A Personal Post

This one’s a difficult one . . . yes, it’s good to share, purge, vent . . . no, it’s not good to complain, cry . . . which I, truthfully, don’t wish to do but, alas, do (LOL).

The Ontario health system, LIHN in particular, has let me down re mom-care.  She has mild dementia and is considered “capable” of making decisions.  As such, she won’t be entering a home any time soon; yours truly can continue to take care of her, regardless of ongoing exhaustion and depression.  “Mom” has it great; she’s waited on and treated like a queen.  For someone who has always been self-absorbed and critical of everyone, she’s done well, and still continues to do so.

I, on the other hand, am not doing that well.  Given I have to take care of her—indefinitely, as the case may be—the aforementioned exhaustion and depression have increased twofold (who’d have thought that possible?).  Evidently, no one cares that the caregiver is so burned out, she can barely stand (or stand it).

As you may know from previous posts, I’ve given up years of my life for my mother, fully aware I’ll never receive a thank you.  That’s okay.  It is what it is.  But I, truly, no longer wish to sacrifice my life.  I’d like to experience it before I myself lay my head down to [perpetual] rest.

It’s exceptionally difficult to remain calm/ sane/ understanding/ patient / focused.  Is this a pity party (as someone called it)?  Perhaps.  Quite probably.  And all’s the pity that no one seems to understand.  Resulting platitudes are aplenty; requested [required] assistance is not.

I made some wrong decisions a number of years ago so, really, no one is to blame for this except myself.  Lessons learned (majorly and, maybe, a little bitterly).  May you make the right decision(s), whatever your dilemma, quandary, situation—or opportunity (which I hope and pray you are experiencing more than the others)—and may you find peace and joy in that.

Take care, my friends.

Do as I Say . . . Not as I Do . . . Ple-ease (!)

A quick post today.  As you may know if you read my FB posts, I finally submitted HA-HA-HA-HA (the fifth book in the Triple Threat Investigation Agency series) to Next Chapter. 

Was I proud?  Happy?  Relieved?  As Rey might say, you betcha!

Lo and behold, I went to cut and paste the epilogue of the next (sixth) book into a new Word document and what did I find?!  That I’d left 10 pages of research notes and the like at the end.  Groannnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnn.

<bleep>  I could have sworn I’d deleted those.  Where the <bleep, bleep> did those suckers come from!?  Great editor/proofer, huh?  I couldn’t catch a major faux pas in my own book.  I’m not sure whether to laugh hysterically or weep profusely. 

I’m slapping myself mentally for having been so dim-witted.  Like really? 

And that leads me to the message of this post.  Proof and edit before you submit something—again and again.  It will save in the embarrassment department, unless you’re thick-skinned, of course, and could care less.  I, however, do care . . . very much.

Be as professional as you can be, and take pride in that professionalism.  Do as I say, not as I do.  Groannnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnn.

Times Change

And so do grammar rules.  As does the English language.  Just consider the new words/expressions we hear every year—thanks greatly to social media and technology.  In point of fact: dictionaries incorporate hundreds of new words every year.

Someone recently commented on that re a post I’d written—how grammar evolves/changes over time.  That got me to thinking, why not touch upon some things that have?

Things like . . .

♣  “Because” and “since”.

When I was growing up (way too long ago to want to admit when), you were not to use “since” to mean “because”.  It was a time reference only.

Shawn had been gone since lunch.

There had to be a comma before “because”.

John leaped to the left, because the golf cart was racing straight for him.

♣  “Each other” versus “one another”.

“Each other” was meant to be used for two people and “one another” for more than two.  I like this rule myself (and will adhere to it as an editor), but it truly doesn’t hold much water today.  It’s been said that good writers have used the phrases interchangeably since [at least] the 16th century.  Interesting.

♣  Sentence fragments.

These were a definite no-no.  But we often speak in fragments, as would our characters, so why shouldn’t we use them?  It’s all good; go for those fragments (save for dissertations, essays, and the like).

♣  Never ending a sentence with a preposition (and this “rule” dates back to the days of Latin, from which English stems).

Go for it.

♣  Never beginning a sentence with a conjunction, which, apparently, is based on 19-century teachers not caring to have students overuse conjunctions to start their sentences (how’s that for a run-on sentence?).

Feel free to begin a sentence with “because”, or “if”, or “when”, and so forth.  The same holds true for coordinating conjunctions like “but” and “or” (I recall those days when you would get a frown and a bad mark if you did, but I love that you [now] can).

♣  Never splitting infinitives (apparently, another “rule” from the days when Latin “ruled”, he-he).

Infinitives, by the by, are two-word elements that communicate one thought.  To split them might prove confusing; as a writer, you’re the best one to gauge whether to split or not to split (that is the question . . .  or something like that).

♣  Whom.

Who, er, whom, er . . . it’s a tough one.  A lot of folks don’t know how/when to use it.  The best thing to do?  Don’t use it; rewrite the sentence or check the rule and see if it applies to what you’ve written.

♣  They / their.

It’s quite popular to use “they” or “their” instead of writing out “he/she” or “he or she” (“she or he”).  It’s a plural noun, but a lot of people use it as singular.  I don’t like using “they” myself, unless I’m specifically referring to several people, but to each their own, er, his or her own.

♣  Two spaces after a period.

This dates back to the typewriter, when two spaces were preferred (something to do with typesetting).  I use two spaces (personal preference, and all that), but one space is now the norm.

Rules were made to be broken, as the saying goes, and a number re grammar certainly have been.  That said, they do have [some] merit, and it doesn’t hurt to be familiar with them.  Apply rules as you deem fit.

And, if nothing else, think consistency: ensure your writing is uniform and, above all, clear.

On that note, friends, fare thee well.

Where do I Put it?

Of late, I’ve been receiving manuscripts for editing with the same issue: misplaced punctuation in dialogue.  It’s like . . . uh, I’m not sure where to put it, so maybe I’ll just throw it there.  Looks good.  I’m good.

I like the exuberance I sense in people’s stories; it spills across the page/screen like an overflowing spring stream.  I don’t so much like that little time has been applied to give their [good] stories the proper editing/proofreading they require.  It seems that some just type, type, type and never return to reread what’s been written.  It’d be great to see the aforementioned exuberance applied—just a wee bit—to the “final product”. 

So, my dear friends and fellow writers, here’s some quick guidance on how to punctuate dialogue in North America.  Notice the placement of commas, periods, and other punctuation marks.

♦  “Say, what’s happening over there?”

♦  “Please stop making all that noise,” she said with a roll of the eyes, “and get ready for dinner.”

♦  “Hold on!”

♦  “Hey, what’s up?”  With a grin, Glenn raced over to the group.

Anything within quotation marks is separate from the rest of the sentence.  Use capitals for full-sentence dialogue/quotes.

When closing a quotation, ensure the period or comma falls within the quotation, not outside.

Utilize commas to introduce text, except when using “that”.

♦  With a shake of her head, Reena said, “It’s not good, John.  You’ll never get away with it.)

♦  Jake told us that “I’ve given up smoking once and for all, really and truly.”

When using a dialogue tag, you would use a comma before the closing quotation marks.

♦  “It’s gorgeous out today,” Jerry declared with a grin.

Dialogue tags, by the way, aren’t necessary if it’s obvious who is speaking.  So, per a couple of previous posts, please don’t feel that you need to add “she said”, “he said”, “Margaret said”, “Wilber said” every time a character speaks; readers can figure it out.  Really.

Don’t leave out punctuation that adds dimension to a sentence, like a question mark or exclamation point.

♦  “Don’t worry about it,” he said.

♦  “Don’t worry about it!” he said. 

The second one conveys more emotion, don’t you think?

Often, question marks, exclamation points, and em dashes fall within closing quotation marks—often, but not always.  It depends on the connotation.

♦  Here’s to Edgar, touted “the most likely to succeed”!

♦  Floyd declared, “I’ll win that award, no matter what”—and proceeded to immerse himself in the pursuit.

And single quotes?  Employ them within double quotation marks to denote quoted text within dialogue.

♦  Roger scratched his head and asked, “Was it Shakespeare who said ‘a rose by any other name would smell as sweet’ or someone else?”

♦  “Barry said, ‘I’m a real winner’.” 

Don’t forget that a new paragraph is required every time the character/speaker changes.  This will help define who is speaking and what is transpiring.  It also means dialogue tags can be kept to a minimum (and we like that).

One thing some writers seem to forget to do: search for rules.  Don’t take a stab (guessing) at what punctuation should be added to dialogue—and where.  Don’t place it wherever the mood (guess) strikes.  Look . . . it . . . up.  In other words, look . . . professional.  Even if there’s an editor down the road, it never hurts to learn something new . . . does it? <wink>

Hopping Happy

It’s Rey, hey!

And JJ, hey-hey.

Hey, that’s my word.

You have exclusive rights to it, Rey?  He-ey, it’s Linda.  We’re giving our Boss the day off.  None of us could agree (quelle surprise) as to what we should post about so, given it’s Easter weekend, we thought we’d simply share what we’re up to.  Nothing informative or educational or enlightening.

WPfreepickDOTesYesterday, Cousin Jilly (JJ, as you know her), Lindy-Loo, my best friend (for the time being), and I had a super quiet Friday.  JJ grilled fish, ahi to be exact, Linda prepared roasted potatoes with dill and crunchy green beans, and I made two salads—Thai and Greek.  They were particularly tasty, I might add.  Dee-lish, in fact.

WPall-free-downloadDOTcomThat’s my humble Cousin Reynalda for you.  Today, the three of us are coloring eggs . . . a new one for us.  My cous got the idea from a Food Network show she got caught up in, and Linda thought it might be great fun to do.  I’m not sure about it being “great”, but it’ll certainly be enjoyable (if not messy).

WPpublicdomainpicturesDOTnetRey’s heading to the mall to buy chocolate bunnies and stuff.  Given she’s the queen of sales, bar none, JJ and I are sure she’ll bring home some fabulous finds.  I just hope she doesn’t go overboard; those sales are also her weakness (as her monthly credit-card statements will attest to). 

Tomorrow, we’ll have an Easter barbecue with a few neighbors, then head to the North Shore around six.  A fellow P.I. is throwing a luau.  We are so in for that.

And there you have it: an effortless Easter weekend post.

May Mr. Bunny bring you lots of treats.

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Hau’oli Lā Pakoa!

Review: The Silver Timeship by Sean Robins (The Crimson Deathbringer Series Book 4)

Sean Robin’s heroes and principals are back—Jim, Kurt, Xorgaana, Maada, Tarq—to save the universe before it’s too late!  Can they <shiver, shudder, gasp> do it?

They can if Jim, the ego-heavy protagonist, has anything to say about it—once he gets through licking his wounds, of course.  Kurt, Jim’s best friend, has no qualms about assisting.  Stunning, mind-reading Xornaa’s all in; so are prankster Tarq and former nemesis, General Maada.  And we have a sharp-witted newcomer, the beautiful Benedita, who flies a silver timeship (thus adding an interesting dimension, in more ways than one).

For the first time in a very, very long while, Benedita allowed herself to hope. Jim, Tarq, Maada, Kurt, and Xornaa were legends (especially Maada, that man was an apex predator). Together, they’d defeated the Volts, and they would go on to overcome more sinister threats in the future. If anyone could stop the Ghost Fleet, it was them. She might be able to pull this off, after all, which meant Diogo, Bia and Belinha wouldn’t die a horrible death. Of course, without the Time Engine, she was trapped here and would never see them again, but just knowing that they’d be alive and well was enough.

An odd array of “soldiers”, they set off to set things right.  En route, they encounter a sundry of curious characters, including Mother, an AI who turns out to be anything but maternal.  You want to talk about a run for your money, er, life, er . . .

The fourth in the Crimson Deathbringer series, The Silver Timeship, delivers . . . action, drama (of several sorts), and the usual wackiness.  There are a few nail-biting battles, where it appears that victory—and the fate of the illustrious universe—might belong to either side.

Overall, The Silver Timeship is a fun ride.  You’ll not want to put down the book until you know the outcome: did they or didn’t they?

A definite 4 out of 5.

savesavesavesave

And, just so you fans are aware, coming in the not-too-distant future (but who really knows what “future” entails when time travel’s involved), is The Scarlet Queen.  It’s a prequel and features a few of your favorite characters’ adventures before the Xortaag invasion of Earth. There will also be one called The White Republic, but I’ll leave you with a bit of mystery as to what that one entails.

You can find Sean Robins on Amazon (https://www.amazon.com/Sean-Robins) and Twitter (@seanrobins300) and Facebook (facebook.com/seanrobins300).

seanabcFor those not yet familiar with Sean, he is a huge fan of Marvel, Game of ThronesStar Wars and Star Trek.  He’s also a university/college level English teacher who has lived and worked in five different countries( like Canada, eh?).  He’s met people from all around the world, and his parents and wife are from different backgrounds—hence, diversity as a major theme in his novels.

I Said . . . so Did He . . . and so Did She

I’ve posted on this one at least a couple of times over the last two years—the enthusiastic over-use of “said” in fiction writing.

It seems common in manuscripts by new(er) writers, so I felt compelled (once again) to review why using “said” with zealous abundance might not be in the writer’s, or reader’s, interest.  Literally.

“Yes, sir,” Malcom said with a nod.  “I’ll report my findings as soon as possible.”

“You’d better,” she said.  “And make sure you share them with Winters too.”

“I’ll do that,” he said.

She sighed and said, “Don’t forget to call after the meeting later; I need to know what’s transpired.”

“Yes, Mary-Anne,” he said and disconnected just as his executive assistant, Lee, entered.

“Looks like it’s gonna be a long day,” Lee said as he placed a folder on Malcolm’s desk.

“You said it,” Malcolm said with a sigh.

I’ve seen a lot of manuscripts that flow like this . . . as flat as flapjacks.  There’s no need to always state that a character said something.  Dialogue can stand on its own a lot of the time.  Readers are pretty smart and can gather who is speaking from the action and details.

This isn’t to say that “said” shouldn’t be used.  By all means, utilize it, but with a critical eye, and ear.  It serves a [valid] purpose, but it’s not always a terribly exciting word and, sometimes, dialogue needs more, particularly in a tense or action-fraught scene.

Do you think people will have “said” something when a bomb is about to detonate or a giant lizard is about to eat a bunch of tourists?  I suspect people would more likely have “declared”, “shouted”, “screamed”, “shrieked”, “commanded”, “cried”, or “bellowed”, to name but a few more thrilling and descriptive words.

Can’t you imagine Bob’s face as he shrieks a command to a fear-frozen coworker, as opposed to says?  Shriek, to me, suggests his face would be tense, his brow creased, his lips tight, his throat dry; maybe he’d be gesticulating or taking action as he shrills.  Say, to me, evokes an image of an unemotional face, someone who’s non-reactive.

How about we take the previous example and “activate” it a bit?

“Yes, sir,” Malcom promised with a quick nod and roll of the eyes.  “I’ll report my findings as soon as possible.”

“You’d better,” she advised with a hint of a threat in the tone.  “And make sure you share them with Winters too.”

He swallowed heavily and jabbed the pen into the edge of the desk.  “I’ll do that.”

She sighed loudly.  “Don’t forget to call after the meeting later; I need to know what’s transpired.”

“Yes, Mary-Anne.”  He disconnected just as his executive assistant, Lee, entered.

“Looks like it’s gonna be a long day,” Lee commented with a dry smile as he placed a folder on Malcolm’s desk.

“You said it,” Malcolm muttered, rubbing his temples.

It’s not an exciting scene to begin with, but we can make it a little more interesting or add a little more tension.  Always give thought as to how you can create more gripping or dynamic dialogue and scenes.  Pull those readers in; don’t make their eyelids droop from fatigue.

It’s difficult getting started on that first story, be it a short one or a novel.  There are many things to learn and apply.  It all comes with time and practice.  And that’s okay.  We all have a learning curve.

Churning something out, however, without reviewing, proofing, or editing, is something to avoid.  Per a previous post on this blog: there’s no need to be “perfect”, but do aspire to be the best that you can be.

I’m fairly sure, of the many manuscripts I’ve edited thus far, most haven’t read their final drafts aloud.  Do so.  This may sound daft but, trust me, it’s a worthwhile endeavor and it really doesn’t take that long.  You’ll be amazed what you will “hear” and pick up.

Hope what I “said” makes sense.

The Pleasure of Perfection

Hey, it’s Rey.  The title’s courtesy of Lindy-Loo, but the post is all mine.

The Boss actually gave me the idea—the inspiration—from something she said the other day.  She’d finished editing “HA-HA-HA-HA”, turned off the laptop, and murmured “perfect”.  Not that she thinks it’s actually flawless or spot-on or anything like that.  Perfect because she’s given it her all and—yeah, although she knows she could edit it another five times—it’s time to say and embrace “The End”.

There’s nothing wrong with wanting to be thoroughly skilled, or defect-less (my word), or “excellent” but remember this: perfect isn’t about being that, it’s about being good enough in your eyes.  Aim to be the best you can be; there’s nothing wrong with that—in fact, it’s something we should all do—just don’t expect to be p-e-r-f-e-c-t.  That will never happen—as perfectionists (or high achievers, as they’re sometimes called) can confirm—because there’ll always be something that could use tweaking.

There’s nothing wrong with setting high goals, either; just don’t obsess about it.  Take me.  I was a B-actress.  I’d have loved to be an A-list one.  I’m talented, but I also know exactly how talented I am—i.e. I acknowledge my limitations and accept them.  Yes, I can work on them (and I have, and I do), but I’ll never be a Meryl Streep or Julianne Moore, and I am fine with that.  I . . . am . . . good . . . enough.  I take pleasure in being as perfect as I can be.

There are some fields/areas that do need 100% perfectionism—like medical and engineering (anything where being off even a teeny-weeny bit could be deadly or dangerous), but I don’t have the perfect (he-he) background to provide insight on them.  And I suspect that’d be a major snooze-fest if I did.  I’m simply l’il ol’ Rey, a pretty decent private eye, who’s posting about giving something/yourself your all and recognizing how far you can/will go to achieve that.

“Practice makes perfect” is a valid saying.  The more you do something, the better you are at it.  The Boss will readily admit she was a lousy (!) writer when she first started out a few decades ago.  She kept applying herself, though . . . kept learning . . . kept practicing.  Still does.  Now, she believes she’s a good (not great) writer—she knows her limitations.  She’ll never be a James Joyce or Margaret Atwood.  She’s not perfect but she is good [enough] in her eyes.  And that’s okay . . . because she’ll still endeavor to do it better the next time around.

I’m going to end this perfect little post; it’s as perfect as I can make it, given my limited writing background.  But I’ve come a long way—just look at my first post.  I won’t say we [all] develop/grow, because I’ve met some people that truly “never learn”.  I think that’s because they think they’re perfect as they are.  Well, bully for them—and, boy, do I have news for them (he-he).

On that note, I hope you have a perfectly lovely Wednesday and week.

Becoming Bulletproof – Part 2

Per the previous post, I wanted to share a [sort of] review of a book—Becoming Bulletproof by Evy Poumpouras—one I’d label both enlightening and engaging.

As mentioned, it was given to me by a friend who understands what “space/place” I’m in these days and thought it might serve of value.  It has, as it’s certainly giving me food for thought.

Besides giving us a bit of background as to how she became a Secret Service Agent, and what that entailed, Evy provides guidance on how to “protect yourself / read people / influence situations / live fearlessly / become bulletproof” (per the back of the book jacket).  Sounds good—is good.

Divided into three sections/parts, we have “Protection”, “Reading People”, and “Influence”.

There are, for example, three types of fear: flight, fight, freeze.  I tend to embrace fight mode, though on the odd occasion, I might freeze.  Speaking of fight, you’ll find information on how to learn to fight; i.e. know your limitations, have a plan, maintain a reality check.

What else might you learn?  How to better secure your life.  “Whether at home, online, or out in public, you’ll have the strategies you need to keep your property, possessions, and information safe.”  Who doesn’t want to know how to do that?

I particularly liked Part Two, with chapters on how to read people, via diagrams as well as descriptions, and how to determine what people are truly saying, via verbal red flags.

As well as being enlightening and engaging, Becoming Bulletproof is a good, solid, straightforward read.  Need I say more?

Becoming Bulletproof – Part 1

I’m reading a great book right now (one I’m not editing)—Becoming Bulletproof by Evy Poumpouras.

The intention was to do a review, but as I was strolling along pre-dawn streets this morning, it came to me to do a two-parter.  One: how the book came into my possession.  Two: the review itself.

This year has been one of sharing, of communicating things about my personal situation, and what a challenge life has become over the years.  I never had the inclination to be transparent [that much] in past, but somehow, these days, this year, it seems a cathartic thing to do.

I’ve been sad/depressed off and on for a long time; sometimes, I can handle it, sometimes I slip deep within and/or spit razorblades.  Lately, it’s been the latter.  I’ve walked away from people (the very, very few friends I have, all three of them).

One friend, however, was sweet enough to give me a feel-better bag filled with lovely pick-you-up pressies.  Scented candles (I couldn’t peel my nose from those heady fragrances).  Sweet treats (how nummy).  A soft blanket (so ni-ice at night).  And the book . . . Becoming Bulletproof (Life Lessons from a Secret Service Agent).  Thank you, Krystyna.

“The one person you should be able to fully rely upon to save you is you.  You are the hero you’ve been waiting for . . .” is how the back jacket reads.  Love it.  Ultimately, it’s true; the only person(s) we can rely on are ourselves.

The book revolves around how to deal with and overcome fear.  I’m all for that; who doesn’t want to take charge of her/his life?

My fear?  There’s really only one: never being free of mom-care.  I’ve devoted most of my life to taking care of a woman who could care less what the toll is on me, nor is she thankful for the multitude of things I do every day.  That’s okay.  Some people simply can’t say thank-you.  And I don’t criticize or condemn her for that; that’s just who she is.

I’m often feeling like one of the walking dead because I am exhausted beyond exhausted.  And hope and faith are merely memories.  But real [uninterrupted] sleep will come one day.  Maybe not tomorrow or next month.  But it will come.  Hope may return and I hope (he-he) it does.  Faith I’m not so sure about, but maybe I take the Wayne Dyer approach to life.  Faith is found in many forms and it doesn’t have to be “religious”.

I must learn to go with the flow better than I have been doing.  Pull up the socks.  Keep a stiff upper lip.  Let things happen/unfold.  Allow the cards to fall where they may.  How are those for overused—but appropriate—sayings?

wpbookI must also apply what I’ve learned from the book.  It’s merely a matter of putting advice into practice . . . and practice does make perfect (one last familiar saying, he-he).

And, with time, yours truly will become bulletproof.