November 30, 2009

Christmas in Space

My science fiction Christmas comedy, "The Feast of Stevens" got an honorable mention in the 2009 Not So Cynical Christmas Writing Contest. The winning stories and runners-up will be published at The Cynic Online Magazine starting Dec. 1.

I suspect "Stevens," while lighthearted, was not as warm and fuzzy as the editors were looking for. If you get over there to read it, please come back and tell me what you think of it.

November 18, 2009

A simile a day keeps the editor at bay

If I had a simile-of-the-day award, it would go to Clay Shirky for this gem:

"...the spread of electronic commerce for everything from music to groceries is part of the increase in empty store fronts on shopping streets, leaving a series of Citi branches, ATT outlets, and Starbucks that repeat at regular intervals, like scenery in a Hanna-Barbera cartoon."

Shirky also has some thought-provoking things to say about the future of independent bookstores.

November 16, 2009

Voted off the island

Well, my book did not advance to the next round of the Marcher Lord Select contest. I hope to get feedback on why that is.

In the meantime, though, this contest has been -- and continues to be -- terrific exercise for understanding why so many good writers collect so many rejections. Marcher Lord Press publishes three books each spring. But they already had two books lined up that are sequels to previousl MLP titles. That left one slot open, with 36 viable entries to choose from.

One can hardly blame Publisher Jeff Gerke for crowdsourcing that decision. It's a tough one.

Of the eighteen books advancing to round two, only one will be published by MLP in the spring. Which means there will be several -- I can't call them losers -- several non-winners that I would love to read, but will be unable to read because they won't be published.

I can only hope they'll find a home elsewhere, later.

November 2, 2009

Just don't throw down your gimlet

In the Middle Ages, one ran a gantlet (an ordeal) and threw down a gauntlet (an armored glove). No one does either of these things literally anymore, except, perhaps, in the SCA.

These expressions persist in modern English as idioms, but because we are so disconnected from their chivalric origins, people tend to get them wrong. They speak of “running a gauntlet,” although “throwing down a gantlet” is rarely heard.

I consulted with Prof. McIntyre over at You Don't Say, and he informed me that Bryan Garner, author of Garner's Modern American Usage, "is still holding the line on gantlet/gauntlet."

The new edition of Garner's includes a Language-Change Index, which ranges from Stage 1, rejected, to Stage 5, fully accepted. Prof. McIntyre informed me -- because I have not yet read the latest edition of Modern American Usage -- that Garner puts "run the gauntlet" at Stage 4. And, Prof. McIntyre added, "My own view is that it's a battle not worth fighting."

I'm inclined to agree. Moreover, I'm beginning to wonder if these phrases have passed from idiom to cliche. Surely it's better to endure an ordeal or issue a challenge while expressing your meaning in a clear, modern way. Unless you’re writing a historical novel set in the Middle Ages.