Manuscripts Burn


"Manuscripts don't burn"
- Mikhail Bulgakov

Hi, I'm horror and science fiction author Steve Kozeniewski (pronounced: "causin' ooze key.") Welcome to my blog! You can also find me on Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, and Amazon. You can e-mail me here, join my mailing list here, or request an e-autograph here. Free on this site you can listen to me recite one of my own short works, "The Thing Under the Bed."

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Bar Mitts (Vah)

("Bar" with me.  I'm trying to make this a thing.)

Mitt Romney walks into a bar.  He turns around and says, "Oh, pardon me, miss, I didn't mean to walk into you.  I know bars are people, too."

Mitt Romney walks into a bar.  And shuts it down.

A liberal, a moderate, and a conservative walk into a bar.  The bartender looks up and says, "How you doing, Governor Romney?"

Mitt Romney walks into a bar and says, "Is this where poor people drink?"

Mitt Romney walks into a bar and says, "I really like this bar.  All the stools are just the right height."

Feel free to add your own below in the comments!  The best, by which I mean "any," may well be included in a future "Best of Bar Mitts" compilation post.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Double-Spaced Sentences...YOU DECIDE!!!™

If you haven't yet, go ahead and check out this post to find out what we're doing this week.  Or don't.  It's pretty straightforward.  You can also see our last discussion topic here.

Today's topic for YOU DECIDE!!!™ is...


You may have noticed (or if you haven't before, you certainly will now) that I always double-space my sentences.  I can't help it.  It's like breathing.  Or masturbating.  It just happens automatically no matter what  I try to do.  And up until...shit, maybe two weeks ago?  Maybe a month?  Up until not that long ago, I never thought anything of it.  Or if I did think anything of it, I thought, "Oh, good, you're doing just what you've always been taught."

And I am.  But the thing is, now they're teaching something else.  Apparently when I was coming up (and I may be betraying my age here, but hopefully not too exactly) computers were still more of an oddity than a necessity.  Business was done on typewriters, and we were just starting to edge into using word processing programs instead.  It was obvious to pretty much everyone except the congenitally stodgy that the transition would happen some day, but it hadn't happened YET.

So, it turns out that double spacing sentences is, according to some, a relic of the typewriter age.  It has something to do with typesetting for novels that only really had to do with the old-timey steam-powered printing presses of yesteryear operated presumably by Victorian-era coal miners with handlebar moustaches.  I've got to be honest here, and, once again I may be betraying my obvious bias, warranted or not, in favor of double-spaced sentences, but I just don't get this one.  (Hence why YOU get to DECIDE!!!™)

Like the serial comma, I see double spacing sentences as adding clarity and nipping reading comprehension problems in the bud before they happen.  So, for instance, you could be buzzing through a book and read "...St. Basil..." as "Saint Basil" when it was really two sentences, one ending in the abbreviation for "street" and the next one starting with the name "Basil."  You wouldn't have the same problem with "...St.  Basil..."

On the opposing side, I have to admit that while double spacing sentences can be helpful in reading comprehension, it's never strictly necessary.  Or, to use a metaphor, double-spaced sentences are helpful in the same way that training wheels are helpful, but once you've learned how to ride a bike you don't need training wheels anymore, even if you fall once in a while.  Yes, there are sentences where you might, if skimming, read "...Dr. Johnson..." instead of "...Drive.  Johnson..." but there are no sentences where the meaning is impossible to glean, especially after a second reading.  (Beloved blogketeers, can you come up with any?  I can't, and I'm on the pro side of this debate.)

And so, for those opposed to the double-spaced sentence, it becomes a simply matter of efficacy.  Let's say we're writing 50,000 words, the minimum for a novel.  Let's take 10 words per sentence as a rule of thumb.  By double-spacing this manuscript we add 5,000 spaces, which are characters, about the length of three pages of a book formatted for publishing.  So by double-spacing sentences we add three pages of blank space to our manuscript.

So the question becomes, is the length added to the manuscript by double-spacing negligible?  Or is the value added to reading comprehension by double-spacing negligible? 

Double-spaced sentences: Yea or Nay?


Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Serial Commas...YOU DECIDE!!!™

If you haven't read this post yet, go back and read it.  I'll wait. All caught up?  Okay, today's topic in YOU DECIDE!!!™ is...

The Harvard Comma! 

So.  This is one of those "what the fuck, I learned this in elementary school and now they're changing it...uh, fucking why" rules that I mentioned in the prologue to this short series.  Basically, here's the deal: when you're making a list you should use a comma between every item in that list to indicate that it's part of the list and not part of the greater sentence.  For instance:

This blog post sucks, blows, and makes no sense.

It's pretty basic, and one of the few comma rules that don't amount to, "Uh, I don't know, wherever you would fucking take a pause for breath if you were speaking this sentence out loud."  Now, apparently, though, the serial (or Oxford, or Harvard, or, I don't know, fucking MIT) comma has fallen into disfavor because it's supposedly unnecessary.  So, for instance, if you're starting a list, and you're using commas for the first couple of items anyway, everyone already gets that you're making a list so there's strictly no need for you to use just that last comma.  So our example sentence becomes:

This blog post sucks, blows and makes no sense.

Which is fine, I guess, for what it is, but I'm confused about the value in avoiding use of the serial comma.  Is there a severe comma shortage in our country today?  Are they like fossil fuels and we only have so many of them before they're all used up?  Because if it's a matter of preserving our precious commas, then I don't see why we don't just make the sentence:

This blog post sucks blows and makes no sense.

Why use commas at all in lists if we're not going to use the serial comma?

To play the devil's advocate for the other side (I'm afraid I've betrayed my loyalty to the Harvard comma far too early to continue to pretend to be impartial) I suppose they'd say that there are compound words that could get screwed up if you don't use those first few commas.  For instance:

We had turkey bacon ham and pickles laid out for the sandwiches.

Could mean:

We had turkey bacon, ham and pickles laid out for the sandwiches.


We had turkey, bacon, ham and pickles laid out for the sandwiches. 

Which leads us into the whole placement issue.  Presumably, in any case where you have hours to slavishly consider whether to use a serial comma or not, for instance if you were a professional writer who doesn't believe in deadlines (I'm looking at you George R.R. Martin and the late Douglas Adams) you could solve all of the problems that the serial comma solves with its mere existence (ahem!) by simply rearranging your list.  So with or without a serial comma you could simply clarify this list by making it:

We had turkey, pickles, bacon and ham laid out for the sandwiches. 

Thus the favorite bugaboos of serial comma pimpers such as myself are all relegated to the shithouse.  For instance, this sentence seems to call out for a serial comma:

President Roosevelt invited the assholes, Stalin and Churchill.

So, to clarify, if we don't wish to imply that our fellow Allies are asshole we should say:

President Roosevelt invited the assholes, Stalin, and Churchill.

However, the anti-serial comma crowd would be quick to point out that the same problem could be solved thusly:

President Roosevelt invited Stalin, the assholes and Churchill.

You know, come to think of it, I think I've represented both sides of this case pretty well at this point.  I've certainly represented the anti-Harvard crowd far better than I initially thought I would.  Which leads me to ask you, the readers, to tell me what you think in the comments.

Serial commas: Yea or Nay?


Monday, May 21, 2012

YOU DECIDE!!!!™ (Prologue)

First, let me preface this post by saying I hate writing posts about grammar.  I'm the anxious sort and a bit of a perfectionist (also a narcissist and a bit of a drunk, but those are less pertinent personality traits.)  Whenever I write a grammar post I sit there and diagram every sentence in it because I don't want to be an ass like this guy.  Or this guy.  Or this guy.  Or, I guess, any Tea Party guy.  That being said, I'll try not to overthink it for the next three posts.  Allons-y.

I generally like to think of my knowledge of grammar as a little above average.  I don't think that's a major boast.  I don't descend into lolspeak when texting or l33t on the interwebs (for the most part.)  I never really cared for or understood most of that, except for emoticons, which are now sadly kind of extinct.

But when it comes to the Queene's Englishe, I know my way around a participial phrase, if you know what I mean.  Still, though, I start sentences with "but" sometimes, and it's often been pointed out by certain wags around this very blog that I may not always necessarily differentiate between the uses of "it's" and "its" properly. 

Which is all to say that as a general rule, I at least usually KNOW when I'm doing something wrong, like capitalizing a word for emphasis instead of making better word choices.  Part of developing your tone as a writer is making choices, like switching into the second person in place of the rigid (but considered "proper") use of "one." 

I also prefer to believe that I'm not an asshole about grammar choices, too, unlike certain wags who hang about this very blog, pointing out proper and improper uses of "it's."  Because I don't much care for grammar assholes. 

(It's fucking pronounced "sherbert," not "cherbey."  "Irregardless" is most definitely in the dictionary, and even if it weren't, organic evolution of language, etc., etc.) 

I've never much cared for grammar rules of the so-obscure-that-you-act-like-everybody-else-is-doing-it-wrong-except-for-you variety.  But there are people who consider themselves clever for doing so, and after they're done clapping like seals and braying like jackasses, they go back to their sad and lonely lives of poring over Strunk and White's all night by a single candle, searching for, I assume, more things to point out wrong in the writing of others.
How did I get this far without even addressing the topic of this blog?

Ah, well.  Lo que es pasado es prologo, as the immortal Bard would have said if he had been Spanish.  In any case, the point of all this nattering and mostly finding sidebars to complain about those fucking grammar assholes that I hate so much, especially the ones that hang around this very blog pointing out every instance of misused "it's" is that I recently stumbled upon two grammar rules of which I genuinely was not aware.

And this is because they had changed.  (Sentence fragment.)

Or, in any case, conventional wisdom had changed.  I learned a rule, probably in elementary school, and in the twenty-odd years since learning it, and following it slavishly, some asshole, probably after pointing out an improper use of the word "it's" had decided that rule was no longer valid.  I wouldn't say these are grammar rules that I love like members of my own family, but they are grammar rules that are so deeply ingrained in my psyche that I can't just stop doing them, even though I've heard talk that they are wrong.

So in both of these cases I thought it would be best to pose the question to you, my imaginary readers, of whether these rules are correct, incorrect, convenient, incovenient, mutable, immutable, or whether I'm making a mountain out of a molehill.  I have decided therefore to plan a two-part (three-part, now that this prologue has rated its own blogpost) where you decide what's best, called YOU DECIDE!!!

We will address one of these rules on Wednesday, and the other on Friday, in order to allow the no doubt rollicking conversation in the comments a chance to subside.  So, gird your loins, and prepare be the DECIDERS!

Friday, May 18, 2012

Why I Hate Bangs Redux: Why Everyone Should Hate Bangs

Seriously?  Fucking seriously?
Have you googled "I hate bangs" lately?  I do every day, of course.  You may be happy to know that your favorite scrivener is the number two result.

As for what's going on in the above photo, I have to assume that someone, possibly his publicist, turned to Justin Timberline and said, "Hey, you know what you should do, Timb-line."  (In this scenario, the publicist calls Justin Timberlake "Timb-line."  Anyway, he continues, "You know what you should do, Just-blin?  Why don't you scarf up one of the sexiest women in the world, and just ugly her up real good.  Stick her in a plastic Wonderbread sack and, oh, you know what?  Give her one of those haircuts that just makes everyone look like shit.  Then YOU'LL look even better BY COMPARISON!!!"

And so the Timbster did. 

Oh, incidentally, here's a follow-up question to the initial question that I never asked.

Q:  What could possibly make a latex-sheathed Malin Akerman look bad?

"What do you think we should do now that we've completely changed her costume from the comic book, Mr. Snyder?"
"Eh, you know, just ugly up her face a bit.  It'll be a nice contrast with the hotness of her body.  No one will know what the hell they're looking at."

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

"Pre" posterous

There is a raging debate going on right now (read: not really) in writing and publishing circles as to what to call a shithead like me, i.e. someone who sticks words next to each other but doesn't get paid to do it.

Generally, in the olden or "ante-Bieber" period of publishing, such a person was referred to as "unpublished."  Then folk, as folk are wont to do, got internet all over themselves and decided they didn't much like being called "unpublished" any more than a door-to-door salesman who never made a sale wanted to be called "shitty." 

So the preferred term (amongst this type of person anyway) became "prepublished" because, even though it's exactly as reductive and exactly as descriptive as "unpublished," it is also, I guess, a little less insulting, because it suggests that you haven't just been sitting around doing nothing, you've been sitting around not getting around to doing anything yet.  It's similar to how, if you're an aspiring athlete, or even just some guy, really, you call yourself a "pre-Olympic Gold Medalist" because it hasn't happened yet.  And since these folks got internet all over themselves, these opinions were actually available for publishers, agents, and booksellers to see, to which all of those fine folks promptly replied, "Fucking seriously?"

Thus began the great Un/Pre-Published War of 2010-11.  This sad, sad, struggle rages even today, in spite of a lengthy series of peace negotiations between The Big Six and  The closest these two sides came to an agreement was the suggestion that "author" could refer to only the paid kind of writer, and "writer" could refer to the other, shittier kind.  The blogosphere, sadly, declined this offer by means of a picture of Willy Wonka framed by a caption suggesting how ridiculous they found the notion.

And thus, as usual (citation needed), it falls to me and my Solomonic wisdom (sic) to settle this debate. 

First off, the term "prepublished" is asinine, and it sounds a lot like "prepubescent," which is exactly what you sound like when you insist on being called "prepublished," so let's stop using that term altogether. 

Second, as for the "author" v. "writer" discussion, that's never going to be settled because common usage doesn't separate the two.  Sure, the dictionary draws a (kind of, but not really) clear distinction, but, frankly, the dictionary also says I should pronounce "sherbet" as "cher-bay" instead of "sherbert" and that's the kind of snooty bullshit that just makes me want to beat Noah Webster to death with some kind of reference book. 

(Yeah, that's right.  I called all of you sherbet snobs out on it.  What are you going to do about it, huh?)

Thus, let me propose this solution: let's keep on using "author" and "writer" to mean the same thing, as in, "published or unpublished, either way, who gives a shit?"  But then we also pull two terms out of retirement that nobody ever uses anymore, and use those to distinguish between "published" and "unpublished" in those rare occasions where anyone gives a shit.  I recommend "scrivener" for "unpublished" and "bookwright" for "published." 

And yes, you could dig through your musty old dictionary and find that those words aren't really distinguished in that way, either.  (Your bludgeoning deaths are next, G. & C. Merriam!)  But I say, let's give Bartleby some company.  Scriveners of the world unite!  You have nothing to lose except probably your future publishing contract for calling yourself that!

Monday, May 14, 2012

Truly it is Mitt who is...The Most Dangerous Game

You know, we fans of science fiction can sometimes forget the simple, unassuming steps that modern day politicians take that lead us to dystopias in the vein of The Hunger Games or Soylent Green.  It is in some ways terrifying, therefore, to discover our next president's plans for all of us, as revealed on his own website:

I'm including a screencap, because I have a sneaky suspicion that the original website is going to change in the next few days, probably to hide the candidate's obviously nefarious plans...
Truly chilling stuff.  Suddenly The Road doesn't seem so far-fetched after all, does it?

Friday, May 11, 2012

Watch out for my ROOOOOOOOOOOTS!

Let me tell you about a little commercial that I hate.  View it (or don't) in its entirety here.  In fact, don't watch it.  Let me vaguely describe it and you'll know instantly the one I mean. 

You know that child that makes you hate children?  You know that kid you just want to bludgeon to death with a sack of nickels, even though you're a Sunday School teacher on the weekends and you teach kindergarten as your day job and you love all of your students with like, a physical, Christian love?  That kid that you still hate in spite of all that?  They gave THAT kid a commercial, and told her to shriek shrilly into the camera while she wasn't patronizing you with an endless guilt trip about WHAT KIND OF FUCKING PHONE YOU BOUGHT, EVEN THOUGH YOU ARE BOTH AN ADULT, AND, SEEMINGLY, IN THE CONTEXT OF THIS COMMERCIAL, HER PARENT!

You know how much I hate this commercial?  I hate this commercial so much that I am taking time out of my busy life to write a blog post about it.  It's not that anything I do with my life is important.  But I could be doing literally anything else right now.  I could be planting a tree for future generations to enjoy.  I could be spending time with loved ones, and God knows I don't spend enough time with my loved ones.  I could be masturbating right now, is what I'm saying.  But I hate this commercial so much that I'm taking time out of my day to ensure that hate it along with me.

You know what else?  I had no idea what this commercial was for.  Honest Injun, I had no idea.  I just spent about twenty minutes typing in "shrieking blond harridan," "annoying tree monster," "reasons birth control invented/tolerated by society" before I finally figured out it wasn't for Virgin Mobile.  It was for one of their competitors.  (Don't buy anything from this competitor.  I don't even own a Virgin Mobile, but I'd rather you buy something from them than the company that visited this little Child of the Corn on us.)

Here's the thing that I find most striking about this commercial: this kid is meant to be hated.  Everybody already sort of hates everybody else's kids.  I mean, you mostly like your own kids, and you mostly like the kids of your friends and family, but most other kids, just the ones you meet on the street, everybody sort of hates.  Because they're either crying or being rude and obnoxious, or, if they're not doing anything untoward, you're ignoring them. 

So writers usually take some time to ensure that most kids in TV and movies are tolerable.  That you like them for a reason.  That they're Renee Zellwegger's kid from Jerry Maguire, not the kid that was just kicking you in the back during the whole flight to Phoenix.  But with this kid in the whatever-brand-it-is commercial (not Virgin Mobile) I assume, they seem to have completely reversed decades of screenwriting wisdom.

"Say," the writers of this commercial appear to have said to themselves, perhaps during self-flagellation, "What if instead of finding a kid that we have to use a shorthand for making everyone like in thirty seconds...what if we used shorthand to make everyone hate the fucking shit out of her her in thirty seconds?"

"Yeah," his-or-her screenwriting partner seems to have agreed, coming out of a long, dark absinthe-and-heroin induced bad trip, "Let's just make her as annoying as possible.  Everyone will sympathize with an annoying kid who has an axe to grind."

If I'm kind, I suppose that the marketing geniuses behind this commercial intended for the child to merely be "disappointed."  And that this "disappointment" would translate into empathy from the audience, because who hasn't been disappointed in their lives?  But the thing about kids is, while their disappointment can be adorable, it can also be petulant and, to use a seemingly tailor-made word, childish.  And they went full fucking tilt on the petulant side and completely ignored the part where a child's disappointment translates into puppy-dog eyes and the desire to comfort them.

Instead, they had a girl LECTURING her parent - me - about what a shitty person I am.  Because while I seemingly went to the trouble to appear at her hastily put-together school play, I DIDN'T HAVE THE DATA TO TAPE IT.  Now, first of all, fuck you.  No, that's pretty much my whole argument.  Fuck you, little girl.  I went to your fucking play.  Why would I need to tape it as well?  It's not for your fucking acting talent, I can tell you that.  You're pretty proud of that little line, huh?  I've seen Bristol Palin give better line readings than that.  You're not objectively good, and therefore the only reason I would find you SUBJECTIVELY good is if I, for some reason, found you charming enough to give a shit about your feelings.  Which I don't.  Obviously.

I hate, hate, hate this commercial.  I want to strangle this kid with piano wire, and if that weren't a crime in this stupid country, I would hunt this child actress down and actually do that.  And the whole time I would keep shouting at her, "Say the line!  Say the line!"

Then, hopefully, as the life leaches out of her purpling face, I would finally get subjected to a line reading of "WATCH OUT FOR MY ROOTS!" that actually contained an iota of pathos and give-a-shit.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Maverick, LCSW (update)



You may be wondering why I promised on April 25 to have an update on my Script Frenzy manuscript, "Maverick, LCSW" in the "next few days" and then never followed up.  Well, the short answer is, I can't internets so good.  The longer, but also still short answer is, I sometimes think you're imaginary, and therefore won't notice my broken promises.

The MUCH longer answer is that I did, indeed, complete my script, on time, as you probably could tell from the updated list of winners buttons for NaNo and Script Frenzy that I keep below my usual posting area.  (Scroll down to check it out, if you haven't.  The 2012 one is down there.)  I didn't find anything interesting in my stats, as I sometimes do.  I pretty much just did 100 pages, about 3 a day, with a few longer days and one or two dropped days.  So I didn't feel a need to write anything about THAT.

What I DO think, though, is that Maverick is funny, occasionally clever, and definitely unpublishable, not for the least of reasons being that it's kind of impossible to break into the movie industy with a spec script.  So I got to thinking that I'd like to actually "burn" Maverick on the ol' blog here.  (Wow, it's been so long since I burned a manuscript, you probably forgot that was this site's raison d'ĂȘtre.)


I wrote Maverick, as I do all of my scripts, using Celtx.  If you're not familiar with Celtx, it's a great tool and you should definitely check out the hyperlink and download it, free of charge.  Celtx basically formats your script for you, no fuss, no muss.  What it doesn't do, though, is allow you to easily copy and paste into text-based programs like Word or, especially, Blogger here.  It lets you generate a .pdf, which is what Script Frenzy requires for "winning" anyway, so I never really worried about it before.

And here's something else you may not know: Blogger isn't really proper web publishing software, it's just a basic, easy blogging site.  So you can't really upload documents (i.e. a .pdf) to Blogger.  I really WANTED to share Maverick with you, my imaginary loyal readers, but for a while I couldn't figure out how, so I just didn't.

So here's my thought on that.  I'm thinking, why get one blog post out of Maverick when I could get 100?  (Not really, but I can't figure out an easier fix.)  So what I'm going to do is, probably starting June 1, is start posting three pages a week, MWF, of "Maverick, LCSW" to the blog by copying and pasting each page into a .jpg format and just uploading the picture.  I'm going to take the rest of the month of May to fire off a few pre-planned blog posts, not to mention bang Maverick into a bit more reader-friendly shape, and then we'll get back to the actual business of the blog, which is burning manuscripts.  (And booming.)
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