Saturday, March 17, 2007

There's a Certain Slant of Light

"There's a certain Slant of light, Winter Afternoons--
That oppresses, like the Heft Of Cathedral Tunes--"
-Emily Dickinson

This was the scene outside my kitchen window Friday around 8 am:

Notice, in case you didn't in the first pic, the daffodils that are beginning to show:

And this is the scene outside my kitchen window this morning around 8 am:



And not that there's any connection (or is there??), if you're interested, head on over to this site and sign up to be on Al Gore's petition when he speaks to Congress about the dangers of global warming.

Have you seen "An Inconvenient Truth" yet? It might just change the way you think about a couple of things...

Friday, March 16, 2007

What Do You Read?

"I have always imagined that paradise will be a kind of library."
— Jorge Luis Borges

Good news! Samhain just found out that they’ve become an official RWA-recognized publisher! This means, among other things, that I’ll be able to apply for PAN status (which is the RWA published authors group) as well as enter my book in the RITA contest, if I choose. And to romance authors, those are pretty big buzz-words.

I have to give a big thumbs-up to Christina Brashear, Samhain’s publisher and founder. She’s a workaholic and a tremendous supporter of romance authors!

Stole this meme from Nicole - thanks!

Reading Interview

1. A book that's changed your life:
Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand. Powerful female protagonist and a scintillating look at the value (and risk) of not conforming to society. I read it in college and was floored.

2. A book you've read more than once: Oh, Gosh, many. The Little House series. Several of Stephen King's books. A Tree Grows in Brooklyn.

3. A book you'd take onto a desert island
: The Collected Works of Wm. Shakespeare (it would keep me busy for a while!).

4. A book that made you laugh: Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen. Mr. and Mrs. Bennett are terrifically hilarious.

5. A book that made you cry: The Pact by Jodi Picoult

6. A book you wish had never been written: Can't think of one. The written word has a lot of power, so I'd hate to say something should never have existed at all.

7. A book you wish had been written: There's some great YA out now that I wish I'd been able to read when I was in HS, including Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky and Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson.

8. A book you're currently reading: I'm back and forth between The Audacity of Hope by Barack Obama and Lisey's Story by Stephen King.

9. A book you've been meaning to read: 19 Minutes by Jodi Picoult.

10. Tag people you want to hear from: Anyone and everyone who reads!

Have a great weekend!

Thursday, March 15, 2007

What Day Is It, Anyway??

"Are you Master of your Domain?"
"I am King of the County. You?"
"Lord of the Manor."
"I'm Queen of the castle!"

~from "The Contest" Seinfeld episode

Do you know that all day yesterday, I thought it was Thursday? I even dragged the recyclables to the bottom of the driveway when I got home after work, and hubby looked at me when I was finished and said, “You know it’s only Wednesday, right? They don’t pick up ‘til Friday.”

Of course I know that. I mean, we’ve lived in this house for over a year now. And yet still, somehow this week has felt as though it was 100 days long.

Anyway, I’m excited, because today after work I’m coming straight home and writing (this is definitely a treat, because usually I’m trying to squeeze some writing time in after dinner, past 8:00 or so). I finished all my little after-work errands, worked out extra hard at the gym all this week, so I could give myself today off.

So this afternoon, I’m settling in for a couple good hours’ work on One Night in Memphis, my next 24-hour novel and the latest WIP.

What about you? When do you find time to write? Early morning? Late at night? In fits and starts throughout the day? And do you ever “treat” yourself to extra writing time?

For a good laugh, here’s a remember-when from Seinfeld, one of my favorite shows from the 90s. Remember the “Master of my Domain” episode? Sure you do. And the brilliant thing about it is the way the viewer knows exactly what the characters are talking about, without them ever mentioning anything specifically. Enjoy!

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Writers' Wednesday: How To Use Commas Without Going Crazy

Type “comma rules” into any search engine, and you’ll turn up a multitude of sites. Here are a couple I’ve found that are helpful without going overboard:

The Purdue University OWL (Online Writing Lab)
JPROF Journalism Site

For a quick guide, though, here are a few tips I've found most useful. Commas can be confusing, but if you print this out, tape it somewhere near your computer, and refer to it when you’re in a jam, it should help in many cases.

1. Use commas to set off introductory phrases. Many times, the placement of this comma will occur where you would draw a natural breath if reading the sentence aloud.

As soon as Jenny woke up that morning, she had a sense of foreboding.

After the horse dragged Cowboy Bob five hundred feet, the animal finally slowed to a stop.

Note: Sometimes the intro phrases are short. Use your discretion in those cases. Read the sentence aloud and see if a comma would clarify the sentence’s meaning.

Last night Jimmy snuck into my bedroom after my parents went to bed. (Comma would theoretically go after “night,” but is it needed? Probably not.)

After all wouldn’t everyone rather win a million dollars than drag themselves to a job they hated? (Comma would, and probably should, go after “all” to clarify a natural pause of emphasis in the sentence.)

2. Use commas to separate items in a series. A series equals three or more items, by the way.

Madeline packed a single change of clothes, a few toiletries, food for her pet rat, and enough money to get her across the border.

Note: Placement of the comma before the “and” of the final item has been debated. Some grammar guides will tell you it’s appropriate. Others will tell you it isn’t. My editor recently took out all commas before the “and” in sentences like this. My gut feeling is that it’s a personal preference that won’t make or break your manuscript either way.

3. Use commas to set off interrupting phrases (also called appositives or non-essential/non-restrictive clauses, if you want to get fancy). The test is to see whether the interrupting information is essential to understanding the sentence. Can you drop it out and retain the central thought of the sentence? If the answer is yes, put a comma before and after the interrupting phrase. If the answer is no--if taking out the interrupting phrase will change the sentence significantly or render the sentence grammatically unsound--then you cannot use commas around it.

Sarah Smith, my best friend since first grade, turned out to be the biggest liar I ever met. (The fact that Sarah is the speaker’s best friend might be interesting info, but dropping out the phrase between the commas does not significantly change the fact that she turned out to be a liar.)

The girl who had been my best friend since first grade turned out to be a liar. (Aha! Here, the phrase “who had been my best friend since first grade” is essential to the sentence, because if we take it out, the sentence changes completely, to “The girl turned out to be a liar.” Which girl?? Here, commas may not be used, because every single word is essential to the meaning of the sentence).

4. Use commas before a coordinating conjunction (and, but, or, for, nor, so, yet) when joining two complete thoughts in one sentence:

I wanted to see an actual cowboy who lived in the west, yet I feared flying more than anything else in the world. (The groups of words on both sides of the comma could also function as stand-alone sentences. Therefore, put a comma before the conjunction).

Bryan checked his appearance in the mirror one last time, but he was certain that no one would recognize him in the beard and fake glasses. (Same case as above).

5. Use commas to set off place-names when talking about cities/states/countries. Note that you must place a comma after both the city AND the state/country in the sentence.

Johnny grew up in Dublin, Ireland, but he moved to the United States and settled in Chicago, Illinois, after his mother passed away.

Common Misuses of the Comma - Be Careful!

1. DO NOT use a comma before a coordinating conjunction if it does not separate two complete thoughts.

Dr. Johnson tightened his collar against the wind, and was convinced that the cold would kill him this time. (The second half of this sentence cannot stand by itself, so you cannot put a comma before the coordinating conjunction “and.”)

2. DO NOT use a comma to separate a subject from its verb.
The baseball player, hit a home run in the bottom of the ninth. (Can’t do it! No reason for it! Don’t even try!!)

3. DO NOT use a comma to join together two complete thoughts in a sentence without the proper conjunction between them.

The country road wound along the edge of the woods, no one dared to walk it alone after dark.

(The groups of words before and after the comma could each stand alone and make sense. Therefore, you CANNOT join them with only a comma. You must add a conjunction, or change the comma to a semi-colon--more on this in another WW blog--or simply place a period and make them two sentences.)

The country road wound along the edge of the woods, BUT no one dared to walk it alone after dark.

The country road wound along the edge of the woods. No one dared to walk it alone after dark.

Note: If you are author Joyce Carol Oates, consider all of the above null and void, and use the comma with abandon. If you are not JCO, your agent/editor/publisher will be much happier if you submit a manuscript that does its best to adhere to the above guidelines.

Hope this was helpful to you. Good luck! Basic Author

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Fun Things That Have Nothing To Do With Writing

Since I have a busy day ahead of me, and since I’m hard at work on tomorrow’s Writers’ Wednesday post (make sure to stop back in 24 hours and see what I’m blogging about), I’ll leave you with a couple of fun things instead of any reports on my writing life (or lack thereof, these days)...

You Are A Good Friend

You're always willing to listen
Or lend a shoulder to cry on
You're there through thick and thin
Many people consider you their "best friend"!

Aw, well, that's refreshing to know. Sometimes I get so wrapped up in my life I wonder...

A, B, C, D, E, F . . .

Play along now!

A - Age: Somewhere over 30 :)

B - Band listening to right now: Rascal Flatts

C - Career future: Best-selling author??!!

D - Dad's name: David

E - Easiest person to talk to: My sister

F - Favorite song: Couldn't begin to guess. I love music too much!

G - Gummy Bears or Gummy Worms: Bears. Anything that resembles fish bait weirds me out.

H - Hometown: Tiny dot on the map in the Lower Hudson Valley.

I - Instruments: I play a mean piano. Really.

J - Job: Teacher!!

K - Kids: Um...I like them when they go home to someone else...

L - Longest car ride ever: Drove cross-country one summer, so probably the stretch between Wyoming and Washington.

M - Mom's name: Marilyn

N - Number of people you slept with: Last night? Hubby and 2 cats.

P - Phobia[s]: Small spaces

Q - Quote: Anything by Shakespeare or Dr. Seuss.

R - Reason to smile: That I woke up healthy this AM with an awesome job to go to!

S - Song you sang last: "Breathing" by Lifehouse. I love that band!

T - Time you wake up: With or without an alarm? Today: 5:30. Typical.

U - Unknown fact about me: Keep reading my blog, and maybe you'll find out!

V - Vegetable you hate: Asparagus, interestingly.

W - Worst habit: Stressing over things I can't control.

X - X-rays you've had: I broke my wrist the summer I was 8.

Y - Yummy food: Chocolate. Any kind. In any recipe.

Z - Zodiac sign: The fiery Sagittarius!

Make sure to check back tomorrow for Writers' Wednesday!!

Monday, March 12, 2007

Reading Recs and Baby Pics

"When I look back, I am so impressed again with the life-giving power of literature. If I were a young person today, trying to gain a sense ofmyself in the world, I would do that again by reading, just as I did when I was young."
~ Maya Angelou

Hope you had a nice weekend! I have 2 reading recommendations for you this morning:

1. Tickle Fights and Barbecues, a short story by Marianne Arkins. It’s a quick, heart-warming read. Plus it’s only $1.50 - probably less than you spent on your coffee and bagel today! And for those of you who aren’t yet converts to the whole e-publishing industry, this story is a nice introduction. You can download and read it immediately (either on-screen or printed out), and it’s only 11 pages long. Give it a try--and leave her a review when you’ve finished it!

2. The T-Zero E-zine published by Writers’ Village University.. I’m featured under the “Recognitions” column in the March issue. Very nice write up (thanks, Vivian!), even though it mentions my publication with Virtual Tales which of course is no longer happening (my choice, in case you hadn’t heard, not theirs).

And for a totally different kind of entertainment, here’s a picture of me at 9 months old, loving every minute of my bath in the kitchen sink (yes, really!). We’re having a contest at school right now to see how many people you can correctly guess from their baby pics…it’s amazing how some people look exactly the same, and some have changed completely.

What do you think? Would you be able to tell this is me??