Introducing Wednesday Word Tip

So a week and a half ago, I wrote a post on Blogging: What’s the Point? And then I skipped a post on Sunday. Which might have looked like I was backing away from blogging, but honestly, I just flat-out missed it.

Yet I have been thinking more and more about my blog and what I want to offer. So without further adieu, I’m giving this a shot!

Wednesday Word Tip

For a long time on my blog, I had Wednesday Words and then Amazing Word Wednesdays in which I gave grammar tips, explored words and phrases, and tried to make the hodgepodge language of American English semi-understandable. I’ve had a few people wistfully refer to those posts, with almost a nudge-nudge in their comments. And I appreciate that! I guess it means I was doing something right.

In the interest of time and to reach more people, I’ve decided to try out a Wednesday Word Tip — which will be a quick video with a vocabulary word, a phrase, or a grammar usage highlighted and explained. It could also be a book-related video. We’ll just see how this goes…

And I’m still working on A Round of Words in 80 Days! Here’s my weekly update.

ROW80 Update

We’re supposed to be all wrapped up by tomorrow, but I will probably need until the end of the week to feel really good about things.

1. Finish editing Sharing Hunter, young adult contemporary novelSo. Very. Close. My read-through showed a few issues, but nothing that stopped me cold. I’m tweaking now and super-excited about this story!

2. Edit, polish, and release two more short stories in my Paranormal Playground series. So let’s just move this goal to the next round, shall we? 😉

3. Read 12 books. Read Sass and Serendipity by Jennifer Ziegler and Unleashed by Rachel Lacey. That makes 13 books for the round!

4. Attend RWA Conference and Day of YA in San Antonio and follow-up as needed. Just about done. A thread or two still dangling, but I can tie it all up pretty easily.

What do you think of videos and vlogging? What word tips would you like me to cover? And how was your week?

10 Words We Don’t Use Enough

The marvelous Jenny Hansen knows how much I love studying words and grammar, so she sent me a fabulous article on Important Infrequently Used Words to Know.

Among the words listed are some I’ve used with fair frequency, like alacrityegregious, gratuitous, hubris, poignant, sycophant, and veracity. But there are plenty I almost never use, like copacetic, fatuous, insipid, misanthrope, polymath, and unctuous — even though I know that they mean. (I won’t talk about the ones I had to look up!)

But there are plenty of other words I use, which maybe we don’t use quite enough. Here’s my own list of 10 words you might want to include in your vocabulary:

Boondocks. I thought everybody used this word, until I recently had a teenager read a story of mine and comment that she didn’t know that word and didn’t think anyone in her age cohort did. *sigh* It means way out there in isolated country. Like “I had to drive an hour outside of town to reach his lone shack out in the boondocks.” Although I’m more likely to use it as in, “Where is my car in this mall parking lot? Oh, yeah. I parked out in the boondocks.”

Conniption (Fit). So the word is conniption, but I never say it without immediately following with the word fit. What’s a conniption fit? Well, conniption means the full range of hysterics. So a conniption fit is what you have when you discover your two-timing boyfriend is at it again or your children have left another mess in the middle of your living room or the election ballot once again provides two completely unacceptable choices.

Hissy vs. Conniption Fit Mug - available from
Available from

Eschatology. Ever wonder when the world will come to an end and how? Then, you might be intrigued by eschatology, a branch of theology that deals with the end of the world’s history and/or humankind. It may sound a little depressing, but it’s quite interesting to hear all the theories of what a grand finale might look like.

FlabbergastedWhy go for simply “surprised” when you can amp it up and say you’re flabbergasted? Synonyms include “astonished,” “perplexed,” and “amazed.”

Gobsmacked. Need something even more than flabbergasted? Hello, gobsmacked. You gotta love a word that sounds like its meaning. Gobsmacked is like “surprised” on steroids. When you just can’t believe something, you’re gobsmacked.

Julie demonstrating "surprised," "flabbergasted," and "gobsmacked"

HippopotamiSure, you say hippopotamus, but do you look for opportunities to say hippopotami? Personally, I’m not entirely happy if I see a single hippo; it just sort of takes away from the pronunciation fun of punctuating that final long i. You can also extend the fun with other -us to -i words, such as cacti and octopi and radii and alumni. (Yes, I know you can also say hippopotamuses, but where’s the fun in that? 😉 )

That last entry is in honor of “Hip Jenny,” who is recovering from recent hip surgery.

Lackadaisical. Welcome to summer with teenagers! However, this word gets used in my house throughout the year. It means lazy, listless, idle, unambitious, slothful. You may live with someone who qualifies as lackadaisical or have a few days when you meet that definition yourself.

Persnickety. Got a nitpicking, finicky person in your life? This word entered my routine vocabulary with the arrival of my second son and his picky eating habits. But persnickety has come in rather handy in a number of other situations, when someone is a bit too fussy about this or that.

Rambunctious. Anyone who has children or has been to a rock concert needs this word. Google’s dictionary defines it as “uncontrollably exuberant; boisterous.” If you’re trying to imagine this word in action, just think Chuck E. Cheese. Pretty much everything going on in there describes rambunctious.

Surreptitious. I likely hear this word in mysteries more than any other place. Which makes sense, since it means “done in a secret way,” or on the sly. Surreptitious brings to my mind such actions as peeking, sneaking, and spying. That guilty pleasure of yours? Do that surreptitiously.

Which of these words do you use or want to add to your vocabulary? And what words do you use with some frequency that you don’t think we all use enough?

Female Criminals in the Age of Larceny

What a treat today! I’m welcoming K.B. Owen, author of historical mysteries starring the inimitable Concordia Wells. Her latest release is Unseemly Pursuits:

Unseemly Pursuits book coverA deadly secret that won’t stay buried…

It is the fall of 1896, and Miss Concordia Wells is hip-deep in the usual tumult of a lady professor’s life: classes, clubs, student pranks, and the unending drama generated by the girls she lives with on campus.  Complicating this normality is the new Lady Principal, whom the students have nicknamed “the Ogre.”  The woman seems bent on making Concordia’s life miserable.

And then there’s the exotic spirit medium, Madame Durand, who has befriended Concordia’s mother and has started a “Spirit Club” on campus.  Madame’s prognostications of doom are at first only mildly irritating – until events take a sobering turn.  An ancient Egyptian amulet donated to the college mysteriously disappears, the donor is found murdered, and his daughter – Concordia’s best friend – confesses to killing him.

Desperate for answers, Concordia unravels a 20-year-old secret, closely guarded by men now dead.  But such secrets can be dangerous for the daughters left behind, including Concordia herself.  Can she make sense of the mystery that has bound together their fates, before it’s too late?

Nice tease, eh?

As part of her craft, K.B. meticulously researches history — but not the boring stuff. No, no! She’s sharing with us today the juicy stuff about female criminals.

And now here’s Kathy!

Historian Timothy Gilfoyle, in “Street-rats and gutter-snipes: child pickpockets and street culture in New York City, 1850-1900,” (published in the Journal of Social History, Summer 2004), says: “the period from 1866 to 1887 might be described as the ‘age of larceny.’ During those two decades, larceny comprised between one-third and one-half of all crimes in New York State.” 

Julie and I thought you all might enjoy hearing about the women of the time who contributed to the “age of larceny.” Here are the most notorious of the lot:

Sophie Lyons (1848-1924):  Thief, Pickpocket, Confidence Woman

Sophie Lyons

Mugshot, sometime before 1886. Wikimedia Commons.

She started early in her life of crime. Her father was a safe-cracker, her mother a shoplifter, and Sophie carried on the family business. By one account, she was caught stealing when she was 3, although there’s not enough corroborating evidence to say for sure. Certainly, she was arrested for shoplifting at age 12, married a fellow pickpocket, Ned Lyons, who later became known as “King of Bank Robbers,” at age 16, and was imprisoned multiple times.

Once, her husband (who had just escaped from prison) managed to disguise himself and break her out of Sing Sing. After time spent in France, a return to New York, more arrests and near-arrests, Sophie Lyons retired from criminal life and turned benefactor, as described in the 1916 New York Times article below (apologies for the poor image quality):

Article re Sophie Lyons

Gotta love the title of her book:  Why Crime Does Not Pay. Nothing could be further from the truth in this case. At the time, she was worth half a million dollars in real estate alone, and no doubt the book was making money, too. But I’ll try to keep my cynicism in check.

One last ironic note about Sophie Lyons – here’s an incident near the end of her life, recounted in a 1922 New York Times article. Call it poetic justice, if you will:

Article 2 re Sophie Lyons

How about that – the thief got robbed!

Bertha Heyman, “Confidence Queen”

Bertha Heyman

The following account of Bertha Heyman, from an 1886 book Professional Criminals of America, vol. 3, by Thomas Byrnes (pic above comes from the book, too), describes her best:

 Article re Bertha Heyman

Margaret Brown,

a.k.a. “Old Mother Hubbard”

The pic and description below also come from Professional Criminals of America:

Margaret Brown

Article re Margaret Brown

Sometimes, just catching the women was a challenge for the police. Here’s an account from Historical Sketch of the Police Service of Hartford, 1636-1901:

Hartford article

Hartford article 2

What a rich passage – plenty of favorite phrases to give us a great flavor of the time. “Totties and Lotties” is my favorite.

What famous female criminals can you think of in today’s society? Do they share any attributes with these women? Julie and I would love to hear from you.

Julie, thanks again for hosting me!

My pleasure!

Be sure to check out the Concordia Wells mysteries: Dangerous and Unseemly & Unseemly Pursuits.

K.B. OwenK.B. Owen taught college English at universities in Connecticut and Washington, DC and holds a doctorate in 19th century British literature. A long-time mystery lover, she drew upon her teaching experiences to create her amateur sleuth, Professor Concordia Wells.

Unseemly Pursuits is the second book of the series. The first book, Dangerous and Unseemly, was published in early 2013.

K.B. currently lives in Virginia with her husband and sons, and is busily planning the lady professor’s next adventure.

Where to buy Unseemly Pursuits

Unseemly Pursuits book coverKindle:






An Unseemly Giveaway

Giveaway pictureDuring K.B.’s Unseemly Pursuits book tour, which goes through the first week of March, there’s a giveaway at each blog stop (including here!). The winner, randomly drawn from the commenters at each stop, will get a free ebook copy of Unseemly Pursuits. At the end of the tour, she’ll hold another random drawing from among the ebook winners for the final prize: a special Concordia Wells series swag package! It includes customized mug, keychain, JellyBelly mini-tin, and signed paperback copies of the first two mysteries: Dangerous and Unseemly and Unseemly Pursuits. You can read, sip your coffee, and snack on candy in unseemly style. Check the sidebar on the home page of for the full tour schedule and other info.

Obsolete Words and How to Use Them

You may have noticed that I’ve been a bit absent on Wednesdays as of late. I’m swamped with writing and editing, so I’m promising myself to post at least weekly on Sundays. But I’ll pop by on Wednesdays when I have something word-related (Amazing Words Wednesday!) to say.

I recently saw a great BuzzFeed article shared on Facebook: 27 Delightful Obsolete Words It’s High Time We Revived. It’s a fun and quick read, so head over and there and check it out. I’ll wait.

. . .

So did you find a favorite word?

I was familiar with a few, such as jargogle (to confuse/bamboozle), twattle (to gossip/talk idly), gorgonize (to have a paralyzing or mesmerizing effect), and Twitter-light (synonym for twilight). But there were surprises as well.

Here are my top 5 from their list and my own research about their origins.

Lethophobia. Lethophobia is the fear of oblivion, but it’s also sometimes defined as an abnormal anxiety of forgetting. Whether forgetting or being forgotten, lethophobia doesn’t sound like too much fun. Though that fear of oblivion is perhaps one of the reasons people are eager to be on even the silliest of reality shows. Lethophobia is certainly real.

And we have the Greeks to thank for this word. In Greek mythology, the river Lethe flowed in the Underworld (Hades), and anyone who drank from it experienced a loss of memory — forgetting their former life entirely. Indeed, Lethe was also the name of the Greek spirit of forgetfulness and oblivion. The word lethe itself simply means that — forgetfulness, oblivion, that where-did-I-put-my-keys feeling. And of course, a phobia is an irrational fear. Thus . . . lethophobia.

Sources: Wiki Answers, Wikipedia, Encyclopedia Brittanica

Gorgonize. Speaking of Greek mythology, to gorgonize is to mesmerize or stupefy someone. The Gorgons were three sister monsters with snake hair who could turn a person into stone with a single look. Sound familiar? Yes, one of those sisters was named Medusa.

Medusa by Arnold Böcklin, circa 1878.
Creepy, huh?

I don’t know who has this actual effect today. Maybe a hypnotist? Or that gorgeous guy you can’t stop eyeballing? Or perhaps it’s the video game screen; that seems to gorgonize my teenagers.

Sources: Merriam-Webster, Etymological Worm, Theoi Greek Mythology

Crapulous. To be crapulous is to feel sick from excessive eating or drinking. Although really, it’s best applied to drinking. The word derives from the Latin crapula (Really. I am not making this up.) which essentially refers to a hangover and hails from the 1530s. But don’t stop with simply using crapulous:

The morning after the Super Bowl, my slacker roommate felt crapulous.

Expand your horizons. Use these related words!

He schlepped through his day crapulously.

I can’t believe the frequency of his crapulousness.

The moment he walked through the door, I knew he was crapulent.

And his friends are always engaged in that crapulence.

Source: Online Etymology Dictionary – crapulous

Brabble. Just consider some of your arguments with siblings when you were kids, or plenty of political pundit debates on radio and TV. To brabble is to squabble, particularly about something inconsequential. Brabble has been traced back to 1530 and comes from Middle Dutch.

We have plenty of words meaning argue, so why should you use brabble? Well, to join the likes of Shakespeare, of course!

First Officer:

“Here in the streets, desperate of shame and state,

In private brabble did we apprehend him.”

Twelfth Night, Act V, Scene 1

Sources: Merriam-WebsterShakespeare’s Non-Standard English: A Dictionary of His Informal LanguageTwelfth Night –

Apricity. Here’s a word you’ll especially appreciate this time of year. Apricity is the warmth of the sun on a cold day. Have you enjoyed a moment of apricity lately? The word hails from the Latin apricus, which means exposed to the sun. It’s the same stem from which we (eventually) got the word apricot. The word is first referenced in a dictionary from the 1620s, but it no longer makes the cut in current dictionaries.

Which is a shame, because I could really use a word for that sense of sunny warmth as soon as I walk out from the coffee shop I’m currently in and emerge into the frigid (well, frigid for Texas) weather. I plan to revel in the apricity anyway.

Sources: Unused Words, Fritinancy

What obsolete words would you like to see used again? Which of the words from BuzzFeed’s list, or my top five list, are your favorites?

Ban These Words & Phrases (Because We’re Sick of Them)

Once again, Lake Superior State University has released its List of Words to be Banished from the Queen’s English for Misuse, Overuse and General Uselessness. This tradition began in 1976 and has continued as a service to word lovers everywhere.

Following is the 2014 list with my thoughts on each word/phrase LSSU suggests banning, because we are collectively sick of hearing them:

Selfie. I remember when I finally got a smartphone that allowed me to flip the lens so that I could more easily take a picture of myself. No longer did I have to hold my arm out to Timbuktu, pray that I got the angle right, and snap a less-than-flattering photo to upload to social media or send to a friend. Because of course, someday, for some reason, you have to take a “selfie” — a self-snapped photo of yourself. Especially if you’re prime minister of Denmark and sitting in between the POTUS and the British prime minister.

Obama selfie

Twerk. Do we just get to banish the word or the whole practice of twerking? Miley Cyrus brought the spotlight to this word in 2013, with her wild performance at the MTV Video Music Awards as she “danced” with Robin Thicke. But my favorite story of twerking in 2013 involved Jimmy Kimmel, and the unbelievable scam he and his crew pulled on YouTube watchers and news media everywhere.

Hashtag. Thanks to Twitter and other social media sites, hashtags turned the pound sign (#) into something entirely different. Companies, organizations, celebrities, and party people come up with hashtags that range from product titles to profanity. And it’s even moved into conversation, with people trying to emphasize a point by prefacing it with “hashtag.” Seriously? Not everything should be a hashtag.

Twittersphere. I’m not sure why Twitter got picked on. There’s been a movement to make everything into a “sphere” these days: the blogosphere, the Twittersphere, the Facebooksphere, the atmosphere (oh wait, that’s a real one). But you get the point.

Mister Mom. I didn’t know this was overused. Or even used. Indeed, the last time I’ve really considered this phrase is when Michael Keaton put out a film by that title in 1983.

"Mr. Mom" movie poster

T-Bone. This is a verb description of an automobile accident, apparently overused in news reports. I guess it’s overused in traffic reports, though I don’t listen to those since I work from home and don’t commute. But now, this is overuse of “t-bone”:

___ on Steroids. If something is super-big, it’s obviously on performance-enhancing drugs. Didn’t we learn that with Barry Bonds home run record and Alex Rodriguez’s ego?

-Ageddon and -Pocalypse. These endings get added to words to manufacture a sense of crisis. But as I’ve pointed out, “Armageddon” and “Apocalypse” have real backgrounds in all of that end-of-the-world, grab-your-granny-and-hide stuff. Whereas running out of chocolate should not create a “chocopocalypse”; you’ll be okay.

Intellectually/Morally Bankrupt. This phrase occurs often in the world of politics. Thus, its unbelievable overuse.

Obamacare. It’s going to be difficult to keep away from this one, since this health care bill finally goes into full effect this year. Actually, I’m in favor of all bill titles having a character limit, like what exists in the Twittersphere. If you name something the “Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act,” you should expect others to give it a nickname that will actually fit in a hashtag.

Adversity. Specifically used in sports. The objections to its constant use apparently involve frustration that athletes are said to overcome “adversity” to make the professional leagues, when some feel their stories don’t ring as true on the adversity scale as, say, starving children and wounded soldiers. I can’t say this one bugs me so much, but that’s probably because I haven’t watch a full game of anything in maybe two years.

Fan Base. The problem here is the word “base” — like fans are all gathered a base camp awaiting their hero. Certainly, “fans” gets the point across and saves you one word. So I can see why this phrase would irritate some.

Be sure to check out the 2014 list with comments from its creators and their lists from previous years. It’s fun to see what they’ve suggested banning, and I mostly agree with their lists. LSSU also takes nominations of overused words and phrases all year long, so if you’ve got a word or phrase you’re sick of hearing, go ahead and nominate it for the next list!

What words were you glad to see on Lake Superior State University’s Banished Words list? What words would you like to add?

4 Tips for Writing A Bucket List

Welcome to Amazing Words Wednesday, the day we enter the labyrinth of language and see what we can find.

BucketOn the first Wednesday of the month, I share my own words — something I’ve crafted from our vast-yet-finite number of words in the English language. Since it’s the very first of the year as well, I wanted to talk about writing a bucket list.

What’s a bucket list?

bucket list (buck·et list)

noun: a number of experiences or achievements that a person hopes to have or accomplish during their lifetime: making this trip is the first thing on my bucket list

origin: early 21st century: from the phrase kick the bucket ‘die’, popularized by the 2007 movie The Bucket List

Oxford Dictionaries

Some people prefer to call it a “life list,” since the connotation of kicking the bucket makes it sound like you’ve got one foot in the grave. Yet, plenty of young people write bucket lists, or rather wish lists of what they want to do in their lifetime.

I’ve called my own list the 40 After 40, because I wrote it at age 40 and included 40 items. I’ve knocked out a few, but not as many as I’d like.

Here are my tips for a bucket list of any kind:

  • It must include items you have control over. Stating as a goal “get a book contract” doesn’t work, because that decision doesn’t belong solely in your court. Whereas “submit manuscript to ten agents” is a goal in your hands.
  • It should include items that don’t require money. On my list are a few high-priced items, like vacations and purchases. However, if everything on your list requires that you get rich first, you may never get any traction. Try to include some activities that are cheap or even free. They may require contacts and effort, but not cold hard cash you may not have.
  • It should run the gamut of experiences you desire. Some may be small items, some large, but all things outside of your normal. Still, you’re looking for a range of experience that will enhance your life.
  • It should include others. Not every item must include other people, but find things that involve your closest loved ones. You’ll enjoy some activities far more when you can share them with people dear to you.

And now my words — my list.

  1. Shop for a wedding dress
  2. Travel to the Holy Land (Israel, Egypt)
  3. Write a novel
  4. Own a gazebo
  5. Participate in a musical
  6. Learn to tap dance
  7. Teach a women’s Bible class
  8. Ride in a small private plane
  9. See another opera
  10. Sing at a karaoke bar
  11. Go on a cruise
  12. Attend the U.S. Open in Flushing Meadows, New York (tennis)
  13. Write a blog
  14. Take ballroom dancing
  15. Host a costume party
  16. Read the Bible all the way through again
  17. Read War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy
  18. Attend another ministry conference
  19. See Shakespeare in the Park (again)
  20. Record songs I’ve written
  21. Shoot a gun
  22. Go on vacation by myself
  23. Sing the national anthem at an event
  24. Ride in a limousine
  25. Learn military phonetic alphabet

Yes, that’s only 25 of the 40, but some items are a bit personal and others would require explanation. I’ve knocked out several of these, including writing a blog (obviously), teaching women’s Bible class, reading War and Peace, and shopping for a wedding dress which I wrote about here. My Texas friends will be happy to learn that I did go to a shooting range over the holidays, and this born-and-bred Texan has finally fired a real gun. (No, not at anybody. Paper target, y’all.)

I plan to check off several more items in 2014!

So what’s on your bucket/life list? What tips do you have for writing such a list?

The Twelve Days of Writer Christmas

Welcome to Amazing Words Wednesday, the day we enter the labyrinth of language and see what we can discover.

A couple of years ago, I translated some Christmas carol lyrics by updating them to today’s vernacular. And last year, I treated my writer friends to my own version of “Santa Baby.” This year, I’ve got another Christmas song in my head. It’s quite possibly the oddest traditional carol in our Christmas playlist: “The Twelve Days of Christmas.”

Partridge in a pear tree
Partridge in a Pear Tree
Pic credit: Microsoft Word Clip Art

Why is it so odd?

Well, when’s the last time you opened up a present from under the tree and two turtledoves flew out? Or had six geese a-laying for your yuletide? And don’t even get me started on the ten lords a-leaping!

As a holiday wish to my fellow writers, and anyone else who’s tuning in (good to see you!), I decided to craft an updated, writer’s version of the “Twelve Days of Christmas.” But I need your help!

I’m stumped on the ninth day of Christmas. So give me your ideas (remembering the rhythm of the tune, of course). As you read, remember that things get better the closer you get to Christmas.

On the first day of Christmas, my true love gave to me
A long weekend writing retreat

On the second day of Christmas, my true love gave to me
Two critique partners and a long weekend writing retreat

On the third day of Christmas, my true love gave to me
Three contest wins, two critique partners, and a long weekend writing retreat

On the fourth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me
Four agent offers, three contest wins, two critique partners, and a long weekend writing retreat

On the fifth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me
A five-book contract! Four agent offers, three contest wins, two critique partners, and a long weekend writing retreat

On the sixth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me
Six-figure sales, a five-book contract! Four agent offers, three contest wins, two critique partners, and a long weekend writing retreat

On the seventh day of Christmas, my true love gave to me
Seven conference invites, six-figure sales, a five-book contract! Four agent offers, three contest wins, two critique partners, and a long weekend writing retreat

On the eighth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me
Eight interviews, seven conference invites, six-figure sales, a five-book contract! Four agent offers, three contest wins, two critique partners, and a long weekend writing retreat

On the ninth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me
Nine ______________, eight interviews, seven conference invites, six-figure sales, a five-book contract! Four agent offers, three contest wins, two critique partners, and a long weekend writing retreat

On the tenth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me
Ten book signings, nine _____________, eight interviews, seven conference invites, six-figure sales, a five-book contract! Four agent offers, three contest wins, two critique partners, and a long weekend writing retreat

On the eleventh day of Christmas, my true love gave to me
Eleven glowing reviews, ten book signings, nine _____________, eight interviews, seven conference invites, six-figure sales, a five-book contract! Four agent offers, three contest wins, two critique partners, and a long weekend writing retreat

On the twelfth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me
Twelve bestsellers, eleven glowing reviews, ten book signings, nine _____________, eight interviews, seven conference invites, six-figure sales, a five-book contract! Four agent offers, three contest wins, two critique partners, and a long weekend writing retreat

I don’t know what’s really on your Christmas wish list this year. But I hope it’s something better than a partridge in a pear tree.

Have a lovely holiday season!

Which day is your favorite of the original Twelve Days of Christmas? And what’s your idea for my ninth day of Christmas

My Words: Exorcising My Sister

Welcome to Amazing Words Wednesday, the day we enter the labyrinth of language and see what we can discover. The first Wednesday of each month, I share some of my own words (you know, being a writer and all 😉 ).

This fall, I took an online short story course from the young adult chapter of RWA (Romance Writers of America). During this class and beyond, I wrote, edited, and polished a teen paranormal tale titled Exorcising My Sister. I plan to compile several paranormal shorts and self-publish the stories in 2014.

Today, I’m sharing a teaser (chapter one) from this 9,300-word short story.

Chapter 1: Today’s the Day

I burrow under my fleece purple blanket, not yet ready to face this day. Wednesday the 16th — the only calendar day not marked for my parents and Nickie to visit a physician, psychiatrist, principal, juvie court judge, or some other authority.

All futile attempts to knock my big sister back from raging lunacy to her normal — still annoying — self, the self she was four months ago, before this hell started.

“Okay, okay . . .” I mumble to the alarm clock, the repeated buzz feeling like fists punching my ears. My feet slide through the warm sheets to the cool tile, and my hands rub my eyes to coax them open. A shove to my back tells me Biggun, our oversized tabby cat, is also awake.

He crawls onto my lap and bats at my hands with his nose. I scratch his ears, and Biggun purrs. Since my sister freaked, his affection demands are all on me. He won’t get within ten feet of Nickie.

Apparently, the cat and I are the only ones wise to Nickie’s real problem. It’s not an emotional breakdown, a delinquent phase, or some deep-seated cry for help.

My big sister Nickie is possessed.


With a demon.

I give Biggun a few more pats, then walk to the mirror and stare at my disheveled self. Prickles electrify my scalp and travel down my arms and legs. “Courtney Pater, this is it.”

My voice sounds hard and determined, like a drill sergeant inspiring troops, and my body stiffens. I may be fifteen years old, a nerdy misfit at school, and 110 pounds holding a watermelon, but I’m my family’s only hope.

While my parents explore logical explanations for Nickie’s deviant behavior, I’m doing the truly reasonable thing — the only thing to prevent her from eventually ripping our family to shreds. And with the mischief, violence, and criminal record growing daily, we’re out of time.

“Yep,” I say, “today’s the day to exorcise your sister.”


Here’s the blurb for the story:

Girl illustratedSome teens think their older sibling is possessed. Courtney’s sister actually is. No one else gets the real reason for Nickie’s recent personality change, so it’s up to 15-year-old Courtney to save her big sister and exorcise the demon.

What paranormal creatures or subjects do you like to read about? What short story authors do you enjoy? And have you ever exorcised a demon — like from a family member?

If Turkeys Tweeted

Welcome to Amazing Words Wednesday, the day we enter the labyrinth of language and see what we can find.

Here in the United States, this is also the day before Thanksgiving — a holiday dedicated to family and friends, gratitude, and a whole lotta turkey and other goodies on our table. From time to time, I gather famous quotes of 140 characters or less and share my favorites, such as If Twain Tweeted and If Hitchcock Tweeted and If Wilde Tweeted.  But in honor of this holiday, let’s talk turkey.

Photo from Microsoft Word Clip Art

If turkeys tweeted, what would they say? Here are my Top 10 (gathered, of course, from highly reputable turkeys themselves):

10. Anyone know a good plastic surgeon to fix this turkey neck? I want to look good for #Thanksgiving.

The recommended plastic surgery procedure for those with “turkey wattle” necks is a neck lift — a procedure that British actress Helen Mirren is rumored to have had.

9. Forget this turkey. If your family’s coming for #Thanksgiving, you need Wild Turkey.

Wild Turkey Bourbon was thus named in 1940 by a Kentucky distillery executive on a wild turkey hunting trip.

8. Slaughter me, baste me, roast me, taste me! #turkeyslastwords

According to the United States Department of Agriculture, more than 22.5 million turkeys are expected to be eaten this holiday.

7. Listen to your mom: No more shooting the bird! #savetheturkeys

The National Wild Turkey Federation (NWTF) provides hunting tips and tactics for both beginner and experienced turkey hunters.

6. Does this glaze make me look fat? #turkeytime

“That’s the ultimate goal of most turkey recipes: to create a great skin and stuffing to hide the fact that turkey meat, in its cooked state, is dry and flavorless. Does it have to be that way? No. We just have to focus on what the turkey is and what the turkey needs.” – Alton Brown, host of Food Network’s Good Eats (from BrainyQuote)

5. Eat Mor Chickin. Hey, the slogan worked for those Chick-Fil-A cows! #lessturkeymorechicken

Chick-Fil-A billboard

4. Turducken? Really? As if sharing the misery makes it better? #sorryducks

Turducken is a dish made by stuffing a deboned chicken into a deboned duck and then a deboned turkey. It’s like ordering the meat lovers’ special for Thanksgiving.

3. Presidential pardon, please? #longliveturkeys

For the last 24 years, a U.S. president has pardoned one turkey each year from its otherwise certain execution and preparation for the White House Thanksgiving dinner.

2. What a #Thanksgiving! I’m stuffed. Literally.

Regardless of what some dictionaries now say about the word “literally,” we humans are only symbolically stuffed after a big meal at the Thanksgiving table. But remember to leave room for dessert!

1. Gobble, gobble. #turkeysrule

Hey, what did you expect?

Turkey illustration
Pic from Microsoft Word Clip Art

Happy Thanksgiving!

Enjoy the turkey and all the trimmings.

10 Holiday Gift Ideas for Readers and Writers

Welcome to Amazing Words Wednesday, the day we enter the labyrinth of language and see what we can discover. Today we’re discovering gift ideas for those of us who love language.

Last year at this time, I shared a series of posts with gift suggestions for the grammar geek, the word lover, the book reader, and the writer. Many of those options are still available, and today I’m adding more ideas to your holiday shopping list for the reader or writer in your life.

To find any of these products, simply click on the image and you’ll be sent to a new page where you can purchase the item.

Punctuation Bookends. It was love at first sight when I saw these at my local Barnes & Noble. They are available online as well. Who couldn’t use a set of bookends? And if you’re going to get some, they might as well be fun.

Punctuation bookends

A Book Cover T-shirt. Sometimes you love a book so much, you want to dive into its pages. Or maybe wear it to show your support. So how about a t-shirt? My favorite source would be Out of Print, a shop with products that “feature iconic and often out of print book covers.” Check out a few of their offerings.

Dracula t-shirt

Don Quixote t-shirt

Goodnight Moon onesie

Writer’s Digest Subscription. Writer’s Digest magazine is published monthly and provides inspiration, craft instruction, business advice, and more for writers at every stage. Writer’s Digest also hosts conferences, competitions, and classes–all of which are advertised in the magazine. It’s easy to gift a subscription.

Writer's Digest Cover

The Great Typo Hunt: Two Friends Changing the World, One Correction at a Time. This book is on my own wish list. Authors Jeff Deck and Benjamin D. Hersen traveled around the United States looking for typos. They found 437 of them and were able to correct more than half. This is the true story of the Typo Eradication Advancement League (TEAL) in action, armed with Sharpies, Wite-Out, pens, crayons, and more and determined to write wrongs to the English language.

The Great Typo Hunt book cover

Highlighters–a lot of them. Highlighters are perfect for marking memorable passages in what you’re reading or for noting areas to edit in your writing. Used often, you can burn through the single or double packs in no time. Instead, grab a 24-pack of colored highlighters so that your reader or writers has options and won’t run out of the color they want or need.

Sharpie Accent Highlighters - 24 pack, colored

Book Cover Wine Charms. Plenty of people enjoy a book and a glass of wine together. So why not combine them in glass stem charms? You can even customize the charms with your favorite book covers.

Book cover wine charms

Grammar Grumble Mugs. Thanks to Rachel Funk Heller who pointed these out from the Literary Gift Company. These mugs humorously clarify some grammar usage mishaps. My favorite? “Less milk and fewer sugar lumps.” Why? Because it’s a rule that almost no one seems to know these days, but if you can count something, it’s “fewer”–not “less.”

Grammar Grumble Mugs

Gift Card to an Indie Bookstore. Don’t believe for a moment that indie bookstores are dead or dying. Yes, some have fallen by the wayside, but plenty are still thriving and providing that personal touch of knowledgeable recommendations, author signings, and book-related events. They are still a fabulous place to shop. Find your local indie bookstore, pop in, and grab a gift card. Or some independent bookstores sell gift cards online, like Blue Willow Bookshop in Houston, Texas.

Gift card from Blue Willow Bookshop
Gift card from Blue Willow Bookshop

The Emotion Thesaurus: A Writer’s Guide to Character Expression. This reference book is a goldmine for writers who want to show what a character is feeling–without telling the reader she’s sad or he’s anxious, etc. For a range of emotions, authors Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglisi give the physical signals, internal sensations, mental responses, and other cues associated with each. The book is organized by emotion, and thus easy to search and pull useful information.

Emotion Thesaurus book cover

E-reader. Honestly, if it’s been a while or if your gift recipient hasn’t expanded to include ebooks to their reading list, maybe it’s time for an upgrade or a new experience. E-readers have gotten better and cheaper. The four main reading devices include Kindle, Nook, Kobo, and iPad. Here are some options.

Kindle Paperwhite
Kindle Paperwhite
Nook Simple Touch
Nook Simple Touch
Kobo Mini
Kobo Mini

What’s on your wish list this year? Do you have readers or writers to buy for this holiday season? What gift suggestions do you have?