Archive | February 2013

Piranha in the Cyber Pool?

Piranah

Circus barkers, snake oil salesmen, con artists, fraudsters, those who want to tell you how you, too, can become rich sitting at your computer in your pajamas. It is so simple. You can be richer than you ever dared to dream. How? They will reveal all of the secrets to millions in cyber sales for a mere $6000 for their software/book/cd/webinar course/scam du jour.

Sadly, it is not lazy do-nothings who are being hoodwinked by these guys. It is desperate people in a self-destructing economy who are literally being told to spend their last dime on this (they even offer financing if the victims are already bankrupt), and to hurry because the window of opportunity is brief, probably less than a few hours, and then they will be out of luck forever.

Whatever happened to “If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is”?

There ARE people making money, but they are the fear peddlers who are bilking innocents out of theirs.

Wake up please. Notice that these charlatans are parading the same FEW “success stories” in front of you over and over again. Where are the legions who have found unbelievable wealth raking in orders and having goods drop shipped, lifting no more than a few fingers to the keyboard only moments a day? How much evidence, how much proof, are they really offering you, while whipping you into an excited frenzy of mass euphoria?

Get it while it’s hot. Grab it now or it’s gone. And people trip over one another racing to the “associates” or “counselors” who are standing by to help them sign off their good name and credit rating.

I have attended these things. I will admit it. I have been swept up in a sense of panic, the fear that if I don’t grab the brass ring now all hope of success and stability are gone. They even SAY as much, and then quickly add “results-not-typical-yours-will-vary”. Why don’t we hear that?

It is said, tongue in cheek, designed to get the audience of “marks” giggling instead of heeding, and even though these well-trained and entertaining people speak the truth for that instant only, nobody grasps the implications. Legally, they are covered. And the lemmings run right over the cliff.

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Dinosaurs and Relics- Our Evolving Language

I may need smelling salts

I may need smelling salts

While we tend to bemoan the modern curricula of the Western world for lack of attention to creative or even casual everyday communications skills, some of what the fossil generation learned in class is actually obsolete.  You may want to sit down. My own mother would have developed palpitations hearing what I am about to tell you, and admittedly it makes me somewhat squeamish, but language is evolving. Like it or not.

I am not the first writer/editor to publish this information. A quick Google search for grammar rules will find  dozens more, some more convincing than others. Most of the change which is based on logic is accepted eventually. Emotional arguments land on deaf ears because getting hot under the collar is perceived as irrational if not unstable. No one is ever more convincing just by upping the volume and using menacing body language.

Once a rule, always a rule?

Please consider some of the rules now felt to be archaic. I was drilled in these in school until they became part of my very being. Now it takes radical, invasive mental surgery to dislodge them. Are you ready?

  1. A sentence must never end with a preposition.

Language has entertaining uses, creative and artistic uses, but day to day communication should be clear and easily understood.

Example: “From where did the envelope come?”

Do real people speak that way anymore? Some forms of speech need to be retired along with words such as thee, thou and thine. There is nothing wrong with asking “Where did the envelope come from?” Sit down and put your head between your knees if you are feeling faint.

  1. Sentences must not begin with and, but, so, nor, or.

Great writers have always been graded on a curve for creatively breaking such rules. It is called literary license and is often used in verse. Most of us are not considered to be great writers and we suffer from blue pencil overload. (In case you are too young to remember, editors used to edit actual paper manuscripts using a language of official signs, and usually wielding a blue pencil.) The truth is, no such rule exists or ever existed according to the Chicago Manual of Style.

  1. A paragraph must have more than one sentence.

A paragraph completely expresses an idea. Is that impossible in one sentence? A one sentence paragraph is very effective if the author wants something to stand out dramatically. For instance:

Failure to comply will result in prosecution.

  1. Akin to #3 is A sentence must have more than one word.

Really? Why?  (I know, those are questions, but the point is made.)

  1. One rule that seems to be disappearing applies to using “they” as gender neutral SINGULAR. (Oh, pass the smelling salts!)  I have spent much editing time attempting to educate writers to use he or she, or even he/she where “they” are using they. I have criticized other editors for allowing that to pass. This one is particularly painful for me.

How my clients react to this state of affairs may be determined by their ages. If they are under fifty, adding  ‘s to everything will just come naturally. I have a couple of ‘over sixty-fives’  who are going to struggle with it and I am not sure I have the conviction to enforce it.

Networking Fun at Ruth and Ron Moir’s Piano Studio

Image

After our fun and successful jaunt to Cheryl Weber Good’s Art Studio a few weeks ago a group of us took a similar excursion to Ruth and Ron Moir’s Piano Studio for lessons in breathing and voice from Singer-actor-composer-dancer-writer Seana-Lee Wood

Actor, singer, dancer, musician and writer Seana-Lee Wood

Actor, singer, dancer, musician and writer Seana-Lee Wood

Cheryl joined us again for this one,  Author Yvonne Hertzberger was able to make it this time, and we added another writer, Yolanda Grimaldi, who used to sing and even teach music and voice in Mexico.

There is a lot more to singing than opening your mouth and letting noise come out. We practiced breathing, singing patterns using breath control, relaxation, and singing several parts as if we were a choir.

We try blending our voices (Video if you are willing to risk it. Less than two minutes I think.)

We are not ready to quit our day jobs but we had a lot of fun, followed by a trip to  Balzac’s for coffee and conversation.

Baby grand for senior students

Baby grand for senior students at the Moir Studio

Ruth and Ron have decades of experience and have taught many students who became concert quality pianists under their expert care.

Ruth and Ron’s Music Studio

Ruth and Ron on Facebook

519-508-8012  Piano Lessons for all

More photos of our afternoon:

Good times for all.

Good times for all.

Seana-Lee's Singing Afternoon at Ruth Moir's Studio Feb 21 2013 003 Seana-Lee's Singing Afternoon at Ruth Moir's Studio Feb 21 2013 005 Seana-Lee's Singing Afternoon at Ruth Moir's Studio Feb 21 2013 006 Seana-Lee's Singing Afternoon at Ruth Moir's Studio Feb 21 2013 008 Seana-Lee's Singing Afternoon at Ruth Moir's Studio Feb 21 2013 009 Seana-Lee's Singing Afternoon at Ruth Moir's Studio Feb 21 2013 010 Seana-Lee's Singing Afternoon at Ruth Moir's Studio Feb 21 2013 013 Seana-Lee's Singing Afternoon at Ruth Moir's Studio Feb 21 2013 016 Seana-Lee's Singing Afternoon at Ruth Moir's Studio Feb 21 2013 017 Seana-Lee's Singing Afternoon at Ruth Moir's Studio Feb 21 2013 018 Seana-Lee's Singing Afternoon at Ruth Moir's Studio Feb 21 2013 019

The ‘Show Don’t Tell’ Boogie Man

Let the action show the reader what is happening. Don't just tell them about it. Readers are not blind. They can SEE your scene.

Let the action show the reader what is happening. Don’t just tell them about it. Readers are not blind. They can SEE your scene.

If you are a struggling Indie author, investing your time wisely by joining a critique group or two, you have become familiar with, and even haunted by, the “show don’t tell” boogie man. Some have attempted to address this by changing he said and she said to he murmured or she yelled. That just doesn’t cut the mustard.

Use the active voice. Show action, don’t narrate it.

For the most part, say what people do. Don’t say what is done. ‘John plowed the field’, not, ‘The field was plowed by John.’ Active phrasing keeps your prose alive and interesting.

The best way to grasp the concept is to read a passage in which the art has been perfected. I would suggest reading anything by Christine Nolfi  (http://www.christinenolfi.com/ ). It is a wonderful place to start.

An example will do more to help you than any critical comments employing the show don’t tell phraseology.  Here is a sensational one:

*Mary surveyed the patriotic decorations festooned throughout the dining room, a treasure trove of Americana harking back to the restaurant’s inception during the Civil War. So many beautiful things, but they’d gone unappreciated. Diners noticed little but the glop on their plates.

Her heart sank. “There won’t be a dinner rush. After the meals Ethel Lynn made for the breakfast and lunch crowds, we won’t see a soul.”

Delia approached the picture window. “I hope the town council doesn’t burn up the phone lines scaring off our customers.” She squinted at the courthouse anchoring the north end of Liberty Square. “Then again, they have a soft spot for Miss Meg. It might stop them from passing legislation condemning this place.”

“Maybe I should ask my aunt to fire off an email.” Would long distance lobbying work?

“You should—Meg can fix anything.” The mirth on Delia’s face died as she added, “We were all sorry to see her go.”

*Reprinted by permission of the author

I should explain that I resent the journalistic habit of referring to people by their surnames. “Reis says she can’t remember when she wasn’t editing even as far back as public school.” Blech. It is disrespectful and I won’t do it. Christine has mastered the art of showing and doing it vividly. No awkward “stage directions” to break up the flow of the action. You can clearly envision this scene with little description of the room or its contents and you know precisely who is speaking.  There isn’t a “she said” to be found.

In fact, I don’t know if I encountered a he said or she said anywhere in the entire manuscript.

If you are writing this well your editor will love you, you will save a bundle on editing services, get great reviews and higher sales.

SECOND CHANCE GRILL Copyright 2012 by Christine Nolfi.

All rights reserved.

Created in digital format in the United States of America. No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever without written permission from the author except in the case of brief quotations embodied in articles and reviews. This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events or locales is entirely coincidental.

ISBN: 1478342226

ISBN 13: 978-1478342229

Self-publishing?

It is a permanent record.It should speak well of you.

It is a permanent record.
It should speak well of you.

Self-publishing is here to stay. I have used it myself. Many writers, working from a home office that doubles as family storage space, write riveting, professional novels and save money by self-publishing.

There are some pitfalls however, and in your zeal to get on with it you may fall flat-faced into a humiliating trap.

The first land mine is the temptation to forgo a professional edit in favor of having friends and family read your work. Unless you have an English major in your arsenal, one you can trust to critically assess your manuscript, you will encounter false flattery as well as overlooked grammatical errors. Printing alone is a daunting expense. Don’t spend money printing something that will embarrass you and destroy your credibility.

Don’t depend on spell check. You may be using a legitimate word. It is just the wrong word. Home renovation and DYI auto repair don’t have a corner on the disaster market. In this case the market will chew you to bits and never again take your work seriously. The cost of saving money may be your writing career.

Protect your investment and your reputation, not your ego. No-one who tells you just what you want to hear is a true friend.

Will hiring a professional editor guarantee you a best seller? That would be nice, wouldn’t it? A trained eye can tell you if you have a shot at selling any books at all, and an editor can get a sense of the marketability of your manuscript by reading the first three pages. To be honest, often from page one. You can save yourself needless heartbreak by dealing with reality sooner rather than later.

You are emotionally invested in your creation. Don’t scrimp where investment would pay dividends. Unless you have been writing for a long time and have learned to accept rejection letters philosophically, you must steel yourself for the pain of discovering that your masterpiece is flawed and not yet ready for market. Having this come as a private revelation, painful as it may be, is better than being the talk of the town for the wrong reasons.

You may be able “win someone over” after a bad first impression. While it has been known to happen with colleagues and in-laws, it is unlikely in a business relationship. It is even less likely with the fickle consumers of books. Your potential customer will sniff the air and move on.

I offer a free sample edit. Other editors make the same offer. Find one who is a good fit and then take advantage of it.

Don’t Try To Dazzle Them With Multisyllabic Vocabulary

If reading is a choreyour readers will give up

If reading is a chore
your readers will give up

Always think twice when you use big words. They are exhausting. You won’t impress anybody. Contrary to what you may have learned in public school composition class, it is not good writing.

It doesn’t matter if you know what the word means, and it doesn’t matter if your audience might. I’m serious. Unless you are an academic egghead (and that term is not used in a derogatory sense), using words in a technical journal, those high-priced words have no useful function. They are clutter. Use the simplest words you can. Make things easier to read. It will be more interesting.

New writers are confused on this point. Even more confused than they are with active vs. passive ‘Show, don’t tell’. (That is another post and I will get to it soon.)

If I, as an editor, get bogged down and bleary-eyed reading word-heavy descriptions just think how your readers will feel. Your book, assuming it ever gets published let alone purchased, may end up being the cure for someone’s insomnia. That is not the kind of review you want to see on Amazon. I won’t spend the countless hours necessary to clean the writing up, and you should be grateful for that. I charge by the hour. Do your own slash and burn.

Little Word, Big Difference

Confused?

Confused?

Have you ever suffered Furrowed Brow Syndrome over confusing little words, and wondered how to be certain you were using them correctly? You know them well: it’s/its, I/me, then/than, their/there/they’re, your/you’re, to/too and others. (Onto/ on to, Into/in to.)

K.I.S.S.

Let’s simplify:

1. It’s is always a contraction of it is. It’s not wise to venture outdoors without a coat in this weather. In this instance the apostrophe does not indicate ownership. However, possession omits the apostrophe. The dog spun in circles chasing its tail.

2. The I/me dilemma confuses some highly educated people. There are times when it sounds polished to say I when me is actually proper. The rule for this one is surprisingly simple. If you would say I when you were the only person in the sentence you should say I no matter how many others are spoken of. Example: Trudy and I had to hurry to catch the cross town bus. In most cases, if the pronoun is being used in the subject of the sentence, I will be correct.  You would not say Me had to hurry. Likewise, Trudy and me won’t have to hurry either.  While it is rude to put yourself first, it is a good way to test the sentence. No sentence ever begins with me. The I’s have it.

The predicate or object of the sentence can make I/me even more confusing. The trick is the same. Simply remove the other person from the equation and it should be apparent which word belongs.  It seemed like a big waste of time to me.  That is obvious, isn’t it? But what happens when Kathie agrees with you?  It seemed like a big waste of time to Kathie and (I or me?). This is where a lot of people believe it sounds more high class and cultured to say I. They are wrong.

3. Then/than is another bit of confusion that seems to trip up even professional writers. Again, the rule is simple.  Then always refers to a time frame. We went hiking on the old trail and then we stopped for a picnic. When asking when? use thenThan is the word to choose when comparing two things. Greater than, lesser than, rather thanI would rather watch movies at home this weekend than spend so much money at the theatre.

4. Ah, they’re putting their coats over there.  They’re is the contraction for they are. Their is possessive, denoting ownership. There is always somewhere. It is a place. If it answers the question Where? the answer is there.

5. You’re sending your children out to play.  We all see Facebook posts or receive emails almost daily well sprinkled with this one. It is my pet peeve. Have you ever read I hope your feeling better soon? Perhaps if we pronounced you’re “U’r” we would hear the difference. We truly should be able to hear the difference. You’re is the contraction of you are. Your is possessive.

6. Are you too tired to drive me to school?  Here, too means an excessive amount or degree. Extremely or very: Too pooped to pop, too much, too close. Are we going to have our cake and eat it too? Too indicates as well, also or in addition.

This is not a comprehensive list. If there are words that confuse you please drop me a line and I would be happy to clarify them for you.

This entry was posted on February 17, 2013. 1 Comment