Quiz, Q and A, Goodreads, and Toponyms

I’ve been working over the past week through various channels to prepare the way for the swiftly-approaching publication of The Star Shard. It’s an exciting time!

As part of this initiative, I’ve set up an author page on Goodreads. If you don’t know about the site, this is an unabashed plug for it! Believe me, I’m not a fan of popular Internet time-drains. But I think most of you would agree with me that Goodreads rises above the morass. If you love to read, the site is worth checking out. It’s free, it’s easy to sign up for, and it’s a great way to connect with people who like the same kinds of books you do — or simply to find out about books that you may not have encountered yet. In the first twenty-four hours after I got onto the site and started rating books I’ve enjoyed and marking books I’d like to read, an acquaintance of mine (a friend of a friend) noticed one of the books I’d tagged and was delighted to discover it — he hadn’t known it existed, but he’d been wishing it did. That’s one way the site can work.

Anyway, I’ll end the commercial there. If you’re interested, you can explore the wonders for yourself. I just wanted to bring a couple things to your attention:

1. I wrote a quiz on Dragonfly that (I think) is a lot of fun. It has 13 questions, and some are apparently trickier than I thought — last time I looked, no one had gotten a perfect score. If you’ve read Dragonfly and would like to test your knowledge of the book — or even if you’d like to enjoy the questions and multiple-choice answers, which I had a GREAT time coming up with — then I’d encourage you to get onto Goodreads and take the quiz! I think the best way to find it is to look up Dragonfly on the site, click on the book, and if you scroll down on the book’s page, you’ll find the quiz.

2. Also on Goodreads, I’m leading a Q&A session from now until the end of January. I seeded it with four discussion threads, but discussion members can introduce new ones. If anyone is at all inclined, this is something I’d greatly appreciate your help with! I’m trying to generate a buzz for the new book’s release. If you can spare a few minutes to drop by and ask me even one question, that would help! If people start participating, I think it could get quite interesting. To find the discussion, either search for me on Goodreads or click on my name wherever you see me listed on the site, and on my page, (again) if you scroll down, you should come to the discussion; then just click on the topic you want to follow. If you’re able to help out with this, thank you very much!

Finally, let’s talk about some interesting words. (Yes, this is a groink, a major change of subject.)

I’ve been thinking lately about the phenomenon of toponyms, those words in our language that began as the names of places (topos is the Greek word for “place”). For example:

solecism — This has come to mean “an ungrammatical combination of words in a sentence; also, a minor blunder in speech”; “something deviating from the proper, normal, or accepted order”; or “a breach of etiquette or decorum.” But did you know that the word comes from the ancient Cilician city of Soloi, where “a substandard form of Attic was spoken”? So a soloikos, an inhabitant of Soloi, was a “speaking-incorrectly-one.”

gasconade – “bravado, boasting” — This word has come from the Gascony region of southwest France, bordering Spain; the Gascons were apparently known for boasting and exaggerating their successes. The word became common in English in the 1700s.

Cimmerian – “very dark or gloomy; stygian” — The Cimmerians were a mythical people “described by Homer as dwelling in a remote realm of mist and gloom.” Another source I found adds that this land was “in the west” (from the Hellenic point of view), and that the Cimmerii (the people there) were nomadic and were mentioned by Herodotus.

laconic – “using or involving the use of a minimum of words; concise to the point of seeming rude or mysterious” — I remember once reading a great story about the origin of this word. When the enormous Persian army came to the gates of the Spartan city of Laconia, the Persian envoy, in an attempt to get the Spartans to surrender, yelled: “If we take this city, we will kill all the men and lead the women and children away as slaves!”

The Spartan general returned the one-word answer: “If.”

As the story goes, the Persians were unable to conquer the city, and they eventually withdrew.

[The definitions I've written above are from my Webster's New Collegiate Dictionary.]

What got me thinking about toponyms was good old Dictionary.com, which led me to a couple of these. So, yeah, I guess this is another commercial! In the brief time I’ve been receiving Dictionary.com’s free daily word, I’ve written down several ideas for use in books and stories. I would highly recommend the word-a-day to writers and to anyone who loves words!

I’ll close with a couple more cool ones:

Words such as “sense” and “sensibility,” which have a common root, are paregmenons.

And the shape of a 20-sided die (a 20-sided polyhedron) is an icosahedron.

Yes, I get a little crazy when I haven’t written fiction for too long! I can feel the charge building . . . it’s going to arc any day now, and we’re going to have some lightning!

30 Responses to Quiz, Q and A, Goodreads, and Toponyms

  1. Binsers says:

    I am impatiently awaiting my copy of Dragonfly to arrive. My computer won’t let me italicize that . . . sorry! I will take your quiz after I read it! I have a bunch of my books in my “to read” pile after reading your blog. When I see a flash to the east I will know that Fred has started writing some new fiction!

    • fsdthreshold fsdthreshold says:

      Cool, Binsers! Thank you very much for ordering Dragonfly! I truly hope you’ll love it! And I’m glad you’ve found a lot of good books to read after reading through the blog (by the way, I’m grateful that you’ve been doing THAT, too! Someday I’d like to go back and re-read this blog from the beginning — I’ll bet there are a lot of great exchanges that I’ve forgotten all about)!

      It’s time now to pass along a trick that one or another of us periodically passes along to people who want to italicize in their comments! What you need is the only bit of HTML that I know — so here comes 100% of my HTML knowledge:

      To italicize a word, phrase, or entire passage in your comments, put your insertion point immediately before the part you want to set — I mean immediately before, touching it. Then type the symbol that looks like a less-than sign, followed immediately by a lower-case i, followed immediately by a greater-than sign. Immediately following (touching) the part you want to italicize, type the less-than sign followed by / followed by a lower-case i followed by a greater-than sign. Don’t add any spaces within the commands. Do that, and you’ll be italicizing with the best of them!

      • Binsers says:

        It came today! I am hoping that my bedside table can hold up under another book and not go crashing to the floor! Boy – it is sure complicated to italicize something. I am afraid to try . . .

      • fsdthreshold fsdthreshold says:

        You did it fine! What’s worse than doing it is trying to find a way to type an explanation of how to do it without the system interpreting symbols as code and doing all sorts of crazy things to the comment! I had to rewrite that explanation about five times until I found an innocuous way to do it. That’s why it seems so complicated, I think. :-)

        I am really excited that you now have a copy of Dragonfly on your bedside table! Thank you!

    • Shieldmaiden says:

      Hi Binsers, You did it! I couldn’t figure it out without actually seeing it done, which is impossible on the blog because the signs disappear when you try to show them. Fred: Your explanation was great! In the past I also retyped again and again when trying to explain it. I ended up by saying to use the greater and less than arrows above the comma and period. Then illustrating by substituting the arrows with parenthesis so it could be seen.
      The italics code: (i) =ON and (/i) =OFF (i)Italicize(/i)

      Back to Binsers again: I am excited that your copy of Dragonfly came! It is a fantastic book. Sounds like your bedside book queue is quite full :-) If it is ever in need of a reload there were a couple of great books posts a long while back. Fred did a Books Parts I & II but you may have already seen them when you found the blog? They’re some of my favorite archival blog posts, and I like to look them up for book ideas. I am still trying to get to many of the books on those lists. Here are the links if you haven’t gotten to them yet:
      Books: http://fredericsdurbin.wordpress.com/2009/05/09/books/
      Books, Part 2: http://fredericsdurbin.wordpress.com/2009/05/15/books-part-2-freds-lists/

      I am going to Goodreads now to search out the Dragonfly quiz. Wish me luck, it was a couple of Halloweens ago when I read Dragonfly, maybe it’s time to read it again.

      P.S. Even though the contest is absolutely, totally, and completely OV-ER and I know I said “last one” like a ton of times already… I just have one more. Really this time, it’s the last, last one. I keep trying to think about a name that would represent the winged aspect of these gargoyles. So, I hereby declare the names Upup and Away be admitted for consideration. Not really, as I know that the contest is at an end, closed, shut, finished, completed, concluded, expired, done. But I can’t stop thinking about the little winged fellas with their tongues sticking out! Lick and Stick? Really, done this time.

      • fsdthreshold fsdthreshold says:

        Heh, heh, heh! “Upup and Away”! I really like those!

        I hope you were able to find the Dragonfly quiz! To find it, click on the book’s title or cover image, and when you get to the page for the book, scroll down. The quiz is down in the right margin near the bottom of the page. A couple of the questions are a little challenging, but I hope you’ll like the answer-choices — I really had fun with those!

        Here’s an example of what we’ve been discussing in the Q&A session on Goodreads. I would still appreciate the help of anyone reading this blog who is also on Goodreads — stop in and ask a question! (“What is the airspeed velocity of a swallow?”)

        “Hi, Jason, and thank you for the kind words! Yes, certainly the chance to go into other worlds was the big draw reading held for me as a kid. So, let’s see; if we’re excluding the three authors I’ve already mentioned in this thread . . . There is a children’s book called My Father’s Dragon, by Ruth Stiles Gannett, with enchanting illustrations by Ruth Chrisman Gannett. It’s actually the beginning of a series, but I’ve only read the first book, which stands alone quite well. It takes you into the unexplored jungle of Wild Island, accessible only by a long sea voyage to the nearby island of Tangerina, then by hopping across a treacherous chain of ocean rocks. The book comes with a map, and the pictures make the jungle look like such a mysterious and exotic place; all that, combined with the boy’s adventures in trying to reach and rescue a baby dragon, held me spellbound as a young reader, and it’s been an influence on my writing ever since. For many of the same reasons, I’ve loved every incarnation of King Kong, though that’s not really a book — but that wild, faraway island — now with the added dimension of prehistoric monsters and a gigantic, carefully-barred gate!

        “I loved Edgar Rice Burroughs’ Caspak trilogy: The Land That Time Forgot, The People That Time Forgot, and Out of Time’s Abyss. Arthur Conan Doyle’s The Lost World. Pierre Boulle’s Planet of the Apes. Gaston Leroux’s The Phantom of the Opera, particularly for the Phantom’s lair, descending in level after stygian level beneath the Paris Opera House. Maurice Sendak’s Where the Wild Things Are took me to another wild, inviting world as a very young reader — and the charm of that book is that it shows you that such worlds are accessible right from your own room, that they can provide comfort and “escape” in our unhappy times. As I grew up, Peter S. Beagle in The Last Unicorn, Hope Mirrlees in Lud-in-the-Mist, Joss Whedon in his TV creation of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Steven Millhauser in Enchanted Night and in his short fiction . . . I think all these are examples of master world-building — worlds that are internally consistent and superbly inviting. I’m sure I’m forgetting ten of my favorites for every one I’ve mentioned!”

      • Binsers says:

        Hey Shieldmaiden, thanks for the links to the book lists. I love stuff like that and am only up tp March 2009 on my reading of the blog. I have really enjoyed reading your posts and also getting know Fred and his band of merry friends. I also ordered a copy of Lud in the Mist and it is on my bedside table. If only I didn’t have to work and could read all the day long . . .

      • Shieldmaiden says:

        Thanks Daylily and Morwenna!

        Binsers: How cool that you’ve tackled the reading of the Blog from its beginning. Both Morwenna and I did the same thing when we found it. But when I read it the Blog Archive was very much smaller than it is now. I think it only took me till about Christmas to catch up and I started in September and read every night.

        I hear you on the, if only we could be reading all the day long! I think I read Lud in the Mist in May, and it was a great time to read that book in. I hope you will let us know how you like it when you’re finished? I still owe a long awaited review to Fred, maybe after you’ve read it we can have a small chat about it here on the Blog? (I haven’t forgotten Fred, ha ha)

        When I first started following the Blog there weren’t as many gals, but somehow I think it has evened out. I love the group here and even though I don’t know you all personally, it is a great place to gather with friends! And to Mister Snowflake: thanks for always finding me when I tend to fade away. Sorry I haven’t been here much lately. I will be sticking around!

  2. Daylily says:

    Toponyms . . . I had never really thought about them. Apparently, there are a vast number of words derived from place names, including a sizable number of element toponyms, such as americium, scandium, and germanium. Who knew that the name “magnesium” was derived from the Magnesia prefecture in Thessaly, Greece? One of my favorite toponyms: Bronx cheer!

    • Chris says:

      I find it hard to compare a word derived from a place name to a discovered item named in honor of its place of discovery.

      But Americium is fun to talk about anyway. Glenn Seaborg (one of the co-discoverers of Plutonium) was also co-discoverer of Americium (Am on the periodic table).

      Americium is derived from plutonium or uranium. And there is some in most houses in America. A tiny chunk of radioactive Americium (there are no non-radioactive isotopes of Americium) is used in “ionization smoke detectors”, which are a quite common form of smoke detectors sold.

      Please, carry on with the toponym discussion. I certain do not wish to shanghai this discussion into chemistry.

  3. jhagman says:

    I thought Gascony was famous for swordsmen, characters in literature like d’Artagnan and Cyrano de Bergerac are Gascons- also (for you military history buffs) the very real Blaise de Monluc. With Monluc he started in life with only a sword, and ended up a Marshal of France.

    • Chris says:

      On my visit to Paris last year for work I noted that the French are an _awful_ lot like us Americans. Paris and suburbs are far dirtier than most northern European cities, the people are historically obsessed with their own language, and the place is LITTERED with giant monuments to French military victories.

      I think the French and Americans have a tough relationship because we are TOO MUCH ALIKE.

      So when one talks about saber rattling and bravado boasting I am only surprised that there is a French-related toponym _but not an American_ analogue.

      Except, of course, we actually DO kick *** and take names all over the world whether the ***es needed kicking or names needed taking. Which is why we are so universally loved, like the French.

  4. What we have here is a thinly-veiled attempt by Chris to spark an outraged Francophobe rant from Mr. Brown Snowflake, the resident hater of all things French. Not gonna happen … which is like French military victories, the last one of any significance was in 1806.

    • Chris says:

      I found France to be a mixed experience. Some incredible history and just amazing in general, but it was also the low point for me and “customer visits” (we scientists seldom make “customer visits” so these are rare for me).

      I was accompanying a person from the paper company we are working with to a visit to one of our French customers for our press. The customer was very unhappy about a number of things and I was the latest new face in front of him.

      I attempted to explain that I understood his frustration and he was perfectly in the right to feel as he did, but that my job was as formulation chemist on the paper…but even before I could get the whole sentence out the French customers glares at me and sneers (as only the French can) and says “I know about your job….” (Imagine “job” in italics there…as it was definitely implied).

      We did everything we could to make the guy happy and it seemed we had made some good inroads. The next week another rep from my company went there and got much the same treatment.

      Then several months later I was scheduled at the last minute to change my trip at the last minute to visit that customer again with some hopefully helpful information. The night before Francoise and I were supposed to drive from Brussels to Paris Francoise calls me and says “Olivier said we shouldn’t come tomorrow.” Some of the folks at the customer were so angry with the company I work for (not with me) but the company I work for that they didn’t want to even SEE a person from that company. They told Francoise to tell me it wasn’t anything personal against me, but they were just so angry they didn’t want to see anyone from my company. Thus rendering a relatively large amount of last-minute work that Francoise and I had done pointless.

      In my annual review I was told that the customers I had interacted with were largely quite impressed with me and liked it when I visited them, but this was not one of those customers.

      I don’t think the French like me. So say whatever you want about them, Brown.

      What I did NOT experience in France was the classic idea that they are all snotty to Americans. Almost all of the other French people I interacted with were very, very nice to me. And they spoke english to me as well which was nice!

      • Chris says:

        I should point out that in the above story “Olivier” was NOT the guy who was nasty to me…that was another member of the company that wasn’t happy with us. Olivier was actually quite nice to me.

      • Binsers says:

        I think most people have very strong feelings about France one way or another. I have often felt like they are a recalcitrant child. I love France. I was a French major in college (Language and literature – also business major so that dad would pay for my college) and spent time at school in Aix an Provence. Way back in the 80′s, I discovered that if you could swear like a sailor and treat Parisians like dirt, then they were very kind and helpful. I have said things in French that I would NEVER say in English! The night before I was to come home, all of my luggage was stolen from my hotel near the opera. Fortunately for me I had my camera, all my film and my passport on my person and that is what I carried home to Minnesota. My dad had come over and we traveled throught Europe for a month after school was out. I will never forget the heated discussion at the hotel between the hotal staff, the police and myself with my dad tugging on my sleeve after each exchange -” What did you say? What did he say? What did you say?” Finally I had to tell him to please BE QUIET and I would explain it all once we were done yelling at each other! Mu husband and I also went to Paris for our 20th wedding anniversary back in 2006. He was very skeptical when I said that we would be spending a lot of time in cemeteries. They are my very favorite part of Paris. He now is in full agreement with me. For peace and beauty, there is nothing like a Parisian cemetery. The Parisians were so kind during this visit. I was very surprised. They also spoke English the moment they heard my husband speaking English. The food. The wine. The art. The old men playing boules in the park. C’est la vie!

  5. jhagman says:

    Actually I don’t think the French are like us at all! The only times they tried to behave like us they ended up being a part of the Third Reich, or fighting Battles like Dien Bien Phu.

  6. jhagman says:

    Oh, Monsieur Snowflake, some important French Victories after 1806, The Battle of the Marne 1914, and Verdun 1916, if they had lost the consequences would have been the German Reich winning WWI.

      • jhagman says:

        Ahem,,,Monsieur Snowflake, in 1914 the BEF was a SPEEDBUMP to Von Moltke’s Armies, and at Verdun, the German’s failed to take the Fort or to bleed the French White,therefore they LOST!

    • jhagman says:

      Oh Monsieur Snowflake, one more thing about the Battle of the Marne, in command on the Allies’ side was General Joffre, a FRENCH commander, the majority of the troops were FRENCH, hence a FRENCH VICTORY! Heh-Heh-Heh,, I deliver the Coup de Grace to the arguments of the Snowflake.

  7. fsdthreshold fsdthreshold says:

    What a fascinating thread this has turned into! Chris and Binsers, thank you for the stories! One of the best things about this blog is that we have contributors with such rich and diverse experience — what a “salon” this is!

    This is also the perfect time to mention the movie Midnight in Paris. When three different friends recommended it to me in the same week, I thought I’d better see it at the earliest opportunity. And it certainly is one of the best films I’ve seen in a long time! I loved it for what it says about the nature of art and using our gifts. Definitely any lover of Paris would find the film delightful. It’s a magical experience. (I particularly enjoyed the portrayals of Hemingway, Dali, and Gertrude Stein!)

    While I’m recommending films, . . . but maybe I should save that for a blog post unto itself!

    • Chris says:

      It has been recommended to me and it was playing on the flight over here to London I was on last night, but cannot bring myself to watch it.

      If you do a movie recommendation thread I must heartily recommend two films we just saw:

      A Finnish “horror-Christmas Story” called “Rare Exports” (weird, surreal and very, very Finnish)

      and

      “Dale and Tucker vs Evil”. Turning the murderous hillbilly horror genre on its head quite hilariously so!

      Take _that_ Gertrude Stein and Hemmingway!

  8. Shieldmaiden says:

    OK, I just have to say that you guys are funny! I just had to note my favorite lines of late. These all made me laugh, out LOUD!

    From Chris:
    “Which is why we are so universally loved, like the French.”
    and: “I know about your job….” (Imagine “job” in italics there…as it was definitely implied).

    From Binsers:
    “I have said things in French that I would NEVER say in English!”

    Midnight in Paris is now on my list! And, a whole post on films? YES! Please!!

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