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Etymology Excavation: At full tilt

Etymology Excavation: At full tilt

“At full tilt” means flat out, at top speed, as fast as possible. Its origins don’t have anything to do with being unsteady, at an angle, or, indeed poker.

The term derives from the sport of jousting, or tilting (ever heard of ’tilting at windmills’?), and ‘at full tilt’ is believed to have first come into use as an expression in the mid-1600s. Common theories (check out etymonline.com for even more good stuff) are that it comes from either the practice of leaning in to meet the attack when jousting, or, conversely, from tilt or tent, referring to the flimsy barrier that separates the two riders when they joust.

Examples of ‘at full tilt’

I ran down the hill at full tilt.

We’re going to need to work at full tilt to get this done in time.

Is it still in common use? Depends who you ask. I’m a Millennial, and I use it; my parents’ generation certainly did. On the whole, it’s probably more likely to be used in British English than American English.

It’s one of those phrases you can use to hint at a character’s background in contemporary work such as a thriller – maybe your anti-hero is British and gives himself away with it, for example.

If you’re writing fantasy or sci-fi, you can also adapt this type of expression. If (random example, honest) your invented culture includes people swinging on big metal balls hung from cranes, you’d use ‘at full swing’. (Oddly enough, ‘in full swing’ is another weird English idiom that I probably will be covering on another day.)

What is etymology, and why are you excavating it?

Etymology is like the archeology of a language (definition: the study of the origin of words and the way in which their meanings have changed throughout history).

Chapter quotes – why add them?

Chapter quotes – why add them?

Why add chapter quotes? Where do you get your chapter quotes from? Aren’t chapter quotes hell to format?

Me, personally, I enjoy chapter quotes. Dorothy Dunnett, Seanan McGuire, and of course Frank Herbert are all awesome examples. If you’ve never read any of these authors, don’t tell me because I will get very judgy.

“Facts are a commonly accepted interpretation. Truth is a commonly argued fiction.” A Planet’s Philsophy, Ankara Zaneth (From book 8…yes, I’m way ahead of myself.)

They’re an insight into the world backdrop, a good laugh, or a context-setter, depending on what the author is doing with them and with their book. I put them in because, well, I’m a pure pantser. I don’t outline. I generally have no idea what my characters are likely to do once I’ve dropped them into a scene. I find out when I write it down. As you can imagine, therefore, I usually end up writing my chapter quotes well after the fact. They’re actually help me in the editing stage, because they act as a kind of focus mechanism for me when I’m editing a chapter. I can stare at the chapter quote for a bit when I get stuck, remember the awesome thing I was trying to do in that chapter, and return to hacking and slashing motivated and refocused. (Hah.) At least, that’s how it sometimes works.

“Modesty is like arsenic: safe only in small doses.” Sayings of the Wise, Olar Fantoml (From Fighting Shadows, book II in the Cortii series.)

As I kind of gave away in the last bit, I don’t get my chapter quotes from anywhere. I make them all up. My father, who had very serious tastes in most of his reading, and considered sci-fi to be an extreme form of escapism, never actually read any of my books – but he would steal them from my mother when she was reading them, and he would read my chapter quotes. I still regret that I never really asked him why, because I think the answer would have been interesting.

“Avoidance requires continuous effort. Confrontation merely requires standing still.” Universal Truths, Jahira Suran (From Elemental Conflict, book IV in the Cortii series.)

And yes, sometimes, depending on the platform, chapter quotes can indeed be hell to format. Kobo, for example, thinks my chapter quotes are a whole separate page unless I spend hours tickling it with an ostrich feather while immersing it in chocolate. (Kidding. I had to get much kinkier than that.)

“Training is not a substitute for experience; it is merely easier to survive.” Training of a Cortiian, Nadhiri Longar (Yeah, Book 8 again…working on it.)

As to what my chapter quotes are supposed to achieve other than providing a focal point for my edits – I mostly leave that up to the reader. If they’re something that you just skip on your way to the main events, no worries. If they make you grin, or start an interesting train of thought, then I’m happy. I frankly suspect most of mine actually come from Khyria’s choices of reading matter. Most of them are downright cynical and sound like the kinds of things she’d remember.

Ryder Author Resources – book reviews and more

Ryder Author Resources – book reviews and more

Ryder Author Resources

…well, they do pretty much exactly what it says on the tin, reliably and within the meagre range of my budget; they offer author resources and services, including outreach to book bloggers, promo images, beta reading, blog tours, Facebook and Twitter management, and they’re willing to talk to you about other things on an ad-hoc basis.

I first met RAR! through my review blog (oh, yes, I do). They struck me as professional, (extremely) patient, and someone to look up when I had some cash to throw at book reviews for my own books. Among other things, I especially appreciated that they stayed in touch on social media, and seemed to have a similar sense of humour. (I’m not sure if that last is actually a compliment, but moving on…).

The set-up

Ryder Author Resources recently (well, since July 2018) updated their website, and the services they offer out of the box are clearly outlined on their author services page, along with how to get in touch with them to discuss other things.

They offer either package quotes, or an hourly rate for longer-term things, like looking for book reviewers. For longer-term things, they send out weekly updates to you on what they’ve been up to and how it’s going. The invoices show up monthly and itemised, with online credit card payment options – it’s all very painless and simple.

The results

Awesome! Not only have they patiently and persistently hunted down sci-fi reviewers, they also put me onto Hidden Gems, and all told Through the Hostage is now well past the miraculous 15 review mark on Amazon and headed for twenty-five. That’s not even counting readers who review to private blogs and / or Goodreads, or a few fantastic folks who review everywhere they have an account.

I was nervous about going in with any kind of professional publicist, as prior to Ryder Author Resources, I’d had a string of bad experiences, including someone who absconded with a substantial amount of cash and did absolutely nothing, but RAR! has gone a long way to restoring my faith in humanity. The team behind the RAR! are also genuinely nice people, and the weekly update emails and online exchanges are always a fun experience.

I’d definitely go in with them for reviewer outreach, and based on my experience with them on gaining a few more reviews for Through the Hostage, I don’t have any qualms saying that if they say they do something, then it will be done, and you’ll have a fun team behind you on the way.

Etymology Excavation: coming down the pike

Etymology Excavation: coming down the pike

‘Coming down the pike’ can be used to indicate something coming to prominence, up-and-coming, making itself noticed. I’ve also seen it used as a warning phrase, e.g. ‘something big’s coming down the pike – better get ready.’.

A common mistake with this one is ‘coming down the pipe’, which possibly came into being as the word ‘pike’ became less and less common.

Coming down the pikeAccording to Grammarist, usage of the word pike originated in the U.S.A. in the early 19th century, and the earliest known instances of ‘coming down the pike’ appeared around 1900.

However, the word pike, or turnpike, has become increasingly rarer, mostly replaced by ‘toll road’ or ‘highway’ – ‘motorway’ in other English dialects – and so many people have slipped into using ‘pipe’ for ‘pike’, most likely because they know what ‘pipe’ means and are a lot less certain of ‘pike’.

Examples of ‘coming down the pike’:

  • With the budget report out next week, we’re looking at a lot of questions coming down the pike
  • Jim McClaffee is the biggest thing to come down the pike since Bob Dylan!

This phrase is fairly common, although not exactly well-known, and ‘down the pipe’, as mentioned above, is probably its most common misspelling. Pretty much every source that mentioned this phrase indicated it originated in US English, although I have heard it occasionally used in the UK.

This would be a really simple base phrase to adapt to pretty much any fantasy or sci-fi world; after all, everyone has to get from place to place somehow. For example, substitute ‘skyway’ for ‘pike’…and there you are, brand new, relatable idiom.

What is etymology, and why are you excavating it?

Etymology is like the archeology of a language (definition: the study of the origin of words and the way in which their meanings have changed throughout history).

Hidden Gems – author services

Hidden Gems – author services

Hidden Gems – the low-down

Hidden Gems advertises as an Advance Reader Copy (ARC) program, although they also accept published books for their reviewers. As well as their core ARC program, Hidden Gems is branching out into cover design and editing.

Once signed up, your book is offered to their readership, and readers request the books they’re interested in reading and reviewing. You aren’t guaranteed any set number of takers, and you aren’t guaranteed any reviews; however, at time of writing, their review rate was 80%, meaning that if 100 of their readers ask for the free copy of your book, you’re likely to get something on the close order of 80 reviews.

The set-up

Hidden Gems asks for a minimum $20 US for basic set-up and send-out of a book in their newsletter. You must be able to provide an PDF and a MOBI variant of your manuscript file, as well as a cover image JPG. After that, you can set the bar for number of reviewers as high as you want, and you will be billed based on how many people volunteer to read and review.

It’s also a relatively simple submission and payment system, which I really appreciated, and their FAQ is well set up and answered pretty much all of my questions.

The results

Well, I was impressed.

I asked to have Through the Hostage circulated on 24th Sept, and I was notified that 15 people had asked for a copy. By 1st Oct, I’d gone from 10 reviews on Amazon to 23, with a nice mix of ratings. A couple of those readers were also kind enough to copy their reviews to Goodreads and even BookBub.

Hidden Gems is still building their reader base for sci-fi, so I presume that in a more mainstream genre like paranormal romance or new adult, you would probably get a higher number of takers, but frankly, I was very happy.

There are way too many review sites out there that ask for money, state (honestly) that they can’t guarantee a review, and then, sure enough, nothing ever happens. Hidden Gems isn’t one of them. Through organisation or some other alchemy, if one of their readers asks for a book copy, there’s a much better than average chance that they will also choose to leave a review.

Etymology Excavation: strong suit

Etymology Excavation: strong suit

‘Strong suit’ is a phrase meaning a strength, something you are good at. You can easily substitute ‘strong point’ or ‘forte’.

A common mis-spelling is ‘strong suite’, which may have its roots in common terms like ‘Microsoft suite’. It is nonetheless incorrect, however tempting,

My favourite sources are unusually firmly in agreement on the origins of the phrase, and they universally state that it derives from card games, where the suits are hearts, diamonds, aces, and spades.

To be more exact, most of the etymology sources say it originated from the game of bridge. Merriam-Webster and the Online Etymology dictionary disagree on when this phrase came into use: Merriam-Webster holds it was 1742, and Etyonline says 1845. I’m going to go with some considerable time after cards came into common use and before people all got too keen on online games to play cards.

Examples of ‘strong suit’:

  • Patience is not my strong suit
  • He’s playing the long game; it’s his strong suit.

This seems to be a phrase that’s used in pretty much all variants of English, and it could be easily adapted for use in SFF world-building; admittedly, you would need to come up with some basic game concept to root it in first. The concept could equally easily be turned around in the world-building for a game-related phrase meaning a fatal weakness.

What is etymology, and why are you excavating it?

Etymology is like the archeology of a language (definition: the study of the origin of words and the way in which their meanings have changed throughout history).

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