Sunday, July 15, 2018

Punctuation and Grammar

I wore my new t-shirt that has emblazoned on its front the words "Write On" when I visited the physical therapist the other day. I already knew his daughter had majored in creative writing and editing, so I thought he'd appreciate my choice.

He one-upped me, however, by saying his daughter had a shirt that said "Punctuation matters. It's the difference between Let's eat, kids, normal mealtime conversation, and the more cannibalistic Let's eat kids.

As an unapologetic comma queen, punctuation and grammar are a constant thorn in my side. So I thought today I'd share a few more of these examples that drive home the need for a well-placed comma with you.

Your dinner vs. you're dinner: One leaves you nourished, the other leaves you dead. Correct grammar saves lives. 

I like cooking my family and pets. Use commas. Don't be a psycho. 

Bite me, asshole–grammatically correct and scathing. 
Bite me asshole–kinky pirate (For all my pirate-writing friends)

Other examples of the necessity of using proper punctuation and grammar abound. Here are a few that made me smile: 

Capitalization is the difference between helping your uncle Jack off a horse and helping your uncle jack off a horse.

If you don't think punctuation is important, try forgetting the semicolon when you tell someone, "I'm sorry: I love you." 

And my favorite: The past, the present, and the future walked into a bar. It was tense. 

What about you? What's your favorite example of a sentence in need of some punctuation?

Sunday, July 8, 2018


Every so often in the life of an author, it comes time to take a breath, sit back and contemplate your career trajectory.

That's what I've been doing this year. As soon as I made the move from Ohio to North Carolina and got hooked back up to the internet, I found out Simon & Schuster decided to do away with the Crimson Romance line to focus on more mainstream fiction and non-fiction works. I sorted through my options, not ready to cut the chord and demand my rights back until I had a plan in place. I hired an agent, talked to my writing buddies, bounced ideas off anyone who would listen, and finally settled on a plan.

I could only regain the rights to four of the eleven books Simon & Schuster had. They turned out to be the first four in the Cotillion Ball series, so it made sense to me to start retooling them and spiff them up a bit. I finally decided to work with Prairie Rose Publications on them, since I didn't want the hassle of self-publishing. The first two books, The Reluctant Debutante and The Abolitionist's Secret, are scheduled to be re-released into the Amazon world in August. My past few weeks have been spent looking at stock photos and working with Prairie Rose's cover artist, the magnificent Livia Reasoner. We have this uncanny ability to home in on the same photos to use, so it's been a fairly painless process to create new, striking covers for the books.

There have been some issues, though, to deal with. Since six of the books remain with Simon & Schuster, I wanted to maintain some consistency for the series as a whole, so I couldn't steer off in a totally different direction with the covers. Crimson abandoned the sepia-tone covers along about book six, so I tried to match the new ones with the last ones in the series. A consistent font was necessary, as well as a few other elements.

That being said, I'm pleased to offer cover reveals for both The Reluctant Debutante and The Abolitionist's Secret. The real bang for the buck comes when you compare side by side the old and the new. Here, for your viewing pleasure, are the covers.

On the left is the original cover, which was released in March, 2012. Since it was my first-ever cover, I thought it was beautiful, and had it blown up on canvas and proudly displayed in my office. But the new one, on the right,  just knocked my socks off. I may have to update my wall.

The second book to be released in the series is The Abolitionist's Secret, about Ginger's younger, and less flamboyant, sister Heather. Here are the old and new versions of those covers. I'm loving the new looks of these books, and my career is once again on track. What do you think of them?

Sunday, July 1, 2018

Googling My Days Away

As inquiring persons who are semi-computer-literate, we spend a lot of our on-line time doing google searches for various things. The term has even morphed from a noun to a verb in a lot of cases, my headline for this blog being an example.

I've had other authors tell me if their computer was ever to be searched during a criminal investigation, they'd be put away for felonious acts. Those of us who write of intrigue are especially at risk. But, fortunately, most use the information for the purpose of uncovering factual writing tidbits and nothing more. I decided to perform an experiment this week, and keep track of my Google searches. Here's the list for the week of June 24.

When was the word barfing put into use? 

Turns out it’s not a new word at all. It first appeared in the public lexicon in the mid-1700s, but usage of it waned during the late 1700s and early 1800s, not to be picked up again until the year 2000. 

How many varieties of Iris are there?

Over 200 varieties in all shapes, colors and fragrance. The boldest fragrance is a musky scent, but mostly the fragrance of these blooms is very delicate. 

What were the most efficient ways of doing away with a King? 

Poison was a big one in the 1800s. But illness, gunshot by jilted lovers and mental instability caused by bad medicine were also popular. 

What were King George IV’s foibles?

He was addicted to laudanum, grossly overweight, and in love with a twice-widowed Catholic woman. 

When was Scotland Yard begun?

This police force named Scotland Yard was created in 1829, alas too late for my story. 

What are some home remedies for the eradication of water bugs?

This one is personal. I’m getting to know my North Carolina bugs, but I don’t have to invite them into the house. Or give them names. (Do you hear that, Daisy? Be gone with you!)

What kind of tree do I have growing among the long-leaf pines? 

Another non-writing related search. Turns out I have a Mimosa tree in my front yard.

How about you? What's the weirdest Google search you've done recently?

Sunday, June 24, 2018

Audible or Inaudible?

Audible books are all the rage these days, revenues are up 22% so far in 2018. A friend and I were talking about books on tape a week or so ago, and she said she had to pull over to the curb when the book really got good, because she wasn't paying attention to the road. Listening has become the new reading. And it seems, to some people. audio books elicit a bigger emotional response than merely reading the words ourselves and giving our own voices and emotions to the words.

Most of the time while I'm driving, my mind wanders to the story I'm currently working on, or the new story that's talking to me. If I'm playing the radio, it's merely background music and I couldn't tell you what I just listened to. Perhaps because I wasn't listening to it. Instead, I was inside my head, with various characters telling me their tales. I'm afraid the same goes for audible books. I've had people offer to give them to me for free, so I could give an opinion on the voice delivering the tale, but so far, I've resisted. Because I know I wouldn't be able to concentrate on the road, on the voices in my head AND an audible book, however riveting it might be.

But maybe I'm selling the phenomenon short. Trevor Noah gave his voice to his book "Born A Crime." I love his accent, so I probably could listen to it. English accents have always been a weak spot. On the whole, though, I think I'll keep devoting my driving time to the voices in my head rather than on tape.

How about you? Audio books or no?

Sunday, June 17, 2018

The In Between

Often, when I was living in Ohio and starting my publishing career, I felt I was between a rock and a hard place. My house was a huge financial burden, the proverbial money pit, and my publishing career was growing, but not to the point where I could afford to pull money out of the business and put it into the house.

My move to North Carolina helped get rid of the huge financial burden, but the publishing career is in the process of being retooled. I now have an agent I trust, I've finished a book I truly enjoyed writing, and I'm sliding into the next one. Yesterday, I drove my 15-year-old Jeep into Pinehurst to go to the library and parked on the street, between a Land Rover and a Mercedes.

A rock and a hard place or a Land Rover and a Mercedes. Even with a 15-year-old Jeep, I'm sitting pretty right now. 

Sunday, June 10, 2018


My favorite Carl Sandburg quote is about my favorite weather element–Fog. 

"The fog comes on little cat feet. It sits looking over harbor and city on silent haunches and then moves on."

In my case, it's not the harbor but the golf course behind my house where the fog sat yesterday morning. As I stared out my window lost in my usual morning fog, waiting for the coffee to kick in so I could start writing, I stopped and focused the fog for a moment. It was moving gently across the ground, mirroring my thought pattern. I'm at the stage of my manuscript where I'm just reading the story and massaging it a bit, moving through the story slowly, beefing up the important scenes. My mind started thinking of ideas, possible scenarios that I'd live through if I was on a wagon train headed west. I climbed on board the wagon with my ladies and got to work.

When I got up to grab my second cup of coffee, the fog had moved on. As had my brain fog. I made it through half the manuscript by day's end. Lots done, lots still to go.

On a personal note, I'd like to say farewell to one of my Crimson Romance sisters. Peggy Bird was a bright light in the early days of the Crimson brand and will be sorely missed. She was always posting pictures of buff men in teeny swim trunks saying they had just washed up on her beach. This is for you, Peggy. I hope there's a beach where you are now.

Sunday, June 3, 2018

Best Selling Lists

PBS recently posted a list of the 100 most popular American books of all time, called The Great American Read. I took a look at the list, which was filled with best-sellers. Since I spend most of my time reading romance novels, it came as no surprise to me that I was only able to cross off maybe 30 of the PBS list. Determined to expand my horizons this summer I went to the library and picked up one from the list.

Shouldn't have started with The Handmaid's Tale.

As most of you know, I've been rereading Stephen King's great book On Writing. One of his mantras is that in order to become a great writer, you need to write a lot and read a lot. Given the man's schedule, I was surprised to find he reads about 80 books a year. If he can do it...

But not with The Handmaid's Tale. Too depressing. I like happy endings. I write happy endings. But I don't think Margaret Atwood would appreciate me putting a happy ending on her book.

Fortunately, Stephen graciously supplied a list of the best books he's read. I'm taking back The Handmaid's Tale and selecting one from Stephen's list instead. Maybe The Secret Life Of Bees. 

How about you? What are you reading this summer?