Sunday, March 18, 2018

I need help! Send in the ... (fill in the blank)

It's funny how issues come up in bunches, and then they disappear for a long time.  Recently, I've had three or four manuscripts with the same issue, one I haven't had for a few years.  So let's talk about Calvary vs. cavalry. They are spelled differently and one (Calvary) tends to be capitalized in most instances. But they continue to be confused.

There's the (mostly) religious definition:
as a place: place outside ancient Jerusalem where Jesus was crucified (or in Hebrew, Golgotha)

OR a cross with the figure of the crucified Christ typically flanked by two other crosses with figures of thieves and set out of doors as a shrine

It is also an experience of intense suffering; a trial or ordeal (which doesn't have to have the religious undertones).

Then there's cavalry. And when you're talking about getting help, or support, or reinforcements, this is what you are looking for.

This noun has several meanings:

1 a obsolete :  horsemanship <the art of cavalry> 
  b obsolete :  knighthood <the cavalry of the court> 
  c :  horsemen <a thousand cavalry in flight>

2 a (1) :  the component of an army that maneuvers and fights on horseback (2) :  a similar component that maneuvers on horseback but fights on foot 
  b :  the component of an army mounted on horseback or moving in motor vehicles and having combat missions (as reconnaissance and counterreconnaissance) that require great mobility 

And frankly, those two are the most familiar to me (and probably you, too).  But there's a third meaning, which I had never seen in use:
3:  deep chrome yellow. This is a moderate orange yellow that is redder and lighter than yellow ocher — called also cavalry, chrome yellow orange, medium chrome yellow, middle chrome yellow. And try as I might, I can't find a swatch online that identifies as cavalry. 

Have any of you used cavalry as a color? Inquiring minds want to know!

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

My Fairy Tale Has A Fairy-Tale Ending

Come closer, child, and hear the wondrous tale I have for you.

Okay, I don't have a tale.  But if you are looking for a list of fairy tales, Wikipedia has got you covered.  I was kind of surprised to see The Wonderful Wizard of Oz listed as a fairy tale but Jack and the Beanstalk and Little Red Riding Hood was more what I was expecting.

But today's blog post is about fairy tales.  Well, actually, it's about hyphenation, but fairy tales are more fun, right?

And it's Valentine's Day, so some of you curmudgeonly types may think love stories are fairy tales, but us die-hard romantics believe! But if you are looking for a new twist on the fairy tale, check these out:

Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs


Red Riding Hood

Sleeping Beauty

These are super fun fairy tales, very quick and with a bit of a bite. There are several more available and more planned.

Another series to follow the fairy tale format is Laurie LeClair's Once Upon A Romance series. The series starts with the three King sisters and their happy-ever-afters.

Fairy tale is a noun, by the way (remember, this post is about fairy tales writing editing hyphenation, so back to business!). Yes, nouns can sometimes be two words.  (And as a noun, it's two separate words.)  "Read me this fairy tale," says the little girl in her annoying singsong voice.  

When it's an adjective, it's hyphenated: Everyone wants their fairy-tale ending. 

That little hyphen does such a big job: it changes how a word should be used. Sometimes it goes from the noun form (fairy tale) to adjective (fairy-tale ending). Sometimes it goes from the noun form (a jump start) to the verb form (we had to jump-start the car). Sometimes it goes form the verb form (we lifted off) to the noun form (after lift-off, we enjoyed the ride). And when it's missing, sometimes our brains can get caught in trying to decipher what was meant: there's a difference between the man operated machines and the man-operated machines.

Welcome to the English language, where nothing is simple. 

And Happy Valentine's Day!

(I couldn't resist these geeky Valentine's cards, so enjoy!)

Thursday, February 1, 2018


No, that's not me trying to stay awake. It's me wondering why extra body parts are involved in those actions. Okay, maybe not extra body parts, but extra words.

Take, for instance, nodding. 
Is there any other body part that nods besides your head?


Can you shrug anything but your shoulders? (That's not counting shrugging a coat on or shrugging a shirt off)

Leo's got a shrug AND a nod going on here...

Can you blink anything but your eyes?

In these cases, her/his/my head, her/his/my shoulders, and her/his/my eyes act as filler words.  They aren't (generally) necessary for the reader to know what is going on. Maybe I should call them killer words, because I'm going to kill those little darlings for you. (Well, if I'm copyediting.  If I'm proofreading, I will just suffer silently.)

Monday, January 29, 2018

Alternate Reality Part II

As a follow-up to my Alternate Reality post, I wanted to see whether anyone is watching Counterpart on Starz.  Here's a snippet from the IMDB page for the show:

Counterpart is an espionage series about a mysterious world hidden beneath the surface of our everyday existence...

Howard Silk (J.K. Simmons) is a lowly cog in the bureaucratic machinery of a Berlin-based United Nations spy agency. When Howard discovers that his organization safeguards the secret of a crossing into a parallel dimension, he is thrust into a shadow world of intrigue, danger and double cross...where the only man he can trust is his near-identical counterpart from this parallel world. The show explores themes of identity, fate and lost love, posing the eternal question, "What if our lives could have been different?"

Sounds like fun, right? A whole world to explore, with yourself as a mirror to the what-if questions in life.

 I've loved everything I've seen J.K. Simmons in (Oz, Law & Order series, Juno) - although he's such a good actor that I haven't dared to watch Whiplash yet. And the characterization between the Howards is incredible: the way they walk, talk, hold themselves makes it easy to see which Howard is in the scene.  

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Alternate Reality

You might have guessed (if you've ever thought about it before - and really, why wouldn't you?), that I was quite the reader as a kid.  I read the expected Little House on the Prairie series, The Wizard of Oz series, the Tintin comics (man, I loved those!). But girls grow up and want to learn about the world around them...and so I started reading science fiction.

Okay, it may have been because it's what my older brothers were reading (although I don't think we read the same books exactly). I know at least one of my brothers was a big Lord of the Rings fan, and (sit down before you continue) I didn't read them until just before the movies came out. I think we did have our Robert Heinlein in common, though.

I had other favorites that I couldn't pass up: Robert Silverberg and Anne McCaffrey come to mind as authors I read everything I could get my hands on.

But there is one book that came out in 1992 (well after my youth - I was in my twenties at that point) that really made me think about what a book was.  It was a book of short stories entitled Alternate Presidents. (I can hear some of you just groaning...or desperately wishing...for an alternate president or two in the last two decades.)

The introduction starts like this:

Playing the Game of WHAT IF?
One of the joys of science fiction is that it gets to ask the question What If?

I would say that any fiction gets to ask the question What If?  You, the author, take the reader on that trip into what-if. You provide that alternate reality where people can explore the what-ifs in the world, whether that's in the safety of someone they relate to or the eye-opening experience of relating to someone they never thought they could. Sometimes that alternate reality makes our reality more bearable; other times, it gives us a chance to see the world from a different point of view.

So on those days when the words just won't come, or those characters have minds of their own and won't do what you want them to, remember that you are providing your readers with the opportunity to explore the what-ifs in the world...and the world would be a poorer place without your gift to it.

Keep writing!

PS- I just checked Amazon to link to the book, and it seems there is a whole series of Alternate Histories: Presidents, Kennedys, Warriors, Outlaws, and Tyrants.  Keep your eyes out for them online or at your favorite book sales!

Sunday, December 31, 2017

2017 In Review

Maybe you've realized it (and maybe you haven't), but I have not been very social on social media in 2017.

I have not blogged.

I have not Facebooked.

I have not tweeted.

Well, some of that is technically not true.  I had 4 (yes, just four!) blog posts in 2017 (and that includes this post).  I kept up with my title milestone listings and occasionally checked my professional Facebook feed. I have several tweets set up to automatically repeat, so those have gone out.

But really, I have not been social on social media.  I had plans to be.  I had spreadsheets of ideas to write about, resources to share, and I wanted to spread the love for my authors. But alas, those plans did not come to pass.

Part of that is because I was busy. So very busy. With all good stuff, I swear. Like the 6.7 MILLION words I read for work this year. Like the God knows how many books for fun I read this year. A trip to Colorado to soak in the hot springs and see our son. A trip to Bermuda for a beautiful wedding. Some church projects (like my annual Basket Bonanza and other leadership roles). Like volunteering for my community as we build our library (it's currently in the basement of our town hall). Like coordinating chapter meetings for the editorial association I belong to, the EFA.

But as 2017 winds down, it's time to think ahead.  I'm going to try to up my game on the social media front - maybe it won't be as much as it was three or four years ago, but it needs to be more than it was in 2017. Another ambitious goal for 2018 is to update my website again.  I've got tons of new covers to put up, and it's always fun to give it a facelift! I'm thinking of joining RWA as an associate member and checking out their convention (okay, it doesn't hurt that it's in Denver so I'll get a chance to hang out with my son a bit more!).

What are you planning in 2018?

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Not Every Why is a Question

I can hear my grade school teacher's voice talking about the 5 W's: what, who, where, when, and why.  (And just for fun, there was the accompanying H: how.) And her voice tells me that those are all questions that need to be answered.

So, one might think that every time you use one of those in a sentence, you are actually asking a question...and questions need question marks, right? Wrong. Well, right, really, but there's always some sneaky things going on to make things confusing.

And that confusion almost always happens with wondering: I wonder why; she wondered when; he wondered who.

Let's play with some samples, shall we?

ORIGINAL: The cat curled up tighter on my lap. A steady purr filled the quiet of the room. Without warning, the cat jumped straight in the air and landed on my bare legs, claws out and tail all bushed up in fright. I wondered why he did that?

That last sentence has the wrong punctuation at the end. It should be a period. The subject of the sentence is I; the verb is wondered; the rest is a description of what was pondered. But overall, the sentence is a declarative sentence, not a question - so no question mark for you!

OPTION 1: The cat curled up tighter on my lap. A steady purr filled the quiet of the room. Without warning, the cat jumped straight in the air and landed on my bare legs, claws out and tail all bushed up in fright. Why did he do that?

With a quick change of wording, we now have an actual question: why did he do that? The reasoning to put it in italics is to indicate internal thought, so the I wondered is now implied; the reader will assume it's the narrator (or the character in the book) having this thought or internal conversation (I know I'm not the only one who talks to myself...admit it - you do, too!). 

OPTION 2: The cat curled up tighter on my lap. A steady purr filled the quiet of the room. Without warning, the cat jumped straight in the air and landed on my bare legs, claws out and tail all bushed up in fright. I wondered: Why did he do that? What would have caused such a reaction?

In this example, the use of I wondered and the colon gives the writer the opportunity to ask a series of questions...and real questions get question marks, so it's okay to use them in this type of structure. And each question starts with a capital letter (Chicago Manual of Style 6.61: When a colon introduces two or more sentences…the first word following it is capitalized.)

ORIGINAL: The dining room table was cleaned. Well, except for the two place settings, pillar candles, and the small vase of roses. She wondered when he had found time to get the flowers?

As in our first example, the noun (She) and verb (wondered) are easy to spot; the rest of the sentence is a description of what she wondered about. So the ending punctuation should simply be the period (period, no questions!).

But we could also modify it to become an actual question:

OPTION 1: The dining room table was cleaned. Well, except for the two place settings, pillar candles, and the small vase of roses. When he had found time to get the flowers?

Or create a statement:
OPTION 2: The dining room table was cleaned. Well, except for the two place settings, pillar candles, and the small vase of roses. He obviously found time to get the flowers.

ORIGINAL: He wondered who ate his apple pie?

In this very simple situation, it's the same as before: the noun (he) and verb (wondered) are easy to spot. And again, it should have a period at the end, not a question mark. If you want to keep that question mark (maybe you are emotionally attached to it...I make no judgements [well, maybe I do]), here are some options:

OPTION 1: Who ate my apple pie? Bob looked at Faith.  Surely she knew I wanted that last piece.

OPTION 2:  Someone ate his pie; he wondered who would have done such a thing.

(Yes, Faith would have eaten that last piece of apple pie--it's one of her vices! So stop wondering and stop using question marks when you don't need to!)