Widows? Orphans? SCREW 'EM! They shouldn't even exist in the modern world. Kill them off anyway you want. Modern technology makes them easily exterminated. Widows AND orphans, I say! All of them!
Of course, you know exactly what I'm referring to. Don't you? Oh, dear. I may have come across a bit Stalinistic in my zeal just now. Actually, you don't need to know whether you're dealing with orphans or with widows. The difference is only pedantic. They are publishing terms, referring to single lines on a page left unattached to the paragraph which they begin or end. An orphan is a line at the bottom of the page, a widow at the top. Never mind the mnemonics. The sin can be compounded when hyphenisation is involved, and becomes deadly when turning the page is also required, especially when there is a line break preceding or following.
If you self-publish, either you care about widows and orphans or you ignore them completely. Just imagine the royal flush – an orphan at the bottom of page 7 (recto), say, the line of dialogue as a paragraph, "I don't know who on duty has seen this. At least I know I have –
Then, on page 8 (verso), turn the page, is the widow – n't." Follow this with the line break. That's hitting the jackpot! Add a joker hyphenisation error, such as the-rapist, cow-orker- pain-staking, Craig-slist, mac-robiotic, and so one, and you see the fun of proofreading.
So, if you SP, POD, ARC one to me! But first, hire a good copy editor, proofreader, formatter, cover designer, organiser, all-rounder. A good, clean copy never goes unappreciated by publishers – or readers. The internet security experts warn that bad grammar and spelling are definite signs of email scams!! Try not to get caught.
FOR EVERMORE – These words are carved into the Cenotaph in London, the most sacred of war memorials, partly because, unlike the Tomb of the Unknown Warrior, the Cenotaph is an Empty Tomb.
The point here is that the words are not Forever More; neither are they For Ever More. The only proper way to spell these words is obsolete, except in that single phrase.
There are words that are just so confusing, I have to choose and hope for the best. Usually it's the words that can be written as one word or two, depending on the meaning. 'Any*more' is a good example. "I don't drink anymore." "I don't drink any more." Others include up*on, on*to, every*one, a*while, any*way, in*to. We should all know that 'alright' is NOT all right, and a lot is never 'alot'. Other choices may be stylistic, such as the -s at the end of toward, forwards, etc. Whatever choice you make in style, when the choice is yours, the most important rule of writing is to BE CONSISTENT, at least within one text. I read a book in which a character's name was spelt at least three different ways. And just there, back there – the word 'spelt' is spelt the British way. That's fine, but I must not spell it any other way within this text. I recall a story in which a murderer was caught because he forgot to pretend to be British and spelt the word 'plough' the American way – 'plow'. Even now, my spell-check is pestering me to change 'plow'. Which brings up my next topic —
CLIPPY - born 2001, died 2007
Clippy was the Microsoft talking paperclip who appeared on the right side of the computer screen to remind you or scold you or generally irk the hell out of you when something needed doing in your text. My only joy came from knowing that the French word for paperclip is 'trombone'. Well, it would be, wouldn't it? But – there are paperclips, and then there are paperclips.
When I was teaching for the US military in Europe during the Cold War (I worked in the Northern Zone, Donna Leon, before she became famous, worked in the Southern Zone), I got into the usual trouble with my superiors. (Well, I would, wouldn't I?) The oddest, and most amusing, incident involved paperclips. No, I was not caught stealing them from the office. I appropriated them from the students.
The class in question was Business Communication, taught on the NATO base in Iceland, and involved the students composing various writing samples – product information sheets, patent applications, marketing proposals, that sort of thing. I told the students (as I told every class that involved handing in papers) that I did not want pages stapled together, but paper-clipped. I warned them that I would keep the paperclips and return the pages stapled. I needed specimens for my paperclip collection.
Then came my incentive. I said I would give special consideration to papers with unusual paperclips, considering them to be part of the business presentation. I received all manner of oddly constructed paperclips – striped, butterfly-shaped, coloured, and so on. No harm was done, as I immediately forgot whose paper the clip had accompanied.
But a superior officer heard of this and suggested that what I was doing constituted elicited bribery to get a better grade. My explanation of the paperclip being a part of the marketing of the ideas presented in the paper was 'noted' – in a memorandum of misunderstanding, no doubt. I moved on in life. Now I collect rubber bands, mostly from fresh asparagus bundles.
An interesting fact about the NATO base at Keflavik is that, for 'technical' reasons, the entire island is considered to be a ship.
My first story published here at Purple Wall was A Mother's Heart. It was one of the stories that required the most careful research. I needed to study the weather conditions around Rome in the year 1581, and how it affected the crops. I needed to know various contemporary methods to abort a fœtus. And I needed to be familiar with church history.
Within that story, I hid (openly) the secret to the monstrous birth and death of its 'hero'. The secret is still there. The clues are quite sufficient to solve the mystery, or riddle, or paradox. Yet no one has spotted it. I have told only a half dozen people about it – none of you, to be sure. I challenge all my blog readers to uncover this conundrum.
Send your proposed solution to me at email@example.com, including as many details as you have figured out. Although I cannot offer a monetary reward, I shall print the names of the winners and their answers, after a suitable time has elapsed.
An Amusing Suffering was had by All
How the muse inspires! But my muse does not inspire me to write. No. He (in my case) drives me to the brink of sadness, madness, and utter gladness in Death. He goads me into near oblivion. Near nothingness. And then? And then, I write to escape my thoughts, my torments, my foolish obsessions with my muse.
The muse does not inspire creativity. He creates an environment, a mental disorder, from which the only escape is creativity. We write (or otherwise create) to placate the muse, to chase off the bad spirits that the muse evokes, if not actively invokes. We write TO the muse, FOR the muse.
And just to be absolutely clear, the muse does not always really care, or appreciate the effort. My muse, by his own admission, has never read a book in his life. Such is the challenge of writing! And my writing has rarely been better, sharper, more passionate.
The muse must, of course, receive our constant devotion, our respect, our honour, duty, and love. This feeds the muse in his lust for scorn. He chides and derides, he makes us suffer, and he laughs at our pain. He will tease us with relief, then taunt us with the consequences of respite. And he will deny us all this with the faux shrug of insouciance. And thus will he maintain an atmosphere of tension, of doubt, of insecurity. Even when you do churn out something exquisitely good, he will be standing behind you, making you ask yourself – Did I really write this? Or did I just remember it from somewhere else? Am I even good enough to have Imposter Syndrome?
Yes, you wrote it. You are good. You are worthy. You are a writer. And this I say unto you: Keep notes, keep handwritten drafts, keep copies of everything. Do not delete. Do not pass GO. Do not throw away any proof of authorship, however scrappy the paper may be. Keep real files of real evidence that you – YOU – wrote this story, this poem. And – study in order to be familiar with copyright laws. Pretend you're researching it for a story. Now go write your story.