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

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

Elizabeth: Vulnerable Characters

You remember Achilles, right? He had that “heel” problem.

I read two books this past weekend (it seemed much more appealing than cleaning the garage).  One was a keeper and the other probably not; one had a historical setting and the other was contemporary; but both had something in common:  a realistically vulnerable hero.

First off was Lori Foster’s Under Pressure, book 1 in her Body Armour series.  It was one of the freebies from the recent writing conference and, since I’d read and enjoyed her books before, I figured it would be a relaxing way to spend a Saturday afternoon.

Though I’m pretty sure I’m not the target reader for this particular series, there were a couple of elements that I thought worked really well.  The first was the chemistry between the hero and heroine.  It can be difficult to capture instant (or very quick) attraction between characters, but in brief brushstrokes the author did just that.  The story features a resourceful heroine (Cat), a hunky bodyguard hero (Leese), and a nefarious Bad Guy threat.

As the story opens Continue reading

Elizabeth: Old Book Squee!

As I mentioned previously, I’ve been doing a lot of reading lately, thanks in part to a number of recommendations from Argh Ink’s weekly Good Book Thursday posts.  While my intent was to whittle down my existing TBR pile, that hasn’t quite happened.  It seems like for every book I read, I wind up adding two more to the pile.  On the plus side, I won’t have to paint anytime soon – the walls are pretty much hidden from view – and I’m unlikely to ever run out of reading material.

Most of the books I’ve read this month have been mysteries and ten of them have been by Georgette Heyer.  While Heyer is probably best known for her Regency stories, I had not known until recently that she also wrote mysteries.  Fortunately for me, they are my favorite kind of mysteries:  interesting characters, witty dialogue, and 1940s Britain, all in a cozy / country house style without any of the grit or high-drama of today’s CSI type mysteries.

Really, what more could you ask for? Continue reading

Elizabeth: Painting a Quick Picture

Recently I’ve been reading my way through Georgette Heyer’s mystery stories, which has been detrimental to my daily word-count, but highly enjoyable nonetheless.

Since I have a mystery of my own that I’m currently working on, I’ve been reading mysteries by a variety of authors – Heyer, Marsh, Hammett, Tey –  deconstructing them to see how they were put together, as somewhat of a self-guided “how-to” master course.  Until a few weeks ago, I wasn’t even aware the Heyer had written any mysteries.  Once they were pointed out I had only intended to read one or two, just to understand the method and style she used, but it didn’t take long to get hooked and fill my Amazon shopping cart with additional volumes.

Reading hasn’t been all fun and games, especially for the poor corpses that insist upon turning up in each story.  Along the way I’ve managed to learn Continue reading

Jilly: Georgette Heyer’s Bath

We spent last weekend visiting the beautiful city of Bath. We stayed in a hotel that was once owned by the Duke of Wellington and walked into town to hear a friend’s choir sing in the stunning fifteenth-century Abbey. It seemed as though everywhere I went, I followed in the footsteps of a much-loved Regency romance. Sometimes it was Jane Austen; more often it was Georgette Heyer.

Most of the time it was Black Sheep. It isn’t my all-time favorite Heyer, but I think it has one of the best settings.

By the time of the Regency, Brighton had become the fashionable place to spend the summer and Bath, which had once been the ton’s favorite resort, had become a kind of posh backwater inhabited by invalids and those who couldn’t afford the expense of living in London. Which makes it the perfect choice for Black Sheep. Continue reading

Jilly: Dunbar’s Number for Writers and Readers

How many authors are on your mental auto-buy checklist? How many are on your keeper shelf? And how long have those authors been at the heart of your reading universe?

I’ve been noodling around with these questions for some time—a couple of years, probably—ever since I first read about Dunbar’s Number. If you’re not familiar with the concept, Wikipedia describes it as a suggested cognitive limit to the number of people with whom one can maintain stable social relationships. Or, to put it crudely: there’s a limit to the number of people your brain has space for.

Dunbar’s Number has been around since the 1990s, but I came across it when I started writing fiction with an eye to publication and realized that meant I’d have to get to grips with social media. If you’d like to know more about the idea in the context of online relationships, click here for a Youtube link to anthropologist Robin Dunbar’s 15-minute Tedx talk: Can The Internet Buy You More Friends?

If you’d prefer the short version, it goes something like this: we humans maintain social relationships at various levels of intimacy, and the number of people we have the capacity to manage at each level is more or less predictable.

  • We have a very inner core of intimate friends and relations, people we would turn to in times of deep emotional stress. Typically there are about five of them.
  • We have a group of best friends, people we know well, confide in, trust, spend time with. That group would likely be about fifteen people, including the inner five.
  • The next closest layer, good friends, would be about fifty people (including the first fifteen);

Continue reading