My friend Joyce Grant is an expert in teaching kids (see her website Teaching Kids News for an example of her prowess in the field) and suggested I start a Teacher’s Guide for Jewel of the Thames. She’s right, I’ve also had this request from teachers themselves.
So I’m reading up on some Guide’s for books written for the same age group (12+) – if anyone has a suggestion, please add it to the comments below?
Meanwhile, here is where I am collecting useful links:
I’m watching Foyle’s War these days (another addictive BBC program) and I was getting confused by all the slang used to describe money and decided to make myself a primer for my own writing.
One shilling equals 12 pennies.
A bob is slang for a shilling.
A quid is slang for the pound (which equals 100 pennies)
A half-crown equals 2 shillings and sixpence (or six pennies which is what pence stands for)
One crown equals 5 shillings.
A halfpenny equals exactly that (half a penny) but it wasn’t created till 1971 (and is therefore not relevant to Foyle or Portia Adams)
A farthing equals a quarter of a penny and could be divided even down to a quarter farthing (which was 1/16th of a penny!)
A groat equals fourpence (four pennies)
A florin is a two-shilling coin and the slang is a two-bob bit.
A guinea is a gold coin worth 21 shillings
There truly is a name for everything on the internet. I was searching around this morning for a phrase to describe the feeling where you’re reading over your umpteenth edit of a manuscript you know off by heart and you’re not even seeing the words anymore.
That feels apt, but to take it further, the same way snow blindness has a scientific name (Photokeratitis) I am coining a new term for writer’s blindness Verbameakeratitis. Verba mea is latin for ‘my words’
In my own case, as I get ready to hit <send> on my second-edits for Thrice Burned, I find myself using these tricks to ‘see’ my own errors and catch them before inflicting them upon my poor editor/publishers <again>.
Read Aloud – this is something they teach to every first year journalism student (I should know, I was one) and it really does work. You are much more likely to catch an error if you have to read your words aloud.
Read your writing on a different machine – I find PDFing my document and reading it on the iPad helps me not slip into complacency. I’ve caught lots of typos that way
Know thy faults. I have a bad habit of adding stage direction (usually eyebrows a-waggling) so I do a search of the document for my own bad habits.
Read the document in order: just because you’re SURE that first chapter is pristine, do not feel you can skip it. Read the whole story as if you were a first time reader to really SEE the mistakes.
Check all dates and locations if you write historical fiction – this is a big one. Make sure every instance of a date is double-checked and makes sense.
What are your tricks for avoiding Verbameakeratitis ?
This blog post is inspired by the incredible Beverly Wolov, whom I met at the GridLock Conference last month. During a panel discussion she revealed her gift of fashion history, and I had to stop her afterwards to talk to her about the 1930s, Portia, and all the fashion issues I have. If you know me at all, you know my preferred outfit is a comic-book t-shirt and jeans, but I am expected to write descriptive scenes about Portia and the fashion she would be wearing in 1930s London.
Beverly, lovely lady that she is, not only read Jewel of the Thames, but came back to me with all kinds of suggestions for future outfits/fabrics/styles for the characters in my book series!
She also sent along the images in this blog post from her collection of fashion books and magazines that I intend to harness in my writing.
Beverly is a guest photographer and researcher at the Smithsonian (Yes THAT Smithsonian) and has an M.A. in the History of Decorative Arts from the Smithsonian Institute-Corcoran College of Art and Design where her studies focused primarily on the history of fashion, of lace, and material culture.
Enjoy the fabulous images below and expect to see them incorporated into Thrice Burned and No Matter How Improbable very soon!
Fashion Design 1800-1940. The Pepin Press, Amsterdam. 2001. p. 357
Fashion Design 1800-1940. The Pepin Press, Amsterdam. 2001. p. 355.
Fashion Design 1800-1940. The Pepin Press, Amsterdam. 2001. p. 354
1928-1930. John Peacock. Costume 1066-1990s. Thames and Hudson Ltd., London. 1986 and 1994. p.117
1928-1930. John Peacock. Costume 1066-1990s. Thames and Hudson Ltd., London. 1986 and 1994. p.116.
John Peacock. Fashion Accessories.Thames and Hudson, Ltd. 2000. p. 57
John Peacock. Fashion Accessories.Thames and Hudson, Ltd. 2000. p. 64
John Peacock. Fashion Accessories.Thames and Hudson, Ltd. 2000. p. 65
John Peacock. Fashion Accessories.Thames and Hudson, Ltd. 2000. p. 58
John Peacock. Fashion Accessories.Thames and Hudson, Ltd. 2000. p. 68.
Thorough research is the 4th of The 7 Reasonable Rules of Writing. Details will differ, according to exactly what our Muse has tasked us with writing: be it historical fiction, fictionalized history, contemporary life, or even fantasy world-building, which must achieve consistency and continuity between its wholly imaginary historical and contemporary aspects. But in general, this is the kind of research that writers should expect to conduct:
Verify vocabulary. Outside of misspellings (including homophones and apostrophe errors), there’s nothing quite so jarring to a reader who’s in the know, than encountering anachronistic or culturally uncharacteristic bits of verbiage. Pay attention to the etymology your dictionary provides, and in particular, the dates. (My 1941 Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary also supplies a helpful “new word” list.)
Sometimes readers quibble over local semantics. Writers who are accustomed to the U. S. cultural and linguistic melting-pot should know that there’s no such thing…
If I haven’t said it before, let me say it now: I have an amazing publisher in Fierce Ink Press.
Last week they asked me to flesh-out my synopsis for book 2 in the Portia Adams Adventures, and I have to tell you, I find writing synopses MUCH harder than writing casebooks.
They were super-patient and helpful, teasing out the bits that really draw a reader in, and teaching me a lot about how to ‘sell’ your story.
But the most interesting thing that came up was the paragraph about Portia’s new boyfriend – the brilliant coroner I named Gregory Charles. They were as unimpressed with his name as I have been through the course of writing about him (here’s my post from last year about my issues with his name) and in talking out what his significance will be to Portia’s story arc over the next few books, we all decided he needed a new name.
He has that kind of dark-cool-sexiness that reminds me of Mr. Darcy or Spock or Sylar from Heroes. I started by listing out some words that describe him: dark, cool, sexy, mysterious, brilliant, restrained, closed-off, intimidating.
After going back and forth about his character and how he develops over the casebooks, and using some baby name sites to brainstorm we settled on Dr. Gavin Douglas Whitaker (no more Gregory Charles!).