Tuesday, July 10, 2012


The other day on NPR, Diane Rehm rebroadcast a conversation with the editors of The Dictionary of American Regional English (DARE). The fifth and final volume of this massive work was published in January, but I’d missed this interview. It became another “driveway moment.” You know, those shows or stories that are so interesting you sit in your car to hear the end of it. Except my husband and I weren’t in our driveway. We were at a rail trailhead, and we left the radio on and our car doors open while we hoisted our bikes down from the roof rack. 

Now, I could listen to a discussion of language shifts and regional slang for hours. It’s just so fascinating to watch English evolve. What do you call meat or other fillings in bread? A sandwich, sammidge, sangwich? If the filling is in a roll, do you call it a hero, sub, hoagie, torpedo, grinder, spunky? Of course, hubby and I wanted to call in with the little quirks we’ve come across—“all” used to mean “all gone” in Pennsylvania Dutch country, or the variations of “ayuh” (yeah) in New England. My grandfather’s dramatic pronunciation of “Gawd.” Or the odd Mennonite custom of dropping “to be” in phrases like “the car needs fixed.” Even my DIL’s addition of “the” to road numbers: the 309, the 202.  

Ever since My Picture Dictionary dropped into my five-year-old hands, I’ve loved dictionaries. I often get carried away when I go to look up a word, and find myself five columns down from where I started. I never throw one away, even when I buy an updated one; I still have my dad’s big old Webster’s from 1949. The gold title on the binding is nearly gone, and the dark blue fabric has faded to gray, but I won’t let it go. It carries the scents of my early home, the memory of my father’s big rough hands turning the fragile pages, and the mystery of words. 

Earlier this summer, a friend gave me a wonderfully strange lexicon: The Dictionary of Phrase and Fable, by the Rev. E. Cobham Brewer, LL.D. The version my friend found at a yard sale is a 1978 facsimile of the 1894 edition, complete with random ink blots and lacunae. Given the good reverend’s interest in religion and literature, it includes many entries on assorted heresies and often goes into detailed discussions of minor characters in classic literature. But there are also some colorful terms and phrases from ordinary life: going by the marrow-bone stage, i.e. walking. (This expression is listed under “Bayard,” a horse of incredible swiftness, and is an alternative to the ironic “ride bayard of ten toes.”)

Beyond its obvious value in deciphering outdated or archaic terms and characters, Phrase and Fable provides a fascinating insight into what constituted the world of a well-educated Englishman in the late nineteenth century—a thorough knowledge of classical Greek and Roman literature, plus Moliere, Milton, Shakespeare, Scott. The book is also invaluable for tracing the origins of words—though sometimes the origins Brewer gives are suspect. Take, for instance, London, which he claims comes from the Celtic Luandun, City of the Moon. Two lines later, he admits “it would take a page to give a list of guesses made at the derivation of the word London.” So dip into this dictionary with a box of salt (skepticism) at hand. 

Above all, Phrase and Fable is a glimpse into the inquisitive, eclectic mind of a man of his times. I would love to eavesdrop on a conversation between him and another great scholar of language, J.R.R. Tolkien. Wouldn’t you? 

Either DARE or Phrase and Fable would make a wonderful gift for any writer. Put them on your wishlist and see what happens.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Seven lines from Julie Eberhart Painter

From time to time I'll post a few lines from a new or upcoming book. Today it's seven lines from page seven of Medium Rare, by Julie Eberhart Painter. Enjoy!

To be released in December from Champagne Books, MEDIUM RARE the sequel to KILL FEE, Book of the Year 2011, by Julie Eberhart Painter

            Celeste Holler had accumulated a large following since she hung her shingle out in the town of Cassadaga, a Mecca for psychics. Thank goodness no one knew about Preacher Barney's upcoming trip. He was only doing it for his co-workers' own good; he'd check her out, and expose the fraud.
            What a weird place, Cassadaga was. He’d never forget the first time he drove out there to offer his spiritual comfort to his hospice family. Why would anybody go there if they didn't have to? On the other hand, the predictions that she talked about were coming true. He tried not to think about what this Celeste woman might discover about him, but he had to know if she had him figured out.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Guest blog: January Bain

Please welcome January Bain, author of Forever Man, released today by Champagne Books (www.champagnebooks.com). January is a talented new writer, and I'm delighted to have her here today.

Hi Everyone!

I am very pleased to be visiting Nikki’s Blog today to talk about writing and my novel, Forever Man being released by Champagne Books this month. It’s the first in the Forever Series.
My name is January Bain and I love to write. There, I’ve confessed my addiction! And now my first book is about to be released and I would dearly love to share my storytelling journey with you. It all began a couple of years back when I thought…
“What if you had been given the gift of healing and could save those you loved? And furthermore, discovered you could save the one you love from a vampire’s kiss. There is a catch, of course; the cost of such a healing could mean your own death…
Ellie Hightower is discovering such gifts in my first novel, Forever Man. She is telepathic, young and bright and has been running from these new found gifts all the way to Nome, Alaska where she encounters the man of her dreams, Mike Stone, and an ancient evil force out to take him away from her. Will having goodness and light on her side be enough to save them from Katrianna, a newly resurrected vampire that looks to enslave Mike in her nefarious web?
To find out the truth you will need to read, Forever Man.”

Muse behind Forever Man:

Where did the idea come from? I remember it as clear as if the moment had just happened: I was watching The Green Mile, and was mesmerized by the idea that the gentle giant, imprisoned unfairly in jail for a crime committed by an another, could heal others by taking on their illness and then just letting the evil flow back into obscurity by exhaling through his lungs. I coveted that gift with every fiber of my being. I had just lost two beloved brothers to cancer and had to stand by and watch it happen. My heroine, Ellie Hightower, was going to have it so much better than me! She was going to have the gift of healing and save those she loved. I know why I write romantic stories—the guaranteed happy ending.

It’s been an interesting journey, this getting a book polished and ready to be published. Though the learning curve has been pretty steep, I have had the blessing of working with great people who have made the journey a whole lot easier. I wish the same blessing on all aspiring writer’s out there!

First Excerpt from FOREVER MAN:


Pure evil waited, hushed and cold in the perfect darkness. The steady drip, drip on the coffin lid above was soundless next to the crashing waves of the sea. But the creature within was aware and knew what the substance was: life-giving nourishment.

The blood was pooling, seeking a way into any tiny fissure that it could search out with thin hungry fingers. The resurrection was painstaking. Each life-giving drop dripped onto the needy beast which absorbed each molecule like a monstrous sponge as it built up, layer by layer. The vampire waited patiently—certain of its imminent resurrection.

After all, it had already waited centuries, what were a few more hours to recover what had been lost.

Excerpt Two:

While I waited for her to return I looked out the window, admiring the view of snow-peaked mountains when I heard the screeching of brakes and a thud, then realized someone had hit a dog with a half ton truck right in front of the restaurant. The driver, a young woman in obvious distress, jumped out and cradled the animal’s head in her lap. In an instant I turned and rushed for the stairs, taking them two at a time.
As I reached the woman she looked up at me with stark pleading in her eyes. “I didn’t see him! Please, I need help!”
Crouching down beside them, I carefully laid my hands on the whimpering dog. It looked like a husky, probably a sled dog. He or she was still breathing, but it was labored and loud. I could also see blood on its soft white fur. My heart instantly melted and reached out to the poor creature with its pain-filled, whiskey-brown eyes that seemed to beg me to do something. Despite the gut-wrenching plea, I felt helpless, sheer happenstance had brought this poor animal to this end and I had no power to save it from its fate.
Hesitantly, I reached my hands out and laid them on the poor dog’s head and its eyes seemed to tell me that it knew its fate. Tears flowed and the image of the dog blurred. I felt its pain as my own as I closed my eyes in sheer anguish.
Please God, let this beautiful creature be okay. Suddenly, something came alive inside me like a dam bursting its banks, and a great tidal wave of energy flowed through me from my very core. It was so strong it made me shake and my legs, cramping in the crouch, almost gave way.
A surge of pure power seemed to drive through my hands into the dog as I concentrated my thoughts on it and then all I could see and feel was hot, white light surrounding me for a few brief incredibly thrilling seconds. The light blinded me, its power as strong as the noonday sun. A sense of pure aliveness electrified me, as if I was at the pinnacle of my strength and could rise up and fill the world with goodness and healing. Then, just as suddenly, the floodgates in my mind closed and the white hot energy retreated back into my hands that began to shake violently with the excess energy.
The sensation left as abruptly as it had come and I fell back exhausted from the effort. The dog whimpered, shook itself and sat up. It looked at the two of us as if nothing had happened, its brown eyes shining and its tail wagging as if it didn’t even remember the last few minutes of its life.
The woman, her eyes huge in her round face, looked at me with complete wonder. “How could this be? One minute I thought it was dying, then you came along and now it’s up and fine? It doesn’t make any sense.” The woman shook her head, unwilling to believe her own eyes.
I knew exactly what she meant. Under the sense of complete exhaustion I was now aware of lurked the feeling that the world had slid sideways and then realigned itself in a new configuration.
Standing up, I felt immediately light-headed and woozy and stumbled forward from severe vertigo, catching myself from falling just in time.
“I don’t know—I guess it wasn’t—as hurt as you thought—it must have just been stunned.” I tried to put a sensible spin on recent events, my tongue feeling wooden and clumsy in my mouth. My slurred words made me sound drunk or slow, I realized from a muddled distance, my voice echoing in my head.
“But didn’t you see the bright light just before the dog got up?” The woman was not to be deterred from her new sense of wonder.
I knew I had to get away, but an overwhelming sense of fatigue was slowing down my reaction time and was it was like being forced to move in deep, heavy water.
“Who are you?” The woman asked, her tone blunted by suspicion now.

Best regards,
January Bain

The Forever Series
Forever Man
Forever Woman
Forever Clan