Grammar Demons

Grammar.  One of the many nemeses of writers.  Not quite as evil as Writers Block or Post Rejection Syndrome, but one of our banes for sure.  Especially for those of us who foolishly majored in engineering (or science or music or math or, well, you get the picture.) instead of English.  And while good grammar and spelling do not make necessarily for good writing, they are table stakes.  Necessary but not sufficient, we used to say, in one of those not-quite-useless science classes.

devil carving

And Grammar is not an exact science (nor is spelling, we’ll come back to that). English as a language is evolving constantly.  Furthermore, Grammar is more often bent in dialog or close-perspective narration than in business writing.  Starting a sentence with And or But leaps to mind.

Similarly, spelling is also more fluid than one might think.  While much is involatile (notice I got the plural of nemesis correct above), again language is evolving.  Leaped or leapt, dived or dove are two of my own bugaboos (I oscillate back and forth).  Add on top of this differences in American vs British English.  Forgetting the big ticket items like all those excess Us in coloured armour, and the S vs Z conundrum, how about ax vs axe?  While sans E is standard American English, I prefer having that E when I am writing fantasy that evokes medieval weaponry.  A swordmaiden with a battleaxe feels better, at least to everyone but her enemies.  And my spell checker just told me it should be sword maiden, a tip I just ignored

While Grammar enemies abound, there are some friends out there.  Various spellcheckers are our first line of defense, but they pass many goobers and miss many of the subtleties, not to mention all those false alarms.  Two favorite tools of mine are:

  • Grammar Girl, a website devoted to answering those tricky grammar questions
  • Grammarly, a grammar-checking tool that I have recently started using.  It actually works–I routinely find one or two major goobers and a slew of comma faults even in well-proofed short stories.  That’s the good news, bad news is that while there is a stripped-down web version that is free, the full version that works with MS Word is very expensive, sold only as a service at ~ $15 / month. Do the math–this is the cost of a new laptop every 3 years or so. For people who write for a living, great, but a little pricey for my blood at this stage.

What tools do you use to combat your Grammar demons?

Keep on writin’.

CR Hodges

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Updated list of paying spec fiction short story markets: April 2015

Here are some new / updated paying spec fiction short story markets, as of April 12, 2015. Sorry that I have been delayed in posting updates–I messed up and won a writing contest, the Pikes Peak Writers Zebulon Fiction Contest, for my mythica novel Ragnarök Willie.  So I’ve been rather busy getting that novel dialed in for querying. A good problem to have, but a tad stressful and all-consuming.

winter train

If you do find this list useful, come say hi on Facebook, I’m C.R.Hodges.Author.

Updates:

The following markets have been added:

  • Semipro:
    • Science Fiction Romance
    • Shoreline to Infinity Temp Closed

The following markets have reopened:

  • Nameless
  • Ideomancer

The following markets have temporarily closed:

  • Dark Fuse
  • Blight Digest
  • Heroic Fantasy Quarterly
  • New Myths
  • Bastion Science Fiction

The following markets have permanently closed / appear to be dead

  • Lore
  • Aercastle Narriatives
  • Eldrich Press
  • Specutopia

Other

  • PodCastle is now a Pro market

Keep on writin’.

CR Hodges

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Ragnarök Willie wins 2015 Pikes Peak Writers Zebulon Fiction Award

My mythica novel, Ragnarök Willie has won the 2015 Pikes Peak Writers Zebulon Fiction Award in the urban fantasy category. To say I’m excited about this would be a huge understatement, although I’m also more than a little intimidated.  Besides my 15 seconds of fame accepting the award, I’ll also be querying Ragnarök Willie at the Pikes Peak Writers Conference the end of April.

winter train

I’m practicing my blurb, so here it is (more info and an excerpt on my updated Ragnarök Willie page):

When an eccentric archeologist unearths the prehistoric fortress of Valhalla, thirteen semi-mythical valkyries, an ancient pagan cult, and young Lasse Nordberg all head north.  The valkyries are vying with each other over global domination.  The pagans are plotting revenge for the millennium-old Christian invasion.  Lasse, a university dropout and video game junkie, is looking for a job, a girlfriend who doesn’t cheat, and a decent latte.

Thrilled to find work at an obscure newspaper in the frozen armpit of arctic Sweden, Lasse is assigned to report on the dig.  He wonders why his blond boss keeps a bevy of throwing axes in her desk drawer.  And why the sexy druidess keeps asking him about old hunting horns.  He should do more than wonder: his boss is one of the valkyries, wingless but deadly, and his druidic girlfriend is using him to find Gjallarhorn, the not-so-mythical horn of Heimdallr.  Which, if blown three times, will awaken Odin’s undead warriors for Ragnarök, the battle at the end of the world. 

Come Midwinter’s Day, his back to a pillar of fire, surrounded by warring valkyries, a blue-bearded giantess charging at him, Lasse has already blown Gjallarhorn twice.

Wish me luck.

CR Hodges

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Characters need to smell the roses too

It’s not enough for characters in fiction to see their enemies, hear gunshots, taste arsenic and feel the fine blade of a dagger at their throats.  Onomatopoeias ( fancy word for spelling out sounds like meow or thwunk) are terrific, but characters, and readers, also need to smell the roses.  And saltpeter. And rotting corpses and the fishmongers down at the wharf and cheap perfume.

Dead Rose

I spent several hours today adding the sense of smell to several characters across several stories. Duncan and the hickory log in his old wood stove. Geira and the sweet smell of bat guano. Lasse and the not so sweet smell of his own boot burning in the fires of Muspelheim. And Buddy and the phantom scent of his murdered wife’s roses.

Overdoing smells of course also has risk–in the middle of battle a swordmaiden is unlikely to ponder if that tinge in the night air is lavender or milkweed.  But still evoking all 5 senses helps the reader put themselves in the story, not just reading it.

And yes I am also a big fan of twunk.  As in an ax blade sinking into a wall.  Or a neck.  Fictionally, of course.

CR Hodges

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Updated list of paying spec fiction short story markets: February 2015

Too cold to do anything (well, almost anything) but write. In between shovelling snow and my day job running and product design firm, I’ve actually been making good progress on a couple of novellas and also two new short stories, including  a new story about life as a ghost. Here are some new / updated paying spec fiction short story markets, as of February 22, 2015.  Stay warm everyone.

IMG_0143

And if you do find this list useful, come say hi on Facebook, I’m C.R.Hodges.Author.

Updates:

The following markets have been added:

Unfortunately, some have already temporarily closed (seems to be more now to have short reading periods)

The following markets have temporarily closed:

  • Bad Dream Entertainment
  • Stupefying Stories
  • Uncanny
  • Space Suits and Sixguns
  • See the Elephant
  • Nightscript
  • Shock Totem
  • Dark Fuse

The following markets have permanently closed

  • Science Fiction Trails

Other

  • Grievous Angel has new submission guidelines
  • Cosmos   has new submission guidelines
  • Shock Totem is open for novella submissions but on a royalty only basis.

Keep on writin’.

CR Hodges

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Good rejections

Writers are accustomed to rejection. Even superstar writers often earned many a rejection slip in their early days.  Stephen King’s first novel was rejected dozens of times; Ray Bradbury had 1000s of short stories rejected. While I am not in either of those esteemed writers’ class, I’ve personally amassed almost 300 short story rejections (along with 16 wins, but that’s not what this post is about).Rejected2

 

Most rejections these days are form emails, sometimes with an attempt to sound personal “we appreciated the opportunity to read your work, but…” A few rejections are personalized, typically these are the really close but types.  And a few markets seem to provide at least a few words of feedback.  And it is precisely this feedback that we writer’s crave far more than kind words.

As many of you know, I keep a growing list (well over 100 now) of paying spec fiction markets for short stories, including ones I have submitted to as well as may more.  A few markets stand out in terms of providing feedback either in terms of personalized notes and / or some level of tiering (“you made it past the first round but lost in the finals” or some such). The feedback is not always positive: one memorable rejection letter savaged my piece as promoting civil disorder, but any feedback has value.

As a way of saying Thanks to these markets, here are some short story markets that I have received multiple instances of useable feedback from. No guarantees of course.

Keep on writin’!

CR Hodges

 

 

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For whom the bell knells, redux

This is an update of a post a few years back on words that mix us writers up.

If only Hemingway had used that for his title, maybe I wouldn’t have had a character knelling to pray in a finished manuscript submitted to a prestigious contest.  I got got of course, and I won’t (probably) make that mistake again, but then again, maybe I will.  It’s not exactly a homonym, but it’s one of those close-enough-that-spell-check-lets-it-pass nyms.

Recently a fellow writer pointed out that I’ve been using discrete for discreet for decades, highly embarrassing.  Hopefully my errors were so discreet that no one noticed.

As writers, we try really hard to not let our bares bare arms in their bear arms, and we make little checklists of these homonyms (and other nyms):

  • “There, there, they’re there,” said their father
  • You bear arms in bare arms
  • “Nell, pleas kneel when the bell knells,” said Neal
  • It’s its…
  • Hear here
  • The deserter ate dessert in the desert
  • The cavalry never arrived at Calvary
  • “Yea, I said yeah,”  (or is it “Yeah, I said yea”?)
  • Who’s is whose?
  • In order not to err, the heir came up for air
  • Please be discreet about the discrete errors I’ve made
  • Do you hale from a land with lots of hail?
  • A writer must be hardy to endure the hearty laughs at his or her errors
  • Some writers flaunt their flouting of rules
  • I’m writing a book about the soft petals of roses that I intend to soft pedal to publishers (not really)
  • It is not an everyday occurrence to use everyday instead of every day

Been burned on more than a few of these. When I was writing “The Cavalryman’s Saber,” I looked up  cavalry vs Calvary a dozen times , since the cavalryman was not a Calvaryman.

As for whom the bell knells, it knells for The.

Feel free to post your personal nemeses (which is indeed the plural of nemesis, I just double checked)

CR Hodges

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