Ten More Days in Review

Or: Life in the “I-Can’t-Keep-Up” Lane

Skipping the “time flies” lament, I’ve been occupied with several projects lately: turning the office upside-down — dear Hubby did most of that — emptying and refilling bookcases, and cooking at the Villa.

Last week I did Monday dinner, Tues & Thurs supper, Wed, Sat & Sun all day. Just one of those “seasons.” I only have three more single meals and one full day during the rest of the month. But when I am working so much, the place tends to occupy me even when I’m not there officially. One morning I did some grocery shopping for the place, plus I like to spend time helping the folks to put together jigsaw puzzles. When I go to the city I hunt for more puzzles for us to work on, mainly at Value Village. 🙂

As I said, Bob shifted some furniture around in our office. This started last weekend when we had hot water heater woes. Our hot water tank being in a cubbyhole inconveniently right beside where my desk sat. Desk must be moved. Then we decided to empty the one office bookcase and put it in the living room. Which meant removing the quite small bookcase I’d just put in the living room, and then moving the six-foot one four inches over, so the office one would fit in the newly-made space.

By the time this was done we had books piled all over. While rearranging the office, Bob decided to move his file cupboard (actually another bookcase) to where the office bookcase had once stood, then move his 2-drawer filing cabinet to that newly-vacated spot. The new small bookcase went where the filing cabinet was and my desk was given a quarter turn. On Friday, my day off, I decided to clear out some shelves in yet another narrow bookcase/cupboard because we have more books than places to put them.

During all this and between shifts at the Seniors’ Home, I managed to squeeze in six loads of laundry plus misc. housekeeping & food prep tasks. I also attended Sewing Circle Tuesday morning. Totally fell behind with blogging — and sometimes wondered if I should just take a long break. I decided to “light one candle” this morning and see how far I get.

Nanowrimo started Nov 1st at 12:01 am, but I’m giving it a miss this year. An e-mail acquaintance wants to see his book in print; I was brought into this project by a friend who asked me to edit it. I did that last year, but the book is stalled and I’ve been asked to see that it gets into print via Amazon Kindle Direct, like I did mine. I now have the manuscript, author bio and illustrations, so need to get working on this.

I’ve submitted two of my “Winnie and Raylene on Vacation” stories to the Critique Circle and they’ve been well liked, for the most part. Now I need to polish a few more, write a few more, and post them on CC. I’m finding it interesting, through critique comments, how some words call to mind certain pictures for readers.

For example, in one story I’ve posted, a couple of teens have stolen a car and, chased by police, crashed into a garage beside a residence. Police were at the crash site directing traffic. One writer couldn’t figure how it was crash site because crashes happen on roads. Another critique writer couldn’t get it that a high speed chase would ever go through a residential area. High speed chases only happened on busy city thoroughfares. I wrote “garage” and some people are asking, “Like a service station? What’s a service station doing in a residential area?” So I’m learning to be more precise. 🙂

One question really made me laugh. I’d written that the weather was abnormal in FL and “The odd snowflake was falling when Winnie and Raylene got off the plane in Tallahassee.” A critiquer from Hawaii asked, “What was odd about the snowflake?”

I explained that “the odd —“ is a colloquialism. (Only in Canada?) For us, odd means unusual, but it also means infrequent. “There was no crowd; only the odd person showed up at the Grand Opening.” Or, “She took the odd afternoon off to visit her mom at the nursing home.”

Is this an odd (i.e. strange) usage where you live?

More than the odd snowflake is falling today. We definitely have winter with a powerful wind from the north plastering us with fine snow. Our cats have ventured outside the odd time this morning, but only for a few minutes. They come in dusted with snow and are generally NOT happy.

Well, this is enough rambling for one post. Have a good week, everyone.

A Skunk, by any other name…

The Word of the Day Challenge yesterday was IMPRESSIONABLE — and I missed it. I had a nice response figured out, too, but we took a trip to Moose Jaw to visit relatives and I didn’t have time to post it. Oh, well…my thoughts will keep for another day.

A fog blanketed the land yesterday morning when we started out, rather unusual considering how dry it’s been, but after an hour or so we were able to leave it behind us and enjoyed lovely warm sunshine for the rest of our trip. We had lunch with my sister, then stopped at the Public Library, and later visited with Bob’s cousin and wife. A good day!

The Word of the Day prompt this morning is: MEPHISTOPHALIAN

A huge word I will never have much use for, especially seeing it’s fictitious. Nevertheless, a bit of education never hurts, so I looked it up in Merriam-Webster online. Their definition:
Mephistophelian:
– of, or pertaining to, Mephistopheles
– wicked; fiendish
Mephistopheles:
– a chief devil in the Faust legend from the 1500s
Faust:
– a magician of German legend who enters into a compact with the devil
Faustian:
– of, relating to, resembling, or suggesting Faust
– especially: made or done for present gain without regard for future cost or consequences

Though I’ve never heard the word before, I’m too familiar with the concept. I’m sure every human being has been guilty at one time or another of doing something for present gain regardless of future consequences. For example, so-called little white lies get you off the hook at the moment, but you’re in for it when the person finds out the truth.

When you look up a word with Merriam-Webster, they kindly give you a list of several other words listed before and after the one you’ve looked up. Curious, I clicked on two of those other words, and discovered:

MEPHITIC:
– having a foul odor
MEPHITINE:
– of, or relating to…
Skunk.2nd

Bingo! Now here are words I can throw into a conversation from time to time, because we have seen indications of mephitine activity around our property.

If I get a whiff of skunk, now I can say, “There’s a mephitic odor lingering about our yard this morning.”
Or, “There’s evidence of mephitine harrassment in the night. Some predator got a deterrent drench.”
Or maybe, “Judging from the mephitine vapour wafting over the road, Monsieur Moufette has met his Waterloo.”
(Mind you, “met his Waterloo” has likely been branded as a cliché, along with “bit the dust.” I think “He’s toast” is still acceptable.)
But if I did make such high-brow statements, most of my friends would ask for a translation. So I might as well say that someone hit a skunk on the road last night.

Perhaps a person could put up a sign?
WARNING:
To all who wander around in the twilight bent on mischief. There is a risk of annoying one of the crepuscular creatures that pass through this yard. If you do, you may well receive a severe mephitine drenching.
(Squeezing in the RAGTAG daily prompt for today: DRENCH)

That ought to make tricksters think twice.
Skunk

 

Getting a Handle on Hairy

Ragtag Daily Prompt word today: HIRSUTE

Some years back I thought that pursuit and hirsute were related. (And spelled the same.) Pursuit was what the chaser did and hursuit was what the chasee did. Hurried and harried, they fled from pursuit.

For example: a mouse or rabbit, in hirsute, dashed away from a fox or cat in pursuit.

In the case of male and female, the chased might wish to remain chaste, with the pursuer being the wooer. His pursuit was about pressing his suit (figuratively speaking) and she was all a-flurry in her hurry to outdistance his advances. (Pardon all my puns! I have this weakness. 😉 )

As you’ve likely discovered yourself, all good ignorance comes to an end at some point. I came across the word one day where my definition didn’t make any sense so I finally looked up the word, and learned that I’d been pursuing the wrong meaning. Not quite, though: the mouse and rabbit were hirsute (hairy) — but so were the fox and cat.

Knowing the word’s real meaning now, I can see that sheep are the perfect example of hirsute. And Pixabay provides me with this perfect illustration:

Hairy Sheep

Sheep are one of the few animals from which man can fashion his own apparel without killing the supply. By caring for and then shearing the sheep, carding, spinning, and weaving the wool into fabric, we’ve developed a mutually beneficial relationship with the docile creatures.

Philip Keller, in his book A Shepherd Looks at PSALM 23, talks about a problem unique to sheep, one that a shepherd must be ever on guard against: a sheep being cast down. A sheep with a heavy fleece, especially a ewe made even heavier with the lamb or twin lambs she’s carrying, may lay down and, trying to arise later, lose her balance. Then the animal can’t right itself. Old English shepherds called this “a cast down sheep” or “a cast sheep.”

The sheep will lie there terrified, feet flailing in the air as it frantically tries to right itself, until the shepherd comes to its rescue. Or until a predator finds it. Or until the gasses in its stomach build up and suffocate the sheep. Bad enough to lose a sheep, but losing an ewe means losing the lamb(s) she’s carrying and the income they’d bring.

No, a cast sheep is never a good scenario — except to a passing wolf. And we don’t want to go there.

Sheep were designed to be with man; in so many ways they need a shepherd. And man has used the hirsute quality of sheep to keep himself alive on frigid nights. A neat working relationship.

Sheep + lamb

And with sheep for sure there’s no pursuit in hirsute. They come when the shepherd calls.

When Two Adjectives Go Walking…

As I wrote in my last post, I’ve spent a fair bit of time this past week over at Critique Circle reading and commenting on various stories posted there. Of course this brings thoughts about improving one’s writing — which will now spill into this post.

I’ve posted my own story and gotten seven critiques. WONDERFUL! Being critiqued has been good for me. For one thing, I’ve had to go back to grammar books and other published authors to study up on the acceptable use of commas. Tricky little things. When it comes to separating clauses, there seems to be no uniform rule of, “Yes, one here,” or “No, none there.”

One of the things I often note in my critiques is the overuse and/or duplication of adjectives. Some genres tolerate more descriptive adjectives than others, but I do like the advice I once heard from some well known writer:
“Imagine you’re buying your story words for $1 each. You won’t want to buy more than you need.”

If you had to pay for words, you’d want to make sure each word is doing its job. You won’t want to pay for a bunch that need others to lean against because they don’t say enough on their own.

Mark Twain: “When you see an adjective, kill it.”

I’ve modified this bloodthirsty ink-thirsty version and adopted this maxim:
“When two adjectives go walking, flatten one.”
A little less gruesome, don’t you think?

Last year my husband enrolled in the Jerry Jenkins School of Writing and we both benefited from his lessons on “Becoming a Ferocious Self-Editor.” He gives demonstrations along with explanations, taking the first page of someone’s story and hacking it to pieces showing how it can be tightened.

When it comes to adjectives, he quotes another writing guru — sorry, I forget who — saying: “One plus one equals one-half.”
The idea being: when you use two adjectives, you weaken the effectiveness of both. Choose the most powerful and cut the other.

For example: The neat, tidy little cottage sat at the edge of a tenebrous, spooky forest.
I’d go with tidy, which means neat. A cottage is automatically little, so cut that, too.
Tenebrous means dark or murky — and dark murky places usually are spooky. Spooky places are usually dark and shadowy. Pick one or the other — preferably the one most people will understand.

Tom was a pompous, dictatorial boss who loved nothing better than ordering his cowering underlings around.
Dictatorial means ordering others around. Don’t throw this word away, though. Chances are, it will fit in nicely elsewhere.

Raiva was a loquacious chatterbox, always running on at the mouth.”
Here you have not only and adjective repeating the noun, but an adverb clause saying the same thing.
I’ve cut loquacious. Erudites like big, fancy words but the average reader may get a bit (cut qualifiers, too) ticked off if they have to stop and look up loquacious in the dictionary. A few fancies may be okay, but don’t make a practice of throwing in humongous, supposedly-impressive words.

I just read a piece which included the word pulchritudinous. My first thought was “ornery” but I decided to look it up and be sure. According to vocabulary.com:
“Even though it looks (and sounds) like it would describe a disease or a bad attitude, pulchritudinous actually describes a person of breathtaking, heartbreaking…beauty.”

Most readers will guess. They’ll read “Joe had a contentious nature.” And they’ll think, hmm… Sounds like content. Must be Joe’s easy-going.” If you do use an unusual word, give the reader a clue in the context.

But I digress. Let’s get back to Raiva the blab. Cutting the excess, all we have left is, She was a chatterbox. Or, Raiva was always running off at the mouth.

Instead of telling this fact, we could show it like so:
Pam and Bev sat in Bev’s living room drinking coffee when they saw Raiva coming to the door.
Pam nudged Bev’s arm and said, “Here comes Miss Mouthpiece.”
Bev rolled her eyes. “Gossip, her specialty.”
(Or, “Advice her specialty,” depending on which impression you want to convey. And check if it needs a comma after Advice. Or not?)

Wise-Crackers Everywhere

The Word of the Day prompt for today is UBIQUITOUS, so I’ll re-post this humorous item as my response:

Wise-crackers are ubiquitous. If you don’t believe me, just use a word with more than one meaning. Someone is sure to pop a joke on you.

If in sympathy for neighbour Mabel’s gout, I should happen to let slip a “Poor Mabel,” someone is sure to comment that “Mabel just got back from a two week trip to Bermuda. So she can’t be that poor.”

If I chance to say, “I forgot to feed the fish” I’m apt to hear, “Feed them to the cat. Then you’ll never forget again.”

The other day when I said I was going to pick up some flour at the store, dear hubby had to say it: “But not another African violet. We have a dozen already.”

Last week when I had such a nasty cold, I told my Dad that my nose was running constantly. “Better watch it,” he said. “If it takes up jogging you’ll really be in trouble.” You can just imagine what I’d hear if I admitted that my foot went to sleep.

Sigh…

Even the poor innocent children get dragged into this. My sister snickered when I told her “I sent some cookies with the boys in sandwich bags.” Really! She knew what I meant.

Last week we were invited to my cousin’s for supper. As we sat around the table, someone mentioned reading that City Council was hatching a plan for a new Civic Services Administration Building. Uncle Harry was right on it. “How many Counselors does it take to hatch a white elephant? And how are they going to pay for this?”

My cousin’s five-year old, eyes aglow, piped up, “They could sell rides on the elephant. Then they would get lots of money.” By now I’m sure the tots at her playschool have heard all about it and are clamouring for their white elephant rides. Which proves that old adage: Small pitchers have big ears.

Is there no nostrum, no magic elixir for this aggravating ailment? Yesterday I told a friend, “We had Joe & Jane for Sunday dinner.”

And she–my very best friend!–asked, “Baked or fried?”

A Vital Question

Word of the Day prompt for today is PITHY.

Another word I’ve read often and understood in context, yet never stopped to examine in detail. I was thinking it means a snappy comeback; a blunt, even biting remark. My Collins Canadian Dictionary defines it as “terse and full of meaning.”
(This dictionary sticks quite close to “terse” itself, actually.)

Anyway, I hope this not-quite-haiku will qualify as PITHY:

I hear the owl call my name.
At least it’s asking, “Whooo
do you think you are?”

Being Inscrutable

When I saw Fandango’s word for today, BEING, I thought the passive voice in writing, and of this tongue-in-cheek discourse I once wrote. Warning: confusion ahead. 🙂

A PASSION FOR PASSIVE

Attending a writing workshop, the subject was raised as to passive voice, herein referred to as PV, versus the active voice. It was explained to us by the workshop leader that the PV is seen as a grave error by modern editors.

It was explained to us by our instructor that the verb “to be” is always used (by writers) to form the passive voice. Hence, we were told, a careful examination must be made of each “to be” verb in every form — is, are, was, were was, etc— lest a passive voice be allowed (by carelessness) to slip in. In fact we’re urged to avoid the state of being verbs in general, to use went instead of was/were going, go instead of am/are going, etc.

Later, while a lovely walk in the country was being enjoyed by me, my mind was being teased by a brilliant idea: a writing should be composed as completely in the PV as possible, that its virtues may be lauded (by me). Thus this writing is being offered to you as an alternative to thinking being promoted by short-sighted editors.

(Wherever a slip into the active voice is deemed necessary, proper notice will be given by the initials “AV”.)

The passive voice is formed when the subject of a sentence – the doer of the deed – is obscured (by the one telling the tale) somewhere among stated or implied end-of-sentence phrases, while the object of the sentence has been forced (by the writer) to lead the way. Whenever such convolutions are made in sentences (by said writer), there must always be a “by” — stated or not. For purposes of clarification during this whimsical writing, these shall be duly marked (by me) in brackets.

Hence the AV construction, “I slipped on a banana peel” is turned into the passive “A banana peel was slipped on.” By me, but that part need not be added, lest (subjunctive) I appear rather clumsy. After all, it might have been dropped by someone else, which (AV) makes it their fault anyway, right?

During our workshop it was explained to our instructor that the passive voice can be used (by writers) to remain anonymously humble – or leave someone else anonymously humble. The self-promoting “I” can be buried forever (by the writer) in the “back forty” of the sentence.

And not only “I + me” but any other indication of something outstanding being done by someone among us. Several reasons may be offered (by whoever wants to) for this: if some action has been taken (by whoever) that may be deemed (by the hearer) offensive, the perpetrators can be forever hidden (by the teller of the tale.)

Likewise, a solution can be found (by someone) without any congratulatory pat on the back (by recipients) to the finder. And if it was a poor solution it will be unknown (by the ones upset) on whom to put the blame. Thus the most words can be used (by the prudent) with the least information actually being revealed. This same policy has been specialized in by government officials for ages.

Passive voice can also be used (by writers spilling their lifeblood–or someone else’s) to avoid humiliation or acrimonious litigation. “Suggestions were made about the Mayor’s involvement,” sounds much safer than to have it admitted (by some blabbing reporter) that “Tom Smith suggested (AV) the Mayor was getting a kickback (from interested investors).” Especially if Tom Smith and/or the Mayor could sue. And if the investors are named, they might sue (AV) as well.

Of course, objections to the use of PV are usually raised by word-count-conscious editors. The most said (by writers) using the least number of words remains ever (AV) the passion of those insensitive red-pen types. That all shall be blabbed up front (by the writer) — subject first — is insisted upon (by modern editors)!

Nevertheless, a continuous demand shall always be held forth (by those afraid of offending) for the obscurity of PV. So let it be learned by us to execute it well in our writing endeavours. Should it be wished by modern editors to execute it literally, theirs will be the loss in the end. Much will remain unwritten to avoid embarrassment.

NOTE:
Dangling &/or confusing clauses are often (AV) one undesirable result. By using great vigilance, avoidance of these can be accomplished.

Anonymity is wished for by the author lest she be blacklisted by the aforesaid editors.