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Thursday, March 31, 2011

WHEN IS ‘HISTORICAL’ A BIG FAT LIE?



 The least a so-called historical novel should be is accurate, right? Doesn’t the reader have the right to expect that? Even if it’s lousy. I mean, you might not be a good writer, but at least you can look things up. I heard a panel discuss this at the Tennessee Williams Festival and it got me thinking.

One of the panelists told a story about not being able to make his plot work during the historical period he needed, so he just made historical events time-travel. Whathehell, it’s a novel, he reasoned. Who’s gonna care? Nobody’s going to read it anyhow. But to his surprise, it got published. People did read it. And to his even greater surprise, he learned year later that it was required reading at a historical museum! And it was a tissue of lies.

It was a pretty funny confession and I was expecting the self-deprecating coda in which he said he sure learned his lesson, but instead he said what he’d actually learned was that if you wanted to write a really successful historical novel, you should just say history-be-damned and  do whatever you want. His novel, he said, was character-driven and literary and THAT was what was important.

There IS a kind of historical novel that depends on how things looked and  what it was actually like to live in a time period, but those novels don’t count because they’re genre, he said. Or something, anyhow, that his wasn’t. He even had a name for them, something like paddlewheels-and-magnolias. I’ve forgotten the exact phrase, but that’s close.

My personal opinion? That he’s a lazy and dishonest writer who can’t be bothered to do his job. I think he should be humiliated that docents at that museum are probably giving out false information because of him and  he should be working 24/7 to correct it. I think writers like him are one of the reasons there’s so much misinformation out there. But maybe I just have a guilty conscience.

Full disclosure: I recently finished a time-travel novel in which I couldn’t, after some twenty or so books, find out some things I needed, so I made up a few details. I confessed in an author’s note, but I still feel bad about it. Dammit, I think the reader deserves an accurate portrayal! I so much wish I could have done better. My book’s genre, no question, so by his standards I SHOULD have done better.

I wonder where genre leaves off and “literary” begins. Is “Gone With the Wind” genre? Is “Cold Mountain”? I honestly don’t know.  Historicals aren’t my field. Any opinions on where you draw the line?

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

SINCE WHEN IS "LITERARY" A GENRE?

Listen up, mainstream writers: You don't get to call yourself "literary" just because your book sold fewer copies than it has pages. (Can anyone tell I'm just back from a literary festival?)  If it's not a fan con, which, so far as I know, are events held ONLY for genres, at every single literary event, some mainstream writer on his first or second book--usually twenty or fifty--will be sure to tout himself as a literary artist. (Hmm. The pronoun may not be accidental, although I've occasionally seen women do it.)

It's always wince-worthy. Gentlemen, please! "Literary" means "having literary merit", and what makes you think you get to say that in polite society when you'd never mention how hot you are? (Though I think we're just supposed to know that if you're literary, you're hot). But still, you wouldn't say it! That would be embarrassing. Well, so's the other thing. You have to earn it, you can't just claim it by virtue of not being genre, which, it goes without saying, you consider something akin to icky stuff that gets on your windshield.

Having an MFA or teaching at an academic institution doesn't qualify you. Neither does having a publisher  so small it can't even pay advances. You know how many truly awful writers meet those criteria? Of course you do. You probably spend half your time being snarky about them.

But if you're such a person, you may be thinking I'm incredibly stupid, there's  a definition of "literary" that involves style and not merit, and that's all you mean. True, there is.  But who says you meet those criteria? "Literary" is neither a genre open to anyone nor a party you can crash. You actually have to be invited.  To repeat: You don't get to say it about yourself any more than you get to announce how great your rear end looks in a tight pair of jeans. But not to worry. Aunt Julie is hereby setting out a set of criteria under which you may call yourself or your novel "literary," even though it would be altogether tacky and a lot better to let someone else say it:

8. You have been favorably reviewed on Page One of the New York Times Book Review.
7. Or at least by Michiko Kakutani.
6. You have had a short story published in the Paris Review or The New Yorker.
5. Your novel was brought out by Grove, New Directions, or some other once-cutting-edge, now-venerable press that's made a reputation discovering literary stars.
4. Sonny Mehta is your editor. But be careful here. You could paint yourself into a corner. Mr. Mehta has been known to edit genre authors and we know what you think about THEM.
3. Your novel has blurbs from both Philip Roth AND Jonathan (Oprah-is-for-peons) Franzen.
2. You have been nominated for a Pen/Faulkner, National Book Award, or National Book Critics Circle Award.
1. You have won a Pulitzer,

Novelists not meeting these criteria yet bragging on themselves in public will henceforth be sentenced to wear a scarlet "P." For pretentious. And "poseur."

Monday, March 28, 2011

THE FEARFUL SYMMETRY OF HOCKING AND EISLER

This morning came word of Amanda Hocking's movie deal http: http://nyti.ms/hoXcUk  .  Never has so much happened in such a short time to one so young. Or at least not that I can remember. You just have to be happy for the kid who naively self-published her way into millions and now seems poised to become the new Stephanie Meyer. Last year:  $2 million sales online. Last week: A $2 million publishing deal. This week: the movie announcement.

Check out this amazing quote: “I’ve done as much with self-publishing as any person can do,” Ms. Hocking said in an interview on Thursday. “People have bad things to say about publishers, but I think they still have services, and I want to see what they are. And if they end up not being any good, I don’t have to keep using them. But I do think they have something to offer.” http://nyti.ms/h2YzVI .  Wow! How about that word "still"?  As if Big Pub is so yesterday. How long ago was it that any new writer on earth would have killed for the contract she just got and never questioned that it was the only way to go? Six months ago? Three months? A week?

Ms. Hocking's timing is amazing and maybe a bit ironic, coming as it does a week after her very own new publisher, St. Martin's Press, lost one of their other big authors to self-pubishing. Everybody's got something to say about it. Here's lee Goldberg: http://bit.ly/g1DcrZ .  He notes that a lot of the coverage of all this is  inept. Which is intimidating, considering I even blogs are coverage I guess. But here's what I think: This is a fantastic illustration of what publishing's become, and a look into the future. What we have here is an example of amazing symbiosis. Big Pub made Eisler and now he's going off to be an entrepreneur. Hocking turned her mom-and-pop venture into giant bucks and now she can reap the benefits Big Pub can give her. I say, you go, girl! And you too, Mr Eisler. Not to mention, dear old SMP-- they certainly recouped Eisler's loss about as flashily as possible. But I still bet they got a double dose of food for thought this week.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

WHAT'S THE GREAT AMERICAN MYSTERY NOVEL?

 This week I've had occasion to think on this subject, because I was asked to give a library speech about THE MALTESE FALCON; seems they had a reading program in which everyone read the same book and then they got speakers to talk about it. Like the Big Read, for which I gave a MALTESE FALCON talk last year.

I learned then the kids didn't particularly care for it. They thought Sam Spade was a big fat sexist--even the boys, and this is Louisiana! And it wasn't lost on them that he was also kind of a jerk. The Big Read itself didn't seem to have much respect for mysteries in general. "Some people," said their own flyer, "were surprised when THE MALTESE FALCON, a mystery, appeared on The Big Read list." Well, it's a classic, no question, but dated. And most people know the story anyhow--though from the movie, alas. If you actually set out to introduce new readers to mysteries, is this really the place to start? So I got to thinking, what have mysteries done for us lately? What would happen if you could choose a contemporary one--and only one--for a large group to read together?

Of course it's hard to say what I mean by contemporary. Sometimes we don't really recognize how good a book is until years later. I've got a little list up my sleeve, but some of the books are ten, even twenty years old. If I went back and read, say, Sharyn McCrumb's  terrific IF EVER I RETURN, PRETTY PEGGY-O, would I find it dated? I think maybe not, but when I think of that first stunner by Elizabeth George, A GREAT DELIVERANCE (1988), I know it couldn't help but be a little disappointing to contemporary readers, simply because the subject matter, childhood sexual abuse, has become shopworn in the intervening years. I have more candidates, even more recent candidates. But I have a terrible memory for this kind of stuff. If someone asks my favorite authors, as someone always does at a signing, my mind goes blank. Like it's going now.

So help me out here. Shall we limit it to the last 25 years? The more recent the better.What's the one book you'd choose? Your very favorite of that period.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

BARRY EISLER: PUBLISHING'S RUNAWAY BRIDE

 Barry Eisler's amazing walkaway from a $500,000 advance to self-publish electronically seems to have left the publishing world gasping for breath. ( http://bit.ly/enaJUP ) As for me, I'm not merely astounded, but aghast. As a publisher of ebooks, I guess I should  be rubbing my hands in glee, but instead I'm just not. I feel like I'm watching publishing as we know it commit suicide. Slowly and deliberately, like Virginia Woolf filling her pockets with rocks and walking into the river. (Did she really do that? I don't think I've ever seen it actually written down.)

I don't know. If I said this to St. Martin's, the brand-new publisher he left at the altar as the Wedding March was starting, maybe they'd shrug and say, so what, he's only one guy. But he isn't. He's about the third guy that everyone knows about. (There might be others. But the other two I mean are J.A. Konrath and Seth Godin.)  Godin's a best-seller; that had to hurt. If SMP was willing to offer Eisler half a million dollars, that had to hurt too. Not to mention the shock of  making the offer, going through the negotiation, and...well, getting stuck with a runaway bride. And his poor agent! All that work for nothing. Is he or she getting a cut of the ebook revenue? If not, I bet he'd like to kill Mr. Eisler.

 Not, to be clear, that I actually think Eisler did the wrong thing. His figures add up. It seems a smart business decision. It just seems so sudden. He said he did it because publishing changed so radically in the three months since he accepted the offer and the "paperwork" was competed. (Meaning, I presume, the final negotiations.) Looking behind the scenes, it probably wasn't sudden at all. I expect Mr. Eisler  asked for a better percentage of his electronic royalties than SMP was willing to give and they've been arguing about it the whole three months. If you look at what Mr. Eisler says are the figures (http://bit.ly/f1yhj0 ) , the other guy in the negotiation had to see this coming.

So it's St. Martin's I'm horrified at. I think. Couldn't they have picked up the pace if they wanted the deal? Why were they so intractable? (I don't know what he asked for--but couldn't they just bend a little?) No, I bet they'd say, that would set a precedent. Well, maybe it's time. Does Big Pub really want to bet the ranch it can bully writers into the tiny percentage of electronic rights they're offering?

They'd probably say, "We need to. Economics demand it. Our overhead and all." I'm thinking they better think of ways to streamline their overhead and accept reality.  I used to be published by St. Martin's, and I love them. I  sure don't want to see them go down. But, hello? Is it possible they're being unrealistic here?

Thursday, March 17, 2011

TEN BEST BOOKS I'VE EVER READ LATELY

Earlier this week I was so mean I'm compensating by being nice today. I'm listing my faves for the year, or maybe just lately. Who keeps track of dates? This is a totally no-holds-barred list, in which I indulge my penchant for YA, doggie books, chick-lit (if it's funny), bestsellers some may call cheesy, and  my friends' books. Not to mention mysteries, but nobody has to apologize for mysteries.
1. Number One has to be Nancy Pickard's THE SCENT OF RAIN AND LIGHTNING, partly because this terrific book wuz robbed in not receiving an Edgar nomination. Sure, it could still get an Agatha, but really! It could be Pickard's best, and that means we're talking terrific. (Did I mention Nancy's a good friend?)
2. Tied for second--  THE QUEEN OF PATPONG by Tim Hallinan, and Greg Herren's VIEUX CARRE VOODOO. Now Hallinan IS nominated for an Edgar and Herren's up for a Lambda Literary Award. (Disclosure: Greg and I work out twice a week together, and plot mischief, much of which we perpetrate, the rest of the time. Okay, okay, another good friend.)
3. MOCKINGJAY by  Suzanne Collins. I think I'm not alone here.
5. A DOG'S PURPOSE by W. Bruce Cameron.  I rate dog books by the number of tissues consumed.
6. MORE OF THIS WORLD OR MAYBE ANOTHER by Barb Johnson. See, I read something besides popular fiction. If it's by a good friend. Kidding! I hardly know Barb. But boy, can she write.
7.  THE HELP by Kathryn Stockett. I'm an Ole Miss girl, I'm not gonna like it?
8. PHONE KITTEN by Marika Christian.  Actually, she said, hanging head, I published this one (www.booksBnimble.com).  But, listen, it's my blog; I can name my own author if I want to! (She said, stamping tiny foot.) Such is the democratic force of the Internet. But it really is a seriously a fun book. Kind of reminds me of Jennifer Crusie's stuff.  But why believe me?--Check out our trailer -- http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m0faZl9lchM
9.  MAYBE THIS TIME, by Jennifer Crusie. Aha! This explains THAT.  I'm not much on ghost stories, but this one was delicious.
10. DEEP SHADOW by Randy Wayne White.  Quite the  tour de force-- it takes place in about four hours, most of it underwater. White's definitely not the kind of author who lets his series get sleepy.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Help! Author Intervention needed!

What to think when you read a book written by God himself and all you can do is pray it'll end soon? Okay, it wasn't really God. Actually just a god of literature, the kind whose reviews always include words like "greatest" and "best" and once, "greatest...ever." (By the way, this is NOT a review, more like a musing, a quiet wonder at what the author was thinking and why no one staged an intervention.)

Perhaps, whatever it is, it's a bit schoolmarmish. I'm in writing-teacher mode these days, working on turning my erstwhile writing course into an ebook, so right now, just at this moment, I'm the kind of prissy little nobody who might have the nerve to stand up and point a finger at a giant of letters for splitting an infinitive. Only that isn't what he did. If one of my students did what he did, I'd have to commit ritual suicide for having failed him so badly.

First, he sets the scene: Gorgeous filmmaker and getting-on but savvy and daring assistant are courageously setting sail (though in a powerboat)  to do a documentary on Somali pirates. They'll be out there, helpless and vulnerable for 27 days. This takes Mr. god four chapters and thirty-four pages , and he has me on the edge of my seat. Great set-up!  But here's how Chapter Five begins, slightly paraphrased:  "They were out on the boat for 27 days."

HUH? Hold it! I was ready for action. Totally locked and loaded. What happened here? Has the author just changed directions? Is this book about to be about something else entirely? Well, in fact it pretty much is, which almost no author could get away with but this one, because most people will go wherever he takes them. But he doesn't take them anywhere for the next ummm....sixty pages. Roughly. 

What he instead perpetrates is  a sixty-page flashback told in dialogue by two people watching film clips together. Like this:
"Remember this? Here's where the pirates boarded us."
"Yeah, the timing wasn't so hot. That was just after your gun fell overboard."
"Only because you got me drunk."

Those are actually my words, but trust me, I've been true to the spirit. I'd liked to have SEEN those three actions--and in reverse order, like in, you know...a story. Sixty pages of exposition through dialogue! (As the schoolterm term goes.) What was he thinking? And flashbacks at that.

 Are you there, god? It's me, Julie. I sincerely apologize for dissing such an Olympian as You, but could you let me know why did You did this to me? Couldn't You have just sent a plague of locusts?

Friday, March 11, 2011

LATE-BREAKING MARDI GRAS PIX

BEFORE THE WHIP WENT MIA;
THE OBLIGATORY  BARE BOTTOM
THIS WAS A WHOLE DAY OF THE DEAD FAMILY THING; GORGEOUS--THIS ONLY SHOWS A BIT.
PLEASE NOTE EXPLANATORY SIGN
TWO GORGEOUS LADIES FROM LAUREL, MISSISSIPPI, PAIGE HARRIS, TOP, AND MARDA BURTON 
THE END

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

My 10 Favorite Things about Mardi Gras


 I took literally hundreds of no doubt fabulous Mardi Gras pix, only to discover I’d lost my download cord (or whatever the technical term is), so no pix today, Instead a musing or two about why Mardi Gras's not only so much fun but such a gift  (see 8 and 9):

                     My 10 Favorite Things about Mardi Gras 

1.     You don’t have to wait till night to dance in the streets—or even till noon.
2.     You can drink breakfast with impunity.
3.     You can flirt with strangers. In fact, it’s pretty much expected.
4.     You can even kiss them—and in front of your husband!
5.   People give you presents. My favorite from yesterday: A wooden doubloon from   the Skeleton Krewe that says, “Sin, Repent, Repeat.”
      6. Normally dignified professionals in clown outfits and fake moustaches.
7. The rare and special opportunity to opportunity to use the word “revelry”. And the verb “to revel.”
8. Impromptu street theater. Like the James Dean and the Marilyn Monroe who met on Esplanade yesterday, and proceeded with a highly amusing courtship, particularly on the part of Mr. Dean. And the lion who charged the lion tamer (who happened to be Lee, always delighted to work out with his whip.)
9.The amazing creativity and focus of ordinary people devoted to the idea of letting their imaginations run rampant—if only for one day of the year.
      10. It’s the only day of the year that I actually like the way I look. (There should REALLY be a picture here!)

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

A Million Ways to Do Mardi Gras


I guess I’m taking a day off to digress. Because it’s Mardi Gras and Mardi Gras is too great not to share. If you’re from somewhere besides New Orleans, it’s possible you think Mardi Gras is lifting one’s shirt in return for plastic beads in the midst of a baying and unruly crowd. You may also think it’s a sloppy and drunken event resembling a twenty-four-hour fraternity party, and that you’d never be interested in such a thing. Actually, both notions are entirely correct. But you’ve got a blind man/elephant thing going on here.

The truth is, Mardi Gras varies by the block. Even by the household. Say you’re out running the streets. On St. Charles Avenue, you’ll see your families watching the parades, the little kids sitting on ladders with homemade benches built on top, and just about nobody in costume. Go to the lake side of the avenue and you might get a glimpse of Mardi Gras Indians These are…well, it can’t really be explained here.  Suffice it to say they’re the most amazingly costumed individuals you’re ever going to see, at Mardi Gras or anywhere else. For more info, check out  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mardi_Gras_Indianshttp://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mardi_Gras_Indians  
 Or better yet, watch Treme,   http://www.hbo.com/treme/index.html , David Simon’s  excellent HBO show set in New Orleans.

Move on to the French Quarter, and there’ll be a new Mardi Gras around every corner.  Here, unlike Uptown, everyone’s in costume except the tourists. On upper Bourbon, you have your tourist Carnival, the one with the beads and boobs (possible pun intended). On lower Bourbon, you have the Bourbon St. Awards , http://www.gaymardigras.com/bbb.htm    the gay costume event. Uh, wait. Did I say the Indians were…okay, the Indian suits are folk art; museum pieces. They’re beautiful, artistic,  and jaw-droppingly original. These guys’ outfits are some of those things too, and funny to boot. But so far as I know, no museum exhibits them. Maybe they should.

But the real delight is in the tiny marching groups, the neighbors or friends who get together to form their own themed mini-parade, like one I just read about (but haven’t yet seen) called the Krewe of Red Beans http://topics.nola.com/tag/redbeans%20krewe/photos.html      . They make elaborate costumes out of red beans, in partial homage to the Mardi Gras Indians.

Here’s my Mardi Gras: Up at eight o’clock to squeeze into the costume, slather on the make-up, comb out the wig of the moment (I have five so far and this year, I’m going with the green.) Then, mimosas in hand, my demon lover and I sally forth to wait for the Society of St, Anne  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EHg7ZUtKVsUhttp://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EHg7ZUtKVsU , the most beautiful parade of all. This one—no floats, just gorgeously costumed marchers--looks like a medieval pageant. It’s a neighborhood tradition to wait for it in front of the R bar on Royal Street. EVERYONE’S there. But you can’t tell who they are.

Now about the demon lover—actually, he’s my handsome husband on normal days, and, unlike his restless spouse, he wears the same thing every Mardi Gras: A strange and somewhat fearsome mask; a black cape (he has a selection, but I like the purple-lined one) and—this is the main thing—his special Mardi Gras whip. You’d be amazed at the number of ladies—and quite a few gentlemen—just dying to indulge in horseplay with a man with a whip. Which is what he loves about the outfit. Mardi Gras is all about horseplay. Having silly, spontaneous fun with perfect strangers.
            With luck, Pix tomorrow!

Monday, March 7, 2011

Literary Mardi Gras

 
Tomorrow is the great feast of my people, and I have corrected galleys due at noon Ash Wednesday. Ha! It is to laugh! It is to guffaw. Has anyone ever set a deadline on the day after Christmas? Certainly not, and certainly I won’t be home with my nose in a book on Fat Tuesday. Naturally, I’m gonna have to blog about what goes on out there, but how to make it literary?

Let’s start with the time I caught a panel at a literary festival in New Orleans in which the panelists  somehow got on Carnival. To a woman, they agreed they’d never write about Mardi Gras, because it was far too clichéd for their exalted selves. That made me squirm a bit, due to the fact that the very first book I ever wrote set in New Orleans was about Mardi Gras. I mean REALLY about Mardi Gras; not just about an event (murder, of course) that occurred at Mardi Gras. But about how the culture’s imbued with it. Who writes about that? In fiction, that is. (Well, the Treme people, actually, but this was at least a dozen years before the show was conceived.)

Try as I might, I could only think of one other story I’d ever read set at Mardi Gras—a piece of erotica about two masked people who didn’t know each other and…etc, etc. and ho-hum. Now that WAS a cliché. Even if no one but the author has ever actually written it. Because everyone’s thought it.

Since NEW ORLEANS MOURNING (my opuscule), Greg Herren (www.scottynola.livejournal.com) has gifted us with the highly amusing MARDI GRAS MAMBO, but a Google search shows there’s still little else on the subject except children’s books and non-fiction. Oh, yeah, except for that time I did it again, in another book, but that was the African-American Mardi Gras, which is wildly different from the white one.

So I guess those guys were wrong, except in theory. Just FYI. To get it on the record.

But I digress. My point is this: Even if there were a thousand Mardi Gras books a year, they’d only be clichéd if the authors stooped to cliché. Just as love stories are only clichéd if the author’s lazy. Because there are a million ways to write about love, some of them fresh and new. And everybody’s tried it. Who thinks love is clichéd?   Tomorrow: Running the Streets on Fat Tuesday

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Literary Mardi Gras


Tuesday is the great feast of my people, and I have corrected galleys due at noon Ash Wednesday. Ha! It is to laugh! It is to guffaw. Has anyone ever set a deadline on the day after Christmas? Certainly not, and certainly I won’t be home with my nose in a book on Fat Tuesday. Naturally, I’m gonna have to blog about what goes on out there, but how to make it literary?

Let’s start with the time I caught a panel at a literary festival in New Orleans in which the panelists  somehow got on Carnival. To a woman, they agreed they’d never write about Mardi Gras, because it was far too clichéd for their exalted selves. That made me squirm a bit, due to the fact that the very first book I ever wrote set in New Orleans was about Mardi Gras. I mean REALLY about Mardi Gras; not just about an event (murder, of course) that occurred at Mardi Gras. But about how the culture’s imbued with it. Who writes about that? In fiction, that is. (Well, the Treme people, actually, but this was at least a dozen years before the show was conceived.)

Try as I might, I could only think of one other story I’d ever read set at Mardi Gras—a piece of erotica about two masked people who didn’t know each other and…etc, etc. and ho-hum. Now that WAS a cliché. Even if no one but the author has ever actually written it. Because everyone’s thought it.

Since NEW ORLEANS MOURNING (my opuscule), Greg Herren (www.scottynola.livejournal.com) has gifted us with the highly amusing MARDI GRAS MAMBO, but a Google search shows there’s still little else on the subject except children’s books and non-fiction. Oh, yeah, except for that time I did it again, in another book, but that was the African-American Mardi Gras, which is wildly different from the white one.

So I guess those guys were wrong, except in theory. Just FYI. To get it on the record.

But I digress. My point is this: Even if there were a thousand Mardi Gras books a year, they’d only be clichéd if the authors stooped to cliché. Just as love stories are only clichéd if the author’s lazy. Because there are a million ways to write about love, some of them fresh and new. And everybody’s tried it. Who thinks love is clichéd?   Tomorrow: Running the Streets on Fat Tuesday

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Five Fave Writing Peeves




When all hell breaks loose, does it smell like rotten eggs?  It must, because of the brimstone. All that sulphur, ick. But who knows? No one ever talks about it, or mentions what it sounds like (an earthquake on Dolby?), or feels like (the inside of a blender?). The visuals must be amazing—all those damned souls flying around—wait a minute, was that Hitler who just went by?

Okay, end of writing exercise. I started thinking about it because I had one of those jangled, phone-ringing mornings, and the phrase popped up in my mind. But it also occurred to me that Elmore Leonard said “never say ‘all hell broke loose.’”  So naturally I went from there to  why not and…well, sometimes it’s better to just put your imagination back in the teapot.  Elmore (although I think his intimates call him Dutch) also said never say “suddenly.”  We all have our little peeves. Feeling masochistic?  Here's a couple more:

  1. “Visibly shaken”. Isn’t just “shaken” enough? I mean if you can tell I’m shaken, it must be because you’re seeing something. I’m pale, is that it? Why didn’t you say so? I think we can blame this one on reporters—nobody wants to read “pale” in a newspaper. It’s just too wimpy.

  1. “Yummy”. (To describe an attractive person of the opposite sex.) Well, actually a man. No man would describe a woman that way; that would be sexist. YOU know who does this— lazy romance writers.

  1. “Made my mouth water”. Ewwwwwww. Same thing, only worse.

  1. “I did just that.” You did not, you did “it.”  Isn’t “it” the same as “that” and isn’t “that” the same as “just that”? And doesn’t it sound a lot better?

  1. “And then it happened.” Nobody really writes that. Do they? You wish.