Some changes from today. Still offering help for writers and language learners, but adding some variety to the topics covered. This series of posts will remain a resource for word lovers but will expand its scope.
So, to this week’s words: Ambiguous
Ambiguous – Roget lists these headers: unconformable, double, countervailing, uncertain, semantic, puzzling, equivocal, false, and unclear. Under the sub-heading ‘equivocal’ are a further 18 alternatives including ambivalent, double, two-edged, prevaricating, vague, evasive, and anagrammatic.
Let’s look at usage for ambiguous:
‘We wondered whether the wording of the statement was accidentally ambiguous or simply a way of obscuring the speaker’s true meaning.’
‘Joe thought Janet’s dress sent an ambiguous message; the short length inviting his attention but the high neckline suggesting a wish to be concealed.’
‘Janet considered Joe’s concentration on her legs ambiguous; was he admiring her shapely pins or was lust uppermost?’
Redundancies are words that serve no semantic purpose. In speech, they act as spacers, giving the speaker time to think. But in writing, except when representing natural conversation, they impede the reader’s progress.
This week’s example: ‘actually’
‘Actually, I don’t need to use “actually” to express the meaning of this sentence.’
‘Jason actually walked all the way home.’
‘Jennifer was actually sick of being treated like a fool.’
Figure of speech:
Anadiplosis; beginning a sentence or clause with the last, or any other significant, word from the preceding sentence or clause.
‘Off you go to school. School is where you will learn most.’
‘Rose slipped the gown over her skin, skin so soft and pale.’
The MS is complete. I even have a title, agreed after consultations with my publisher, Fantastic Books Publishing. Of which, more later in this post.
Because, in publishing terms, the book has a short lead in time (we want to launch at Fantasticon in Hull; a fantasy/gaming/scifi convention that takes place on 2nd and 3rd September), we need to get on with it. So, the editors have been sending me the typos and stylistic/grammatical errors I missed during my own edit. I’ve been dealing with those by return. In the not too distant future, I’ll get the full MS back with any other suggestions, based on content and language. And I’ll deal with that by return.
We’ve had initial discussions on the cover and I await the results with eager anticipation.
So, the title: I created the book using a working title to blend well with book one, Blood Red Dust. Green, the Dust said something about the success of ecopoiesis since the ending of the 1st book. However, it didn’t really address the conflict in book two. But both I, and Dan Grubb (my publisher) wanted to run the proposed series with a commonality in the titles. ‘Dust’ is an apposite theme word. I brainstormed 50 titles. Cut that down by restricting choices to only three words, and then fed the remaining 35 through Amazon to check for uniqueness. That left me with 10 potential titles. I had my two or three favourites, but I wanted a more independent view, so sent that list of 10 to Dan. And we came up with the title now to be used.
So, watch out for Generation Mars: War Over Dust.
We’ll reveal the cover soon. Watch this space.
And, meantime, make sure you read book one, won’t you? You can get it here from the publisher, or here from your local Amazon store. And, of course, it’s available from all leading book retailers.
This is a different type of thriller. Dealing with the murky lives of Mossad Agents, it follows the early career of Thomas Glaze, a young man totally deluded about his appeal to women, his ability in the field, and his tolerance for drugs and alcohol.
Unsurprisingly, with such a catalogue of denial, he fails miserably as an agent, causing many problems along the way for himself, his colleagues, the women he collects, and a few random members of the public.
As a character study, it works well, as this ‘secret’ agent breaks the first law of fieldwork by getting himself noticed. His inability to understand, let alone accept, his own failings, coupled with his arrogant blame of everyone but himself for his failures doesn’t endear him to the reader. However, he’s skilfully drawn and the story has a compulsive element to it that keeps the reader turning the pages.
This is much more than a thriller. It deals with self-delusion very well. The sheer arrogance and total lack of self-awareness reminds this reader of the failings of most politicians. For utter misconception of his self, Glaze excels.
He is, of course, also completely amoral and unconcerned about the effects of his mistakes, except for rudimentary guilt feelings that are never allowed to mature into real regret or remorse.
There are a few editing glitches that need attention, but I find so many of these nowadays that I’m beginning to believe the standard of book production in general is in decline. That most readers seem unaware of and unconcerned about these frequent errors is a matter of disquiet for a reader who is also a writer.
The story is well paced and carries a number of unexpected twists and turns. If you enjoy straightforward formulaic thrillers, this will be a change and possibly even a challenge for you. But I enjoyed the read, whilst constantly appalled at the personality of the main protagonist.
Monday, we travelled to Southampton for the funeral of a much-loved old lady. Aunt Vera, elder sister of my dad, Ken, fell and broke her hip. At the grand old age of 103, she was quite frail and failed to recover from the op to mend the break. She was a woman who enjoyed life, though she’d had hard times and suffered losses. Always generous of nature and kind in thought, she spent the latter years of her active life with her daughter, Jill, delivering ‘Meals on Wheels’. She enjoyed helping the ‘old folk’!
My dad died a couple of weeks before I was born, so I never knew him. And, since my mum was killed in a car crash a couple of days after my 16th birthday, I never really learned much about him (my stepdad, a kind man, was a little vain and preferred me not to ask about my past). So, I didn’t even know I had this lovely aunt.
Curious about my past, I entered some details on the old Genes Reunited site. Within hours I was contacted by a cousin, Charles, who I’d never heard of. After a few introductory emails, he explained that Vera had been looking for me, and gave me her address. That first visit to Southampton was a wonderful experience. We saw her a few times after that, the most memorable visit being her 100th birthday. Each time, she gave me more stories and information about my dad so I now feel as though I know him better.
Vera was also a bit of a collector. Nothing silly; she kept photographs, newspaper clippings, and other items of interest. After the funeral, which was a celebration of her life, we all retired to the local Southampton Arms. There, I talked with other family members, especially another cousin, Christine, and Vera’s daughters, Jill and Jackie. Jill had dealt with the closure of Vera’s flat (she lived independently right up to the end of her life) and had found several items of interest for me. There was a certificate relating to my dad’s work as a mechanic, his original birth certificate, some photographs, and a few newspaper clippings relating to births, marriage and deaths.
My wife, Valerie, and I spent that evening in a local hotel in a nearby village, as we’re not keen on cities. We’d walked from the hotel to the crematorium, been given a lift to the pub, and walked back from there to the hotel; we both enjoy walking and the round trip was only around 6 miles.
The following day, in honour of Vera’s love of life, we decided to spend a little time enjoying ourselves. I’d spent the previous few weeks deep in the intense process of editing my latest science fiction book (now with the publisher) and Valerie had supported me, which meant we’d had very few times of real leisure.
Our trip took us through the New Forest, via a very congested Lyndhurst, to the small seaside town of Milford on Sea. It’s a while since we’ve breathed the sea air and small places like this suit us better than the larger towns.
We took a walk along the sea wall and discovered a bowling green inviting members of the public in for a game (at a small cost). Valerie’s a bowler, I’m not. But we were out for some enjoyment, so we popped in and were greeted by the duty steward, who furnished us with shoes (you have to wear shoes with completely flat soles on bowling greens) and bowls. Our game was amusing, and for Valerie helped make up her mind to try some slightly heavier woods. We enjoyed that short spell and then set off for a walk along the sea front.
The Isle of Wight, with the Needles, was visible from the promenade. The sun sparkled on gentle waves breaking on a steeply rising pebble beach.
Hunger took us back into the small town centre in search of refreshment where we were accosted by a young couple armed with promotional leaflets. Pure serendipity; they were marketing a new venture, a tearoom in a local pub. With free tea/coffee if you bought a sandwich or cake. What’s not to like? The White Horse was only a couple of hundred yards along the high street. Lovely coffee, good sandwiches and delicious cakes.
Eventually, of course, we had to leave for home. A pleasant meander along lesser roads (we avoid motorways unless we’re in a hurry) took us through a number of pretty villages we’d never otherwise have seen and into some beautiful countryside to arrive home around 20:00.
I think Vera would have heartily approved of our little excursion. And the diversion turned what could’ve been a very sad two days into a delightful short break.
Here’s some help for writers who want to make their work more interesting, varied, accurate and effective by using the most appropriate words. There are also insights into some peculiarities of English for language students.
A good thesaurus will provide substitutes for the idea of a word, but not all these are true synonyms: context is vital. Check suitability by putting synonyms into a sentence to test if they make sense. This isn’t foolproof, however, so a good dictionary is also essential.
My dictionary of choice is the two-volume Shorter Oxford English Dictionary. And I prefer the 1987 edition of Roget’s Thesaurus for word selection, though my copy is showing signs of wear. I’ve installed WordWeb on my Mac for when I’m in a hurry and the appropriate word escapes me. And I’ve downloaded the Kindle edition of Kathy Steinemann’s ‘The Writer’s Lexicon’ to consult whilst editing my fiction, so I can inject more variety.
However, I attempt to dig the best word from my overloaded memory first: it’s good mental exercise, which I need on a regular basis! Many other books of words, which I occasionally consult when a word evades me, live on reference shelves behind me.
So, to this week’s word: Blatant
Blatant – Roget lists these headers: flagrant, well-known, vulgar, vain, showy, and insolent. Under the sub-heading ‘flagrant’ are a further 9 alternatives including glaring, stark, staring, shocking, and discreditable.
And the SOED defines ‘blatant’ as: Orig., noisy, clamorous, noticeably loud. Now usu., obtrusive, lacking in subtlety, obvious; (of bad behaviour) openly and unashamed.
Let’s look at usage for blatant:
‘In condemning terrorists whilst engaging in the weapons trade with supporters of terrorism, the Prime Minister displayed blatant hypocrisy.’
‘Terry strode confidently into the party, helped himself to food and drink, and chatted up the girls, showing blatant disregard for his lack of an invitation.’
‘In blatant disobedience of the “No swimming” sign, Emerald stripped off her clothes and plunged into the lake.’
‘Blatant’ is a word of power, suggestive of a rebellious spirit, but also a condemnatory adjective when applied to attitudes and behaviour that cause offence.
Some weeks are a country walk, others a trek across mountainous desert. This one has been a touch demanding. But, the book itself is now done. It lacks a title, of which I have a brainstorming session’s worth of around 50 at present. And the blurb demands to be done. I usually try for three of those; 50 words, 100 words and 150 words. Condensing the essence of 113,900 words to such tiny proportions is never easy, especially when the story combines a number of threads. But it will be done. I’m committing myself to having the package with the publisher by the weekend.
As for the past seven days, these have been hard work interrupted by a two-day break to attend the funeral of a beloved old aunt. At 103, she’d had an active life in which all who knew her loved her. Vera was the older sister of my dad, Ken, who died before I was born. We met late in life and she was able to fill in many gaps in my knowledge about the man who fathered me. It was a sad occasion, as any death always is, but also a celebration of a life well-lived.
We travelled to Southampton for the service, stayed overnight, and then spent the following day in relaxation on the coast before arriving home late last night.
Today, I discovered that the charity AGM I was unable to attend due to my trip away has elected me back on the board as a trustee. And would I please produce an advert for the Hall along with photographs to illustrate its advantages as a venue. If possible, could I do this by the end of today, as the publication concerned is due to be printed almost immediately!
For weeks I’ve been carrying my camera to catch the front of the building in the sun. But it’s location means it sees sunshine only for an hour or so each day and only during the months of June and July. Every time I caught it at the right time, there were cars parked outside. Today, on my way to collect the keys so I could photograph the interior, not only was the sun shining as required, but the cars were absent. Back home from the trip, I set about putting words and pictures together, only to discover the software I’d downloaded wouldn’t produce the desired size of image, unless I upgraded. I did that, and, finally, the piece of copy with its accompanying pictures is done.
And now, after a 06:15 start, and at the time of 20:30, I think I’ve earned a rest. Retirement, what’s that? A glass of red awaits my descent to the sitting room, so I’ll wish you all a good night and bring you up to date with the rest of the book facts next week.
Here’s a bit of help for writers who want to make their work more interesting, varied, accurate and effective by using the most appropriate words. There are also insights into some peculiarities of English for those learning the language.
A good thesaurus gives substitutes for the idea of a word, but not all are true synonyms: context is vital. Check suitability by placing synonyms into a sentence to test if they make sense. But this isn’t foolproof, so a good dictionary is also essential.
My dictionary of choice is the two-volume Shorter Oxford English Dictionary. And I prefer the 1987 edition of Roget’s Thesaurus for word selection. Though my copy is now showing signs of wear. I’ve installed WordWeb on my Mac for when I’m in a hurry and the apposite word evades me. And I’ve downloaded the Kindle edition of Kathy Steinemann’s ‘The Writer’s Lexicon’ to consult whilst editing my fiction, so I can inject more variety.
However, I attempt to dig the best word from my overloaded memory first: it’s good mental exercise, which I need on a regular basis! Many other books of words, which I occasionally consult when a word escapes me, live on reference shelves behind me.
So, to this week’s word: Alliteration
Alliteration is a figure of speech in which closely connected words begin with the same letter of the alphabet. It’s a device commonly used in poetry, but its use in prose can be effective in creating mood or tone, and may emphasise the subject of the sentence.
Alliteration – Roget lists these headers: assimilation, recurrence, ornament, and prosody. Under the sub-heading ‘recurrence’ are a further 41 alternatives including repetitiveness, succession, atavism, rhythm, assonance, monotony and routine.
Examples of alliteration:
‘Doggedly, David donated dollars to Doris despite her denial of devotion to him.’
‘Sylvie’s silken skin sent shivers of sensuality snaking over Sydney.’
‘Clive’s crass chorus of chanting cowboys created a cacophony of coarse chords clattering across the chamber.’
Hopefully, no one would actually use such examples. But I’m deep into editing a novel at present, and my poor creative mind is embedded in the story I’m creating, so my capacity for creating competent content here is currently confined. Sorry!