Tuesday, November 26, 2013

I can't be the only one whose weekends are often full of chores, chores, a tiny bit of fun, and more chores. There ought to be a way to get out from under the weekly press of it so I have more balanced weekends. I'm realizing my family members' attention deficit issues mean most of the organizing falls to me, because I have the strongest skills. Let me tell you, it gets discouraging pretty quickly.

Years ago I picked up a couple of household organizing books, and as the holidays approach, it's time to revisit them to prepare for the joys of entertaining. Because honestly, if you're prepared, it can be a joy.

For me the trick is to stick to one goal at a time. This week's comes from Streamlining Your Life by Stephanie Culp.

The number one rule of organizing, Culp says, is only organize what deserves your attention. And a lot of things don't.

Tip of the week:
Don't have too much stuff.

Simple, right? We hang on to stuff we don't need or haven't used for years for one of the following reasons:

I might need this someday
It's still perfectly good
Every ____ is precious (scribble, stuffed animal)
But it's an antique!
This might come back in style
A special person gave it to me
It's a piece of my history
Someday I'll take up this hobby again

All these excuses seem on their face logical, but they're actually emotionally-based decisions. Getting rid of "perfectly good" things we "might need" scares us. But hoarding to stave off a fear of deprivation actually CAUSES deprivation. Your life becomes captive to mess. You lose time and energy when you hoard.

What are your organization battle zones? What kinds of stuff are crowding your life? What excuses and emotions are keeping you fettered to belongings you don't need?
Tuesday, November 26, 2013 Laurel Garver
I can't be the only one whose weekends are often full of chores, chores, a tiny bit of fun, and more chores. There ought to be a way to get out from under the weekly press of it so I have more balanced weekends. I'm realizing my family members' attention deficit issues mean most of the organizing falls to me, because I have the strongest skills. Let me tell you, it gets discouraging pretty quickly.

Years ago I picked up a couple of household organizing books, and as the holidays approach, it's time to revisit them to prepare for the joys of entertaining. Because honestly, if you're prepared, it can be a joy.

For me the trick is to stick to one goal at a time. This week's comes from Streamlining Your Life by Stephanie Culp.

The number one rule of organizing, Culp says, is only organize what deserves your attention. And a lot of things don't.

Tip of the week:
Don't have too much stuff.

Simple, right? We hang on to stuff we don't need or haven't used for years for one of the following reasons:

I might need this someday
It's still perfectly good
Every ____ is precious (scribble, stuffed animal)
But it's an antique!
This might come back in style
A special person gave it to me
It's a piece of my history
Someday I'll take up this hobby again

All these excuses seem on their face logical, but they're actually emotionally-based decisions. Getting rid of "perfectly good" things we "might need" scares us. But hoarding to stave off a fear of deprivation actually CAUSES deprivation. Your life becomes captive to mess. You lose time and energy when you hoard.

What are your organization battle zones? What kinds of stuff are crowding your life? What excuses and emotions are keeping you fettered to belongings you don't need?

Friday, November 22, 2013

In this week's edition of Phonics Friday, we'll be tackling a trio of sound-alike words, all pronounced pȯr. We'll look at definitions, see the terms used in context, and learn some mnemonic (memory) devices to keep them straight.

image credit: hotblack at morguefile.com
Why bother? If you accidentally swap one of these legitimate words for another, spell check won't help you. It can't discern context, but merely if a certain combination of letters appears in its dictionary.

Poor

poor (adj.) - lacking resources, having little money; less than ideal, negative, bad. An expression of pity.

Examples
Hank's family was so poor, they ate meat only once a month.
The cafe service was so poor that we waited an hour for our meal.
Kay was discouraged by her new employee's poor performance on the job.
Poor Leo is hobbling around campus on crutches.

Mnemonic
The poor have too few cool things.

image credit: lisa solonynko, morguefile

Pour

pour (v., trans.) to make flow or dispense in a stream; to produce or give in abundance; to give full expression.

Examples
A waiter must pour wine with great care.
Travis decided to pour all his resources into the family ranch.
Over lunch, Violet poured out her worries to us.

Mnemonic
Doug will pour out our pungent southern punch

Pore

pore (V., intrans.) to intently study, gaze, reflect, or meditate upon; often used with over.

image credit: clarita, morguefile.com
pore (n.) a microscopic opening, as in the skin, (especially one through which molecules can pass through a membrane); tiny opening in the surface of plants or minerals.

the adjectival form of the noun is porous.

Examples
Renee loved to pore over European travel guides in the library.
How long have you been poring over your exam notes?
The dermatologist examined the pores on Mia's cheeks.
Don't take that porous bag; it will leak.

Mnemonic
To raise your geology score more, you must pore over ore.

Which of these terms trip you up most? Any other homophones you'd like me to cover?
Friday, November 22, 2013 Laurel Garver
In this week's edition of Phonics Friday, we'll be tackling a trio of sound-alike words, all pronounced pȯr. We'll look at definitions, see the terms used in context, and learn some mnemonic (memory) devices to keep them straight.

image credit: hotblack at morguefile.com
Why bother? If you accidentally swap one of these legitimate words for another, spell check won't help you. It can't discern context, but merely if a certain combination of letters appears in its dictionary.

Poor

poor (adj.) - lacking resources, having little money; less than ideal, negative, bad. An expression of pity.

Examples
Hank's family was so poor, they ate meat only once a month.
The cafe service was so poor that we waited an hour for our meal.
Kay was discouraged by her new employee's poor performance on the job.
Poor Leo is hobbling around campus on crutches.

Mnemonic
The poor have too few cool things.

image credit: lisa solonynko, morguefile

Pour

pour (v., trans.) to make flow or dispense in a stream; to produce or give in abundance; to give full expression.

Examples
A waiter must pour wine with great care.
Travis decided to pour all his resources into the family ranch.
Over lunch, Violet poured out her worries to us.

Mnemonic
Doug will pour out our pungent southern punch

Pore

pore (V., intrans.) to intently study, gaze, reflect, or meditate upon; often used with over.

image credit: clarita, morguefile.com
pore (n.) a microscopic opening, as in the skin, (especially one through which molecules can pass through a membrane); tiny opening in the surface of plants or minerals.

the adjectival form of the noun is porous.

Examples
Renee loved to pore over European travel guides in the library.
How long have you been poring over your exam notes?
The dermatologist examined the pores on Mia's cheeks.
Don't take that porous bag; it will leak.

Mnemonic
To raise your geology score more, you must pore over ore.

Which of these terms trip you up most? Any other homophones you'd like me to cover?

Thursday, November 21, 2013

It's launch day for Michelle Davidson Argyle's Out of Tune, a New Adult novel about the country music business. Michelle will be back next month to talk writing with us, but for now, here's a teaser!


EXCERPT - OUT OF TUNE by: Michelle D. Argyle

Cole’s steady beat on the drum relaxed her. She could feel his eyes on her as she played, but she did not turn around. He would never know what this meant to her. She had wanted and dreaded this moment forever. She could only imagine what tomorrow would be like, with an audience full of strangers.

She closed her eyes as the music flowed into her. Iza came in on her fiddle, her notes weaving in and out like bright threads in a tapestry. Justin started singing the first lines and she tapped her foot, counting like Nathan had taught her. “Every beat is a physical thing,” he had said. “See the music, feel it, just like you’ve done your whole life. Pearls on a string—let each one slide through your fingers. Measured.”

Mandolin line. Then the bass started. Maggie’s turn.

When she came in, her voice was louder and stronger than it had ever been. Justin’s voice filled her up like honey. She swam through it, adding her own to his. Maybe he was a womanizer and constantly looking at her like he wanted to get her in bed, but he was an amazing singer. They smiled at each other as they melted into the song.

She had never been inside music like this before. The stage lights sparkled in her eyes and she understood for the first time in her life why musicians put up with all that travelling and recording, and the stressful nights like when her mom was puking her guts out with the flu—the real flu—but had to go on stage in five minutes. Maggie remembered her smiling as she wiped her mouth and shrugged. “It’s part of the singin’ life, hon. We don’t always get breaks when we need them.” She had patted Maggie on her twelve-year-old head and squared her shoulders as her makeup artist dusted some powder over her pale cheeks. Then she had left for the stage in a flutter of sequins and curls.

Goodreads | Amazon | B&N | Blog  | Facebook | Twitter


Special Giveaway!
Thursday, November 21, 2013 Laurel Garver
It's launch day for Michelle Davidson Argyle's Out of Tune, a New Adult novel about the country music business. Michelle will be back next month to talk writing with us, but for now, here's a teaser!


EXCERPT - OUT OF TUNE by: Michelle D. Argyle

Cole’s steady beat on the drum relaxed her. She could feel his eyes on her as she played, but she did not turn around. He would never know what this meant to her. She had wanted and dreaded this moment forever. She could only imagine what tomorrow would be like, with an audience full of strangers.

She closed her eyes as the music flowed into her. Iza came in on her fiddle, her notes weaving in and out like bright threads in a tapestry. Justin started singing the first lines and she tapped her foot, counting like Nathan had taught her. “Every beat is a physical thing,” he had said. “See the music, feel it, just like you’ve done your whole life. Pearls on a string—let each one slide through your fingers. Measured.”

Mandolin line. Then the bass started. Maggie’s turn.

When she came in, her voice was louder and stronger than it had ever been. Justin’s voice filled her up like honey. She swam through it, adding her own to his. Maybe he was a womanizer and constantly looking at her like he wanted to get her in bed, but he was an amazing singer. They smiled at each other as they melted into the song.

She had never been inside music like this before. The stage lights sparkled in her eyes and she understood for the first time in her life why musicians put up with all that travelling and recording, and the stressful nights like when her mom was puking her guts out with the flu—the real flu—but had to go on stage in five minutes. Maggie remembered her smiling as she wiped her mouth and shrugged. “It’s part of the singin’ life, hon. We don’t always get breaks when we need them.” She had patted Maggie on her twelve-year-old head and squared her shoulders as her makeup artist dusted some powder over her pale cheeks. Then she had left for the stage in a flutter of sequins and curls.

Goodreads | Amazon | B&N | Blog  | Facebook | Twitter


Special Giveaway!

Monday, November 18, 2013

by Crystal Collier
author of Moonless

One of my earliest memories was of snuggling up in my blankets, leaning on my pillow, and listening with rapt attention as my oldest brother told stories of “Super Goober.” He started a culture of storytelling among my seven siblings and I, a custom passed from the oldest to youngest.

I was the splitting point, the middle child. It was up to me to pick up where the older siblings left off. Because of that, I started telling my own stories. My youngest brother and sister would cozy up on my floor while I continued the saga of a fantasy world, expanding details and explaining the culture, answering questions and exploring until everyone dozed into sleep.

But those stories and characters didn’t die when we were too old for sleepovers. No, they continued to live in my subconscious, joined by dozens of others who popped up through the years.

So how do I develop characters?

Characters happen.

They’re a result of real world experiences combined with wishful thinking. My first solid character, Kiri, was born from intense pain. Life was not pretty on any front for me: home, school or church. Channeling all my troubles, I imagined a girl whose suffering was greater than my own. She was part who I wanted to become and part who I was. I built a world where she struggled to find meaning or a modicum of her own importance. And she was important. She was so important her entire world would cease to exist without her.

But she couldn’t see it.

She set a pattern for where and how my characters would originate. For the most part I meet them in my dreams, story dreams with fully fleshed out conflicts. Fueled by the character’s emotions, (emotions so potent I HAVE to explore them,) the story begins.

Where do you meet your characters?

Crystal Collier, author of MOONLESS, is a former composer/writer for Black Diamond Productions. She can be found practicing her brother-induced ninja skills while teaching children or madly typing about fantastic and impossible creatures. She has lived from coast to coast and now calls Florida home with her creative husband, three littles, and “friend” (a.k.a. the zombie locked in her closet). Secretly, she dreams of world domination and a bottomless supply of cheese. 

You can find her on her blog and Facebook, or follow her on Twitter.

About MOONLESS
In the English society of 1768 where women are bred to marry, unattractive Alexia, just sixteen, believes she will end up alone. But on the county doorstep of a neighbor’s estate, she meets a man straight out of her nightmares, one whose blue eyes threaten to consume her whole world—especially later when she discovers him standing over her murdered host in the middle of the night.

Among the many things to change for her that evening are: her physical appearance—from ghastly to breathtaking, an epidemic of night terrors predicting the future, and the blue-eyed man’s unexpected infusion into her life. Not only do his appearances precede tragedies, but they’re echoed by the arrival of ravenous, black-robed wraiths on moonless nights.

Unable to decide whether he is one of these monsters or protecting her from them, she uncovers what her father has been concealing: truths about her own identity, about the blue-eyed man, and about love. After an attack close to home, Alexia realizes she cannot keep one foot in her old life and one in this new world. To protect her family she must either be sold into a loveless marriage, or escape with the man of her dreams and risk becoming one of the Soulless.

Buy MOONLESS HERE or add it on Goodreads.

Enter Crystal's awesome giveaway! 
Monday, November 18, 2013 Laurel Garver
by Crystal Collier
author of Moonless

One of my earliest memories was of snuggling up in my blankets, leaning on my pillow, and listening with rapt attention as my oldest brother told stories of “Super Goober.” He started a culture of storytelling among my seven siblings and I, a custom passed from the oldest to youngest.

I was the splitting point, the middle child. It was up to me to pick up where the older siblings left off. Because of that, I started telling my own stories. My youngest brother and sister would cozy up on my floor while I continued the saga of a fantasy world, expanding details and explaining the culture, answering questions and exploring until everyone dozed into sleep.

But those stories and characters didn’t die when we were too old for sleepovers. No, they continued to live in my subconscious, joined by dozens of others who popped up through the years.

So how do I develop characters?

Characters happen.

They’re a result of real world experiences combined with wishful thinking. My first solid character, Kiri, was born from intense pain. Life was not pretty on any front for me: home, school or church. Channeling all my troubles, I imagined a girl whose suffering was greater than my own. She was part who I wanted to become and part who I was. I built a world where she struggled to find meaning or a modicum of her own importance. And she was important. She was so important her entire world would cease to exist without her.

But she couldn’t see it.

She set a pattern for where and how my characters would originate. For the most part I meet them in my dreams, story dreams with fully fleshed out conflicts. Fueled by the character’s emotions, (emotions so potent I HAVE to explore them,) the story begins.

Where do you meet your characters?

Crystal Collier, author of MOONLESS, is a former composer/writer for Black Diamond Productions. She can be found practicing her brother-induced ninja skills while teaching children or madly typing about fantastic and impossible creatures. She has lived from coast to coast and now calls Florida home with her creative husband, three littles, and “friend” (a.k.a. the zombie locked in her closet). Secretly, she dreams of world domination and a bottomless supply of cheese. 

You can find her on her blog and Facebook, or follow her on Twitter.

About MOONLESS
In the English society of 1768 where women are bred to marry, unattractive Alexia, just sixteen, believes she will end up alone. But on the county doorstep of a neighbor’s estate, she meets a man straight out of her nightmares, one whose blue eyes threaten to consume her whole world—especially later when she discovers him standing over her murdered host in the middle of the night.

Among the many things to change for her that evening are: her physical appearance—from ghastly to breathtaking, an epidemic of night terrors predicting the future, and the blue-eyed man’s unexpected infusion into her life. Not only do his appearances precede tragedies, but they’re echoed by the arrival of ravenous, black-robed wraiths on moonless nights.

Unable to decide whether he is one of these monsters or protecting her from them, she uncovers what her father has been concealing: truths about her own identity, about the blue-eyed man, and about love. After an attack close to home, Alexia realizes she cannot keep one foot in her old life and one in this new world. To protect her family she must either be sold into a loveless marriage, or escape with the man of her dreams and risk becoming one of the Soulless.

Buy MOONLESS HERE or add it on Goodreads.

Enter Crystal's awesome giveaway! 

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

I admit it. I'm starting to give up on books more often than I used to. A wise friend of mine has a rule of thumb about finishing books: "if you're under 30, give every book 100 pages to hook you. If you're over 30, give it 50." I think she understands the natural impatience of youth, and the often natural stick-to-it-iveness of maturity. Sometimes we need to give authors a chance, sometimes we need to cut our losses and move on.

As I've set aside a few books, I got thinking about what makes me, personally, cut my losses. And as I did so, I realized a very helpful blog series might grow around these areas. So today I'll be simply laying out "the problem" and ask for your input as well. In future posts, I'll address how to avoid these pitfalls in your own writing.

Top ten reasons I stop reading


1. Riddled with errors

photo by verbaska, morguefile.com

Frequent errors in spelling, grammar, usage, syntax, punctuation, and formatting immediately pull me out of the story and make me want to reach for my red pen. Frankly, I don't want pleasure reading to feel like work.

2. Annoying voice


I really love witty, sarcastic narrators, but there can be a fine line between sarcasm and obnoxiousness. The ones that make me shut the book rather than read on are deeply mean-spirited types who always put others down, and/or are self-absorbed complainers.

3. No one to root for


Yes, characters need flaws to be realistic. But if every character is all flawed all the time, it's as boring as reading a book full of Mary Sues. As a reader, I simply stop caring if none of the characters has a redeeming quality to give hope for change and growth. Because change is the essence of plot, and hope the one emotion your reader most wants to have stirred. So sure, bring on the scarred and damaged, but if they're all about simply lashing out or wallowing, I'm moving on.

4. Garbled action


To use a theatre metaphor, fiction needs to be properly blocked. That is, the key characters and actions should be put in a focal place (not upstaged by the extras), and all movements should be presented in a manner that makes sense and flows. Action scenes with too much going on all at once, with no clear sense where the characters are, and how they are moving in space--and in relation to one another--is simply confusing rather than exciting.

5.  Cliched


If the story feels like I've heard it before, all the characters are standard types, and no one does anything surprising, I'm bored.

6. Predictable


The predictable plot usually flows out of clichéd characters and scenarios. Or perhaps the plot complications are too obvious and obstacles too easily overcome.Sometimes predictability comes about because the writer hasn't mastered advanced techniques such as narrative misdirection--getting the characters focused wrong information some of the time (aka "red herrings"). If I get to page 50 with no real surprises, I tend to give up.

7. Implausible


Plots that hinge too much on coincidence make my skeptic-ometer alarm peal. Random coincidences seem to happen all the time in real life, but dig deeper and there's often some history that led to the moment. Cheap epiphanies, in which characters "see the light" after one minor shake-up, do not a plausible story make. Real change is slow, incremental, and includes some failure and steps backward.

In this category I also lump things like "insta-love" and "insta-reform" (the latter crops up in religious fiction far too often).

8. Stilted


If the writing lacks naturalness, either the narrative voice or dialogue, it pulls me out of the story. Contemporary stories need to sound like they're recording real people. Historical fiction, fantasy and SciFi similarly need to reflect the milieu in which they are set.

9. Thin


Some novels seem like only the skeleton of a story. There's a plot, but it zips along so fast, I never catch my breath. The characters' personalities and relationships are superficial. Thin stories tend to have only a main plot (no subplots) and secondary characters that are all essentially extras, like Detective #3 in a police procedural TV show.

10. Bad fit for my tastes


I have no stomach for graphic violence, and I prefer not to ingest much foul language or graphic sexual content. The proverb "Guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life," is something I consider when choosing reading material. I want books to help me become more empathetic, not harden me or encourage my vices. Others have different no-go areas and preferences.

What makes YOU stop reading? Any additional categories to add?
Tuesday, November 12, 2013 Laurel Garver
I admit it. I'm starting to give up on books more often than I used to. A wise friend of mine has a rule of thumb about finishing books: "if you're under 30, give every book 100 pages to hook you. If you're over 30, give it 50." I think she understands the natural impatience of youth, and the often natural stick-to-it-iveness of maturity. Sometimes we need to give authors a chance, sometimes we need to cut our losses and move on.

As I've set aside a few books, I got thinking about what makes me, personally, cut my losses. And as I did so, I realized a very helpful blog series might grow around these areas. So today I'll be simply laying out "the problem" and ask for your input as well. In future posts, I'll address how to avoid these pitfalls in your own writing.

Top ten reasons I stop reading


1. Riddled with errors

photo by verbaska, morguefile.com

Frequent errors in spelling, grammar, usage, syntax, punctuation, and formatting immediately pull me out of the story and make me want to reach for my red pen. Frankly, I don't want pleasure reading to feel like work.

2. Annoying voice


I really love witty, sarcastic narrators, but there can be a fine line between sarcasm and obnoxiousness. The ones that make me shut the book rather than read on are deeply mean-spirited types who always put others down, and/or are self-absorbed complainers.

3. No one to root for


Yes, characters need flaws to be realistic. But if every character is all flawed all the time, it's as boring as reading a book full of Mary Sues. As a reader, I simply stop caring if none of the characters has a redeeming quality to give hope for change and growth. Because change is the essence of plot, and hope the one emotion your reader most wants to have stirred. So sure, bring on the scarred and damaged, but if they're all about simply lashing out or wallowing, I'm moving on.

4. Garbled action


To use a theatre metaphor, fiction needs to be properly blocked. That is, the key characters and actions should be put in a focal place (not upstaged by the extras), and all movements should be presented in a manner that makes sense and flows. Action scenes with too much going on all at once, with no clear sense where the characters are, and how they are moving in space--and in relation to one another--is simply confusing rather than exciting.

5.  Cliched


If the story feels like I've heard it before, all the characters are standard types, and no one does anything surprising, I'm bored.

6. Predictable


The predictable plot usually flows out of clichéd characters and scenarios. Or perhaps the plot complications are too obvious and obstacles too easily overcome.Sometimes predictability comes about because the writer hasn't mastered advanced techniques such as narrative misdirection--getting the characters focused wrong information some of the time (aka "red herrings"). If I get to page 50 with no real surprises, I tend to give up.

7. Implausible


Plots that hinge too much on coincidence make my skeptic-ometer alarm peal. Random coincidences seem to happen all the time in real life, but dig deeper and there's often some history that led to the moment. Cheap epiphanies, in which characters "see the light" after one minor shake-up, do not a plausible story make. Real change is slow, incremental, and includes some failure and steps backward.

In this category I also lump things like "insta-love" and "insta-reform" (the latter crops up in religious fiction far too often).

8. Stilted


If the writing lacks naturalness, either the narrative voice or dialogue, it pulls me out of the story. Contemporary stories need to sound like they're recording real people. Historical fiction, fantasy and SciFi similarly need to reflect the milieu in which they are set.

9. Thin


Some novels seem like only the skeleton of a story. There's a plot, but it zips along so fast, I never catch my breath. The characters' personalities and relationships are superficial. Thin stories tend to have only a main plot (no subplots) and secondary characters that are all essentially extras, like Detective #3 in a police procedural TV show.

10. Bad fit for my tastes


I have no stomach for graphic violence, and I prefer not to ingest much foul language or graphic sexual content. The proverb "Guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life," is something I consider when choosing reading material. I want books to help me become more empathetic, not harden me or encourage my vices. Others have different no-go areas and preferences.

What makes YOU stop reading? Any additional categories to add?

Friday, November 08, 2013

It's Phonics Friday once again, and today we'll be tackling a trio of sound-alike nouns, all pronounced pal-it, that are used in quite different contexts.

Let's take a look at definitions, see the terms used in context, and learn some mnemonic (memory) devices to keep the terms straight.

Why bother? If you accidentally swap one of these legitimate words for another, spell check won't help you. It can't discern context, but merely if a certain combination of letters appears in its dictionary.

Palate

Photo by luisrock62, morguefile.com

palate - n. the roof of the mouth; appreciation of taste and flavor, especially when sensitive and discriminating.

The adjectival form palatable and its antonym unpalatable are commonly used to describe food.

Examples

  • Smile Train is a charity that treats children born with cleft palate.
  • "The L sound," explained the ESL teacher, "is created by pressing the tongue against the palate." 
  • Because of his sensitive palate, Crosby was always called on to taste-test the soups and sauces.
  • Our hosts served fresh fruit as a palate cleanser between courses.
  • Thea does not find fast food palatable.  (adj. form)

Mnemonic
My PAL ATE what appealed to her PALATE.

Pallet

image: Wikipeda

pallet - n. a mat or thin mattress; a slab or framework  used for carrying things; a unit of goods that can fit on a standard frame used in warehouses.

Examples

  • During the hurricane, Deb had only her yoga mat to use as a pallet.
  • Forklift drivers spend their workdays moving pallets of goods around the warehouse.
  • Jim builds dog houses out of wood salvaged from old warehouse pallets.
  • Five pallets of medical supplies were delivered to the refugee camp.

Mnemonic
My PAL LET me sleep on his PALLET

image by jppi, morguefile.com

Palette


palette - n. a flat board used by artists for holding and mixing paint; a group of colors used together, as an artist might for a particular painting; a comparable range, use or quality of items.

Examples

  • Ette squirted dollops of blue, orange, black, and white oil paint onto her palette.
  • Roderigo used a palette knife to apply thick layers of paint to his canvas.
  • Our color palette for the guest room will be plum, pale mulberry, and charcoal, with touches of silver.
  • Yuko's music combined a rich palette of harmonies.

Mnemonic
My PAL ETTE put paint on her PALETTE.

Be aware that advertisers love to do word plays on palate and palette.
For example, "Tempt your palate with a colorful palette of summer fruit."
Remember that the "ate" version relates to taste, while the "ette" version is visual.

Which of these words trip you up? Are there other homophones (sound-alikes) that confuse you?

Friday, November 08, 2013 Laurel Garver
It's Phonics Friday once again, and today we'll be tackling a trio of sound-alike nouns, all pronounced pal-it, that are used in quite different contexts.

Let's take a look at definitions, see the terms used in context, and learn some mnemonic (memory) devices to keep the terms straight.

Why bother? If you accidentally swap one of these legitimate words for another, spell check won't help you. It can't discern context, but merely if a certain combination of letters appears in its dictionary.

Palate

Photo by luisrock62, morguefile.com

palate - n. the roof of the mouth; appreciation of taste and flavor, especially when sensitive and discriminating.

The adjectival form palatable and its antonym unpalatable are commonly used to describe food.

Examples

  • Smile Train is a charity that treats children born with cleft palate.
  • "The L sound," explained the ESL teacher, "is created by pressing the tongue against the palate." 
  • Because of his sensitive palate, Crosby was always called on to taste-test the soups and sauces.
  • Our hosts served fresh fruit as a palate cleanser between courses.
  • Thea does not find fast food palatable.  (adj. form)

Mnemonic
My PAL ATE what appealed to her PALATE.

Pallet

image: Wikipeda

pallet - n. a mat or thin mattress; a slab or framework  used for carrying things; a unit of goods that can fit on a standard frame used in warehouses.

Examples

  • During the hurricane, Deb had only her yoga mat to use as a pallet.
  • Forklift drivers spend their workdays moving pallets of goods around the warehouse.
  • Jim builds dog houses out of wood salvaged from old warehouse pallets.
  • Five pallets of medical supplies were delivered to the refugee camp.

Mnemonic
My PAL LET me sleep on his PALLET

image by jppi, morguefile.com

Palette


palette - n. a flat board used by artists for holding and mixing paint; a group of colors used together, as an artist might for a particular painting; a comparable range, use or quality of items.

Examples

  • Ette squirted dollops of blue, orange, black, and white oil paint onto her palette.
  • Roderigo used a palette knife to apply thick layers of paint to his canvas.
  • Our color palette for the guest room will be plum, pale mulberry, and charcoal, with touches of silver.
  • Yuko's music combined a rich palette of harmonies.

Mnemonic
My PAL ETTE put paint on her PALETTE.

Be aware that advertisers love to do word plays on palate and palette.
For example, "Tempt your palate with a colorful palette of summer fruit."
Remember that the "ate" version relates to taste, while the "ette" version is visual.

Which of these words trip you up? Are there other homophones (sound-alikes) that confuse you?

Tuesday, November 05, 2013

We all know where to turn for help with writing words correctly in our stories--a dictionary. But how about numbers?

How you should write time? 5 o'clock or 5:00 pm? And do you have to write out amounts in fiction, as in five thousand, or can you go with 5,000? What about ages? Dates?

Photo credit: dancerinthedark from morguefile.com
Unfortunately, there isn't one hard and fast rule for this. These sorts of decisions are what industry pros call "style." Every publisher has its own style guide dictating its preference for handling things like numbers. Agents and editors won't expect you to know this information ahead of time--they'll likely just ask for changes during the editing phase if you chose something other than house style. However, if you don't handle numbers consistently, you won't be making fast friends with the editorial department. And if you self-publish, you'll need to discuss "house style" with any freelance editing professional you hire.

For many years, I worked on publications that used Associate Press (AP) style, so I've had those rules pretty deeply ingrained in how I approach this question. Its style choices will feel more natural for some genres than others.

Clock time

AP usually handles time like this-- 4:43 a.m. or 11 p.m. (Note the letters are lower case with periods after each. AM and PM is right out.) If your story is, say, a mystery, thriller or SciFi full of time references, this is the format to go with. It's pithy and official looking.

In most other fiction, I typically see times written out as four o'clock or eight-thirty or half past two. For occasional references, spelled out numbers read more fluidly. The a.m. and p.m. distinction can be handled better through descriptors like morning, afternoon, evening, night.

I'd recommend against combining the two formats. Both "four forty three a.m." and "5:02 o'clock" just look stupid.

Quantities, amounts and ages

AP style says to spell out numbers under ten and use numerals for everything else. I can't think of a single novel that follows that rule. Quantities should be spelled out. Hyphenate a compound number when used as an adjective.

He came in sixth place.
Joyce won fifteen million dollars.
The kidnappers are demanding thirty grand.
I can give you twenty-two reasons to stay home. (note hyphen)
When Kit turned twenty two, she bought an electric bass.
The victim was an eleven-year-old male. (note hyphens)
I haven't been back to Viperville since I was eleven years old.


Dates

Calendar dates are another sticky area. AP handles them like this--May 5, 1999; June 13; Summer 2012. Commas are used only between day and year. Ordinal numbers are a no-no (notice it's NOT June 13th in AP).

I haven't seen any clear preference in fiction for how one handles numbers for the purpose of naming a date. Obviously spelling out the year will be too wordy, so I'd avoid that. As far as using the word or numeral, go with whichever looks better in context. Ordinal numbers will generally look better spelled out--and sound more like natural speech.

Kyle left for camp on June 23.
Which day should we go, the sixth or the seventh?
Joe-Bob remembered that awful lynching in April 1952.
Who wants to hike on February third?
The ambassador's letter was dated September 9, 2002.

The most important thing is to pick a style and follow it consistently. I'd suggest making an index card with your personal "style guide" and posting near your computer for quick reference.

If anyone knows of a definitive style guide all the major houses use, please me know!

Which of these areas have tripped you up? Would you argue against any of my recommendations? Why?
Tuesday, November 05, 2013 Laurel Garver
We all know where to turn for help with writing words correctly in our stories--a dictionary. But how about numbers?

How you should write time? 5 o'clock or 5:00 pm? And do you have to write out amounts in fiction, as in five thousand, or can you go with 5,000? What about ages? Dates?

Photo credit: dancerinthedark from morguefile.com
Unfortunately, there isn't one hard and fast rule for this. These sorts of decisions are what industry pros call "style." Every publisher has its own style guide dictating its preference for handling things like numbers. Agents and editors won't expect you to know this information ahead of time--they'll likely just ask for changes during the editing phase if you chose something other than house style. However, if you don't handle numbers consistently, you won't be making fast friends with the editorial department. And if you self-publish, you'll need to discuss "house style" with any freelance editing professional you hire.

For many years, I worked on publications that used Associate Press (AP) style, so I've had those rules pretty deeply ingrained in how I approach this question. Its style choices will feel more natural for some genres than others.

Clock time

AP usually handles time like this-- 4:43 a.m. or 11 p.m. (Note the letters are lower case with periods after each. AM and PM is right out.) If your story is, say, a mystery, thriller or SciFi full of time references, this is the format to go with. It's pithy and official looking.

In most other fiction, I typically see times written out as four o'clock or eight-thirty or half past two. For occasional references, spelled out numbers read more fluidly. The a.m. and p.m. distinction can be handled better through descriptors like morning, afternoon, evening, night.

I'd recommend against combining the two formats. Both "four forty three a.m." and "5:02 o'clock" just look stupid.

Quantities, amounts and ages

AP style says to spell out numbers under ten and use numerals for everything else. I can't think of a single novel that follows that rule. Quantities should be spelled out. Hyphenate a compound number when used as an adjective.

He came in sixth place.
Joyce won fifteen million dollars.
The kidnappers are demanding thirty grand.
I can give you twenty-two reasons to stay home. (note hyphen)
When Kit turned twenty two, she bought an electric bass.
The victim was an eleven-year-old male. (note hyphens)
I haven't been back to Viperville since I was eleven years old.


Dates

Calendar dates are another sticky area. AP handles them like this--May 5, 1999; June 13; Summer 2012. Commas are used only between day and year. Ordinal numbers are a no-no (notice it's NOT June 13th in AP).

I haven't seen any clear preference in fiction for how one handles numbers for the purpose of naming a date. Obviously spelling out the year will be too wordy, so I'd avoid that. As far as using the word or numeral, go with whichever looks better in context. Ordinal numbers will generally look better spelled out--and sound more like natural speech.

Kyle left for camp on June 23.
Which day should we go, the sixth or the seventh?
Joe-Bob remembered that awful lynching in April 1952.
Who wants to hike on February third?
The ambassador's letter was dated September 9, 2002.

The most important thing is to pick a style and follow it consistently. I'd suggest making an index card with your personal "style guide" and posting near your computer for quick reference.

If anyone knows of a definitive style guide all the major houses use, please me know!

Which of these areas have tripped you up? Would you argue against any of my recommendations? Why?