Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Dear Editor-on-call,

Recently I wrote, "He must have been thirteen at the time, as he was about a year older than I was" on the first page I presented at a SCBWI critique session. I was told it should read: "He must have been thirteen at the time, as he was a year older than me."

I think the editor is wrong. What do you say?

Sincerely,
Woe am I
(aka Carmen Ferreiro Esteban)


Dear Woesome,

This is a two-pronged issue. First, we have to consider the grammar rules for comparisons. Second, we should discuss the issue of audience and diction.

Comparisons using "than"
For the record, your instincts are right. Using the objective case--me, her or him--in "than" comparisons is grammatically incorrect.

The rule to remember is that the two things being compared must have parallel grammatical form, tense, voice, case.

Examples:
Incorrect - She is taller than him. (Noun cases don't match: one's subjective, the other objective.)

Correct - She is taller than he is. (Note the verb is repeated for clarity. )


Incorrect - I like Mona more than him. (Both unparallel and ambiguous.)

Correct - I like Mona more than I like him. ("Mona" and "him" are both direct objects.)

Alternate - I like Mona more than he does. (This is a shorthand for saying "I like Mona more than he likes Mona.")


Incorrect- It will be faster to go this way than going that way. (Verb forms don't match: one's an infinitive, the other, a participle.)

Correct: It will be faster to go this way than to go that way.

Voice and diction
When is it preferable to break grammar rules to keep character voices authentic and unstuffy? That depends on a number of things including genre, audience and character voice.

If you write for emerging readers (the under-9 set), consider how teachers will perceive your work. From their perspective, it's more important that proper grammar be continually reinforced so that their students internalize it. They will curse your rule breaking.

As readers age, their grasp of language becomes more sophisticated and fluid. They can better discern a fictional character's voice from, say, a textbook narrator voice. They become aware of dialect and can point to how Huck Finn sounds different from Harry Potter.

In my opinion, the most compelling reason to make a character speak ungrammatically is to convey their lower social class and lack of education or sophistication, or to create contrasts.
A kid raised in the slum is more likely to botch grammar than who attends a posh boarding school. But either kid might assume the speech of the other as an affectation, a mask, to fit in or stand out in a particular environment. Rule breaking for this purpose can be an effective characterization tool.

There certainly are some forms of grammatical correctness that have almost entirely disappeared from speech. Taking the high road means your character's voice will be perceived as uptight and stuffy. You're unlikely to hear a teen use "whom" much anymore. And following the bogus rule that you can't end a sentence with a preposition (which is a Latin grammar rule, not a genuinely English one) will similarly nerdify character voice.

I'd rather spend 300 pages with someone who asks me, "Who should I send this letter to?" than one who asks, "To whom should I send this letter?"

Your example sentence ("He must have been thirteen at the time, as he was about a year older than I was") reads naturally enough. It doesn't seem to me to fall into the "uptight grammatical prig" category. Keep it as you wrote it.

So, readers, what do you think?
Tuesday, November 29, 2011 Laurel Garver
Dear Editor-on-call,

Recently I wrote, "He must have been thirteen at the time, as he was about a year older than I was" on the first page I presented at a SCBWI critique session. I was told it should read: "He must have been thirteen at the time, as he was a year older than me."

I think the editor is wrong. What do you say?

Sincerely,
Woe am I
(aka Carmen Ferreiro Esteban)


Dear Woesome,

This is a two-pronged issue. First, we have to consider the grammar rules for comparisons. Second, we should discuss the issue of audience and diction.

Comparisons using "than"
For the record, your instincts are right. Using the objective case--me, her or him--in "than" comparisons is grammatically incorrect.

The rule to remember is that the two things being compared must have parallel grammatical form, tense, voice, case.

Examples:
Incorrect - She is taller than him. (Noun cases don't match: one's subjective, the other objective.)

Correct - She is taller than he is. (Note the verb is repeated for clarity. )


Incorrect - I like Mona more than him. (Both unparallel and ambiguous.)

Correct - I like Mona more than I like him. ("Mona" and "him" are both direct objects.)

Alternate - I like Mona more than he does. (This is a shorthand for saying "I like Mona more than he likes Mona.")


Incorrect- It will be faster to go this way than going that way. (Verb forms don't match: one's an infinitive, the other, a participle.)

Correct: It will be faster to go this way than to go that way.

Voice and diction
When is it preferable to break grammar rules to keep character voices authentic and unstuffy? That depends on a number of things including genre, audience and character voice.

If you write for emerging readers (the under-9 set), consider how teachers will perceive your work. From their perspective, it's more important that proper grammar be continually reinforced so that their students internalize it. They will curse your rule breaking.

As readers age, their grasp of language becomes more sophisticated and fluid. They can better discern a fictional character's voice from, say, a textbook narrator voice. They become aware of dialect and can point to how Huck Finn sounds different from Harry Potter.

In my opinion, the most compelling reason to make a character speak ungrammatically is to convey their lower social class and lack of education or sophistication, or to create contrasts.
A kid raised in the slum is more likely to botch grammar than who attends a posh boarding school. But either kid might assume the speech of the other as an affectation, a mask, to fit in or stand out in a particular environment. Rule breaking for this purpose can be an effective characterization tool.

There certainly are some forms of grammatical correctness that have almost entirely disappeared from speech. Taking the high road means your character's voice will be perceived as uptight and stuffy. You're unlikely to hear a teen use "whom" much anymore. And following the bogus rule that you can't end a sentence with a preposition (which is a Latin grammar rule, not a genuinely English one) will similarly nerdify character voice.

I'd rather spend 300 pages with someone who asks me, "Who should I send this letter to?" than one who asks, "To whom should I send this letter?"

Your example sentence ("He must have been thirteen at the time, as he was about a year older than I was") reads naturally enough. It doesn't seem to me to fall into the "uptight grammatical prig" category. Keep it as you wrote it.

So, readers, what do you think?

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

I just realized--with a sinking feeling--that there are only 40 days left in 2011. That means I need to really get cracking to meet my year-end goals.

At the beginning of the year, I'd planned to work hard at building up publishing credits. I've had a few small victories: "Tribute" (flash fiction) in Motley Press; "The Lost Coin" (verse fiction) in Drown in My Own Fears; "A Writer's Parable" (poem) in Rubber Lemon: short Christian writing; "New Friend" (poem) in Joyful! (forthcoming). Two of these are UK e-zines, which means I've published internationally. :-)

I have two MG stories out on submission, and have about a dozen poems I need to fine tune and submit. I'd love to have two more acceptances before year's end. Impossible? Time will tell.

What year-end goals are you trying to reach? How are you doing?
Tuesday, November 22, 2011 Laurel Garver
I just realized--with a sinking feeling--that there are only 40 days left in 2011. That means I need to really get cracking to meet my year-end goals.

At the beginning of the year, I'd planned to work hard at building up publishing credits. I've had a few small victories: "Tribute" (flash fiction) in Motley Press; "The Lost Coin" (verse fiction) in Drown in My Own Fears; "A Writer's Parable" (poem) in Rubber Lemon: short Christian writing; "New Friend" (poem) in Joyful! (forthcoming). Two of these are UK e-zines, which means I've published internationally. :-)

I have two MG stories out on submission, and have about a dozen poems I need to fine tune and submit. I'd love to have two more acceptances before year's end. Impossible? Time will tell.

What year-end goals are you trying to reach? How are you doing?

Thursday, November 17, 2011

It's been a very long time since I participated in a blog fest. I think the fatigue from my severe anemia had a lot to do with it. But now that I'm power-loading iron and feeling more perky, I'd love to get folks together for another fest.

The question is, what theme? With the holidays fast approaching, it can't be something requiring participants to invest gobs of time. And I've seen a growing reticence to share bits of one's works-in-progress, for all sorts of reasons.

Here are a few possible topics I've brainstormed:

A: Making a list
Write a wish list for yourself or for one of your characters. Think especially of experiences (restaurants, vacations, concerts) and gifts of service (babysitting, book trailer creation) pined for. Be as practical or as fantastic as you like.

B: Writers in Toyland
Describe the coolest toy from your childhood, or a creation you wish existed. Or post a favorite fictional quote about toys (e.g., 1-year-old Harry Potter's toy broomstick).

C: Holiday help
Imagine you had a house-elf's services for a day. What would you ask Dobby or Winky to do for you?

Which one of these ideas appeals most to you?
Thursday, November 17, 2011 Laurel Garver
It's been a very long time since I participated in a blog fest. I think the fatigue from my severe anemia had a lot to do with it. But now that I'm power-loading iron and feeling more perky, I'd love to get folks together for another fest.

The question is, what theme? With the holidays fast approaching, it can't be something requiring participants to invest gobs of time. And I've seen a growing reticence to share bits of one's works-in-progress, for all sorts of reasons.

Here are a few possible topics I've brainstormed:

A: Making a list
Write a wish list for yourself or for one of your characters. Think especially of experiences (restaurants, vacations, concerts) and gifts of service (babysitting, book trailer creation) pined for. Be as practical or as fantastic as you like.

B: Writers in Toyland
Describe the coolest toy from your childhood, or a creation you wish existed. Or post a favorite fictional quote about toys (e.g., 1-year-old Harry Potter's toy broomstick).

C: Holiday help
Imagine you had a house-elf's services for a day. What would you ask Dobby or Winky to do for you?

Which one of these ideas appeals most to you?

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Dear editor-on-call,

I always forget when certain words should be capitalized, like sir (Sir?). Can you help?

Sincerely,
Case sensitive
aka Janet Sumner Johnson at Musings of a Children's Writer

Dear Case,

My quirky post title is a good mnemonic device: Don a cap[ital] if you're proper. In other words, capitalize proper nouns, but leave common nouns lowercase.

A proper noun is a NAME. For the most part, this is pretty simple to understand. Anne Shirley loves Gilbert Blythe, not gilbert blythe. (She might IM with gil_blythe, but I digress).

Trademarks are names (Barbie, Kleenex, Lycra), weekdays and months are names (Monday, September), artistic work titles are names (The Shining, Evita, Mona Lisa), specific places have names (Yosemite, London, Lake Country, Serengeti Plain), specific events have names (Lycoming County Fair, Little Bears Fun Run, Easter, Rosh Hashanah).

The tricky thing is when common nouns behave like proper nouns, or transform as part of a compound proper noun.

Let's look at your example, "sir." It's one of those courteous words waiters use when talking to men, hoping for a big tip: "And what will you have tonight, sir? May I recommend a wine to pair with that, sir?" That's the most usual use in our culture.

But once upon a time (and once upon today in certain social circles), there existed men of noble rank whose name was always preceded by a "sir," and the title was considered part of the name. Therefore, the common noun shifts to proper noun when it becomes part of a name. (You picking up a theme here?)

So, for example, your historical (or fantasy or upmarket) fiction might have sentences like this:
Sir Wallace stomped into the house, furious. "Where is my son?!" he bellowed. "Where is Sir Reginald?"
His servant bowed low. "I know not, m'lord, sir. If you please, sir, I have not seen Sir Reginald since breakfast."

Generally, sir will be lowercase unless paired with the nobleman's name. The only exception would be if a character refers to someone using a title in place of a name. In Alice Walker's The Color Purple, Celie refers to her abusive husband as "Mister."

Let's tackle some far more common examples of problems making the common/proper distinction--family members.

The common nouns dad, father, mom and mother become proper when substituting for or acting like a name. My daughter doesn't call me Laurel; she calls me Mommy, Mama or Mom.

Hobbit Girl might say, "Mommy, I think you are the coolest mom ever."

In the first instance, she is addressing me "by name," that is, her name for me. In the second instance, she is talking about the role of mother, a common noun.

Here are some other examples:
"Dad!" Betsy called. "Where are you, Daddy?"
She turned to Hazel with a knowing smile. "My daddy can fix anything, just you wait."
"Aw, hogwash," Hazel said. "All your daddy can fix are martinis."
"I'm gonna tell Dad what you said. He'll whup you good, Hazel Dawkins."

Extended family such as aunts and uncles often have these titles appended to names in a fashion similar to sir.

For example:
Aunt Jo was the nicest sort of aunt. A cushiony couch of a woman, Auntie kept her hearth fire burning and all her candy jars full. Liesl wished she could live with her aunt forever and ever. She'd stop calling her Aunt Jo and start calling her Mama.

Hope that helps clarify things for you!

What capitalization conundrums trip you up most?
Tuesday, November 15, 2011 Laurel Garver
Dear editor-on-call,

I always forget when certain words should be capitalized, like sir (Sir?). Can you help?

Sincerely,
Case sensitive
aka Janet Sumner Johnson at Musings of a Children's Writer

Dear Case,

My quirky post title is a good mnemonic device: Don a cap[ital] if you're proper. In other words, capitalize proper nouns, but leave common nouns lowercase.

A proper noun is a NAME. For the most part, this is pretty simple to understand. Anne Shirley loves Gilbert Blythe, not gilbert blythe. (She might IM with gil_blythe, but I digress).

Trademarks are names (Barbie, Kleenex, Lycra), weekdays and months are names (Monday, September), artistic work titles are names (The Shining, Evita, Mona Lisa), specific places have names (Yosemite, London, Lake Country, Serengeti Plain), specific events have names (Lycoming County Fair, Little Bears Fun Run, Easter, Rosh Hashanah).

The tricky thing is when common nouns behave like proper nouns, or transform as part of a compound proper noun.

Let's look at your example, "sir." It's one of those courteous words waiters use when talking to men, hoping for a big tip: "And what will you have tonight, sir? May I recommend a wine to pair with that, sir?" That's the most usual use in our culture.

But once upon a time (and once upon today in certain social circles), there existed men of noble rank whose name was always preceded by a "sir," and the title was considered part of the name. Therefore, the common noun shifts to proper noun when it becomes part of a name. (You picking up a theme here?)

So, for example, your historical (or fantasy or upmarket) fiction might have sentences like this:
Sir Wallace stomped into the house, furious. "Where is my son?!" he bellowed. "Where is Sir Reginald?"
His servant bowed low. "I know not, m'lord, sir. If you please, sir, I have not seen Sir Reginald since breakfast."

Generally, sir will be lowercase unless paired with the nobleman's name. The only exception would be if a character refers to someone using a title in place of a name. In Alice Walker's The Color Purple, Celie refers to her abusive husband as "Mister."

Let's tackle some far more common examples of problems making the common/proper distinction--family members.

The common nouns dad, father, mom and mother become proper when substituting for or acting like a name. My daughter doesn't call me Laurel; she calls me Mommy, Mama or Mom.

Hobbit Girl might say, "Mommy, I think you are the coolest mom ever."

In the first instance, she is addressing me "by name," that is, her name for me. In the second instance, she is talking about the role of mother, a common noun.

Here are some other examples:
"Dad!" Betsy called. "Where are you, Daddy?"
She turned to Hazel with a knowing smile. "My daddy can fix anything, just you wait."
"Aw, hogwash," Hazel said. "All your daddy can fix are martinis."
"I'm gonna tell Dad what you said. He'll whup you good, Hazel Dawkins."

Extended family such as aunts and uncles often have these titles appended to names in a fashion similar to sir.

For example:
Aunt Jo was the nicest sort of aunt. A cushiony couch of a woman, Auntie kept her hearth fire burning and all her candy jars full. Liesl wished she could live with her aunt forever and ever. She'd stop calling her Aunt Jo and start calling her Mama.

Hope that helps clarify things for you!

What capitalization conundrums trip you up most?

Friday, November 11, 2011


Today is THE day to help Jessica Bell's debut, STRING BRIDGE, hit the bestseller list on Amazon, and receive the all-original soundtrack, Melody Hill: On the Other Side, written and performed by the author herself, for free!

All you have to do is purchase the book today (paperback or eBook), November 11th, and then email the receipt to:
jessica.carmen.bell(at)gmail(dot)com

She will then email you a link to download the album at no extra cost!



You can purchase String Bridge here: Amazon.com, or here: Amazon UK

Get that? Buy a book and get a free soundtrack album. How cool is that?
Friday, November 11, 2011 Laurel Garver

Today is THE day to help Jessica Bell's debut, STRING BRIDGE, hit the bestseller list on Amazon, and receive the all-original soundtrack, Melody Hill: On the Other Side, written and performed by the author herself, for free!

All you have to do is purchase the book today (paperback or eBook), November 11th, and then email the receipt to:
jessica.carmen.bell(at)gmail(dot)com

She will then email you a link to download the album at no extra cost!



You can purchase String Bridge here: Amazon.com, or here: Amazon UK

Get that? Buy a book and get a free soundtrack album. How cool is that?

Thursday, November 10, 2011

I am a sucker for grammar humor, so I just had to repost this hilarious list of jokes from McSweeney's.

Seven bar jokes involving grammar and punctuation
by Eric K. Auld

1. A comma splice walks into a bar, it has a drink and then leaves.

2. A dangling modifier walks into a bar. After finishing a drink, the bartender asks it to leave.

3. A question mark walks into a bar?

4. Two quotation marks “walk into” a bar.

5. A gerund and an infinitive walk into a bar, drinking to drink.

6. The bar was walked into by the passive voice.

7. Three intransitive verbs walk into a bar. They sit. They drink. They leave.


And if you're not sure when "also" is a better word choice than "too," check out this cautionary tale. (Helps if you know some rudimentary chemistry.)
















Source: Hermant Parkhe


What has tickled your funny bone recently?
Thursday, November 10, 2011 Laurel Garver
I am a sucker for grammar humor, so I just had to repost this hilarious list of jokes from McSweeney's.

Seven bar jokes involving grammar and punctuation
by Eric K. Auld

1. A comma splice walks into a bar, it has a drink and then leaves.

2. A dangling modifier walks into a bar. After finishing a drink, the bartender asks it to leave.

3. A question mark walks into a bar?

4. Two quotation marks “walk into” a bar.

5. A gerund and an infinitive walk into a bar, drinking to drink.

6. The bar was walked into by the passive voice.

7. Three intransitive verbs walk into a bar. They sit. They drink. They leave.


And if you're not sure when "also" is a better word choice than "too," check out this cautionary tale. (Helps if you know some rudimentary chemistry.)
















Source: Hermant Parkhe


What has tickled your funny bone recently?

Wednesday, November 09, 2011

Dear Editor-on-call,

I'm weak when it comes to run-on sentences. Can you help?

Sincerely,
The On-Runner
(aka Bish Denham at Random Thoughts)

Dear Runner,

You are in good company. Run-ons are one of the three most common errors I see in academic writing. PhD programs in English seem to encourage jamming as many ideas as possible between full stops. I once broke an 11-line sentence into FOUR parts. Clearly this was a case of reader distrust--an anxiety that the reader wouldn't comprehend the way ideas were linked unless crammed together. Keep in mind that a paragraph is the best unit for clearly and readably holding together a series of linked ideas.

The biggest danger of run-on sentences is incoherence. The reader will lose the thread of what you're saying if information isn't parsed into manageable pieces.

The most common form of run-on is the comma splice. This term refers to two complete sentences joined with a comma when they should either be divided or have a conjunction inserted (i.e., and, but, for, nor, or, so, yet).

Example:
It will be clear and hot today, you should put on sunscreen.

Possible fixes:
It will be clear and hot today. You should put on sunscreen.
It will be clear and hot today, so you should put on sunscreen.

Another cause of run-ons is misuse of conjunctive adverbs like however, moreover, nonetheless.

Example:
Rocco has sent his three children to ivy-league universities, however, he has sacrificed his health working long shifts at the foundry.

Possible fixes:
Rocco has sent his three children to ivy-league universities. However, he has sacrificed his health working long shifts at the foundry.
Rocco has sent his three children to ivy-league universities; however, he has sacrificed his health working long shifts at the foundry.

I am no fan of the semi-colon and would recommend against using the latter method. These two ideas--"children in ivy-league" and "working long shifts"--are not so tightly bonded they need to be in one sentence. The semi-colon version also contains so much information in such a large chunk it can lose a reader.

And speaking of overload, the worst kind of run-on is the clause-a-thon--too many clauses strung together.

Example:
She read the letter from the insurance company that said that the claim we had filed as a result of our accident in center city on May 3 had been sent on to a review committee which would consider the matter and render a decision within a month.

Possible fixes:
She read the letter from the insurance company. It said the claim we'd filed for our May 3 accident had been sent to a review committee. The committee would review the matter and render a decision in a month.

Note that some unnecessary details are dropped and phrases condensed. The claim is for an accident (less wordy than "as a result of"). Where the accident occurred is unimportant. What matters most is whether the insurance company will pay.

The sentence could be further condensed to hit only the most important information:
The insurance company's letter said our car accident claim had been sent to a review committee. We'd have to wait another month for an answer.

The clause-a-thon is the most likely form to occur in fiction. When you run across sentences that are trying to do to much, look for ways to trim details and parse the information into smaller, more manageable chunks.

Example:
My best friend Nancy, who lived down the hall from me and who I first met at a departmental wine-and-cheese event, wore her onyx hair in a braid, smoked clove cigarettes and went through boyfriends like Kleenex.

Possible fixes:
My best friend Nancy lived down the hall from me. We first met at a departmental wine-and-cheese event. She wore her onyx hair in a braid, smoked clove cigarettes and went through boyfriends like Kleenex.

Leaner:
I first met my best friend Nancy at a departmental wine-and-cheese event. Smoke from her clove cigarette had curled around her onyx braid and wafted toward her boyfriend-du-jour.

In some cases, your best fixes will come from deeper level rewrites like this. Instead of using a list to describe Nancy, I turned the descriptions into an active flashback.

Which of these areas trip you up most?
Wednesday, November 09, 2011 Laurel Garver
Dear Editor-on-call,

I'm weak when it comes to run-on sentences. Can you help?

Sincerely,
The On-Runner
(aka Bish Denham at Random Thoughts)

Dear Runner,

You are in good company. Run-ons are one of the three most common errors I see in academic writing. PhD programs in English seem to encourage jamming as many ideas as possible between full stops. I once broke an 11-line sentence into FOUR parts. Clearly this was a case of reader distrust--an anxiety that the reader wouldn't comprehend the way ideas were linked unless crammed together. Keep in mind that a paragraph is the best unit for clearly and readably holding together a series of linked ideas.

The biggest danger of run-on sentences is incoherence. The reader will lose the thread of what you're saying if information isn't parsed into manageable pieces.

The most common form of run-on is the comma splice. This term refers to two complete sentences joined with a comma when they should either be divided or have a conjunction inserted (i.e., and, but, for, nor, or, so, yet).

Example:
It will be clear and hot today, you should put on sunscreen.

Possible fixes:
It will be clear and hot today. You should put on sunscreen.
It will be clear and hot today, so you should put on sunscreen.

Another cause of run-ons is misuse of conjunctive adverbs like however, moreover, nonetheless.

Example:
Rocco has sent his three children to ivy-league universities, however, he has sacrificed his health working long shifts at the foundry.

Possible fixes:
Rocco has sent his three children to ivy-league universities. However, he has sacrificed his health working long shifts at the foundry.
Rocco has sent his three children to ivy-league universities; however, he has sacrificed his health working long shifts at the foundry.

I am no fan of the semi-colon and would recommend against using the latter method. These two ideas--"children in ivy-league" and "working long shifts"--are not so tightly bonded they need to be in one sentence. The semi-colon version also contains so much information in such a large chunk it can lose a reader.

And speaking of overload, the worst kind of run-on is the clause-a-thon--too many clauses strung together.

Example:
She read the letter from the insurance company that said that the claim we had filed as a result of our accident in center city on May 3 had been sent on to a review committee which would consider the matter and render a decision within a month.

Possible fixes:
She read the letter from the insurance company. It said the claim we'd filed for our May 3 accident had been sent to a review committee. The committee would review the matter and render a decision in a month.

Note that some unnecessary details are dropped and phrases condensed. The claim is for an accident (less wordy than "as a result of"). Where the accident occurred is unimportant. What matters most is whether the insurance company will pay.

The sentence could be further condensed to hit only the most important information:
The insurance company's letter said our car accident claim had been sent to a review committee. We'd have to wait another month for an answer.

The clause-a-thon is the most likely form to occur in fiction. When you run across sentences that are trying to do to much, look for ways to trim details and parse the information into smaller, more manageable chunks.

Example:
My best friend Nancy, who lived down the hall from me and who I first met at a departmental wine-and-cheese event, wore her onyx hair in a braid, smoked clove cigarettes and went through boyfriends like Kleenex.

Possible fixes:
My best friend Nancy lived down the hall from me. We first met at a departmental wine-and-cheese event. She wore her onyx hair in a braid, smoked clove cigarettes and went through boyfriends like Kleenex.

Leaner:
I first met my best friend Nancy at a departmental wine-and-cheese event. Smoke from her clove cigarette had curled around her onyx braid and wafted toward her boyfriend-du-jour.

In some cases, your best fixes will come from deeper level rewrites like this. Instead of using a list to describe Nancy, I turned the descriptions into an active flashback.

Which of these areas trip you up most?

Thursday, November 03, 2011

It has been quite awhile since I last did a post in my editor-on-call series. I got the idea a few years ago after one of my CPs called me late one Friday night with a punctuation emergency:

"Help me with quotes within quotes, STAT!"

I suspected there were others out there with questions about some sticking point of grammar or usage that tripped them up. And as someone who's been editing professionally for *gulp* 20 years this month, I'd like to think I have a decent handle on both the basics and the more esoteric aspects of grammar. Oh yeah, I also took top honors in my master's program in journalism (magazine editorial concentration). Enough "edit cred" to give you good answers, and my sassy side usually keeps the advice entertaining.

Here's a sampling of topics I've covered:

Apostrophe usage
Capitalization
"And then..." -- conjunction usage
"If I were you" -- subjunctive mood
No lie: why we misuse lay (lie/lay usage)
Misplaced modifiers
Maintaining verb tense
Using numbers in fiction
Overwriting repair: Diction, Babbling, Tangents

A few ideas I have for future posts are comma usage (2-5 posts), run-ons and punctuating dialogue. Which of these would help you most?

What are your biggest grammar and usage woes and pitfalls? What "rules" confuse you? I'm open to covering topics that will make your manuscripts cleaner today. Ask away!
Thursday, November 03, 2011 Laurel Garver
It has been quite awhile since I last did a post in my editor-on-call series. I got the idea a few years ago after one of my CPs called me late one Friday night with a punctuation emergency:

"Help me with quotes within quotes, STAT!"

I suspected there were others out there with questions about some sticking point of grammar or usage that tripped them up. And as someone who's been editing professionally for *gulp* 20 years this month, I'd like to think I have a decent handle on both the basics and the more esoteric aspects of grammar. Oh yeah, I also took top honors in my master's program in journalism (magazine editorial concentration). Enough "edit cred" to give you good answers, and my sassy side usually keeps the advice entertaining.

Here's a sampling of topics I've covered:

Apostrophe usage
Capitalization
"And then..." -- conjunction usage
"If I were you" -- subjunctive mood
No lie: why we misuse lay (lie/lay usage)
Misplaced modifiers
Maintaining verb tense
Using numbers in fiction
Overwriting repair: Diction, Babbling, Tangents

A few ideas I have for future posts are comma usage (2-5 posts), run-ons and punctuating dialogue. Which of these would help you most?

What are your biggest grammar and usage woes and pitfalls? What "rules" confuse you? I'm open to covering topics that will make your manuscripts cleaner today. Ask away!

Tuesday, November 01, 2011

by Susan Kaye Quinn, author of Open Minds (Book One of the Mindjack Trilogy)

image source

The very first image—the first brain spark—that inspired Open Minds (Book One of the Mindjack Trilogy) was filled with the effects of intolerance. The idea of a world where everyone read minds, except one girl, sprung into my mind as a setting: the girl, sitting in a high school classroom, surrounded by her mindreading classmates, but as isolated as one human being could be from another. She didn’t speak their mind-language, but it was more than simply being a deaf-person in a hearing world. She was mistrusted, shunned, because they couldn’t understand her. They feared her, because she was the definitive other in their world.

The idea of other has always fascinated me. As a girl, I grew up on aliens in Star Trek and sentient robots in I, Robot by Isaac Asimov. Embedded in those stories was the idea that a being who looks, acts, and thinks nothing like you could still be a person—this is an enduring tradition of science fiction and one that I wholeheartedly embraced. I liked this exploration of what it meant to be human, and I think the best SF has always been about the human in the technology.

In Open Minds, someone who can’t read minds or be read by others is called a zero, a not-so-subtle pejorative that reminds them of their value in the society. Zeros are mistrusted in a world where every thought can be known, except theirs. In this mindreading world of the future, trust is built on complete openness—every thought you have is known by everyone in the room. There are no secrets, no white lies, no social niceties. It’s a rather coarse world in many ways, but also a credulous one. Of course you tell the truth; how can you not? So someone who is capable of keeping a secret is feared as someone completely outside the normal social structure. How could you ever believe a thing that person said? How could you trust them to run the cash register, much less do anything of importance?

Kira, raised in this society where trust and truth are intimately connected, discovers she has a giant sized secret—one that might finally allow her to fit in. All she has to do is lie and mindjack everyone she loves.

Although the theme of intolerance in Open Minds was there from the very beginning, it definitely evolved as I wrote the book. I began to discover all the ways that the intolerance of Kira’s world affected not just her, but the other characters in the story, and eventually the society as a whole. Kira handles her secret and the choices that go with it in one way, but the other characters handle it much worse (or some better). In spite of being mindreaders and mindjackers in a future world, the characters were all still human, subject to all the weaknesses and inner strengths that come with being human.

I’m working on Closed Hearts now, and as the title suggests, the theme of intolerance gains ground in the second book. It fascinates me to create characters that can play out all the possible ways that people can react to an evolving world. Sometimes it feels like our world of 2011 is moving ahead at warp speed, but when the world truly shifts, you can tell the character of a person by how they shift with it. I hope, throughout the Mindjack Trilogy, to honor the fine tradition of science fiction in exploring all the ways we are human.

=====
See more guest posts about Open Minds at the Virtual Launch Party!

When everyone reads minds, a secret is a dangerous thing to keep.

Sixteen-year-old Kira Moore is a zero, someone who can’t read thoughts or be read by others. Zeros are outcasts who can’t be trusted, leaving her no chance with Raf, a regular mindreader and the best friend she secretly loves. When she accidentally controls Raf’s mind and nearly kills him, Kira tries to hide her frightening new ability from her family and an increasingly suspicious Raf. But lies tangle around her, and she’s dragged deep into a hidden world of mindjackers, where having to mind control everyone she loves is just the beginning of the deadly choices before her.

Open Minds (Book One of the Mindjack Trilogy) by Susan Kaye Quinn is available for $2.99 in e-book (Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Smashwords) and $9.99 in print (Amazon, Createspace).

========
PRIZES!

Susan Kaye Quinn is giving away an Open Books/Open Minds t-shirt, mug, and some fun wristbands to celebrate the Virtual Launch Party of Open Minds (Book One of the Mindjack Trilogy)! Check out the prizes here.
Tuesday, November 01, 2011 Laurel Garver
by Susan Kaye Quinn, author of Open Minds (Book One of the Mindjack Trilogy)

image source

The very first image—the first brain spark—that inspired Open Minds (Book One of the Mindjack Trilogy) was filled with the effects of intolerance. The idea of a world where everyone read minds, except one girl, sprung into my mind as a setting: the girl, sitting in a high school classroom, surrounded by her mindreading classmates, but as isolated as one human being could be from another. She didn’t speak their mind-language, but it was more than simply being a deaf-person in a hearing world. She was mistrusted, shunned, because they couldn’t understand her. They feared her, because she was the definitive other in their world.

The idea of other has always fascinated me. As a girl, I grew up on aliens in Star Trek and sentient robots in I, Robot by Isaac Asimov. Embedded in those stories was the idea that a being who looks, acts, and thinks nothing like you could still be a person—this is an enduring tradition of science fiction and one that I wholeheartedly embraced. I liked this exploration of what it meant to be human, and I think the best SF has always been about the human in the technology.

In Open Minds, someone who can’t read minds or be read by others is called a zero, a not-so-subtle pejorative that reminds them of their value in the society. Zeros are mistrusted in a world where every thought can be known, except theirs. In this mindreading world of the future, trust is built on complete openness—every thought you have is known by everyone in the room. There are no secrets, no white lies, no social niceties. It’s a rather coarse world in many ways, but also a credulous one. Of course you tell the truth; how can you not? So someone who is capable of keeping a secret is feared as someone completely outside the normal social structure. How could you ever believe a thing that person said? How could you trust them to run the cash register, much less do anything of importance?

Kira, raised in this society where trust and truth are intimately connected, discovers she has a giant sized secret—one that might finally allow her to fit in. All she has to do is lie and mindjack everyone she loves.

Although the theme of intolerance in Open Minds was there from the very beginning, it definitely evolved as I wrote the book. I began to discover all the ways that the intolerance of Kira’s world affected not just her, but the other characters in the story, and eventually the society as a whole. Kira handles her secret and the choices that go with it in one way, but the other characters handle it much worse (or some better). In spite of being mindreaders and mindjackers in a future world, the characters were all still human, subject to all the weaknesses and inner strengths that come with being human.

I’m working on Closed Hearts now, and as the title suggests, the theme of intolerance gains ground in the second book. It fascinates me to create characters that can play out all the possible ways that people can react to an evolving world. Sometimes it feels like our world of 2011 is moving ahead at warp speed, but when the world truly shifts, you can tell the character of a person by how they shift with it. I hope, throughout the Mindjack Trilogy, to honor the fine tradition of science fiction in exploring all the ways we are human.

=====
See more guest posts about Open Minds at the Virtual Launch Party!

When everyone reads minds, a secret is a dangerous thing to keep.

Sixteen-year-old Kira Moore is a zero, someone who can’t read thoughts or be read by others. Zeros are outcasts who can’t be trusted, leaving her no chance with Raf, a regular mindreader and the best friend she secretly loves. When she accidentally controls Raf’s mind and nearly kills him, Kira tries to hide her frightening new ability from her family and an increasingly suspicious Raf. But lies tangle around her, and she’s dragged deep into a hidden world of mindjackers, where having to mind control everyone she loves is just the beginning of the deadly choices before her.

Open Minds (Book One of the Mindjack Trilogy) by Susan Kaye Quinn is available for $2.99 in e-book (Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Smashwords) and $9.99 in print (Amazon, Createspace).

========
PRIZES!

Susan Kaye Quinn is giving away an Open Books/Open Minds t-shirt, mug, and some fun wristbands to celebrate the Virtual Launch Party of Open Minds (Book One of the Mindjack Trilogy)! Check out the prizes here.