Sunday, October 15, 2017

Gone hiking.

As I mentioned last week, hearth/myth is taking this week off. See you back here next week -- same bat time, same bat channel. (Oooh -- was that a Halloween reference? Come back next week and find out!)

Sunday, October 8, 2017

Curmudgeon's Corner: English is hard.

jmawork | | CC 2.0
A couple of days ago, I was sitting in a fast-casual restaurant about a block from the White House, having lunch with my daughter Amy, when I happened to notice the way the restaurant's hours of operation were written on the front door.

"10:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. everyday," it said.

I took it calmly. But two days later, I'm still annoyed.

You see, there's everyday and then there's every day. They mean different things. Everyday is a synonym for common or ordinary. It's used as a modifier: An everyday occurrence, for example. Or: The party was not formal, so she wore her everyday shoes.

Every day, on the other hand, means the same thing as daily. For example: This restaurant is open from 10:30 a.m. until 8:00 p.m. every day.

Of course, I complained about it on Facebook when I got back to work. And someone tried to pass it off as the fault of Twitter, everyday having one less character. But I'm pretty sure I've seen the mistake for longer than Twitter has been a thing.

Personally, I believe we can blame it, at least partially, on a charming educational practice that was popular some years back that was supposed to encourage kids to write without bogging them down with rules. These little kids were told to write words any way however they sounded, or however they thought they were spelled. But rules in writing have a point. The idea of written communication -- of any communication -- is to get your point across to others. Whimsical spelling and grammar aren't going to help the other person understand what you're saying. (And eventually the kids had to learn the rules anyway -- why not start them out right, so they don't have to unlearn bad habits?)

Granted, losing a space between every and day is not that big a deal. I mean, I understood what the sign was trying to say. But the words mean different things. Sure, we could just make everyday the standard and have it mean both things, and maybe that's where the language is headed, but I'd appreciate it if we could try not to hasten it along.

And while I'm on my soapbox: What has happened to the past tense in this country? I keep hearing about how football players kneeled during the national anthem. The word is knelt, isn't it? She knelt before the casket? He knelt before the queen to be knighted?

Now that I'm looking into it, Grammar Girl said back in 2013 that knelt ws giving way to kneeled, and it's happening more quickly in the U.S. than in the U.K. Maybe it's finished making the transition over the past four years, in the most sneaking, dirty, underhanded way...

Hmm. Maybe I need a vacation.

In fact, I believe I'll take one. Here's your formal notice that hearth/myth will be on hiatus next week, while my editors and I retreat to the mountains of southern West Virginia. When I'm back on the 22nd, I hope to have publishing news about Maggie at Moonrise -- and maybe another contest, while we're at it.

These moments of everyday blogginess have been brought to you, as a public service, by Lynne Cantwell -- who was not kneeling at the time.

Sunday, October 1, 2017

CBS milks the Star Trek cash cow.

I'm almost never an early adopter, but I booted cable TV as soon as I could. At one point, we had a service whose name I won't mention (but whose initials are Cox Cable) that would periodically send us a letter that said, "Good news! We always strive to bring you the best in cable programming, so we're happy to tell you that we've added one/two/three new channels to your cable lineup! Of course, extra services cost money, so we are raising your rates by a dollar a month..." The new channels were almost never anything I was interested in, either. Thanks for nothing.

I always wished that I could fully customize my cable subscription so that I was paying only for the channels I wanted to watch: local channels, PBS, CNN, the Weather Channel, maybe a couple of movie channels, and that would pretty much be it.

Yeah, well, be careful what you wish for. The future is here, and it's not nearly as cost-effective as I thought it would be.

Last week, we started watching CBS's newest entry in the Star Trek franchise, Star Trek: Discovery. By the time we got around to it, the first two episodes (of 15) were already out. It's a good show so far -- not in the same league as Gene Roddenberry's original shows, with their optimistic and altruistic worldview, but good. The main character is Michael Burnham, a human woman who was raised on Vulcan, rises in Starfleet to the position of First Officer, and then gets court-martialed for mutiny.

What interests me here is how CBS is handling the show: Only the first episode was shown on the over-the-air network. To see the remaining 14 episodes, you have to sign up for CBS All Access, the network's three-year-old streaming service. You get the first week free, but then it's $5.99 per month if you don't mind seeing a few commercials, or $9.99 per month if you want your programming commercial-free.

Say you're a confirmed Trekkie and you couldn't wait to see this new Star Trek show. So you watched the first show for free -- and it's basically part one of two. It ends on a cliffhanger. So you signed up for the free week of streaming, because why wouldn't you want to see how the cliffhanger turns out? But when you watched the second episode, you discovered the first two shows are Michael Burnham's backstory, and the real story doesn't get going until episode three. So now you're in for either six bucks or ten for at least one month, and probably four in order to watch the whole series.

It's an interesting marketing approach, and seems designed mainly to drive viewers to All Access. CBS isn't making many fans with this programming decision, but it seems to be working: the initial showing of episode 2 gave All Access its best day ever. It's unclear whether fans will continue to pay for exclusive content like this, when they're already shelling out for Netflix, Hulu, and other on-demand channels. For viewers who prefer to binge-watch TV seasons, it may not play well. But for those of us who grew up with old-style over-the-air TV, waiting a week to see a new episode feels very familiar. And there's one saving grace with streaming: You'll never miss the first five minutes of your show.

I just wish it didn't cost so much.

Remember last week, when I said I might be done with the first draft of Maggie at Moonrise by tonight? Well, I made it. In fact, I finished the first draft last night. It's about 57,000 words, which is a little bit longer than the previous two books in the series, and the tone is lighter than the other two books. I'm hopeful for a release around the end of October, but don't quote me.

These moments of TV-inspired blogginess have been brought to you, as a public service, by Lynne Cantwell. Engage!

Sunday, September 24, 2017

Down the research rabbit hole we go.

One of these days, I'm going to finish the research for a book before I start writing the first draft. I used to be really good at that. Not so much any more.

One problem is that I'm starting to run out of locations I've lived in. Even places I've visited and liked well enough to set a story there are getting thin on the ground. So I have to rely more on research for details about the places where I want to set the story. Take the book I'm writing now -- Maggie at Moonrise

By the way, I need to clarify something. I've been calling this third book of the Transcendence trilogy Maggie in Moonlight, and I realized the other day that's wrong. My original concept was to show, with the titles, something of the progress Maggie makes in her journey from a woman with a lot of baggage to someone who's capable of renewing the Earth. At Moonrise fits the concept better -- and it's actually the title I intended to use to start with. So henceforth, Book 3 shall be known as Maggie at Moonrise.

Anyway, I knew that in this book, Maggie was going to need to hit the road to see two of her children: Emily, who lives in the Los Angeles area; and Tim, who lives in Mexico City. The trouble is that I have very little acquaintance with either locale. I've been in L.A. exactly twice. The first time, I was in high school and on vacation with my parents. We drove up from San Diego and stayed in an RV park that had orange trees at every campsite -- pretty exotic for a family from Indiana. It wasn't until the next day -- a Sunday -- that I realized we'd stayed across the freeway from Disneyland, and moreover, my father didn't intend to stop there. He wanted to get through L.A. as quickly as possible, and on a Sunday morning when traffic would be light. But c'mon, Disneyland!

My father's been dead for more than 30 years, and yes, I'm still holding this against him.

My second trip to L.A. was when my friend Kim lived in near Santa Barbara. Unfamiliar with L.A. sprawl as I was, I assumed that if I flew into LAX on a Friday, she could come and pick me up, drive back to her place, and we'd have a lovely weekend before she drove me back to catch my flight home on Sunday. Yeah, no. It turned out out it's three hours one-way from her house to LAX, and she was not willing to spend twelve hours on the road in the space of three days. So we got a hotel room near the airport, did the Getty Museum, and went to Redondo Beach. She still gives me a hard time about my 36-hour trip to L.A.

Anyway, I basically had no idea about where anything was in L.A., so I put out a call for information on Facebook. Thanks to those of you who offered suggestions and set me straight on my misconceptions.

Mexico City was another challenge. I minored in Spanish as an undergrad, but I was more interested in Spain at the time -- so although I knew bits and pieces about Mexico, there was a lot I didn't know. In addition, ancient Native cultures are a big thing in this series, and while I'd learned something about the Aztec pantheon to flesh out the character of Jack Rivers in the Pipe Woman Chronicles, I'm reaching farther back for Maggie's story -- to Teotihuacán.

Creative Commons
Like ancient sites around the world, from Stonehenge to Cahokia to the Newark Earthworks, no one knows who built Teotihuacán. Construction on the pyramids began around 200 BCE, and eventually the city was home to 125,000 people. It was sacked and burned around 550 CE, and abandoned about a hundred years after that. Centuries later, when the Aztecs stumbled across the ruins, they considered Teotihuacán sacred -- maybe built by giants. They adopted many of the gods and their imagery from the site and incorporated them into their own bloody religion.

Teotihuacán is now a national archaeological site -- and as at Cahokia, new discoveries are still being made there today. And now that I've done so much reading about Teotihuacán, I'm putting it on my bucket list. But unlike Maggie, I am not even thinking of driving there.

Speaking of Maggie at Moonrise, I'm making good progress on the first draft. I'm about 45,000 words in. This one is likely to be a tad longer than my usual 50,000 words -- I have about four important scenes left to write. But I'm still hopeful that I'll have it done by the first or second of October. Maybe by this time next week, I'll be able to call it done. 

These moments of uncharted blogginess have been brought to you, as a public service, by Lynne Cantwell.