What’s Your Style?

Cool-Writing-Styles

Have you ever thought about the way you write? We’re not talking about subject matter here. That’s another thing entirely. I’m talking about your writing style. Developing your own doesn’t happen over night, It takes years to perfect. At the beginning you may unconsciously write in a similar fashion to one or more of your literary heroes. But gradually you will find that the way you write has become unique to yourself.

I am reading the second in a science fiction trilogy by a friend, Nicholas C Rossis. Having read the first book I was struck by how much his writing style reminded me of the way Isaac Asimov, best known for his Foundation Series, wrote back in the day. I’m not insulting Nicholas, merely pointing out an example of how we are all influenced, consciously or otherwise, by the way others write.

The other day while perusing Facebook, I came across one of those idiotic “Who Are You Most Like” things. This particular one concerned well known writers. All you had to do was insert a passage from something you had written. I chose a paragraph from one of my blog posts instead of one of my books. Instantly it compared my writing style to the horror writer H.P. Lovecraft! I wasn’t sure whether to feel insulted or flattered. Thinking about it I’m plumping for the former. After all, I’ve never written anything that could be classed as horror. Although certain among the Internet Troll community may think otherwise.

I dread to think what the idiotic comparison thing would have said if I’d supplied it with a sample from my latest novella. One thing is certain, it wouldn’t have compared me to Hans Christian Anderson, or Dr Seuss.

The brothers Grimm, maybe…

***

PSDon’t forget that you can download a free Kindle copy of Cataclysm from your nearest Amazon outlet from today until Friday.

😉

Progress Report 13

mu-kitasi

It might be here

Well folks, yet another progress report for you. I’ve been up since 4.30 am just to finish the revamped Chapter Eight, having axed the original after merging the two preceeding chapters into one, which gave me the opportunity to steer that part of the story in a more logical direction. The word count now stands at 21,858 and almost forty-two A4 pages.

I changed my mind, yet again, about the cover. I’m betting that despite what he said to me yesterday, the Story Reading Ape is quietly cursing me about it. Still, because of the troublesome new OS software on his Mac, at least he hadn’t got as far as beginning to work on what I had originally asked of him, or so he says.

Believe it or not, but I’ve been having fun developing Briggs’ love affair. Normally I steer well clear of the depths I have entered into with the subject, preferring to simply suggest any romantic involvements, leaving it up to the reader’s imagination to fill in the gaps. But, as this highly controversial love affair is an integral part of the plot it needs to be spelt out, but only by writing it as tastefully as is humanly possible.

Since doing the major edit of the first seven chapters, I became aware of something I’d normally not pick up on until the final edit – inconsistency. For instance, you can’t have a character enter stage left in one paragraph, only to say later in another that he entered stage right when reminding the reader about his entrance, now can you.

Well that’s about it for now, except that I’ve a feeling that it will end up as a novella by the way its going.

PS – still confused by the pictures I put up for each progress report? Good, that’s precisely my aim, to get you curious enough to want to buy yourselves a copy when I publish it. They may be relevent to the story, or they may just be nothing more than red herrings. You’ll have to wait and see won’t you.

I’m exhausted, so I’m taking tomorrow (Sunday) off. Chapter nine will begin on Monday morning.

More later.

😀 😀

Progress Report 8

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It might even be located here…

Well, I’ve just finished outlining Chapter Six. Things are beginning to get complicated, or should that read –  the plot is taking on a life of its own dictating what will happen next? I’ve just inserted yet another Red Herring. I had no choice, the plot demanded it, so there! That’s the fifth one to date – I think. You’ll have to take my word for it for now. The word count now stands at 11,232.

I have to admit it, I’m really having fun. Thinking about it, I’m in totally new territory in that I have temporarily departed from the way I’ve written up to now. This book is completely different from my normal practice of writing books that I personally want to read. But then again, even though that is the case, it is intriguing enough to hold my interest. That may sound a bit screwy as I’m its author. But my fellow writers out there will understand (I hope).

Sticking with one writing formula doesn’t necessarily compute. There is a tendency for you’re writing to become stale. Let’s face it, as writers we’ve all felt like we were producing fomulaic stuff from time to time haven’t we? With six mostly successful books under my belt, it’s time to experiment. What have I got to lose with number seven? Nothing. Either it appeals, or it doesn’t. The point is, I’m thoroughly enjoying writing it.

I chatted with Chris, aka The Story Reading Ape yesterday. As you may know he is a dab hand at making book covers for a reasonable cost that won’t break my bank balance. I sent him an email spelling out what I was looking for this time. I can’t wait to see what he comes up with.

At the moment I have three, no make that four, chief characters. Besides the main character Dr Gilbert Briggs, who is English, two are New Zealanders like myself. In fact they’re based on two friends I worked alongside during my days at The University of Waikato in Hamilton, New Zealand. I use pure ‘kiwi’ when either of them speak. The fourth is a ‘god’, or is he? You’ll have to wait and see. I’m about to introduce two more characters in the next couple of chapters, not necessarily human.

In the past I’ve published ‘snippets’ of one or two of my books here on my blog. Sorry folks, with this one, the more you are curious about it, the better. How will it be received? Well, that’s in the lap of the gods, if you’ll pardon the pun. Earlier in a previous ‘Progress’ post I said that it has a certain science fiction element about it. While that’s true, think of various myths and legends from the past concerning gods. Some of them are involved. No, I’m not telling you which ones.

😀

PS  – I’m taking a well deserved rest until Monday morning. Meanwhile I’ll continue cogitating over whether it will be an eBook, or a Paperback, or both…

A Writer’s Secret Desire

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As writers we all write for the love of words and telling tales. We all say that we don’t really care if no one else likes what we write.

Really?

Yes I love writing with a passion. Yes, writing is everything to me. Yes, I enjoy the feedback I get from those of you who have read any of my books, whether it is good, bad or indifferent. At least the vast majority of you took the time to see what makes me tick as a writer.

Like most writers I know, I do not include any of the following in that last statement – Trolls, Pedants and Armchair Critics. Each of those groups are nothing more than self-important fools who believe that they know more about words than the average writer does. A lot of what they say when they attack any writer, in particular Indies, is down to professional jealousy, and envy of your modest measure of success, when you consider that in some cases, they are writers themselves.

As writers, be honest. Wouldn’t you just love to have at least one book that made people sit up and take notice of your endeavours? I know I would. With each book I write (at the time of writing this, I’m busy with my seventh), I like to kid myself that this one will become a best seller. I thought that when I wrote my fantasy anthology back in 2012.

Despite critical acclaim it wasn’t.

So with this latest one well and truly on the way (the word count now stands at nine thousand and I’ve almost finished outlining Chapter Five – almost), here’s hoping that it finally breaks through the invisible barrier that all books struggle to navigate their way through. I’m not asking for much. Just to be able to say that one book of mine was a best seller.

Is that asking too much? I honestly don’t know.

One thing I do know, the book I’m currently writing will create controversy, maybe even anger towards me among certain elements within society. Do I care? Do I hell as like. If I make you think when you read it, then I have done my job.

😀

Progress Report 6

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The story might be located here

Well, chapter one is done and dusted until I reach the end and begin the inevitable rewrite. I started writing chapter two a couple of days back. Trying to tell you the reader a story without giving too much away isn’t easy. I’m applying the ‘Red Herring’ approach a lot this time. After all, we can’t have you thinking “I’ve cracked it!” within the first few chapters now can we.

What I will say is that at the moment, the story involves Dr Gilbert Briggs and a geologist travelling back in time to several key locations, in his quest to discover if the subject of endless debate down the centuries actually existed. So what is it I hear you cry? That’s for me to know and for you through Gilbert’s eyes, to find out. As for its location, that’s if you think you might know…

One other thing I can tell you is that the story quite possibly involves ‘ancient gods’, race memory and ancient cataclysms across the world. I’ve changed the working title once more. This time just one word –  Cataclysm. For now it suites my thinking.

This time round I’m only writing a couple of hundred words each day before going back through them to ensure you don’t become convinced you know what’s going to happen next. As for character conversations, first of all I just write what I want them to say before changing the words so that even when they are having a conversation, your still left guessing. Then I stop for a few hours to think things through, usually by playing my favourite video game Mass Effect 3. Doing something completely different to take my mind of things helps enormously.

More later.

PS Even writing this post, I’ve had to rewrite it several times for the reasons stated above. Devious or what?

😉

Progress Report 2

progress

For my faithful followers and any curious newcomers to my blog, here is the second progress report on my new historical adventure eBook.

While I’ve fought hard over the last couple of days to stop yawning and stay awake while reading the Roman historian Tacitus’ long winded, often matter of fact and dismissive account of Boudica’s revolt (the subject of the fifth chapter in my novel) during the time period 60 – 61AD, which he wrote thirty years after the event; among other things I have narrowed down the choice to one of three momentous events Briggs’ field observer will travel back to. Which one it will be is for me to know and for you to wonder about until the eBook is published. So don’t ask me – OK? After all we writers have to have some secrets you know.  😉

As for Tacitus, he would fit in well with a lot of today’s equally long winded, biased historians. Thank god for encyclopedias and online sources like Wikipedia. At least they just offer facts and not personal opinions. Bearing in mind that what is claimed as fact in Wikipedia is often doubtful, never the less it is still a useful general source for dates, names and places.

I have also decided that Briggs needs to send a female this time, as his existing observers are all male. With each of my characters I like to get to know them first, before they enter the story. Some will live. Some will die. It all depends on the circumstances of the scenario they are involved in. In this particular case I chose a very capable woman – Sienna Baxter.

Here are her characteristics: She is tall, fair skinned with red hair and a fiery temper. Her voice is harsh, loud, almost grating – hardly soft and feminine. She is powerfully built and utterly fearless given the fact that she played at the position of lock in a women’s rugby scrum while at university. She is fluent in ancient Celtic, and wrote a dissertation on the Trinovantes’ involvement in Boudica’s revolt against the occupying forces of the Roman Empire.

One thing is certain, she is not the archetypal twenty-first century ideal of a slender, gentle, feminine woman the advertising world promotes. Far from it in fact. This is a woman not to be messed with! She should fit nicely into the ranks of Boudica’s immediate bodyguard.

More later, but only if your patient…

😀

Enter Gerald the Egg

Here for your further delectation is another of Glob’s tales, this time concerning Bejuss and his attempt at parenthood…

In which Globular Van der Graff, (Glob), Makepeace Terranova (Make), Byzantine Du Lac (Byz), Eponymous Tringthicky (Mous), curmudgeonly old Neopol Stranglethigh (Neo), and especially Bejuss, the one eyed lisping raven with the twisted beak, discover that the path of parenthood is a decidedly rocky one.

***

It had been a whole moon since the goblin brothers returned home after their abortive attempt to rescue Yathle’s cousin Ariadne, when her insatiable curiosity tragically ended her life.

Both Glob and Neo had taken simpleminded Byz to one side and told him that under no circumstances was he ever to play the beautifully haunting tune which unlocked the barrier between the world and the one beneath ever again, no matter how tempted he may be.

While they were all helping Yathle, Bejuss had flown off in search of a mate in the southern woods, desperately wanting a son of his very own. He would soon come to regret his decision in more ways than one.

***

“Rarrk – wake up yer lazy good for nothin slovenly apology for a raven, jus look at the state on yer!”

Bejuss opened his one bleary eye and peered across the nest to where his mate tapped one foot, glaring angrily at him. He was about to be subjected to yet another headache inducing outburst by the poisonous harpy who had made his life a total misery. For a brief moment he wondered where the beautiful young raven he had wooed three weeks earlier had gone. Surely this couldn’t be her could it?

“Oh the shame on it; me mother warned me bout the likes on yer. Why I took yer on as me mate I’s will never know; yer disgust me! I mus have been out on me mind. Yer are hardly the catch on the year are yer? Just look at the state on yer smelly feathers – euww! By the holy egg on the great raven, smarten yerself up at once; yer is a disgrace ter our kind. As for this shambles yer call our nest. It has so many holes in it, it’s a wonder I’s haven’t fallen through one by now. Repair it at once d’yer hear me, yer flee ridden bag on bones. Why I’s has put up wiv yer I’s really don’t know. Yer’ve brought me nothin but shame n torment. I’s cannot hold me head up in polite raven society thanks ter yer!”

“Pity yer didn’t fall through one on them yer old nag,” Bejuss muttered under his breath as his headache grew in intensity, before he replied to her latest tirade. “Yeth dearetht, me’ll make repairth immediately dearetht. Anything elthe dearetht?” he added sarcastically, wishing he were dead.

“Mind yer sit on yer future halfwit’s egg, I’s most certainly have no intenshun on doing so. When it is hatched I’s shall deny all knowledge on it, do yer hear me! If yer must insist on bringing it inter the world, then yer will hatch it on yer own. On secon thoughts, I’s is leavin yer n goin home ter mother ter get over the shame – rarrk!”

After she had flown away in high dudgeon to her mother, Bejuss breathed a sigh of relief as he reflected on how his circumstances had taken such a nightmarish turn for the worse.

***

The day he had set off from the home he shared with the five goblin brothers, he was in the highest of spirits. Spring was in the air and the mating urge coursed through his old veins.

As he flew from one raven colony to the next in search of a mate, the raucous laughter and derision heaped upon him by the available females when they set eyes on him hurt him deeply. Far from seeing a battle scarred heroic raven, all they saw was a tattered, deformed apology for one. When he tried to woo them with one of his love poems, they all laughed at his lisping speech and his twisted beak, cruelly mocking him behind his back.

And then at the very last colony on the western edge of the wood, one stunning young raven touched his heart with her gentleness and beauty. Her name was Eunice. Unlike the rest she liked his poetry and his company, forgiving his speech impediment, his tattered feathers, deformed beak and one eye. She even laughed at his jokes. As an impressionable young female caught up in the fever of the mating season, for her it was true love. Bejuss would be her first mate. In her mind she saw him as a worldly-wise raven; a raven’s raven if you like. Certainly an adventurous, battle scarred and brave raven.

Over the next two weeks, Bejuss told her of his life and adventures with Glob and his brothers while they gathered twigs together for their nest. She often feigned a fainting fit, falling against him and sighing while fluttering her eyelashes at this tough, yet kind example of the noble order of ravens.

Then came the day their idyllic relationship quickly soured when she found herself with egg. From that moment on, nothing old Bejuss did or said was good enough anymore for young Eunice.

As her time drew near she grew more demanding, insufferable and vindictive towards him. The day finally came when after an hour of absolute agony she finally laid their egg. Bejuss was over the moon with joy. Eunice definitely was not. As far as she was concerned in her post egg laying state of mind, she had been violated. Worse, to her mind she had been taken advantage of by a despicable old flea bitten scoundrel.

During the agonising hour the egg took to appear, she shifted herself painfully around in the nest desperately trying get comfortable as she strained and bitterly complained. Twice she almost fell through the gaping holes in the nest Bejuss had built for her. It wasn’t his fault that the nest was imperfect. After all, as he said later to his friend Glob, “yer try buildin a perfect netht wiv one eye n a twithted beak!”

***

Bejuss felt the faintest movement in the egg beneath him. He shifted his weight and fluffed his feathers to keep it warm. “It’th time we woth headin home Gerald lad,” he said to his egg. Carefully he stood up, stretched himself and then gently picked up the precious egg in his beak and flew back home to Glob.

Two days after the pair had arrived home the excitement of the imminent hatching gripped all who lived in the goblin brother’s household. None of them had ever been surrogate uncles for a birdy hatchling before.

Glob had made a cosy nest box lined with dry sphagnum moss and hung it on the wall above his bed, with a perch on the outside for Bejuss to take a break from egg sitting. By the time the chick finally emerged, like Bejuss, they would all live to regret the fact that he hadn’t simply dropped it on the way home.

***

After breakfast on that second day, Neo peered in through the hole in the nest box at Bejuss before he went on his daily visit to Miranda the mare and her new foal. “I’s wos jus wonderin why yer calls yer egg Gerald. Wot if it aint got a boy birdy in it, wot if it’s got a girl one instead?”

Bejuss looked back out at the goblin brothers from inside the snug nest box as they gathered around Neo, all wondering the same thing. “Rarrk – courth it’ll be a boy birdy, wot elthe wud it be? Me hungry, can me have a pickled worm pleath? Me got cravinth yer know, after all me pregnant n …”

Gerald the egg began violently shaking beneath the old raven, cutting its loving parent off in midsentence.

Bejuss endured several more hours of being bounced around inside the nest box, banging his head several times on the box’s oak bark roof, giving him a pounding headache into the bargain. In the end he could stand no more. He emerged bruised and battered to take a much needed rest on Glob’s shoulder by the window, where the old goblin fed him all manner of juicy worms, slugs and snails, especially pickled for him in mead, while Byz kept a close eye on Gerald. Eventually the simpleminded goblin younger got bored and nodded off.

***

Inside the nest box the faintest sounds of eggshell cracking began. Gerald bounced and rolled around and around. First one leg appeared through a hole in its shell, followed shortly by a second. Gerald stood up, dazed and disoriented. If Byz had been awake, he would have seen it charge across the inside of the nest box and head-butt the box’s wooden sides in its attempt to free itself from the rest of the eggshell.

Make sat outside their door warming himself in the sun, smoking his bestest briar pipe with Mous happily dozing beside him. Neo was inside the stable feeding the new born foal, grooming its mane through his long bony fingers, lovingly watched over by Miranda. Glob and Bejuss were gazing at the wooded world outside their home through heavy, sleep deprived eyes. Eventually the sun’s warmth sent them both to sleep.

Gerald felt around with its feet and found the opening to the nest box, hopped up and fell out onto the floor, after bouncing off Byz’ head.

***

“Rarrk – hath anyone theen Gerald, where’th me egg gone?” Bejuss screeched at the top of his voice, after he had flown back to the nest box to resume sitting. “Me egg hath run away from home! Gerald, Gerald, where are yer lad, it’th me yer daddy, pleathe come home.”

Bejuss’ anxious cries woke everyone up from their nap in the sunshine. Glob instantly organised a complete search of their home, after scolding Byz for failing in his duty. The simpleminded soul immediately burst into tears and hid under his bed furiously sucking his thumbs.

“Gerald where ith yer lad, come home, pleathe come home. Daddy won’t be angry, me promithe – rarrk,” the old bird sadly cried out as a tear welled up in his one eye.

***

Gerald had struggled to stay upright as it staggered around on the ground below the goblin brother’s home. Even when it had fallen off the oak’s great bough outside the door, the remainder of its tough shell still held firm. Several times Gerald had deliberately walked straight into a rock, trying to smash itself. It even rolled down a small slope hoping to break open at long last. Then it felt itself being picked up and turned over with its legs in the air, making it dizzy.

“Look mummy I’ve found a birdy egg,” Ylesse happily announced, as she ran inside to show her latest find to her mother, Agnitha. Between them they carefully cracked the rest of the eggshell and at last the chick inside was free.

“Rarrk!” the chick said indignantly, stamping one tiny foot and glaring angrily at them.

At that moment Glob appeared at Agnitha and Mica’s door out of breath, and politely knocked. “Mornins Agnitha, mornins Ylesse. Has either on yer seen an egg? Bejuss has lost his n he’s worried sick.”

They both stood to one side revealing the minute angry raven chick standing amid the broken eggshell fragments on Agnitha’s table. “Here she is Glob. You had better take her home to her father,” Agnitha smiled, gently handing the chick over, “she desperately needs feeding.”

Glob chuckled to himself as he carefully carried the irate raven chick home. “I’s can’t waits ter sees the look on yer old dad’s face when he finds out he’s gots hisself a girl birdy n not a boy. Gerald indeed; more likes Geraldine I’s thinks eh lass?” Geraldine failed to see the joke and pecked one of Glob’s thumbs.

When he walked through the door with Geraldine now angrily sitting on his shoulder furiously pecking his earlobe and glaring at everything in sight, Bejuss’ face briefly lit up. But his happiness and relief was short lived. “Ylesse found her n gots her out on her egg,” Glob announced, barely able to suppress his laughter despite the pain from his bleeding ear.

“Yer mean me got a girl birdy chick?” Bejuss spluttered as his face fell. “Oh no, it can’t be,” he said looking in disbelief at his daughter. Geraldine was the spitting image of her mother, despite the fact that her feathers had not yet appeared. There was that same baleful look in her eyes; the same indignant cock of the head. Even when she impatiently tapped her tiny foot, Bejuss saw a miniature Eunice glaring back at him.

“Fraid so old friend, meets yer daughter Geraldine,” Glob replied, with tears of laughter in his eyes, as he carefully set her down beside her shocked father on the back of his chair.

Geraldine instantly pecked her father hard on his feet, legs and wings. When he lowered his old head to peer closely at her, she furiously pecked it, raising painful lumps and rattling his brain, demanding to be fed.

Over the next several days, he worked tirelessly bringing his angry young daughter food. At one point, he seriously contemplated committing chickicide. All he had to do was decapitate this miniature angry incarnation of Eunice with his razor sharp twisted beak, and his nightmare would end.

But his inbuilt instincts insisted he did his fatherly duty. By the time she was fully fledged, she had grown into a full size carbon copy of her mother in every way possible. While she would undeniably turn a young male raven’s head with her good looks in the future, like her mother, once she had accepted him she would make his life hell on wings.

***

At long last the day finally arrived when Geraldine flew the nest, much to the relief of Bejuss and the five severely pecked goblin brothers. Being constantly harangued by Eunice was bad enough, but for Bejuss to endure it for a second time from a pint sized version of her, was truly unbearable. “Good riddance yer hellion. Me hope all yer featherth fall out, it’ll therve yer right!” he muttered to himself while watching Geraldine climb into the air without a backward glance, on her first solo journey into the world.

Everyone inside the oak tree heaved a collective sigh of relief. Glob gave Neo a knowing wink. “Cheers up Bejuss lad, it cuds have beens worse,” he said nudging Neo to join in on his little joke.

“Worthe, how cud it be worthe?” the old bird grumpily replied while preening his tattered feathers.

“Simple lad,” Neo replied, with a mischievous look in his crossed eyes, “yer egg Gerald, might have been a double yoker. Jus think on it for a moment. Instead on one Geraldine, yer cud have hads two on them ter plague yer for the rest on yer days. Three, if yer include yer mate Eunice.”

Bejuss hung his head wincing at the nightmarish notion. Neo winked at Glob as he quickly left to see Miranda and her foal.

Glob sat looking out the window for a long time with a grin on his old face. Make and Mous took Byz outside onto the bough to stop his constant giggling. Even he got the joke. For a few moments they left poor old Bejuss alone in the rafters with his thoughts. He had had a lucky escape after his brief encounter with domestic bliss. “Never agin, never ever agin,” he muttered to himself, shaking his old head and feeling decidedly sick in the pit of his stomach.

Glob turned and looked up at his feathered friend. He couldn’t resist one last good natured dig at the old bird’s expense. “Of course she cuds jus comes back yer knows Bejuss lad. She’s probably gone ter fetch her mother. Wants me ter make yer nest box big enuff fer three? It’s no truble honest, I’s only thinkin on yer family n their happiness yer knows.”

Bejuss cursed and glared angrily at the silly grin spreading across Glob’s face. “Rarrk, juth thhuddup n leave me be can’t yer!” he lisped angrily.

Glob joined his brothers outside in the sunshine where they all roared with uncontrollable laughter. The day Gerald the egg had entered their lives would be the subject of much hilarity for many evenings to come.

***

Want to read more? Simply click on the cover picture at the top of this post to take you to Glob’s Tales at Amazon.com

If you don’t know, look it up

2014

Michael Jecks

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Wilbur Smith

I don’t know about you, but when I’m reading a book, when I come across a word I am unsure of I look it up.

There are two writers of historical fiction who I admire immensly. One of them is Michael Jecks whose novels are based during the thirteenth century who was recently accused of using the word posse in one of his novels. The fact that the word comes from medieval times did not register with the complainer. She would have saved herself a lot of embarrassment if she had bothered to look it up beforehand.

Here is the word as per the OED:

posse / p si/ n. 1 US HISTORICAL a body of men summoned by a sheriff to enforce the law. – (also posse comitatus / k m te təs/) BRITISH HISTORICAL the body of men above the age of fifteen in a county (excluding peers, the clergy, or the infirm), whom the sheriff could summon to repress a riot or for other purposes. [<ORIGIN> comitatus from medieval Latin, ‘of the county’.] 

2 INFORMAL a group of people who have a common characteristic or occupation: tea was handed round by a posse of mothers. – a group of young people who socialize together, especially to go to clubs or raves. <ORIGIN> mid 17th century: from medieval Latin, literally ‘power’, from Latin posse ‘be able’.

Stevenson, Angus (2010-07-23). Oxford Dictionary of English (Kindle Locations 308467-308475). Oxford University Press – A. Kindle Edition.

***

The other writer is Rhodesian born South African writer Wilbur Smith. Like Michael’s books I love Smith’s writing style and his stories. But unlike Jecks, Smith deems it necessary to write using modern parlance along with adding little used words in his stories. Take his work River God which I am currently re-reading as part of my own research for my next adventure novel as an example.  It is one of four books about a brilliant character named Taita, who is the story teller and a eunuch in the court of the Egyptian Pharoah. Thanks to Smith’s genius for inventive scenarios, Taita get himself into all sorts of scrapes.

Smith clearly demonstrates the quality of his research into ancient Egypt that he undertakes each time before he begins to write his books. But he will insist on putting words into Taita’s mouth that were not in common use during the time of the pharoahs, such as propitious, inadequacy, poignant, gall, etc. While I fully understand that he must write using modern day parlance, there are limits.

Then there are those little used words that he is so fond of inserting like incarnadine and sussuration. Even celebrated writers like Smith make mistakes, In the book he spells incarnadine thus – incamadined. Sorry Wilbur, there is no such word in the Oxford English Dictionary, or any other come to that. Even your editor missed that spelling mistake.

If anyone is wondering what it and sussuration means, here is the OED definition:

incarnadine LITERARY n. [mass noun] a bright crimson or pinkish-red colour. v. [with obj.] colour (something) a bright crimson or pinkish-red. late 16th century: from French incarnadin(e), from Italian incarnadino, variant of incarnatino ‘flesh colour’, based on Latin incarnare (see INCARNATE).

Oxford Dictionaries (2010-10-19). Oxford Dictionary of English, 2nd Edition (Kindle Locations 347849-347863). Oxford University Press – A. Kindle Edition.

***

susurration / s(j)u s re (ə)n/ (also susurrus /s(j)u s rəs/) n. [mass noun] LITERARY whispering or rustling: the susurration of the river. <ORIGIN> late Middle English: from late Latin susurratio(n-), from Latin susurrare ‘to murmur, hum’.

Stevenson, Angus (2010-07-23). Oxford Dictionary of English (Kindle Locations 393837-393845). Oxford University Press – A. Kindle Edition.

 

Am I being a tad pedantic here? Not at all. Before I started writing seriously nineteen years ago (1995), when I came to a word I had never come across before in any book, I would simply move on.

Not these days. Instead I look upon the excercise of looking up a word as part of the writer’s learning curve…

 

Writing a book?

Liz-S-Writing-Workshop-101Over the past couple of months on several Internet sites for writers, I’ve read many questions and queries plus suggestions and comments regarding the use of correct grammar and speech.

The academically minded among us, plus the vast majority of editors still cling desperately to the fervent belief that a book sans correct grammar will inevitably never make it. While that may be true for books of a historical, biographical or academic nature  – for example, text books, when it comes to fiction the real key is whether or not the writer can actually tell a story, not if he or she adheres to the accepted rules of English.

When your characters speak, by insisting that they speak correctly you will do yourself no favours. In fact these days it almost guarantees that your book will be lucky to sell more than a dozen copies. In essence, the story and the way your characters converse in common parlance is the key, not the use of perfect English as rigidly laid down by close-minded professors within the English departments of universities worldwide, or even the majority of editors come to that.

Not surprisingly, a lot of the comments in favour of correct grammar are contributed by people from countries whose native language is not English. It’s not their fault. They are merely echoing what they were taught by their teachers.

Think about today’s best selling writers. Do they stick rigidly to the rules of grammar? Most don’t. Gone are the days when the likes of Emile Bronte, Charles Dickens, Edgar Allan Poe etal wrote to entertain the educated elite minority. And yet they are still held up as the ideal in literature. Why?

Today’s writers must write for the majority. In fact you must know your target readers better than they do themselves. I write specifically for the US market for two reasons.

1. The greater majority are brought up on soap opera and film, not so-called classic literature.

2. Because they are more switched on than any other people, I also only publish my books in Kindle form.

Trust me when I tell you that they are my readers, not my own countrymen (the English) and academics. They will be yours as well if you are brave enough to break away from the so-called rules.

Writing this article is one example of using correct English. But if I had written my books in the same way, I would not now be enjoying my regular monthly royalty income from them.

If you feel strongly one way or another about the subject of correct English and grammar, don’t just read this article and tut-tut under your breath. I don’t bite. Be brave. Write your comments below.