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Monthly Archives: February 2012

The Acceptability of Bad Grammar

taken from Google images

I used to be an English teacher. I’ve edited for a couple of small e-publishers. I currently work as an editor for an education company. I love writers and the English language. All that being said, I’ve never considered myself a grammar Nazi or a grammar diva. I know the rules, but I can’t always explain them or quote them from the rule book.

I make grammar mistakes.

Not often mind you, and most of the time, I’m aware of it and don’t correct the errors. Why? Because in everyday language, some things just sound better. That’s the way I write my books. I find that if something is grammatically perfect, it sounds too formal and it pulls me out of the story. It starts to feel more like a textbook than a novel.

But there are some offenses that I can’t ignore. Paul McCartney & Wings sang a song called “Live and Let Die.” It’s a great song and I love it, but one line kills me– “But if this ever changing world in which we live in…” There is no reason for the extra “in.” Well, the song needs it for cadence and rhythm, but it’s not a rhyme or anything. Couldn’t he have found a different syllable somewhere else to get the flow he needed?

My biggest pet peeve is the constant use of ‘you and I’ regardless of case. It’s like people hold on to this one grammar notion and apply it all the time. I see it on TV often and it makes me nuts.

Without going into a long grammar lesson, the position of the pronoun determines which one you use. You would never say, “Give I the ball.” The pronoun is in the objective case and you should then use the objective pronoun me. I find the mistake most often happen with the phrase “between you and I.”

Rascal Flatts does it in their song, “Life is a Highway.” The line reads, “There was a distance between you and I” and every time I hear it, I cringe. I know it was necessary in order to make the rhyme work, but it still bugs me.

Here’s a girl who felt the need to make a video about the poor grammar in songs:

Do you have any grammar triggers? Do you skim over errors as if they’re not there, or do they pull you out of a story or song?

Friday Favorites – Writing and Publishing

For my Friday Favorites posts, I usually try to find a balance of fun and educational posts to offer as links. This week, however, is a little heavy on the being a writer posts. There were just too many to try to narrow them down more.

Being a writer–

Trish Loye Elliott posted 10 ways you know you’re a writer over on the Wordbitches blog. It’s funny, but oh so true. A gazillion books? Check. Carry pen and paper everywhere? Check. Talk to yourself? Check. We all know these things about ourselves, but it’s funny to see them in writing.

Merry Farmer has a post on casting your characters. I’ve talked about this before, when I wrote about creating a collage as part of my discovery writing before starting my WIP. I got so much out of it that I’m actually going to go back and create come collages for the manuscript I’m in the middle of revising. After doing a healthy edit, I discovered that during one of the many revisions, I took out every description. No one knows what any of my characters look like. I think doing the collage with help.

August McLaughlin has a great post on using deadlines to increase your productivity. Even if you don’t have a contract yet, creating reasonable deadlines for yourself helps. I’ve always done it. It also helps if you have a critique partner who can give you a kick in the pants when you fall behind your goals.

Emma Burcart has a post called Don’t Poop on My Parade, and while she wrote the post about her move to Florida, I think it definitely applies to writers. People are quick to put down what we do and try to squash our dreams with a dose of reality. I hope we can all have poop-free parades 🙂

Chuck Wendig holds nothing back, as usual, as he offers 25 things he wants to say to aspiring writers. My favorite is #8. It’s so good, I think it deserves its own quote:

I’m just going to type this out a dozen times so it’s clear: finish your shit. Finish your shit. Finish your shit.Finish your shit. Finish your shit. Finish your shit! FINISH YOUR SHIT. Finish. Your. Shit. Fiiiiniiiish yooooour shiiiiit. COMPLETO EL POOPO. Vervollständigen Sie Ihre Fäkalien! Finish your shit.

Publishing —

Emmie Mears wrote an open letter to New York. She’s writing about wanting that traditional book deal, to be able to hold a bound book in her hands. I understand this dream, as I think most writers do. The publishing world is in the middle of a whirlwind of change. Publishers either have to get on board with making changes, or they will fall apart like my beloved Borders. Many companies are. As I’ve written before, I’ve accepted a 2-book deal with Kensington for ebooks. Ebooks are the here and now, not the future, but that doesn’t meant that paper books will disappear.

Kristen Lamb writes a great post about the new publishing paradigm. She too loves New York and doesn’t want Amazon to swallow everything. No one is saying that self-publishing is bad. It is a viable route to publication. But it shouldn’t be the only route.

Just for Fun–

Jennette Powell has follow-up post one one she did last week about not finishing a book. This week, she wants to know what big name book you haven’t finished. For me, the DNF (did not finish) happened most often with classics. I was an English major and there were lots of books I was supposed to read that I couldn’t. Most British lit falls in that category. I love American lit, but I started The Great Gatsby at least 3 times and never even got to the halfway point.

Last, but certainly not least, Tiffany White has a couple of great TV posts for the week. She talks about some new and returning shows.

What’s your favorite piece of writing advice? Or which show are you most looking forward to?

Dialogue in Justified

image taken from Google images

Even if you’re not a Timothy Olyphant fan  (I think you’re a little nuts if you’re not), you need to be watching Justified. The show does everything right. The characters are believable, relatable, and real — a huge range of characters from all walks of life, but as a viewer, you buy into them.

But the real pleasure in this show is the snappy dialogue. You don’t have to understand much about the characters to see the beauty in this quote. Raylan, U.S. Marshall is threatening Boyd, childhood friend, adult frenemy. Theirs is an odd relationship, but for the purpose of this quote, you only need to know that Raylan has just found out that Boyd used Raylan’s aunt’s house as an Oxy clinic. In addition to the other problems in his life, this makes Raylan a bit uptight.

“You want to run your hillbilly heroin fiefdom up here, that’s between you and the great state of Kentucky. I got no interest in shitkicker-on-shitkicker crime. But you will not drag me into this. The next time you set up any operation in this county or anywhere else it better not have my god damn family name on the deed or so help me God, I will lose this star and the dance we do subsequent to that will not end with you finding Jesus in a hospital bed.”

That right there is why I watch the show. If you want to see Raylan deliver this speech, you can find the clip at the bottom of this page. You’ll find it under ‘Selected Scenes.’ It’s well worth the minute and a half.

Those lines are so well-crafted, it’s amazing. Really, the entire episode, while not as exciting as many of the others has so many hidden gems in both characterization and dialogue.

A lot of writers struggle with dialogue. Part of the reason I was drawn to poetry as a teen was that I never had to write dialogue. I sucked at it because I tried writing the way people talked.

Over years of reading and writing, I discovered that writing good dialogue means using regular language, natural stuff for the characters, but you have to cut the junk out. As people we say a lot of junk. The junk is boring.

Look at that quote again. That’s not how most people talk. Most of us would use much shorter sentences and pause more often. But then, the words would lose power. As a reader and viewer, we’re sucked into the power of that quote because it’s well-crafted. I think as writers we need to find that balance between natural speech and craft.

Although this quote is too long, I think, for most people to memorize and spout off, it is definitely memorable.

What are some of your all time favorite movie or TV quotes?

Beginnings

When I started this blog, I mentioned that I came to romance later than most romance writers. When it comes to writing, I’ve been doing that a lot longer, but I still started later than many. When you read author bios, so many say that they’ve known they wanted to write since they could hold a pencil. No so for me.

I remember walking around with a clipboard and stack of looseleaf when I was ten. I was writing a short story. A really bad short story. And now that I think about it, it wasn’t so short either. It wasn’t until high school that I really fell in love with writing, but I wrote poetry. I gobbled up volumes and loved to toy with language. I could spend a week thinking about the best way to craft one line.

Writing poetry was therapeutic for me. I was always writing something. I was published in our school literary magazine, but it wasn’t until I won a contest that I knew I was good, that I had talent.

I was 16 and I can’t remember if my English teacher mentioned the contest or if I just saw it in the newspaper, but Gwendolyn Brooks, Poet Laureate of Illinois, held an annual contest for kids. I had a week until the deadline and had nothing written. I flipped through my English book during study hall and came across a list of writing prompts. One stood out — Write about one of your earliest childhood memories.

It stuck and a poem was born. I was named a winner for my age group. I got to meet Gwendolyn Brooks, shake her hand, and hear her read “We Real Cool.” I received a $50 money order that I didn’t want to cash because it had her signature. She also gave us each a book. I had to read my poem in front of the group of winners and their families. My anxiety at having to do this prevented me from paying attention to the other winners.

Gwendolyn Brooks - image taken from http://www.poets.org

It was an amazing day for me. I continued to write poetry throughout high school and college. Some of it good, some not. But it was having Gwendolyn Brooks choose my poem that made me believe in myself.

Here is that poem, written last minute (as usual) by a 16-year-old Shannyn. I read it now and consider changing it, but I always stop myself.

The Final Good-Bye

Watching from knee-height,
She sees many tears shed.
In the distance, a statue, a religious statue,
Surrounded by flowers.
Do the flowers live forever?
Green grass as far as the eye can see
periodically interrupted by engraved gray
slabs of cement
The sun’s glare on the glistening bronze box
makes her eyes tear, so she turns away.
Men in black suits and white gloves stand silently.
Faces, vaguely familiar, look upon her with pity.
The final “Amen” is said and delicate rose petals
are thrown to the box.
Not quite tall enough—the child is lifted
off the ground by hands unknown to her,
To toss the petals and say good-bye to her father.

When did you know what you wanted to be? What happened to help you believe in yourself?

Friday Favorites – Romance, Writing, & Good TV

As you know, this week was Valentine’s Day and there were lots of great posts on the meaning of the holiday and love and good stuff like that. But there was so much more than Valentine’s Day.

Romance and Writing:

August McLaughlin did wrap-up from her Beauty of a Women Blogfest. In addition, she wrote a fabulous post about how Dorothy (from The Wizard of Oz) is a great heroine. For me, this is especially timely because we’re reading the abridged version of Oz at bedtime right now.

Heather Massey posted on the Heroes and Heartbreakers blog about how Boba Fett would make a great romance hero. As a lover of Star Wars, I really liked this.

Jody Hedlund wrote a defense of the romance genre. She is much more eloquent than I was (especially since I’m more likely to flip someone the bird than offer valid reasons for my choice in reading).

Shelli Johnson wrote a list of things she wishes she could tell her younger self. Don’t we all have things we wish we knew then?

Jenny Hansen hosted Margie Lawson for a  guest post on  how to write fresh visceral reactions. The post is a definite must-read for any writer. I’m currently taking a class with Margie and it’s worth every penny. I’m looking at my manuscript with fresh eyes, and where I was frustrated before, I’m now excited because I know the changes I’m making are improving the book.

Fun TV:

Jessica O’Neal has run a series of posts about Robin Hood, but this week, she talks about her favorite version, the BBC TV series. I have to admit that I watched the first season and most, if not all of the second. I LOVE that Robin Hood. I missed some episodes and back then I didn’t have a DVR, but now, I believe it’s on Netflix. Reading her post made me want to catch up. Like right now.

Tiffany White gives us a run-down on The Finder. I’ve been watching the show and I like it. It comes on right after Bones, and like Tiffany, I’m a huge Bones fan, so I was easily sucked into watching The Finder. The show has a fun, quirky cast of characters.

Amber West goes in depth on Alcatraz. I wrote about Alcatraz a little, but if you want a better understanding, especially if you haven’t tuned in yet, check out Amber’s post.

Finally, lest you think I wouldn’t give any space to love and romance, I want to thank Alastair Stephens for posting this, so that I could then steal it from Overthinking It for the end of my post:

That about sums up how I feel about love and romance. How has your week gone? Anything special for Valentine’s Day?

Knowing the Inspiration

Today’s post will be short since I’m a bit swamped with still trying to revise a book and plan my son’s birthday party. I’m way behind on my TV watching, but plan to catch up this weekend. A ton of stuff has happened since last week, from the death of Whitney Houston to the Grammys and the little bit of TV I have caught has been pretty darn good. Did you catch Revenge last night? I didn’t see that coming.

In a brief moment of TV talk show time this morning, though, I was watching the hosts talk about Adele, who is a fabulous singer and who won a crapton of Grammys last weekend. Everyone wants to know who she wrote “Rolling in the Deep” about. This morning I heard she wrote about her ex-boyfriend, some guy named Slinky, who is a musician in England.

I giggled a little at his name, but other than that, I don’t much care. I’m not a tabloid reader and I don’t thrive on celebrity gossip. I never thought about her inspiration for the song, I just love her voice.

The hosts of the show then pointed out that any man who is dating a singer at this point must be forewarned not to do anything stupid, or he’ll end up in a song. It’s not just Adele doing it; Taylor Swift and Katy Perry both have as well.

Again, I don’t get into the personal lives of celebrities, but as a writer, I use what I see and know in my writing all the time. I’ve never based a character on someone I know, but I will use specific traits. However, I have heard of other authors creating characters of people they don’t like just so they can kill them off.

I don’t know that knowing the inspiration behind a song or story changes my enjoyment of it.

How about you? Do you like to know the inspiration or backstory for a song or book? As a writer have you ever included someone in your writing so you could exact revenge?

And for any of you who have somehow missed out, here’s Adele singing “Rolling in the Deep” (Sorry about the commercial):

Love at First Sight

Happy Valentine’s Day to those who celebrate. Personally, I don’t expect much. I buy small

image taken from http://www.proprofs.com

gifts for my kids, but my husband and I don’t really exchange gifts. Some years we swap cards, but sometimes not even that. I guess I’m not very romantic. (That’s probably a bad thing for a romance writer to admit.) I’m also not big on surprises.

Thoughts of Valentine’s Day and love got me to thinking about love at first sight. In many books, the hero and heroine will fall into insta-lust, you know, that immediate I-want-to-get-you-naked attraction. That’s biology (or maybe chemistry). Although I can’t remember experiencing it personally, I can believe it happens.

Love at first sight, on the other hand, I have a harder time swallowing. Even as a teenager, the idea of falling in love with someone the first time you meet, didn’t make sense. I hated Romeo and Juliet. (No guy was worth offing myself over.) Even now, while reading a romance, where I know the hero and heroine are going to get together and find happiness, if one of them starts thinking of a happily ever after in the beginning right after they meet, I’m groaning. I don’t see how you can really think you’re in love with someone when you know next to nothing about them.

But then I got to thinking again… I met my husband just over 2 decades ago. We became friends quickly, but didn’t date, even though we were attracted to each other. He had just enlisted in the Marines and was leaving to boot camp in a few months and was busy sowing his wild oats. I wasn’t. At the time, I didn’t think much about our relationship and what it meant. I knew we had something special, but I didn’t consider love. I didn’t believe at love at first sight.

When it was time for him to leave for boot camp, January first, he was supposed to call to say good-bye. He didn’t and after waiting and waiting, I finally called him to find out that his departure had been bumped. I was really upset when I thought he left without saying good-bye. I had waited for his call. I never waited by the phone for a call from a guy. No guy was important enough to waste my time like that. Besides, I had only known him for a few months.

Yet I did.

Looking back, knowing what I know now, I still wouldn’t say that it was love at first sight, but I think that on a very basic and instinctive level, I knew our relationship was different. Somewhere deep down, I recognized that we shared a connection even if I didn’t admit it or address it.

On the first night we met, he came into the hot dog stand where I worked. He made me laugh like no other guy had (not an easy task, let me tell you). I let him stay after we closed and I walked him part of the way home. I lived much farther and his house was on the way.

As an adult thinking about how crazy stupid that was…I don’t know. He could’ve been a bad guy. I walked alone with him (and one of his friends) down a pretty empty street at 11 o’clock at night. If one of my daughters did this, I might be tempted to do her bodily harm for being stupid.

But in my gut, I knew I was safe with him.

How weird is that?

Maybe a writer’s way of explaining that in a shortcut version is to call it love at first sight. I still groan at the idea, but in my old age, I’ve accepted that some things are inexplicable and should just be enjoyed.

Do you believe in love at first sight? How do you celebrate Valentine’s Day?