Minor Setback

In case you’re not following me on Twitter (LOL, whut?), I didn’t advance to the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award quarter finals. That’s kind of disappointing all right, but then again I’m not so delusional as to think I wrote a brilliant novel and the judges failed to recognize it. It’s a nice little book, but it’s not brilliant. Nor is it the best I could do, nor was it the right book for this year’s ABNA contest. The end.

Or rather, not the end. Not at all. It was a great experience, it was fun while it lasted, and if the contest is back next year, then so am I.

I’ll still be getting feedback from the reviewers who read my excerpt and didn’t deem it good enough to advance me to the next round. I’m looking forward to that, and I hope it’ll be helpful and constructive. Either way, I’ll put it up here on my blog once I’ve got it.

Now back to work. Another book is waiting to be written. And then another one, and another one… because as Edgar Rice Burroughs once said, “If you write one story, it may be bad; if you write a hundred, you have the odds in your favor.”



Keito & Ginger – A Love That Wasn’t Meant To Be

Keito OkamotoToday I have a special treat for all those who have been following me since way back when I used to blog about Japanese teen idols. I know, right? Those were the days.

Anyway, a very early draft of my novel And a Child Will Lead Them contained a sub-plot that involved a certain member of the Japanese boy band Hey!Say!JUMP, a very fine specimen by the name of Keito Okamoto (who by the way turned 21 years old earlier this week, so Happy Birthday). Before he started his career as a teen idol, Keito went to school in England between the ages of nine and fourteen, a fact I drew upon in the novel by making him the first crush of Ginger, one of the main characters. However, this episode didn’t make it to the final draft of the story for two major reasons: 1) there already was a Japanese character in the book, and in this case having another one seemed to be too much of a good thing, and 2) it didn’t add anything to the story I was trying to tell, and since the book was already running much longer than planned, those twelve thousand words were most obvious to omit.

So, after many a heated discussion in the creative department (i.e. between my partner and me) the decison was taken to scrap the Keito sub-plot. Now the only remnant left of it is Ginger’s trip to Japan in the second half of the book. That trip – originally intended to reunite her with Keito – was eventually reduced to a simple vacation in the published version of the novel. But instead of letting it whither away in my bottom drawer, I decided to share this sub-plot today with those of you who may reminisce fondly about the olden days when I was still having a public opinion on the world of Japanese teen idols. So if you’re interested, you can read a first draft excerpt of the Keito sub-plot here (link opens in a new window). Enjoy!

Ye Olde Common Misconception About “Ye”

Ye Olde Watling Pub

By a quick show of hands, how many of you think that the ye in the above picture is actually pronounced “ye”? Yeah, I thought so. Congratulations, you’re all wrong.

You’re right if you think that ye was used as a definite article in Old and Middle English (i.e. between the 5th and 15th centuries, give or take), and you’re also right if you think that it means the same thing as our Modern English the. However, what most people don’t seem to know is that it didn’t only mean the same thing as the, it was also pronounced the same way.

Back in the olden days, there was a letter in the English alphabet that doesn’t exist in Modern English anymore. That letter was called thorn. It was written Þ  or þ and it was used where nowadays we use the digraphs Th and th, respectively. E.g. the was written þe and that was written þat. Over time, þe þorn lost its ascender (i.e. þe bit of þe vertical bar þat extends towards þe top), and it came to resemble anoþer letter we don’t use any longer, þe wynn, which was written Ƿ or ƿ. In þose days, all writing was done by hand, and if you’re anyþing like me, you’ll know þat handwriting can be rather sloppy at times, which is why þe þorn eventually became almost indistinguishable from þe letter Y or y. But it didn’t matter much because by þis time (roughly þe mid-15þ-century) þe þorn had already been widely replaced by þe th digraph and was mostly only used in abbreviations of þe Yeword the anymore, and þat abbreviation would look like þis: þe, except in some scribes’ sloppy handwriting it looked rather more like in the picture on the right. Now if you imagine the top arc of the ascender-less þ not quite closed or even completely missing, you see where this is going.

Þen came þe printing press. Invented in – and exported to England from – mainland Europe around 1450, it didn’t have type fonts for þe letter þ, and since þe þ, in þe rare instances where it was still used, namely in þe abbreviation of þe definite article the (þe), so closely resembled þe letter y anyway, it was represented in þe early printed texts in England as , which eventually became ye.

Long story short, ye, alþough þus written, was never pronounced “ye” but always “the”. Except of course where it didn’t represent þe definite article the but the second-person, plural, personal pronoun ye, as in the Christmas Carol God rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen, or in the expression Hear ye, hear ye. That one was always written and pronounced as “ye”.

I bet ye didn’t know þat, did ye?

Personally, I would love seeing þe þ re-introduced into þe English language. Unusual characters such as ä, å, æ, ñ, ö, œø, š, or ß give a language, well, character, and I’ve never quite understood why þe letter-combination th would be pronounced the way it is anyway. Try pronouncing t and h in rapid succession. It doesn’t sound anyþing remotely like þ. A þ would make so much more sense, not least because along with the letter o it would be þe only one in þe English language þat actually resembles the shape of your mouþ as you say it. Don’t ye þink? ;-þ