Monday, October 19, 2009

Guest Blogger Erica Vetsch: Confessions of a Word Addict

Thank you to JoAnne and Becky for having me here at The Edit Café. I’m so excited that my first novel, The Bartered Bride, is debuting with Heartsong Presents very soon. It’s been an amazing year since the contract announcement, going through the editing process, and preparing this story for release in November.

Both my content editor and copy editor have commented on my unusual vocabulary and word choices in my historical romances. One editor said, “I enjoy the words you come up with (how do you do that—surely these aren’t normal vocabulary words for you?!), but when I look them up, they’re always in context... Seriously, Erica, I’d like to know how you research period language. That’s a very cool element of your work. Maybe if you ever guest on Edit Café, you can tell us.”

So, thanks, Rachel O., for the compliment and recommending me to guest blog on The Edit Café.
I fully sympathize with the fictional character Anne of Green Gables, who used big words as a child and was thought to be odd because of it. I did the same. Anne was a word addict, and so am I. I love unusual words, words that look cool on the page, words that feel neat coming off the tongue. I don’t know if this is normal or not, (probably not) but when I hear an interesting word, instead of my brain conjuring up a picture of that item, my brain flashes a picture of the word on a page across my vision. The shape of the letters, the arrangement of the vowels and consonants.

Yeah, probably not normal. I just love words.

One of the reasons I love to watch sports is because of the jargon. I watch NASCAR and words like aero-loose and bump-draft and camber fire my imagination. Show jumping becomes surcingle and snaffle-bit and tiger-trap. Of particular delight to me were the words of curling: hog-line, hammer, and broomer. When the Winter Olympics comes up in a few months, I’ll be soaking in the spectacle...and the lingo.

I’ve carried this love of words into my research of period language.

I’ve always been an avid reader, especially of historical fiction. Historical fiction is full of great old words that look good on the page, evoke certain emotions and ideas, and really pull a reader into the time-period. I’ve been blessed with a good memory for unusual words (precious little else these days, it seems) and when I find a new word, I tuck it away into my vocabulary and wait for a great time to use it. And my family will attest, I do use unusual words in my everyday speech.
Besides reading quality historical fiction, when researching a particular time period, I also go to original sources of that day for words and phrases. Diaries and journals are great, for they give you the flavor and nuances of speech patterns of that time. They give you a peek into the minds of people who lived in the era you’re trying to portray.

I also love to read novels written in the time period I’m researching. I’m currently researching a series set in 1870’s Kansas at Fort Larned, and one treasure I found while touring the fort (which is a National Historic Site and I highly recommend touring it if you get the chance) was a list of books available at the post library at the time I’m writing about. Invaluable to read what my characters would be reading at that time.

But by far, my favorite way to garner words of a bygone era is reading newspaper articles and advertisements of the times. Journalists of the 1800’s were showmen and wordsmiths. Their language is flamboyant and unusual, and they constantly drew upon their communication skills to entice the reader into their stories. Journalists of frontier America were not all that far removed from the running patterers of Victorian London. Garnering the biggest audience meant telling the most interesting story.

And isn’t that true with writing fiction as well? I love an interesting story, and part of what interests me is unusual words, so I try to sprinkle them in whenever I can.

ERICA VETSCH is married to Peter and keeps the company books for the family lumber business. A home-school mom to Heather and James, Erica loves history, romance, and storytelling. Her ideal vacation is taking her family to out-of-the-way history museums and chatting to curators about local history. She has a Bachelor’s degree from Calvary Bible College in Secondary Education: Social Studies. You can find her on the web at

About The Bartered Bride:
Jonathan Kennebrae is furious when his grandfather informs him that his future has been decided. He will marry Melissa Brooke or be disinherited. Jonathan has invested years of his life in Kennabrae Shipping, but heaven help him if Grandfather decides to take it all away for this.

Melissa, too, is devastated when her parents make their announcement. As little more than a bargaining chip in her father’s business maneuvers, she feels her secure world slipping away. Engaged to marry a man she has never met—someone “considerably older” than herself? What have her parents done?

Can Jonathan and Melissa find a way out of this loveless marriage, or must they find a way forward together?


CJ said...

Here's another sports lingo to use: Dennis Eckersley was filling in for Red Sox announcer Jerry Remy. "Can of corn" apparently an easily caught fly ball. But you probably knew that already.

As to historical fiction, nothing yanks me out of a story faster than coming across a modern phrase. Like take a deep, cleansing breath. LOL

Pepper Basham said...

Oh Erica,
Sounds like the perfect conflict for romance in your book the "Bartered Bride". Congrats for you and how exciting.

I find a 'kindred spirit' in you. I love to read and was kind of weird as a kid because my culture didn't really reward academics all that much. Anne of Green Gables and Joe March are two of my favorite & most inspiring heroines.

Congrats again.

Georgiana said...

I love your vocabulary too! I've learned a lot reading your work :D

Mary Connealy said...

Erica. I'm looking soooooooo
forward to this book. :)

Congratulations and keep using those cool words.

Anonymous said...

Erica, you are a woman after my own heart! I, too, adore words and a picture of the word itself appears in my mind when I hear it. I'm always making notes of new, or old, ones and looking up definitions.

I'm very much looking forward to reading The Bartered Bride. Congrats on your first book! Love your description of your historical research. Best Wishes!

PatriciaW said...

Congratulations on your novel debut, Erica. It's amazing what will attract a reader to a book. I'm not big on historicals but I love words too. Based on this post, I'd love to read your book.

Anonymous said...

I will attest, she does use interesting words in her everyday speech. Not that I mind, because then our whole family gets to use them! :D Way to go, Mom!


Cecelia Dowdy said...

Wow! Congrats, Erica! I look forward to reading this cool, historical novel!

Erica Vetsch said...

Hey, CJ, yeah, I've heard Can of Corn before. The announcer I listen to uses it quite often. Supposedly shopkeepers used to keep canned goods up high on the shelves, and they would use a pole to knock one down for a customer. They'd catch it in their apron. Isn't that cool?

Pepper, always love meeting a kindred spirit. :) Anne is so dear to my heart. My Green Gables books are read to tatters.

Erica Vetsch said...

Hey, G! I'm glad you've learned a little from me. You've certainly taught me a lot about being FEARLESS when it comes to making my characters' lives hard!

Mary, I can't wait for you to read it and tell me what you think. I'm excited and nervous and SO hope you'll like it. :D

Erica Vetsch said...

Mary B. It's so great to meet you! I'm glad I'm not the only word lover who sees the actual letters in her mind. :)

PatriciaW, that is so encouraging to hear. I hope you enjoy the book.

Erica Vetsch said...

Heather! Thanks for coming by to read this blog post, even though you proofed it for me. ;)

Cecelia, I hope you enjoy the book. And thank you for your welcome into the Heartsong family in 2008. I well remember that van ride to and from the MOA. :)

Aaron McCarver said...

I can attest this a tome using an extensive lexicon. (I think that's what I meant to say. :) ) Anyway, I thoroughly enjoyed this novel, and the sequel is great, too. Great job, Erica, and great blog, too.

Erica Vetsch said...

Aaron, you slay me! Thanks for all your work on the edits. :)

Eileen Astels Watson said...

Erica, I can't wait to get my copies. The post office is just waaaay too slow!!

Jeannie Campbell, LMFT said...

my mom reads through my WIPs and always circles words that she thinks are too "big" for the average reader. but i think readers are far smarter than we give them credit for. :)

got my copy of bartered bride before i left for CA! so i've got it in my short TBR pile (with camy's deadly intent...short and small fit well in a suitcase). :)

The Character Therapist

Edna said...

sounds like a great book sure would like to win it.


Sarah said...

I love this post, Erica. I was teased as a child (and sometimes as an adult) for using words with which other were unfamiliar. But I love learning new words. They're so much fun!

As a teen, my English teacher would have our class (in a homeschool co-op) read various books and classics and write down all the words we didn't know. Then we would have to look them up in an unabridged dictionary and write down the language of origin, definition, and use it in a sentence. What a great exercise. I learned so many words that way and probably enjoyed the experience a lot more than most. :)

Now I'm even more eager to read your book. I love when books feel very authentic, and language is definitely a major contributor.

Debra E Marvin said...

Thanks Erica for standing up and giving the rest of us the courage to admit our addiction too.

I think I can spend an hour trying to find the right word in my Synonym Finder (I actually call it the Cinnamon finder) because I get carried away jumping from entry to entry. And then I still type in the word "something" as a filler till the perfect one comes along.

Journals and newspapers are great resources. I just bought a copy of Nicholas Nickleby for about 25cents. What a deal--such a resource.

I look forward to reading the Bartered Bride!

Erica Vetsch said...

Eileen, I hope your copies come soon! Maybe you can stalk the post-man like I stalked the UPS guy. :)

Jeannie, wow, I'm in good company. I really enjoyed Camy's Deadly Intent. Hope you like The Bartered Bride...def. a different genre from Camy's. :)

Edna, thank you! And hop on over to an see the post about the blog tour for The Bartered Bride. There will be lots of opportunities to win a copy of the book.

Erica Vetsch said...

Sarah, that was a great exercise. As a homeschooling mom, I am always looking for new ways to teach my kids the things I am passionate about. :)

Debra, welcome to the club! Word addicts of the world, unite! Love the 'cinnamon finder' myself. One of my favorite books is my Flip Dictionary. So many cool words, so little time!

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