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Nassau, Bahamas – where the hunters base

Nassau, Bahamas – where the hunters base

Nassau, Bahamas – base for the Artemis hunter team

At the beginning of Death is for the Living, the Artemis team is based out of Nassau, in the Bahamas. It’s a nice central location, and a thriving city, which provides supplies, and much-needed cover, as well as a large enough marina complex that a yacht moving in and out won’t attract much notice.

The Bahamas are actually very pretty, but offer very unusual sailing conditions. With shallow seabeds and low-lying islands, it’s not the first place I’d take a deep-keeled yacht like Artemis, but in terms of finding tourists for cover, it’s a popular destination – and, as we know, Artemis isn’t just there to look pretty.

Nassau, Bahamas mapFor those of you wondering where the hell the Bahamas are, exactly, here’s a map. You can find Nassau without too much trouble, due East of the tip of Florida and North of Santiago de Cuba.

You’ll see the whole area is a mess of little islands and sandbars, which makes for gorgeous blue-green water, really nervous watching of the depth-sounder, and a lot of white sand beaches.

Because vampire clans like a large, transient population, the Bahamas are a prime area for them. Violent crime in Nassau is high, meaning that a few disappearances don’t raise too many eyebrows. Yachts move through the Bahamas in numbers, especially in winter, and liveaboards vanish all the time – either intentionally dropping off the map, or through accidents.

Due to the presence of vampires in the Cays, Artemis was based there semi-permanently to watch and hunt, and was supplemented by the presence of the wise-woman, Mama Gale, a magic user of some power and influence – at least until a routine raid went startlingly sideways.

However, don’t let me put you off the Bahamas. They’re a lovely place to visit – especially in daylight.

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).

Invocation error

Invocation error

Invocation error

Whichever idiot said magic was a shortcut should try powdering bulrushes; I swear I laminated my sinuses with them after the first few minutes.

Error: you have cast an undefined invocation.

“Told you the pentagram was too wiggly,” Toluk muttered. I glared in his general direction. The damned neon error message that had engraved itself on my retinas meant that I didn’t have a precise directional lock, but I did my best to sight back along that self-righteous comment.

“You were the ass who said clockwise, schmockwise.”

Frankly, anytime I actually need the blood of a real virgin for something, Toluk’s the one I’m going to use. With that attitude, no way he gets laid. Not to mention, I’m pretty sure I’d have queues of volunteers to hold him down.

Anyway, the decidedly icky topic of Toluk’s virginity aside, I wasn’t any closer to Frogs in the Bogs. The way this invocation was going, I might just about manage to give someone with a particularly bad case of diarrhea a mild French accent for half an hour.

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.

NaNoWriMo – this year’s a ‘no’ on National Novel Writing Month

NaNoWriMo – this year’s a ‘no’ on National Novel Writing Month


So why am I being so boring? At this time of year, it sometimes looks as if every writer across the world is gearing up for National Novel Writing Month, which is awesome.

For them as aren’t writers or haven’t come across NaNoWriMo before, the NaNoWriMo challenge is to write 50,000 words through November, which averages out to about 2,000 words a day. It’s an annual thing, with regional, national and international support, social media pushes, and every bell and whistle you can think of, and it’s a great way for people to set a writing goal and have millions of other people inspiring them to stick to it.

I participated in 2014 and won (defined as getting 50K words down in November), and I now have about 66K of an urban fantasy novel sitting on my hard drive. NaNo 2014 got me to actually write most of it, which is the idea. However, because of the way I prefer to write (write when I can, do at least a prelim edit as I go, end up with something almost reasonable by ‘Draft 1 complete’), NaNo and my writing style are basically incompatible.

I haven’t dared open that manuscript since 2014, because I know it’s a horrible hurrah’s nest that will take most of a year to edit – assuming it isn’t quicker to simply take the bones of the story, cut my losses, and start over.

So, while I’m going to be cheering for my friends who are participating this year, I’m going to stay out, focus on the upcoming launch of my new urban fantasy, Death is for the Living, and not kill myself ‘just getting words down’ that I won’t have time to work on the way I like to.

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