Conquering Fear

Yesterday I spent the day with writer friends from the Northeast Ohio chapter of RWA, participating in a workshop presented by Bob Mayer. He spoke about many things in his six-hour talk, including turning ideas into stories, recognizing and developing conflict (my biggest problem, perhaps), outlining and plotting, characters’ needs and flaws, and story arcs. But for some reason, the part that resonated with me most was his discussion of fear.

FullSizeRender (1)Fear, Mayer said, is “a feeling of alarm or disquiet caused by the expectation of danger, pain, or the like.” It stems from uncertainty. Since life is one long uncertainty, all of us have fears. We fear failure, rejection, criticism, loss. We fear making the wrong decision, making mistakes. I can remember three times in my life when I was truly fearful: the day I graduated from college; the day I made a commitment to start my own law firm; and the day I sent off my first manuscript to an editor who’d requested it. Every one of those marked a decision to leave the safety of the known and start on an unknown path potentially fraught with peril. Graduating from college I realized it was the first time in my life I really had no clue what I was supposed to do next. The entire world was before me, and absolutely anything could happen. Starting my own law firm, I left the security of a regular paycheck in exchange for freedom–to take the work I wanted, to get away from the backstabbing bullshit of my old firm, and to spend more time with my four-year old son. And the day I sent that manuscript was the first time I faced either real acceptance or true rejection of my writing.

That editor did reject my manuscript, which stung. I am extremely fortunate in that another editor was waiting to see it too, and when she did, she bought it, and my life as a published author began. But all three of these moments in time taught me that to act in the face of fear is, while scary as hell, worth every tear shed and every night spent tossing and turning, asking yourself whether you’ve done the right thing. Mayer said yesterday, “Heroism is taking action in the face of fear.” While I certainly don’t consider myself a hero for facing my fears, perhaps all of us who take that step into the unknown do have a bit of the hero inside us. Although you’re never going to see me jumping out of an airplane. No way.

If fear is preventing you from accomplishing your dreams, take a closer look at yourself. I’ll bet there’s a hero inside of you too.

The Grammar Grump: Dialogue Tags

A few years ago, when the kid was smaller and far less lippy, he was obsessed with a series of children’s books. Wonderful books, with interesting story lines and well drawn characters, and there were at least fifty of them at the time. One Christmas, we got a few of them on tape and listened as we drove across the country to the grandparents’ house. Nearly every line of dialogue was followed  by a ‘said.’ When you read these books to yourself, you don’t notice them. But when they are read aloud, wow. It became a game as we all shouted ‘said!’ every 30 seconds as the book progressed.

wordle 2I was thinking of this today as I judged a contest entry. After nearly every line of dialogue, there was a dialogue tag–those words used to convey information about the speaker. But because this author had probably heard somewhere that using ‘said’ is boring, she used other words too, including: remarked, explained, asked, instructed, huffed, purred, challenged, inquired, sniffed, whispered, concurred, warned, murmured, intoned, and added. And all of those were in the first few pages. An occasional asked, explained, or whispered is fine, but one doesn’t speak and sniff at the same time–go ahead, try it. In addition, many of the tags were peppered with adverbs–softly whispered, quickly explained. I should add that this entry was otherwise quite well written, but the ridiculous dialogue tags and excessive adverbs may have ruined the author’s chance to final in the category.

So, how to fix this problem? I am not saying a writer should never use dialogue tags. They are essential to clarify who is speaking, especially if there are more than two people in a scene. But you don’t need them all the time. Try a line of dialogue followed, or preceded, by a character’s action or expression. For example:

“You must be joking.” Robert laughed at the thought.
Evelyn sneered. “You’ll see.”

When you do use a dialogue tag, keep it simple. As I noted above, I hadn’t realized the children’s book author used ‘said’ so often, because when I read her stories, ‘said’ faded into the background. It conveys the identity of the speaker without beating the reader over the head. If you want to show a speaker’s emotion, or expression, try it another way:

His smile faded. “I’m sorry.”
“I don’t care, my lord.” She shrugged and turned away.

Pick up a book by your favorite author. How do they use dialogue tags? You may be surprised when you look more closely. The following exchange is from Julia’s Quinn’s On the Way to the Wedding. The characters are discussing what it must feel like to know you’re in love:

She lifted her eyes to his, made breathless by the gravity of of her own revelations.”It’s too much,” she heard herself say. “It would be too much. I wouldn’t. . . I wouldn’t. . .”
Slowly, he shook his head. “You would have no choice. It would be beyond your control. It just . . . happens.”
Her mouth parted with surprise. “That’s what she said.”
“Who?”
And when she answered, her voice was strangely detached, as if the words were being drawn straight from her memory. “Hermione,” she said. “That’s what Hermione said about Mr. Edmonds.”
Gregory’s lips tightened at the corners. “Did she?”
Lucy slowly nodded. “Almost precisely. She said it just happens. In an instant.”

There are plenty of other posts out there that go into more detail, and even a few books. Some of the better blog posts are these:
http://www.writing-world.com/grammar/said.shtml
http://www.quickanddirtytips.com/education/grammar/how-to-eliminate-adverbs
http://www.writersdigest.com/editor-blogs/there-are-no-rules/keep-it-simple-keys-to-realistic-dialogue-part-ii
http://querytracker.blogspot.com/2012/06/using-dialogue-tags-and-punctuation.html
http://theeditorsblog.net/2013/12/04/another-take-on-dialogue-tags/

How do you feel about dialogue tags, as a reader or a writer?

 

 

 

Ah, Valentine’s Day…

‘Tis the season of love, and once again the snow is piled high and the skies are dreary and gray. In light of the ancient holiday of St. Valentine, I thought I would continue the practice I started last year (hey, now it’s a tradition, hurray!) of posting selections from Victorian Valentine’s Day verse books.  I suggest reading them aloud to your beloved while drinking champagne and slurping oysters.

These are from The Lady’s Own Fashionable Valentine Writer.

To a Frenchman:
For fashion and politeness, you may claim,
Respect from all who venerate their name,
Endowed with fertile genius you must find,
Nature has been to you a parent kind;
Careless and gay you pass life‘s hours away,
Happy you seem whate’er may cloud the day;
Monsieur, believe me, to you I incline,
And fain would have you for my Valentine,
Not doubting but in love you‘ll nobly shine.

To an Irishman (poor sod):
Indeed, friend Pat, I don’t to you incline,
Reject, I must, you for my Valentine;
l neither like shilelah, nor your bluster,
Sure you of brass a sample rich can muster;
Honor and you long since have left each other,
My Emerald lad, an ass is sure your brother,
At any rate with beasts, you nature share,
Next to your bulls I’d take you for a bear.

 

To a Welshman:
Where flows the Vye, where of’t its waters swell,
Enured to toil, the ancient Britons dwell;
Love o’er the world is known to hold great sway,
Cambria’s sons, well pleased, its calls obey;
Honest, but poor, they live in rural peace,
Making their rugged soil produce encrease,
A Valentine from such l’d gladly take,
Nor yield him up for any English rake.

To a German:
Great ugly beast! can any woman think,
Ever with such a bear her fate to link;
Rough in your manners, to tobacco prone,
Much good may do the wife you call your own;
At any rate, such state will ne’er be mine,
No Mynheer Von shall be my Valentine.

Ouch.

 

To Adam:
Abroad, at home, no matter when or where,
Delighted friends rejoice your voice to hear;
Among the throng there’s none to you incline,
More than the writer—your own Valentine.

To poor Benjamin:
Base wretch, begone! your mumming will not do,
Endless my mis’ry, should I wed with you;
Nature he made you of such vile complexion,
Juggler! you’re only fit to breed infection;
A cabbage stalk cut down to a mere stump,
Mounting upon your back a decent hump;
Indeed, indeed! you never shall be mine,
No, Mountebank!—I’m not your Valentine.

 

 

 

As I feel compelled to give the gentlemen equal time, the following verses are from Hymen’s Rhapsodies, or, Lover’s Themes, A Collection of Valentine Verses, Written Expressly for this Work, For Gentlemen, To Address Ladies in Sonnets, Superior to Any Other.  (The title is longer than some of the verses.)

To a Lady without Fortune:
I Ask not wealth—the rich, we see,
Oft wretched ‘midst their pelf:
Thy merit is enough for me;
A treasure in thy self. – –
Oh, had I bags of massy gold,
Those bags wou’d I resign, . . .
As mine, my charmer to behold,
And be her Valentine.

I had to look up pelf, which turns out to be a Middle English term for booty. No kidding. And just in case your lover happens to have some, there’s another verse for her:

To a Lady with a Fortune:
Do not suppose,
My metre flows,
‘Cause fortune is thy boast;
Ere this I knew,
I swear ’tis true,
Thou’st been my constant toast!
Oh, had I got Thy better lot
And thou wer’t poor like me !
I’d say, with pride,
None else beside
My Valentine should be.

To a Prude:
BE not fastidious, over nice,
Because the squeamish and precise,
May every chance decline;
And the capricious fair one may
Regret she did not love re-pay,
And choose her Valentine.
Be wise—for beauty soon will fade
You’ll find in me no gasconade,
Then love for love assign:
Be wise—for time is on the wing,
Nor will each February bring
A faithful Valentine.

Well, okay then.

 

 

Sorry, one more. I can’t help myself.

To a Lady of any Rank:
LIFE, they say, is but a span:
Let’s be happy while we can—
Life is short, then don’t decline
The offer of a Valentine.
There is danger in delay—
Therefore make your choice to-day:
Let me pray thee to be mine
Oh, my dear, sweet Valentine.
You’re not sure, my dearest dear,
Of a Valentine next year;
Pray then answer, by a line,
If you’ll be my Valentine.

Nothing says romance like knowing you’ll probably die tomorrow.

Happy Valentine’s Day, peeps.

**All images courtesy of Wikimedia Commons, from an 1876 collection of Valentines held by the British Library.  Click on images for more info.**

Musings on an Anniversary

StirringUptheViscount_w9340_750This weekend marks a year since my first book was published. I actually almost missed it–I was sitting in a hockey rink (as usual) watching the kid practice, when I got that Facebook “you’ve got memories” reminder, and there it was. A year ago, I was giddy with excitement, celebrating with many friends, drinking champagne, basking in my accomplishment. This year I’m in my pajamas at 6:30 am, drinking tea, hoping the menfolk will sleep in long enough for me to get some work done on the third book without interruption.

So I thought that I’d throw out some of the lessons I’ve learned after a year in my tiny corner of the crazy publishing world.

  1. People are always impressed when you tell them you’ve written a book. It IS an impressive accomplishment to write a book, let alone publish one, whether you are traditionally, independently, or self-published. It’s okay to be proud of yourself.
  2. On the other hand, it’s not okay to rest on your laurels (unless of course you only intended to ever publish just one book). Just because you’ve been successful once doesn’t mean you’ll stay successful. Authors get dropped by publishers or agents, even in the middle of a series. This realization was a bit of a shocker for naive little me, although it shouldn’t have been. I suppose we as writers tend to believe that once we find that agent, that publisher, who loves us, they will always love us, no matter what we do. Nope. Keep learning, keep writing, pay attention to the market for which you write, and above all…
  3. Be nice. Don’t write a snarling one star review of someone else’s book. Don’t take someone down to build yourself up. Don’t be an arrogant shit to other writers, readers, or your editor. Most of the writers I know are the loveliest, kindest, funniest, wackiest, most generous people you’ll ever meet. But there are always a few out there who are not. Don’t be one.
  4. You’ll never be Nora Roberts, or Stephen King, or JK Rowling. Deal with it. Find your own success and your own happiness, and don’t try to be like anyone else.
  5. Not everyone will like what you write, including the people who know and love you. Some of them will be very excited to read your book, but then they will never say anything to you because they hated it and they are–see number 3–too nice to tell you so. That’s okay. But if you are a friend of a writer and you did like their book, please tell them, or write a nice review on Amazon or Goodreads, or both. Writers need to hear praise. It’s kind of pathetic, actually, but it’s true.
  6. There’s always more to learn. There’s a tendency to think that once you’ve published a book, you know everything you need to know as a writer. You don’t. Not even close.
  7. Hang out with writers. They are the only people who will truly understand your writer side. This is not to say you should only hang out with writers–goodness, no. But if you have an opportunity to go to a writers conference, or join a writers group, or just have coffee with a writer friend, you should take it.
  8. Write with writers. Writing is, for the most part, a solitary endeavor. But I have discovered lately that writing in the same room with other writers (even if it’s a virtual room) is a wonderful spur to productivity.
  9. Keep reading. My biggest mistake in the past year was to stop reading so much. I have always been a voracious reader, and have always considering reading to be my escape from the harsh realities of life. My happy place. But when I started writing, I thought that I shouldn’t read so much, and I certainly shouldn’t read many historicals. I found it distracting, I was afraid I’d inadvertently stick someone else’s words in my own work. Huge mistake. HUGE. Not reading stifled me in ways I didn’t realize until I started reading again. Don’t be afraid to read the kinds of books you write, and plenty of others besides.
  10. Keep writing. A couple of weeks ago I blogged about getting stuck in the middle of a book, consumed by doubt, yadda yadda. I don’t call this writer’s block, because I no longer think a writer ever gets blocked. There are always words to be written, and if a writer sits her ass down in the chair, she will write them. They might not be the words she wants to be writing, but those will come eventually. Just keep writing.

 

The Middle Muddle

The Beginning

The Beginning

Every writer has his or her way of doing things.  Some writers write only one book at a time, beginning at the beginning and writing in an orderly fashion until the end. Other writers write one book at a time, but in pieces, writing a scene here and scene there and then weaving them all together.

Not me. I write several books at a time. I love, absolutely love, starting a book. The blank page is so full of possibility. Every book might be fabulous, might be a best seller. Every book has the potential to be written in an orderly fashion until I’m done.

Alas, every single book I write fails to meet that potential. Every. Single. One.

When I get to the middle–known by many writers as The Dreaded Middle–I come to a screeching halt. I have no idea where to go next. I am consumed by doubts:  This book is boring. This book is TERRIBLE. I suck at this. I’ll never write another book. 

So I fret. I try to plot a bit more, to think of situations to toss my characters into so they can get out of the mess they’re in. I re-read the outline, the synopsis, or the beat sheet I’ve prepared to get myself back on track. I stare at the last sentence I’ve written and type nothing else. I read writing books.

Then I get another idea for a book, so I plot that. I write a synopsis. I tell myself–and my writer friends, who are probably tired of hearing it–that THIS time, I will avoid the Middle Muddle. I will storm right through and take no prisoners. It will be AWESOME.

But of course it’s not. I get stuck in the middle, and the cycle starts again.

The EndWith every book, though, there comes a moment when the words flow again, where I get past the middle in a flurry of activity that sometimes causes me physical injury. I pound out the last 20 or 30 thousand words in half the time it takes to write the first 30,000.

Yesterday was such a moment. I went to a NEORWA meeting in the morning, learned about a great new writing center in the Cuyahoga County Public Library, then went to lunch with some of my chapter sisters. I bitched about the middle muddle, and when I got home, I pulled out the manuscript that’s been idle for 5 or 6 months, and started typing. I wrote 1400 words before dinner, and another 300 words before bed. I got past the middle. It felt amazing.

I have no idea why this happens. I don’t have any epiphanies, or sudden realizations about the characters or the plot that take me past it. I just start writing again.

Last night I realized that this is okay. It’s simply the way I write. Although I will continue to read writing books and talk to writer friends and plot and try to avoid the Middle Muddle, I have made my peace with it. I’m never going to write fast, never going to be like this prolific writer or that super organized one. I am my own writer, and I do things my way, even if that way is weird and confusing and occasionally demoralizing. Anyone who knows me is probably not at all surprised.

So, writer friends. How do you write? Orderly, piecemeal? One book at a time or several? Middle muddle or not?

Zombies and Vampires, Victorian Style

So I came across this picture on Pinterest the other day:

The caption is, as with so many other things one can find on the Internet, utter bullshit, but it did make me curious. The picture itself is apparently real. In the first third of the 19th century, some graves were enclosed with an iron cage, called a ‘mortsafe,’ as a way to thwart graverobbers, who were far more prevalent in Victorian Britain than zombies and vampires.

Under the law prior to 1832, the only corpses which could be dissected were those of criminals who were hanged. Changes to laws in the 18th century widened the number of crimes deemed hanging offenses, arguably to increase the number of eligible corpses. Nevertheless, demand continued to increase with advances in medicine, and graverobbers, known as ‘Resurrectionists,’ helpfully stepped in to meet the demand. Prior to the 1830s, resurrectionists stole bodies from fresh graves and sold them to physicians. (Some more enterprising gentlemen went so far as to make their own fresh corpses. William Burke and William Hare allegedly murdered 16 people in Edinburgh from 1827-1828, selling the corpses to anatomist Robert Knox.)

The Anatomy Act of 1832 made the study of anatomy respectable (sort of), and allowed researchers to use the unclaimed bodies of those who died in workhouses, hospitals, and prisons. Public anatomy museums popped up everywhere, giving ordinary people an opportunity to stare at skeletons, wax models of naked bodies, and pieces of bodies floating in jars. Titillating! In addition, the museums served as another way for physicians, as well as non-physicians, to study anatomy and learn more about diseases, without going to all the fuss of actually dissecting a body themselves. This very interesting article suggests that the Obscene Publications Act of 1857, which ultimately resulted in the closure of most of these museums, was actually orchestrated by the medical profession, and was “a strategy for creating a medical monopoly of anatomy by categorizing it as knowledge from which laypeople could be excluded on moral grounds.”

An image from the 1864 edition of Gray’s text

Notable Victorian Henry Gray, who legally obtained his research corpses from prisons and mortuaries, published Anatomy Descriptive and Surgical, the text that would eventually become Gray’s Anatomy, in 1858.

So, no there were no zombies in Victorian Britain. According to the OED, the word ‘Zombie’ actually derives from a South American term for a deity, and wasn’t used in Britain in the context we now know and love until 1900.

Vampires are another story altogether. Vampires have appeared in English literature since the mid-18th century, and I have to tell you, I find vampires fascinating.  The Victorians loved them too. Bram Stoker’s 1897 Dracula, of course, is the most famous, but before him there was Varney the Vampire, or the Feast of Blood. Published initially in 1845 in a series of 109 episodes in penny dreadfuls, Varney was ultimately released as a full length novel (rather more than that, actually–it is over 2,000 pages long) in 1847. Varney made vampires sexy–he had beautiful teeth and a mellifluous voice–and introduced many of the vampire tropes still in use today: fangs, hynoptic powers, and superhuman strength, although Sir Francis Varney doesn’t seem to mind garlic, can eat regular food (although he chooses not to), can walk in sunlight without either disintegrating or sparkling, and if killed or wounded, can be revived by the light of the full moon. Varney is terribly written, but oddly gripping–I downloaded a slightly abbreviated version to my Kindle and am probably going to have to go read it now. Perhaps we’ll discuss werewolfs at another time…

 

Historical Book Blast Friday: Jana Richards

It’s Book Blast Friday! My guest today is fellow Wild Rose author Jana Richards. Her newest novella, Home Fires, is set during World War II. Welcome, Jana!

Home FiresHomeFires_6865_680
by Jana Richards

Anne Wakefield travels halfway around the world for love. But when she arrives in Canada from England at the end of World War Two, she discovers the handsome Canadian pilot she’d fallen in love with has married someone else. Heartbroken, she prepares to return to London, though she has nothing left there to return to. Her former fiancé’s mother makes a suggestion: marriage to her other son.

Badly wounded and scarred during the war, Erik Gustafson thinks he’s a poor substitute for his brother. Although he loves Anne almost from the first time he sees her, he cannot believe she would ever be able to love him as he is – especially as he might be after another operation on his bad leg.  Anne sees the beauty of his heart. The cold prairie winter may test her courage, but can she prove to Erik that her love for him is real?

 Excerpt:

She whirled around to glare at him, her eyes blazing. “No! I’m not a child! I don’t have to be mollycoddled and babysat. I spent six years in a war zone, hiding in bomb shelters, never having enough to eat. I worked in a hospital treating blitz victims with wounds so horrendous grown men would gag to look at them. I faced those horrors every day. Sometimes things were so bad I thought I couldn’t go on. But I did. Because I had to. And I’ll face things here, too. So don’t tell me to give up, because I won’t!”

Erik pushed himself out of his chair to face her, awed by her spirit and courage. She lifted her chin as if defying him to contradict her, her hands clenched at her sides. Her dark hair curled in wild abandon as it dried, framing her pale oval face like a halo. Her beauty and ferocity were magnificent.

“I think you’re the strongest woman I know.”

Her eyes widened in surprise, her hands unclenching. He caught the quiver of her chin as she fought to hold back tears.

“I made such a mess of things,” she whispered. “I’m sorry for all the fuss I caused everyone.”

Erik took a step toward her. “It’s not your fault. I shouldn’t have let you go alone in the dark.”

“You didn’t know I would stupidly walk out onto thin ice.” She shook her head. “I wanted to help. I wanted to be useful. I can’t stand feeling so bloody useless.”

“You’re not useless. You’re an amazing woman. Anders is a fool for letting you go.”

She stared at him, her eyes filling with tears. “Thank you.”

He opened his arms and she stepped into them, wrapping her arms around his waist, clinging to him. He held her tightly, inhaling the sweet, clean scent of her, never wanting to let her go.

“Don’t cry. Everything’s all right now.”

“I know I’m being stupid. Tears don’t solve anything,” she said against his chest. “But I was so cold, and so scared. I thought I was going to die.”

He tightened his hold and kissed her hair. “Don’t think about it anymore. You’re safe now.”

He heard her sigh, felt her relax against him. “Yes. I’m safe.”

She lifted her head to look into his face, her dark eyes shiny with tears, her lips slightly parted, and Erik stared at her mouth, wanting desperately to kiss her, to capture her sweetness. He slowly lowered his mouth to hers. To his surprise, she didn’t run off or turn away in revulsion. He was so close her breath mingled with his, her breathing shallow and erratic. His heart slammed against his chest, his body thrumming with need. For the first time in over three years, he felt alive.

HOME FIRES (e-version) is on sale for .99 cents at all major e-retailers between December 4 and 17, 2015.

Buy Home Fires at these retailers: The Wild Rose Press | All Romance Ebooks | Amazon | B & N | Bookstrand |Google Play | Kobo | iBooks | BAM

Jana RichardsJana Richards has tried her hand at many writing projects over the years, from magazine articles and short stories to full-length paranormal suspense and romantic comedy. She loves to create characters with a sense of humor, but also a serious side.  She believes there’s nothing more interesting then peeling back the layers of a character to see what makes them tick.

When not writing up a storm, working at her day job as an Office Administrator, or dealing with ever present mountains of laundry, Jana can be found on the local golf course pursuing her newest hobby.

Jana lives in Western Canada with her husband Warren, and a highly spoiled Pug/Terrier cross named Lou.

You can find out more about Jana and her books at these sites:

Website:  http://www.janarichards.com
Blog:  http://janarichards.blogspot.com
Facebook:  http://www.facebook.com/JanaRichardsAuthor
Twitter:  http://www.twitter.com/JanaRichards_
Amazon Author Page:  http://www.amazon.com/author/janarichards
Newsletter Signup: http://www.eepurl.com/m3UnT
Goodreads:  https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/2892274Jana_Richards
Google+ Profile:  https://plus.google.com/100820406211390323245

Grammar Grump: Preposition Me, Baby!

So I expected to write a happy post today about my brilliant success at NaNoWriMo, but as with so many things in life, my expectations far outstripped my capabilities. This November, I’ve had a blog tour for a book release (hurray!), a new job (hurray!), and a nasty bacterial infection that has sapped my strength, made my eyelid swell up so much I could barely see, and generally hampered my ability to keep up with my 1,667 daily word goal (boo!).  I am now so far behind that unless I write about 2,700 words per day, I can’t catch up. I almost never say never, but that’s probably not happening.

So instead of dwelling on that, I thought I’d do a grumpy grammar post. This month’s topic: Prepositions.

What are prepositions, you ask? They are connector words that show the relationship between two other words in a sentence. (I love the graphic at right, which comes from Grammar-Monster.com–think of a preposition as anywhere a mouse could go.) For example:
My mother lives in Boston.
The Halloween candy was divided between the two boys. 
The dog ran behind the house.
The mouse lives under the stove.

Some common prepositions are above, about, across, against, along, among, around, at, before, behind, below, beneath, beside, between, beyond, by, despite, down, during, except, for, from, in, inside, into, like, near, of, off, on, since, to, toward, through, under, until, up, upon, with, within. All prepositions are accompanied by a noun or pronoun which is called the object of the preposition. In the above examples, Boston, boys, house, and stove are the objects.  Usually, although not always, the object follows the preposition.

Easy enough, right? Hmm. I had a college professor who was adamant (adamant!!) that you may not end a sentence with a preposition. Ever. So while it’s not a hard and fast rule–and some regional dialects actually do it often (“Where you at?” “Want to come with?”)–I have been conditioned to avoid it. I am so good at avoiding it, in fact, I had a really hard time coming up with examples.

No: That’s something I hadn’t thought of.
Yes: I hadn’t thought of that.
No: She’s someone I disagree with.
Yes: She’s someone with whom I disagree. Or better: I disagree with her.
No: There are some situations it makes sense in.
Yes: There are some situations in which it makes sense.

If you can’t rewrite the sentence, and moving the preposition away from the end makes the sentence sound ridiculous, leave it as is. For example, That’s behavior I won’t put up with sounds far better than That’s behavior up with I will not put, even though the latter is technically correct. Just imagine your 9th grade English teacher yelling either sentence at your class, and you’ll understand what I mean. Or consider saying At what are you looking? instead of What are you looking at? Um, no.  You’d sound absurd.

Sometimes prepositions aren’t necessary, and your writing is stronger without them. For example:
The dance will end at about eleven.  You can omit either the at or the about, depending on what you mean to say; you don’t need both.
Our house is near to the street.  The to is unnecessary.

These are examples of compound prepositions, which are made of two or three prepositions. Although the examples above show unnecessary prepositions, these are more important:
I sat in between my two friends. (I would argue that you don’t need the in, but maybe that’s just me.)
The cat ran in front of my car.

Things get more complicated when you add prepositional phrases to the mix. A prepositional phrase consists of a preposition and the object of the preposition. Some idiomatic prepositional phrases include: agree on, consist of, die from, disappointed by, enter into, and impatient with.

So how do you feel about ending a sentence with a preposition? You in? 🙂

Some resources to read more:
http://www.grammar.net/prepositions
http://www.grammar-monster.com/lessons/prepositions.htm
http://www.grammar-monster.com/lessons/prepositions_ending_a_sentence.htm
http://www.quickanddirtytips.com/education/grammar/prepositions?page=all
https://www.grammarbook.com/grammar/probPrep.asp
http://www.englishlanguageguide.com/grammar/preposition.asp
http://grammar.ccc.commnet.edu/grammar/prepositions.htm

 

 

 

 

 

Author Interview: Katie O’Sullivan

Katie_OSullivanWelcome to a special Wednesday edition of the blog, as I am joined by fellow Wild Rose Press author Katie O’Sullivan to the blog. Katie has one recent release and another coming out November 11. Welcome, Katie! 

Hi, Marin, and thanks for inviting me to visit!

Tell us a bit about you. Where do you live, and how long have you been writing?

I live on the shores of Cape Cod with my teens, husband and two big, demanding dogs who think they still fit in my lap. (Can a Saint Bernard really fit in anyone’s lap? I don’t think so.) I’ve wanted to be a “real author” since third grade when my aunt “published” my first novel, The Mystery of the Haunted House, in a limited run of 50 copies at the printer where she worked. I was hooked and earned my BA in English, determined to find a job in publishing, but ended up in advertising, public relations, and then journalism for years. When my youngest went to full-day kindergarten, a friend dragged me to his novel writing class and I finally started writing fiction.

I love Cape Cod. It’s so pretty up there! What inspires you to write your books?

Living so close to the Atlantic Ocean inspires almost everything I write, from my YA series about the mermaids who summer in Nantucket Sound, to the Cape Cod romances like Crazy About You that I’ve published with The Wild Rose Press. My newest book, Ghosts Don’t Lie (coming November 11!), is the only one so far that doesn’t take place on the Cape, but in the small New Jersey town where I grew up.

What does your writing process look like?

I’m a pantser, but I admit I do best when I have a rough outline to start from. For the novella I wrote for an upcoming Valentine series, I actually plotted out the whole thing and finished the first draft in two weeks. Which tells me I should do that more often!

What do you do when you’re not writing?

I used to be the typical soccer mom, but my soccer player is off in college, and my middle child drives so we finally ditched the mini-van. My high school students are more into the drama department than sports, so I see a lot of plays (both with them and with them on stage), walk on the beach with the dogs, bake with my daughter… and then there’s the day job as a technical writer. I keep busy.

What are you working on now?

I’m just finishing the first round of edits for my next YA mermaid book (Defiance, scheduled for a December release from Wicked Whale Publishing) and am ready to start on another Cape Cod romance. I’ve got the main characters figured out and am trying this new “outline” method that worked so well with the novella. I’m also kicking around ideas for a sequel to Ghosts Don’t Lie.

Sounds great! Neat freak or not so much?

Oh, I wish! I tend to forget about cleaning until it NEEDS to be done. When the kids were small (like, crawling size) I scrubbed floors and wiped things down more religiously, but living with a Saint Bernard has totally lowered my standards of what’s “clean.”

LOL. I know what you mean! What’s first on your bucket list?

I really want to visit the Fiji islands and stay in one of those guest huts that’s built over the water on stilts, where you have to walk out on a rickety boardwalk to reach the hut and there’s a patch of glass built into the floor to watch the sea life swim by and a porch to sit on aimed straight at the sunset. Maybe I’ll let my husband tag along for the trip. No phones, no work. Doesn’t that sound awesome? And totally do-able….except for the airfare. And the total cost, with college expenses looming. And finding the time to get away. Other than that, I’m there.

That does sound awesome! Tell us a little about your latest releases.

perf5.000x8.000.inddCrazy About You:

Climate scientist Chase Anderson races from one project to the next, unwilling to slow down in his quest to save the world’s oceans. He has no time for family or relationships until he crashes into an impetuous blonde with a quirky sense of humor. One sizzling kiss makes him seriously reevaluate his priorities. And his sanity.

Emma Maguire left her small Cape Cod hometown years ago, seeking the fast pace and anonymity of New York City. She’s not sure what she’s searching for, but when a family crisis brings her home to Provincetown she’s caught in a crazy tangle of half-truths and mistaken identity… and falls for the handsome stranger who broke her cell phone.

Will untangling the web of lies drive them crazy, or lead to something even crazier – like love?

perf5.000x8.000.inddGhosts Don’t Lie (coming November 11):

Jillian Rogers Greene worked hard to close the doors on the psychic abilities that defined her youth. For years she pretended to be normal, ignoring the ghosts who whisper to her. When a car crash sets her on a collision course with the past, ugly secrets about her family and marriage come to light. She’s forced to reevaluate what she thought she knew…and exactly what the future holds.

Connor Sanderson might be the key to unlocking that future. The grey-eyed artist knows ghosts aren’t real, but his attraction to the beautiful psychic makes him question those beliefs. With her husband plotting to kill her, can Jillian make Connor see the truth before it’s too late?

Here’s an excerpt:

In the corner of the mirror, she saw a glitter of light. She realized Jasper was sitting on the bed, watching. “What?” she asked him, not turning around.

“Is it fun being a grown-up?” The spirit swung his legs back and forth.

Jillian fished a hair elastic from the jar on the dresser. “Fun isn’t really the word for it.”

His legs stopped swinging. “So being a grown-up stinks?”

“It doesn’t stink either, Jasper. It’s complicated. As you get older there are more choices to make and a lot more to worry about.” She was still looking at his reflection in the mirror, not turning to face him. “Some parts are really great, but there are lots of times when you wonder if you’ve made the right decision.”

“I’m glad I don’t have to find out. It sounds hard.”

Jillian took a deep breath. “What happened to you?”

“Me?” Jasper laughed. “That’s easy, I died.”

Love it! You can find information about Katie and links to her books at:

Website ~ Blog ~ Facebook ~ Twitter ~ Goodreads ~ Amazon Author Page

And join me today on Katie’s blog , where she has a great giveaway going on!

The Grammar Grump: Adverbs

Ah, the adverb. The bane of editors everywhere, but I think they have their place. I love this quote about adverbs:

“Overuse at best is needless clutter; at worst, it creates the impression that the characters are overacting, emoting like silent film stars. Still, an adverb can be exactly what a sentence needs. They can add important intonation to dialogue, or subtly convey information.”  ― Howard Mittelmark, How Not to Write a Novel: 200 Classic Mistakes and How to Avoid Them–A Misstep-by-Misstep Guide

I much prefer that one to Stephen King’s famous quote in the image to the left, which seems to me to be a bit harsh. Yes, adverbs can be overused–read any work from a new writer and you will see why–but in moderation, adverbs are an essential component in writing fiction.

 

 

So, to assist you in finding that fine line between just enough and too many, here are the rules for adverbs:

Adverbs are words that describe verbs, adjectives, and other adverbs. They specify manner, when, where, and how much.

He spoke loudly to be heard over the din. 
She read the letter quickly.
It was raining yesterday.
The dog ran far.
I always eat fish for dinner. (Okay, not really.)
I have never been to Argentina.

Not all adverbs end in -ly, and you can’t always make an adverb from an adjective simply by adding -ly.

Far, fast, ever, and after are all adverbs.
I came across hyperly yesterday in something I was editing. Nope, not a word.

Naturally, there are exceptions, because this is English. (If you ask me, the road to hell is paved with exceptions to English grammar rules.)

An adjective always follows a form of the verb to be when it modifies the noun before the verb.

I was nauseous.
His efforts to be helpful were fraught with peril. 

Verbs of sense and appearance are followed by adjectives when they modify the noun before the verb.

I felt awful.
This wine tastes terrible!

What about good vs well?

It is common to reply to the question “How are you?” with “I’m good.” Others respond with “I’m well.” (I once had a client from Russia who always responded with “Thank you, I am nice.” It was such a lovely phrase, and he was indeed such a nice man, I was very sad when he learned it was technically incorrect and switched to “I am fine.”)

Anyway. Which of these is correct? Both, actually, although well should only be used when you are referring your state of health. Check out this post by The Grammar Girl, or this one from GrammarBook for the reasons why.

Bad vs. badly?

Do you feel bad or badly? Bad is actually correct, because as noted above, you should use an adjective when it follows a verb of sense or appearance. Using badly would imply you are not very accomplished at feeling, which might be true but probably isn’t what you meant. Check out this humorous post from The Grammar Girl (again) for a better explanation, and note especially her comment that an easy way to determine which one to use is to substitute the word am for feel (or, presumably, for another sense/appearance verb). If it sounds funny using am, use the other one. For example:

I feel badly.
I am badly. Um, no.
I look bad.
I am bad. Okay.

Adverbs in dialogue tags

These show up entirely too often in the work of new writers. Adverbs in dialogue tags can be a sign of telling rather than showing. For example, you can write, “OMG!” she said loudly. Loudness, however, is implied by the exclamation point, so you don’t necessarily need a dialogue tag at all, but if you really, really want one, “OMG!” she yelled would be stronger, as it would show rather than tell.

This is not to say you can never use adverbs in dialogue tags. For example, “Thank you,” she said softly is perfectly acceptable (although “Thank you,” she whispered would be better–show, don’t tell).

I do have strong feelings on dialogue tags–a 12 hour car ride to Missouri listening to Magic Tree House books on tape will change your opinion on them, trust me–but that’s a subject for another post.

For more about adverbs, check out these links:

http://www.quickanddirtytips.com/education/grammar/how-to-eliminate-adverbs
http://writinginwonderland.blogspot.com/2011/04/annoying-adverbs.html
http://www.english-grammar-revolution.com/list-of-adverbs.html
https://owl.english.purdue.edu/owl/resource/537/02/
http://writedivas.com/quick-tips-adverbial-dialogue-tags/
http://blog.karenwoodward.org/2014/08/using-adverbs-in-dialogue-tags-matter-style-or-sign-of-timidity.html

What do you think? Adverbs–friend or foe?

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