You might know that portmanteau is a great word, but do you know just how wondersational it really is?
In medieval French, portemanteau meant “the “court official who carried a prince’s mantle” as of about the 1540s. This is fairly easy to see. “Porte” is the imperative of porter, which means “to carry.” Hence we get porter. “Manteau” is simply mantle.
In other words, “Hey, you, go carry that cloak.”
In the 1580s, it shifted to the more modern meaning: “traveling case or bag for clothes and other necessaries.”
While that’s still a current meaning of the word, it’s the not the one I find most fun. My favorite meaning is, of course, the combining of parts of two or more words to form another. Motel is a mashing of motor and hotel, for example.
The technical definition of a portmanteau in linguistics is: a single morph that is analyzed as representing two (or more) underlying morphemes. This means words like starfish or foreshadowing are compounds using two full words are not actually portmanteaus.
Now that we’ve got the boring linguistics stuff out of the way, lets get to the true magic of the word.
Did you know you can say tigons, ligers, and bears and be right? A tigon is a male tiger crossed with a female lion. A male lion and a female tiger is, obviously, a liger.
How fun is that?
OK, maybe I’m easily amused.
I bet eating a turducken with a spork is really difficult, but maybe delicious with a Cambozola cheese on the side. That actually sounds really gouda… (Sorry, I can’t help making cheese puns, even if they are a non sequitur).
Did I mention easily amused?
Here’s a portmanteau you probably use quite often. “Velours” is French for velvet. “Crochet” is French for hook (which is useful to know if your sweetie crochets everything). However, if you attach one to the other, you get Velcro. (Attach. See what I did there?)
Very easily amused, am I. Very.
Unlike most words, we have a specific time when it was first applied to this usage. The first person to say portmanteau in this way was….
Wait for it…
No, really. Totally was.
OK, fine, it was Lewis Carroll having good ole’ Hump (as he’s called by his friends) speak to Alice in Through the Looking Glass. He said, “You see it’s like a portmanteau—there are two meanings packed up into one word.”
“Slithy,” by the way, is a portmanteau: slimy and lithe. “Mimsy” is one too: miserable and flimsy.
Speaking of amusement, now I’m wondering how many of you will spend hours scouring Jabberwocky for all the portmanteaus you can find. Bwa ha, bwa ha ha. For mine is an evil laugh.
But here’s the best part of it all.
Now when you use your Garmin (Gary and Min founded the company) to find a motel in Texarkana (or somewhere in Eurasia) and then undo the velcro holding something in your luggage, you can now let your mind drift to Alice in Wonderland and Lewis Carroll’s imagination.
Another productive week around here. We did a bunch of yardwork and a lot of prep for summer and fall.
Also, I finally overcame a whole bunch of weird problems and learning curves. I discovered why I couldn’t upgrade the old one (if you can .css files, it will prevent that, something not even my tech guy at Metapros knew). Then I discovered that the new version of Tiki Wiki uses a real cool web development idea, the Bootstrap grid. It’s really neat and powerful, but it took some time to learn.
But now I can say, the Shijuren Wiki is live again at www.shijuren.org. It has only a minimal number of pages yet, but I’m adding a few each day.
If you looked at it before, you’ll see a few changes to the new version. I’ve rearranged some things, like all the odd words I use will be gathered in lexicons for each language instead of separate listings for each. I think that’ll be easier to navigate.
Also, I’ve been taking advantage of the need to add the content back. I could probably figure out a way to batch upload my backup, but instead I’m having fun to flesh out some of that content. I’ve added a box of pertinent details to a bunch of things.
I’m loving all of this worldbuilding.
I also put aside the short story I’m working on to let it freshen up and returned to None Call Me Mother. It’s amazing what setting something aside will do. I come back with fresh eyes and see cool fun routes of where my pantsing has led me.
I’m just plugging away.
What I’m Listening To
The Prog from Home web concert. This is a really cool thing where the Prog Report gathered a bunch of musicians to play from their homes. Really cool stuff and I’m finding some bands I’d never heard of before, like Chattanooga’s own Glass Hammer.
Quote of the Week
Today would be Tony Gwynn’s birthday. Gwynn was, in many ways, the ideal baseball player to admire. He was a great athlete when he was younger, but as he aged that athleticism went away. He still excelled, though, because he had worked so hard to hone his skills, and it’s always an inspiration to think of him when I’m fighting at a paragraph or something like that.
I apologize that this quote includes a bad word, but there’s sometimes such a word is the correct one. This quote is by Greg Maddux, clearly one of the greatest pitchers ever. I could take the word out, but nothing else demonstrates as well how much Tony Gwynn frustrated pitchers.
“If a pitcher can change speeds, every hitter is helpless, limited by human vision. Except for that fucking Tony Gwynn.”
– Greg Maddux
I finished re-writing and editing my story for Semper Paratus. This is an anthology from Jamie Ibson, who also edited We Dare. My story is a prequel to “The Chaos of Well-Seeming Forms” with was in the first anthology.
This one is entitled “Nor War’s Quick Fire” and we see the two feuding families meet. The time they meet is not a good one, though, and things don’t go where anyone expects, including, I suspect, the readers.
The story took a little longer. I can usually tell when a story works and the first version didn’t. In the end, I realized it tried to do too much. This is becoming a fairly standard thing. I try to put certain things in a story, and they may very well be great elements, but this particular story doesn’t work with them included.
Sometimes, this requires help from other eyes. I got great help from Jamie and also Yvonne Jacobs focusing the story down.
This is part of the be prepared to kill your baby part of writing. It’s not easy, but if you can do it, it results in much better stories and quite often, future story ideas.
This weekend, I’m basically taking it off except for projects around the house. Next week, I’ll be doing a couple of small writing projects, starting a new short story, and working on None Call Me Mother.
Have a great week.
What I’m Listening To
Still watching Burn Notice. Again. Love this show.
This was another week where everything went a bit wonky, though I sort of anticipated it.
I got home on Sunday from ChattaCon. I expected Monday to be a real down day as I recovered from the drive, but I was moderately productive. I had a great writing day on Tuesday.
And then Wednesday is when the fatigue hit. Ah well.
I got a bunch of writing done on Thursday, and though I never really had a chance yesterday, it wasn’t an awful week. I got almost 5k written on None Call Me Mother, along with a bunch of work on other projects.
Today is also the final day of a hectic two months since Thanksgiving. Between the holidays, I hosted 3 local SCA postrevels, went to 2 cons, wrapped up my portion of When Valor Must Hold, wrote a short story start to finish, and added 27k or so to None Call Me Mother.
27k isn’t enough for two months, really, but it’s not nothing, combined with the rest. I’ll take it.
The good news is that I’m entering my spring writing stretch with only one trip between now and the end of April, and FantaSci will be worth it.
Just keep plugging away.
What I’m Listening To
Red Sector A off A Show of Hands by Rush. Fantastic song with one of my favorite lyrics every. It’s the quote of the week, and it captures the horrors of the Holocaust in such amazing fashion.
Quote of the Week
“Sickness to insanity
Prayer to profanity”
– Rush, Red Sector A
2020 had started off better than I could have hoped. I got accepted as an Attending Pro at DragonCon. This is an amazing honor and I am so excited.
Then I got word I’d been accepted as a vendor at Dagorhir’s Ragnarok XXXV event. This is a large LARPing event held in June at the same site as Pennsic. It’s a bunch of new potential readers I get to meet. More excitement.
Then I announced my plans for the year. You can find that post here: http://robhowell.org/blog/?p=1919. The TL:DR version is that I have a full, but manageable schedule that adds yet more excitement.
The stories for When Valor Must Hold are all good, even mine. Team “And More” did a great job, and I’m ecstatic at what the cover authors have given me. It’s a great honor to work with all of these authors, and they’ve done me proud.
I’ll be introducing these authors one a week until the release, and probably afterward. The first one is William Joseph Roberts, whose story Dust in the Mouth has enough action to make Crom go “Whoa!”
I hope everyone had a Merry Christmas. We had a fun Christmas of family and friends.
If you didn’t see my message earlier in the week, I wrote a new story that’s going just to you guys and a few others I wanted to thank, at least until next Thanksgiving when I’ll put it on Amazon.
It’s a new series about Nick Patara, PI. I’ll be sending out a new one every Christmas. This one is called SilentKnight.
The cops have arrested Steven Knight for fraud but private investigator Nick Patara knows Knight’s been framed. Worse, Knight not only doesn’t care that he’s been framed, he’s doing all he can to make sure he goes to jail. Can Nick find evidence to exonerate Knight? And if he can, can he persuade Knight to let him use it? Or will Knight’s conviction be wrapped up in a bow and put under the prosecutor’s tree?
I hope you all are having a great holiday season. Thanks very much for reading my stuff.
This week was hit or miss because of the holiday season. I’m sure you’re all shocked. However, I’m into the 90s in None Call Me Mother and that’s after two weeks of filling in the cracks before writing the conclusion.
I also made a ton of progress on a project I’ll announce next week. This is a really exciting opportunity for me.
Next week is a busy one as I’ll be going to ShadowCon in Memphis. I’ll be hanging with Bill Webb, who is also in Trouble in the Wind. It’s been a while since I’ve been to a con, and I’m really looking forward to it. Also, I’ll be at ChattaCon later in January.
I hope you all have a great New Year’s Eve, and thanks to all of you for making 2019 my best year ever.
What I’m Listening To
It’s college football bowl season! One of my favorite times. And today, it’s the start of the CFB Playoffs.
I’m so glad Alabama isn’t in there this year. My cousin and his family are huge Clemson fans, so I hope they beat Ohio State. Many of my dad’s family went to and taught at Oklahoma State, so I can’t root for OU. Besides, I have reasons to root for any team that wears purple and gold. In the end, I’d like to see Joe Burrow’s magical season end on top.
Quote of the Week
This week’s quote is a perfect one for my new Christmas series.
“The main reason Santa is so jolly is because he knows where all the bad girls live.”
– George Carlin
I made it home from Pennsic yesterday afternoon. With the help of the proto-incipient step-daughter, my car was empty by 5pm. Go us!
Now I’m at Brewbaker’s. As a regular here I basically sit down and they simply ask if I want the usual, which is iced tea and a really good southwestern salad to which I add more jalapenos and avocado.
“Sometimes you want to go
Where everybody knows your name
And they’re always glad you came”
That’s true for Pennsic as well as Brewbaker’s. In many ways, Pennsic is just my normal neighborhood bar where I’m a regular. In the parlance of the event, I’m just on my 50-week town run.
For the last 8 years or so, I’ve hosted a first Monday of Pennsic bardic circle. I didn’t do a great job of promoting the event this year, but I still got about 80 all told. My high is apparently something around 125. This year, we sang until about 3:45am. This is a record, by not by much. We’ve been after 3:00am several times.
Both things are actually shocking to me. I’m astounded that something I suggested as basically a chance to get a few people singing has turned into a Pennsic fixture.
I’d like to take a moment and thank all the people who routinely camp in Calontir on that first Monday. They’ve put up with this thing, enjoyed it (mostly), and assisted with extra chairs, food and beer donations, and lots of singing. Thanks very much.
I plan on continuing this as long as I can and I hope to see a bunch of you at 0-dark-30 on 27 July 2020.
One of the most enjoyable moments this year was the attendance of Jamie Ibson. If that name is familiar to you, it’s partly because his name graces the cover of We Dare, the anthology that includes my story “The Chaos of Well-Seeming Forms.”
He was there at the bardic circle, his first one ever. Then he roamed around seeing so much with fresh eyes and a good camera. I had a great time hearing his perspective and seeing past my eighteen years of attending.
I’m glad he got to come and see the wild Rhodri in his natural habitat, which is different than the wild Rob at a convention.
The shop went really well this year, I thought. Thanks to Renaissance Arts and Designs, our neighbor, we were able to expand our footprint. For the first time we weren’t cramped for space and we could hide a bunch of the clutter behind tent walls.
We have a number of tweaks of course. I built a really night shelf unit that I’ll add a special Pennsic add-on. We’ll have a better gutter between tents. We’ll tweak some table and item layouts. But overall, I think the general consensus is it was a vast improvement.
Sales for me were slightly up from 2018. Nothing huge, but I’ve increased every year and this was no exception. However, I’ve already noticed my post-Pennsic e-book spike has begun. This is encouraging as it’s usually late this week before I see much as it takes that long for people to unpack my bookmarks.
I was able to do a little more roaming this year, in part thanks to beautiful weather. Sometimes dealing with the weather at Pennsic is exhausting, especially over 16 days. This year had a little rain, though not much compared to what it could have been. The temps never got to 90 and were often lower than 80.
So I had more energy to go to some bardic circles and events. My highlight was getting to see a friend from Atlantia have her laureling vigil. A laurel, by the way, is a title bestowed on someone for being good at arts and sciences, and one sits a vigil before receiving it to contemplate a change in station. She’s a great addition to our ranks.
Overall, it was a good war and I hope see you all next year.
Also released since my last update (sheesh, I’m so easily distracted), is We Dare, a collection stories of augmented humanity. My story in there is called “The Chaos of Well-Seeming Forms.” If you get the reference, you’ll have some clue how it goes down, but more than anything I was influenced by the Finnsburh Fragment and Episode, two bits of Old English poetry. Also, I had a chance to pay an homage to Dick Francis, and I took it. You can find it here: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B07SK6WKM1/.
I’m currently working on “In Darkening Storms,” the follow up to “Far Better to Dare” from Those in Peril. The new anthology will be called To Slip the Surly Bonds. For those of you reading this message, if you go to my blog, you can see the cover art there.
If you’re wondering about None Call Me Mother, I was just too ambitious. The new date to get it to the editor is the end of July with the hope to have it published in September. Thank you for your patience.
I was at Lilies War last week. I had a great time, did way too much, sold some stuff, and came home with a number of projects for Pennsic. The good news is right now I’m looking as ready for Pennsic as I have ever been and I don’t leave for five weeks.
After LibertyCon, I’ll be at Hypericon in Nashville. This will be my first time there, but I’m looking forward to it. After all, if Terry Maggert is the Guest of Honor, things have to be whimsical.
While I have more to chat about, that’s probably enough. That’s what I get for not sending out a weekly message. Next message will come from the Marriott in Chattanooga.
See you all out and about.
Current Playlist Song
Rush’s One Little Victory. This always reminds me of the final show of the Vapor Trails tour. They played this song to open the second set, and it was a reminder of all the challenges Rush had gone through the previous five years, especially Neil.
At one point, simply picking up drumsticks was a little victory for him, and yet at that moment he had managed to not only record a new album with Alex and Geddy, he had made it through an entire tour.
It was, and is, one of the most emotional moments of life.
Quote of the Week
Might as well quote from the song, too.
The measure of the moment
Is a difference of degree
Just one little victory
A spirit breaking free
One little victory
The greatest act can be
One little victory
-Rush, One Little Victory
News and Works in Progress
None Call Me Mother (Approx. 60,000)
Recent Blog Posts and Wiki Additions
I need to get back to doing my interviews and mag reviews.
We’re coming up on Thanksgving and I want to start by thanking all of you. I can’t do this job without you guys reading my stuff, giving me reviews, and talking me up.
And since this is the season of giving, I’ll be sending out some prezzies. I’ll do a drawing and send out gifts to the lucky winners. I’ll randomly choose 5 of those who are on my mailing list or who are regular readers of my blog. If you’re a regular reader and not on the mailing list, I suggest you add a comment and I’ll put you into the pool. Or, you could just subscribe to the mailing list. In any case, I’ll do the drawing in a couple of weeks, so that I can make sure to get your prezzie to you by Christmas.
Thanks to all of you. I really appreciate you.
Back to the news. I missed last week’s update. Sorry. It’s that time of the year that I routinely do a bunch of house improvements. I host an SCA party every year in early December and like to clear up a bunch of things to make the house ready. Also, this Christmas, my sweetie and I are hosting her family along with my mom.
Gotta make sure the house is acceptable for *both* moms. That’s only mildly terrifying.
As for writing, I’ve been going through a tough patch. It happens, sometimes, and all I’ve found to do is throw bad words at the page. I’ve also had a couple of really nice things happen on the professional front of late. They’re small, but it’s often the little things that make my brain weasels nag at me, so it’s nice to see that small things can pacify them sometimes.
As I said, I’ve written some awful words recently, but the short story that I recently submitted is a notable exception. It should be released 1Q of 2019 and I’m excited. It’s one of those stories where the muse just told me what to write. It doesn’t happen often, but in this case it leapt out at me.
I shelved The Feeding of Sorrows for a couple of weeks to work on None Call Me Mother. I made some progress but am turning back to Sorrows this week. I just needed a break and some ideas are coming back to me.
And with that, it’s time for me to go throw those ideas onto a page.
Current Playlist Song
They’ve set the Pandora Station at Brewbaker’s to disco and right now they’re playing the Spinners I’ll Be Around. Good song, but a little creepy when you read the lyrics.
Quote of the Week
I’m saddened to hear of the passing of William Goldman today. This has been a horrible week of celebrity deaths, as he joins Roy Clark and Stan Lee.
Because I enjoy black humor, I’ll choose my quote from The Princess Bride.
“Miracle Max: Whoo-hoo-hoo, look who knows so much. It just so happens that your friend here is only MOSTLY dead. There’s a big difference between mostly dead and all dead. Mostly dead is slightly alive. With all dead, well, with all dead there’s usually only one thing you can do.
The interviews listed above conclude #FourHorsetober. It was a lot of fun to do, and included 24 authors delivering over 33 thousand words about their careers, interests, and writing techniques. Many thanks to all of htem.
Today’s Weight: 381.4
Updated Word Count: 237,958
Shijuren Wiki: 874 entries
Four Horsemen Wiki: 479 entries
Let me know if you have any suggestions on the website, this email, or cool story ideas at email@example.com. Especially let me know of suggestions you have for the Spotlight section.
I’ve not yet met Peter Cawdron, though I follow him in For a Few Credits More. I like that story though, and he’s clearly a thoughtful fellow. If I ever get to Australia, I’ll make sure to look him up and share a few beverages discussing the universe.
Interview: Peter Cawdron
What is your quest?
I was a religious nut for decades. One book held all the answers. Only one group was capable of interpreting it. Everyone else was sincere but misguided. Thankfully, my one saving grace was honesty. When I heard a preacher trash Charles Darwin, likening him to Hitler, I felt conflicted. Hitler was a pretty bad dude, setting the world on fire and killing tens of millions of people. Didn’t Darwin sail around the world collecting animals? Really doesn’t seem comparable, does it? I grabbed a copy of On the Origin of Species and a highlighter pen and began reading. Much to my delight I realized Charles Darwin was methodical and honest in following the evidence wherever it went. He too was conflicted by religious sentiment, and once wrote to a friend saying, his discovery of evolution by means of natural selection felt like “confessing to murder.” In Charles Darwin, I found a kindred spirit.
Since then, I’ve taken off my rose-colored glasses and seen the world anew. I’ve come to appreciate the astonishing times in which we live and the way science has transformed our world—at times for the better (vaccinations have saved hundreds of millions, if not billions of lives), at times for worst (our infatuation with fossil fuels has allowed us to ravage the environment). In all cases, however, science has been a catalyst for change.
When I write, I try to inspire a sense of awe about reality, along with a need for responsibility.
What is your favorite word?
We’re all shortsighted.
A hundred years ago, we thought the Milky Way encompassed the entire universe. A couple of decades ago, Hubble showed us that even our most outlandish predictions were shortsighted. We now recognize the observable universe as spanning 93 billion light-years! We think the entire universe (not just the portion we see) is a minimum of 156 billion light-years in diameter. Then there are the emerging theories challenging this, looking at the curvature of the universe on a cosmological scale that suggest the real size could be as much as 23 trillion light years, and yet here we are on Earth, fighting over a scruffy patch of ground for oil or ideology. Our behavior is insanely shortsighted.
Likewise, the idea that we are alone in the universe is foolish and conceited. We have no reason to believe that—and every reason to believe otherwise. Like a medieval scholar standing on the shores bordering the Atlantic Ocean, making any kind of judgment about the existence of other continents is steeped in hubris. We need to wait until the evidence is in.
We share this astonishing planet with upwards of a trillion other species, but we only care about a few (deep fried chicken, anyone?). The rest, we’re happy to drive into extinction. As a writer, I try to get readers to see the bigger picture and inspire a sense of awe and reverence for this celestial oasis adrift among the stars.
What is the average flying speed of an unladen dictionary?
In orbit, or within the atmosphere?
Being an independent writer is akin to being a busker on a street corner. No matter how good you are, you’re only ever going to reach a handful of people for a few minutes at best. Trying to breakout as an author is like talking at a rock concert. There’s so much noise it’s hard to be heard. There are a lot of great authors rocking the world. I’m glad to be one of them in my own small way.
What are the powers of your personal Holy Hand Grenade?
My holy-hand grenade would be participating in anthologies like the one we both contributed to—For a Few Credits More. The best advice I can give to emerging authors is to collaborate in an anthology. It’s an awesome way to contribute to the writing community, meet other authors, and reach a wide variety of readers. Too many people underestimate the importance of short stories. They’re an awesome way to grow as an author and provide readers with an opportunity to sample a wide variety of writers to find those that match their tastes.
Favorite Muppet? Animal
Favorite Sports Team? Queensland State of Origin team (unknown outside of Australia)
I wish I could attend some of the US conventions, but the cost is prohibitive from Australia. Maybe one day I’ll make it to Comic-Con.
Thanks to Peter for taking the time to answer my questions.
If you have any suggestions or comments about this interview format, let me know so I can keep tweaking it.
Also, thanks to you for reading. If you’re interested in any of the other interviews I’ve done, you can find them all here: http://robhowell.org/blog/?cat=326. If you are a creator, especially an independent creator, and you want to be spotlighted in a future interview, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Finally, if you want to join my mailing list, where I’ll announce every interview, as well as what’s going on in my life, go to www.robhowell.org and fill out the form (Name and Email Address) or drop me an email and I’ll add you.