Lost for words
The title for this, my last ever Murderati post, came easily. And then I was stuck.
I'm all out
of clever things
I am genuinely lost for the right words to express how I feel about the end of this era. Part of me is desolate. The friends I’ve made on Murderati have been wonderful and I hope we won’t lose touch but I fear that may happen so easily. Time just seems to disappear. The last time I turned around it was Christmas. Now we’re well into Spring and CrimeFest in Bristol is only weeks away.
Writing for Murderati has been hard in the way that I find all writing hard — because I want to do my best and therefore I sweat and swear over it. I can’t bring myself to do a ‘I couldn’t think of anything so here’s some rehashed old stuff’ type of post. Sometimes I felt I missed the mark entirely but on those occasions when you seemed to like what I’d written it reminded me so strongly why I do this. Not just the blogging but the whole writing thing.
WORD OF THE WEEK
One of my favourite parts of blogging here has always been choosing a Word of the Week. Well, as I won’t be doing that here any longer I thought I’d leave you with a selection:
Adoxography — the art of skilled writing on an unimportant subject.
Plus two dozen more zany definitions (and a cartoon or three) . . . just follow the link above!
In praise of Versatility
Last week I was honoured and somewhat surprised to be nominated for the Versatile Blogger Award by be-kilted Scottish fellow scribe Seumas Gallacher, bless his little Sgian-dubh. And if you want to see pictures, you’ll have to visit his blog :))
Apparently the VBA is awarded by bloggers to other bloggers who happen to witter on about things that somebody, somewhere, might conceivably find interesting or entertaining. What a lovely thought.
The requirements are that I then nominate up to fifteen other bloggers I find interesting or entertaining, and so it goes on until we all start attempting to nominate each other several times over, or we lie behind the sofa when we hear the knock on the door and pretend to be out.
WORD OF THE WEEK
This week’s Word of the Week is fictioneer − one who writes fiction especially in quantity rather than quality, a word coined in 1923 and from the Latin fingere from which we also get feign and figment.
So long, and thanks for all the fish
I’m sure Zoë will be in a much sunnier frame of mind tomorrow—or pretend she is. So stiff-upper-lip, that woman. Bless her murderous little heart."
Hmm, thank you to David Corbett for that impossible introduction in his Murderati blog yesterday. How to respond? If I wail and gnash my teeth, I’m being a wuss. If I carry on like nothing’s happened, I’m conforming to a racial stereotype. Ah well.
The truth is that I’m not entirely sure how I feel about the end of such an era as Murderati. This is my hundred-and-fiftieth blog here and for that reason alone it feels slightly momentous. It would seem that only JT Ellison, Pari Noskin Taichert and Alexandra Sokoloff have written more on these pages. I had no idea I’d been quietly scribbling away to such an extent.
WORD OF THE WEEK
This week’s Word of the Week comes courtesy of my Twitter pal Jon Cooper. It’s ultracrepidarian which is a person in the habit of giving opinions, criticism or advice on matters outside his or her expertise. Well, we’re all guilty of that occasionally aren’t we?
They say the best recommendation is word of mouth—a personal tip from someone you know and whose judgement you trust. But increasingly these days we find ourselves connecting with people in a less personal way as more and more of us take to shopping online.
Global economies are tanking as the rich get richer and the rest of us have to cope as best we can. It all boils down to the price of everything without taking the cost into account. We buy online because they don’t have high street overheads and it’s invariably cheaper, and because the high street is losing out on sales it becomes a sad collection of boarded-up windows, charity shops and bargain basements. Personal service seems to be a thing of the past. Soon we won’t have to speak to another real human being during our daily lives at all.
WORD OF THE WEEK
This week’s Word of the Week is floccinaucinihilipilification, meaning the categorizing of something that is useless or trivial.
Who are you talking to?
This week for the first time I came across mention of a guy called Theodore Levitt. And having done so I’m ashamed that I had not heard of him before. He was a German-born American economist and editor of the Harvard Business Review. Among his other achievements Mr Levitt wrote an article called Marketing Myopia in which he raises some fascinating points about business—particularly big business—and why it fails.
Mr Levitt points out that "the history of every dead and dying ‘growth’ industry shows a self-deceiving cycle of bountiful expansion and undetected decay." At some point every industry can be said to be booming but then it dies away. Usually this is because markets change and the industry fails to adapt, or because they become so fixated on mass-producing and selling their existing product that they no longer concentrate on the wants or needs of those buying that product.
WORD OF THE WEEK
This week’s Word of the Week is hippopotomonstrosesquipedalian, meaning pertaining to extremely long words
Confession time. I last worked in an office environment—as in working for somebody else—twenty-five years ago. All I had on my desk back then was an electric typewriter and a landline telephone. The answering machine still had tape cassettes in it. I got to work in the mornings worked all day and went home at five-thirty.
OK, it was not without its occasional moments of drama, like the time I accidently got locked into the building one night and had to climb out of a upper-storey window and then scramble across rooftops to freedom. Or the time, one week into a new job, when the boss said, "Right, we’re off on holiday next week. If the bailiffs arrive while we’re away don’t let them take anything . . ."
But generally the biggest no-nos were arriving late or sneaking off early. People didn’t even leave their desks to have a smoke. In fact I used to work sandwiched between two people who both chain-smoked and would leave cigarettes burning in their ashtrays while they nipped out on some errand. They didn’t like it when I stubbed them out in their absence. My excuse was if I had to smoke passively while they were around then I was damned if I was going to do it while they weren’t.
WORD OF THE WEEK
This week’s Word of the Week is librocubicularist, which is someone who reads in bed.
A leap on the dark side
Since Christmas I’ve been editing a new book that’s a real departure for me. It’s a supernatural thriller rather than straightforward crime, although it starts with the brutal murder of a young girl and charts the effect this has on her parents and those caught up in the events that follow.
If asked to sum it up in a sentence, I would say it’s about a supernatural assassin who you summon with grief but pay with your soul.
A far cry from the close-protection world of my series character, Charlie Fox.
It’s not that I’m intending to move away from the series, far from it. DIE EASY: Charlie Fox book ten is just out and I’m planning the next instalment. Plus I keep receiving wonderful emails and comments on Facebook and Twitter from people who have either been reading the books from the start, or have only recently stumbled into Charlie’s world and are loving it. I don’t say this in any way to brag, but to express my own humbled delight that so many people actually seem to like what I do. Any writer will tell you this can be a constant source of amazement.
Without readers we are merely talking nonsense in an empty room.
WORD OF THE WEEK
This week’s Word of the Week is hagiography, which used to mean the biographies of saints or venerated persons, but has now come to mean any biography which over-idealises or idolises its subject.
The not-so gentle art of the synopsis
I’m sure I’m not alone when I say that I find writing a synopsis the most difficult part of being a writer. But it’s also the most vital.
Even if you’re a seat-of-the-pants kind of writer, who sets out with an idea and runs with it until the end, you may still have to produce a synopsis after the event, in order to sell your masterpiece to a publisher.
If you go searching the subject, you’ll find almost too many websites, blog sites and articles to count. I’ve been hunting around and tried to come up with a general consensus of the advice that’s out there. Please feel free to add, contradict or explain your own theories!
If you’re a plotter to begin with, then you will probably already have the original outline you used as the backbone of your story. If you’re anything like me, though, by the time you’ve finished it will be covered in crossings-out and pencil alterations. So, your first job is to produce a clean, accurate outline.
WORD OF THE WEEK
This week’s Word of the Week is deus ex Meccano, which is a kit of metal bits and pieces to allow you to construct the ending to your book :))
It could be . . . what?
In times of economic difficulty—OK, make that the screaming dive of recession—people often think of the lottery as a possible answer to all their prayers and problems. Your view of such form of gambling might be similar to George Orwell’s in his classic novel of a dystopian future, 1984. (Well, it was written in 1949.) Orwell described a state-run lottery which was designed to keep the minds of the Proles occupied with something other than the reality of their situation.
But nevertheless, even if you don’t regularly play the lottery, the topic of what you’d do if you suddenly came into a substantial amount of money is one that’s often discussed.
So, what would you do with your newly acquired millions? Buy a Bentley? A big house with a helicopter pad on the back lawn and a billiard table in the basement? Learn to drive, fly or even play billiards?
WORDS OF THE WEEK
There are several Words of the Week this week. All alternative meanings to medical terms:
With all undue respect
From what I've seen of you, Zoë, you treat people with a respect that you somehow do not expect to receive yourself."
This was said to me a month or so ago by someone I’ve known for a long time, if not closely. I had no idea he’d observed me well enough to form such an opinion one way or another.
My first instinct was denial. Or not quite denial but certainly qualification. Respect is not something that can be expected—not in the present world.
It has to be worked for, earned.
And once you have it, you can’t simply hang it above the fireplace like a dusty stag’s head trophy and expect admiration from all comers. It has to be carefully maintained or the moths will turn it into little more than a memory.
New Year interrogation
Welcome to the first Wildcard Tuesday blog of 2013, and an enormously Happy New Year to you all. For this I asked a few lighthearted questions of fellow ‘Rati past and present, and below are their answers. I hope you find them worthy of a giggle.
As a small aside, I started off searching for sensible author pix, but what I’ve actually ended up going for are the silliest pix that came up on the first page of a Google Images search on that author’s name.
The authors in question—and I'm grateful to all those who took part and contributed such entertaining answers—are: Alexandra Sokoloff, Allison Brennan, Brett Battles, David Corbett, Gar Anthony Haywood, JT Ellison, PD Martin, Pari Noskin Taichert, Stephen Jay Schwartz, Tania Carver, and Tess Gerritsen. I took the liberty of adding my own thoughts, too.
The mental lightbulb
Well, the disruption of Christmas is just about all over. I say that without any edge to the words. But for the past three days I’ve had the house filled with strangers—strangers I just happen to know well.
Please don’t misunderstand me. I love my family, but I’ve been living away from them now for far longer than I ever lived with them. As an individual I have grown to fill the expanded corners of my own existence in such a way that we somehow no longer quite fit together as the close family unit we once were. I daresay they feel much the same way about me.
And yet, this Christmas, I have appreciated my family more than ever.
But I know that Thursday—the day after St Stephen’s Day, or Boxing Day—marks a return to normality. And that brings with it more questions than answers.
Because I’m not sure I know what classifies as normality any longer.
This is my last Murderati post of 2012, so I wish you all health, luck and happiness for the coming New Year, and I’ll be back on Jan 1st with a Wildcard round-up.
A cautionary seasonal tale
I lay no claims to the following, but when it was sent to me earlier this week by my friend Shell, it seemed wholly appropriate in light of the season of over-indulgence that is almost upon us, and I couldn’t resist sharing it.
In the beginning God covered the earth with broccoli, cauliflower and spinach, with green, yellow and red vegetables of all kinds so Man and Woman would live long and healthy lives.
Then using God's bountiful gifts, Satan created Dairy Ice Cream and Magnums.
And Satan said, "You want hot fudge with that?"
And Man said, "Yes!"
And Woman said, "I'll have one too—with chocolate chips."
And lo they gained 10 pounds.
WORDS OF THE WEEK
This week’s Words of the Week are several Daft Definitions:
microbe: tiny dressing gown
pandemonium: black and white musical instrument that won’t breed in captivity
I hope you’ll all forgive me this week if I do a little catching up with myself. It’s been a busy few months and I wanted to let you know that I haven’t been entirely idle during that time.
This year is passing so quickly, and the final month of the year is just about upon us. I’ve no idea what happened to most of it—it sped by in something of a blur.
Still, the latest in the Charlie Fox series—DIE EASY: Charlie Fox book ten—is out there in digital form, complete with a guest excerpt from the first in a new series by bestselling author Joel Goldman—STONE COLD. The US/Canadian edition of DIE EASY is d ue in January.
WORD OF THE WEEK
This week’s Word of the Week is gormless, a lovely word that has certain lights-on-nobody-at-home connotations. It actually comes from an old English dialect noun gaum meaning attention or understanding, and also a dolt, but can also function as a verb meaning to behave stupidly. The most common spelling in modern times is gormless. I love the idea that one can have gorm—it’s a bit like using ruth instead of always ruthless, or to be ept instead of always inept.
The next big thing
Screenwriter and novelist Stephen Gallagher collared me last week for this, The Next Big Thing blog hop. He breezily explained that all I had to do was answer ten questions on my next or latest project, then tag five other willing victims—erm, esteemed authors—to do the same. Stephen likened it to grains of rice on a chessboard, and that within a few weeks there would not be an untagged writer left on the planet.
While there’s still time, here are my answers to the ten burning questions:
Slips of the ear − homonyms, oronyms, homographs and mondegreens
I like unintentional humour, and a good deal of amusement can be had from slips of the ear − words misheard, misinterpreted or simply misunderstood. I’d no idea, though, until I started looking into the subject, how many different words there were to describe this phenomenon, so I thought I’d share some trivia with you.
First up is a Homonym, which is when two or more words have the same sound or spelling, but differ in meaning, from the Greek ‘same name'.
A nice example comes from ALICE’S ADVENTURES IN WONDERLAND:
"Mine is a long and sad tale!" said the Mouse, turning to Alice, and sighing.
"It is a long tail, certainly," said Alice, looking down with wonder at the Mouse's tail; "but why do you call it sad?"
Now the clocks have gone back, the first dusting of snow has fallen, and the rabid countdown to Christmas is in full swing, it feels like winter is officially Here.
I have mixed feelings about this. Part of me is extremely tempted to mutter, "Bah! Humbug!" under my breath a good deal odf the time. But actually I find the winter months tend to be a really good time to write. There isn't the temptation to venture out, and there's something rather cosy about sitting creating stories in a little pool of light from a desk lamp, while the wind thrashes the sleet against the outside of the windows.
WORD OF THE WEEK
This week’s Word of the Week is mislippen, a Scots and Northern English dialect word meaning to distrust, suspect, disappoint, overlook, neglect or deceive.
Eating the elephant
Ever get the feeling that a job always expands to fill the time available for the task? In fact, in most cases it expands to overflow the time available, and ends with some desperate floundering to make up for lost time, or giving up because the whole task seems simply too large to tackle.
Sometimes you have to accept that eating the elephant has to be done one bite at a time.
The subject of goals—setting them and achieving them—is very much on my mind today. For one thing, this month is NaNoWriMo—National Novel Writing Month. For those of you unaware of this program, it promotes the writing of a 50,000-word novel (or a 50k part of a novel) during November. And it certainly works, with millions of collective words written by the participants every year.
But why does it work?
WORD OF THE WEEK
This week’s Word of the Week is hamartia, meaning the flaw or defect in the character of the hero which leads to his downfall, originally (and especially) in Greek tragedy, from the Greek hamartia, failure, error of judgement, sin, and also hamartiology, the section of theology dealing with sin.
Escaping to another place
Most of us read to be transported to another place. As a child it was a place of excitement and welcome. I think most children go through a phase of feeling that we don’t quite fit in with our families, and that we might even be some kind of cuckoo, deposited in another nest to be raised, and that sooner or later our ‘real’ family will arrive to claim us.
No? Ah, just me then . . .
In times of stress or unhappiness, the world presented by a good book can be a place to step into, to be enveloped and even comforted. It offers some kind of order out of chaos. You open a crime thriller in particular knowing there will be satisfying resolution. That the murder will be solved, the mystery unravelled, the disaster averted, and the bad guys will get their just desserts. However horrific the crime, the hero will prevail and there will be justice done.
WORD OF THE WEEK
This week’s Word of the Week is monger, usually used in combination with another word, meaning a dealer and except in a few instances, such as ironmonger − a person who trafficks in a petty or discreditable way, or in unpleasant subjects, such as warmonger, or gossipmonger. From the Latin mango -onis, a furbisher or slave-dealer, from the Greek manganeuein, to use trickery.
Never leave home without . . .
Travelling these days is not a simple business. Airline regulations and heightened security have made sure of that. Ever-restricted luggage allowances have compounded things. Gone are the days when I could travel with my Swiss Army knife and a full bottle of water. But there are still things − beyond the obvious like passport and credit cards − I never leave home without.
The first of these is eyedrops. Something about air conditioning on planes and in hotels makes my eyes resemble a pair of fried tomatoes. As a teetotaller, looking like I’ve had a very heavy night on the beer is not the best thing for me, so . . .