Thursday, March 22, 2018

Does Grammar Matter?

Grammar rules are changing, always have. But how far is too far? I was taught never to start a sentence with “and” or “but.” I just did that. Today it’s acceptable. However, we need to know the rules so we know how and when to break them. Here are a few of my pet peeves:

I’ve heard young authors say that commas just get in the way, so they don’t use them at all. Is that really wise? Unless he/she only wants to self-publish, they won’t get anywhere with a traditional publisher. It also leads to confusing sentences. The baby has a bottle rubber ducky rattle and shoes. Is that a “bottle rubber ducky rattle and shoes,” a “bottle, rubber ducky rattle, and shoes” or a “bottle, rubber ducky, rattle and shoes?” All three conjure up different items. The only item the reader knows for sure is the shoes.

When I’m reading in past tense and come across words like: ago, tomorrow, yesterday, and such, it pulls me out of the story. Those terms convey speaking in present tense. I use: before or earlier, the next day, the day before, and such. Dialogue is different. The author is quoting what was said.

I was taught all foreign words are italicized, even the ones we use every day. (Okay I’ll admit we underlined them in the days before computers, but the same rule applies.) Words like via, and others I can’t think of right now.

Then there are the words that have similar meanings that are not interchangeable. The one I hear the most often is the misuse of “less.” It’s often used when it should be “fewer.” Less cannot be counted, fewer can. Examples: less money—fewer dollars, fewer calories—less fattening, I could go on, but hopefully I have made my point. If it can be counted, it should be fewer—if not, it should be less.

Grammar changes, and always will, but let’s not come off as less educated than we are.

Thursday, March 8, 2018

Potato Chip Rock

Re-starting my blog once more:

I had a grand adventure a couple of weeks ago with my son that I’ll start with. Next week my post will focus on writing.

Have you ever heard of Potato Chip Rock? Didn’t think so unless you live near Poway, CA. One more bucket list item checked off. I hadn’t even heard of it until I moved away from that city. The hike is a 2 mile trek up Mt. Woodson.

My son Brian was my guide. It’s the toughest 4 mile hike I’ve ever gone on. 

We hiked through beautiful terrain.

I made myself notice the beauty every few minutes when I stopped and gasped for breath.

We climbed 1,300 feet in elevation in the 2 miles up.

Potato Chip Rock deserves its name, and I wish I could have had my picture taken on top, but I couldn’t climb up the crack in the rock necessary to reach it.

I waited my turn in line, but when I needed to raise my knee to about waist height especially in that small space, my back said, “Don’t do it.” I didn’t. Still worth the hike.

The descent was easier, but by then my body was telling me “enough!” Brian made sure I drank enough water all along the way, and gave me a granola bar for calories before starting down.

I was surprised I didn’t have sore muscles the next day. My calves were burning on the way up, and the top of my thighs on the way down.

Was I disappointed that I couldn’t go to the top of Potato Chip Rock? Yes! But not devastated. At my age I’m thankful I could take the journey with my son. 

One on one time with any of my children is always special. 

It’s an adventure I’ll always remember.

I can do hard things, but I still have to be smart, and know when to let it go.

Thursday, November 23, 2017

Giving Thanks

Today’s the day we remember to be thankful. It’s common to go around the table and mention what we’re thankful for. It’s usually the big things, Mom & Dad, healing, food, modern conveniences, health, a child’s teddy bear, home, and so forth.

This post will point out different ways to find gratitude. For one week, notice everyone and everything that helps, encourages, or lifts your spirits in any way: The clerk in the store that smiles at you, the spouse that says “good morning,” the Face Book post that makes you smile, birds singing in the trees, trees, the sun shining, the Face Book post that inspires you, the clouds that bring needed rain or snow, and on and on. See how many you can find in one day. It doesn’t matter if it gets silly, nobody will know except you.

Living a life filled with gratitude will make us happier. Look for that silver lining in the cloud hanging over you. Even if you have lost a loved one, ponder the joys they brought into your life. Find someone else with trials, and lift their spirits. Lift the person you think least needs it. Chances are they also have a heavy load to carry.

Joy and happiness are born of Gratitude. Gordon T. Watts

Thursday, October 12, 2017


I don’t get telling in-law jokes. My late mother-in-law was a dear woman. We never had a cross word. My late father-in-law was always cordial if distant. Perhaps it was a cultural thing. My sister-in-law, as in my husband’s sister, has always been cordial. She was still a teenager when Dan & I got married. She didn’t say much, but I always felt welcome in their home. We don’t see her very often, but we have a good experience when we do.
            My mom as a mother-in-law? I can’t speak for my husband, except to tell one experience we had early in our marriage. We were selected to as one of the couples to play The Newly Wed Game at a church function. My husband was asked, “Who the weirdest person you two know.” I don’t know how long he took to ponder, but his answer was my mother. When it came my turn to answer the same question, the whole group inhaled, and didn’t exhale until I gave the same answer. There was no other answer. Years after her death, we’d both still give the same answer. Love her very much, but she had some very strange ideas. No room to discuss those here.
            Moving on, my sister had the audacity to marry my elementary school principal. (She’s 18 years older than I am and is still living, however, Don passed a few years ago.) Thankfully I didn’t get sent to the principal’s office except for not completing class work and having emotional trauma. He was fun to be around. One problem I had was trying to remember to call him Mr. Venne at school, but to call him Don at home.
            My late sister-in-law, Lois, played a big role in my life. She was pregnant with their second baby, and their first was 1 year old when the man Mom was going to marry eloped with someone else a week before the wedding. The house we’d been living in was rented to someone else. We’d been living on welfare, and that was cut off. If it hadn’t been for she and my brother Mom & I would have been homeless. They took us into their small home where we lived for 9 months while I was in the 8th grade. Mom took in ironing while looking for a job. She found employment babysitting and cleaning house for a family with 3 boys. Lois was a steady hand during a difficult time of my life. One thing she taught me that I still remember is, “Buy clothes that are tight enough to show that you’re a lady, but lose enough to prove you are.” I could do a whole post on her. She was always there for me when the chips were down.

            What can I say about my other sister-in-law Vinnie? First thing I remember where she helped me: Soon after she married my brother, she told him that at 18-years-old, I was too old to be swung around like a little girl. She’s only 1 ½ years older than I am. I could also do post on the help she’s given me. Not as much in my late teen years because they didn’t live close to us like my other siblings. We lived in the same town for several years after I was married, and she was always there for me, supporting me when I felt inadequate as a young mother. She married my brother when she was only 16-years-old, so she had more experience. Yes, they’re still married. 

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Writer Preparedness

           No matter where we live, we’ve been told to prepare for natural disasters whether hurricane, flood, fire, earthquake, blizzard or something else. Most often having a 72 hour kit and with the necessities for 3 days on top of the list. We don’t usually think about being prepared with our writing in mind.
            I’m sure you know the first rule. Backup. Backup. Backup. But do you backup consistently?
My preferred method is using the cloud if you can afford it. It isn’t that expensive. I have several reasons why it works for me. First of all, it’s automatic. Every time I make changes—boom it’s there. Secondly, it’s not in my house. An external hard drive, won’t do you any good if it’s near the computer when disaster strikes and you aren’t home, or don’t have time to take anything but the clothes on your back.
Another method is sending your writing to an out of town/state/country contact. I did this in 2003 when the Cedar Fire hit our area. We self-evacuated because we lived a couple of blocks south and west of the cross roads for the evacuation area. I sent all of my writing to a writing buddy in England who happened to be on-line at the time. This became valuable a few years later when I couldn’t find the most current outline for the semi-autobiography I dabble in between novels. He salvaged it out of his old computer.
You can also use thumb drives, re-writable CD’s & DVD’s. Whatever you do, backup often, and have it somewhere besides in your house.
Also, keep your favorite books on writing with your grab and go items in case you have a few minutes to gather important papers, pictures and such. Especially if they are out of print, marked, or hard to find. Keep a list of the books you have and the authors so you can replace them if needed. This can be on paper with the important books, or on your chosen backup device.
In short, a clear safe backup plan can save you tears and that hollow feeling of losing hours of work. You may attempt to re-write what you have, after all those are your stories, but they will never be the same. I know about that too. In the long ago days BC (before computer) I had several hand written chapters of a speculative fiction novel that was tossed out. I’ve tried to re-write it, and have done some of it, but it isn’t the same. The characters aren’t the same. I may or may not ever finish it. It’s especially true for non-fiction and research.

So my friends protect your work. Have a plan in case Murphy takes his hand at your work. Foil him with preparedness.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Farewell AOL

It’s been a long run, and for the most part it’s been fine, sometimes even great. We came on board in the late 1990’s. You were young and popular at the time.
            I gained a lot from your Writers Club. I attended over a dozen various writing chats and honed my writing skills. I still have contact with 2 of the people I knew back then. It’s sad to let go of Joyfulbee8. It was fun being called Joy. I wondered at the time if I would turn around in a crowd if I heard someone call out, “Joy.” I’ll never know.
            My husband cut his e-mail baby teeth on your service. You helped him shake hands with the technological age outside of his job. We stuck with you even when the rest of the world laughed at us.
            Today, I deleted you from my life. Another phase put behind me. I must admit I’ll miss your news. It was fun not knowing what the next click would bring: real news, fake news, who’s dating/cheating with whom, interesting tidbits, foods to eat/avoid and more. Never read about celebrities unless they’d passed on, or most of it, but it was fun glancing through anyway.
            We put up with your slowness, and other quirks. However, to ask us to PAY for the service no matter how much better you say it’ll be. Forget it. You won’t even tell us how much the “small monthly fee” is until we sign up. I don’t buy anything on the shelf if the price isn’t posted, no matter how much I want it.
            I’ve been trying to get my husband to leave you for quite some time now. You hit him where it hurts—in the pocket book. It’s worth the frustration, hours, and technical questions changing e-mail addresses to be rid of you once and for all.
            Don’t get me wrong. I liked AIM when several of my friends used you. My favorite was the Writer’s Club. I even hosted a chat for several years. But now I say farewell for good. I wish I could find out what percentage of customers you’re going to lose. The few people I know who clung to AOL are also leaving.
            I bid a fond/not so fond farewell.


Thursday, April 27, 2017

Writing Dilema

            A potter finishes his/her pot, paints it, and puts it in a kiln. Once fired, it’s done. Once an artist applies the last stroke to a painting, it’s finished. When I create counted cross stitch or Swedish weaving projects, after working the pattern, it’s complete. Not so with writing. Writing is never finished. There simply comes a time the author sends it out. There are always improvements to be made. That brings me to my current novel.
            I’m at a crossroads with my Latter-day Saint romance, Hidden Heritage. Do I send it out next month, or wait until I go to Time Out for Writers conference in September and make even more changes? Either way I’ll work on something else this summer.
That presents another dilemma. Do I edit the completed Escape from Fire, or fill in the partial Car Crash? Maybe I could even dig out Divine Love and its sequel Diane’s Story. Then there’s always my semi-autobiography.
            But I digress, back to the topic. With writing, like in music, there’s always room for improvement: This sentence might be better if I use a fancier word. Perhaps that sentence sounds too pompous. A paragraph may need more description. Another one slows down the narrative with too much description. Would this scene work better later in the story? Does that dialogue sound realistic? The list goes on without end.
            Beta readers are valuable with their opinions, but they’re just that—opinions. Don’t get me wrong, I love the improvements made when I have beta readers.
Whether novel, or note I find better ways to say things nearly every time I go over stuff, even my Face Book posts. One of my college professors said, “Writing is never finished. Just send it out there.” He told us about a famous poet that had 2 or 3 versions of the same poem in print. How do I know if it’s time for Hidden Heritage?

            I don’t expect the reader of this post to tell me. You haven’t read it. I’ll decide when I finish this time going through it. I already have the dreaded Synopsis, query letter, and such because I’ve sent it out before. Naturally I made changes in those as well.