How To Triple Your Vocab In A Year!

I could just say ‘keep a dictionary by the toilet’ and end this article there but I actually found a very efficient way for everyone to grow their vocabularies at alarming rates. Get ready to impress your friends!

Most people unintentionally grow their vocabulary over many years, kind of like how laborers and lumberjacks unintentionally grow muscle mass. So to intentionally grow your vocabulary is very similar to purposely growing a six pack or losing 300 pounds; it takes hard work and dedication. But with the tips and advice you’ll find below, the journey to tripling or doubling your vocabulary in the next year will not only be easier but more fun as well.

Before I spiel my secret, however, I want to share some additional knowledge that may save you gobs of time and hardship. If you wish to skip this additional knowledge, just scroll down to the picture of me holding an old leather booklet and read on from there.

building your vocabulary has never been so easy

I was going to write this article months ago, but I’m glad I decided to wait because, at the same time as learning so many new words with my special technique, I’ve also learned that it’s very important to know when to use the words you’ve learned. Growing a vocabulary is necessary for every writer or speaker but learning discipline is key. What do I mean by ‘discipline’ in this context? I mean don’t purposely structure or restructure your sentences JUST so that you can implement an exciting new word. To create a smooth read you must force yourself to only use the words that come naturally to you during the writing process. Let me explain this a bit more before we get to the good stuff.

When I first started intentionally building my vocabulary, my writing suddenly became unnatural and overly complicated because, rather than getting in the zone and letting my subconscious mind select the right words, I was strenuously trying to use as many big and new words as I possibly could. Even though this created some interesting and artistic paragraphs, I nevertheless created many headaches for my readers.

Reading, for many people, is a relaxing hobby–something they can do to enjoy their time. Therefore you take much of the fun away when you have them scrounging in a dictionary every three sentences. For my writing this problem of using too many new words was tenfold because I specialize in medieval fantasy and love archaic/medieval words. I flooded my writing with countless terms that most people will never hear or read in their lives. As much as I want to use a sexy medieval word sometimes, I know the better decision is to use the first word that comes to mind during the writing process (unless, of course, you have the habit of using a particular word too much).

author explains

So what’s the point of learning new words if you shouldn’t use them when you want? After you truly learn a word, have used it at least three times with a bit of strained effort, it will naturally start to find itself in your writing and speaking. About 80% of the words I’ve learned over the past year haven’t been shown in my writing yet, and now, unlike before, I know that’s a very good thing. In the future, after years of writing and honing my craft, those exciting words which I haven’t used yet, so long as I keep them in my vocabulary/memory, will one day find a natural place in my writing.

Now I’m about to contradict myself because there will be instances when a word you’ve recently learned should replace an old word in your completed writing. A perfect example of this is when I learned the word ‘linstock’. A linstock is a tool used to fire a cannon. Before I knew this, the characters in my writing were using torches to fire their cannons and so of course I had to go back and replace all those torches with linstocks. Situations like this are the rare exceptions.

On the other hand, reading for many others is an opportunity to learn; they love having to lookup a word in the dictionary. Like me when I read historical fiction from the early 20th century, I spend nearly just as much time in the dictionary as I do reading because I never let a word I don’t know slip by. But even readers like me, the ones who treat dictionaries like bibles, will admit that, when they’re reading a particularly suspenseful scene, it’s much better to have a smooth read so that the story flows unhindered. In some very rare cases I’ll let a word I don’t know slip by ONLY because I’m too eager to know what will happen next in the story.

With all that said, it’s finally time for you to learn my secret. How did I triple my vocabulary in a year? It’s quite simple.

Book of Words

Allow me to introduce you to my Book of Words, my very own handwritten dictionary/notepad/journal that I bring with me wherever I go.

Remember when I said ‘keep a dictionary by the toilet’? Well, my secret is somewhat similar except instead of a dictionary you’ll need a blank booklet and instead of a toilet you’ll need, literally, EVERYWHERE YOU GO!

After following the tips listed below, the blank pages of your newly acquired booklet will start to look like this:

details matter

Like a daily diary, you’ll start off by writing the date. Underneath the date you’ll scrawl down every unfamiliar word you come across throughout the day. I write down the words in capital letters just to make the page seem less jumbled. Beside the listed words, like I’ve done above, you should have space to write down the words’ definitions. It’s also useful to use symbols to identify if the word is a noun, verb, etc. On average I learn about 5 new words per day. Some days it’s only 1 or 2, and on others it’s 10 or 20!

So how do I come across these new words? By listening and reading! When I watch a Ted Talk there’s a good chance the speaker will use a word I don’t know and, knowing me, I’ll have to Google it. I never let a word I don’t know slip by. I do the same thing when I’m reading. And by reading everyday, you’ll watch your Book of Words grow and grow and grow. By writing your new words down, you’ll not only remember them more easily but you’ll also be able to go back and find them when you’re struggling to remember them.

Sometimes when I’m writing I’ll remember there’s a word for some certain thing I’m trying to describe but I won’t be able to recall it right off the bat. No worries! All I have to do, because I’ve dated my words, is remember roughly when I learned the word and then leaf through my Book until I find it again. Then–bam!–the word slides right into its slot. You’ll never forget a word again so long as you bring your Book of Words with you wherever you go.

never stop learning

But what if you’re one of those readers who hates stopping to look in a dictionary? Simple! If you’re willing to, you can scrawl down the word as fast as you can, highlight it, do whatever you have to do to remember it, and then once your reading session is over you can go back and Google the words you’ve listed to find their definitions. That, in fact, is exactly what I did during my reading session yesterday. I chose to do an hour of reading in the park and, since I didn’t have internet or a dictionary at the bench with me to define the unfamiliar words I found, I just wrote them down and later when I got home I sat at my desk and did some quick and easy Google searches. Here is a picture to show what that looks like:

collecting words on the go

For Tuesday, June 6th, as you can see, I discovered 7 words that I otherwise may’ve overlooked if I wasn’t intentionally trying to build my vocabulary. And by discovering words in a natural setting, as opposed to just poring idly through a dictionary, I typically remember when and where I learned these words and so they have a lot more meaning to me. For example, I’ll never forget the time I learned the word ‘machicolation’ because, rather than just finding it by skimming through the dictionary, I came across it via a speaker in a YouTube video and so whenever I hear or use the word ‘machicolation’, a string of memory comes attached to it.

Sometimes when I’m walking down the road or riding on the bus I’ll flip to a random page in my Book of Words and point at a word I haven’t used yet. I’ll turn the word around in my head, look at it from different angles, place it in different settings, all the while having the sole intention of using it in a natural setting one day.

Thanks for reading and I hope this helps!

P.S. Join my mailing list by clicking HERE and get the short story “A Quarrel for a Quarrel” in PDF format for free!

An Innovation in LitHEMA

realistic swordplay in books and entertainment

I dream of media that presents historical combat as realistically as possible, especially combat in the Middle Ages. Perhaps soon my dreams will come true. Enjoyment from debunking misconceptions in fantasy is a new but rapidly growing means of entertainment, made possible by the discovery of historical combat treatises and expressive historians like Lindybeige and Matt Easton.

sword fights in fantasy compared to real life

In a previous post I talked about the three rules of this exciting new niche. I mentioned that LitHEMA is a subgenre of fantasy and historical fiction, but what about other genres? To prove that realistic swordplay doesn’t have to take place in a historical context or a medieval fantasy, I am writing a post-apocalyptic action & adventure novel about a HEMA practitioner who must rely on his skills as a swordsman to survive. This novel will also fall into the science-fiction genre, therefore proving that LitHEMA can be a subgenre of anything, even horror for example, as long as it follows the three rules, staying true to facts and straying from popular myths, only saving the odd exaggeration for drama’s sake.

media that shows siege warfare realisticaly

Fantasy written before the discovery and availability of historical combat treatises are the classics that motivate me to write today, but the swordfights are lame. With that said, I hope there will soon be a long lasting web of HEMA-inspired entertainment available to the public.

Until then I have a lot of work to do.

Lazar, Lazarus, Lazaret, Lazarette vs. Lazaretto (A “Lazy” Comparison)

Whether you’re a poet looking for words that start with L or a student trying to understand what a lazarette is, I have made this list to assist you. So now let’s begin.

LAZAR

define lazar a diseased person

A lazar is a diseased person, especially a poor person with a feared disease such as leprosy.

LAZARUS

lazarus compared to lazar

According to the online Merriem-Webster dictionary, Lazarus was: “… a brother of Mary and Martha raised by Jesus from the dead according to the account in John 11. 2 : the diseased beggar in the parable of the rich man and the beggar found in Luke 16.”

LAZARETTE

lazarette vs lazaret

On a sailing vessel, a lazarette is a storage compartment near the stern, typically accessed by a trapdoor on the deck. A lazarette could be used to store many things but it is interesting to note that a lazarette was and could be used as quarantine space if diseased members were on the ship.

LAZARETTO

what is a lazaretto

Throughout history, especially during times of plague, isolation hospitals known as lazarettos were erected, and in times of emergency, buildings and even moored boats were quarantined to act as temporary hospitals. A lazaretto is an isolation hospital or barricaded place to house diseased people (sometimes called a lazar house). Even a market square, for example, could be barricaded to act as a lazaretto and hence be called a lazaretto. Modern hospitals have hundreds of functions, but a lazaretto’s function is purely to hold and sometimes treat diseased people, especially people with a feared and contagious disease.

LAZARET

lazaret vs lazaretto

It’s important to note that the word lazaret is interchangeable with lazarette and lazaretto, though lazaret is most commonly used to mean lazaretto. Here is lazaret’s threefold definition:

  1. A lazar house; an isolated hospital for people with infectious diseases.
  2. A building, boat or barricaded area used for quarantine.
  3. On a sailing vessel, a storage compartment near the stern, typically accessed by a trapdoor on the deck.

I hope this comparison aids you in your studies! Stay healthy 🙂

The Three Rules of LitHEMA (Literature about Historical European Martial Arts)

Rule 1. SHOW HEMA IN ACTION: Grappling! Rondel daggers! Poleaxes! Niches in armor! LitHEMA, although some authors may or may not choose to use Old German or Old English, takes pride in showing historical action for what it is! As all of you will one day come to agree, many fantasy stories, whether they be movies, games or books, repetitively fall for the same myths and misconceptions. Type “drawing swords from the back” into YouTube and you’ll see exactly what I mean. Don’t forget to subscribe!

LitHEMA separates itself from most fantasy by dutifully straying from misconceptions. A lot of the history we know as true is, of course, speculation made by experts and archaeologists and likewise LitHEMA writers must rely on creativity to fill certain gaps, allowing us to create the most awesome and realistic sword fights ever! It’s reenactment for the mind, baby! Yeah!

Imagine a lord in his prime, a master with a sword in the Late Middle Ages. He’s been using the same lifesaving techniques with his one-handed sword for many years and must suddenly duel an angry levy who’d picked up a deadman’s zweihander! The sparks! The grunts! The parries! It’s experience and swiftness versus revenge and strength. And you can’t deny it’s beautiful because, as Shad from Shadiversity says, swords are awesome!

historical fiction with historical European martial arts

1150-1200, Austria 

Rule 2. PRESENT TRUTH, SAVE THE ODD EXAGGERATION: Gobs of HEMA practitioners admit that fantasy is what got them interested in swords in the first place. And so in that sense LitHEMA respects its roots in more ways than one. LitHEMA respects fantasy as much as it respects historical combat treatises because we all must rely on creativity and fascination to assume certain things about history. Indeed, all we can do about certain things is make assumptions, about certain unprovable things which almost always rely on context like ‘why did falchions become popular?’ or ‘how easy is it to shoot a moving target with a crossbow from a tower?’.

It is impossible to be perfectly accurate, but that wouldn’t stop a LitHEMA writer from replying ‘well, what period are we talking about? What type of crossbow is it?’ LitHEMA distinguishes itself from most fantasy subgenres by being as realistic as possible and the writer must present, after much studying and research, what she thinks is realistic. She decides, “The moving target below the tower is wearing a gambeson and the crossbowman’s quarrel glances off the sturdy textile because it was a low-poundage crossbow and the quarrel didn’t hit plumb.”

Some historians may say that scene should have happened a different way, but our author dug down into her heart, did her research and presented what she thought would really happen in her fictional universe. Even if she has magic and elves and dragons in her universe, which is more than possible in LitHEMA, she has to ask herself ‘would the dragon’s flame really burn down a castle made of stone? And would elves really use war bows if they had flimsy little arms?’

Thanks to the internet and many hard working enthusiasts around the world, authentic historical artwork is slowly and steadily putting a burdensome responsibility on the shoulders of writers! We feel guilt when we realize our heroes were wearing unriveted mail when they should have been wearing riveted mail. Trust me, as a passionate LitHEMA writer I know that guilt all too well. My stories have many things that are unrealistic, like a disposable diamond-tipped throwing knife. At least I state the blade had to go through mail and gambeson.

LitHEMA, if it is solely written as a subgenre of fantasy, can combine creativity with truth to show an exaggerated version of reality. On the other hand, if LitHEMA is solely written as a subgenre of historical fiction, it should focus more on action and stress the techniques used in historical combat treatises.

LitHEMA

1255-1260, England

Rule 3. SUGGEST CONTEXT: Medieval combat treatises teach us many tricks and techniques, guards and attacks, but they tell us very little about the context in which these tricks and techniques could have been used throughout history. To understand context we must coalesce our HEMA knowledge with other sources like written accounts and paintings. LitHEMA is just one medium that enables us to use our historical research and creativity to suggest certain scenarios.

Now imagine a small peasant revolt, an entire village raging against sixteen knights trained in the combat techniques of a master. Written with HEMA in mind, this imaginary scene could allow us a special viewpoint, a viewpoint very unlike a battle in a 1970s fantasy book. Of course, it is inevitable that creativity will fill many gaps, but after studying the artwork left by ancient, medieval and pre-modern cultures around the world we can create a reenactment-like image in the reader’s mind. While suggesting a context, LitHEMA can indeed show the world what mortal combat may have looked like in the past. Frankly, a movie based on a such a novel is exactly what Hollywood needs.

Images from http://manuscriptminiatures.com, a fabulous website!

Shot out to http://wiktenauer.com and all you HEMA enthusiasts out there!

Vintenar vs Vintner vs Verderer

VINTENAR

define vintenar

Vintenar means, in medieval England, a leader of a score of footmen, more specifically a leader of twenty draft men. During wars or anarchies, freemen such as farmers were paid to become infantry soldiers in order to help quell a tumult, defend a fortification or join a greater army and march to battle. Whatever the cause, a vintenar was responsible for leading his twenty infantry to victory. Whether the leader hired the footmen himself or was charged with them doesn’t matter, so long as he leads them he earns the title vintenar.

VINTNER

define vintner

A winemaker or a wine merchant can both be called vintners. A wine connoisseur, a grape farmer or a sot, however, cannot claim the title of vintner, sadly. Only those who make or sell wine can claim such a sexy title.

VERDERER

define verderer

Someone has to make sure no one shoots the king’s deer. That’s one of a verderer’s many responsibilities as a verderer is a judicial officer of a royal forest. Footpads stalk the swamps waylaying and accosting drovers and peddlers, but the local verderer is hiring men to deal with the quandary. Hungry peasants may mock a verderer behind his back, hate him, because being unable to use the king’s coppices and hunt the king’s precious boars can mean a night without dinner. So if you’re breaking the law–hunting in the king’s forest–watch your back because the verderer in these parts is a stern man who likes to take the law into his own hands.

Springalds versus Ballistae – What is the Mechanical Difference?

This is not a historical lesson with dates and events, but a mechanical lesson to explain the physical differences between these two magnificent ancient artillery weapons.

Springalds and ballistae are both “catapults” that loose either spear-like bolts, Greek fire or round stones. The major difference between them is in how they hold the power necessary to launch these projectiles. I would like to start by clarifying the definition of the word “catapult” because many people confound that word with “mangonel.” A catapult is any stationary device that uses built-up tension to fire or, in more accurate terms, loose or shoot a projectile. Like ballistae and springalds, a mangonel is a certain kind of catapult. So do not picture a mangonel every time you hear the word catapult like I did for many years 🙂

Springalds (also known as espringals)

ballista compared with espringal

how do springalds operate

Like many arbalests or heavy crossbows, springalds use devices known windlasses to build-up tension in skeins, bow arms and draw cords. However, springalds have inward-facing bow arms and ballistae have outward-facing bow arms. A springald, at first glance, may look odd because they are not as common in movies and video games as ballistae are. Some springalds look very similar to ballistae (their only difference being in which direction the bow arms face) but other springalds, like the example below, look like bizarre wooden cages.

the difference between a ballista and a springald or espringal

Whatever the design, a springald can always be differentiated from a ballista by gandering at the bow arms. Ballistae have outward-facing bow arms that are always facing outwards even when they are not bearing tension; they simply look like over-sized crossbows on mounts. Springalds, on the other hand, when they are not bearing tension, have smaller arms that face forwards and they do not face inwards until accumulated tension bends them towards the operator using the cranequin. It is easy to see how these rectangular springalds on wheels would be better for besieging whereas the mounted ones that look like ballistae would be better for defending because they could be permanently installed atop turrets and bastions.

Ballistae

ballista vs springald

We’ve already done a sufficient comparison for there is not much difference between these two famed weapons of ancient war, but it may be good to cap off what we’ve learned by briefly comparing a ballista to an arbalest. An arbalest is either a cranequin crossbow or a windlass crossbow. Below I will show a picture of a cranequin crossbow so you can see just how similar it is to a ballista and also how different it is from a springald.

similarities between crossbows and ballistae and springalds

See how the bow arms of the crossbow and ballista face outwards while the springald has bow arms that face forwards until tension brings them inwards? If you see the difference, you now know what separates a springald from a ballista! Yay! Now let’s do a little test: what type of catapult is the bolt thrower in the scene of the Greek siege at the top of this article? Is it a springald or a ballista?

Free Short Story (Knights without Honor hits Kindle March 16!)

To celebrate my excitement for the release of Book Two of Arcanum of the Dolmen Troll, I want to share a brief snippet of the book with you all! This snippet stands as a complete story and I promise no major plot will be spoiled by reading it. Thanks so much for all your support! Click here to check out the book.

Now here we go. I hope you enjoy!

A MOTHER DUCK’S webbed feet flapped up an arrow-riddled bogside. The light of the moon and stars made the mud of the bogside look blue, and the bog itself was a pit of blackness. A score of screaming horsemen completed a circuit around the bog and the mother duck pronked back down the slope in fright. She flapped her wings and quacked desperately. A train of yellow ducklings answered her from the middle of the bog, chirping and chirping as they kicked and kicked through the blackness towards the bogside. Looming high above the ducks, a crooked siege tower filled with men was groaning and creaking, taking volley after volley of arrows and bolts from distant castle walls. Yelps of cessation filled the night with a palpable misery.

A dying man fell from the top of the tower and splashed in the bog water beside the train of ducklings. In the throes of the splash, the teensy chirplings were yellow petals tossing in a rapid river. The man’s screams turned into bubbles as he drowned in his armor. The ducklings kicked and kicked away from his flailing arms, swirling in waves of madness.

On the bogside, the mother duck craned her head to show her babies a nervous eye and quacked. The screaming cavalry completed another circuit and their galloping hooves kicked up a splash of mud that pushed the mother duck into the bog. Soon she was floundering with her ducklings, quacking at their chirps in the waves. She bit one of her babies by the scruff of the neck and used her wings to gather others. As she quacked at a few who had been tossed far away by the splash, she caught eye of a passing sparkle.

One of the horsemen racing around the bog was brandishing a sword above his head. The sword shimmered in the moonlight and made the hen tilt her head for a better look. It was a momentary flash—a spark of determination. The man on the horse was wearing a black hauberk, and the twenty horsemen at his rear were clad in blackened plate. The silvery chanfrons on the heads of their horses gleamed brightly like wraiths. The chanfrons turned blue and white and blue again in the moonlight, and would turn red every time they passed the siege tower. Moments ago, shieldmen and engineers had been trying to unstuck one of the siege tower’s wheels from the mud, but the screaming wraiths had cut them all down. Now the foot of the siege tower was ablaze and the wraiths were throwing up jeers and japes at the men dying inside.

The rider in the black hauberk made another spark of determination as he galloped under the crooked tower. Dirty men were up in the wooden arrow slits, shaking their shields in anger at the circuiting wraiths below. But no matter how angrily they shook their shields, none of them were mad enough to jump down to the wraith’s level, not unless they wanted to get hewed. From the castle on the other side of the warground, arrows arced over the sky and bolts hissed long and true. Some shafts cracked or glanced off the wooden tower. Others hissed through loopholes and hit marks.

The rider in the black hauberk was determined not to quit until the tower was down. After each circuit around the bog, the tower’s groans became louder, the flames higher, and the mother duck and her chirplings were lost in the middle of it all. One man inside the tower knew he would die soon, and so he observed the ducks with love, placing his mind far away into a much more beautiful place. An arrow thudded against the wall by his head, but he didn’t flinch a bit as he stared down through a gap in the wood. He smiled at the mother duck as an image of home lingered in his mind. A bolt hissed through the gap and made his head jerk back. Mind-muddled, he got trampled by the dozens of desperate men swaying about in the crooked tower.

Every time the mother duck felt like she was close to gathering all her babies, another body would fall from the tower and scatter them all again. As the rider in the black hauberk showed yet another spark of determination, the mother duck made hers. Hope glistened in her watery eyes. She quacked and kicked and gathered her chicks all over again. She would not give up until her babies were safe.

One angered man in the tower had had enough. He crawled through a crevice in the wood and leaped down into the mud.

The fire at the foot of the wooden tower was roaring now, and so the surface of the bog was illumed with hundreds of snaking yellow streaks. The light was dancing off the wetness, glistening and splashing around the angered man’s boots as he trudged up the muddy slope. He swung his sword at a passing horseman. It bounced harmlessly off the rider’s greave. Anger rising, the man swung at the next rider. At that moment he too created his own spark of determination as his sword flashed in the firelight.

The approaching rider saw the flash and directed his stallion with a push of his knee towards it.

The angered swordsman was thrown by the horse’s shoulder. He went rolling back down the muddy slope and lost his sword before he splashed in the bog water. His spark of determination had been bright, but now it was gradually extinguishing for he refused to get back up. He decided to lie there and stare at the moon. He listened to the chirplings. They suddenly sounded so close. If he lied there in the water and pretended to be dead, he could walk away in the morning. That was his hope, until a sudden loud snap heralded his doom. His eyes opened wide to see the siege tower tilting. It was falling right towards him. In another life he would’ve tried to swim away, he promised himself, but not in this one.

The siege tower smacked the bog’s surface, devoured the loser and created an eruption of muddy water. The ejecta filled the air for a time, then came back down in flapping heaps as the tower settled into its new place. The tower was creaking and groaning like a capsized wreck and all the while men were spewing up out of the loopholes. Swords and axes hacked away to make new exits, and one by one men crawled from the wreck to gawp at the stars with faces raped by madness. One by one they came and one by one arrows and bolts from the commanding castle put them down again. Arrows thudded into them relentlessly and many slipped off the side of the wreck to die in the bog. A few who made it to the bogside were cut down by the circuiting wraiths. Soon the last dying man’s screams were quelled by the end of a broken lance.

The victor in the black hauberk remounted, then led his wraiths away. When their galloping hooves were far, quacks and chirps began to dominate the atmosphere. The chirps were frantic and the quacks were distressed at first, but after a time they collected and quieted and settled. The ducklings were safe with their mother again, waddling up out of the bog. Within a cozy tussock at the top of the slope, the chicks nestled under their mother’s wings and closed their eyes to sleep. Somewhere yonder, another battle was beginning. That was sure. But here by the bog, everything was peaceful.

The End

There we go! That was just a brief taste of what Knights without Honor has in store. For those of you who prefer hardcover books, I’ll be creating box sets once I finish Book Three of Arcanum of the Dolmen Troll in mid-2017! Thanks again for all your love and support!