Book of Words: Intrusion by Mary McCluskey

Good writers choose their words carefully. This blog offers a different type of book review by combining it with vocabulary building. Included here are a few interesting words I found in Intrusion, a book released in July by British author Mary McCluskey. Some of the words McCluskey used were British and unfamiliar to me, so I included them in this blog.

Intrusion pits a woman who has hit rock bottom against a long-lost best friend with a hidden motive. Mary McCluskey deftly pulls the reader into the emotional turmoil of Kat Hamilton’s shattered life. The mourning mom struggles to support her husband’s efforts to maintain his standing in his law firm and fights to find meaning in her own life, but can barely get through each day. When she’s at her lowest, evil steps in to help push her over the edge. I found Intrusion to be an exciting psychological thriller that kept the tension high while ever increasing the stakes all the way to an end with a unexpected twist. McCluskey knows how to keep the reader guessing.

Cover pdf provided by Author Mary McCluskey

Cover pdf provided by Author Mary McCluskey

Words from Intrusion:

Cabochon: A gem polished but not faceted. <Origin> mid-16th century: from French, diminutive of caboche ‘head’. “Sara gave a small smile and looked down, twisting the cabochon emerald ring off her finger, then holding it for a few seconds, as if checking its weight, before replacing it.”

 Sepia: A reddish-brown color associated particularly with monochrome photographs of the 19th and early 20th centuries. <Special Usage> a brown pigment prepared from a black fluid secreted by cuttlefish, used in monochrome drawing and in watercolors. “These memories dropped softly, completely intact, into her mind. Sometimes, they were in strong, primary colors, occasionally in a kind of sepia, like old movies.”

Intransigent: Unwilling or refusing to change one’s views or to agree about something. “He is a lawyer. He has the nitpicky legal mind. I never dreamt he would be so intransigent.”

Janus: An ancient Italian deity, guardian of doorways and gates and protector of the state in time of war. He is usually represented with two faces, so that he looks both forward and backward. <Special Usage> two-faced; hypocritical; two-sided. “In profile, the two sides of her face could look quite different: one side so bare, the delicate bone structure clear and unobstructed, the other side hidden by a cascade of rich brown hair. A Janus face, Maggie had said once.”

 Sussed: (Chiefly British, informal) A verb meaning to realize, grasp. An abbreviation of suspect or suspicion. “Though Sister Judy may have sussed me.”

 Gobsmacked: (Chiefly British, informal) Utterly astonished; astounded. <Origin> 1980s: from GOB + SMACK, with reference to being shocked by a blow to the mouth, or to clapping a hand to one’s mouth in astonishment. “They’ll all be gobsmacked.”

Definitions are from The New Oxford American Dictionary through Kindle.

 

“The word is only a representation of the meaning; even at its best, writing almost always falls short of full meaning. Given that, why in God’s name would you want to make things worse by choosing a word which is only cousin to the one you really wanted to use?” ― Stephen King

What interesting words have you taken note of lately?

Advertisements

Book of Words: EXHUME by Danielle Girard

“The most important thing is to read as much as you can, like I did. It will give you an understanding of what makes good writing and it will enlarge your vocabulary.”

— J.K. Rowling

I’m using this blog to offer a chance at building a better vocabulary through the books I read. I’ll provide a short review of the book followed by a few words I think the author used in an interesting way or that might not be familiar, at least to me.

14481926_1130665450334830_876338458951004379_o

Exhume (Dr. Schwartzman Series, Book 1) by Danielle Girard

I really enjoyed this thriller and had a hard time putting my Kindle aside until the end. The protagonist, Dr. Annabelle Schwartzman, is very well written by Girard. I found myself feeling it all as the young medical examiner works to solve the murder of a woman who could be her twin. She soon realizes the killer chose the victim for that very reason. As the plot thickens and the threats mount against her, Schwartzman gains strength rather than cowering in the knowledge that her own life is in danger. I found the story gripping. Girard is an excellent writer. Check her out at daniellegirard@com.

This book, because of its medical examiner character, offered a number of unfamiliar words.

Words from Exhume:

Manubrium: The broad upper part of the sternum of mammals, with which the clavicles and first ribs articulate.  “She fingered the place where her necklace always lay flat against her manubrium.”

Parasympathetic: (adj.) of or relating to the part of the automatic nervous system that counterbalances the action of the sympathetic nerves. It consists of nerves arising from the brain and the lower end of the spinal cord and supplying the internal organs, blood vessels and glands.  “Her parasympathetic nervous system now back in control, her empty stomach ached, leaving her nauseous and exhausted.”

 Hemangioma: A benign tumor of blood vessels, often forming a red birthmark.  “Behind Stein’s right knee was another birthmark, this one a hemangioma. The hemangioma—sometimes called a raspberry—was the result of blood vessels that clustered in utero and never fully dissipated.”

 Aquiline: (adj.) Like an eagle. Special usage: (of a person’s nose) hooked or curved like an eagle’s beak.  “Plenty who were tall and thin as she was, even some with an aquiline nose like her own and others who had been born with a nose like hers and then had the hump surgically removed.”

 Whorls: A coil or ring, in particular: a complete circle in a fingerprint.  “’I’ve seen documented cases where they’ve pulled whorls off flesh.’ ‘Whorls?’ T.J. asked. ‘From fingerprints,” Harper explained.”

 Clinodractyly: A medical term describing the curvature of a digit (a finger or toe) in the plane of the palm, most commonly the fifth or little finger towards the adjacent fourth finger or ring finger.  “Her long, lean fingers, fingers like her father’s had been, like her own, their tips curved in just slightly, making them appear slightly arthritic. The clinical term was clinodactyly, a condition that caused a curvature of the digits, though theirs was mild enough to go unnoticed unless one knew to look.”

 Alveoli: A small cavity, pit, or hollow, in particular: any of the many tiny air sacs in the lungs where the exchange of oxygen and carbon dioxide takes place. “Oxygen flowed into the bronchi, then into the smaller bronchioles and into the alveoli. Two adult lungs were the home to some three hundred million alveoli where the oxygen dissolved into the moisture-rich covering of the alveoli and diffused into the blood.”

Definitions are typically from The New Oxford American Dictionary through Kindle or Wikipedia.

What interesting words have you taken note of lately?

Book of Words: Skeleton’s Key by Stacy Green

I’m using this blog to offer a chance at building a better vocabulary through the books I read. I’ll provide a short review of the book followed by a few words I think the author used in an interesting way or that might not be familiar, at least to me. In this case, I included “antebellum” because the definition states that it can be used for the period before any war, and I found that interesting. I’m only familiar with it being used before the American Civil War.

Photo from the Facebook page of Stacy Green. She attributed the photo to Melinda VanLone, author.

Photo from the Facebook page of Stacy Green. Green attributed the graphic to Melinda VanLone, author, who created it for Green’s Delta Crossroads Trilogy.

Skeleton’s Key (Delta Crossroads Trilogy, Book 2) by Stacy Green

I thoroughly enjoyed reading Skeleton’s Key and just picked up two more books by Stacy Green. She’s a fantastic storyteller. I love the characters and felt their pain, tension and thrills as they struggled to sort out the complexities of the puzzles of murder and the history of an antebellum home. The book’s plot reminded me a little of the Nancy Drew mystery, The Hidden Staircase, one of my very favorite books when I was much younger. Saying that, I must add that there’s no doubt that Skeleton’s Key is for mature readers. It kept me guessing throughout and surprised me with a twist in the end. Her Delta Crossroads Trilogy is fantastic, but this author is quite prolific. I intend to check out more of her work!

Words from Skeleton’s Key:

Warded: Any of the internal ridges or bars in a lock that prevent the turning of any key that does not have the grooves of corresponding size or form.
“Dani again examined the locking mechanism. ‘It’s warded.’ ‘Meaning a skeleton Key probably opens it.’”

Spanish moss: A flowering plant that often grows upon larger trees, commonly the southern live oak and bald-cypress in the lowlands and savannas of southeastern United States. It’s also native in much of Mexico, Bermuda, the Bahamas, Central America, South America and the West Indies. It grows hanging from tree branches in full sun through partial shade.
“At night, under the silvery glow of the moon, the wisps of Spanish moss were ghostlike-the spirits of the past weaving their way through the twisted branches of the tree.”

Daguerreotype: A photograph taken by an early photographic process employing an iodine-sensitized silvered plate and mercury vapor.
“Hard to tell with the state of the picture, and the fact that it’s a daguerreotype further distorts the color.”

Antebellum: Occurring or existing before a particular war, esp. the American Civil War: the conventions of the antebellum South. The origin is Latin, from ante ‘before,’ and bellum ‘war.’
“After the dust settled, Jaymee inherited one of the town’s other flagship antebellum homes, Magnolia House.”

Definitions are typically from The New Oxford American Dictionary through Kindle, or from Wikipedia.

“The difference between the almost right word and the right word is… the difference between the lightning bug and the lightning.” — Mark Twain

Do you look up words as you read?

Book of Words: Lamb to the Slaughter

I’m using this blog to offer an opportunity to build a better vocabulary through the books I read. I’ll provide a short review of the book followed by a few words I think the author used in an interesting way or that might not be familiar, at least to me.

Lamb to the Slaughter (Book 1 of Serentity’s Plain Secrets) by Karen Ann Hopkins

Lamb to the Slaughter takes the reader into the Amish community through the eyes of a newly elected female sheriff. It’s a well written story of murder, religious prejudice and poisonous pride. It’s the first book by Hopkins featuring Sheriff Serenity Adams that’s a great start on a series of mysteries with an intriguing protagonist and a glimpse into a different way of life. So far, the author has published four Plain Secrets books with the latest released in May. I’m ready to read book 2, Whispers From the Dead and find out what’s next for Sheriff Adams.

img_2535

Words from Lamb to the Slaughter:

Rumspringa: (in some Amish communities) a period of adolescents in which boys and girls are given greater personal freedom and allowed to form romantic relationships, usually ending with the choice of baptism into the church or leaving the community.
“You see, we don’t practice rumspringa in our community. If a teenager has wild oats to sow, they typically leave.”

Dolt: A stupid person. The origin may be a variant of dulled.
“You already know that our community has the rule of hands-off courting, but I’m not a dolt. I know what goes on behind the barns and in the sheds.”

Nitrile: An organic compound containing a cyanide group bound to an alkyl group. They’re not latex, but stronger and allergy safe.
“He left for a minute and returned with nitrile gloves, which he held out.”

Pensive: Engage in, involving or reflecting deep or serious thought.
“Bobby had a pensive frown fixed on his face again when I said, ‘Maybe with the abundance of corn available, the smaller scavengers weren’t interested.’”

Piqued: A feeling of irritation or resentment resulting from a slight, especially to one’s pride.
My curiosity was piqued and I looked at Heather.”

The last two in this list, pensive and piqued, are words I know but rarely use. Any words you hear or read often but rarely use?

“The difference between the almost right word and the right word is… the difference between the lightning bug and the lightning.” — Mark Twain

Definitions are typically from The New Oxford American Dictionary through Kindle.

Every Word is a Choice and Opportunity

“The difference between the almost right word and the right word is… the difference between the lightning bug and the lightning.” — Mark Twain

As a newspaper reporter, I was taught to write at an 8th grade level. Editors stressed that wasn’t literal. It meant we should avoid using words that force the reader to seek out a dictionary to understand the meaning. I try to do the same in my writing.
As a reader, however, I love to come across a word that isn’t familiar or is used in a way I find intriguing. Words and how they are used are interesting to me, and even at this age in life, I love to learn something new and maybe something about myself along the way.
In this blog, I plan to take a few words from the books I read and share the fun.
I’ll offer a short review, tell you a little about the book, and then provide a few words the author used in an interesting way or might not be familiar, a least to me. You’ll see the definition and how it was used in the book.

Dark Waters by JB Turner
This book had a little more of a spy-thriller theme than I normally read, but I enjoyed the read. It’s about an investigative reporter (which is right up my alley) in the Florida Everglades investigating the murder of a young man who’d contacted her the day before wanting to provide her with some top-secret government documents. The reporter, Deborah Jones, has her own life and the life of her longtime boyfriend and editor threatened as she fights to discover the truth. She soon realizes the implications of the investigation run deep in national politics. Deep Waters is a real thriller from the first page to the end.

img_2517Deep Waters words:

Bonhomie: cheerful friendliness; geniality.
“It reminded him of the Middle America he loathed. Bowling shoes, customized bowling ball, the beer, the head-splitting music, and the fake bonhomie.”

Detritus: waste or debris of any kind.
“All around was the detritus of humankind, playing out their days in air-conditioned malls, like consumer battery farms, being force-fed a sludge of sugar-rush drink and chili dogs, and copious quantities of piss-poor Bud and Michelob.”

Tacitly: an adjective that means understood or implied without being stated.
“From these Islamic schools a wave of young Muslim men emerged who, tacitly backed by CIA dollars, were organized to fight first the Soviet Union — before they turned their attention to the West.”

Wahhabism: Wahhabi is a strictly orthodox Sunni Muslim sect that advocates a return to the early Islam of the Koran and Sunna, rejecting later innovations. It’s the predominant religious force in Saudi Arabia.
“She had remained single but, like the majority of people in Saudi Arabia, she adhered to Wahhabism, the strict theological interpretation of the Koran.”

Stygian: an adjective of or relating to the Styx River.
“He stared at the Stygian darkness of Biscayne, car lights moving slowly across the causeway.”

What interesting words have you come across lately?

Laura Lippman to be at Eureka’s Books in Bloom

I’m so excited to hear Laura Lippman speak this Sunday at Books in Bloom in Eureka Springs. I intend to be there and pick up a copy of her new book, Wilde Lake while I’m at it.

I reviewed After I’m Gone a couple of years ago on this blog, and I’m confident I’ll enjoy her new book just as much. That confidence comes from the fact that I’ve yet to be disappointed with a Lippman story. She is one hell of a storyteller. Her characters are always rich, and her plots very well woven together with surprises along the way.

photo-31

My library includes plenty of Laura Lippman books, and I’ve read a few of them more than once.

After I wrote that review and noted that I had the pleasure of meeting Laura Lippman years ago, I was thrilled when she sent me a note stating she remembered meeting me. I attended “Of Dark and Stormy Nights,” a conference held in Chicago by Mystery Writers of America where she spoke. I was absolutely delighted when we happened to share a shuttle to O’Hare Airport at the end of the conference. I talked to her about my book idea, and she told me to go for it, to write the book about a corrupt prison system, a serial killer and a reporter from the Ozark Mountains who puts it all together. That book, A Lovely County, came out last year. The second one in the series is due out in November. Pen-L Publishing is set to release A Lovely Murder in November, and I’m now writing the third one, A Lovely Grave.

I plan to take a copy of A Lovely County to Lippman this weekend and hope to be able to pass it to her! Wish me luck, because I’d love to personally thank Laura Lippman for encouraging me and teaching me by example about good plotting.

 

Publishing Choice is Personal

It’s a tough world in publishing these days. How do you decide which way to turn? Hold out for the big publishing contract that will likely never happen and doesn’t have the advantages it once did? Self publish and do all the work yourself?

The idea of self publishing is a viable consideration, but there’s something about the credibility that comes with signing with a publisher. Not to mention that a publisher takes care of working out a cover, formatting, etc. etc. etc.! Small indie publishers can offer so much to a new author these days that big publishing houses don’t. Namely, individual attention and a bigger percentage in royalties.

I published my first book with a small indie publisher. I’m proud of the effort I put into that first book, and the outcome.

Kimberly and Duke Pennell of Pen-L Publishing offered me a contract for three upcoming novels. My response, "Where's my pen? Then, a big THANK YOU!"

Kimberly and Duke Pennell of Pen-L Publishing offered me a contract for three upcoming novels. My response, “Where’s my pen? Then, a big THANK YOU!”

I recently signed with a different indie publisher based in Arkansas for my future books. I’m so excited that they were interested in my writing. Duke and Kimberly Pennell, who formed Pen-L Publishing just a couple of years ago, already have 75 or so titles under their belt. I opted to sign on with them mainly because of the integrity so evident in the two of them, but also because of their love of the craft and their dedication to creating a good product.

The choice was very personal to me. My writing is my heart. What I create with my voice is a part of me. I want to know that I can trust and feel proud of my choice in a publisher.

In November, Pen-L will publish A Lovely Murder, sequel to my first novel A Lovely County. I’m proud to say that A Lovely Murder took The President’s Award and 1st Place in the Unpublished Manuscript contest at Ozark Writers League late last year, so I can’t wait to see it in print.

Pen-L also graciously contracted to publish two more of my novels next year. A Lovely Grave is the third in the mystery series about small-town reporter Danni Edens. A fourth novel has yet to be titled.

M.G. Miller’s Character Chills

Caroline Turner is down on her luck. She has lost her job and hit a bottom she’s struggling to understand. She could have handled her husband’s betrayal, but betrayal by her only child breaks her heart. Who wouldn’t feel for the poor woman when on top of all else she’s forced to move back home to take care of her ungrateful bedridden mother?

jack6.000x9.000.inddM.G. Miller drags the reader deep into Caroline’s mind from the start. We feel the trepidation as she approaches the rundown house and enters the dark gloomy interior. We know what awaits upstairs isn’t going to be good, but Miller’s able to shock with a sharp whack from Mama’s cane. From that first blow, the horrors are set in motion.

Who can blame Turner for taking that cane? Can we condemn her for feeding Mama cold soup and slipping in a little tranquilizer to make her sleep through the night?

We root for Caroline and hate her mother right along with her. The downtrodden woman struggles at first with moments of hope that she can withstand Mama’s abuse and provide the basic care she needs. Mama’s actions and words drive away any such aspirations.

millerWith each chapter, Miller pulls back layers of Caroline’s mix of ego and self-hatred. Through Mama’s horrible words, we know why she has no self-esteem, and why she struggles with her image in the mirror. The reader comes to understand the levels she’ll go to in order to feel loved. It’s apparent Mama never cared for her own daughter, and that she was jealous of Caroline’s relationship with her long-dead father. We don’t know the horrifying secrets that are buried deep in Caroline’s mind, but Mama manages to pull them out and shove them bluntly and cruelly like a pile of feces smack in her face.

This chilling narrative told in first person draws a mix of sympathy and disdain that swells in a gripping crescendo as the relationship between Mama and Caroline comes to a horrifying climax. Miller’s storytelling talent is evident in his ability to make the reader hate, yet sympathize with the character, to understand the misery and despair that propel her toward a terrifying end, and force internal questioning of what they’d do in her place, how far they’d go.

Murderous is an absolute must for thriller lovers, but any reader will be drawn in by the characterization in this gripping tale.

Find Murderous on Amazon, along with other must reads by M.G. Miller. http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss…

Shouting in the Wind, Spitting in the Torrent

It’s not easy. I never thought it would be, but then the tiniest glimmer of hope landed in my lap. I finished my first novel and felt confident in it. I had a couple of small publishers interested and accepted the terms from one. Since A Lovely County published a year ago, I’ve come to realize how hard it is to make that a dream worth pursuing in today’s publishing world.

The waterfall that feeds the stream behind our home in Northwest Arkansas.

The waterfall that feeds the stream behind our home in Northwest Arkansas.

I feel like a drop of water in a rushing waterfall.

I blog. I’m not especially good at it, but I put my thoughts out there. I have a Pinterest presence. I Pin things writerly, beautiful landscapes, yummy looking recipes, and more. I even Tweet. In addition, I have an author’s page on Facebook and on Goodreads. I talk about things other than writing. I don’t overly push my book on social media, just try to keep my presence there and hope to be noticed. Does any of it mean anything?

I shout, I scream, I type, but it does little to bring attention to my book, my struggle to get readers, reviews, NOTICED!

I’ve even entered contests and have had some success. (Thank you, Ozark Writer’s League for the recognition with your prized President’s Award last year.)

Is Amazon, today’s Mega-God of Publishing, to blame? Surely, the legions of wannabe authors who’ve flooded the market with unedited or poorly written work can take some credit for the hard struggle of authors today. My book isn’t published by one of the big New York houses. It’s not sold in bookstores. (Maybe someday.) But, frankly, the bookstores want publishers to send them X number of copies and vow to reimburse them when they only sell Y number of copies. A small publisher, even many mid-range publishers, can’t afford that risk.

So, all the experts say an author has to push themselves on social media, get recognition and you’ll get reviews on Amazon and sales. I do that, but so do thousands of others. We shout at each other on social media, but who else cares?

I’ll never stop writing. I have dozens of Danni Edens mysteries in my head, one ready to go the publisher, a half-written thriller, and a young adult paranormal series I’d love to start writing.

I push on and hope for the best, but I have to wonder if it wouldn’t be easier on me to give copies to a few friends and family, and call it good. I love to write, love to tell the stories that bang around in my head, and that trumps all the struggle, so I press on.

If you have the same dream, tell me how you deal with the challenge.

No Name, No Glory

In light of this week’s shooting on the campus of Umpqua Community College in Oregon, I have to say I totally agree with Sheriff John Hanlin’s stance against naming the gunman. “I don’t want to glorify the shooter, I don’t want to glorify his name, I don’t want to glorify his cause,” he’s quoted as stating.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

I wrote about this very issue last year on this blog, and feel even more strongly that naming these shooters feeds the sickness and their drive to become famous by killing scores of innocent at once.

It’s hard to fathom from a journalist’s point of view the notion of not providing all the pertinent information for any news story. However, I’ve come to believe we should never know the names or see the photos of accused shooters or mass murderers, particularly those who wreak their havoc in our schools.

We so often fulfill their goal when their name becomes immortalized, when we forever remember the monsters of the world. This seems to be especially true of school shooters who strike at the most innocent of victims.

The gunman who entered an Atlanta, Georgia school last year is now famous. We’re inundated with photos and information about Thursday’s killer as well. Their motives were likely the same as countless others who were successful in the sick plan. They are so often seeking notoriety through mass executions in some warped sense of self. Sure, we can say that mental illness is to blame, but I still feel their goal should not be fulfilled.

Sometimes they claim to be striking out after being bullied, which is an issue schools seem to be dealing with more frequently and more fervently. But the desire still comes down to an “I’ll show them and make myself famous doing it” attitude.

We should know these shooters as a number only. Take away that privilege of hearing the accused’s name on the television, knowing that their mug is now familiar to everyone within earshot of a television, and let’s see if the tragedies don’t slow down.

Withholding of personal information on the shooter should have started with the Columbine massacre in April 1999. If we knew them simply as 99-01 and 99-02, maybe we wouldn’t have had many follow in their footsteps.

It’s just a thought from a heart that worries for the next group of children hovering in the corner of a classroom and listening to gunshots, a wish for us to end the suffering of families like those who lost so many young lives this week. My daughter just graduated from law school, passed the bar and found a job. We’re thankful, proud and happy to see her transitioning into the successful adult she has worked so hard to become, but the parents that lost the college students to this week’s senseless killing will not feel that joy and thankfulness. My heart aches for them.

As a mystery writer I read stories of murder and mayhem looking for inspiration, but these school shootings spark little more than sadness.

Do you agree that assigning these senseless monsters a number is better for the public good than knowing who they are and seeing their faces plastered on the television screen?