Sylvia

Baja Camping

On an extended dry camping holiday in Baja, I was catching a few rays of sunshine, when I met Sylvia. She visited me in my imagination and now lives in my novel Orion’s Gift. Here she is telling us about a letter that changed her life.

They say ignorance is bliss. I can vouch for that. My life was humming along just fine until I received that letter. Afterwards, nothing was the same.

I flipped the envelope front to back looking for clues to its content. When I saw the return address, my mouth felt dry. It was too soon. My hands trembled as I unlocked the front door. On my way to the bedroom to get changed after my morning run, I tore open the envelope.

As I read, I forgot to breathe. Dazed, I threw myself onto the unmade bed. Clutching the blankets, I hugged my knees and stared at the wall, my chest so tight I thought I’d pass out. I didn’t recognize the moaning wail as a sound that could have come from me. Gut-wrenching sobs followed. My mind raced with wild incredulous thoughts. It can’t be true. It has to be a mistake.

My throat ached from crying and my sinuses were so swollen I could hardly breathe. I had to stop blubbering. Feeling sorry for myself wouldn’t change anything. Useless waste of precious time. I had to pull myself together.

I stumbled into the kitchen for a glass of water. My eyes felt puffy and glued shut, but a glimpse of the clock forced them open.

“Oh, shit. I’m going to be late for work.” I hurried back to the bedroom and made the mistake of looking at the dresser mirror. “And I look like hell.” I threw off my sweats, and jumped into the shower.

Thank God Joel had already left for work. It wouldn’t do for him to see me like this, puffy-eyed from crying, and perspiring after my run. He had no sympathy for tears and he wasn’t one to appreciate the natural look—didn’t like his girls sweaty unless it was from a lengthy session in bed. His girls! Hah! Why the plural? I had my suspicions, but what could I do? I was lucky to have him. Lucky he stayed with me. Tall, handsome, getting richer by the minute at his real estate job; most women would consider him a good catch. But would he stay with me now if he knew?

I rushed to dry my hair and style it, threw the blow-dryer down, slapped moisturizing cream on my face, and brushed my teeth. Panic threatened to take over again. I’d always been on time. The boss frowned on employees arriving late. I didn’t know why I still cared. Did it really matter anymore? Did anything?

I stepped into a cool blue-green summer dress and sandals. Grabbing my keys I was off. No! I hurried back to make the bed. What would Joel think if he came home to that mess? Come to think of it, the kitchen needed a quick cleanup. I hadn’t had time for breakfast, but Joel’s dishes still littered the table. Quick! Into the dishwasher, wipe the crumbs off the island, fold up the newspaper, unplug the coffeemaker and give the carafe a rinse. Oh, hurry! I shouldn’t have taken that time to feel sorry for myself.

I loved Joel. I always knocked myself out to please him. Wish he’d do the same for me. I still didn’t know what he ever saw in me. Funny! That was exactly what he often said—“Don’t know what I ever saw in you.” And when he saw the hurt on my face, he’d add, “Must have been something really special, ’cause I’m still here.” Then I worked my butt off to make him see it was worth his while to keep me around. I kept the house sparkling clean, made gourmet meals, gave him whatever he wanted in bed. I made sure I pleased him.

My mother always said I was pretty—long legs, good skin, shiny ash-blond hair—but mothers always say that. Joel says he loves my flashy smile and the four freckles on my ski-jump nose. People say I turn heads. I guess I look good, but wish I was smarter. I did okay in school, but I didn’t take home any prizes or scholarships. Pretty? Smart? What did that matter now?

I had about ten minutes to get to Goodridge. The girls in the office called it Get-Rich. Problem was that only the lawyers got rich. Clerks like me never got more than puny little wages.

On the way out I saw the offending letter on the dining room table. I snatched it up and clutched it to my chest. That would have been a big mistake, leaving it there for Joel to see.

*****

Click the links to see the book.

Orion’s Gift at amazon.com

For e-readers other than Kindle, go to smashwords.com.

Orion’s Gift at smashwords.com

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Ten Words That Give Us Pause

The English language has many words that sound similar, or are spelled the same, but have different meanings. Some are close to sounding right, but they may be the wrong one. Some are just a problem to spell correctly.

Here are some that many people get mixed up or misuse.

  1. rapt/wrapped

You may be rapt in thought (engrossed, or enRAPTured by an idea),  but a gift is wrapped.

2. rack/wrack

You can pretty much forget about wrack. It’s an old leftover from wreck. You may see it used in the expression wrack and ruin, but for everything else, use rack. You can rack your brain to figure out why that is.

3. languid/limpid

A stream can be limpid (clear and calm), but that does not mean it is limp or listless.

Languid, on the other hand, is used to mean limp and listless.

4. kindergarten (NOT kindergarden).

It comes from the German words for children (Kinder) and garden (Garten). A child going to kindergarten is called a kindergartner.

5. jamb/jam

The side of the door frame is a jamb.  It comes from the French word jambe, for leg.

A sweet spread for toast is jam.

6. forego/forgo

Forego means to precede (to come before). Forgo means to do without something.

7. flora/fauna

Many people use these words together without knowing that flora refers to plants while fauna refers to animals.

8. florescent/fluorescent

Florescent means to be in flower, while fluorescent means radiating light.

9. better/bettor

Better is an improvement, while bettor is one who places a bet.

10. bandanna/banana

She took off her bandanna to eat her banana.

 

 

Punctuating Dialogue – A Simple Start

  Did  you say something?    she asked.

I’m going to assume that you will stick to the basic “said” and “asked” when using dialogue tags. This is a good way to keep out of trouble when writing dialogue. If you keep in mind that people don’t smile words or laugh them, it will help you to keep the punctuation correct as well.

Here are some simple sentences using quotation marks (note the location of the punctuation).

“I’m going to practice writing dialogue,” Rose said.

“Is it difficult?” George asked.

If you want to avoid the dialogue tags (said and asked) you could use some action verb instead, but it must be separated from the spoken words and placed in its own sentence.

“It’s as easy as making a pie.” Rose laughed. 

George rolled his eyes. “Then it’s pretty hard to do.”

Notice the periods separating each sentence.

If you want to put a dialogue tag in the middle of a sentence (that is, if the spoken words would make a sentence if you take out the dialogue tag) it might look like this:

“Writing dialogue,” Rose said, “is as easy as making a pie.”

“In that case,” George said, “it’s pretty hard.”

Notice the comma before and after the dialogue tag and the lower case letter where the second part of the spoken sentence begins.

If you have one person speaking two separate sentences and you want to put the dialogue tag between the sentences, you would use a comma before the dialogue tag and a period after it. The new sentence begins with a capital.

“I like to write dialogue,” Rose said. “It’s as easy as making pie.”

“I think I have a lot to learn,” said George. “Will it help if I have a piece of pie as I write?”

Exceptions to Exceptions

Rules are meant to be broken, and in the English language, they are broken all the time.

After the difficult “Numbers and Hyphenation” post last time, I thought I would go easy on you and only talk about one rule (and of course, its exceptions).

You’ve all heard this rule since elementary school:

“i” before “e,” except after “c,” and when it says “ay” as in  “neighbor” and “weigh.”

Usually, it is “i” before “e” when you have a long “e” sound, such as in these words: achieve, believe, brief, chief, diesel, field, grief, hygiene, niece, piece, relieve, reprieve, shield, shriek, siege, thief, wield, yield.

But after “c,” the “e” comes first, as in:

ceiling, conceit, conceive, deceit, deceive, perceive, receipt, receive.

Having said that, here are some words that don’t follow the “i” before “e” rule, and there is no “c” to change the rule. What do you think about words like these, where “i” does NOT come before “e” and it still has a long “e” sound:

caffeine, Keith, Neil, protein, seize, Sheila, weir, weird.

 

When the sound is “ay,” the spelling is also “ei”:

beige, deign, eight, freight, neighbor, reign, rein, veil, vein, weigh.

And finally, even the exception to the “i” before “e” rule where it says “except after ‘c’,” has an exception of its own. 

Here is “species.”  The “ie” makes a long “e” sound, and follows “c” but it is not spelled “ei”  (as in “ceiling”).

What a CRAZY language!

 

Numbers and Hyphens

When do you hyphenate numbers? I hate to admit it, but it’s not simple. I will try to sort it out though, into something that’s easy enough to remember.

1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8  9  0

For a start, with numbers, the general rule is “twenty-one through ninety-nine are hyphenated; others are open.”

thirty-five

two thousand twenty-two

one hundred seventy-five

For simple fractions, here are some examples:

one-half

two-thirds

three-quarters

one sixty-fourth

two and five-sixths

Hyphenate, if you use the fraction as a noun (one-half)adjective (a two-thirds majority), or adverb (three-quarters done), except when the second element is already hyphenated (a one twenty-fifth share). Also if you have a whole number followed by a fraction, only hyphenate the fraction (two and three-quarters).

When a number is used with an abbreviation, it is always open (no hyphen).

a 5 lb. roast

a 4 ft. high fence

When a number is used with a noun, hyphenate before the noun, otherwise leave it open.

a three-hundred-yard race, but the race was three hundred yards long

a six-foot-two athlete, but the athlete was six foot two

a two-and-a-half-foot stick, but the stick was two and a half feet.

a two-and-three-quarter-inch stick, but the stick was two and three-quarters of an inch

 

And lastly, we have ordinals, basically the same rule.

a second-floor condo, condo on the second floor

third-row seat, seat in the third row

second-to-last candidate, candidate came second to last

I hope you don’t have a first-class headache after this intense session. If you do, I hope your medications are first class and you’ll feel better soon. Maybe it will be a half-hour remedy and you’ll feel better in half an hour.

 

Open or Closed

One problem writers sometimes struggle with is when to use hyphens to join descriptive words. Here are a few examples that show some of the basic rules to guide you in the use of hyphens.

 

  1. Sometimes we use an adjective and a noun to describe another noun.

Example:   a high-class event.

Without the hyphen we might wonder if it was a class event where everyone got high, or it took place on a mountain or in the penthouse. Did the event only allow the people from one class, such as grade 12?

The hyphen helps to clarify meaning.

The general rule is: hyphenated before but not after a noun, like this:

“a high-class event,”  but “the event was high class.”

Example:

“a small-town sheriff,” but “the sheriff was from a small town.” (If we wrote it without the hyphen [as in small town sheriff]  we might wonder if the sheriff from the town was small).

 

2. If you use an adjective and a participle, it might look like this:

“a well-dressed woman,”  but  “the woman was well dressed.” (hyphenated before but not after a noun)

“an open-ended question,” but “the question was open ended.” (hyphenated before but not after a noun)

 

3. Adverbs ending in “ly” and a participle or adjective are open, whether before or after a noun. No hyphens.

It was a poorly paid job.

We ate a quickly prepared meal.

 

4. Adverbs not ending in “ly” and a participle or adjective.

“She got some much-needed dental work,” but “her dental work was much needed.”

“He had the worst-paid job at the plant,” but “his job at the plant was the worst paid one.”

(hyphenated before but not after a noun)

However …

when using  more, most, less, least, and very, these are usually kept open (no hyphen) unless ambiguity threatens.

For example:

most talented musicians (refers to almost all musicians with talent; the most in number), but the most-talented musicians (the musicians with the most talent).

When the adverb rather than the compound as a whole is modified by another adverb, the entire expression is open.

(from Chicago Manual of Style)

Example:

a very much needed job

There is much more to know about hyphens but we don’t want to go on overload.

 

Natural Selection – My Review

It is my pleasure to host author Jacqui Murray on my blogs today. If you came here first, please also visit wordsfromanneli.wordpress.com for more about Jacqui’s latest fabulous novel, Natural Selection.

Book information:

 

Title and author: Natural Selection by Jacqui Murray

Series: Book 3 in the Dawn of Humanity series

Genre: Prehistoric fiction

Editor: Anneli Purchase

Available print or digital) at: http://a-fwd.com/asin=B0B9KPM5BW

 

My Review

Lucy lives in a world without any technology or modern conveniences. No stores to buy anything. No life-saving antibiotics or vaccinations. Nothing but nature in a world that is still forming, 1.8 million years ago. Imagine having to defend against wild animals, survive the harshest weather, and endure countless injuries, while you try to find the basic necessities of life: food, water, and shelter. Most of us would soon die in these natural circumstances, but Lucy and her small group of travelers work together to survive. They have one advantage over the animal species of their time. They can think and learn and plan.

Lucy’s kind of early man made tools of stone, and are referred to as Man-who-makes-tools, but another group of more advanced of her time has learned to use a spear and is more likely to kill and take slaves from Lucy’s more primitive group.  It is Lucy’s mission to save the members of her group who have been enslaved by the more advanced group.

She guides her group through natural disasters, threats from huge and dangerous animals, and the danger of being killed by other traveling uprights, Man-who-preys.

Each danger is an adventure of its own, and I marveled at the skills and bravery of Lucy’s group while they suffered the fiercest weather conditions and natural disasters without any clothing to help protect them.

Lucy’s kind heart accepts others who are in need. She brings into her group a large dog who would otherwise be considered a fierce enemy, but because she adopted him when he was in need, he is her loyal defender and friend. A Tree-man, reminiscent of our modern ape, also abandoned, adopts her group, as does a cat who will become very large when it grows up. These, and a handful of people like Lucy, including one young man who is nearly blind, and two more advanced uprights, travel together to try to rescue Lucy’s former group from the Man-who-preys group who are holding them captive.

Lucy faces onslaughts of volcanic eruptions, impassable rifts in the land, injuries from poisonous snakes and marauding animals, most of whom are larger and more powerful than she is. But Lucy’s spirit, her courage, and her knowledge of healing plants, keep the group going.

I admire Jacqui Murray, the author of Natural Selection, the third in the Dawn of Humanity series, not only for the huge amount of research she must have done to put this series together, but for weaving the information into the adventures and the group dynamics that are part of Lucy’s story, all in an entertaining and informative way.

I couldn’t put this book down. One threat led to another and I couldn’t help imagining what I would do if I were in Lucy’s situation. She had to be so tough, so brave, and so determined to finally find her former group members and attempt to rescue them.

I was sorry the book ended, and I hope Ms Murray is already working on another series like this one. I can’t wait to read more of her work.

About the Author:

Jacqui Murray is the author of the popular prehistoric fiction saga, Man vs. Nature which explores seminal events in man’s evolution one trilogy at a time. She is also author of the Rowe-Delamagente thrillers and Building a Midshipman , the story of her daughter’s journey from high school to United States Naval Academy. Her non-fiction writing includes over a hundred books on integrating tech into education, and reviews as an Amazon Vine Voice. She is a columnist for NEA Today, and a freelance journalist on tech ed topics.

 

Social Media contacts:

 

Amazon Author Page:        https://www.amazon.com/Jacqui-Murray/e/B002E78CQQ/

Blog:                                       https://worddreams.wordpress.com

Instagram:                             https://www.instagram.com/jacquimurraywriter/

Pinterest:                                http://pinterest.com/askatechteacher

Twitter:                                   http://twitter.com/worddreams

Website:                                 https://jacquimurray.net

 

This or That?

Which word is the right one to use?

Some words are so similar in spelling, or sound, or meaning, that it can be difficult to know which is the correct one in any particular case.

Here are some that give many of us a hard time. I’ll begin with the two that I have problems with.

  1. discreet/discreteDiscreet means reliable, careful. If a person is discreet, they are not likely to blab something you’ve told them in confidence. Discrete means separate or distinct.
  2. canvas/canvass – I will canvass the potential voters to try to gain their support, and then I will hide in my canvas tent until the election is all over.
  3. cannon/canon – Think of the cannon as a big gun, and cannon is a bigger word than canon. A (little) canon is a senior clergyman. It can also refer to a piece of music.
  4. compliment/complement – The word “complement” looks like the beginning of the word “complete.” Complement is the completion of something. The dessert complemented the meal. Then when the cook brings a wonderful dessert, you can say something nice and give her or him a compliment.
  5. comprise/composed of – Oh! This one is troublesome. If you remember not to follow comprised with “of,” you are well on your way to using it correctly. A whole thing comprises some parts; the parts do not comprise the whole. They make up the whole, but do not comprise it.  The whole comprises the parts. Do not confuse this word with composed of, or consist of, or make up. e.g. The baked goods section comprises several kinds of pie. The puzzle is composed of pieces of many shapes. It comprises 500 pieces.
  6. extant/extinctExtant means still in existence. Extinct means something no longer exists. e.g. The extant works of the ancient authors were stored in a special vault. The dodo is an extinct bird.
  7. shear/sheer Shear is to cut, as with shears (scissors). Sheer can mean something like pure, or complete, as in sheer nonsense. Sheer can also refer to something that has fallen off or that drops straight down, as in a sheer drop-off on a cliff, or sheer, as in see-through (curtains), or sheer as in swerve abruptly.
  8. hoard/horde – A hoard is a collection of valuable things. Sometimes people hoard things that are valuable only to them. A huge group of people can be called a horde. Often they are called a horde if they are unruly.
  9. waver/waiver – If you waver, it could be that you are not as steadfast about an idea as you thought you were. A waiver is a document that gives up your right or a claim to something.
  10. plane/plain – A plane is a flying vehicle. It could also refer making a flat surface as on a wooden board, or it could refer to a level, as in being on a different plane (level), especially in thinking. The other plain could refer to something ordinary, especially in looks, and it can refer to the flat lands of the prairies.

Be Careful of These Misused Expressions – Ten More

It seems there are always ten more and ten more. I could go on for quite a long time, listing misused words and phrases. Don’t worry. I’m not being judgmental. Many people misuse these expressions all the time. Even news anchors come out with these mistakes.

Usually, my feeling is that it’s your right to talk and write any way you want, but if you publish it, then it should be correct.

Here are ten more expressions that many people use incorrectly.

  1. fortuitous – This does not necessarily mean fortunate or lucky. It refers to something (usually a good thing) that happens by chance or by accident, not by design. The distinction is fine, but take care when you use this word.
  2. kind of/sort of – These expressions should only be used in familiar writing styles, where they are used to replace “rather” or “something like.” More extreme misuses (such as “kinda” and “sorta”) leave me shuddering, but I have suffered through novels that use these expressions throughout. I will concede that in rare cases, a character may use “kinda” and “sorta” in dialogue, but in narrative sections of the text they are not good form. Save your use of kind of/sort of for when you mean a type or variety of something.
  3. less/fewer – Use less for quantity  and fewer for a number.  e.g. We have less money, but we have fewer dollars. We have less rain because fewer raindrops fell.
  4. amount/number – Use amount for quantity, and number for something that is potentially countable. e.g. The number of people at the concert was huge, but so was the amount of garbage they left behind.
  5. irregardless – Not a word. The negative (less) is already in the suffix of the word “regardless.” The association with words such as irregular and irresponsible could be the cause of some of the confusion.
  6. personally – Not needed in most cases. Just leave it out. It might be used to differentiate between being somewhere in person, as opposed to being there virtually (on the Internet), but in general use, it is often repetitive and serves little purpose.
  7. interesting – This is not an interesting word unless you make it so by adding details to tell why.
  8. true fact – A fact is something verifiable, so to say that something is a true fact is redundant. All facts are true; otherwise they are not facts.
  9. as good as – Avoid dropping the second “as.” The expression is incomplete without it. Wrong: She’s as good or better than me in tennis. Right: She’s as good as or better than me in tennis.
  10. point in time – Don’t use this expression. It means nothing. There is no “point” in time. it is continually passing by.

 

So now you know.

 

Ten Misused Expressions

There are a lot more than ten misused expressions, but we don’t want to be on overload, so here are some randomly picked misused words or expressions. You may notice that some are repeated from other posts, but that is only because I keep seeing those words misused and the reminder bears repeating.

Blah, blah, blah….

Like, you know….

  1. all right – This is the correct spelling. “Alright” is a variant and not generally accepted as correct. Please try to avoid using “alright.”
  2. everyday/every day – “Everyday” (spelled as one word) means ordinary, or usual.  “Every day” (spelled as two separate words) means each day.
  3. as to whether – This is just wordy. You don’t need “as to.” Simply say “whether.”
  4. data, strata, phenomena, media – These are plurals of “datum, stratum, phenomenon, medium.” So the data “are”; not the data “is.”
  5. hopefully – In most cases, this is misused. It means to do something in a hopeful frame of mind. Most likely what you mean to say is “I hope,” or “it is to be hoped.” Be careful with “hopefully.” In most cases it is better left out.
  6. inside of/outside of – When you are referring to a location, leave out “of.” If you mean a time frame (inside of two minutes), it is okay to leave the “of” in place.
  7. like – Do not use “like” in place of “as.” Usually if it is before a phrase or clause, you should be using “as.” (“She ran like her life depended on it,” should be “She ran as if her life depended on it.”) Also, do not insert this word as a meaningless introduction to an adjective  (She was like devastated to hear the way I speak, throwing “like” into my podcast over 400 times). By the way, in a one-hour podcast filled with many uses of “like,” I began counting  and was horrified to find that the person had used 400+ likes an hour. Isn’t that well over the speed limit?
  8. nice – Avoid this tired, vague word.
  9. most – do not use this word instead of “almost.” “Most everyone” should be “almost everyone.”
  10. the foreseeable future – Avoid using this expression. The future is NOT foreseeable; at least not yet.

So blah, blah, blah … Now, you know….

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