Food for Plot

While idly mousing about the internet the other day, I followed a link to this page, which is all about an artist in Texas who’s been re-imagining images of classic Western heroes using female models, with awesome results:

And my thought, instantly, was “Damn, I want to read the books that those are the covers for!”  Because behind every powerful image is a good story.

Peeve of the Day

Because I have cabin fever, and cabin fever makes me peevish.

(It also makes me want to listen to Stan Rogers’s “Canol Road” on infinite repeat, but that’s another story.)

And my peeve today is this:  If you’re going to enrich your prose with Latin tags and Latinate derivatives, for heaven’s sake at least get the spelling right.  I’ve already blogged about the annoying practice of spelling the Latin phrase per se (“by itself; in and of itself) as per say – which is what it sounds like, granted, but which is still just plain wrong.  Today I’d like to rant for a little while about another couple of frequently-misspelled Latin bits: memento and in memoriam.  They both go back, ultimately, to an Indo-European root word meaning “mind” or “thought,” but after that they part ways.

Memento is by now a fully-acculturated English word, as it were, meaning “a keepsake or souvenir” – a thing that exists to be a reminder of something.  The original Latin form of the word is derived from the verb meminisse, “to remember”, and it is spelled memento-with-an-e, not momento-with-an-o.

In memoriam is a Latin phrase meaning “in memory [of something].”  It’s spelled memoriam-with-an-a, not memorium-with-a-u, because memoria is a first declension Latin noun, and first declension nouns end in -a for the nominative case (the form that is the subject of a sentence) and in -am for the accusative case (the form that is, among other things, the object of the preposition in.)

I don’t necessarily expect every writer in the world to remember this every time, but I’m afraid that I do expect it of every copyeditor, on the grounds that copyeditors are supposed to know these things.

Well, Damn.

Ursula K. Le Guin is dead.

As far as my own native field of sf/fantasy goes, she was one of the giants in the earth.  The Left Hand of Darkness was groundbreaking, and it’s the book that’s getting namechecked in the obits, though I personally liked The Dispossessed  better.  (She depicted the only fictional utopia I could actually imagine existing – not one that I would want to live in even if you paid me, but one that I could believe might be real.)  As for her fantasy – I read A Wizard of Earthsea during the summer between my senior year in high school and my freshman year in college, and it made the top of my head come off.

Good-bye, Ursula, and thanks.  It was an honor to share a genre with you.

It’s Been a While

So what have I been doing?

Shivering, a lot of the time:

The last week of December and the first week or so of January were brutal up here – a solid stretch of subzero temperatures.  (I lie a little; the temperature got all the way up to 3°F for about an hour one afternoon.)  Everything froze.  The electric baseboard heating did its damnedest, but was totally unequal to the task. I spent most of the time huddled in the office, that being the warmest room in the house, for values of “warm” that weren’t, not really.

Struggling with a crumbling household infrastructure, a lot of the time:

The plumbing, as mentioned above.

My elderly desktop computer, which was new in 2011 and by the end of 2017 was groaning under the strain of going from Windows 7 to Windows 8.1 to Windows 10, and which – just as the subzero cold was easing up – went in a few days from slow-but-functional to functional-in-name-only.  It was like watching a wall crumble, brick by brick.  Finally I gave up and moved my vital work and household programs over to my laptop, which is much younger and herkier than my desktop.

The auto, which went from burning oil a bit faster than we’d like to burning through all its oil and blowing the engine at shortly before midnight on Route 3 just south of Franconia Notch, while we were on the way home from what had been, all things considered, a pretty good Arisia.  We ended up spending two nights in an inexpensive hotel in Lincoln (Parker’s Motel, for whose whose kindness to stranded travelers I am exceedingly grateful), before ultimately getting a tow the rest of the way back to Colebrook so we could put the car into the hands of our local auto shop.

The dishwasher, which responded to the subzero weather by freezing up, and which now is refusing to drain.

The oven, which has a burned-out heating element.  That, at least, is a cheap fix.  I just need to order the part.  But the way life has been this month, I haven’t yet gotten around to it.  But I will, real soon now, because I’m tired of cycling through my stove-top, Foreman grill, and slow-cooker recipes.  I want to make lasagna, or enchiladas, or scallopped potatoes, or roasted chicken.

So that’s my month so far.  How about yours?

Two More Days

Just a quick reminder that my seasonal winter sale ends at midnight on the 5th.

In other news, it’s cold up here.  And if you’re living in the continental United States, or in Canada, it’s probably cold where you are, too.  (It’s probably also cold in northern Europe and Asia, but I don’t know if it’s unseasonably so.  If it is, here’s some profound fellow-feeling coming at you from the northern end of New Hampshire.)  In any case, here are a trio of blog posts about surviving, and driving, in extreme winter weather conditions: Cold Blows the Wind Today, Fimbul Winter, and Dashing Through the Snow.

This is the kind of weather that inspired the cautionary tale of Young Charlotte, who thought that a silk-lined cloak would be proof against hypothermia on a fifteen-mile sleigh ride on New Year’s Eve.  She was, alas, fatally wrong.

Happy New Year!

New Year

May the good parts of 2017 stay with us, and may the bad parts recede quickly in the rear-view mirror.

And may 2018 bring all of the good things that we need, and a fair share of the good things we may not need but would like to have anyway, because a little fun and frivolity are good for the soul.

(The best advice my father ever gave me was, “As long as nobody’s getting hurt, ‘just for fun’ is a perfectly valid reason for doing anything.”  My mother, more practical, said, “Make your bed first thing in the morning after you get out of it, or you’ll never make it all day.”  They were both right.)

A Request for the Indignant

Milo Yiannopoulos is in the news again, what with his lawsuit against Simon&Schuster for choosing not to publish his book, which resulted in the publisher entering the manuscript-as-submitted into evidence, complete with the editor’s notes, highlights of which are now all over the internet.  (And great fun they are, too – they would go well with a glass of nice wine and a slice of schadenfreude pie.)

My request is a simple one:  If you are, as many will be, indignant that Simon&Schuster bought Mr. Yiannopoulos’s book in the first place, please don’t also wax indignant that they are allowing him to keep the on-signing portion of the advance.  This is customary, when bad things (deserved or not) happen to a book between on-signing and publication – but the word to note there is “customary.”  For the sake of all the rest of us writers out there, don’t give Simon&Schuster an excuse to say, at some later date, “Well, it may have been customary in the olden days, but it isn’t going to be customary from now on.”

‘Tis the Season

Christmas Trees.jpg

December 21st — nineteen minutes old as I type this – is the Northern Hemisphere’s winter solstice, and then the sun comes back.  At least, it always has so far,† and we celebrate its return with gifts and lights and feasting in multiple traditions.

This is also the season for my annual Winter Holiday Gift Sale, where you can purchase a gift certificate good for one line-edit and critique of a full-length novel, as a seasonal present for the writer in your life (even if that writer is you!), at the reduced holiday rate of $1000 for a standard-weight novel.  The gift comes with a printable PDF gift certificate, suitable for printing out and wrapping up in a box or envelope for holiday presentation, and can be redeemed at the time of the recipient’s choice. For more information on what I do and how I work, you can read my About page.

As usual, this sale runs from now through Twelfth Night (January 5th, 2018) – by that time, we should know for certain whether or not the sun’s come back.


And that’s another thing I never truly appreciated until I moved up to New England. In lower latitudes, the change in the length of days is nowhere near as extreme.

 

Vocabulary Expansion Through Homeownership, and Other Lexical Consequences of Choosing to Settle in Northern New Engand.

Let us consider, for example, “soffit.” Until I ended up living in a 19th-century wooden house in deep snow country, I had no idea what a soffit was. I may have been in the vicinity of soffits from time to time, but they had by no means impinged upon my consciousness.

But now I know. Per Wikipedia, “in popular use, soffit most often…refers to the material forming a ceiling from the top of an exterior house wall to the outer edge of the roof, i.e., bridging the gap between a home’s siding and the roofline, otherwise known as the eaves.”

Per my own experience, soffits are those rotted bits under the roof of the upstairs gable windows that I’m going to have to get replaced this spring, right after I get the plumbing fixed and the north side of the roof reshingled.

(Old houses always need the plumbing fixed. I think it’s a rule.)

Winter weather up here provides other items of interest for word nuts, as well. Like this idiomatic tidbit, picked up from listening to the local road crews on the radio scanner: “Be careful up on Titus Hill. It’s getting greasy out there.” Translated out of the north woods accent, what this means is that the previously snow-plowed roads, having been lightly rained on for a few hours, are now in the process of freezing again, and have reached a particularly nasty and treacherous state of slickness.

Good weather for staying in and updating one’s blog, in fact.

It’s Advent…

…which means that it’s time for Gift Suggestions for the Writer in Your Life.  (Even if that writer is you.)

This first one is for musicians, not writers, but artists need to stick together.  Eric Owyoung, who’s a producer/composer with the band Future of Forestry, is offering $50 off on tuition for his Music Mentorship Program until Christmas.  This can be done as a gift, and you can find more information about the program on his web page.

And then there’s Levengers, purveyors of high-end writing and office gear; this year they have a lot of good stuff, including items below $50, such as this leather flash drive holder with a clip to buckle it onto things.  They’ve got pricier stuff, too, like a marble-based iPhone dock or a carved rosewood tablet and book easel.

Or you could just get your writer friend the best fruitcake in the world.  Other places may claim that theirs is, in fact, the best, but as far as I’m concerned, the Collin Street Bakery makes the One True Fruitcake, and that’s that.

And then there’s my own Christmas-through-Twelfth-Night annual sale, which I’m saving for another post because I wanted to talk about all these other good people first.