Sunday, December 30, 2018

Best male/male romances read in 2018

Looking over my Goodreads list from 2018, I realize I have read a lot of male/male romance. So I figured I’d better make you a list of all the good stuff. 
I’ll only include the smaller-press or indie titles, because, like, yes, I did read The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller and Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Sáenz, and they were great, but everyone already knows about those and they don’t need a plug from me. So here are others!

On the short side, a few novellas:
Defensive Play by Jamie Deacon: A closeted English football (soccer) player reconsiders that closet when he runs into a cute out player on the opposing team. 
Return to Sender by Roberta Blablanski: A pair of men who last saw each other as teens and had love letters go astray reconnect at last.
Peter Darling by Austin Chant: A Peter Pan/Captain Hook pairing, retold in a way that actually might work better for me than the original, by taking some of the disturbing creepiness out of Neverland and replacing it with lovely sweetness. Fantastical and awesome.
Cinnamon Eyes by Nell Iris: Childhood friends reunite to find there’s something more now, with a lovely music-story backdrop.

And the full-length novels:

Band Sinister by K.J. Charles: If Georgette Heyer had been inclined to write naughty m/m, this might be the result. So fun and endearing (and steamy!). 
Pansies by Alexis Hall: It’s not every writer who could pull off a love story between a former bully and that guy’s former victim, but Hall made it work for me, with plenty of emotion and laughter. (And kinky hotness.)
The Impossible Boy by Anna Martin: Non-binary man with anorexia issues finds love and new friends, in hip London setting.
The Enlightenment series by Joanna Chambers: Fabulous early-1800s Edinburgh setting (I love Edinburgh!), and sexy pairing of lowly working man and rich nobleman (I love class barriers). Requires the whole trilogy for the romance to go through its proper arc, but they’re swift and compelling reads.
For Real by Alexis Hall: Warning: super kinky! I wasn’t sure I was up for this level of BDSM, as I don’t know that scene at all, but Hall is so good at making characters real and relatable (and hilarious) that I got right into it with very little difficulty. Much like with the film ‘Secretary.’ 
Recommend some good reads if you have them, and happy new year!

Monday, November 26, 2018

An old sonnet and a new title

I've had a busy November, but delightfully so: I've begun revisions on the guy/guy modern romance featuring a character named Sinter, whom some of you may remember from earlier versions and other posts of mine. 
This book was formerly titled different things over the years through its various revisions: Dramatically Inclined, Boy in Eyeliner, 32 and Raining... And in discussion with my wonderful editor Michelle at Central Avenue Publishing, we came up with yet a new title for it this time around: All the Better Part of Me
This quote comes from Shakespeare's sonnet 39, which begins:
O, how thy worth with manners may I sing,
When thou art all the better part of me? 
It's a love poem, which is apt; and it's one of the many, many sonnets thought to be dedicated to the mysterious Fair Youth (or Young Man), which is also apt. (You can read here, among other places, about the speculation behind Shakespeare's romantic life and the people he wrote the sonnets for.) And of course, my novel's main character, Sinter, is an actor, and lots of Shakespeare references were already in the story, so the apt-ness just keeps on coming.
We'll be doing edits and cover art and other prep work for a while here, but one thing you can do if you're on Goodreads is put the book on your to-read shelf there, as it now has a listing. Here is its back-cover synopsis:

It’s an inconvenient time for Sinter Blackwell to realize he’s bisexual. He’s a 25-year-old American actor working in London, living far away from his disapproving parents in the Pacific Northwest, and enjoying a flirtation with his director Fiona. But he can’t deny that his favorite parts of each day are the messages from his gay best friend Andy in Seattle—whom Sinter once kissed when they were 15.
Finally he decides to return to America to visit Andy and discover what’s between them, if anything. He isn’t seeking love, and definitely doesn’t want drama. But both love and drama seem determined to find him. Family complications soon force him into the most consequential decisions of his life, threatening all his most important relationships: with Andy, Fiona, his parents, and everyone else who’s counting on him. Choosing the right role to play has never been harder.
I'm glad to have this news for my gratitude list as the holidays approach! I hope you all have a long list of things to be thankful for too. Happy reading and writing, especially to those of you brave enough to be tackling NaNoWriMo. :)

Sunday, October 14, 2018

I had a quasi-conservative phase a long time back. It was as you’d expect: I watched Fox, read National Review, listened to friends who were avid conservatives, parroted their points of view online to other people, picked the most extreme liberal articles I could find and held them up as examples of how crazy liberals were and how they had no sense of perspective or humor.

As should be obvious if you’ve listened to me lately, I gradually got over this phase and am nowhere near it now. But it did take years. And what I want to do today is thank the many people I knew who, despite being liberals throughout, stayed friends with me during that phase. Even while I was repeating arguments I am now ashamed of, they disagreed, but they didn’t give up on me. They somehow kept seeing something in me that was worth being friends with, even at my most obnoxious. These people are awesome for this. I haven’t forgotten.

I’m thinking of them now especially, because I see other friends or family trying on a similar phase, or perhaps not a phase at all; they’ve always been conservative. It’s just that being conservative or liberal in the modern day feels more than ever like taking sides in a deadly war. It’s important to remember that it doesn’t actually have to be that way.

My liberal friends still liked me even when I was conservative, and I still liked them. I still like my conservative friends and family even though I’m liberal now. I’m not going to be the one to cease communications. Others didn’t give up on me, so I won’t give up on others.

The climate being what it is, I do have conservative friends and family who have gone mysteriously silent toward me, ever since I’ve made it clear that I Do Not Like the current administration. I don’t know if their silence is because of my opinion, or if they’re just busy. They haven’t said. But if they’re reading this, I want them to know: I’m still happy to talk to you and know you. I still see plenty to admire in you. If there’s a wall that’s gone up here, you’ve built it, not me.

People talk about grace a lot, and not being religious, I don’t know what exactly it means in a religious sense. To me, though, those friends who stayed patient and kind toward me throughout my changing opinions have displayed the definition of grace. That’s the kind of grace I strive for. I struggle with it still, but it’s what I’m trying to accomplish.

I know plenty of you are on the receiving end of a wall like this, with friends or family who won’t talk to you because of the current political climate. This is happening on BOTH sides. To you I can only say I’m sorry, and I don’t know what you can do other than wait it out and be happy as best you can. But to those of you who are the ones building that wall: please don’t. Consider unbricking it, saying hello again. Talking about something OTHER than politics, something that used to bring you and that other person together onto the same page.

Do we really want to let those idiots in government define who we like? I sure don’t. Think about it. Think what kind of world you want to live in. One where friends have to agree on absolutely everything, or one where friends can wait out each other’s difficult phases with grace. It’s hard, I know. But consider it. That’s all.

Sunday, July 15, 2018

I finally went back to Britain!!

Hello all,
I have been not getting a lot of work done lately, since our household was on vacation for two weeks in England and Wales! I had not been there since 2004 and it was fabulous to be back, despite the heat wave. (Luckily a "heat wave" in Britain only means temperatures around 85 F/ 29 C. Still, I would have preferred a bit of iconic British rain or mist.) 
If you're the kind of person who enjoys trip photos, I spammed Instagram with mine:
At this point you'll have to scroll down a little to get to the Britain ones, but I'm sure you'll be able to find them. For those unfamiliar with Instagram: you then click on each one to bring up the post, and click on the arrows on the photo itself (not on the edges of the window) to see the other photos in that post.
Nonetheless, writing work does progress: 
The audiobook for Summer Term is in production and should be ready in a few weeks. 
I should also be having more editorial discussions about Dramatically Inclined in the fall, and will keep you informed on news there too. Part of that story takes place in London, which made me especially happy to see that city again in person!
And I'm deep into the writing of my next book, which involves fae and royals and a fictional country and a male/male love story, and I'm quite taken with it at the moment.
For now, feel free to retaliate with your own vacation photos--after all, I need ideas for where to go in future years.
Take care and enjoy the summer!

Thursday, May 31, 2018

Mean girl karma payback story

This morning on the wonderful KEXP, the equally wonderful John Richards was talking about the nasty effects of bullying and mean kids, and sharing stories listeners had sent in, which made me decide to write up this little anecdote. It’s not as dramatic or harrowing as many a mean-kid story, but it’s ultimately rather satisfying. And maybe it’ll make some other fellow nerd feel better.
So: in middle school, in the late 1980s, I was probably the shortest kid in my class, due to being also the youngest. (I had skipped first grade. I don’t recommend anyone do this to their kid, especially if the kid is already small and shy.) Nonetheless, I had a sweet friend—we’ll call her Sara—with whom I hung out at lunch break. As you know perfectly well, having someone with whom to hang out at lunch break is EVERYTHING. 
In seventh grade, this savvy popular girl, whom we’ll call Jen, befriended Sara, and with her flankers of popular friends, started hanging out with us at lunch too. Cool!
Or maybe not cool. Because one day during lunch break, Jen said to Sara, “We need to talk about…” and made a friendly wince, which somehow I knew was about me. Indeed, she then turned to me and said, all apologetic, that while we were still friends, “they” just didn’t want to hang out with me anymore. Sara, to her credit, was looking unhappy and mumbling, “I don’t want to do this.” 

But it happened anyway. I backed off—why hang out with people who don’t want you?—and Sara stayed with Jen, and I wandered around wondering what I was supposed to do at lunch break now.
Fortunately two other girls, at a popularity level more equal to my own (ha, I love you guys, you know what I mean, though) invited me to sit with them after a while, and we stuck together the rest of middle school. (We went to separate high schools, though, alas.) So I wasn’t friendless. But I wasn’t exactly undamaged, either.
I ran into Sara in the neighborhood some time later, incidentally. She apologized for what had happened, and said glumly that Jen did the same thing to her not long afterward. Nice. Poor Sara. Still, the rift had been made by then, and Sara and I never really hung out after that, even though as far as I knew she remained a truly nice person.
Jen and I went to different high schools and I didn’t see her for a long time. Then we both ended up at University of Oregon. I joined a sorority in the first “Rush” (recruitment period) of the year. So I was a member of a house already when Jen’s name showed up in the next Rush, in the spring: she had apparently decided to join the Greek system too. 
One day I happened to be in the dorm lunch line right in front of her. She put on this big smile and said, “You’re…(squinting, searching for the name) Molly, right? From Corvallis?” 
I smiled coolly and said, “Yes. We were at Highland View together.” Emphasis on the name of our middle school. Like, you do remember what you did to me there?
She said nothing about it if she did remember. “I thought you looked familiar! So you’re in a house now, right?”
I said yes, Tri-Delta. She said great, she was looking forward to Rush! I nodded, wished her luck, and moved ahead to get lunch.
I didn’t have to talk to her when she toured our house during Rush, as far as I recall, which was probably for the best. Maybe she had changed in all those years anyway, I thought. I shouldn’t hold middle school behavior over anyone’s head. So when the Rush day was over and the whole sorority gathered to collect notes on who everyone had met and what they thought and thus who we should invite back, I kept my mouth shut about her. The sorority sister in charge of recruitment said Jen’s name and looked up for comments, pencil at the ready.
I didn’t move or say a word. But other women’s hands shot up, those who had met her just today.
“I found her kind of negative and judgmental,” one said.
“When we were done,” said another, “I walked her to the door and she said ‘bye’ all cheerfully, then she marched over to her friend on the sidewalk, hit her hard on the arm, and said, ‘Where WERE you?’ She just does not seem like a very good friend.”
There were other similar comments. And I just sat there smiling calmly, saying nothing, feeling the flow of the sweet, sweet karma.
Needless to say, she did not join our house, and I never had to deal with her again.
Jen’s “crimes” were minor compared to those of many mean kids and bullies. Wasn’t I probably that mean to some other kid, at some time, if I search through my past? True, I don’t think I ever told anyone I didn’t want to hang out with them anymore, in front of their friends who I was stealing, but I know I was a jerk in some way to some people. And to those people I absolutely offer a heartfelt apology, if they’re out there reading this. So, Jen, if you ever apologize to me, I suppose I’ll forgive you. But I have the weirdest suspicion you wouldn’t even remember me.
Moral of story: don’t be mean to anyone at all, because some of those people might grow up to be writers.  

Monday, April 09, 2018

Guest post: Aaron Schwabach on movies and TV getting the law right (or not)

Inspired by this episode of the Writing Excuses podcast, in which a legal expert discussed what writers get wrong about the law, I recently asked on my e-newsletter: "Those of you with legal know-how: what bugs you that fiction (books, TV, etc.) keeps getting wrong when it comes to law? Or do you let it all slide in the name of entertainment?"
My longtime online friend Aaron Schwabach, who is not only an exuberant fanboy of many of the same things I love, but also a law professor, gave such a wonderfully detailed and entertaining answer that I asked him if I could run it as a guest post. He agreed, so here it is, for the edification of all us writers, or just for anyone who's curious. Thank you, Aaron!
Law in fiction: I tend to overlook most of it for the sake of storytelling, especially in a movie where time is limited.  The same is true for police work, medicine, espionage, or most other “exciting” professions.  Most cops never shoot anyone or get shot by anyone; doctors don’t discover cures for previously unknown diseases and halt epidemics within 48 hours; real life work at the CIA involves hours, days, and months of sitting in a cubicle looking at documents and photographs.  All of those make for a boring story, as would watching a real life lawyer practice law most of the time.  
One of the truest depictions in literature is the chapter of A Tale of Two Cities in which the two attorneys (Stryver and Sidney Carton) defending Charles Darnay pull an all-nighter, working on the case, bickering with each other, getting a bit too personal at times, and drinking way too much (sadly realistic for many attorneys) - as accurate today as in 1859.
In cinema, an oddly and unexpectedly accurate portrayal of the practice of law - one which gets almost everything right and for which the writers clearly did their homework - is My Cousin Vinny.  Everything - including arcana like the pro hac vice appearance and Vinny’s questioning of the guy in the neck brace - has been meticulously researched.
Some courtroom scenes are clearly played solely for laughs (as in Aladdin & The King of Thieves ["I object to a tertiary character having any lines in my big courtroom scene!”] or Liar, Liar! [“I hold myself in contempt”]) and it would be silly to worry about their accuracy.  (Throw in a police officer and you have the manic scene in which Woody Allen represents himself in court in Bananas.)
The worst I can think of offhand, in that it tries to take itself seriously, is Suspect, with Cher, Dennis Quaid, and Liam Neeson.  I tell the students in my Professional Responsibility class: “Watch this movie.  Study everything Cher's character does in the movie. And then don’t do it.  Ever.” The same applies to pretty much everything every other attorney in the movie does as well.
A curious case is Arrow.  The other superhero series with a lot of lawyering that comes to mind is Gotham, but that’s so comic-bookish that the inaccuracies aren’t distracting.  Through the first few episodes of Arrow every time Laurel Lance did some lawyering I’d be grumbling at the screen “that would trigger an investigation by the state bar.  She’d probably get fired and maybe disbarred.”  And then… the state bar investigates her.  And she gets fired.  And maybe disbarred.
Top triggers:
Lawyers cannot engage in ex parte (that is, one on one, without the other party’s lawyer present) communications with judges, jurors, or court officials.  Same goes for judges talking to one party’s lawyer.
Lawyers should not talk to jurors outside the courtroom at all. Ever.
Lawyers cannot talk directly to the opposing party if that party is represented by counsel.  All communication has to go through the other party’s lawyer.  (The parties can still talk to each other, though, and it usually goes badly.)
Real life cases take a lot longer… that’s just movie time, though.
Surprise witnesses are almost unheard of.  Each side has had months to examine the other side’s list of witnesses and depose the witnesses if they wish.
Similarly, evidence that changes everything almost never suddenly turns up at the last minute.
The lawyer is never called as a witness.  (Again, theoretically possible in extreme cases but vanishingly rare.)
Lawyers can’t reveal client confidences except in certain narrowly defined circumstances, and they’re never required to except in even more narrowly defined circumstances.
New, exonerating evidence does not automatically result in the wrongfully convicted defendant being set free.  This can take years, or may not happen at all.  (Another show that deals with this quite well is Limitless, tragically cancelled after just one season.)
Lawyers are admitted to practice in a single state and can not automatically practice in the courts of another state. (See My Cousin Vinny above for how to handle this correctly.  Also, they can practice in federal court.) And they definitely cannot practice in the courts of another country.  
Another example of getting things right: In the courtroom scene in Cheech & Chong’s stoner classic Up in Smoke, a mistrial is declared when it turns out the judge’s glass of water is actually vodka.  Stuff like that does happen and does result in mistrials.  (Google “penis pump judge” for an extreme example.)

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Delay on upcoming book

My upcoming book Dramatically Inclined will not be published this summer as I had originally planned. I have asked Riptide Publishing to return the rights to me, and today they have complied. They have been issuing rights reversions for many authors lately (at the authors' requests), after a lot of press has come out involving questionable behavior (sexual harassment, borderline racist comments, and more) on the part of some editors. It did not feel like a wise decision for me to stay with the press after this has all come to light, so I will be seeking publication elsewhere. This will unfortunately mean a delay in the release date, which I find frustrating and saddening, but I am relieved to have been able to make this choice before the book's release rather than after.
Once I know more about this novel's future, I will definitely update you. I hope to have a plan soon! Meanwhile, if you wish to help any of the many authors whose works have been affected by the problems at Riptide by supporting them elsewhere, here is a handy list of who they are and where to find them.
This doesn't affect any of my other existing books--which, I'm especially relieved today to say, are under other publishing houses.

Tuesday, February 06, 2018

Four-part character arc vs. three-act plot structure

I've always struggled with the three-act plot structure. Where to draw the lines between acts isn't always clear to me; the so-called turning points can too often seem too numerous and I'm not sure which one counts as "the important one." (It's a turning point for Frodo when he flees Bag End for Bree, but also when he volunteers in Rivendell to take the Ring to Mordor, but also when he leaves the Fellowship with Sam, but also...wait, is this Act Two yet?) SO, I was excited to read a different theory that puts the typical character arc into FOUR parts instead, which make far more sense to me:

1. Orphan (the character in the beginning, with their life lacking something)
2. Wanderer (the character after the initial shove into the main problem, figuring things out but still half likely to reject the whole quest)
3. Warrior (the character taking on the quest and finding new courage as well as dangers)
4. Martyr (the character being willing to put everything on the line to achieve the goal, though they don't actually have to die [but can if this is a tragedy])

This is based on Carol S. Pearson's The Hero Within, and has been adapted by lots of writers. This post claims that these four character stages can be overlaid onto the three-act plot structure thus:

In Act 1: ORPHAN...lost...needing a quest.
In Act 2A: WANDERER...chose the quest...but unsure how to achieve it.
(stick in here a MOMENT OF GRACE (MOG) where S/He discovers what the story is really about)
In Act 2B: WARRIOR...having discovered through the moral premise how to actually get what he needs.
In Act 3: MARTYR for what he and his village back home needs.

This lines up a lot better for me, for the stories I write. Whew!

As for Frodo...hmm, does he become a Warrior at "I will take the Ring to Mordor," or not until the breaking of the Fellowship? Still undecided for me, but maybe the latter. It's only then that he realizes (moment of grace) that he can't do this with the whole Fellowship along, but must do it anyway. Plus then the LOTR trilogy breaks more nicely into the three acts too. :)

Monday, January 01, 2018

Best of 2017

2017 was...difficult, I think most of us would agree. Not my favorite year ever, for sure. But in the interest of highlighting the positive, here are some of the good things for it in my own personal life!

It was the best of book releases, it was the worst of book releases. The Goblins of Bellwater was released this fall. Publishers Weekly and various librarians and booksellers liked it, which is awesome! Others hated it, largely book bloggers—though certainly not all book bloggers; several nice ones adored it. In any case, the ups and downs were cruel to take at first (well, the downs at least), until I decided that, by my own admission, this is one of my weirdest books, thus it’s not going to be to everyone’s taste. And the shiny silver lining is that despite the “meh” thrown at it, this book has already gotten more exposure and sales than my others, and some people who did like it have started reading my older titles. So now more people have heard of me…which is probably good for the career, at least?
Bonus shout-out to my extroverted younger sister Peggy and (also extroverted) editor Michelle for helping me hand out signed books at the Pacific Northwest Booksellers Association Trade Show this October!

Guinea pigs: We adopted two guinea pigs! Blizzard and Cinnamon are brothers, have soft fur like cats, and are insanely fond of vegetables and will squeak their heads off if they hear you open the fridge. Satisfying and low-maintenance as pets go.

Monterey: Summer trip to Monterey with family was that rarest of things: a vacation where basically everything went well. Monterey and the surrounding California coast are astonishingly gorgeous, with a perfect climate: chilly and foggy in the morning, clear and in the 60s in the afternoon, pretty much year-round. There are sea otters playing in the surf at all times, and sometimes whales. We pedaled a family-size bike surrey to Lovers Point and lounged on a white-sand beach under cypress trees and watched teeny fish dart in the shallows. Want to go back and explore more!

Audiobooks: In a bit of serendipity, my publishers started signing up my titles with Audible this year, not long after my friend Melanie began narrating audiobooks at ACX (part of Audible). Thus, Melanie became my narrator for my first audiobook: she read aloud The Ghost Downstairs and did an awesome job of it! More audiobooks of my stories to come in 2018, if all goes according to plan.

Total eclipse of the sun: We went to Corvallis, Oregon (my hometown), to be in the totality zone for the August 21 eclipse, and it was so worth it. (Traffic getting there actually wasn’t that bad anyway.) I didn’t try to take photos on my phone of the two minutes of blazing corona in a deep blue sky; I just stood in the street with everyone else and gaped at it and staggered around going, “It’s so beautiful!” But it looked about like this (photo as credited from this person on Instagram). Next time there’s an eclipse, get to the totality zone if you can. I mean it.

High school reunion: On three separate and unrelated occasions, I saw three high school friends this summer who I hadn’t seen for years, and it was a delight in each case. Kevin the former altar boy and his daughter came to Seattle and dropped by to visit me; then in Portland at my sister’s party I got to see Tom who is also, in a hilarious coincidence, writing about goblins; then in Corvallis at eclipse time I hung out with Astrid, nowadays an illustrator and comic artist, and we talked about writing fantasy as well as awkward high school moments. You all turned out awesome! Which is no surprise to me whatsoever.

New book contract: Given how long I’ve worked on the guy/guy romance novel about Sinter Blackwell, off and on over the years, and how long this particular year I waited for feedback from beta readers and editors, and then how hard I worked on revising it, I am damn-near ecstatic to finally have this contract on my desk, and can’t wait to introduce you all to this book in 2018. I am betting it will have slightly better average reviews than The Goblins of Bellwater, but we’ll see…

And I haven't even listed all the many, many times I was soothed, inspired, or cheered by a book, film, TV show, piece of music, or other creativity. Art saves sanity and thus saves lives. Keep revering and loving and creating it.

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

New book to come!

If you've ever found yourself thinking, "Molly, these goblins and Greek gods are lovely and all, but you need to put them aside for a bit and write me a swoony contemporary coming-of-age male/male romance with a lot of new wave song references in it," then you are in luck! Because I have written one, and I've just signed with Riptide Publishing (who specializes in the whole rainbow of LGBTQ stories) to get it out next summer! It will probably be titled Dramatically Inclined, though its working title was Boy in Eyeliner, so both of those are possibilities, as are any last-minute ideas we may get.

I've loved my small press experiences so far--with Central Avenue Publishing and The Wild Rose Press--so I'm confident I'll have a similar happy experience with Riptide, another excellent small press. And I can't wait to have you all meet Sinter and Andy.

[A few of you will remember them from 32 and Raining, an earlier incarnation of this story, though it is much changed since then. It now has a more "rom-com" feel (romantic comedy) and includes a lot more text messages. You might also know Sinter from Relatively Honest, in which he was Daniel's dorm roommate with a theater major and a goth fashion code. So technically this could be counted as as a spinoff novel, but is also completely a stand-alone and requires no knowledge of Relatively Honest.]

More info to come, naturally! For now, happy holidays and thank you for listening to me through all my strange creative projects. :)

Monday, December 11, 2017

My publishing-industry gripes with Stranger Than Fiction, which I love anyway

I rewatched Stranger Than Fiction today, because of course that film is a delight for any fiction writer, and Emma is hilarious as the reclusive, pessimistic novelist. HOWEVER, here are my "oh come on" gripes (which don't include a character coming to life, because I'm apparently fine with that):
1) Publisher wants author to write something new so badly that they send a full-time all-expenses-paid editorial assistant to make sure she finishes her book? Has that ever, ever, ever happened? I mean, if that were how publishing worked, they would have assigned someone to G.R.R. Martin ages ago.
2) I don't get why Dustin Hoffman is so intrigued when he learns that the phrase "little did he know" cropped up in the narration, nor how he could teach an entire seminar on it. Sure, it signals third-person-omniscient, but so what? It's still a cliche of a phrase, and a rather melodramatic one at that.
3) Typewriters? Still? Hollywood, please. Novelists have come around to using computers, just like your screenwriters have. But yes, I admit it's much more cinematic to use a typewriter, as you get that nice clacking sound, and papers you can rip out and crinkle up and toss aside, and all that.
Anyway. Still. The concept is really fun, the performances are all excellent, I'm moved and entertained, the cookies look delicious, and "I'd Go the Whole Wide World" is a catchy song, so I like this film lots on the whole. I just needed to say the above.

Thursday, November 09, 2017

Weak words to hunt down and destroy when editing fiction

(This is my personal list, reflecting my own bad writing habits. Use or add to as you like. Obviously you don’t have to delete every instance of the verb “be” or other similarly common and useful words, but in at least some cases you can replace them with more vivid phrasing. E.g., “It was raining” can become “Rain lashed against her face.”)

know (knew)
feel (felt)
was (were, is, be)
-ly (adverbs)
keep (kept)
have (had)
paused/hesitated (have them do some action instead)
peek (for an inanimate object)
em-dashes –
spin/turn on one’s heel
thought to herself/himself
picked at invisible/imaginary speck of dust/thread/etc
pretty (to mean “fairly” or “kind of”)

And let's not forget "let out a breath she didn't know she was holding."

Sunday, October 22, 2017

Kids these days are not destroying English

Every time I see a thread of “don’t you hate it when people mispronounce/misspell/misuse word X,” I feel the need to weigh in with this, as That Person Who Majored in Linguistics:

“Kids these days” are not, in fact, destroying the English language, and in fact fears of kids these days destroying the language go back all the way to early written records in the ancient world. No language has ever fallen apart and gone extinct from being regularly used, I promise you. Quite the contrary; popular usage only makes a language stronger and more innovative.

Could most people stand to learn a little more about etymology, and read over their written documents more carefully before calling them done and sending them? Sure, absolutely. Again, however, this has always been the case. It’s just that in the past, lots more people couldn’t read or write AT ALL, so we have fewer records of the people who would’ve had “worse” language usage. And with the internet, we now have far, far more examples of language usage every day–every second–than we ever did before. The amateur writer, the professional, and the in between. This is, for linguistics, a WONDERFUL thing, because it’s far easier to track usage than ever before.

And though the grammar Nazis hate hearing it, common usage is what decides a word’s meaning. Not some sacred language council at a university, not the lexicographers who compose the dictionary’s editions, not The Complete Works of Shakespeare. Lexicographers track usage, and tally it up, and faithfully record it, AS IT’S USED, not as it “should” be used, and that is that.

Language is strong. Language changes. It always has. It’s fine. Don’t panic.