Saturday, June 28, 2014

Short Stories, Apocalypse Version

Because I promised another apocalypse post, right? So I gathered up some apocalyptic short stories for you. All written by dudes, I’m noticing. We need more women writing apocalyptic short stories (luckily we have Margaret Atwood and Susan Beth Pfeffer to deal with long form).

Year of the Jackpot by Robert A. Heinlein. Really more of a long story at ninety five pages. You can buy it for two dollars, kind of a lot really, but I remember it being a good story about the world seeming to reach a peak of insanity. The ending is probably one of my favorites.

Last Contact by Stephen Baxter. It’s a story about dark energy, cool enough, and a sudden “big rip” as the universe is suddenly pulled apart, vanishing before our eyes. Unfortunately, it’s not online anymore, a real shame. I wish I mentioned it when I first read it (of course, I didn’t have a blog then, so it may have been difficult). If you can find it somewhere, I highly recommend it.

The Scarlet Plague by Jack London. I love Jack London, so I just had to include his story of life after a plague wipes out most of the planet and returns the few survivors to a pre-industrial level. It’s a pandemic story from ninety nine years ago. It’s worth reading for that alone.

The Spider by Hans Heinz. Okay, confession, this isn’t an apocalypse story. But it is about impending doom, so I think I can kind of make it work? Well, whatever, it’s my blog. I make the rules. Anyway! It’s about a med student investigating a hotel room where everyone ends up hanging themselves. Not all that different from 1408 by Stephen King, but I liked this one better.

What apocalypse related stories do you like? Or short fiction in general?

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Language of Confusion: Must-y

Yes, I’m doing must this week. I think I had a reason why, but I can’t seem to remember it as I write this.

Must has a surprising amount of meanings—seriously, I’ve never heard of some of these. It’s apparently a word for newly fermented wine. And also a state of frenzied sexual excitement in large mammals, like elephants. I’m not kidding.

The must we’re most familiar with comes from Old English moste, which is the past tense of motan, meaning to have to. Before that, it comes from the Proto Germanic mot, where it means something like the ability to do something. It might come from the Proto Indo European med, to measure (and the origin word for medical), but that’s not for sure. Interesting if true, though.

There’s also musty, like a room shut up for too long. It showed up in the early sixteenth century. It’s not definite, but it may come from moisty (which was a word apparently), obviously coming from moist. And remember when I mentioned the wine definition of must? It comes from the Old English must, and before that the classical Latin mustum, which means both must (have to) and wine. And it’s also a possible origin for moist. See? Full circle! If it’s true!

Plus, like I said, there’s that whole “male frenzy” thing. We have Urdu to thank for that one. Must comes from the word mast, which means intoxicated, as it does in Persian, where Urdu got it from. Before that, it comes from the Proto Indo European mad, which means wet or moist, and is the origin word for mast. But not moist.

Finally, you’ve probably heard of muster. It showed up in the early fourteenth century, from the Old French mostrer, meaning reveal or appear. It didn’t mean assemble/gather until the early fifteenth century, though. Mostrer comes from the classical Latin monstrare, to show , and monstrum, meaning…monster. Didn’t see that one coming, did you?

Tony Jebson’s page on the Origins of Old English

Tuesday, June 24, 2014


It took three weeks, but my read aloud of my current WIP is finally done. I made a note every time I found something that needed fixing and…well, it’s not pretty. There are 853 of them. Or, on average, eight per page.


Of course it’s an important thing to be able to, you know, make the book readable, but man, is it daunting. Half of them are me yelling at myself for not using enough description or ordering me to get rid of dialogue tags (I can get very bossy in my notes to myself). It’s just plain a mess, but it might be good someday.

So what’s next on my writing to do list? Fixing all those notes, obviously. But I also wrote out the timeline for it to make sure there are no continuity snarls and improve the pacing, so I’m going to do that first, and since that will involve a lot of moving chapters around, I’m probably going to need more notes to fix all the problems shifting things around will cause.

Eep. Again.

But through it all, I really feel excited. I have a plan! I know how to fix (most of) the problems! MALICE is turning into a real book! Although this doesn’t mean those of you who follow me on Twitter won’t be seeing a lot of whining about edits. Complaining is my muse.

So that’s my writing update this week. What are you up to with your WIP? What do you do when you start revisions? Do share!

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Random Thoughts

---Yes, you’re getting Random Thoughts, because I’m still not sure my computer is working right.
---If you’re ever buried alive, take off your shirt and tie it around your face so you won’t choke on the dirt. But it won’t do anything to help your whole buried-alive situation.
---After ten years and forty million dollars, they finally stopped one end of the Leaning Tower of Pisa from sinking any further for two hundred years. Leany is good, but you don’t want it too leany.
---You may have heard that marshmallows cure sore throats (in fact, I think I mentioned it in one of these posts). It turns out, it’s not marshmallows the sugary treat. It’s the marsh mallow plant—a mallow plant that grows in marshes. It does not look or taste like marshmallows, making the name a kind of tease.
---Although to be fair, the plant isn’t named after the sugary treat. It’s the other way around. Apparently, marshmallows used to be made from a paste of marsh mallows. At least this explains why it’s spelled with an “a” when we say “marshmellow”.
---Let’s see if the correct information spreads as fast as the wrong stuff.
---A woman, thirty four years old, was caught posing as a high school student—a fifteen year old high school student. And it took almost a year for anyone to catch on.
---Apparently, she was pulling all A’s and B’s.
---Scientists in the UK are experimenting on how to turn light into matter. The world is slowly turning into Star Trek, and I’m okay with that.
---Maybe then I can get a m************ c********** son of a b******* computer that doesn’t turn into a f****** pile of s*** after three a********* years.
---Yeah, I think I’m still mad about it.
---No, I’m not telling you what letters go in those asterisks.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Easy to Confuse

Wow, I haven’t done an easily confused words post all year! I can’t believe I’ve been slacking. Forgive me, Grammar Police Chief Melissa.

Anyway! What do we have this time?

These are words I mix up without even thinking about it. I mean due, and I stick do in there instead. It doesn’t help that do is such a versatile word. Besides being one of the most basic verbs in all of English, it’s part of a lot of idioms, like a “to do” (a party) or “do in” a murder. Due often has to do with something that should happen at a particular time, like the rent is due at the first of the month. There are a few other ways to use it, like a due course, where it means direct, and because of (I’m late due to the molasses spill in Boston). You might just need to check every use of do/due in your MS to make sure it’s right…

Yeah, I didn’t know nob was a word either, but there it is. No red squiggly line or anything. It has a few different meanings, including slang for a head and a person of high society. It’s not used much anymore, so unless you’re talking about hobnobbing, you should stick a K in front of there.

Funny how much difference one little W can make—you certainly can’t rest if you’re wresting! Ha! Well, I thought it was funny. But it should make it easy to tell them apart. Wrest is something that requires action. Rest is the exact opposite. Oh, but wrest can also mean a small key for tuning a stringed instrument. But you probably won’t need that information (just in case, though).

This one always confuses me, because arch and arc seem so similar. An arc is part of the curve of a circle (or the light between two electrodes). An arch is a curved piece of architecture—or anything curved really, like the arch of your foot. Plus, it can also mean the highest level of something (an archangel or an arch-villain). I just remind myself that unless it has to do with electricity or part of a circle, use arch.

Luckily these aren’t too difficult to discern since they’re always used as seperate parts of speech, a verb and a noun. An altar is a raised platform used in religious ceremony, so as long as you remember the noun is the one with the a, you should be all set.

Okay, that’s it for this rendition of Easily Confused Words. Do you have any words that you can’t help but mess up?

Tuesday, June 17, 2014


What do you think is the absolute worst thing that could happen to a writer?

Hint: look at the title of this post.

That’s right. Last Thursday, the worst of the worst happened to me. It wasn’t a complete crash, and I (thankfully) didn’t get a blue screen of death, but it did require me to restart my laptop back to when I first got it. I’m not even sure what happened exactly. When I turned it on, it wouldn’t connect to the internet. The wi-fi seemed broken somehow, although every other device in the house was connecting okay. The laptop just kept flashing “Can’t detect signal” (or something like that). The troubleshooting feature kept telling me to search for a new signal, except it wouldn’t do it. Oh, and here’s the kicker: Windows Help wouldn’t work at all either.

When help wouldn’t work, I got nervous since that really shouldn’t happen. So I used the restore feature on my computer. Except that didn’t do a thing! I was finally able to connect to the internet with an Ethernet cable, but Windows was still having trouble loading (big shocker). In the end, I had to…oh, it’s too hard to say! I mean write!…wipe the whole thing. Back to October 2011.

I lost a ton of stuff. My WIPs are all right of course. I have those backed up in like three different ways (as you should, too). But I did lose a lot of old stories that weren’t any good, but I liked to have for sentimental reasons (the short story I wrote for creative writing when I was a senior in high school!). Plus I lost my idea file, which had a bunch of random thoughts that I tried (and failed) to make into stories but maybe could have used in some way, probably not but still, I might have thought of something. I’m not too upset about that, but it’s still kind of a bummer.

The only thing I lost that I’m really kicking myself for not having a backup of is my file of Spam messages. There was about sixty of those that are lost in cyber oblivion, and I’m stuck without anything to post on the Spamfiles. So that sucks.

If you want to help me in my hour of need and can’t afford to buy me a new laptop, forward me some amusing spam messages you’ve gotten (click that link or the one in my profile!). Surely that’s not too much to ask!

And for your own sakes, back up your hard drives.

I’m going to go eat a gallon of ice cream.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Distractions from Writing

More specifically, distractions from editing, because man, that isn’t fun. I’ve mentioned more than one of these before, but

My favorite distraction du jour is called Pixelo. The game is a version of what’s known as Nonograms, where you have a grid and you use the numbers above and along the side to determine which squares should be colored and which should be left blank. If you do decide to try this, I recommend ignoring the tutorial, which is needlessly confusing (the developer doesn’t seem to speak English, which means the translations aren’t great). It’s perfect if you like logic puzzles similar to Sudoku.

The Impossible Quiz. It’s not totally impossible, but I haven’t beaten it yet. It’s crass and weird at times, but funny and constantly making you think outside the box (sometimes literally) in order to answer a question. Some of the questions are easy (running the mouse over a cat to “pet” it), some are frustrating (having 0.5 seconds to click on something so you don’t lose the game), and others just require you to do as instructed (click “the answer” to continue). Oh, and there was a sequel.

The Company of Myself. Okay, this is a game for people who like simple platform games but also a deep story (all twelve of you?). The gameplay is easy and the puzzles challenging enough to keep your attention.

Doodle God. Like the Impossible Quiz, there’s a lot of random chance in it as you match different elemental representations (fire, water, earth, etc.) together in order to make something new. There’s over a hundred things to make, so it will take a lot of guessing to get one hundred percent completion. If you really haven’t had enough after the first game, you can try the sequel.

Say goodbye to productivity.

I swear, this isn’t part of an evil scheme to distract all the other writers.

Heh heh.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Language of Confusion: Post

Post is one of those words that shows up in a lot of different ways. This right here is a post. If you see a fence, I’m guessing it has posts, too. My brother is in the navy, and he’s posted in Japan. When you send a letter (is your computer broken?) you use the post office. Putting up a sign is called posting it. Also, should you need to describe something that is after something else, it would be post that something else. Okay, that description is a little convoluted, but you get the idea. And what is up with “posthaste”? Is there a reason for these eclectic meanings? I don’t know. Let’s check.

The fence post doesn’t have a date. It comes from the Old English post (…sometimes, I swear, they’re not even trying) and before that, the Old French post (okay, now I know they’re not), which basically has the same meaning. Like most French, it’s derived from classical Latin, in this case postis, which means door, post, or door-post. I’m not even kidding, that’s what Google Translate says. The origin ends there, although it’s possible that postis is a combination of the Latin words por (the prefix pro) and stare (stand). Now, this isn’t definite, but it would be interesting if it were true.

What about a post, like when you’re on duty? Is that related? Nope! That post showed up in the late sixteenth century, coming from the Middle French poste, with the same meaning. The French actually took the word from Italian—posto, meaning place—but before that, things are back to normal because Italian took it from the Vulgar Latin postum and classical Latin positum, meaning set, as you’d set something down. So it went from placing a thing to placing a soldier. That kind of makes sense.

The post we see stuck in front of modern or script comes from the Latin word for after. Which just so happens to be post, because of course it is. It can be traced all the way back to Proto Indo European apo, which means off or away.

The rest of the posts come from one or the other of these definitions. Posting a sign (or, you know, a blog post) is from the idea of nailing something to a post. The duty post is where we got the mail post from—riders posted at intervals along the mail route. Plus, the post in posthaste comes from post horses moving fast, basically telling the posted mailriders to move with haste.

TL;DR: All the posts come from three completely different Latin words that we English speakers decided should all be the same. Anyone else think that eventually, all language is just going to be one word said over and over? Because sometimes that’s what it seems like.

Tony Jebson’s page on the Origins of Old English

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Apocalypse Survival Guide: Pandemic

I’m doing this on Tuesday this time because I couldn’t think of another post for Tuesday. So here it is.

It’s a plague! That somehow kills everyone and doesn’t respond to any modern medicine. Hey, at least no one’s turning into zombies this time.

So I’ve scoured everything I could find that has world destroying plagues (sans zombification…wow, that’s a real word, who knew?) and while there’s a pretty good chunk of literature (THE STAND and THE ANDROMEDA STRAIN are probably the most well-known) and movies where the world is wiped out by some illness.

Survival Tips: Plague Addition
1. Don’t assume you’re immune. Even if you’ve been having vivid dream-messages from God. In fact, that might be a symptom.

2. If you hear word of a plague, stay away from all strange animals. I have seen entirely too many pandemic movies that have started with someone deciding, “Ooh! A monkey! There can’t be anything dangerous about touching a wild animal with a medical tag on its leg!”

3. Remember to always wash your hands. But don’t use antibacterial soap. All that stuff that promises to kill 99.9% of germs just means that the remaining 0.1% has evolved to kill you better. Seriously, antibacterial soap probably caused the pandemic in the first place.

4. Make sure you’re not with anyone who will kill you the second you come down with a case of the sniffles. Which pretty much means make sure you’re not with anyone.

5. Depending on the severity of the plague (i.e. if it infects all the animals, too…which is impossible, but if we’re imagining a plague we might as well go all in), you might not be able to eat any meat, even if you hunt for it yourself. Stick to dried goods and vegetables.

6. One of my general apocalypse survival tips is to find a doctor and stick with her/him. This goes double for plague-pocalypses.

7. Remember: everyone is a potential carrier, so it’s probably not a good idea to invite the neighbors over for tea in the middle of an outbreak.

8. Good news! Unless all the movies have lied to me (why would they do that?) there’s probably a research facility somewhere that will keep searching for a cure until the bitter end! Bad news! They probably aren’t accepting lodgers. But you should try to stay alive as long as possible so you can get said cure (if they find it).

That’s all the plague tips I have. If you can think of anything else to add, be my guest. And remember to stay away from monkeys.

Saturday, June 7, 2014

Last Saturday

Actually, it was two Saturdays ago now, but who’s keeping track? Anyway, as anyone who follows me on Twitter may know, I had some, well, trouble when a piece broke off of my ceramic salt shaker.
Click to embiggen. Then you'll actually be able to read what's going on.

I’m not even kidding. I put glue on the broken ends, stuck them together, and the chipped piece was attached to my finger, not the frigging salt shaker. If there were more panels on my poorly drawn stick figure comic, it would include me sitting at the computer looking up “how to remove crazy glue from skin”. I know you’re supposed to use nail polish remover, but I only had one almost empty bottle. Suffice to say, getting it off was not fun.

If any lesson can be learned from this, it’s don’t use super glue unless you have liberal amounts of acetone in the house. And keep your hand in your pocket when you go out to buy more.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Language of Confusion: Imbibe

I have to say, imbibe is a surprisingly interesting word. Yes, I’m aware of how crazy that sounds, but come see what I mean.

Imbibe showed up in the late fourteenth century, and like most words, it comes from Old French and classical Latin. In French it was imbiber/embiber, which meant soak into, and in Latin it was imbibere, where it meant assimilation or absorb. Although we never drop the prefix in English, bibere is an actual word in Latin meaning drink, and the im- comes from in-, which means into. And it might not seem like it, but bibere is also related to another Latin word for drink, potare, the origin word for potion. Potare can be traced back all the way to the Proto Indo European po, also to drink, meaning it went from drink to mentally absorb (“drink inward” in a figurative sense) and then back to drink as it moved through the centuries.

The cool thing about imbibe is how it’s related to other words—like beverage. Beverage comes from the Anglo French beverage (if you can wrap your head around that radical spelling), and before that the Old French bevrage, which is the basically another Old French word, boivre, with the suffix -age stuck on. And where does boivre come from? The classical Latin bibere, of course.

There’s also bib, which actually kind of makes sense when you think of the “absorb” definition. It showed up in the late sixteenth century, coming from the word bibben, which apparently was a real English word once upon a time. Although crazily enough, people aren’t one hundred percent sure that bib (and bibben) are really from bibere.

That’s not all, but there’s less certainty about the other words bibere might be related to. Imbue is a possible relative, which makes sense since it means to saturate or cause to absorb. It can be traced to the Latin imbuere, same meaning, but there’s no actual evidence it’s related to bibere. Beer might also be related, coming from the Old English beor, but it’s origin beyond that is “disputed” (i.e. they’re even less sure about it than usual). Still, the theory is there that the German originator of the word (of course it’s German; what did you expect?) took it from the Vulgar Latin word biber, which meant a drink, and you know it’s related to bibere.

TL;DR: Tons of words might be related to imbibe. They also might not be. Language!

Tony Jebson’s page on the Origins of Old English

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

June Goals

June is here. 2014 is already half over. We march ever onward towards death.

Sorry. That got kind of dark there. So what was I up to last month?

May Goals

1. Send out ten more queries for COLLAPSE. I hope I garner some interest this time…
Yeah, I did it, and I haven’t gotten even a glance. It’s weird how a win can feel so much like a loss. Boo…

2. Finish MALICE. I’m not sure how many words I still have to go, but I should definitely be able to get it done this month.
Yep, done. At least this one feels like a win. Draft one is done and ready to be ripped to shreds and put together as something readable. Maybe.

3. Update my blog’s etymology pages. I have a feeling this is going to be more complicated than it looks (it sure was last time!).
Did it! Did you see? Well, it’s kind of hard to notice since there’s like a million words there (that might be exaggerated a tad, but whatevs), but I updated it. If I’ve etymologized it, it’s up there.

And now for June…

June Goals
1. Read aloud of Malice, including taking notes, and then fixing said notes. I’m fairly certain I can get this done, although reading the entire thing out loud might take longer than I expect.

2. Sigh…do SOMETHING about my query. Obviously it’s going to need a complete and total rewrite. I may end up having to join some forum or other just to get some opinions, which I’m really not looking forward to. Did I say sigh yet?

3. Two more apocalypse posts! I’ve kind of done zombies to death lately, so I’ll see if I can whip up something about one of the million other apocalypses waiting to take us out.

Okay, so that’s what my June looks like. What about you guys? You up to anything this month? Any writing goals you want to share?