Wednesday, February 20, 2019

Update.and Hints . .

 I should be getting our tax information together but instead I'm proofreading and tweaking that first (unpublished) Elizabeth Goodweather novel. I've decided  to venture into self-publishing with this orphan before doing Birdie's stories, as I want to add a few more tales before I self-publish them.

And the Civil War novel? After my agent dropped out of the hunt, I spent much of January researching small presses and submitting the novel. This entailed all sorts of hoop-jumping -- constructing a query letter, writing synopses (not easy at any time but a real bitch when your novel has one storyline and five protagonists,) producing a marketing plan (most publishers  don't ask for this up front but some do,) and formatting my manuscript to various fiddly specifications -- header/no header, page numbers top right, page numbers bottom center, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera.

It was wearisome but I learned a lot. In the classes I teach, I've always felt inadequate when it came to answering questions about seeking publication without an agent and about self-publishing. I know more now about the former and will soon know more about the latter.

And, AND . . . I think that soon I will have good news for those of you who've been waiting patiently for my Civil War novel. I can't say more at the moment but hold that thought. . .

Monday, February 18, 2019

Yard Birds

Rufous-sided Towhee

Red-bellied Woodpecker



Tufted Titmouse
Red-bellied Woodpecker

Red-winged Blackbird? Where's his tail?

Sunday, February 17, 2019

For the Grammar Nerds Among Us

A look at the book cover will give you a hint of the light-hearted (oops,  make that lighthearted) nature of this quite serious guide to usage and style.  I dashed through it -- enjoying every quirky footnote and each off the wall parenthetical expression -- and, coincidentally, learning a great deal about this respected copy editor's approach to our changing language.

The book is bursting with information on punctuation, grammar, word usage (toe or tow the line? blond or blonde?), and even the correct spelling of troublesome proper nouns. "Nikita Khrushchev- Soviet shoe-banger. You'd think that people would always look up a tricky name like Khrushchev. You'd be wrong."

I've always recommended Strunk & White's Elements of Style to my students but I'm going to have to add this to my list. It's an up-to-date and much expanded take on the same subject. 

Anyone (well, not anyone -- the book deals with American usage) who hopes to write for publication would do well to read Dreyer. And anyone with a touch of the grammar nerd in them (yes, them is correct now, replacing the unlovely him or her or the patriarchal he) would probably chortle their (also correct) way through this Utterly Correct Guide to Clarity and Style.

As Amy Bloom says in her enthusiastic blurb, "If Oscar Wilde had wanted to be helpful as well as brilliant, if E. B. White and Noel Coward had had a wonderful little boy who grew up to cherish and model clarity, the result would be Benjamin Dreyer and his frankly perfect book."

The downside of all this knowledge is to make me painfully aware of my own shortcomings. For example, the name Noel in the above paragraph (and this one too, drat it) should have a diaeresis (two little dots -- called an umlaut in Germanic languages but properly a diaeresis* in English) above the e. I haven't a clue as to how to make that happen in Blogger. 

But really, this is a terrific, useful, and most entertaining book. Highly recommended!

*There are other spellings -- Spellcheck doesn't like this one but it's the one Dreyer uses so there you go.

Friday, February 15, 2019

Looking Ahead

So the Liar in Chief is going to declare a National Emergency to get his wall built, now that Mexico and Congress won't pay for it.  

Odd, how it suddenly became an emergency after the GOP lost the House. And it's a foolish move -- inasmuch as a wall won't stop determined smugglers or immigrants.  This wall began as a campaign applause line. Now it's a sop to 45*'s enormous vanity and an appeasement to his base -- those simple folk who actually believed Mexico would pay for it,

It's also foolish because it sets a precedent of using the National Emergency gambit for political ends. What might progressive politicians see as an emergency?

Hmmm. How about climate change and its devastating effects? How about gun violence? How about widespread poverty and homelessness? Lack of affordable healthcare? Extreme income inequality?  Lack of affordable higher education? These all seem like emergencies to me . . . I'm sure there are more.

As my friend Cynn pointed out (see below,) we may end up thanking the Orange One for showing the way. His use of the National  Emergency card may well pave the way to a future under a progressive president (probably a woman, as Cynn suggests) where gun control and universal health become realities, where renewable energy replaces fossil fuels, where heavily taxed billionaires may have to postpone buying that second yacht and fourth home . . . 

I'm feeling better already.

Cynn's FB post: "Oh Goody! A fake "National Emergency" is being declared over the fake "emergency" happening only in the demented mind of the mutherfucker in chief. BUT! I'm not upset. By declaring a fake NtlE, trump paves the way for the next progressive Madame President Harris, Warren, Klobuchar, Gillibrand to declare the same National Emergency when the next school massacre occurs; then you NRA folks can thank trump when the government comes for your AR-15s; thank trump when we have single-payer healthcare due to the NtlE he created by uninsuring all Americans; thank trump and be excited when the next hurricane hits and the NtlE around Climate Change cuts off your need for coal and fossil fuels and we all go sun, wind, and water; thank trump when MS DEM President declares a NTLE against wage inequality so all those rich guys get to start sharing their hoards when we tax them at 70%. YAY Let's call this NATIONAL EMERGENCY DAY! Were I a boy, I'd go to the border and piss "Thanks Trump!" in the sand."

A pithy little statement -- thanks, Cynn!

Thursday, February 14, 2019

Happy Valentine's Day from the Pond

Because nothing says romance like a pond full of amorous toads and masses of toad spawn.

Wednesday, February 13, 2019

Our Changing Language

In the critique workshop I'm leading, I edit about sixty pages each week so my inner English teacher is on high alert these days.  I had to shake my head when I recently saw someone on social media talk about a segway from one topic to another. I'm pretty sure the person wasn't talking about riding one of those funny two-wheeled people movers but just didn't know how to spell segue  -- which is, indeed, pronounced seg way and means a smooth transition from one thing to another. And was likely the reason for the name of the people movers.

In the course of my editing, I recently encountered a sentence like this: Hopefully, it won't rain. In my mind this is incorrect. What does that adverb hopefully modify anyway? A better sentence would be I hope it won't rain. But the first sentence and its ilk are common usage -- so I checked with several grammar sites, most of which simply throw up their (figurative) hands and say, yes, that usage of hopefully is technically incorrect but it's now acceptable since  everyone uses it. 

Okay, then. I'll let it slide. But what about the person who refers to the glass in a window being decimated?  As a one-time Latin student, I seem to recall decimated originally meant killing one in ten as a punishment for a group -- a nasty practice the Romans employed to ensure discipline -- and the word came to mean destroying a portion of something.  Can one decimate a window, I wondered.

Yep. The one in ten is the quaint historical definition, Now decimate means destroying a large portion or entirely. 

Hmm -- glad I checked. It seems I'm aging out of the grammar and usage game -- stuck back in ancient Rome.

Who knows -- maybe before long segway with a lower-case S will replace segue.

But they will have to pry the Oxford comma from my cold, dead hands.

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

Early Intimations

Winter Jasmine


Tree Peony

Weeping Willow

Flowering Quince

Autumn Joy Sedum

Tree Peony

Monday, February 11, 2019

Updates from a Besotted Grandmother

At not quite two (21 months,) Josie is cracking codes left and right. She knows her basic (no puce or chartreuse yet) colors and recognizes letters (all of them) and numbers (1-11) and counts to eleven. She doesn't say the alphabet yet, but she does recite Ba, ba, black sheep - all four lines of it. 

She recognizes some words, usually when accompanied by pictures. (This is something I do whenever she lets me use her markers. And this is something I did to entertain my older son -- who was reading by sounding out words when he was two and a half. Justin, provided with an older brother and cousin, didn't need my entertainment and was slower to get interested in reading.)

but  I was surprised when she read every word on this page below.  A page I'd written for her last week. So either she's reading or she has a really good memory. Or both,

And she will tell you that J-O-S-I-E spells Josie.

And she likes to play games. At the table, when she's done, she'll lean back and say Good night. Then I'll lean back and close my eyes.  Wake up! she'll say and giggle with delight when my eyes pop open. This can go on. And on. And on. Oh, the power of telling big people what to do. Sit down! Get up! Get apple! Meema eat apple peel! Read Ants Go Marching!

It's so amazing to remember back when she was just learning to roll over . . .or lift her head. . .

She's on her way!