Monday, February 20, 2017

Word of the Week - The Dickens


Another special request today, though there isn't quite as much information on it as there was on last week's . . .

The questions was where the expression "the dickens" comes from.

Well, the answer's a bit unclear. What we know is that it's an English last name, taken from Richard. We're not sure which Richard, or why the name became an exclamation; Skakespeare used the expression "I cannot tell what the dickens his name is." ("Merry Wives of Windsor" Act 3, Scene 2), in which it's clear that it's a substitute for "the devil." As for why? [Insert shrug here] Best guess by the Oxford English Dictionary is that it's simply because it sounds similar.

There's another bit of history surrounding it too, to account for some of its early uses. Apparently in the 1500s there was a maker of wooden bowls who was rather infamous for losing money, to the degree that much literature of the 1500s would refer to bad investments as "bad as Dickens."

Whatever the why, modern readers can be assured it has nothing to do with the Dickens with whom we are most familiar--Charles--as it predates him by several hundred years. ;-)

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Remember When . . . I Began An Hour Unspent?



This week marked my self-appointed deadline for beginning my next book. I just realized that An Hour Unpsent is not only the third book in the Shadows Over England Series (which begins July 2017), but it will also be my 16th published novel...and my 34th finished novel (we'll just assume I'll complete it, LOL). Which means that, assuming I finish writing it before my birthday, it'll have the distinction of making it so that I've written a book for every year I've lived. Looking forward to outdoing that number. ;-)

But as I began writing, I quickly realized that while I have my plot largely figured out, I had only a vague impression of my characters. Very vague, which is unusual for me lately. Especially given that the hero, Barclay Pearce, has been in both of the first two books of the series. But my only physical descriptions of him are that he's average looking until he smiles, at which point he's nearly too-handsome to blend in--and blending in is always his goal.

So last night, I recruited my husband, who pays more attention than I do to all things TV, to help me find the perfect actors to play my characters. Sometimes it's fun to pretend like I'm a casting director. So here we are. Casting for An Hour Unspent.


First up was finding an actor to play Barclay. After much thumbing through IMDB on his phone and hemming and hawing and joking, he pulled up the Downton cast and said, "What about him?" to Dan Stevens.

Now, I'd watched the first season at Downton, so I knew him as Matthew Crawley...and he wasn't quite it. But when I looked up his images on his own and saw the photos from the new Beauty and the Beast, I changed my tune.



Yep. This is how I'd been picturing Barclay. Thin face, sandy blond-brown hair. Not given to smiling, though he's a joker. I hadn't yet nailed down his eye color, so we'll just go with Dan's blue. ;-)

But I had even less of a clue about my heroine Evelina, who's new to the series. I know she's rather pretty. That she's a suffragette. Sweet, but also with a backbone of steal and a fierce independent streak. After a bout of polio as a child left her with a limp, she's had to fight tooth and nail for that independence, too.

So what would she look like? No. Clue. I'm still not 100% sure I've nailed it, but . . . well, this morning I was browsing images of English actresses. I honestly hadn't even chosen a hair color for her, so I had nothing to go on. I was just looking for images that caught my eye and found one of Jane Levy that said, "I am the daughter of clockmaker who's always running late." ;-)



Something in her expression caught me, so at the moment I'm casting Jane as my Evelina Manning.


Auburn hair and blue eyes? Sure. Why not. ;-) (Interestingly, this will mark my first series where I didn't have a blond, a brunette, and a redhead as my 3 heroines, LOL.)

So what do you think? Any other suggestions for Barclay, my thief extraordinaire who has patched together a dozen orphans over the years to call his family? For Evelina, my suffragette who sees herself as the only out-of-balance gear in the perfect clockwork of the Manning household?

Regardless, stay tuned for more hints about the story as I get deeper into it!

The challenge:
to steal an hour from Big Ben's clock

The means:
a distracted clockmaker with a fascination with weaponry

The complication:
the perpetually-late clockmaker's daughter
who isn't about to let a little thing like war get in the way of her cause

Monday, February 13, 2017

Word of the Week - Frank




Another Word of the Week request! (Love those--keep 'em coming!) This week for frank as an adjective--made by someone of that name. ;-)

Frank is taken directly from the people group, the Franks, who took over Gaul in the Middle Ages and named it for themselves (hence, France). At this time in history, you were either free, captive, or slave--so in this area, the only free people were the invaders, the conquerors. The Franks. Therefore, frank came to mean free.

By about 1300, the word had entered English, still carrying the meaning given it by the tribal group in Europe--"free, liberal, generous."

So if you want to be frank with someone, or to speak frankly, it's all because a group of people who called themselves the Franks invaded Gaul in the 400s, defeating the Huns and taking over part of what had recently been the Roman empire.


Side note on Paris--in the Roman days, there was a fort along the Seine called Lutetia Parisiorium. When one of the Frankish kings, Clovis, decided he would unite all the tribes into one nation, this is where he set up his capitol in 481. He simply shortened the Roman name of the fort to Paris and called it his city--and it's been the capital of France ever since!

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

The Lost Girl of Astor Street Hunt: Clue #25

Welcome to the Lost Girl of Astor Street Scavenger Hunt! 

We're here today to celebrate the release of the most awesome young adult novel I've read in years: The Lost Girl of Astor Street by Stephanie Morrill


What makes the book so awesome? Well, I'm glad you asked.







Your clue for Stop #25: motives.


If you've gone through the entire Hunt, 
then this is the last clue, 
and you ought to have created a sentence. 
Enter it here 
for your chance at the prize!

 

Monday, February 6, 2017

Word of the Week - Doily



My daughter asked about this one as she was cutting up some paper doilies for valentines she was making. It was a quick answer, but one I'd certainly never investigated before, so I thought I'd share.

So doily as we know it is a shortening of doily-napkin, and dates from 1714. It refers to the light, lacy item made from doily--a thin, woolen fabric. It's supposedly named for a dry-goods dealer in London. The surname comes from Normandy, and before it was specific to thin, lightweight woolens, it was used to mean "genteel and affordable woolens." So whoever the Doily [d'Oilly] family was, they apparently carried textiles worthy of fame!

Now, stay tuned! Tomorrow I'll be participating in a fun scavenger hunt to kick off the release of The Lost Girl of Astor Street!

Thursday, February 2, 2017

Thoughtful About . . . Talking and Walking



So wow, it's been a week of political opinions again, hasn't it? Reporting and misreporting, deciding, shouting, threats of protest.

I have sworn years ago that you'd never hear me shouting my political views from my writing platform. And in part it's because I have very little respect for people who make a show of shouting...who may even march in a protest...but who then deem that "enough" for their beloved cause and sit back and take such joy in bemoaning the state of affairs. (And this goes for opinions on both sides of the fence.)

Though I hadn't even realized it, this theme worked its way a bit into A Song Unheard. I have the magnanimous Davies sisters in it, known even today for their generosity. But at the point of the story, it was limited to donating money. During the Great War, however, they decided to put hands and feet to their conviction--they went. They became active in what they were so passionate about. They didn't march in a protest to stop the war--the served the men fighting and dying for them, and then set up an estate to rehabilitate them when they came home.

Do we put that kind of action to the beliefs we shout about?

Today's big thing is the refugee ban. I'll not tell you where I come down. It really doesn't matter. What does matter is this:

If I think we should let them in, if I care about their plight--does that mean I'm willing to take those families food? Give up room to house them? Am I willing to give them jobs? And what's more--if I care about their plight that much, what will I do if my country doesn't let them in? Will I seek them out where they are? Donate to refugee camps if I can't go there? Will I see which camps in Europe are forever short on food and figure out a way to send some?

If I think we shouldn't let them in because of the risks they bring with them--am I making any effort to change that risk? Am I supporting ministries that minister to these people groups? Am I spending time on my knees in prayer for them, that the Spirit will draw on their hearts? If I make my decisions because I fear the terror that might come with them, am I then doing anything to counteract that terror? Am I helping those who are terrorized?

If we're all words and opinions and no actions, what is the point? A literal translation of the Greek of James 2:26 isn't just faith without works is dead. It's actually faith without works is naught. It's nothing. It doesn't exist. Because my friends, faith is not an idea--it's the substance. It's the being. It's the doing.

Whatever our views, I don't think God needs to hear about them on social media. I don't think He wants to see protests marching in support of them. What I believe He wants is for us to work for them. To sacrifice for them.

If we're not willing to give up anything for our stand, have we really stood at all...or have we just made noise?


Monday, January 30, 2017

Word of the Week - Ace


I'm always so intrigued when words have come to mean the exact opposite of what they used to. And that, apparently, is what happened (metaphorically, at least) with ace.

Round about the year 1300, the word ace entered English. It was taken from the Latin as, which meant "one"--and is thought to be borrowed by Latin directly from the Greek eis, which means the same.

When it entered English, though, it wasn't just to mean "one." It was to particularly refer to the sides of dice with only one mark. Because of this, ace in Middle English was used metaphorically to mean "bad luck." That stuck around for quite a while...until cards became popular.

In cards, ace was also used to the "one" card...but of course, in cards, that's usually the highest, rather than the lowest. So as games switched popularity and cards began to rule the day, the metaphorical meaning of ace changed too. From "bad luck" to "top of the deck--the best." This total flip had happened absolutely by the 18th century.

Phrases like "ace in the hole" came around by 1907; during World War I, ace became applied to the best pilots. From there, it moved into verb form--in the 1920s, you could ace in sports, which meant to score a point. In the 1950s, this sports sense was extended via student slang to mean, "score high marks."

So there we have it--a four hundred year evolution from bad luck to the best, and then a slow move from being a noun to a verb. Ace has always meant "one"--but whether that's a positive or negative has done an about-face.