About me Q & A #1

I have no idea how often or how regular I’m going to do this, but I’m bored to the point of whimsical right now and felt like doing this to amuse myself.

I’m going to interview myself about whatever happens to come to mind.

Future versions of this might feature favourite questions from comments, emails, Facebook, or Twitter.

Are you a vegetarian/vegan?

No.  Though I was until I got married to someone who I can’t seem to convince that humans aren’t carnivores – I didn’t grow up not eating meat so it was no hardship to give in to the fact that I was not going to win the argument against cooking steaks, chicken, pork, etc.

So you’re married?

Yes

To a man or woman?

Yes

Tea or Coffee?

Tea by preference, though if I’ve an empty stomach I have to keep it to specific herbals or just go with coffee.  Tea on an empty tummy makes me extremely sick for no reason I can understand.

You use a peculiar grammar and spelling, where are you from?

Books.  Seriously, I learned most of what I know of English from reading so much; I read a great many English authours and American authours from the days when the written languages between English and American weren’t as different, but I do read some newer American authours which causes some of the peculiarities.  Where I was formally educated really is irrelevant since I don’t actually remember a damned thing from my English lessons, and my family speaks with a rather eclectic mix of dialects and accents.

Your books seem a little mixed on the subject of feminism, but you admit that you’re a woman.  Are you a feminist or anti-feminist?

Neither.  My feelings on the matter of this stuff I think can be best stated by Ms Emma Watson in her amazing speech to the U.N.  I believe in equality.  A woman who wants to be June Cleaver and a woman who wants to be just this side of Teddy Roosevelt after male-to-female transition are both advancing the cause of feminism since the whole point comes down to having the freedom to choose, and I think that (as Ms Watson said) we too often forget the poor gents in the subject.  They have their own degrading stereotypes as well – what business is it of mine if Dennis Rodman wants to wear a dress?  I’m not going to tell him he’s any less a man for it.

Your “biography” page says you don’t speak Swahili.  Do you speak any other languages besides English?  Your books have French and Italian in them …

And I’m quite good at faking those languages with a little help from a dictionary and the Latin I studied in school.  I, sadly, no longer have any functional proficiency in Latin even though I adore the language (far too little opportunity to use and expand, the dangers of studying a dead language), but I remember enough of the core of the language to understand how to use what I look up when translating out of English and into the French and Italian used in my stories.  English is my only fluent language, though I’m conversant in American so long as the topic doesn’t stray too far.

You mention that your writing only pays your power bill, what do you do for a living?

Telephony switch engineering.  I work for an internet/cable/phone company fixing switch issues with customers’ phone features and phone services.  Before that, with the same company, I worked various permutations of technical support for either the customers themselves or the in-field technicians.  Mostly it’s a very boring job, and I’m not sure with what it pays “a living” is a strictly accurate term, but it pays the rent.

Mac or PC?

Amiga.  Sadly they’re getting more than a little dated, so I use Macs.  If I must use a PC I put Debian Linux (Testing) on it … or, by ultimate preference, DOS.  I’ve been using computers for a long time.  I’ve used a plethora of hardware, OS, software.  I’ve things I like and hate about most things, Windows and most Microsoft products are the sole exception:  I find nothing positive to say about their products that couldn’t be said about anything else like them and couldn’t have been said about those other things first … but could go on at length about all the things I hate.  The single positive thing is that MS Word does make putting different page numbering in one part of a document versus another easier than any other current word processor.

iOS or Android?

Neither, or iOS.  For a tablet I prefer iOS.  I have rather mixed feelings about smartphones.  Android, by-and-large doesn’t impress me, though I’ve nothing against it in theory, just in specific details of how it’s implemented.  Most reasoned arguments against Android generally echo my own feelings about it.

And I think that concludes for now.  I’ve run out of ideas, and probably should stop goofing off now anyway.

cheers! 🙂

English is so annoying

There’re really times I wish I could do my writing in Latin instead of English.

In Latin it’s so much easier to be clear who or what things refer to because there’re different sets of suffixes for accusative  and nominative, to say nothing of the existence of the genitive, ablative, dative …

Why does English have to lack that sort of clarity of grammar?  It makes writing any sentence where two people of the same gender are interacting with one another terribly awkward and cumbersome, truly.

Half way there

This edit pass of Ready or Not is going amazingly smoothly.  I’m already about half through it all and have mostly been fixing typos.  This bodes very well for moving up the release date!

I’m hoping, if this pace continues, to have this in my editor’s hands by the end of the month — maybe end of the first week of February at the latest.  She has to do another pass; no way to avoid it, my grammar and orthography can get pretty lousy at points — my schooling included little education, and less where English was concerned.  Too, I’m loathe to ever release anything that hasn’t been looked at by another set of eyes after being written/changed.

Depending when she can start the editing process on her end … in a perfect world we’d be looking at an early March release!  But more realistically I’d say no earlier than April or May.

Grammar, orthography, word choice, and other esoteric things

Well, just take the words ‘orthography’ and ‘esoteric’. Be honest, who had to look them up?

Do writers have a responsibility to preserve the language? We certainly have the power to change it for good or ill.

Especially in these days of phone calls, text messages, IMs, and emails the interpersonal missive is ephemeral. It will be no record for future generations to judge and learn the language of today. What legacy, then, do we who produce the words that are being preserved in some manner wish to leave behind us?

Arguably our responsibility is to drag language into the present; kicking and screaming if need be. But do we discard all that came before? Maybe we should pick and choose? Or ought our goal be to preserve it all with, perhaps, some additions tacked on here and there? Some kind of blending of these choices?

Do we embrace the abandonment of whom? Do we allow the semicolon to be forgotten? Do we blur meaning by not joking when we say that ‘a synonym is the word you use when you can’t spell the one you mean’?

Shakespeare and Chaucer had amazing impact on language still felt today, despite centuries between them both and either of them and us. We coin terms, us authors and writers. ‘Scifi’, ‘grok’, ‘robot’, and more come from fiction but creep into usage. Sometimes common, sometimes not so much. Just as ‘arouse’ and others only go back to The Bard and his Globe theatre.

It is my feeling that we should strive hardily to advance language. To improve and expand it. To invent the terms that have not yet been labelled. In days past we might advance punctuation with such clever little inventions as the interrobang, but the advent of the computer reduces that potential.

At times you find books, big press, little press, and self-published alike which are poorly or sloppily edited, or worse edited carefully by those whose grasp of English is all too clearly incomplete. I’ll be the first to admit that a lack of this is a big reaon I have a dear and wonderful editor who is a brutal and obsessive compulsively persnickety grammarian and am sincerely grateful that Apple products have exceptional spell checkers for orthographic errors. Still, I strive to reduce the poor dear’s workload (and thus preserve her sanity, and potentially my life) by learning from my mistakes.

The trouble isn’t entirely editorial, though. Some things can be quite correct in terms of spelling and grammar, but they still use sloppy language. ‘Blue’ may be a word readily recognisable by virtually any English speaking reader you may care to name, but if what you mean is ‘cerulean’ then use it. Why be inaccurate to avoid confusing someone who can bloody well go buy a box of Crayola? Who never, at least borrowing from a friend, encountered a wisteria crayon? Who has never seen a rose, or white mable? The poor defenseless adjective is the most abused in this respect, but it appears in other places. There may be virtually (or even entirely, depending your frame of mind) no difference in saying ‘with alacrity’ or ‘quickly’ but maybe there is good reason to use alacrity. Don’t avoid the words – after extensive and exhaustive research I’ve concluded that, barring telegraphs, words are all cheap, even the big ones. And screw all that, maybe you actually meant ‘expeditiously’?

Is it necessary to write only the simple sentence? Have people truly stooped below the humble goldfish for attention span and short term memory such that we cannot comprehend a compound, complex, or compund-complex sentence? The comma, semicolon, and colon are our friends – friends who feel lonely and neglected. Or what of our poor buddies the hyphen and dash?

We should ‘ponder’ as well as ‘think’. We should not be afraid of our greatest and most important tools of our craft. The punctuation, sentence construction, and all else that comprise language are the vessels by which the beautiful landscapes of our imaginations may be transmitted to others. We should cherish and nurture, build upon, and care for them. Yet there are among some creative writing texts and classes the expressed notion that one should use the simplest and most base language you can, because god forfend you accidentally commit the mortal sin of cliché; even if the girl is raven haired, or even if the exact colour of his eyes is sapphire (I have a very visual mind … I love colours; if you’re hoping for different examples don’t hold your breath) they teach you to say black and to say blue. I’ve little exposure to journalism classes, but to judge by the horrendous state of the writing quality of much modern journalism (including that which is read by the TV anchors) I suspect little difference in that realm.

Of course, too, there’s the cult of political correctness. Musn’t call a thing what it is because of connotations. I’m sorry, but lame and crippled mean quite specific things. Differently abled, on the other hand, could just mean she can tie a cherry stem into a knot with her tongue. Retarded has a specific meaning, okay a few, in slang it means to say someone is not operating to an acceptable mental par, but ought to be capable of it, in not-slang it means that someone or something’s development is stunted. So something may retard flammability, or a person’s mental development might be retarded. Mentally challenged, by comparison, could just mean Steve Wozniak‘s particular bit of brain damage which meant he had to relearn long term memory storage. We’re afraid to be accurate because someone may become offended. “A rose by any other name …” you cannot change a thing by renaming it. Doing so simply makes a new slang. One with a handicap is no more able to dance a Viennese Waltz by calling him physically challenged. All you’ve done is create ambiguity. It’s back around to blue or cerulean. Is it jet black, or midnight? Is it hot as Hell or sweltering? Idiom, expression, they’re beautiful things.

Now some political correctness is understandable. For example, if it’s a word that has no positive or purely descriptive meaning. While one may use, if done in the name of character accuracy, ‘nigger’ (I refuse to type ‘n-word’, you’ll think the damned thing either way so avoiding its use is stupid), one should certainly not use it in casual narration. That shouldn’t be a hard and fast rule, though … perhaps the narrator has use of the word as I just did, but if you don’t need the word you ought to select another. Why? It’s a word that has only recently gained any positive meaning. Its strict dictionary definition is that of an insult. Even its borderline positive use is in very specific context or it becomes, at best, neutral or just as rude as ever. That word has not shifted meaning sufficiently for casual use, and it should be the business of those who it was devised to put down to determine its fate. Till that is done let’s set it by the side. There’re other similar things, but I should hope you get the point already. The important thing to remember is, at least in English, context accounts for much. The word is not what is negative or hurtful, a word is only sounds. Laxopickleder is nonsense, or it could mean a kind of fish, or it could be a horrible comment about a gentleman’s lack of sexual discretion … it depends on usage, on context, and on the accepted purpose. For now it is foolishness but, once, so was muggle.

I guess, ultimately, I’m just saying that, as writers, we just might have a responsibility to avoid the trends and fads that come and go in language (excepting dialogue, of course!) and we ought to strive to prevent the devolution of the language. That, regardless of journalist or novelist, poet or biographer, we should care for our tools as would a carpenter or mason. That doesn’t just mean keeping our typewriters in tune, our pens full of ink, or our computer harddrives virus free. We should take equal care of and equal (possibly greater?) pride in our language so that our meaning is clear, at least, to this generation. There is no helping if future generations understand us or not. Language evolves, words and grammars come and go. Latin is dead, old Norsk and new are hardly the same thing, Chaucer in the original would be more likely understood by a German than an Englishman these days.

Even if we write for young children, while our language ought, by necessity, to be simpler; we should not aim for the lowest denominator. Dr Seuss assumed a measure of intelligence and thought in his readers. Perhaps if we expect our readers, as did he, to have intellects and the ability to think then not only will our works have room to be more vivid, but maybe we’ll impact those who read us. Maybe they’ll have greater vocabularies, keep their infinitives unsplit, and ensure their subjects are in agreement with their verbs.