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Hello,

I bet you know the expression “under the aegis of”. For example “The negotiations for a settlement in the dispute took place under the aegis of the Conflict Resolution Board”. We know it means the discussions were under the protection and guidance of that board.

But what exactly is an aegis (pronunciation here) and how did it enter English?

This is one we can blame on the Greeks, those pesky ancients practically wrote the first English dictionary, but at least we have a very clear idea of what an aegis (also spelled egis) is. It’s a shield, specifically the shield of Zeus or Athena. It’s made of goatskin (not gold or bronze, most surprising) and at its centre is the head of a gorgon.

The word aegis entered English in the late 1600s, via Latin. The aeg part was originally aig or aix, meaning “related to a goat” and the –is suffix tells us it was a type of shield. If you were under the aegis of Zeus or Athena you were in a very safe place indeed.

Now I think I’d prefer a metal shield to one made of goat’s hide but I must admit that the addition of a Gorgon’s head does give you the luxury upgrade. The gorgons were three sisters who Greek legends tell us lived in the west, near the setting sun. They all had snakes instead of hair, which must have made a visit to the hairdressers a real nightmare.

They were named Stheno (the strong), Euryale (the wide leaping), and Medusa (ruler or queen). The only one you’ve heard of will be Medusa. She’s the one whose very look would turn you to stone. I can see how having her head affixed to my shield would give a certain edge in battle.

The next time a dry news report tells you about some event being under the aegis of a person or organisation, remember that if you mess with them they may turn their deadly shield against you. Even Captain America would be jealous of that bit of kit.

Until next time happy reading, writing, and wordfooling,

Grace (a.k.a. @Wordfoolery)

p.s. If you’re curious my adventures in CampNaNo this July have been productive so far despite external circumstances forcing me to change my project, twice. The DS is still chipping away at his story too, very proud of him.

 

 

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nanowrimo_2016_webbadge_winnerHello,

Today is the last day of NaNoWriMo 2016. Everywhere around the world crazy-eyed, caffeine-hyped writers are scrambling to pull words from their imaginations and pin them to the page. I know the novelists in my region are busy because our forums have fallen silent. There’s no more time for procrastination, there’s writing to do.

My own writing space is quiet too. It has transformed into a reading space. Why? Because I passed 50,000 words on Monday and my reward is a couple of days off, curled up with a mug of hot chocolate and a Neil Gaiman novel.

I’ve learned from previous NaNos (this is my tenth year in the challenge and my eighth win) that I can’t keep up the pace straight into December. So although I do need to write another 8,000 words to finish the first draft I won’t be tackling that immediately. I’ll take time to catch up on work for Scouts. I’ll finish my gift shopping. I’ll remind my garden that I love it. I’ll re-connect with my family and loved ones.

The last couple of chapters will come in their own good time. I certainly won’t forget to write about my eponymous villains. How could I omit Ponzi, de Sade, Machiavelli, Sacher-Masoch, and Quisling?

Starting NaNoWriMo is always scary, even with practice. You can’t be sure you’ll make it. You never know what November has in store. This year was no exception. The school strike stole writing days. As always, I ended up on antibiotics at one point. Our heating broke. I completely forgot my monthly column deadline and had to rush one together at very short notice. None of that matters now. I’ve a huge start made on “How to Get Your Name in the Dictionary” and that’s the greatest feeling in the world.

Until next time (when I’ll get back to unusual words) happy reading, writing, and wordfooling,

Grace

(November word count 50,300)

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nanowrimo_2016participantHello,

It’s week three of my NaNoWriMo 2016 efforts and my scribblings are starting to look like a book. The “research pile” is turning into the “topics written pile” and I’ve become an even bigger eponym nerd. I mean, seriously, did you know serendipity is an eponym? Or that an eleven year old girl named Pluto after the Roman god of the Underworld?

A part of me is dying for a quiz to come up so I can go along and slay them with all this trivia. Another part knows I am geeky company right now. But, as I teach my children, being a geek about something means you’re passionate about it. That’s a good thing.

To “win” NaNoWriMo you have to paste a copy of your novel into their word-count widget. Obviously you could totally cheat and paste in 50,000 mentions of rhubarb but it’s an honour system. This facility opened yesterday and all around the world I know writers are doing that triumphant check already. They are validating their word count and printing off their winner’s certificate. I think that’s pretty special. At the start of the month they had an idea. Now they have the start of a story (or an entire story if it’s a short novel or novella). They have a draft they can refine, edit, tweak and eventually get somebody to read. They can call themselves writers.

Many writers, particularly in the early years, are shy about calling themselves writers but I think it’s simple. If you write stories (or articles/poems/novels/plays/limericks/whatever) on a regular basis then you’re a writer. It actually doesn’t matter if your story ends up on the bestseller lists. It matters that you sit down and write. Talking about writing doesn’t count.

Write enough and you will improve. Write enough and people will want to read your stories. They will enter other people’s brains and imaginations and in some small way, change the world.

Until next time happy writing,

Grace (38,257 words written – the end is in sight!)

p.s. yes I know it’s technically week four of NaNo, but it’s my third Monday which is when I blog

 

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Sheffry Sunset

Sheffry Sunset

Hello,

Today is the halfway point in NaNoWriMo 2016 and I’ve reached the halfway point in my eponym history book, “How to Get Your Name in the Dictionary” despite running away for the weekend.

Regular readers will know that I’m a Scout leader (or adult scouter as we’re known these days). Each year there’s a national training weekend for leaders to improve their hill-walking skills called the Mountain Moot and unfortunately it’s scheduled right in the middle of NaNo. I totally shouldn’t go along, but I do anyway convincing myself that taking off three writing days will return me with renewed writing vim and vigour.

That is not always the case but it does have an advantage. Do a tough enough hike and your leg muscles will prevent you from wandering too far from your writing desk for a few days. I won’t be walking anywhere for a day or two but perhaps the memories of mountain ranges stretching from Killary Harbour to Clare Island will inspire me?

Plus, how could I, as a Tolkien fan, resist a meeting called a moot? I didn’t spot any ents though. They were probably hiding in the clouds that shrouded the summit of Sheffry.

Oh and the teachers’ strike I was lamenting last week has been put on pause pending talks. Clearly I was a wonderful home-school teacher as my eldest danced and sang around the room when he heard he could return to school. Ah well, I’ll just have to stick to the writing then.

Until next time happy reading, writing, and wordfooling,

Grace (@Wordfoolery)

Wordcount = 26,153

 

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Hello,

I’m one week into this year’s NaNoWriMo challenge and as life always does in November, it has thrown me a curve ball. My eldest child’s school is on strike, potentially for the next six weeks.

nanowrimo_2016participant

I actually agree with the teachers, but I do wish they’d held off until December to register their protest. I now have a teenager in the house with me during my usual writing hours and because I don’t want him to fall behind, I’m effectively home-schooling him (in twelve subjects) while writing a book in any spare minute I can grab. The temptation to use him to do my research is strong, but he’s not that easy to fool, sadly.

My decision to be a #NaNoRebel and write non-fiction has proven to be as tricky as I feared in October. I can normally count on 2,000 words of fiction in a two hour writing session, but I’m finding that 2,000 words of non-fiction is taking 3-4 hours. This is partly because I am still researching on the fly and partly because I am used to highly polishing my non-fiction as I write it so I am breaking a second major NaNo rule – I’m editing as I go (the ML in me gasps as I admit this sacrilege).

It will still need significant editing over the winter, but the first draft will be more like a second draft, I hope. Chapters are emerging. My love of hats has produced a chapter entirely about the people behind the names of hats like stetson, fedora, trilby, balaclava, bowler etc. I’m writing every day and the book is starting to sing.

Meantime the writers in my region are writing like a butcher’s delivery boy peddling his bike past a dogs’ home. I’m so proud of them.

Until next week happy reading, writing, and wordfooling,

Grace

“How to Get Your Name in the Dictionary” – 14,407 words written so far

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Hello,

castle-leslie-autumn The leaves are falling, the trick or treaters have gone to bed, the fireworks are dying down and in under two hours it will be November and here on Wordfoolery that means just one thing – NaNoWriMo – National Novel Writing Month. I’ve been hooked since 2007 on the creative challenge to write 50,000 words (or more) in just 30 days. I volunteer my time as a mentor for my Ireland North East region and earlier today I hosted my first meeting of the month – the Kick Off – where local writers can meet each other, pickup some NaNo stickers and ask any questions they have.

Tomorrow the hard work starts. Every day from now until the end of the month I’ll be writing 2,000 words a day on my latest book “How to Get Your Name in the Dictionary” a non-fiction book documenting the people whose names gave us words – fascinating histories of inventors, soldiers, scientists, etc inspired by the eponym series here on Wordfoolery. Many thanks to the blog readers who suggested eponyms for inclusion in the book.

NaNo is designed for those writing fiction books, not non-fiction, so this year I’ll be a #NaNoRebel and during my research phase I’ve been realising why non-fiction is discouraged. It’s because writing 2,000 words of non-fiction takes longer than writing 2,000 words of fiction due to the research required. The good news is that advance research is totally allowed in NaNo, the bad news is that the time I’d allocated for this wasn’t long enough. Ah yes, it’s going to be an “interesting” November this year.

I’ll be checking in here once a week with my progress and my normal wordy fun will resume in December. If you’re trying NaNo yourself then I wish you the best of luck. Whether you make it to 50,000 words or not, you will discover some truths about your writing and hopefully write more than you ever have before.

Until next time happy writing, reading and wordfooling,

Grace

 

 

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Hello,

This week’s word is one to strike fear into the heart of any reader – abibliophobia, the fear of running out of something to read. I must confess that I’ve suffered from this atrocious affliction in the past when my bedside book pile dipped into single digits. I have been known to read breakfast cereal packets in sheer desperation. Have you ever been hit with it?

My current bedside book pile, in good health

My current bedside book pile, in good health. The stack on the right is three piles deep!

Luckily there’s a simple cure – books. A quick visit to your local library or second-hand bookstore, a rummage through your old favourites for a re-read, or a social media shout-out for a loan of books will get you a “fix”. Alternatively you could become a book reviewer (although usually unpaid, this is a great gig for avid readers) or you could sign up to receive free advance copies of books with NetGalley. I am lucky enough to have lovely friends who lend me books, what spare cash I have is spent in my local bookstore, and I’ve informed everybody who buys me gifts that book tokens are the best bet. So I think my recovery from this debilitating disease is assured. I hope you get well soon too.

 

 

Our Advent calendar filled with my story for the kids

Our Advent calendar filled with my story for the kids

For those of you who followed my NaNoWriMo 2015 adventure here, it’s only fair to tell you that I passed the 50,000 word finish line on the last day for my seventh win in a row. I am delighted to have finished the first draft of “Ready for the Storm”. Even though I have substantial historic elements to finish researching and plenty of revisions lie ahead, it’s a great feeling to have finally finished a historic fiction novel.

I also boosted my word count, as explained earlier, with a Christmas Advent Calendar story called “Red Sails, New Harbour” for my children. They are loving it. They scoff the chocolates while I read that day’s story to them. It’s a quiet moment in these busy pre-Christmas weeks and we all relish it.

Until next time happy reading, writing, and wordfooling,

Grace

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