Aug 07

ArmadilloCon 2023: Great Time

Posted: under Life beyond writing.
Tags:  August 7th, 2023

I had a great time at ArmadilloCon August 4-6, even though a variety of transport problems resulted in a later start and later arrival than planned so I was driving in the full blaze of a very hot day–the only kind we’re having this summer.   I had a box of books to consign to Siros Books  in the dealer’s room and managed to spill the box on the sidewalk outside the hotel (A major DUH moment) but the books survived, and the paired stacks of DEEDS OF HONOR and DEEDS OF YOUTH in their red and green matching covers looked quite spiffy on the table, I thought.   They didn’t last long, though.  Quite an ego boost to the writer to see the stacks shorten and the requests for signing tthem.

Since I hadn’t been sure I’d be in shape to come, I hadn’t applied for programming…so I had plenty of time to sit around listening to people and talking to people and touring the art show and dealer’s room more than once, and pestering people at the registration desk, and eating in the con suite where there were plenty of other people to listen and talk to.  Relaxing and fun.   And I found a home for a roaster oven.   I have two of them (one was my mother’s, the other was mine) and they were absolutely wonderful in the years I was doing really big T-day dinners and a few other big dinners….there’s no easier way to roast a couple of turkeys while leaving the stove oven open for anything else.  We often had the ovens and stoves in both houses fully scheduled for the big parties.  Now I’d just as soon have one of them gone, because it will prevent me from yielding to the temptation to do it “just one more time” when I know none of the usual people involved have the energy for that anymore.  Including me.  I like having one (great way to make chili, for instance.)

Came home to some urgent stuff to be done…among the things, as I heard driving into the carport, was satisfying the two equines that their Chief Cookie-donor hadn’t disappeared forever.  I’m not kidding you–Tigger recognized the car coming down the drive and was whinnying loudly “Where  have you BEEN?  We are STARVING!  We haven’t had treats in DAYS!  How COULD you!!”    This continued nonstop as I unloaded the car, dragged things inside, put the dirty stuff in the wash, and came out the back door with their replacement tub of treats. (Popper Mints, which they like almost as much as Mrs. Pastures Horse Cookies,  but not nearly as much as Stud Muffins.)   Having been robbed of tribute, I then retreated to the house and fell asleep for several hours.  They got their regular evening feed from me, shortly before sundown.  Still very hot.



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Aug 03

My Precioussss….

Posted: under Craft, Life beyond writing, the writing life.
Tags: , , ,  August 3rd, 2023

Arrived this week as two BIG, HEAVY  boxes was a used copy of a 45 year old  Oxford English Dictionary.   Our Compact OED, which I used heavily while writing the Deed of Paksenarrion, Surrender None, and Liar’s Oath, is beyond my eyesight now, even with reading glasses and a magnifying glass..  But it was invaluable.  At that time I still had my HS graduation thesaurus as well, but the Compact OED gave me enough of the history and alternate meanings of words to provide a precision the thesaurus was never meant to achieve.  But as I said, with succeeding years it became harder to use it once my eyes started giving me more and more difficulty.  That row of cream-colored volumes in the picture is  of the 13 volumes of the 1978 printing of the Oxford English Dictionary.  12 volumes + supplement volume.   The words sit over there, chattering quietly to one another, bumping elbows sometimes, from volume to volume.  And I’m renewing my acquaintance with this very senior member of the family of Engilsh dictionaries, first met in Fondren Library of Rice University.  It’s not the latest…but it contains things from before the first.  One of the words I looked at yesterday, when it arrived, is referenced to a Psalter in 885 CE with another reference to it in 1000 in Beowulf.  


The advantage of such a research tool for writers?   Great is too narrow a word.    It’s historical, which means the etymology of the words goes back to the first recorded print source in England, and usage is recorded as “Obs” or “Archaic” but not ignored to give just the modern.   That’s how I learned today that “deploy” was originally cognate with “display” in the sense of “spread out to be more visible.”  Troops deployed meant a close formation opened out…not at all what it means in US usage today.  Any recorded use of the word from the first time it’s known to have shown up is included.  It’s that long because there’s information in there, most of it information useful to writers.   If you want every word to fit (“the right word in the right order”)  like a puzzle piece with the other words, it helps to know more, to grasp its entire history, the forces that shaped it.

The latest printing runs to 20 volumes, so of course has even more words, and takes up half again as much space, but this one is close to the one I used at Rice from time to time (actually, I mostly got into it for fun and relaxation and satisfying curiosity.)  I also played around in dictionaries of various sciences.  But I knew enough of the OED to know I wanted one.  We pounced on the Compact OED as soon as we heard about it; we used it for decades, including playing OED Scrabble with friends (any word that was in the OED was fine, but only in the main entry, not all the variant spellings….except in some sessions.)   Made for slow Scrabble, but two of the other players would run a game of chess concurrently, one would read a book, and I would play with the dictionary between needing to look things up.

Anyway, I’m already enjoying this moderate monster.  I’ve done only two directed searches so far; most of it’s been opening a volume randomly, looking on the two visible pages to see what looks interesting and writing down any unfamiliar words.  That got me “fife-rail, eadi, luddock, lue, maritage, marish, pun (not *that* pun), punatoo, starkle, stote, sumph, hopdog, hore, hoppet, and huik”, none of which I knew, and several pages of history and past usages of “stark,” some additional usages of “stot” …both words I thought I knew.   Today I looked up a word from Lee & Miller’s book Trade Secret….“replevin” as in “a writ of replevin” and got its complete etymology and expanded meaning.   Plus other words last night and today I didn’t actually write down (silly me; I don’t have an instant very sticky memory for words the way I did as a younger person, when absorbing vocabulary was easy.)  But I’m getting the kind of “deep awareness” of many of the words that made me confident in Paksworld when I started it and will restore some of that “feel” in Horngard.  For instance, there’s a scene in which Our Hero is talking to some displaced persons in hill country, who speak a variant dialect.   The OED has plenty of those–genuine  archaic terms and spellings linked to their usage in different counties in the UK, so…I can sprinkle them in where they go.

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