Happy Christmas!!

Happy Christmas!

Merry Holidays!

This time of year is ripe for holiday cheer, and also for people who go ballistic about the way other people offer holiday greetings. Happy Christmas, for example, is what my mother-in-law always says. She’s from London. I don’t tell her “say Merry!” and she doesn’t tell me “in my house, say Happy!” We’re both cool with the other person’s traditions. (I’ve totally adopted the Christmas cracker, funny hat thing, though.)

Now, if I were to write a novel with a Christmas scene I’d consider this. How easy would it be to slip in “Happy Christmas” to show (not tell!) the audience that my character isn’t from America? Or at least isn’t from the Merry Christmas America we’re all used to.

As people are sprinting around gathering their foods and gifts, listen to them. Take in what the woman calls her frying pan (skillet, perhaps?), or […]

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Thanksgiving…

Last week I celebrated Thanksgiving. So it seems like a good time to talk a bit about things I’m thankful for.

The characters: my spouse, my friends, my family, my writing community. The setting: my job, my hobbies, my writing, the weather. The plot: the struggle to be a good teacher, good writer, good editor, good spouse, good friend. The conflicts: grading, submissions, deadlines, Christmas gifts. The resolutions: unknown, but that’s okay—knowing too much would spoil the surprises.

So much of my life revolves around writing, though, looking at the above list, my life would make a terribly boring book! I spend most of my time reading and writing–or thinking about writing, planning writing, editing and revising writing, teaching writing, you get the gist. I also live in a world where writing is valued. When most people around me find out that I teach writing or that I am a […]

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How to Write a Sentence…

Every other Spring, I get to teach Advanced Grammar. It’s one of my favorite courses. While planning my Advanced Grammar course for next semester, I considered changing textbooks. I really love Understanding English Grammar by Kolln and Day (a book I frequently reference in my posts), but I wanted to find something new. I looked through various books, and none really suited what I wanted. So I stuck with this one.

I was still not really happy with the course, though, so I glanced around my shelves thinking about what else I could give my students that could help them with their writing.

There are tons of books on writing, and some excellent ones, to be sure. Several have been mentioned on Magical Words over the years. (One of my favorites is GMC: Goal, Motivation, and Conflict by Debra Dixon–the head of Bell Bridge books). Other people recommend Stephen King’s […]

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Almost live-action Slush — Take One

So, we’ve done a couple weeks of “sure! I’ll look at that!,” and they went well, so we’re doing it again, in a slightly different way. At Con Carolinas and other Cons, the founding MW authors (Faith Hunter, David Coe, Mindy Massey, and AJ Hartley) ran a panel called “Live Action Slush.” Volunteers would have their opening page of a WIP (a novel or a short story) read aloud and each author would raise her or his hand as soon as she or he would stop reading.

So, that’s what we’re going to do.

The Rules:

We’re only doing short-story intros. Both of us have worked as editors of short stories and have both submitted and selected them. Plus, there are some great opportunities for short stories out there now! We will be looking at the first page of a short story (double spaced). (If it is flash–1000 words or […]

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Got any queries?

Old, just-so-story wisdom tells us that good artists borrow, but great artists steal. In the spirit of such advice, I’m going to blatantly rip off Melissa Gilbert’s awesome post from last week. But rather than a passage in a WIP, I’ll take a look at a passage from a Query Letter. In the comments, post up to 200 words from your letter. Let me know if there is anything specific you want to work on, and I’ll look at it. I’ll be responding throughout the day.

So there’s your quest for the day! I’m looking forward to reading them!

Cracking the Code

Melissa Gilbert and I have addressed all sorts of elements of grammar–verbs, pronouns, that/which, punctuation, and a lot more. We’ve also talked about how to communicate with an editor.

But, now a bit about how to understand an editor. What’s with the editing marks?

Editors use them as a shorthand to tell authors what they want changed in a particular instance. It is the shortcut that keeps editors from having to explain, every time and in detail, what needs to be changed. This is especially convenient for simple, common edits. In short, copy editing marks are the emojis of long ago.

I’m going to give you some common ones that I use when editing with MS Word. Keep in mind that while there are standard marks (from such format guides as Chicago or MLA), editors often come up with their own marks, too. Finally, publishing houses have their own style […]

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Words Part 2

Last week I discussed words and their parts. Today, I’m going to talk about not-quite-word bits. Affixes are morphemes (a combination of sound and meaning) that attach to a base as either prefixes or suffixes.

A base gives the word its primary lexical meaning–it’s the bit that gives us the content of the word. All morphemes are either bases or affixes.

Before I get to what we do with affixes, I’m going to talk a little be more about categorizing morphemes. So far, we know that a base gives the word its meaning, and the affixes that do something to that meaning. So fear is a base, –ful is an affix–a suffix in this case–and from that we get fearful.

There is one other feature of a morpheme: its ability to stand alone as a word; morphemes can be either bound or free. Bound morphemes are unable to stand alone; […]

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