Sunday, October 28, 2012

Writing Real Characters



Several years ago at our writers group, one of the other people suggested an action for one of our characters. Larry and I both immediately said, “Oh, but she’d never do anything like that. It would be completely out of character.”

The other person laughed and said, “You talk about your characters as if they were real people.”

Larry and I looked at each other. Then I replied, “Of course, they’re real. They have to be. How can we expect our readers to believe the people in our stories are real if we don’t?”

So, how do we write characters who step off the page as believable people you might want as friends?

1.      Base Them on Friends
The protagonist in our mysteries Murder… They Wrote and Murder in Paradise, AgapĂ© Jones, is based on a fellow we met at the 2005 Maui Writers Conference. We only talked to him for about ten minutes, but as we walked away, I said to Larry, “We have to write that guy!”

The real person has since become a good friend, and every time we talk to him, we’re amazed at how our own stories about our character seem to mirror his real life. We write AgapĂ© with our friend’s mannerisms, only exaggerated a bit.

Agape’s mother, Lovey, is based on another friend, Lovie Cooper. You can read about her on our website. To write her, all I had to do was close my eyes and ask, “What would Lovie say?”

2.      Cast Your Characters
We sometimes pretend that a favorite actor is playing the part. We try to capture their voice, their appearance, their mannerisms. We imitate their speech patterns. We determine what makes them unusual and unique. Then we write those characteristics into our character.

I had just started writing “Finding Love in Paradise” in the anthology Directions of Love. I had described Jason and had a pretty good idea of who he was. Then I stumbled upon the TV show The Mentalist and saw Tim Kang (Kimball Cho). I turned to Larry and said, “That’s Jason.” From then on, I knew exactly what the character was like.

3.      People Watch
We look at people wherever we go. We note specific ‘types,’ including their dress and mannerisms.

We listen to conversations and remember the speech patterns. (No, we don’t eavesdrop on the actual conversations, but we mentally note unusual sounds and word choices.) We’ve noticed that older people’s rhythms and vocabularies differ from younger ones. Then we incorporate some of the special and unusual ones into our characters.

4.      Be Consistent
We determine how our character will behave, and then keep their basic responses the same throughout the narrative. Characters must change or there is no story, but the easy-going person generally stays flexible and positive. The basic nature of a rigid one shouldn’t change except with struggle. The flighty person doesn’t suddenly morph into the detailed one, etc.

5.      Write From Your Own Experience
I began the prologue for “Finding Love in Paradise” in the anthology Directions of Love with the story of a young woman alone in a typhoon in Japan. She was in the penthouse of a high-rise apartment alone. I knew everything she was feeling because I had lived that very same experience while living in Japan.

Larry was at work and I was at home when a huge typhoon hit our area. We lived on the fifteenth floor at the top of a mountain. The wind whipped around the building, and I feared that the windows would blow out at any moment. Debris swirled past and threatened to smash the twelve-foot-high curved glass wall of the living room.

I closed the heavy drapes and hunkered down for the duration. Unlike Kimi’s husband in the story, Larry was able to call from time to time to check on me and let me know he was okay. Having experienced the range of emotions in the identical situation allowed me to give Kimi a sense of reality.

6.      Vary The Characters
I have a friend who only writes upbeat characters—all of them! Since that is her basic nature, it’s easiest for her to go to the upbeat emotions.

But people are all different!

We try to to include characters with contrasting personalities. It helps that the two of us write together. Larry is the organized, easy-going, funny one. I am the touchy-feely one. We sometimes pick different characters to write based on which one of us understands the character better.

When I wrote Ghost Writer, my first solo work, one of the most delicious parts was crafting the old, grouchy curmudgeon in contrast to the young, hip, somewhat irreverent young woman. Their speech patterns were opposite as were their personalities. In no way could the two characters be confused, even without dialogue tags.

7.      Let The Characters Tell You Who They Are
Larry had a terrible time at first when our characters suddenly decided to do something unexpected or simply refused to do what we wanted. Learning to listen to the characters and allow them to reveal their true personas was not easy for a compulsive outliner with an engineering background. He was accustomed to managing every detail. But sometimes our characters don’t cooperate.

I remember talking to our friend, Marilyn Meredith, about this. She told us about one book she was writing where she’d decided who the perpetrator of the crime was before she started. But halfway through the book, she realized her intended criminal just didn’t have the personality to commit the crime. So she had to look elsewhere.

In the end, listening to the characters themselves makes a story richer.

Are our characters real? You bet they are—at least to us, and hopefully to our readers as well.

Lorna Collins is the author of eight published books. She sometimes writes with her husband, Larry K. Collins, sometimes collaborates  with others on anthologies, and occasionally writes alone. Find out more about her at her website: http://www.lornalarry.com. 

Friday, October 26, 2012

FRIDAY ROUND-UP




Bubble, blubble, toil and trouble, what are our authors cooking up for Halloween? Cora offers true ghost stories, Chris podcasts over at The Big Scary Show, Marja writes fright and Monti gives her spookiest best this week. All that and more on the Friday Round-Up. 

Mike Black will visit Chicago's ALTERNATE REALITY COMIC BOOK SHOP this weekend for signing his new novel and also his fully illustrated collection of super hero short stories, DOC ATLAS.

LORNA COLLINS mystery “Ghost Writer” will be signing Oct. 27 from 8-2:30 at Laguna Woods Village, Clubhouse 7, Laguna Woods, CA. A review is up over at  Kings River Life. Comment to win a book!
http://kingsriverlife.com
J.L. GREGER, author of “Coming Flu” will be teaching a class and signing books on Nov. 1 at Macy's, Coronado Mall, Albuquerque.
CHRIS KULLSTROEM, author of the interactive game, “Deadly Roles,” will do a podcast interview for The Big Scary Show. www.bigscaryshow.com

MARJA MCGRAW, author of  “Bogey Nights” and “Bogey's Ace in the Hole,” has a Halloween blog telling you how to write fright:
http://blog.marjamcgraw.com/


Renown astrologer Hazel Dixon-Cooper relates her true ghost story over a CORA RAMOS' blog:    http://bit.ly/T92c5j


BERYL REICHENBURG'S children's book “Camouflage” is now on the shelves of Big Sur Library.

Rabbi ILENE SCHNEIDER, author of the soon-to-be-published “Unleavened Dead” discusses Big Publishing vs. small presses:  http://rabbiauthor.wordpress.com
Visit the National All Media Exhibition at Petersburg Regional Arts Center before Nov. 3 to see MARY MONTAGUE SIKES' watercolor.  She's also featured over at Hot Ticket for her book “Secrets By the Sea.”   http://www.dailypress.com/entertainment/books/writers-block-blog/dp-writers-block-hr-authors-bring-spookiest-best-20121025,0,1335128,full.post

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Rereads


I know some people never read the same book more than once. I'm not one of those people. I have books I reread every few years. They're like getting together with old friends.

Mabel Seeley wrote some of the first mysteries I ever read; the ones that got me hooked on the genre. The books were my mother’s, bought  way back when, when Pyramid paperbacks cost 50 or 60 cents. They were reprints from an older time--marginally historical--even then. They were, however, contemporaries when published in the 1930s and 40s. 

The pages of these old paperbacks are yellow and crisp with age, and I take care turning the pages. And they are still page-turners, after all these years. The Listening House, The Chuckling Fingers, The Whispering Cup. I  have six in all. They’re very evocative and I get a big kick out the dialogue, the action, and the lives these people led. Ms. Seeley speaks of ice-boxes and streetcars, and pay phones in the house. Water is often heated on top of a stove, sometimes gas, sometimes wood. They light lamps, they ring a central operator to place a phone call, just as described in my China Bohannon series set in 1896. In The Listening House, the heroine pays $4.50 a week rent for two rooms and a half bath. Movies and playing cards are usual pastimes. The stories seem more dated and less real to me than the Victorian era mystery/adventures (see Three Seconds to Thunder and Two Feet Below) that I write.

But here’s the thing—get readers and writers together and they’ll be talking about all the errors and typos in books nowadays. We’ll complain of poorly edited works and say, “The editors are all fifteen years old. They don’t know proper grammar and can't spell anymore.” But people, you should try rereading some of these old books. 

The last time I read my inherited Mabel Seeleys--lo these several years ago--they seemed perfect to me. I didn’t notice typos and such. Now I do. Don’t take me wrong. I still enjoy these stories very much, but editing errors jump out at me like never before. On almost every page the same words are used only a sentence or two apart. Motivation often seems weak and a little repetitious. Dialogue is strange at times. Adverbs are strewn freely about; commas abound. 

Oh, what the heck. I still love them. They send me right back into an era totally apart from my own. And I can never forget they’re part of what whetted my own desire to write. I just hope a few readers will find my own stories worthy of a reread a few years down the line.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

CALIFORNIA DREAMS by John Brantingham

I often tell people I’m a native Californian. That’s not true.

My family moved to Los Angeles when I was a child in 1976. We had the idea that we’d be here for a couple of years and then move on.

It made sense to me. The pattern of my short life had been to stay in one place and then move in a year or so. My father was a salesman, and we’d lived in The Hague, London, Springfield, Edmonton, and Pittsburgh, which gave me the broadest worldview possible for a five year old child. Los Angeles was to be a stopping place before we headed who knew where.

Although we’ve traveled much and lived in other parts of the world, we’ve come back home always to Los Angeles, but not the part that you’re probably imagining. We live off to the east of Los Angeles, and over the last thirty-five years, the city has changed. Urban sprawl has eaten away the desert and the places of my youth.

When I needed a place for the main character of my new novel to live, it’s no surprise that I chose home. I knew I had to do a little research – to re-see the place I’d lived for so long.

I drove out to Foothill Boulevard which runs nearly the length of Los Angeles, but I was off to the east in the Inland Empire. Everything I had known seemed to have morphed into this new world.

On Sunday afternoons my dad used to drive us to a road out in the desert that went up and down little hills. It was a cheap thrill ride. It was miles beyond the last lonely house, out in the world of coyotes and jack rabbits. Dad would push the Oldsmobile up to 90 and all five of us would scream as our stomachs went into our throats.

Now, I looked for that road and found strip malls and houses. A community had grown up complete with lawns and dogs barking at any coyote that might get confused and wander in.

As I drove in, I passed the place where the Dairy Queen had been turned into a shopping mall. It wasn’t sad, just a little different.

So much had gone away and had changed, but so much was still there.

The grocery store where someone ran into me when I was on my motorcycle. The two dollar movie theater where my wife and I went on cheap dates. The back roads I jogged in high school for cross country practice. The strange foothill roads where I’d disappear on my bicycle for long Saturday afternoons. The libraries where I had learned how to flirt while pretending to work on math worksheets.

Brantinghams are travelers by nature. My older brother is off now in Sacramento but who knows where he’ll be next year. My younger brother became a long haul trucker. My parents will disappear and tell me only later they decided to bop off to Ohio or Germany. And I travel too, but somehow I’ve become an Angelino.

We become the places where we live, and Los Angeles has worked its way into my accent, my demeanor, and my dreams. When I close my eyes, what I see is a long road in 1984 that runs in and out of the desert and new little communities and my dad’s white hair blowing in the hot wind that’s blasting in through the window of his car.

Friday, October 19, 2012

FRIDAY ROUND-UP

It's nearly Halloween!

Check out John Brantingham's scary “vlog,” true ghost stories thanks to Cora Ramos and Sunny Frazier comes clean about why she uses astrology in her crime fiction. All that and more strange stuff happened this week!


JOHN BRANTINGHAM, author of the soon to be published “Mann of War,” talks about zebras and tarantulas and asks if he should do a vlog (video blog). See the strange and funny vlog posted on his website: http://www.johnbrantingham.blogspot.com

JIM CALLAN, author of soon-to-be-published “A Ton of Gold,” interviews Texas author Liz Klein. http://www.jamesrcallan.com/blog  
Jim will be signing books at the Mt. Pleasant, Texas, library Oct. 20 from 10-12.


 STEPHEN BRAYTON, recently published “Alpha,” discusses the publishing business at www.stephenbrayton.wordpress.com 

Looks like we have another “Wild Woman” at Oak Tree Press. SALLY CARPENTER has her rock and roll protag of “The Baffled Beatlemaniac Caper” talking to http://wildwomenauthorsx2.blogspot.com/


LORNA COLLINS, author of “Ghost Writer,” blogs about her weekend and why music is powerful. http://lornacollins-author.blogspot.com
LESLEY DIEHL, author of “Dumpster Dying” explains why autumn is not her favorite season: http://joannetroppello.weebly.com/1/post/2012/10/do-you-know-author-lesley-diehl-lesleydiehl.html 

And, if you care to share your stupidity with her, go to: http://anotherdraught.blogspot.com


SUNNY FRAZIER, (“Fools Rush In,” and “Where Angels Fear”) asks “Are You a High Maintenance Author?” over at Novel Spaces: http://novelspaces.blogspot.com/2012/10/are-you-high-maintenance-author.html
Sunny also discusses her views on astrology and why she writes about it in her crime novels:   http://www.seedsborntolight.candletothesun.com/blog-seeds-born-to-the-light.html


MARJA MCGRAW, author of “Bogey Nights” and “Bogey's Ace in the Hole,” asks “What's an author to do when he/she can't decide what to write about?” http://www.marjamcgraw.com


Prolific author MARILYN MEREDITH blogs about sense of place: http://marilynmeredith.blogspot.com 

Her novel, “The Devil's Foothold” is now available on Kindle.


Romancing the Heart blogspot continues to support Oak Tree Press. This time they give reviews on books by LORNA COLLINS, WILLIAM DOONAN and JOHN LINDERMUTH in their newsletter. The site also publicized an appearance by RADINE TREES NEHRING. Big thank you! http://rthinewsletter.blogspot.com/



CORA RAMOS, author of soon-to-be-published “Dance the Dream Awake” offers another true ghost tale: http://coraramos-cora.blogspot.com/2012/10/spirit-in-redwoods.html



Rabbi ILENE SCHNEIDER, author of the soon-to-be-published “Unleavened Dead,” talks about the difference between big publishers and small publishers: http://rabbiauthor.wordpress.com



 MARY MONATGUE SIKES, author the Passenger to Paradise series, blogs over at Romancing the Heart : http://romancingtheheartinterviews.blogspot.com
Her recipe for Crab Dip is part of the Passionate Cooks free recipe book available from: https://www.allromanceebooks.com/product-passionatecooks-944744-174.html


A review of MORGAN ST. JAMES' novel “Who's Got the Money” is up at http://www.examiner.com/review/who's-got-the-money-delivers-fun-and-entertaining-read



 The results are in! Top selling OTP titles for Sept. are:
HOLLI CASTILLO: Gumbo Justice and Jambalaya Justice
MARTI COLVIN: Blue Ice
WILLIAM DOONAN: American Caliphate
WAYNE DUNDEE: Dismal River and Reckoning at Rainrock
SUNNY FRAZIER: Fools Rush In
JASON HUNT: A Midsummer Night's Gunfight
RADINE TREES NEHRING: A Fair To Die For
SHIRLEY OLDRIDGE: The Support Group
STEVE SCARBOROUGH: Scrafitto

Congratulations to our authors!

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Why is it necessary to pump up my personality? I’m a writer. I deal with the written word, not the spoken word.

Engage the Audience

Many writers have that attitude. Writing can be a very solitary profession except for attending writers’ group meetings or conferences. Even at events like that, it is necessary for a personality to shine through. For anyone who has ever attended a reading, whether at a critique group or other event, the agony of suffering through a flat monotone rendition of five to ten minutes as contrasted to an animated, energetic presentation is awesome.

People struggle to keep their eyelids open during the boring reading, and probably don’t absorb much of the material. Meanwhile, the animated writer has people enthralled and the audience is sorry when it ends. Whose book are they more likely to want to buy? Whose program will be recounted to friends with pleasure and whose with comments about minutes seeming like hours?

Once a book is in print, and even leading up to that time, the author must put themselves in the public eye. Sure, written interviews, blogs and reviews are part of the game. But the other part is personal appearances. Blog radio and podcasts have become very good avenues to promotion. Giving talks and workshops, signings at bookstores and other unexpected venues. All of these put the author’s personality on display, not to mention the possibility of talking about your books at social gatherings.

For people who have difficulty relating to speaking in public this can be pure agony. Do the palms sweat? The voice shake? Every rational thought suddenly vanish into thin air? If the answer is yes, you need to pump up your personality. This is not only true for authors, but for anyone seeking to relate to the public.

Check your fears at the door
I speak from experience. There was a time I could no more talk to someone I didn’t know, let alone a crowd of people without approaching cardiac arrest. Then my sales manager at an office furniture dealership gave me the assignment of cold calling every office in a medical building. I quickly realized most of the doctors were so old they would probably be there until they retired and the only possibility of these calls getting me any business was if an office vacated.  Knowing that, I was free to try out different approaches and techniques. It didn’t matter. I wasn’t going to find any business.

In the end, I stopped at the management office and gave them my card. The receptionist said, “I always admire people like you. You seem to have such an easy time talking to everyone and anyone.” Mission accomplished. In the previous hour I’d loosened up and found my public personality.

 Here are a few tips…things that got me over the hump.

Talk to strangers. Now that might seem unrelated, but these are people you will probably never see again. So if you blow it, no problem. Walk up to people you don’t know at an event, nerves be damned, and break into a conversation. The first few times will be very difficult. After that it becomes much easier. You might even enjoy it, but most of all you will feel much more relaxed with strangers.

Practice changing the tone of your voice when reading or giving a talk, or even in general conversation. A tape recorder helps. You might be shocked at what you sound like. Develop a lift to your voice, a tone that implies you are really enjoying this and hope everyone else is. Vary the sound. Drop your voice a bit if you’re reading something sad, elevate it if the scene is happy or exciting. Vary the speed to match your subject.

Make eye contact
Make eye contact with the audience. If you are on the radio, still imagine making eye contact or smiling…it comes through in your voice. Have you ever heard someone say, “I could hear him smiling at me.” That’s what I mean. Your attitude comes through in the tone of your voice.

Be gracious to your audience. Haughty and arrogant don’t work. Okay, you’ve written a book or you’re an expert on your subject. That’s fine. 
These people have taken time out of their day to hear what you have to say, and they might buy your book. Respect that.

What else can you do?
Think of other things you can do to be engaging. Let a sense of humor come through where appropriate, but don’t base it on putting down other people. Make it light and funny. Jot down ideas for pumping up your public personality and review them from time to time. What’s working? What isn’t?
If you are on a panel, respect the moderator. Stay on topic as much as possible and don’t hog the microphone. Try to get a few laughs,but don’t ramble on and on. If you do, people might begin to imagine the old vaudeville hook and wish they had one. Say what you have to say and pass the mic.

Now go have fun with what you do.



Morgan St. James first book for Oak Tree Press is the funny crime caper WHO'S GOT THE MONEY? Visit her website for a full list of books, bio information and the Writers' Tricks of the Trade monthly E-Zine links.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Learning to Like Book Signings

Signing at Barnes and Noble
My experiences with book signings began back in 2001 when Oak Tree published my first novel. It was at a Barnes and Noble, and I was really excited. Another Oak Tree author, Wendy Howell Mills, and I were signing together. At the end, we happily autographed all the left-over books, expecting them to be left out in full view in the front of the store ready for anxious readers to purchase them later. We believed the store would never send back autographed books.

Were we ever wrong about that. Without doubt, all those books were on the first truck out the next morning. Wendy and I were both naive first-time authors.

Wendy and I had another book signing together scheduled in Richmond for September 11, 2001. You know what happened to that signing.

Although I never got to enjoy signings back then, I loved having them with Wendy who was charming and fun to talk with during many lulls with no customers. Book signings were much easier to schedule then. Most Barnes and Noble stores were happy to have us and put out lots of nice promo signs all around the stores. We also had signings at Waldenbooks, Borders, and Books-A-Million stores.

In the years since those days, scheduling signings has gotten much harder, especially at Barnes & Noble stores. Earlier this year, I had my first book signing since Hotels to Remember came out  at the William and Mary Barnes and Noble. I was thrilled, but I was shy and didn't attempt to draw customers into a conversation. Of course, I didn't sell many books either.

The thought of book signings was starting to make me feel sick!

What to do. The job of an author is to market as well as write.

I realized to be successful an author must interact with readers. Will all of them buy from you?

"Guatemala Parrot" copyright MMSikes
Of course not.

However, you might as well enjoy being there for a four-hour signing. I decided to smile at everyone. Engage in conversation with anyone who smiles back. And I started to offer free stuff with the sale of each book. I hand out Billie's green bookmark offering free books for reviews. And I give away a free signed art card with every book purchase. A card, printed with archival ink and suitable for framing, of the "Guatemala Parrot" I painted to go with my book has been my most popular free card. I also carry the 36" x 24" painting on canvas of the parrot with me as part of the decoration.

Sometimes I wear my Indiana Jones outfit to signings. That gives me something else to talk about.

Now, I'm selling books and enjoying the events. Happily, the William and Mary B and N did not pack up my books and send them back following that first unsuccessful signing. Instead, they scheduled more signings.

I've learned a lot talking to people, many of whom are tourists visiting Colonial Williamsburg on tour buses. Yesterday, I sold books to visitors from Pennsylvania, Maryland, Missouri, and Canada as well as to local Williamsburg folks.I had a very nice discussion with a visitor from London who didn't buy a book because of luggage limitations.

Best of all, I'm learning to like book signings!

Mary Montague Sikes

Please visit the Romancing the Heart blog http://tinyurl.com/8q2gxzf where I am guest author this week.

Friday, October 12, 2012

FRIDAY ROUND-UP

The word is out! Book Town started their Week Update with our Friday Round-Up. Not a member of Book Town yet? Support the site that supports OTP! http://booktown.ning.com TERRY AMBROSE, author of soon-to-be-published “License To Lie,” is being interviewed by DOUG DANIELSON over at Doug's blog, The Nautical Muse. http://www.doug-danielson.com/blog/ JOHN BRANTINGHAM, author of the soon to be published “Mann of War,” talks about alternative marketing and goats (?) over at his site: http://www.johnbrantingham.blogspot.com
MARK BOUTON, author of the FBI thriller “The Sacrifice,” will speak at the Leawood Library conference on Oct. 18, Leawood, Kansas, on research for books STEPHEN BRAYTON talks about his novel, “Alpha,” over at http://pagereaders.com/stephen-l-brayton-shares-alpha LORNA COLLINS, author of “Ghost Writer,” found a fun site run by a “virtual” reviewer. I couldn't make David wink but I'm going to give it another try. http://askdavid.com/reviews/book/ghost-writer/2402
Lorna also does a bit of reminiscing over at her blog: http://lornacollins-author.blogspot.com HOLLI CASTILLO, author of “Gumbo Justice” and “Jamalaya Justice” demonstrates her wild side over at http://wildwomenauthorsx2.blogspot.com LESLEY DIEHL, author of “Dumpster Dying,” reports that the Thanksgiving anthology, “The Killer Wore Cranberry” containing one of her stories is now available on Amazon and at http://bit.ly/RwyLY8 She also hosts Chris Redding, author of sexy novel “Blonde Demolition” (excerpt included) at www.anotherdraught.blogspot.com
WILLIAM DOONAN (“American Caliphate”) blogs about fiction writing at Novel Spaces: http://novelspaces.blogspot.com/2012/10/lend-helping-hand.html William is also offering a serialized novel at http://williamdoonan.wordpress.com/medicineland/ WAYNE DUNDEE, Western author of “Dismal River” and “Reckoning at Rainrock,” blogs over at Romancing the Heart : http://romancingtheheartinterviews.blogspot.com
I.C. ENGER, author of “Blue Ice,” will speak at the Garden Club in Bellevue, WA, on Oct. 13 at 2 p.m. SUNNY FRAZIER (“Fools Rush In,” and “Where Angels Fear,”) reviews Jeffrey Deaver's latest, a book set in Fresno, her neck of the woods. Did he get it right? http://kingsriverlife.com/10/06/xo-by-jeffrey-deaver She also did a blog on “The Politics of Publishing” over at Writers Who Kill: http://writerswhokill.blogspot.com/2012/10/the-politics-of-publishing.html
MARJA MCGRAW, author of “Bogey Nights” and “Bogey's Ace in the Hole,” asks “How's Your Credibility?” over at her blog: http://www.marjamcgraw.com Prolific author MARILYN MEREDITH reveals the winners of the blog tour over at http://www.marilynmeredith.blogspot.com/2012/contest-winners-and-results-of-my-blog.html And she has a piece about naming characters at http://murderousmusings.blogspot.com/ RADINE TREES NEHRING, author of Ozark mystery “A Fair To Die For,” (and in the Arkansas Writers' Hall of Fame) will be at the fair management booth signing books at the War Eagle Craft Fair, Rogers, Arkansas. The fair runs from Oct. 18-21. This is the fair Radine writes about in her mystery novel. She'll also be at the Rogers Public Library in Rogers, Arkansas to talk about the dollhouse she's creating and craft fairs. The event begins at 2 p.m. And, on her blog, she talks about Believing in Ourselves: http://radine.wordpress.com
SHIRLEY OLDRIDGE will be signing her book, “The Support Group” on Oct. 13 from 1-4 at Barnes & Nobel, Rainbow Promenade, Las Vegas. CORA RAMOS, author of soon-to-be-published “Dance the Dream Awake” has readers share true ghost stories all month. http://bit.ly/OPkn0M Rabbi ILENE SCHNEIDER, author of the soon-to-be-published “Unleavened Dead” was part of the Meet the Authors Night at the Voorhees Branch of the Camden County Library on Oct. 10.
Artist/author MARY MONTAGUE SIKES has a painting on exhibition at the Hillyer Art Space, Washington, DC, from Oct. 12-Nov. 3.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

GRAMMATICAL RANT

I recently finished proof-reading the first draft of the layout of Unleavened Dead. I was sure the manuscript I had submitted to Oak Tree Press was pristine, with no typos, no continuity errors, no inaccurate character names or places.

So, then why did I send three pages of corrections back to the publisher? And the corrections
included typos, continuity errors, and the misuse of a character’s name.

This reality check (useful whenever I think I’m infallible) reminded me of a blog I had posted in January, 2010, titled “Typos and Other Errors.” (You can access it on my original website at: http://rabbiavivacohenmysteries.com/meanderings-2/typos-and-other-errors/.) To my embarrassment, a friend of mine, on reading the blog, emailed me that I had misspelled “naval” as “navel.” And I pride myself on knowing the difference between “faze” and “phase,” when to use “it’s” and “its,” and the correct spellings of “their,” there,” and “they’re.”  I even know the proper placement of punctuation marks inside or outside quotation marks.
Proper grammar was drummed into my classmates and me during our six years at Girls’ Latin School in Boston. I still cringe when I hear “He graduated college.” I know “He graduated from college” is now accepted, but I still use “He was graduated from college.” And when I use “hopefully,” rather than, “I hope,” or “It is to be hoped,” it’s when I’m writing some dialogue for people who may not know the difference. And I always say “It is different from . . .” rather than “It is different than . . .”
But I refuse to accept the singularization (yeah, I made up the word) of plural nouns, as normative as they now may be. “The data show . . .” and “the datum shows . . .” are the correct forms. So are the expressions “the medium is . . .” and “the media are . . .” (Marshall McCluhan did not write a book titled The Media Is the Message.) And when I’m taking an antibiotic, it’s because I am infected with “a bacterium,” not with “a bacteria.”
I blame my grammatical intolerance of the misuse of those words on the six years I suffered through . . . I mean endured . . . I mean attended Latin classes. The only other useful skill I’ve taken away from all those years of Latin is an ability to complete crossword puzzles in pen. As for the flotsam, I still recall the first thing we learned after “amo, amas, amat,” namely, Julius Caesar’s opening sentence to his Gallic Wars, “Gallia est omnis divisa in partes tres.” And I had to Google it to make sure I remembered the words in the correct order. (I hadn’t.)
But there are two common errors that make me grind my teeth: the pluralization (another neologism – I’ve always wanted to use that word outside of crossword puzzles) of “doesn’t,” and the use of the subjective case after “between.”
Sorry, all you offenders out there, but “she don’t . . .” is incorrect, even though “I don’t . . .” is correct. And we never say “between we,” so why do people often say, “between you and I”?

Conclusion: I am very relieved that I grew up speaking English. I doubt if I could ever have mastered all the irregularities and inconsistencies in the language. And, judging from what I hear and read these days, neither have many native English speakers.

Now, excuse me. I need to proofread this blog before I post it. Hopefully, between you and I, there are no typoes or erors.