Wednesday, 27 December 2017

Hydromania

Hydromania is a craving or passion for water. 

I'm not sure my wish to be on a beach qualifies as hydromania, but I would quite like to be somewhere sunny and sandy, with gentle waves rippling on to the shore and gulls wheeling overhead...


Wednesday, 20 December 2017

Matins

Matins, which may also be written as martins, is a service of morning Christian prayer. Or it may be a night 'office of prayer', but it can also happen at daybreak or in the evening. There, aren't you glad I cleared that up for you?

Matins (or mattins) is both the singular and the plural, so at least that's simple.

You may recall me moaning about poets getting an extra definition for the word bedew (no reason you should remember, but you might). They're at it again with matins as they can use it to describe birdsong. Only in the morning though.

Wednesday, 29 November 2017

Bedew

According to my dictionary, to bedew means to cover with dew or sprinkle with drops of water. That part seems fair enough, but it goes on to state that poets can also use the word to mean sprinkle with tears.

Does it seem fair to you that a poet's characters' cheek may be be bedewed with tears but mine may not?

No, I didn't think so. Oh well, sometimes life isn't fair, so I'll confine all my bedewing to that involving unsalted water.

Wednesday, 22 November 2017

Conflate

To conflate is to blend or fuse together two sets of information – usually texts. When Rosemary J Kind and I worked on our joint book, she conflated her contribution with mine. The resulting conflation is From Story Idea to Reader.

Wednesday, 15 November 2017

Miaul

To miaul is to cry like a cat, or to mew. I have no idea, other than the spelling, how it differes from miaow. Do you know?

Bagpuss doesn't miaul, he snores.

Wednesday, 8 November 2017

Contranym

A contranym (or contronym or even autoantonym if you prefer) is a word for which there are two opposite or contradictory meanings.

As examples–

 'Left' can mean remaining or departed. When the girls left the room, the boys were left behind.

'Trim' can either mean adding or removing something. I trim my hat with flowers, but trim the hedge with shears. 

'Refrain' is either to stop or repeat depending on the context. I might sing the refrain, or refrain from singing. (If you're nearby, you'll prefer the latter.)

Can you think of more examples?

Wednesday, 11 October 2017

Gadabout

A gadabout is a person who gads about. Obvious when you think about it, isn't it? Well, that's unless you're not entirely sure what gadding about involves. Fortunately I'm a gadabout myself (even when writing my books) and therefore able to enlighten you.

To gad is to go about in search of pleasure, or idle wandering and adventure. A person doing this can be said to be 'on the gad'. I have gadded on numerous occasions.

After writing it in all it's forms, I'm no longer sure I like the word gadabout and would rather you thought of me as the travelling writer.

Wednesday, 23 August 2017

Swoop

To swoop often means moving easily and rapidly through the aiir. Swoop is a word generally used in conjunction with another. When followed by down, it means to dive or drop at speed, like a bird of prey. If swoop is followed by on, it implies making a sudden attack from a distance. Swoop up means to snatch everything in one go.

During my trip to Wales earlier this year, I watched choughs swooping through the air - just as my character Alice does in Firestarter. (I'll keep any similarities between our trip and the next chapter in the novel to myself!)

Wednesday, 16 August 2017

Lodestar

A lodestar is a star used to help navigate at sea. It's usually the polestar, but not neccesarily. It can also be a guiding principle, or object of pursuit.

A lode is a vein of metal ore. Presumably some lodestars have lodes. Perhaps even loads of them.

Wednesday, 9 August 2017

Engram

An engram might not be an actual thing but if it is, it's a memory-trace – a permanent change in the brain which would account for the existence on memory.


I have lots of great memories and this photo represents many of them - they're some of the flowers from our wedding. They were grown in our garden and delivered to the venue in our campervan to an event shared with friends and family.

Obviously there was cake involved and I even signed a copy of my first novel which was released earlier that year. Oh, and my dress was purple.

What do you think? Do the things we experience physically change our brains in some way?

Wednesday, 19 July 2017

Guddle

I've been adding a few Scottish words to my vocabulary during my travels. I was introduced to guddle by Rosemary Gemmell. In the context she used it, guddle means a mess (as in an untidy room – and no she wasn't describing the interior of our van!) and/or a complex and confusing situation.

guddle is also a type of fish which can be caught by guddling. The guddling is done with bare hands so quite messy and the word apparently derives from making a mess around water – which is handy for me, as I've recently taken photos of various watery subjects in Scotland.



Wednesday, 12 July 2017

Undertow

An undertow is a current, below the surface of the sea, which is moving in a different direction to that of the surface current.

Today is our fith wedding anniversary – and the sixth anniversary of the day Gary proposed to me at sea. It happened just about here.

Feel free to complain about that news not being current, or suggest I've had him under tow ever since.

Wednesday, 28 June 2017

Suilline

Suilline simply means of the pig family. You know, like feline for cats, caprine for goats, equine for horses and supine for blocked writers.

Wednesday, 21 June 2017

Apochromatic

An apochromatic lens is one which reduces spherical and chromatic aberrations. (The first part is where stuff looks a weird shape in the photo despite being fine in reality and the other bit is that weird purple haze you sometimes see round the edges of photographic subjects.)

Although that definition gives me a reasonable excuse to post a photo of The Sphere, I have resisted. Instead I've used my own apochromatic lens to photograph a grapefruit. See, no aberrations!

Yes, I am married to a photographer and yes, the poor chap has been interogated mercilessly as I've worked on my latest novel, which features a photographer. Thanks for asking.

Wednesday, 14 June 2017

Revivify

To revivify is to restore to animation, activity or vigour. If I ever felt in need of revivification, I'd head off to the coast somewhere in the van.

As it is, I don't really need to be revivified, so I'm going to have to come up with another excuse.



Wednesday, 31 May 2017

Family

There are several definitions of the word family. It can be used to describe all the languages derived from the same earlier language, a group of objects distinguished by common features, and a group of related genera in an order or taxonomic collection (the daisy family, cat family etc).

The most common and familiar use though is for a group of people. That's the meaning I had in mind for my set of family themed short story collections. The latest* of these, Can't Choose Your Family, is available now. For this week, the kindle version is on sale for 99p (or 99c). Usual price will be £1.99 ($2.99)

In order to define family, my dictionary starts off by mentioning parents and their children, but families come in a huge variety of combinations. There may be one parent, or none. Perhaps it's step-parents, or grandparents who raise the children. Maybe there aren't any children. I feel that a family can be any group of people related by birth or marriage, or possibly even by circumstance.

No Family Secrets was the first. Does that make it a big sister to the second one?

Wednesday, 24 May 2017

Correctitude

Correctitude means correctness and especially concise correctness of conduct. That's a pleasingly alliterative phrase, but not somehing I feel able to demonstrate photographically. Or at all.

Oh look - a squirrel!

Wednesday, 10 May 2017

Supermundane

Doesn't supermundane sound soooo boring? Actually it means out of this world or superior to earthly things. And that makes it jolly difficult to illustrate.

This is Arbroath Abbey. We enjoyed our visit there very much - definitely closer to super than to mundane.

Wednesday, 26 April 2017

Younker

Younker is a very old term for a youngster. Here's a picture of me when I was a younker.

Despite the evidence, I don't actually feel old enough to have been in black and white.

Wednesday, 19 April 2017

Sultana

I'm sure you're aware that a sultana is a dried seedless raisin type thing and absolutely delicious when included in sticky buns which have been toasted and spread generously with butter and... Sorry, got distracted for a moment there.

The small yellow grape variety which produces these fruit is also called a sultana - as is the wife, mother, daughter or concubine of a sultan.

So a sultana could grow sultanas, dry them to make sultanas and feed these to the rest of the sultan's sultanas.

Wednesday, 12 April 2017

Chalaza

You know how you're aware a thing exists, but it had never occurred to you there was a specific word for it? (Or is that just me?) Well, those little strandy bits in an egg, which join the yolk to the ends of the egg, inside the shell, are known as chalaza.

Competitions for eggs on plates are an actual thing too. I'm sure there's a word for that... Whatever it is, I like the fact this happens so much, I recreated it in a scene in Firestarter.

Wednesday, 29 March 2017

Abiogenesis

Abiogenesis is the formation of living organisms from non-living substances. It sounds an unlikely thing to happen, but unless it was created from nothing at all, then this must be how life started on Earth. Unless it was brought here by aliens, in which case abiogenesis must have occurred on whichever planet they came from.

Oh, and the spontaneous generation of living forms is also called abiogenesis. Gosh, who'd have thought that explaining the creation of life would be complicated?

Here's a fluffy, baby living organism. If you don't know how babies are created, ask strangers on the bus. You'll be sure to get a seat to yourself.

Wednesday, 15 March 2017

Lactiferous

If something (or I suppose someone) is lactiferous, then they're producing milk, or a milk like fluid. That makes sense as 'lacto' refers to milk and 'ferous' implies having or forming.

Euphorbias can probably be described as lactiferous as the sap of these plants looks very like milk. Don't go drinking it though, as it's a strong irritant.

Wednesday, 22 February 2017

Perilymph

I spotted today's word whilst looking up last week's. Perilymph is the liquid inside your ear which sloshes about and makes you dizzy if you spin round really fast. (Come on, I never actually said these posts wold be useful, did I?)

If you'd like to spin round fast without the sloshing part, take a look here.

If you'd like to read about me confessing to a couple of writing mistakes, have a look here.

Wednesday, 15 February 2017

Peril

I've always thought of peril as being a mild sort of trouble – the kind of thing you'd face with your chums before going home for lashings of ginger beer. The variations of perilled and perilling appeared even more benign.

I thought wrong.

Peril actually mean serious and immediate danger.


Don't know about you, but I'd rather avoid any and all forms of perilousness.

Wednesday, 18 January 2017

Swish

To swish something (a rejection slip perhaps) is to move it through the air, so that it makes a sound. Helpfully my dictionary describes the noise produced as 'a swishing sound'.

You can also swish things away - horses swish tails to dissaude flies from bothering them, scythes can swish the long grass into neat rows of drying hay.













Swish is also another term for something that's a bit posh or smart.

The rate my hair's growing, I'll soon be able swish it in my swish mobile writing retreat.

Wednesday, 11 January 2017

Magnanimous

To be magnanimous is to be nobly generous rather than petty in feelings or actions. Hmmm, I do try to behave with magnanimity, but sometimes I get annoyed and fail to react magnanimously.

Do you like this word? It's a bit of a tongue mangler, isn't it? Decidedly tricky to illustrate too.

Umm... Aha! If someone who'd annoyed me fell into the sea I'd probably be magnanimous enough to throw them a life bouy – if I didn't have to go far to find one and I wasn't busy or anything.