Tag Archives: fiction

Thoughts on Publishing – A Video Blog Post and a Reading – The Magician

Today I’m doing something a little different. In an effort to save time (which didn’t work this time around, but hey, now I know what I’m doing, so next time may go faster), I decided to try making a video for a blog post.¬†This is also the unveiling of the Infinitas Publishing Youtube channel. ūüėÄ

This was an experiment, to say the least.

I knew bits and pieces of what I was doing, but I had never used Youtube’s video editor before (it allows you to splice videos, add multiple¬†video clips, add music, etc), nor have I tried using Windows Movie Maker¬†for a really long time (and trust me, the older version I used was much more user-friendly).

Anyhow, I managed to get a video tied together, which includes a reading of “The Magician” one of my¬†1000 Words short stories. It’s also the first time I’ve made an audio edition of any of my stories together, so we’ll see how it goes.

Now, I’m not using a professional mic by any means, so the sound has a lot of hissing at times¬†(and you can hear a car’s speakers in the background at one point).

Since I only rehearsed the story once before I read it, I did stumble a few times. If I try to do a true audio book with any of Isaac’s and my¬†stories later, I’ll want something with a bit clearer sound, and I’ll probably practice each chapter a bit more before I do the recording.

I also keep noticing little tiny phrases that I would reword for accuracy in¬†the video portion, but I guess that’s downside of doing an unscripted video.

But other than that, here it is!

(And ¬†a¬†Youtube¬†link in case you can’t see it).

I hope you enjoyed this video/blog post.¬†If you liked the video and/or the reading, please let me know. I may do more of these. If not, oh well. Worth a shot. ūüôā


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Thoughts on Writing – Trademarks and Evolving Languages

Yesterday at the writing group my husband and I usually attend, one of the writers made a comment about how English is a growing language. They pointed out¬†that it constantly shifts and adds new words, whereas other languages are stagnant and are ruled by a constant number of words. This caught my interest, so I thought I’d do a little bit of research on the topic.

Though my research didn’t go quite the way I anticipated, I focused on new influencers to a language.

The National Science Foundation website mentions in their article on language and linguistics that there are a few things that can influence a change in language. For example, the invention of new technologies can bring with it new words (or specifically, the new use of words). The article says, “Plastic, cell phones and the Internet¬†didn‚Äôt exist in Shakespeare‚Äôs time.” Which, if you think about it, means that time period wouldn’t have had a need for those words.

But what happens when those new technologies develop? The new words have to come from somewhere.

In an article from The Atlantic, they explain the origin of the term ‘cell phone,’ or more accurately, cellular phones. At the time, the word cellular referred to biological cells (still does). What does that have to do with phones?

The network for sending signals to each phone was conceived as being of a cellular nature (check out the article for a diagram). As such, a cellular phone would use a cellular network, and the term was later shortened to ‘cell’ phone.

(As a side note, if you are developing a magic system and your story spans over many years, you might consider what developments might influence that magic. For example, in Isaac’s and my Distant Horizon universe, one of the characters has techno sight…¬†the ability to manipulate (digital) technology with their mind. If you go backward to the Multiverse timeline, there aren’t any computers (at least, not that don’t use artificial spirits), so those characters don’t have the techno sight power. Or they¬†might, but it would basically be an unknown power that doesn’t get used, even if it’s in their bloodline for future generations)).

New technology can impact how a language evolves, especially as new terms are needed.

However, when new technology gets involved, so do trademarks. And that’s where things get interesting. For example, look at the the Xerox photo-copying machine. How many people might say “I’m going to xerox that…” turning Xerox, a trademarked brand name, into something generic… (despite attempts to keep in it in their grasp).

If you look at the name, Xerox is the brand, whereas their product is a photo-copying machine. Note that photo-copy is a combination of two words to describe what the product does. But as people became familiar with¬†the product, they turned Xerox into the verb, and thus a new word (or at least a new¬†meaning to the word) was born. HighNames has an article¬†regarding the origins of Xerox, and it turns out that Xerox pulled their name from a combination of Greek words… xeros (dry) and graphia (writing). If¬†xerox, from xeros, now means ‘to photocopy,’ we can see how influences from other languages, plus the change over time, shaped a new word. (Read more about generic trademarks here).

Even now, companies fight to keep their trademarks intact. Google (to use a search engine, originally pulled from ‘googol,’ the number ‘one’ followed by a hundred zeroes). Kleenex, technically a brand name, but now often used to mean a tissue. (“Go grab me a kleenex.”) This is¬†yet another example of a company having to work to keep its trademark intact (This article from The Atlantic has some great examples of companies trying to protect their trademarks). Yet¬†another¬†example of how a trademarked brand has become (or is on it’s way to becoming) a common word is Coke, in which a Concurring Opinions¬†article mentions¬†people asking for a coke (referring to soda in general) and restaurants must distinguish between a Coke or a Pepsi due to trademark legalese.

If you are interested in more information about the evolution of language over time, TED has series of videos about of “How Language Changes Over Time.” I haven’t watched these, but having watched a few TED Talk videos before, I imagine they could have good information.

So how does all this apply to fiction?

Well, if you include conlangs (constructed languages) in your stories, especially over a period of time, you could have fun with changing the language¬†across the generations. Perhaps it’s a company trying to protect their trademark, if you want to stay with the trademarks theme. Perhaps there is a misunderstanding in general. Perhaps there is confusion, if someone from the future tries to explain something to someone from the past. Or perhaps its the opposite. Someone from the past, using an older variety of an evolving language, has a hard time being understood by someone whose updated language no longer sounds the same. (Refer back to the¬†National Science Foundation¬†article for a good example of having a hard time trying to understand an older language).

There’s all sorts of things you can¬†play with, both with fictional languages, and with real languages and real history.

Alternatively, maybe you have a language that is stagnant. One that has only a specific list of words, and that’s that. How do your characters and your society deal with the changes of time? Do they smash words together? Do they struggle to explain technologies? Do they refuse new technology altogether?

Given the way I’ve currently addressed Cantingen word magic in the rough draft of The Shadow War, I suspect their language will be fairly stagnant, with some interesting combinations when trying to explain an object that doesn’t have a specific name or translation.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this post. ūüôā Have you thought much about how languages evolve, and how you can use that evolution in your fiction?

Further Reading:

http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/use-it-or-lose-it-why-lan/ – Talks about the frequency of a word compared to how fast it evolves

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/technology/mobile-phones/11274292/Do-you-understand-text-speak.html РText speech (In this case, also slang, not specific to text) and trying to translate text speech

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/education/educationopinion/9966117/Text-speak-language-evolution-or-just-laziness.html – Debates whether text speech is language evolution or a lack of proper teaching (leans toward the latter, but does bring up points regarding text speech and ease of communication that would have been interesting had they been developed further

http://knowledgenuts.com/2015/10/10/text-message-slang-goes-back-to-telegraph-operators/ – More or less a counter-argument to the above complaints about text speech, which points out that it got its start with telegraph operators

http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/verbing?s=t – A Definition of ‘verbing’


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Thoughts on Writing – To Swear or Not To Swear

Warning: This post is meant to be an informative article about swearing in fiction. As such, I have not censored the words involved. If you do not wish to read the actual words, you may wish to skip over this particular post.

Before I finished editing¬†Magic’s Stealing, one of the lines I was torn on changing involved whether or not to have a character swear. In all fairness, I tend to lean on the side of, ‘as few swears as possible, but do what feels right for the character and sounds better.’ However, I ran¬†into the problem that this particular swear would be in the very first chapter, and I was worried that readers who generally avoid swearing might avoid the book if they happened to see a curse word so early.

First chapters set up a standard of what the reader should expect. If you see magic early on, you expect magic. If you see dark, creepy landscapes, you expect horror. Clones? Sci-Fi. And if you see swearing in the first few pages, you’re likely to expect swearing¬†later.

However, in Magic’s Stealing, this is the¬†one¬†time throughout the entire book that we see a modern day swear. Everything else is set specifically to the world.

Here’s the passage:

Coming? The pink ribbons carried Daernan’s thoughts to Toranih’s mind, and she fought the urge to swipe them away.

Toranih knelt beside the window so that she was eye-level with the owl. He tilted his head and blinked. She snorted. ‚ÄúI‚Äôve been expressly forbidden from attending the festival,‚ÄĚ she said in the most high-and-mighty voice she could muster. ‚ÄúSo, no. I‚Äôm not coming.‚ÄĚ

Not that she minded missing the event. Too much magic and too many people teasing her about when she and Daernan would make their courtship a formal engagement.

She turned from the window, lit her oil lamp, and then mentally killed the crystal’s light.

The ribbons vanished.

Let me guess. Your father wasn‚Äôt happy that you challenged Lady Ikara to a duel, then respectfully threatened that she ought to let her fianc√© fight for her, lest you knock her off her high horse onto her‚ÄĒhe mentally coughed for effect‚ÄĒher lazy ass?

Toranih shrugged. ‚ÄúShe insulted you. Good excuse not to go.‚ÄĚ

Originally, the line read

Let me guess. Your father wasn‚Äôt happy that you challenged Lady Ikara to a duel, then respectfully threatened that she ought to let her fianc√© fight for her, lest you knock her off her high horse onto her‚ÄĒhe mentally coughed for effect‚ÄĒher lazy bum?

Given the circumstances, showing Daernan quoting Toranih exactly, and having her say a curse word (in this context), helps to clearly show the type of character she is… even if most of her other curses are either world based (“For the love of Shol,” “Cursed Trickster,” “Isahna-cursed…”) or simply said as She cursed under her breath.

In the long run, I decided to use the actual word. For one, it fits her character and the situation, and for another, it’s not that “bad” of a swear. (Keep in mind, this is YA. We can see some really strong cursing depending on the characters and genre involved). In all honesty, I don’t know if I would have thought about it twice if it hadn’t been for the fact that–before edits–the story almost felt like it could be classified as middle grade.

I tend to look at cursing as having a variety of “types.” You have what feels to me more like classic curses (whether they are or aren’t)… such as damn, hell, ass, etc… and then you have what feels more modern (even if they have been around for ages) fuck, crap, heck… and even then, the ‘strength’ of the reaction a person will give to each varies entirely upon the person. Others could care less what curse you use as long as you don’t curse in vain (This is an interesting article on the subject of cursing in vain, if you’re interested in Christian theology. It also shows how deeply ingrained religion is regarding various curses). Consider that you can get creative, too. (“Odin’s beard” for Norse mythology, anyone?… Take a look¬†at¬†this site (renaissance faire-themed) for a few examples of how you can¬†string together¬†world-based curses).

(As a side note, this post as a whole has the most curse words I’ve ever written in one place. Outside of the occasional “frack” I used when role-playing a certain character a while back (you can probably blame the original¬†Battlestar Galactica for that one) you will rarely hear me curse. Rarely. Can’t say it doesn’t happen, because things sometimes take me by surprise, but still. This is rather interesting to write).

Curses also tend to be based on context clues and tone.

Take a look at the word “ass.” When refering to a certain barnyard creature, it’s¬†not a curse. Call the guy sitting next to you an ass, and now you have a swear word. (According to dictionary.com, a swear word is “a word used in swearing or cursing; a profane or obscene word.” That is, something that is offensive.

The great fun of trying to decide whether to swear or not is largely based on whether or not you wish to risk offending someone, or alienating members of your audience who might find certain terminology offensive. On the other hand, you risk offending someone if you¬†don’t¬†include the swear where they feel one should be.

Isn’t¬†writing wonderful?

This is why it pays to know your audience, and know what terminology they accept. If you’re writing for yourself, you can do whatever [the fuck] you want. Note that adding the swear doesn’t fit my normal writing style, and writing it felt really out of place. If we’re looking at this from a character point of view, this doesn’t fit¬†the established rules for my “character.”

Take a look at this scene from my husband’s and my manuscript of Distant Horizon:

Behind us, Jack snorted. “Superheroes– like comic books. You’ve heard of comic books, right? Video games?”

The three of us exchanged glances. We’d played interactive educational activities on EYEnet, but those weren‚Äôt particularly humorous.

“You‚Äôve‚Ķ you‚Äôve heard of video games, right?” Jack pushed himself from the doorway and gaped at us.

Lance shook his head ‘no.’

Jack grunted. “Pops, I‚Äôm telling you– the Community sucks.”

Tim stuffed his hands in his pockets. “The Community is safe, secure, efficient. It’s not… bad.”

Jack is anti-Community, very much a rebel,¬†so he’s¬†going to use curses however he [damn] pleases. Tim, on the other hand, has been raised in the Community, where cursing is seen as inefficient… though they have a few of their own choice phrases (For the love of efficiency, Jenna, hurry up and finish your homework!). When Tim tries to refute Jack, he almost quotes him, but he doesn’t, because saying a curse makes him feel awkward. (Like me and writing half the curses in this post. Though, arguably, it’s questionable whether Tim would have even heard that particular swear). Again, this reveals characterization… not that all characterization is in whether they curse or not. That’s just one tiny aspect of dialogue you can fiddle with.

Now let’s take a look at how we can approach cursing in fiction.

Say the actual word: If you’re writing an adult novel or upper YA, you’re probably safe to use the actual word given your target audience. If you’re writing middle grade, using a substitute might be better. The benefits of saying the actual word come when it isn’t avoidable (the sentence doesn’t work without it, or removing it makes a scene unnecessarily comical), or when it shows a personality trait of the character. You might not use swear words in regular prose, but you might add them to dialogue. Whether you sprinkle them in or apply a heavy dosage depends on the genre you’re writing and your target audience.

Use a substitute: Particularly useful if you’re writing middle grade (where parents tend to be a bit pickier about what their children read), or if you want to add comedy. Also useful if you want to add flavor to the world. Of course, some people prefer to see the actual word, others don’t. Just make sure that the word used fits the situation and feels natural.

However, there are downsides to using a substitute.

If you aren’t careful, you can turn a completely innocent word into a curse for your poor, unsuspecting reader.

When I was a kid, my parents had a filter on the TV. It censured and replaced certain words from the captions (I have a partial hearing loss, so I have captions on whenever possible). I didn’t really care for cursing, so I didn’t mind… with a couple exceptions. One, the filter¬†didn’t always recognize the difference between names and swears… Principal Prickly on the TV show, Recess always had his name filtered, and while watching¬†8 Simple Rules, the word ‘sex’ would often be translated to ‘hugs.’ (It was a really strict filter).

The problem was that¬†my mind automatically began to translate everything¬†back…¬†even when I wasn’t watching TV.

This is around the same time that a certain “Free Hugs” movement became popular.

*Ahem.* (See what my mind translated that to? Took a while for me to stop wincing every time I saw a sign for free hugs).

Let this be a warning… people will still know the original meaning.

Alternatively, you can also create a negative meaning to an otherwise innocent word. For example, if you tell kids to substitute ‘witch’ for ‘bitch,’ we now apply a derogatory meaning to the word ‘witch.’ Of course, you have the Halloween nasty, evil witch (of which this is probably meant to reference), but keep in mind that there are people who consider themselves witches in practice and don’t act in the way that the term ‘bitch’¬†usually implies.

That particular factor was brought up when I was reading articles regarding the Clean Reader app (Read the¬†article¬†here¬†about what the Clean Reader app is, and here¬†for the article that mentions the problem of substituting “witch” for “bitch,” if you’re interested).

Also, slight derail, words can take on negative sub-text through similar routes.

For example, take a look at the word ‘gyp’ (as in… I’ve been gypped!) It wasn’t until recently that I became aware that the term derived from the word “gypsy,” referring to a stereotype of gypsies as thieves. Now, in some areas, calling someone a gypsy is a major slur. In others, not at all. Depends on who you’re talking to and how you’re using the term. But it’s something to be aware of.

Like all curses, slurs, and swears… whether or not something is offensive depends entirely on the audience. (In fiction, you can recognize this in how characters react to each other based on what they say or don’t say).

So, you can use a substitute, but make sure it has the meaning you intend.

Reference without specifying: You can sometimes suggest that a person cursed without ever saying what was said. He turned the corridor. Three giant monsters stood in his way. He cursed. This plan was getting worse by the minute.

We’re told that the character curses, but it’s left to our imagination as to what he actually says. I tend to use this one when a world-based curse won’t work. Alternatively, how other characters react to something said in a foreign language we don’t understand can give us the impression that they cursed or said something insulting… even if we don’t know for certain. (Consider how R2-D2 and C3p0 talk in¬†Star Wars.¬†We don’t know what R2-D2 says, but we have a pretty good idea thanks to C3P0’s reactions.)

Eliminate: When in doubt, leave it out… or not. Sometimes a sentence really doesn’t need the cursing to flow properly, and will feel stronger without it. (Remember earlier, where I bracketed the curse words) Sometimes a slight rephrasing of the sentence can eliminate the need for a particular word. Test how the sentence sounds with and without the curse (speaking aloud can be helpful here… though¬†you might want to be alone when you try this) to determine whether the curse adds to the story.

There are some words I tend to avoid when I write, because I personally don’t like them or want to perpetuate a stereotype. For example, I tend to avoid slut because I don’t like vilifying someone¬†just because they sleep with multiple partners, or bastard because I don’t like vilifying people born out of wedlock.

Granted, there may be times when they story calls for these particular slurs, and to use anything else sounds ridiculous. But I typically try a bit harder to avoid those than other curses.

The point is, whether you use cursing in your writing is entirely up to you. If you get your stories published through a publishing press, they may have their own house rules about what stays or goes. But otherwise, you get to decide based on your own needs, and whether or not you think it will work for your target audience.

Like all words in a story, the swear should serve the story. If it doesn’t, cut it. (Your word count will thank you). If it does, keep it.

I hope you found this post useful. How do you handle swearing in your stories?

Further articles of interest:




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