Etymology Excavation: Quixotic

Etymology Excavation: Quixotic

Seems as if once you start a good thing, the ideas just keep rolling. Today’s excavation concerns the word ‘quixotic’.

It’s a fun dig. Let’s start off with the dictionary definition as used today, courtesy of the Cambridge English Dictionary: ‘having or showing ideas that are different and unusual but not practical or likely to succeed’.

The origin of the term dates back to 1605, and the work of fiction written by Don Miguel de Cervantes, El Ingenioso Hidalgo Don Quijote de la Mancha. It’s more commonly known in English as Don Quixote. It’s a pretty lengthy story, but the basic idea concerns a nobleman (you guessed it, Don Quixote) whose brain has slipped a few vital gears and who thinks he’s a knight in the chivalric tradition. Amongst his antics are included tilting at windmills, which he mistook for giants.

As a point of general trivia, he names his long-suffering horse ‘Rocinante’, also the name given to the Mars ship used by James Holden and his crew in the TV series ‘The Expanse’.

Quixotic, and quixotically, are words which I feel deserve more use than they get. They also have a wide range of definitions; I used the Cambridge one as it sums it up well, but the word can be applied for anything from ‘odd’ to ‘quirky’ to ‘flaky’ (in the sense of someone not to be relied on).

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).

Writing Myths: Slay the Dragon

Writing Myths: Slay the Dragon

Writing Myths that need slaying

I must write something other people will like and approve of.

No. A thousand times no. As Oscar Wilde put it: “You can always judge a man by the quality of his enemies.”  Write your truth. If it pleases everyone, chances are high you’re doing something wrong. Offend people. Make them think. Challenge their beliefs. Challenge your own. The world is too full of people tiptoeing carefully through their existences without ever standing up for themselves or what they believe in. If everyone is comfortable with your words, you’re using the wrong ones.

I must write at a level everyone will understand.

Don’t insult the intelligence of your readers. Don’t be complicit in the dumbing-down of society. Write to the level that your book demands and your characters dictate. If you have a story able to reach out and grab your readers by the balls, they will find themselves a dictionary if they have to. Don’t lessen your work or yourself to please the masses – because often the ‘m’ is silent.

I must write something that will sell.

Why? Are there writers who seriously go in expecting to get rich from their work? Write what pleases you, because the trending genre this month will have blown away with the autumn leaves next month. Write what pleases you, because forcing yourself to write what everyone else does will be a brutal exercise in boredom. If no one else is ever to read your magnum opus, you had best make certain it enthralls you. Be original. Be yourself. No one else can be.

Writing is a slog, a chore. Writing is like giving yourself homework every night for the rest of your life.

Writing is an adventure. Every time you pick up a pen or sit at a keyboard, you create a world that only you can; live for a while with the only people you’re willing to invite inside your head. Writing is an addiction and a cure. Writing is an antidote to the tedium of life that was the same today as it was yesterday, as it will be tomorrow. Writing should make your heart beat faster and the hair stand up on the back of your neck. Writing should be what gets you through the things you ‘have’ to do; the thing that wakes you up in the night with the next scene more alive in your head than the walls around you.

Steve Harrison, Galaxy of Authors

Steve Harrison, Galaxy of Authors

Steve Harrison

‘Every major literary work began with a blank page, so all writers begin each story on an equal footing with every great writer who ever lived.’

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

I wish I knew. I was in my late twenties and working in a boring office job when an idea occurred to me for a science fiction story. I quickly wrote it, looked up some magazine addresses and posted it off. It was accepted and I became addicted!

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

I was hooked from an early age on CS Forester’s Hornblower novels, which led me on to Dudley Pope, Alexander Kent and Patrick O’Brien, to whom a couple of people have kindly compared my writing style. Their novels certainly had a heavy influence on my published novel, TimeStorm. Other contemporary influences are Stephen King, Bernard Cornwell and Lee Child.

Tell me about your book.

Hornblower meets Jack Reacher

TimeStorm follows a British convict ship en route to Australia in 1795 as it miraculously survives a strange storm and limps into Sydney, where the convicts rebel and escape. But the year is now 2017…

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

I have one other finished book, the first of a proposed YA science fiction adventure series, called Blurred Vision, currently out with an agent, and I am halfway through a crime thriller.

Indie, or traditionally published – and why?

Traditional. I decided I would only publish if someone independent was willing to invest cash in my work. It took many years to sell TimeStorm, but I have no regrets and it was very satisfying when I signed a contract.

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

I don’t know if that’s true. For me, I read far more than I write and can’t imagine doing anything else. But, like all generalised statements about writing, I don’t think there are any limits to creativity or how a writer approaches or produces their work.

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

The best thing is living in a fictional world while writing. I find it very therapeutic to step outside the real world on a regular basis. The worst thing for me is actually starting to write, as I am a terrible procrastinator.

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

I’ve tried both and I’m a ‘kinda’ pantser these days, in that I don’t make any written notes. My ideas form in my mind and I run them through a process similar to watching a movie. It’s as though I see the story broadly from a high aerial shot and as the story comes together I slowly zoom in on the detail. Eventually, I have a completed ‘movie’ version of the story in my head and I write what I ‘see.’ I don’t have an opinion on other methods as the best one is the method that works for you or the particular work at hand.

What are you writing at the moment?

A crime thriller about a serial killer and the human organ trafficking trade.

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

Overall, I share that belief, though I have read several excellent self-published novels by authors who went the extra mile to hire highly professional editors, proof readers and cover artists to ensure their work was as good as any novel published by the majors. Traditionally published novels go through a rigorous process before being released and it’s easy to see from the first few pages of any novel if these processes are lacking. I like to read the preview pages of novels on Amazon and I see a lot of work that appears rushed and would have benefitted from additional editing.

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

None. If I have any writing ability today it’s because of all the mistakes I made along the way and I wouldn’t want my younger self to avoid any of them. I was quite stubborn and suspicious of writing advice (I still am!) and often tried to prove it wrong, particularly when people said ‘you must’ or ‘you can’t.’

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

I try to match music to my writing, so for TimeStorm, an epic and violent adventure, I listened to a lot of music by movie trailer specialists, Two Steps from Hell. Writing my current thriller, I am alternating between the wonderful TV soundtracks for Westworld and The Handmaid’s Tale during suspenseful moments and the soulful songs by Cigarettes After Sex in the quieter sections. I become obsessive when I hook into great music.

Tell me three unique things about you.

1) I spent 10 years trying to break into screenwriting and almost sold a Pixar-esque animated screenplay to Fox (a very exciting couple of weeks!). The script was also nominated for an Australian Writer’s Guild (Awgie) award.

2) I was a movie and extra here in Australia in the late nineties and early noughties and appeared in The Matrix, Moulin Rouge and Mission Impossible II, among many others. My left shoulder is prominent for more than 10 seconds in the racecourse scene in MI2!

3) I was partnered with a young Hugh Jackman in the chorus of a 1989 amateur musical production of Paint Your Wagon. It is widely understood among the rest of the cast that I made Hugh look and sound so good he became a major international star…

Steve, thank you for participating in Galaxy of Authors!

Robert Lee Beers, Galaxy of Authors

Robert Lee Beers, Galaxy of Authors

Robert Lee Beers

‘I haven’t a clue.’

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

I started in elementary school because it was fun and most of the things the teachers had me doing wasn’t.

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

Have you got room to list several hundred pages of names? Every author I read has influenced me to some degree. Off the top of my head I was say Heinlein, Campbell, Pratchett, DeChancie, Byrn, Foster, Eddings, McCaffrey, Stevenson, Dickens, Tolstoy…

Tell me about your series.

The funniest Supernatural Mystery series on the planet.

The Tony Mandolin Mysteries are an urban / noir fantasy series set in current San Francisco. As with most of the classic PI books, it is first person, told with much the same inflection found in Rex Stout’s Nero Wolf mysteries, except Stout didn’t have vampires, fairies, trolls and wizards in his cast.

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

None, actually. I am currently writing three and all are due to be published.

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

It is an evil, and it presupposes that parents should set aside their responsibility to the state. Frankly, it is part of a very real slippery slope that has manifested in far too many countries. I’d rather ban those who suggest book banning.

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

Let’s go with the primary guest star in the Tony Mandolin series, one Franklin Amadeus Jackson, Frankie to his friends. Frankie, portrayed superbly by the masterful Elliot Dash in the Graphic Audio audio books, is nearly 7 feet tall, weighs over 300 pounds and was a raging drag queen in the first book. He is also a gourmet cook, a crack shot, inhumanly strong. A pop culture sponge with a chameleonic personality. He has also saved Tony’s life a dozen times over in the series so far.

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

It’s true. The best writers have always been prolific readers. In reading you learn what to do and what not to do, if you have the capability of learning such things. Not all do, but then, not everyone can swim. I’m one of those.

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

The worst is the constant rejection, and the best is being accepted. Even the top-selling authors in the world experience this. You can have a thousand five-star reviews on a book and that single one-star is all you can think about. Beyond that, it is the creation process itself. Finishing a paragraph or a section of a story that just WORKS, all caps are intended, is one of the most satisfying feeling there is. Having to delete a couple of pages because you just read it and it is crap and you know it, is the other side of that coin.

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

I do both. My outlines are a series of words and phrases that tell me where I want to go. But more often than not, the characters or the story itself refuses direction, and I’ve learned to listen to the voices.

What are you writing at the moment?

A Scottish historical novel set in the time of the ‘45 right after the battle of Culloden dealing with the aftermaths of the Jacobite Uprising. It is called The Tartan and I should be finished with it in about two months.

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

When I stop finding traditionally published books full of typos and continuity errors I’ll tell you.

What is your favourite genre to write, and why?

Fantasy. I like the freedom of imagination it allows.

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

Not on your life. I’d mouth off to a troll and wind up a pink smear on the ground.

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

Do not waste all that time trying to find an agent.

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

I prefer instrumental. There is a YouTube playlist titled Epic Pirate Music which is my favorite.

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

That I was actually very good at it.

Robert, thank you for participating in Galaxy of Authors!

Rick Partlow, Galaxy of Authors

Rick Partlow, Galaxy of Authors

Rick Partlow

‘I began writing novels for publication because there weren’t enough novels being written in those genres that I wanted to read.’

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

I’ve been writing since I was a kid, and it’s always been a desire to tell the stories I wanted to hear that no one else was telling.  As an adult, I began writing novels for publication because there weren’t enough novels being written in those genres that I wanted to read.

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

The first and always the most influential was Robert Heinlein. His juvenile novels introduced me to SF as a child and I still reread them all periodically. After that, William Gibson and his cyberpunk novels and Walter Jon Williams were also big influences on me when I was younger.

Tell me about your book / series.

I have four series in all.

The first was a military SF trilogy called “Duty, Honor, Planet:” i. Duty Honor Planet  ii. Honor Bound  iii. The Line of Duty

This series is about a pair of young military intelligence officers who wind up rising quickly through the ranks as they confront what initially appears to be an alien invasion but winds up being a conspiracy rooted deep in the fabric of their society.

The remaining series all take place in the universe of the Human Commonwealth, and they share a common history but focus on different characters and situations.

The “Birthright” series focuses on Caleb Mitchell, born into a society of pacifist technological simplists on a religious agro-colony.  He winds up a biologically-enhanced Glory Boy commando fighting against the alien Tahni in a war that has dragged on for decades.

Glory Boy is a prequel that deals with his time in the military and service during the war.

Following that is the “Birthright” trilogy: i. Birthright ii. Northwest Passage iii. Enemy of My Enemy

The trilogy deals with Caleb and his friends, family and former Glory Boy teammates as they deal with a Corporate Council conspiracy to gain control of ancient alien technology.

After that is the “Recon” series, which is centers on Randall Munroe, the son and heir of a Corporate Council scion who abandons that life and changes his identity to enlist in the Recon Marines during the war with the Tahni in the first book. The rest of the series deals with his experience as a mercenary after the war, working initially for and then against the Corporate Council. i. Recon: A War to the Knife ii. Recon: A Wolf in the Fold iii. Recon: A Battle for the Gods iv. Recon: A Fight to the Death

My latest series began with a prequel that takes place during the war with the Tahni, a book called Last Flight of the Acheron, which tells the story of Sandi Hollande, the black-sheep daughter of a high-ranking Fleet Admiral, and Ash Carpenter, who chose the military over life as a low-level criminal in the Trans-Angeles slums.  They form a close friendship in the Academy and wind up serving together in a new command of small, fast-attack starships

I am currently working on the first book in the series about them taking place after the war, called Tales of the Acheron.

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

None.  All the books I completed are published.  I have about a dozen books with maybe 10-20,000 words done on them that I abandoned at that point, but I might go back and finish a couple of them.

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

Banning by who?  By governments?  In that case, I’m totally against it.  If you mean anything else by the term, I would need it clarified.

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

Caleb Mitchell of Glory Boy and the “Birthright” series is memorable in that he goes from being a boy brought up in an insulated, pacifist, religious society far away from more advanced civilization to willingly becoming a high-tech commando, and in doing so is willing to be exiled and shunned by his own people.  He repeatedly has to leave, perhaps forever, the home and people he loves in order to protect them.

Indie, or traditionally published – and why?

I tried to get traditionally published back in the mid to late 1990s.  I had an agent and she was shopping the first “Duty, Honor, Planet” and “Birthright” novels.  It didn’t work out and I basically gave up on writing for publication.  Then self-publishing on Amazon became a thing and once I put those books out as e-books for Kindle and sold 30,000 copies the first year, I never even considered submitting a book to a traditional publisher again.

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

I totally agree.  I read almost compulsively when I was a kid and I still try to read as much as I have time for.  It’s more difficult now, since writing takes up so much of my time.  But what I read as a child and a young adult shaped the writer I am now.

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

The best part is not having any set hours.  The worst part is also not having any set hours.  I write what feels like every spare moment and I do it till I reach my word count goal for the day and if that’s 1AM, then it’s 1AM.  I’m my own boss, but my boss is a slave-driving jerk.

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

I used to be mostly a pantser until last year, when I made a total conversion to plotter.  Prior to last year, I would plot maybe a chapter or three ahead at the most and generally let my characters guide me.  I still love doing that, and think it’s a much more fun and fulfilling way to write, but it takes way too long.  I averaged a book a year pantsing and they were invariably over 120,000 words each.  With tight, high-detail plotting, I can finish a 70-80,000 word book in a month and a half or less.

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

Sometimes, I’ll name a set of characters after something specific, like NFL QBs from the early 2000s or a cast of actors from a certain film.

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

I have spent far too much money and a lot of time pursuing wildlife photography.  I’ve been to the Yellowstone/Grand Teton area 17 times since 2006.

What are you writing at the moment?

I’m writing book number one in my new “Tales of the Acheron” space opera series.  It’s about two former war hero Fleet pilots who wind up on the run from the law, the Pirate World cartels and a vengeful bounty hunter.

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

I think that a certain percentage of ALL books, indie or traditionally published, are badly edited and low quality.  There are just MORE indie books than traditional ones so you get to see more of them.  I think the most badly written and badly edited ones never get read by anyone anyway.  But I’ve found typos and editing mistakes in books by Tom Clancy and Stephen King.

What is your favourite genre to write, and why?

Science fiction in general and military SF and/or space opera in particular.

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

I’d definitely live in my Commonwealth universe. It has its drawbacks, but it’s wild and wide open and has some cool worlds in it, like Demeter, where they’ve established a huge nature preserve for re-engineered extinct mammals.

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

I would have kept writing after the first two books, so that when the time came that I self published on Amazon and had amazing initial success, I could have followed it up with sequels immediately and not taken a year to get the first one out and lost all that momentum.

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

Sometimes.  It varies, but I find Awesome Mix Volume 1 from the first Guardians of the Galaxy movie is very inspiring.

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

How easy it is to write once you’ve established good writing habits and gotten practice at them.

Tell me three unique things about you.

1) I still have my wisdom teeth, my tonsils and my appendix.

2) I’ve been to all but 4 US states, but only two foreign countries.

3) I’ve run two marathons.

Rick, thank you for participating in Galaxy of Authors!

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