“She’s leaving my dad,” Emi says. “I honestly don’t know how to deal with this.” She takes a bite of the apple and chews it slowly, tracing the marble pattern of the countertop.“I’m sure it’s not easy, Emily.” Mom leans on her elbows on the island, attentive to Emi. “Sometimes it helps to talk about it.”I don’t want to make her uncomfortable. “Mom–”“He cheated on her. I caught him,” Emi continues. I look at her, biting my lip, allowing her to speak. “He took his mistress to this restaurant. I was there with some friends, and this woman’s laughter rose above the noise of the entire place,” she says evenly. I can tell that emotions lie just beneath the surface, but I admire her strength as she continues. “I watched her for a few minutes, thinking it was sweet how her date was feeding her fruit dipped in chocolate. They had a fondue pot between them. He held a cherry up by its stem, covered with chocolate, and fed it to her. The chocolate dripped down her chin, and he stopped her from wiping it off with her napkin. I was entranced. It seemed so intimate. I was imagining that being me someday. I even nudged my friends and got their attention, showing them what I was watching. And then her date leaned in and licked the chocolate from her face, eventually meeting her lips with his. He kissed her for a long time, and one of my friends said, ‘That looks like your dad.’”Mom has a distinct frown on her face, and she puts her hand on Emi’s arm. Chocolate.
They say to write about what you know. When I was young, I had a near-death experience. Back then people didn’t understand much about the phenomenon, but I knew something extraordinary had happened. The search to understand the event fueled a lifelong spiritual journey.
After Simon & Schuster’s Pocket Books published my first two paranormal thrillers, I wrote a novel about near-death experience told from the perspective of a young boy who drowns, has an NDE, and returns with a mission. Although Threshold is told from three alternating points-of-view: the boy, his teenage sister, and a Native American shaman, my literary agent didn’t believe it would be suitable for an adult market because the primary POV character was a tween. She also thought the subject matter too mature for a young adult market. Disheartened, I stashed the manuscript and—like a hidden and forgotten treasure—recently rediscovered it. I dusted it off, did a bit of updating, and the novel was released in November. The market has changed since I first wrote the book—YA readers have matured, and adults have embraced younger protagonists in popular fiction. Threshold hit Amazon’s Metaphysical Fiction Bestsellers List within three weeks of release, and reviewers are unanimous in their opinion that it is my best work yet. I believe that’s because I really did write about what I know.
When I died, I did not interpret the tunnel of light as a wormhole. Nor did the guide on the other side resemble Q, the omnipotent character from the Star Trek franchise. In trying to figure out the meaning of it all, I did not reflect on profound Star Trek episodes. Cole, my young protagonist, invokes Star Trek imagery because it is what he knows.
Following my NDE, my own spiritual journey took me through a variety of faiths and magical traditions, and many of those are touched upon in Threshold: shamanism, Wicca, mystical Christianity, and the Jewish Kabbalah. The novel is a tale about the lightside threatened by the darkside. This is because shadows follow Cole back through the wormhole, and terrible things begin to happen.
Threshold is a paranormal thriller about life, death, faith, courage, sacrifice, and the transformative power of love.
~ ~ ~
Cole pulled Shiloh up short while he tried to get a fix on his location. They were on the shore of Deer Lake, the lake’s frozen surface looming gray before him in the early morning light. His grandparents lived in Johnstown, which was across the lake and beyond by ten miles. He remembered their house from family gatherings prior to his mother’s disappearance and was sure he could find it again because Johnstown was a small town. He decided that braving the bitter weather was a small price to pay if the journey finally closed the case of his missing mother.
Cole and Shiloh were near the river that fed the lake, and he could see the bridge which crossed it. As he urged Shiloh to turn in that direction, the sharp sound of splitting ice ripped the air. Horrified, Cole realized that he had misjudged the lake’s shoreline—the recent snowfall and wind-driven drifts had completely changed the landscape. Shiloh reared up in fear and caught Cole off guard. The horse bucked, Cole flew off, and he hit the split ice with such force that he crashed straight through to the freezing water below. Before he had time to react, a fierce undertow from the river captured and swept him away from the hole, deeper into the lake. Through tAdd a Comment
First off I want to thank Jennifer for allowing me to guest post on her blog today. It takes a lot of courage to let someone you haven’t met do that – I’ll try to be on my best behavior. I say try only because I have been able to lock myself in my office, but I know for a fact that David will go to any lengths of messing with me including pick the lock and then claim his brother Micah needs me for something. My kids? Oh no, they aren’t MY kids… sigh… but you’d think they were considering how often they’re either running, screaming, or tapping their feet in annoyance in my head. No, David and Micah are just a few characters who live along side everything else going on in my over active brain. Yes, it is very crowded at times – why do you think I allow David the opportunity to polish his lock picking skills?
As you can see, my characters are very much a part of me. I don’t know if it’s the same with every author, but I can tell you about my experiences and leave the determination of my sanity for your perusal at a later date. Right now, we can jump right in to the subject at hand – I’m quirky, not actually insane. Most people might argue the point, but I’m not most people and since it is my *ahem* quirkiness we’re pondering, we’ll go with my point of view which goes something like this…
I’ve always had another life going on in my head. I’ll admit it. Whether it was a case of my real life wasn’t that engaging, or I wasn’t impressed with the current affairs of things, I don’t know. However, what I do know is that my family and friends would often give me looks of concern, unsure whether I’m one of those children or not. Oh come on, you know the ones… they’re usually the ones that eat paste, color on the walls and insist they’re a cat just because they can. The ones where all the mothers gather together and shake their heads while muttering, “That child just ain’t right!” Okay, the last part probably happened more than once, but I never actually ate the paste (it was more like a quick taste), I was too obsessed with trying to stay in the lines so why would I have colored on the walls, and being a cat? One time… once to make a friend smile and it haunts a person! *ahem* Carrying on…
When you’ve basically had more interaction with imaginary timelines and characters than real people and events, you really start to wonder about your own stability. Which is probably a main reason why I write. No, I don’t think I should be fitted for a nice tight white jacket with buckles (not for this anyway), but I do accept the reality that society doesn’t seem to appreciate the delicate balance of someone who can live in multiple worlds and alternate universes simultaneously. Can we say extreme multi-tasking? Yes, I thought so. So, what is the classification of someone bound to bring to life the worlds and stories residing in one’s head? Do we really need one? If we need one, then who chooses the distinction between the right world and the wrong world we create? I don’t know about you, but any world I’ve jumped into at the time is the right one, if for no other reason than I get the chance to tell a story of someone else’s making. Oh, you think I’m the one creating these stories? *laughs* You’re cute!
I’ve been asked several times what method of writing I use, and each time I’ll get a blank look on my face, blink a couple of times, and then say in the most intelligent of ways, “Uh… fly by the seat of my pants?” Yeah, you can imagine the stunned looks I get at times but it’s the truth. I hate outlines, always have. In schAdd a Comment
The questions people ask about word origins usually concern slang, family names, and idioms. I cannot remember being ever asked about the etymology of house, fox, or sun. These are such common words that we take them for granted, and yet their history is often complicated and instructive. In this blog, I usually stay away from them, but I sometimes let my Indo-European sympathies run away with me. Today’s subject is of this type.
Guest is an ancient word, with cognates in all the Germanic languages. If in English its development had not been interrupted, today it would have been pronounced approximately like yeast, but in the aftermath of the Viking raids the native form was replaced with its Scandinavian congener, as also happened to give, get, and many other words. The modern spelling guest, with u, points to the presence of “hard” g (compare guess). The German and Old Norse for guest are Gast and gestr respectively; the vowel in German (it should have been e) poses a problem, but it cannot delay us here.The related forms are Latin hostis and, to give one Slavic example, Russian gost’. Although the word had wide currency (Italic-Germanic-Slavic), its senses diverged. Latin hostis meant “public enemy,” in distinction from inimicus “one’s private foe.” (I probably don’t have to add that inimicus is the ultimate etymon of enemy.) In today’s English, hostile and inimical are rather close synonyms, but inimical is more bookish and therefore more restricted in usage (some of my undergraduate students don’t understand it, but everybody knows hostile). However, “enemy” was this noun’s later meaning, which supplanted “stranger (who in early Rome had the rights of a Roman).” And “stranger” is what Gothic gasts meant. In the text of the Gothic Bible (a fourth-century translation from Greek), it corresponds to ksénos “stranger,” from which we have xeno-, as in xenophobia. Incidentally, by the beginning of the twentieth century, the best Indo-European scholars had agreed that Greek ksénos is both a gloss and a cognate of hostis ~ gasts (with a bit of legitimate phonetic maneuvering all of them can be traced to the same protoform). This opinion has now been given up; ksénos seems to lack siblings. (What a drama! To mean “stranger” and end up in linguistic isolation.) The progress of linguistics brings with it not only an increase in knowledge but also the loss of many formerly accepted truths. However, caution should be recommended. Some people whose opinion is worth hearing still believe in the affinity between ksénos and hostis. Discarded conjectures are apt to return. Today the acknowledged authorities separate the Greek word from the cognates of guest; tomorrow, the pendulum may swing in the opposite direction.
Let us stay with Latin hostis for some more time. Like guest, Engl. host is neither an alien nor a dangerous adversary. The reason is that host goes back not to hostis but to Old French (h)oste, from Latin hospit-, the root of hospes, which meant both “host” and “guest,” presumably, an ancient compound that sounded as ghosti-potis “master (or lord) of strangers” (potis as in potent, potential, possibly despot, and so forth). We remember Latin hospit- from Engl. hospice, hospital, and hospitable, all, as usual, via Old French. Hostler, ostler, hostel, and hotel belong here too, each with its own history, and it is amusing that so many senses have merged and that, for instance, a hostel is not a hostile place.
Unlike host “he who entertains guests,” Engl. host “multitude” does trace to Latin hostis “enemy.” In Medieval Latin, this word acquired the sense “hostile, invading army,” and in English it still means “a large armed force marshaled for war,” except when used in a watered down sense, as in a host of troubles, a host of questions, or a host of friends (!). Finally, the etymon of host “consecrated wafer” is Latin hostia “sacrificial victim,” again via Old French. Hostia is a derivative of hostis, but the sense development to “sacrifice” (through “compensation”?) is obscure.
The puzzling part of this story is that long ago the same words could evidently mean “guest” and “the person who entertains guests”, “stranger” and “enemy.” This amalgam has been accounted for in a satisfactory way. Someone coming from afar could be a friend or an enemy. “Stranger” covers both situations. With time different languages generalized one or the other sense, so that “guest” vacillated between “a person who is friendly and welcome” and “a dangerous invader.” Newcomers had to be tested for their intentions and either greeted cordially or kept at bay. Words of this type are particularly sensitive to the structure of societal institutions. Thus, friend is, from a historical point of view, a present participle meaning “loving,” but Icelandic frændi “kinsman” makes it clear that one was supposed “to love” one’s relatives. “Friendship” referred to the obligation one had toward the other members of the family (clan, tribe), rather than a sentimental feeling we associate with this word.
It is with hospitality as it is with friendship. We should beware of endowing familiar words with the meanings natural to us. A friendly visit presupposes reciprocity: today you are the host, tomorrow you will be your host’s guest. In old societies, the “exchange” was institutionalized even more strictly than now. The constant trading of roles allowed the same word to do double duty. In this situation, meanings could develop in unpredictable ways. In Modern Russian, as well as in the other Slavic languages, gost’ and its cognates mean “guest,” but a common older sense of gost’ was “merchant” (it is still understood in the modern language and survives in several derivatives). Most likely, someone who came to Russia to sell his wares was first and foremost looked upon as a stranger; merchant would then be the product of semantic specialization.
One can also ask what the most ancient etymon of hostis ~ gasts was. Those scholars who looked on ksénos and hostis as related also cited Sanskrit ghásati “consume.” If this sense can be connected with the idea of offering food to guests, we will again find ourselves in the sphere of hospitality. The Sanskrit verb begins with gh-. The founders of Indo-European philology believed that words like Gothic gasts and Latin host go back to a protoform resembling the Sanskrit one. Later, according to this reconstruction, initial gh- remained unchanged in some languages of India but was simplified to g in Germanic and h in Latin. The existence of early Indo-European gh- has been questioned, but reviewing this debate would take us too far afield and in that barren field we will find nothing. We only have to understand that gasts ~ guest and hostis ~ host can indeed be related.
There is a linguistic term enantiosemy. It means a combination of two opposite senses in one word, as in Latin altus “high” and “deep.” Some people have spun an intricate yarn around this phenomenon, pointing out that everything in the world has too sides (hence the merger of the opposites) or admiring the simplicity (or complexity?) of primitive thought, allegedly unable to discriminate between cold and hot, black and white, and the like. But in almost all cases, the riddle has a much simpler solution. Etymology shows that the distance from host to guest, from friend to enemy, and from love to hatred is short, but we do not need historical linguists to tell us that.
Anatoly Liberman is the author of Word Origins…And How We Know Them as well as An Analytic Dictionary of English Etymology: An Introduction. His column on word origins, The Oxford Etymologist, appears here, each Wednesday. Send your etymology question to him care of firstname.lastname@example.org; he’ll do his best to avoid responding with “origin unknown.”
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Image credit: Conversation de dames en l’absence de leurs maris: le diner. Abraham Bosse. Public domain via Wikimedia Commons.