Cheating at the Top

I have never understood the praised heaped on F. Scott Fitzgerald’s short novel, The Great Gatsby. I wrote about this here some years back.

If there is only one “Great American Novel” – a nonsensical idea invented, I suspect, by Fitzgerald’s contemporaries who wanted to see the writing of fiction as a “manly” endeavor like war or boxing – it is, of course, Toni Morrison’s Beloved, which nails one of the two core corruptions that underlie our supposedly perfect country.

But life in these United States and in our world as a whole is complex and multifaceted. No one book can do everything. Nor should it.

I’ve always thought Gatsby was a beautifully written book about corrupt and uninteresting people. I might like it better if I didn’t always have the feeling that both the author and the narrator admired Gatsby, who is Trump without the advantage of rich parents, though with better manners.

However, the recent college admissions scandal has changed my mind about one aspect of the book. Continue reading

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The Name of the Prose, Part 4: A Ghoti by Any Other Name is Still a Fish
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JRR Tolkien

As I commented previously, my first novel was also my first experience trying to create a fantasy world from the ground up. With Tolkien as my only model, I waded hip deep into Scottish history and Auld English linguistics to come up with character, clan, place and object names for my fantasy trilogy, The Mer Cycle. (Of course, it’s available from Book View Cafe, IBooks, Amazon, and Barnes&Noble).

Here’s what I learned: whatever names I use, it pays to simplify their spelling wherever possible.

Take a name like Foneiel (pronounced Fo-nee-el). Why, I asked the writer who came up with the name, couldn’t it just be Foniel, which has the virtue of allowing the reader to pronounce it just as it’s spelled. His answer was that he liked what it looked like and thought it seemed to fit in a fantasy novel. Another name in the same manuscript was Taruu, which could just as easily have been Taru. 

Why simplify? Because it will allow a reader to actually “pronounce” the character’s name in her head. I wish I’d simplified my heroine’s name in The Meri (Mer Cycle, Book One). I had a lot of readers who said, “I didn’t know how to pronounce ‘Mereddyd,’ so I just thought of her as ‘Mary.’” Mereddyd was the Gaelic spelling of the common name “Meredith”, but my readers didn’t know that. (Did you know that Merlin is from the Gaelic Myrddin?) Continue reading

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Auntie Deborah’s Advice Column for Aspiring Writers

Dear Auntie Deborah: How can I find a real publisher for my YA novel, instead of one of the many vanity or scam presses? — Tearful Wannabee

Dear Tearful: Do your research about publishers. Find out which accept unagented submissions. Check them out on Writer Beware or Predators & Editors!!

Get an agent. Again, do your research on which agents are legitimate and represent your genre. (See above resources.) A decent agent will do the submissions for you, using their professional contacts, plus access to publishers that require an agent (which, today, is most of them).

Hang out online with other YA authors and pick their brains, see who publishes them, so you can hear about newer publishers and agents who might be open to your type of material.

Get support. Hobnob with other writers, particularly those at or a little beyond your career stage. Writing is such a lonely business at best, and we need to glomp together — even seasoned pros with decades of sales — for mutual encouragement. And gossip.

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BVC Announces Gabriel’s Road by Laura Anne Gilman

Gabriel's Road by Laura Anne GilmanGabriel’s Road
The Devil’s West
by Laura Anne Gilman

Following the events of RED WATERS RISING, Gabriel Kasun is once again on his own, haunted and hunted by bandits, ghosts, and his own personal demons . . .

A stand-alone novella of The Devil’s West.

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Show Your Gray

So I learned in a certain magazine aimed at people of a certain age, that there is a highly popular Instagram account known as Grombre. I used to think that because I didn’t subscribe to Instagram, if that’s the appropriate verb for such an action, Facebook wouldn’t learn even more stuff about me. Which is probably moot because they, and Google, already know everything about me.

Giving up on what is by now a fruitless effort to protect my privacy, I logged into Instagram using my Facebook password. FB, you have become a part of my DNA. And I used said Google to find out more about Martha Truslow Smith, who started the account.

First I found out the derivation of “Grombre”. There is—maybe was or still is, as it’s never easy to know whether the craze that started a few years ago is still a thing—a hair-dying style called ombréFrench for “shading”. It still appears to be popular because lots of women blend of colored strands of hair. So you get it now: “gray” coupled with ombré becomes Grombre. Kinda hip, right?

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The Rambling Writer Explores More Greek Islands, Part 20: Kos Town

Join Thor and me as we wander the charming harbor town of Kos, where history and natural beauty flourish.

NOTE: Since our recent trip to Greece to research more settings for my novel-in-progress, THE ARIADNE DISCONNECT, Thor and I knew we had to return to this magical region. My first entry in this new blog series posted here on Saturday, 10/20/2018. It gives an overview of our rambles from Athens to seven islands in the Dodecanese and Cyclades groups, ending our ferry-hopping pilgrimage on the anciently sacred island of Delos.

The only “big city” on Kos island was first inhabited in the Early Bronze Age (2300-2000 BC), and became an important trading port during the Minoan and Mycenaean periods (2nd millenium BC), and then later during Archaic and Classical times (7th-5th century BC). The fertile island was rich enough to send 30 ships to the Trojan War. Today it is still famous as the birthplace of Hippocrates (460-377 BC), the “father of modern medicine,” and Thor was eager to visit the Plane Tree of Hippocrates in Kos Town.

As we parked on the outskirts of the town center and started wandering the pleasant, tree-shaded lanes, we realized that the modern town curves around and embraces remnants of all these ancient periods, in addition to early Byzantine, Medieval Knights, Ottoman Turks, and Italian occupations. Continue reading

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New Worlds: Photography

(This post is part of my Patreon-supported New Worlds series.)

As this goes live, I am in Yosemite National Park, where I hope to take many lovely photographs of nature.

Lots of art forms have developed new materials or techniques or styles over the ages. But it’s relatively rare for an entirely new art form to be created — that being what happened with photography, starting in the 1820s.

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No Proselytizing Zone

At FOGcon, we learned about the Go Wish cards, which are a tool for figuring out your concerns and wishes in planning for the end of life. Having learned by caring for my father in his last years how important it is for people to communicate their desires and concerns before they become unable to do so, I am a strong believer in having these discussions with family and friends along with making advance directives and doing other planning.

After all, no one gets out of here alive. Giving those who will be making decisions for you some reasonable guidelines makes it a lot easier for them to do the hard things that can come with caring for someone with a terminal illness. It can also ensure that you have the best possible end of life. You can’t choose what you die from, but you can make some choices about how you’re cared for. The cards are a tool that help you do that.

One of the things that really struck me while doing the cards was how very much I don’t want some pastor or other religious person coming around inflicting their religion on me. I don’t believe in any form of god and or after life and I don’t want to deal with someone trying to convert me as I’m dying.

I can’t imagine anything closer to hell than being stuck in a bed, unable to leave the room, perhaps even unable to tell someone to leave, and have to listen to them tell me all about their god’s plan. Continue reading

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