The Brilliance of (Romantic) Language

word heart wallpaper

Writers love words and language. We sift through our techno-color brains for ways to describe scenes, landscapes, people and objects. We love doing this and are unable to avoid adding linguistic wallpaper to everyday moments. A walk in the park becomes: an afternoon amble along mossy strewn paths, lined with conifers and bell-dinging cyclists who swerve abruptly around dog poop and people lacking navigational courtesy. Throw in a few descriptive labels of strawberry chiffon sunsets and hawkish, leather clad villains sitting on scarred benches and now you have a ‘walk in the park’.

But the fascination doesn’t end there. Words and language are the tools of the trade for writers, as we all know. The other day, I stumbled across websites offering up amazing facts of the history of language. Forget YouTube videos of laughing kittens; my attention was instantly diverted to these gift-laden lists. For starters, I learned no word exists in German for innocent; no word in Hebrew for fiction and no word in Japanese for I (for disbelievers, I included sources at the end of this post).

Language is powerful, and while all species have forms of communication, humans speak with spectacular detail and inference. In addition to our thumbs and our capacity for cruelty, I suppose it is the complexities of our languages separating us from different animals. With words, we plead, insult, explain, admonish and teach. There are infinite ways of expressing our deepest emotions. Joyously, words can also deliver humor when actions and facial expressions cannot. The French take it to an even higher level. Did you know, for instance, the French  assign titles to individuals who perform various tricks, such as those who . . . suffer flatulence. Mais oui, I’m serious. Culture influences language, for better or worse.

Language, since the invention of the printing press, has traveled the globe, igniting children’s and adult’s imaginations with classic tales of good and evil. With all of this newfound knowledge, I just couldn’t resist sharing it with you. I’ve assembled a few interesting trivia anecdotes about language and its influence on literature.

1. The most widely published book, aside from the Bible, is Pinocchio. Now before you gasp in mock surprise, remember, there are similar themes between the two.
2. Shakespeare invented over 1,700 words, including excellent, critical and frugal. Sheesh. That’s ridonkulous. There. I just made up my own word, but not sure it will gain as much popularity.
3. “The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog” is a pangram, containing all 26 letters of the English alphabet and used in typing tests. Try sharing that at your next cocktail party. I’m sure everyone will think you’re quite a genius—if your guests are English professors over ninety, I suppose.
4. A palindrome is a word reading the same from either direction (kayak, dad, level). I wouldn’t recommend sharing that at a cocktail party. People might get confused.
5. The little dot hovering above a lowercase ‘j’ and ‘i’ is called . . . a ‘tittle‘. I wonder how they came up with that one . . .
6. There are 12 imaginary languages in the movie Lord of The Rings. I won’t divulge how many imaginary languages, and words, I have in my head. People in white coats frighten me a bit.
7. The word ‘infant’ is a Latin word (infans), meaning “unable to speak”. So when my companions begin drinking too much, I will say to them: “Alas, you’re not drunk! You’re an infant!”
8. Canada is a First Nations (we don’t use the term Indian) word, meaning ‘big village’. I wonder what the First Nations words for really, really, big, cold village are?
9. Dr. Seuss invented the word ‘nerd’. Okay. I have no doubt he did. With an imagination such as his, that list is probably longer. I’m not jealous. I invented the word ridonkulous after all.
10. The name ‘Wendy’ was invented during the creation of the story Peter Pan. Now, that’s cool. Tell this to a co-worker or anyone named Wendy, and see their reaction. They’ll probably arch their eyebrows, furl their lips and scowl at you, before replying, “I’m named after my aunt.”
11. The word ‘mortgage’ originates from a French law term: “death pledge”. That pretty much sums it up. Good visuals there.
12. The world’s most translated author is Agatha Christie. So it seems mystery is not Lost in Translation.
13. The word ‘romance’ hails from Vulgar Latin ‘romanice’. Ugh. Really? I was hoping for a florid, sensual explanation.
14. Many words stem from Latin, including ‘unio’ which became ‘large pearl’. Since when does a large pearl resemble an onion?
15. The Oxford English Corpus dictionary contains over 2 billion words, although most people use an average of only 50,000 words. So the next time you’re struggling to write that chapter, don’t fret! You have at least 1 and a half billion words to learn.

Quite the list. But we all know language is not static; it changes frequently. By the hour it would seem these days. As languages evolve, some spreading, others becoming extinct, dictionaries undergo alterations to include new, popular terms and omit obsolete ones. Twitter, with its use of the infamous hash tags, has morphed our vernacular into symbols and terse phrases. The meaning almost becomes less important than the number of characters (140). Facebook is full of emoticons, and messages are becoming instant messages, fast and dried, lunch-time soup. Sometimes, it’s nice to flop down and get lost in a good ol’ book, and if you’re hankering for good ol’ love, there’s no shortage of traditional ways to say, simply, “I love you.” Google ’99 phrases to say I love you’ and you’ll see what I mean.

They say if we were able to time-travel back five hundred years, English speaking people would not be understood by, nor understand other English speaking people. Earth is the only planet not named after a Greek god. I wonder how our planet, our language, and how we describe love will change in the next few hundred years? #seekinglove #originalDNA #Skills:seeLabNo:34421

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Research: Where to Begin and When to Stop, by Patricia Charles

Research: Where to begin? When to stop?

I’m Patricia Charles and I write contemporary and present day romantic suspense novels by night. By day, I’m a medical librarian.

In my day job, I spend much of my day researching for the latest information of medical topics requested by physicians, nurses, administrators, and so many others, including students. I love what I find, and often I have to read every line of it, even though I may not understand it all.

Maybe research is in my genetic makeup as well as part of my education and career, but mainly I have to know that I’m correct. In my new romantic suspense, Crescent Moon, my heroine is an assistant district attorney in New Orleans and she’s a twin. That’s two things that I had to check out. I researched online, and I visited the Orleans Parish Courthouse. Google Scholar and PubMed helped with twins and their multi-layered relationship to each other. The trip to the courthouse was a real eye-opener.

Just like Blanche DuBois, I always depend on the kindness of strangers. I have personally met with an ADA, homicide detectives, and my pilot. I also worked in oil for a couple of years. And the novel takes place in New Orleans where I lived until that mean old lady Katrina sent me elsewhere.

Luckily, I ran into a new friend at a writing conference. He flies planes and writes thrillers, just the person to understand exactly what a writer needed. Thanks, J.

But where to start and where to end – start where the characters start. When were they born? What music influenced their teen years? And now? What part of the world did they grow up? The South is definitely different from California, and New Orleans is its own creature. There is nowhere else in the world like New Orleans.

Soak up your town or even your imaginary city. Draw a map if you need one. Where are the places they visit? What are the people like? What are their hobbies? Their careers? Friends? Clothes?

Now I have to start writing. I have my basic research. As I write, if I need a particular bit of information that I haven’t found in my research, I type three question marks. I also highlight them in red. Stopping to do research can throw off a scene for me. Researching how to make a particular type of food the hero likes will be done much later, even if someone is trying to poison him.

At the beginning of my next session at the computer, I review my previous chapter, looking for any question mark or the color red. Also to find what I need to insert, I can do a search to find more than one question mark, and I can also scroll through looking for the color. Here’s where I find that particular piece of information. It may be a quick fix or may take hours.

This sounds easy when researching the 21st century, but what about Scotland in the 15th or the Civil War in 1863? Yes, I believe I love too many things. I addition to enjoying contemporary romances and romantic suspense, I also love historical romance, although I haven’t finished any yet. I once read a 500-page tome to uncover what the people of Natchez drank for coffee during the War. That fact was on page 492. If you really must know, it’s sweet potatoes.

One more bit of interesting history. I have a character who needs reconstructive surgery on her face after a fire. Yet she exists in 1890. Would you believe I actually found an article with pictures about facial “plastic surgery” from that year? Me neither, but I did.

More about researching for historical facts in my next blog on New Year’s Eve.

Here’s a little snipped from Crescent Moon. I hope you enjoy it.

“How long have you known Celine St. Pierre?”

No response.

“Mr. Morgan. . . “


“Mr. Morgan, why did you kill Mrs. St. Pierre?”

He shot forward so quickly that Claressa jerked back. West leaned as far as possible over the wide table and demanded, “Look at me.”

She tilted her chin defiantly, met his gaze, and tried to seem undisturbed.

“I’m successful. I’m rich. Why would I have to kill someone?”

“Rich people kill all the time. Don’t you read the news? Or even the Enquirer? Now, you tell me. Why would you kill Mrs. St. Pierre? What’s the connection?”

He sank back into the chair. “I didn’t kill her.”

“But you were in her house on November 21.” Claressa scrutinized his face. The day-old beard. The haggard, rebellious look. She knew he’d been there. She had no doubt at all.

“I think that’s enough. My client has no more to say.” Like rotating apes on a carousel, it was Matthew’s turn to speak.

“One more question.”

“No,” Hebert stated.

Why? She wanted to badger West Morgan until he spilled the truth. She knew how, what, where, and who. All she needed was why. What was his motive?

As his attorneys escorted him from the room, Claressa threw one last question at him. “Are you left-handed?”

West Morgan stopped at the doorway, glared over his shoulder at her and answered, “Unfortunately, Ms. Dupré, I’m ambidextrous.”

Of course everything has to be color coded. Fashion is in one colored box; locations in another, etc.

Of course everything has to be color coded. Fashion is in one colored box; locations in another, etc.

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Winning a RONE Award & the 2015 InD’Scribe Con by Beth Carter

This fall I attended the 2015 InD’Scribe Reader & Author Con in Palm Springs. This was a jam-packed three-day event for authors and readers. It was an amazing conference and also where the coveted RONE awards were held.

I can’t tell you how excited I was to win the RONE award for my debut novel, THURSDAYS AT COCONUTS. I sat in the audience, watched all the other winners go to the podium, and about halfway through the evening (shiver), I noticed they were giving acceptance speeches. What? I raised my eyebrows and looked at my husband. “They’re giving speeches! I didn’t know they gave speeches.” Still, I relaxed in my chair and cheered fellow authors on as they were escorted to the stage by handsome romance cover models. Sigh. I mean. Come on. It was a romance conference, after all. The masters of ceremonies were TJ MacKay, founder of InD’Tale Magazine; and Catherine Bybee, NYT bestselling author. The keynote speaker was Anne Perry. Her accent alone held me captive. I was thinking maybe they had forgotten about the “Women’s Fiction/Chick Lit” category. After nearly two hours, the ceremony was winding down and there wasn’t any mention of the women’s fiction novels. I was a nervous wreck and sat riveted, unable to move. My category was the last one of the evening. When they announced my name, I about fell out of my chair. I walked slowly to the podium (no, not because of the hunky model–well, maybe a little) but because I was trying to figure out what to say!

I highly recommend InD’Scribe Reader & Author Con. It was an exhilarating experience complete with professional workshops, book signings, author luncheons, bar chats, dances, parties, great food, and much more.

Beth Carter on the RONE red carpet 2015.

Beth Carter on the RONE red carpet 2015.

By the way, RONE is pronounced “Rone-y” like Grammy or Emmy. The award ceremony was a festive, dressy affair complete with a red carpet, photos, cover models, and entertainment. This year’s entertainment was provided by a guitarist and a Prince/Michael Jackson impersonator (one in the same). Several hundred authors and readers attended the conference in California. I met authors from many states and other countries–Canada and England, in particular. I also got to meet four fellow Soulies: Alina K. Field, Darcy Flynn, Susan James Berger, and Janna Shay. Unfortunately, I have a new phone and am having major issues with it so I can’t show you their pretty faces, but trust me, we had a great time!

For those who aren’t familiar with the RONE voting process, it is three-fold. The first tier is based on reviews. Authors must receive a four-star rating or higher. The second phase is public voting. Basically, your fans and friends vote for their favorite authors. IF you make it through that round, you become a finalist. The third phase is judging by industry professionals. One NYT bestselling author told me it’s harder to get a RONE than a RITA by RWA. I wouldn’t know since this is all new to me. I can tell you that it’s a humbling honor and I was pleased that several Soulies were awarded Honorable Mention this year.

Cover model Michael Foster with Beth Carter

Cover model Michael Foster with Beth Carter

Did I mention there were cover models?! Here’s the proof. Hubba. Hubba. You should have seen my husband’s reaction when he saw this photo! He actually stole my camera when my back was turned and had someone take a photo of him fake choking the model! In another photo, hubby unbuttoned his shirt and opened it Superman-style while they both held their fists in the air. Michael loved it. Paybacks are, you know… There were several models in attendance–mostly male, and Michael Foster (above) appears on some SMP covers. Now, I know you’ll attend the 2016 conference which will be held in Burbank next year!

Debut Novel and RONE 2015 Winner

Debut Novel and RONE 2015 Winner

Go forth and submit your 2015 novels for review. Here’s hoping several Soulies bring home the RONE in 2016! Thank you for reading, reviewing, and voting for THURSDAYS AT COCONUTS. This has been a magical year thanks to you. All of my titles are on my Amazon author page at

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Humans As Photographs

Several  years ago we visited the Music Museum just outside Traverse City. This museum has a fantastic display of mechanical musical instruments, but I’m not going to talk about them today. While the music was toe-tapping and made me smile, something even more interesting caught my eye.

On our way into the guided tour area of the museum we passed a couple of mosaic-like pictures hanging on the wall. One was a picture of President Woodrow Wilson, the other a shield composed of stars and stripes. The guide directed our attention to them, pointing out that each picture was composed of hundreds of soldiers standing on marks to form the shapes.

humans as picture1        humans as picture2

I stepped close to the glass and peered at the photos. Sure enough, I could see the heads of the people. The guide pointed out hole in a line and another spot where a man leaned against his comrade, ready to faint away. The soldiers had to stand out in the hot sun for hours while the photographers lined everyone up just so to take an aerial photo. Sometimes a fellow or two didn’t make it to the end shot. The guide also pointed out another man who didn’t quite match the line he stood in, offering the suggestion that he was pulled in at the last minute to plug a hole caused by the collapse of someone else.

The photos were done by commercial photographer Arthur S. Mole and his partner John D. Thomas. Mole and Thomas went around the country to military camps creating people pictures. The largest “living photograph” was an American shield taken in 1918 at Camp Custer, Michigan.  To form the shield 30,000 military personnel stood on ground markers that stretched out a quarter of a mile from the 70 to 80 foot tall tower where the camera was perched.

The photos fascinated me. Hundreds of people crammed together creating a picture that could only be viewed aerially. Although each individual was interesting in his or her own way—possessing unique personalities, different jobs, and distinct lives—an aerial picture of one single person wasn’t very exciting—just a dot on the beige background. But when all the men and women stood together, just so—in their proper spots, they created something unique and out of the ordinary.

So it is with words. A single word can be interesting—at least they are to me. As a teen I read the dictionary like others would read a novel. As an adult I’ve had a multitude of discussions with my husband about word definitions, discussions that always end in one, or both of us, thumbing through the dictionary to see who is right. But a single word is just … a single word. As interesting as any word might be, string several together and something even more attention-grabbing is created—a means of communication. Put pages upon pages of sentences together and you create a book—a fantastic vehicle that transports readers to other places, other times, and provides mental photos to review whenever they choose to do so.

I’ve never seen photographs like the ones I’ve posted here from the Music Museum, but I don’t think I’ll be forgetting them any time soon. Like a good book, that won’t fade from my memory, these photos are impressed on my mind.

Have you ever seen photos like these?

Catherine CastleCatherine Castle is an award-winning author. Her book The Nun and the Narc has won the 2014 Beverly Hills Book Award, the 2014 Rone Award and finaled in the 2014 EPIC Contest.

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Ferdinand the Hero

The other day, I decided my kids were ready to watch The Blind Side. There were two reasons that brought me to this decision.

One, I love the story of a child finding his forever family. The child being a seventeen year old, Michael Oher, a forgotten and discarded kid of the foster care system in Tennessee.
Second, we were traveling out of town for the day and I needed a good movie they hadn’t seen that lasted over two hours and that would keep them from fighting with each other.
As we made our way down the many roads in Texas, I listened to the movie, picturing the scenes as they played behind me.

I’d forgotten how many scenes there were that made me teary.
Michael being taken in by the Tueay family.
Michael being appreciated for the fact he did know what his teachers were saying.
Michael earning his way on the football team.
But the thing that hit me the hardest was when Sandra Bullock’s Oscar-Award winning performance was when she read the story of Ferdinand.

She’s reading to her giant of her new son,
Why does it hit me hard? With it being National Adoption Month, I see this movie with different eyes because, I am the mother in that movie. My children may not be the same age as Michael, but they had very rough beginnings and could have easily been written off as casualties of a flawed system.
And my son, who’s a rough and tumble boy, wasn’t so when he arrived. He was, much like Michael—a quiet soul who wished for good things, but who’d been given the short end of the stick in life. Still, my son wasn’t angry, he was kind and gentle, loving and hungry for acknowledgment, much like the hero in The Blind Side.

It led me to wonder, do romance novels have room for a Ferdinand? A Michael Oher? In the world of mostly alpha males, is there a place for a gentle giant who defends his family, but only when necessary?

A child who’s been forgotten by not only the family who should protect him, but society.

Who’s a puzzle in himself and who’s simply wanting a good life without complication and confrontation?

I believe there is place for Ferdinands, but I also believe these types are far harder to write. They are so introspective and possibly, depending on how much of a cruel backstory we as writers wish to give them, more complicated.
More complicated, we can handle, but our passive heroes tend to avoid something essential to every great story—conflict. They wish to avoid it with a passion, which can make for some very interesting problems.
The only other question is against whom do we set our Ferdinands?
Sounds like a great brainstorming possibility.

Check out Patricia W. Fischer on her website, Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, and Instagram.

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Public Reading of a Local Writers Group (Kate Collier)

This is the fourth year my local writers’ group has held a public reading, and it was a first for me. What a great experience!

I joined the group a year ago and found myself in a room with 20 or so writers who care about language. For some, publication is a goal; for others it is a way of life; still others write for the love of writing, sharing their best work, and getting constructive feedback. Half of each monthly meeting is reserved for members to read aloud for five minutes from a work-in-progress and hear constructive feedback from the group.

When I learned the group holds a public reading each year, which is not a fundraiser, I wondered why. I decided to lend a hand and teamed up with another member. Together, we locked in the date, reserved the space, lined up the sound system, signed up readers and refreshments, produced programs, and organized the rehearsal.

Leading up to the public reading, which was held two weeks ago, members polished up a story, poem, essay, or excerpt from a novel or memoir. Readings had to fit in five-minute time slots. Rehearsal was mandatory to acquaint everyone with the microphone and ensure the work and the reader were ready. In all, a dozen members opted to read to an audience of about 40, our biggest audience ever.

Every reading was engaging, error-free, and compelling. A few poems knocked my socks off with their depth and insight into the human spirit. Two stories made me laugh out loud. And so it went, with every piece sparkling for the appreciative audience.

That was part of my answer about why the group holds a public reading. After all, our monthly meetings are formative sessions. This was a recital, a culmination of each writer’s hard work in its best form. Sure we were nervous about standing and delivering to strangers, but when we were done, we smiled with pride and blinked with the realization that people who didn’t even know us liked our work.

But that was only part of the answer. More answers came in the form of a congratulatory letter from our group president. Our audience this fourth year, she said, included more community members. We strengthened relations with the town library, where we hold our meetings. Just as important, a writer happened upon the event, stopped in, stayed to talk, and decided to join the group as a next step on her journey to publication.

Finally, for me personally, participating in the planning and in the reading took me to the next level of feeling “part of” the group and of my new community. And, hey, I sold a few books. In the end, though, it isn’t about the money. It’s about writing and sharing and continual improving.

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Conspiracy Theory!

Fighting Mad #2b Final (250)_edited-2My holidays are off to a good start! Romona Lockwood delivered a great cover for my 3rd book, Fighting Mad, coming in December! It’s taken awhile for me to get to the point where I’m comfortable with a scantily clad man on the cover (and you should still hear my mother!), but this look fits Murphy.

Murphy is a clurichaun, the red-headed stepchild of the leprechauns. Where leprechauns work hard and save their gold, clurichauns like nothing better than hanging out at the pub, laughing and joking with their mates. They’re knows for their fighting, but if they adopt your home as their own, they’ll guard it fiercely, particularly the wine cellar.

Carla isn’t sure what to think about Murphy. She’s sorely tempted by those broad shoulders, but the late-night bar fights can’t be a good example for her children. Still when the civil war between the King and Queen of the Fairies heats up, she knows who she wants on her side.

CRr0vWeWIAAoH6gNow, I know what you’re thinking. And no, leprechauns are not homicidal little  men. The name means the ‘sons of Lugh’ or the foot soldiers of the ancient Celtic gods. It’s a trick! If you think they’re just campy horror films, you won’t take the gold seriously. But if the 60s taught us anything, it’s to question everything, especially if there’s money involved!

I am determined to expose this conspiracy, so determined in fact that I sat on a panel in October at the Pinellas Comic & Maker Con. Okay, it was more about storytelling through art, writing, and animation, but you can see I took steps to let the world know the truth about leprechauns while having a great time!

You too can help end this confusion! You can learn the truth about leprechauns and spread the word about this cover up. I’m blowing the whole myth wide open in December, so prepare now by reading Feeling Lucky or Restless Spirits.

I’m giving away a free copy each of these books on my website this weekend as part of the Grateful for Books Blog Hop. Enter today and you too can learn the truth behind how civil war came to be heating up in the Midwest today. Then you’ll be able to share the truth with your family and friends!

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