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Thursday, June 29, 2006
Pet Peeve of the Week - misused words
Learning what I'm doing as a writer has gone a long way to ruining pleasure reading for me. It's sooooo hard to turn off that pesky Internal Editor! I find myself jerked out of the page by typos and grammatical errors. My IE will shriek, "OMG! Just look at that! Why didn't anyone catch that in editing?" Or even worse, "Why on earth did anyone publish this POS?"

I've gotten a lot out of reading and submitting to the Crabby Cows. The blog began as an effort to assist writers who are serious about honing their craft, with a glimpse into the minds of a pair of skilled and entertaining professional editors. It has grown far beyond that, developing into an entertaining and informative writers' community.

Along with their sister ruminant Grouchy Goat, the Crabby Cows are refreshingly honest (and use the F-word a lot!) in both their scathing crits and their flights of fancy. If you're easily offended or have a thin skin, don't bother reading their blog or participating in their weekly 'games'.

I find them udderly delightful.

Which brings me to the Pet Peeve of the Week. They may not all relate to writing, but trust me, I can always find a soapbox to climb on!! With effort, I will limit myself to only one rant per week. A serious challenge, but I'm strong.

Misused words irritate the hell out of me.

First, there are those that look or sound alike. Using hoard and horde interchangeably is an error I see a lot. Personally, I'd rather face a hoard than a horde.

My favorite typo of all time in fiction is the substitution of 'prostate' for 'prostrate'. In the final scene of The Scotsman Wore Spurs by Patricia Potter, the hero lay prostate in bed. What a priceless image!

My favorite typo in nonfiction appeared in an annual report of Manufacturers Hanover Bank in the late 1980s, in which a reference was made to their "certified pubic accountants". 'Nuff said.

When I write, if I'm not certain of the meaning of a word, I'll use my Word Processor's thesaurus function. Takes less than a second and gives me an idea whether I'm on track. BTW, the difference between horde and hoard is immediately apparent using that method of verification for either one. I adore words, so it's dangerous for me to grab my well-thumbed thesaurus off the shelf and begin to browse. Same goes for the dictionary - I could be distracted for days!

Shades of meaning make a big difference in context. Sometimes I'll come across a writer who relies on her WP's thesaurus without ever considering the difference between the possibilities it shows her.

For example, if you've used the word 'unlikely' too many times in several paragraphs (for those of you who aren't writers, that's one of the things an editor will look for, so we work to cultivate the habit of noticing repetition) and look for synonyms by using your WP's thesaurus, you come up with the following list:

improbable
unbelievable
incredible
fantastic
far-fetched
doubtful

Can these words be used willy-nilly? Do they all mean the same thing? NO! To be precise, not all of them have the same meaning. Some can be used interchangeably, some can't. This is where considering shades of meaning is absolutely necessary.

"It's doubtful that he'll be there." That's not the same thing as, "It's fantastic that he'll be there." As a matter of fact, that's a big difference!

The dictionary can sort things out, but not while it's closed, sitting on the shelf. You have to take the time to pick it up and look up the alternatives presented by the thesaurus. Oh, and then you have to pay attention to what you learn and apply it. Yes, writing is a four-letter word that ends in K.


That would be WORK.


Now language does shift and change over time. Meanings of certain words expand and contract. One change I've noticed is the use of 'nauseous' for 'nauseated'. Once upon a time, 'nauseous' meant 'to cause nausea' but it has been expanded in popular usage to include 'affected with nausea'. Being both a traditionalist and a stubborn bitch, I continue to use it in its older sense. (Anyone calling me a bitch isn't a problem. I'm the Alpha Bitch, so I consider it a term of respect. And I do bite - but I've had my rabies shots. LOL)

Come back next week for a new Pet Peeve!
posted by Liddy Midnight @ 6:36 AM   10 comments
Monday, June 26, 2006
Spam and scams
Geez, since my email address went up on a few websites, the unsolicited messages I get at my LiddyMail address has grown by leaps and bounds. Does this bug you, too?

What is it with these morons? I don't want to read anything from them. I actively work to eliminate their dreck.

Who could possibly think that defeating my spam filters by misspelling words will make me more likely to read their message? "Oh, yeah, this message was written by a non-native English speaker with a second-grade education AND hawks things I'd never want - let's send them my credit card information!" Or not.

With all the malware out there, riding on images and hiding in applets, there's no way I would ever click through to an unknown site from someone offering to enlarge my penis or make an erection last an unnatural length of time.

Trust me, if I had a penis, as a woman I could make a lot of money without enlarging it, and who other than a porn star - whose income depends on how much film (as well as other things) he can put in the can - wants an erection that lasts for hours? As I sometimes say to Mistah Midnight, "If you've got that much energy, get out there and mow the lawn!"

For a fabulous editorial analysis of several such messages, visit the
Crabby Cows site. For a belly laugh about the infamous "Nigerian" scam, visit the 3rd Nigerian E-Mail Conference site.

Who would ever fall for that one? You know, the e-mail from the widow of the undersecretary of oil for an obscure country ruled by an evil dictator. She's fabulously wealthy AND terminally ill, and she has selected YOU from all the other dopes on the planet to help her with this little problem. She needs YOUR help in getting the money out of the country and securing that wealth for the deserving charities she's decided should have it. You will - of course! - receive a generous portion for your invaluable assistance and minimal investment. All you have to do is send her all of your bank account info and a blank check.

Yeah, right. Who is crazy or greedy enough to hand over all their financial information to a stranger who just happened to pick their name out of the phone book?

Which brings me to another, totally unrelated topic. LOL ::placing tongue firmly in cheek:: Whose idea was it to remove the third arm from that Chinese infant? He could have had a life of ease, letting scientists study him and the public gawk, if they'd left him alone. If he wanted to be a productive member of society, think of how efficient he'd be working on an assembly line!

Face transplants, supernumerary limb removal, growth hormones, where will it stop??? And just where are all those circuses going to get their sideshow freaks, if we keep fixing them? (Please be aware that I'M NOT SERIOUS! It was a momentary ridiculous notion meant to entertain, nothing more. Although there may be a story in there somewhere...)
posted by Liddy Midnight @ 9:23 AM   3 comments
Friday, June 23, 2006
Getting things done
Finding time to do anything is getting to be more and more of a challenge. Is it for you, too? I can't believe that it's just me. I feel like every time I turn around, I have a longer To-Do list.

Capture that fabulous idea, get that new story outlined, turn in the next book.

Feed the cats, change the filters in the fish tank, scoop the litter pans.

Get to the market, put the wash in the dryer, clear the dirty dishes out of the sink.

Pull together material for another newsletter, send the new review links to my webmistress, and BLOG!

I adore my new web site design. In case you hadn't seen the teeny-tiny print at the bottom of each page, Moonglade Designs now handles all of my designs and updates. M.L. Benton is a treasure. I highly recommend her. She has a waiting list, and rightfully so. I'm tickled that I found her, and that she consented to work for me.

However (don't you love how there's always a "However"?), I have to admit that I got a lot more than I expected when I hired M.L., and certainly a hell of a lot more than I'm paying for. She doesn't charge nearly enough for her services, but don't tell her that, okay? Her list of services on her site doesn't begin to cover everything she does for me.

Yesterday she picked up the phone and called because I had failed to answer or acknowledge her command for me to get some text up here on her beautiful blog. Now, Moogie (my mom, and yes, she is named after Quark's mother on Deep Space 9) does that when I don't call her back right away, but I cut her some slack. Moogie's over 80 and she's begun to claim she can't predict how much longer she'll be around, so if she has something to tell me or ask me, she wants to get it done right now. A good line, and I'll just bet she's been waiting years to use it. The woman walks three miles every other day and is healthier than I am.

As for why I hadn't gotten back to M.L., I was busy trying to whittle that To-Do list down to a more manageable length before I added anything else to it! I've got a looming deadline and all those dishes in the sink, you know? Well, she was worried that something had happened to me. (It had. My To-Do list was wrapped around my neck, choking me!) At any rate, I was touched by her concern, and while she had my undivided attention, she gave me a bunch of other things to add to that pesky To-Do list.

Get that newsletter material to her. Schedule some chats and interviews and line up some book signings. Let her know as soon as I get that fully-executed contract back for the next book. And, of course, get all the details to her so she can fill some of those pages on my new site.

I wonder if I can use the GMail function and M.L.'s messages to replace my To-Do list. It would be so much safer to track my tasks on-line, where I won't find the list threatening to kill me or lose track of one list in the papers on my desk and start another. (Hey, wait a minute, weren't computers supposed to get rid of paper? They've just made it easier to print multiple copies of the document you don't want right now!)

If it weren't for M.L. and her fond nagging - to say nothing of that whip she keeps handy, I wouldn't be blogging right now. I wouldn't have some cool new stuff coming from her, like crossword puzzles and postcards and a photo gallery. I wouldn't have a few articles up on the site, including one on time management. I think I'd better review that one. I might pick up a trick or two.

Now let me know, is it just me who has trouble getting things done? And how do you manage to accomplish your work, household chores and still have fun?


Currently reading and enjoying: LOOT by Aaron Elkins
posted by Liddy Midnight @ 7:46 PM   6 comments

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Name: Liddy Midnight
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