Author Archives: funny

If You’d Asked Me… Wife’s Vicious Dog: Am I Liable? *FREE READ!*

This book is a work in progress. You can buy a copy, right now, in PDF format, or, if you like, as a paperback. For details, visit our home page or send a request through our Contact form.

To follow the progress online, click on the little orange icon beside the P&S Press feed, over there in the right-hand sidebar. ⇒ ⇒ ⇒

SECTION 1, Continued:

God Is Great, Beer Is Good, and People Are Crazy

11. In California, what is my legal exposure (and methods for mitigating it) if a dog that my wife obtained (despite my disagreement) attacks someone unprovoked and causes injury or property damage?*

So, this hound hasn’t done any harm yet, but you suspect it will? And she got the dog over your objections? AND you live in California?

Divorce her. This will require you to split all community property — remember, community property includes community liability. However, a divorce might be cheaper than what a serious biting incident will cost you.

Kidding aside: if you’re concerned about a potential liability brought on by her unwise behavior, why not get unhitched but continue to live together? As long as you’re not legally married, most of your assets might be safe from a lawsuit, assuming you weren’t responsible for the animal’s behavior. Of course, the victim could claim you are . . . presumably anyone who lives in the house where such an animal is kept is responsible for the animal’s behavior.

No . . . on second thought, I’d say divorce her and move out. That’s about your safest bet.

§

* Yes, friends, this post is /s. Absolutely positively /s. If a question like this arises in your real life, ask a lawyer! I am an English major; I am not a lawyer. Always seek professional legal advice for questions involving the risk of legal liability.

Isn’t it amazing how you have to tell people that? 😀

Ella’s Story: Chapters 7 & 8 *FREE READ!*

This is a story about people who live ordinary lives as citizens of a vast interstellar empire. Indeed, a galactic empire. Each chapter will be posted individually here at the Plain & Simple Press blog, and then collected at a single page devoted to the book. Come on over to the Ella’s Story page to find all the chapters published so far, as well as the cast of characters and a list of place names.

Ella’s Story

7.

Her feet were freezing. She wished she had Vighdi in the bed with her, to warm her up. Vighdi would let her put cold feet up against some part of her body. Might complain about it, but never pushed her away. She pulled the blanket over her shoulders and wedged a pillow lengthwise along her belly, curling up around it.

Once a soldier of the Syndicate, always a soldier of the Syndicate. That was the rule. Didn’t matter what happened to you, where you went, what you did, what you tried to do. When you swore your oath to a Band, you swore into the Syndicate. From that time forward, through eternity.

Assuming there was an eternity.

§

Dorin had never admitted to it – Syndicato, that is. But all the signs were there.

She knew he’d made his living back on Samdela as a burglar and a fence. Supported himself, a woman, and a couple of kids in the life. You couldn’t pull that off without a few connections. Not without knowing a guy. Or three.

He’d gotten caught inside some mark’s house. Red-handed, as they say. That was the end of a fine career. The jerk came home before the job was done. And Dorin went to the slave market.

Oh well. He couldn’t have been living like he did now when he was on Samdela, however much he stole…one big, grim, hazy urban slum, most of it: pole to equator to pole. The Syndicate would have taken care of his family. No doubt he missed them. But he didn’t have to worry about whether they went hungry.

Every now and again he would let something slip. Like knowing “a guy.”

Like the bottle of fine brandy, unaffordable to any slave who didn’t have some connections, that he kept locked inside his desk.

Like his expectation that if you worked for him, you would be loyal to him above all others. Even, she sometimes imagined, above the Kaïna. Not that it would come to that, because he was loyal to Rysha above all others.

Like his bottomless skill at organizing and planning. And his confidence that if something needed to get done, he could get it done – even if it meant beating the system.

Maybe especially if it meant beating the system.

8.

Such a man could mean trouble.

He was a good-looking man, that Lohkeh. She noticed him early on, sitting around the lounge where Bhotil first took her to show her how beautiful the universe was, where the sparkling bowl of the galaxic sky arched across a clear dome over the big room. She had never seen stars before.

“What are those lights?” she’d asked Bhotil, astounded.

“Those are other suns, other worlds, other moons. You can’t see them on Samdela because there’s so much dirt and light in the air.”

“What?”

“We call them stars. They’re a long, long way from here.”

“Worlds?”

“Uh huh. Some of them.”

“Is one of them Samdela?”

“Probably. It’s too tiny for us to see from here. We might be able to see your sun. If we knew where to look.”

She glanced away, nonplussed. Across the room she could see a part of Samdela: a man unmistakably Samdi. Unmistakably a capo, even, despite his shorn brown hair and the slave livery he wore. You couldn’t miss the style, the swagger, the eloquent self-confidence.

He didn’t notice her, though. Not then.

Not while she was working in her first job, wrestling sheets and towels in the lunar resort’s laundry room, scrubbing floors and cleaning toilets and showers.

He didn’t notice her when she moved up to running the housecleaning division, either. Even though she moved up with record speed.

 

 

The Complete Writer: Stages of Revising & Editing *FREE READ*

The Complete Writer is a work in progress, published a chapter or two at a time here at Plain & Simple Press. To read all the chapters online so far, go to the Complete Writer page. You can buy a copy of the whole book, right now, in PDF format, or, if you like, as a paperback. For details, visit our home page or send a request through our Contact form.

To follow the progress online, click on the little orange icon beside the P&S Press feed, over there in the right-hand sidebar. ⇒ ⇒ ⇒

The Complete Writer:
The Ultimate Guide to Writing, Publishing, and Leading the Writer’s Life

Chapter 6
The Importance of Revising and Editing

Reviewing, revising, editing, and polishing your work form a huge part of the process of writing. In fact, revision and editing are key to successful writing. A glance at the steps in the writing process reveals the large part revision plays. Everything above the §§§ section break §§§ represents the initial drafting. Everything below it represents the steps successful writers take to produce good copy.

Fact and content gathering

  • May entail research, interviewing, exploring, observing, remembering, thinking, reflecting, imagining

Considering the facts

  • Checking your facts for accuracy
  • Organizing them, listing or placing them in some reasonably logical order
  • Considering the audience, debating what is of interest or importance to readers
  • Reflecting on the tone, organization, language appropriate to audience and subject

Composition

  • Organizing
  • Putting the material into words

§§§ Cooling-off Time §§§

  • Rereading the document
  • May involve discussion with an advisor or editor; may be interior discussion
  • Taking notes, marginal notations, etc.
  • You may want to do a “quick revision” here and then have a trustworthy reader review and comment on the draft at this point.

§§§

Returning to the draft: Revising

  • Rewriting the material with the reconsideration and discussion in mind.
  • Reorganizing
  • Recasting language to make it more understandable, more appropriate, or more engaging
  • Adding material
  • Deleting material
  • Fact-checking

Reconsideration and discussion II

  • Reviewing the draft again
  • Discussing it with a trusted reader, if you have not already done so
  • Revising the organization and making changes suggested by reader

Returning to the draft: Revising

  • Rereading and listening to the composition
  • Incorporating new ideas from discussion, reflection
  • Polishing language, style, organization
  • Editing
  • Polishing, getting grammar, spelling, punctuation right
  • Sometimes minor reorganizing

As you can see, gathering or inventing material for the content and drafting the basic composition amounts to about half—at the most—of the whole job of writing. In other words, at least half and often more than half of the job involves revision and polishing!

Most people find it easier and more workable to separate the revision and editing processes, since they require two different kinds of thinking. Let’s start with revising, then. I will share with you some of my techniques, and then I’ll offer some ideas described by Peter Elbow in his book, Writing with Power.¹ If you are seriously interested in writing, you should read this work.

¹Peter Elbow, Writing with Power: Techniques for Mastering the Writing Process. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1998.

Coming up: Six Steps to Revising and Polishing

So…How’s the FREE READS publishing scheme working out?

Not bad, thank you! I’ve now been slinging a chapter a day from one of three books — Ella’s Story, If You’d Asked Me…, and The Complete Writer — which has put up a fair amount of content over the past three weeks.

Results?

  • It’s kept me amused.
  • Readers have expressed enthusiasm.
  • It provides copy to post at the Facebook writers’ forum I frequent.
  • It seems to be attracting traffic to the P&S Press Facebook page.

That’s nice. It also is

  • …wearing me out!

Trying to get five of these things online every week while also operating a monetized blog and trying to write the rest of Ella’s Story and keeping up with client work and having a life (of all things) is a little much. Lately, because of a health issue, I’ve had to go so far as to get up off my duff and exercise every day, which consumes a couple hours of nonrefundable time.

So, instead of posting a chapter a day of each book, in rotation, I’ve decided to publish just one chapter of each book per week. In the case of a matched set, as it were, sometimes I’ll post two — as in today’s smart-ass offering of If You’d Asked Me. But most of the time: one chapter/week. Thus:

§ Monday: Ella’s Story
§ Wednesday: If You’d Asked Me
§ Friday: The Complete Writer

After just two postings this week, I can see that several benefits instantly kicked in.

  • Major de-complication! Trying to rotate three topics over five days in a seven-day week created a passing dizzy schedule. Now, instead of having to consult an involved calendar, I know that Monday is Ella, Wednesday is Asked, and Friday is Writer.
  • Slower, more manageable schedule. Not only is keeping track of this stuff a lot simpler, it also means the (formerly) frenetic posting has stopped impinging on the other tasks I have to do in any given day. Delaying the Ella’s Story publication schedule by about 30% takes the pressure off, since that story remains to be fully written.
  • More time to write. Even though two of the three MSS are easy to post, one is not: Writer contains a lot of graphics, meaning I have to chase down JPEGs in now-forgotten computer subdirectories and fool around with trying to translate a complicated design into HTML. Among the several things in life that I hate, coding ranks pretty high. So, getting five chapters online every week has consumed more time than I planned on. The three-post-a-week schedule frees many more hours to work on the Ella tale…and that is much needed.
  • More time to hustle up readers. I’ve been trying to post this blog on Kindle Blogs, as Barbara Grassey suggested at her site. But of course, nothing is ever simple: Amazon won’t let me just start a new account, as instructed. It demands that I sign in, because of course it recognizes my computer. It has forced me to create new passwords and then will not accept the new PWs. So that has created yet another damned techno-headache…and so now of course I need the time to disentangle that mess and try to get this stuff posted there.

😀

So it goes. Watch this site, for much more is to come.

 

If You’d Asked Me… Conversation with President Trump *FREE READ!*

This book is a work in progress. You can buy a copy, right now, in PDF format, or, if you like, as a paperback. For details, visit our home page or send a request through our Contact form.

To follow the progress online, click on the little orange icon beside the P&S Press feed, over there in the right-hand sidebar. ⇒ ⇒ ⇒

SECTION 1, Continued:

God Is Great, Beer Is Good, and People Are Crazy

9. If you could say one sentence to President Trump, what would you say?

“Please get psychological help, sir.”

10. If you could limit President Trump to four words tomorrow, what four words would you have him say?

“I resign. Good luck!”

 

Ella’s Story: Chapters 5 & 6 *FREE READ!*

This is a story about people who live ordinary lives as citizens of a vast interstellar empire. Indeed, a galactic empire. Each chapter will be posted individually here at the Plain & Simple Press blog, and then collected at a single page devoted to the book. Come on over to the Ella’s Story page to find all the chapters published so far, as well as the cast of characters and a list of place names.

Ella’s Story

5.

At this rate, she was never going to get to sleep. Leaving the light off – none was needed, after all, nor did she want to wake anyone – she slipped out from under the covers, pulled on a robe, and padded barefoot down the cool stone hallway to the side entry at the far end of the women’s quarters. The door was alarmed, but she had a key and a code, which she used to let herself outside.

Zaitaf cast her argentine glow across the landscape that spread out before Ella’s restless gaze. What a thing, she reflected. Who would have imagined she would ever see such a place, pastoral and only half-peopled, much less live in it? Monochromatic beneath the moon’s platinum mantle, the broad pastures, the sturdy manor house – conservative but large and commanding – the gardens, the domesticated woods, and off in the distance the low mountains from which Skyhill took its name glowed like a painting limned in ebony ink on silver. Lovely by daylight, this evening it took her breath away. It wanted to fill her with love for the place. But it also stole other things away from her: her self, her loves, her past.

She gazed up at Zaitaf and wondered which of those gray patches on its face was Ethra. Could a person see Ethra at all without a magnifying lens? And . . . how was it possible that she’d been here almost thirty years? That she’d spent almost ten on Zaitaf?

Djitti had died a couple years after Ella was brought to Skyhill, recruited as Dorin’s second in overseeing the estate’s staff. Her daughter, now the Kaïna, was ten at the time. Not quite twenty when her father was assassinated. Five years Kaïna now, Rysha was.

How did all that happen between yesterday and today?

Bhotil would be in his 90s now, if he’d lived. He had been good to her, helped her work her way up from the resort’s laundry to dispatching and then to supervising staff. She missed him.

Every now and again she missed Bhotil. Now and again. But she missed Vighdi—her lover, her boss—every day.

Vighdi, shining bright in the sky. What was she doing now? Was she still on Zaitaf? Hell, was she even still living at all? Ella had never heard, one way or the other.

“Madame.”

She jumped, startled out of her reverie. At the door, watching her with a half-smile, stood Dorin.

“It’s after curfew. What are you doing out here?”

“Not much,” she said. “Just having a hard time getting to sleep. You, too?”

“Well, no. But opening the door sets off an alarm on my desk.”

“Oh, dear. I’m sorry. I thought my key would open it without waking you.”

“Well – at least it doesn’t wake the dead an all their kindred.”

“Can’t win, hm?”

“Never.”

He stepped outside onto the landing with her and stood gazing at the silver-plated landscape.

“Beautiful night, isn’t it?” he remarked.

“Oh, my, yes.”

Dorin stood quietly, his attention taken by the glowing scene. The moonlight picked up the silver in his hair and, to Ella’s eye, made him part of the show.

“So,” he said after a moment or two, “what’s keeping you awake tonight, Ella? Something on your mind?”

Ah. The talk-to-me gambit. She’d had the same steward’s training that he’d taken: social work and counseling. Maybe it was unkind of her, though, to suspect a “gambit.” Overseer, he was, but he’d also been a good enough friend to her.

She shrugged. “I dunno. Different things, I guess.”

He was quiet for a moment. The wait-’em-out gambit. She gave in. “The Darl business, I suppose. It’s just…a little much.”

“Upset you to see him suffering like that?”

“I suppose, yeah.” He waited some more. “No,” she added. “It’s not anything we haven’t all been through.”

“Most of us,” he agreed.

“When you think about it…well, hell. Dorin. You and I worked like animals to get where we are. This guy comes along, this guy, and he just drops out of the cooker into the dormitory at Skyhill? I mean…how does that happen?”

A dubious glance. “When did you start expecting life to be fair?” He actually sounded a little surprised. And yes. It probably was…out of character. The man could spot bullshit a mile away.

“Not recently,” she admitted. He smiled distantly, gazing at the silvered landscape. At length she spoke into his silence. “It’s just that it annoys me. This is Bintje’s doing. If she hadn’t gotten herself knocked up, we wouldn’t have to be dealing with a new slave, and the paperwork and the damn blacksuits in our faces and the training and the headaches that go with someone fresh out of the cooker.”

“Well. It’s not Bintje’s fault she got pregnant. She had the shot. You saw her get it. And you know the stuff doesn’t work a hundred percent of the time.”

“Okay, so Bintje brings home a belly, and the mistress decides…what? She’s going to buy a doctor for her? Why? The place is crawling with perfectly fine midwives.”

“She’s right that there isn’t enough medical care for people in service. Certainly not out here.”

“That’s why we have aircars: to take people into a hospital in the city.”

Dorin assented with a subtle laugh.

“How many times have you had to do that? All of…what? Once!” She was getting on a roll now. “For heaven’s sake. A parlor maid turns up pregnant, so we provide some crazy new medical service for every estate on the north side of E’o Cinnora?

“And what are we going to do if the Kaïna finds out that the sire of this urchin is a free man? For the love of all the gods! You and I are the ones who’ll get the heat for that.”

“Well, she’s not going to find out.”

“All she has to do is look it up in the girl’s records.”

“Why would she do that, when she has us to push papers, Ella?”

Exasperated, she gave him a look. “Accidents happen.”

He shrugged.

“And the child is his,” she continued. “If he knows about it, he’ll send the blacksuits to come take the baby away. Won’t that be a fine little drama!”

“He does know,” Dorin said.

What?

“A little talk was had with him. He agreed to sign the baby into the Kaīna’s possession. She’ll be born into Rysha’s service. She’s already inscribed in the state records and in ours as a slave. Belonging to Rysha Delamona, Kaïna of This, That, and the Other, not to Exclude the Whole Fucking Universe.”

She stared at him in astonishment. He smiled back at her and then returned to taking in the moonlit night.

“How the hell did you pull that off?”

“Well. It’s not what you know…”

“Uh huh. Some friend in high places?”

“Look. Far as I’m concerned, diddling a slave woman is rape – or it is, if you happen to be a free male. It is against the law. I know that, he knows that, we know that. It wasn’t very hard to track him down. He gave Bintje a fake name. But when he paid for his food at the dive where he picked her up, his financials went into the system. Along with a video of him coming on to her.

“After it occurred to him that he might not enjoy life on some asteroid, he got real interested the alternatives.”

She considered this for a minute.

“So…you had this ‘talk’ with the man?

“No, ma’am. Just happened to hear about it. From a guy I know.”

A guy I know. Once a Syndicato, always a Syndicato.

“Holy shit, Dorin! Do you know how much trouble we’ll get into if the Kaïna finds out about this and figures out we hid it from her?”

“Oh, no. It never entered my thick little skull.”

“Dorin…”

“She’s not going to find out. And even if she does, why should she care?”

“Why should she care that the father’s a free man and so the baby should be, too?”

“Not anymore. He signed the baby over to service. Permanently.”

“Seven Gods and All Their Cousins,” she swore softly.

He fell silent, as in this conversation ends here. Not so much luck, though. . .

“What if Bintje blabs to this doctor, this Darl? And what if he tells the mistress?”

“Well. We may have to have a little chat with him, too, before that can happen.”

“A secret’s not a secret when everybody and his little brother know about it.”

Dorin shrugged. “It’s not a secret. It’s public record.”

She sighed, annoyed beyond words.

“It’s too early to think about this stuff now, Ella,” he continued. “The guy’s in no shape to do any work, and he won’t be for four or five weeks. Bintje’s fine, and she’ll stay fine for that long. Mistress knows she’s pregnant and she thinks – correctly – that it was from a random encounter on a freeday. It hasn’t occurred to her to ask whether the sire was in service or in whose service, and I don’t think we should put that question into her mind. She’s busy. She doesn’t have time to worry about that kind of stuff. That’s our job – and we’re doing it. Right?”

“Oh, sure.”

She subsided. He made no rejoinder to this last jab. Knew it was pointless, she figured. The two stood quietly together, each returning to their private thoughts, gazing across the metallurgical landscape. A cool breeze was coming up, and the moonlit leaves began to shimmer as they whispered in the flowing air.

“Well, sister,” he said, about the time she felt it was growing cold, “we have to get up at dawn. Think we ought to go back to bed?”

“I suppose,” she said. “I’m sorry I woke you up.”

“That’s all right. We probably needed to talk. Besides—what a fine evening!”

Inside, he bade her a good night before she headed down the corridor through the women’s quarters and he walked back to his own room.

6.

A guy I know. Yeah. He was a Syndicato, all right.

Writers’ Scams: Keep Your Wits about You!

Long, very busy day: No time to mess with coding another book chapter. Nor, if there were any such time, do I have the energy left to do so. Ergo…the next installment in whichever book is coming up will have to wait till tomorrow. Instead, a brief warning to all of us who want to be writers: f’rgodsake, keep your wits about you.

Over at Facebook, writing consultant Barbara Grassey (one of my favorite FB friends) posts a cogent remark:

Ugh. Another $4,000 weekend seminar has come to an end and the attendees are posting pictures of their “book signing” — a staged photo with a mock-up of their book (which is not yet written). My eyes rolled so far back into my head they almost got stuck. Really people… you can hire 20 extras (or really just grab 20 people at the coffee shop or Barnes and Noble), have a friend snap a picture of you with your fake book, buy everyone a coffee and a danish and save yourself $3,900 plus travel expenses.

Got that? One of her followers was nonplussed. Said this benighted soul:

I was not aware this was a thing at conferences.

{sigh} No kidding? B’s response:

I know of this one weekend seminar where people go, they work out the title/subtitle of the book, there are people there who “design” the cover, then they take pics with the mock-ups as if they are doing a book signing. THEN… they put the books up on Kindle/Amazon as a pre-sell, get everyone in the room to buy each other’s books (at $0.99 each) and when the book launches, they have immediate sales, usually enough to get the book to bestseller status. That’s how they guarantee that a book will be a bestseller.

Folks. This is not a joke. Not a fluke. Not an odd one-off thing. It’s impossible to overstate the prevalence and number of scams out there targeting wannabe writers.

And you know…even those of us who are pretty well published (that would include yrs truly) are, all of us, wannabe writers. People who want to write…well, we WANT TO WRITE. We write because we want to write, and because we want to be read. It’s a deep-seated, heart-rending desire.

That craving, that ambition leaves us vulnerable to all sorts of predators.

Me, I started Wanting To Be a Writer when I was a kid. In grade school I’d write little “books” that I’d sew together and “publish” by handing them out to family and friends. (Yes, they did think I was crazy.) In high school, I was the darling of English teachers. In college, I wrote nonstop in and out of class.

Over time, I became a published, paid, “professional” writer…as much by serendipity as by design: first managing to get my dissertation published through a prestigious house, then drifting into public relations and journalism, passing through the editorial staff of the world’s largest regional magazine, publishing two more books, and finally ending up teaching writing and editing to upper-division students.

Over those years, I saw so many wack-sh!t schemes to prune money from would-be writers that we couldn’t even count them. The conferences that will get you nowhere. The online courses that will teach you nothing. The MFA programs guaranteed to render you unemployable (and probably unpublished). The outfits that promise to anthologize your (fill in the blank: article, story, poem, bio) in return for you buying their overpriced “book”. The contests that everyone (who pays) wins. The websites that will make your self-published book famous. The “publishers” that will take your unvetted magnum opus to press — for a hefty fee. Amazon.

Jayzus, but the woods are full of the bastards.

Please be careful. I don’t even know how many ways to tell you not to jump. But I can suggest to you that one excellent resource is Writer Beware. Otherwise: regard everything with a jaundiced eye. If it sounds good, it probably isn’t.

If you want to be a Writer with a Capital W, that’s fine. But just remember: you’re not going to get famous today. Or tomorrow. Or (probably) ever. Successful writers are the products of successful marketing campaigns, not of great writing.

If you want to make a living as a writer, get a job. Go to work on a periodical, in a publishing house, or for a paying website. You can make a living as a journalist (well: sort of a living), as a technical writer (decent pay!), as a public relations writer, as an in-house communications specialist, as an ad copy writer.

Consider: suppose you were a carpenter. What would you do?

Yeah: get a job.

Writing is a craft very much like carpentry. Like carpenters, writers build things. A table, an article; a house, a book: it’s all much of a kind. The carpenter builds skills over the years, meets other carpenters and employers and private customers while building those skills on the job.

Same with a writer. Exactly the same.

Want to be a writer? Get a job.

And remember: You don’t pay people for the privilege of writing. They pay you.

 

If You’d Asked Me… Wife vs. Mother-in-Law *FREE READ*

This book is work in progress. You can buy a copy, right now, in PDF format, or, if you like, as a paperback. For details, visit our home page or send a request through our Contact form.

To follow the progress online, click on the little orange icon beside the P&S Press feed, over there in the right-hand sidebar. ⇒ ⇒ ⇒

SECTION 1, Continued:

God Is Great, Beer Is Good, and People Are Crazy

8. Can my wife legally keep my parents from visiting our home due to simply disliking them?

And you married this because…?

We have children together, and she has repeated that they will not see them. What can I do legally? I want my parents to see their grandkids. There’s no abuse.

You need to talk to a lawyer or at least a marriage counselor. Why are you asking a question like this at an Internet hive mind when you need expert advice?

Why are you still having babies by this woman? From what you describe in your lengthy response (below, to another commenter) her behavior toward you is abusive. Stop getting her pregnant. And get a lawyer.

You also need to know why—the real reason—she doesn’t want the couple around her children . . . is it possible that there was some child abuse that she’s afraid to talk about? She could be afraid that the children will be taken away by CPS if a report of sexual abuse comes out.

There’s often friction between a wife and a mother-in-law. I didn’t care at all for my mother-in-law, but I certainly never demanded that she never see the children. My sister-in-law, however, disliked our MiL so much that she told her husband that MiL was not to stay in their home. Mil could stay in a motel but not at their house. If dear brother-in-law insisted that she stay at their home, then my sister-in-law would go to a motel. Other than being an annoying, arrogant fruitcake, our mother-in-law was not abusive. She was just so irritating it was difficult to be around her for more than a few hours. But neither my sister-in-law nor I thought “annoying, arrogant fruitcake” was a reason to deny her access to her grandchildren. Something more is going on here.

The Complete Writer: Dogged Clichés *FREE READ*

The Complete Writer is a work in progress, published a chapter or two at a time here at Plain & Simple Press. To read all the chapters online so far, go to the Complete Writer page. You can buy a copy of the whole book, right now, in PDF format, or, if you like, as a paperback. For details, visit our home page or send a request through our Contact form.

To follow the progress online, click on the little orange icon beside the P&S Press feed, over there in the right-hand sidebar. ⇒ ⇒ ⇒

The Complete Writer:
The Ultimate Guide to Writing, Publishing, and Leading the Writer’s Life

Chapter 5
Dogged Clichés

The other day I had to apologize to blog readers for not posting regularly because, I explained feebly, I’d been sick as a dog. And of course, that brought to mind the issue of clichés. In specific, dog clichés!

In teaching, I often use the “raining cats and dogs” snoozer to help students figure out how to recognize a cliché: if you can say the first few words and the rest fall into line as the night the ____, you can be pretty sure it’s a cliché. So . . .

“It’s raining . . . “

“CATS AND DOGS,” they all chorus.

Harder it is to explain to them why we try to avoid cliché. They think of these bons mots as part of the language . . . and of course, when you’re eighteen a lot of old chestnuts are new to you, so you think they’re pretty catchy. Hard, too, at that age to know the difference is between cliché and jargon and between a literary allusion and a cliché (Death, where’s thy sting?).

In a larger context, the use of clichés in speaking or writing reflects a tendency to clichéd thinking. We see that in the political discourse of our time, and the effect has been exceptionally malign.

Politicians, business leaders, journalists, celebrities, and — most important — ordinary citizens no longer discern truth from lie, accident from plot, patriotism from cant, even crook from hero because we frame everything in Twittery, shallow clichés. These are short-cuts to thought: branding a statement, an idea, or a person a “lib” or a “repugnican,” “extremist” or “elitist,” “radical” or “ideologue” and on and on.

The problem with cliché is that it reflects lazy thought — or none at all.

Nothing is ever all cats or all dogs, all black or all white, all true or all false. We need to engage discourse to persuade our readers (or listeners) and to engage our audience in real, shared thought. To do that, you have to go the long way around: listen to the other side, and respond to the underlying, valid concerns that are expressed. Respond in depth, not with Tweet-lingo.

Cute turns of phrase quickly become superannuated metaphors and similes. Similarly, buzzy claims and thoughtless passion quickly turn into cant.

It’s thinking gone to the dogs…

If You’d Asked Me… Cigarette Smokers vs. The World *FREE READ!*

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SECTION 1, Continued:

God Is Great, Beer Is Good, and People Are Crazy

7. Why are people so rude to cigarette smokers?

We love you, but…some of us are not happy about chronic health risks brought on by parents who smoked heavily throughout our childhood, and we resent having still more of that garbage shoved into our lungs by other addicts.

We love you, but…some of us don’t enjoy being reminded, in vivid detail, of the way a loved one died in hideous pain from the cancer brought on by smoking. The stink of a cigarette smells amazingly like the stink of a woman on her deathbed with cancerous fluids leaking out of her.

We love you, but…some of us resent the fact that corporations pushing a drug (nicotine) that is more addictive than heroin can enrich themselves legally on the suffering and death of millions of people. Including, to our despair, you.

And yeah: some of us don’t understand how people can be so effing stupid.

Should I go on, or do you have the idea yet?