Thursday, August 5th, 2010
Thursday Thirteen: Thirteen Ways You Know You’re an Author

Thirteen ways you know you’re an author:

  1. Your desk file drawer contains files and multiple kinds of chocolate.
  2. You get distracted during a romantic dinner listening to a fight at a nearby table and your date merely asks if you want a pen to take notes with.
  3. You arrive at work and don’t remember the drive there – but you have figured a way to solve your plot problem.
  4. You talk to your characters – and sometimes they talk back.
  5. You accidentally put the peanut butter in the refrigerator and the jelly in the pantry – and it’s not the first time.
  6. You could open an office supply store with the contents of your office.
  7. You choose music according to the story you are writing.
  8. You know every research site on the web that has anything to do with what you are writing – and visit them all far too frequently “just to check a quick fact.”
  9. You obsesses about wordcount – even when you’ve declared you have a day off.
  10. You try to blame your muse for all bad jokes, puns and suggestive comments that escape your lips (or fingers).
  11. You cannot help but shudder at bad grammar or punctuation and think “they’re editor will kill them.”
  12. Your friends constantly follow up their news and tales of woe with “promise me you won’t use that in a story.”
  13. You do use your friends in stories and can lie about it with an almost straight face.
Sunday, July 18th, 2010
New Office is starting to come together

As many of you know, I’ve been working on my new office for weeks (seemingly forever) and it’s finally starting to get to where I can see the potential past all the boxes and piles of stuff for Goodwill or the dump. I think the real turning point was being able to start putting things away instead of shoving them from one side of the room to the other.

I have 4 of the 5 pieces of furniture that need assembly set up but only one is in its permanent home so far. The others are waiting for the new surface of the computer desk to arrive so that can be assembled before we block the floor with the final layout. Sort of a chicken-and-egg scenario (my mother calls this the “But First…” scenario – where you need to do x but first must do y and before that you must do m).

I am thrilled at the fact I can start getting my pretty things out so I can see them. I have a collection of eggs and spheres made of various minerals and gemstones and gave them their own shelf. There are about another half dozen that need to be set up but I had to order some more stands. And, yes, one of these things is not like the others, the huge egg in the back left corner is a russian painted porcelain egg – a gift from a friend.

On top of this bookcase is my fairy sculpture (yes, she’s headless, deal with it) and her collection of crystal points as well as a candle and vase I just really like.

The drapes you see in the background in a darker green are the ones over the closet. I have a baker’s rack in there with a surface on it to serve as a mailing center and place to put together promo stuff. The closet is, of course, for storage. You can see the room colors in this picture. The ceiling looks a bit white but it’s a light sage. The walls are a darker sage and the trim is an off-white.

I’ll post some more pictures as more of the room gets done and things get put in their places.

The interesting thing is that when I come into the New Office, I expect to work. Right now that work may mostly be putting away stuff but because it doesn’t mix with the place I watch TV or socialize with my family. I seem to (mostly) be better able to stay focused. Maybe that’s the sign of the right Writer’s Nest for me? Hope so – lots of writing to do.

Friday, June 11th, 2010
Tip of the Day: Don’t use words if you don’t know what they mean

Reference books

Today’s post is really a public service announcement mixed with a plea for people to use real words, correct spellings and to be sure they know the meaning of the words they are using.

Let’s start with a confession – I am a complete anal-retentive Luddite when it comes to the use of language. This is probably because of a combination of being raised by parents with the view that it was important to know the correct words to use and to use words correctly and the fact that I work as a programming-writer and editor as well as write fiction. I realize many people will not agree with my views and that’s okay. But I’m still going to state them today.

I know it sounds terribly formal of me and maybe a tad superior but I HATE diminutives. I hate cute names for things used in place of their real names. Maybe it’s related to why I HATE text-speak. I don’t use “u” in place of “you” or other abbreviations. “Later” is not “l8r”. It makes it horribly hard for me to read and I pulls me out of anything I read it in. For heaven’s sake, don’t use text speak in business communication or professional forums. I’m not sure why this seems to have become the thing to do but I was raised with the idea of using the correct word for what I meant, not slang and not making one up. Maybe that’s why it sets my teeth on edge sometimes and I had some emails at the Evil Day Job that really made me cringe.

I hate diminutives when coming from or talking to anyone over the age of three. Lipstick is not “lippie.” A snack is not a “snackie.” A blanket is not a “blankie”. It always comes off as overly cute to me. Or overly lazy sometimes.

I hate the whole trend of creative spellings of things. Things have a defined way to spell them – USE IT. These weird spellings come across as either the person is too lazy to look up the spelling or thinks they can remake the rule. It takes me forever to sound out what is being meant and it’s just weird.

Then lets talk about using a word without knowing what it means. I have a funny (to me at least) experience to recount about this. My ex-manicurist is quite young and very prone to two of the issues I talk about in this post. She’s always using something resembling babytalk and she has used words without knowing what they mean (and certainly never tried to find out). Last year I was getting my nails done and she was chattering away, when I heard her use a very interesting word as a nonsense word. It was used where I’d consider “whatever” or “etcetera” instead. During the ninety minute appointment, she did it multiple times with that flair you see in someone that is currently in love with a new word.

Except I was sure she would not be using that word this frequently and to her business customers (many of whom are far less easy-going than I) if she knew what it meant.

Finally, after we finished, I asked her if she knew what that word meant. She waved her hands in dismissal and said “Oh, isn’t that the best nonsense word? My friend taught it to me and I think it just sounds fun.”

I had her go over to her computer and look it up in an online dictionary. She about died, turned bright red and seemed like she might faint. It was a real word, with a real meaning, and quite inappropriate to the way she was using it and the venue she was using it in. Apparently I was either the first to know what it meant or the first to be brave enough to tell her.

I made her swear to not use a new word again without knowing, for sure, what it meant.

Now, this applies to writers as well. Don’t use words in your manuscripts without knowing what they mean. Look them up. Please. And do your readers a favor and use real words with their correct spellings.

What word was my ex-manicurist using with her customers.

Smegma.

Friday, April 23rd, 2010
Project Code Names You Should Never Use

At my day job, projects are often called by code names before they receive their final (marketing approved) name. These names are assigned when the project is started for internal use only and sometimes even linger long after the project gets a final name in places like bug databases, specifications, etc.

A LOT of thought should go into giving a project a code name but, honestly, some names should really get a more careful look and some names should just never be used. Call me a bit superstitious but I really don’t like working on project where the name seems to have some ill portent attached.

This came up with a project code name I heard yesterday (the second project at my day job with this code name). The project is called “Alchemy.”

Even seven or so years ago when I heard the first use of Alchemy as a project code name, I was boggled by the choice. They really wanted to name a project they wanted to succeed after a field of study that never succeeded in turning lead into gold but instead succeeded in poisoning most of it’s practitioners to death or at least insanity. Really?

So I humbly submit an off-the-top-of-my-head list of project code names you should never use:

Alchemy – I still say it was an unsuccessful project that destroyed those that tried to work on it.
Chernobyl – Destroy not just itself but make a huge margin around it a disaster area also.
Columbine – I know it’s a flower but I think the high school massacre trumps the flower petals.
Donner – I don’t care if the other projects are Blitzen or Rudolph. Think Donner Party.
Earhart – I know she was famous but she took a lot of expensive technology and disappeared. Didn’t end well.
Hindenberg – Crash and burn. Enough said.
Loki – Somehow the Norse god of Mischief is not what you want to invoke.
Pompeii – Buried alive where you fell with little or no warning.
Titanic – Crash and sink.
Tungusca – Blow up in the air and knock down everything for miles.
Vesuvius – Explode, burn and bury.

I’m sure I can come up with others but you probably can too.

Tuesday, September 1st, 2009
Writerly Wednesday on Grammar – Semicolons

Writerly Wednesday

Semicolons seem to cause a lot of confusion among writers, to the point that I’ve heard some writers say they are stupid to use or should be banned. But semicolons serve a purpose in writing, even in fiction, and should be used when needed but not overused.

The most common use of a semicolon in fiction is to replace a period and connect two independent clauses without one of the coordinating conjunctions (and, but, for, or, nor, so, yet).

The snow came down in huge drifts; we still managed to get to the party.

You can also use a semicolon to connect two independent clauses with one of the conjunctive adverbs (however, moreover, therefore, consequently, otherwise, etc.)

I wanted to stay home and warm; nevertheless, I went to my family’s formal dinner.

Semicolons are also used when you have a series and the units of the series contain commas. Then a semicolon is used to separate the units.

My itinerary includes Paris, France; London, England; and Dublin, Ireland.