Revising ‘Necromantra’ by Philip Emery

SOSS: a mess; a dish of sloppy food; a puddle; a heavy fall; to throw carelessly about;

Yes, it’s a real word. Most dictionaries don’t include it these days, but my beloved Chambers does. (Still my go-to dictionary for archaisms and suchlike, even though these days I need to resort to spectacles to consult it.) I imagine it’s where I first came across the word, possibly just happening upon it – but I must have happened upon it some years ago. The evidence is that I recently re-discovered it when revising my novel ‘Necromantra’ for its new Immanion edition:

“Then there came a scuff of shoes, the fierce rush of heavy cloth, a yelp and slap of a soss, all in the hard almost-echo the chapel made of all sound.”

Obviously I knew it once, and used it in the fourth sense of the definition above. It seems to fit well, given its sound allied to the sound of heavy cloth already mentioned in the sentence.

But coming across it again I had to look it up anew in that beloved Chambers. Words, it seems, fall away from someone’s personal word horde as the years mount up And having become reacquainted, I’ve used it for a second time in my writing career in a recent short story, this time in the fifth sense quoted:

“Even these broken cantrips she spoke without knowing, like whispered soss.”

Again, sound as well as sense benefited – but I wonder if, mindful of the ‘use-it-or-lose-it’ concept,  I subconsciously also wanted to try and keep it more ready to hand in that word horde?

Expanding the point, revising a novel can be a perilous task in general. It’s ten years since the first edition appeared – more than my eyesight has changed. Should the writer-I-am have taken the opportunity to edit the writer-I-was then? (I remember a Michael Moorcock interview where he talked about his sword-&-sorcery output and put forward the chilling idea that he might “spend my old age doing the repairs I previously never had time for…” ) In the end I didn’t – though I was tempted to thin the quantity of similes in the book, pleased as I was/am with most of them. One thing I did do was amputate one of my protagonist’s arms. A cruel act, possibly, but since throughout ‘Necromantra’ Jem Nadin has just the one arm, the appearance of a second in one early chapter was one instance where the inner Sam Beckett of the writer-I-am, putting right what once went wrong, could confidently be allowed to win out!

 

Philip Emery’s novel, ‘Necromantra’ is available as both a paperback and an eBook from Immanion Press.

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