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Etymology Excavation: chasten, chastise

Etymology Excavation: chasten, chastise

Chasten and chastise

Well, my brain is wired a little oddly (yeah, fine, all right, ‘little’ may be contextually dubious…), so it woke me up at around 0500 this morning with the announcement “Hey!! I betcha ‘chasten’ and ‘chastise’ have something to do with religious purity standards, y’all should look that shit up!!”… so here I am at lunchtime finding out that my brain was worryingly spot on, and doing an etymology excavation.

So, chasten and chastise both mean (today) something close to punish, or reprimand. You’ll also find the related word ‘castigate’ in use. None of the three is very common in today’s English, but you’ve probably heard or seen at least one of them – e.g. ‘Chastened, the princess lowered her shining head.’ You’ve probably also heard of ‘chaste’ and ‘chastity’.

If chasten and castigate instead bring up images of leather, spikes, and a dominant with a whip, well, I’m not here to judge, although that thought brings us neatly into the actual etymology of the word.

Depending on where you look, chasten showed up in either the 13th century or the 16th, and comes from the Old French ‘chastiier’ or ‘chastier’, which meant to punish, to dominate, to instruct.

That verb in turn appears to have a Latin root, coming from castigare, ‘castigate’ or castus, ‘morally pure, chaste’.

So, from ‘castus’, we find ourselves in need of a way to enforce a state of castus, and end up with ‘castigare’, which is a form of punishment, frequently physical.

This concept of physical or other punishment to enforce moral standards is a popular enough concept to survive down the centuries to show up today in the form of chasten and castigate. The Inquisition is a particularly well-known historical example of the abstract.

Frankly I think the BDSM take is mentally healthier, but there you are, gentlebeings: chastise and chasten, excavated.

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).

Margret Treiber, Galaxy of Authors

Margret Treiber, Galaxy of Authors

Margret A. Treiber

‘I’ve done far worse than kill you. I’ve hurt you, and I wish to go on hurting you.’ – Khan

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In the beginning…tell me what made you decide to start writing?

I don’t know.  I just started as a kid and that was that.  There was no decision one way or another.  It just kind of happened.  I read a lot, so that must have been what started it.  I did stop for years, before trying again.  I’ve been serious about it for a decade now.  I still have no idea what motivates me.

Are there any authors or artists who influence(d) you?

Douglas Adams.  I fell in love with SF books from reading Hitchhiker’s Guide as a teenager.  My mother thought I’d dig it and provided me the fuel.  Since then, I loved SF humor.

Tell me about your book / series.

I have two fairly recent books out.  One is Sleepy Time for Captain Eris.  Eris is pretty much a disgruntled powered individual with a crap attitude and a tendency to get killed a lot.

The second one is Japanese Robots Love to Dance, which is a collection of shorts about Gary Legal, attorney to the robots.  Despite how that sounds, it’s not that glamorous.  However, he does have a certain swagger and some interesting clients.  One of the main characters from Sleepy Time for Captain Eris has his origin in this collection, along with a couple of minor characters.  So it is kind of a prequel.

If you want something crude and irreverent, read my shit.

Maybe I shouldn’t describe my work with the word shit.  Maybe:  If you hate people as much as I do, you may want to read my books.

Eh, that may attract the wrong crowd.

Perhaps:  Yeah, fuckers, I got issues; read my dysfunction.

Because they really show up in my writing.  Some of my short stories really bleed.

Sleepy Time for Captain Eris: Captain Eris, AKA Death Engine, former military DNA tweak and mercenary, is unexpectedly pulled out of her retirement in Champion Acres and dragged back into the shit by an idiot in a mech suit.

Feeling pissed off and miserable about losing her retirement lifestyle and subsequently, her chances of dying of old age, she searches for the reasons why she was reactivated. With the help of her old friend Al, an incognito artificial intelligence; and Om, a twenty-something emo tweak-girl, she discovers a plot that goes a lot deeper than losing her death. And in doing so, she finds a reason to survive.

Japanese Robots Love to Dance: It’s tough being a robot – unrealistic expectations from humans, long hours, lack of social interaction. And what do you do when unscrupulous owners break the law? Humans have attorneys and so should you. Sometimes you just need a good lawyer to do what a robot can’t. I am that lawyer. Gary Legal, attorney at law.

How many unpublished and half-finished books do you have?

Two.  I have a really serious one about the horrors of commercialism and technology.  I keep trying to get back to it.  But then, I start writing some crazy thing here or a short story there.  I never get back to it.  I also wrote an entire book that I hate.  I’m about to start re-crafting it into something irreverent and crude.

What’s your opinion on the practice of ‘banning’ books?

I want my books banned so I can get more readers.  Oh yeah, forbidden fruit.  I want to be that evil tainted thing that mustn’t be read.  Bwa-ha-ha.  Maybe I should write more cell phone porn.

Tell me about a principal character in your book(s). What makes them memorable?

Wow.  I think most of my characters are me on one level or another so it’s hard to choose.  Although, I’m kind of partial to Al the Robot.  Everyone and everything around him is complete chaos, yet he remains chilled out.  And it’s not because he is a robot, instead, it’s because of his strength of character which was given to him by good upbringing.  His father is a flawed man but still managed to give Al a strong moral compass and faith in humanity.  Al does have some self-worth issues, but who doesn’t from time to time?

Indie, or traditionally published – and why?

Oh.  Oh, that’s hard.  I would love to be traditionally published, but the waiting and the begging are so hard.  As much as I try, my skin is not as thick as it should be for a writer.  I have been traditionally published by a very small market and there were perks and some pain.  I’m not going to bitch about anything, but I think I’d like a market to publish me that will do some serious editing instead of leaving the typos in.

I’m not so great at marketing and editing to self-publish well.  I don’t really have the cash to pay for a good editor and cover.  So I’d have to do it all myself.  Then again, I could set my own prices and have giveaways, so it’s possible.  Maybe for my next book…

It’s said that to write well, you need to read a lot. What do you think?

Yes and no.  I try not to read too much while I’m writing so I don’t accidentally copy someone else’s ideas.  However, I do read for magazines, so that keeps me sharp.

Tell me what you feel the worst, and the best, aspects of being an author are, and why.

It sucks.  I’m miserable when I write.  I’m more miserable when I don’t.  I hate the rejection and wait on pins and needles whenever I submit.  I never felt more anxiety as I do waiting for a submission to be accepted or rejected.  I never felt more self-loathing than I do when I get a bad review.

However, if I could, I would do it full time and live inside my head.  Because I prefer my realities to the one I’m stuck in.  And no, I don’t want any meds.

Being judged by strangers sucks when you can’t even get out of the starting gate.  But being judged by strangers rocks when you have a book out and everyone is reading it.

I guess the worst is losing and the best is winning – like anything else.

Are you a plotter, or a pantser? What do you think of the opposite approach?

I’m a pantser with some plotter tendencies.  I start with a  spark for wherever ideas come from, start going and then form an outline and notes.  I think how you write is a personal thing, like how you organize your closet.  Nobody can make you conform to their neatness.  You just have to go with what feels right.

Do you hide any secrets in your books that only a few people will find?

I sometimes make references to things my friends would find funny. Like I’ve named characters after friends as a shout out.  I don’t put things in that a stranger wouldn’t get.  But I do put things in that some people will think “Oh crap, I remember that!”.  In fact, I have an entire short story that would probably make some people cringe if they read it, remembering some of the events within.

Tell me about one favourite hobby or pastime that isn’t writing or reading.

Pooping.  I am an excellent pooper.

What are you writing at the moment?

A rewrite of a serious story into humor.  It will be called Space Assholes.  Please, nobody steal the title.  I love it.

What’s your opinion on the belief that indie books are badly edited and lower quality than traditionally published?

My last two “traditionally” published novels were very badly edited.  That’s what I have to say about that.

What is your favourite genre to write, and why?

I love to write snarky, dark superhero stuff.  I write serious SF but there is nothing more satisfying to me than writing a dysfunctional asshole with superpowers.

If you could, would you live in the world you’ve created? Why / why not?

It depends on which one.  I kind of decimated the entire universe in one of my short stories, wouldn’t want to live there.  Maybe I’d dig one of my superpowered universes.  I mean, superpowers.  Yeah!

If you could go back to the start of your writing career, what is the one piece of advice you’d give yourself?

Try a writing career first, then if you fail, get a shitty cheese job.  Don’t screw up and do it backward.

Do you listen to music when you write, and if so, what do you like?

I should, but I don’t.  Mostly because I have to write when I can find free time to do it.  So I don’t really plan my space so well.

What was one of the most surprising things you learned in creating your books?

I’m a very angry person and it all just flows out when I write.  Yup, angry.

Tell me three unique things about you.

I’m not the extrovert everyone thinks I am.  In fact, I prefer solitude to people these days.

One of my birds calls me by name.

I fear blue cheese.

Margret, thank you for participating in Galaxy of Authors!

Lawrence Oliver, Galaxy of Authors

Lawrence Oliver, Galaxy of Authors

Lawrence N. Oliver

‘Fucking robots.’ -Ben Corbin

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In the beginning…tell me what made you decide to start writing?

I’ve always loved fiction, especially science fiction and my imagination runs wild often to the point of distraction. Writing had always been something I enjoyed as a young person and I had wanted to pursue it as an adult but never made the time. One day I found myself unexpectedly off work for a few days so I was catching up on my reading (The Helmsman Series by Bill Baldwin). But as I tried to read I kept finding myself staring out of the window and thinking about another story, one I wanted to tell. So, I put down the book I was reading and I started writing.

Are there any authors or artists who influence(d) you?

Oh wow, Robert Heinlein, Frank Herbert, Tolkien, Burroughs, King, Koontz, McMurtry, Homer, Shakespeare (his stories, not the annoying Old English we were forced to read him in). Many more I’m sure …

Tell me about your book / series.

A soldier out of his time struggles to find closure at the loss of his wife. Earth’s new government presses him into service as an ambassador to our alien allies in a war against another alien species attacking Earth’s off world colonies and assets.

Having been replaced by robots and drones, veterans Ben Corbin and Sam Garrett go into business for themselves, towing derelict vessels and space junk out of the shipping lanes around Mars. Business was good, but a couple of malfunctioning service robots forced them to return to Earth for replacements. Aliens attacked the freighter they’d booked passage on, slaughtering and feeding on the crew and passengers. Only Corbin and Garrett managed to hold their own until they could hide in stasis pods. 200 years later Earth and her colonies, governed by the Commonwealth of Nations, are at war with a race of aliens known as the Nineteenth. Not with the Gar Rei Jhi who had attacked Corbin and Garrett so many years past. That war had been fought and humans lost. The Nineteenth is a new alien threat whose origins and motives are unknown. What information humans have on this new enemy comes from the uneasy alliance with the Gar Rei Jhi who’ve been fighting an even longer war with the Nineteenth. Though long ago, Corbin and Garrett’s history with the Gar Rei Jhi hasn’t been forgotten. They are to be ambassadors serving at the pleasure of the same aliens that attacked them. Thrust into a new age of engineered soldiers, interplanetary politics, and self-aware robots, Corbin has to quickly decide who he’s going to trust as he journeys back to the Mars colony. But his search for truth may come at the cost of his life, and the fate of the Commonwealth may rest on his decision.

WARNING: If you don’t like space battles, cyborgs, diverse flawed characters, aliens, AIs, mechs, robots or bad language this book may not be for you.

How many unpublished and half-finished books do you have?

The sequel to The Last Marines is in the self editing/ revisions phase and will hopefully be available by the end of the year. And I’ve got another WIP on the back burner along with the third novel in The Last Marines series.

What’s your opinion on the practice of ‘banning’ books?

Banning books is wrong as long as the book doesn’t provide dangerous information. I don’t mean ideas or themes that aren’t mainstream or that challenge established cultural norms etc. …By dangerous information I mean Boris’s Meth Cook Book or Dirty Bombs for Dummies. America was founded on the principle of freedom. Even if I don’t agree with everyone’s views, I will fight for their freedom to express them.

Tell me about a principal character in your book(s).

What makes them memorable? Norton. She’s a disabled Fleet Infantry veteran making her way as a VIP shuttle operator on Mars and making a few extra credits whenever she can even if she has to bend the law to get it done. Norton doesn’t take shit from the books’ MC or anyone except maybe her wife Eidnam.

Indie, or traditionally published – and why?

Indie. I like the freedom of independent publishing but honestly, I did try to go the traditional route at first and couldn’t find an agent that felt my manuscript was right for their list …

It’s said that to write well, you need to read a lot. What do you think?

I think everyone is different but that stimulation is often the father and mother of imagination. That said, I would stop short of saying you need to read in order to write well. As for myself if I had the time to read as much as I’d like I’d never get anything written. I still have a frick’n day job…

Tell me what you feel the worst, and the best, aspects of being an author are, and why.

The worst probably the marketing and the expense of hiring good quality support people like editors, proofreaders, cover designers. Though they are certainly worth the investment. The best part, other than being able to express my imagination and let it run wild at times, I’d have to say it is when other people love your story.

Are you a plotter, or a pantser? What do you think of the opposite approach?

If I had to pick one I’d say I’m a panster, just because I don’t really do an outline. I’m not afraid to use a rough draft like an outline and do major rewrites. I like to get it down and move on then come back and work out any details that may need ironing out. Again, everyone is different and sometimes I wish I was more of a planner where my writing is concerned. I may even explore trying to be just that in the near future. It’s funny really because in most other aspects of my life I always have a plan and a back up plan and a back up plan for the back up plan. Drives my wife nuts.

Do you hide any secrets in your books that only a few people will find?

Yes, oh yes.

Tell me about one favourite hobby or pastime that isn’t writing or reading.

I love 3 gun competitions, drawing and art in general.

What are you writing at the moment?

Revisions to The Last Marines sequel, book 3 in the series, and a zombie western.

What’s your opinion on the belief that indie books are badly edited and lower quality than traditionally published?

As an indie author that spent a considerable amount of money on editing, proofreading and cover design my knee jerk reaction to this question is pretty much “Who the hell said that? Get a rope.” Though in truth it is a fact but like most things this issue isn’t as black and white as some people claim. Of course, not all indie books are badly edited or low quality but many are. There are very few standards that have to be met to publish a book on Amazon but I’m pretty sure almost all traditionally published books have fairly high editing standards. Many indies don’t have the filters or financial resources that a traditionally published author has access to or lack the patience to save up to afford them. It’s the double edged sword that is Amazon, having come about as a result of the relatively cost effective print on demand technology that now exists. IMHO.

What is your favourite genre to write, and why?

Science Fiction/ Space Opera hands down. I honestly can’t tell you why for certain. I grew up watching science fiction and fantasy movies and TV. The first novel I read was The Hobbit, followed by The Foundation. Maybe it’s just all of the possibilities available when you have the freedom to build not only characters within known environments, with all the rules that entails, but entire cultures and worlds. Or it could just be because I think aliens, blasters and space fighters are really cool.

If you could, would you live in the world you’ve created? Why / why not?

Hmm… Damn. Certain aspects would be pretty cool, space flight, backwater terraformed frontier worlds, nanite healthcare plan, blasters, anti gravity (jetpacks), self aware robots … However, on the other hand, there would be the blood sucking aliens, cyborgs, AIs and self aware robots dominating the job market, compulsory military service to qualify for higher levels of citizenship and voting rights, government instituted nanite healthcare system, The Cutts (big thick aliens warriors with four arms and ten tentacles for legs) bent on destroying humans as they encounter them. Yeah… I’m gonna say yeah, I think I would.

If you could go back to the start of your writing career, what is the one piece of advice you’d give yourself?

Pay attention in English class, take some creative writing courses. Do more market research, make a better effort to spend more time writing.

Do you listen to music when you write, and if so, what do you like?

I mostly listen to one of my Pandora radio stations (see links below if you want to give them a listen). Either “Ollie Radio” (mix of 80s and current indie music mostly) or most of all “Ollie’s Epic Movie Scores” (scores from movies like ‘Gladiator’, ‘The Last of the Mohicans’, ‘Pirates of the Caribbean’, ‘Lord of the Rings’, etc… etc…) I find it is easier to concentrate without the lyrics but just as rousing.

What was one of the most surprising things you learned in creating your books?

That I didn’t know jack crap about writing a book … As I went on chapter length, fighting the urge to explain and info dumps were things I had to be mindful of and things my editor Amber Helt with Rooted in Writing help me with greatly.

Tell me three unique things about you.

I grew up in a small Texas town working on my grandfather’s ranch and for my father in the oil field.

I’ve been married for over 20 yrs, father to an autistic son (20) and a daughter (21).

I love art and worked closely with my cover designer to come up with cover that is pretty damn close to my own design sketches and ideas.

Lawrence, thank you for participating in Galaxy of Authors!

Unaltered and writing Irin

Unaltered and writing Irin

Unaltered and Irin Seviki

Unaltered was an interesting story to write, not least because, six months prior, I had absolutely no intention of writing a novella in the Cortii series. To add to that, Unaltered is written third person, like the rest of the series, but usually when I write third person I write from several viewpoints, and this novella is written purely from Irin’s perspective.

Yes, I’m a pantser. No, there is no cure.

In terms of reading order, Unaltered is set between Elemental Conflict and the upcoming fifth book in the series. Irin himself is a key character in Fighting Shadows, where he and Khyria first meet while Khyria’s on a recon assignment. However, aside from the fact that Irin and Khyria have a pre-existing relationship, and Irin trusts Cortiian competence to keep his hide in one piece, Unaltered is pretty much a stand-alone.

Irin’s also interesting to write from because he’s a human involved with the Cortii, and most of the series is the Cortii written from a Cortiian’s perspective. Because of that, there are things about the Cortii that he doesn’t know, and, because he’s not a complete idiot, knows he’d prefer not to know.

He’s also had, at least from a Cortiian perspective, a very sheltered life, which means that writing action scenes from his PoV provided some unique challenges. To put that in perspective, Irin’s reaction to a laser waved at him is closer to ‘huh, those look smaller in the shows’, than ‘shoot back!’.

Irin himself is the principal manager, when he can’t talk a sibling or cousin into doing it, of Seviki Equines and Exotics, which is a business that breeds exotic pets, including horses, for the wealthy of Central Worlds. Living on Central Worlds, the first four planets of humanity, is seen as a status symbol by various humanoid cultures. Space on ancestral soil is therefore at a premium, which makes the ability to own and house a large pet, such as a horse, a very visible ‘my credit balance is bigger than yours’.

Irin doesn’t actually care about Central Worlds status symbols, beyond the number of zeroes he can fleece them for, and among the status symbols he really, truly doesn’t care about is the whole ‘genetic purity’ discussion. Because the vast majority of the Federated Planets Alliance, and all of the more recent humanoid governments, are space-faring, almost everyone has had some modification made to their genes to make life a little easier – a tweak to make them more comfortable in artificial gravity, a tweak to let them tolerate lower oxygen levels…the list goes on. On Central Worlds, therefore, and elsewhere, being able to prove that your genes are free of modification is an elite status symbol.

Unfortunately for Irin, an accident of birth means that he actually is genetically ‘pure’, not that he’d ever given it much thought before Unaltered.

Much to his annoyance, his genes make him a person of interest on Central Worlds, and when he finally runs out of denial and creative avoidance, Khyria Ilan is the genetically impure mercenary he trusts to watch his back while he tries to deal with the fallout.

English, the ‘universal language’

English, the ‘universal language’

Bordering on English

I’m seeing a lot of noise online recently about English, the ‘universal language’. And it makes me laugh.

I invite these optimists to try travelling from York to London in the UK and ordering a Maccy D’s. Come to that, try asking if you can wear thongs into a restaurant in Newcastle and in Sydney. I guarantee two very different responses, but I’d only bother standing by with a camera for one of them.

This is because English has several oddities out of the gate. It’s spoken widely, and suffers from all the inconsistencies normal to wide geographical spread. Put a Scouser and a Texan together at an open bar without an internet translator and watch the fun.

English is built from a smattering of Celtic overlaid forcibly by Latin, in turn overlaid by Saxon and then Norman French, meaning it takes part of its vocabulary from the largely Germanic North, and a lot of it from the Romance languages to the South.

Have a look at some untweaked Chaucer (c. 1343 – 1400), the first person to actually write in English, rather than French or Latin. At that point in time, actually writing literature in English would be roughly comparable to someone now writing a work of philosophy in text-message shorthand…doable, but something of a freak of nature.

Whilom, as olde stories tellen us,

Ther was a duc that highte Theseus;

Of Atthenes he was lord and governour,

And in his tyme swich a conquerour,

That gretter was ther noon under the sonne.

Ful many a riche contree hadde he wonne,

What with his wysdom and his chivalrie;

He conquered al the regne of Femenye,

That whilom was ycleped Scithia,

And weddede the queene Ypolita,

And broghte hir hoom with hym in his contree,

With muchel glorie and greet solempnytee,

And eek hir yonge suster Emelye.

The Knight’s Tale

Certainly you can unfocus your brain a little, and stare at it, and you can make it out without too much trouble. If you have some grounding in Classic Mythology, you can cheat and fill in any blanks (cheat. There’s another good word, etymologically. ‘To escheat’, a shortening of Old French ‘escheat’.) If you feel particularly technical, you can even take a red and a green pen and highlight the words that are clearly Saxon in origin, and which are clearly Latin / French.

Let’s take one of the words there (just one, in the interest of having a post that doesn’t equal a full-length novel). Let’s look at contree. Obviously, modern English, ‘country’. Or you could say ‘nation’. Or, hang on, what about ‘county’? Doesn’t ‘county’ have anything to do with it? Starting to feel a twinge of sympathy for those who have to actually learn this language the hard way? I do. You’ve already got two completely different words meaning pretty much exactly the same thing and a third that looks really, really similar.

Among other oddities from its mixed heritage, English has nearly twice the vocabulary of most languages, with most estimates pinning it at somewhere near 1 million words. Given that the majority of English speakers actually commonly use about 5,000 words of that, and even a highly-educated university graduate only about 20,000…that’s still a lot of variation for a second-language speaker to try to master.

For example: fish is a plural noun. Except when it’s not. Anyone want to take a stab at why and when you can actually say fishes? What’s the difference between a belfry and a belltower? Come to that, which English-speaking populations can you insult by calling them a bellend, and which will just look at you blankly?

As practical choices go, picking English as the ‘universal language’ scores a resounding E for effort. It’s hard to pronounce, regional dialects vary wildly, and the vocabulary is, if possible, more enormous even than the number of grammatical irregularities.

Of course, as far as writers go, that makes English a whole bundle of fun with occasional streaks of psycho. You can do nearly anything in English. (Well, you all knew I was going to end up talking about writing.) You can turn up ten or so synonyms for pretty much any word you care to use (or not use. That’s what synonyms are for.) And if you care to dig yourself into regional slang for some character colour…well, the Urban Dictionary is a writer’s boon there. If you weren’t planning on slang to start with, you’ll almost certainly end up wanting some after ten minutes in there.  Not to mention if you put any two grammar nerds into a bar with a pitcher of beer, you can get five different opinions on something as basic as when and where to put a comma (Oxford commas, anyone?).

Basically, English as a universal language is a moderately shitty choice. Why do I blaspheme? Well, because language, at its most basic, and basic is really what you want as a universal interface, is a means to communicate easily and clearly. Yup, really. I can lose most native speakers in three sentences if I make the effort. English has weird pronunciation, which varies wildly depending on region. It has a massively complicated grammar structure. And don’t forget that huge, doubled vocabulary. As far as simple, clear, universal communication goes…well, some of the Eastern writing systems might, possibly, throw more of a wrench in the works, but only by a whisker.

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