

Fortunately, I’ve spent a bit of time in waiting areas, on public transportation, and trapped in conference hotels recently – all venues more suited to reading than to writing.  That’s convenient since, in addition to the aforesaid preponderance of unread books, my writer’s brain seems to have short-circuited with all the new information that I acquired in the past month.

So, here’s what I’ve read lately: Continue reading

Jilly: Ten Great Indie Publishing Resources

One of the most interesting changes at this year’s RWA National conference was the increased focus on indie publishing. For me, the timing was excellent.

Four years ago, when I attended my first Nationals, I was only vaguely aware of self-publishing. I fully intended to pursue a traditional publishing career and I found plenty of workshops to help me understand the role of agent and editor, to perfect my pitch, and to polish my query letter.

As I started submitting to agents and entering contests with my dream industry judges, I also began to seek out sources of information to educate myself about the industry I was planning to join. To my amazement I found a freely available treasure trove of solid, actionable information and over the last couple of years I’ve gradually come to believe that independent publishing will be a better match for my personal priorities, timelines and ambitions.

I attended a number of the indie-focused workshops in Orlando, and I was surprised to discover how much I already knew. So instead of recapping my learnings from the conference, I thought perhaps I should share the online resources I find most valuable: Continue reading

Michaeline: Lois McMaster Bujold and Three Questions about Writing “Penric’s Fox”

Exciting August news, all! Lois McMaster Bujold came out with a new Penric novella on August 8, 2017! Hang onto your time-travelling imagination caps: “Penric’s Fox” is actually book three, following “Penric and the Shaman” by about nine months, and before “Penric’s Mission” (NB: as of 2017 08 08. Your mileage and chronometer may vary).

"Penric's Fox" title cover with a castle, a fox and a ghostly young woman in elegant medieval robes.

“Penric’s Fox” follows further adventures of Learned Penric, court sorceror for the princess-archdivine. It’s about 37,400 words, so if you read “Penric’s Demon” and “Penric and the Shaman” as well, you’ll have a good chunk of fantasy to enjoy this weekend! Follow it up with the older Penric in “Penric’s Mission” and “Mira’s Last Dance”. (Image courtesy of Lois McMaster Bujold)

“Whaaa?” Not to worry — all the stories can stand on their own, and who is going to quibble when we have the chance to see Penric in action again?

So, go. Make a liter of  something seasonal and delicious, find your favorite reading pillow, and download the book. When you’re done, come back here and see what Lois has to say about the process of writing things.

EMD: I suppose the first question is why did you write a follow-up to “Penric and the Shaman” (the second Penric novella) and not a follow-up to “Mira’s Last Dance”? I mean, I’m grateful for whatever you’ve got, but it is a question that comes up.

LMB: This was the story that wanted to be written first. I am considering a follow-up to “Mira”, yes, but those ideas were not ripe at the beginning of this year (2017), and then the key idea that this story was awaiting suddenly slotted in, so.

The delay proved to be, as is often the case, good for the other set of ideas as well, as a few more have joined that collection since January that I could not have foreseen. For me, a story in the process of assembling itself is like a box of loose objects rattling around aimlessly, till some connecting idea drops in and things suddenly get interesting. (Note that some of those pieces may also prove to be wrong ones, like two jigsaw puzzles mixed together. Sorting those out can also take some time.) Trust me, stories only look inevitable in retrospect.

Some of the ideas for “Penric’s Fox” had been kicking around ever since I was developing backstory prior to starting what became “Penric’s Mission”, but they weren’t necessarily stories yet. The seven years I jumped over to get to Penric at age 30 were full of experiences that were important to him but not necessarily story-like, though I needed to know roughly what they were before I could write him at that later stage. It was basically the same sort of task as developing any new character’s backstory before starting them off on a tale for the first time, even though the reader will never see most of it.

I should also note that one of the developments in the tale came from watching the family of foxes that denned under my garden shed earlier this year, not something I could have anticipated. There’s nothing like Continue reading

Elizabeth: Friday Writing Sprints – Back to School Edition

I thought I was seeing things when I went shopping the other day and saw the giant back-to-school section.  Didn’t summer just start a week or so ago?  Obviously someone bumped the passage-of-time control to warp speed.   Now I’m afraid to stop at the local big box store – they probably have Halloween costumes and Christmas decorations out already.

Though I may have a fondness for school supplies – crayons are my weakness – I’m in no rush for school to start.  It’s not because I will be going back to school, but because of all the traffic that will be back on the roads, once summer vacations come to an end.  Guess it’s time to set that morning alarm a little earlier.  Or I could just be late for work.  That seems more appealing, although potentially riskier.

I guess I’ll just have to enjoy my (brief) remaining mornings of “not terrible” traffic and find something to distract me from the racing passage of time.  Delving into my work-in-progress sounds like just the thing.  I think I’ll jump-start my creativity with a little Random Word Improv warm-up session.

Care to join me? Continue reading