One for the Logophiles

Quick word from our sponsor (…so, basically me):

Surrogate Sea 99 Cents

For a limited time, the Kindle e-book for “The Surrogate Sea” is on sale for $0.99!

That’s right, because I want to make it easier on everyone to get all caught up on their Wilderhark Tales before Book 6.5 launches on July 7th (though it’s totally already available to order here, here, and here), Book Six can be on your e-reader for just 99 cents. Run, don’t walk! The deal only carries through Monday, July 6th. (Which, incidentally, is also the last day to enter my Goodreads giveaway for “The Sky-Child and Other Stories”.)

And speaking of “Surrogate Sea”… *segues into regularly scheduled blog post*

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A short while back, I came across this BuzzFeed article full of “-phile” words (y’know, that suffix from the Greek, denoting the meaning “lover of”) quite fetchingly displayed on accompanying images.

Me being a logophile (i.e., a word lover – and heck yes, the BuzzFeed piece included that one), I naturally enjoyed scrolling through the article’s offerings. Me also being Danielle E. Shipley, the crazy cat character lady, I just as naturally thought about which of the words might apply to which people in my head. And once I started seeing them, I realized to my delight that connections to my most recently published Wilderhark Tale were everywhere!

So here now, for your visual and linguistic pleasure, are the words most befitting the cast of “The Surrogate Sea”!

Word Love, Thalassophile

With his passion for the Great Sea, “thalassaophile” most befits the Wind of South, Austeryn.

Word Love, Pluviophile

Of course, given that Austeryn is the Sky’s rain-bringer, the word “pluviophile” also applies.

While we’re on the topic of winds, behold those best suited to Aquinore, the chionophilic Wind of the North, and Euroval, ceraunophilic Wind of the East. Frigid cold and thunder/lightning storms, respectively, are what they love best of all.

Word Love, Chionophile

Word Love, Ceraunophile

Queen Laraspur and I share a trait in common: We are both selenophiles, infatuated with the magical Moon.

Word Love, Selenophile

The Moon himself, meanwhile, is the astrophilic keeper of the stars.

Word Love, Astrophile

But even more than moon- and starlight, Lumónd adores the night. Above all, the Moon is a nyctophile.

Word Love, Nyctophile

Unsurprisingly, this stands in stark contrast to his elder brother, for Raeóryn’s first love will ever be the light. The Sun = hardcore photophile.

Word Love, Photophile

Meanwhile, on the earth below, Ionquin Wyle reveals himself to have become deeply fond of passing time among the trees of Wilderhark Forest. Like me, then, the prince is a dendrophile.

Word Love, Dendrophile

And I couldn’t see this picture and not think of dear old Edgwyn Wyle. He’s been more or less a lifelong hippophile – as one might guess from his insistence on sharing his “Stone Kingdom” bookmark portrait with his horse. X)

Word Love, Hippophile

Surrogate Sea cover, front

For even more enchanting word pinups, check out the full BuzzFeed collection. And to be further enchanted by the newest Wilderhark Tale, make sure to get your paperbacks and/or 99-cent e-books of “The Surrogate Sea. Gotta be all caught up before Book 6.5 releases next week, right? ;D

“Overused” or “‘That’s My Name,’ said the word. ‘Don’t Wear it Out.’”

As part of the groundwork for their publication of the upcoming “One More Day” anthology and my debut novel “Inspired”, J. Taylor Publishing sent me a manuscript preparation guide – i.e., a checklist to help me line-edit my story to their tiptop satisfaction. One of my first tasks is to eliminate any overused words from the text.

Being a reader/writer who is swiftly annoyed by seeing the same words “used to excess” within a short space of time, I can appreciate the value of this editing step, though gosh knows it can be a challenge. I mean, just look at the list of words and phrases I’ve been instructed to look out for:

– again and again    – as it were    – at present

– at the same time    – basically    – completely   – could

– currently    – despite the fact that    – due to the fact that

– essentially    – etcetera    – extremely    – feel/feeling/felt

– furthermore    – had/have    – hear/heard    – in any way, shape, or form

– in order to    – in fact    – it is imperative that    – it is important that

– just    – knew/know    – look/looked    – maybe    – moreover

– over and over    – presently    – quite    – really    – see/saw

– simply    – smell/taste    – so on and so forth    – that    – then

– therefore    – totally    – very    – was/were    – watch/notice/observe

With my anthological tale, I was able to check off some of these words straight away, because they hadn’t made an appearance in this particular short story. However, had the story stretched into a novel, or been told with a different narrative voice, who knows? I may well have employed every item on the list many times over… rather like I did with “Inspired”. (It’s actually shocking how many scores of “have”s and “know”s you can cut out, and still be left with a hundred more!)

There’s a reason these words made the list in the first place: People use them. A lot. And while frequent use doesn’t make a word bad in and of itself, it can be a sign that your writing isn’t getting all the creativity it’s due.

But… b-but…” you may stammer, lip trembling, “every word in my story is there for a reason! I can’t just cut it!

I know that feeling. And in some cases, it may be true; that word, whatever it is, could well be the only one that will perfectly suffice in that instance. Far more often, though, any given word can be replaced. Phrases can be rearranged, the thesaurus can be mined for a lustier synonym, some sentences can be deleted altogether.

It’s the job of the self-editing writer to decide a word’s worth on a case by case basis. If the heavily repeated word is easily interchangeable, make the change. If it doesn’t add anything to the sentence except extra syllables (and you don’t have some sort of rhythmic, poetic reason for leaving it in), remove it. If, after much thought and experimentation, there is simply no way to touch that word without damaging the integrity of the story, leave it.

Yes, I said “leave it”. It’s okay to use a word when it’s needed. That’s what words are for. It’s just a matter of intention. Maybe you chose that word with care for artistic reasons; maybe it’s a part of the story’s symbolism. Maybe you’ve got a character with habitual word choices; that’s fine, that’s just part of who they are, and could actually be a handy way of telling one voice from another at a glance. Decide for yourself why the word is there. Keep your mind open for words that might better say what you mean, or that do little to affect their own sentences, but which improve the story as a whole.

Thus shall I tell myself as I return to tackle my little mountain of remaining line edits. Back into the fray!

Tell me, readers: What words do you think get major overuse in the writing you see? How about words that you don’t think get enough love?

* For the sake of illustration, I’ve colored all the listed words used in this blog post in purple, a metaphor for things that make me happy (like words, and blue!) and things that make me tense if I see too much of it (lookin’ at you, red).

...Which some might view as a commentary on so-called “purple prose”, but I’m not going there, today.
…Which some might view as a commentary on so-called “purple prose”, but I’m not going there, today.

“HYSRT!” or “Maybe Half Lots Would Actually be Simpler…”

Dear English,

Though I revel in the art to be made with you, I fully acknowledge that you are ridiculous.

(Yes, ridiculous. “Deserving or inspiring ridicule; absurd, preposterous, or silly”, that’s you.)

You contradict your own rules as often as you follow them, as if you’re not even trying to make sense of yourself. Anyone able to read this blog post in the tongue in which I typed it should give themselves a round of applause. I feel I owe myself a treat just for being able to thus convey my ideas. We’re geniuses, all of us! Geniuses with a dum-dum language!

Go Home, English

This truth was driven home to me after reading a post by Ruth Layne on her blog, Misadventures of a Would-Be Writer. Hey, y’know what, English? You Should Read This. Entitled “Lots of English. Whole Lots”, it points out what a troublesome means of communication you are – not just for brave souls attempting to master you as a second language, but even for your native speakers. Even I, who have heard you spoken since my days in the womb; have spoken you myself since my mouth could manage the phonemes; I who have gobbled through books filled cover to cover with your words, and who have written books, poems, articles, essays of my own – even I do not pretend to wholly understand you!

Fortunately, one does not have to wholly understand a thing to love it.

Love you indeed,

Danielle

“HYSRT!” or “Of Thieves of Fish, Et Cetera”

Sometimes you read something that just gives you pleasure. You can’t always say just which chord was struck and why (or maybe you’re having a good wordsmith day and can say it with the eloquent beauty of minstrel song), but there it is: You read it, and you relished it, and you want somebody, somewhere, to know about it.

I feel that way a lot when submerged in the words of Louise Jaques. My friend’s lyrical lines of poetry/poetic prose are most often to be found at her blog, but the piece I’m featuring today was a guest post on the blog of another (Stef, by name), “Dodging Commas”. (Double sharing points! Gotta love the blogosphere.)

The feature, “Swimming in a Language Sea”, speaks of that readers’ pleasure with which I opened this post, and of the writers’ high that such pleasure so often inspires. So if you are, like me, a lover of language and ravenous reader – and perchance a writer, to boot – then Hey: You Should Read This.

“Swimming in a Sea of Words” by Rachel Ashe, as seen here: http://rachaelashe.com/2009/12/22/altered-book-swimming-in-a-sea-of-words/

“Illustration” or “A Couple Thousand Words are Worth Some Pictures”

Long before Danielle E. Shipley was a fantasy novelist and short story scribe, she was a picture-book author. Her (or rather, “my”, since narration in the third-person ends now) first literary projects, painstakingly crafted via children’s PC writing software, were only minimally about words, and might even never include any beyond the title. An actual story was all very well, but I was really just in it for the pictures.

            Obviously, things have changed. Nowadays, I’ll typically put out a few ten-thousand words before I create so much as a piece of fan art. My primary concern is to take what’s in my head and reproduce in yours via description and dialogue and something else that begins with a “D”, because I like alliterative lists of three. As the poet said, “I should be painting this masterpiece with words / Creating colors from adjectives and verbs / Every brushstroke should be a keystroke / Make you feel that you’re seeing what you’ve heard.” (The poet being me, the complete poem to be found here.) I am a writer, first and foremost.

           But I’m a visual artist, too.

            I’ve entertained brief fantasies of being an author/creator of “visual matter used to clarify or decorate a text” – a phenomenon most often seen in children’s books, but by no means always.

“The Plucker”, written and illustrated by Brom, is about the last thing you’d want to read to your little ones at bedtime. I read it in my young-adulthood, and the scars have yet to fade.

Quite honestly, though, I’m not sure how well Author Me and Illustrator Me would get along together. Author Me sees her work a certain way – a way that would take superior skill to render to her satisfaction. And Illustrator Me, though talented within her own style, is no Brom, Brett Helquist, or some other illustrator whose name begins with “Br”.

            So I’d more or less given up on ever illustrating a published book. And apparently, I’d given up a wee bit early.

            “A Cuppa and an Armchair” – which, you may recall, totally rocked my world by including a short story of mine in their December 2011 publication – has another set of stories scheduled to go up for sale any day now. One of these stories will have been written by me. Another will have been illustrated by me. I guess the sample of work in my Deviant Art gallery was less than entirely off-putting, because I was tapped to put together some images for one of my fellow “Cuppa/Armchair” writers, and I got the impression that she was pleased with my offering.

            I’ll be sure to let you all know when my words and pictures launch – which will just go to illustrate that even largely abandoned dreams may yet come true.

“Modify” or “When Word(smith)s Fail”

So, I was chatting on the phone with my bestie-forever-and-always (the one and only Tirzah “Ink Caster” Duncan, of course), and one of us (I forget which, now) found herself groping for a word meaning “to change in form or character; alter”. We eventually settled on “modify” as the verb that would most neatly suit, but it was a long, awkward road to get there. And henceforth, it has been a running gag of my character Bruno’s to suggest “modify” as the word we’re searching for, never mind how close or way off base the suggestion may be.

            One might think that one who does a lot of reading and writing would, more often than not, have the perfect word on hand for any situation. Well, one would be wrong. Teasingly on the tips of our tongues, sure. On hand, not nearly always. An extensive vocabulary can prove itself a curse as well as a blessing.

(Logo property of NBC)

            …The worse you feel when the one word you want is hiding behind a jumble of inappropriate others. It’s not so terrible when I’m writing, because I can always take a timeout to turn to the dictionary or thesaurus for aid – a habit of mine that’s best used in moderation during a literary sprint like NaNoWriMo, but otherwise quite helpful. Verbal conversation, however, is a different story. With next to zero time to edit, I’m left scrambling for words that will even quasi-accurately convey what’s going on in my head. (Of course, half of what’s going on in my head is gobbledygook anyway, but it makes no difference: I want that gobbledygook expressed just so.)

            So, what do you do when you’re caught in the headlights of a conversation with the perfect word nowhere in sight?

            Um, uh, y’know, like… shoot, hold on a sec… *elevator music plays* Leave your audience hanging. It’s not like they have anything better to do than wait for you to get yourself together; life’s long enough. And you just know this pointless anecdote will be well worth the ten-minute intermission. Everything you say is gold, because you take the time, however painfully long, to ensure that it is so.

            Fake it ‘til you make it. Just use made-up words to hold your place or distract from how inept your mouth is being today. Necessity was the mother of the invention of words such as “whatchamacallit”, “doohickey”, and “thingummy”. Rather than accept defeat, turn this oral failure into an opportunity to coin the slang of tomorrow!

            Settle. Maybe the word you meant will reveal itself in the next minute, or pop up out of nowhere half-an-hour after it’s lost all relevance. Maybe the word that kept slipping just out of your grasp never meant what you’d thought it did anyway. Maybe it just doesn’t matter as much as you feel it does and you should simply allow some lesser synonym to take The Great Granddaddy of All Words’ place because, for pity’s sake, your audience is aging! Talk around it. Make do with what your brain’s willing to provide. Let go your impossible ideals and adjust your speech to fit your current limitations.

            Because sometimes, even we wordsmiths (or especially we wordsmiths) just need to know when to cut our losses and modify.

PerGoSeeMo Psalm 31

PerGoSeeMo Psalm 31. PerGoSeeMo Psalms 1-30

            In the beginning, a single thought

A challenge to offer what most I prize:

My time – the hours that would have been Story’s,

For you had another tale in store for me.

A tale that began in the chapters of John,

And continued in spite of my clamoring mind;

You led me to quiet and up to the sky,

And drew me into your invisible arms.

            You showed your name’s power, of which I’d been told,

And guided my steps to the bridge where you waited

To prove that you’re more than my heart ever heard,

Even though you were speaking wherever I turned.

We traded fairytales blended with truth,

Spoke author to Author, and sung songs anew;

Reflected on plans and desires, and watched me

Fall into patterns of disciples of old.

            But more than words only, you gave me your peace,

And assurance that we’ve only just now begun –

This month the nativity of the days onward

For Father and daughter and Spirit and Son.

            Amen.

PerGoSeeMo Psalm 26

Psalm 26. Ezekiel 3:10-11

            Listen to the words the Lord has given;

Listen to the words he’s placed inside;

And though all other ears be closed,

I’ll sing the song that I’ve been told.

            Sing to me, O God, and let the music seep;

Let it sink down deep

And permeate me.

Take your pen and ink, and let no other stain me;

Alone sustain me,

That I may heap

            My praises unto you

As long as I have aught to give –

For all my everlasting life

It’s only thanks to you I’ll live.

            Listen to the words the Lord has given;

Listen to the words he’s placed inside;

And though all other ears be closed,

I’ll sing the song that I’ve been told.

            Whisper in my mind, and let me always hear;

Let the sounds come clear,

So there’s no mistaking.

Scribe upon my heart what you would have me take

In my hands and make

Into offerings

            And praises unto you

As long as I’m possessed of breath –

For all my everlasting life

I owe to your defeat of death.

            Listen to the words the Lord has given;

Listen to the words he’s placed inside;

And though all other ears be closed,

I’ll sing the song that I’ve been told.

PerGoSeeMo Psalm 25

Psalm 25. Jeremiah 1:4-9

            Are my words yours?

Have you chosen me to speak them?

Picked me out to say them

Before I lived to do so?

            Was every letter planned,

And not only incidental?

All my childhood scribblings,

Stepping stones placed with intent?

            Are my fantasies guided

To be your fables?

Have you given fiction

That I may reveal your truths?

            Is my ad-libbing in perfect keeping

With your timeless script?

What a comforting yet eerie thought that is.

PerGoSeeMo Psalm 5

Psalm 5. James 2: 14a, 17-18; Galatians 5:17, 19-21a, 22-23a

            She told him everyday she loved him,

As she turned her back;

He said that he delighted in her,

Blank-faced all the while.

Of what use is a claim of love

With demonstration’s lack?

How can one allege to have joy

And never crack a smile?

            Authorial adage we know so well:

Aim more to show and less to tell.

An action’s good as verbal yelling.

What we show is very telling.

            The God nature inside of all

Who offered Temple space

Bids us go against the grain

Of wild, worldly wood.

But if we pay the prompts no heed,

Indifferent to grace

That we by humble faith received,

That faith is little good.

            Let our behavior match our speech;

Do, all, in practice what we preach.

Far more effective than endless preaching,

True application of the teaching.

            You’ve generously kept me from

What others find a snare;

You’ve herded me down easy paths

That some know not to dream.

What excuse, then, have I to shy

From your command to share?

Is it enough to wander wet

And hope they find the stream?

            Ripest display of spiritual growth

Involves showing and telling both.

Let my words tell what I pray I’m showing;

Give me strength to keep on growing.