He, She, It, Them, and all Their Friends

Originally posted on Dr. Doyle's Editorial and Critique Services:

English pronouns are a mess, and there’s no getting around the fact.

We’re missing a second-person plural in the standard dialect, which hinders translation into and out of languages that have it.  All the possible alternatives – y’all, youse, yez, yinz and so forth – are strongly marked for region, or social class, or both, and using one of them would inject unintended meanings into the text.

We used to have some dual pronouns to go along with the singular and the plural – pronouns for “the two of you” and “the two of us” – but those were gone by the late Anglo-Saxon period.  (We know English used to have them because they turn up in Beowulf, in the passage where Beowulf and Unferth are having their disagreement about what actually went down during Beowulf’s youthful swimming-match with his friend Breca – Unferth says “the-two-of-you…

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Why Grown-Up Writers are Still Paranoid

Originally posted on Dr. Doyle's Editorial and Critique Services:

There are a lot of reasons – ours isn’t a job famous for encouraging a sense of security at the best of times – but this sort of thing is one of them.

A middle-school teacher in Maryland has been placed on administrative leave and “taken in for an emergency medical evaluation” based – if the news reports coming out of the town are to be believed – on the fact that he wrote and published a science-fiction book involving a school shooting some 900 years in the future.

Is it a good book?  I don’t know; based on the fact that it appears to be either self-published or published by an exceedingly small press, my guess is probably not.  But dammit, if we’re going to protect art from oppression and restraint, we shouldn’t get to throw in an “only if it’s really good art/the kind of art we approve…

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The Inverse of Robert Burns

Originally posted on Dr. Doyle's Editorial and Critique Services:

The Scots poet Robert Burns wrote, famously, of being able to look at oneself as an outside observer:

O wad some Power the giftie gie us
To see oursels as ithers see us!
It wad frae
mony a blunder free us,
An’ foolish notion…

For writers seeking to create believable and well-rounded characters, however, another important question to ask is, how does a character see him-or-herself? 

This question has more than one side to it.  The more obvious side, perhaps, deals with a character’s secret self-doubts and hidden shames:  the heroic leader who is inwardly convinced that he’s making a bombastic fool of himself every time he has to make an inspirational speech; the charitable volunteer who secretly hates the good works they do out of a sense of duty.

On beyond that, however, is another question:  what is the character’s heroic self-image?  That is, when they’re…

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Peeve of the Day


Worse still are the azure orbs that fly across the room to land on the beloved….

Originally posted on Dr. Doyle's Editorial and Critique Services:

Today’s peeve, for those of you who are collecting the whole set (also for those of you who aren’t; I’m not particular) is orbs.

Not the literal ones that are carrying out material functions, such as being part of some monarch’s regalia, and not the non-material ones that are nevertheless actual visual artifacts that can occur in flash photography.

No, I’m rendered peevish by the sort of romantic over-writing in which characters never have blue or green or hazel eyes – instead, they’re graced with sapphire or emerald or topaz orbs.    Pity the poor character with brown eyes, who has to deal with chocolate orbs instead.

(It is probably fortunate, both for the characters and for the reader, that this particular school of over-writing tends to bestow evocatively-colored orbs only upon the sympathetic characters.)

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If You’re Going to be in Bradford, Vermont, This Evening…

Originally posted on Dr. Doyle's Editorial and Critique Services:

… then you might consider also being here, between 6  and 8 PM.

Star Cat Books is hosting a reading and signing by authors Miranda Neville and Skylar Dorset, accompanied by an English cream tea (scones! clotted cream! jam!)

It’s where I’m going to be, at any rate.  (Scones!  Clotted cream! Jam!  And of course, books.)

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Summer Daze

Originally posted on Dr. Doyle's Editorial and Critique Services:

‘Tis the season for muggy, oppressive weather, the kind that saps the energy and destroys the initiative . . . not the best kind of weather in which to be doing revisions, but still, revisions must be done.

A few of the things that get taken care of in revision, at least by me:

Turning a suitable number of semicolons into either periods or commas, as appropriate.  I am, as I’ve admitted here before, one of those writers with a tendency to love semicolons not wisely, but too well, and getting rid of at least one in three isn’t going to hurt the story and will probably improve it.

Double-checking the continuity, in order to make sure that characters don’t refer to things other characters have told them before they’ve actually been told, and similar stuff.  When you’re the bead-stringing, rather than the linear, sort of writer, this is a…

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Down in the Coal Mine

Coal mines tend to be a long way from where the folks who use their products live, and the miners tend to be ethnic minorities or the underclass.

Famous coal miners include Nikita Khrushchev: compared to going down the mine what was the Czar going to do to him?

One of the things about The Hunger Games: Catching Fire movie that broke my suspension of disbelief (Hey, mag-lev trains? I’m good with that! Kids forced to fight to the death for the entertainment of the masses? Sure, why not? The upper class’s hair styles? Seen worse….) was when the Evil Government sends armored vehicles along one-lane dirt roads, in mountainous forested terrain, without infantry support, against miners. Miners. These are guys who (a) know all about, and have access to, explosives, and (b) have nothing to lose. If I were telling that story….

More people die in coal mines every year than have died in nuclear power plants–ever.

Anyway. Jolly miners.

(The group is Bawn in the Mash, from Tennessee.)

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Say What?

So, there I am over looking at MSN (yeah, that’s how sunken in sin I am) when some of their click-bait, “15 Classic Cocktail Recipes Everyone Should Know” fell under my eye.

Since I was engaged in Writing Avoidance Behavior (AKA “Waxing the Cat”), I clicked. And I spotted, at #7 on the list, the Moscow Mule.

I quote:

Moscow Mule

2 ounces vodka

½ ounce lime juice

6 ounces ginger beer

Lime wedge for garnish

Fill a lowball glass with ice. Add vodka, lime juice, and ginger beer; stir. Garnish with a lime wedge.

“Fill a lowball glass….” Fill a lowball glass???!!! What the frick! Everyone knows that you serve Moscow Mules in copper mugs. If you search on Moscow Mule Google auto-completes with copper mug. Search Amazon for “Moscow Mule” and you get twenty pages of copper mugs (and a few CDs by a group called the “Moscow Mules”). The copper mug adds a certain distinctive flavor to the concoction that some describe as, let me see, oh yes, “coppery.”

It caused me to instantly lose faith in MSN.

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Shameless Self-promotion

“The Devil in the Details,” the latest installment in the Peter Crossman series about a modern-day Knight Templar, is up at Tor.com. Free!

Completists will want to get our previous Crossman short stories in the form of a chapbook, The Confessions of Peter Crossman in various electronic and paper versions, and the Crossman novel, The Apocalypse Door, ditto.

Watch for the next Crossman novel, The Gates of Time, coming soon from Tor.

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The Great War

One hundred years ago today, 28 June,  Archduke Franz Ferdinand was assassinated in Sarajevo.   To one way of thinking, the war that started that afternoon still isn’t over.

The way it went down, the assassination happened more-or-less by accident. Six or seven different individuals were trying to assassinate the arch-duke that day. One of them threw a grenade, which missed. (The way that happened: grenades at that time were activated by striking them firmly on a solid object, which fired a cap, which lit a fuse, which detonated the explosive a few seconds later. When the would-be assassin struck the grenade and fired the cap, the report made the driver of the archduke’s car think he’d blown a tire, and braked suddenly. As a result, the archduke escaped injury.)

Gavrilo Princip, the eventual assassin, never did get a shot at the archduke. So, instead, he went to a bar for a sandwich and a beer. But remember that earlier grenade attack? A member of the archduke’s party had been injured and taken to a hospital. The archduke and duchess went to visit their friend in the hospital, but their driver got lost. So he decided to turn around, and was making a three-point turn in the street outside of the bar where Princip was having lunch. Princip, noticing the opportunity, went outside and shot them both.

In modern terms, neither the archduke nor duchess needed to have died. Fast and efficient EMS and a Level One trauma center would have saved them. But as it happened, fast and efficient EMS would be a result, sixty years later, of the events that took place that day.

Within months, thanks to a set of secret treaties, all Europe (and Europe’s various colonies) was at war. World War One turned into World War Two, which became the Cold War. Bosnia was still a mess during Clinton’s administration, and right now Iraq is falling apart along fault lines set up when the country was created (Lawrence of Arabia and all that) in the wake of the collapse of the Ottoman Empire, for the convenience of British Petroleum.

How is this related to me personally? My great-uncle Joe Simmit fought in the Great War as a soldier in the Austro-Hungarian Army. After the War, he moved to America where his sister was already living (central Europe as a wounded veteran of the losing side was a not-great place to be in the ‘Twenties). But when it came time to look for a wife, since in his opinion all Americans were spendthrifts, he went back to the old country to find one. He found Mitzi, a Croat, who became my great-aunt.

I never met Joe Simmit, but I did meet Mitzi when I was young.

Later, I fought in the Cold War. But that’s another story.

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