Friday, November 30, 2012

AIL Day 80: jiggery-pokery

Today's adventure in logophilia is


This is British term for dishonest or suspicious activity; or your basic nonsense, hocus-pocus, higgeldy-piggeldy.  It's puckish sound gives away its meaning... Puck sitting in a tree throwing something at you.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

AIL Day 79: incunabulum

The adventure in logophilia for today, this penultimate day of November, is...


Try saying that three times fast.  This special word is a noun referring to 1.) a book printed before 1501, which was at the very dawn of the printing press, and 2.) a work of art or of industry of an early period.  This gem is from the Latin incunabula, meaning "swaddling clothes."

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

AIL Day 78: dither

Today's adventure in logophilia is


A dither is a highly nervous, excited or agitated state.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

AIL Day 77: verglas

Today's adventure in logophilia is


Verglas is a thin coating of ice or frozen rain on an exposed surface, from the French verre (glass) and glas/glace (ice).  Did you find any of this mysterious stuff on your car this frigid morning?  I know I did! 

Monday, November 26, 2012

Wending to Winter

We had flurries for the first time this season!  Granted, the snow managed to stick to only a few surfaces before melting away, but winter definitely gave us a taste of its power today.  I enjoyed the blustery winds (even though my ears were seriously too cold) and the crisp smell in the air.  I don't enjoy it because of the inevitable Christmas tones that are blaring from every radio in every store right now - Advent does not begin until Sunday, after all.  In fact, I find myself looking forward to winter with a wild enthusiasm: the mercy of a warm, cozy place to return to after a walk in the cold; projects to keep me busy; queries to send.  For some reason, I'm finding creative energy in the cold and musing on unexpected things.  And that, my friends, is a good sign.  I'm not saying that winter will be perfect this year (when is it ever?) but it is more than bearable.  Here are just a few reasons:

Snowflakes on autumn-purple leaves.

Snowflakes on autumn-crimson leaves.

Berries and limestone.

Cherries in macro.

Another snow-kissed plant.

AIL Day 76: boffin

Today's adventure in logophilia is


Boffin (noun) is a British term for a scientific expert, especially one involved in (but not limited to) technological research.  In other words, an enthusiastic nerd.  We're all boffins about something, believe me. Life is better that way.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

AIL Day 75: factotum

Today's adventure in logophilia


A factotum (noun) is a person employed to do all kinds of work or business - a jack of all trades in an office setting.

AIL Day 74: surfeit

Saturday's adventure in logophilia is


A surfeit (noun) is an excessive amount, a glut, more than enough.  This term definitely applies to the 22 pound turkey my mother cooked for Thanksgiving... for five people.  Of course, when your goal is not simply Thanksgiving dinner but leftovers turned into casseroles and soups, the surfeit doesn't go to waste, does it?  I have enough for a third meal tomorrow.

Friday, November 23, 2012

AIL Day 73: lashings

Today's adventure in logophilia is


Lashings (n) are copious amounts of something, especially food and drink.  No doubt it will take us days to eat through through our lashings of Thanksgiving leftovers. 

AIL Day 72: nubbin

The 72nd adventure in logophilia is


Nubbin is a noun: a small lump or residual part of something.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

AIL Day 71: echolalia

My apologies to those of you who read Daedalus on Google Reader.  The font sizes don't always cooperate with me.

Today's adventure in logophilia is


That's a thing?  Yes, indeed!  Echolalia is the repetition (often pathological) of what is said by other people.  Twitter is a form of societal echolalia, methinks, especially when it comes to the practice of "re-tweeting."  For some reason I have a mental picture of Alpine yodelers when I hear this word.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

AIL Day 70: carapace

Today's adventure in logophilia is...


A carapace is a protective case or shell on the back of some animals (as turtles or crabs.) 

I've entered the stage where I realize the trial of trying to get one's novel published - making that transition from it being a private story to a public read - is a matter of building up one's carapace, putting on a suit of armor, becoming more pachyderm (choose whichever metaphors best suits you) in how we present ourselves to the world.  And I don't use carapace or pachyderm to mean "calloused" or "insensitive" as definitions of the latter would put it... I mean it in the "thick skin" sense.  We'll always be sensitive to criticism and rejection, especially when it comes to our brain-children, but we learn  how to withstand it, use it and move on from it. 

The rejections have begun for me.  Granted we're only on the second agency on my list, and there is a long winter ahead of me.  I was sad about it last night, and then came to the multi-faceted realization that 1.) I have a greater respect for the literary agents who sift through piles upon piles of query letters every week - how is it their fault if my novel doesn't stand out to them in the brief flash of a query?  And how is it mine?  It is a simple matter of the interests of two human beings not aligning exactly, not matching.  It's a very human, subjective business.  Of course, it is going to take a while to find a person (because agencies are organization made of people who are called agents) who wants to run with it.  One rejection isn't the End of All Things, just the beginning of the road. 

2.) All this worrying about whether or not my novel needs another rewrite is a bit silly.  Suppose I do need to put it through another wash?  Will it take so very long?  Is it beyond my power?  No.  In fact, it is quite doable.  It's just another step.  The state of my novel can't be the reason for a rejection if an agent hasn't read beyond the query. 

3.) A professor-friend of mine shared her mantra with me, "Living well is the best revenge."  I've heard this everywhere this week: "make the agent that rejected you regret having turned you down."  I wouldn't personally go so far, but the point is there: don't let this stop you; let this fuel your creative fire; take criticism, listen to it, apply it where it makes sense, ignore it where it does not.  There.  If this novel doesn't make it to publication, something will eventually.  In the meantime, my job is to write.

4.) This feels so much better than applying to an MFA program.  I feel sad for a while, but then I can move onto the next agent.  I don't have to stare ahead at a wasted year.  I don't have to regret the months I wasted on useless essays and personal statements, trying to sell myself to a university.  I can continue on as I've been doing: endeavoring to write well, and see where it takes me.  There is no greater relief.

Monday, November 19, 2012

AIL Day 69: puckish

Today's adventure in logophilia is


Puckish (adjective) means impish or whimsical; playful - especially in a mischevious way.  Taken, of course, from the mythological fairy Robin Goodfellow, an Old English/Celtic "puca."  You may remember him from Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream.  Depictions of him have him resembling a faun (Mr. Tumnus) or a satyr with a goat's hooves and long, pointed ears (eyebrows to match).  I love this word, because I envision puck sitting in a tree with a wink and a grin to rival Peter Pan's.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

AIL Day 68: sundry

Today's adventure in logophilia is


Yes, sundry on Sunday.  We must take as many opportunities to pun as humanly possible!  Anyway, sundry is an attributive adjective meaning, simply: of various kinds or several.  Sundries are items not important enough to be listed out separately; Oxford Dictionaries uses the example of things to be found in the check out line at the drug store.  This is both archaic and trendy, methinks, but will never quite die out.  I hope it doesn't; it's rather cool... in a nerdy sort of way

Saturday, November 17, 2012

AIL Day 67: tantamount

Today's adventure in logophilia is...


Tantamount (an adjective) means "equivalent in value, significance or effect." In other words, "equal to."

Friday, November 16, 2012

AIL Day 66: renascent

Today's adventure in logophilia is...


Renascent is an adjective that means reborn, or coming into being again.

The Writer's Black Hole

This has been an odd couple of weeks on the writing-sphere of my life.  I wonder sometimes if I have multiple personalities, a short attention span, or just a cranky "artist-child", as Julia Cameron would say.  The fact is, despite my daily visits to the blog and to Twitter, I have been in a dry spell since I finished my novel in September.

I remember looking forward to this period, journalling about the "free-time" I'd have to work on the blog, to pursue smaller projects, to experiment with other crafty things.  This was supposed to be a break, a wonderful time to regroup and recover and rebuild my creative energy.  And yet... having been deep inside this novel, in the minds and hearts of my characters, for the last year and a half, I found the post-novel experience to be frighteningly empty.  Perhaps, even lonely.  It's that moment when you realize, suddenly whilst swimming in the ocean, that you can no longer touch the bottom, and you begin to panic and sink. 

Abandoned Psychiatric Hospital.
 I didn't understand why I felt so bereft, empty, melancholic, etc, etc.  I came up with a variety of self-diagnoses (like a psychological version of House): I need a big project to fill the void; I need to work on something new: those stories that have been sitting in limbo forever; I need to stop whining, stop beating myself up and read, read, read.  These diagnoses were met with many a vacillation and excuse from my unappeased and unsatisfied "artist-child."

1.) The next "big" project would be the sequel to the novel I'd just finished - the novel which is in back in limbo, waiting for an agent.  At first, I thought - of course!  The characters are still fresh in my mind.  I want to return to them so badly... And then I keep worrying about the state of the first novel - whether anyone would really want to represent it, or if it needs another wash-through altogether.  Conclusion was that working on novel #2 would only make me worry about novel #1. 

2.) Working on the limbo stories is absolutely fine.  I have two of them: a scene where a historical character jumps from the tower in which was being held captive, and a sort-of fantastical bent on Melville's "Bartleby the Scrivener."  Awesome ideas.  Really!  But I couldn't (and still can't) figure out why my attention span and enthusiasm about these projects wavered from day to day.  Fear?  Yes, maybe, but isn't that obvious?  But fear doesn't always keep me running in the opposite direction.  It was torture to sit and stare at the partial drafts, having ideas in my head but being unable to bring them any further.  Finish them, finish them, part of me said.  But I was/is too tense to do so... as if suddenly an enormous amount of pressure was on my shoulders, trying to convince me that the only way I'd be taken seriously as a writer would be to fill up my portfolio with a variety of things... and didn't these make the most sense? 

3.) Not writing on any story was the other option, a complete surrender.  It's comparable to the glee of a child let loose at the end of the school year.  Yayyy!  I wanted to give myself a break!  Here's a break!  I'm going to watch as many episodes of The X-Files, Farscape and Star Trek: The Next Generation (yes, I'm a nerd, but you knew that) as I possibly can while I wait for Downton Abbey and Sherlock to air!  I'm going to devour more books!  I'm going to make all of my Christmas gifts by hand this year!  I'm going to become proficient in Latin!

And then the euphoria faded once again.  I was still empty.  Still hungry, perhaps that's the better term.  The story that was still vivid in my mind was... the sequel to the in-agent-limbo novel, even though I'd authoritative told my "artist-child" no.  "No.  It will only make you nitpick and stress out about what you have to fix for novel #1.  You're too anxious as it is, trying to come up with the plotline for novel #2.  Go play with Fantastical Bartleby.  Or, do your Latin.  You like Latin, remember?"  And my artist-child instead took none of those options and chose to sit in the corner, pouting.

As much as I like Julia Cameron and the "artist's way", I don't want to attribute this to being "blocked" and try in vain to "unblock" myself.  Blocked feels like such a negative, unproductive term.  I don't respond well to diagnoses like that - as I do struggle with anxiety on a daily basis.  Blaming myself for not writing isn't a cure.  And making myself write what I don't want to write is hardly a solution, either.  And... journalling and blogging have been a part of my daily routine since before the novel was finished.  Is that blocked?  No. 

So... I've come to several conclusions from this massive wallow in the writing black hole. 

1.) Anxiety about my first novel and whether or not it's "good enough" for an agent to want to represent will always be there.  I'm not the only writer to struggle with this, I know.  And how could we not be anxious?  This is our brain-child!  We want the best for him/her! 

2.) I am not blocked.  Period.  I'm between projects and enjoying a rest.  I am blogging and tweeting and using my brain.  That's good, right?

3.) I don't have to work on Fantastical Bartleby if I don't want to.  He can wait until a better time.  There will be a better time for him.  It's just not now.

4.) Work on novel #2 if I want to.  The characters are still vivid and beautiful in my head.  They're close to my heart.  I love them.  The most foolish thing would be to push them away.  And even if novel #1 needs another wash-through, that doesn't necessarily nullify my work on #2.  (If anything such revisions would be on language, not on plot or story.) 

5.) After so long without the "need" for watching tons of television, I am gorging myself.  I need to go on a Netflix diet but not completely deprive myself.

Already my unruly "artist-child" is feeling better.  I might still vacillate a bit about what to do next, but I'm not going to flagellate myself whatever I decide.  At this point "artist-child" wants novel #2, and we'll see where it takes us... but anything is good if it gets me out of the black hole and back into a better mind set, to fill the void left by that novel. 


On another note, I'm glad I decided not to participate in NaNoWriMo this year.  It would have had me stressed out on day one!

Thursday, November 15, 2012

AIL Day 65: dreamwork (j)

Today's word is


Yes, it is a word, not merely the name of a successful studio of animated films.  Dreamwork is the process by which the unconscious mind alters the manifest content of dreams in order to conceal their real meaning from the dreamer.  Ah, yes.  I do this all the time, and not just in my sleep.  This might be why I space out and forget where I am in the universe half the time.  Art and writing are partially written by the unconscious mind.  Fact.  In fact, the unconscious is in charge... I'm going to stop myself before this metaphor completely takes me hostage. 

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

AIL Day 64: apogee (j)

Today's word is


Apogee (noun) is the point of the moon's orbit which is farthest from the earth, or (a rarer occurrence) the point of the Earth's orbit that is farthest from the sun.  This is the direct opposite of perigee, which is the orbital point nearest to the Earth or the sun. 

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Telegraph on Handwriting (j)

On my daily perusal of the Telegraph, I discovered a little gem on the returning art of letter writing and improving your penmanship.  Jake Wallis Simons conveys a few tips to those of us who'd like our letters to look better and be more legible.  Below, I've paraphrased them:

* Obtain a comfortable pen.  (You'd think this is a no-brainer, but I had an epiphany reading this article. This is why my fingers hurt whenever I try to write stories by hand!)

* Sit up straight and pinch the pen between your first finger and thumb.  (Er... I've always utilized the side of my middle finger.  Is that to blame as well?)

* Try books on improving your handwriting.

* Write larger than normal at first. 

* Doodle letters to practice.

Oxford Dictionary's Word of the Year (j)

According to the Huffington Post, the word omnishambles is Oxford Dictionary's word of the year.

AIL Day 63: milquetoast (j)

Today's word is...


A milquetoast is one who has a meek, timid nature.  Yes, it is pronounced "milk-toast." Oxford Dictionaries indicates that it is the name of a 1930s cartoon character.  Online Etymology indicates that it might be a form of milksop, a 14th century term for "an effeminite spiritless man," and also used as a reference to the infant Christ... literally a piece of bread soaking in milk, mild baby food. 

This was not as nice as I would have thought.  I'm pretty sure I saw this in either Wolf Hall or Bring Up the Bodies, Hilary Mantel's historical fiction novels about Thomas Cromwell... which means it is slightly anachronistic (unless Ms. Mantel used the word "milksop" instead).  Nonetheless the term was used by Anne Boleyn's ladies in waiting to describe/deride the quiet Jane Seymour. 

Monday, November 12, 2012

AIL Day 62: prolix (j)

Today's word is...


Prolix, an adjective, means verbose, wordy, diffuse and redundantly executed language.  

I chose it today because it looks interesting.  Honestly, it has an x in it... so that automatically means it's on Jillian's list.  And... we're all guilty of prolixity from time to time... but I believe it is our license as writers to be as prolix as possible in our first drafts to see where the surfeit of words is actually aiming us.

Oxford Dictionaries indicates that it is late Middle English (which of course means it has roots in Old French) and has a connection to the Latin word proxilus meaning "poured forth and extended," a combination of the words "pro-" (outward) and "liquere" (to be liquid).  Words as liquid, spilling out across table, into a conversation, making a mess even if the color of that liquid happens to be pretty.  The wasted words must be sponged up.  The difference between actual liquid and words is that the words are reusable and will definitely return. 

Sunday, November 11, 2012

AIL Day 61: quiddity (j)

I'm late with today's dose of logophilia, but Sundays tend to be slow as a general rule.  Anyway, today's word is...


A quiddity is whatever makes something the type that it is: essence; a trifling point or quibble; a touch of eccentricity.  If you fear you are in possession of odd quiddities as a writer - certain words, certain phrases, certain preferences for unlikely characters - embrace them, use them and follow them onto something new.  A quiddity of mine, you ask?  I use the archaic word methinks a lot, find excuses to use 'twas and wont, and put Latin into one or two of my characters' mouths although - nota bene (note carefully) - used sparingly.

What are your favorite quiddities as a writer? 

Saturday, November 10, 2012

AIL Day 60: esprit de l'escalier (j)

Today's word of whimsy is...

esprit de l'escalier 

Huh, you say?  What's with all the French words?  English is awesome because it is always changing, absorbing words, phrases and nuances from other languages.  Today's word is no exception.  An esprit de l'escalier is a witty remark thought of too late, on the way home.  In other words, it is the clever comment you wish you had delivered and therefore impressed your friends (or enemies).  In French it means "staircase wit."  I'm sure we've all experienced this before.  As writers, I find we can actually use our late witticisms later on... keeping a stockpile until opportunity strikes in our pages. 

Friday, November 9, 2012

Adventures in Logophilia Day 59: hackneyed (j)

Today's word is...


The adjective hackneyed simply means "worn out by overuse."  According to Oxford Dictionaries, "hackney" was originally in use to indicate a horse hired for a carriage or coach - in other words, an ordinary harnessed horse.  As opposed, I assume, to the "high horses" (hee hee) used in the military.  Presumably also indicating an area of London called Hackney where horses were put to pasture.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Adventures in Logophilia Day 58: wend (j)

Today's word is...

To wend (verb) is to direct one's course in a particular way; to travel, to proceed, to continue.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Launching the Novel (j)

Here goes... I emailed my novel to the first agent on my list today, so wish me luck that this process is off to a kind start.  We are in for a winter of waiting and writing.  From what I've gathered, it will more than likely take a long, long time to find an agent 1.) willing to look at the manuscript, 2.) willing to represent it, 3.) able to publish it.  This is an exercise in patience, not futility. 

I'll let you know how I'm feeling about it later on! Keep writing, I've heard.  Keep writing.  This should be a no-brainer in any situation, but it has become my mantra.  I'm clinging to it like a lifeline, all limbs, fingers and toes.  Thanks for clinging with me.

Adventures in Logophilia Day 57: oeuvre (j)

Today's word is...


Pronounced 'uh-vruh, oeuvre (noun) is from the French literally meaning "work".  In literature we use it to mean a substantial body of work - the lifework of a writer or a composer.  A fancy word for portfolio or perhaps even repertoire. 

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Adventures in Logophilia Day 56: silly season (j)

I couldn't resist.  Today's word is...

silly season

A silly season is a period of time (particularly late summer) when the mass media often focus on trivial or silly matters for lack of major news, or, more generally, a period marked by frivolous, outlandish or illogical activity or behavior.  Cough, cough, politics, cough.

Today is election day, which means we've been in a silly season for countless weeks... counting down to the poles, pitting Candidate A against Candidate B (and vice versa), mud slung here, mud smeared there.  I imagine bread and circuses, a junior high cafeteria food fight, or revels to rival (hee hee) Carnivale.  It has been exhausting, and I am quite eager for today's "festivities" to be over at last.


I hope you don't take this post as indifference to election day.  No, actually, it's very important.  This is free speech at work!  Please vote.  Take it seriously.  The silly season is the meaningless part of the election - the day to day predictions and the analyzing of rhetorical minutiae.  Today is the day that matters, when the candidates quiet down and we have our say.  Good luck!

Monday, November 5, 2012

Adventures in Logophilia Day 55: Guy Fawkes Day (j)

Today's phrase is...

Guy Fawkes Day
... or Bonfire Night

Yes, another Britishism.  If you've seen V for Vendetta, you'll have heard "remember, remember the fifth of November, the Gunpowder treason and plot..."  In 1605, Guy Fawkes was one of a group of anarchists arrested for a plot to assassinate James I of England for not promoting greater tolerance for Catholic practices in England.  He was caught guarding 36 barrels of gunpowder under the House of Lords.  James I had only been king of England for less than two years.  The plotters were arrested and later executed (hanged, drawn and quartered) for treason.  Effigies of Fawkes were burnt around this time, remembering the event-that-wasn't - a chilling anti-Catholic practice.  These days, effigies of celebrities and detested politicos are burnt instead. 

This is a very elementary explanation of the Gunpowder Plot.  (I've had a lot of interruptions this morning.) When I went to England and learned about the bonfires, I thought it was a fun post-Halloween autumn celebration.  Then, I learned about its cruel history in post-Reformation England and changed my mind. 

Adventures in Logophilia Day 54: vim (j)

The word for 4 November is...


Vim (a noun) simply means energy and enthusiasm.

Adventures in Logophilia Day 53: twee (j)

The word for 3 November was/is...


Twee is a British expression, an adjective, meaning affectedly or excessively dainty, delicate, quaint or cute.

On the Mend (j)

You may have noticed my absence from the blog these last several days.  I was out with stomach bug and nausea, so... you understand now how concentrating on words and writing can be a little difficult.  Sometimes, as a friend just pointed out to me, the body demands rest.  It doesn't ask permission.  It doesn't need a reason.  

I'm looking at this as another good reason for deciding not to participate in National Novel Writing Month.  If I had set my heart on the project, only to find myself laid up in bed with saltines and Netflix and unable to do much else, I would have been set back before I even started.  Let's face it.  Writing 1,667 words in a day (to acheive the ultimate goal of 50,000 at the end of the month) is no small feat.  Besides, what about Thanksgiving and Christmas?  Sure, they're not here yet, but I'm not waiting till December to start on my Christmas presents.  And... I'm getting ready to start sending my novel and sundry query materials to agents.  I have a back log of old papers that need to be scanned and shredded (no, never really finished that old project).  I have a full plate whether I want to admit it or not.

Under other circumstances perhaps NaNoWriMo would have worked for me.  I've heard it's a great way to churn out that awful first draft of a novel, and thousands are participating.  People are writing!  That's phenomenal!  So, if you happen to be in the midst of your NaNo work, good luck to you.  We are cheering you on!  Happy writing!


The words will return shortly. 

Friday, November 2, 2012

Adventures in Logophilia Day 52: lambent (j)

Today's word is...


Something that is lambent (adjective) is characterized as flickering or softly radiant, marked by brilliance or lightness, effulgence, incandescence, or luminosity. 

Adventures in Logophilia Day 51: sylph (j)

Day 51:


A sylph (noun) is an imaginary beeing inhabiting the air, or a slender graceful woman.  More specifically, it hails from Paracelus, German-Swiss scientist and Renaissance man in the mid-1500s, who theorized about elemental beings inhabiting the air.  According to Ye Olde Wiky-paedia, he was the "father of toxicology."


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