Wednesday, August 22, 2012

How do you remember that?

How do you remember that?
The Old-Fashioned Way

Sixty years ago the English language was different. Schoolchildren learned the rules by sing-song rote and everyone respected the teachers who enforced those rules and led the recitation of them. What you learn early you don’t forget easily. I can still tell you about lie-lay-lain vs. lay-laid-laid, set-set-set vs. sit-sat-sat, and swim, swam, have or has swum.
Not so easy is the punctuation, not all of which has changed drastically since then. As an editor, I’m enormously tired of seeing semicolons in weird places. Not that the use of semicolons has changed much; they’re still supposed to be between two complete sentences that are strongly related. (Yes, like that sentence.) Maybe the problem is that nobody recognizes what constitutes an official sentence these days. Thanks, Ernest (Hemingway, that is). My advice to authors: don’t use semicolons at all. Consider them on the endangered species list and save them for making winks in your e-mails. Oh, you just now caught on to what a semicolon is? Well, good for you! Now you know what to do with it. Just don’t let me see it.
And then there’s the apostrophe.
The what?
You know, that little mark that’s kind of like a comma but it’s up above in the words, not down at the lower part of them. It’s always by an “s” – in fact, if you have an “s” on the end of any word, you should probably put one of those little marks between the word and the “s”, right?
But isn’t that what everybody is doing these days?
Maybe so. But it’s still – Wrong. If I never see another apostrophe again, that would be better than seeing one in every place possible. You want me to consider your manuscript? Get it right or don’t use it at all, just like semicolons.
But what’s right?
If the word with the “s” on it owns something, okay, that can have the apostrophe, but that little mark goes after the whole word that owns something. (James’s, not Jame’s, for instance, if James owns something, or the Cutters’ place, if the place belongs to the Cutters, as a family, even if their last name is Cutter.)
If the word with the “s” has another word after it that has part of it left out and is attached to the first word, okay, the apostrophe can go there to show something’s missing. In fact, that’s where the whole idea of using an apostrophe and “s” for showing ownership came from…a few centuries ago people would write “John Baker his book” and that got shortened to “John Baker’s book” by leaving out the “hi” of “his” and using the apostrophe to show something was left out.
So what about things like “its” and “his” and “hers” and “yours”?
Those are possessives, but they don’t get apostrophes.
Why not?
Because they don’t have anything left out. Not because every rule has to have an exception, but if you want to use that as a weak excuse, go ahead. Just don’t give them any apostrophes, or you’ll be sorry someday.
Now do you really want me to go back and deal with lie and lay, and sit and set?
You’ll just have to do what I did: memorize and categorize.
First you say “lie, lay, have or has lain, lay, laid, have or has laid, sit, sat, have or has sat, set, set, have or has set” until you know it so well you can say it in your sleep.
Then you take the first set of each pair of easily mixed up verbs (that is, the lie-lay-lain and the sit-sat-sat) and beat it into your head that these NEVER have a noun that comes after them, something that they are done TO. 
Examples: I lie down today, I lay down yesterday, and I have lain down every afternoon for years. I sit on the chair today, I sat on the chair yesterday, and I have sat there many times.
With the second set of each pair (lay, laid, laid and set, set, set) you continue to give yourself a headache with the idea that these ALWAYS have a something following, something the action is done to.
Examples: She can lay the spoons on the table. He laid the gun down carefully. Mark has laid his plans carefully. Or, The depth charges were laid by the navy. Please note this last example has things turned around but it still says something was done to something.
More examples: Maya sets her basket by her chair. (Don’t you dare put an apostrophe by that “s”!) He set his jaw and continued to speak. We have set our course.
With both of these sets of words, lay-laid-laid and set-set-set, you can substitute the word “put” and have basically the same meaning. And you know you have to have a something that is put, you don’t just do it to nothing. So don’t use “laid” if you can’t use “put” in that spot, etc.
Okay, my ranting wrath is nearly assuaged. I’ll stop now and go back to editing.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Keep the Connection Strong

In a creative writing session this week, I learned a bit about perceptions and perspectives. The facilitator divided the twelve individuals (who write a broad range of genres) into groups of four and assigned us a role. The scenario involved a pedestrian, a street gang and an undercover police car. We had ten minutes to write a mini-scene from the perspective (another word for viewpoint) of the role we’d been assigned. When time was up, we went around the circle and the selections were read aloud grouped by perspective.

Of the twelve writers, ten chose first person viewpoint, personalized the role to their gender, and used only snippets of dialogue. One man wrote in third person in a narrative style, and I wrote in third person close (police officer) but almost all dialogue between a male and female officer. The next day, we were discussing the mini-scenes and a woman told me she hated mine, HATED IT so much she’d even lost sleep over it. We were sitting beside each other and she lightly shoved my shoulder. This reaction fascinated me and, while I kept from giving myself a round of applause, I did ask her if she could explain what about my scene bothered her. [Someone else responded “because it was so vivid.” A woman said “it got her in the gut.”]

Actually, the woman who was bothered is a trial attorney, and she objected to the ultimate decision the police officers made. This was because she had seen firsthand the repercussions of incidents where officers had placed a higher value on their case than a potential problem right in front of their eyes. She internalized my scene to what she’d experienced in her day-to-day life and her psyche reacted.

What I came away with is a solid confirmation that a few well-placed showing details evoke emotion and deepen the connection with the reader. This technique is called by some writing in deep point of view (POV) and is the type of writing the Sweetheart editors like to see. We want a story that establishes enough setting detail to ground the reader in a physical world and enables the reader to create mental images of the place (a room, a park, an office, a yacht, etc). Then establish POV character by including sensory details relayed through that person’s experience (breeze on his face, smooth granite under his fingertips, sip of bitter coffee, bird chirping out the window, Winston the cat stretching on his padded bed).

My mini-scene follows with showing details in bold type:

“Uh, oh. See what I see, Hank?” Detective Shelly grimaced and pointed.

“Tall blonde in the platforms coming from the west?” He shifted on the seat of the patrol car.

“Yep. Thinks she sees them?” She eyed the group of loitering men under the pool of streetlight by the corner liquor store.

“Not yet. She hasn’t broken stride.”

Shelly checked her watch and glanced in the rearview mirror. “No sign of the suspect yet. Not due for another ten minutes.”

“You’re thinking we should intervene?”

“Too late.” Shelly’s stomach knotted at the sight of the men creating a blockade across the sidewalk. Her hand gripped the door handle.

“Don’t do it.” Hank’s tone was low but firm.

Her grip tightened as the tallest man strutted forward. Sometimes this job sucked.

By writing with details so the reader is involved what the character experiences, you keep the connection strong. The reader will get wrapped up in the story and won’t put it down. That start, along with realistic characters and a plot containing believable and sustained conflict, will be a story that excites and intrigues the editors. Looking forward to some great queries.

Leanne Morgena
Senior Editor

Monday, August 6, 2012

Email Etiquette - Did you know...

Have you ever received an email and the subject line is all in CAPS?

We’ve all been tempted. We’re excited. We’re in a hurry and need an instant reply. Or maybe we’re ticked off and want someone to know it. So we scribble off that email using capitol letters, bold font, we underline and then hit send.

Yikes, we’ve just breached email etiquette.

Your recipient receives the email and thinks this must be important…

But whether it was important or not doesn’t matter. What matters is that in email all caps comes across as yelling. So if you want to yell, OPEN ME NOW, use all caps, but the recipient is going to feel aggression from your written tone before they ever read your email.

Now let’s talk about all caps within the body of the email. There really is never a time when all caps are needed within an email. You’re a professional, composing a professional email. Do you really need to yell to make your point? If you need to bring attention to a certain section of your email, set it apart with an *, put the section in italics, or

set it apart with a space before and after.

Then you’ll ensure the recipient takes note of the important part of your email. Using bolded font or changing the color, and size of the font can also come across as aggressive.

Email is a written conversation. Always, always, begin your email with a greeting. Hello, Good Afternoon, Hi, Dear, any greeting will do. Hello is the first thing you hear on the telephone and should be the first thing you read in an email. Would you hang up on a business call without saying goodbye or saying thank you? Without signing your email, you leave the recipient with the feeling you just hung up on them. Your sig line isn’t enough to relay a salutation. Thanks, along with your name are needed to close the email.

When you’re emailing your publisher, your editor, your cover artist, or your marketing director, remember, you’re communicating with your business associate. In an email, a person can’t hear happiness, but they can guess at your anger if you’re using all CAPS, you don’t address the email, within the body of the email your bolding your font and you don’t finish off with a thanks.

Email etiquette goes both ways. You want the person receiving your email to know you value their time and attention to whatever you’re emailing them about. You can expect a reply email with an equal amount of respect and etiquette. In email, all we have to express our needs are our written words.

I know I speak for myself and other staff here at The Wild Rose Press when I say we want to help authors in any and every way possible. There’s no need to yell or show aggression with the way an email is composed.

The only exception to these email etiquette guidelines is when the email recipient is a friend, or if the email is an ongoing conversation. You won’t need a formal hello and goodbye when you’re emailing back and forth.

Thank you and wishing you a wonderful week,
Lisa Dawn
Marketing Director
The Wild Rose Press
The Wilder Roses

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Sharon Donovan was one of Wild Rose’s authors. Unfortunately, she passed away this year but her characters live on. In fact, one of her stories has yet to come out. It is being finished now but we could use your help.

The story, a Crimson Rose, is set in New Orleans and features a dating service. I would like your help to name the match-making agency. Here are the possible names:

Fulfilling Wishes
Dreams Come True
Wishes Granted
Happily Ever After
Granting Wishes
Make Me a Match
The Perfect Match
Desired Endings
Search No More
Two Hearts
Eternal Bonds

Please send your vote in an email to lori (at), putting Matches in the subject line. In the email body, just type in the name you like. The one with the most votes will be featured in the story and then one of the people who chose that name will be picked at random to win a free download of the manuscript.

All entries must be to me by noon on August 9th.

What a great way to honor Sharon’s memory and help out with her story.

Lori Graham
Senior Editor
The Wild Rose Press