Archive for the ‘A-Z Challenge’ Category

The idea for this post hit me while shopping with my best friend just this morning (yes, I know I need to do more planning).  We were walking around the Wise Owl Bookstore; I was pondering words that start with the letter E, desperately trying to think of what to write about today.  Out of nowhere, the word “Etymology” threw itself at me.  Maybe the sheer amount of words and paper and ink surrounding me had my sub-conscious-self wondering where all the words come from or something; I don’t know.  So I let the idea percolate in my soon-to-be chocolate-and caffeine-filled brain for a while.  I took the stewing ideas with me to the library and nerded out.  People always say “if you’re going to have a heart attack, what better place than in the hospital;” well, those same people should say “if you’re going to nerd out about words, what better place than in a library?”  Despite the almost-full moon, tonight was a quiet evening with only a couple of crazies.  So there I sat, two dictionaries open, another on my computer screen, Inventing English propped open by my phone, and using my sonic screwdriver pen to jot down notes and quotes relating to the word “etymology.”

So here it is, because today is brought to you by the letter E:

Webster’s Ninth New Collegiate Dictionary defines etymology as

  1. The history of a linguistic form (as a word) shown by tracing its development since its earliest recorded occurrence in the language where it is found, by tracing its transmission from one language to another, by analyzing it into its component parts, by identifying its cognates in other languages, or by tracing it and its cognates to a common ancestral form in an ancestral language.
  2. A branch of linguistics concerned with etymologies.

The word cognates in that definition had me scratching my head, so here’s that definition as well:

  1. Of the same or similar nature.
  2. Related by blood. [obviously not relevant here]
  3. Related by descent from the same ancestral language.

Now back to the actual etymology of etymology:
Etymology comes from the Middle English which in turn comes from the Old French ethimologie.  That comes from the Latin etymologia.  Can you guess where that comes from?  Etymologia comes from the Greek etumologia.  The second part of the word, logia, is relatively familiar.  It’s found in many common words like biology, astrology, cardiology, etc.  It means “the study of.”  Logia comes from logos, which means “word, speech, discourse.”  The first part of the word, etumon, is not as common.  It means “true sense” and comes from etumos, meaning “true, real, actual.”

Taking that information, we can determine that the meaning of etymology has not changed much or at all since first recorded in the 14th century.  The literal definition, taken from its original Greek parts, means “the true sense of the word.”

With the resources I have available to me (as much as I desperately want a subscription to the OED website, I sadly can’t afford it), the earliest quote using the word etymology came from Nathan Bailey, the compiler of The Universal Etymological Dictionary: “[Etymology is] a Part of the Grammar, shewing the Original of words, in order to fix their true Meaning and Signification.”

Here’s a few links to more quotes about Etymology:
Goodreads quotes
English Word Information

I hope to bring more etymological tidbits to the blog in the future.  Let me know in the comments what words you’d  be interested in dissecting with me.

First thingAngel Eyess first: I’m not a huge Twilight fan.  I was…before I started comparing the sparkly fairy-vampires to the vampire stories I’ve always loved: stories like Dracula and Buffy the Vampire Slayer (seriously, once you’ve seen Angel and Spike, no other vampire can be nearly as alluring, no matter how much he sparkles in the sun).  Once that started bothering me, a few other things messed up my enjoyment of that series as well, but this is not a review of Twilight, so I’m not going in to that here.  The only reason to even bring up Twilight is that the first half of Angel Eyes mirrors Twilight.  I very nearly stopped reading it after the first two chapters because of that.  So we’re replacing sparkly vampires with angels? was my opinion at that point.  You have a female teenaged MC returning to a little town off the Pacific coast after a few years living in the city.  Granted, Brielle (full name: Gabrielle.  That bothered me, too.  That’s just a little too similar to “Bella” for my taste) had a much darker reason for returning to her hometown than Bella did, but more about that in a minute.  Thankfully, Dittemore abandoned the whole love-triangle thing, but on Brielle’s first day back at school, a mysterious new kid shows up, sits next to her in Calculus, and immediately starts flirting with her.  Most of the story is told from Brielle’s POV and she even references Twilight a handful of times.  This mysterious new kid, Jake, also has a unique ability that he uses to fix a major problem for Brielle (I’m trying not to give too many spoilers; you’ll have to read the book to discover the unique ability and the problem).  Finally, he’s forced to explain his family’s secrets to Brielle, who agrees not to tell anyone.

And that’s about where the similarities end.  One of the things Angel Eyes has going for it is complex characters.  Brielle has some serious emotional problems that come from a very dark place in her recent past.  The details of what she’s dealing with are slowly revealed throughout the book, so it really wouldn’t be fair for me to describe it here, but trust me…it’s dark.  She struggles with fears and feelings of guilt.  She alternates between anger at God and doubt in His very existence.  Only with Jake’s steady presence does she begin to heal.  Jake also has a dark past.  Dittemore doesn’t throw any punches in describing his early childhood.  His guardian, Canaan, literally saved his life when he was a young boy.  Canaan is far more than he seems, but he is still very real.

This book is, obviously, about angels.  Real, sent from Heaven from God, angels.  In showing the angels, however, it also includes the fallen angels, the demons.  I’m not sure it’s completely theologically sound, but it’s a great work of imagination about what the world could look like if we could see the spiritual warfare surrounding us.  The demons are terrifying.  C. S. Lewis would be proud. 

I highly recommend this book.  It’s the first in a trilogy and I cannot wait until the second one comes out.  It really reminds us that “we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but…against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.”  However: This book is not appropriate for very young teenagers!  The darkness in it is thick enough to cut with a knife and it is terrifying.  Human trafficking happens.  I’m not saying we should sugar-coat things for kids.  They’re going to learn about this eventually.  But that doesn’t mean we should push them to find out now.  My advice on this is the same as my advice to the parents who asked me if their 13-year-olds should be allowed to see The Hunger Games.  Parents: if your child is under 15, you should read this book as well.  Either read it first or read it together, but your child needs to be able to talk to you about it.

This book releases on May 29, 2012.

(By the way, yes I know I cheated on the title.  Deal with it.)

Confession

Posted: April 3, 2012 in A-Z Challenge, Short Stories
Tags: , , , ,

“So then I moved here.  Free-lancing and waitressing.  Fun stuff.”

“Sounds like a perfect, normal story,” Markus reached round Lenora’s back to hold her hand.

She bit her lip and blushed.  To him, it was a sweet habit she had whenever she talked about herself.  If he only knew… she forced herself to smile and look into his eyes, all the time praying that he would never discover the truth.

“Normal is perfect,” Lenora declared.  She gave Markus a peck on the cheek.  She laid her head on his chest and pulled her legs up on the couch.

He turned the old TV on and flipped channels before stopping on a ‘90s sitcom.  Canned laughter surrounded them as Lenora drifted off to sleep.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Normal was perfect.  Lenora bit her lip until she tasted the rusty taste of blood.  Normal was last year.  Things were quickly falling apart.  She glanced around her small apartment.  The cheap furniture sat as a silent reminder of how quickly life could turn around.  Two months ago, Markus had broken up with her in front of their favorite diner.  She had begged him not to leave her.  She snorted.  What would Willow say if she could see that?  Lenora knew what she would say.  Take him out.  Destroy him.  He’s not good enough for you anyway.

Lenora shook her head.  A month after the break-up, almost to the day,  Shane showed up at her door with an apology and a plan.  They weren’t supposed to be together any more, but he didn’t care.  As long as they behaved, acted totally human, the Council would leave them alone.  They just had to lay low, pretend that they were normal.

It worked, too.  For a couple of weeks, they went to work, had date nights of dinner and a movie, went grocery shopping, and paid the bills.  They lived like a normal young couple.  Until Willow called.  Apparently, her, Kendra, and Ian also defied the Council and came together, but they weren’t even trying to be human.  It wouldn’t be long before they came to Lenora’s little town to “get the gang back together.”  Willow would want vengeance on anyone and everyone who had ever hurt Lenora or Shane.

Lenora grabbed her wristlet with her ID and keys and threw open the door.  She had to go before she lost her nerve. Markus had to know about Willow.  Obviously, she couldn’t tell him everything, but at the very least he deserved to know about the danger.

Shane was working third shift this week, so Lenora had to go alone.  She knew exactly where to find Markus.  Thursday night was double-drink night at his favorite bar.  She ran the block and half from her apartment to the bar and slipped in behind an already stumbling couple.  She bit her lip and fought the urge to race back outside.  Markus sat in the same corner of the bar they had shared.  His arm draped over the shoulder of Tammy, his new girlfriend.  I could still run.  He hasn’t seen me yet.  Maybe I can get Willow distracted or something.  She shook her head and forced herself to walk around the bar.  Markus had clearly already had a couple of drinks; he didn’t even see her until she stood right next to him.

“Lenora!” He did a double-take.  They had only seen each other for brief moments since they broke up and none of those moments included much talking.  “What’re you doin’ here?”

“We need to talk.”

“I’m kinda busy.”  He kissed Tammy on the cheek.  She smirked at Lenora.  Lenora narrowed her eyes.  Maybe getting rid of Tammy wouldn’t be so bad. 

“This is serious, Markus.”

He exhaled loudly.  His whiskey-breath made Lenora’s eyes water.

“Please.”  Her eyes searched his face, desperate for a response.

“Fine.”  He plunked down a few dollars and finished off his dark beer in one long swig.  “I’ll be right back,” he told Tammy.  She shot a dagger-glare at Lenora.  Lenora allowed herself a quick smirk in retaliation.

Markus followed Lenora out into the crisp night air.  He crossed his arms over his chest, waiting for her to say something.

Lenora hugged herself, trying to hold in her resolve and warmth.  A slow-motion image appeared in her mind.  Markus, writhing in pain, with living flames twisting around his body like a nest of vipers.  Willow overseeing his death with a detached gaze.  Lenora could almost smell the searing flesh.

“Well?” Markus’ prompting brought her back to the present.

“You have to leave town for a bit.”

“What?”

“You and Tammy and her kid.  You should just…go.  Just for a few days.”

“Why the heck would we do that?”

“It’s…uh…it’s complicated.  Just please.”

“Why?”

“Look, I have…old friends who might be showing up here and they’re not exactly fond of anyone they think hurt me in any way.  It would be best for everyone if they don’t have the opportunity to meet you.  Ever.”

“Old friends, huh?  From when, high school?”

“Yeah, well…” Lenora bit her lip and closed her eyes.  The picture of Markus’ possible death flashed in her mind.  “I didn’t exactly go to a normal high school.  Some of my friends were…dangerous.  They have special abilities and that may have messed with their sanity a bit.”

“You told me that everything about your past was ordinary.  You told me about the school you went to.  None of it ever sounded weird before.”

“I lied.  Look, you can be ticked off.  I know I would be, but you also have to listen!  Willow could be here any time and she already hates most people.  If she finds you…”

“Too late.”  Willow stepped out of an old pick-up truck.  Lenora blanched.  She could see Kendra’s and Ian’s silhouettes still in the truck, but they didn’t worry her.

Markus stepped back, frowning at the flame bouncing in Willow’s palm.

“You never should have hurt a Fae, Markus.”  Willow smirked.  Let the games begin.

*Disclaimer: I work in a bookstore (at least until next Monday) and in a library, so I just might have a bit of a bias on this topic.  That being said…I don’t care.  Everyone has an opinion on this issue and everyone has a reason (a bias) for that opinion.*
*Disclaimer x2: There have been hundreds of blog posts written about bookstores and their place in an increasingly digital world.  This article is more about my opinion than cold, hard facts and numbers.  If you agree or disagree with me, comment.  This is a discussion that could go on and on forever and we’ll still have as many opinions as there are people who care.*

 

It seems like everyone and their grandmother is writing/discussing the fate of the bookstore now.  Ever since Borders stores started shutting down, some people declared the “End of the Bookstore.”  That’s just ludicrous.  Bookstores aren’t going anywhere.  Sure, some are being forced to shut down.  Independent bookstores are quickly becoming a rarity.  But, like every other business in the world, the stores that manage to adjust to new technology and manage to hold on through the economic hard times will be rewarded at the end of the day.  For example, the store I work for is formatted very differently now than it was when I started there five years ago.  Unfortunately, the store had to shrink to occupy just one floor of the re-modeled 19th-century barn it’s housed in.  But that has made room for a ministry-based thrift store to move in upstairs. So, yes the shrinking was painful.  The music and teen books took up a huge part of the 2nd floor.  Those were my sections and you can bet it hurt to see them narrowed down to just a few shelves and squeezed into the first floor with all of the other products.  I really liked having my own space, but giving it up streamlined the store, saved on the electric bills, and allowed a great store to have a space in Berks county.

When we moved everything, there were very few sections that didn’t shrink.  Bibles still occupy their entire wall, greeting cards still have the same amount of racks, and gifts still have the entire platform.  Actually, within the last year, the gift section expanded exponentially.  We now have the ability to personalize hundreds of items. A huge chunk of space is now devoted to a laser.  Yes, I said a laser.  As in a baby version of the Death Star’s planet-exploding weapon.  I still can’t believe someone let us have an actual laser in the store!  MWAHAHAHAHA BWAHAHAHA…Oh, sorry.  I forgot I had an audience.  *Ahem*  Anyway…Using the laser, we’ve opened up an entirely new market.  Being able to instantaneously offer a gift for any occasion (seriously, if you want to celebrate National Talk Like a Pirate Day, we can make you a pocket-knife or something with “Arrgh, Me Hearties!” engraved on it), takes us away from simply being another bookstore.

Bookstores need to adjust.  They need to find new niches to fill.  Let’s face it, shopping online is easier than ever.  We all do it for something.  Bookstores need to find ways to cut costs without cutting service.  Find a way to become unique.  Stand out.  Branch out.  The time for retreating into the shell is over.  There will be no “waiting out” the down times.

Later this month, I’ll post another reason bookstores are still relevant.

*What are your thoughts on the future of bookstores?  Do you have a local bookstore?  What do they do to stay relevant and unique?*

 

Happy April!

Today kicks off the start of the A to Z April Challenge.  I’m totally cheating with my post title, too.  (I know, cheating already; this month is sure to go well, right?) “And” probably shouldn’t count as a topic starting with “A,” but I’m tired and have spent the last eight hours getting caught up in Mandarin homework.  My brain hurts and just wants to go watch last week’s epi of Being Human, but I’m going to do this.

So here’s my plan and my problem for the month.  My theme will stay (mostly) the same as it already is: book reviews and short fiction.  Unfortunately, I can’t read and review that fast, especially since I refuse to review things I don’t like.  My short fiction will delve into the realms of sheer madness if I write that many in a month.  My poor characters already have to deal with me throwing them in situations and places simply because Chuck Wendig tells me to; imagine what could happen to them in the course of a month. This month may very well consume my quota of “Nonsense” promised in the blog’s title.  I hope you find it interesting or, at the very least, amusing in some way.  Please comment with any random thing you want to say.  We’ll get through this month together.

My problem might be time.  I’m only taking one college course at the moment: Mandarin Chinese, so that shouldn’t take more than an hour out of every day.  Starting April 9th, I’ll finally have a full-time job.  My bus commute will give me plenty of time for reading and podcast-listening, but it’s not conducive to writing.  The ESL class I help teach starts back up on April 15th.  For a month or two, I’ll be the primary teacher while the usual primary teacher recovers from knee surgery, so that’s going to eat up more time as well.  And of course, I have no intentions of skipping out on time with friends and family, so the only thing I’m really willing to give up to make time for blogging might just be sleep-time.  Caffeine is an acceptable substitute for sleep, right?

Well, as I mentioned earlier, my brain isn’t entirely functional anymore right now, so I’m going to stop this madness.  Tom, Hal, and Annie are beckoning to me from my other Firefox tab.  Nighty-night!

Ziao Jian!
Melissa