Today Dr. Tanya asks how we feel about grammar mistakes in Blogland.
I’ve mentioned many times that I am highly intolerant of mistakes in published books, whether spelling, grammar, tense, name mixups, etc. These errors especially irk me in books that are put out by an actual publishing house. It’s hard to proof your own work because you tend to skim, but houses have editors. Allegedly. I am much more tolerant of mistakes on blogs and in social media generally.
Unlike some, I consider texts, blog comments, and chats on Facebook to be conversation, not professional communication. I’m fine with folks who eschew capital letters and/or punctuation as long as the meaning is clear. Personally, I don’t bother with much punctuation in comments and chats, though I try to write in standard English on my blog nowadays. You may have noticed that I gave up the lolcat a while back.
If you’re going to write a short story on your blog, however, my expectations for proper English go up, and I will enjoy your writing more if I’m not pausing at mistakes. But if you’re simply opining, then I don’t really care.
Unless you use an apostrophe-plural. Then all bet’s are off. See what I did there? Hideous!
The above is a well-known quote from Shakespeare’s play Romeo and Juliet. Many people believe that it means “where are you?” but it doesn’t. It means why, as in why are you named Romeo and not some other name, from some other family, because then we could love each other in the sunshine without this silly family feud hanging over us. It’s from the same soliloquy as the thing about a rose smelling just as sweet if it was called something else. Juliet wasn’t asking the gods to GPS her boyfriend; she wanted him to change his name.
This wherefore confusion was a vocabulary question on OKCupid, back when I was still looking for someone. I not only answered it correctly, but also I marked it as “very important” that any man I matched with also got it correct. There were also math and logic questions that I thought were simple, so I marked those as very important too. What about the questions regarding love and relationships? Eh, I marked those as low or moderately important because I wanted to be open-minded. But math? No way could I ever be interested in a math slouch!
So foolish. And I never learned. Through my very last dating disaster, I believed I could only be attracted to someone highly intelligent and witty, and I kept ignoring the fact that these guys often had no clue how to behave decently. (I don’t mean YOU, of course, lol.) And I am not saying all the dumb men were angels… of course not. But I persisted in placing the highest value on all the wrong traits.
Even as I became aware of this and consciously tried to change my preferences, whether on OKC or anywhere else, I found myself unable to do it. Time and again, I’d get entangled in drama with some smarty-pants jerk. Finally, I decided that I could change one thing about my own behavior, which was to quit dating altogether.
I am now coming up to my 5-year anniversary of dating “sobriety,” which is November 20, always right before Thanksgiving. This is convenient because I have something to look forward to (family time) whenever I get deluged with the sads in the fall. Yes, I met a few men after that, but they weren’t really dates, just first meets that went nowhere. All that tapered off to nothing by mid-2017.
Much like an addict who occasionally misses the high, I sometimes miss the excitement of meeting someone new and feeling that first sizzle of attraction. There’s nothing like the euphoria after the first kiss when everything seems possible. But it never turned into reality for me, or when it did, on rare occasion, the good feeling didn’t last. And when I came down from the high, the crash was horrible. I need to remind myself of the pain periodically, to keep myself on the sober path. The high is not worth the fall.
PS: Advice is unwelcome, while commiseration is appreciated. Comment (or not) accordingly.
I bought a Nicholas Sparks book because I liked the cover, title, and premise. Yep, I am generally a sucker for the chick escapes crazy abusive man and starts over in bucolic small town (always as a waitress)… then meets hero With A Problem etc. I had a vague idea that Sparks was a bigshot writer dude, but didn’t realize he had written that horrible Nights in Rodanthe, the movie version of which I could not watch even though it starred Diane Lane and Richard Gere. That’s really saying something. The Notebook was okay (talking about the movie ~ didn’t read either novel).
This Safe Haven book ~ MY GOD COULD IT START ANY SLOWER!? Do we give Sparks a pass because he’s had major success? Were his other novels total yawners for the first 100 pages? These people are doing the most mundane things and having the most trivial conversations ~ gak. We get tiny hints of a Terrifying Past for our heroine until finally it all comes spilling out in backstory. And then we get Kevin the psycho’s POV (fun!). But Katie’s past is so much more interesting than her present, and her abuser (gotta say it) is scads more interesting than the hero, who is Mr. Bland. Kevin is a CHARACTER. Alex is a bowl of vanilla pudding. At least so far ~ I’m now on page 212.
But that’s not what I came here to rant about today (I’ll continue this review when I finish the book). I want to talk about grammar. What do you think of this:
[…] and while the four of them were off pointing at the fish, she’d laughed at something he’d said and he’d felt a spark of attraction, reminding him of what he had once had. [p21]
Is that awful, or is it just me? I never write past-past that way, with all those had-hads. Yucky.
K, that’s all. I’m sure you’ll be waiting with bated breath for the rest of this.
Pat Benatar sings “Love Is a Battlefield,” which always rang true to me. A minefield, in my case. I was always tiptoeing around so as not to offend or cause an argument. I constantly capitulated to another person’s opinions to smooth things over when disagreements occurred, and then ended up feeling bitter and resentful, just counting the minutes until I could walk out the door. Every time I got involved with someone, it was always about their wants and their needs, never mine. You may have noticed that I eliminated most “dating stories” from my blog refresh. This is because the whole thing is too depressing to think about, and it’s also why I hate the Wayback Machine and how they’ve screenshotted some of that shit forever. They told me how I can request deletion, but it’s a big PITA.
So anyway. For Jim’s prompt today, I wanted to use a song about an actual mine ~ “My Darling Clementine.” This is another song I used to play on my paint-by-number organ, and I have fond memories of belting out “IN A CAVERN, IN A CANYON, EXCAVATING FOR A MINE, lived a miner forty-niner and his daughter Clementine…” Off-key, natch. But every version on YouTube sucks so much I can’t bear to put it here.
What’s really strange is that it’s often listed as a children’s song. Wtf? It’s about a girl who drowns in a river! Granted, the lyrics are amusing, but in a macabre way, not for a happy singalong imo. But even the adult versions sucked, and yep I include Bobby Darin’s in this group. Sad. I guess we also find “Running Bear” funny, but it’s not. Rivers be dangerous, yo.
Side note: I discovered while poking around for this song that there was a 1946 movie called My Darling Clementine, starring Henry Fonda. The film includes the song, but the lyrics don’t track with the plot at all except for the girl’s name. It’s supposedly one of the best westerns of all time, so maybe I’ll watch it if I can find it.
By this point, you must be wondering if I’m actually going to post a song with “mine” in it or just jabber on about irrelevant stuff forever. Well, it’s my blog and I can be boring if I want to, so there! Pffft. Just kidding. I have a song, but it isn’t about romantic enslavement… it’s about a place.
“L.A.’s fine, but it ain’t home New York’s home, but it ain’t mine No more”
That’s right. We can always rely upon good old Neil to have a song with a word in it, lol. I present “I Am, I Said,” from 1971, by the ultimate gem himself, Mr. Diamond. Enjoy!
The first time I remember reading the phrase “a whore’s breakfast” was in Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood. Are you old enough to remember when that book was a thing? Good. As I vaguely recall, some mean bastard husband said that to his wife when she and the kids were having birthday cake for breakfast.
I loved the phrase, especially because I’ve been eating cake for breakfast ever since I learned to count calories. Instead of smashing all my calories into an enormous dinner, I often save the dessert for the next day. I don’t like feeling full at bedtime, and it’s fun to look forward to cake (or pie, if you’re one of the weirdos who prefer pie to cake) in the AM.
(Sometimes I have dessert instead of dinner just to mix it up. Yes, I am a wild and crazy chick.)
Urban Dico says that a whore’s breakfast is coffee and a cigarette though. Or possibly a Coke. Hmm. Those just sound like high school breakfasts to me. Not that being in HS and being a whore have to be mutually exclusive.
I prefer to think of cake, especially birthday cake, as the true whore’s breakfast. It’s just so decadent and anti-traditional. Goes against everything your mom told you was Right & Good.
I hope my pairing of whore and cake in the same post generates a lot of strange hits.
No, not the city in New York! I reviewed a couple of Neil Plakcy’s doggie mysteries in my quickie reviews, but I want to go into a bit more depth now that I’ve finished all 12 available Rochester novels. Obviously, I enjoyed them overall or I wouldn’t have read so many, but there are some negatives I want to explore too, and I think some of us can relate, especially those who self-publish. There may be spoilers mixed in, so read at your own risk.
The premise is that Steve Levitan, a divorced, childless 40ish dude, has returned to his hometown in Buck’s County, PA, where he’s inherited a townhouse from his deceased father, and creates a fresh start, but in a location he’s familiar with. Steve has had some troubles, including a stint in a prison in California, and now he desires a calm lifestyle where he can focus on putting some sort of career back together. He is bitter over the fact that his wife divorced him while he was incarcerated, has remarried, and now has a baby (she had miscarried the babies they conceived together). He is also resentful of having to report to a parole officer who tracks his computer activity, since Steve’s crime was hacking into credit bureaus to stop his ex-wife from spending money like a maniac. But a quiet life is not in the cards for our hero ever since he discovers his neighbor has been murdered, ends up adopting her golden retriever Rochester, and helps his old buddy Rick (now a cop) solve the crime. Each book has a murder that Rochester gets involved in, and by extension Steve, except for No. 8, which is a fun collection of short stories to fill in the time between other books. It’s a cool idea to do that.
I’m really glad I read these books one after the other without breaking to read different novels in between because it enabled me to pay close attention to detail. I really admire the way Plakcy created his protagonist, who has plenty of good qualities, but is also flawed, and his character develops in the stories. I’ve compared this series to Lawrence Sander’s McNally mysteries, and there are many similarities, but Archie McNally never evolves from his playboy ways, while Steve does break out of his initial gloom. He changes during the stories and gradually loses the chip on his shoulder. He stops bitching about his ex-wife and the unfairness that he was made an example of by the court system (apparently he was handed a stiffer penalty for hacking than expected, which would have been probation). But you have to read several of the books to appreciate the way Steve slowly changes over time. A huge part of his progress involves having Rochester to love and care for because the dog ownership responsibilities force him out of his constant navel-gazing. Also, knowing that he is a good dad to Rochester, and the doggie loves and trusts him in return, makes Steve feel worthy of love and trust. After a while, he begins to date again, though very cautiously. I thought this was all portrayed excellently.
But I also have some criticisms. There were a lot of typos in these books, which is a big problem with self-pub, in my opinion. We all feel we know what we’re doing and can proofread our own work, but that’s incorrect. I have cringed to find egregious errors in my own books when I glance back at them years later. What happens is that we decide to change something, a paragraph, a sentence, or just one word, and then don’t bother reading the whole page again, or we skim it too quickly. We’re so familiar with our own text that when we “proofread” our eyes glaze over the pages. That’s how mistakes end up sticking to the published work. In the old days, publishing houses had actual proofreaders, so you didn’t find mistakes of tense or grammar in printed books. We need “fresh eyes” to go over our material. Why are typos bad? Because they distract a reader from the story and anything that pulls the reader out of the action is a bad thing.
And speaking of this, Plakcy has a bizarre, annoying habit of giving side characters “funny” names. It’s absolutely a stopping point, since now that I know his names sometimes sound like actual phrases (“Ike Arumba”) I must pause and say each one aloud to see if it’s anything. WHY does he do this??? I guess it’s one of those “darlings” that an editor would have killed the first time it happened, but we no longer have editors. Honestly, it’s self-indulgent silliness and extremely irritating. That’s my biggest criticism of these books, and it is not a minor thing since it pushes the reader out of the story.
For a while, it annoyed me that Plakcy repeats so much from book to book, such as the way he describes Rochester and the humans too. But then I decided I liked it as it gave a sense of continuity. I think there are other repetitions that Plakcy does not intend, such as describing so many things as “bright green” or “bright blue” ~ again, an editor would have probably fixed this. In one of my quickie reviews, I complained about the “fade to black” regarding Steve’s sex life, but I decided that was OK too. I don’t necessarily want to read graphic descriptions of sex in a doggie detective story, but at first the fade seemed abrupt and puzzling, given the amount of detail used for everything else, including physical descriptions, scenery, and even eating a pizza. I knew Plakcy was capable of writing the romantic scenes, so I did some investigative work myself. Plakcy is gay and has written gay erotica, which imo explains everything. Just as I would have trouble writing gay sex scenes (I have done it, but they aren’t very good), Plakcy was probably all ewwww gross hetero sex. That’s my conclusion anyway, and after I figured this out, I accepted the fade.
I did enjoy the slow romance between Steve and Lili; I thought it was super well-done, considering what we know about both characters. It would have been unrealistic for this “older” couple to plunge right into commitment and declarations of forever, given their past disappointments. I find it interesting that the problems between them are not dismissed as nothingburgers, but instead explored and sometimes just left hanging. It would not surprise me if they break up somewhere down the line, even though they love each other. Often, that simply is not enough. I can imagine that Lili will have an overwhelming desire to travel again, as a single woman, and become bored with a homey, doggie lifestyle. Steve is young enough to become a father with a 30-something woman, as men do ALL THE FREAKING TIME, so it’s weird for him to keep announcing that he’s “too old.” Anyway, I can imagine that he’ll have a moment of enlightenment in the next book or so and go whoa I am not actually too old, duh. It’s clear throughout that he would really love to be a dad (or stepdad) of actual human children. There is one really bad error in the last book (or maybe it was book 11, I forget), where Plakcy screws up their ages. The series begins when Steve is 42, and Lili is a few years older. This remains consistent throughout, as it should, except in one instance where Steve mentions that she turned 40 during their relationship. WHAT?!?! Terrible mistake.
OK, so it’s pretty clear that I am way into these Rochester books, kinda like I was with the Game of Thrones TV show. I will definitely keep reading them until everyone gets burnt up to bits by a dragon, or whatever.
Photo is of my granddog Rory because she’s also a gorgeous golden like Rochester. I bet they’d get along great!
There was a time when you seduced me with words alone, wondrous words. Pages and pages of gorgeous text, so funny, so smart, so romantic. I fell in love with your writing before I ever saw your face. When I merged the image with the words, I could stare at you for hours as you spoke. The topic didn’t matter, since it was your voice that captivated me. You spoke of science and justice and stars and dreams, of calculus and kings and lemonade and rings. I believed every word you said, as you seemed so incredibly knowledgeable. No topic was too esoteric for you to opine upon, from literature to kitty litter.
She sits at a gilt-edged vanity In a silky red robe, hairbrush Placed just so, her skin aglow, But she does not get too close To the glass. She knows That faint network of cracks Spiderwebbing out from the side Of the otherwise pristine mirror. When she glides downstairs, She avoids glancing in dark corners Where harsh harbingers of new Contretemps lie in wait, Growing fat on innuendo And words better left unsaid. She imagines their nasty little fangs And obscenely furry legs, Eager to latch onto tender flesh. At the breakfast table, she smiles At her husband and reaches For a perfectly ripe strawberry From the cut crystal bowl, Never sparing a glance For the tiny brown recluse That sinks its teeth into her hand.
A friend in a poetry workshop shared a challenge: write a poem containing a dichotomy.
I haven’t answered Q’s for a while and Nova presents some interesting ones…
1. Growing up, what did you want to do professionally when you got older?
The first career I recall wanting was that of a research scientist. I imagined myself in a white lab coat solving all sorts of problems for humanity. This dream began when I started high school and was a lab assistant to my biology teacher. Mostly I washed beakers and illicitly opened the boa constrictor’s cage to pet him. But senior year I didn’t do well in AP chemistry and dropped it in favor of creative writing. Since then I’ve always wanted to write. It would be cool to own a bookshop/bakery/cat café… maybe if I win the lottery!
2. Do you live in the city or state of which you were born?
Neither. I was born in Tarrytown, NY, and now I live in Orange County, CA. I’ve also lived in New Jersey and Chicago.
3. What’s an item that you had as a girl, but isn’t being sold anymore?
Super Spirograph ~ with pins. You can still buy Super Spirograph, but the wheels no longer come with pinholes to anchor a shape to your paper because pins are “too dangerous.” But without them, it’s impossible to create a perfect design. The new sets come with putty instead, which is absurd; I bought a kit with the putty for my girls and it was a total bust. I spent about a zillion fun hours around age 10 creating cool designs and not once did I poke my eye out.
4. Do you prefer pudding, yogurt, custard, or ice cream.
I absolutely love the key lime flavor of yogurt made by Chobani. (Their regular vanilla is great too.) I like to add banana or blueberries to it. Or granola! Theoretically, I like ice cream, especially cookie dough, but I’m usually too cold to enjoy ice cream. Pudding is meh, except for Indian rice pudding. I’m not sure what custard is, lol.
5. What’s one topic of interest you’d like to learn more about?
I’m always interested in learning more about the craft of fiction writing, poetry forms, and English generally.
6. What is a favorite/unique family tradition in your house?
My girls and I had a tradition of going out for pumpkin pancakes in November, but they’re both too far away to do that now, plus the last time I had pumpkin pancakes they weren’t as yummy as I remembered. I don’t really have any traditions these days. I’m single and free and do as I please!
7. If you had one topic to teach to the entire world, what would it be and why?
Get vaccinated, you morons.
8. What’s something you know you do differently than most people?
I’m extremely OCD about some things and will spend hours pointlessly creating consistency. I just went through all my posts to check for hyphens. Oh, don’t even ask! One of the reasons I eschew punctuation in comments and texting is to force myself to overcome this OCD a little. I’ll let you know if/when it works…
9. What’s one of your life-saving cleaning hacks? [hyphen added!]
Life-saving? Don’t mix bleach and ammonia. If you mean time-saving, then I suggest cleaning as you go and not only when you cook. Keep things tidy all the time so you won’t be overwhelmed with a giant cleanup.
10. What’s one thing you wish you knew before having kids, but didn’t?
That it might have been better to focus them on one non-academic activity rather than bouncing around from lesson to lesson in hopes of giving them a variety of choices. What actually happened is they ended up interested in none of them, while other kids had their one special thing.
11. What is one lesson that life has taught you recently?
I’m less introverted than I thought I was. Just a little less, so let’s not get carried away. I thought I’d have an easy-peasy time during the lockdown in 2020 because “I don’t need people.” Welp, that was wrong…
12. If you could retire and live anywhere in the world, where would that be?
I’d buy a nice house in Beverly Hills near my grandchildren so I could see them all the time.
Team, let’s touch base and zoom in so we’re all on the same page as we circle back around as strategic partners and kick it up a notch. As you are aware, we have been tasked with an unprecedented action item to become industry disruptors. It’s an a-ha moment, and we’ve got to get boots on the ground ASAP to beef up our bottom line. Feel free to crowdsource, cast a wide net, drill down, deep dive, brain dump, go viral, and bring to the table any curated guesstimates and back of the envelope ideas. This is a paradigm shift, so pull the trigger, raise the bar, take it to the next level, and run it up the flagpole. It’s crunch time, team, and I expect 110% from each and every one of you. We need to do our due diligence, double-click, and crush it! I dialogued with our senior executive thought leader during an impactful forward planning meeting today, and she empowered me to reveal that this is a cradle to grave game-changer which will reflect on our corporate values. Do more with less, move the needle, grab the low-hanging fruit, bite the magic bullet, and leverage the new normal, but first and foremost, don’t drink the Kool-Aid!