Saturday, October 3, 2015

Flash Jab!

Apologies to those who only read this blog to find out what else I don't know, but another story of mine is up today, this time over at Jack Bates' Flash Jab Fiction. Jack was a fellow plotter in Untreed Reads Grimm Tales with me a few years ago, and so obviously is a crime fiction writer in his own right, but periodically is gracious enough to issue a challenge over on his blog. I do like challenges with prompts, and I particularly like his photo challenges as they are more open ended than some.

Another fun thing is that this time there are two respondents and we are both from Santa Cruz! What are the odds? I don't believe I've had the pleasure of meeting Morgan Boyd, but I do think I know which roller coaster gave him the idea for the background sound in his opening paragraph, as it was a background sound in my own life for several years.

Without further ado, check out his story "Enology (The Study of Wine)" and mine, "Black and White and Red All Over" at Flash Jab Fiction.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

A story

I wrote up a little story for a challenge by Brian Lindenmuth over at Do Some Damage a while ago. The idea was to use a bunch of famous titles to construct a story from. The challenge seems to have gone a bit on hiatus, though I will update this if things change, but I found it a fun challenge, and posted something on my story related blog. You can find it HERE. If you click on the author name at the bottom you will find a link to the titles I used.

I'm not claiming it's great literature, but it was fun to work out, and it may be fun for you to see where the titles fit in.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015


I'm kind of borrowing this word from Bookwitch's post, if not outright stealing. Haven't read Bookwitch, even though I have her blog right there in the blog roll? You should check her out sometime. You don't have to be a fan of children's literature or crime fiction to enjoy her original mind. If she didn't state it boldly, you would never know that she was Swedish, living in England for many years and now Scotland. She is a much better writer in English than she thinks she is, or than most of us native speakers actually are.

In her latest blog post, she admitted feeling a bit perplexed about the precise meaning of "perpendicular". She knew vaguely, but vaguely wasn't good enough when it came to giving directions at a crucial moment. She straightened it out in time, realizing that it meant "at right angles", but a regular commenter there said that she had always understood it to mean "vertical". As in candles on a cake. Both vertical and perpendicular do make sense in that context.

Anyway, I decided to get a little deeper into this. It turns out that the commenter who had assumed verticality has a reason for thinking that. According to the Online Etymology Dictionary. "Perpendicular" comes to us via Old French (perpendiculer) from the Latin perpendicularis--"vertical, as a plumb line". This in turn came from the word perpendiculum, which means "a plumb line". Think about it. What is more perpendicular to the ground than a plumb line? 

The verb that perpendiculum comes from is perpendere, which means "to balance carefully". "Per-" is thoroughly, pendere means "to weigh or to hang".

"Weigh" keeps coming up. We'll get to it. 


Saturday, September 19, 2015

under way

This was another thing that came up through my book group's recent reading of Two Years Before the Mast by Richard Henry Dana Jr.. I wasn't the only member who was intrigued to see Dana write "under way" (or "underway") as "'under weigh". It sounded right. It sounded nautical. "Anchors aweigh!" and all that. So I decided to look a little further into it.

Great Tea Race of 1866

But it turns out that Dana had this wrong. The original expression actually is "under way". As World Wide Words tells it, the phrase begins in the Dutch onderweg, meaning 'on the way' and becomes 'under way' in English around 1740. It's specifically a nautical term and doesn't take on other non-nautical meanings till the next century. Wikipedia tells us that to be under way has a very specific definition when it comes to seafaring. The "way" in the phrase means that a vessel has enough water flowing past its rudder that it is possible to steer it. There can be legal ramifications to whether or not a vessel is under way. Things like whether a child does or does not need to be wearing a flotation devise. (I say, when they get on the boat, but that is not the legal reasoning.) A ship is under way if it is not  aground, at anchor, or made fast to a stationary object like a dock. The article also says that it is not underway if it is adrift, but this is a bit confusing, because in the next sentence it says it is under way, as opposed to "making way" if it is drifting, which basically means not being steered by anyone.

So if you happen to be drifting, put the life-jacket on. Just in case.

SMS Konig

Very soon after "under way" began to be used, the nautical term "weigh", as in "Anchors aweigh!", confused the spelling. You will find many famous and needless to say reputable writers using "under weigh", including Dickens, Thackeray, Herman Melville, and of course, Richard Henry Dana, Jr. For a while, it had become almost the standardized way of spelling the term. The well-educated, then, were perhaps more prone to make the error. (I noticed Dana also wrote "taut" as "taught" when talking about the ship's ropes, so maybe there was more of a stylistic preference for that added "gh" than there would be now.)

The German Frigate Augsburg and others, 1982

But a funny thing happened. Somewhere around the 1930s, "under way" started being fused into "underway", and the "under weigh" variant began to drop off. World Wide Words posits that it was under the influence of other words with -way endings, and especially "anyway". I always like it when words drift, but its especially interesting to see one drift back, whether it is technically under way while in this drift or not.

"Boat Adrift" by Charles Napier Hemy

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Dear Lucky Agent contest 2015

Sorry to post this at the last minute, but in order to enter a contest, I have to mention the Dear Lucky Agent contest in a couple of social media places. I'm not on Facebook or Twitter, so lucky you, I'm mentioning it here. I am not intentionally doing it late in order to give you less of a chance, I'm doing it late because I'm a procrastinator. And didn't know today was the day. Not great excuses, but real ones.
Anyway. If you have a completed mystery, suspense or thriller novel, you can submit the first 150-250
words for a chance at a critique of your first ten pages, a subscription to Writer's Market for a year, and a book, How to Get a Literary Agent. And, you never know--the agent might like your book. It happens.

Get going because you only have till midnight Pacific Standard Time. And good luck. Here's the link.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

a carp by any other name...

I heard about some carp or other on the Rachel Maddow Show. It seems such a strange word and I wondered about its origins. Here is what I discovered, thanks to the Online Etymology Dictionary.

The word entered English in the late fourteenth century from the Old French carpe.

 That came directly from Vulgar Latin carpa--which led to the Italian carpa and the Spanish, uh, carpa.

It all seems to go back to the German, as the carp is originally from the Danube. The Online Etymology Dictionary speculates that the German source may be *karpa, because of the Middle Dutch carpe, the Dutch karper, the old High German karpfo and the german karpfen.

Lithuania borrowed the word, hence karpis. So did Russia, breaking boundaries by calling it karp.

So a carp, in a lot of other languages, is still basically a carp.

Except occasionally, when it's a goldfish.

Friday, September 11, 2015

Lesson Learned

Remember a few posts back when I used this blog to talk about a story contest over at the Criminal Element's The M.O.? Well, now I'm at it again. The theme this time around was "Lesson learned". I submitted a story but it didn't make the short list. C'est la vie. The good news, though, is that I happened to mention the contest to an old friend of mine who ended up submitting this time--and made the short list!

As usual you should vote for the one you want to read. But I will say that I have had a chance to read A.M. Thurmond's story "Night Watchman" in its entirety and, well, it's really good. Check them all out HERE. Midnight September 23rd is your deadline for voting. (I don't know what time zone they're in, so err on the side of caution.)