Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Dialects: a Pittsburgh State of Mind

Shane McAllister, the vampire hero of Wicked Game, hails from Youngstown, Ohio. Youngstown is at the western edge of the most specialized dialect in the country: Pittsburgh. One New York Times writer called Pittsburgh "The Galapagos Islands of American Dialect."

Wanting to sprinkle a little verisimilitude into Shane's speech, I consulted Da Pittsburghese Translator.

Just for yuks, I threw one of Shane's diatribes into the translator. Here's how it reads in normal English. (For context, he's arguing against our heroine's marketing gimmick, "WVMP, the Lifeblood of Rock 'n' Roll," in which the radio station aims for higher ratings by "pretending" the disc jockeys are vampires.)
But I’m not human. None of us are. If we spend too much time out in public, someone’ll figure out the real truth. Next thing you know, late one night we’ll find ourselves delayed on the way home. Then it’s ‘Good Day Sunshine,’ and they’ll be sweeping us into a dustpan.

And here's how a proper Pittsburgher would say it:
But I’m not human. None of us are n'at. If we spend too much time aht in public, someone’s bound to figger aht da rill truth n'at. Next ting jano, late one night we’ll find ourselves delayed on da way home n'at. Then it’s ‘Good Day Sunshine,’ annay’ll be sweeping us into a dustpan.

Hee. Don't worry, I'm never having him say 'n'at'. Writers have to be rilly really careful when using dialect. It's better to show an accent through vocabulary and sentence rhythm. Less is always more.

I recently got very annoyed with a book in which one of the main characters was supposed to be Scottish. Every once in awhile, he would call the main character 'lass,' and I'd be jerked out of the story, because 99.9% of the time he sounded nothing like a Scot. I tried reading his lines in my head with a Scottish accent, and it didn't work, because the sentence rhythm was pure Midwest American.

So back to Shane. As a DJ, he would have modified his native dialect as much as possible, so I went easy on the Pittsburghese. The only things I changed were to have him use 'anymore' to mean 'these days,' and call someone a 'jagoff' instead of a 'dickweed.' In both cases the meanings are obvious from context, so the reader doesn't hit a mental speed bump.

Oh, and the Steelers are the "Stillers," because that's like a religion.

What about you guys/y'all/yinz? Read any good dialects lately? Which accents do you find the most annoying/pleasing when done on the page or on the screen?

Best Baltimore accent by an actor: hands down, Danny DeVito in Tin Men.

A-Z Update: "Look to Your Orb for the Warning" by Monster Magnet

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Thursday, June 21, 2007

Into the Wild

Taking a break from revisions to the rewrite of Wicked Game (going swimmingly now, thanks!) to announce the very exciting debut launch of one of my favorite writer friends, Sarah Beth Durst.

INTO THE WILD is a fantasy adventure (for ages 10 and up) about fairy-tale characters who've escaped the fairy tale and what happens when the fairy tale wants its characters back.

I heard Sarah read from this book at World Fantasy Con, and it was amazing! Definitely not just for kids. I think anyone who likes fairy tales, comics (especially FABLES), alternate universes, and stories that explore ideas of freedom and self-determination* would love this one. It's got a wonderful touch of humor, and the main character, Julie (Rapunzel's daughter), is easy to relate to.

Don't believe me? Here's what more eloquent people have to say about it:

Sarah Beth Durst kept me reading because she's so inventive with her take on fairy tales' relevance to our world... The fun of INTO THE WILD is in recognizing the iconic figures from fairy tales and seeing them in this new light that Durst has provided for us. You'll breeze through this book and you'll have a fine time while doing so.
--Charles de Lint, in his review for Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction

Think de Lint is too kind? Then listen to Kirkus Reviews, the "Mikey" of book review publications (i.e., they hate everything):

Deeper than most rewritten fairy tales, this existential story is chunked with big ideas about the fairy-tale genre, yet the story is lightened with touches that will connect with its audience.

So go get it.

*that last part is my own interpretation--feel free to mentally discard if it sounds like existentialist non-fun


Tuesday, June 19, 2007


I was working on the proof of one of my poems all the morning, and took out a comma. In the afternoon I put it back again.
--Oscar Wilde

It's been one of those days. Spent the morning fixing the first two paragraphs of Wicked Game. Spent the afternoon on pages 2-12.

You think it could be because I switched from coffee to tea? Or could it be the Summertime Blues catching up to me at last? Or maybe just some days are more productive than others.

Tomorrow both my agent and editor are out of the office, so I'm going on a one-day internet fast. See you Thursday!

A-Z Update: "K.C. Moan" by Memphis Jug Band

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Look, up in the sky! It's a...

This just in from

On Tuesday morning, June 19th, space shuttle Atlantis is scheduled to undock from the International Space Station. On Tuesday night, the pair will fly in tandem over many US towns and cities including Detroit, Washington DC, San Francisco and Denver. Typical flybys take place shortly after sunset, with the pair first appearing in the northwest (look for the Big Dipper) and soaring overhead from there. The space shuttle appears first, followed by the ISS. Both spacecraft are bright and easy to see with the naked eye. Double flybys continue on Wednesday night, June 20th, before Atlantis returns to Earth on Thursday, June 21st.

Go to Heavens Above to see when and where to look for these spacecraft in your neighborhood. You can register with the site and get exact times and maps, or you can just look at the picture of the globe on their home page.

Don't forget to wave at the astronauts!

A-Z Update: "Just Go Away" by Blondie


Monday, June 18, 2007


Read Wicked Game today, and it doesn't suck. It still needs lots of polishing, and certain scenes need to be pumped up for better effect, but I didn't ruin it in the rewrites. It's deeper, yet still funny. Most importantly, I didn't sap the life out of the main character by making her less of a bitch.

Still lots of work ahead, but the major surgery is over.

Did I mention that I found out the release date? Also, I should be seeing a cover soon, but I might not be able to post it for awhile, until the final version is ready.

Speaking of covers, I should soon have the final version of the Voice of Crow cover. VOC is coming out September 25 and, is now available for pre-order. So go reserve your copy now! What are you waiting for?

A-Z Update: "Just a Phase" by Incubus

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Saturday, June 16, 2007

Meadow hits middle age

(Sung to the tune of "In the Ghetto" by Elvis Presley):

On a hot and gray New Hampshire morn,
Another little baby puppy was born
In the kennel

(in the kennellllll)

And her owner sighed

'Cuz if there's one thing that he don't need
It's ten little worthless mouths to feed
In the kennel

(in the kennelllll)

Today Meadow turned seven, which makes her officially a senior dog. She celebrated by running in counterclockwise circles around the yard for no apparent reason, just like old times.

I can trace my dog's pedigree back 33 generations (36 on her mother's side), but I can only trace my own for four.

Moreover, on I found paintings of some of her oldest ancestors. Here's King Cob, born in 1838.

And here's one of Bedlamite, born in 1852. In color!!

(Click on either painting for larger versions.)

Sometimes when I look at Meadow's stats, I try to imagine her life at the kennel and at the tracks. Whether it was happy or not (and she shows no signs of ever having been unhappy), it was certainly not the innocent, carefree puppyhood and family life most dog breeds enjoy.

For the first two-and-a-half years, she had a job, one she apparently didn't do very well. Now her main responsibility is to keep the floors clean of toast crumbs, ice cream, and (sorry) hairballs. She also volunteers as rabbit muncher and couch warmer, though neither of these duties were in the original job description.

Mostly she just sits around looking cute:

Happy Birthday, Meadow!


Friday, June 15, 2007

Release date for Wicked Game

Just found out that we have a mere 332 days until Wicked Game is officially released (though we all know by now most books are available on Amazon at least two weeks in advance).

So when will it be?

Sorry, I didn't hear me. When was that?




I'm a bit excited. Excited enough to do way tacky WordArt.

Have good weekends, everyone.

A-Z Update: "Jolene" by Cake


Thursday, June 14, 2007

Wicked Game 3.0 done!

After a full month of rethinking, reimagining, and rewriting, the pen-penultimate step is complete.

I've changed a lot, refocusing the plot on the fantasy elements instead of the romance (and in the process, making it more romantic than ever). Characters have been added, fleshed out, given personality lifts. Jokes have been hacked, replaced with (hopefully) better ones. Also, more blood--always a plus for a vampire novel.

It's probably a mess. After a few days away from the manuscript, I'll read it all the way through in one sitting (not counting snacks) to see where it needs patching. Meanwhile I'll do any last-minute research/inspirational reading, video-watching, and music-listening.

Then, after the whole darn thing makes sense, I'll take a week or two to polish the language, make sure the characters come to life on the page, that I don't fall prey to cliched descriptions or overuse of any particular words. (I can already tell "scoff" is going to hit the trash a dozen times or more.)

At last, on or before the July 9 deadline, I'll turn it in and hope my editor still loves it, that I've interpreted her suggestions better than she could've ever imagined. Or at least not royally screwed it up.

But that's later. Right now, I'm taking the rest of the day off. All 32 minutes of it.

*A-Z Update: "Indian Summer" by The Doors

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Monday, June 11, 2007

8 Things Ya Dunno

Wow, this is sad. It's been so long since I blogged, I actually had to sign into Blogger just now. My own blog tool didn't recognize me. *sob!*

I finished my rewrite scenes early today, so I'll take a crack at this "Eight Things You Don't Know About Me" meme Rob and Robin have tagged me with. (Since I was twice-tagged, I reserve the right to add up to eight more at a time of my choosing.)

Here we go:

1. Like this year's Miss Michigan, I have maimouphobia*. (Also coulrophobia, but everyone knows that.)

2. Favorite song: "Inside Out" by Eve 6. Singing along to this tune is a better aerobic workout than the Stairmaster, and much easier on the knees.

3. Sometimes when I'm in the self-checkout lane at the supermarket, I pretend I'm auditioning for a job.

4. Favorite classical composer: Franz Schubert

5. I once spent the night at Eugene O'Neill's boyhood home, the setting for his Pulitzer-winning play, Long Day's Journey Into Night. Alas, I neither saw nor heard the famed ghost of his mother, wandering the halls looking for her next morphine fix.

6. Secret Celebrity Crush: Ben Stiller

7. I'm obsessive but not compulsive, mainly because I'm too lazy to follow through on most thoughts. I might be having lunch with you, and 99% of my attention is focused on what you're saying (honestly!), while the remaining 1% is thinking, "The tablecloth is crooked, the salt shaker is at a hostile angle to the sugar bowl, and I'm dying to make an Olympic rings symbol with the condensation on the bottom of my water glass." But don't worry--I won't do anything about it.

8. In my head, the alphabet still looks like this.

Now, Rob and Robin, aren't you sorry you asked?

Because the first good night's sleep in a week is beckoning, I'm going to be a Meme Buzz-kill and not officially tag eight new people. But Kathy, Catie, Cynthia, and Vivi, if you're reading this, you be tagged! Here are Robin's rules, which I'm just now reading for the first time:

1. Each player starts with eight random facts/habits about themselves.

2. People who are tagged need to write their own blog about their eight things and post these rules.

3. At the end of your blog, you need to choose eight people to get tagged and list their names.

4. Don’t forget to leave them a comment telling them they’re tagged, and to read your blog.

I shall return Thursday once this draft is finished and set aside to ferment like a fine summer ale.


*that's fear of monkeys, for those too lazy to skim the article



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Jeri Smith-Ready is a Maryland author of books for teens and adults.

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