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And so it begins. While I have enjoyed writing all of my life, I started taking it more seriously years ago. And, like any idiot, I started by trying to write a book. The story was good, but after a … Continue reading
This gallery contains 1 photo.
And so it begins. While I have enjoyed writing all of my life, I started taking it more seriously years ago. And, like any idiot, I started by trying to write a book. The story was good, but after a … Continue reading
Today’s post comes from some comments I’ve read both here and on the writing forum I frequent. It can cause arguments, so let me get one thing straight from the beginning—I believe with all my heart that each one of us is entitled to our own opinions.
It’s just that I think some of you are wrong.
Hey, I’m entitled to my own opinion as well. That’s my opinion. You don’t have to take it seriously, and you shouldn’t lose any sleep over it.
So, here’s my opinion. For the most part, if one is writing a novel, proper grammar has nothing to do with creative license. I’m not talking about dialog. People talk the way they talk and of course that should be expressed by the author when writing dialog.
“Ain’t that right, young feller?”
Of course it is, so long as those quotation marks are present. Other than dialog, being that free with grammar rules is to be avoided, for the most part, in modern novels.
“But what about James Joyce?” you seem to ask. “He wrote whole novels in dialect and they’re classics!”
Sure, he’s classic, but I’ll tell you a secret. I hate Joyce. It isn’t that I’m too stupid to get it, or too nonintellectual to understand the skill it takes to write in that fashion. I hate Joyce. I hate any author where I have to fight against the structure of the writing to get to the story.
I love Austen, by the way. The old-fashioned gait to the language adds rather than distracts from the story, and the grammar is there, it’s just a bit outdated.
“Oh,” you seem to say, “I see. You must be some sort of grammar fancy-pants. I bet you write Literary fiction.”
Actually, I don’t much care for literary fiction. I read it from time to time, but it’s not where I turn to for fun. Reading, to me, is for fun more than anything else. I certainly don’t write in the literary style, and I don’t tend to use twelve dollar words when a ten cent word will do. I enjoy plain language, and I personally think that it takes a certain strength of will for an author to refrain from showing off when he writes.
The following is a bit from my supernatural mystery, Ghost in the Park. It’s not an especially important bit, I just reached in and grabbed something from the middle.
Sitting in the chair near the bed, I stare for a long time at my friend and listen to him breathe. Eventually, I tire of watching Chase being alive, and pull up a Jack London novel on my phone. Todd and Harris chat together for a while, and then leave the room to explore the hospital. I suppose that even the dead get bored on occasion.
I’m reading part two of the book, and in the fifth chapter, when a nurse walks into the room. The nurse calls to Chase, and as he stirs, I set aside my tale of a wolf pup learning that the law of the land is “eat or be eaten.” When he awakens, Chase looks groggy and weak, but he is otherwise himself and even manages to flirt a little with the pretty nurse while she gives him his pain medication. I am not noticed until the tall blonde quits the room.
“Hey. When did you get here?”
“A little while ago. How are you feeling?”
“Kinda like I got shot,” Chase says, and then laughs. Grinning at me, he continues, “I think the morphine just hit. I get the good stuff.”
It’s little wonder that Chase is feeling no pain. Chase wants to sit up for a while, so I help him adjust the mechanical bed and the pillows behind his back. Even with the morphine, he winces as the movement jars his shoulder. I see now that his right arm is in a sling.
“How bad is it?” I ask.
“Well, it’s not good, but no irreparable damage done. The doc say’s I’ll make a full recovery but it’ll take time. I’m off the clock for at least a couple months.”
“How long do you have to stay here?”
“A week, maybe. I guess I hit my head pretty good. Knocked me out cold..couldn’t call for help…lost a lot of blood. So, they want to hang onto me for a while.”
Though his speech is a bit hesitant and he grins at odd times, I’m relieved to see that my mate is basically himself. I have no idea how long Chase was dead, and I’d been worried about brain damage from lack of oxygen.
End excerpt. I think you can see what I mean. It’s first person present, so we are in the main character’s head throughout. That does not mean that I threw grammar out the window just because the narration is deep in his head. Yes, it is heavily colored by Bryce’s personality and word choice, but it still has grammar. There may even be some grammar mistakes, but that is because I am still learning the ins and outs of grammar, not because I’m not trying. You can also see that I write fairly plainly, this book is not pretending to be a literary gem. It’s perfectly possible to use correct grammar without being pompous about it, or striving to write in the literary style.
The reason for this entire diatribe is that I have noticed something in the comments that I have read which seem to value poor grammar as part of the writer’s literary style or voice.
They seem lazy. I’m not saying that they are lazy, just that they seem so. For all I know, those writers could simply be so excited about writing that they are not taking the time to learn the grammar that they need. There has not been one James Joyce among them. And Joyce, though I dislike his style personally, was a master of his style. He had to carefully learn the rules of grammar before he plotted which bits to chuck out the window.
The fact is that so far in my study of this subject, the writers who are shouting style over grammar all have one thing in common.
Their writing is bad, and I don’t want to read their books.
And there’s the rub. While it’s true that you have the creative license to write any way you wish, if you expect people to pay for your writing and read your work, you’d better pay attention to the will of the masses. If people see a sample of your writing and grammar has been thrown out of the window, they are not likely to buy the book. It’s as simple as that. They will never see that underneath it all you are James Joyce reincarnated, they won’t want to read it.
I say to you, if you wish to be a writer, you must learn the tools of the trade backwards and forwards. That means grammar. Then once you master it, you made decide with an informed mind what is to be cherished, and what thrown away. I am not grammar master, but I realize this, and I keep learning. I read posts about it, and books about it, and do whatever I can to give myself the tools I need to write effectively. I am no devotee, setting aside time everyday to study grammar, but I do study it, and I do learn.
Any writer who does not, is indeed lazy, and masking that laziness in excuses of style.
A couple of days ago, my mom bought me a chainsaw. It’s a petite little thing, 1.5 horsepower, 14” blade, and it plugs in to an extension cord. It was just what I needed to clean out all the dead pine branches at my mom and dad’s place.
I love it.
I’ve never used a chainsaw, but it’s very easy, as long as you keep safety in mind. This one is light, and easy to handle. I chopped down so many branches and bits of dead wood that it will take me three trips in my brother-in-laws pick-up truck to get rid of it all. I totally destroyed those dead branches, and I enjoyed every minute of it. I even had no trouble adjusting the chain when it got loose. It’s a well-made, simple device.
However, what I did not enjoy was all the negative comments from certain males in my life saying I had no business using a chainsaw. Apparently, to the males of the population, I am one breath away from hacking off one of my own limbs in a freak chainsaw accident. My fiancé refused to be in the yard while I used it. He had visions of amputated stumps spurting blood. My fiance’s friend #1, said flat out on the phone that I was crazy and going to injure myself. My dad, bless his heart, shook his head and told me to be careful, but didn’t tell me not to do it.
Now, let’s have a little background on me, so you can truly understand my situation. I can be slightly clumsy. In small ways. In moving a bedframe, I’m likely to get a splinter. I’ve nicked my thumbnail more times than I can count while cutting vegetables.
I also learned to to use power tools in college, and continued to use some power tools during my career as a costumer. I have a little anxiety disorder, which makes me a bit hyper vigilant where safety is concerned. I am definitely anal about safety.
I’m not trying to tempt the gods, but to this date in the 48 years of my life, I have never caused myself a serious injury.
So why are these men, men who have known me for years, concerned about me using a chainsaw?
I’m pretty sure it’s because I have a vagina. While most of these men are not what I would call sexist, they are still a product of the culture that they grew up in. Our culture tells men that 48 year old women shouldn’t use chainsaws. Estrogen and vaginas are detrimental to chainsaw use. Something in our hormones reacts badly with big, noisy electronics. While women have come a long way, folks that think the days of discrimination are over are crazy.
Just ask any woman who has gone to buy a car and had the salesman speak only to the man who went with her. Or the rowdy that’s surprised the lady cop can handle him just fine.
Or the woman who just bought a chainsaw.
This discrimination in the name of protection reminds me of when they built the Empire State Building and elevators were considered “too dangerous” for women to ride. So what happened? Men zoomed to the top with ease while women had to climb all those stairs in order to see the view. I’m not taking the stairs. If I do get hurt, I promise you that it isn’t because I have a vagina.
In mankind’s defense, my when my fiancé’s friend #2 came to visit, he just strode in and helped me chop things down without one disparaging remark.
**Author’s note- Miriam-Webster states that the plural of vagina is vaginae, but it just didn’t have the right ring to it for my purpose.
Yard sale. There’s a million jokes and a certain amount of disdain associated with that phrase.
“No one’s going to pay five dollars for that.”
“You must be really hard up for money.”
“Who wants to buy other people’s junk anyway?”
Pardon me, Mr. Fancypants, but that isn’t junk, that’s bits of my life spread out all over the front yard. Bits of my life that I have to get rid of because of two households colliding so that I can take care of my aging parents. That child’s wooden high chair that you don’t think is worth 35 bucks, that was handmade by my great grandfather in the 1800’s. That red and white glassware? I love it, but I don’t NEED it, and I no longer have room for much that I don’t need.
That necklace that doesn’t look like anything special, that was given to me by a kiddo I worked with, because they desperately wanted to give me something and that’s all they had to give.
Then there’s the books. The giant pile of books that is about half of my precious book collection. Carefully sorted and culled out, because I don’t have a huge two bedroom apartment to scatter them out in. Yes, I know books don’t sell well at a yard sale. Yes, I’ve heard of Half Priced Books, I’ll take the rest there. I just wanted to give some of them a chance at a happy home first.
And who are you anyway, Mr. Fancypants? You act so disdainful of my yard sale, but you’re right here, at the crack of dawn on a cold and windy day, looking for something to buy.
That’s not junk strewn across my front lawn, it’s my life. It’s my memories. If you don’t want to buy any of it, fine by me, but keep your disrespectful comments to yourself.
Sorry I’ve been MIA lately. I posted quite a bit there for a while, but then got involved with some other projects. And I got distracted. I’ve been reading.
Yeah, I know! That’s crazy talk! What am I doing reading when I’ve got a book of my own to finish, one that’s been on hiatus since before the move.
That’s how it goes sometimes. We wouldn’t be writers if we didn’t love to read. And we wouldn’t know what the hell we were doing if we haven’t done our share of research by reading the work of others. I think that reading is as important as writing, to a writer. Not only because of the mechanics we learn, but because reading is what inspires us to write in the first place.
I haven’t settled down to writing yet in the new home. I lost my little writing nest in the move, and nothing feels right yet. I have plans to set up a corner more suitable for me than on my uncomfortable chair at my desktop. My family is having a big yard sale this weekend, so I can get rid of a bunch of crap and maybe then have some space to breathe and maybe even a comfy chair for me and my laptop.
For those of you waiting for an update to Wyrd House, I’ll get back to it. Just be patient a little while longer. In the meantime, my reading binge is a good sign. It makes me want to write again.
So, my advice to you, my fellow writers, is to read something. If you have been writing like mad, or a bit stuck like me, take the time to read something you enjoy. Take the time to remember why we do what we do in the first place. A writer that doesn’t read is like a diver that doesn’t swim. Sure, you could do it, but it’s not likely to turn out well.
There are so many oddities in the English language that I could write a whole blog just about them, but how boring would that be? Instead, here is installment two, and I may do another from time to time.
The rule that I have never in my life heard of about abbreviations is this: that if the last letter of the abbreviation matches the last letter of the entire word, no punctuation is used.
That makes it Dr Weasel, not Dr. Weasel.
What??? What do you mean there is no dot after abbreviating the word “doctor?” Not only does my spell check hate Dr with no dot, I don’t think I’ve ever seen it done that way. Maybe it’s done that way all over creation and I’ve just never noticed, but this rule shocked the hell out of me.
To be clear, the other side of the coin is that if our fine Mr. Weasel is a professor, then he is Prof. Weasel rather than Prof Weasel, as “f” is not the final letter in “professor.”
Articles in Front of Nations
It’s The United States, and it’s The Netherlands. That’s it. Before no other country does one put a “the.” It’s not The Canada, or The Luxembourg. If one is travelling to Strongbadia, one can assume one is not travelling to The Strongbadia. (Home of Trogdor, the burninator.)
“I” before “E” except after “C,”
–unless it is one of this humongous fucking list of exceptions. Honestly, there shouldn’t even be a rule.
Ok, I just made it to the “c’s” and then I got tired. One can find a giant list of exceptions here: Exceptions
I’ll leave you today with a few often misused words in the English language:
Aisle- a small passageway
Isle- a small island
All together- refers to a group. “All together, the Johnsons were not fond of rabid wombats.
Altogether- entirely. “Rabid wombats are altogether distasteful.”
Palate- roof of the mouth, taste.
Pallet- a low, movable platform.
Palette- a range of colors, a board to hold paint.
Cannon- a large, mounted gun.
Canon- a rule or commandment.
Team- a group that is on the same side, like a team for a sports game.
Teem- a swarm.
My team of wombat hunters is heading to the haunted forest because we heard it is teeming with rabid wombats.
As always, I remind you that I am not a grammar queen. There may be mistakes in this very post! Until next time, I dare you to try getting away with writing Dr without the dot! There will be grammar-Nazi nerdrage, guaranteed!
Weird grammar. In the English language there are exceptions to every rule, and then, some of the rules are just weird. Today we are going to take a break from photography to talk about some oddities of grammar. Some are obscure, some just piss me the hell off. As always, I am no grammar queen. There may be mistakes in this very post!
“Awhile” vs “A while”
It’s true. This one just pissed me the hell off. When I returned to writing years ago, I had forgotten many, many little rules and such. This was one of them.
“I’m going to be gone for awhile,” I wrote in my story.
“Nope. After the word ‘for,’ a while has to be two words,” My beta reader informed me.
“Why? For the love of god why?”
“Beats the fuck out of me, but that’s the way it is.”
There is a reason. Of course there’s a reason, there’s always a reason. The definition of “Awhile” is that it’s an adverb that describes a length of time. “A while,” on the other hand, is a noun that means a length of time. Oh! So that’s the secret! It’s so crystal clear for me now—not! In any event, if it comes after the word “for,” then “a while” should be two words. It’s two words when it’s near any preposition. Thus “a while ago.” That’s enough to keep you out of trouble.
“Hank’s and Danique’s wombats are rabid.”
“Hank and Danique’s wombats are rabid.”
In the first example, Hank and Danique each own their own rabid wombat. In the second, Hank and Danique share custody of multiple rabid wombats. Oh, the humanity! I suggest avoiding this one altogether by a slightly wordier re-write.
“Hank and Danique each own wombats that are rabid.”
“The wombats that Hank and Danique keep in the backyard have all gone rabid.”
There are many places where grammar choices rely on meaning rather than form, but here’s where shit gets real.
If one is writing about a statement that is not true:
“If I were a rabid wombat, I would bite you in a heartbeat,” then one uses “were” not “was.”
Thus the Broadway hit, “If I Were a Rich Man” is correct while Gwen Stefani’s “Rich Girl” has all the wrong grammar.
Conversely, if one is writing about a hypothetical situation or asking a question, then one uses the word “was.”
“The reporter asked me if I was happy about Animal Control clearing out the rabid wombats.”
“If a rabid wombat was here, I would have noticed it.”
My problem with subjunctives is that there is a fine and vague line between what is not true and what is hypothetical.
“I would have freaked out if a rabid wombat was here last night, but they had all been rounded up by Animal Control.”
It sounds hypothetical, but the speaker knows it’s not true, so I suppose it should be “were” instead of “was.”
I’m not a photographer, but when I started this blog, I decided that I wanted the pics to be as “me” as the words. So they are. To encourage more of my fellow bloggers to take advantage of the digital cameras and smartphones in their lives, I thought I’d share a few tricks I learned back in art class. This is beginner stuff, meant for non-professionals like me.
Today, we are going to talk about contrast. Contrast creates interest in a visual image, and there are a couple easy ways to achieve it. In the above, I got a picture that I love simply from taking a shot of a pumpkin vine growing on my back porch. You don’t have to go far afield to get good nature shots. Mama nature has done all the work for you, even in your own backyard. In the above picture, you can see that I’ve achieved contrast with color. The bright blossom stands out nicely against the dark leaves of the plant and wood of my staircase. As we learned in part one, the pic has been cropped to make the subject stand out more, and the bloom is a little off center.
What better way to get color contrast than a giant, orange moose?
Or show off the giant hail that dented my car than on a bright red towel? Note the quarter in the pic, that was some big hail!
There’s another good way to get some contrast in your pictures, and that’s by taking advantage of light and shadow. Strong light, and the lovely angled light you get when the sun at a 45ish degree angle, creates it’s own contrast.
I love this picture, even though it’s just a vine on an old rusted fence. The play of the light on the leaves makes me happy.
It’s just a squirrel in a tree, but the sun shining on his back makes him look so cosy.
The porch is shady, but outside the sun beckons.
When you are playing around with your camera, notice and take advantage of contrast. Whether it’s the sun creating interesting shadows, or the faded leaf on a mossy rock, it adds interest to your photos.
A writing prompt and the first signs of autumn inspired me to give you all a little early Halloween present.
Branches grab at her legs as Tina sprints down the little-used trail. The thick forest suspends the trail in inky darkness, despite the October night’s full moon. Tripping over a gnarled root, she falls flat, scraping the palms of her hands on the rough forest floor. The sounds of pursuit gain ground: crackling leaves, snapping branches, and howls of rage.
Struggling to her feet, Tina knows that she has to do something to stop the creature that chases her. Though she hesitates to use force, the time has come to either fight back or lie down and die. Turning off of the old deer trail, she hurries to a nearby clearing. Tina doesn’t bother to hide the sounds of her route. She wants the animal to find her now.
As if on cue, the beast howls in excitement, and the sounds of its passage veer off the path to follow her.
Rushing through the clearing, Tina turns back towards the sound of pursuit and drops to her knees. She presses her stinging palms to the dry grass and begins a chant that has been often practiced but never before used. The ground before her changes, rippling in the moonlight, then settles back to stillness.
Charging out of the trees, the animal is before her. It howls and gibbers as it catches sight of its prey. Tina stands and regards it coolly. As the beast strides across the small clearing, its feet begin to sink into the ground. Before it is halfway to her, it sinks to the waist into the quicksand she conjured.
“Witch!” her boyfriend shouts, his face contorted by rage as he finds himself swiftly sinking into the earth. “The Lord God will release me so that I can strike you down! Suffer ye not a witch to live!”
“I think not,” Tina says softly.
“You will burn in hell!” He snarls right before the ground swallows him.
“I think not,” she repeats, before turning weary feet toward home.
I’m entering this flash fiction piece over at the Trifecta challenge page. The link is here if you want to go read cool stories and vote on your favorite. There’s also still time for my fellow writers to enter your own piece! Rules and guidelines are posted on the page I linked. Go, see, explore!
Taking decent pictures for your blog is easier than you think.
Recently, I received a few comments that surprised me. Several people thanked me for helping them feel brave enough to post some of their own pictures. Good for them! But why is is that we are so reluctant to post our own images?
I don’t think it’s because we are afraid to share ourselves, we share our words everyday. Bloggers often blog about the hard stuff, the personal things. Bloggers let you into their lives so that readers can empathize and connect.
Until it comes to pictures.
So, why is it that I post all my own pics? Am I a professional photographer? Is it just easy for me? Do I have all sorts of fancy equipment and computer programs to make these images?
Hell no. I’ll go so far as to say–Oh, hell no. I have a decent digital camera, but it is a snapshot camera not a professional one. I use an old version of Paint Shop Pro, because that’s what I have, and I know how it works. I use PSP8 even though it crashes on Windows 7 quite a bit, but it’s familiar and new software is so expensive. I have never taken a single photography class. I did take a small herd of fine arts classes when I was young. That helps me with taking pictures.
I have some time off work right now, so I thought that I might share some of what I know in a small series of blogs about how to post better pics. This is beginning stuff, meant for non-professionals like me.
“Why should I post my own pictures in my blog?” you seem to ask.
Connection- You write all these wonderful, personal words so that readers can connect with you, with your life and experiences, and with your ideas. And then you post some picture from a 1995 calendar that has nothing to do with any of it. As a blog reader, I love seeing personal pictures. It helps me connect to the writer. It lets me into their life a little, and gives me visuals to go with the words.
Reality- People write these real, sometimes gritty blog posts, and then add a pic of a cute fuzzy kitten. Ok, I’m really exaggerating. But our posts show a real slice of our lives, why can’t our pictures do that too? I have never once seen a snapshot in a post and thought, “Well, why did they post that pic? It’s terrible, the lighting’s bad, it makes me want to puke!” I see photos from blogger’s lives and I enjoy being able to share that moment with them. There’s no critique involved.
Plagiarism- Here’s the big one. Even on a personal blog, if you use someone else’s photography, you are plagiarizing it. It doesn’t matter if you aren’t making money from it, that pic belongs to someone else. Sure, you can look for royalty-free stock images, but why not post pictures that are original, fresh, and personal? It’s so easy if you have a digital camera or a smart phone.
Speaking of smart phones, I hear they have apps with filters. I don’t have a smart phone myself, but blogger and author Nathan Bransford posts his own pics on Facebook all the time. He uses a filter in the Instagram ap that makes everything he posts look cooler than it is. This would make pictures for blog posts so easy! If you have a smart phone, I suggest you use your Google-fu to look into it.
So, that’s a whole lot of words about why you should post your own photos. let’s have a short composition lesson to get you started:
Using the crop feature to improve composition-
My pics don’t start out perfect. My camera doesn’t always get as close as I’d like without losing focus. Sometimes my original shot has the subject dead center, or too much sky or street. Play with the crop feature on whatever editing software you have. Even Paint will crop. Wordpress will also crop if you use it’s “edit photo” feature. Main subjects look better if they are a little off center instead of smack dab in the middle. Subjects often pop if you crop off little bits of the edges that aren’t adding interest.
Here’s an example of a pic I used recently.
You can see the difference. A little closer, some of that goldenrod cropped out to focus on my bee, bee is a little dropped to the bottom and slightly right of center. Crop is all I used, but it turned a decent picture into one with a lot more impact. Get out your crop tool and play!
Patterns, they are all around us. In everything we see, in everything we do. From the glass and beams in a fancy building, to the petals of a flower, to the structure in abusive relationships that drives abusers to hurt, get what they want, then apologize. Patterns both tantalize us and trap us into looking at things the same way, and repeating the same actions.
This isn’t what I mean to write about today, but when I saw the weekly photo challenge, it reminded me that I’ve been worried about patterns in my writing lately. Writers, like anyone else, can get trapped in the lines of a pattern and have difficulty busting out.
What patterns and habits have haunted my writing besides a fondness for sneaking the phrase “rabid wombats” and weasel references into my work?
POV and Tense When I started writing, I wrote only third person past. Everything I wrote, every single thing was third person past. I started with a little head hopping, then did two POV’s, then settled into super close third. Then I tried to write Ghost in the Park. It didn’t work. It sucked rabid wombats. I shelved the first chapter for a very long time. One day, I thought to myself, what about first? It was scary, it was awful, it was so hard to get out of those past tense patterns, but I broke free. Ghost came to life and practically wrote itself in two months. Now, I can switch with a certain measure of ease from first to third, and past to present.
Vocabulary While I am never going to be one of those writers that is always searching for that twelve dollar word when a twenty-five cent one will do, I do fall prey to patterns in my word choice. I suggest to you that the “find” tool in your word processor is your friend. Even better, those programs that make a visual cloud of the words in your story. I recommend Word it Out, a free, online program where you can paste in a multitude of words. I may know that I use certain words too often, but it took a word cloud to show me that some words, like “about” weren’t even on my radar.
Grammar there are certain structures of grammar that I am inordinately fond of. Present participle phrases, for example. Now, there’s nothing wrong with a good participle phrase here and there, but if one is finding them sprinkled through every paragraph, then one might have a participle problem. I did, big time! Now, I have to hold myself back, and try to find a happy medium.
Subject and minor plot points I am writing my second novel right now. It has ghosts in it. The first book did too. When deciding what kind of book I wanted to write, I decided that I liked ghost stories. Ghosts are a main point in the first book, a secondary point in the second, but there’s no getting around the fact that my books all have ghosts in them. I think book three should probably be ghost-free. I also had to recently stop my second MC from buying a car. My first MC bought a car. What am I trying to do, sell cars?
Your homework for today is to look for the patterns in your own writing and try something new. Whatever your overused design might be, find a way to mix it up and do something different. You might end up with a fractal that sends you in a brand new direction.
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