Isolation

Isolation is one of the words of the moment and – for me at least – it’s undergoing some requalification and redefinition right now.

I love my own company, and I have some distinctly antisocial tendencies that are deepening as I get older. I live alone, by choice, and I’m generally not unhappy to wave goodbye to visitors. My work often doesn’t require interaction with others, and my interests are also somewhat solitary; I’m a writer, a gamer, a devourer of stories. Even when I’m a walker, I generally only have my dog along for company. Oftentimes an obligation to leave the house, for whatever reason, can make me sigh and sulk. Certainly I would never describe myself as lonely or isolated, but over the last couple of weeks I’ve realised that this is because I’m choosing to be mostly solitary. When it’s being imposed upon me by outside forces, I don’t like it at all.

I heartily support any measures necessary to ensure we control the spread of Corona virus as much as possible. So I’m abiding by the guidelines we’ve been given and avoiding any non-essential expeditions. But realising I’m no longer at liberty to go for a long ramble in the countryside, pop out for a coffee, nip to see one of  my family or friends, has made me realise I’m not as antisocial as I thought. I do feel isolated now because I’m no longer the one choosing to stay at home to do solitary things.

I think this is a very important difference between solitariness and isolation. It’s certainly one I hadn’t taken on board before. I’ve always been confused by people who say they are lonely, people who feel isolated; I now understand that their sense of loneliness or isolation is coming from outside. They haven’t chosen to be solitary; it’s being imposed upon them by circumstances beyond their control. It’s the lack of control that’s significant because the lack of control makes the isolation real. It’s not something that can be easily put right. ‘Join a club!’ ‘Make friends!’; these are simple to say but far more difficult to put into practice. Because that precious connection you have with a friend or family member isn’t something readily manufactured.

I am discovering a new appreciation for simple social pleasures I very much took for granted before. And I’m learning also to express that appreciation to the people who provide said pleasures, from my best friend – who understands that sometimes I’m grumpy and don’t want to chat – to my little granddaughter – who always beams with pleasure when she sees me – and – last but not least – my dog Poppy. Poppy, you are making this enforced separateness somewhat more bearable.

I hope all of you – my family and friends and everyone who reads my words – look after yourselves and stay well. I hope we can all come together afterwards and celebrate our connection with each other. I will never feel inclined to take that connection for granted again.

Is Fan Fiction Worth Reading or Writing?

Fan fiction has a fairly shoddy reputation on the internet, and I’m not going to deny that a lot of that is deserved. Far too often it’s no more than an excuse to produce badly written smut which doesn’t do the genre – if I can call it a genre – any favours. I have absolutely nothing against smut if it has a context; still, I’m not particularly interested in reading it just for the sake of reading it. And badly written smut sometimes has some comedic value, but that’s the best that can be said for it.

But if you dismiss fan fiction out of hand, you’re missing some reading treats. Yes, it’s a case of searching for those, but there are plenty of resources out there, and some of the submissions are very high quality. So if you’re interested in reading new tales based around Tolkien’s work – for example – search ‘Lord of the Rings fan fiction’ in Google and see if you find anything that appeals. Do be prepared for that smut I mentioned, however. A lot of fan fiction is based upon something called ‘shipping’ which is basically creating and/or expanding on relationships between certain characters. Legolas and Aragorn, for example. These aren’t always romantic or sexual relationships, but they often are. But the sites are obliged to flag any adult or mature content so you shouldn’t be unduly shocked unless that’s what you’re looking for.

I enjoy reading certain pieces of fan fiction. Some of the ones I’ve found have been little pieces of genius. Some have been novel-sized and held my attention as well as most novels I buy. But it is definitely a case of searching through a lot of less than excellent nonsense to find the gems.

But my fondness for fan fiction is mostly born out of my appreciation of it as a writing tool. It provides writers learning their trade with a framework and ideas that they can build upon and exploit. It also provides them with a ready made audience who’ll give them feedback. Sometimes you might be given to wonder how valuable that feedback is, especially if you’re part of a community where everyone just likes everything any of their members create. Validation is great, but if you start to doubt that it’s trustworthy validation, it can become more of a problem. But if you write a piece of fan fiction, and it garners plenty of likes from people you don’t know, you are probably doing something right.

Johannes VermeerLady Writing a Letter with her Maid  

It’s hard to undervalue the usefulness of ready made characters, ideas, worlds and so on to the novice writer. Any kind of writing is a valuable part of the learning process. Working out how to create dialogue and motivation that’s believably ‘Gandalfian’ is just a step on the ladder to creating dialogue and motivation for an original character you have created yourself. Bear in mind, though, that any kind of fan fiction is derivative and is therefore liable to action on the part of the original author should they feel so inclined. Most writers, film-makers, game designers and so on, don’t bother policing fan fiction sites, but if you decided to try and profit financially from a popular piece, they would be completely within their rights to demand you desist. Yes, Fifty Shades of Grey began as a piece of fan fic, but all the derivative elements in it were removed before it was published.

If you are interested in either reading or writing fan fiction, my favourite site is An Archive of Our Own. Have a browse for your favourite categories – you’ll see there’s a vast number – or try your hand at writing something about your favourite characters. It’s a great place to scratch an itch you have to hear more about Legolas, Lara Croft, or Luke Skywalker. Of course there are plenty of other sites out there as well. Fan Fiction is another good one.

How Not to Waste Your Writing Time

I am having a difficult day today as far as the writing goes. It’s something that happens fairly often once I’m past the initial excitement of a new story and before I get to the editing stage. My head may be seething with ideas, but getting them down on a blank page isn’t so easy. Once the words start to flow, then it picks up, but getting them to flow can feel damn near impossible at times. So I thought I’d share a few of my tricks and tips to help with this process.

SET A SCHEDULE

I don’t write every day, but I do have specific days when I do write, and I don’t let anything else get in the way of that. By which I mean I don’t drop everything and go out for lunch with a friend on a writing day. Writing is a job, and you have to treat it like one. Refusing to write unless inspiration strikes (or your muse speaks to you, or however you want to describe it) just isn’t going to get you anywhere. Making yourself write when you’re not feeling ‘it’ – whatever ‘it’ is – can be downright painful, but it’s necessary. And make sure family and friends respect the schedule that you set up.

SET A SHORT TERM GOAL

It doesn’t have to be a huge goal. In fact smaller is often better because then you won’t feel overwhelmed. Telling yourself you’ve got to write 10k words probably isn’t realistic; pick a number that you know you can achieve without too much pain. My goal for each writing day is a mere 1k words. I know I can make myself do that even if I’m struggling. And then I reward myself afterwards with something more fun, even if it’s generally writing related. Such as working on cover ideas or my website or my Twitter following. And don’t beat yourself up if you find yourself making endless cups of coffee or emptying the washing machine instead. Just head back to your computer – or pen and paper – every time until your goal is accomplished.

SET A LONG TERM GOAL

This can be anything, big or small. Publication by a set date or the first ten chapters by a set date. Make sure you pick a sensible time frame though. I’m close to finishing my current novel – which is possibly why it’s so painful – and I plan to have it available on Kindle by the end of September. I know I can do that if I stick to my short term goal.

GO OVER WHAT YOU WROTE LAST TIME

You don’t necessarily have to change much, if anything, but I find this is a good way of getting back into the story. I actually enjoy editing much more than writing from scratch; it’s where I refine and polish the basic structure that I’ve set down. But I try to keep the editing to a minimum at this point because I don’t want to get distracted. Editing is a whole different process that I’ll talk about another time.

By Unknown – Open Clipart Library, CC0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=74745868

MAKE NOTES

This is a really good habit to get into. My brain is stuffed with stories – most of them unrelated to my current project – and if I didn’t write ideas down when they came to me, I’d forget them. Unfortunately I often have them at night when I’m trying to sleep. So I’ve lost a lot of really good ideas of how to get from A to B over the years.

For me, writing is joining up the dots of a story that otherwise only exists inside my head. I know my characters; I know the big thing that’s going to happen to them; getting them there is the writing process. So if there’s a sudden flash of illumination – oh yeah, THAT’S how that happens – write it down!

How Do You Spell Discreet?

Okay, so I already spelled it. I know that. But every time I come across this word lately, folks aren’t spelling it the way I do. They’re spelling it discrete.

In my ancient and pedantic world, these are two completely different words with two completely different meanings. Discrete comes from the Latin discretus (separate or distinct) whereas discreet comes from the old French discret (circumspect or discerning). Both have their base origin in the Latin verb discenere (to discern).

Discreet means quietly and unobtrusively, so as not to be noticed. The chairman of the golf club had a discreet affair. She gave the waiter a discreet tip. I was watching them from the window, but I tried to be discreet about it.

Discrete means separate, not a part of. HeyPetz used to be part of PetzFun, but now they are two discrete companies.

I honestly can’t think of any occasions that I’ve used discrete – except perhaps at school in a science or geography lesson – but it’s still a completely different word from discreet and it doesn’t mean the same thing at all. ‘The chairman of the golf club had a discrete affair’ is a very different sentence from ‘the chairman of the golf club had a discreet affair’. I don’t deny that ‘a discrete affair’ is probably a thing in some circles but, generally speaking, it isn’t what the writer means.

I have seen these two confused so much recently that I was beginning to think there had been some seismic shift in accepted usage. But investigation has assured me this isn’t so; they are both still used the way I thought they were. It’s just another of those occasions in the English language where you have to memorise the difference between two words that sound exactly the same but mean two very different things. (These are called homophones if you’re interested).

Why Reading Shouldn’t Be Tedious

I’ve had an online conversation today with someone who told me – in all seriousness – that reading is tedious. To put this into context, they were arguing that there is an issue with an online computer game because players are put off playing by the amount of reading they have to do to progress through the story. This person wants all text in the story parts of the game to be conveyed in voiced cut-scenes so that players don’t have to read. Because ‘reading is tidious’ (sic).

As a writer, I clearly have a vested interest in people continuing to find books engaging and worthwhile.To a large extent, the onus is on me to provide interesting and stimulating content, but I’m more or less bound to do that anyway. No one is going to buy my books if they’re not worth reading.

My concern is about a mindset in younger people that I am coming across more and more often; that too much effort is involved in reading, and the effort isn’t matched by the reward. The person above is talking about the story in a game called Final Fantasy XIV, an MMO or Massively Multiplayer Online game. It is very much a story driven game and has recently garnered a lot of praise for the writing in its current expansion, Shadowbringers

Photography by
Pedro Ribeiro Simões

It’s hard not to presume this mindset is encouraged by both the schooling and the parenting that children experience. If books are presented as fun and entertaining from a very early age, both at home and in school, most children will grow up with a regard for the written word. Even if they aren’t avid readers, even if they enjoy other kinds of media, they’ll still be able to recognise that the written word has merit. They won’t dismiss it as tedious when something else they enjoy – a computer game in this instance – requires them to read in order to progress.

Concern about declining reading habits isn’t new, of course. And literacy as a – more or less – universal phenomenon is new. A few hundred years ago, the people who could read would have been the minority, not the majority. It didn’t blight the development of the human race; perhaps it did the opposite. But I would argue that what is new is a decline in imaginative muscle caused by over-exposure to media that uses visual and verbal means in tandem. And it’s the decline in this muscle that leads my friend from this morning to describe reading as tedious.

I’m no educational, psychological or statistical expert so my musings here are just that; musings. I’m speculating aloud about why someone might call reading tedious when, in my experience, it’s one of the most delicious, thrilling activities I can engage in. I would far rather read a book than watch a film or a television adaptation. Of course sometimes a film or television series is what you fancy, and that’s fine. Sometimes the book you pick up is badly written, and then reading is definitely tedious. I’m not advocating the written word as superior to everything else; what I am advocating is any medium powerful enough to ignite your imagination and encourage you to exercise it.

A few hundred years ago most people didn’t read books, but they still had stories. They were told them by their grandmothers, their friends, their priest. They heard them in folk songs and local legends. They saw them in the hangings in the church and temple, the statues and the woodcuts. But in each case, they still needed their imagination to fully realise the experience. If they were told the words, they still built the pictures with their imagination; embroidered and decorated what they saw in their minds’ eye. As they studied the tapestries, they created the stories in their heads that matched what they saw.

I see imagination as a muscle. If you don’t use it, you lose it. And if you lose your imagination, you lose a powerful tool for making the world enchanting and fascinating. The written word becomes a dull and boring thing because you’ve no way of sparking it into life. Reading does become tedious; it’s just words then, and you’ve no way of using them to make a whole world flower inside your head. You have to sit passively, hear words and watch pictures, because you’re unable to create words and pictures for yourself. We are failing our children because we’re not equipping them with the tools to exercise their imaginations.

The Ghost of Swinsty Hall

As a fantasy writer, I love ghost stories. I can mine them for all kinds of story ideas, motifs and characters. One of my favourites is right on my doorstep.

Swinsty Reservoir in the winter

An afternoon ramble along the woodland footpaths around Swinsty Reservoir is a pleasant experience whatever the time of year. But it may take the first-time visitor somewhat by surprise to come upon the looming grandeur of Swinsty Hall amongst the trees and, even in mid-summer, it isn’t difficult to imagine ghostly goings-on in these surroundings. No disappointment, then, to discover that the hall has its very own macabre legend.

The legend tells the ghoulish tale of a fellow named Henry Robinson, supposedly the builder and first occupant of Swinsty Hall. He was born nearby, to a family of poor weavers, in the 1580s and travelled to London as a young man to seek his fortune. But when he arrived in the city in 1603, he found himself in the midst of an outbreak of the plague. The death toll was so high – and panic so widespread – that often entire households died with no one any the wiser. Robinson, clearly a man of iron nerves and no scruples, recognised an obvious opportunity; he broke into these houses of the dead and stole their unattended gold. When he’d amassed a considerable fortune by such means, he hired a cart and transported it all back to Yorkshire.

News of the plague-ridden capital had preceded him, however, and he found that none of his friends or acquaintances would welcome him, for fear of catching the disease. He took up residence in a deserted barn and carried all his ill-gotten gold down to a nearby well where he washed it all most carefully, to rid it of any contagion. Then he purchased the land where Swinsty Hall now stands and commissioned the building of a magnificent house for himself. He lived and died there, and several generations of Robinsons followed after him. But his ghost is said to haunt the Greenwell Spring, the place where he tried so painstakingly to clean all his gold. In an image more than little redolent of Lady Macbeth, John Ingram describes the apparition thus:-

    ‘ There he bends, and rubs, and rubs, and rubs away at his ghastly spoil, and never seems satisfied that it is freed from its taint, or, perhaps, from its stains : who knows?’  The Haunted Homes and Family Traditions of Great Britain (1897)

The story of Swinsty’s ghost appears to have been first recorded by local antiquarian, William Grainge, in his book ‘The History & Topography of The Townships of Little Timble, Great Timble and The Hamlet of Snowden, in the West Riding of the County of York’(1895). Grainge appears to have been told the tale by various local inhabitants. They pointed out to him the house where Henry Robinson was born, by then a cow-byre; the barn where Robinson sought shelter after returning from London; and the well at Greenwell Spring, where the ghost was said to appear.

Unfortunately for ghost-hunters – and me – the historical record does not appear to support any of the macabre legend. Although William Grainge seems to have delighted in it as an imaginative account of the Hall’s origins, he was, first and foremost, a dedicated researcher, and his investigations reveal a much more prosaic account. He provides extensive evidence for a long association of a family called Wood with the lands at Swinsty, stretching back as far as the fourteenth century. In 1575 the Hall was owned by Ralph Wood and his son, Francis; Grainge quotes extensively from the marriage settlement of Francis Wood and Ellen Sorrell as proof. However Francis and Ellen fell into debt, and Francis was forced to mortgage the estate. When he failed to pay the money owing, the owner of the mortgage – one Henry Robinson of Old Lound in Lancashire – foreclosed on it and took possession of Swinsty Hall. This happened several years before the plague of 1603.

Perhaps young Francis, although feckless, was popular thereabouts, and folk resented Henry Robinson for ousting him. Or perhaps they took umbrage at a Lancastrian taking over  lands that had belonged to a good, Yorkshire-born family for at least two hundred years. Whatever the reason, Henry Robinson became the villain of the piece. And by the time William Grainge wrote his book in 1895, locals believed most vehemently in the legend of Robinson’s ill-gotten gold.

Grainge appears to regret his de-bunking of the legend in favour of a much less romantic, if more accurate account. And, wandering past Swinsty Hall along the woodland path, it is hard not to sympathise with his regret. The tale of the ghoulish figure, trying to rub that ghostly gold clean of its corruption, is guaranteed to raise a shiver of delighted horror in any listener.

   Sadly, the truth of the matter is much more prosaic.

Ten Things I Do Instead Of Writing (that I think will help me write…)

1.EDITING

This can take two forms. One’s fairly innocuous and often does have the intended effect; I quickly read over what I wrote yesterday to get me in the zone/get me into my protagonist’s/antagonist’s headspace. The other is fatal. I go back and read something I wrote months ago, discover it’s terrible (everything I write is always terrible when I reread it months later)/full of errors/how-did-I-ever-think-this-nonsense-was-good. I then spend a large amount of time editing it. Sometimes it’s almost a rewrite. And when I say a large amount of time, I mean weeks. I then go back to my current project – which is now also terrible since it’s so long since I last looked at it – and I start editing that.

2.THINKING

I do this A LOT. And I’m not saying it’s a bad thing. Clearly I need to think about what I’m going to write. And if I do it in otherwise occupied time – such as walking the dog – it can even be productive. But quite often I forget what I have thought, even though I can recall it was positively brilliant, and that is frustrating. I’ve invested in a notebook (pocket-sized) to prevent this, but I keep forgetting to take the notebook with me …

3.WALKING THE DOG

See above.

Also the dog needs walking, that’s a given. And the fresh air will do me good, clear my head, help clarify my ideas. But, especially if it’s a beautiful day, I can spend hours clarifying and then not remember any of it.

Poppy is ready!

4.GARDENING

Pretty much the same as dog walking.

5.IRONING

Much the same as gardening except indoors. I’ll include most housework in this category although I do enjoy ironing more than, say, hoovering. I get more satisfaction out of the empty ironing basket, and I haven’t sat at the computer all day not writing anything because I’m thinking about the massive pile of ironing that needs attention.

6.PAPERWORK

I loathe paperwork. Much like the ironing, however, if I don’t do it, it niggles away at me. So it’s time well spent because otherwise I’d be distracted from my writing by the pile of bank statements and invoices and tax returns that are sitting there, threatening to topple over because the stack is so tall.

7.CLEANING (and clearing out)MY DIARY

Yes, this is a thing. I have one of those fancy ones that you buy new inserts for. It is bright pink, fairly shiny, and somewhat elderly (sounds like me…) so it needs a lot of upkeep. I wipe it vigorously, trim off any dangly bits and go through the pages to remove anything irrelevant. Generally I get distracted by diary entries that remind me of people I haven’t spoken to in ages/days out I want to recall/stuff I wrote down but still forgot to do.

8.RESEARCHING

I love researching. I trained as a historian so research is more or less programmed into me. It can lead me into a whole bunch of new articles for my blog or ideas I want to pitch to an editor. But I love it for its own sake – not just for the writing benefits – so it can tempt me dangerously far away from any actual writing. Instead I’ll find myself drawing maps, or making timelines, or arranging stuff on a spreadsheet so that I can find it when I need it (this never works, by the way)

9.REARRANGING MY WORKSPACE

This one is also fatal. It takes hours – it’s never just moving a couple of boxes of books – and it’s exhausting. This is the one that prompted me to write this list. On Thursday I had the great idea that if I dug out my old laptop, I could maybe do some work at the sitting-room table. But I didn’t like where the table was (it meant staring at a blank wall when I looked up reflectively) so I decided to switch it with the television stand. Three hours later my many hundreds of books are on the floor, I’ve moved every piece of furniture in the room, and my back feels like I spent the day harvesting a cornfield by hand. I am still dealing with the fall-out.

The fall-out

10.COOKING

Okay, no. Just no. I am a notable procrastinator, but I hate cooking. I would much rather write.

Anne Brontë, feminist

This month sees the two hundredth anniversary of the birth of Anne Brontë on 17th January 1820.

For a great many people Anne Brontë is ‘that other one’. As in ‘Charlotte Brontë, Emily Brontë and that other one’ when speaking of the three sisters and their lives and works. This is unfortunate as it means many readers overlook Anne’s second novel, The Tenant of Wildfell Hall, a highly significant piece of fiction from the moment of its publication in 1848.

My introduction to The Tenant of Wildfell Hall was an early one as my mother was a huge fan of the television series in 1968 which starred Janet Munro as Helen Huntingdon. It was the first Brontë novel I read so it was never eclipsed for me by Charlotte and Emily’s work, marvellous though that is. Of course, at age ten or so when I read it, I was oblivious to the social reverberations of the story. But I reread it at university in the early 1980s and was profoundly impressed by its relevance for a modern reader.

It’s been described as the most shocking of the novels of the Brontë sisters because of its themes of domestic abuse and female self-determination. Many consider it to be one of the very first feminist novels. Helen Huntingdon flees her alcoholic and abusive husband Arthur, taking their young son with her. She sets up home as an independent woman at Wildfell Hall, along with her child and a servant, and she supports herself by selling her paintings. 

In doing so Helen not only offends Victorian social convention but breaks nineteenth century English law; it wasn’t until the 1870s and the Married Women’s Property Act that a wife had any independent identity in English law. She had no right to own property – if she was an heiress, her lands passed immediately to her husband – or to sign any contracts on her own behalf. She was also unable to sue for divorce – although she could be divorced by her husband – or to have custody or control of her children.

The Tenant of Wildfell Hall is based far more in reality than the Gothic novels of her two sisters. Many elements in Jane Eyre and Wuthering Heights are thoroughly fantastical and imbued with Gothic sensibility, and they are powerful because of it. But Helen Huntingdon’s story has a different power of its own that should rightly strike a chord for any modern reader. Anne’s own sister, Charlotte, disapproved of the realism with which alcoholism, abuse and degeneracy are presented in the Tenant of Wildfell Hall. Indeed Charlotte prevented the novel’s republication for several years after Anne’s death, despite its initial success.

Helen’s creative life is depicted in the novel as something deeply important to her, something strangled by the demands of her role as a married woman and the social conventions of her era. For me, this is the most significant aspect of the novel, one that reverberates deeply with me. I can identify very much with her struggle to express herself creatively.

The Tenant of Wildfell Hall is significant for a few reasons. It’s significant as an historical source for an examination of the role of women in early nineteenth century England. It examines issues to do with marital roles, domestic abuse, and alcoholism that are still relevant today. And it examines the struggle that any individual – man or woman – may face when expressing their creativity, and the need for that creativity to be valued.

The End of YouWriteOn?

I received an email this morning from the newsletter of the YouWriteOn website advising that its closure – or at least temporary closure – will go ahead on 1st February. An effort was made at the end of last year to raise new funding for the site via a Kickstarter campaign, but it looks as though this was unsuccessful.

If you’ve never heard of YouWriteOn, it was a peer review project funded with the support of publishing houses Bloomsbury and Orion. In order to earn reviews of your own work, you reviewed the work of other contributors; chapters – sometimes entire novels – were then rated based upon these scores, and those that made it into the Top Ten won an assessment from an editor at Bloomsbury or Orion. (I was thrilled to win one myself a few years ago when I used the site to get feedback on the first chapters of the Hanged God; thankfully the editor was very complimentary.)

It was the carrot of this free assessment from an editor that probably persuaded most people to submit their work and undertake to look at other people’s; in a lot of cases the submissions needed a great deal of improvement. Losing the backing of the publishers – not to mention their funding – meant the demise of YouWriteOn was probably inevitable. At least in its current format. But it’s always sad for writers – old and new – to lose a tool for learning and improvement. Sadly the publishing houses don’t really need to invest in and foster new talent to maintain their position in the industry. 

Still, don’t despair! If I’ve learned one truth over the years, it’s that publishers don’t like to take risks, but these days that needn’t bother us too much. Self-publishing is a lot of work – that absolutely DOESN’T stop once you’ve finished writing your magnum opus – but if you invest your time and energy into it, it will pay off. Yes, it’s sad that we’ve lost another option for peer review and feedback, but there are others available. And YouWriteOn is still hoping to return in some form in the future.

Let’s keep our fingers crossed!

Where does the word Sunday come from?

I was disgruntled to wake up this morning and discover it was raining heavily. My plans for a lovely long walk with my dog, Poppy, were immediately overturned as she doesn’t like the rain at all. “Whoever named this Sunday was an idiot …” I thought as I made my coffee. Of course such stray thoughts are mana to a writer; I immediately wondered where the name came from and that naturally led to a blog post.

It was the Greeks who named the days after the seven planets then known to them and the Egyptians who introduced the concept of a seven-day week. The Romans renamed the days in Latin. We kept both traditions, but the days of the week were renamed by the people of northern Europe – from whom the English language is derived – after their northern European counterparts. Sunday was ‘dies solis’ in Latin; it became Sonntag and then Sunday. So nothing to do with the weather, although I am still tempted to rename it Rainday today.

Writing fantasy is the kind of genre where information like this matters. If you’re setting your story in an imaginary world, sooner or later you’re going to have to come up with names for the days of the week, the months, the feast days and so on. So understanding the roots of where we derived our calendar names and systems from can be helpful. You don’t want to interrupt your storytelling with a long digression about where the name Furbleblog (Thursday…?) came from. So sometimes it’s easier to use something that’s easily identifiable – Moonsday, Winterfest, High Summersday, those kinds of names. Not terribly original perhaps – and more difficult with a name like Tuesday, which is derived from the Norse god Tiw (or Tyr) – but arguably better than confusing your reader enough to jerk them out of your story.

“We must leave by Sunsday at the latest,” Mara insisted. “It’s a four-day ride to Infalc so if we want to get there by Welkinsday, we can’t go any later.” This sentence pretty much establishes that Welkinsday is equivalent to our Wednesday without any explanation needed. Oh, and make sure to note the names you use. There’s nothing more annoying than having to search through a 400-page manuscript trying to find out what you called Hallow’een the last time you mentioned it.