How To Talk English, Like, More Gooder

October 28, 2010 at 1:22 pm (Advanced/Publication, Daily Awesomeness, Steampunk Earth Day info, Writing Advice)

If you watch TV, you’ll know that people are dumb. As a writer, you don’t want to alienate the slavering masses of humanity, so here’s ten ways to make absolutely sure you come across as a complete idiot in your writing (interspersed with steampunk gadgets).

1. Use “like”, “totally”, and “you know” as much as possible! Also exclamation marks! Exclamation marks are totally awesome and not irritating at all when used frequently!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! You know what else is GREAT????? CAPITALISING AND ITALICS!! They’re a fantastic blog/online habit that brilliantly and non-annoyingly translates into REAL LIFE!!!!!!!

2. Invent a wacky dialogue (or several) and make sure at least one character talks in a way that makes your readers want to strangle them. Brian Jacques is the master. Observe:

Dotti wiped her lips ruefully on an embroidered napkin. “I bally well wish we could, I’ve never tasted honeyed oatmeal like that in m’life. I say, Rogg, how the dickens d’you make it taste so jolly good, wot?”

Rogg chuckled at Dotti’s momentary lapse from molespeech. “Hurr hurr young miz, oi chops in lot of. . .” [let’s just stop it here, or I’ll bally punch meself, wot wot?”]

3. Correct apostrophes are for pompous know-it-alls. If you want to pretend you’re smarter than, say, your pet fish (and shame on you for such ludicrously high goals), then go ahead! Use apostrophes like this. . .

a) For abbreviation. Eg can’t, isn’t, I’m, they’re = cannot, is not, I am, they are.

b) For possession – but only when it’s the next word or phrase. Eg Sarah’s cat/Sarah’s alluringly plunging neckline/Sarah’s totally, like, awesome grip on the English language. And also, “The cats belong to Sarah” with no apostrophe, since the owner-ownee words aren’t in the right place to need an apostrophe.

If you’re REALLY the kind of fool who thinks editors like consistent punctuation, I bet you’ll also be able to combine plurals and possessives in a way that allegedly makes more sense than just putting apostrophes in where they look pretty. So I guess if you were a real geek you’d put the apostrophe precisely after the owner or owners. Eg The cat’s bowl (one cat) or The cats’ bowl (more than one cat). Also, The women’s club (because “women” already indicates it’s more than one woman).

And I bet you’ll cut out the one optional bit of apostrophes (whether you add an extra ‘s’ or not when the word already ends with ‘s’) by sticking to the rule that always works (leaving off the ‘s’ – because the plural of “Jesus” never has an extra ‘s’ – strange but true; you’re allowed an extra ‘s’ for almost everything else. . . if you want it). So that’d give you disgustingly consistent tripe, like “The princess’ cat” and “Jesus’ disciples”. Or maybe even “The princesses’ cat” if the princesses collectively own a cat.

You’re such a nerd I bet you even know that the only time apostrophes get left out is for the possessive “its” (so people can tell the difference from the abbreviation “it’s” for “it is”) so you’d end up with a sentence like, “It’s such a nice dog even its bark is polite.”

4. Adjectives and adverbs are for winners! More is better!!! You don’t need actual characterisation if you have a handy thesaurus. As you can clearly see below:

Boring old sentence: The Doberman took one look at my mother and growled. Mum’s blue eyes filled with tears. She didn’t even try to shield herself as the dog attacked.

Thrilling drama unfolding: The vicious cruel Doberman took one menacing look at my blue-eyed mother and growled loudly. Mum’s crinkly eyes filled with salty tears. She didn’t even try to shield herself as the mean and underfed dog attacked her quickly.

This lazy descriptive technique is also super great for dialogue. The word “said” is invisible, and you don’t want that!!! Write like THIS:

“Hello,” she extemporised.

“Why hello,” he growled back rapidly.

5. Words that sound the same may as well look the same. Right? Right!

Use “there” (“over there”, “There, there, don’t cry”) interchangeably with the possessive “their” (“their dog” “their lack of IQ”) and the abbreviation “They’re” (“They’re kidding about this, right?” = “They are kidding about this, right?”)

Ditto for the possessive “your” (“Your dog is getting mentioned a lot in this blog post”) and the abbreviation “you’re” (“You’re dumber than you look” = “You are dumber than you look.”)

6. It’s totally edgy to mix up past, present, and future tense. Make those verbs add zing to your story. If that’s too hard, just write in future tense or present tense. Readers LOVE that. It might be harder to read, but readers these days need a challenge anyway. (The exception is primary readers – for some reason, present tense doesn’t make them want to throw a book against the wall. For them, stick to future tense. It’s the only one that’ll really build their character.)

Boring old sentence: As I went to the store, I thought about how yesterday I’d had foccacia.

Thrilling drama unfolding: As I go to the store, I thought about how yesterday I will have foccacia.

Don’t you love how trippy that second sentence is? It just makes you want to read it again and again before moving on.

7. Corect Speling is 4 peopl with no imaginashon. Spel chekers are for peopl who r unartistic.

8. It’s totally humble to use a lower-case “i” instead of the standard capital “I”. Your editor will think, “This person will be great to work with” rather than, “This person has never written anything longer than an SMS.”

9. You don’t really need to start sentences with a capital letter. That’s old-fashioned. So are speech marks, like these old fuddy-duddies:

“Do you like my question mark?” said Mrs Jones.

“Sure!” said Mr Jones.

“I’m not sure though,” she said, “about how to break up a sentence in the middle, using commas.”

“Don’t worry,” he said. “Just use two sentences. The main thing to remember is that punctuation belonging to the sentence goes inside the speech marks – just like that exclamation mark I used earlier – and various commas for when the speaker pauses.”

“Do you think giving each new person a fresh line makes dialogue easier to follow?”

“Yes. And it means that not every single line needs a ‘he/she said’ tag.”

Mrs Jones said, “Good point. And I suppose you’d need to capitalise the first letter of dialogue mid-sentence if the dialogue made its own mini-sentence.”

“Sure. If you’re a total know-it-all.”

10. Don’t bother inserting page numbers. If your book gets dropped and the pages are out of order, the story will probably improve. For bonus points, leave your book title out of the header, too. It might just cause your book to get mixed up with a much better book. (Of course, if you also leave your name out of the header, no-one will be able to track you down – but that just adds to the mystery.) Having a header containing your name, book title, and page number is just showing off.

This post was based on’s #38: Re-Vocabise. The pictures are from

PS: CJ has SMSed to say our  jewellery evaluation is ready for him to pick up, and thus discover all the details – such as, which items are worth how much (all we know so far is that the total is $11,500). Will the hideous amber necklace be the only item of real value? Will I still be haunting ebay’s jewellery section trolling for buyers in ten years’ time? The full financial details and pictures. . . tomorrow!

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S#14: Bubbles!

October 27, 2010 at 11:06 am (Daily Awesomeness, Steampunk Earth Day info)

Ingredients: Cheap dishwashing detergent. Water. Cornflour (optional; I dunno if it helped or hindered). A bucket. Hands.

To make bubbles, you make an “OK” symbol with one hand, and blow through the “O” into your other hand (cupped to receive the bubble). I so very highly recommend you play along at home. It’s like magic.

I’ll be making more bubbles on Steampunk Earth Day (this Saturday). I heartily recommend you do the same.

Need outfit inspiration – or new clothes? A new reason to drool?

Sunday: Diet coke and mentos. . . and the first time awesomeness could have caused serious bodily harm. Officially my favourite video ever. . . and I haven’t put it on youtube yet.

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#220: Recognised by a Stranger

October 26, 2010 at 10:02 am (Daily Awesomeness, Steampunk Earth Day info, Writing Ranting)

As I wandered innocently through the Steampunk 21st Party of yesterday’s post, I was accosted by this man:

He addressed me with the infamous phrase, “Hey, aren’t you. . . ?” and proceeded to tell me my full name and, “You write those twittertales, right?”

I’ve never seen him before in my life. He’s never seen me before. Yet he knew me well enough to know what I do, and how excited I’d be.

That’s right, people. I was recognised. . . because of the internet.

My plan for world domination is totally working. Eeeeexceelllent.

And here’s some photos of my cat in a washing basket.

Tomorrow (if all goes well): Bubbles!

No news on the individual jewellery values yet. . . but soon!

And here’s your steampunk moment for the day – a timeline by Tor. Do you have an outfit for Steampunk Earth Day* yet?

*Steampunk Earth Day is THIS Saturday!

PS Here’s something Rachelle Gardner posted today. It’s a real response to the book by a real person – which, hopefully, will help you deal with your own experiences of writerly rejection:

The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis
“I bought these books to have something nice to read to my grandkids. I had to stop, however, because the books are nothing more than advertisements for “Turkish Delight,” a candy popular in the U.K. The whole point of buying books for my grandkids was to give them a break from advertising, and here (throughout) are ads for this “Turkish Delight”! How much money is this Mr. Lewis getting from the Cadbury’s chocolate company anyway? This man must be laughing to the bank.”

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#219: Steampunk 21st Party

October 25, 2010 at 11:52 am (Daily Awesomeness, Steampunk Earth Day info)

I knew it’d be awesome, and it was.

I chose boot visibility over semi-accurate skirt length. My corset’s from Gallery Serpentine in Sydney.

Something else awesome happened at the party, but I’ll blog about that tomorrow.

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Further steampunk data (PG: a bit creepy)

October 9, 2010 at 11:13 am (Daily Awesomeness, Steampunk Earth Day info)

Today’s awesomeness is #118: Clean someone else’s house. I’ve planned for several months to pull (slightly) more than my weight while staying here – since, after all, my sister could pop out a child at almost any moment.

And onto today’s more thrilling tales of wonder (and, it must be mentioned by way of warning, a little horror).

Ice (mainly for preserving food, often insulated with sawdust) was a new and thrilling thing (as I’m sure you can imagine if you’ve ever seen spoiled meat or milk) in the 1840s.

Wigs were pre-Victorian, but I can’t not share this snippet:

“The combination of open flames and combustible materials brought an element of alarm and excitement to every aspect of daily life in the pre-electrical world. Samuel Pepys recorded in his diary how he bent over a candle while working at his desk, and soon afterwards became aware of a horrible, pungent smell, as of burning wool; only then did he realize that his new and very expensive wig was impressively aflame.”

From, Samuel Pepys:

Electricity was invented a while before it actually became useful. One of the first practical applications was used by Giovanni Aldini to make money. He “devised a stage show in which he applied electricity to animate the bodies of recently executed murderers and the heads of guillotine victims, causing their eyes to open and their mouths to make noiseless shapes.”

Sleep well tonight, kids!

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#116: Visit sundry relations (and, further steampunk tales)

October 8, 2010 at 1:58 pm (Daily Awesomeness, Steampunk Earth Day info)

I am in Perth, which is slightly farther from my home than New Zealand. The up side of Perth is that my sister and her husband live here, and my grandpa, and an aunt and uncle who I very rarely see (with the especial feature that my uncle is Indonesian).

On Wednesday night, having discovered that my 90-year old grandfather had never eaten Indian food, my sister and brother-in-law took him out to “Spicy South” in Subiaco. I was lucky enough to be along for the ride.


None of us like our food super spicy, but that wasn’t an issue. We had butter chicken, lamb rogan josh, some kind of spinach-and-potato thing, pappadums, and two serves of naan bread (butter, and garlic).

Every bite was infused with spices and creamy deliciousness. Grandpa loved it. I worked out by a long process of elimination that the ultimate mouthful consisted of butter naan with butter chicken.

During the dinner, Grandpa mentioned he was seeing the aforementioned aunt and uncle for lunch the next day, and I invited myself along. We went to Jetty’s buffet restaurant in Hillary’s. Jetty’s costs rather more than I’m used to – but then, I’m not used to filling up with fresh prawns, either (there were about thirty dishes from lasagna to mussels – not counting sauces or desserts). Hillary’s is a very popular tourist trap with a man-made harbour, a small amusement park, extraordinarily tacky and overpriced shops, and large boats for sale.

Hillary’s also has a cold rock ice cream shop – which, sadly, we were too stuffed to visit on this occasion.

And we arrive neatly back at Bill Bryson’s history book, “At Home.”

“One early type of shower was so ferocious that users had to don protective headgear before stepping in lest they be beaten senseless by their own plumbing.”

Trust the Victorians to make a shower dangerous (baths sometimes blew up, but that’s another story).

1851 was the year of the Great Exhibition, which any Victorian student knows all about. It took place in the astonishing Crystal Palace (the most original and stunning building of the age – designed by a gardener), and was a roaring success. It was all about the rise of amazing new technologies.

“Almost 100,000 objects were on display, spread among some 14,000 exhibits. Among the novelties were a knife with 1,851 blades, furniture carved from furniture-sized blocks of coal (for no reason other than to show it could be done), a four-sided piano for homey quartets, a bed that became a life-raft and another that automatically tipped its startled occupant into a freshly drawn bath, flying contraptions of every type (except working), instruments for bleeding, the world’s largest mirror, an enormous lump of guano from Peru, the famous Hope and Koh-i-Noor diamonds, a model of a proposed suspension bridge linking Britain with France. . .”

You can see why steampunk holds such fascination. The simple question, “But what if it all actually worked?” is enough to launch a thousand novels.

More tomorrow!

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A steampunk romance – and, windchimes

October 7, 2010 at 1:19 pm (Daily Awesomeness, Steampunk Earth Day info)

I’m reading Bill Bryson’s “At Home” which is all about how history made our homes the way they are (eg germs, telephones and electric lights all started drastically changing homes in the 1880s). Obviously, the Victorian bits are of particular interest. (And I can smugly note that he quotes Liza Picard’s “Victorian London” repeatedly – a book I’ve read from cover to cover.)

Here is, perhaps, my favourite part:

“Jane Webb [wrote] a potboiler in three volumes called The Mummy! A Tale of the Twenty-second Century, which she published anonymously in 1827, when she was just twenty years old. Her description of a steam lawnmower so excited (seriously) the gardening writer John Claudius Loudon that he sought her out for friendship, thinking she was a man. Loudon was even more excited when he discovered she was a woman and rather swiftly proposed marriage, even though he was at that point exactly twice her age.

Jane accepted. . .”

The two became incredibly famous horticulturalists, each in their own right. Jane’s book, Gardening for Ladies, gave women social permission to garden for the first time.

There is a postscript to this tale, which just adds to the wonder of it all.

Lawnmowers were invented several decades later, without much immediate success. At one stage, things got AWESOME:

“One enterprising manufacturer, the Leyland Steam Power Company, took up the idea first suggested by Jane Loudon in 1827 and built a steam-powered mower, but this proved so unwieldy and massive – it weighed over one and a half tons – that it was only ever barely under control and in constant danger of ploughing through fences and hedges.”

*Pause while Louise swoons delicately at the history of a genuine steam-powered mechanical killer monster*

Today’s awesomeness is Steff Metal’s # 37: Windchimes.

CJ and I have an especially awesome set of windchimes with a particularly piercing tone. We use them to call one another from opposite ends of the house.


I’ll be sharing more highlights from the Victorian era via Bill Bryson over the next few days.

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How to Write Steampunk

October 3, 2010 at 2:00 pm (Daily Awesomeness, Steampunk Earth Day info, Writing Advice)

So, you wanna write a steampunk tale? I recommend you start by researching Victorian times – my favourite book is “Victorian London” by Liza Picard. Her section on bathing is hilarious.

You can also go here, for some of the most beloved bits and bobs of steampunk compositions:

You can read Richard Harland’s “Worldshaker”, “Girl Genius” online comics, or anything by Philip Reeve (keeping in mind that “Larklight” is G-rated and hilarious, but his Mortal Engines series is MA). The genre is flexible enough that the Girl Genius creators and Philip Reeve both say they’re not steampunk. (Whatever. . .)

Here are some examples of people who dressed a little steampunk by accident (one is from a wedding, and the other a pirate ball). Note the vests and/or cravat.

Today’s awesomeness is S#47: Participate in Operation Beautiful. You can find details at I posted these notes on my mum’s bathroom mirror:

This time it’s super easy to play along at home. (Although I don’t recommend gentlemen readers post anything in ladies’ bathrooms.)

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S#44: No-one at home (and steampunk outfits)

October 1, 2010 at 1:57 pm (Daily Awesomeness, Steampunk Earth Day info)

*I accidentally posted this a day early, so tomorrow I’ll post some writing tips*

For today’s awesomeness I changed my answering machine message to say, “Hello. You’ve reached Louise’s evil twin. Please leave a message, and any other information that might be helpful in my plan to take over her life, and then the world.”

Here are some more steampunk outfits – Nathan Filion as Castle utterly upstaging CJ and myself. Somehow, we don’t mind. 

Nathan’s mechanical sleeve is an excellent example of technology that definitely didn’t exist in Victorian times – but it fits steampunk perfectly.

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Steampunk Earth Day Launch

October 1, 2010 at 9:14 am (Daily Awesomeness, Steampunk Earth Day info)

On Saturday 30 October, wherever you are in the world, it’s time to play along at home.

Steampunk (adjective):

Victorian-inspired alternate reality for fiction and fun.

How to join Steampunk Earth Day:

Spend an hour or a full day doing any selection of these options:

1. Turn off the lights.

2. Turn off the AC/heater.

3. Walk or bike instead of using a car.

4. Turn off the computer and/or internet and/or TV.

5. Get your steampunk on with long skirts, awesome boots, leather/metal in your clothes, mad scientist welding goggles or whatever seems steampunk to you.

Do something green – install a solar panel or water-saving showerhead or something.

If you like, you can sign up officially at

The rationale behind Steampunk Earth Day is that the Victorian era was where a lot of today’s pollution was born and raised and bred. Steampunk is all about taking the Victorian era and making it more fun – so why not take a day to be steampunk WITHOUT the pollution?

From, some steampunk outfits to get your started:

I hope you like this month’s steampunk twittertale, “Zeppelin Jack and the Deadly Dueller” @Louise_Curtis_

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