Blast from the Past: Pet Peeves: Malapropism

A text-only version of this article appeared in my GoodReads blog on August 24, 2010.

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Mrs. John Edwards as Mrs. Malaprop, Via WikiMedia Commons.  No restrictions.

In his play The Rivals, Brinsley Sheridan introduces us to Mrs. Malaprop. Mrs. Malaprop thinks that she sounds very educated because she uses some pretty fancy words — but she has no idea what they mean, so she comes across as fairly ignorant. My favorite examples come from Mrs. Malaprop’s speech to Sir Anthony Absolute about her ambitions for her daughter:

“Observe me, Sir Anthony. — I would by no means wish a daughter of mine to be a progeny of learning; I don’t think so much learning becomes a young woman; for instance — I would never let her meddle with Greek, or Hebrew, or Algebra, or Simony, or Fluxions, or Paradoxes, or such inflammatory branches of learning — neither would it be necessary for her to handle any of your mathematical, astronomical, diabolical instruments; — But, Sir Anthony, I would send her, at nine years old, to a boarding-school, in order to learn a little ingenuity and artifice. — Then, Sir, she should have a supercilious knowledge in accounts; — and as she grew up, I would have her instructed in geometry, that she might know something of the contagious countries; — but above all, Sir Anthony, she should be mistress of orthodoxy, that she might not mis-spell, and mis-pronounce words so shamefully as girls usually do; and likewise that she might reprehend the true meaning of what she is saying. — This, Sir Anthony, is what I would have a woman know; — and I don’t think there is a superstitious article in it.”

An excellent page of Mrs. Malaprop quotes may be found at this link.

As you go through the list of what we now call malapropisms in honor of Sheridan’s comedic character, I’m sure you’ll notice that the main problem comes in with homophones/homonyms.

I got into a big argument recently with an author because he referred to “knocking an arrow” in his manuscript, and I called out his error. He showed me numerous blogs that show people “knocking arrows,” which amused me mightily (I used to be an archer).

I think that knocking an arrow is not a very good use for it. In fact, I would think that too much knocking would render it pretty useless after a while.

In order to aim a bow, you must first nock the arrow.

The dictionary is your friend, and should be the source upon which you rely. If you look up nock, you will find that its origin comes from the Middle English nocke, which means “notch.” The notched end of the arrow is called a nock because it has a notch.

Now, let’s look up knock. Not only do we see no definitions related to archery, but we also see the Old English origin of the word in knoken, meaning “to press.”

I could go on and on about this, because it is an unfortunate problem. I have seen people write “for all intensive purposes” where they mean “for all intents and purposes,” and “taken for granite” when they mean “taken for granted.”

Honestly, as an editor, these sorts of things leap out at me and make me cringe. However, there are worse potential consequences than my disturbance; malapropisms may result in your manuscript being pitched out by an acquisitions editor who, frankly, doesn’t have time to clean up after you.

Watch your homophones/homonyms, folks; you don’t want to be the next Mrs. Malaprop.

Blast from the Past: What Time Is It?

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A text-only version of this post appeared in my GoodReads blog on June 22, 2009.  The trilogy I reference eventually became two books and a short story collection, the Seen Through the Phantom’s Eyes series.  Enjoy!


For today’s entry, I want to focus on the importance of timelines. As a historical fiction author, I find that it’s important to know what happens when.

Timelines matter for more than just world events, of course. You want to make sure you know where your characters fall into the scheme of things as well. If your character is four years old in 1895, she can’t very well be 5 years old in 1902, for example.

Timelines are crucial for continuity. I’m working on the second book of a trilogy, and the main character from my first book will be in all three of them. I need to know how old Claire will be during the events that I’ve planned for the third book so that I can figure out realistically what actions she can take. In other words, I can’t have a 79-year-old lady doing the same kinds of things she did at 29 in many cases. It’s just not reasonable.

One author friend keeps a notebook with her timeline written in it, as well as various details about what is in a given room, etc., so that her continuity is flawless from chapter to chapter. I’m not nearly that formalized, but that’s what works for her.

How do you keep track of time for your stories? Please feel free to share your comments.

Blast from the Past: Thoughts on Being a Writer

lpd-v-3A text-only version of this post appeared in my GoodReads blog on July 7, 2009.  It eventually appeared in my book of essays, Les Pensées Dangereuses.  Enjoy!


I did a little more editing work on In The Eye of the Beholder today, both before I went to church and a little bit this afternoon after I re-watched “PS I Love You.” After services, Rev. Mike gave me my chocolate bar (a prize for correctly identifying the language into which one of MCC’s weekly reflections had been translated — Polish) and the reprint of my first entry in the Weekly Reflection series. My article was picked up by another MCC for their newsletter.

So, I’m watching “PS I Love You” this afternoon, and one of the letters Gerry sends to Holly talks about how he remembers her talking about creating something. Holly talks about how creating things shows the world something about you — something that you didn’t even perhaps know about yourself.

writer-1421099_640It seemed like all of these experiences today conspired to make me realize something: I had stopped thinking about myself as a writer. I guess I felt as though I no longer had that right after getting that rejection letter last year from the publisher. I thought I was deluding myself, you know? I had a novel — 55K plus words, with a plot and everything — but I had stopped thinking of myself as a writer.

I don’t know quite why. I started the book four years ago, during an especially dark time in my life. It took me three years to finish it. I am so proud of it — even as I go through this final batch of edits and tighten things up once and for all so that it can go up on the eBook site. But other than this blog, I had pretty much stopped writing until Rev. Mike asked me to write a weekly reflection. I used to write for a living, folks. But I stopped thinking about myself as an artist of words — I wasn’t kind enough to myself to think I had any business doing so.

word-cloud-936542_640The overarching theme of In The Eye of the Beholder is the importance of compassion. I also realize that it’s the overarching theme of my two favorite books of all time (The Man Who Fell to Earth, by Walter Tevis, and Phantom of the Opera, by Gaston Leroux). And yet I did not have enough compassion toward myself to recognize that I was shutting down the most creative part of me — the part of me that has, more times than I care to admit, shown me something that I didn’t know about myself.

So, here it is: I am a writer. I am an artist of words. My greatest gift is my pen (or, in this case, my keyboard) and what I make come from it. I am so very proud of myself for what I have written already, and I am grateful for finding my way back to that place.

(Public domain images via Pixabay)

Blast From the Past: My Interview with Tracy Portis Holmes, Part II

Hi, everyone.  As promised, here is part two of my interview with the late Tracy Portis Holmes.  A text-only version appeared in my GoodReads blog on July 22, 2010.


ITEOTB Wrap Cover frtWhat does Erik mean to you as a person, not as an author or do the two overlap?

Erik is the personification of Jung’s wounded healer archetype. He is in need of aid and compassion so that he may render aid and compassion to others.

Did you keep with the idea that Erik’s mother never kissed him or did you write a different mother? You do not have to go into details or spoilers. Just say yes or no if you do not want to elaborate. Or this may not apply in your novel. If not in your novel then what in your thoughts?

Eye Of The Storm Cover_revisedIt didn’t really apply in my novel, and very little of it is addressed in Leroux. I think that craniofacial abnormalities were poorly understood and that Leroux uses Erik’s deformities as a stepping-off place for social commentary about the shallowness of Parisian society.

Did you ever consider bringing Erik into the future in the times we live in now?

Nope.

Do you think Erik would have been a very possessive husband?

Absolutely.

opera-glass-cover-2Did you ever consider that Erik might have been sexually abused as well as physically by his captors at the fair?

It was not part of my consideration.

Have you ever wondered why Erik could not have fallen in love with a homely woman instead of wanting the beautiful Christine?

IMO, Erik’s feelings for Christine are obsession and covetousness, not love.

How many years in age apart are Erik and your heroine?

About 12.

What is you personal opinion of Raoul?

omnibusfrontcoverThe personification of the ideal husband during the era. He was much whinier in Leroux than Andrew Lloyd Weber made him; in Leroux there were times when I wanted to reach into the pages, slap him and yell “Pull yourself together!”

Most Phantom authors I notice do not allow themselves to read other Phantom authors books so that their stories will be theirs and theirs alone.How much discipline does that take?

A lot. Some of the ideas sound very interesting. Like Sadie Montgomery, I read a couple before I got my own idea — but that was the point at which I stopped. I don’t want to accidentally plagiarize.

Besides other Phantom authors who are some of your favorite authors?

Oscar Wilde, Anya Seton, Kathy Reichs, Sharyn McCrumb, William Shakespeare, Jane Austen, Marguerite Henry, Walter Farley, Jaimey Grant, Edward C. Patterson … and a host of others. My taste is pretty eclectic.

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Blast From the Past: In Which I am Interviewed by Tracy Portis Holmes

Hi, everyone.  A text-only version of this interview appeared in my GoodReads blog on July 17, 2010.  Tracy passed away unexpectedly early this year, and I thought I would share her two-part interview with all of you over the next few days.  Byron Nease, who is also mentioned in the text, has also since passed away.


Hi, everyone. Over on Facebook, Phantom fan Tracy Portis Holmes started a group called “Phantom Authors Unite.” She has kindly created this forum so that Phantom authors (and others) have a place to share their work.

Tracy recently sent out a questionnaire to several of the authors there so that she could publish interviews with us. Here is mine, with many thanks to Tracy for her generosity of spirit in giving us a stage.

How long have you been a Phantom Phan?

More than 30 years, since I first read Gaston Leroux’s novel. That’s how I came to the fandom.

Have you read Gaston Leroux’s original novel?

Yep. 🙂

What qualities did Gerard Butler bring to the character that you found unique?

I believe that each actor brings something unique to the role of Erik. Gerard Butler’s performance is just one of many that I admire, although in many ways I thought he was too young for the part. My favorite Phantom is Earl Carpenter, whom I saw on-stage in London. He sang to me, and I was immediately enthralled.

One of the things that disturbed me was the thought of this man being denied a sexual relationship. Did that motivate you in any way in writing your novel?

ITEOTB Wrap Cover frtErik’s virginity was not a motivating factor (and it’s not mentioned in Leroux one way or the other, even though it is strongly implied there while being spelled out in ALW). One of the things I did point out in my book was that the shah must have presumed that Erik was no different from a eunuch if he let him run around the harem.

Without giving any spoilers, how did you resolve The Phantom’s obvious obsession with Christine?

He met Claire, of course. 🙂

Was seeing Erik have a marriage and a family important to you and why?

Having unconditional love from an equal was more important to me than Erik having a child. To say more would give spoilers for the book. 🙂

I prefer the unmasked Erik. Does the heroine of your novel feel the same and how does that come about?

Erik’s face doesn’t scare Claire, because she’s seen worse. Her fiance, Philippe, is badly burned when he rescues Claire’s horse from a barn fire and eventually suicides because of the pain from his injuries. She nursed him, and would still have married him. No fear from her.

Did you ever think of exploring the possibility of Erik having a child that was deformed as he?

No.

Is Madame Giry and/or Meg Giry in your novel? Why or why not?

Madame is; Meg is not. Meg was such an ancillary character in Leroux that I didn’t feel like including her.

Lastly, have you ever seen ALW’s play on stage, if so any thoughts, if not, do you hope to? Have you seen any other Phantom stories on stage or movies you are fond of?

I’ve seen ALW’s show in London and Sacramento, a non-musical version of the play in Antioch, the Charles Dance (aka Yeston/Kopit), Claude Rains, Herbert Lom, Lon Chaney and Robert Englund films. I have cast albums from Canada, the UK, Germany, Italy, Japan and Mexico, as well as the cast album for the Yeston/Kopit “Phantom.” The Lon Chaney version is the closest one to Leroux and so I’m very fond of it. However, I love the Canadian cast; I’ve been fortunate enough to become acquainted with Byron Nease, who played Raoul in that cast. He is just the dearest man. I wish I had seen the wonderful Franc d’Ambrosio in the role (he has the record for most performances as the Phantom); Jeff and I have gotten to know him over the past few years and he absolutely has the voice of an angel.

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