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?

‘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.


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.

Nashua, This Weekend

Madhouse Manor

The Nashua Holiday Stroll will take place this coming Saturday, 25 November 2017.

Jim Macdonald at the Nashua Holiday Stroll, 2016 Jim Macdonald at the Nashua Holiday Stroll, 2016

So why do I care?  I live at the entire other end of the state from Nashua.  Well, because Granite State Magicians will appear (poof!) at 30 Temple Street, Main Level, Nashua, from 7:10 to 8:10 pm (1910-2010).  And I will be among them.

(Immediately following Granite State Magicians there will be a fellow doing a Harry Potter magic show, so plan to stay late.)

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Mental Health

Madhouse Manor

Mental illness.  It happens, just like physical illness.  If you had the signs and symptoms of a heart attack, you’d get help.  If you had the signs and symptoms of diabetes, you’d get help.  We’ve gone to a lot of time and trouble to make sure everyone knows the signs and symptoms of an awful lot of common diseases (and some not-so-common ones).  Mental illness is pretty darned common.   But tons of people don’t even know the signs and symptoms of mental illness, so they don’t get help.  We’re trying to get the word on the signs and symptoms of mental illness out there.  Tell all your friends.

Here are the signs and symptoms:

Five signs for mental illness Know the five signs

    Know the five signs:
  • not feeling like yourself?
  • feeling agitated?
  • are you withdrawn?
  • not caring for yourself?
  • feeling hopeless?



  • Recognize the signs of emotional suffering
  • Express concern and offer…

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Uncle Tom’s SERE

Jim Macdonald has his own take on an American classic….

Madhouse Manor

Was Uncle Tom’s Cabinwritten by a feminine hand?

No, it was written by Harriet Beecher’s toe.

For years, pretty much all I knew about Uncle Tom’s Cabin, the novel, was that it existed.  Important in the social history of the United States, sure.  Important in American literature, sure.  But the plot?  Nope. All I knew of the plot was what I’d gleaned from watching The King and I.  So, recently, I decided to correct that lack.

(BTW: Spoilers)

Over the course of a couple of trips to Boston and to Burlington I listened to an audio recording of Uncle Tom’s Cabin.

The first surprising thing (to me, anyway) was that the scene of Eliza crossing the Ohio on the ice floes wasn’t the climax of the book.  It was an incident in Chapter Seven (out of forty-five chapters).

I hadn’t looked at UncleTomcriticism beforehand…

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