A first place short!
I had a great time at teh Sooke Fall Fair, although it was a brief time! Chasing around a nearly-two year old meant it was a blitz! But the kid's baking and lego won some ribbons and I got a few first places for my stories (plus one third!). Since I don't know what else to do with this one, I'm sharing it here! It's not my usual MO, since it's a wholesome family story with a slight magical twist but enjoy!
The Best Pumpkin Patch
Mr Weisman lived next door, a wizened old man with a long beard and oversized nose. He was often seen in his bathrobe and slippers as he shuffled around his vibrant garden filled with wrapping vines and tangled bushes.
On occasion, he slipped Bobby seeds from his garden. Bobby planted them in sidewalk cracks and beside roadways. No matter how thin the soil, the tiny flowers grew in purples and pinks, blues and yellows, providing colourful flashes in a grey landscape.
One year, Mr Weisman gave Bobby pumpkin seeds. "They need good soil. Like a vegetable patch."
The vegetable patch in their yard exclusively belonged to Bobby's mother. Bobby could play anywhere else but was forbidden from entering the garden except when sent to retrieve a dinner item from the meticulous rows. Every vegetable had its place, year after year. Each row was planned, scheduled, and maintained. There was no space allotted for pumpkins.
Bobby tucked his seeds through the back fence of the vegetable patch that night.
The first green sprout appeared a week later. Bobby listened from his high window as Mother cursed the little green leaf and pulled it. Her brow creased in irritation, then she glanced over her shoulder where Mr Weisman's amazing garden reached up his fence and house, the passionfruit flowers climbing vivid butterfly bushes and decorated by red ivy. She tossed the vine into her basket and went back to her hoeing.
The next day, the sprout had returned, twice as long.
Losing no time, she pulled it out, reefing until the root gave. Satisfied, she tossed it into her basket, brushed the dirt from her flower-patterned gloves, and nodded firmly before returning to her immaculate rows.
The next day, the back fence of the garden patch was covered with lush, green vines and umbrella-like leaves. Already there were two green gourds forming. Mother attacked it with her hoe, cutting and tearing until every scrap of the greenery had been found and removed. She shoved her curls back under her handkerchief on her head, smearing dirt on her cheek as she recovered. The rows of carrots and beets were not weeded that day.
By morning, it had all returned. Now four pumpkin were hidden along the fence, each showing orange.
She marched down like a soldier heading to war, trimmers and rake over her shoulder, kicking her weeding basket ahead of her.
Bobby met her on the path, staring up at her with wide, pleading eyes. "Can we have pumpkins this year? I want to learn how to grow them!"
Mother shook her head. "We don't need pumpkins. They're useless!" she told Bobby. Every vegetable in her garden had a purpose: peas for summer snacking, carrots for dipping in humus, beets and spinach for stew, lettuce for summer salads…
"But they make nice jack-o-lanterns," Bobby replied so quietly, she could hardly hear him.
Her frustration went out in an instant. She swept her eyes over the vines and leaves that had taken over the back half of her garden patch. Then her eyes fell back on her son. "You planted this?" she asked.
Bobby nodded mutedly.
She slowly lowered her rake. "You want pumpkins?"
Bobby shyly smiled and nodded.
She let out a breath and put down her trimmers. "Ok. Let's see what grows."
That year, the pumpkins came in bigger than any seen in Sooke before. Bobby chose the largest for his jack-o-lantern, so big he had to climb in to finish scooping it out. He made sure Mr Weisman got his share of the roasted pumpkin seeds.
Why words matter!
Last call for pre-orders, because the fourth book in the Son of No Man goes live OCTOBER 1st! Check out ESPARAN here to follow the founding of a kingdom the old-fashioned way; by the sword. ARC readers; if you didn't get your copy, let me know!
Oh! and I JUST sent in the manuscript for KING, the next instalment! Coming soon! And promotions are at the bottom of the page!
Meantime, I had a Facebook post from the Victoria Creative Writing Group inspire this post. The post was this video. The amazing moment when you put your foot in your mouth and undermine whatever it was you were saying by not knowing or using a word correctly. Words matter.
This was good timing since I was editing, which means I used Grammarly again. I have a love-hate relationship with Grammarly. While I appreciate what it catches, there are some things it never gets right.
For one, its 'suggestions' for alternatives are often laughable. Before is not the same as When in a sentence you doggone AI. They are different timings! And I know you don't like words like 'obvious,' and you keep wanting me to change it to 'apparent,' but if I did that all the time, it would be weird. And they don't mean the same thing! There is a difference between being unknown and not being known. Weird!
But the big one I flip by instantly is the "Knowledgeable audience" comments about vocabulary. What happens with these is that it has an idea of how smart we are or, perhaps, how smart we aren't! So it suggests that words "a knowledgeable audience might not know" are removed and replaced. Basically, dumb it down.
I ignore it every time. Why? One, because this is an adult book, I don't need to write for a child. Two, because reading is a massive part of how we grow our vocabulary, and if everyone dumbed it down, it would castrate the language.
I've heard people suggest we should all aim for the lowest reading level in our writing, and I think that's what Grammarly is trying to do. And I understand their argument. I want my book to be accessible too! I don't want to scare people off by putting in "big" words that might (shock!) make them think or look it up! But I also don't want to dumb it down. If the correct term was Ricochet, I will put that in. Same for Groused, Deferential, or Thunderous. And yes, I'll use Phosphoresces (once only!) because it's a spectacular word, and it fits the glow of a wizard's light! And maybe someone will look it up.
Apparently, most popular books run Grade 7-9 reading level.
For fun, there's an app called Hemingway Editor, and you can find it here. https://hemingwayapp.com
It does a similar job as Grammarly but mostly looks for complicated (or not complicated) sentences to help guide people to a target writing level. I put my work in sometimes to check out where I'm landing. Mostly, I write at a Grade 6 reading level. Sometimes, a chapter or two will drop to Grade 5 or rise to 7. But often, it's Grade 6, and I think that's ok. I don't need to be college-level. I want it accessible but also a bit more challenging!
I admit that some of the words on the list Grammarly thought a "Knowledgeable audience" wouldn't know were embarrassing. It included Hushed, Flinch, Irate, Shaggy, Muddled, Ladle (it's not a spoon!!), and Tinder.
So I took to writing the words down, and I've included the entire list below. I didn't change them unless they were in error; every one of these show up in the submitted manuscript for Book 5 (King). I was shocked by how long the list became.
We need these words! Keep using these words! If you don't know them, look them up! Then use them and impress your friends. Although, I'm not really sure how impressive Perceptive or Tizzy is!
Without further ado: the words I used that Grammarly thinks a knowledgeable audience might not know:
D. Lambert, author
Fantasy novels that entice, inspire, and entertain.