Category Archive for: Historical

I Love Me Some Writing in a Scottish Accent

The Scottish accent is an evocative, wind-tousled thing. Those fortunate enough to visit or live in the land Romans dubbed Caledonia know it well. Unfortunates such as myself who’ve never been must get our fix reading “Kidnapped!,”  watching “Brave,” etc.

But when it comes to being transported to a different time or place, readers are at the mercy of the author. Good writers know that conveying an authentic sense of the language is as important to the reader’s experience as description, character arc, or even plot. Here are some thoughts about writing in a Scottish accent.

The Laird of Logan

For those writing in a Scottish accent, authenticity is the name of the game.For authors who want to plunge their readers into colorful, authentic (albeit archaic) language, there is The Laird of Logan: being Anecdotes and Tales illustrative of the Wit and Humor of Scotland. The book, published in 1854, is filled with more than five hundred short vignettes with titles like “A Daft Bargain,” “Every Body has his Bubbly Jock,” “Infantine Shrewdness,” and “Recipe for Speaking English.”

It includes such gems of advice as, “Dinna mak ony body suffer by ye, as thae scranky-shanked mizzle-shinned Highlanders do.”  Scranky-shanked, as it turns out, means thin-legged, while mizzle-shinned is defined as legs that are red and splotched from sitting too near a fire. Pretty specific, that.

In one vignette, the eponymous laird is dressing down an educated squire who has just used too many big, high-falootin’ words in a sentence.

Nae wonder, Peter, than yer blawing like a bursting haggis, after a’ that blatter o’ words; you’ll hae pitten a’ the lair ye e’er got at the college in that speech, I’se warrant; ye mind sin’ you and I were at Claymires school thegither what a poor, fusionless, whey-faced shawp o’ a creature you war, baith in soul and body, and that you couldna spell your ain name!

Of course, too much patois might be incomprehensible and send today’s readers running. However, a judicious sprinkling of phrases like “blawing like a bursting haggis” or what a “whey-faced shawp o’ a creature you war” can lend crucial authenticity. Even the simple substitution of “thegither” for “together” can give the narrative or dialogue some convincing heft.

While “The Laird of Logan” may be the best resource, there are other places to get fun “Scottishisms” online. has a number of phrases posted, such as:

“Weesht yer puss!” 
Means : shut your face/be quiet.

“All his eggs are double-yoakit!”
Means : A comment on someone who boasts.

Dicht yer neb and flee awae
Means : Wipe your nose and go away.

Yer aywis at the coo’s tail
Means : You’re always lagging behind everyone else.

You could’nae see green cheese but yer een wid reel
Means : If you see someone getting something you want it too. 

Ya muckle gype!!
Means : You stupid idiot.

Lang may your lum reek and a wee mouse never leaves your cupboard with a tear in its eye. 
Means : May you always have fuel for warmth and food in the house

Writing a story that takes readers into a world of colorful characters and textured landscapes is fun. Not least of all because you get to go there first.


Historical Fantasy, New Orleans Style

I have been fascinated with 19th century New Orleans as a setting ever since reading Interview with the Vampire, by Anne Rice. Today’s post is a sample snipped from a little ways into my recently released short story, Wicked and Loving Lies. This historical fantasy follows Lalin Pasquet, the daughter of a quadroon named Clemence, who lives […]

Writing Historical Fiction: Obscene Language

WARNING: This post is about the use of adult language in historical fiction and in actual history. You should stop reading if you find profanity offensive. Naughty, Naughty Write the dialogue of drunken Medieval sailors in a seedy brothel and you will be hard pressed not to use salty language. You may be even harder pressed to write profanity that […]

My Short Stories Now Available On Amazon!

I am excited to announce that the first of my short stories are now available online! Click either image below to view more information on Amazon. Wicked and Loving Lies In 1876, ten-year-old Lalin Pasquet is content, if lonely, within her protected corner of New Orleans. The daughter of a scandalously celebrated quadroon, she leads what seems a […]

Writing Style, History and Forgotten Emperors

How’s this for a name? Al-Sultan al-‘Azam wal Khaqan al-Mukarram, Jam-i-Sultanat-i-haqiqi wa Majazi, Sayyid al-Salatin, Abu’l Muzaffar Nasir ud-din Muhammad Humayun II Padshah Ghazi, Zillu’llah [Jannat-Ashyani], Emperor of India. We’ll just call him Abu’l Muzaffar Nasir ud-din Muhammad Humayun II Padshah Ghazi, Zillu’llah [Jannat-Ashyani] for short. He was a 16th century emperor of the Indian Timurid […]

Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell Go BBC

There is historical fiction and there is fantasy fiction and I love them each separately. Rarely do the two meet in the sub-genre known as historical fantasy, but when they do it has the potential to create a synergy of awesomeness that surpasses even Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups. Of course, I am partial to historical fantasy because […]

Historical Fiction Survey

If you are a lover of historical fiction, I think you’ll enjoy this post from the blog, A Writer of History. It includes an interactive historical fiction survey that has a good participation rate in only its third year: Yes, I know some of you will think I’m crazy! However, the topic of reading is always on my mind […]

Ancient Shipwreck Holds Clues to the Past

Here are some excerpts from a fun post by my friend, fellow Arizonan and author of historical fiction, Judith Starkston. Sometimes disaster brings the best rewards. So it is with the Uluburun Bronze Age shipwreck off the coast of southern Turkey. While I’m sure the sailors who went down with the ship sometime around 1300 B.C.E. viewed the […]

Plague Doctor: Maestro Lodovicetti

Because the story took a different direction, the following is a piece that didn’t make the final cut for Conjurers, an epic historical fantasy set in 14th century Europe. This snippet ultimately transformed into a kind of exercise or character sketch for my primary antagonist, the alchemist-cum-vivisectionist, Maestro Lodivicetti. # The journey had been easier than the Maestro […]

Tip for Editing a Novel That Can Save You from Yourself

I am going to occasionally share bits and pieces of my writing that have been edited or torn weeping from the arms of my novels, spitted on the bloody bayonet of tight language and hoisted in the air to flop and wave for all the world to view with sickened, slack-jawed horror. In short, this […]