Gutenberg

In the US we call it "fall" rather than "autumn" AND THAT'S FINE.

Now that it's fall in the US, let's examine this little meme. And let's ideally stop sharing it because it's ignorant. I shall explain.

Picture of autumn foliage with text: "UK: We call it autumn from the Latin word autumnus. US: We call it fall because leaves fall down."
Picture of autumn foliage with text: "UK: We call it autumn from the Latin word autumnus. US: We call it fall because leaves fall down."

You know me, so you know I ran a search on the Oxford English Dictionary. Results:

"Fall" is a very old English word, and "fall" to mean "autumn" was originally used in Britain as far back as the 1500s and continuing on into the 1800s:

"...now to be subiect vnto summer, nowe vnto winter, now to the sprynge, and nowe to the falle." - John Hooper, bishop of Gloucester and Worcester; 'Godly Confession,' circa 1550

"...leaves...becoming yellow at the fall, do commonly clothe it all the winter." - John Evelyn, English writer; 'Sylva,' 1664

"She has been bled and purged, spring and fall." - Sir Walter Scott, 'Malachi Malagrowther,' 1826

OED says at the start of the entry: "Although common in British English in the 16th century, by the end of the 17th century 'fall' had been overtaken by 'autumn' as the primary term for this season. In early North American use both terms were in use, but 'fall' had become established as the more usual term by the early 19th century."

It also says that it is "a shortening of earlier 'fall of the leaf'." Similarly, "spring" was short for "spring of the leaf," so if you don't make fun of "spring," leave "fall" alone too.

So I think what this meme really means to say is:

BRITAIN: we call it fall because leaf fall down—hang on, no, we must appear more arbitrarily classical-language-oriented than those uppity colonials, so let's use a snotty Latinate word instead. Autumn! It's autumn from now on!

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dome - Gothic Choir

Misc. editing tips roundup, vol. 1

Miscellaneous editing tips: a roundup

I think I’ll post these from time to time, as I find it fun, and someone out there might find them helpful. This batch consists of tips that I originally posted as tweets over the past year or so. (My Twitter is here, if you want it.) These came from the year-long editing course I took, as well as the paid editing work that keeps me paging through The Chicago Manual of Style on a regular basis. (Hire me if you need a copyeditor or proofreader! As a painfully sensitive writer myself, I promise I try to be very kind when editing.)

• A phrase like “looked to the sky above” can usually just become “looked to the sky,” because, well, the sky is basically always above. Similarly, in “looked up to the sky,” we probably don't need “up.”

• “Nodded her head” can just be “nodded,” and “shrugged her shoulders” can just be “shrugged,” because those are generally the only body parts you respectively nod or shrug.

• Technically speaking, “Realtor” is capitalized, because it's a trademark. To get around this, you can write “real estate agent” instead.

• When you find the phrase “off of,” you can usually delete the “of.” You don’t have to step off of the path and pick some apples off of a tree. You can step off the path and pick some apples off the tree.

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golden egg

Benign is a wonderful word

[TW: medical; cancer though ultimately not] Today I’d like to thank the absurd amounts of tea (green, black, and herbal) I drink every day, whose antioxidants have kept me safe another year. I bring this up because on Monday I had a breast biopsy, and have just learned the growth in question is benign—a common noncancerous lesion. All good for the time being. Whew.

I’ve been living under the shadow of this since the beginning of July. No, you don’t have to scroll back—you didn’t miss anything. I haven’t posted about it. Why so long, though? Well, I got my regular annual mammogram on July 1, and they told me the next day that they wanted another look at one spot. It wasn’t even something I could feel; just something they saw on the imaging. But the next available follow-up appointment wasn’t till early August.

So I got through July and went to the second exam, and this time the doctor said, “I’m about 98% confident it’s nothing to worry about, but we’ll have you come back in six months to look again. Or, if that 2% chance is going to bother you, we can biopsy it sooner.” I said yeah, it’ll bother me. So we scheduled the biopsy—another couple of weeks out.

The biopsy took place Monday, and now I have the results and can relax and go back to only worrying about, you know, EVERYTHING ELSE going on this year. ;)

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Froud - bad faeries

Is Ula Kana an allegory for COVID? Nope. Although...

In Lava Red Feather Blue, Merrick awakens Larkin (and the destructive faery Ula Kana) in March 2020, unleashing all kinds of mayhem on his country. Given the date, you might wonder: does Ula Kana represent COVID-19?

The short and obvious answer is no, I didn't intend that, nor could I have, given I wrote the entire thing before anyone had heard of COVID. I set the timing as the current year (that is, the year it was during the editing phase) so that it wouldn't seem too dated; end of story. HOWEVER...

I'm fine with retrospective reinterpretations. And if asked, I generally say the fae represent nature, and the fae-human conflicts and harmonies represent our complicated but vital relationship with the rest of the natural world. And what is a dangerous virus if not a particularly nasty piece of the natural world?

So, though I didn't intend it: sure, you could make a case for Ula Kana being the 'rona. But it was through coincidence, not design.

(Eidolonia does not, as far as we know, have an actual COVID outbreak. They don't have a lot of contact with the rest of the world, not to mention they have magic. They get enchantment-related illnesses, which are nasty, but my firm belief is they'd obliterate regular infectious diseases in no time flat.)

Froud - bad faeries

Demi ponderings

I only lately learned we demisexual folk count as LGTBQ+, according to many. Do I now get to call All the Better Part of Me #OwnVoices? Well no, I'm still not a tall cis bi man, so it's still not OwnVoices that way.

One would also be forgiven for being surprised to hear I'm demi, given the general sex-positivity and/or perviness of my writing and attitude. It confuses me too. But it seems to boil down to "perv on the page and in imagination, demi in real life."

I'm only now learning how common this is! Demisexuality is considered (depending who you ask) a part of the asexuality spectrum. And I previously thought ace meant not having any sexual interest ever, but have lately learned it often means liking sex in theory and/or as a physical sensation, just not being attracted that way to actual other people.

For me it's always been like, "Huh, I'm so weird, because clearly many people would honestly sleep with most of those they find good-looking, whereas I only feel that way about, like, 1% of those I know, even when I find them aesthetically attractive. But I approve of those who are more sexually active, and I like to write about sex and romance. Hrm."

The short term for all that, more or less, is "demisexual." And depending on who your gatekeeper is, it might count as queer. So. Huzzah!

moon over ocean

My official review of The Untamed

Ordinarily I’m not one of those people who leaves really long Amazon reviews. But for The Untamed there’s not really anywhere else notable to leave one, and it deserves one! So here is what I posted. Let’s hope Amazon approves it. If not, it's here, anyway.

Short review: 

YES, WATCH THIS SHOW! I’m picky about shows. I don’t enter into obsessive fandom mode lightly. But after watching this series last year, I immediately went back to the beginning and watched the entire thing again. And joined an Untamed fandom group on Facebook. And read loads of fanfic. And watched in wonder as Wangxian (the Wei Wuxian/Lan Wangji ship) shot straight to the top of my list of favorite fandom ships ever (for now, anyway). This height of fandom for me is RARE. So yeah, you should give it a try.

Long review:

I first heard about The Untamed when a friend said on Twitter, “Maybe I should watch that show people are talking about with the two insanely gorgeous East Asian guys with long hair.” And I thought, “Hello, that sounds like something I’d like.” But I didn’t actually know what show that WAS. That is, not until Netflix turned it up in my list of suggestions one night, and I saw that cover shot of, yep, two insanely gorgeous Chinese guys with long hair, and clicked on it to learn more.

And learned: Oh hey, it’s fantasy, AND based on a BL (boy love) novel? Even more up my alley! 

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Gutenberg

Don't give up, writers!...But don't expect fame either.

On Twitter recently there was a hashtag that got going in which successful authors encouraged struggling writers to keep at it, because it took them (the successful ones) X number of years and manuscripts and rejections before they Hit It Big. And now they’re on bestseller lists! And have Netflix deals! And fan art! So don’t give up!

Normally you can count on me to be the encouraging optimist too. But in this case I feel the kinder thing to do, in the long run, is to deliver an opposing viewpoint consisting mainly of, well, I won’t say “pessimism,” but more like realistically tempered expectations.

I’ve been writing books since I was 12. (I’m now 45.) Counting just the published ones, I’ve had 12 novels or novellas published, with two excellent small presses. I have never hit a bestseller list. I have never been offered a screen adaptation deal. I am not getting fan art or fan fiction, and hardly ever fan mail. I’ve never in all these years had a royalty check big enough to cover more than one month of the mortgage. (And keep in mind royalties are paid once every three months.)

I’m now taking work as an editor/proofreader, not only because I like the work (which luckily I do), but because writing is clearly not going to bring in enough money for me to stick exclusively to that as my career. 33 years of fiction-writing experience and 12 published books is evidently not enough for me to Hit It Big, and I’ve given up on expecting it ever will.

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Froud - bad faeries

Guest feature: author Darlene Foster takes us to Malta!

It's been too long since I've brought on another author for Q&A, and I'm pleased to be doing so again with Darlene Foster! I met Darlene (in an online sense) through our publisher in common, Central Avenue Publishing, and she's one of the most upbeat, easygoing, fun-loving writers I know. Her Amanda Travels series is a wonderful set of books for middle-grade readers in which the young Amanda visits a new country in each book and always encounters an adventurous mystery to untangle. They're perfect for the young armchair traveler—or real-world traveler—in your life.

Author Darlene Foster
Author Darlene Foster
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Buffy folk - by mangofandango

Fluffy to grim: the tone spectrum. And watch The Untamed!

I’ve come to realize it’s not the *subject matter* you should think about when recommending shows and books to me, but the *tone*. Here is a tone spectrum I drew up for illustration, using just TV and films.

Fluffy to grim, 0 to 10
Fluffy to grim, 0 to 10

I’m unlikely to want things that are a 10—all serious all the time. (Or even 95+% of the time.) I’m open to the complete fluff on the 0 end, but I have to be in the mood for that.

The sweet spot is 3 to 7 or thereabouts: give me tonal variety! All the shows I’ve truly adored have been in there. They have a lot of complete silliness and also a goodly amount of heartbreak. They’re not just ONE MOOD.

I sketched this because sometimes people recommend a show or book to me because it’s got Greek gods in it, or linguistics, etc.—things I like. Then it turns out to be unrelentingly depressing, and I don’t like it.

So if recommending to me, think tone! I want pleasant fluff AND meaningful depth, in harmony and balance.

N.B.: I fully realize this is only one way to evaluate media and does not cover all the relevant details that might make us like a thing. Don’t bother going into full “but but but” mode about it. It’s just one angle.

For those who can’t read an image, the chart goes:

0 (Fluffy) to 10 (Grim)

0: Most Disney

1: Comedy in general

2: Gilmore Girls

3: Most Studio Ghibli

4: Harry Potter; Avatar: the Last Airbender

5: The Untamed; Buffy

6: Angel; Sherlock; BBC Merlin

7: Star Wars; Downton Abbey

8: Lord of the Rings

9: Tragedy in general

10: Game of Thrones; Witcher

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