Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Punk-EEK! Pt 13 Plurals, possessives, and ’postrophes

A number of eateries around here go by the name of Athens Pizza, and I’ve heard such good reviews of them, I’m tempted to give them a try. However, although their menus and online presence use “Athens,” each restaurant proudly proclaims, on at least one outside wall, “Athen’s Pizza.” 

If they’re as sloppy with their food as they are with their apostrophes...

It’s a shame that the plural and the possessive both involve the letter s. Some folks get so uptight about it, they toss in esses and apostrophes in the vain hope that some will stick in the right place. Girl’s’ room, hers’elf, Athen’s, Lan’sdale. The rules are simple in concept, even though the exceptions are numerous. Pay attention, now.

Most singular English nouns, including nouns that end in s, x, or z, form the possessive by adding ’s. The horse’s bridle, a girl’s hat, the car’s brakes, a worker’s income, the class’s assignment. You get the idea. Most plural nouns form the possessive by adding just the apostrophe. The horses’ bridles, the girls’ hats, the cars’ brakes, the classes’ assignments, the workers’ incomes. 

These rules are pretty obvious when applied to common nouns, as above. What about proper nouns (that is, nouns that apply to a particular person, place or thing)? According to CMOS, the same rules apply. Secretariat’s bridle, Lois’s hat, the Lexus’s brakes; the Lincolns’ legacy, the Andrewses’ house. Yes, that last one, funny as it looks, is correct. My last name is Andrews; my husband, kids and I are the Andrewses; we live in the Andrewses’ house. Good thing I don’t lisp. Theriouthly, when you run into a situation like this, rewrite to avoid such a silly-looking word.

To be honest, there is some leeway here. Some publishers will allow Lucas’ as the possessive of Lucas, for instance, as long as you’re consistent. 

You knew it would be more complicated than this, didn’t you? Well, you’re right. Some common nouns end in s and look plural, like politics, economics, species. These words take only an apostrophe to form the possessive: politics’ effect on government, economics’ beginnings, a species’ evolution. If I knew an easy way to remember this, I’d tell you. Honest, you just have to memorize it, or check CMOS or your dictionary. By the way, the singular form of species is...species. Not specie. Shudder.

I could go on about the exceptions to the general rules about possessives, but the best thing to do is to put a sticky note at the relevant page in CMOS. And trust your editor.

I do want to mention what Lynne Truss calls “the greengrocer’s apostrophe” or the singular possessive where the simple plural is needed. If you’ve ever seen Lemon’s for sale and wondered, “Lemon’s what is for sale?” or even “Who is Lemon and why is he/she for sale?” then you’ve encountered the greengrocer’s apostrophe. Of course, the correct phrase is Lemons for sale. 

And, while it’s not strictly about punctuation, here’s one final note. The plural of potato is potatoes; tomato/tomatoes. However, it’s banana/bananas, papaya/papayas. English is a little schizophrenic when it comes to foreign words ending in vowels. But please, no videoes.

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, December 10, 2014

Punk-EEK! Pt 12 Apostrophes

When I think of apostrophes, I think of riding in the backseat of our green, split-windshield Chevy on the Route 1 bridge across the Raritan River. That’s because when I was a second-grader, reading in the car, I asked my dad how to pronounce I-S-A-A-C-that comma thing but up in the air-S. He insisted I dredge the word up out of my memory instead of helping me out. Thanks a lot, Dad.

Apostrophe usage can be broken down into two main categories—as a stand in for dropped letters in contractions or dropped figures in dates (can’t, didn’t, ’tis, the ’80s) or in non-standard English (Look ’ere, mate); or as an indication of the possessive (the cat’s bowl, Isaac’s book). Both seem relatively straightforward, but hey, we’re dealing with the English language here. It’s always more complicated than it seems. For today, I’ll just look at the apostrophe as a substitute. Next week I’ll tackle those pugnacious possessives.

[While I’m here, let me point something out. Notice that all of the above apostrophes have the tail pointing down and to the left. That’s as it should be. But many word processing programs treat an apostrophe at the start of a word (‘tis, ‘80s, ‘ere) like an opening single quote, with the tail pointing up and to the right. What a pain. Your work will look more professional and your editors will bless you if you correct this error. Here’s a tip: click CTRL + the apostrophe, release, then type the apostrophe. This tip also works when you need close quotes after a dash. The program will want to use opening quotes. Just click CTRL + Shift + quote key then release and type the quote. Ta-da!]

Contractions shouldn’t (should not) be much of a problem. We use them all the time. They’re (they are) often associated with forms of the verbs to be, to have, the various forms of will, would, should and with the negative not. Some examples:

I’m (I am)
You’re (you are)
It’s (it is)
We’ve (we have)
They’d (they had or they would)
Shouldn’t, wouldn’t, won’t, aren’t, haven’t, hadn’t

You can have double contractions. They’d’ve for they would have is somewhat colloquial but perfectly acceptable.

Below are some particularly irksome contractions that also happen to be homophones (words that sound alike).

Its vs. it’s
Its is a possessive pronoun meaning “belonging to it.” Every dog has its day. It’s is a contraction for “it is” or “it has.” It’s a three dog night. It’s been a hard day’s night.

Your vs. you’re
Your is a possessive pronoun meaning “belonging to you.” Is that your dog? You’re is a contraction for “you are.” “You’re sugar, you’re spice, you’re everything nice, and you’re Daddy’s little girl.”

Their vs. they’re vs. there
Their is a possessive pronoun meaning “belonging to them.” Their dog chases my chickens. They’re is a contraction for “they are.” They’re afraid of dogs. There is an adverb meaning “in that place” (Stand over there) or a pronoun used to introduce a sentence or clause (There is no reason to confuse these words).

For a delightful excursion into the history and use of apostrophes, check out Lynne Truss’ book Eats, Shoots & Leaves. I promise you’ve never laughed so hard about punctuation.

Next week: Why I refuse to eat at Athen’s (sic) Pizza.

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, December 6, 2014

End of Normal by S. C. Arscott - Review from LASR

End of Normal by S.C. Arscott

End Of Normal
End of Normal by S.C. Arscott
Publisher: Champagne Books
Genre: Young Adult, Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Contemporary
Length: Full Length (216 pages)
Age Recommendation: 16+
Heat Level: Sensual
Rating: 3 Stars
Review by: Astilbe
Sixteen-year-old Olivia Richards’ last day of normal is just that, normal. She worries about impressing Sawyer Rising, the hottest guy in school, and argues with her mother. Everything seems fine except for that strange, glowing plant in the yard and her dad lying to her and deaf twin brother Charlie, which is the weirdest thing of all because their parents do not lie to them. Ever.
Normal ends as lights shoot out of the sky and turn into stinging drones, killing their parents. As he lay dying, their father gives them cryptic clues about coordinates and begs forgiveness before insisting they leave.
The twins join forces with Olivia’s boyfriend Axel, her best friend Clara, and heartthrob Sawyer. Together they go in search of answers only to find conspiracy, death, and an awful truth about their families.
Sometimes parents keep secrets from their kids, but most of them aren’t as dangerous as the one Olivia’s father has been keeping from her.
One of the things I appreciated the most about Olivia is how calm she stays in a crisis. She thinks through her options carefully before making a decision even when she’s in danger. This isn’t something that typically happens in this sort of tale, so it was a real treat to realize that the protagonist is such an intelligent and level-headed girl.
The pacing of this novel was disjointed. While the flashbacks to Olivia’s previous life were interesting, describing what her last few days of normalcy were like took up a disproportionate amount of space in the plot. These scenes would have made a good prequel, but they didn’t blend in very well with the fast-paced material that appears later on.
There are times when a book needs to be vivid and gross in order to get its point across. This isn’t normally the sort of thing I seek out in this genre, but it worked really well for this particular story. It’s hard to discuss it in detail without giving away spoilers, of course, but I was pleased to see how neatly the author tied everything together. Certain scenes would have been much less effective without these elements. I also thought I should mention it in my review because it’s something I would have preferred to know about ahead of time.
I’d recommend End of Normal to anyone in the mood for action-heavy science fiction.

Castles Burning by Keith Wayne McCoy - Review from LASR

Castles Burning by Keith Wayne McCoy

Castles Burning by Keith Wayne McCoy
Publisher: Champagne Books
Genre: Horror, Contemporary
Length: Short Story (40 pages)
Rating: 3.5 Stars
Reviewed by Astilbe
Wil Warner is a tormented son tossed about by the waves of both parents. His father is a beautiful but simple father and husband, and his mother is a narcissistic woman obsessed with the art of acquisition and the relentless climb to the top of society. After his father’s death, an adult Wil is left to face the ultimate horror of his mother’s mental illness.
Not every terrifying thing in this world has a supernatural origin.
Horror isn’t necessarily just about blood and guts. One of the things that first attracted me to it was how versatile this genre can be. As a fan of Mr. McCoy’s previous work, I was intrigued by what he’d come up with this time as the last book I read from him was from a completely different genre. He made the transition nicely, though, and has definitely piqued my interest. It will be fun to see where he goes with his next project.
Even though Wil is the main character, there wasn’t a great deal of time spent developing his personality. Almost everything I learned about him was due to his reactions to his severely mentally ill mother. The glimpses of Wil’s harsh childhood made me wince, but I would have really liked to see more examples of how those experiences shaped him into who he became as an adult.
With that being said, secondary characters were well drawn. Stories that explore dysfunctional families are utterly fascinating to me. Almost anything can feel normal if someone is exposed to it early enough in life or for a long period of time, but that doesn’t mean that those things are actually healthy or safe. It was interesting to see how the people around Wil responded to their circumstances. Based on what I’ve observed in real life, it was also chillingly accurate.
I’d recommend Castles Burning to anyone who enjoys horror that’s set in a realistic, contemporary environment.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Punk-EEK! Pt 11 Capping it off Redux

Last time we took a look at capitalization. Several comments came up that deserve clarification.

First of all, I’m not ashamed to admit I got part of it wrong. Or at least, I wasn’t clear enough. I included endearments in the list of words that should be capitalized--honey, dear, sweetie. Most often those words should not be capped. Only cap them if they replace the person’s actual name. For instance, if I call my sister Grumpyface rather than her given name, I’d cap it. (In point of fact, I do not call her Grumpyface. I call her Runs with Bears. But that’s a whole ’nuther story.)

Regarding the names of relatives: If you call you father’s sister Aunt Alice when you talk to her, do you also capitalize aunt when you talk about her? Yes, you do. Hi, Aunt Alice. I’ll drive Aunt Alice to the store. However, there is an exception. If you’re talking about an aunt named Alice, don’t cap aunt. I’ll drive my aunt Alice to the store, and my brother will drive my aunt Gert to church. 

Thanks to my gentle readers and fellow editors who questioned me on these issues and made me think harder and more clearly about them. Learning never ends.

The permutations of capital letters are nearly endless, especially when language is changing as fast as it is now. When I was learning grammar--heck, when my kids were learning grammar--a capital letter in the middle of word was unheard of. Now we have so many of them--LinkedIn, BrainBashers, InDesign--a new term had to be invented for them. Camel caps. When in doubt, do as I do and refer to CMOS (Chicago Manual of Style). 

Next time, the most misunderstood punctuation mark of them all--the apostrophe.

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.

Monday, December 1, 2014

Tattle and Wrye December 2014



“Dashing through the snow, on a ton of books as we go.  CBG has the best and this garland is a mess, hey!"  sings Wrye as he attempts to unknot tattered old garland.

"Isn't it time you bought new garland?"  Tattle says as she daintily hangs an unrecongizable handmade ornament from her childhood on the tree. 

"I like this garland, belonged to my Auntie Tessie on my mother's father's side."

Tattle grins.  "Sentimental, are we?" 

Offering the manly jaw jutting pose.  "Hogwash, frugal."

Shakes her head, knowing the truth.  "Nothing wrong with hanging on to things.  Speaking of which, we're taking a Love of Literature Leap down sentimental lane, CBG books from a few years ago."

Tosses the garland aside.  "I'm game!  Let's leap!"

Roses are red, violets are blue, sci-fi BLADE DANCER by K. M. Tolan came first and ROGUE DANCER is number two.  It's our offering of the day, but DEFIANT DANCER, the third, will be reviewed possibly in May. 

Tattle reels off ROGUE DANCER'S addictive storyline in seemingly one breath.  “Ah, yes, Mikial Haran is back, a savior of her people, previously chosen to defend them from potential human encroachment that did not happen.  Heroine in waiting?  Mikial discovers Suria has undermined her. Does this foredoom?  Suria continues to discredit Mikial, hence the rising belief she’s not the savior which might get her arrested.  This smacks of treachery!  To make things complicated, to avoid civil war, she places herself under the shield of the most powerful of the Qurl Holdings, the Holding of Kinset.  However, to tangle the woes, she is accused of murder and flees Kinset.  Oh, what a muddled web has been woven.” 

“Roses are red.  Violets are blue.  Trouble is brewing.  Whatcha to do?”  Wrye skims a chapter or two.  “Listen to this, while trying to recoup, she has a vision.  Prophecy?  The mental mirage is that of a spaceship arriving in the desert at the ruins of an ancient civil war."  Wrye reads more and then sing-songs, "Roses are red.  Violets are blue.  She gathers together. An unlikely crew.”  

“So true, m’Blooming friend, and she plans on using the White Spear, a gruesome ancient weapon to destroy the trespasser.  Only all is not what it appears.  Da da da daaaaaaaaaaaaa!”

“Roses are red.  Violets are blue.  Tattle do you see?  A bit of romance, too?”

“Naughty?  Risky?  Steamy?  True?  Plus so much more.  This fast-paced story takes us from fierce combat to ruins to cascading waterfalls, spanning emotions, testing friendships, and the understanding that a repeat of history foretells a disastrous future.  Quell the beat of my now aerobic heart.” 

“Roses are red.  Violets are blue.  This sounds so good.  Give us another clue.”

“No more for you, Wrye m’Scribe.  One more book awaits for leaping sake!”

Tattle and Wrye abruptly find themselves in Ute Carbone's THE P-TOWN QUEEN, a contemporary 

romantic comedy.  

"Roses are red. Violets are blue.  If you want a bit of luck, I'd advise you to duck," shouts Wrye.

"As in quack?"

"As in down!"  Wrye yanks her away from the words blowing up a boat.

"Oh, wait...the Mona Lisa is not being blown up, it's just Nikki Silva's brothers teasing her about it."

“Mona Lisa as in painting?”

Wrye points to the storyline.  “As in a boat.”

"But she didn't blow it up," Tattle announces as if he had been the one confused.  “However, Nikki is certain her life is being bombed well-n-good.  A divorce survivor.  No funding for her shark research.  And, now, back home in Provincetown to live with her father.  Poor baby is feelin’ a little lost, but determined to be found.”

"Only, the darling has to present her newly written grant proposal to her ex-husband, Ned, who runs the Massachusetts Bay Commission."

“The very Commission who can grant her grant money for her beloved research.”  Tattle winks.  “Get it…grant her…grant money.”

“I get that Ned would rather give sharks the money rather than grant her anything at all,” Wrye confides, as he moseys around the story and snorts with laughter.  “This all leads to a comedy story d’force.”

“Now, for additional laughs….” Tattle giggles to reinforce her words.  “Roses are red, violets are blue, Marco Tornetti is hot, but Fat Phil Lagosa is not.  The former enters the scene on the run from the latter, his ex-biz partner sets him up to take a lethal ride.”

Wrye stumbles over a paragraph and chuckles.  “Marco escapes by hitching a ride on a bus filled with the Greater Teaneck Gay Men’s Choir heading to Provincetown, figuring Phil will never find him within the gay community there.”

Wiggling her brows, Tattle says, “Ahhhh, but it isn’t so easy to pretend he’s gay when he starts falling for Nikki.”

“This story has it all, tension, romance, and several chuckles over a belly laugh.”

“Only, no time to dawdle…we need to leap into a cyber stocking full of CBG Christmas books!

UNDERNEATH THE MISTLETOE by Rebecca Goings - Can Jeremy teach Faith about the magic of Christmas and get her to open her heart -- to him?

CHRISTMAS EVE-VIL by Angelica Hart and Zi - Resisting the advances of sexy Luke Calico isn’t Anya’s only problem, she must also hide from a malicious preacher and a demonic spirit trying to lure her soul.

REINVENTING CHRISTMAS by Linda Rettstatt - You can go home again but, as M.J. Rich learns, you can’t expect things to remain as you left them.

NOELLA'S GIFT by Donica Covey - A disillusioned cop, and a bitter woman. Can a little girl take the bah-humbug out of their holiday?

CHRISTMASIN' by Ed Williams - A deeply Southern Christmas Epistle that'll have you wishing Christmas really was every day.

We wish you all a very Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, and a very Happy and healthy New Year!

Dona Penza Rutabaga Tattle, Esq. and Associate Wrye Balderdash of Blather City, Wannachat


Created and written by
Angelica Hart and Zi

Books by Angelica Hart and Zi

Books by Vixen Bright and Zachary Zane