Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Pet Words Guest Post – Aardvark

I am delighted to have book blogger Anachronist on The Omniscient Third Person today. You simply MUST go visit her at her blog, Books as Portable Pieces of Thoughts. She is a voracious and eclectic reader (much like yours truly) and a sharp reviewer. Today she talks about the beast that named itself solely to appear first in the dictionary.

Believe me, English is not a simple language. Ok, the basic-level grammar sounds nice and uncomplicated at first glance but vocabulary is a multi-headed monster and don’t even let me start on pronunciation. Not being a native English speaker I had to learn this beautiful language slowly and painfully, making mistakes, blushing profusely and correcting them over and over again. Gosh, I am still learning with every new book and every new author and despite that fact my knowledge sometimes fails me miserably; however, with every mistake I try to discover something new. Every cloud has a silver lining, right?

Once upon a time I stumbled upon this little cartoon:

I didn’t get it at all - I knew it was supposed to be funny but I didn’t understand the key word: aardvark. I went: ‘Huh? Why is this girl on all fours and why does her Harold have to know she has something foreign inside her?’ To tell you the truth the “aardvark” word sounded like some kind of exotic food or a machine. Well, I couldn’t have been more wrong.

Aardvark, also called colloquially antbear or anteater, is a medium-sized, burrowing, nocturnal mammal native to Africa. It is a very strange-looking creature, practically a living fossil, with tough skin, big ears, thin, pale yellowish gray coat, longish snout and sturdy feet with long, strong claws. It eats almost exclusively ants and termites. The only fruit aardvarks feed on is called (no surprises here) aardvark cucumber. One thing about aardvark I guessed correctly, though – the name came to English from a foreign language, more precisely from Afrikaans/Dutch (aarde – earth/ground, varken pig).

Aardvark female with a young, courtesy of Wikipedia. Aren’t they cute?

Ok, so why the girl, presented in the cartoon, called herself aardvark and even claimed she’s got one inside ? Well, the sense of humour is sometimes a difficult thing to catch or to pass around. First I thought the whole joke had only sexual context (have you noticed her tongue? ;)) until I found out that in African folklore the aardvark is much admired because of its diligent quest for food and dauntless response to ants. What’s more, some African magicians allegedly make a charm using this animal’s body parts along with other, undoubtedly secret ingredients which can give its happy owner the ability to pass through walls or roofs at night. As you can imagine such a charm might have many uses; it is undoubtedly very popular among burglars and teens in love who want to visit their sweethearts without the knowledge of their parents/guardians. As aardvarks are nocturnal, the charm works only at night - how very convenient, right? Perhaps I wasn’t so wide of the mark with my first guess after all and, all things considered, poor Harold should think twice before he decides to hang about with that girl…anyway from that time aardvark remained one of my favourite English words.
Thank you so much for being on The Omniscient Third Person, Anachronist!

Monday, August 29, 2011

Return to my Fairy Roots

I've been so giddy about Brightwing, and my exciting cover for Ladies in Waiting, that I've been neglecting my first love, middle grade fantasy. Since a lot of you found me here through Brightwing, I think really need to formally introduce you to my Green Hill series. After all, the paperback of the first book, Under the Green Hill, will be out September 27, and book two, Guardian of the Green Hill, is coming out in October!

So are you ready for some fairies and old English folklore? For pig-faced giants and talking goats and confused adolescent love and slithery old men with wicked intent toward little girls? For magic and courage and heartbreak and triumph? Then come with me to the world of the Green Hill.

(Quite a change from Brightwing's adult mayhem in the swamps, I know!)

Time for some cover love! Here is the hardback cover of Guardian of the Green Hill:

The artist is Jon Foster, who has done book and comic covers for Michael Moorcock and Neil Gaman. One of my favorite Jon Foster covers is Cherie Priest's Boneshaker.

He also did a new cover for book 1, Under the Green Hill, for the paperback edition:

And here is the original hardcover for Under the Green Hill, by one of my favorite fantasy artists, David Wyatt:

So brace yourselves! For the next couple of months we'll making frequent journeys to the Fairy realm. And if you stick with me, we might just manage to escape again. (Seriously. Do you have any idea how dangerous fairies are?!)


Monday, August 22, 2011

LANA HALLIDAY on Kindle -- And I Did It All By Myself!!

After a lot of trial and error (mostly error) I think I've formatted and converted a short story for Kindle with reasonable success!

My first self-published short story is LANA HALLIDAY, written under the name LuLu Sullivan.
(Available at Amazon for 99-cents.)

Consummate meddler Lana Halliday is part detective, part guardian angel, part trickster. When her friend Ronnie Acton loses his gold-digging fiance -- and the huge diamond engagement ring he gave her -- Lana steps in to set things aright. Her methods aren't always quite ethical, but they're always comical.

I'll give away a free copy to everyone who comments on this post. (Though I reserve the right to change my mind about that offer if it gets to the millions!)

LANA HALLIDAY is an original -- never before published. I hope you enjoy it! Soon I'll be putting out some of my short stories that have appeared in literary and horror magazines.


To get the comments started, name your favorite short story writer. (If you say Wodehouse, you'll probably like Lana Halliday!) Be sure to include your email address for a free Kindle copy of LANA HALLIDAY -- or you can email it to me separately at lauraleesullivan  <<at>> hotmail ((dot)) com if you don't want to make your address public.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Updated Contact Info

Just to let you dears know, I've updated my contact email to one that I actually check on a regular basis. So now there's a pretty good chance you can really get in touch with me.

I've also included my agent's contact information, in case you happen to be a movie producer, or the head of a French publishing house, or you want to turn Under the Green Hill into a video game. (Hey, I'm a writer -- we dream!) 

This is my agent, Emily Van Beek. Isn't she adorable?

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Things You Can't Say In YA

I adore my editor. Why I feel compelled to make her life more difficult (if perhaps more amusing) I don't know. Suffice it to say I've discovered there are certain words you're not allowed to say in a Young Adult book.

Delusion, coming out in Fall 2012, is about two sisters from a stage illusionist family who discover an all-male college of real magicians in the English countryside when they evacuate London during the Blitz. In my research, of this and other eras, I've found that swearing is just about as prevalent across the centuries as it is now.

I did include a “bollocks” and a “bugger” which are apparently acceptable, but I was happy to excise the single F-word. (Though did you know, a film can still be PG-13 with one F-word. It has to be used as an adjective or expletive, though, not in reference to sex.)

But I'm not talking about swearing. The words I'm thinking of are perfectly innocent – I swear! Here's what I've learned:

(Real examples from Delusion, which I'm editing now.)

When referring to a tall, dull brick building, it is unacceptable to call it “a dowdy brick erection without romance or charm.” Clearly this refers to the definition of erection reading something that has been erected; a building or construction. Now what's wrong with that?

And then, when a person makes an excited utterance – “'Never!' Arden ejaculated.” – meaning, of course to utter suddenly and passionately; to exclaim, it will apparently make people think of something else. I can't imagine what.

The illusionist sisters evacuate to a farm, and being London girls they know nothing about livestock. So when comparing a tiny bantam to a large rooster, isn't it only natural that they should say, “There's a very big cock indeed!”

I'm sure you're all familiar with traditional English desserts, right? Well, in WWII sugar was rationed, and the housewives complained that there wasn't enough to make their favorite treats – they needed their roly-poly and spotted dick, after all. Spotted dick is just a steamed suet pudding with raisins and currants.

(When I was a teen I gave tours at the local aquarium, and learning to talk with a straight face about the pretty little reef fish called a slippery dick was one of our rites of passage. Guess I can't write about those, either.)

So much for a YA writer to learn!


Monday, August 8, 2011

O Happy Happy Cover Day!

Are you ready to see the most GORGEOUS thing in the world?

I've been talking so much about Brightwing, I don't want to neglect my first love, MG and YA books. The bawdy Restoration-era LADIES IN WAITING will be out in Spring of next year from Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, and... WE HAVE A COVER!! Hooray! I am so in love with this book, and with the cover!

Can you tell which iconic cover the designers used as their inspiration?


England, 1662 – Charles II has returned to the throne after fifteen years of exile, and dour Puritanism is replaced by the riotous debauchery of the restored king’s court. The three Elizabeths – Eliza, Beth and Zabby – are scheming to find their place in this new society, even as others plot to eliminate the new queen. Wealthy merchant’s daughter Eliza is destined for marriage but yearns for the stage; sweet Beth is pimped by her mad mother; scientific Zabby is lured into a dangerous, impossible obsession with the king. The three newest Ladies in Waiting navigate love, treason and treachery in England’s most licentious period.

Three Ways to Win Brightwing

To make life easier for everyone, I'm consolidating the three blogger giveaways for BRIGHTWING that are all going on right now. You can enter them all!

Peace Love Books
1 e-book giveaway
Deadline is August 9 (so hurry!!)
Comment on the post to enter, following is encouraged.

Nicki J. Markus
1 e-book giveaway
Deadline is August 13
Rules: Follow her blog and comment on the giveaway post to enter.

The Bookaholic
Deadline is August 20
Rules: Comment to enter. Extra point for following her blog and 2 extra points for tweeting about it!

Please tell your friends, and good luck!


Friday, August 5, 2011

Editorial Hissy Fit

I've decided my occasional word feature will be called Pet Words. Because they are my pets, really. I collect them and love them and fondle them. Thank goodness I'm not allergic to them, like I am to almost every other pet! (Which itself is a sort of blessing, because otherwise I'd be a crazy cat lady for sure. Much better to be a crazy word lady.)

My editor and I have a most harmonious relationship. I agree with nearly all of her suggestions, and she trusts my judgment in those places where we differ. There's only one tiny conflict, and it seems to crop up in almost every manuscript. She, and the copy editor, are adamant that in order for a word to be hissed, it must have an “S” in it. I think that if you say the word in a whispery, breathy manner like you're translating Parseltongue, you can hiss anything. (J.K. Rowling reportedly said she derived the word Parselmouth from an old term for someone with a hare-lip or cleft palate. I couldn't find that word, though it might derive from parcel, a part or division, such as a snake's forked tongue.)

Hiss is of course an onomatopoeia, that is, a word that sounds like what it means, an imitative word. It is related to the word sibilant, which I had assumed was itself related to the word sibyl, one of the ancient oracular priestesses such as the famous one at Cumae. Which is natural, because they probably had sacred hissing snakes, and the Delphic sibyl was called the Python, or Pythia, which might have been because Apollo slew the Python and her home was in its rotting corpse. (Python means “to rot” and might also have referred to the chthonic fumes that rose from the earth and intoxicated the sibyl into prophesy.) But actually sibyl seems sibyl comes from Doric siobolla, meaning “divine wish.” Oh well.

Hiss is also related to another of my pet words, which I don't use nearly often enough – persiflage. Wodehouse loved the word persiflage, meaning “frivolous talk.” I don't know if the hissing part refers to the fact that it is guiltily whispered in a hissing manner, or that those hearing it hiss in condemnation.

So what do you say, friends? Can you hiss anything, or only something with an S?