Chuckle of the day.

I’m writing a passage describing an angry man:  

“Shocked that he had not been part of the meeting with Connie and me, Jack went to Maren and threatened to quit. Maren thanked him for his service and accepted his resignation. Apparently not understanding that she’s the boss pro tem, he said he wasn’t gonna take no layoff from some ditzy broad and appealed to me. To be fair, I laughed more out of surprise then derision.”

I reread the passage. Hmmm. Broad? I remind myself that (a) I’m writing in near-current time, and (b) I’m an old guy. I am painfully familiar with the old guy word usage caution (OGWUC). It’s similar to the Indy 500 yellow flag, except it is the raised eyebrow of a younger critique group member. So I fire up ChatGPT and ask: 

Is “broad” widely used as a pejorative term for a woman anymore?

Chat GPT replies: 

” ‘Broad’ as a pejorative term for a woman has largely fallen out of common usage in contemporary times. It was more prevalent in earlier decades, particularly in the mid-20th century and was often used in a derogatory or disrespectful manner to refer to women. However, as societal attitudes have evolved and awareness of gender-based language has increased, terms like ‘broad’ are now generally considered outdated and offensive.”

Just make sure I understand—has ChatGPT already developed an old guy algorithm?—it scolds me:

“Language reflects the norms and values of a society, and there has been a growing recognition of the importance of using respectful and inclusive language, especially when referring to gender. As a result, derogatory terms like ‘broad’ have largely been replaced by more respectful and neutral language in modern discourse.”

Okay, but I still need a good pejorative for use by an angry guy. So, Chat, buddy, What are common pejoratives for women today?

“While the use of overtly pejorative terms for women has decreased over time due to societal shifts towards greater awareness and sensitivity, unfortunately, some derogatory terms still persist in various contexts. However, it’s important to note that using such language is disrespectful and reinforces harmful stereotypes. Here are a few examples:

Bitch: This term is used to insult or belittle women by suggesting they are aggressive, unpleasant, or difficult.”

Chat GPT gives me several other banal options, but “Bitch” at number one was, to me, priceless. ‘Broad’ to ‘Bitch’ in a time of “the importance of using respectful and inclusive language, especially when referring to gender.” One assumes AI hasn’t learned irony—yet.

Writing . . . and Writing

Time flies . . . when you’re having fun, and even when you’re just doing stuff.

I’ve been finishing up Mayfield – Napolitani number five, Cyberstorm. Draft’s done, and my critique friends are almost finished chewing on it. Number four, Fatal Cure, has been done for a while, but I’m still picking at it. For me, at least, I like to set a book aside when it’s mostly finished, let it marinate. Fatal cure should be pretty tender by now . . . almost ready for final editing. I’m hoping to release it next Spring.

And just when I start feeling that Mayfield – Napolitani is getting a little stale, a couple of interesting new challenges come along. 

  • A five-way novel:  We of Midwest Mystery Works—five of us who write mysteries and band together to do some of the other work of an independent author—have decided to write a novel together. The twist is that it will include each of our protagonists. The story will be contemporary, which gives me an opportunity to write Weezy as a young woman. I’m careful never to show exact years in the Mayfield – Napolitani series. The technology is all recognizable extension of today’s tech, but we’re clearly in the near future. (The inexactitude prevents embarrassment of me miscalling technology events.) Of course, there is a timeline in my mind, and 2023/4 is a lucky slow spot. Weezy graduated from MIT in June, 2020 with a masters in Mathematics and Operations Research. (She meets Joe Mayfield over a decade later, when the first book of the series, Fatal Score, is set, and the first Cyber War happens after the MidWest Mystery Works story will take place.) She was snapped up by a Silicon Valley software startup whose youthful CEO had dazzled potential investors with what he called his Big Freakin’ Idea (Theranos, anyone?) and was listed in Forbes’ 30 under 30. Weezy pointed out that the BFI wouldn’t work, Weezy’s “dumb idea” went viral on the internet, and Weezy was fired. So in 2023, she’s back in Boston working as a lab assistant at MIT, and I get to discover her as a young woman and write her into the 5-way story.
  • A short story with conditions: Sisters in Crime, the go-to mystery writers association in the Twin Cities, is planning a book of short stories. The first three such collections, Festival of Crime, The Dark Side of the Loon, and Minnesota Not So Nice, were great successes. I’d like to submit a short to the fourth, probably coming-out fall of 2024. The tentative title: Dark and Stormy Nights. (And of course, one of the conditions is that the story’s first line must be “It was a dark and stormy night.”) I’ve never set a story in Minnesota, so I’ve never had a chance to write about canoeing in the Boundary Waters, one of my formative experiences. I’m looking forward to it. Any ideas about how to write a mystery set in the lakes and trails of the Minnesota forest? Let me know . . . I’m still cogitating.