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Posts by Margaret Ball

Apologies all round

First, I really don’t have anything today.

Second, I said a while ago that I had got back to 2000 words/day, as long as they didn’t have to be good words. That failed as soon as I ran out of the plot in my head and had to stop and figure out what happens next. Because I know from experience that if I just write with no idea where I’m going, my characters will simply stand around exchanging witty (maybe) dialogue and doing nothing at all. Read more

I need a new word

Or possibly an old one, because I’m sure this issue has been discussed before. Something like “MacGuffin,” but with a different meaning. I want a word for “pseudo-scientific rationale that allows science fiction writers to get past known scientific problems with a story.” You know, like positing wormholes to account for FTL travel? Read more

Taffy was a Welshman

Recently I read a novel written in the early nineties and experienced a mild shock when one of the characters told another that he had made a Xerox of an important document.

Way back then… hardly anybody had a scanner, and Xerox was a household word. But it’s been a long, long time since I heard anyone use it as a synonym for copy. Come to think of it, I don’t hear anybody saying photocopy either. Nowadays we, at least in my small social circle, just say copy without reference to whether the item had been produced by printing off a Web page, scanned, or Xeroxed. If we want to emphasize that the thing is a piece of paper rather than a collection of pixels, we call it a hard copy.

That started me thinking about the words that have flowered during my lifetime, bloomed briefly, and then disappeared as the things they referred to were superseded by new technology. Read more

And the dove came

This is late, and probably twice as long as it ought to be, but it’s what I got for today.


“One good thing,” Ben had said that morning as she dressed for her very first day at the office in a long, long time.

“The lockdown being lifted?”

“That’s so obvious, nobody with any sense would even mention it!” he snapped. “No, the rats. And the pigeons.” Read more

A Linguistic Trip through Time

Without going into the boring details, it’s been a rough month. Not that I’m complaining. After all, unlike pretty much everyone else in the country, I planned to be stuck at home for all of March. So, no gripes there. And while everyone else has been going stir-crazy, I’ve been going passive. Lacking the energy and concentration to do anything worthwhile, I’ve mostly been lying around like a damp rag, listening to audiobooks. Mostly to various German tutorials, because unlike novels, they don’t have a plot which requires my attention. Well, not much of one anyway.

Wandering among different tutorials produced at different times has given me a mild case of temporal whiplash. Read more


I’m posting this in advance to be published Thursday afternoon, because I don’t expect to be in a position to do anything useful that day. My second knee surgery is happening just before that, and based on the last time, I will still be totally doped up on pain medications come Thursday. Seriously, that stuff sucks my brain cells out. The hospital might as well be a hygienic opium den with really boring decor.

And before then? I’m on the verge of finishing Tangled Magic and my blasted characters are on strike. I really, really want to get the requisite HEA written before surgery, so that after I get out of the opium den I can start proofreading and editing without worrying about the ending pages. So, sorry, unless Elspet Rattray and Lord Kinross manage to communicate with each other today, I won’t have any brain cells to spare before the operation either.

See you guys in a few weeks.

Besetting Sentences

In St. Jago, der Hauptstadt des Königreichs Chili, stand gerade in dem Augenblicke der großen Erderschütterung vom Jahre 1647, bei welcher viele tausend Menschen ihren Untergang fanden, ein junger, auf ein Verbrechen angeklagter Spanier, namens Jeronimo Rugera, an einem Pfeiler des Gefängnisses, in welches man ihn eingesperrt hatte, und wollte sich erhenken.

Clear as mud? Allow me to provide a first-draft translation, the kind of thing you hack out before normalizing the word order and all:

In St. Jago, the capital of the Kingdom of Chili, stood just at the moment of the great earthquake of 1647, in which many thousands of people their downfall found, a young, of a crime accused Spaniard, on a pillar of the prison, in which one him locked-up had, and wanted to hang himself.  Read more