Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Punk-EEK! Pt. 6 More Commas

“Officer, I’m sorry I was speeding.”
“I’m sorry I was speeding, Officer.”
“I was speeding, Officer, and I’m sorry.”

Hands up if you’ve used one or more of the above. Me, me, and me. I drive like Danica Patrick, but I’m not as pretty. And I don’t crash as often.

Since we’re talking about commas, take a note of them in those first three sentences. See how they separate “Officer” from the rest of the sentence? That’s a rule for you to follow: Commas set off words of direct address. I’m sure you’ve seen books in which the comma is omitted before the name: “I was speeding Officer, and I’m sorry.” According to UK usage, you can do that. Publishers in North America frown on the omission, however.

I have to admit this is a pet peeve of mine, drilled into me by Sister Lucille in second grade. I can still hear one of the less gifted readers in that class. “See Spot run comma pause Jane period drop your voice. Run comma pause Spot comma pause run period drop your voice.” Poor guy. But the rest of us sure got clued in to using commas around words of address.

If you need a comma or two for setting off names, you can shift them from their erroneous positions after conjunctions. But she wasn’t speeding. And she didn’t get a ticket. So she got to the track on time. This rule highlights another pet peeve of mine: Do not use commas after conjunctions, even if the conjunction starts a sentence.

But, I hear you complain, you said to put a comma where you would take a pause if you were reading aloud. (And what about that comma after the first word of this paragraph? We’ll get to that.) A lot of writers use a comma to indicate the emphasis put on a conjunction. I like to drive fast. But, I hate to get a ticket. Yes, you can imitate spoken words this way, but that doesn’t make it correct. If you want to emphasize the conjunction, use a dash: But—I hate to get a ticket. Better yet, rewrite to avoid the problem altogether by making the rest of the sentence stronger. I like to drive fast, but getting a ticket is the pits. Or Even though I like to drive fast, getting a ticket sucks.

About that But, I wrote in the preceding paragraph. In this instance the comma is one of two setting off the interjection I hear you complain. The sentence would be complete and make sense without the interjection, right? It’s not essential to the sentence, so you need to set it off with commas. The interjection can be an independent clause (one that could stand alone as a complete sentence) a dependent clause (I bet you can figure that out), or a single word or short phrase (But, hey, you said…) Commas set off interjections.

Wow, three rules in one week! You’re on your way to comma mastery. For really fun discussions, see Lynne Truss’ wonderful book Eats, Shoots & Leaves. Really detailed but not so much fun discussions can be found in CMOS (Chicago Manual of Style).
Next time: Comma comma comma chameleon

Cranky Old Grammar Lady, aka Nikki Andrews, is an editor at Champagne Books and a writer of mysteries and scifi. Visit her blog here for more grammar fun.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Punk-EEK! Pt 5 Commas

“Let’s eat Grandma.” 

“Let’s eat, Grandma.” 

See? Commas really do save lives.

All kidding aside, let’s not knock the ubiquitous comma. It’s the most common punctuation mark, which pretty much guarantees it’s the most misused one. Writers have a lot of leeway with commas, but there are some rather hard and fast rules.

A little history might help. Back in the day, when most people had to have books read to them, commas provided a visual cue to the reader: Take a brief pause here! Here is a break in the rhythm! In our age of widespread literacy, commas serve much the same purpose. They set off sentence parts, indicate short pauses, and help avoid confusion. If you think of them that way, the rules will make more sense. Most of the time. There are exceptions, I’m afraid, but we’ll get into those later.

Serial commas
Everyone wants to know about the serial comma, so I’ll talk about that first. When the text includes a series of words or phrases, the preferred usage demands a comma between them. When the final words/phrases are joined by a conjunction, put the comma before the conjunction. The flag is red, white, and blue. I ate breakfast, went for a walk, and collected the mail. My brother likes steak, I prefer chicken, and my sister is vegan. 

These sentences would not be incorrect without the final commas, but take a second look at the final sentence. Suppose it was in a book, and the line broke after the word “sister.”

My brother likes steak, I’d rather eat chicken and my sister 
is vegan. 
Without the comma after chicken, a slight chance exists that someone could think I prefer chicken and my sister. Eww.

If all the elements of a sentence are short and joined by conjunctions, you don’t need any commas. Sally ordered eggs and bacon and toast. If they’re long or complicated, use commas to indicate pauses. If you think about reading the text aloud, you’ll see where you need to insert commas.

When items in a series include internal punc of their own, separate them with semi-colons. I’d like to introduce my mother, Ginny; my father, Walt; my brother, Tom; and my sister, Peg. 

(I might as well point out here that, yes, you do need a comma after father, mother, brother, sister unless you have more than one of any of them. My brother Tom [no comma] indicates “not my brother Dave.” This is one of those nitpicky rules you just have to learn.)

Note that some writers and publishers don’t like the serial comma. Be guided by your publisher’s wishes and, above all, by clarity. If a comma would make your writing clearer, by all means use it. 

Okay, that’s enough for one lesson. More on commas next week.

Cranky Old Grammar Lady, aka Nikki Andrews, is an editor at Champagne Books and a writer of mysteries and scifi. Visit her blog here for more grammar fun.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Eagle En Garde by Olga Godim - Review from LASR

Eagle En Garde by Olga Godim

Eagle En Garde by Olga Godim
Publisher: Burst Books
Genre: Action/Adventure, Sci-Fi/Fantasy
Length: Full Length (303 pgs)
Rating: 5 stars
Reviewed by Poinsettia
Darin, a mercenary officer, lives in Talaria, a kingdom surrounded by a magic-resistant spell. While some people wish to break the spell and invite magic back into the country, the fanatical sect of Cleaners is determined to prevent the return of magic. Darin doesn’t agree with the Cleaners’ doctrine but he doesn’t dispute it either. He is a soldier, not a philosopher. Then he accidentally overhears the Cleaners’ hidden agenda to destroy all magic workers in Talaria, including witches and elves, and his orderly life is turned upside down. His sweetheart is a witch, his daughter is a half-elf, and he has many elven friends. He can’t allow the Cleaners’ murderous scheme to succeed, can’t allow innocents to suffer from the rabid zealots. But what can a lone mercenary do against a horde of extremists? His only choice lies in trickery and deceit to outsmart his enemies. And the anti-magic spell on the border suddenly becomes his only ally.
Can one man change the fate of an entire country?
Darin knows that the odds are against him when he decides to take on the traitorous sect of Cleaners, but he absolutely cannot ignore a plot that would endanger his country and the people he loves. Darin abhors the Cleaners and their agenda. He’ll do whatever he can to stop them, even at the cost of his own life.
Darin exemplifies what a true hero should be. He is smart, brave, and fierce when he needs to be. However, he is also kind and considerate. He’s the sort of man who stands up for those in need and does not tolerate bullying of any kind. I particularly like that he treats others with respect and generally tries to give others the benefit of the doubt. While Darin always strives to do the right thing, he does have moments when he is selfish, rash, or makes poor decisions that cost him dearly. These flaws only serve to make Darin a wonderfully well rounded character. Perhaps the thing I like most about Darin is his genuine appreciation of life and the world around him. Darin’s time as a mercenary hasn’t hardened him. His curiosity and delight in discovering and learning new things was a pleasure to watch. I would be proud to call him my friend.
I love the world that Ms. Godim has created. As I followed Darin on his journeys, I could clearly see all the places he traveled through. I particularly like the description of Neazdal, a city where elves live. “Every house…glowed with its own color. The number of different shades was unbelievable…The colors blended in the middle, coalescing into each other. Violet transformed into gold, azure into dawn-pink, malachite into orange.” With descriptive language like this, Ms. Godim painted a picture of an absolutely breathtaking city that I dearly wish I could visit.
The pacing of Eagle En Garde is excellent. There is plenty of page turning action and adventure, but Ms. Godim sprinkles in some slower moments throughout the story when Darin spends time with loved ones or simply needs to recover after his many battles. The mix of the mundane and the epic gives this fantasy a realistic feel.
I thoroughly enjoyed reading Eagle En Garde. Darin is a great character, and I had so much fun following him on his adventures. I must admit that I was a little sad when I finished reading. I hope that Ms. Godim has plans for a sequel because I wasn’t quite ready to leave Darin and the beautiful world of Talaria behind. I highly recommend Eagle En Garde to anyone looking for a compelling and engaging tale of adventure.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Punc-EEK Pt 4 Quotes within quotes

*Evil laughter* No, seriously, this isn’t so bad. You’ve already mastered the basics of punctuating dialogue and splitting it in several different ways. What do you have to worry about?

First, what is a quote within a quote? At its most basic, it’s a character citing what someone else said. Like this:

John said, “Billy told me, ‘Sue is going to get you’ yesterday.” Notice John’s dialogue is punctuated normally, and Billy’s dialogue within John’s uses single quotes. That’s it. The fun starts with more complicated sentences.

John said, “Billy told me, ‘Sue is going to get you,’ so I’m not going to school today.” In this sentence, Billy’s quote is followed by a comma (inside the single quote) because of the ensuing dependent clause (so I’m not going to school today.) Make sense so far? Let’s ramp up the fun.

John said, “Billy told me, ‘Sue is going to get you!’ so I’m not going to school today.” See the exclamation point? Notice there is no comma? Very good. If Billy’s quote ended with a question mark in this sentence there would be no comma there, either.

I know you’re all dying to hear about the weird punc I mentioned in last week’s post. Such weirdness usually occurs at the ends of sentences.

John said, “I’m not going to school today because Billy told me, ‘Sue is going to get you.’” Aha. Look at that weird ’” at the end. Three apostrophes? No. It’s a single quote ’ to end Billy’s dialogue, followed by a double quote ” to end John’s dialogue.

Suppose you want to inject some excitement. John said, “I’m not going to school today because Billy told me, ‘Sue is going to get you!’” Punctuated like this, the sentence indicates that Billy is excited. Why? Because the exclamation point is inside Billy’s dialogue. Suppose Billy doesn’t care, but John does. You’d punc it like this: John said,
“I’m not going to school today because Billy told me, ‘Sue is going to get you’!” I know, I know. That looks weird. Please don’t cry. Remember my basic rule: Punctuate the dialogue. Decide which of your speakers needs the exclamation point, and put it in his speech.

Here’s a variant with a question mark in it: Mom said, “You’re not going to school because Billy told you, ‘Sue is going to get you’?” You could replace the question mark with an exclamation point, but you can’t use both. Sorry, but you can’t.

In general, exclamation points and question marks stay with the dialogue they belong to, while commas and periods go inside the quote marks. As we saw in the preceding paragraphs, there may sometimes be flexibility. When that happens, the writer gets to make the decision based on where the emphasis needs to be.

One more example, then I’ll let your tired minds rest. Who wrote, “All the world’s a stage”? The question mark does not belong to the quotation, so it goes outside the quote marks. But: Shakespeare wrote, “All the world’s a stage.” 

I know you’ll find plenty of variations and have tons of questions. Keep remembering to punctuate the dialogue, and you’ll get through most situations. If you’re still puzzled, consult Chicago Manual of Style or Strunk and White’s Elements of Style. Ask your editor, or ask me (and I’ll run straight to CMOS or EOS)!

Next time, we’ll start on commas.

Cranky Old Grammar Lady, aka Nikki Andrews, is an editor at Champagne Books and a writer of mysteries and scifi. Visit her blog here for more grammar fun.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

You Jane - Review from LASR

You Jane by Elizabeth Fountain

You Jane by Elizabeth Fountain
Publisher: Burst Books
Genre: Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Contemporary, Paranormal
Length: Short Story (147 pages)
Heat Level: Sensual
Rating: 3 Stars
Reviewed by Astilbe
Jane Margaret Blake’s problem isn’t her drinking. Sure, she’s missing work, and forgetting she’s already fed her cat, who’s getting a little fat. But Jane’s real problem is the reason she drinks: she writes stories that come true and wreak havoc in her life.
In her “fables” animals, people, angels, and the Universe itself conspire to destroy Jane’s last chance to be with her old love, or, just maybe, to bring her into the arms of a new love. Years ago, a fable pushed Jane’s best friend Charlie into marrying another woman. Now another fable shoves Charlie’s little boy in front of an angry dog – or worse, a wicked spirit bent on getting Jane and Charlie to face the truths they’ve spent a lifetime avoiding.
As her drinking and writing spiral out of control, Jane must finally discover how to write her own happy ending.
It’s hard to heal without acknowledging exactly what’s been broken. Will Jane be able to face her demons before it’s too late?
Jane’s flaws are serious and deep, but there was something about her that made me smile from the very first scene. There is something to be said for a protagonist who wrestles with her demons without having any indication beforehand of whether or not she actually stands a chance of beating it. It’s not necessary for me to like a protagonist as long as I believe in their mission and feel comfortable rooting for them. What surprised me the most about Jane was how quietly she grew on me as I plunged ahead into scene after scene with the hope that she’d be successful in her mission.
There were some issues with the pacing. The plot jumps from past to present so often that at times I had trouble remembering what Jane had been doing with her life before the last flashback. The flashbacks themselves gave me a clearer understanding of why Jane made certain choices, but they would have been even more powerful had there not been quite so many of them.
I really enjoyed the fables Jane comes up with when she goes into an altered state. They were original and beautiful. Just like traditional fairy tales, some of them had meanings that weren’t always immediately apparent. Attempting to figure them out was a nice interlude from the sad themes in this book, especially once the dark side of Jane’s personality becomes more apparent.
You Jane was one of the most thought-provoking stories I’ve read in a long time. This is a good choice for anyone in the mood for something that asks as many questions as it answers.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Punc-EEK Pt. 3 Splitting dialogue with an action

As we saw last time, dialogue can be split by a tag, and I gave you some tips for how to punctuate that. Again, always remember that you are punctuating the dialogue.

Sometimes you need to split dialogue with an action, and the punc for that looks very strange to a lot of people. Here’s an example:

“I think we should go”--she pointed down the hallway--”to the left.”

Now I know a lot of you are scratching your heads and wondering if I’ve gone nuts. Because you want to put those dashes inside the quotes, right? But what’s the rule? Punctuate the dialogue. The dashes don’t belong to the spoken words, they belong to the tag because it interrupts the dialogue. So they surround the tag. They don’t go inside the quotes.

However, if the dashes do belong to the spoken words, they do go inside the quotes. “I think--”she paused “--no, wait, let’s go this way.”

By the way, the action should be a complete sentence in its own right. Please, please, please, don’t write something like this:  “I think we should go”--pointing down the hallway--“to the left.” An alternative version like “I think we should go,” she said, pointing down the hallway, “to the left.” is acceptable. However, the tighter, more active “she pointed down the hallway” is preferred.

ALERT: Word processing programs will want to use close quotes after the second dash. Don’t let them get away with that. One way to get around the program’s proclivity is to put a space after the dash, type the opening quotes, then delete the space. A bit cumbersome, I agree. Here’s a short cut: CTRL+’, then ’ will give you a single quote. For a double quote, use CTRL+”, then ” .

Sometimes a long speech spills over into a new paragraph. You don’t see this much anymore, but it does still happen. In that case, use close quotes at the end of the last paragraph only. Use opening quotes at the beginning of every paragraph:

     “I was born in a small town in northern Arizona,” he said. “My parents and grandparents were born there, too, and everyone assumed I’d raise my family in that same small town.

     “But I have itchy feet, can’t stand staying in one place for too long. So I left that town behind as soon as I got out of high school, and never looked back. How can a guy stand the same old faces and places all his life?

     “Paris, Calcutta, Adelaide--I love seeing new cities. Gotta keep moving. Someday I’m gonna make it to the moon.”

 Okay, that’s an awful example, but you get the idea. All the punc stays the same, except you don’t use close quotes until the very end. 

Next time, we’ll play with quotes within quotes and the weird-looking punctuation that sometimes results.

Cranky Old Grammar Lady, aka Nikki Andrews, is an editor at Champagne Books and a writer of mysteries and scifi. Visit her blog here for more grammar fun.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Tattle and Wrye October 2014



As many may know, a sweet, delightful, and one of our favorite authors, ALLISON KNIGHT, has recently passed away.  This was the month we had set aside to interview a character from her latest book, so rather than our usual fare or haunting leap into eerie books for this spook-tacular month, we will be sharing and celebrating ALLISON KNIGHT and her craft. 

First, you will find below her response to our call out for character interviews, it reflects her wonderful generous nature.  She was always one of the first to reply for any contribution, to help out, to share and to be a friend.    

Email response:

I'm ready to be 'trashed' (winking) anytime you two want to go at me. In fact, you might want to interview, Arvel, the hero of the last song book. Oh, he's a charmer, a healer, and a spy! Lots of spy books around, but this guy has had it. He's quitting, or he's trying to. Why - because he wants to settle down. And you ought to meet the lady who gets under his skin. He calls her Cat. Give you any ideas?

Unfortunately, just as we were putting our part of the interview together, she left us.  Her legacy, however, will stay with us always.  In fact, we plan on re-reading all her books, just to keep her essence in our spirits for a good while longer.  Following are highlights from a previous Love of Literature Leap interview with her, along with the Ode we had created just for her.

Allison was a sensational historical romance author, queen of heart-warming romance with a sensual touch, a Champagne Books Author of the Year Winner, and one of her books, WINDSONG, had been nominated by CAPA - Best Historical of 2011.  She had been writing since the seventh grade, starting with poetry, moving on to essays and term papers, then newspaper articles, even a gossip column in college with grant apps as a teacher.

Her fictional life, however, began about thirty years ago, and until recently she was still whipping out stories and had plans to finish a regency time period piece, outlines for two gothics, along with fourteen historical romances either started, outlined or a synopsis written for them and the same for five contemporary romances.  Her dream goal was to be asked to collaborate on a move script of HEARTSONG, the first of the Song Series.

On a more personal note, she was a dessert-aholic.  Any dessert was her favorite.  She loved chocolate - anything chocolate, pecan pie, bread pudding, cherry cobbler, apple pie especially with a dollop of butterscotch ice cream. 

Allison was the personification of sweet, but in contradiction to chocolate melts in your mouth disposition, she adores developing villains.  The nastier she could make them, the more devious the better. Yet, she tried to give them a few good qualities, making a game of matching good with bad. She especially liked female villains and more than one villain in a book was an extra treat. 

She might not be on this spiritual plane any longer, but we are sure she is enrapturing the angels with her tales. We will miss this very special lady so very much.  Kudos to you, Allison.  Keep spinning those romances.


Come one, come all and read from front to back HEAL MY HURTING HEART
A rancher finds an injured lady… love rises but death might force them apart

In the first of a Series of Songs, BATTLESONG, begins with a trick and a lie
But a Lady wins the hearts of her people, and a Baron loses his heart, oh my

A Welsh princess is captured by a hated Englishman, but she must escape for home…
HEARTSONG’S hero brings her passion, wrath, love, dare she chance to roam

A strong-willed woman is trapped in the Yukon with a Bear of a tormented man
In A TREASURE FOR SARA… survival blends with desire… is love the ultimate plan?

A Lady stumbles on a design for her sister’s elopement, the groom’s brother enraged
Kidnaps the wrong lady, in ROSES FOR MY LADY, falling in love is not what he staged

WINDSONG unfolds with Alwyn seeking revenge, snaring an enemy’s mistress, or is she?
Milisent is the herring, Alwyn then desires, but death might snatch away their hearts’ key

There is a woman who recovers a lost memory and finds that she has been betrayed by
All she loves, her parents, her husband… the question in BETRAYED BRIDE, is simply why

Clay arrives home in the short A MATTER OF PASSION to claim his brother’s love child
But the latter’s mistress’ sister has the infant and flees… Clay follows in this tale so wild

We anticipate another winner with love and conflict raging in LYNBROOK’S LADY
It is due out in August, with fanfare we’re sure, and a villain or two, oh so shady

You might think this is the end, but oh not so, for Allison is working on another Song Book
LOVESONG, we know not the plot or timeline, but we know we are already on the hook

Keep reading!

Created and written by
Angelica Hart and Zi

Books by Angelica Hart and Zi

Books by Vixen Bright and Zachary Zane

Punc-EEK Pt. 2 More Dialogue

Last time we talked about punctuating basic dialogue. The first rule is that punctuation almost always goes inside the quote marks--we’ll get to the exceptions later. Let’s take it one step further today, and split a single sentence before and after a dialogue tag (he said, asked John, etc.).

The important thing to remember is to punctuate the spoken words as you would any other sentence. The dialogue tag in the middle needs to be separated from these words by commas and quote marks.

“I think,” said Jack, “you’re making a mountain out of a molehill.” Note the commas after think and Jack, the lower case letters at the beginning of said and you’re. Also note quote marks after think, and before you’re. There is a space between the quotes and the tag. I’ve marked the spaces in red to make it clear.

Here’s another example. “Carol,” he asked, “are you sure?” Again, there is a comma at the end of the first part of the dialogue and at the end of the tag. The first letter of the tag and the first letter of the second part of the dialogue are lower case (unless either one begins a name). Most especially, note that the question mark comes at the end of the sentence and inside the quote marks.

Naturally, there are exceptions and variations. Be guided by how you want the reader to “hear” the dialogue. If you read the first example aloud, notice that you slow down a bit when you come to the tag. This suggests to the reader that Jack is speaking slowly, perhaps with an emphasis on I to differentiate his opinion from someone else’s, or that he’s not entirely sure of what he’s saying.

Let’s try something a bit more advanced. It’s not really complicated if you remember that you are punctuating sentences.

“I’ll remember that,” said Jack. “Punctuation is really complicated.” Here the dialogue consists of two sentences: I’ll remember that. Punctuation is really complicated. So you put a period after Jack. Many writers think that if dialogue continues, the tag is always followed by a comma. Not true. If the dialogue consists of two or more sentences, put a period after the tag.

One last consideration today. The rules about question marks and exclamation marks we learned last week also apply to split dialogue.

“I’ll remember that!” said Jack. “It’s complicated.”

“Can you remember that?” the teacher asked. “It’s not that hard.”

Homework: if you have an example of split dialogue that puzzles you, ask me.

Cranky Old Grammar Lady, aka Nikki Andrews, is an editor at Champagne Books and a writer of mysteries and scifi. Visit her blog here for more grammar fun.