Saturday, May 31, 2014

A Visit from the Spamfiles

For those new to this: I collect spam. Whenever I get a spam message or a spam comment, I copy it and put it up on the Spamfiles because it’s like a letter from a madman and I find it hilarious. Someone once described them as “found art” and I have to admit, that’s pretty accurate.

Take a look at this one, for example.

After Google upgraded its spam filters, I stopped getting crazy anonymous comments that were obviously filtered through a translate program that doesn’t work correctly. I’m not even sure what this one is trying to sell me. First it talks about online gambling, then “Culture is powered by peer tension”, and Battlefield 4 screenshots. Then it finishes with a link about a soccer video game. I can’t even imagine what the original thought behind this was.

I don’t have products on a “trading site”. I don’t have a company, esteemed or otherwise. I don’t have a catalogue. Nope, no idea what’s going on.

I certainly don’t see the business sense in randomly giving away over a million dollars. But maybe the UK branch of Coca Cola does things differently.

This one might be my absolute favorite. Please note the date of this alleged transaction that is netting me forty four dollars: over a month away.

That’s right. Time travel spam.

May God have mercy on our souls.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Language of Confusion: Feeling Bushed

Bush is one of those words that gets weirder the more I look at it. If you look at a forest, there’s probably going to be some bushes there. But if you’re really tired, you’re also bushed. So if a bush is tired, it’s a bushed bush.

Words! There’s a reason I call these posts “Language of Confusion”.

Bush, the plant, comes from the Old English bysc and further back, the West Germanic busk, which had the same meaning. There are similar words in other languages (Old French had busch, which meant wood, while Medieval Latin had busca), but it seems that West Germanic was the one that started using the word first and it permeated through other European languages. It’s worth noting that the modern French word for wood is bois, which was passed along to French Canada as boisé, which is where the capital of Idaho comes from. As for why it also means tired, the only real guess is that it’s from the sense of being lost in the woods. I guess that would make anyone tired.

Is that all? No, you don’t get off that easily. There’s also the word ambush. It first showed up in the early fourteenth century from the Old French embuscher. As I mentioned, busch means wood, and the em- prefix means in, so it means “in woods”. Which is a good place for an ambush. Seriously, that’s why ambush is ambush.

Tony Jebson’s page on the Origins of Old English

Tuesday, May 27, 2014


In general, my dreams are pretty entertaining (excepting that week where I dreamt I was doing really boring things like cooking and shopping…no idea what that was about). They’ve certainly yielded a lot of potential stories for me, and if I was ever a famous writer being interviewed on television and they asked where I got my ideas, I could answer “From dreams” and it would be true. Although perhaps not exactly the whole truth.

Dreams, or at least, my dreams, are both hectic and scattered, so writing a good story from them wouldn’t be translating exactly what happened because that would just be a big mess. And also a bunch of stuff I’d be embarrassed for people to see.

Saying I get my ideas from dreams undersells the whole process. While a dream inspired me to write COLLAPSE, exactly none of it made it into the final product. Hell, none of it made it into the first draft.

The creative process isn’t just imagining something and making it happen. It requires thought, it requires focus, it requires a bunch of stuff that’s BOOOOORING to the casual observer (and about everyone else, too). But “From dreams” is the easy answer, the one that doesn’t require me to explain every detail about my thought process, some of which even I don’t fully understand.

So now I’m opening the floor to other opinions: How do you (or will you) answer the question “Where do you get your ideas?” Is it even possible?

Saturday, May 24, 2014

The Downfall of Society

Remember when I said I post rants sometimes? This is going to be one of those times.

The most amusing part of this situation is that whenever I read the letters to the editor in the local paper and see that my former English teacher sent something in, I know it’s going to be good. First she was complaining about the fact that schools were dropping cursive from their curriculums and all her former students who were writers (a-hem) used cursive all the time and couldn’t believe it wasn’t going to be taught. Okay, I’d like to know where she’s getting this knowledge from because all the people I know who had her for English couldn’t stand her and maybe I’m wrong, but I can’t imagine her former students call her on a regular basis just to inform her how much they’re using cursive. I’ve also gone into detail about how much I can’t stand cursive and personally am glad it’s being dropped because it was invented when people used quills and ink and wanted words as connected as possible to prevent blotting.

In her latest printed spiel, my old teacher was complaining about (of course) television, and how mean it is these days, full of violence and sex. Now, one of my many many many many many many pet peeves is that I can’t stand it when people complain about how the lamentable state of television, music, video games or whatever is bringing the downfall of society. No wonder everyone in the world is…I don’t know, dying or whatever. They never seem to say what the direct consequences are, just that they’re bad. And we need to go back to a time when it wasn’t bad, i.e. the nineteen fifties.

The easy argument to make is that back during that time period, fathers encouraged their daughters not to become engineers but wives to engineers, people of color could only be stereotypes, and women could only do shopping and laundry and it was okay to threaten them if they spoke out of turn. So why would anyone want to go back there? But, like I said, that’s the easy argument. Why not have the same “victimless” humor and be violence free without all the blatant bigotry?

First of all, humor is designed to make us laugh at things that make us uncomfortable or gross us out. Fart jokes are easy because the typical reaction for a person is to laugh at them. Does this make them good? Personally, I don’t like them, but it doesn’t mean that they or other gross out humor isn’t funny. And as for the so-called mean jokes, yes, I think there are some shows out there that are just plain offensive, laughing at certain people instead of with them, and unfortunately, the at shows seem a lot more popular than the with ones. But that’s no different than it was sixty years ago when I Love Lucy was the most popular show on television. Seriously, the only difference between then in now is targets.

Now for the violence, of course, that’s desensitizing everyone and making them kill each other. You know what, one time, I saw this movie that was just horribly violent. It had rape and mutilation and torture murder-murder-murder. It starred Anthony Hopkins. It was called Titus. You know, that movie based on a play by some guy named William Shakespeare. Who lived five hundred years ago. If you’d like to go back a thousand more years, there’s also The Iliad, which was assigned reading when I was a high school freshman. Tons of fighting , sex, and blood there, although at the age I read it I couldn’t even go to an R rated movie without an adult present.

People have found sex and gore entertaining for as long as there have been people. Despite all the threats that television and video games have desensitized us, I really don’t think it’s doing anything that plays and poems and probably drawings on frigging cave walls hadn’t done to our ancestors.

If you don’t like blood or sex or people being jerks, don’t watch it. But don’t blame it for corrupting the world.

PS. It’s hilarious to think what probably happened when people first started drawing in caves. “Damn wall paintings. Ruining family time for hunting mammoths. It’ll be the downfall of society, mark my words!”

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Secret Origins: R

Yay! I love doing histories on letters of the alphabet!

For those new to my alphabet posts, let me give you some of its ancestry. The writing system we use in English is the Latin Alphabet, which was taken from the Etruscan alphabet somewhere before the sixth century BCE. The Etruscans were the people who lived in Italy prior to the rise of the Roman empire and little is known about them these days except by writings of other (rival) societies, but they did adapt an alphabet from the Euboean Greeks that passed on to the Romans, and thus, the rest of western Europe. The Greek alphabet is at least 2800 years old, a hell of a long time considering its still in use.

It was created using the Phoenician abjad—a consonant alphabet, meaning the Greeks added the vowels themselves. The Phoenicians developed their writing system over three thousand years ago, taking it from what we now call Proto-Sinaitic, which was created around 3900 years ago. Proto-Sinaitic was developed to aid the Canaanites that used it in their trades with other countries—keeping track of things was a lot easier when you were able to write down records. It’s also pretty much the ancestor of all of western civilization’s current alphabets, including Hebrew and Arabic along with our Latin. The symbols were taken from Egyptian heiroglyphs—they picked a word that began with the same sound, and used that glyph for it.

Now that that’s out of the way, I can get down to business. Look at this alphabet gif to get an idea of R’s evolution over the years. The early Latin R is missing it’s second leg, making it look an awful lot like P (P on the other hand is missing it’s closing loop, making it look like a backwards 1). It was backwards in Etruscan, but then frontwards (at least, from our point of view) back as the Greek rho. You can go here if you want a better look at rho’s history, where sometimes it actually looks like an R (so I guess it makes sense that we have it like that) and sometimes it even looks like a D!

In Phoenician, it’s resh, which means head, and it looks like a backwards P. Why would they do something like that? Well, resh, or rashu in proto-Sinaitic, means head. And what does that P symbol that means R kind of look like? A head. And that’s where R comes from.


Tuesday, May 20, 2014

The End, Part 1

I finished another book. I don’t know how many this makes. I could count, but the number would be depressingly high considering how many I’ve had published (a big, fat goose egg, by the way, although considering some of my efforts, that’s probably a good thing :P).

So it’s the end, but not the end. Draft one is done, but it’s, well, not something I’d share with anyone. Ever. Not that it doesn’t have the potential to be better—far from it! I really love this story, even if I’m not sure how popular a future-fiction-action-adventure book would be with readers. It’s still great though. Or it will be once I get through with editing.

Editing is a big process, bigger than writing the book itself. Right now, MALICE is just under 100K, longer than it should be, full of subplots that went nowhere but are in because I thought they would (outlining! <shakes fist>), and words I just stuck in there because I could figure out exactly what I was trying to say (anyone else have writing moments like that?). Plus I think the book has unacceptable levels of telling instead of showing. And all the things I need to research, world building details I have to add, and, what’s it called? Descriptions.

So. I have my work cut out for me. It took something like two and a half months to write. Editing is going to take considerably longer. I need to do a read aloud, take notes of what needs to be fixed, fix said notes, about a billion other things. Then beta reads. And more notes to fix. Always more notes.

I can honestly say I don’t know when I’ll be able to write “The End” and mean it, or if that will ever be the case. All I can do is keep typing.

What do you do after you finish draft number one? What’s your editing process like? Please share, and don’t skimp on the details! : )

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Survive a Zombie Apocalypse Using Geography

Or zombocalypse, if you will.

I can’t remember if I stumbled across the link to this or if someone sent it to me (if that’s you, sorry!), but I came across it sometime before the Challenge took over my life and now I finally have an opportunity to share it with you.

How do you decide where to go in a zombie apocalypse?” a TED lesson by David Hunter. [] Basically, it teaches you how you should decide where to set up base in the impending zombocalpyse using geography. In under four minutes!

Have a good weekend!

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Language of Confusion: Guises

I still haven’t gotten around to updating my Etymology page. I keep saying I’m going to do it tomorrow and it keeps not happening.

Anyway. Today’s word is guise.

Guise showed up in the late thirteenth century meaning a fashion style—I’m totally serious, that’s what it meant. It comes from the Old French guise which meant fashion or manner, which I guess morphed into just fashion in English, and then turned into a particular appearance in the mid-seventeenth century. Old French took guise from one of the Germanic languages—which one isn’t definite—but back then, guise was wisa. Yes, with a W, and yes, that’s where the word wise comes from.

Disguise showed up a little after guise in the early fourteenth century, meaning pretty much what we use it as. The dis- prefix means away, making it an appearance “away” from your normal one—a disguise.

And that’s not all! There’s one more word that can be traced to guise, and I think you’ll laugh when you read what it is: geezer. Seriously. It showed up recently enough that we know the specific year, 1885. It’s a Cockney English word, also written as guiser, which literally meant a “mummer”. I had no idea what mummer meant before this, but apparently it’s a person who wears a mask and costume (a guise) to take part in pantomime (the reason it’s called mummer is because “mum” means silent, like pantomime). So geezer is a variation of a dialect’s word for a slang word meaning mime. And it somehow now means an old person. No, I have no idea why.


Tuesday, May 13, 2014


I have a confession to make. When I wrote my last book…I used an outline.

Wait, don’t make me turn in my pantser badge! Which sounds like it means something way more inappropriate than I’m intending!

See, four books ago, I only wrote by getting ideas and typing them out (known in the vernacular as “by the seat of one’s pants”). I certainly saw the benefits of outlining. In fact, I got in the habit of typing them up after I finished with the book, if only to be able to look at the story from a wider perspective. For the most part, I nodded along when others spoke of the joys of outlining, for some reason feeling proud of myself for not using one. Yeah, it’s kind of weird.

Then COLLAPSE came along, and I blame it for this abundance of outlining. My idea for the story was that it took place over a year—each chapter is a different day along the timeline. In order to execute it without tripping over continuity, I needed to (shudder) outline what happened, on what day, and make sure things were happening at an appropriate pace. It’s not my fault. I needed the outline.

My next book was REMEMBER, and I told myself I wanted to outline it because I didn’t have a clear idea for the ending and besides, it would be easier to get it out of the way ahead of time (seriously, that’s what I told myself). Same thing for MALICE, my current WIP. I just want to know the ending.

Am I an outliner now? No, but that’s only because I don’t like to label myself (it restricts my ability to completely change my mind about something in the middle of doing it). I’ve just…realized that people were right. It does help to have it all out there. Not like it completely solves all writing problems. I still throw in new ideas as they come to me, and some of the ideas that I wrote in because they were in the outline didn’t pan out the way I want them to and will probably be cut when I’m finished with draft 1. So while I like having an idea of what I’m supposed to be writing, sometimes it kind of gets in the way, too. There are goods and bads to outlining…and I’ll probably be doing it for my next book.

Seriously, it hooks you.

Any thoughts about outlining? Have you ever radically changed your mind about something?

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Random Thoughts

---Time for some Random Thoughts! It’s been far too long since I’ve shared with you the insanity that runs through my head. Welcome, newcomers. I hope you love these as much as I do.
---If not, well, tough.
---While visiting some website, the words “This is where I leave you” appeared across the top of the tab, just for a second. I wish I had the time to get a screen cap. What a quiet message, yet fraught with longing.
---Yesterday I read about caterpillars that look like leaves, so naturally last night I dreamed that every tree I came across was full of them.
---One week of camping without any electronics can reset your biological clock, helping you sleep at night. However, doing so requires camping outside for one week without electronics. You can see the problem there.
---Richard Matheson wrote I AM LEGEND, the novel that got turned into that Will Smith movie that ruined the ending. Matheson’s son Chris is the creator of Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure. Let that sink in for a minute.
---America has five percent of the world’s population, yet it produces one quarter of the world’s garbage.
---The embassies of Slovak and Slovenia exchange wrongly addressed mail once a month.
---There is actually a musical of the book/movie AMERICAN PSYCHO. I’m not sure how to feel about that. Confused? Confused.
---A flight from Denver to Baltimore was diverted to another airport for security reasons. Said security reasons that two people complained about an R rated movie they couldn’t shut off being shown to their two young children. No, there’s no way those movie-complaining terrorist parents will win.
---The “Cobra Effect” is when the solution to a problem actually makes the problem worse. I assume it’s named after COBRA from G.I. Joe. Those guys couldn’t do anything right.
---“Ancient Daddy Longlegs Had Four Eyes, Not Two.” And will haunt your nightmares for eternity.
---A missing boy was found playing in a claw machine. Not with it. Inside of it.
---Granted, he was hardly more than a toddler, but I still can’t figure out how he managed to do that.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Language of Confusion: What’s Your Sign?

Whee, etymology day! It was a lot of fun doing a word a day, but now I can go into details. Also, a lot of times I come up with catchy titles and just do etymology from what’s in them. Case and point, see above. There are lots of words that have been created because of sign. Some of them even pronounce the N.

The word sign first showed up in the early thirteenth century, where it meant a motion of the hand (like you’d hold up your hand to stop someone or, you know, flip them off), and other sign meanings, like a signal or a miracle came from that. It came from the Old French signe, sign or mark, before that the classical Latin signum, which means sign or mark, and can be further traced back to the Proto Indo European word sekw-no- (FYI, the sekw- part of that word also gives us the word sequel).

Signature showed up in the mid-sixteenth century, initially meaning a document in Scottish law. It was derived from the Middle French signature and Medieval Latin signatura, which is pretty much the same thing. Anyway, you can see how sign, which once meant mark in Old French, could find its way to meaning a mark of someone’s name.

Signal showed up in the late fourteenth century from the Old French signal/seignal, seal or sign. It can be traced through Medieval Latin as signale and in Late Latin signalis, both meaning signal and both coming from the classical Latin signum that gave us sign.

Design showed up as a verb in the mid-sixteenth century. Back then, it meant mark, point out, or appoint, which is what we use designate for these days. The old definition follows that of the classical Latin word we took it from, designare, where the de- means out, and the signare is from signum, making the literal definition “mark out”. The noun version of design has a slightly different origin story, coming from the Middle French desseign and the Italian disegno, and before that the Latin designare that gave the other design. Both French and Italian have a more artistic definition attached to design; it can mean purpose or project in the former and drawing or picture in the latter. I’m guessing that’s why we use design the way we do these days.

Resign showed up in the late fourteenth century with basically the same meaning we have today, coming from the Old French resignere and classical Latin resignare. The prefix re- means opposite in this case, and “opposite of mark” doesn’t really make sense literally. But figuratively, it’s like the opposite of marking something off a to-do list—by removing it completely.

Ensign showed up in the late fourteenth century and we have Scottish to thank for it, although it did come from the Old French enseigne before that. Enseigne actually means a mark, signal, or flag, and it comes from the classical Latin insignia, which you may realize is where our word insignia comes from. The in- means, well, in, and the signum…okay, I’m guessing you know that by now. Anyway, this makes it “mark in”. Um, I guess this is supposed to be figurative.

This word that isn’t used so much these days first showed up in the early fifteenth century meaning to ratify by sign or seal. It comes from the Middle French consigner and classical Latin consignare. The prefix con- is from the prefix com- (really, that’s how it works) which means together. Literally the word means “mark together”, but it’s another one that’s more figurative.

Assign is fairly old, coming from the early fourteenth century and descended from the Old French assiginer and classical Latin (you know, like the rest of the words) assignare, both basically meaning what we know it ass. The prefix comes from ad-, meaning to. With signare, that makes it “sign to”, kind of like choosing someone for something. Or assigning it.

Whew. That was a long one. Bet you weren’t ready for something like that after all those short posts. I know I wasn’t.


Tuesday, May 6, 2014

May Goals

May already! I don’t know if it was because of the A-to-Z Challenge or what but April sure went by fast. For those just tuning in, I like to post my goals on the first Tuesday of every month to shame motivate myself into getting them done. Sometimes it even works.

First, let’s look at my goals for last month…

April Goals

1. Get more feedback on COLLAPSE query, maybe even rewrite it again. If I get something I like, I want to send out ten more queries.
I did rewrite it again, although I haven’t gotten any feedback and I’m still not one hundred percent sure it will work. I just hope it’s not as big a dud as my last one.

2. Forty thousand more words written in MALICE.
Did this! Plus some extra! Yay me!

3. A-to-Z challenge!!! Wooo! I’m planning on visiting at least ten other A-to-Z-ers every day, in addition to all the people I normally visit who are participating.
Yep! Hi, new friends! And old ones! I don’t think I got to ten every day (I may have over committed myself there) but I didn’t do too bad.

And now for this month…

May Goals

1. Send out ten more queries for COLLAPSE. I hope I garner some interest this time…

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.

3. Update my blogs etymology pages. I have a feeling this is going to be more complicated than it looks (it sure was last time!).

Well, that’s what I’m up to this month. I’m also going to be busy doing a major cleanout, so I probably won’t get as much writing done as I’d like. Boo. Anyway, what are you doing this month?

Saturday, May 3, 2014

Regularly Scheduled Programming

While I didn’t gain scads of new followers during the Challenge, I figured I’d do a filler post devote a day to explaining what my blog is about when I’m not doing a month of etymology. See, normally I only do one day a week of etymology. Big difference.

Unlike most bloggers, I post on a Tuesday-Thursday-Saturday blogging schedule because I just have to be different, and you don’t want to be bored just because it’s an off day, do you? Anyway, I use the word ‘anyway’ to segue a lot, and I’m always trying to crack jokes in hopes of making people laugh and feeling less insecure. I also like to post about writing/publishing on Tuesdays, etymology/other word related stuff on Thursday, and something fun on Saturday. Or a rant. Sometimes I rant. You should get used to that.

So that’s what my blog is, and it’s a pretty good representation of who I am, too : ). In general, my posts are a bit longer than this one, especially the etymology ones!, but not so long that you can’t read them during a coffee break. I do this for you. Certainly not because I can’t think of long posts to write. All for you.

Later! Have a nice weekend!

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Challenged Out

It’s done, okay? Done. April is over. We’re free!

Well, the Challenge was certainly an interesting experience. I like that I was able to meet some new people (hi guys! Any of you still around?), and there were some pretty interesting posts. I didn’t visit as many blogs as I should have, but some days I just didn’t have time. Especially on Saturdays when it was really nice out. Am I expected to sit in front of the computer on a warm spring day? I think not.

Anyway, I’m glad I did it. I suppose I’ll do it again next year—there are plenty of words left to etymologize, after all. But for now, I’m going back to my regularly scheduled programming.

How did the Challenge go for you? Or April in general? Find any cool bloggers? Anything fun going on with you? (I ask questions a lot to deflect having to end my posts with something interesting...yay laziness)