Wednesday, May 30, 2012

When Mistakes Aren't Mistakes

I'm a stickler for grammar when it comes to writing, but I've also learned along the way that fiction writing is different from other types of writing. It follows different rules. Some of those rules are fairly fixed while others are apparently subjective.

In dialogue, we are allowed to make PUGS errors if it fits the character and the needs of the line. (PUGS = Punctuation, Usage, Grammar, Spelling) Some authors (I'm guilty of this one) use comma+then rather than comma+and then or semicolon+then, because it just sounds better sometimes. In the narrative, we can include things like short sentence fragments if they don't stumble the reader. In fact, I think they're great if used well. So, my question to you is:

When is a mistake not a mistake?

What stumbles you in fiction, and which mistakes can actually
make the writing better?

Monday, May 28, 2012

Grammar Police Monday - Pst...Your Participle Is Dangling

Today I'm covering the topic of the dangling participle, which is a type of misplaced modifier. This particular grammar error is an easy one to makeespecially when writers begin tightening their proseand it's not only a source of embarrassment to the writer, but can be a source of humor for the reader. We want our readers to laugh at funny parts of our stories, but not because of mistakes like these.

First, you need to understand what a participle is. It is a verb ending in -ing (present) or -ed (past) that is acting like an adjective. (Note: past participles can also end in -d, -n, -en, or -t. Ex: swept) A participle phrase contains one of these and often comes at the beginning of a sentence in the form of an introductory phrase set off by a comma. Let me give you some examples.

Sweating bullets, I hurried to finish my algebra test before the bell rang.

In this sentence, 'sweating' is the participle and 'sweating bullets' is the participle phrase. Here's another:

Covered in mud, the cowboy pushed himself off the ground where the horse had thrown him

In this sentence, 'covered' is the participle and 'covered in mud' is the participle phrase. Now, on to some that are dangling...

Running to the catch the bus, Sam's wallet fell out of his pocket.

Dressed in a stunning evening gown, the man couldn't take his eyes off his date. 

Was it Sam's wallet that was running to catch the bus? No. It was Sam. And was the man in the second sentence wearing the gown? Nope. Hopefully, it was his date. :)  I don't know about you, but these got a chuckle out of me. Now you see why this error should be avoided.

Not all dangling participles are funny, but they are still incorrect. Take these, for example:

Faced with what she'd done, the video sent waves of guilt through Nicole.

In this sentence, we know what the author meant—that seeing the video made Nicole face what she'd done and feel guilty—but that's not what the sentence actually says. It says the video was 'faced with what she'd done,' which is impossible because inanimate objects can't be faced with anything from a cognitive standpoint. They cannot think or feel.

To correct this error, the author could instead write: Faced with what she'd done, Nicole wept as the video sent waves of guilt through her. That would put 'Nicole' directly after the comma and allow her to be the noun modified by the participle phrase.

See if you can spot the next one.

Obsessed with finding her daughter, Stacy’s hardships doubled when bad weather hindered the search. 

In this sentence, the error is a tad less obvious because the character's name is used, but look closely. It is used as a modifier, not a noun. The noun is actually 'hardships,' and hardships cannot be obsessed.

To fix this one try something like: Obsessed with finding her daughter, Stacy shook her fist and screamed at the coming storm, her hardships doubled now that bad weather hindered the search.

To check for dangling participles, try this trick. Mark out all but the participle phrase and the first noun that comes after the comma. Then make sure that noun can properly be modified by the phrase.

Covered in mud, the cowboy pushed himself off the ground where the horse had thrown him.
Was the cowboy the one covered in mud? Yes. This one's correct.

Dressed in a stunning evening gown, the man couldn't take his eyes off his date.
Was the man the one in the dress? No. 'Dressed' is a D.P.

Running to the catch the bus, Sam's wallet fell out of his pocket.
Was the wallet running? No. 'Running' is a D.P.

And one final note: Verbs ending in -ing are sometimes called 'continuous tense' and denote continued action. If the action taking place in the sentence following the participle phrase didn't happen while the -ing participle action did, then reword the sentence. (You can think of it as 'While ___-ing, [noun/subject] did ___.') For example:

Running to catch the bus, Sam grabbed his cell phone out of his pocket and dialed his girlfriend.

These two actions could (and did) happen simultaneously, so it works. 

Running to catch the bus, Sam dialed his girlfriend from a pay phone.

This, on the other hand, is not possible since a pay phone is a fixed object, and he could not have dialed and run at the same time. The writer would need to rephrase.

Running to catch the bus, Sam skidded to a stop long enough to call his girlfriend from a pay phone.

I hope you found this lesson helpful. :)


Before I go, I'd like to take a moment to wish you and yours a happy Memorial Day. Regardless of your political views, I hope you'll take some time this day to remember the many men an women in military service--the ones who tirelessly take orders, spend time away from their families,

bravely face danger, and often sacrifice their well-being for our freedom. 

But most importantly, I hope you take time to remember those who made the ultimate sacrifice and gave their lives for us. 

Thank you.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Author Jennifer McMurrain & New Beginnings

Today I am excited to introduce author Jennifer McMurrain and Whispered Beginnings, an anthology containing a story she wrote called New Beginnings. Jennifer has graciously agreed to do an interview--and give away a free copy of her book--so I'll turn it over to her. But be sure to enter the drawing before you go!

Tell us about Whispered Beginnings.

Whispered Beginnings: A Clever Fiction Anthology is a collection built by writers, new and published, who have participated in the weekly challenges. We were given three words: new, whisper, and spring; and had to come up with a story between 250 and 2,000 words long dealing with relationships and/or romance.

The anthology, as a whole, contains stories that flow across many genres: fantasy, humor, and mystery, just to name a few.  My story, New Beginnings, is the story of a love so strong not even death can tear it apart.

I am blessed to have a very talented mother who also has a story in Whispered Beginnings, Whispers in the Wind. We have teamed up and are giving 10% of all book sales via the website of our non-profit organization, Anna's Legacy, to St. Jude's. We started Anna's Legacy several years ago after my younger sister, Anna, passed away from leukemia at the tender age of 24.

Tell us a little about yourself and becoming a writer? When did you know it was for you?

I've always had a nagging muse. She has urged me to write since I was old enough to hold a pencil, but it wasn't until five years ago that I really made it a priority in my life. As naggy as my muse was, my inner Negative Nelly was louder, so I did a lot of other jobs trying to find my niche in life. At a crucial turning point in my life my boyfriend asked me what I'd do if money wasn't an option. The answer was instant, I'd write. He grabbed the classifieds out of my hand, led me to the computer, practically pushed me into the chair, and said, "So do it." Needless to say, I married that man and haven't looked back.

Besides losing your sister, which no doubt affected you deeply, what other life experiences have influenced you and your writing?

I chuckled when reading this question because I have had a plethora of odd jobs with interesting people. I've been everything from a "potty princess" a.k.a bathroom cleaner just outside Yellowstone National Park, to a Bear Researcher in the New Mexico mountains, to a tour guide in Palo Duro Canyon, outside Amarillo, TX. I worked with a number of  "characters" including a nomadic Indian who traveled the country living in his tee-pee, children in foster care, and a man who scared black bear just by raising an eyebrow (true story). I've always felt better in nature and those experiences and people are fantastic fuel for my stories.

As for the loss of my sister, feeling that kind of grief personally allows me to write about it with emotions I truly felt. I touch on those emotions in my upcoming historical novel, Quail Crossings, where my main character is dealing with the loss of her husband and child. My short story, A Long Walk, is about the day I found out my sister had leukemia, and I'm happy to announce it won 3rd place at the Oklahoma Writer's Federation, Inc. Conference a few weeks ago.

What was one of the most surprising things you learned about writing?

The most surprising thing I learned about writing was how much I needed to be around other writers. I always saw writing as a solitary career. After a year of writing by myself, I realized I needed someone to talk to about my work. Someone other than my "it's good" husband. As supportive as he is, he doesn't get the writing world. I needed people that understood what I was going through as a writer. So imagine how excited I was to find a local writing group in my hometown, the WordWeavers. Those women are the best thing that could've happened in my writing career. They help me more than I can say in a few paragraphs and they hold me accountable if I haven't gotten my butt in the chair to write.

What advice would you give new writers?

My first piece of advice would be to join a writing group. Even if you don't have one in your hometown, there are a ton online. Second, you have to put in the time. Write every day, even if it's just 500 words or a piece of flash fiction. The more you write, the better you'll get. Last, don't get wrapped up in an editing loop. I know too many writers who write a chapter, then spend days and days editing that one chapter, eventually getting bored and scrapping the project all together. Keep moving forward and worry about edits after you've got a beginning, middle, AND end. One other thing, once you finish that rough draft, celebrate! It may not be the final product, but writing a novel, even in rough draft form, is a great accomplishment and it should be celebrated.

What does the future hold? Do you have any other projects on the horizon?

As I mentioned before, my debut novel, Quail Crossings, should be out this summer. The WordWeavers, my writing group, will be releasing an anthology in time for the Christmas shoppers, and I am currently editing my second novel, Winter Song, which is a paranormal contemporary romanceno vampires or werewolves, I promise. 

Thanks for talking time to stop by and let us get to know you better, and good luck with Whispered Beginnings, Quail Crossings, and all your other projects!

You can find Whispered Beginnings at You can follow Jennifer on Facebook and Twitter at @Deepbluejc. And don't forget her webpage, where you'll find everything from essays and flash fiction to short stories and Novel Bites, where you get a bite of tasty writing with a delicious recipe.

a Rafflecopter giveaway
(Due to shipping considerations, this contest is open to residents of US & Canada only.)

Update 5/29/12: A winner was randomly chosen by Rafflecopter from among the eligible entrants. For some reason it's not showing up on the widget, so here's a screen shot:

Congratulations Carrie! :D 

Monday, May 21, 2012

Grammar Police Monday - A Dash'll Do Ya

Today I'm going to cover some less common marks of punctuation as it relates to writing fiction, mainly dashes, parentheses & semicolons.You may have occasion to use these, but you'll want to use them properly and sparingly. Why? Because improper use and overuse can pull the reader out of your storysomething you should avoid.

Before I discuss proper use of the marks I mentioned above, let's cover the issue of overuse. As with many other details in fiction (e.g. repetitive words and phrases), less common marks of punctuation should be used sparingly. If not, they will lose their effectiveness and possibly become an irritant to the reader.  

Take the exclamation point, for example. Your sentence structure and dialogue should be strong enough that you rarely need one. Occasionally you might, but keep its use to a minimum. And, although I can't find a reference to back me up at the moment, I've been told not to use both a question mark and an exclamation mark together. Choose one or the other, even if the sentence is interrogative.

Let's move on to dashes. A dash is different than a hyphen, and there are two kinds of dashes: en dashes and em dashes. Just like their names, en dashes are about the width of the letter 'n,' and em dashes are about the width of an 'm.' (Check instructions for your operating system and specific word processor version to find out how to make these. Try this as a starting point for MS Word.) In this post, I'm discussing the em dash.

Em dashes are typically typed with no spaces on either side. My word processor will make one automatically if I type a word followed by two hyphens, followed by another word, and then hit the space bar. Suddenly the two hyphens become one long dash. Viola! Em dashes can replace commas, semicolons and colons to add emphasis and or indicate interruption or an abrupt change of thought.

Ex: Ben was the manthe only manshe wanted in her life.
Ex: "Come help me open–never mind."

Em dashes are also used to show an abrupt stop in dialogue, typically an interruption.

Ex: "Jenny, I love y
      "No you don't. If you loved me, you wouldn't treat me like this."

Some references say em dashes can replace parentheses, but I disagree. Parentheses also set off information that clarifies or is an aside, but they do so quietly, not with added emphasis. My mom told me something that has stuck with me through the years. 'Surrounding something with parentheses is like cupping your hands and whispering the words. Surrounding the same thing by em dashes is like holding your arms out and shouting it.'

Now do you see why the overuse of either one can grow irritating after a while?

On to the semicolon... It has many uses, but I'm going to focus on the ones seen most often in fiction. (This is the best reference I've found so far.) A semicolon is typically used to join closely related clauses when a comma isn't appropriate, or when the two clauses are already lengthy and or contain commas.

Ex: Cindy hugged her pillow and cried; she always cried.

Ex: After her boyfriend left, Cindy hugged her pillow and cried; but she didn't change her mind, and she didn't call him to reconcile

If you're trying to keep your writing tight, you'll probably want to break up long sentences, but there are times when a semicolon can be useful. One can be substituted in place of a comma+coordinating conjunction. Sometimes when a writer commits the dreaded comma splice (the error of joining to independent clauses with only a comma), a semicolon might have worked instead.  

Reminder: An independent clause is one that has a subject and a predicate and can stand alone. 

Comma splice: John is a lawyer, he is also a writer.
Correct: John is a lawyer; he is also a writer
Also correct: John is a lawyer, and he is also a writer.
And a third option: John is a lawyer. He is also a writer.

I hope you've found this lesson helpful. If there are topics you'd like me to cover in the future, let me know. :)

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Kreativ Blogger Award

Blogger and writer Elise Fallson kindly passed this award on to me. Check out her blog & consider following her on Twitter. She's a talented lady & a friendly blogger.

Here are the rules:
1) Thank and link back to the awarding blog. (Well duh!)

2) Answer the following 7 questions.

3) Provide 10 random factoids about yourself.

4) Pass this on to 7 deserving others.


1) What's your favorite song?
How much time do you have? *grin*  I like lots of different music. Hmm. I'll name a few, but I'm gonna show my age...  

Call It Love by Poco
Sad Eyes by Robert John  
Total Eclipse of the Heart by Bonnie Tyler  
I Go Crazy by Paul Davis (Cool Night is good, too)   
Still The One by Orleans -- the song I have set as the ringtone for my hubby of 17 years ;) --  Dance With Me is also a fav.
The Circle Game by Joni Mitchell  
How Deep Is Your Love by the Bee Gees 
Still by the Commodores.

Melissa Maygrove's Playlist 1 by Melissa Maygrove on Grooveshark

And for those of you who know what this is:
 Here's S-A-T-U-R-D-A-Y Night by the Bay City Rollers. :D

Saturday Night by Bay City Rollers on Grooveshark

2) What's your favorite dessert?
Anything sweet and soft and gooey (day-old ginger bread, vanilla ice cream with hot fudge sauce, etc...). Good fruit is a close second (cold watermelon, cantaloupe...).

3) What do you do when you're upset?
I'm gonna piggyback off Elise's answer...
Depends on what kind of upset. Angry upset, I either get quiet or speak my mind depending on the situation and how angry I am. Sad upset, and I usually go spend time by myself...maybe escape into a book.

4) Which is your favorite pet?
Dogs. I like cats, but not their effect on my furniture or their litter boxes.

5) Which do you prefer? Black or White
Black. It's slimming. :) 
(Although white is good for Houston summers.)

6) What is your biggest fear? 
It's a tie between losing everything and becoming homeless and losing a child.

7) What is your attitude mostly? 
Generally happy, but moody.

10 random factoids:
1) I know how to sew.

2) I own a sewing machine that is older than I am, and it still sews.

3) I've crossbred a real, live orchid. (All it takes is a keen eye and a toothpick - ha!)

4) I helped my dad build greenhouses in the back yard when I was a kid (He was the one growing the orchids. He also had a hydroponic garden for a while.) 

5) Statistically speaking, I shouldn't be here. I was born with major heart defects and had surgery twice before I was two to correct them. (Thanks Dr. Cooley.)

6) I play piano, although I'm rusty.

7) I used to collect 4-leaf clovers. They didn't bring me any luck, though. :P

8) I still own a working turntable and vinyl records.

9) I once owned an 8-track player. (Now I'm REALLY showing my age.)

10) Science is my favorite subject. 

I'd like to pass this award to:

1) Heather Day Gilbert
2) Sher A Hart
3) C B Wentworth
4) Jennifer McMurrain at Nightingale Stories
5) Lauren at Epilogue
6) Natasha Hanova at Writes by Moonlight
7) Hope Roberson

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Author Noelle Marchand on POV

Today I'm excited to introduce Christian fiction author Noelle Marchand who's joining us with a guest post on POV. Noelle is a member of both the RWA and ACFW. She won national and state awards for journalism as a student and sold three books before graduating from college (this month). Noelle is represented by Karen Ball of the Steve Laube Agency.

Here's Noelle...

Point of View: From Ordinary to Extraordinary

The Basics
It doesn’t take long to figure out the basic principles of POV. A simple internet search will yield a treasure trove of information. If you’re going to write for the Christian romance market like I do, it becomes even easier because most publishers prefer third-person limited. That’s a fancy way of saying they expect you to write in past tense, use internal dialogue, and construct the book’s universe only from what the hero and heroine (and perhaps a villain) are aware of through their memory, senses, or learned information throughout the story. If you are writing for a different market, you may have more freedom. However, it all comes down to one thing. Once you figure out the basics, you’re going to need to take your use of POV from ordinary to extraordinary.  

1.      Know your characters
The main point of POV is to get inside your character’s head and see their world from their perspective. Many bad habits like head-hopping (changing perspectives too often), are formed because we haven’t taken enough time to really get to know who our characters are as living, breathing, multi-dimensional people with wants, needs, and feelings. Take the time. Sit down. Figure them out.

For example, when I was working on the book I recently sold a book to Love Inspired Historical, the heroine didn’t seem to have a conflict at all. She was just a happy girl living in a carefree world then I realized that she had a secret—a secret she wanted to forget. Suddenly, her world wasn’t so carefree because little things that otherwise might have seemed random to anyone else suddenly took on extraordinary significance from her POV. 

2.      Their world through their eyes
In my opinion, one of the biggest things that make fiction ordinary instead of extraordinary is a lack of body language. Think of this as the way your characters move through space. I’m not just talking about the way your character moves while you are using their perspective but also the way they perceive the movement of others. Let’s look at an excerpt from my July 2012 release The Runaway Bride. 

“Lorelei!” A strident voice called.
She ignored it. Pressing the back of her hand to her lips, she felt the lump of her engagement ring. A hand caught her arm. “Lorelei?”
She swung around to face her intended. “I can’t. I can’t do this. I’m so sorry, Lawson.”
His handsome face noticeably paled. “What do you mean you can’t do this? We’re getting married today. Right now.”
She swallowed. “It isn’t right.”
“What are you talking about?” Painful silence lingered in the air until he stepped toward her. “I thought you loved me.”
“I do love you, Lawson, but not in the way a woman should love the man she’s going to marry. I wish that I did,” she said sorrowfully then tilted her head to survey him carefully. “Do you love me like that, Lawson? Can you honestly tell me that you do?”
He turned away from her and dragged his fingers through his hair before he met her gaze again. His answer was halting, almost inaudible. “No.”
She pulled in a deep breath and tugged the ring from her finger. “Then this shouldn’t belong to me.”
 His eyes filled with resignation as he took it from her. He allowed her a curt nod before he walked back toward the church where his best man waited on the steps. Her gaze caught only briefly on that figure before she turned away. 

Do you see how even though this is from Lorelei’s perspective, Lawson’s movements help frame Lorelei’s perception of the event? More importantly, we see that though Lawson is close and emotionally engaged in the conversation, Lorelei’s attention ultimately rests on the figure she perceives as distant and unemotional—her true love. 

3.      Trust your characters
If you have gotten to know your characters and see the world through their eyes, they will tell you what you need to focus on. How can these made up people tell you what to do? You have to trust your instincts. If your characters are real enough to you, you’ll instinctively begin to think like they think and notice what they notice inside the margins of your page. 

4.      Be honest
The last and most important part of this is to get out of our own way. We have to suspend our own ideals, sensibilities, thoughts, and identities to truly capture the perspective of another person. Take them up again when you put the pen down or close your document but when you are writing your first responsibility is to communicate your character’s emotion, thoughts and world. We are stepping inside their world to become a storyteller so let’s tell theirstory.

The only husband Lorelei Wilkins ever wanted was Sean O'Brien, but she's wasted too much time waiting for him to love her back. When another man proposes, she accepts—until she stands at the altar…and realizes she can't marry without love. Bolting out of town toward a fresh start, she never suspected her parents would send Sheriff O'Brien to bring her home!

After an innocent mistake leaves Lorelei and her reluctant rescuer with compromised reputations, marriage is their only option. But first they must triumph over suspicious locals, shady characters, an inconvenient groom and the bride's own stubborn heart. Will it take putting their lives on the line for Sean and Lorelei to realize that only love can conquer all?


Noelle Marchand's love of literature began as a child when she would spend hours reading beneath the covers long after she was supposed to be asleep. Over the years, God began prompting her to write. Eventually, those stories became like "fire shut up in her bones" leading her to complete her first novel by her sixteenth birthday. Noelle is a Houston-native with a BA in Mass Communication with a focus in journalism and Speech Communication.

And you can find Noelle on her website, her blog, and on Facebook.

I don't know about you, but the excerpt alone made me want to buy the book. Great writing, Noelle!  :D

Monday, May 14, 2012

Grammar Police Monday - There They're

As an extension of our confusable homophones from last week, I've decided to tackle a few in particular. Some of you may find this lesson simple, but enough people get these wrong that I felt it was worth addressing. Let's start off easy...

Two, Too and To:
Two = the number of something. 
     Sally has two kittens.

Too = also / very.   
     I have kittens, too. They are too young to give away.
Note: When using 'too' to mean 'also,' set it off with a comma(s). [Edited 6-24-13: Apparently, the comma-before-too rule is no longer a rule. See this post for clarification.]

To is a preposition.  
     I took them back to their mother.

There, Their and They're:
There = location.   
     The ball is over there.

Their = possessive pronoun.   
     Hurry! Go get their ball!.

They're = contraction of 'they are.'  
     They're going to be angry if you lose their ball.

(Hint: If you can substitute 'they are,' then use 'they're.')

Whose and Who's:
This one often stumps people.

Whose = possessive form of 'who.'  
     Whose ball is that?

Who's = contraction of 'who is' or who has.'
     Peter is the one who's been stealing my ball. 

(Hint: Nouns form their possessives using an apostrophe. Ex: Carrie's ball.  Pronouns don't. Ex: The ball is hersThey only use them to form contractions. Ex: She's got the ball.)

Same thing goes for It's and Its:
Its = possessive pronoun. 
     The roof fell when we removed its support beam.

It's = contraction of 'it is' or 'it has.'   
     It's about time!

(Hint: Only use it's if you can substitute 'it is' or 'it has.' Use its for everything else.)

For a great resource, try Common Errors in English Usage


* bloggers - consider turning off word verification (aka 'Captcha') to make it easier for your visitors to comment. Here's a great tutorial video that will lead you through the whole thing. Besides grammar, it's my current crusade. 

What's Captcha? Not sure if you have it? You can read more about it here. :)

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Author Cynthia Simmons' Road To Publication

Today, I'm delighted to introduce Cynthia Simmons, author of Struggles and Triumphs:Women in History Who Overcame and its study guide, who's visiting to share with us her road to publication.

During the late nineties, I went through a very difficult time as I attempted to homeschool my youngest son who has disabilities. Through the hardship, I found comfort in researching history. I wanted to share what I learned with others, so I got interested in writing.

In 2004 I joined Christian Authors Guild (CAG) and started to learn to write for publication. The group offered seminars and classes on writing, which I devoured. The leadership decided to put together a compilation of short stories. I dreamed up three stories and got them on paper. After many critiques and revisions, the committee accepted them into the book, The Desk in the Attic, which came out in 2005. I was thrilled to see my name in print.

The group gave me plenty of experience and helped me master the writing skills. I served as chaplain my first two years there, which meant I had to submit an article each month to the group newsletter.  In addition, I wrote several articles for a history magazine in my hometown. Condensed versions of those articles appeared in the city newspaper. I also had an article on my son published in a newsletter for parents of disabled children and in the Georgia Right to Life Newsletter.

Members of the group went to Blue Ridge Writing Conference, and I joined them. In 2007 I attended classes by Athena Dean who started Wine Press Publishing. I had a set of stories from history and hoped to get it published. Athena assured me I could publish and promote it myself.

After coming home, my husband and I talked. I noted writers seldom told stories of women, especially those with prominent husbands. So I limited my focus to women. My ultimate goal was to demonstrate Biblical truths and encourage women who believed. I chose women whose stories contrasted and called it Struggles and Triumphs: Women in History Who Overcame.

Two months before my book came out in the spring of 2008, my husband had a tonic clonic seizure and slid into the living room floor. We rushed him to the hospital and discovered he was critically ill with encephalitis. As a retired nurse, I knew I could lose him. For a few days, the doctors battled pneumonia from the seizure as well. 

The publisher needed to contact me from time to time, and I knew I’d be impossible to reach. So I kept them up to date so the project wouldn’t get bogged down. The staff understood the serious nature of the disease and sent flowers to my home. 

During that time my world seemed to crumble. Major appliances broke, and my mother’s health began to fail.  My husband stayed ten days in an intermediate intensive care, but finally rallied. He came home on IV medication. A week later, mother broke her hip. Dad panicked. Even though I lived in a different state, he referred all questions and decisions on her care to me. While I appeared on TV and radio to promote the book, mother’s health continued to decline. I kept in touch with medical personnel by phone and shuttled my husband to doctors and therapists.  I told a friend I hoped mother could hold the book because I knew she’d be proud. God granted my wish. The day before her 76thbirthday, I put the book into her hand. A week later, she died.

In 2010 I started doing podcasts, CAG Spotlight, for my writing group. I interviewed Tiffany Colter, Writing Career Coach. We clicked right away and kept in touch. She agreed to speak at our fall conference in 2011, and I asked her to look at something I started. Several people read the book and wanted more. So I began preparing a twelve week Bible study based on material in the stories. Tiffany read what I had done and loved it. She made a few suggestions. Based on her ideas I completed Struggles and Triumphs Study Guide in the fall of 2011. After several critiques, I submitted it to Writing Career Coach Press for formatting and publication. We went through a number of revisions and chose a cover to match the book. 

In many ways I’ve lived Struggles and Triumphs for the last four years. Since March of 2008, I’ve shepherded a family member through a major illness or accident nine times. Both my parents died. I cleaned up after a flood, dealt with a rebellious child, and emptied my childhood home. I can truly say that God is faithful even in the midst of overwhelming heartache. He provides grace even in the darkest times. We always triumph in Him.

2 Corinthians 2:14But thanks be to God , who always leads  us in His triumph  in Christ , and manifests  through  us the sweet  aroma  of the knowledge  of Him in every place .

What’s wrong with our world? Shouldn’t a God who claims to be all powerful and flawless prevent suffering? How can we continue to believe when storms rage on in our lives? If you’ve ever had tough questions like these Struggles and Triumphs Study Guide is the book for you. Author Cynthia L. Simmons will guide you toward answers with her unique and enlightening approach. Her twelve-week Bible study for ladies comes from stories of real women as told in Struggles and Triumphs: Women in History Who Overcame. As you study, you’ll come to understand God’s perspective on timeless issues that impact your life. The carefully chosen Scriptures combined with interesting historical information will challenge and encourage you.  

You can watch the trailer here, you can purchase the original book here and this study guide here, and you can find Cynthia on Facebook here.

Cynthia L Simmons and her husband, Ray, have five children and reside in Atlanta. She has taught for over twenty years as a homeschool mother and Bible teacher. Active in Christian Authors Guild (CAG), she conducts writing workshops and has served as president, vice president, and conference director. In December 2009 the membership granted her Life Time Membership for her numerous contributions to writers.  “Cindy” is fond of history and writes both historical fiction and nonfiction. Her writing appeared in CAG publications, NATHHAN NEWS, Chattanooga Regional Historical Magazine, Georgia Right to Life Newsletter, Chattanooga Times Free Press, Catholic Exchange, and Christian Her first book, Struggles and Triumphs, came out in 2008. While promoting her book, she had interviews on radio and TV across the nation and was nominated for 2008 Georgia Author of the year. She also conducts monthly podcasts called CAG Spotlight in which she interviews authors and VIPs in the writing industry. At present she is completing a twelve week Bible study using the stories in Struggles and Triumphs.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Grammar Police Monday - Commonly Confused Words

Are we identical? Look closely...

In the English language, there are many pairs of words that sound alike and are spelled almost alike, yet have entirely different meanings. Consequently, it's easy to write the wrong one and not realize it. To compound this problem, word processors do not recognize it as a misspelling and may not flag an incorrect usage as a mistake.

Let me give you some examples:
altar (a sacred table in a church) vs. alter ( which means to change)
born (to start life) vs. borne (to carry)
and... compliment (an admiring remark) vs. complement (an addition that improves something)

What a difference a letter makes!

Here are a few more:
accept / except...affect / effect...coarse / course...discreet / discrete...
pour / pore...past / / sight...and the list goes on.

What do you do? Well, making yourself aware of them by reading through lists of these pairs can help. Keeping a dictionary (like open in your browser so you can easily check questionable words as you write is also a good idea. In the end, though, critique partners and proofreaders comprise the final net that catches our mistakes.Sometimes it just takes fresh eyes.

For lists to review, try these: Oxford's Commonly Confused Words, Notorious Confusables, and (my favorite) Common Errors in English Usage.

And for those of you wondering, the answer is no. The twins in the picture are not identical. Those are my boys at 4 months of age.


* bloggers - consider turning off word verification (aka 'Captcha') to make it easier for your visitors to comment. Here's a great tutorial video that will lead you through the whole thing. Besides grammar, it's my current crusade. 

What's Captcha? Not sure if you have it? You can read more about it here. :)

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Random Writer Fun

Blog day snuck up on me this week, so we're going to have a little fun. Call it a twist on flash fiction. You can make this as funny and odd or as every-day-plain as you want.

Use a random name generator to come up with a few character names (here's another one with different options), and then use a random sentence generatorto get your creative juices flowing. Click the button until you have a few sentences you think you can use. Note: These random sentences can be very strange, so you will probably need to tweak them and add some of your own. 

When preparing your post (you might want to do it in Word first), list your sentences as they originally appeared and list your names, then write a piece of flash fiction using the names as your characters and the sentences as your inspiration.

Anyhow, when you get it done to your satisfaction, come here and post it for everyone to read. If it works like I think it will, this should be a blast. :)